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

WORLD SHOULD FEAR CHINA's ACTIONS IN SOUTH CHINA SEA SAYS, PHILIPPINE PREZ AQUINO


Aquino also warned that, while he did not believe China intended to engage in a military conflict over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations, that was a possibility.
China's efforts to stake its claim to most of the South China Sea should spark fear around the world, Philippine President Benigno Aquino told AFP on Tuesday. "Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world," Aquino said in an exclusive interview at the presidential palace in Manila. Aquino said China's reclamation activities on reefs and islets in contested parts of the South China Sea, and other actions to assert sovereignty, .. Aquino said China's reclamation activities on reefs and islets in contested parts of the South China Sea, and other actions to assert sovereignty, threatened access to international shipping lanes and fishing grounds there. He also warned that, while he did not believe China intended to engage in a military conflict over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations, that was a possibility. "The question of it escalating to something beyond everybody's ..China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including areas near the coasts of other Asian nations, using a line that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: China on Aquino’s fears: Groundless


PHOTO HOT SPOT President Benigno Aquino 3rd points to a copy of China’s nine-dash line map. AFP PHOTO
BEIJING: China on Wednesday dismissed as “groundless” Philippine President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s warning that the Asian giant’s actions in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) should “engender fear for the rest of the world.” Aquino made his remarks in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse on Tuesday, saying China’s increasing bold assertions of its territorial claims could cut access for other nations to vital international shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds in the sea. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing, “The relevant accusations by the Philippines are groundless.” READ  MORE...

ALSO DFA chief: 50 meetings with China reached dead end


In this November 2014 file photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario at the 26th APEC Ministerial Meeting at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, China. Malacañang Photo Bureau/Ryan Lim
— The country's top diplomat on Wednesday dismissed Vice President Jejomar Binay's position that the country should resume bilateral talks with China on the sea row. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila had exhausted all means to deal with Beijing directly in attempting to resolve or at least de-escalate the maritime tension at the West Philippine Sea. "We are for bilateral talks, but we ran into a dead end in terms of using that approach," Del Rosario said in a televised interview with ANC. "In the case of Scarborough Shoal, we had over 50 bilateral engagements with them and that did not work because ... in every bilateral meeting you have with China, unfortunately, [leads to their saying] to you, 'We have indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea'," Del Rosario said. With China's unwillingness to drop its claim, the negotiations reached a deadlock. "We thought at one point that we've tried everything and actually," Del Rosario said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Nobel Peace laureate proposes 'only solution' to China-Phl row
["So if they cannot accept a UN framework for discussion, let's find another formula, a creative one, wherein everybody would sit around the table and put forward their views, how they want to address the issues," he said.]


Jose Ramos Horta, former East Timor president and a Nobel laureate, speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in May 2013. CSIS — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta knows that none of that countries involved in the territorial disputes over the South China and East China seas will back down on their claims. "It is politically impossible for any of the claimant states to give up an inch on their claim [of] sovereignty in the area," said Ramos Horta, who recently assumed the post as United Nations' (UN) special representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau. The former East Timor president thinks that a UN mechanism such as the arbitration case lodged by the Philippines last year against China may not settle the longstanding maritime tensions that have recently escalated following China's unilateral actions. One reason is China does not recognize a UN framework and also does not want a third party such as the United States to dabble in the matter, he said. "The United Nations is not the only forum whereby these issues to be discussed. If China does not wish the United States to be involved, that's fine. There are other arrangements, the important [thing] is all parties involved begin talking on the escalated tensions," Ramos Horta said in a televised interview on Bloomberg on Monday. READ MORE...

ALSO last June 2014 report: Ex-US admiral said, 'Equally forceful' Philippines needed in sea row


Dennis Blair, then United States Director of National Intelligence, speaks at the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia in November 2009. WACPhiladelphia
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has to stand up to China's gray-zone challenges in the hotly contested South China Sea, instead of only reacting to its behavior. Dennis Blair, retired chief of the United States Pacific Command and former Director of National Intelligence, said the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam "can't just sit there" and watch as China encroaches in what they consider sovereign territories. "Of course, you need to think them through carefully, but if the Chinese want to play a game of 'I'll poke you here, and I'll poke you there,' then you have to respond and say, 'Game on." Blair said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun, a transcript of which was posted Thursday. "Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam need to take initiatives of their own and be equally forceful in that space," the acknowledged Asia expert advised. Blair said China will keep on forcefully asserting its claims through unilateral declarations, but will not step beyond the "upper limit" of heightening tensions to become a major conflict. READ MORE...

ALSO: Philippines eyed for advanced US air, navy weaponry
[Philippines seeks substantive US support on sea row]


File photo
 The United States wants to deploy advanced air and naval equipment to the Philippines, which is seeking “substantive support” from its long-time ally amid China’s massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea. This was according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who cited US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent pronouncements. The type or kind of military equipment and materiel was not specified. “According to the new Department of Defense secretary in the United States, Secretary Carter, they are already looking at deploying to the Philippines various advanced equipment, air force equipment, naval equipment, maritime domain equipment. These were outlined by Secretary Carter recently and we welcome this,” Del Rosario said in an interview on ANC. Carter’s announcement came after US President Barack Obama expressed concern over China’s using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the region, particularly the Philippines. READ MORE...

ALSO US to China: Clarify your boundary


STAR/File photo 
WASHINGTON – The United States has called on China to clarify or adjust its controversial nine-dash boundary line in the South China Sea to conform to international law and insisted all maritime claims be derived from land features, Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear said. Testifying before a House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, the head of the US Pacific Command said China’s attempts to unilaterally enforce its ambiguous sea claims have created uncertainty in the region. “The international community would welcome China to clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim and bring it into accordance with the international law of the sea, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” he said. In Manila, Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell also expressed concern over China’s massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea. China’s nine-dash boundary line covers almost the entire South China Sea and its claims overlap those of five other claimants – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. READ MORE...

China ignores global outcry vs reclamation


Aerial surveillance images obtained by The STAR show Ma- bini Reef in March last year (left), with only one building that served as a temporary shelter for workers. The image on the right, taken recently, shows more structures and trees planted on the reef.
- Beijing shrugged off yesterday the expression of concern raised by the Group of Seven industrialized countries over threats to stability in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, saying China’s activities in the region – including its massive reclamation – are “beyond reproach.”  On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes.

The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the High Representative of the European Union issued the communiqué after their meeting in Lübeck, Germany. They urged parties with territorial and maritime claims in the region to refrain from taking “unilateral actions, such as large-scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions.”  They also expressed support for the establishment of functioning regional mechanisms of cooperation on enhanced maritime security, underscoring the positive role played by the ASEAN-China talks in crafting a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as part of confidence-building measures. But China has rejected the multilateral approach to resolve the disputes, insisting it holds a consistent and clear position on maritime issues in the neighborhood and would only negotiate with countries directly involved. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

World should fear China's actions in South China Sea says Philippine prez Aquino By AFP | 14 Apr, 2015, 03.16PM IST


Aquino also warned that, while he did not believe China intended to engage in a military conflict over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations, that was a possibility.

MANILA, APRIL 20, 2015 (ECONOMIC TIMES)  China's efforts to stake its claim to most of the South China Sea should spark fear around the world, Philippine President Benigno Aquino told AFP on Tuesday.

"Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world," Aquino said in an exclusive interview at the presidential palace in Manila.

Aquino said China's reclamation activities on reefs and islets in contested parts of the South China Sea, and other actions to assert sovereignty, ..

Aquino said China's reclamation activities on reefs and islets in contested parts of the South China Sea, and other actions to assert sovereignty, threatened access to international shipping lanes and fishing grounds there.

He also warned that, while he did not believe China intended to engage in a military conflict over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations, that was a possibility.

"The question of it escalating to something beyond everybody's ..

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including areas near the coasts of other Asian nations, using a line that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.


MANILA TIMES

China on Aquino’s fears: Groundless April 16, 2015 12:22 am

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PHOTO HOT SPOT President Benigno Aquino 3rd points to a copy of China’s nine-dash line map. AFP PHOTO

BEIJING: China on Wednesday dismissed as “groundless” Philippine President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s warning that the Asian giant’s actions in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) should “engender fear for the rest of the world.”

Aquino made his remarks in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse on Tuesday, saying China’s increasing bold assertions of its territorial claims could cut access for other nations to vital international shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds in the sea.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing, “The relevant accusations by the Philippines are groundless.”

READ MORE....
Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s, locking it into territorial disputes with several of its neighbors.

When asked to assess recent Chinese government moves, Aquino said, “Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world.”

“The question of it escalating to something beyond everybody’s control should be at the top of the minds of all world leaders,” he added.

Using the Chinese name for the Spratlys, where satellite imagery shows Beijing recently constructed artificial islands, runways and man-made harbors, Hong said, “The Philippines’ territory has never covered the Nansha islands.

“We urge the Philippines to respect China’s territorial sovereignty,” he added.

Hong said Beijing favored resolution of territorial disputes through “negotiation with countries directly concerned, based on respect for historical facts.”

He added that Chinese construction “does not impact or target any other countries, or threaten the security of international shipping lanes and fishing activities.”

The US has weighed in on China’s projects, with a State Department spokesman saying the reclaimed land was “fueling greater anxiety within the region” and might become “militarized.”

US President Barack Obama warned last week that Beijing should not “elbow aside” countries it is in dispute with in the South China Sea.


PHILSTAR

DFA chief: 50 meetings with China reached dead end By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated April 15, 2015 - 5:02pm


In this November 2014 file photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario at the 26th APEC Ministerial Meeting at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, China. Malacañang Photo Bureau/Ryan Lim

MANILA, Philippines — The country's top diplomat on Wednesday dismissed Vice President Jejomar Binay's position that the country should resume bilateral talks with China on the sea row.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila had exhausted all means to deal with Beijing directly in attempting to resolve or at least de-escalate the maritime tension at the West Philippine Sea.

"We are for bilateral talks, but we ran into a dead end in terms of using that approach," Del Rosario said in a televised interview with ANC.

"In the case of Scarborough Shoal, we had over 50 bilateral engagements with them and that did not work because ... in every bilateral meeting you have with China, unfortunately, [leads to their saying] to you, 'We have indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea'," Del Rosario said.

With China's unwillingness to drop its claim, the negotiations reached a deadlock.

"We thought at one point that we've tried everything and actually," Del Rosario said.

READ MORE...
The Philippines' resort to a third-party settlement of the dispute, specifically through arbitration by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a core aspect of its "rules-based approach" to the regional bickering.

China, however, rejected active participation in the arbitral proceedings and insisted on bilateral negotiations over the potentially resource-rich waterway.

Binay, a front runner in presidential polls, recently said he would take a different road than President Benigno Aquino III in dealing with the China problem when elected in 2016.

He said the Philippines and China may strike a win-win joint venture as a result of direct dealings with each other.

"May pera po ang China, kailangan po natin ng kapital," he said.

Several members of the international community, including the ASEAN, have expressed support for the move to elevate the case to the United Nations as among the "peaceful" means in addressing the regional dustup.


PHILSTAR

Nobel Peace laureate proposes 'only solution' to China-Phl row By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated July 2, 2014 - 9:50am


Jose Ramos Horta, former East Timor president and a Nobel laureate, speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in May 2013. CSIS

MANILA, Philippines — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos Horta knows that none of that countries involved in the territorial disputes over the South China and East China seas will back down on their claims.

"It is politically impossible for any of the claimant states to give up an inch on their claim [of] sovereignty in the area," said Ramos Horta, who recently assumed the post as United Nations' (UN) special representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau.

The former East Timor president thinks that a UN mechanism such as the arbitration case lodged by the Philippines last year against China may not settle the longstanding maritime tensions that have recently escalated following China's unilateral actions.

One reason is China does not recognize a UN framework and also does not want a third party such as the United States to dabble in the matter, he said.

Also read: US exec tells Beijing: Neighbors sense irony in your word

"The United Nations is not the only forum whereby these issues to be discussed. If China does not wish the United States to be involved, that's fine. There are other arrangements, the important [thing] is all parties involved begin talking on the escalated tensions," Ramos Horta said in a televised interview on Bloomberg on Monday.

READ MORE...
Horta explained that the best option left for the equally adamant claimant states is to meet and talk diplomatically.

"The only solution for those leaders of the region with a sense of responsibility to maintain peace and security in the region is to scale down the tensions, tone down the public statements, sit down under whatever formula they might agree [on]," Ramos Horta said.

Ramos Horta, who opposed the Indonesian occupation on East Timor, believes that international principles may give merit to claims but may not tone down the rivalry. There is "no other alternative" but for East Asian countries to strike an agreement and end the dispute once and for all.

"One thing is certain, China or Japan or the Philippines or Vietnam, they are not going to back down on their sovereign claims, none of them is going to be able to impose their claims on the others. So they're going to have to compromise, and the best compromise is [have] joint development in the area," he said.

"It is the best interest for each and everyone of them, the best interest of the region. There are experiences in the past. Diplomacy was invented precisely to address seemingly intractable tensions or disputes, so I believe that we deal with countries that have good solid reputation, from China to Vietnam to Japan to the Philippines," Ramos Horta added.

He also refused to point his fingers at China for its recent actions in the waters the United States called "destabilizing" and unbecoming of a rising global leader.

He argued that rival claimants must also understand China's "historical grievances" that make it suspicious of Western powers.

"Let us not forget that through centuries, decades until the Cold War ended, China was invaded, colonized by almost any conceivable power. China was victimized in World War II by the Japanese Imperial Army, Then came the social containment policy of the United States," Ramos Horta said.

Parties should also not jeopardize on the progress in the region by endangering the freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic waterways.

"So if they cannot accept a UN framework for discussion, let's find another formula, a creative one, wherein everybody would sit around the table and put forward their views, how they want to address the issues," he said.

Still, China has to project itself as a respectable, 21st century power by avoiding aggression at sea, he said.

In resorting to arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Philippines had said it has exhausted all means in attempting to settle the maritime row with China.

It has submitted its 4,000-page memorial to the arbitral tribunal earlier this year, but China has rejected the proceedings and insisted on bilateral negotiations.

China has recently blocked Filipino ships from resupplying to a Marines outpost on Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal and started reclamation work on Philippine-claimed waters, insisting on its indisputable sovereignty.


PHILSTAR (FLASHBACK JUNE 2014)

Ex-US admiral: 'Equally forceful' Philippines needed in sea row By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated June 27, 2014 - 12:16pm


Dennis Blair, then United States Director of National Intelligence, speaks at the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia in November 2009. WACPhiladelphia

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has to stand up to China's gray-zone challenges in the hotly contested South China Sea, instead of only reacting to its behavior.

Dennis Blair, retired chief of the United States Pacific Command and former Director of National Intelligence, said the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam "can't just sit there" and watch as China encroaches in what they consider sovereign territories.

"Of course, you need to think them through carefully, but if the Chinese want to play a game of 'I'll poke you here, and I'll poke you there,' then you have to respond and say, 'Game on." Blair said in an interview with Asahi Shimbun, a transcript of which was posted Thursday.

"Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam need to take initiatives of their own and be equally forceful in that space," the acknowledged Asia expert advised.

Blair said China will keep on forcefully asserting its claims through unilateral declarations, but will not step beyond the "upper limit" of heightening tensions to become a major conflict.

READ MORE...
"On the Chinese side, I think there is a similar sort of a ceiling because China knows that if a major conflict were to occur in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, the effect on China’s economic development would be terrible," Blair said.

"Below that limit, though, the Chinese are sitting around, thinking, “Now, what can I do next? Let's see, I can extend the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), I can declare a new fishing zone, etcetera," he added.

Neighboring countries should then take advantage of China's self-imposed limit even as it grows in power and believes it can get its way, Blair said.

Blair, who was in the US Navy for 34 years, urged the Philippines and other claimant states to say, "Wait a minute! These are things that matter to us. These are our interests. Together we are stronger than you are."

"These are not things that we hand over to you just because your [gross domestic product] goes up 10 percent a year," Blair said.

The former admiral admitted that Beijing's increasing might has "worried" him for years knowing that it feels entitled to weaker countries' concessions in the decades-long sea row.

He explained that China looks back at its years as a weaker nation and still remembers Japan's invasion in 1931. Now an Asian powerhouse, China is prepared to use its newfound strength to its advantage.

Still, rival claimants "cannot simply make concessions to a country as it grows in power," Blair believes.

"We have to figure out how to counter those actions," he said.

The Philippines has taken a "rules-based approach" in dealing the escalating disputes. It has abandoned seemingly futile direct negotiations with China and resorted to filing an arbitration case before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China has rejected the third-party settlement as the Manila invests on new military assets for a "minimum credible defense" amid the regional dustup.


PHILSTAR

Philippines eyed for advanced US air, navy weaponry By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 16, 2015 - 12:00am

Philippines seeks substantive US support on sea row


File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The United States wants to deploy advanced air and naval equipment to the Philippines, which is seeking “substantive support” from its long-time ally amid China’s massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

This was according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, who cited US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent pronouncements. The type or kind of military equipment and materiel was not specified.

“According to the new Department of Defense secretary in the United States, Secretary Carter, they are already looking at deploying to the Philippines various advanced equipment, air force equipment, naval equipment, maritime domain equipment. These were outlined by Secretary Carter recently and we welcome this,” Del Rosario said in an interview on ANC.

Carter’s announcement came after US President Barack Obama expressed concern over China’s using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the region, particularly the Philippines.

READ MORE...
“The first time that it was announced was a few days ago... this is the first time we are hearing about it. We have not engaged in discussion so we will find out more about what these plans involve,” Del Rosario said.

He said the equipment – possibly to include a weapons system – would be manned by US personnel.

“It will require US presence. We have not talked about what extent this will happen but with those equipment you can surmise that there will be a US presence,” he added.

“We are, at this point, seeking additional support from the United States in terms of being able to take a stronger position in defending our position, which is to uphold the rule of law,” Del Rosario told journalists later yesterday.

Del Rosario is set to visit the US in two weeks to meet with members of the US Congress, with whom he is likely to discuss the developments in the West Philippine Sea, particularly China’s massive reclamation activities.

A meeting with Carter and US Secretary of State John Kerry is also expected to take place during Del Rosario’s visit.

He noted that the US government is looking at the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea problem in terms of three elements – China’s massive reclamation activities, construction of facilities such as airstrips and harbors, and the militarization of these facilities.

“The Philippines is saying that we should get together and study how we can uphold the rule of law together not only with the United States but with the entire international community,” he said.

Del Rosario reiterated that the reclamation projects were proof of China’s aggression in the region.

“And not only are they using it to define the nine-dash line but they feel that it will serve to undermine our case with the arbitral tribunal because what they are trying to do is they are taking features and changing the character and nature and the maritime entitlements of those features,” Del Rosario said.

“They are not allowed to do that but UNCLOS says that even if they do that, the UNCLOS will look not at what there is now but what it was before they built these features,” he said, referring to the reclaimed lands in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines protested China’s seven massive reclamation activities, saying they were a violation not only of international law but also of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

The DOC calls for self-restraint in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, including altering of features in contested waters.

“We are looking at our options now,” Del Rosario said without elaborating.

Next week, 11,500 Filipino and American soldiers are taking part in the largest-ever 10-day war games in the Philippines, called Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder), setting into motion the US rebalance to Asia policy.

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.

China yesterday bristled at recent comments by President Aquino in an interview with AFP.


President Benigno Aquino III with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. (Photo by Ryan Lim / Malacañang Photo Bureau)

Aquino said China is engendering fear around the world with its posture in the South China Sea’s disputed waters, and that it’s possible conflict over territorial disputes could break out.

“The accusation is groundless,” said Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a regular briefing. “We urge the Philippines to respect China’s territorial sovereignty.”

The Philippines has called “unacceptable” China’s assurance that its massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea was not causing environmental damage. Manila earlier said coastal communities are facing $100-million losses annually from China’s reclamation activities, citing a United Nations Environment Program study.

China is tolerating environmentally harmful fishing practices by its nationals at Bajo de Masinloc, also called Panatag Shoal or Scarborough Shoal off Zambales, according to Philippine authorities.

The Philippines has also expressed concern over China’s announcement that the reclaimed islands and reefs would provide comprehensive services to meet various fisheries and maritime demands.

The DFA said such statements by China only “serve to raise the specter of increasing militarization and threaten peace and stability in the region.”

Analyst say China’s vigorous reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea were being done in anticipation of an adverse ruling on its position by the international arbitral court based in The Hague.

In 2014, the Philippines submitted a voluminous memorial or written argument of its position on the West Philippine Sea issue to the arbitral court. The court, however, has no powers to enforce its ruling.

Supply problem

Meanwhile, China has reportedly turned to its citizens with businesses in Southeast Asian countries for help in providing supplies for its personnel and troops currently engaged in massive reclamation operations in the West Philippine Sea, a source in the intelligence community said.

“Facing difficulties in sustaining the presence of their personnel in the region China has turned to its citizens based in Southeast Asia to solve this problem as Hainan is very far,” the source said.

He said several fishing boats seen unloading supplies for the Chinese were found to be Chinese-owned but had come from nearby countries, particularly Malaysia.

China’s occupied area in the Spratlys is 580 miles away from its nearest territory in Hainan’s Yulin naval base, thus making it very costly to deliver food and other provisions needed by thousands of its construction personnel, sailors and marines currently staying in the disputed region.

“We even suspect that the Chinese are also getting food and drinking water, one way or the other, from enterprising Filipinos employed on these foreign-registered fishing boats as we monitored an increasing demand of this basic need to sustain human survival,” the source said.

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. expressed doubt on the veracity of the report, saying he had not been notified of the development.

Kalayaan town is a fifth class municipality in Palawan located on Pag-Asa Island, the second biggest island in the Spratlys archipelago.

“It’s highly unlikely that these things are now happening out there,” Bito-onon said. – Jaime Laude


PHILSTAR

US to China: Clarify your boundary By Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington bureau (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 17, 2015 - 12:00am


STAR/File photo

WASHINGTON – The United States has called on China to clarify or adjust its controversial nine-dash boundary line in the South China Sea to conform to international law and insisted all maritime claims be derived from land features, Navy Admiral Samuel Locklear said.

Testifying before a House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, the head of the US Pacific Command said China’s attempts to unilaterally enforce its ambiguous sea claims have created uncertainty in the region.

“The international community would welcome China to clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim and bring it into accordance with the international law of the sea, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” he said.

In Manila, Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell also expressed concern over China’s massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s nine-dash boundary line covers almost the entire South China Sea and its claims overlap those of five other claimants – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

READ MORE...
China is executing a strategy that includes expanding outposts in contested areas through land reclamation, taking action to prevent other nations from establishing or maintaining outposts, exploring for natural resources in disputed waters and increasing its naval and air forces’ presence through exercises and patrols, Locklear said.

He said China’s aggressive land reclamation and construction projects at eight South China Sea military outposts included new buildings, more capable berthing space for ships and presumably an airfield on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, China’s largest reclamation project.

“Although land reclamation cannot change a submerged feature into a natural island that generates any legal entitlements to maritime zones, the completion of these projects will give China the ability for greater presence, increase dwell time for military and coast guard assets, and expand the areas covered by surveillance and area-denial systems,” he said.

Missile system

China could eventually deploy radar and missile systems on outposts it is building in the South China Sea that could be used to enforce an exclusion zone over the disputed territory, Locklear added.

“It allows them to exert basically greater influence over what’s now a contested area. Expanded land features down there also could eventually lead to the deployment of things such as long-range radars, military and advanced missile systems,” he said. “And it might be a platform if they ever wanted to establish an air defense zone.”

China drew condemnation from Japan and the US when it imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), in which aircraft are supposed to identify themselves to Chinese authorities, above the East China Sea in late 2013.

The US responded by flying B-52 bombers through the zone in a show of force.

China has denied speculation that it plans to declare a new ADIZ in the South China Sea but its rapid reclamation work has alarmed other regional states with territorial claimants.

Examples of activities supporting China’s long-term strategy, he said, included attempts to block resupply missions to the small Philippine garrison at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and bar Filipino and other fishermen from the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

No country appears to desire military conflict in their territorial and maritime issues in the South China Sea, he said, and the claimants’ use of maritime law enforcement vessels to enforce their claims has largely kept these issues out of the military sphere.

However, an escalation due to a tactical miscalculation cannot be ruled out.

US Undersecretary of Defense Christine Wormuth, who also testified before the committee, said the Chinese government’s efforts to incrementally advance its South China Sea claims and block access to disputed fishing zones suggested a willingness to assert control over contested areas through coercion or the use of force.

“Moreover, its extensive land reclamation activities, especially the prospect to militarize these outposts, are deeply concerning to us. We would therefore urge China to show restraint and refrain from further activities that undermine regional trust,” she said.

“We also continue to urge China to clarify the meaning of its ambiguous nine-dash line claim as a starting point to reducing tensions and creating greater transparency,” she said.

Australian interest

In Manila, Tweddell said that while Australia does not take sides in the maritime dispute, his country has legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace, stability, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation in the region.

“We do not take sides on competing claims, territorial claims in the South China Sea but we are concerned, for example, with the land reclamation activities by China and other claims could raise tensions in the region,” Tweddell told reporters. – Pia Lee-Brago


China ignores global outcry vs reclamation By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 19, 2015 - 12:00am


Aerial surveillance images obtained by The STAR show Ma- bini Reef in March last year (left), with only one building that served as a temporary shelter for workers. The image on the right, taken recently, shows more structures and trees planted on the reef.

MANILA, Philippines - Beijing shrugged off yesterday the expression of concern raised by the Group of Seven industrialized countries over threats to stability in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea, saying China’s activities in the region – including its massive reclamation – are “beyond reproach.”

On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region.

In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes.

The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the High Representative of the European Union issued the communiqué after their meeting in Lübeck, Germany.

They urged parties with territorial and maritime claims in the region to refrain from taking “unilateral actions, such as large-scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions.”

They also expressed support for the establishment of functioning regional mechanisms of cooperation on enhanced maritime security, underscoring the positive role played by the ASEAN-China talks in crafting a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as part of confidence-building measures.

But China has rejected the multilateral approach to resolve the disputes, insisting it holds a consistent and clear position on maritime issues in the neighborhood and would only negotiate with countries directly involved.

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Last Friday, China’s ministry of foreign affairs reiterated that Beijing wants relevant disputes resolved through negotiation and consultation by countries directly concerned.

The foreign ministry argued Beijing is committed to safeguarding regional peace and stability and pushing for mutually beneficial and win-win arrangements with countries concerned.

“The situation of this region is generally stable and relevant cooperation has been moved forward with positive results,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a press conference in Beijing.

“It is hoped that relevant countries would fully respect the efforts by regional countries to safeguard regional peace and stability, and do more things that contribute to regional peace and stability.”

‘Justifiable and lawful’

Amid calls for China to stop unilateral actions in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea to avoid flaring up tensions, Hong said Chinese construction of facilities like airstrips on land forms is “sensible, justifiable and lawful” and entirely within China’s sovereignty. The reclamation activities, he stressed, do not affect or target any other country.

“What China has done is beyond any reproach, and we hope that relevant parties can take a proper look at this,” Hong stressed.

Recent satellite images show that China is accelerating its construction of airstrips in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

China, he said, has already made a systematic explanation of its construction work on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

He reiterated that China’s construction and maintenance work on some garrisoned islands and reefs in the Spratly Islands are intended to “optimize their functions, improve the living and working conditions of personnel stationed there and what’s more, to perform China’s international responsibility and obligation in maritime search and rescue, disaster prevention and mitigation, marine science and research, meteorological observation, environmental protection, navigation safety, fishery production service and other areas.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday welcomed the G-7 declaration, saying it “underlines the international community’s commitment to uphold the principles of international law, in particular the UNCLOS, which underpin the stable maritime code that serves our common interests.” UNCLOS stands for United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

The Philippines, through Del Rosario, reiterated its call for a stop to unilateral actions that violate international laws and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

“Such actions undermine efforts to pursue the peaceful, rules-based resolution of disputes in the South China Sea and to promote regional stability,” Del Rosario said.

More work needed

Last Friday at the US embassy in Manila, US State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel acknowledged the complexity of the South China Sea disputes. He said the problem requires the “right combination” of steps to create a “condition of positive behavior.”

“We still have more work to create a condition of less provocative behavior,” Marciel told reporters.

He said the US values peaceful efforts to resolve the problem, including resorting to international arbitration as what Manila had done.

“This is not an easy problem to address. It is something that we have to continue to work together, consult among all the relevant countries to try to find the right combination of steps that we can take to try to encourage that positive behavior,” he said.

The official said he had discussions with Del Rosario on the South China Sea issue, where he reiterated the US concern over alarming developments in the region.

“We also reiterated our hope that all the claimant nations would show restraint, avoid provocative actions and exchange ideas on how best to try to create pattern of behavior among all the claimant states that would reduce tensions,” he said.

Del Rosario cited on Wednesday US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s recent pronouncement that the US wants to deploy advanced air and naval equipment to the Philippines, which is seeking “substantive support” from its long-time ally amid China’s massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines has formally protested China’s seven massive reclamation activities, citing their adverse impact on stability and on biodiversity and ecological balance.

Satellite images taken last week by DigitalGlobe and shown on the website of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) show a runway being built on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef. The runway – estimated at 3,110 meters in total – is more than one-third complete, it says.

When in operation, the runway would be able to “accommodate almost any type of aircraft that China would want to land,” the CSIS said.

“Before this construction China lacked the refueling and resupply capabilities to reach the southern part of the South China Sea,” it added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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