BRUNEI DARUSSALAM – President Benigno S. Aquino III links arms with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Socialist Republic of Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye and Brunei Darussalam His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’zzaddin Waddaulah, for a group photo souvenir during the 16th ASEAN – Republic of Korea Summit at the Muzakarah Hall, Brunei International Convention Center in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam on Wednesday (October 09) at the sidelines of the 23rd ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. With theme “Our People, Our Future Together”, the Summit will discuss ways to consolidate these gains to meet the 2015 target of having an economically integrated, politically cohesive and socially responsible ASEAN Community and to ensure ASEAN's place in the global community of nations by 2015 and beyond.(PLDT powered by SMART) (Photo by Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, BRUBEI, OCTOBER 14, 2013 (INQUIRER) The “sea known by many names” in the region that aspires to be one community by 2015 presents the opportunity for all to follow the rule of law.

This was President Aquino’s message at the 23rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit where the region’s leaders met to discuss reducing tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the implementation of the Asean Community by 2015, among other goals.

Aquino said that while the “sea known by many names” may be considered a problem now, it also “presents an opportunity for Asean and all other parties to collectively exercise the observance of the rule of law.”

The Asean has two more years before the full realization of an Asean Community, a European Union-like economic bloc that Aquino said would “ultimately lead to the growth and advancement” of the Asean people.

“Clearly, our development as a region cannot be realized in an international environment where the rule of law does not exist. Thus, the recognition of the rule of law ensures that every member state’s interest is upheld and respected. In the context of intertwining interests in the sea known by many names—which is west of the Philippines, east of Vietnam, north of Malaysia, south of China—the challenge that confronts one is a challenge that confronts all,” Aquino said.

Code of conduct

The President stressed the importance of an “expeditious conclusion” of the Asean-China code of conduct and pursuing the arbitration for the “clarification of maritime entitlements,” both legally binding and anchored on international law.

And while a code of conduct has yet to be completed, Aquino urged all parties to adhere to the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) “in all its aspects, especially paragraph 5, which in effect preserves the status quo at the time that the DOC was concluded in 2002.”

Rule of law

“All parties—both Asean and non-Asean, claimant or nonclaimant—have stated: Follow the rule of law. In 2002, we tried to come up with a code of conduct. We failed. We came up with guidelines that became the DOC. What better gift to all our peoples than to follow all these sincere words by meaningful actions?” the President said.

The Philippines’ complaint against China’s incursions into Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground off Zambales province, and Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratly archipelago off Palawan province is pending in the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal.

Aside from the Philippines, three other Asean countries—Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam—are laying claim on territories in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines occupies five islands in the Spratlys called the Kalayaan Island Group.

China claims nearly all of the sea, including waters close to the shores of the other claimants.

At the Asean-China meeting, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang emphasized anew China’s preference for bilateral discussions with claimant countries of the South China Sea.

“We all agree that disputes in the South China Sea should be addressed through consultation and negotiation between parties directly concerned. China and Asean countries should work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and jointly foster a favorable and more enabling environment for a peaceful settlement of disputes. Pending a settlement, parties to the dispute should work actively for joint development,” Li said.

He also said that the “question of the South China Sea” should not affect the overall relations of China and the Asean.

Resolving tensions

As this year’s Asean chair, Brunei put forward the need to resolve tensions in the disputed waters.

Last year, Cambodia as the Asean chair excluded discussions on the territorial dispute from the summit’s agenda, leading to a failure to release a joint statement, the first in the bloc’s 45-year history.

In his opening remarks at this year’s Asean Summit, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said the Asean must “demonstrate its unity and centrality to ensure peace, stability and greater prosperity in the region, in managing the interests of major powers or negotiating trade agreements.”

Bolkiah said this is especially important in the Asean’s efforts to develop a code of conduct for the West Philippine Sea. He also stressed the importance of working with China to implement the DOC.

Regular consultations

Both Aquino and Bolkiah hailed the regular consultations between China and the Asean on the code of conduct, which began recently, culminating in a formal discussion last month in Suzhou, China, on the possibility of establishing the rules for managing tensions among the claimants to territory in the sea.

Bolkiah reiterated his statement at the start of the 16th Asean-China Summit, attended by all 10 Asean leaders and Li.

At the meeting with China, Aquino said that “at the core of the Asean-China strategic partnership is the belief that our actions should adhere to the rule of law.”

A meeting between President Aquino and Li seemed unlikely, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said on Wednesday.

Carandang told reporters that Aquino met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday night.

After the Asean-China Summit, the Asean leaders had their first Asean-US meeting, attended by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry was filling in for US President Barack Obama, who canceled his attendance at the summit and at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Bali, Indonesia, as well as visits to the Philippines and Malaysia later this week due to the US government shutdown.

US commitment

Obama’s absence did not affect the US commitment to Asia, Kerry said.

He said the US partnership with Asean remained “a top priority for the Obama administration.”

The Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia was a commitment, he said.

“These events in Washington are a moment in politics, not more than that,” Kerry said.



Wind, rain pound India as massive cyclone hits By Shonal Ganguly (Associated Press) | Updated October 13, 2013 - 6:00am 0 4 googleplus0 0

Oct. 11, 2013: An Indian man holds on to his umbrella as he fishes in high tide waves at Gopalpur beach, in Ganjam district, 136 miles away from the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneswar, India. (AP)

BEHRAMPUR — A massive, powerful cyclone packing heavy rains and destructive winds slammed into India's eastern coastline yesterday evening, as hundreds of thousands of residents moved inland to shelters in hopes of riding out the dangerous storm.

Roads were all but empty as high waves lashed the coastline of Orissa state, which will bear the brunt of Cyclone Phailin. By midafternoon, wind gusts were so strong that they could blow over grown men. Seawater pushed inland, swamping villages where many people survive as subsistence farmers in mud and thatch huts.

As the cyclone swept across the Bay of Bengal toward the Indian coast, satellite images showed its spinning tails covering an area larger than France. Images appeared to show the storm making landfall early yesterday night near Gopalpur.

With some of the world's warmest waters, the Indian Ocean is considered a cyclone hot spot, and some of the deadliest storms in recent history have come through the Bay of Bengal, including a 1999 cyclone that also hit Orissa and killed 10,000 people.

Officials said early reports of deaths from Phailin won't become clear until after daybreak Sunday.

In Behrampur, a town about 10 kilometers (7 miles) inland from where the eye of the storm hit, the sky blackened quickly around the time of landfall, with heavy winds and rains pelting the empty streets.

Window panes shook and shattered against the wind. Outside, objects could be heard smashing into walls.

"My parents have been calling me regularly ... they are worried," said Hemant Pati, 27, who was holed up in a Behrampur hotel with 15 other people from the coastal town hit first by the storm.

The hotel manager said he would bar the doors against anyone trying to enter, saying there would be food, water and electricity from generators only for guests of the Hotel Jyoti Residency. "Nobody can come inside, and nobody can go out," Shaik Nisaruddin said.

Estimates of the storm's power had dropped slightly, with the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii showing maximum sustained winds of about 222 kilometers per hour (138 miles per hour), with gusts up to 268 kph (167 mph).

The storm, though, remained exceedingly strong and dangerous. A few hours before it hit land, the eye of the storm collapsed, spreading the hurricane force winds out over a larger area and giving it a "bigger damage footprint," said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at the US-based private Weather Underground.

"It's probably a bad thing it was doing this when it made landfall. Much of the housing in India is unable to withstand even a much weaker hurricane," Masters said.

He also said coasts would not be alone in suffering heavy damage. "This is a remarkably strong storm. It's going to carry hurricane-force winds inland for about 12 hours, which is quite unusual," Masters said.

Hurricanes typically lose much of their force when they hit land, where there is less heat-trapping moisture feeding energy into the storm.

By Friday evening, some 420,000 people had been moved to higher ground or shelters in Orissa, and 100,000 more in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, said Indian Home Secretary Anil Goswami.

L.S. Rathore, the head of the Indian Meteorological Department, predicted a storm surge of 3-3.5 meters (10-11.5 feet), but several US experts had predicted a much higher wall of water would blast ashore. Meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private US weather firm Weather Bell said that, even in the best-case scenario, there would be a surge of 7-9 meters (20-30 feet).

A storm surge is the big killer in such storms, though heavy rains are likely to compound the destruction. The Indian government said some 12 million people would be affected by the storm, including millions living far from the coast.

There were few reports coming out of Orissa in the first hours after the storm's landfall.

Phailin had already been large and powerful for nearly 36 hours, with winds that had built up a tremendous amount of surge, Maue said. "A storm this large can't peter out that fast," he said.

The 1999 cyclone — similar in strength to Phailin but covering a smaller area — threw out a 5.9-meter (19.4-foot) storm surge.

Several hours before the storm hit, about 200 villagers were jammed into a two-room, concrete schoolhouse in the village of Subalaya, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the coast, while local emergency officials distributed food and water. The roads were almost empty, except for two trucks bringing more evacuees to the school. Children shivered in the rain as they stepped down from the vehicles, following women carrying bags jammed with possessions.

Many had fled low-lying villages for the shelter, but some left behind relatives who feared the storm could wipe out lifetimes of work.

"My son had to stay back with his wife because of the cattle and belongings," said 70-year-old Kaushalya Jena, weeping in fear inside the makeshift shelter. "I don't know if they are safe."

In Bhubaneshwar, the Orissa state capital, government workers and volunteers were putting together hundreds of thousands of food packages for relief camps.

Stranded tourists who had come for Orissa's beaches and temples instead roamed the hallways of boarded-up hotels.

"It seemed strange, because it was a beautiful sunny day yesterday," said Doris Lang of Honolulu, who was with a friend in the seaside temple town of Puri when news of the cyclone's approach reached them.

The state's top official, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, appealed for calm.

"I request everyone to not panic. Please assist the government. Everyone from the village to the state headquarters have been put on alert," he told reporters.

Surya Narayan Patro, the state's top disaster management official, had said that "no one will be allowed to stay in mud and thatched houses in the coastal areas" when the storm hits.

By yesterday afternoon, the sea had already pushed inland as much as 40 meters (130 feet) along parts of the coastline.

Officials in both Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have been stockpiling emergency food supplies and setting up shelters. The Indian military has put some of its forces on alert, and has trucks, transport planes and helicopters at the ready for relief operations.

The storm is expected to cause large-scale power and communications outages and shut down road and rail links, officials said. It's also expected to cause extensive damage to crops.

In the port city of Paradip — which was hammered in the 1999 cyclone, also in October — at least seven ships were moved out to sea to ride out the storm, with other boats shifted to safer parts of the harbor, officials said.

US forecasters had repeatedly warned that Phailin would be immense.

"If it's not a record, it's really, really close," University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy told The Associated Press. "You really don't get storms stronger than this anywhere in the world ever."

To compare it to killer US storms, McNoldy said Phailin is nearly the size of Hurricane Katrina, which killed 1,200 people in 2005 and caused devastating flooding in New Orleans, but also has the wind power of 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which packed 265 kph (165 mph) winds at landfall in Miami.

India experiences two cyclone seasons a year, one in May before the annual monsoon rains and another beginning in October.

"Keep in mind, India's second cyclone season is only just beginning," said Masters, the American meteorologist. "We could see another big storm in October or November."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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