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

CHINA SEA:  'PAGASA' ISLAND IS OURS - CATAPANG


MAY 12 ---Pag-asa Island, part of Palawan province, in the disputed West Philippine Sea is controlled by the Philippines despite Chinese claims of sovereignty over it. STAR/File photo
KALAYAAN, Pag-asa Island, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. stressed yesterday that this island town is Philippine sovereign territory, refuting China’s maritime claim in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.
Catapang, the first AFP chief in recent years to set foot here on the invitation of Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., said his visit was part of his farewell tour to troops securing the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan. “I am visiting this place to establish the fact that Pag-Asa is a municipality of Palawan and Palawan is a province of the Republic of the Philippines, and therefore Pag-asa is a territory of the Republic of the Philippines,” Catapang said. Catapang led the flag-raising ceremony along with troops, residents and schoolchildren. His visit came amid mounting tension in the disputed archipelago due to China’s massive reclamation and infrastructure development in the Spratlys. READ MORE...

ALSO: New naval base to rise in Palawan – AFP Chief of Staff


MAY 13 ---AFP CHIEF CATAPANG
 Puerto Princesa City – The Philippine military’s top priority is to build a naval base on the country’s western coastline, opposite the disputed Spratly islands, although the plans have been delayed by funding bottlenecks, the Philippine armed forces chief told Reuters. General Gregorio Catapang said US, Japanese and Vietnamese naval vessels would be allowed to make port calls once the facility at Oyster Bay in Palawan is finished. Developing the island paradise into a military facility could exacerbate tensions with China, which claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including the Spratlys. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the vital waterway. Palawan is about 160 km (100 miles) from the Spratlys, where China’s rapid land reclamation around seven reefs is causing alarm among some Asian countries and drawing increasing criticism from Washington. PRIORITY  “We feel this is the number one priority because of the emerging security situation,” Catapang told newsmen at a military base here after visiting Pagasa island. READ MORE...

ALSO: Catapang worried as he surveyed Pagasa island; PHL outgunned in China’s island-building frenzy


MAY 13 ---Spratlys, AFP PHOTO / Rolex Dela Pena / Spratlys, AFP PHOTO / Rolex Dela Pena / 
THITU ISLAND, South China Sea – Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang looks worried as he surveys the rusted cranes and eroded runway on the tiny island of Thitu, now on the front line of a rapidly intensifying construction war in the South China Sea. Fewer than 48 kilometres (30 miles) away, China’s giant construction cranes glint on the horizon, a sign of the Asian giant’s reef-building frenzy in the disputed Spratly chain that has seen new islands appear seemingly overnight. As China and fellow rival claimant Vietnam race to pave over reefs and build structures in the strategically important sea, the Philippines stands out as a laggard. The 356 residents of the remote Manila-held coral outcrop of Thitu fear they will soon be forced out by China’s aggressive land grab, in a conflict fought, so far, with dredgers and cement. “Before we landed we saw the reclamation in the (nearby) Subi Reef and it’s really enormous,” Catapang said on a tour of the island’s largely decrepit facilities. An old navy transport ship lay half-submerged in waters off the coast, with two anti-aircraft guns the only visible defences. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbours, and in recent years it has caused alarm with increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claims and increase its presence. The Spratlys, an archipelago of more than a hundred islands, reefs and atolls between Vietnam and the Philippines, is one of the most hotly contested areas because of its strategic military importance. READ MORE...

ALSO US official: China island building now totals 2,000 acres


MAY 13 ---This combination photo of satellite images taken on Feb. 6, 2015, top, and March 23, 2015, bottom, by Airbus Defence and Space, and distributed by IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, shows what IHS Jane's describes as an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef in a disputed section of the South China Sea. The U.S has warned that China's development on the artificially created island could raise tensions in the area. (CNES, Airbus Defence and Space/IHS Jane's Defence Weekly via AP)
WASHINGTON — China’s rapidly expanding campaign to construct artificial islands, potentially for military use or airstrips, now totals about 2,000 acres (800 hectares) and could far outstrip that amount as the year goes on, a senior defense official said.
The new estimate, disclosed for the first time, comes as the Pentagon released its annual report on China’s military power. The report warns that while the intent of Beijing’s construction in contested islands in the South China Sea intent is unclear, five emerging outposts could be used for surveillance systems, harbors, an airfield and logistical support. The wide-ranging report also details Chinese government-backed cyberattacks against the U.S. government to collect intelligence and steal high-tech data from defense programs to support China’s industry. And it warns that China now “boasts the most dynamic space program in the world today.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: Pentagon eyes sending US soldiers to Spratlys


MAY 14 ---THE Pentagon is considering sending military aircraft and ships around China’s land reclamation projects in the Spratly archipelago as the tension in the South China Sea rises, a US official said Tuesday.
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly island chain, the official said. China has been building artificial islands atop coral reefs in the Spratly archipelago for months now. The inclusion of runways and other potential military installations have caused concern among Pentagon officials, who fear that Beijing may be making a power play for the strategic waterway. Last month, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris accused China of building a “great wall of sand” with “provocative actions towards smaller claimant states.” China maintains that it has every right to build on its own territory, and that the islands will ultimately provide stations for disaster mitigation, scientific research, and navigation safety. These assurances have done little to soothe Washington, and according to an anonymous Pentagon official speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the US may soon send military aircraft and naval vessels to enforce “freedom of navigation” around the disputed islands. “We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade,” the official said. “The US and its allies have a very different view than China over the rules of the road in the South China Sea.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: China ‘extremely concerned’ over Pentagon report


MAY 13 ---A Filipino fisherman sails past the US Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD-20) during an amphibious landing exercise on a beach at San Antonio in Zambales province on April 21, 2015. China on Wednesday, May 13, said it was "extremely concerned" at a US plan to consider dispatching military ships and aircraft to the disputed waters of the South China Sea. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Beijing on Wednesday said it is “extremely concerned” with the Pentagon’s reported plan to send warships and aircraft to patrol around China’s land reclamation projects in the Spratlys archipelago as the tension in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) became a lot more heated. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Washington needs to clarify its stance on the matter. She added that China upholds freedom of navigation in the area but that does not mean foreign forces can operate freely there. Quoting an anonymous US defense department official, a Wall Street Journal report said US forces would enforce “freedom of navigation” around the disputed islands. “We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade,” the official said. “The US and its allies have a very different view than China over the rules of the road in the South China Sea.”  Tension in the South China Sea further escalated in late March after satellite images showing massive reclamations of Chinese-controlled areas within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines were made public. READ MORE...

ALSO Aquino: War vs China can be avoided


MAY 14 ---President Benigno Aquino III said an armed conflict in the disputed South China Sea can be avoided.
"Hindi ako sumasang-ayon na inevitable or hindi maiiwasan na magkaroon ng military confrontation," Aquino said in an interview with Bombo Radyo aired this morning. Aquino was responding to calls for an increased Philippine military presence in the contested waters amid China's aggression and massive reclamation activities on islands and reefs. While a war against China can be avoided, Aquino said the country still needs to bolster its defense capabilities. Aquino said his administration has improved the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), with the acquisition of weapons, a warship, helicopters and other aircraft, among others. "Having said that, hindi naman pwedeng pabayaan natin ‘yung capabilities ng ating Sandatahang Lakas, at sa totoo nga lang, nandiyan naman ang records, talagang pinantayan nitong administrasyon at nilampasan ang lahat ng nagawa mula noong nagkaroon tayo ng AFP Modernization Law at tayo na rin ang nagtulak na palawigin pa ‘yung modernization," Aquino said. "Taas noo kong masasabi sa inyo at walang takot na may kokontra sa atin na talagang ang laki ng capabilities ng AFP ngayon kaysa noong dinatnan natin," he added. Claiming that the Philippines is not a military threat to any nation, Aquino said in the past that the country will not engage in an armed conflict and that its constitution renounces war as a national policy. READ MORE...

ALSO: Beijing: Phl, US ‘exaggerate China threat’


MAY 13 ---China flag 
BEIJING – China’s Foreign Ministry accused the Philippines yesterday of working together with the United States to “exaggerate the China threat” over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. Beijing stepped up its criticism of Manila a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit China, where he is expected to raise Washington’s commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and flight in the South China Sea. Security concerns have deepened internationally about Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea. Recent satellite images have shown that since about March 2014, China has conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and is constructing a military-sized airstrip on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and possibly a second on another reef. The Philippines, a US treaty ally, has called for urgent action to be taken. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the Philippines of “ignoring the common interests of countries in the region and continuing to take provocative measures that complicate and expand the dispute.”  Asked about the US support for the Philippines in the dispute, Hua said: “Some people in the Philippines are jumping very high and are echoing some people in some countries to actively exaggerate the China threat, manufacturing tensions in the region.” “This theatrical double act has grabbed many eyeballs, but as everyone can see, the current situation in the South China Sea is stable,” she said at a daily news briefing. Hua reiterated China’s stance that it is “determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests.”  “We will respond firmly to any acts of provocation against China,” she said. READ MORE...

ALSO THE BANGSAMORO BASIC LAW: To fold, to hold or to walk away


AQUINO: NO! TO WATERED DOWN BBL ---
Ramming the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) through Congress at this time, before the end of the current session, is definitely ill advised, at best, and shows pig-headedness, at worst. The results of a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) show that public knowledge of the BBL is quite limited: 83 percent said they had “little or no knowledge” while 17 percent said they had “extensive or partially sufficient knowledge” about it. The general consensus is that the BBL, in its present form, contains several constitutionally flawed provisions. In coming up with its own version, the House committee is planning to delete these constitutionally questionable provisions. The Senate, on the other hand, in addition to removing the constitutionally flawed, continues to conduct consultation hearings in areas that would likely be impacted by the proposed BBL. In brief, the final version of the BBL is still evolving. No one knows when Congress would approve the BBL and how the final form would look like. Yet, President Aquino was quoted as saying that a “watered-down” version would be unacceptable “ because it would be tantamount to reducing the benefits according the Bangsamoro people.” Will the President go against the desire of his “bosses” speaking through their representatives in Congress? The results of the recent (March 20-23) SWS nationwide survey found that 48 percent of Filipinos disapprove of the proposed BBL, 23 percent approve, and 28 percent were indecisive. Mr. Aquino may ignore the fact that a big number of his “bosses” don’t like the BBL in its present form. The survey results also found that the benefit-cost calculus is not in most Filipinos’ favor. Most were not hopeful that the proposed Bangsamoro government would bring peace in its core territories or that the government would benefit from the peace talks with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). According to the nationwide SWS survey, 56 percent said the peace talks with the MILF would yield “a little benefit/no benefit at all” to Filipinos, while 42 percent said otherwise. These anti-BBL results might change depending on the final version of the BBL proposal. But what would the final version look like? And how can public knowledge of this final version be disseminated so that public awareness and understanding of the BBL may improve? Giving his plummeting approval and trust ratings, Mr. Aquino should not ignore the negative views of his bosses. Ignoring them would be too risky. Remember it is important to get the consent of the governed. After all, a bill of this magnitude that affects the distribution of the national wealth and the territorial integrity of the Republic needs the consent of the governed. It is not possible to come up with a final version of the BBL that is acceptable to the House, the Senate, and the MILF between now and the end of May. The BBL is a complex measure.

ALSO ON POE AS LP BET: Inexperience could cost PH, Binay says


Turnover. In this file photo, Vice President Jejomar Binay delivers his speech during the turnover of checks totaling P33.6 million to the beneficiary associations of Social Housing Finance Corp. under its Community Mortgage Program in Pinagbuhatan village in Pasig City. Manny Palmero
VICE President Jejomar C. Binay on Sunday warned the country cannot afford to elect an inexperienced President into office in 2016, given the number of serious problems it is already facing.
“I sincerely believe that the issue in this coming election, for the presidency particularly, is experience and competence... The country cannot afford inexperienced leaders,” Binay said in a statement issued from Cagayan de Oro City. He added that many of today’s problems would not be so serious if the national leadership were more experienced and competent. Binay, who is a frontrunner in early polling for 2016, did not name any politicians in his statement but appeared to be referring to neophyte Senator Grace Poe, whom President Benigno Aquino III has tried to recruit to run for the Liberal Party in 2016. Poe has repeatedly admitted that the name of her father, the late movie star and losing presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., was the biggest factor in her winning the senatorial race in 2010. In the last election, she dropped her husband’s surname and ran as Grace Poe, and became the number one ranking senatorial candidate. Over the weekend, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada—the best friend of Poe’s father—urged the senator to run under the opposition banner, hinting that he could not support her if she ran for the Liberals. READ MORE...

ALSO unblogged: China vs The Philippines @ The Spratly Islands Dispute (Spratlys) by: Psychic August


MARCH 21---In the next few years, the Philippines' claim to the Spratlys group of islands, which lies just approximately 14 km offshore from Palawan, will be visibly disregarded by the Chinese communist government as the latter strengthens it's hold upon the area by completing its recent military installations and adding more structures like ports, factories, and small settlements in the islands.
This has, in part, happened because while the Spratlys sit within the Philippines' territorial waters, they have been taken for granted by the Philippine government. The Philippines is waking up to the rude reality that other more powerfully armed countries like China can easily lay claim to the chain of islands with it's vastly rich natural resources. And this is what is currently happening - the Philippine influence in the area is gradually eroding as China slowly but firmly consolidates it's hold over the area. It's current diplomatic approach through the UN is proving to be too slow, and ineffective in curbing the 'take over' style of China. This is a blunt warning that more direct and immediate action should be taken by the Philippine government. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Pag-asa is ours – AFP

MANILA, MAY 18, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 12, 2015 - 12:00am


Pag-asa Island, part of Palawan province, in the disputed West Philippine Sea is controlled by the Philippines despite Chinese claims of sovereignty over it. STAR/File photo

KALAYAAN, Pag-asa Island, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. stressed yesterday that this island town is Philippine sovereign territory, refuting China’s maritime claim in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

Catapang, the first AFP chief in recent years to set foot here on the invitation of Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., said his visit was part of his farewell tour to troops securing the Kalayaan Island Group in Palawan.

“I am visiting this place to establish the fact that Pag-Asa is a municipality of Palawan and Palawan is a province of the Republic of the Philippines, and therefore Pag-asa is a territory of the Republic of the Philippines,” Catapang said.

Catapang led the flag-raising ceremony along with troops, residents and schoolchildren.

His visit came amid mounting tension in the disputed archipelago due to China’s massive reclamation and infrastructure development in the Spratlys.

READ MORE...
Catapang handed out to residents donations given by various groups and gifted schoolchildren with reading materials before inspecting the town’s civilian and military infrastructure aboard a cargo truck.

The AFP chief is set to retire this July and it has been a tradition for all chiefs of staff to visit Pag-Asa Island.

Vowing his full support to all plans of the local government, Catapang said he would acquire a lot here and build a vacation house when he retires to help promote the tourism project of Bito-onon.

Taking a C-130 cargo plane, Catapang and his staff, along with national and foreign media, were accompanied by Palawan-based Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez and his staff.

Catapang bade goodbye to troops guarding Patag island, Lawak Island and Likas as a C-130 Air Force plane conducted a series of overflies – flying as low as 300 feet – to the delight of the troops. There is no airfield in these areas.


MANILA BULLETIN

New naval base to rise in Palawan – AFP Chief of Staff by Reuters May 13, 2015


AFP CHIEF CATAPANG

Puerto Princesa City – The Philippine military’s top priority is to build a naval base on the country’s western coastline, opposite the disputed Spratly islands, although the plans have been delayed by funding bottlenecks, the Philippine armed forces chief told Reuters.

General Gregorio Catapang said US, Japanese and Vietnamese naval vessels would be allowed to make port calls once the facility at Oyster Bay in Palawan is finished.

Developing the island paradise into a military facility could exacerbate tensions with China, which claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including the Spratlys. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the vital waterway.

Palawan is about 160 km (100 miles) from the Spratlys, where China’s rapid land reclamation around seven reefs is causing alarm among some Asian countries and drawing increasing criticism from Washington.

PRIORITY

“We feel this is the number one priority because of the emerging security situation,” Catapang told newsmen at a military base here after visiting Pagasa island.

READ MORE...
“As soon as we have the money, we will pour resources there,” he said.

Catapang said P800 million ($18 million) was needed for the initial development of the naval facility and then P5 billion to turn it into a major operating base.

While plans had been drawn up, they were stalled by a lack of funds, he said.

“There is nothing there yet, we are still constructing an access road and upgrading the water and oil depots that would service ships. There’s still much work to do,” he said.

Japan, which is helping Manila boost its maritime capabilities, might fund infrastructure around the base but not the facility itself, a Japanese source with knowledge of the plan said earlier this year.

Washington is asking for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships for training as Washington shifts more of its forces to Asia, Catapang revealed earlier.

Security ties between the Philippines and Vietnam are also growing in light of China’s assertiveness.

The Philippine navy has said it planned to base two former US Coast Guard cutters at Oyster Bay, a sheltered cove within the much larger Ulugan Bay, once the facility was finished.

UNCHALLENGED

While seven Philippine planes on patrol flights in the West Philippine Sea in the last three months have been told by China via radio to stay away, Catapang’s flight on board the C130 cargo plane Monday was not challenged.

Catapang visited Pagasa island (known internationally as Thitu island) which is part of the contested Spratlys upon the invitation of Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-Onon Jr. It was the first time the AFP Chief set foot on the island.

Prior to landing, Catapang and his team saw the extent of Chinese reclamation as his plane flew over Subi Reef, describing it as “enormous”. At least two cranes and two dredgers were visible on Subi Reef which is only 14 nautical miles from Pagasa where lights are visible at night.

The C-130 plane also flew over Patag, Lawak, and Likas Islands which are occupied by Philippine troops.

On his way back to Puerto Princesa, Catapang flew over Mischief reef and Ayungin Shoal – another disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea where China is also currently conducting land reclamation and construction activities.

In the Ayungin Shoal, Catapang noted seeing a Chinese ship beside a rusty BRP Sierra Madre which serves a outpost of PH troops stationed in the area.

GETTING CLOSER

China’s reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratlys is making Philippine islands vulnerable, according to military officials and security experts. China’s creation of artificial islands is happening so fast that Beijing will be able to extend the range of its navy, air force and coastguard before long, experts say.

“In the last two years we have seen rapid development. They are getting closer to us. It’s a threat,” Major Ferdinand Atos, the highest-ranking soldier on Pagasa, told reporters after the plane made a bumpy landing on the island’s makeshift runway.

Atos said Chinese patrol ships had not tried to come close to Pagasa, which is surrounded by shallow water.

But Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at Singapore’s Institute of South East Asian Studies, said the Philippines might struggle to sustain its holdings on Pagasa and elsewhere in the Spratlys “once (China) has all its facilities up and running. It will put the Philippines in a much more difficult position.”

“The Chinese will be able to harass Philippine coastguard and naval vessels on a more regular basis… they could try to impose blockades on other Philippine-occupied atolls, including Pagasa,” he added.

TOURIST SITES

Catapang said China was building choke points in the Spratlys and “it will be a challenge for us to bring supplies and rotate our troops in the disputed area,” he told reporters earlier.

On Monday, however, Catapang was more guarded when asked about the presence of Chinese vessels in the Spratlys.

“We don’t see them as a threat, we should demilitarize this area,” he said.

In fact, Catapang the military would help local officials turn the disputed islands into tourist spots to promote peace as China builds suspected military facilities nearby.

He said the military would help local officials put in place next year a ferry service that would take tourists from Palawan to tour the islands and reefs in the Spratly islands which are held by Manila.

“What we want to happen is, from Palawan we can pass by Patag island, Lawak, Likas and then Pagasa. We can go back via Panata, Kota island and then Ayungin Shoal and back,” Catapang said, using the Filipino name for some of the Filipino-held islands.

“It can be a good tourism effort,” the general told reporters.

Bito-onon said the tourism project would be launched next year after the town council buys a 25-metre (82-foot), 10-million-peso ($224,000) steel-hulled boat.

The municipality also plans to build lodging houses for up to 30 tourists and offer them souvenir merchandise, he added. (With reports from Elena L. Aben and AFP)


MANILA BULLETIN

Catapang got worried as he surveyed Pagasa Island; PHL outgunned in China’s island-building frenzy by AFP May 13, 2015 by Cecil MORELLA


Spratlys, AFP PHOTO / Rolex Dela Pena / Spratlys, AFP PHOTO / Rolex Dela Pena /

THITU ISLAND, South China Sea – Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang looks worried as he surveys the rusted cranes and eroded runway on the tiny island of Thitu, now on the front line of a rapidly intensifying construction war in the South China Sea.

Fewer than 48 kilometres (30 miles) away, China’s giant construction cranes glint on the horizon, a sign of the Asian giant’s reef-building frenzy in the disputed Spratly chain that has seen new islands appear seemingly overnight.

As China and fellow rival claimant Vietnam race to pave over reefs and build structures in the strategically important sea, the Philippines stands out as a laggard.

The 356 residents of the remote Manila-held coral outcrop of Thitu fear they will soon be forced out by China’s aggressive land grab, in a conflict fought, so far, with dredgers and cement.

“Before we landed we saw the reclamation in the (nearby) Subi Reef and it’s really enormous,” Catapang said on a tour of the island’s largely decrepit facilities. An old navy transport ship lay half-submerged in waters off the coast, with two anti-aircraft guns the only visible defences.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbours, and in recent years it has caused alarm with increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claims and increase its presence.

The Spratlys, an archipelago of more than a hundred islands, reefs and atolls between Vietnam and the Philippines, is one of the most hotly contested areas because of its strategic military importance.

READ MORE...
The United States last week sounded the alarm, accusing China of building up to 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of artificial islands in the Spratlys, and warning it could construct airfields, surveillance systems and harbours that would jeopardise regional stability.

Alarmed at the Chinese activity, other Spratlys claimants have not been idle. Vietnam is reported to be reclaiming land in two areas, while Taiwan and Malaysia have announced plans to improve their naval facilities.

The Philippines, which occupies nine islands or reefs in the chain, in contrast has done very little — partly because of funding constraints, but also because it is pinning its hopes on having the United Nations mediate the dispute.

- ‘Without firing a shot’ -

Life is usually uneventful for the inhabitants of Thitu, the largest Philippine-occupied island which lies 433 kilometres (269 miles) from the major Philippine island of Palawan, and receives electricity just five hours a day.

They include soldiers, coastguard personnel and military-employed civilians, many of whom bring their wives and children with them to stave off loneliness.

But the Philippine army says that since last month Chinese vessels off the Subi reef have warned Filipino air force planes flying in and out of Thitu to leave, saying they are violating its military airspace.

“This is bad for us who live here. We depend on the planes to deliver our food,” one concerned municipal employee, 37-year-old Larry Jugo, told AFP.

Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of Philippine forces in the South China Sea, said the action was effectively an enforcement of an undeclared air defence identification zone.

“They build these things, they say for legal reasons, but for military purposes as necessary. That’s very alarming,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Spratlys, Lopez said China has also been harassing Filipino vessels supplying marines on Second Thomas Shoal. The puny unit of nine men lives on a rusting navy ship that had been deliberately grounded on a reef.

China has also been driving away Filipino fishermen at the Scarborough Shoal, 595 kilometres to the northeast of the Spratlys and within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but which China has controlled since 2012.

Philippine authorities and regional analysts see it as an powerful campaign aimed at making it impossible for the Philippines to hold on to its claims.

“As far as I know, there is not much that the Philippines can do,” even if it wins its UN case, said Harry Sa, an American research analyst for the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“I think China is doing something smart: It is gaining territory without firing a single shot.”

- ‘We have nowhere to run’ -

Outgunned by China’s military might, the Philippines’ strongest card has been a suit to a United Nations tribunal, asking it to rule that China’s claims are illegal.

A verdict is expected next year, but Beijing has refused to participate and would reject any finding against it.

Analysts say China is unlikely to deliberately fire at Filipino vessels, wary the Philippines could ask the United States to retaliate by invoking a 1951 mutual defence treaty, and also reluctant to be seen as a regional aggressor.

Nonetheless, the Philippines has sought to upgrade its capabilities by acquiring two second-hand US patrol craft and ordering fighter jets from South Korea that would allow it to manoeuvre more swiftly over the contested waters.

But its efforts to draw in the United States, its closest ally and former colonial ruler, have stumbled, mainly because a 2014 treaty to allow American forces to use Filipino bases and build facilities is in legal limbo.

With the Philippines becoming increasingly vulnerable, Thitu islander Jugo plans to send his wife and two children home to Palawan next year just in case trouble erupts.

“We have nowhere to run… we will be forced to fight whatever happens,” he said


MANILA BULLETIN

US official: China island building now totals 2,000 acres by AP May 13, 2015


This combination photo of satellite images taken on Feb. 6, 2015, top, and March 23, 2015, bottom, by Airbus Defence and Space, and distributed by IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, shows what IHS Jane's describes as an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef in a disputed section of the South China Sea. The U.S has warned that China's development on the artificially created island could raise tensions in the area. (CNES, Airbus Defence and Space/IHS Jane's Defence Weekly via AP)

WASHINGTON — China’s rapidly expanding campaign to construct artificial islands, potentially for military use or airstrips, now totals about 2,000 acres (800 hectares) and could far outstrip that amount as the year goes on, a senior defense official said.

The new estimate, disclosed for the first time, comes as the Pentagon released its annual report on China’s military power. The report warns that while the intent of Beijing’s construction in contested islands in the South China Sea intent is unclear, five emerging outposts could be used for surveillance systems, harbors, an airfield and logistical support.

The wide-ranging report also details Chinese government-backed cyberattacks against the U.S. government to collect intelligence and steal high-tech data from defense programs to support China’s industry. And it warns that China now “boasts the most dynamic space program in the world today.”

READ MORE...
The document also repeats persistent U.S. concerns about China’s growing capacity to project military power beyond its borders, with continued investments in new missiles, ships and aircraft as well as cyber, space and electronic warfare. That military modernization, the report said, “has the potential to reduce core U.S. military technological advantages.”

For the first time, however, the report describes the “extensive” land reclamation at five outposts in the Spratly Islands, adding that at four of the sites the work has shifted to mainly development and construction.

The report says China had reclaimed about 500 acres (200 hectares) as of late last December, underscoring the dramatic increase in the past four months. The defense official said the construction has been methodical and continuous since December. The official was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to the report, China’s government says the projects “are mainly for improving the living and working conditions of those stationed on the islands. However, most analysts outside China believe that China is attempting to change facts on the ground by improving its defense infrastructure in the South China Sea.”

Chinese officials have defended the land reclamation by saying it is Beijing’s territory, adding that the buildings and infrastructure are for public service use and to support fishermen. It accuses the Philippines, Vietnam and others of carrying out their own building work on other islands.

The Obama administration says land reclamation risks exacerbating tensions in the South China Sea, where China and five other claimants contest sovereignty of tiny islands and reefs. Last summer, the U.S. called for a moratorium on construction work by the various claimants, but China has only doubled down.

U.S. officials are concerned China’s activities could be a prelude to enforcing a possible air defense identification zone over the South China Sea, similar to one it declared over disputed Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea in 2013.

Although it is unclear what will ultimately be built on these expanded outposts, the report says, “China will be able to use them as persistent civil-military bases of operation to enhance its presence significantly in disputed areas.”

China’s reclamation program dwarfs that of any other nation and has inflamed tensions in the region. Last month, the Philippines urged its fellow Southeast Asian countries to take immediate steps to halt the building, warning that failure to do so will allow Beijing to take “de facto control” of the area.

According to the defense official, Vietnam has reclaimed about 60 acres( 25 hectares) of land since 2009. The report said Taiwan began a “modest land reclamation effort” on Itu Aba Island last year, and has reclaimed about five acres (2 hectares) near the island’s airstrip. There are reports that Taiwan is building a $100-million port near the airstrip that could accommodate naval frigates and coast guard cutters, the Pentagon said.


MANILA STANDARD

Pentagon eyes sending US soldiers to Spratlys By Vito Barcelo, Florante S. Solmerin and PNA | May. 14, 2015 at 12:01am

THE Pentagon is considering sending military aircraft and ships around China’s land reclamation projects in the Spratly archipelago as the tension in the South China Sea rises, a US official said Tuesday.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly island chain, the official said.

China has been building artificial islands atop coral reefs in the Spratly archipelago for months now. The inclusion of runways and other potential military installations have caused concern among Pentagon officials, who fear that Beijing may be making a power play for the strategic waterway.

Last month, US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris accused China of building a “great wall of sand” with “provocative actions towards smaller claimant states.”

China maintains that it has every right to build on its own territory, and that the islands will ultimately provide stations for disaster mitigation, scientific research, and navigation safety. These assurances have done little to soothe Washington, and according to an anonymous Pentagon official speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the US may soon send military aircraft and naval vessels to enforce “freedom of navigation” around the disputed islands.

“We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade,” the official said. “The US and its allies have a very different view than China over the rules of the road in the South China Sea.”

READ MORE...
The draft request cane directly from Carter, and seeks to review the Pentagon’s options for sending military vehicles within 12 nautical miles of Beijing’s artificial islands.

Washington has steadily made moves to bolster its presence in the South China Sea. Harris announced in March that the US Navy would be shifting 60 percent of its fleet into the Pacific by 2020, and would expand its cooperation with India.

The US Navy has also admitted to flying its most advanced spy plane – the P-8A Poseidon – out of the Philippines earlier this year. Capable of both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, the plane has been regularly monitoring the South China Sea region.

In March, the United States Senate also requested that the US adopt a formal strategy for dealing with Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

While China claims nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea, there are disputed, overlapping claims by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia. All of these countries also claim various parts of the Spratly Archipelago.

Nearly $5 trillion in trade passes through the contested waterway each year.

The Philippines said the Pentagon’s announcement that it is sending military aircraft and ships to the disputed South China Sea affirms the commitment between the two countries to freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade.

“The Philippines believes that the US, as well as all responsible members of international community, do have an interest and say in what is happening in the South China Sea, considering that what is at issue is freedom of navigation, unimpeded flow of commerce, the health of the region’s marine environmental and ecosystem, and the rule of law,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose in a text message said.

US patrols would directly challenge Chinese efforts to expand Beijing’s influence in the disputed region by adding territory through a massive island-building exercise.

The Philippines earlier sought more “substantive” support from its long-time security ally, the United States, to counter China’s rapid expansion in the South China Sea.

China’s rapid 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 US government officials and the military.

In a television interview, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said that there was a plan by the US to send more Navy and Air Force assets to the region, but he declined to provide details.

The practice of sending ships and aircraft near the islands would be in line with regular US military “freedom of navigation” operations, which it conducted last year to challenge maritime claims of 19 countries, including China, Carter said.

Also on Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affiars slammmed China for criticizing its practice of bringing journalists to Pag-asa Island, which Beijing claims as its own.

“We have all the right to do such actions and no one can question it because we own it,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in latest war of words between the two sides.

Journalists visited Pag-asa island Monday led by Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang.

Beijing called the Philippines a “rule-violator” and “troublemaker” for arranging the trip to the island also known by its international name, Thitu.

China’s Foreign Ministry said the Philippines’ action was endangering international law.

Jose maintained that no violation was committed by the Philippines.

“It is not a violation because Pag-asa is within our sovereign territory,” he said.


Pag-asa, a fifth class municipality in Palawan located in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), has a population of about 200. INQUIRER FILE

Residents on Pag-asa Island continue to worry about their security as the Chinese continue their reclamation activities from mearby Kagitingan (Fiery Reef), which is within the Kalayaan Island Group town in Palawan.

KIG Mayor Bito-onon said powerful lights “probably from Chinese ships” coming from the reclamation site and other directions were being flashed in the middle of the night for several seconds on the island.

Fishermen living on the island and even those from mainland Palawan and others parts of Western Philippines have also stopped going near Kagitingan reef to fish because Chinese on speedboats with mounted guns or ships harass them, Bito-onon said.

But Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez urged Filipino fishermen not to fear going to KIG and even in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to fish, because they are well within the country’s 220-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

“Our message (to Filipino fishermen) is to continue going there (because) it is ours. That’s traditional fishing country,” he said. – Vito Barcelo, Florante S. Solmerin, PNA


MANILA TIMES

China ‘extremely concerned’ over Pentagon report  May 13, 2015 10:46 pm by BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON AND FERNAN MARASIGAN REPORTERS


A Filipino fisherman sails past the US Navy amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD-20) during an amphibious landing exercise on a beach at San Antonio in Zambales province on April 21, 2015. China on Wednesday, May 13, said it was "extremely concerned" at a US plan to consider dispatching military ships and aircraft to the disputed waters of the South China Sea. -- PHOTO: AFP

Beijing on Wednesday said it is “extremely concerned” with the Pentagon’s reported plan to send warships and aircraft to patrol around China’s land reclamation projects in the Spratlys archipelago as the tension in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) became a lot more heated.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Washington needs to clarify its stance on the matter.

She added that China upholds freedom of navigation in the area but that does not mean foreign forces can operate freely there.

Quoting an anonymous US defense department official, a Wall Street Journal report said US forces would enforce “freedom of navigation” around the disputed islands.

“We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade,” the official said. “The US and its allies have a very different view than China over the rules of the road in the South China Sea.”

Tension in the South China Sea further escalated in late March after satellite images showing massive reclamations of Chinese-controlled areas within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines were made public.

READ MORE...
The inclusion of runways and other potential military installations has caused a panic among Pentagon officials, who fear that Beijing may be making a power play for the strategic waterway.

Beijing has offered such sites to Washington to use for humanitarian and rescue efforts but the US rejected the offer, saying such purposes do not justify China’s actions in the contested waters.

About 90 percent of the region, believed to be rich in oil and mineral deposits, is being claimed by China based on a supposedly ancient nine-dash line.

Parts of the resource-rich waters are also being claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

Manila and Hanoi have taken their territorial disputes with Beijing to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for arbitration.

A verdict is expected next year but Beijing has refused to participate and would reject any finding against it.

According to the Wall Street Journal report, a draft request directly from US Defense Secretary Ash Carter sought to review the Pentagon’s options for sending military vehicles within 12 nautical miles of Beijing’s artificial islands.

Washington has steadily made moves to bolster its presence in the South China Sea. Admiral Harry Harris Jr. of the US Pacific Fleet announced in March that the US Navy would be shifting 60 percent of its fleet into the Pacific by 2020, and would expand its cooperation with India.

The US Navy has also admitted to flying its most advanced spy plane–the P-8A Poseidon–out of the Philippines earlier this year.

Capable of both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, the plane has been regularly monitoring the South China Sea.

Also in March, the United States Senate also requested that the US adopt a formal strategy for dealing with Beijing’s growing influence in the region.

It is possible that the Pentagon’s considerations are in response to this appeal.

A destroyer of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy fired a missile during a training exercise.

Also throwing itself into the mix is Japan, another country with no territorial claim in the region.

The Japanese Navy recently conducted naval exercises with Philippines, and Tokyo has indicated that it may take part in joint air patrols with the US.

Philippine military chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. looked worried as he surveys rusted cranes and eroded runway on the Philippine-occupied Pagasa island, now on the frontline of a rapidly intensifying construction war in the South China Sea.

Fewer than 48 kilometers, China’s giant construction cranes glint on the horizon, a sign of the Asian giant’s reef-building frenzy in the disputed Spratly chain that has seen new islands appear seemingly overnight.

As China and fellow rival claimant Vietnam race to pave over reefs and build structures in the strategically important sea, the Philippines stands out as a laggard.

The 356 residents of Pagasa fear they will soon be forced out by China’s aggressive land grab, in a conflict fought, so far, with dredgers and cement.

“Before we landed, we saw the reclamation in the [nearby] Subi Reef and it’s really enormous,” Catapang said on a tour of the island’s largely decrepit facilities.

An old Navy transport ship lay half-submerged in waters off the coast, with two anti-aircraft guns the only visible defenses.

The Philippines, which occupies nine islands or reefs in the chain, in contrast has done very little — partly because of funding constraints, but also because it is pinning its hopes on having the United Nations mediate the dispute.

The military says that since last month, Chinese vessels off Subi Reef have warned Philippine Air Force planes flying in and out of Pagasa to leave, saying they are violating its military airspace.

“This is bad for us who live here. We depend on the planes to deliver our food,” one concerned municipal employee, 37-year-old Larry Jugo, told Agence France-Presse.

Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of the military’s Western Command, said the action was effectively an enforcement of an undeclared air defense identification zone.

“They build these things, they say for legal reasons, but for military purposes as necessary. That’s very alarming,” he noted.

Elsewhere in the Spratlys, Lopez said China has also been harassing Filipino vessels supplying Marines on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

The puny unit of nine men lives on a rusting navy transport BRP Sierra Madre ship that had been deliberately grounded on a reef.

China has also been driving away Filipino fishermen at the Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal), 595 kilometers to the northeast of the Spratlys and within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone but which China has controlled since 2012.

Philippine authorities and regional analysts see it as a powerful campaign aimed at making it impossible for the Philippines to hold on to its claims.

“As far as I know, there is not much that the Philippines can do,” even if it wins its UN case, said Harry Sa, an American research analyst for the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“I think China is doing something smart: It is gaining territory without firing a single shot.” WITH AFP AND PNA/SPUTNIK


PHILSTAR

Aquino: War vs China can be avoided By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated May 14, 2015 - 3:49pm


In this May 24, 2014 photo, China's Harbin (112) guided missile destroyer, left, and DDG-139 Ningbo Sovremenny class Type-956EM destroyer, right, take part in a week-long China-Russia "Joint Sea-2014" navy exercise at the East China Sea off Shanghai, China. Several Asian nations are arming up, their wary eyes fixed squarely on one country: a resurgent China that’s boldly asserting its territorial claims all along the East Asian coast. The scramble to spend more defense dollars comes amid spats with China over contested reefs and waters. Other Asian countries such as India and South Korea are quickly modernizing their forces, although their disputes with China have stayed largely at the diplomatic level. AP/CHINA OUT

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III said an armed conflict in the disputed South China Sea can be avoided.

"Hindi ako sumasang-ayon na inevitable or hindi maiiwasan na magkaroon ng military confrontation," Aquino said in an interview with Bombo Radyo aired this morning.

Aquino was responding to calls for an increased Philippine military presence in the contested waters amid China's aggression and massive reclamation activities on islands and reefs.

While a war against China can be avoided, Aquino said the country still needs to bolster its defense capabilities.

Aquino said his administration has improved the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), with the acquisition of weapons, a warship, helicopters and other aircraft, among others.

"Having said that, hindi naman pwedeng pabayaan natin ‘yung capabilities ng ating Sandatahang Lakas, at sa totoo nga lang, nandiyan naman ang records, talagang pinantayan nitong administrasyon at nilampasan ang lahat ng nagawa mula noong nagkaroon tayo ng AFP Modernization Law at tayo na rin ang nagtulak na palawigin pa ‘yung modernization," Aquino said.

"Taas noo kong masasabi sa inyo at walang takot na may kokontra sa atin na talagang ang laki ng capabilities ng AFP ngayon kaysa noong dinatnan natin," he added.

Claiming that the Philippines is not a military threat to any nation, Aquino said in the past that the country will not engage in an armed conflict and that its constitution renounces war as a national policy.

READ MORE...
He said the Philippines will pursue diplomatic means such as the arbitration case it filed before a United Nations tribunal against China's execessive nine-dash line claim.

"‘Yung arbitration nga na ginagawa at inaasahan natin baka siguro at the latest, baka the first or second quarter of next year magkaroon ng desisyon," Aquino said.

"Inaasahan natin na paglabas ng may kaliwanagan na 'yung obligasyon ng bawat isa at karapatan ng bawat isa, e talagang huhupa ang tensyon na nangyayari dito sa karagatang parteng ito," he added.

Last month, Aquino told the Agence France-Presse that China’s efforts to stake its claim to most of the South China Sea "should engender fear for the rest of the world."

He also warned that China's increasingly assertive actions could affect nations' access to international shipping lanes and fishing grounds in the sea.

Aquino said it is possible for China to intentionally engage in military conflicts over the territorial disputes with the Philippines and other Asian nations.


PHILSTAR

Beijing: Phl, US ‘exaggerate China threat’ (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 16, 2015 - 12:00am


China flag

BEIJING – China’s Foreign Ministry accused the Philippines yesterday of working together with the United States to “exaggerate the China threat” over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

Beijing stepped up its criticism of Manila a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit China, where he is expected to raise Washington’s commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and flight in the South China Sea.

Security concerns have deepened internationally about Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea.

Recent satellite images have shown that since about March 2014, China has conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and is constructing a military-sized airstrip on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and possibly a second on another reef.

The Philippines, a US treaty ally, has called for urgent action to be taken.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the Philippines of “ignoring the common interests of countries in the region and continuing to take provocative measures that complicate and expand the dispute.”

Asked about the US support for the Philippines in the dispute, Hua said: “Some people in the Philippines are jumping very high and are echoing some people in some countries to actively exaggerate the China threat, manufacturing tensions in the region.”

“This theatrical double act has grabbed many eyeballs, but as everyone can see, the current situation in the South China Sea is stable,” she said at a daily news briefing.

Hua reiterated China’s stance that it is “determined to safeguard its national sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests.”

“We will respond firmly to any acts of provocation against China,” she said.

READ MORE...
On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said that Beijing was “extremely concerned” about a possible plan by the Pentagon to send military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

China has always rejected US involvement in the dispute and has dismissed Washington’s proposal for a freeze on provocative acts in the area. It has reiterated that the only way to address the issue is through bilateral talks.

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

Kerry’s visit on Saturday will set the stage for annual US-China economic and strategic talks this summer and a trip to the US by China’s president in September.

Kerry will travel to the South Korean capital of Seoul on Sunday amid fresh fears of North Korean belligerence following reports it has tested a new type of ballistic missile and executed its defense minister. South Korea’s president is due to visit Washington in June. – Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, AP


TRIBUNE

To fold to hold or to walk away Written by Benjamin E Diokno Monday, 18 May 2015 00:00 font size decrease font size increase font size Print Be the first to comment!


AQUINO

Ramming the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) through Congress at this time, before the end of the current session, is definitely ill advised, at best, and shows pig-headedness, at worst. The results of a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) show that public knowledge of the BBL is quite limited: 83 percent said they had “little or no knowledge” while 17 percent said they had “extensive or partially sufficient knowledge” about it. The general consensus is that the BBL, in its present form, contains several constitutionally flawed provisions. In coming up with its own version, the House committee is planning to delete these constitutionally questionable provisions. The Senate, on the other hand, in addition to removing the constitutionally flawed, continues to conduct consultation hearings in areas that would likely be impacted by the proposed BBL. In brief, the final version of the BBL is still evolving. No one knows when Congress would approve the BBL and how the final form would look like. Yet, President Aquino was quoted as saying that a “watered-down” version would be unacceptable “ because it would be tantamount to reducing the benefits according the Bangsamoro people.” Will the President go against the desire of his “bosses” speaking through their representatives in Congress?

The results of the recent (March 20-23) SWS nationwide survey found that 48 percent of Filipinos disapprove of the proposed BBL, 23 percent approve, and 28 percent were indecisive. Mr. Aquino may ignore the fact that a big number of his “bosses” don’t like the BBL in its present form. The survey results also found that the benefit-cost calculus is not in most Filipinos’ favor. Most were not hopeful that the proposed Bangsamoro government would bring peace in its core territories or that the government would benefit from the peace talks with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). According to the nationwide SWS survey, 56 percent said the peace talks with the MILF would yield “a little benefit/no benefit at all” to Filipinos, while 42 percent said otherwise. These anti-BBL results might change depending on the final version of the BBL proposal. But what would the final version look like? And how can public knowledge of this final version be disseminated so that public awareness and understanding of the BBL may improve? Giving his plummeting approval and trust ratings, Mr. Aquino should not ignore the negative views of his bosses. Ignoring them would be too risky. Remember it is important to get the consent of the governed. After all, a bill of this magnitude that affects the distribution of the national wealth and the territorial integrity of the Republic needs the consent of the governed. It is not possible to come up with a final version of the BBL that is acceptable to the House, the Senate, and the MILF between now and the end of May. The BBL is a complex measure.

READ MORE...
The House committee is going through it with a fine-tooth comb, and the Senate is likely to go through it line-by-line. Yet, Mr. Aquino might force his own version of the BBL through political persuasion cum pork, in whatever form. But it will surely result in a legal challenge before the Supreme Court. And with about a year in office, Mr. Aquino cannot afford to be tied down to time-consuming legal battles. He has many more important things to do: his policy agenda is full. He has to worry about the Freedom of Information Act, the competition policy act, the rationalization of fiscal incentives, the deteriorating public infrastructure, the insufficient and unreliable power supply, and so on.

Half of Filipinos disapprove of BBL Social Weather Stations, March 20-23, 2015 With time running out, Mr. Aquino might do some kind of risk analysis. What version of the BBL can he “persuade” Congress to pass and at what cost? Is this version acceptable to the MILF? If the version is unacceptable to the MILF then why spend so much time and money to have it passed? Would the Congress-approved version of the BBL, assuming it is acceptable to the MILF, be acceptable to the Filipino people? If it would be rejected in a nationwide referendum then why spend so much time and money to have it passed? Would the Congress-approved version of the BBL, assuming it is acceptable to the MILF, and assuming it would pass the constitutionality test before the Supreme Court, be acceptable to the Filipino people? If the Filipino people in a nationwide referendum would still reject it, then why spend so much resources to have it passed? As in the famous song of country and pop superstar Kenny Rogers, Mr. Aquino should know when to know when to fold, when to hold and when to walk away.


MANILA STANDARD

Inexperience could cost PH, Binay says By Macon Ramos-Araneta | May. 18, 2015 at 12:01am


Turnover. In this file photo, Vice President Jejomar Binay delivers his speech during the turnover of checks totaling P33.6 million to the beneficiary associations of Social Housing Finance Corp. under its Community Mortgage Program in Pinagbuhatan village in Pasig City. Manny Palmero

VICE President Jejomar C. Binay on Sunday warned the country cannot afford to elect an inexperienced President into office in 2016, given the number of serious problems it is already facing.

“I sincerely believe that the issue in this coming election, for the presidency particularly, is experience and competence... The country cannot afford inexperienced leaders,” Binay said in a statement issued from Cagayan de Oro City.

He added that many of today’s problems would not be so serious if the national leadership were more experienced and competent.

Binay, who is a frontrunner in early polling for 2016, did not name any politicians in his statement but appeared to be referring to neophyte Senator Grace Poe, whom President Benigno Aquino III has tried to recruit to run for the Liberal Party in 2016.

Poe has repeatedly admitted that the name of her father, the late movie star and losing presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr., was the biggest factor in her winning the senatorial race in 2010.

In the last election, she dropped her husband’s surname and ran as Grace Poe, and became the number one ranking senatorial candidate.

Over the weekend, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada—the best friend of Poe’s father—urged the senator to run under the opposition banner, hinting that he could not support her if she ran for the Liberals.

READ MORE...
Other politicians who have expressed an interest in running in 2016 are the Liberal Party’s presumptive candidate, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former senator Panfilo Lacson and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Before he was detained on plunder charges, Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. had also said he wanted to run.

In his statement, Binay said Filipinos risked perpetuating the problems besetting the country today if they entrusted the next government to those without experience and competence.

In contrast, Binay pointed to his 20 years as mayor of Makati and his leadership of several government agencies as proof of his experience and competence.

Despite the numerous attacks against him, Binay said he is more determined to pursue his bid for the presidency in 2016 “to bring experience and competence” to the national leadership.

Renato Quicho, Binay’s spokesman for political concerns, said the Vice President’s detractors were clearly trying to try him by publicity by launching fishing expeditions for evidence.

On Saturday, the Vice President vowed he would not back out of the presidential race despite persistent reports of corruption against him and his family.

Speaking before the National Conference of Employers at Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, he said the accusations and lies would not stop him from running.

His daughter, Senator Nancy Binay, said it was ironic that President Aquino was looking for a candidate from outside his own party.

“We have heard some high officials of the Liberal Party, their statement is that Mar [Roxas] is their candidate, but the President himself, up to now, has yet to say that its Secretary Mar,” the senator said.

The senator added that she was baffled why the President would spend time looking for a candidate for the Liberals when Roxas, a party member, is available.

Roxas, opted to run for vice president in 2010 to give way to Aquino’s presidential bid following mounting calls for him to run after his mother, former President Cory Aquino, died of colon cancer.

Although Aquino served as congressman for nine years and senator for three years, his competence for the presidency was questioned due to his “poor performance” in Congress.

“Why look for another candidate? What seems to be lacking with Secretary Mar? What’s the President looking for? Why can’t he endorse Secretary Mar?” asked Binay.

Roxas, who was defeated by Binay in the vice presidential race in 2010, has been faring poorling in opinion polls for the 2016 elections.


UNBLOGGED:
IF YOU BELIEVE IN PSYCHICS: FEARLESS PREDICTIONS REAL PSYCHICS

A collection of predictions from renowned psychics across the globe, covering world and local events, politics, entertainment, environment, spirituality, and more.Saturday, March 21, 2015

China vs The Philippines @ The Spratly Islands Dispute (Spratlys) by: Psychic August

In the next few years, the Philippines' claim to the Spratlys group of islands, which lies just approximately 14 km offshore from Palawan, will be visibly disregarded by the Chinese communist government as the latter strengthens it's hold upon the area by completing its recent military installations and adding more structures like ports, factories, and small settlements in the islands.

This has, in part, happened because while the Spratlys sit within the Philippines' territorial waters, they have been taken for granted by the Philippine government. The Philippines is waking up to the rude reality that other more powerfully armed countries like China can easily lay claim to the chain of islands with it's vastly rich natural resources.

And this is what is currently happening - the Philippine influence in the area is gradually eroding as China slowly but firmly consolidates it's hold over the area. It's current diplomatic approach through the UN is proving to be too slow, and ineffective in curbing the 'take over' style of China. This is a blunt warning that more direct and immediate action should be taken by the Philippine government.

READ MORE...
In the very near future, the Philippine government will still resort to diplomatic efforts in responding to this encroachment by the Chinese government, as the former makes its diplomatic call louder by bringing it's case across more countries as possible, thus creating international pressure upon China to halt its usurpation of the Spratlys. In addition to this, the Philippine government will also build up and modernize its armed forces (AFP) to be able to respond to this threat.

The AFP will be prepared, and skirmishes will occur with the chinese armed forces occupying the Spratlys, though much of it will be kept away from public knowledge. However, bits of these clashes will leak out every now and then to the media and Filipino public. Apparent in all of these skirmishes is the subtle support of the US military to the AFP. This starts in the remaining duration of the current administration and continues into the next

These 'secret wars' between the Chinese armed forces occupying the Spratlys and the US-supported AFP, and with other allies like Vietnam who also keeps a claim to the islands, will continue. Visible diplomatic efforts exerted by all countries concerned for international arbitration on the Spratlys situation, will flourish in the next 4 - 5 years, until the islands are legally divided among all countries laying claim to it.

A foreign woman lawmaker, well known in the international community, will put efforts in helping the Philippine government bolster it's case concerning the spratlys to the international community. Reading Date: March 18, 2015


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE