MANILA, MAY 25, 2015 (PHILSTAR) May 23, 2015 - 12:00am - Electricity and mobile phone services would be cut throughout Metro Manila, and all private and government offices and businesses, including shopping malls, would be closed.
That would be the situation on July 16 between 3 and 8 p.m. to simulate the scenario of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has warned that an earthquake of that magnitude could occur and kill at least 33,500 people and injure at least 113,600 others following a movement in the West Valley Fault.
The West Valley Fault has moved four times in the past 1,400 years at an interval of 400 to 600 years.
It was 357 years ago or in 1658 when the last big earthquake occurred in the country.
Another major earthquake could take place should the West Valley Fault move again, according to Phivolcs.
The 100-kilometer West Valley Fault transects 42 barangays in Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Muntinlupa and 30 barangays in Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite.
Phivolcs has released the Valley Fault System Atlas, a handbook of large scale maps, which has been distributed to local government units.
A source said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) plans to hold a metro-wide earthquake drill on July 16 to commemorate the massive earthquake that struck Luzon on July 16, 1990.
However, Chairman Francis Tolentino is having second thoughts about the metro-wide drill being done on that date, the source added.
Tolentino said a drill should be held at least twice a year.
“It should be held daytime and nighttime,” he said in Filipino.
“That is being done in the state of California If a 7.2 (quake) occurs, we could be disrupted by three weeks. If it occurs, we have already practiced it.”
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Alexander Pama supports the MMDA proposal for a metro-wide earthquake drill.
“Many of our compatriots, many sectors, are not taking the drill seriously,” he said in Filipino. “We just watch, and sometimes we are just laughing.”
Tolentino said the MMDA is preparing a draft executive order for the signature of President Aquino to call for the holding of an annual metro-wide earthquake drill.
During the drill, all offices, schools and business establishments would be closed to allow for the public’s full participation, he added.
Tolentino said the current earthquake drills being held in schools are not enough.
“It is not quite serious,” he said. “Students would go hide under the table, leave their classrooms smiling, laughing, with books covering their heads. That’s not the way to do it.”
Tolentino has proposed the creation of a Metro Manila Earthquake Information Center to serve as a hotline.
The Philippines is located in the world-renowned Pacific Ring of Fire, an area where large numbers of volcanic eruptions and earthquake occur. This belt of oceanic trenches and volcanic arcs has been ripe for the past few years and it’s ready to unleash havoc across the Pacific Rim. The West Valley Fault Line or formerly known as the “Marikina Valley Fault System,” moved every 400 years, the last time that fault line moved was way back the year 1658. There is a possibility that within 2000-2058, the West Valley Fault will unleash havoc to the cities of Metro Manila. In preparation for the West Valley Fault’s movement the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) prepared four areas of Metro Manila as evacuation centers on their “Oplan Metro Yakal.” The program will make use four areas of NCR as evacuation centers, they have also prepared the Pasig River as the best alternative route to designated evacuation centers. FROM philnews.ph by by Ed Umbao on October 17, 2013 new file.
Six schools on top of quake belt
The country’s chief seismologist warned yesterday six schools in Metro Manila located on top or close to the West Valley Fault against using their buildings for classes or offices to avoid casualties in the event of magnitude-7.2 earthquake.
Phivolcs has identified the six schools as Sitio Karahume Elementary School in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; Barangka Elementary School in Marikina; Tibagan Elementary School in Makati; Anne-Claire Montessori in Taguig; and Alabang Elementary School and E. Pedro Diaz High School in Muntinlupa.
Phivolcs director Solidum said the school buildings should be demolished and the sides of the structures within the five meter-wide buffer zone should be reinforced.
“The affected schools must make sure they do not use the rooms for classes or offices,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
“We have advised them not to. They need to transfer the kids...It’s not that many. They need to discuss it with [the Department of Education] and school officials. Essentially, they are putting students at risk. To be fair, we don’t know when the fault will move.”
These buildings can still be used as storage spaces, he added.
Solidum said two buildings of the Sitio Karahume Elementary School are “not directly on top” but they are within the buffer zone. “They may be affected by the ground rupture or very strong shaking.”
Solidum said the other affected structures are the west building of Barangka Elementary School, easternmost building in Tibagan Elementary School, the building including the basketball court of Anne-Claire Montessori, the building near Alabang Elementary School gate and the Values Education and administration buildings of E. Pedro Diaz High School.
Some of the school buildings might have been constructed before news came out that the West Valley Fault remained active in the 1990s, he added.
Solidum debunked the “triangle of life theory ” stating that the safest way to survive an intense earthquake is to be at “a space or void next to objects or furniture.”
The triangle of life theory is an earthquake preparedness concept of Doug Copp that went viral, first on emails, then on social networking sites.
Copp’s theory goes against the universally-accepted safety advice of “Drop, Cover and Hold On,” Solidum said.
He also called for the immediate retrofitting of all public and private buildings, especially hospitals and other buildings needed in the aftermath of a strong earthquake.
In the aftermath of a strong earthquake in Metro Manila, the MMDA would immediately put into action “Oplan Metro Yakal,” the earthquake contingency plan formulated in 2012.
Under Oplan Metro Yakal, some 6,000 MMDA employees and volunteers would be mobilized.
They would assemble at designated staging areas: MMDA grounds in Makati and at base camps in Quezon City, Pasig, Manila and Pasay City.
Tolentino has organized the MMDA’s more than 6,000-strong workforce as rescue volunteers under Task Force Rainbow, along with 1,000 volunteers from various barangays and associations of fire brigades and civic organizations.
The MMDA’s Task Force Rainbow is divided into four sectors: the North sector covering the cities of Malabon, Caloocan, Valenzuela and Quezon City; East sector including the cities of Marikina, Pasig and San Juan; West sector for the cities of Manila, Navotas, and Pasay; and South sector covering the cities of Las Piñas, Taguig, Makati, Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa, Parañaque and Pateros.
Under Oplan Metro Yakal, all MMDA employee-rescuers shall report to their assigned sectors or base camps at the earliest possible time in the event of an earthquake.
Those assigned to the North sector would have the Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Quezon City as staging area; the Ultra Sports Center in Pasig City for the East sector; the Intramuros Golf Course for the West sector and the Villamor Airbase Golf Course for the South sector. – Mike Frialde, Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Helen Flores
No stopping Binay in 2016, he states anew: ‘Next leader needs executive experience’ By Jennifer Rendon (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 25, 2015 - 12:00am
File photo shows Vice President Jejomar Binay in front of the Seal of the President of the Philippines at Malacañang. At left, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas chats with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to Davao City last Friday. WILLY PEREZ
MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay vowed anew yesterday that he would not back out from the presidential elections in 2016 despite the continued attacks against him and his family.
Residents gave Binay a warm welcome in Iloilo as ordinary folks cheered and requested to take pictures with the Vice President.
Political observers said the warm welcome showed that Binay is still popular in Iloilo, considered the bailiwick of Liberal Party leaders Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Senate President Franklin Drilon.
“Lahat ng kasiraan, akala ko wala ng katapusan pero hindi po ako aatras. Kakandidato po ako sa darating na 2016 (They threw everything at me, I thought it would never end but I won’t back out),”
Binay told his welcomers that included senior citizens at the public market of New Lucena, Iloilo, where he distributed wheelchairs and medical equipment.
New Lucena is a sister town of Makati where Binay is former mayor.
Iloilo has only one congressman supporting Binay — Rep. Hernan Biron of the 4th District.
Among the welcomers were Mayor Liecel Mondejar-Seville, her brother board member June Mondejar and Mayor Peter Paul Lopez of San Dionisio town.
Also included in Binay’s entourage were Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting and Valenzuela Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian.
As the 2016 election draws near, Binay said he won’t be surprised if more controversies would be thrown his way.
“But people have seen that this is just part of political oppression. Do you think if I’m not running for president and I’m not on top of the survey, would they do that to me?” he quipped.
Currently, Binay’s camp said he has bounced back in the surveys at 36 percent.
Meanwhile, Binay called on the people to choose a leader who has the experience and capability, citing that he had been mayor for 16 years and a vice president since 2010.
Binay also lamented the continued “harassment” of his family including allegations of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that he has several bank accounts.
“This is what’s wrong with the AMLC, presenting wrong information that I have 242 bank accounts, which would make me richer than Bill Gates,” he said, maintaining that he had only five bank accounts.
Binay said he acquired his assets through hard work.
“I was a practicing lawyer. I have been good in saving money. I also did teaching and my wife is a doctor of medicine,” he cited.
Binay again lashed back at AMLC and the senators for singling him out.
He challenged the AMLC to also look into the bank accounts of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Drilon.
Abad, a close friend of President Aquino, had been tagged as the brains of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), of which certain provisions were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Drilon, on the other hand, was earlier accused of irregularities involving the Iloilo Convention Center. But the Office of Ombudsman has dismissed the case against him.
Despite the political harassment, Binay said he has no bitterness and would not unjustly persecute anyone if he succeeds in his 2016 presidential bid.
“I want to be known as the unifying president,” he vowed.
But when asked of his possible running mate, Binay said that a search committee was formed by the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Binay refused to name any personal choice for the position.
He added the search committee is considering someone who could help him if he is elected President and has the executive ability to assist him.
Binay said they are considering a number of people to be his vice presidential candidate.
“You know, what I can say is we have a search committee. Because if we know that the person will not accept our offer we will no longer consider them,” he said.
The search committee is headed by UNA interim president and Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco.
Among the personalities floated as Binay’s running mate are Senators Grace Poe, Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada, boxing champ and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, former senator Panfilo Lacson, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Pag-IBIG Fund president and chief executive officer Darlene Berberabe and businessman Manny Pangilinan were also mentioned as possible running mates of Binay.
The Vice President, meanwhile, clarified he was not referring to anyone in particular when he said that the country could not afford to elect inexperienced leaders in 2016.
Binay stressed that competence and experience would be the main issue in next year’s elections.
“I am not referring to anyone. When I said that, I was talking about my point of view… I present myself as a presidential candidate who has the experience and competence in 2016,” he said.
Some camps believe Binay was referring to Poe, a close second to Binay in the presidential surveys.
“There are people who have the experience. But what we are talking about here is experience and competence as an executive. It’s just like building a house, you need a carpenter, you need a skilled carpenter. You don’t need a plumber, because a plumber is good in fixing clogged pipes. There may be people who have the competence and experience, but not as an executive,” he said.
In an interview last week, Poe said that she does not see herself being the running mate of Binay, who is currently facing numerous corruption allegations.
Binay, however, said he respects Poe’s pronouncement.
Binay served as the campaign manager of Poe’s father, the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., when he ran for president in 2004. - With Helen Flores
Binay: Why aren’t Abad, Drilon probed by AMLC? By Macon Ramos-Araneta | May. 25, 2015 at 12:01am
LP leaders, Aquino allies Drilon and Abad: Uninvestigated. Vice President Jejomar Binay is asking why neither Senate President Franklin Drilon (left) nor Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. (above) have been investigated by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
VICE President Jejomar C. Binay blasted the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Sunday for failing to investigate the bank accounts of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and other leaders of the Liberal Party who have been linked to anomalous transactions
Abad was the brains behind the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada said was used to bribe members of Congress.
In a privilege speech in 2013, Estrada revealed that several senators received P50 million to P100 million after the Senate impeachment court voted to convict President Benigno Aquino III’s political enemy, Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Abad said some P10 billion or 7 percent of the P144 billion of savings pooled under DAP went to projects identified or endorsed by senators and congressmen.
Drilon topped the list of senators, getting P100 million from DAP.
The Supreme Court later struck down significant provisions of Abad’s DAP as unconstitutional.
Drilon has also been linked to anomalies over the construction of the P700 million Iloilo Convention Center.
Former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada accused Drilon and the two other Cabinet officials of pocketing public funds from the overpriced construction of the convention center.
Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman junked the plunder and malversation charges against Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., saying there was no basis to charge them over the Iloilo convention center.
Interviewed in Mactan, Cebu, Saturday night, Binay question why
AMLC, which he claimed is being used by the administration for political oppression, is not looking into the accounts of leaders of the Liberal Party, of which President Aquino is the national chairman.
EXCERPT FROM RIGOBERTO TIGLAO COLUMN from rigobertotiglao.com Perhaps the vilest weapon that President Aquino has wielded against his political opponents is the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). Actual AMLC orders pertaining to these controversial cases—if there really were and if these were approved by the commission itself—have never been disclosed. They did it before: Ombudsman Morales on May 14, 2012, at the Senate impeachment court waving AMLC “documents.” It was a huge hoax, as Morales added transactions over nine years, not balances. Tetangco should disclose who recommended as AMLC executive director in late 2013 Julia Bacay-Abad, who replaced Vicente Aquino. I was told it was Liberal Party president and Senator Franklin Drilon. As if to mock the nation, AMLC’s decision freezing bank accounts of Vice President Jejomar Binay, his family and alleged associates, came nearly three years to the day, on March 14, 2012, when Aquino first used the council against a perceived political enemy of his. READ FULL REPORT HERE
Binay also said that the funds in the bank accounts frozen by the AMLC was hard-earned money that belonged to him and his wife, an obstetrician who also served as Makati mayor.
“My acccount that were frozen, in the name of God and the public, that’s clean money. I earned that. I was a practicing lawyer. My wife is a practicing doctor. I was teaching and I’m fond of saving money. That’s clean money,” Binay said.
Of the 242 bank accounts the AMLC ordered frozen, only five are under his name, Binay said.
“If I had 242 accounts, I would be even richer than Bill Gates,” Binay said.
Moreover, Binay noted that when a bank account was frozen, it does not automatically mean the owner of the account is guilty of committing an offense.
“Under the law, AMLC must have to look for predicate crime. Where did this money come from?”
“They won’t find anything there, so it’s sad. And they also froze the accounts of my friends, even the accounts of their children, and parents. This is too much,” Binay said.
The AMLC obtained an order from the Court of Appeals to freeze 242 bank, insurance and security accounts of Binay, his family and alleged dummies, totaling P16 billion. Binay’s frozen assets totaled P600 million.
The freeze order was also based on the findings that Binay’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth showed incomes from 2007 to 2013 of the Binays to be “disproportionate to the values, frequency and complexity of their banking transactions.”
The CA order stemmed from the Ombudsman’s investigation of the Makati Parking Building, allegedly overpriced by P1.3 billion, and the Makati Science High School.
The court took note of the AMLC findings that Gerardo Limlingan, Eduviges Baloloy and other alleged dummies withdrew funds from their bank accounts after the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the alleged anomalies.
The records of the Securities and Exchange Commission also showed probable links of entities, their directors and officers to the Vice President and his family, the court said.
The Ombudsman is investigating the allegations after a plunder complaint was filed by Renato Bondal and Nicholas Enciso VI against Binay, his son Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and other city officials.
The Vice President’s lawyer, Claro Certez, fired back at AMLC for misleading the CA by deliberately omitting and concealing several details about his bank accounts.
This included omitting the fact that Binay received campaign contributions of P231 million and incurred expenses of P218 million, which were all reported in his statement of campaign contributions and expenses filed with the Commission on Elections.
Lies against me will continue–Binay HEADLINE FROM Philippine Daily Inquirer by Christine O. Avendaño 3:11 AM | Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
“The AMLC was also not truthful with the Court of Appeals because it deliberately concealed the fact that Vice President Binay and his wife were earning additional income from their respective businesses in addition to the Vice President’s salary. All these information were duly reported in the income tax returns of the Vice President that span for almost three decades and on file with the Bureau of Internal Revenue,” Certeza said.
On Sunday, Binay said he will present himself in the 2016 elections as a presidential candidate with executive experience and competence, and said a committee within his United Nationalist Alliance party would recommend his running mate.
In an interview in Mactan, Cebu, Saturday night, Binay said he was not referring to anybody when he spoke about his personal view on the need for experience and competence in a presidential candidate.
“When I spoke about these, it was from my personal point of view. That’s how I will present myself... on the issue of experience and competence.... I wasn’t alluding to anybody,” he said.
Binay’s remarks were widely seen as being directed at neophyte Senator Grace Poe, who the ruling Liberal Party is trying to recruit for the 2016 elections.
Poe, reacting to Binay’s statement, said that more than experience and competence, a candidate should have honesty.
She went on to say that Binay has yet to face the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee and address the corruption allegations against him.
Binay on Sunday said the UNA will suggest his vice president after screening potential candidats for the position.
“We are considering a number of people to be my vice president,” he said.
He said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, whom he said has the executive experience and competence, is among those being considered.
Binay said the ruling Liberal Party was attacking him with allegations of corruption because he consistently topped opinion polls for the 2016 presidential election.
“They attacked me, they perpetrated lies against me because I am a candidate for president, and my ratings are high. If I were not a candidate, or if I did not have high ratings, they will not fabricate lies against me,” he said.
Binay said he would not give up, however, saying surrender was not in his vocabulary.
Massive 'political migration' from LP looms if PNoy picks ‘wrong’ 2016 bet by Charissa Luci May 25, 2015
Warming his seat? INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
President Aquino’s choice of a winnable standard-bearer for the 2016 presidential polls would make or break the Liberal Party (LP) and a “wrong” pick is likely to trigger migration from the ruling party in the last quarter of the year, a lawmaker warned yesterday.
“The fate of LP as the dominant party will certainly depend not on who it will support, but if its candidate will (have a big chance to) win the 2016 elections,” said AKO BICOL partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe, spokesman of the 39-member Party-list Coalition Foundation, Inc. (PCF).
As LP chairman, “Aquino should prudently choose the party’s standard bearer because failure to do so would put the LP in a losing end,” said Batocabe.
“If its (LP’s) candidate wins, we can all be assured that the LP will be dominant. If it loses, you can be assured that almost everybody will jump from a sinking ship,” he said.
‘MIGRATION’ AND ‘COLLAPSE’
He said the so-called “massive political migration” may be seen as the filing of certificates of candidacy (CoCs) in October nears.
“It is still too early to tell. Wait until the last quarter of this year and the realignment of forces will slowly become more clear and defined,” Batocabe said.
1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III, a member of the House minority bloc said he will not be surprised if Aquino’s LP would collapse in the coming months.
“About 75 percent of the LP membership came from Lakas and other political parties. With the President becoming a lame duck President, the political world will witness another massive political migration! What else is new,” the former justice secretary pointed out.
PARTY VS. PNOY?
Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, who chairs the LP’s membership and organizing committee, said the party will definitely rally behind the President’s “anointed one,” in the wake of insinuations that Aquino’s presidential preference may differ with the party preference.
“There’s no chance that the President’s presidential choice will not be the same with that of the party. The NEC (National Executive Committee) and the entire LP membership will be one with the president once he declares his anointed presidential bet,” Treñas said.
He stressed that Aquino’s decision on who to support in 2016 will carry a lot of weight on the party’s decision making process, but it is premature to be drawing conclusions on the possible Mar Roxas-Grace Poe or a Poe-Roxas tandem in 2016 at this time.
“If there’s one person who has a final say on the outcome of the LP’s selection process for the party’s presidential and vice presidential bets, that’s no other than President Aquino. I don’t see any reason why LP members would not support his decision,” Trenas said.
He disputed claims that the LP is heading for a breakup because of opposing views on the party’s presidential standard bearer.
LP BEYOND 2016
The LP maintained that it remains stronger and will continue to play a crucial role in charting the country’s future beyond 2016 amid speculations that the administration party is breaking apart due to differences on their standard bearer in the 2016 elections.
The party’s presumptive presidential candidate remains Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
“These differences on certain political preferences are part of our party dynamics but definitely it will not fracture the party. LP will remain a party to reckon with and will continue to play a key role in the country’s political landscape even after 2016. That’s for sure,” LP secretary general and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said in a statement.
Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo, stalwart of LP said the party remains stronger as ever and will rally behind the President’s choice in next year’s presidential polls.
“The leadership remains solid and will always support the President’s choice one hundred percent. We’ve been through many difficult and divisive issues, but the party has only come out stronger,” he said.
TOO EARLY TO CALL
Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr., who heads the National Unity Party (NUP) bloc in the Lower Chamber, said it is still premature to tell whether or not the LP coalition is breaking apart since the parties allied to the administration party have not disclosed their preference for any presidential candidate.
Among the LP’s coalition partners in the Lower Chamber are the PCF, Nacionalista Party (NP), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and NUP).
“It is too early to say that the LP coalition is breaking apart due to their alleged preferences in their choices for the 2016 presidential elections. The major parties to the coalition namely LP, NP, NPC, NUP have not stated any preference for any presidential candidate,” Barzaga said.
Garbage men, construction workers eye seats in Congress (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 25, 2015 - 12:00am
Based on the initial list of party-list groups that filed their application for accreditation and manifestation of intent to run in 2016, Samahang Magbabasura Inc., Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Konstruksyon and Kapatirang Magmamais sa Pilipinas are looking at seats at the House of Representatives. File photo
MANILA, Philippines - Garbage collectors, construction workers and corn farmers are among the 243 groups seeking to be accredited as party-list organizations by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the party-list race next year.
Based on the initial list of party-list groups that filed their application for accreditation and manifestation of intent to run in 2016, Samahang Magbabasura Inc., Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Konstruksyon and Kapatirang Magmamais sa Pilipinas are looking at seats at the House of Representatives.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told The STAR yesterday that the poll body is currently conducting hearings to screen qualified groups.
He said because of the April 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) on the Atong Paglaum case, the groups are thoroughly examined to see if they meet the basic requirements like track record and membership.
The ruling on the Paglaum case stemmed from the consolidated petition filed by 52 party-list groups disqualified by Comelec from joining the May 2013 party-list elections for failing to prove that they represent the marginalized and under-represented sectors.
“We have not come out with plans (on how the groups will be screened considering the SC ruling.). It’s just proceeding as a normal hearing with the presentation of documents. It has not reached the level on oral arguments,” Jimenez in an interview.
The SC ruling means that a party-list nominee need not belong to the marginalized and under-represented sector that his group wishes to represent.
The SC ruled that Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act also does not require parties, organizations and sectors to be marginalized and under-represented to be accredited as party-list groups.
Reacting to fears that party-list groups will become the backdoors of the rich and famous, retired generals and government officials, Jimenez appealed to concerned organizations to police their ranks.
Phl, US assert rights, ignore China warning By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington bureau (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 23, 2015 - 12:00am
Composite photo shows a US Navy P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft which was asked to leave the area by the Chinese navy as it approached contested islands in the South China Sea. Photo also shows construction on Fiery Cross Reef, from where the warning could have been issued.
WASHINGTON – The United States military will continue air and sea patrols in international waters even after the Chinese navy repeatedly warned a US surveillance plane to leave the airspace over artificial islands China is creating in the disputed South China Sea.
The Philippine government also declared it would continue activities in the region, calling on China to respect freedom of navigation and aviation.
“Our position on the importance of letting freedom of navigation, freedom of aviation and international law prevail in the area we are talking about does not change. That is why this is not affected by the new development,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told a press briefing yesterday.
“Our position on this matter is consistent and resolute. While we recognize that there is tension, we will remain assertive and determined to push for our position by adhering to international law,” Coloma said.
US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said it was unclear on what basis the Chinese navy issued the warning to a US military plane that was flying over the Spratlys in the South China Sea.
Harf said the verbal warnings aired by the Chinese to the US plane could not be classified as a confrontation.
The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggested Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands there.
Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.
Although the US does not recognize China’s claims of sovereignty around the man-made structures, American P-8 surveillance planes and naval vessels patrolling the area have not ventured within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands – the standard territorial zone around natural land.
“That would be the next step,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren said.
Asked if the military would move to within that sensitive zone, he said: “We don’t have any announcement to make on next steps. We are going to continue our routine flights.”
US officials have said they are weighing sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the man-made islands in the South China Sea to test Beijing’s controversial territorial claims.
While there was no official statement yet on the deployment of USS Ronald Reagan in the region, Philippine defense sources said the aircraft carrier is headed to Japan deployment for unspecified mission from her homeport in San Diego, California.
“That’s what we’ve learned from our counterparts. We don’t have any official confirmation yet,” a Philippine defense official said.
The move, however, could raise tensions and lead to a standoff on the high seas, in an area vital to global shipping lanes.
Beijing regards almost the whole of the South China Sea as its own.
The senior US diplomat for East Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, told a media briefing in Washington that the US reconnaissance flight was “entirely appropriate” and that US naval forces and military aircraft would “continue to fully exercise” the right to operate in international waters and airspace.
REUTERS File photo of a US surveillance plane over Philippine disputed South sea
Russel said the US would go further to preserve the ability of all countries to move in international waters and airspace.
“Nobody in their right mind is going to try to stop the US Navy from operating – that would not be a good bet,” Russel said.
“But it’s not enough that a US military plane can overfly international waters, even if there is challenge or hailing query... We believe that every country and all civilian actors should have unfettered access to international waters and international airspace.”
A former Philippine senator said the US is sending a strong message to China about the possible political and security implications of its aggressive actions over the region.
“The US is sending a strong signal to China and the international community that these new developments have serious geopolitical and security implications,” former senator Panfilo Lacson said.
“The fact that the US conducted patrol over the contested islands which China is claiming to be exclusively their own and thereafter, releasing the incident through international media says a lot already,” he added.
Lacson said there is a high possibility of dangerous confrontation after China’s warning to all foreign vessels and aircraft against entering the disputed seas.
“It only takes an aggressive action from any party in interest, no matter how insignificant, to spark a dangerous armed confrontation that could lead to war,” Lacson said.
On Thursday, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea was undermining freedom and stability and risked provoking tension that could lead to conflict.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, its claims overlapping with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.
The end game
Footage taken by the P8-A Poseidon over the new islands, and aired by CNN, showed a hive of construction and dredging activity, as well as Chinese navy ships nearby.
CNN said it was the first time the Pentagon had declassified video of China’s building activity and audio of challenges to a US aircraft.
“We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy,” Capt. Mike Parker, commander of US surveillance aircraft deployed to Asia, told CNN on the flight.
“I’m highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here,” Parker said, pointing to an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan Reef) located near the Kalayaan Island occupied by the Philippines in the Spratlys.
The Chinese warnings to the US aircraft are typical and occur frequently, a US navy official said.
“It’s not uncommon,” the official said.
And sometimes the Chinese send military aircraft to visually identify American planes in the area, the official added.
The Philippine Defense department said the series of “ground to air encounters” in the region only showed China is out to bully everybody in line with its long-range plan to have total control of the entire South China Sea.
“The incident shows the extent to which China is willing to disregard international laws and freedom of flight and navigation. It is highly regrettable that they are imposing their self-serving rules even in clearly established international airspace,” Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.
A US commander recently said the military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, including a 3,000-meter runway, could be operational by year’s end.
He said Washington is concerned China will use it to press its extensive territorial claims at the expense of weaker rivals.
China 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 also have overlapping claims.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week asserted Beijing’s right to reclaim the reefs and said China’s determination to protect its interests was “as hard as a rock.”
China has also said it had every right to set up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.
ADIZs are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception. – Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, Christina Mendez
A sunset party for APEC delegates By Ida Anita del Mundo (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 24, 2015 - 12:00am
Dancers perform during a welcome dinner for delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting of trade ministers at Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa’s Banyugan Beach in Boracay yesterday. APEC 2015 MEDIA OPERATIONS CENTER
MANILA, Philippines - Greeted by the beat of Ati-atihan drummers, delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers meeting enjoyed a welcome dinner and cultural presentation at sunset yesterday.
Dubbed FuntaSea, Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa’s Banyugan Beach was transformed into a fantasy island, complete with mermaids, fire dancers, and choreographed paraws (sailboat) representing the best of Boracay.
With APEC meetings being held all over the Philippines, each presentation is conceptualized to showcase the local culture of each host province.
“The overall concept was set by Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez,” said project director Nestor Jardin. “He gave the creative guideline that the cultural presentation should project a unified statement that the Filipinos are a young, progressive, inclusive, forward-looking, youthful, innovative society.”
With this in mind, event director Chris Millado conceptualized a show that will recreate the ambience of Boracay’s famed party scene, fusing with this the very strong Ati-atihan tradition of Aklan. “The objective is to let the delegates experience in two hours what they would have experienced on a party weekend in Boracay,” said Millado.
Entertainment at the beach party was led by Bituin Escalante who performed rousing ’80s disco hits to get the party started. Joining her were the Coral Queenies composed of Delphine Buencamino, Gold Villar, and Jacy Sim. The event’s music director Myke Salomon infused the Filipino sound into the event with a Manila Sound set. Continuing the party vibe were Ballet Philippines dancers choreographed by Denisa Reyes and Max Luna III, Daloy Dance Company, electronic music band Those Damn Nerds, fusion music by the Diwa de Leon Group, and blues-jazz band The Brat Pack.
Local acts included the Boracay Fire Dancers, champion ati-atihan dance group Black Beauty Boys, and the Boracay Paraw Association.
Completing the fantasy setting was young artist Leeroy
New’s glowing, coral reef-inspired installation sculpture that doubled as
the main stage.