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

DIASPORA POLITICS & TRADE VISIT: PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT BENIGNO AQUINO TO VISIT CANADA IN MAY
[CTV National News: PM Harper's Tories court ethnic groups The Philippine president is the latest guest to visit Canada as the Tories try to connect with critical voting groups for coming federal elections. Richard Madan reports]


LAST YEAR'S PHOTO Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Benigno Aquino III, President of the Philippines, prior to attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in China. Beijing, China ‑ 10 November 2014 
CTV NEWS TORONTO April 20, 2015 9:49PM EDT - Philippine President Benigno Aquino is slated to visit Canada next month – the latest high-profile visit by a foreign leader that comes in the run-up to this year’s federal election. Sources tell CTV News that top Canadian officials have been aggressively trying to arrange his Canadian visit as soon as possible. The visit could score big political points for the Conservatives as political parties attempt to court voters from Canada’s significant immigrant population leading up to the fall election. “Everybody is excited he will come here, and hopefully it will push through,” said Carmelita Salonga Tapia, president of the Southeast Asia Canada Business Council. “We are praying no untoward incident in the Philippines will stop him.”  News of the presidential visit -- which is tentatively slated for the first week in May -- comes on the heels of last week’s visit from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. READ MORE...

ALSO: Noy to visit Canada in May, Japan in June
[“The government of Japan sincerely welcomes the visit of the President, which will further strengthen the friendly relations between Japan and the Republic of the Philippines,” it added. – ]


President Aquino File photo
- President Aquino will embark on a state visit to Canada in May and Japan in June to meet with his counterparts and promote Philippine interests. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino accepted the invitation from Canadian Governor General David Johnston to make a state visit to Canada from May 7 to 9. Tied to this trip is the President’s one-day working visit to the United States to meet with potential investors and with the local Filipino community in Chicago, Valte added. Canada, the Philippines’ 21st largest trading partner and its sixth top source market for tourism, is home to almost 700,000 Filipinos. In 2014 Canada announced that the Philippines had been designated a country of focus for development assistance and a priority emerging market for Canadian overseas trade and investment. Valte said Aquino and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are also set to witness the signing of bilateral agreements on labor cooperation, development assistance and infrastructure development, which would highlight the vibrancy of people-to-people relations. READ MORE...

The 26th ASEAN Summit: What Are Malaysia’s Priorities?
What this year’s ASEAN chair expects from this weekend’s meetings.


Image Credit: ASEAN flag via Shutterstock.com 
Earlier this week, local media outlets reported that Malaysia, as the 2015 chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), had formulated strategies and priorities to realize the establishment of an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 ahead of the 26th ASEAN Summit and related meetings to be held in Malaysia this weekend.
The reports were based on an interview that Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had given Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama. In that interview, Anifah outlined some of the specific priorities Malaysia had as ASEAN chair for the year. These were not new and were drawn from the eight priorities Malaysia outlined for its chairmanship back in January. The eight priorities were: the official formation of a strong ASEAN community; building a post-2015 vision with related guidelines and documents; steering ASEAN closer to the people; developing small- and medium-sized enterprises; expanding intra-ASEAN trade and investment, strengthening ASEAN institutions; promoting regional peace and security; and enhancing the association’s role as a global player. I covered some of these priorities in an earlier piece here. Some of these priorities will find their way in some form into the chairman’s statement usually issued at the ASEAN summit.This is traditional practice, since many of these‘priorities’ are not Malaysia’s alone as ideas and initiatives are often carried through between ASEAN chairs. Furthermore, Malaysia is also chairing ASEAN during a year when regional considerations are going to feature even more prominently, since the ASEAN Community will come into existence and plans have already begun to shape the post-2015 agenda as well, as I have written previously. READ MORE...

ALSO: US targets eight RP military bases to keep watch on China


APRIL 25 ---PHOTO DATED APRIL 28, 2014: In Malacanang President Obama (left) with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III agree on
enhanced defense cooperation agreement (EDCA). (AP Images) Eight military bases in the Philippines were identified by the United States for possible access to rotate troops, aircraft, and ships under the Expanded Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).The EDCA is signed with the Philippines to support the US policy to shift its forces to Asia.Termed as the Asian rebalancing of US military forces, the policy is also being undertaken as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. In speech in Arizona, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter bared Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. With Asia “pivot,” US Marines are already rotating through the Australian tropical city of Darwin, the country’s closest city to Asia, for training. There are at least eight spots in the Philippines that were named as possible sites where American troops, planes and ships will be rotated through a series of military training and exercises, according to AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang. However, it was reported the U.S. will have to wait until after the Philippine’s Supreme Court makes its rulings on the constitutionality of the EDCA which was signed last year between Manila and Washington.
The high court  may decide later this year.READ MORE...

ALSO: PH calls China double-dealing, asks Asean to assert leadership


AFP PAO PHOTO
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The Philippine government on Sunday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to act against China’s plans to “consolidate de facto control” in South China Sea. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, during the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, called the situation “worsening.” He said China has been double-dealing as “there was a growing gap between what we are hearing in diplomatic terms and what was really happening in the South China Sea.” Just last week, satellite photos revealed that China has been building an alleged airstrip on an artificially created island in Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and located west of Spratly Islands in West Philippine Sea. “The threats posed by these massive reclamations are real and cannot be ignored or denied,” Del Rosario said. “Their adverse implications are urgent and far-reaching, going beyond the region to encompass the global community.”  READ MORE...

ALSO CHINA POISED FOR ‘DE FACTO’ SEA CONTROL; Asean rejects RP bid vs China


PHILIPPINES RALLYING SUPPORT 
Attempts of the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to have a strong unified position against China failed despite Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario warning his Asean peers yesterday that Beijing is poised to take “de facto control” of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the strategic body of water, but Beijing claims nearly all of it, and its increasingly strident territorial assertions have caused concern in the region and beyond. “(China) is poised to consolidate de facto control of the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said in Kuala Lumpur a day ahead of an annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit. He singled out a campaign of land reclamation on disputed reefs that has raised the specter of permanent Chinese bases far out in the sea from which it can enforce its sovereignty. “Is it not time for Asean to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?” Del Rosario asked his fellow ministers. “Is it not time for Asean to finally stand up for what is right?” he added. But summit host Malaysia later rejected the idea of a response that could antagonize China. “We must avoid any action that would be counter-productive and bring us further apart, either amongst ourselves, or with China,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said. “I don’t think Asean would like to be given an ultimatum, and by the same token I don’t think China would like to be given an ultimatum,” Aman said. Faced with Beijing’s immense trade and diplomatic leverage, Asean has a history of failing to agree on strong responses over the issue on behalf of its members with disputed maritime claims.READ MORE...

ALSO ‘Go fish in Panatag but be on alert’: Avoid danger, but do not avoid the place.


Filipinos at Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Norway)
This was the advice of the chief of the country’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to fishermen venturing into Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) which China isolated in 2012. Director Asis Perez of the BFAR said they will not discourage fishermen from going to the shoal to fish, but they should turn back if they see a threat, specifically those coming from the Chinese Coast Guard.“Let me be very, very clear on the guidance that we’re giving to our fishermen. We are not encouraging our fishermen to venture into areas where there is a conflict. So, it must be made clear from the beginning. I don’t think it’s responsible for government to say, ‘Go ahead and we will support you,’ because we will be putting their lives in danger,” the official, the resource person at Friday’s Malacanang news briefing, said.“Our prescription in areas where there is conflict is for our fishermen to stay away, to there is conflict is for our fishermen to stay away, to avoid them. That is the policy of BFAR,” Perez pointed out. But the official made it clear that once Filipinos are harassed or have “come into danger, then, of course, it’s the responsibility of the government to help them.”  “Our fishermen should exercise extreme caution. If they see danger ahead, they should stop. There are times [when] Chinese patrols drive away our fishermen but this doesn’t happen every day. That’s why it’s an advice. Avoid danger, not avoid the place,” he said. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Philippine President Benigno Aquino to visit Canada in May


LAST YEAR'S PHOTO Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with Benigno Aquino III, President of the Philippines, prior to attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meeting in China. Beijing, China ‑ 10 November 2014

MANILA, APRIL 27, 2015 (CTV NEWS TORNTO) CTVNews.ca Staff Published Monday, April 20, 2015 9:49PM EDT - Philippine President Benigno Aquino is slated to visit Canada next month – the latest high-profile visit by a foreign leader that comes in the run-up to this year’s federal election.

Sources tell CTV News that top Canadian officials have been aggressively trying to arrange his Canadian visit as soon as possible.

The visit could score big political points for the Conservatives as political parties attempt to court voters from Canada’s significant immigrant population leading up to the fall election.

Related Stories: PM of India Modi ends three-day visit to Canada with protesters, supporters at temples

“Everybody is excited he will come here, and hopefully it will push through,” said Carmelita Salonga Tapia, president of the Southeast Asia Canada Business Council. “We are praying no untoward incident in the Philippines will stop him.”

News of the presidential visit -- which is tentatively slated for the first week in May -- comes on the heels of last week’s visit from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

READ MORE...
Elected in 2010, President Aquino continues a powerful family political dynasty: His mother, Corazon Aquino, led the Philippines’ democratic revolution. To many Filipinos, he embodies the legacy of peace and freedom.

Sources say Aquino and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will explore free trade talks during the visit.

“The Philippines is a player in Asia-Pacific region, and Canada wants to be fully engaged in Asia-Pacific trade, or Trans-Pacific trade,” said Lawrence Herman, a Toronto-based international trade lawyer.

CTV News pollster Nik Nanos said the Conservatives are attempting to connect with “critical voting groups” ahead of the election.

“This is about the intersection of diaspora politics and political principle,” Nanos said.

The Filipino population is growing in Canada. Statistics Canada now says it’s the country’s third-largest source of immigrants.

After Ottawa, trip organizers are planning stops in cities where the Filipino population is heavily concentrated, including Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Opposition parties accuse the Conservatives of using ethnic politics to shore up votes at home.

“I imagine the prime minister is hoping some of the aura of the current Philippine president is going to rub off in the Canadian context”, said NDP Immigration Critic Andrew Cash.

“It is obvious we’re going to have an election in six months, and there are significant ethnic groups in this country – ethic groups and others – that are being courted,” said Liberal MP Marc Garneau.

This past week, Harper welcomed Narendra Modi, who is the first sitting Indian prime minister to visit Canada in 42 years. Modi received a rock-star welcome at the beginning of his three-day visit, which was closely watched by the Indian diaspora. With files from Richard Madan


PHILSTAR

Noy to visit Canada in May, Japan in June By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 25, 2015 - 12:00am


President Aquino File photo

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino will embark on a state visit to Canada in May and Japan in June to meet with his counterparts and promote Philippine interests.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino accepted the invitation from Canadian Governor General David Johnston to make a state visit to Canada from May 7 to 9.

Tied to this trip is the President’s one-day working visit to the United States to meet with potential investors and with the local Filipino community in Chicago, Valte added.

Canada, the Philippines’ 21st largest trading partner and its sixth top source market for tourism, is home to almost 700,000 Filipinos. In 2014 Canada announced that the Philippines had been designated a country of focus for development assistance and a priority emerging market for Canadian overseas trade and investment.

Valte said Aquino and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are also set to witness the signing of bilateral agreements on labor cooperation, development assistance and infrastructure development, which would highlight the vibrancy of people-to-people relations.

READ MORE...
The visit is the first state visit of a Philippine president to Canada since former President Fidel Ramos’ in 1997.

Harper visited Manila in 2012 and met with Aquino at Malacañang. It was the first visit by a Canadian prime minister in 15 years.

On the other hand, the Japanese embassy announced that Aquino would pay a state visit to Japan from June 2 to 5.

Aquino will make a state call on Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and their majesties would host a state banquet in his honor.

Aquino will also hold a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during which they will discuss the enhancement of the Philippine-Japan Strategic Partnership and exchange views on recent regional developments. Abe will host a dinner for Aquino after their meeting.

“The government of Japan sincerely welcomes the visit of the President, which will further strengthen the friendly relations between Japan and the Republic of the Philippines,” it added. – With Pia Lee- Brago


THE DIPLOMAT.COM (ASEAN BEAT)

The 26th ASEAN Summit: What Are Malaysia’s Priorities? 7XRzjYON By Prashanth Parameswaran April 23, 2015

What this year’s ASEAN chair expects from this weekend’s meetings.


Image Credit: ASEAN flag via Shutterstock.com

Earlier this week, local media outlets reported that Malaysia, as the 2015 chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), had formulated strategies and priorities to realize the establishment of an ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 ahead of the 26th ASEAN Summit and related meetings to be held in Malaysia this weekend.

The reports were based on an interview that Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had given Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama. In that interview, Anifah outlined some of the specific priorities Malaysia had as ASEAN chair for the year.

These were not new and were drawn from the eight priorities Malaysia outlined for its chairmanship back in January. The eight priorities were: the official formation of a strong ASEAN community; building a post-2015 vision with related guidelines and documents; steering ASEAN closer to the people; developing small- and medium-sized enterprises; expanding intra-ASEAN trade and investment, strengthening ASEAN institutions; promoting regional peace and security; and enhancing the association’s role as a global player. I covered some of these priorities in an earlier piece here.

Some of these priorities will find their way in some form into the chairman’s statement usually issued at the ASEAN summit. This is traditional practice, since many of these ‘priorities’ are not Malaysia’s alone as ideas and initiatives are often carried through between ASEAN chairs.

Furthermore, Malaysia is also chairing ASEAN during a year when regional considerations are going to feature even more prominently, since the ASEAN Community will come into existence and plans have already begun to shape the post-2015 agenda as well, as I have written previously.

READ MORE...
In addition to the chairman’s statement, Anifah also reportedly said that Malaysia had proposed that ASEAN leaders adopt two declarations. The first is on the Global Movement of Moderates, a Malaysian initiative to use moderation to counter extremism that has been promoted by the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak both regionally and internationally since 2010.

This is no surprise given the rising threat the government perceives from the Islamic State. The second is on a people-centered ASEAN, in line with Malaysia’s theme for its ASEAN chairmanship of “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision” which seeks to bring the grouping closer to the people.

In line with this theme, Anifah said separately that Malaysia has chosen to convene the summit in both Kuala Lumpur and in Langkawi – rather than the usual practice of having it in just one location – in a symbolic attempt to include people living outside the capital. The plenary session will be held in Kuala Lumpur, while the retreat session will be held in Langkawi.

Of course, ASEAN is a ten-member grouping so there will be other regional and global concerns raised at these meetings beyond just Malaysia’s priorities. To take just one example, the Philippines has been saying that it wants to raise the issue of China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea with other ASEAN leaders – more so than it did during the last summit.


TRIBUNE

US targets eight RP military bases to keep watch on China Written by Tribune Wires Sunday, 26 April 2015 00:00


PHOTO DATED APRIL 28, 2014: In Malacanang President Obama (left) with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III agree on
enhanced defense cooperation agreement (EDCA). (AP Images);

Eight military bases in the Philippines were identified by the United States for possible access to rotate troops, aircraft, and ships under the Expanded Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
The EDCA is signed with the Philippines to support the US policy to shift its forces to Asia.

Termed as the Asian rebalancing of US military forces, the policy is also being undertaken as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea.

In speech in Arizona, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter bared Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region.

With Asia “pivot,” US Marines are already rotating through the Australian tropical city of Darwin, the country’s closest city to Asia, for training.

There are at least eight spots in the Philippines that were named as possible sites where American troops, planes and ships will be rotated through a series of military training and exercises, according to AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang.

However, it was reported the U.S. will have to wait until after the Philippine’s Supreme Court makes its rulings on the constitutionality of the EDCA which was signed last year between Manila and Washington.

The high court may decide later this year.

READ MORE...
“If we formalize (now) and they start putting up structures and it’s not constitutional, they will have to destroy those structures,” Catapang said recently.

The official said the list was finalized in October during a Mutual Defence Board meeting.

It was learned that four of the locations are in Luzon where U.S. and Filipino soldiers hold exercises, two in Cebu, and two in Palawan near the disputed Spratly.

China has claimed most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea which is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China denied accusations its actions in its own territory are provocative.

Satellite images taken recently showed China undertook rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested territory in the Spratly islands.

The move drew concern from the United States and its allies in Asia.

An AFP official said, “Once the U.S. rebalance to Asia policy is in full swing, the Philippines expect the Americans to seek more access to military bases on Mindanao island and civilian airstrips on Luzon.”

He said, “The Americans are interested in Laoag airport and Batanes island, both in the northern part of Luzon.”

He said U.S. planes had landed on Batanes during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s.

Likewise, the United States also want to return to its two former military bases in Subic and Clark.
The Americans left the bases in 1992 after the Philippines terminated the basing agreement.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government backed Malaysia’s initiative on the global movement of moderates to fight extremism in the region, Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said.


Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Heads of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are expected to adopt a Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates at the end of the 26th ASEAN Summit on April 26 to 28 in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi.

Malaya cited the importance of such initiative, saying that it could be an “antidote to religious extremism.”

“In my view, it’s important that this concept of moderation be pursued. This is an initiative, incidentally, of our host, Malaysia; and exploring this, pursuing this, could be an antidote to the religious extremism that we’re seeing,” he said.

Malaya added, “There have been a number of apprehensions undertaken here in this country with respect to certain nationals of theirs who have had involvements with the IS militant group.”

As chairman of this year’s Asean, Malaysia proposed that Asean leaders adopt the Declaration on the Global Movement of Moderates at the end of the summit.

Seen to be adopted is another declaration on a People-Centered Asean.

The Asean Summit for this year has the theme “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision,” highlighting the importance of a united Asean.

President Aquino is set to arrive in Malaysia today to join the 26th ASEAN Summit, with the nine other Southeast Asian leaders.

Formed in August 1967, the Asean is composed of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.


INQUIRER

PH calls China double-dealing, asks Asean to assert leadership Kristine Angeli Sabillo @KSabilloINQ INQUIRER.net 12:20 PM | Sunday, April 26th, 2015


AFP PAO PHOTO

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The Philippine government on Sunday called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to act against China’s plans to “consolidate de facto control” in South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, during the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, called the situation “worsening.”

He said China has been double-dealing as “there was a growing gap between what we are hearing in diplomatic terms and what was really happening in the South China Sea.”

Just last week, satellite photos revealed that China has been building an alleged airstrip on an artificially created island in Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and located west of Spratly Islands in West Philippine Sea.

“The threats posed by these massive reclamations are real and cannot be ignored or denied,” Del Rosario said. “Their adverse implications are urgent and far-reaching, going beyond the region to encompass the global community.”

READ MORE...
President Benigno Aquino III has repeatedly explained that China’s reclamation in disputed areas of South China Sea will affect the global economy, as 40 percent of the world’s trade passes through the area.

Time for Asean to lead 

Del Rosario called on the Asean to “assert its leadership, centrality and solidarity.”

“Is it not time for Asean to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped? On this important issue, is it not time for Asean to finally stand up for what is right?” he said.

“Asean must show the world that it has the resolve to act in the common interest,” the Secretary added.

He said the “Philippines has borne more than its share of the heavy burden of Asean and the international community on this issue.”

Del Rosario said that despite earlier warning China and other Southeast Asian Nations, China “is clearly and quickly advancing with its massive reclamation” and is planning to install defense installations in the reclaimed areas.

A compact disc containing evidence of China’s “massive reclamation” was distributed to the other ministers by the Philippines.

Northern neighbor

Del Rosario said China, which he only referred to as “northern neighbor,” will most likely finish its reclamation activities before it agrees to a Code of Conduct (COC).

He said that if China continues, it will render the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea “irrelevant.”

“Any COC would have the effect of legitimizing China’s reclamation,” he said.


TRIBUNE

CHINA POISED FOR ‘DE FACTO’ SEA CONTROL; Asean rejects RP bid vs China Written by Mario J. Mallari Monday, 27 April 2015 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print Be the first to comment!


PHILIPPINES RALLYING SUPPORT AT ASEAN

Attempts of the Philippines for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to have a strong unified position against China failed despite Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario warning his Asean peers yesterday that Beijing is poised to take “de facto control” of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the strategic body of water, but Beijing claims nearly all of it, and its increasingly strident territorial assertions have caused concern in the region and beyond. “(China) is poised to consolidate de facto control of the South China Sea,”

Del Rosario said in Kuala Lumpur a day ahead of an annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit. He singled out a campaign of land reclamation on disputed reefs that has raised the specter of permanent Chinese bases far out in the sea from which it can enforce its sovereignty. “Is it not time for Asean to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?”

Del Rosario asked his fellow ministers. “Is it not time for Asean to finally stand up for what is right?” he added.

But summit host Malaysia later rejected the idea of a response that could antagonize China. “We must avoid any action that would be counter-productive and bring us further apart, either amongst ourselves, or with China,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said. “I don’t think Asean would like to be given an ultimatum, and by the same token I don’t think China would like to be given an ultimatum,” Aman said.

Faced with Beijing’s immense trade and diplomatic leverage, Asean has a history of failing to agree on strong responses over the issue on behalf of its members with disputed maritime claims.

READ MORE...
Chinese vessels also challenged a Philippine military plane on patrol over the disputed waters, the military said. The Islander plane was flying over Subi Reef on April 19 when a Chinese vessel radioed a warning, said military spokesman Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala.

The Chinese told the plane it was in Chinese territory and ordered it to leave, Kakilala said. “But our pilots ignored the challenge because of the DOC despite (the plane being) within our territory and they reported the incident to our superiors,” he said in a statement.

The DOC or Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed by China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations in 2002 binds the signatories not to resort to violence to settle their disputes over the South China Sea. Subi Reef is part of the Spratly islands, a chain of outcroppings in the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by China, the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. In recent years, the Philippines has become more vocal in accusing China of aggressiveness in pressing its claims to the South China Sea, a vital sea lane and fishing ground that is believed to hold vast mineral resources.

In recent weeks, officials have accused the Chinese of using water cannon and even stealing the catch and fishing gear of Filipino fishermen. President Aquino is expected to bring up these concerns at today’s ASEAN summit.

Asean’s call: ‘Self restraint’

Concern over Chinese land reclamation was re-ignited this month by satellite photos showing huge amounts of sand being dredged and dumped onto fragile coral reefs claimed by the Philippines.

Defense analysts say some of the new islands will be big enough for airstrips and other large facilities, raising the spectre of deepening Chinese domination of a waterway rich in energy reserves, fishery resources, and a vital conduit for much of world trade. A draft statement prepared before the gathering calls for “self-restraint” at sea but avoids criticising or even mentioning China by name, a diplomatic source said previously. Anifah said “Asean member-states want to see that this matter should be settled amicably”, and he suggested China someday allow joint use of the artificial islands.

Asean has pushed China for more than a decade to agree on a code of conduct at sea that would prevent rival claimants taking steps that could inflame the situation. But actual discussions only started in 2013 and have progressed slowly, with analysts saying Beijing is delaying to buy more time to consolidate its foothold.

Del Rosario said China will likely complete its reclamation projects before ever agreeing to a code of conduct, which would be rendered “irrelevant.” Anifah called Friday for China to help “speed up” the process but Asean has avoided tough words.

Aquino warned in a recent AFP interview that Chinese actions “should engender fear for the rest of the world”, and could threaten freedom of navigation. The satellite photos released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto a feature known as Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. Other photos showed a runway and ship harbour taking shape on Fiery Cross, also in the Spratlys.

China has angrily rejected criticism, saying it can do as it pleases in waters that are its “indisputable” territory. Malaysia police said they arrested on Sunday 12 Islamic militants planning attacks in Kuala Lumpur during the Asean meeting, seizing materials that could be used to make explosives.

Police did not make clear whether the planned attacks were specifically directed at the diplomatic gathering, but have warned of rising militant activity inspired by the Islamic State jihadists in Syria.

AFP exercises ‘maximum restraint’ The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has reminded its personnel conducting sovereignty patrol over the West Philippine Sea to observe “maximum restraint” despite aggressive actions by the Chinese.

Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, AFP spokesman, yesterday said that military troops are also reminded to observe the rules of engagement and the Code of Conduct in the dealing with issues over the disputed West Philippine Sea. “There are rules of engagement…to (observe) maximum restraint when it comes to contentious issue on these areas in the West Philippine Sea,” said Kakilala. Kakilala stressed that

AFP troops are directed to strictly adhere to the policy of the national government for the peaceful settlement of the dispute and to observe rules-based approach. Last Sunday, an Islander aircraft of the AFP’s Western Command (Wescom), while on sovereignty patrol over Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea, was challenged by a Chinese vessel stationed near Subi Reef, where China is currently conducting massive reclamation activities.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said that the Chinese initially sent flashing lights to the Wescom Islander plane before sending radio message asking the Filipino pilots to leave the area.

Cabunoc said that the Islander pilots just ignored the Chinese and went on with their mission. He described China’s move as “aggressive actions”, stressing that the Islander aircraft was patrolling Philippine territory.

Cabunoc also echoed Kakilala’s statement regarding the guidance for AFP troops to strictly adhere to the national government’s policy for tge peaceful resolution of the West Philippine Sea dispute. “We want to be in the moral high ground when it comes to the disputes in the West Philippine Sea…even though we are being bullied, we should follow the guidance…just ignore (aggressive acts), do not counter with aggressive actions,” said Cabunoc.

The AFP has branded Chinese aggressive activities in at least seven terriotries in the West Philippine Sea as “clear and present danger” to Filipino soldiers and civilians staying on Philippine occupied areas.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., particularly cited China’s massive reclamation activities on Mischief Reef which is located well-within the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.

Catapang expressed fears that when completed, the reclamation on Mischief Reef –which is being claimed by the Philippines before it was occupied by China in 1995, it may cut off supply lines to Pagasa Island –the seat of government of Kalayaan town, and Ayungin Shoal, where Marine troops are stationed.


MANILA TIMES

‘Go fish in Panatag but be on alert’: Avoid danger, but do not avoid the place ---BFAR April 25, 2015 1:29 am by JOEL M. SY EGCO, SENIOR REPORTER


Filipinos at Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Norway)

This was the advice of the chief of the country’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to fishermen venturing into Panatag (Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) which China isolated in 2012.

Director Asis Perez of the BFAR said they will not discourage fishermen from going to the shoal to fish, but they should turn back if they see a threat, specifically those coming from the Chinese Coast Guard.

“Let me be very, very clear on the guidance that we’re giving to our fishermen. We are not encouraging our fishermen to venture into areas where there is a conflict. So, it must be made clear from the beginning. I don’t think it’s responsible for government to say, ‘Go ahead and we will support you,’ because we will be putting their lives in danger,” the official, the resource person at Friday’s Malacanang news briefing, said.

“Our prescription in areas where there is conflict is for our fishermen to stay away, to there is conflict is for our fishermen to stay away, to avoid them. That is the policy of BFAR,” Perez pointed out.

But the official made it clear that once Filipinos are harassed or have “come into danger, then, of course, it’s the responsibility of the government to help them.”

“Our fishermen should exercise extreme caution. If they see danger ahead, they should stop. There are times [when] Chinese patrols drive away our fishermen but this doesn’t happen every day. That’s why it’s an advice. Avoid danger, not avoid the place,” he said.

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Beijing on Thursday called on the Philippines to “stop all actions infringing [including fishing] upon China’s territorial sovereignty, and rights and interests.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Philippine fishing boats have “no permission” to enter the shoal.

Commenting on the statement, Malacanang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said Filipino fishermen do not need China’s permission to go to Panatag.

“Obviously, they are hard-pressed to defend their position. It’s obvious that our fishermen do not need permission to fish in our waters. In general, they don’t need to seek permission. That place is ours,” she added.

Meanwhile, Perez clarified that the latest report of “bullying” by Chinese vessels against Filipino fishermen happened some three nautical miles from the Scarborough Shoal.

He noted that the shoal, which has been the subject of conflict between Manila and Beijing since Chinese ships secured the area in 2012, is 137 nautical miles away from the nearest shore and the fishing area where the incident happened is three nautical miles away.

“So, problems can occur only when you get within that three to four nautical miles, so, therefore, there is a wide gap. That’s about 134 nautical miles in between. So as long as you stay within that area, there should be no problem, and we are conducting patrols in that area,” Perez said.

The official added that recognizes the importance of disputed areas in the region to the country’s fisheries requiremenst.

He, however, clarified that while 70 percent of the country’s protein requirements come from the fisheries sector, it does not mean all of them are harvested from the sea.

“About 45 percent come from captured fisheries, consisting of 55 percent from aquaculture, which is mainly inland. There are also those that come from outside. It’s not the entire 70 percent coming from the sea,” Perez explained.

The BFAR head a maintained that the Philippine government is doing the right thing in pursuing its claims over some territories in the Spratlys that are also being claimed by China. He said there are no “lapses” on the side of the Philippine government.

“We are doing the right thing but the other party is doing something wrong. And so, it’s not our lapses,” he pointed out.

On poaching in the disputed areas, Perez said they are doing all they can to address their limitations such as lack of personnel patrolling these areas and adding more ships, besides having a “hotline” with other claimant countries.

“We have coordination with our friends from Vietnam. We have a hotline. We’re about to develop a hotline with Indonesia. I was informed by [Agriculture] Secretary [Proceso] Alcala that they had a meeting with the counterpart from Indonesia. And so, we now have clear coordination,” he added.

The BFAR said damage to corals and other aquatic resources brought about by China’s aggressive reclamation actvities in some parts of the South China Sea is “600 times” worse than the one caused by the grounding of a US warship on Tubbataha Reef in Palawan in 2013.

This alone, according to Perez, makes such activities a global concern.
“In fish production, per se, the effect is coral degradation, the destruction of corals and the fingerlings and fish larvae. It is where they thrive. But the immediate effect is yet to be studied and quantified. As to the degradation itself, the initial data we have through satellite imaging… is 311 hectares,” he said.

At this time, Perez added, the Philippines cannot bill China for the destruction of the marine resources and that it has to wait for the final decision of the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Seas (Itlos) where Manila filed a memorial last year to contest China’s nine-dash line policy.

A memorial in international law means a complaint or a petition for arbitration.

“We cannot at this point speculate on what’s going to be the decision.

And if ever a decision is made, what will be the course of action? It is important to determine the extent of the damage and then later on, collectively, we think about ways and means on how to probably address that destruction,” Perez said.

2 Responses to ‘Go fish in Panatag but be on alert’

  1.  Ande Llorente says:
    In order for the Philippines to help the fishermen in their livelihood, these fishermen MUST be escorted by the two refurbished ships obtained from the U.S. otherwise, the Chines Coast Guard will again be driven away like what happened in 2012 when the Aquino administration failed to help those fishermen that were driven by the Chinese. If the Philippines claim that the Scarborough Shoal is part of the Philippines under the UNCLOS, the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone, then by all means those fishermen MUST be escorted starting YESTERDAY, instead of waiting for another incidents involving those fishermen. When is this administration going to learn a lesson or two…do something to help these fishermen do their living and also let the Navy trained their skills in seamanship….besides if those ships are not used, they will get RUSTY….and break when operated….Wake Up…and show the Filipino flag against these aggressive and “bullying” Chinese “land grabbers .”
  2.  domingo says:
    Perez of BFAR mostly makes sense although I can only imagine that he might just be holding back some bit from going all out against our fishermen venturing into the disputed area for fear of displeasing pnoy and his war mongering moronic cabal. Perez is correct when he says that our fish requirements are not totally dependent on what we harvest from the sea. A big portion of it are from captive fish raised from inland dishonest so if we need to we can increase our inland fisheries rather than go to a ridiculous confrontation with China for this. As expected lady gaga valte true to form joins the dumb and dumber gang of catapang and del Rosario to say that our fishermen can fish in the disputed shoal anytime “without any permission from China!” And adding to the gang is this corrupt to the hilt alcala who is dragging Indonesia into the fray and I will bet the indonesians are not too happy with this. I suggest these dumb and dumber gang be put on a fishing boat and set adrift within the disputed shoal to confront the Chinese ships so we will see how brave they truly are. The problem with them is they can all pontificate bravely within their air conditioned offices with an accommodating media to push our poor Fisher folks to a danger they don’t get exposed to themselves.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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