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

BIGGEST 'BALIKATAN' WAR GAMES WILL STRESS TERRITORIAL DEFENSE


APRIL 20 ---This year’s Balikatan exercises—which will gather some 11,000 military personnel from the Philippines and the United States—will focus on territorial defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Sunday.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said the war games will not only enhance interoperability for combined operations but also boost the AFP’s joint operations capability for “territorial defense, internal security operations, humanitarian assistance and development response, and peacekeeping.”  
AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang will also show new aerial photos of China’s expansion in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea as the joint military exercises open today. Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the new images highlight the country’s growing concern over “the aggressiveness of China.”  “We also do not want it to become a military confrontation. But what China is doing is dangerous. It will affect everyone,” Cabunoc added. Naval maneuvers were originally scheduled in two major points in Palawan and Zambales fronting the disputed sites in the West Philippine Sea where China is conducting reclamation activities, but these exercises were shelved for still unknown reasons. Kakilala said the annual exercises enhance the country’s capability to defend its territory, contrary to criticism from leftist groups that the war games benefit only the United States. READ MORE...

ALSO: China opposes PH seeking ASEAN unity vs reclamation


LAST YEAR's PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO: A Chinese newspaper on Friday accused the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan of bullying China and claimed that solving disputes through peaceful consultations could be “wishful thinking.” May 23, 2014 
BAPRIL 20, 2015 ---EIJING, China - China on Monday said it opposed the Philippines seeking Southeast Asian unity to denounce its reclamation in the South China Sea, and hoped Washington and Manila, who have been conducting a military exercise in the disputed waters, do more to benefit regional peace and stability. Earlier on Monday, an official said Philippine President Benigno Aquino will ask Southeast Asian leaders to issue a collective statement denouncing China's reclamation in disputed waters, as the army expressed concern over expanding building works. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory around the Spratly islands in the South China Sea and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern by G7 states and Asia. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Monday said China opposed the Philippines using territorial issues to damage the relationship between China and Southeast Asian countries. "The issue of the South China Sea is not an issue between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN). We oppose certain countries using the South China Sea issue to damage the friendly cooperative relationship between China and the countries of ASEAN. We are willing to work together with the countries of ASEAN to earnestly implement the two-way-thinking solution of the South China Sea, jointly protect the peace and stability in the region of the South China Sea," Hong told media at a regular briefing in Beijing. READ MORE...

ALSO P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China Beijing: It’s not an Asean issue
[For Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr., recent developments in the West Philippine Sea have put the country in a “very difficult situation.”]


APRIL 21 ---Photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows construction on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the Spratly Islands.
With China’s actions threatening to “considerably alter the way of doing business globally,” President Aquino will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united stand against Beijing’s massive reclamation activities and other provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Aquino will raise the appeal to his ASEAN counterparts when they meet on April 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia. Beijing reacted immediately to the plan, saying the maritime dispute is not an issue between China and ASEAN. “The President has said this is already a global issue, not just a bilateral issue or even a (regional) issue. So what we are pursuing is this track of making people from other parts of the world aware of the seriousness of what is happening on the ground and on the seas,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Luis Cruz said yesterday in a press briefing. Cruz said the Philippines would aim for “a collective statement” from ASEAN leaders on China’s reclamation activities. But he stressed the summit is “not a negotiation among the leaders” and that “they will be there to express their views, not only on the South China Sea, but what they think are the security issues in the region and internationally.” READ MORE...

ALSO: Manila ‘cute little submissive’ of US – China media [The insulting tone came after a commentary on China’s official news agency Xinhua earlier this year likened the Philippines to a “crying baby” for seeking international support against Beijing’s island-building, denouncing its efforts as “pathetic”. In an interview with AFP last week, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said the world should fear China’s actions in the disputed sea, warning they could lead to military conflict.]


APRIL 21 ---BEIJING, China – The Philippines is nothing more than the “cute little submissive” of the United States, a Chinese tabloid with close ties to the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, criticizing Manila for military exercises with Washington.
The English-language editorial came a day after the Philippines launched giant 10-day war games with the US and Australia, partly aimed as a warning shot to Beijing amid competing claims in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping routes. “Of all the countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines is the one with the most tricks up its sleeves, but none of its tricks work,” the Global Times said. “Can anyone believe that China can be bluffed to make compromises when others show off their military muscle?” added the paper, affiliated with the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily. “We will simply find it laughable while imagining Philippine personnel stumbling after US forces.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: House to probe China’s intrusions; Beijing blasts PH-US war games


APRIL 22 ---BEACH ASSAULT — An Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) fires blanks but emits smoke as it makes an assault on the north beach of the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in San Antonio, Zambales, yesterday as part of the ongoing Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex). (Mark Balmores) BEACH ASSAULT —
Branding China’s massive reclamation works in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as “deplorable and patently provocative,” the House of Representatives said yesterday that it will investigate China’s intrusions which threaten regional peace and security. Albay Rep. Francis Bichara, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said his panel will convene on May 12 to investigate China’s “aggressive acts.”  READ  MORE

ALSO: PNoy wants diplomatic response to water cannon incident on Pinoy fishermen by Chinese ship –Palace


APRIL 21 ---(Reuters) – The Philippines protested on Tuesday against China’s use of a water cannon on Filipino fishermen in disputed waters of the South China Sea warning that the incident would escalate tension.
(UPDATED 8 p.m.) President Benigno Aquino III wants a diplomatic response to the firing of water cannon at Filipino fishermen by a Chinese ship in the Philippine-claimed Panatag Shoal, Malacañang said Tuesday. At a press briefing, deputy presidential spokesperson Usec. Abigail Valte said Aquino had instructed foreign affairs and defense officials to stay in the diplomatic and legal track even after the incident in the disputed West Philippine Sea. “The President’s directive in this particular matter would be for the Department of Foreign Affairs and to the Department of National Defense to come up with a response to that particular incident owing to the fact that we have our diplomatic track. We have the legal track,” Valte told reporters. “All our courses of action always fall within those tracks and this new incident will not be any different,” she added. Valte further said that the President does not want situation in the disputed territory to escalate. READ MORE...

ALSO: Chinese ship fires flares at PAF plane over Kalayaan


APRIL 24 ---STAR/File photo
- A Chinese frigate fired illumination rounds or flares at a Philippine Air Force (PAF) plane on reconnaissance patrol over the country’s Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the disputed Spratlys last Sunday. The incident was confirmed by several security officials yesterday. Top defense and military officials said the illumination rounds could have originated from the powerful searchlights of a Chinese warship. “It happened Sunday morning while our Fokker plane was on a routine maritime patrol,” a source said. But the source added the incident has resulted in the cancellation of an air evacuation scheduled last Monday of radio enthusiast Chito Pastor, who visited Pag-Asa Island in the KIG. Pastor was suffering from a kidney ailment. Sources said Pastor and his group of Filipino-American ham radio enthusiasts set up an amateur radio station called dxOP in Pag-Asa. The station had its maiden broadcast early Thursday using the airwaves to educate listeners that the island is a sovereign Philippine territory. But Pastor got ill after drinking highly saline water. His companions requested an emergency air evacuation from the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) that scheduled a flight last Monday to Pag-Asa Island. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Biggest ‘Balikatan’ will stress territorial defense


This year’s Balikatan exercises—which will gather some 11,000 military personnel from the Philippines and the United States—will focus on territorial defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Sunday.

MANILA, APRIL 27, 2015 (MANILA STANDARD) By Florante S. Solmerin, Sandy Araneta and Francisco Tuyay | Apr. 20, 2015 at 12:01am - Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said the war games will not only enhance interoperability for combined operations but also boost the AFP’s joint operations capability for “territorial defense, internal security operations, humanitarian assistance and development response, and peacekeeping.”

AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang will also show new aerial photos of China’s expansion in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea as the joint military exercises open today.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the new images highlight the country’s growing concern over “the aggressiveness of China.”

“We also do not want it to become a military confrontation. But what China is doing is dangerous. It will affect everyone,” Cabunoc added.

Naval maneuvers were originally scheduled in two major points in Palawan and Zambales fronting the disputed sites in the West Philippine Sea where China is conducting reclamation activities, but these exercises were shelved for still unknown reasons.

Kakilala said the annual exercises enhance the country’s capability to defend its territory, contrary to criticism from leftist groups that the war games benefit only the United States.

READ MORE...
Earlier, the secretary-general of the leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the annual war games were an “affront to Philippine sovereignty.”


PROTEST VS BALIKATAN IN 2009 PHOTO

“The Balikatan war games will not help the Philippines against the expansionist activities of China in the region. Numerous Balikatan exercises from the 1980s onwards have failed to help modernize the Philippine military. Even the de facto basing pact, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which marks its first anniversary on April 27, will not develop our country’s defenses,” Reyes said.

Reyes added that the military exercise are meant to project US power in the region and increase American involvement in Philippine internal affairs.

“It is not true that the US is out to protect us against China’s incursions and reclamation projects in the West Philippine Sea. The US has repeatedly said that it that does not take sides in the maritime dispute,” he said.

He added that the US, which owes China $1.3 trillion, would not engage it in a shooting war.

“Our national leaders are only being made to believe that the US is there to support us. In truth, the US is only concerned with its own imperialist interests in Asia. We assert that our national interest is not identical with US strategic pivot to the region,” he added.

But Kakilala dismissed Reyes’ views as “myopic.”

He also questioned the agenda of Bayan, which he described as a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Because of the magnitude of China’s intrusion in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines will seek more sophisticated military equipment from the US to beef up its maritime patrols, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said.

Del Rosario, however, did not say what kind of equipment the Philippines will seek.

But Reyes said the equipment being requested for maritime surveillance would be owned and operated by the United States.

“The DFA is basically allowing the US to put up military facilities on Philippine territory, in the guise of helping us counter China. Increased US involvement in the Philippines should also be seen in the context of the former’s involvement in the Bangsamoro peace process,” he said.

The Palace said Sunday this year’s exercises will double the number of soldiers involved from last year, in a sign of the expanding military partnership between the US and the Philippines.

Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III said the military organizations of both countries operating side by side should offer a “deterrent...to any entity, be it a country or Islamic radicals.”

Aquino said, however, that the war games are not directed at China.

On Tuesday, marines were expected to conduct beach landing exercises from a naval base facing the South China Sea just 220 kilometers from the Philippine-claimed shoal that China has controlled since 2012.

Aside from the naval base, live fire and disaster response drills will also be held in various military camps outside Manila, reports also said.


Obama in Asia: Rebalancing the Pivot DIPLOMAT.COM Image Credit: White House photo

The US has been looking to re-build its military presence in the Philippines as part of US President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”

“The reason why these exercises are called Balikatan, the two countries will be at shoulder-to-shoulder in their purpose or goals to achieve the strength of security, and would be ready face all challenges in any crisis or calamity that would bring danger to the public,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

Coloma said the armed forces of the two countries continue to communicate to ensure that peace and stability of security would prevail in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Coloma said that the launching of immediate preparations against calamities is another important aspect of the cooperation between the two countries.

Personnel under the Balikatan exercises will also conduct structural assessment of seaports and airports that were damaged by super typhoon Yolanda, he added.

Construction of school buildings and training for first responders are also part of the joint exercises, military officials said.

Australia will also join this year’s exercises.

Lt. Col. Marlowe Patria, Philippine Balikatan public information officer, said the joint exercises will seek to optimize teamwork in three areas: disaster response, territorial defense and community development.

Other sites of the joint exercise are the naval base in Cavite, and an Army base in Crow Valley in Tarlac.


ABS-CBN

China opposes PH seeking ASEAN unity vs reclamation Reuters Posted at 04/20/2015 7:59 PM


LAST YEAR's PHILSTAR PHOTO: A Chinese newspaper on Friday accused the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan of bullying China and claimed that solving disputes through peaceful consultations could be “wishful thinking.” HEADLINE : Chinese paper: Vietnam, Japan, Philippines bullying China By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated May 23, 2014

BEIJING, China - China on Monday said it opposed the Philippines seeking Southeast Asian unity to denounce its reclamation in the South China Sea, and hoped Washington and Manila, who have been conducting a military exercise in the disputed waters, do more to benefit regional peace and stability.

Earlier on Monday, an official said Philippine President Benigno Aquino will ask Southeast Asian leaders to issue a collective statement denouncing China's reclamation in disputed waters, as the army expressed concern over expanding building works.

Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory around the Spratly islands in the South China Sea and may be planning another, moves that have been greeted with concern by G7 states and Asia.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei on Monday said China opposed the Philippines using territorial issues to damage the relationship between China and Southeast Asian countries.

"The issue of the South China Sea is not an issue between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN). We oppose certain countries using the South China Sea issue to damage the friendly cooperative relationship between China and the countries of ASEAN. We are willing to work together with the countries of ASEAN to earnestly implement the two-way-thinking solution of the South China Sea, jointly protect the peace and stability in the region of the South China Sea," Hong told media at a regular briefing in Beijing.

READ MORE...
Soldiers from the U.S. and the Philippines began their biggest combined military exercise in 15 years on Monday, in a demonstration of Washington's commitment to its long-time ally as it rebalances, or pivots, to Asia in the face of China's expansion in the South China Sea.

The exercise comes a few days after the Philippines said it was seeking more "substantive" support from the United States on how to counter China's rapid expansion.

China's reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed claimants, including the Philippines and Vietnam, and drawn growing criticism from U.S. government officials and the military.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said Washington is concerned China is using its "sheer size and muscle" to push around smaller nations in the disputed sea, drawing a swift rebuke from Beijing.

Hong said he hoped the U.S. and the Philippines would do more to benefit regional peace and stability.

"We have noticed the relevant report. We hope the relevant countries do more that is beneficial to increasing mutual security trust between countries in the region and that is beneficial to regional peace and stability," Hong said.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, disputed in parts with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, and denies accusations its actions in its own territory are provocative.


PHILSTAR

P-Noy seeking united Asean stand on China Beijing: It’s not an Asean issue By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2015 - 12:00am


Photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows construction on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the Spratly Islands.

MANILA, Philippines - With China’s actions threatening to “considerably alter the way of doing business globally,” President Aquino will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take a united stand against Beijing’s massive reclamation activities and other provocative acts in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

Aquino will raise the appeal to his ASEAN counterparts when they meet on April 27-28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in Malaysia.

Beijing reacted immediately to the plan, saying the maritime dispute is not an issue between China and ASEAN.

“The President has said this is already a global issue, not just a bilateral issue or even a (regional) issue. So what we are pursuing is this track of making people from other parts of the world aware of the seriousness of what is happening on the ground and on the seas,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Luis Cruz said yesterday in a press briefing.

Cruz said the Philippines would aim for “a collective statement” from ASEAN leaders on China’s reclamation activities. But he stressed the summit is “not a negotiation among the leaders” and that “they will be there to express their views, not only on the South China Sea, but what they think are the security issues in the region and internationally.”

READ MORE...
While the President is expected to raise more issues in the coming summit than in the previous one in Myanmar, the reclamation issue would “definitely be the main topic,” Cruz said.

In a separate briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said ASEAN leaders are likely to discuss “real time and current concerns,” especially the situation in the West Philippine Sea.

“We know that the reclamation activities represent a significant development in the evolution of developments in the West Philippine Sea or in the South China Sea and the Philippines is not the only one concerned about this. Other countries have made a lot of pronouncements already,” Coloma said.

“So it is reasonable and logical that when this is discussed by the leaders of different countries comprising ASEAN, they will discuss the situation and how it can be compared from the past,” Coloma said.

As strong as G-7 stand

Cruz said they hope an ASEAN stand on the issue would be as strong or stronger than the one issued by the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

But he said they would leave it up to Malaysia – as summit chairman – to report on what transpired or was agreed upon during the two-day summit.

The G-7 issued a communiqué on Wednesday last week seeking a stop to provocative actions in disputed waters, particularly land reclamation. The G-7 did not mention China by name, but its communiqué came on the heels of Beijing’s defense of its reclamation projects.

“The President has already said that this is not a bilateral issue, this is not a regional issue, but the world should really be concerned on this issue because of several things, not only the freedom or the safety of navigation, but also the damage that is being done to the marine environment in the area,” Cruz said.

Cruz said the Philippines would continue to push for a code of conduct from the current Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea because a “legal instrument” is needed to guide the behavior of countries involved in the maritime row.

“At this point in time, I think the level of discussion of that joint working group (for the code of conduct) is to identify the elements that can easily be achieved or agreed upon, or what they call the ‘low-hanging fruits,’” Cruz pointed out.

“The President has already said that at least 40 percent of global trade pass through these waters, and if you look at the specific countries in the region, the percentage should even be higher – higher than 40 percent, especially countries in Northeast Asia,” Cruz pointed out.

“Aside from the Pacific, the only passage to the Middle East, to Europe, to Africa, to parts of Asia would be through the South China Sea,” he said.

Asked how Manila would make Beijing realize that the latter is engaged in double-talk and not really serious about a peaceful resolution of the dispute, Cruz gave assurance there are “various ways of doing it,” including discussions behind closed doors. He stressed he was “not at liberty” to discuss the other ways.

“But let me say that we are pursuing other tracks with China. Of course, what is official is that we have submitted this issue before the International Tribunal because we wanted a decision on our entitlements in the regime of waters under UNCLOS,” Cruz said, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Cruz expressed confidence that host Malaysia would support a strong ASEAN position on the issue.

“For one thing, they are also claimants. I’m sure they are very much concerned with this issue. Secondly, as chair, of course they would want to project leadership, and leadership does not only come with how you’re able to organize the series of meetings for the rest of the year, but also how you manage the issues as they pertain to ASEAN activities,” Cruz said.

Vietnam eyes Noy meet

The DFA official also said Vietnam is seeking a meeting with President Aquino on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit, with the maritime dispute with China high on the agenda “because both countries are affected by the developments in the South China Sea.”

Cruz said that while a meeting between Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is not yet in the schedule, “I will not preclude the possibility of them having this one-on-one meeting” because “normally the chair meets individually with his counterparts.”

Vietnam and Malaysia also have claims in the South China Sea, along with Brunei and Taiwan.

Malaysia is also the facilitator in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Coloma said details of a possible strategic partnership are still being worked out.

The President will leave for Kuala Lumpur on April 26 for a gala and barbecue dinner to be hosted by the Malaysian prime minister and his spouse and stay there until Monday for the summit plenary session and meetings with representatives of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, ASEAN Business Advisory Council, ASEAN Youth and Civil Society Organizations.

According to Cruz, the ASEAN integration targeted for this year would also be discussed, along with people-to-people centered programs and projects and a Malaysian initiative regarding a global movement of moderates against extremism.

“That initiative has been on the table for several years already. So global movement of moderates would pertain to like-minded states on how to combat the issue of extremism and prevent terrorism from flourishing in the region,” Cruz said.

Regarding the ASEAN integration due by December this year, Cruz clarified that “it is not the end-all and be-all of ASEAN community-building exercise.”

Situation worsening

For Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr., recent developments in the West Philippine Sea have put the country in a “very difficult situation.”

“We are really amazed by the pace of China’s reclamation. It’s fast but I hope it’s not furious,” Catapang said in a press conference yesterday.

“We are in a very difficult situation because now, they are reclaiming the Mischief Reef. If they reclaim Mischief Reef, we will be cut off,” he added. The Philippines calls Mischief Reef Panganiban Reef.

He said if Panganiban Reef falls into China’s hands, it would become difficult or even impossible for Filipinos to gain access to Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) and Pag-Asa Island. Panganiban is only 135 miles west of Palawan.

Ayungin Shoal is being secured by a handful of Marines stationed on BRP Sierra Madre, a grounded World War II era Navy ship that serves as a Philippine military outpost.

Chinese ships have set up a blockade to prevent the Navy from sending supplies to the decrepit vessel, which has come to symbolize the Philippines’ fragile ownership of the shoal.

Pag-Asa Island, meanwhile, is the biggest island held by the Philippines in the disputed Spratlys archipelago, which is also being claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

The island group comprises Kalayaan, a fifth class town under Palawan inhabited by around 200 people. The Philippines has constructed a town hall, a 1.3-kilometer airstrip, a health center, a school and a naval station to assert its sovereignty over the area.

While the Philippines only has modest facilities in Kalayaan, China has installed advanced equipment in its controlled areas, including Panganiban Reef.

The Chinese government has built a garrison, a windmill, solar panels, a concrete platform designed as helipad and a basketball court on the reef, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

“We have an arc of defense and if the Mischief Reef is reclaimed, we will have a problem. If they (China) reclaim it, they will threaten all our islands,” Catapang said.

The military also expressed concerns over China’s construction of artificial islets in Kennan (Chigua) and Mabini (Johnson South) Reefs. China is also making progress in its island building projects in Burgos (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Zamora (Subi) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.

“As soon as the Mischief Reef is reclaimed and all the reclamation is finished, then the next move of the Chinese might be a difficult or a different one. They might propagate the area with lots of ships,” Catapang said.

“That will really militarize the area and create tensions,” he added.

China has also maintained its presence in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, an area located just 124 nautical miles off Zambales

Local fishermen can no longer enter what used to be their traditional fishing area. The Chinese have been preventing the Filipinos from fishing in the areas since 2012 after a brief standoff between Chinese surveillance vessels and a Philippine Navy ship. The Chinese vessels prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese poachers, allowing the latter to leave with their illegal harvest of endangered marine species from the shoal.

“In the future, we have to help our fishermen go back to their former fishing grounds,” Catapang said.

“I think the Coast Guard will have to escort them because if we use the gray ship it will unnecessarily provoke the other side,” he added, referring to naval ships.

“We call on China to stop the reclamation activities and to be mindful of its responsibilities as a claimant state and an important member of the international community,” Catapang said.

“We have compelling reasons to raise our voice to tell the whole world the adverse effects of China’s aggressiveness that has created tensions not only among the countries who have overlapping claims in the area, but also among the countries around the world who are using the international sea lanes in the West Philippine Sea for trade and commerce,” he added.

Convene NSC

China’s relentless acts of aggression should be enough reason for the Palace to convene the National Security Council, Sen. Francis Escudero said yesterday.

“I think it might indeed be best to convene the NSC in order to bring everybody in the loop, given that this is an issue facing our country and people regardless of political affiliation,” Escudero said.

“Except to ratify treaties and confirm the appointment of ambassadors and other officials in the foreign service, the Senate, much less Congress, has a limited role in foreign policy determination and foreign relations,” he said.

He said he remains confident of support from allies, especially the US, in ensuring that China would not take more serious actions to assert its claims in the region.

“The United States, together with our regional partners in the ASEAN as well as the international community, will definitely play an important role in keeping China at bay, tempering its bullying tactics and resolving this matter peacefully,” Escudero said.

Anak Pawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap, for his part, urged President Aquino to immediately order a shutdown of Chinese mining operations as well as revocation of power generation concessions granted to Chinese firms to demonstrate the Philippines’ seriousness in protecting its sovereignty.

“The mineral resources that China is extracting from our country serve as raw materials for ships, weapons, aircraft and others, which would be eventually used against us, hence, we are being fried in our own fat,” Hicap said in a statement.

He said 26 Chinese mining corporations have been allowed to extract gold, iron ore, nickel, copper, manganese, lead, zinc, chromate and cobalt in the country.

Major Chinese mining operations are located in Zambales such as the Wei-Wei Group’s $100-million nickel processing plant in Masinloc town, and Jiangxi Rare Earth and Rare Metals Tungsten Group Co. Ltd. with a $150-million nickel exploration and cobalt processing plant.

The state-owned Jiangxi is mining for nickel, he said.

The Philippines is China’s No. 1 source of nickel ore, with Indonesia a close second. It has been reported that nickel super-alloys are a critical component in advanced jet engines and are used in the engines of fifth generation jet fighters, he said.

“Thus, we challenge Aquino to order the termination of mining operations of China as they plunder our natural resources and trample on our national sovereignty,” Hicap said.

The lawmaker also lambasted the Aquino government’s allowing the State Grid of China to own 40 percent of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.With Alexis Romero, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero


INQUIRER

Manila ‘cute little submissive’ of US – China media Agence France-Presse 2:05 PM | Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

BEIJING, China – The Philippines is nothing more than the “cute little submissive” of the United States, a Chinese tabloid with close ties to the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, criticizing Manila for military exercises with Washington.

The English-language editorial came a day after the Philippines launched giant 10-day war games with the US and Australia, partly aimed as a warning shot to Beijing amid competing claims in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping routes.

“Of all the countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines is the one with the most tricks up its sleeves, but none of its tricks work,” the Global Times said.

“Can anyone believe that China can be bluffed to make compromises when others show off their military muscle?” added the paper, affiliated with the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily.

“We will simply find it laughable while imagining Philippine personnel stumbling after US forces.”

READ MORE...
Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the resource-rich and strategically important South China Sea, including areas close to other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.

China has expanded its presence in disputed parts of the sea in recent years by embarking on giant reclamation work on reefs and islets, turning some into islands capable of hosting military aircraft landing strips.

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

In efforts to deter China, the militarily-weak Philippines has encouraged longtime ally the US to increase its presence in the country and its coastal waters through expanded and more frequent defense exercises.

But the Global Times editorial dismissed their effectiveness, saying: “After being the ‘cute little submissive’ of the US all these years, Manila has gained only a handful of second-hand weapons and an empty sense of security, let alone any real enhancement of its army’s combat capability.”

The insulting tone came after a commentary on China’s official news agency Xinhua earlier this year likened the Philippines to a “crying baby” for seeking international support against Beijing’s island-building, denouncing its efforts as “pathetic”.

In an interview with AFP last week, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said the world should fear China’s actions in the disputed sea, warning they could lead to military conflict.

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang on Monday released what he said were satellite photos of intense recent Chinese construction over seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago, reinforcing images from a US-based company earlier this month.

China rejects criticism of its reclamation and construction works and asserts it has no need to justify activity on its sovereign territory. CB/TVJ


MANILA BULLETIN

House to probe China’s intrusions; Beijing blasts PH-US war games April 22, 2015


BEACH ASSAULT — An Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) fires blanks but emits smoke as it makes an assault on the north beach of the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in San Antonio, Zambales, yesterday as part of the ongoing Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex). (Mark Balmores) BEACH ASSAULT — An Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) fires blanks but emits smoke as it makes an assault on the north beach of the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in San Antonio, Zambales, yesterday as part of the ongoing Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex). (Mark Balmores)

Branding China’s massive reclamation works in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as “deplorable and patently provocative,” the House of Representatives said yesterday that it will investigate China’s intrusions which threaten regional peace and security.

Albay Rep. Francis Bichara, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said his panel will convene on May 12 to investigate China’s “aggressive acts.”

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“The Committee on Foreign Affairs will convene on May 12 to discuss this issue,” he said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin as he expressed his panel’s deep concern over China’s continued “deplorable, patently provocative” bullying in the region.

‘CUTE LITTLE SUBMISSIVE’

While the Philippines protests the intrusions, China’s state-run Global Times assailed the war games in the disputed waters between the Philippines and its allies – the United States and Australia – saying they are inappropriate and run counter to efforts to ease tensions in the waters.

In efforts to deter China, the Philippines has encouraged longtime ally the US to increase its presence in the country and its coastal waters through expanded and more frequent defense exercises.

But the Global Times editorial dismissed their effectiveness, saying: “After being the ‘cute little submissive’ of the US all these years, Manila has gained only a handful of second-hand weapons and an empty sense of security, let alone any real enhancement of its army’s combat capability.”

The comments came as more than 11,000 soldiers from the Philippines, US, and Australia are taking part in the joint drills in San Antonio, Zambales, a few kilometers from the contested Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal).

Last Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang called China’s building work on disputed reefs “worrisome” and a source of friction with its neighbors.

Twice as many troops as last year are joining the exercises off Palawan province. Disputes over the sea, of which China claims about four-fifths under a so-called nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map, have escalated as China expands the reach of its military to back its territorial interests.

While President Aquino says the drills aren’t targeted at China, “few believe he means it,” the Global Times said in its editorial Tuesday.

“Of all the countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines is the one with the most tricks up its sleeves, but none of its tricks work,” the Global Times said.

“Can anyone believe that China can be bluffed to make compromises when others show off their military muscle? We will simply find it laughable while imagining Philippine personnel stumbling after US forces.”

“The thunder of guns made by Washington and Manila there is inappropriate and of little use.”

BACKDOOR NEGOTIATION?

Bichara, a former ambassador, said that as China’s aggression increases tension in the region, his panel will “explore other options” that would help the Executive counter China’s illegal reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea and defend the country’s territory and exclusive economic zones.

“The committee will consider exploring other options. That will be discussed in the committee since the diplomatic defensive is already being done by the DFA,” he said.

He added that backdoor negotiation is worth considering, but stressed that it should have President Aquino’s blessings.

“Backdoor negotiation is possible if authorized but no guarantee for positive results. It’s worth a try,” Bichara said. “We have to consult the Executive Department.”

But the DFA said the Philippine government is not keen on considering back channeling as a way to resolve the territorial disputes.

“We have the ongoing arbitration case,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing held at the DFA headquarters in Pasay City Tuesday. “We do not want to jeopardize the case by holding bilateral talks.”

According to Jose, the government is currently pursuing two tracks in an effort to address the dispute.

“We have the diplomatic track, wherein we are working closely with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) for the full and effective implementation of the DOC (2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and for the early conclusion of the legally binding COC (Code of Conduct in the South China Sea), and we also have the legal track and that is the arbitration case we filed.”

When asked if his panel is mulling over to visit China to personally appeal to the Chinese government to stop its massive reclamation activities, Bichara r said, “I don’t think they will listen to our appeal. Their reclamation is almost done.”

PH NEEDS SUPPORT

At the Senate, Sen, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV said the Philippines needs the support of the community of nations to be able to resolve the Philippine-China territorial dispute.

“It is not only an issue between the Philippines and China but it is rightfully a regional and even a global issue,” Aquino stressed.

The cousin of President Aquino emphasized that he thinks the DFA “is doing its best to resolve the issue within the regional bodies and international bodies available to us.”

“The best course of action is what we have done which is to raise this before a community of nations,” he added. He was referring to the Philippine case against China filed with the International Tribunal of the United Nations on the Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

WAR GAMES

Meanwhile, Philippines and United States Marines stormed a beach in San Antonio, Zambales as part of a bilateral exercise with a territorial defense scenario of the ongoing war games.

Four-hundred American and 200 Filipino Marine forces took part in the amphibious assault maneuver at the North Beach training area in Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui, San Antonio town which is near tBajo de Masinloc.

The North beach, where the activity took place, is approximately two kilometers in length and is one of the premier amphibious training site in Luzon.

Tuesday’s war scenario saw strained government relations with a fictitious neighboring country named Calabanya resulting in an aggressive military action and invasion by Calabanyan forces into Luzon.

The Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) was invoked and a US Joint Task Force was formed to restore the territorial integrity of the Philippines.

The US Joint Task Force aggregated forces in Palawan, conducted maritime pre-positioned force operations, and embarked a combined landing force.

A simulated operation was launched from the sea via naval craft to launch an attack on a hostile shore with opposing force.

Three amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) waves, each consisting of seven AAV, participated in the activity which started at around 10 a.m. and lasted for about an hour.

The combined Philippine and US troops eventually defeated the enemy after a series of engagements.

Four UH1 Cobras, two UH1 Hueys, and two AV8 Harriers also provided simulated close air support during the exercise.

“Amphibious assaults are considered to be among the Marines’ primary capabilities and this exercise will be a good test of how our own amphibious units could team up with their US counterparts in staging a crucial vessel-to-shore operation,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public information officer for Balikatan 2015, Lt. Col. Marlowe E. Patria. (With reports from Mario B. Casayuran, Elena L. Aben, Roy C. Mabasa, and AFP)


GMA NEWS ONLINE

PNoy wants diplomatic response to water cannon incident involving China –Palace By ANDREO CALONZO,GMA News April 21, 2015 3:41pm


(Reuters) – The Philippines protested on Tuesday against China’s use of a water cannon on Filipino fishermen in disputed waters of the South China Sea warning that the incident would escalate tension.

(UPDATED 8 p.m.) President Benigno Aquino III wants a diplomatic response to the firing of water cannon at Filipino fishermen by a Chinese ship in the Philippine-claimed Panatag Shoal, Malacañang said Tuesday.

At a press briefing, deputy presidential spokesperson Usec. Abigail Valte said Aquino had instructed foreign affairs and defense officials to stay in the diplomatic and legal track even after the incident in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

“The President’s directive in this particular matter would be for the Department of Foreign Affairs and to the Department of National Defense to come up with a response to that particular incident owing to the fact that we have our diplomatic track. We have the legal track,” Valte told reporters.

“All our courses of action always fall within those tracks and this new incident will not be any different,” she added.

Valte further said that the President does not want situation in the disputed territory to escalate.

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“The last thing you want in a highly-charged environment is to have an incendiary situation that can lead to violence,” she said.

Waiting for report

The Department of Foreign Affairs, for its part, has yet to determine the course of action it will take with regard to the firing of water cannon at Filipino fishermen by a Chinese ship at Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said they have yet to receive an official report about the incident.

"We are still waiting for the official report from the concerned government agency and once we get that we will determine the appropriate course of action to take,” he said at a press conference when asked if the Philippine government will be filing a diplomatic protest.

One injured

On Monday, Malacañang confirmed that a Chinese Coast Guard vessel drove Filipino fishermen away from the Panatag Shoal. A Filipino fisherman was injured in the incident.

Fishermen from Pangasinan who were involved in the incident earlier said the Chinese Coast Guard used a water cannon to drive them away from the shoal.

The Panatag Shoal, also called the Scarborough Shoal, was the site of a standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in 2012 when the Philippine Navy tried to apprehend Chinese vessels fishing in the shoal.

Even before Malacañang’s confirmation of the incident, Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said authorities were exploring the possibility of providing PCG escorts for Filipino fishermen sailing on disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Valte, meanwhile, said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is supporting fisherfolk affected by the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines.

No need to convene security council

Meanwhile, Malacañang said Aquino does not see the need to convene the National Security Council (NSC) amid China's recent actions in disputed areas.

Asked via text message if there is a necessity for Aquino to meet the NSC to tackle China's aggression, Valte replied, "In the President's view, not at this time."

She added that the Cabinet's security cluster--which is composed of defense, military and police officials--regularly tackles the Philippines' territorial dispute with China in its meetings with Aquino.

On Monday, Senator Francis Escudero urged Aquino to convene the NSC, in light of Beijing's increasing efforts to stake its claim in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

President Aquino earlier said that the world should fear China's reclamation and construction work in the South China Sea, calling these a global problem. Beijing, however, maintained that the situation in the area is stable.

Recent satellite images showed China building an airstrip suitable for military use on reclaimed parts of Kagitingan Reef in the disputed Spratly archipelago. Beijing is also reportedly undertaking reclamation work on Subu Reef in the Spratlys.

China has overlapping claims over parts of the South China Sea with the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Philippines, which calls part of the disputed areas the “West Philippine Sea," has sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to nullify China’s massive claims over South China Sea. —with Amita Legaspi/KBK/JST, GMA News


PHILSTAR

Chinese ship fires flares at PAF plane over Kalayaan By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 24, 2015 - 12:00am


STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - A Chinese frigate fired illumination rounds or flares at a Philippine Air Force (PAF) plane on reconnaissance patrol over the country’s Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the disputed Spratlys last Sunday.

The incident was confirmed by several security officials yesterday.

Top defense and military officials said the illumination rounds could have originated from the powerful searchlights of a Chinese warship.

“It happened Sunday morning while our Fokker plane was on a routine maritime patrol,” a source said.

But the source added the incident has resulted in the cancellation of an air evacuation scheduled last Monday of radio enthusiast Chito Pastor, who visited Pag-Asa Island in the KIG.

Pastor was suffering from a kidney ailment.

Sources said Pastor and his group of Filipino-American ham radio enthusiasts set up an amateur radio station called dxOP in Pag-Asa.

The station had its maiden broadcast early Thursday using the airwaves to educate listeners that the island is a sovereign Philippine territory.

But Pastor got ill after drinking highly saline water.

His companions requested an emergency air evacuation from the Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom) that scheduled a flight last Monday to Pag-Asa Island.

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The air evacuation, however, was cancelled after the Chinese warship harassed a PAF plane.

“All flights were cancelled as the Wescom’s Islander and Nomad planes were grounded,” the source said.

Sources said maritime patrol by the PAF at the KIG had resumed.

Pastor was finally taken out of Pag-asa Island along with two other passengers yesterday aboard a civilian Piper 30 plane.

The civilian plane landed safely at Puerto Princesa City at about 1 p.m. The United States embassy was reportedly instrumental in providing the civilian plane for the medical evacuation.

Sources said the Chinese warship fired an illumination round at the Fokker plane in the vicinity of Zamora (Subi) Reef.

Another source said the harassment occurred over Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, which is now being reclaimed by the Chinese.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office, denied that a Chinese vessel fired an illumination round at a PAF plane over the Spratlys.

“We strongly deny that any of our military planes was fired upon by a Chinese vessel while flying to Pag-Asa Island to pick up a patient. Firing incident in the West Philippine Sea is a serious matter that must not be subject to malicious rumors,” Cabunoc said.

But Cabunoc confirmed that indeed Wescom had been requested and was scheduled to pick up a patient using a Nomad plane from Pag-Asa Island yesterday, but was unable to provide the air asset due to technical problems.

“Instead, Wescom allowed the relatives of the patient to send a Piper 30 civilian plane,” he said.

Chinese reclamation

Wescom chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez said China’s reclamation projects in at least seven disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) could be completed within the year or early next year.

Lopez said the construction of some structures appears to be almost complete.

“We can only speculate. Maybe before the year ends or early next year. Actually, some of them are just undergoing finishing touches,” he added.

The Department Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said that the international arbitral tribunal hearing the Philippines’ case against China’s territorial claim might issue a ruling within the first quarter of 2016.

Lopez noted that China’s construction activities in the disputed Spratlys have been massive, simultaneous and aggressive.

He admitted that the military could only monitor China’s activities because of the arbitration case filed by the Philippines.

“As of now, the government policy is we will not do anything provocative that would weaken our arbitration case before the international court,” the military official said.

“We cannot prevent this by ourselves. It needs a collaborative effort with the civilized world, with the community of nations. We’re telling them that these activities are not right and are not doing the region any good,” he added.

China is conducting reclamation in Panganiban (Mischief), Kennan (Chigua) and Mabini (Johnson South) Reefs. It is also building structures in Burgos (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Zamora (Subi) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. earlier warned that the Philippines would lose access to the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Pag-Asa Island if China finishes its reclamation in Panganiban Reef.

China has built a garrison on the reef, located 135 miles west of Palawan.

Catapang has admitted that the Philippines is facing a “very difficult situation” as the completion of the reclamation in Panganiban could restrict the delivery of supplies to Ayungin and Pag-Asa.

Ayungin Shoal is being guarded by Marine troopers stationed in the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusty Navy ship that ran aground in the area and serves as a Philippine military detachment.

Pag-Asa Island, meanwhile, is the biggest Philippine-occupied island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago. The island is part of the Kalayaan Island Group, a fifth class municipality of Palawan inhabited by more than 200 Filipino soldiers and civilians.

Foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and the High Representative of the European Union have expressed concerns over what they described as “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, (that) change the status quo and increased tensions.”

Meanwhile, Lopez encouraged fishermen in Zambales to continue sailing to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal despite the presence of Chinese ships in the area.

He said the presence of local fishermen would show that the Philippines owns the shoal, which has been cordoned off by Chinese vessels since 2012.

“For me, we should just continue to go there. It’s a traditional (fishing) route. They (Filipino fishermen) should not be afraid. They should not lose heart,” Lopez said.

Lopez admitted that the Chinese ships might use water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen. He, however, believes that sailing towards the shoal is a symbolic act. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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