SEA ROW DOMINATES AS ASEAN LEADERS MEET IN MYANMAR (BURMA)

Leaders of Southeast Asia's regional bloc meet on Sunday in a historic summit overshadowed by soaring tensions in the South China Sea and growing fears over Beijing's assertiveness in the disputed waters. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is convening just days after both Vietnam and the Philippines locked horns with China in contested territory, stoking international alarm. ASEAN foreign ministers expressed "serious concerns over the on-going developments" in a joint statement released on the eve of the summit as the bloc sought to present a unified front in dealing with the region's massive neighbour. The summit, hosted for the first time by Myanmar in its sprawling capital Nay Pyi Taw, is set to be dominated by discussion of the South China Sea, which is crisscrossed by key shipping lanes and thought to contain vast energy reserves. Myanmar's chairmanship is the first time it has taken the helm of ASEAN, despite having been a member for 17-years, as concerns about the rights record of the former junta kept the country on the sidelines. But reforms under a quasi-civilian regime that came to power in 2011 have burnished the country's international standing and seen the removal of most Western sanctions. Tensions flared this week after Beijing controversially relocated a deep-water oil rig into territory also claimed by Hanoi. The area around the drilling well has since seen several collisions between Chinese and Vietnamese ships, with the communist neighbours each blaming the other for the rise in tensions. READ MORE...

ALSO: ASEAN expresses "serious concerns" over China sea spats

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Southeast Asia's regional bloc voiced alarm on Saturday over escalating tensions in the South China Sea after members Vietnam and Philippines squared off against Beijing in the disputed waters. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers "expressed serious concerns over the on-going developments" in the sea, which is subject to a web of bitter overlapping claims, on the eve of a leaders' summit in Naypyidaw. Tensions in the South China Sea soared this week after Beijing moved a drilling rig into waters that are also claimed by Hanoi, sparking a stand-off in which Vietnam said its boats were attacked. The incident drew a statement of concern from the United Nations. Manila, which has asked a UN tribunal to rule on China's claims over most of the sea, also detained a Chinese fishing boat in disputed territory. The ASEAN ministers "urged all parties concerned... to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which could undermine peace and stability in the area" in a statement issued on Saturday. READ MORE...

ALSO: China poachers charged; turtles returned to sea

The 11 Chinese fishermen caught poaching off Half Moon Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands were criminally charged before the Puerto Princesa City prosecutor’s office last Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed. This developed as the Philippine National Police (PNP) maritime group in Palawan released back into the wild 177 sea turtles seized from the fishing vessel of the alleged poachers. Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said yesterday that the complaint of the arresting officers of the PNP maritime group was docketed last Friday but the proceedings were postponed. “The PNP brought the Chinese poachers last Friday for inquest. But they had no lawyer and interpreter,” Arellano said. He said the Chinese fishermen did not want to be represented by the public attorneys being provided to them during the hearing. “The prosecutor asked them to come back on Monday. But the case was docketed for inquest so it’s considered filed,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Philippines' Aquino says ASEAN must tackle China sea claims

Philippine President Benigno Aquino Saturday urged fellow Southeast Asian leaders to face up to the threat posed by China's contentious claims to most of the South China Sea as they headed to a regional summit. Manila filed a case at a UN tribunal in March challenging Chinese claims to most of the strategic sea. Aquino said he would discuss the case's regional implications with fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders meeting in Myanmar. Even though not all ASEAN members are involved in maritime territorial disputes with China, Aquino said the issue concerned the security of the region as a whole. "We wish to emphasise, uphold and follow the rule of law in resolving these territorial issues so that the rights of all countries involved will be recognised and respected," Aquino said in a speech at Manila airport. "This step mirrors our belief that an issue that affects all countries in the region cannot be effectively resolved merely through a dialogue between two countries," he added. Aquino said the issue concerned the "security" of Southeast Asia. Myanmar is hosting the two-day meeting amid a flare-up of high-seas tensions between ASEAN members Vietnam and the Philippines and regional superpower China, also one of their main economic partners. China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters and rocks close to the shores of its neighbours, and the Philippines and Vietnam have both accused Beijing of increasingly aggressive moves to assert its claims. These claims also overlap those of Taiwan, as well as ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia. The sea is crisscrossed by fishing and shipping lanes and is thought to contain huge oil and gas reserves. READ MORE...

ASEAN must play constructive role in managing South China Sea issue: Singapore PM Lee

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must play a constructive role in managing problems in the South China Sea, said Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday. And that also means not taking sides with the countries making various territorial and maritime claims. Speaking at the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, Mr Lee echoed the sentiments of foreign ministers that ASEAN should have a common position on the issue. He said incidents, like collisions between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea within the past week, could easily spiral out of control and trigger unintended consequences. Mr Lee also stressed the urgency of coming up with an early conclusion to a South China Sea Code of Conduct. He urged leaders to give strong political support to the process. Mr Lee said a united and cohesive ASEAN is of vital interest for every member of the grouping. A divided ASEAN, he said, undermines the group's credibility and relevance to the world. READ MORE...

(ALSO) Balikatan: US regiment ‘honored’ to stand shoulder to shoulder once again with Filipino troops

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines – For Lieutenant Colonel Dave Zinn, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army, “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) is more than the military exercises staged annually between US and Philippine forces. Zinn said as far as the 4th Cavalry was concerned, there was a “strong partnership and friendship” that dated back to “70 years ago when his regiment fought shoulder to shoulder with Filipinos in liberating Luzon from the Japanese”. “It is an honor and privilege to be here as the 4th Cavalry,” Zinn said here Saturday, the second day of the military exercises. He recalled a story wherein his predecessors worked 30 miles behind Japanese lines plucking out Filipino and American troops during World War II and working together with locals to hide the rescued soldiers from the Japanese. “Americans always remember,” he said. Zinn said with three decades of friendship between the two countries, the Balikatan has become a “cornerstone” of the alliance. Zinn said he told his soldiers to teach their local counterparts what they knew and to learn from them whom he describes as “a force hardened by combat”. READ MORE...

ALSO: Gun shots ring in Nueva Ecija for Balikatan

With the Balikatan exercises in full swing, the first live fire exercises of the year has begun on Luzon’s largest military camp. Philippine Army and United States Army’s joint forces swooped down on Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to conduct the Balikatan 2014′s platoon live fire exercise on Saturday. Captain Mark Anthony Ruelos, Public Affairs Officer of Fort Magsaysay, said that the aim of the live fire exercise is to enhance the cooperation between the two country’s Armed Forces with the Filipinos taking the lead. “These exercises are primarily used for jungle warfare,” Ruelos said atop the Fernandez Hill where the exercises were held. “The setting of the exercise is a direct simulation of the landscape where these operations are used.” With four US soldiers first scouting the area, 15 Philippine troops equipped with M16 and M14 rifles zoomed in on the first target, a dilapidated house that simulates an enemy base. After the first target has been neutralized, the other 15 troops rained fire on dummy targets simulating enemy soldiers guarding the other target. “Upon the completion of the objective on the first target, the other half of the Philippine troops engaged the second target,” Ruelos said. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

Editorial - An Asean response

In unity there is strength. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has seen this in its trade negotiations with other regions of the world. A regional market of 600 million people has substantial bargaining power in the global economy. Since five countries including the Philippines founded ASEAN in 1967 to push back communism, the grouping has also seen the advantages of a peaceful region. ASEAN has prospered in a zone of peace. As armed conflict ended in other countries in Southeast Asia, they were welcomed into the regional grouping. With peace, countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam could focus on economic recovery and poverty alleviation. In the past four decades, ASEAN has found it occasionally necessary to soften its policy of non-intervention in its members’ internal affairs. ASEAN pressure contributed to democratic reforms in Myanmar, which is hosting the grouping’s summit this weekend. READ MORE...


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Sea Row Dominates Asean Leaders Agenda


ASEAN leaders and some of their wives pose for a photograph ahead of a welcome dinner as part of the 24th ASEAN summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Nay Pyi Taw. (AFP/Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar, MAY 12, 2014 (CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM) Leaders of Southeast Asia's regional bloc meet on Sunday in a historic summit overshadowed by soaring tensions in the South China Sea and growing fears over Beijing's assertiveness in the disputed waters.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is convening just days after both Vietnam and the Philippines locked horns with China in contested territory, stoking international alarm.

ASEAN foreign ministers expressed "serious concerns over the on-going developments" in a joint statement released on the eve of the summit as the bloc sought to present a unified front in dealing with the region's massive neighbour.

The summit, hosted for the first time by Myanmar in its sprawling capital Nay Pyi Taw, is set to be dominated by discussion of the South China Sea, which is crisscrossed by key shipping lanes and thought to contain vast energy reserves.

Myanmar's chairmanship is the first time it has taken the helm of ASEAN, despite having been a member for 17-years, as concerns about the rights record of the former junta kept the country on the sidelines.

But reforms under a quasi-civilian regime that came to power in 2011 have burnished the country's international standing and seen the removal of most Western sanctions.

Tensions flared this week after Beijing controversially relocated a deep-water oil rig into territory also claimed by Hanoi.

The area around the drilling well has since seen several collisions between Chinese and Vietnamese ships, with the communist neighbours each blaming the other for the rise in tensions.

China and Vietnam, who fought a brief border war in 1979, frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration, fishing rights and the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on both countries to "exercise the utmost restraint" in the sea, United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday.

Observers have said Beijing's decision to move the rig could have been a tit-for-tat response to a visit to the region by US President Barack Obama, who reaffirmed support for Asian allies the Philippines and Japan, which is locked in its own maritime territorial dispute with China.

Beijing claims sovereign rights to almost the whole of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

The Philippines and Vietnam are China's most vocal critics.

But the South China Sea is also claimed in part by ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia as well as Taiwan.

Manila, which has asked a UN tribunal to rule on China's claims over most of the sea, also said it had detained a Chinese fishing boat in disputed territory this week.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino Saturday urged fellow Southeast Asian leaders to face up to the threat posed by China's increasing assertiveness in the sea, stressing that it affected regional "security".

Beijing prefers to negotiate directly with its smaller, weaker neighbours on a bilateral basis, a policy that is rejected by its rivals.

The other ASEAN members are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand. - AFP/de

ASEAN expresses "serious concerns" over China sea spats CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM ASIA PACIFIC NEWS


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NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Southeast Asia's regional bloc voiced alarm on Saturday over escalating tensions in the South China Sea after members Vietnam and Philippines squared off against Beijing in the disputed waters.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers "expressed serious concerns over the on-going developments" in the sea, which is subject to a web of bitter overlapping claims, on the eve of a leaders' summit in Naypyidaw.

Tensions in the South China Sea soared this week after Beijing moved a drilling rig into waters that are also claimed by Hanoi, sparking a stand-off in which Vietnam said its boats were attacked.

The incident drew a statement of concern from the United Nations.

Manila, which has asked a UN tribunal to rule on China's claims over most of the sea, also detained a Chinese fishing boat in disputed territory.

The ASEAN ministers "urged all parties concerned... to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which could undermine peace and stability in the area" in a statement issued on Saturday.

The statement also called on claimants to "resolve disputes by peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force".

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the ministers' meeting was dominated by maritime rows.

China and Vietnam, which fought a brief border war in 1979, have been locked in a longstanding territorial dispute over their contested waters, and frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration, fishing rights and the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Beijing claims sovereign rights to almost the whole of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

The Philippines and Vietnam are the most vocal critics of China's claims among the 10-member bloc.

But the South China Sea is also claimed in part by ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines as well as Taiwan.

Natalegawa said the ASEAN statement was aimed "to be in support of peace and peaceful settlement of disputes".

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said ASEAN did not want to take sides.

But he said if the bloc stayed silent, "I think our desire to play a central role, our desire to be united, our desire to have a peaceful region -- all of these and ASEAN's own integrity I think will be seriously damaged".

ASEAN suffered a serious knock to its credibility in 2012 during Cambodia's chairmanship of the group when foreign ministers failed to issue a joint communique at their annual meeting for the first time in the bloc's history because of deep divisions on the South China Sea issue.

The Philippines at that time blamed Cambodia, a key Chinese ally, for the fiasco.

Diplomatic sources said the statement on Saturday omitted reference to specific incidents in order to achieve consensus from all ASEAN member states.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters that in issuing the statement, ASEAN would like to see Vietnam, China and other parties settle the dispute peacefully. - AFP/ac

FROM PHILSTAR

China poachers charged; turtles returned to sea By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 12, 2014 - 12:00am 2 1 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The 11 Chinese fishermen caught poaching off Half Moon Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands were criminally charged before the Puerto Princesa City prosecutor’s office last Friday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed.

This developed as the Philippine National Police (PNP) maritime group in Palawan released back into the wild 177 sea turtles seized from the fishing vessel of the alleged poachers.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, chief of the DOJ’s prosecutorial arm, said yesterday that the complaint of the arresting officers of the PNP maritime group was docketed last Friday but the proceedings were postponed.

“The PNP brought the Chinese poachers last Friday for inquest. But they had no lawyer and interpreter,” Arellano said.

He said the Chinese fishermen did not want to be represented by the public attorneys being provided to them during the hearing.

“The prosecutor asked them to come back on Monday. But the case was docketed for inquest so it’s considered filed,” he said.

It was learned that investigating provincial prosecutor Allen Ross Rodriguez also required the PNP to present the evidence, including the fishermen’s vessel and the sea turtles seized from them.

Arellano confirmed that the PNP filed the complaint against the Chinese fishermen for violation of Republic Act 8550 (Fisheries Code), particularly Section 87 or poaching in Philippine waters and Section 97 or fishing or taking of rare, threatened or endangered species; and R.A. 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act).

The charges are bailable, he said.

Rodriguez said that another case involving the fishermen’s illegal entry in the country may prompt the Bureau of Immigration to hold their departure.

He said the vessel will be subjected to inventory by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development.

The Chinese government earlier demanded the release of their fishermen.

But the Palace said it would proceed with the prosecution of the arrested poachers, insisting they had trespassed into the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Up to DFA

DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, for her part, said she would leave the issue involving China’s demand to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“At this point, it’s the DFA that should address the matter so as not to further fuel any tension with China. I know the DFA is working on it,” she said yesterday.

“We have our own UNCLOS (United Convention on the Law of the Sea). We have our own laws like R.A. 8550,” she said.

The alleged poachers, who had been taken to the provincial police office in Palawan for custody, were visited by the Chinese consul.

Sought for comment, the Chinese official refused to give any statement.

Slaughtered, stuffed

The 177 sea turtles released back into the wild by the PNP maritime group were part of the 555 endangered marine mammals that police maritime patrollers found in the vessel of the Chinese fishermen last week.

“As per inventory, out of the 555 sea turtles that were recovered, only 177 were found alive, while the rest were dead. Two hundred seven of them were slaughtered and stuffed,” the maritime group said in its report.

Seventy-five sea turtle shells were also found in the seized fishing vessel.

Propaganda tool

Meanwhile, an opposition lawmaker yesterday lambasted China for turning the poaching incident involving its nationals into a major diplomatic issue to bolster its claim over the West Philippine Sea.

“Whichever way China packages the issue, it cannot hide the fact that Chinese nationals were caught conducting illegal activities in Philippine waters,” Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said.

Ridon said China is exploiting the poaching incident to advance its propaganda about its absurd nine-dash line claim.

“It is illogical to say that the arrest of the Chinese nationals is a ‘premeditated provocative action’ on the part of the Philippines. Philippine officials were only exercising their police power in our exclusive economic zone when they made the arrests,” he said.

He added that asking the Philippine government to release the poachers without prosecution is tantamount to saying that China is condoning their illegal activities.

“Chinese officials should stop making absurd statements and claims and focus on the facts of the incident,” the lawmaker said.

Ridon urged the Aquino administration to file a diplomatic protest regarding the latest incident of Chinese incursion in Philippine waters. – With Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero

Philippines' Aquino says ASEAN must tackle China sea claims CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM ASIA PACIFIC NEWS


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MANILA: Philippine President Benigno Aquino Saturday urged fellow Southeast Asian leaders to face up to the threat posed by China's contentious claims to most of the South China Sea as they headed to a regional summit.

Manila filed a case at a UN tribunal in March challenging Chinese claims to most of the strategic sea. Aquino said he would discuss the case's regional implications with fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders meeting in Myanmar.

Even though not all ASEAN members are involved in maritime territorial disputes with China, Aquino said the issue concerned the security of the region as a whole.

"We wish to emphasise, uphold and follow the rule of law in resolving these territorial issues so that the rights of all countries involved will be recognised and respected," Aquino said in a speech at Manila airport.

"This step mirrors our belief that an issue that affects all countries in the region cannot be effectively resolved merely through a dialogue between two countries," he added.

Aquino said the issue concerned the "security" of Southeast Asia.

Myanmar is hosting the two-day meeting amid a flare-up of high-seas tensions between ASEAN members Vietnam and the Philippines and regional superpower China, also one of their main economic partners.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters and rocks close to the shores of its neighbours, and the Philippines and Vietnam have both accused Beijing of increasingly aggressive moves to assert its claims.

These claims also overlap those of Taiwan, as well as ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia.

The sea is crisscrossed by fishing and shipping lanes and is thought to contain huge oil and gas reserves.

Hanoi said this week that Chinese ships that had surrounded a Chinese deep-water oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam had used water cannon against, as well as rammed, Vietnamese patrol vessels there.

Meanwhile, Manila said it arrested 11 crew members of a Chinese-flagged fishing boat Tuesday for poaching hundreds of protected marine turtles in waters that are part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

China has rejected arbitration in the Philippines' UN case, preferring to settle the issue through bilateral negotiations while insisting its sovereignty over these areas was "indisputable".

The other ASEAN members are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

The weekend summit in Nay Pyi Taw follows a visit to Asia late last month by US President Barack Obama in which he restated support for Asian allies the Philippines and Japan, which is locked in its own maritime territorial dispute with China.

More than 5,000 US and Filipino troops are currently engaged in annual war games in the Philippines, with a focus on maritime security. - AFP/xq

ASEAN must play constructive role in managing South China Sea issue: Singapore PM Lee CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM ASIA PACIFIC NEWS


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NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must play a constructive role in managing problems in the South China Sea, said Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.

And that also means not taking sides with the countries making various territorial and maritime claims.

Speaking at the 24th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, Mr Lee echoed the sentiments of foreign ministers that ASEAN should have a common position on the issue.

He said incidents, like collisions between Vietnamese and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea within the past week, could easily spiral out of control and trigger unintended consequences.

Mr Lee also stressed the urgency of coming up with an early conclusion to a South China Sea Code of Conduct.

He urged leaders to give strong political support to the process.

Mr Lee said a united and cohesive ASEAN is of vital interest for every member of the grouping.

A divided ASEAN, he said, undermines the group's credibility and relevance to the world.

Mr Lee also said ASEAN leaders must show the political will to address difficult issues so that the region can achieve its vision of becoming an economic community.

He said the grouping has made encouraging progress towards an ASEAN Economic Community.

He said more than 70 per cent of the targets have been achieved, and urged officials to redouble their efforts so that the outstanding issues can be resolved.

ASEAN is working towards becoming a single market by 2015.

Mr Lee acknowledged that remaining issues to be agreed upon -- such as trade in services and eliminating non-tariff barriers -- are difficult and sensitive.

These, however, offered the most benefits to people and businesses.

As such, ASEAN leaders must find the political will to tackle these issues and make the necessary reforms to further liberalise their economies.

Mr Lee also said there is a need to promote awareness among businesses -- especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) -- about the ASEAN Economic Community, so they can take full advantage of these programmes.

One way of creating awareness among businessmen would be to fully implement an ASEAN open skies agreement before 2015.

Mr Lee said ASEAN must also work together to tackle transboundary haze pollution. He urged ASEAN member states to operationalise a Haze Monitoring System for the region quickly.

Mr Lee said Singapore looked forward to full ratification of the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-Boundary Haze Pollution soon. - CNA/fa/ir

FROM THE INQUIRER

Balikatan: US regiment ‘honored’ to stand shoulder to shoulder once again with Filipino troops By Bong Lozada INQUIRER.net 5:10 pm | Saturday, May 10th, 2014


PHNO A VIDEO SNIPPET.jpg

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines – For Lieutenant Colonel Dave Zinn, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army, “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) is more than the military exercises staged annually between US and Philippine forces.

Zinn said as far as the 4th Cavalry was concerned, there was a “strong partnership and friendship” that dated back to “70 years ago when his regiment fought shoulder to shoulder with Filipinos in liberating Luzon from the Japanese”.

“It is an honor and privilege to be here as the 4th Cavalry,” Zinn said here Saturday, the second day of the military exercises.


THE VIEW FROM CHINA. US Marines storm a beach along the West Philippine Sea on Friday but only to simulate an amphibious landing during joint US-Philippines military exercises dubbed Balikatan 2014 at San Antonio, Zambales. This year’s war games focus on maritime security. The exercise came even as tensions simmer between the Philippines and China over rival claims to territory in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within Manila’s 370-km exclusive economic zone. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

He recalled a story wherein his predecessors worked 30 miles behind Japanese lines plucking out Filipino and American troops during World War II and working together with locals to hide the rescued soldiers from the Japanese.

“Americans always remember,” he said. Zinn said with three decades of friendship between the two countries, the Balikatan has become a “cornerstone” of the alliance.

Zinn said he told his soldiers to teach their local counterparts what they knew and to learn from them whom he describes as “a force hardened by combat”.

“I told my soldiers to focus on our Philippine Army partners and teach them how we operate,” Zinn said Saturday at Fort Magsaysay.

“They are a force hardened by combat and they should also learn from them.” Colonel Rodolfo Lavadia, Combined Army Forces Commander of the Philippine Army, said that the Balikatan was meant to focus more on the field exercises of the troops involved.

Zinn added that, even though the main focus of Balikatan 2014 was on maritime security, the exercises have a broad spectrum that involves all branches of the military, Army, Navy, and Air Force. “Strengthening of the Army involves all,” Zinn said.

He also downplayed the issues of the dispute with China and the parameters of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca). “This is not related to anything happening right now, not related to what will happen in the South China Sea [West Philippine Sea],” said Lavadia.

Room for fun

Zinn added that even if the Balikatan was a series of military exercises, there’s always a room to put in some fun. “This morning we had a fun run, it was great the troops were happy and we had fun,” the commander of the American troops said.

Gun shots ring in Nueva Ecija for Balikatan By Bong Lozada INQUIRER.net 12:12 pm | Saturday, May 10th, 2014


US and Philippine marines storm the beach to simulate a raid during the joint U.S.-Philippines military exercise dubbed Balikatan 2014 Friday, May 9, 2014 at the Naval Training Exercise Command, a former US naval base, and facing the South China Sea at San Antonio township, Zambales province northwest of Manila, Philippines. More than 5,000 U.S. and Filipino troops have begun two weeks of military exercises to flex their muscle in jointly dealing with potential crisis in the Philippines, which is prone to natural disasters and has been locked in a dangerous standoff with China over a disputed shoal. This year’s war games focuses on maritime security. AP

MANILA, Philippines—With the Balikatan exercises in full swing, the first live fire exercises of the year has begun on Luzon’s largest military camp.

Philippine Army and United States Army’s joint forces swooped down on Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to conduct the Balikatan 2014′s platoon live fire exercise on Saturday.

Captain Mark Anthony Ruelos, Public Affairs Officer of Fort Magsaysay, said that the aim of the live fire exercise is to enhance the cooperation between the two country’s Armed Forces with the Filipinos taking the lead.

“These exercises are primarily used for jungle warfare,” Ruelos said atop the Fernandez Hill where the exercises were held. “The setting of the exercise is a direct simulation of the landscape where these operations are used.”

With four US soldiers first scouting the area, 15 Philippine troops equipped with M16 and M14 rifles zoomed in on the first target, a dilapidated house that simulates an enemy base.

After the first target has been neutralized, the other 15 troops rained fire on dummy targets simulating enemy soldiers guarding the other target.

“Upon the completion of the objective on the first target, the other half of the Philippine troops engaged the second target,” Ruelos said.

PHILSTAR EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL - An Asean response (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 11, 2014 - 12:00am 2 12 googleplus1 0

In unity there is strength. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has seen this in its trade negotiations with other regions of the world. A regional market of 600 million people has substantial bargaining power in the global economy.

Since five countries including the Philippines founded ASEAN in 1967 to push back communism, the grouping has also seen the advantages of a peaceful region. ASEAN has prospered in a zone of peace. As armed conflict ended in other countries in Southeast Asia, they were welcomed into the regional grouping. With peace, countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam could focus on economic recovery and poverty alleviation.

In the past four decades, ASEAN has found it occasionally necessary to soften its policy of non-intervention in its members’ internal affairs. ASEAN pressure contributed to democratic reforms in Myanmar, which is hosting the grouping’s summit this weekend.

Security has also become an increasing concern for ASEAN as borderless threats such as extremist terrorism called for coordinated responses. Now the grouping is facing a threat to regional stability from a non-member state.

China is laying claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, and is using its newfound prosperity to flex its military muscle in waters that lap at the shores of several ASEAN members. This not only challenges the sovereignty of China’s Southeast Asian neighbors but also threatens freedom of navigation in some of the busiest sea lanes in the world.

Last year, unable to secure a regional consensus on what must be done, the Philippines went to the United Nations and sought international arbitration to define its maritime entitlements. It’s a peaceful way of resolving a dispute, based on international rules.

China, which has been trying to reassure the world that there is nothing to fear about its “peaceful rise,” should welcome this rules-based approach, but it has not. Instead it has refused to participate in arbitration and is hurriedly enforcing its territorial claims, installing oil rigs in disputed waters and deploying patrol boats to harass fishermen far beyond its shores.

Beijing may brush aside the individual protests of its much smaller neighbors in Southeast Asia, but together these countries will have a stronger voice. ASEAN must rise to the occasion and unite to preserve regional peace.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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