PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

A 'GREAT WALL OF SAND' IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA / Also: Aquino draws lessons from World War II for Bangsamoro peace

A YEAR ago, China appeared to be pursuing a more aggressive policy toward its Pacific maritime disputes with a half-dozen nations. It engaged in some high-stakes jockeying with Vietnam over disputed maritime claims in the South China Sea, moving an oil drilling rig to the Paracel Islands and declaring an exclusion zone around it. That followed its declaration in 2013 of an air defense exclusion zone over islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by Japan; the United States and Japan promptly flew planes through the zone to demonstrate they did not recognize it. But in recent months, Beijing quietly — and significantly — shifted tactics. It toned down its confrontation with Japan, agreeing to a handshake between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last November, and pulled back the drilling rig that infuriated Hanoi. Instead, China is digging in — literally.

ALSO: Obama concerned over China bullying, US to monitor reclamation in disputed sea


APRIL 11...US President Barack Obama. File photo
KINGSTON – US President Barack Obama said Washington is concerned China is using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea, just hours after Beijing gave a detailed defense of its creation of artificial islands in the contested waterway. China’s rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and drawn growing criticism from US government officials and the military. While the new islands will not overturn US military superiority in the region, workers are building ports and fuel storage depots and possibly two airstrips that experts have said would allow Beijing to project power deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. “Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” Obama told a town-hall event in Jamaica on Thursday ahead of a Caribbean summit in Panama. “We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” he said. China claims most of the potentially energy rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims. READ MORE...

ALSO: South China Sea territorial clashes threaten environmental catastrophe [
APRIL 8...Sovereignty claims put fishing stocks, coral reefs, marine biodiversity at risk]


Police face off with protesters dressed as green sea turtles during a rally last year in front of the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest poaching in the South China Sea. Beijing's accelerated land reclamation in recent years has only escalated the friction among claimants. In particular, China's expansion in Johnson and Gaven reefs threatens to wreck rich fishing grounds and valuable coral reefs in the archipelago. (Associated Press) Photo by: Bullit Marquez 
China’s mounting clashes with its neighbors over control of the South China Sea also could be fueling a major environmental catastrophe, endangering fishing stocks, threatening marine biodiversity and posing long-term threats to some of the globe’s most spectacular coral reefs. Environmental scientists say the dangers are increasing as the conflicting sovereignty claims heat up between China and eight East Asian nations bordering one of the world’s most strategic maritime routes, which boasts an irreplaceable ecological harvest of atolls, submerged banks, islands, reefs, rock formations and over 3,000 species of fish. Beijing’s accelerated land reclamation over these specks of rock in the roiling sea in recent years has only escalated the friction among claimants. In particular, China’s expansion in Johnson and Gaven reefs — also claimed at least in part by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam — threatens to wreck rich fishing grounds and valuable coral reefs in the archipelago. The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the South China Sea accounts for as much as a tenth of global fish stocks. More than a quarter of the world’s population resides in the littoral nations of the sea. READ MORE...

ALSO: Piling Sand in a Disputed Sea, China Literally Gains Ground


APRIL 8...A satellite image from March 16 shows work on an emerging artificial island at Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies, via Digital Globe 
The clusters of Chinese vessels busily dredge white sand and pump it onto partly submerged coral, aptly named Mischief Reef, transforming it into an island.
Over a matter of weeks, satellite photographs show the island growing bigger, its few shacks on stilts replaced by buildings. What appears to be an amphibious warship, capable of holding 500 to 800 troops, patrols the reef’s southern opening. China has long asserted ownership of the archipelago in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands, also claimed by at least three other countries, including the Philippines, an American ally. But the series of detailed photographs taken of Mischief Reef shows the remarkable speed, scale and ambition of China’s effort to literally gain ground in the dispute. The photographs show that since January, China has been dredging enormous amounts of sand from around the reef and using it to build up land mass — what military analysts at the Pentagon are calling “facts on the water” — hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland. The Chinese have clearly concluded that it is unlikely anyone will challenge them in an area believed rich in oil and gas and, perhaps more important, strategically vital. Last week Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the United States Pacific fleet, accused China of undertaking an enormous and unprecedented artificial land creation operation. READ MORE...

U.S. STRONGLY CONDEMNED China Raising ‘Great Wall Of Sand’ In South China Sea


APRIL 8...GREAT WALL OF SAND [Image via William Colson/CSIS]  
The U.S. made its strongest condemnation yet of what’s being called the “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea, Chinese man-made islands of sand that could be used for military purposes. Several smaller nations have claims in the South China Sea, and the U.S. wants to try to maintain stability, but the islands might become one of the newest challenges to peace.
According to the Washington Post, U.S. Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. gave one of the highest-level condemnations of China’s land reclamation efforts in a naval conference late Tuesday night in Australia. “China is building artificial land by pumping sand on to live coral reefs – some of them submerged – and paving over them with concrete. China has now created over four square km (1.5 square miles) of artificial landmass. China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.” Satellite images show the great wall of sand is being built rapidly, taking only a few months to cover a 1.5 square mile area. The islands are big enough for military installations, including an airfield, located in the high-contested Spratly Islands. READ MORE...

ALSO ARAW NG KAGITINGAN: Aquino draws lessons from World War II for Bangsamoro peace


APRIL 9...Aquino maintained that the MILF remains a partner for peace.
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday marked the Day of Valor by renewing his call for peace in Mindanao. In his speech before war veterans on Mt. Samat, Aquino pushed for peace in the south by drawing lessons from World War II, which he said devastated Manila and left a million Filipinos dead. "Sa paggunita natin sa Araw ng Kagitingan, nagbabalik-tanaw tayo sa aral ng nakaraan upang hindi na maulit ang mga dating kamalian, at tuluyang makarating sa dapat na paroroonan," the president said. Aquino said tragedies like wars should not happen again since they do not benefit anyone. Unlike unity among people, Aquino said violence and division will not lead to prosperity. "Ang aral pong ito ang lalong nagtutulak sa atin upang itaguyod ang pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa Mindanao, at isulong ang Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)," he said. The enabling law for the Bangsamoro entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the BBL was the product of the final and comprehensive peace agreement between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

ALSO: Aquino says MILF, like Japan, a former-enemy-turned-ally


APRIL 9...President Benigno Aquino III. Screengrab from RTVM Youtube BATAAN, Philippines—Drawing from the experiences of various nations during World War II, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday again attempted to convince naysayers to support the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law. “Imagine: Those who were once our enemies are today our partners in realizing a just peace for all,” Aquino said, alluding to both Japan and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), during the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) festivities at Mt. Samat. The President recalled how Japan became a partner of the Philippines and the United States despite what happened during World War II. “Clearly, progress cannot be achieved through mere individual action. Conflict can only lead to more suffering and misunderstanding, while solidarity brings widespread benefit,” Aquino said. “This is the same lesson that leads us to champion lasting peace in Mindanao, and to call for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”  READ MORE... WATCH NEWS VIDEO....

ALSO: Aquino to honor bravery of Filipino soldiers


APRIL 9...PNoy at Araw ng Kagitingan rites Uploaded on 1:35PM Apr 9 President Benigno Aquino III troops the line upon arrival at the Dambana ng Kagitingan on Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan for the 73rd Commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on Thursday, April 9. Ryan Lim COURTESY OF GMA NEWS NETWORK  
Malacañang is not sure if the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos will be among the war veterans that President Benigno Aquino III will honor today at the 73rd Araw ng Kagitingan rites at the Shrine of Valor on Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan. Araw ng Kagitingan, also known as “Bataan Day,” is a national public holiday. It commemorates the fall of the Bataan peninsula during World War II after months of fighting between the Philippine and United States forces against the invading Japanese. According to Malacañang, the yearly observance commemorates the “bravery of our soldiers who fought in the name of freedom and patriotism” against the Japanese invaders. Palace officials, however, were not sure if Marcos, who had claims to being the most bemedalled Filipino war veteran, will be among those that Aquino will commend at the event. READ MORE...

ALSO: Ferdinand Marcos on war vets’ list; Imelda getting old age pension


APRIL 10 NEWSCAST...FORMER PRESIDENT FERDINAND MARCOS, WAR VET 
President Benigno Aquino III and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg took turns praising the courage and sacrifice of thousands of Filipino and American soldiers during World War II.
They were apparently unaware, however, that among those they commended during the 73rd Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) rites was the late President Ferdinand Marcos, who had claims to being the most bemedaled Filipino war veteran. Malacañang—responding to a query from the Inquirer—checked with the Department of National Defense (DND) and found that the former dictator was indeed a government-recognized war veteran.Usaffe- Palace Secretary Herminio Coloma told this reporter: “On whether (Marcos) is on a list of recognized veterans, this is according to the DND Public Information Office: President Ferdinand E. Marcos is a Usaffe veteran.”  Usaffe is short for US Armed Forces in the Far East, which was active from 1941 to 1946 and headed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In a text message, Coloma also said former first lady Imelda R. Marcos, the late leader’s widow, is “now receiving old age pension from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.”  Honored, too? READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

A ‘Great Wall of Sand’ in the South China Sea


MANILA, APRIL 13, 2015 (WASHINGTON POST) By Editorial Board April 8 at 7:44 PM

A YEAR ago, China appeared to be pursuing a more aggressive policy toward its Pacific maritime disputes with a half-dozen nations. It engaged in some high-stakes jockeying with Vietnam over disputed maritime claims in the South China Sea, moving an oil drilling rig to the Paracel Islands and declaring an exclusion zone around it. That followed its declaration in 2013 of an air defense exclusion zone over islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by Japan; the United States and Japan promptly flew planes through the zone to demonstrate they did not recognize it.

But in recent months, Beijing quietly — and significantly — shifted tactics. It toned down its confrontation with Japan, agreeing to a handshake between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last November, and pulled back the drilling rig that infuriated Hanoi.

Instead, China is digging in — literally.

READ MORE...
Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, delivered a speech in Canberra, Australia, on March 31 that offered a revealing and unusual description of how China is dredging its atolls, turning coral reefs into more permanent and larger islands. He said China is engaged in “unprecedented land reclamation,” an effort to build artificial lands by “pumping sand on to live coral reefs — some of them submerged — and paving them over with concrete.”

“China has now created over four square kilometers of artificial landmass,” he said. “China is creating a Great Wall of sand, with dredges and bulldozers, over the course of months.” In effect, China seems to be fortifying these specks of land for something in the future.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said March 8 that China was just “carrying out necessary construction on its own islands and reefs,” and insisted that it “does not target or affect anyone.” China, he added, seeks “to bring harmony, stability and prosperity to the neighborhood.” Nice words, but pay attention to deeds. What is the purpose of the digging? Are these reinforced outposts going to be used someday for military forces that would attempt to enforce China’s vaguely drawn “nine-dash line” territorial claim that encompasses most of the South China Sea? As Admiral Harris put it, “the scope and pace of building man-made islands raise serious questions about China’s intentions.”

Although the dredging has not raised the same alarms among China’s neighbors as the earlier moves, the pace of work has caught their attention. The Vietnamese foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, told the Financial Times that the digging has “really risked escalating tension in the area.”

The United States does not have a direct dispute with China over any of the maritime territories, but it does have an enormous stake in the stability of the region and in the defense of Japan. China has wisely turned away from aggressive confrontation in recent months, but that may not be the whole story. Admiral Harris has sounded a valuable warning. Vigilance is required to make sure that China has not simply found another way to exert its will, with a Great Wall of sand.


PHILSTAR

Obama concerned over China bullying, US to monitor reclamation in disputed sea (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 11, 2015 - 12:00am


US President Barack Obama. File photo

KINGSTON, JAMAICA – US President Barack Obama said Washington is concerned China is using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea, just hours after Beijing gave a detailed defense of its creation of artificial islands in the contested waterway.

China’s rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and drawn growing criticism from US government officials and the military.

While the new islands will not overturn US military superiority in the region, workers are building ports and fuel storage depots and possibly two airstrips that experts have said would allow Beijing to project power deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

“Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” Obama told a town-hall event in Jamaica on Thursday ahead of a Caribbean summit in Panama.

PHOTOS + TIMELINE: New images of China's expansion on Mischief Reef

“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” he said.

China claims most of the potentially energy rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

READ MORE...
China, which has asked Washington not to take sides in the row, says it is willing to discuss the issue with individual countries directly involved in the dispute.

However, it has refused to participate in an international arbitration case filed by the Philippines in The Hague over the contested waterway.

‘Destabilizing’

Asked about the Chinese foreign ministry’s defense of the reclamation work, US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke called it “destabilizing” and said it was “fueling greater anxiety within the region about China’s intentions amid concerns that they might militarize outposts on disputed land features in the South China Sea.”

“We very much hope that China would recalibrate in the interests of stability and good relations in the region,” he told reporters in Washington.

Western and Asian naval officials privately say China could feel emboldened to try to limit air and sea navigation once the reclaimed islands are fully established.

“So we’re watching these developments closely and we continue to raise our concerns with China, as well as with others in the region, to urge all parties to avoid destabilizing activities,” he said.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not legally allow for reclaimed land to be used to demarcate 12-nautical-mile territorial zones, but some officials fear China will not feel limited by that document and will seek to keep foreign navies from passing close by.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter also voiced his concern over China’s land reclamation in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea but declined to speculate on future plans of the Chinese or how close he thought they were in militarizing them.

“I don’t want to speculate on their future plans,” he told reporters when asked if he had seen new photographs of the reclamation going on at Mischief Reef.

“It’s a concern of almost every country in the entire region,” he told reporters accompanying him on a visit to Japan.

In an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun to coincide with his visit, Carter said China’s actions seriously increased tensions and reduced prospects for diplomatic solutions in territories also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, among others.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, earlier said China was turning disputed atolls into more permanent and larger islands. “China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers,” he said

The Washington Post in an editorial on Thursday called for vigilance to make sure that China has not simply found another way to exert its will with this wall of sand.

The New York Times said recent satellite photographs show Mischief Reef being transformed into an island and what appears to be an amphibious warship patrolling the reef’s southern opening.

The daily quoted Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, as saying “China’s building activities at Mischief Reef are the latest evidence that Beijing’s land reclamation is widespread and systematic.”

The transformation of Mischief Reef is within territory claimed by the Philippines and is one of seven small outposts the Chinese have sought to establish in the South China Sea, she said.

“These will allow Beijing to conduct regular, sustained patrols of the airspace and water, and to attempt to press its far-flung maritime claims as many as 1,000 miles from its shores,” she told the Times.

Protests continue

In Manila, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government would continue protesting China’s massive reclamation activities while avoiding actions that could further stoke tension.

“It’s (reclamation work) obviously intended to change the conditions on the ground. There are many considerations when it comes to this,” Valte said in a press briefing.

She said President Aquino is determined to abide by the rules-based approach “that we have adopted early on.”

She noted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) immediately filed a diplomatic protest after learning of the reclamation work.

Valte stressed the government did not stop with diplomatic protests but took further steps by turning to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for help in pressing for the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

“Apart from that, what other solutions are out there? What are your options? We have chosen the peaceful track because, obviously, we want in this case to make a point that right is might and not the other way around,” Valte said.

Valte said it was “a little extremist” to visualize at this point an invasion from China.

“We have also committed... not to take any steps to increase tensions. What the other guy does is not within our control. But, certainly, we do not want any heightening of tensions that will lead to putting us in a disadvantageous position,” Valte said.

On the coming Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Malaysia later this month, Valte said she could not preempt what President Aquino would raise before other leaders in connection with maritime disputes.

The Philippines has been pushing for a legally binding code of conduct in the West Philippine Sea among ASEAN members.

For the military, China’s reclamation activities are a matter best left to the DFA to handle.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief, said that as national policy, the maritime row with China is not within the domain of the military.

“We are leaving this matter for the DFA to articulate the country’s position insofar as the West Philippine Sea issue is concerned,” Cabunoc said.

The Department of National Defense (DND), for its part, is calling on Beijing to stop its reclamation in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

“It’s a major critical concern in our national security. China has to dismantle it. It’s a concern not only to our country and the region but of the whole international community,” DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

Security officials said if China’s reclamation activities go unchecked, Beijing would likely choke commercial sealanes in the region.

“Am wondering why the Philippine government is doing nothing to address the Chinese illegal incursion and occupation into its own maritime domain,” a source who declined to be identified said.

He said the government should show some resolve in defending its territory just like what Vietnam has been doing. – Jose Katigbak, Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude


WASHINGTON TIMES

South China Sea territorial clashes threaten environmental catastrophe [Sovereignty claims put fishing stocks, coral reefs, marine biodiversity at risk] By James Borton The Washington Times


Police face off with protesters dressed as green sea turtles during a rally last year in front of the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest poaching in the South China Sea. Beijing's accelerated land reclamation in recent years has only escalated the friction among claimants. In particular, China's expansion in Johnson and Gaven reefs threatens to wreck rich fishing grounds and valuable coral reefs in the archipelago. (Associated Press) Photo by: Bullit Marquez

China’s mounting clashes with its neighbors over control of the South China Sea also could be fueling a major environmental catastrophe, endangering fishing stocks, threatening marine biodiversity and posing long-term threats to some of the globe’s most spectacular coral reefs.

Environmental scientists say the dangers are increasing as the conflicting sovereignty claims heat up between China and eight East Asian nations bordering one of the world’s most strategic maritime routes, which boasts an irreplaceable ecological harvest of atolls, submerged banks, islands, reefs, rock formations and over 3,000 species of fish.

Beijing’s accelerated land reclamation over these specks of rock in the roiling sea in recent years has only escalated the friction among claimants. In particular, China’s expansion in Johnson and Gaven reefs — also claimed at least in part by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam — threatens to wreck rich fishing grounds and valuable coral reefs in the archipelago.

The United Nations Environmental Program estimates that the South China Sea accounts for as much as a tenth of global fish stocks. More than a quarter of the world’s population resides in the littoral nations of the sea.

READ MORE...
The daily dumping of landfill with sand dug from nearby reefs by Chinese laborers “upsets the marine ecology of the region, completely destroying the formed coral reefs aging hundreds of millions of years,” said Le Van Cuong, former director of the Institute for Strategy and Science and a recognized authority on the South China Sea.

“At the same time, these actions destroy the habitat of many marine species. Protecting the marine ecological environment is a global issue, and citizens all over the world are responsible for that,” he said.

The sea is bordered by Vietnam to the west, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei on the east, Indonesia and Malaysia on the south and China and Taiwan to the north, measuring 600 by 1,200 nautical miles. The tiny Spratly Islands chain, a collection over 700 islands, reefs, atolls and cays in the center of the seas, have been the most recent focus of the sovereignty struggle.

China and its rivals have occupied some of the Spratly locations with military outposts or civilian facilities over the past six decades. Brunei claims control but does not physically occupy the islands, and this month Japan has begun forging security ties with Vietnam and the Philippines.

China’s Asian rivals are increasingly using the environmental argument against their giant neighbor to jockey for advantage in the South China Sea.

Beijing’s recent construction of a string of artificial islands in the waterway “is causing widespread destruction of the region’s biodiversity” that will “irreparably damage the entire ecological balance in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea,” Irene Susan Natividad, the Philippines‘ deputy representative to the United Nations, told a U.N. Security Council session this month.

“Such irreversible damage will have long-term effects on all the peoples across geopolitical boundaries who have depended on the sea for their livelihood for generations,” she said.

In the strongest statement of concern to date from U.S. officials, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, at a conference in Australia last month accused Beijing of building “a Great Wall of Sand.” He said China’s construction of the artificial islands in the waterway is “unprecedented,” adding 1.5 square miles of artificial land mass in recent months.

“How China proceeds will be a key indicator of whether the region is heading toward confrontation or cooperation,” Adm. Harris said.

Gregory Poling, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said “anxiety and the expanded patrol and surveillance capacity that Beijing is constructing with facilities, docks and probably at least one airstrip in the Spratly Islands will complicate the disputes in the South China Sea.”

Last year, a standoff over China’s construction of a $1 billion, 40-story oil rig erected approximately 120 miles from Vietnam’s coast generated international headlines. In a surprising move, China agreed to remove the rig after sharp protests from Vietnam.

Soothing concerns

Chinese officials have tried to soothe concerns in the region while not surrendering their extensive sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

“We are in this boat together with more than 190 other countries,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a press conference. “So of course we don’t want to upset the boat. Rather, we want to work with other passengers to make sure this boat will sail forward steadily and in the right direction.”

China, he said, was undertaking only “necessary” construction projects not aimed at any third party.

But on the new artificial islands, China has constructed bases and dwellings for Chinese soldiers, and some fear that oil rigs and Chinese fish-processing vessels will soon return to disputed sites and waterways.

Beijing’s actions “raise legitimate questions about the basis of China’s claim to fish in the East Sea,” said Youna Lyons, a senior research fellow at National University of Singapore. Exhaustion of fish stocks belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines would be a direct violation of the U.N. Law of the Sea, she said.

China’s moves in the South China Sea have been watched with growing concern in Washington as well.

Four U.S. senators, including Arizona Republican John McCain, have called for a comprehensive strategy to deal with China’s territorial moves, including land reclamation and construction in disputed areas.

“Longstanding interests of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, stand at considerable risk, the lawmakers warned.

Marine scientists express concern about the plight of the region’s hard and soft corals, parrot fish, spinner dolphins, sea turtles, groupers and black-tipped reef sharks. The 2008 El Nino weather pattern caused short-term increases in water temperature, resulting in widespread coral bleaching and the death of precious coral formations.

Researcher Bill Hayton has argued that overfishing remains one of the major issues that must be addressed in the region because China encourages its fishermen to trawl through contested waters.

“During the 2012 [fishing] ban, the Hainan Province Department of Ocean and Fisheries organized the largest-ever Chinese fishing fleet to reach the [Spratly Islands]: 30 vessels, including a 3,000-ton supply ship,” Mr. Hayton wrote in his 2012 book, “The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia.”

Since 1985, China, Vietnam and the Philippines have engaged in large-scale explosive and cyanide fishing operations in the Spratlys.

Marine biologists estimate that fishing will need to drop by 50 percent to sustain target species. The sovereignty battles mean that no one regulatory body has overall control and authority to guard the ecosystem.

“In some cases, it might be easier to set up informal international activities by sponsoring participation in scientific and conservation research by nongovernmental organizations that can affect protection with seasonal and zonal restrictions,” said John McManus, a biologist and director of the National Center for Coral Reef Research.


NEW YORK TIMES

Piling Sand in a Disputed Sea, China Literally Gains Ground By DAVID E. SANGER and RICK GLADSTONE APRIL 8, 2015


A satellite image from March 16 shows work on an emerging artificial island at Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies, via Digital Globe

WASHINGTON — The clusters of Chinese vessels busily dredge white sand and pump it onto partly submerged coral, aptly named Mischief Reef, transforming it into an island.

Over a matter of weeks, satellite photographs show the island growing bigger, its few shacks on stilts replaced by buildings. What appears to be an amphibious warship, capable of holding 500 to 800 troops, patrols the reef’s southern opening.

China has long asserted ownership of the archipelago in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands, also claimed by at least three other countries, including the Philippines, an American ally. But the series of detailed photographs taken of Mischief Reef shows the remarkable speed, scale and ambition of China’s effort to literally gain ground in the dispute.

The photographs show that since January, China has been dredging enormous amounts of sand from around the reef and using it to build up land mass — what military analysts at the Pentagon are calling “facts on the water” — hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.

The Chinese have clearly concluded that it is unlikely anyone will challenge them in an area believed rich in oil and gas and, perhaps more important, strategically vital. Last week Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of the United States Pacific fleet, accused China of undertaking an enormous and unprecedented artificial land creation operation.

READ MORE...
“China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers,” Admiral Harris said in a speech in Canberra, Australia.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, on his first trip to Asia, put the American concerns in more diplomatic language, but the message was the same. In an interview to coincide with his visit, published Wednesday in the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest dailies, Mr. Carter said China’s actions “seriously increase tensions and reduce prospects for diplomatic solutions” in territory claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam, and indirectly by Taiwan.

He urged Beijing to “limit its activities and exercise restraint to improve regional trust.” That is the same diplomatic message the Obama administration has been giving to China since Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, and her Chinese counterpart faced off over the issue at an Asian summit meeting in 2010.

Building Islands on Mischief Reef


Mischief Reef: 1 MILE , LEFT: January 24, 2012 --- RIGHT: March 16, 2015 Center for Strategic and International Studies via Digital Globe

These satellite images show Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In the March 16 image there are several dredgers visible at the northern and western edges of the reef, and to the south, where the entrance to the reef has been widened to about 275 meters.

While other countries in Southeast Asia, like Malaysia and Vietnam, have used similar techniques to extend or enlarge territory, none have China’s dredging and construction power.

The new satellite photographs were taken by DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imagery provider, and analyzed by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research group. They certainly confirm the worries expressed by both Mr. Carter and Admiral Harris.

“China’s building activities at Mischief Reef are the latest evidence that Beijing’s land reclamation is widespread and systematic,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, director of the center’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a website devoted to monitoring activity on the disputed territory.

The transformation of Mischief Reef, which the Chinese call Meiji Reef, she said, is within territory claimed by the Philippines and is one of seven small outposts the Chinese have sought to establish in the South China Sea. “These will allow Beijing to conduct regular, sustained patrols of the airspace and water, and to attempt to press its far-flung maritime claims as many as 1,000 miles from its shores,” she said.

Although these outposts are too vulnerable for China to use in wartime, she said, “they could certainly allow it to exert significant pressure on other South China Sea claimants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam.”

The issue poses a problem for the Obama administration, not simply because the Philippines is a treaty ally. China is working so quickly that its assertion of sovereignty could become a fait accompli before anything can be done to stop it.


SNIPPED IMAGE

The United States has long insisted that the territorial disputes be resolved peacefully, and that no claimant should interfere with international navigation or take steps that impede a diplomatic resolution of the issue.

But to the Chinese — already flexing muscle in other territorial disputes and with the creation of an Asian infrastructure bank to challenge the Western-created World Bank — this is not a matter for negotiation.

When Mrs. Clinton raised the issue in Hanoi five years ago at the Asian Regional Forum, her Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, responded with a 25-minute speech, exclaiming: “China is a big country. Bigger than any other countries here.” It seemed to be a reminder that its military could make sure no one would dare challenge its building spree on disputed territory — and so far, no one has, other than with diplomatic protests.

Since then, China has made no secret of its territorial designs on the Spratlys, creating at least three new islands that could serve as bases for Chinese surveillance and as resupply stations for navy vessels, according to IHS Jane’s.

Satellite imagery of the Spratlys publicized by IHS Jane’s in November showed how the Chinese had created an island about 9,850 feet long and 985 feet wide on Fiery Cross Reef, about 200 miles west of Mischief Reef, with a harbor capable of docking warships. IHS Jane’s said the new island could support a runway for military aircraft.

The United States is about to conduct a joint military exercise with the Philippines, part of an emerging Obama administration strategy to keep American ships traversing the area regularly, a way of pushing back on Chinese claims of exclusive rights. The administration did the same when China declared an air defense zone in the region more than a year ago.

The Chinese have said they consider most of the South China Sea to be rightfully theirs — a claim others make as well. China and Japan have a separate territorial dispute over islands that Japan calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyutai. Those tensions have eased slightly in recent times.

Last year, China and Vietnam became entangled in an angry exchange after China towed a $1 billion oil drilling rig to an area 150 miles off Vietnam’s coast. On Tuesday China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that the leaders of both countries wanted to soothe their differences and “control their disputes to ensure that the bilateral relationship will develop in a right track.”

David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Tokyo.


INQUISITR.COM

U.S. STRONGLY CONDEMNED China Raising ‘Great Wall Of Sand’ In South China Sea

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GREAT WALL OF SAND [Image via William Colson/CSIS]  

The U.S. made its strongest condemnation yet of what’s being called the “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea, Chinese man-made islands of sand that could be used for military purposes. Several smaller nations have claims in the South China Sea, and the U.S. wants to try to maintain stability, but the islands might become one of the newest challenges to peace.

According to the Washington Post, U.S. Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. gave one of the highest-level condemnations of China’s land reclamation efforts in a naval conference late Tuesday night in Australia.

“China is building artificial land by pumping sand on to live coral reefs – some of them submerged – and paving over them with concrete. China has now created over four square km (1.5 square miles) of artificial landmass. China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.”

Satellite images show the great wall of sand is being built rapidly, taking only a few months to cover a 1.5 square mile area. The islands are big enough for military installations, including an airfield, located in the high-contested Spratly Islands.

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According to MSN, Admiral Harris added that China’s “pattern of provocative actions towards smaller claimant states” led to questions about China’s real intentions.

Currently, the People’s Republic of China makes far-reaching territorial claims into the South China Sea, overlapping with the sovereign territory of several other states including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan. If the islands are used for military purposes, China could project its power over its neighbors, potentially creating de facto “air defense identification zone” in the South China Sea, according to China expert Yanmei Xie.

China is vehemently denying claims the new sand islands are meant to threaten anyone, and adds that the U.S. has no place condemning construction on what the country considers its sovereign territory. Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reasserted its right to rapid land reclamation.

“The construction does not target or affect anyone. We do not accept criticism from others when we are merely building facilities in our own yard. We have every right to do things that are lawful and justified.”

When asked if the great wall of sand had a military purpose, the minister added the islands were designed for “improving the working and living conditions of the people stationed on these islands.”

The Chinese media outlet Xinhua commented on the U.S. criticism last month, saying the U.S. has a “perverted sense of insecurity” and a “pirate-style mindset.”

The U.S. continues to move naval assets into the South China Sea. According to Fox News, Harris says 60 percent of the U.S. Pacific Fleet will be there by 2020. Whether it will be enough to counter the great wall of sand remains to be seen.


PHILSTAR

Aquino draws lessons from World War II for Bangsamoro peace By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated April 9, 2015 - 12:39pm


Aquino maintained that the MILF remains a partner for peace.

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday marked the Day of Valor by renewing his call for peace in Mindanao.

In his speech before war veterans on Mt. Samat, Aquino pushed for peace in the south by drawing lessons from World War II, which he said devastated Manila and left a million Filipinos dead.

"Sa paggunita natin sa Araw ng Kagitingan, nagbabalik-tanaw tayo sa aral ng nakaraan upang hindi na maulit ang mga dating kamalian, at tuluyang makarating sa dapat na paroroonan," the president said.

Aquino said tragedies like wars should not happen again since they do not benefit anyone.

Unlike unity among people, Aquino said violence and division will not lead to prosperity.

"Ang aral pong ito ang lalong nagtutulak sa atin upang itaguyod ang pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa Mindanao, at isulong ang Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)," he said.

The enabling law for the Bangsamoro entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the BBL was the product of the final and comprehensive peace agreement between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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But the passage of the BBL is now in peril following the deadly encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao between Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and the MILF and its splinter group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The incident left 44 SAF troopers and several rebels dead and reignited calls for an all-out war against the MILF and Moro insurgents.

Aquino, however, maintained that the MILF remains a partner for peace.

"Ang dating kalaban, ngayon, katuwang na natin sa pagkamit ng kapayapaang makatarungan sa lahat. Sa pagbubuklod natin upang itaguyod ang kaayusan sa Mindanao, higit nating mapapalawak ang pagkakataon para sa ating mga kababayan," Aquino said.

"Sa pamamagitan nito, wala nang mauudyok na pumanig sa mga radikal, terorista, at sa mga nagsusulong ng pansariling agenda," he added.

Aquino said he would not let the Bangsamoro peace process fail, lamenting that two generations have suffered from violence in Mindanao.

"Gaano man ito kahirap, anumang pasakit ang ating harapin, itataguyod natin ang kapayapaan dahil ito ang paraan upang makamit ang katarungan para sa lahat," he said.


INQUIRER

Aquino says MILF, like Japan, a former-enemy-turned-ally Kristine Angeli Sabillo @KSabilloINQ INQUIRER.net 12:07 PM | Thursday, April 9th, 2015


President Benigno Aquino III. Screengrab from RTVM Youtube

BATAAN, Philippines—Drawing from the experiences of various nations during World War II, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday again attempted to convince naysayers to support the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“Imagine: Those who were once our enemies are today our partners in realizing a just peace for all,” Aquino said, alluding to both Japan and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), during the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) festivities at Mt. Samat.

The President recalled how Japan became a partner of the Philippines and the United States despite what happened during World War II.

“Clearly, progress cannot be achieved through mere individual action. Conflict can only lead to more suffering and misunderstanding, while solidarity brings widespread benefit,” Aquino said. “This is the same lesson that leads us to champion lasting peace in Mindanao, and to call for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

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The MILF has been pursuing peace with the Philippine government. However, the peace process is now in jeopardy because of the backlash of the botched Mamasapano operation.

While Aquino has been receiving flak for his handling of the incident, the MILF has been accused of insincerity. Last January 25, the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) was able to kill Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. However, 44 SAF troopers were among those killed in a clash with the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and other armed groups.

Stability

“In coming together to foster stability in Mindanao, all the more are we able to widen the scope of opportunities available to our countrymen,” Aquino said.

He reiterated his argument that progress in Mindanao will discourage people from joining “radical factions” and terrorist groups.

“Two generations have already suffered due to the violence that has dominated Mindanao. Now that we are here, we will not allow succeeding generations to suffer the same fate,” he explained.

Solidarity

Aquino said that with all the challenges that the country has been facing – from conflict to natural disasters – nations should push for solidarity.

“Despite our differences, we live in and share a single world. The legitimate concern of one is a concern of all,” he said.

The President said it is incumbent upon the present generation to solve problems at the onset, instead of remaining indifferent.

“This generation has the responsibility of maintaining peace, and of continuing the pursuit of widespread prosperity,” he said.

Lessons of war

Addressing Filipino war veterans and their survivors, Aquino said, “By commemorating this Day of Valor, we reflect upon the lessons of history, so that we may learn to never repeat its failures, and instead move forward together towards that which we seek to accomplish. After three generations, with the blessing of hindsight, we clearly know the causes that led to the world wars.”

During World War II, more than a million Filipinos died. Of that number, more than 70,000 perished during the Bataan Death March, which started on April 9, 1942.

READ: Memories, life lessons: Stories from World War II veterans

Aquino said he looks up to war veterans who chose peace “instead of bearing grudges.”

After the war, former enemies like the United States and Japan started forging partnerships.

“Is it not true that even the victors and survivors needed to rebuild from the ashes? From such an insight, the opportunity rose: Because of their decision, adversaries became partners,” Aquino said.

The President took the opportunity to thank the US and Japan, as well as other nations, for always aiding the country during times of calamity.

In their respective speeches, the ambassadors of the US and Japan reiterated their support for the Philippines.

Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa, in behalf of his country, apologized for all who suffered during the war.

“We all remember and never forget what happened here,” he said.

He pointed out that now Japan and the Philippines are partners in trade and development. IDL, KS

 
URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc0bdwvK82o&feature=player_embedded


INQUIRER

Aquino to honor bravery of Filipino soldiers Jerry E. Esplanada @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:51 AM | Thursday, April 9th, 2015


PNoy at Araw ng Kagitingan rites Uploaded on 1:35PM Apr 9 President Benigno Aquino III troops the line upon arrival at the Dambana ng Kagitingan on Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan for the 73rd Commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on Thursday, April 9. Ryan Lim COURTESY OF GMA NEWS NETWORK

Malacañang is not sure if the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos will be among the war veterans that President Benigno Aquino III will honor today at the 73rd Araw ng Kagitingan rites at the Shrine of Valor on Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan.

Araw ng Kagitingan, also known as “Bataan Day,” is a national public holiday. It commemorates the fall of the Bataan peninsula during World War II after months of fighting between the Philippine and United States forces against the invading Japanese.

According to Malacañang, the yearly observance commemorates the “bravery of our soldiers who fought in the name of freedom and patriotism” against the Japanese invaders.

Palace officials, however, were not sure if Marcos, who had claims to being the most bemedalled Filipino war veteran, will be among those that Aquino will commend at the event.

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Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said they were “not aware” of any list of government-recognized war veterans with Marcos’ name on it.

He said he would “verify with the Department of National Defense if the former President’s name is included in any list of war veterans.”

Asked about Marcos loyalists’ claims to the late dictator’s heroism, Coloma said: “Such claims to heroism, if revived, may be met with renewed skepticism by those who had previously disputed these. ”

Marcos, who was president from 1966 to 1986, was an Army officer during the war.

However, it was revealed in United States government archives that he actually played little or no part in anti-Japanese activities during World War II.

Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg will be joining the President at the event.

The theme of this year’s Day of Valor commemoration is “Ipunla ang Kagitingan sa Kabataan, Ihanda ang Beterano ng Kinabukasan.”


INQUIRER

Ferdinand Marcos on war vets’ list; Imelda getting old age pension Jerry E. Esplanada @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:54 AM | Friday, April 10th, 2015


FORMER PRESIDENT FERDINAND MARCOS, WAR VET

President Benigno Aquino III and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg took turns praising the courage and sacrifice of thousands of Filipino and American soldiers during World War II.

They were apparently unaware, however, that among those they commended during the 73rd Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) rites was the late President Ferdinand Marcos, who had claims to being the most bemedaled Filipino war veteran.

Malacañang—responding to a query from the Inquirer—checked with the Department of National Defense (DND) and found that the former dictator was indeed a government-recognized war veteran.

READ: To young Filipinos who never knew martial law and dictatorship

READ: Marcos diaries: ‘Delusions of a dictator’

Usaffe

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told this reporter: “On whether (Marcos) is on a list of recognized veterans, this is according to the DND Public Information Office: President Ferdinand E. Marcos is a Usaffe veteran.”

Usaffe is short for US Armed Forces in the Far East, which was active from 1941 to 1946 and headed by Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

In a text message, Coloma also said former first lady Imelda R. Marcos, the late leader’s widow, is “now receiving old age pension from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.”

Honored, too?

READ ON...
On Wednesday, Malacañang said it was not sure if the former President would be among the war veterans that President Aquino would honor at Day of Valor ceremonies at Mt. Samat National Shrine in Pilar, Bataan province.

Day of Valor, also known as Bataan Day, is a national public holiday. It commemorates the fall of Bataan to Japanese invaders in 1942.

Coloma had said the Palace was “not aware” of any list of state-recognized war veterans with Marcos’ name on it.

Heroism disputed

He said he would verify with the DND if the late strongman’s name was on any list of war veterans.

Asked about Marcos loyalists’ claims about the late leader’s heroism, he said: “Such claims to heroism, if revived, may be met with renewed skepticism by those who had previously disputed these.”

Marcos, who was President from 1966 to 1986, was an Army officer during World War II. But US government archives revealed that he actually played little or no part in anti-Japanese activities during the war.

READ: Notorious fake hero died 25 years ago

Veteran’s sacrifices

On Thursday, Goldberg noted both Americans and Filipinos “continue to benefit from the sacrifices of our veterans.”

“It was the relentless and indomitable spirit of our guerrillas and soldiers in defense of Bataan and the captivity of Camp O’Donnell (in Tarlac province) that helped forge a great alliance, the US-Philippine alliance, the oldest in the region, and one that has helped preserve and protect the security and stability of the entire Pacific region,” he said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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