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

US NAVY COMMANDER STRESSES POSITIVES IN CHINA RELATIONSHIP


JULY 21 ---"We (China) have much more in common than we do in competition," Adm. Scott Swift told reporters in Tokyo. YAHOO ASIA FILE The Navy's new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet sounded a conciliatory note toward China on Tuesday during the last stop of a three-country Asian tour. "We have much more in common than we do in competition," Adm. Scott Swift told reporters in Tokyo. He added, though, that the Navy is ready to respond to any situation that might arise, if called upon by the American president. The U.S. and China have quarreled over China's land reclamation and construction activity on reefs in the South China Sea that are claimed by multiple countries. Swift said that progress is being made on the U.S.-China relationship, but that the friction often overshadows it. He cited a new code to govern unplanned encounters at sea that both countries and others in the region have implemented. He also predicted that any change in the Navy's ties with its Japanese counterpart resulting from legislation to expand Japan's military role would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Swift, on his first trip to Asia since assuming command of the Pacific Fleet in late May, visited the Philippines and South Korea before Japan. The 200 ships and submarines and 1,100 aircraft of the Pacific Fleet cover a vast area that encompasses nearly half the earth's surface. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: ‘US has freedom of overflight in South China Sea’ - DFA


JULY 22 ---The USNS Impeccable is seen docked in Subic Bay for a routine port call yesterday. The ocean surveillance ship, which uses both passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect and track undersea threats, rescued 11 fishermen who were found adrift off Pangasinan last Monday on its way to Subic. Ernie Peñaredondo
- There was nothing irregular or provocative about the recent US surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea, as such operation was an exercise of freedom of overflight, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.
“They were flying over international airspace. They have every right to exercise freedom of overflight,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing, referring to last Saturday’s surveillance flight by a P-8A Poseidon aircraft over the West Philippine Sea. Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, was on the seven-hour flight “to witness first hand the full range of the P-8A Poseidon’s capabilities.” He called the flight a “routine” operation. The mission was conducted a day after Swift assured US allies in the region that American forces are prepared to respond to any contingency in the South China Sea. The US and several other countries have expressed concern over China’s island building activities in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. The Philippines is contesting China’s maritime claim before an international arbitral tribunal based in The Hague. Beijing has refused to take part in the proceedings. READ MORE...

ALSO: PHL Navy commissions 2 landing craft heavy ships from Australia


Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice. Adm. Tim Barret signed a memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines on Thursday, July 23, 2015 in a ceremony in Cairns, Australia. Philippine Navy/Released
MANILA, Philippines — The Navy on Thursday commissioned into service the two ships donated by Australia in a development seen to boost the Philippines's disaster response capabilities.
The two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels were formally handed over to the Philippines in a ceremony held in Cairns, Australia, Navy public affairs chief Commander Lued Lincuna said. A memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines was signed by Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice Adm. Tim Barret. The LCH vessels are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August. 1234 Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice. Adm. Tim Barret signed a memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines on Thursday, July 23, 2015. In his acceptance speech, Millan thanked the Australian Navy for donating the ships to the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region. READ MORE...

ALSO: Philippines cheers growing outcry over South China Sea


JULY 19 ---The Philippines on Sunday hailed what it termed growing international support for its efforts to counter China's claims to most of the South China Sea.
The comments from a presidential spokesman came as the US Pacific Fleet released photographs of its commander in a surveillance flight over the sea, where tension is rising between Manila and Beijing. Herminio Coloma, spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III, said that "there are additional voices supporting our move for a peaceful resolution to the debate over... the South China Sea." He said many nations agreed that the dispute "must go through legal process as signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea." "We welcome the growing support for the position of our country," Coloma told reporters, citing the European Union, Australia, Japan and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. READ MORE...

ALSO: PH hopeful of returning to The Hague to discuss case vs China


JULY 21 ---THE HAGUE 
THE Philippine government is hopeful that they will be able to return to The Netherland-based Permanent Court of Arbitration to discuss the merits of its case against China in connection with the territorial dispute on the West Philippine Sea. Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay of the Philippine legal team said they are confident that they were able to present the Philippines’ side well. “We are confident that we presented the best forms of the argument. [But] how the arbitrators, how members of the Arbitral Tribunal received them, we don’t know. We have impressions of course. But we believe, based on our understanding of the case that we have presented and the answers we have given, these are the best forms of argument possible,” Hilbay said. “So, we hope that we survive the jurisdictional phase and be able to return to The Hague,” he told reporters on the sidelights of the oral argument on Torre de Manila. READ MORE...

ALSO: US Commander Joins South China Sea Surveillance Flight During Philippines Trip


JULY 20 ---Admiral Scott Swift joins a mission on board a P-8 aircraft.
The new U.S. commander of the Pacific Fleet participated in a surveillance flight over the disputed South China Sea in an American spy plane as part of his inaugural trip to the Asia-Pacific. Admiral Scott Swift, who assumed command of the Fleet in May, joined a seven-hour maritime surveillance mission on board a P-8A Poseidon plane this weekend. According to the U.S. Pacific Command, he took part “to witness firsthand the full range of the Poseidon’s capabilities.” The P-8A Poseidon is designed for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions as well as long-range anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. It is capable of broad-area maritime and littoral operations, and can fly as high as 41,000 feet and travel up to 490 knots. Swift’s participation in the operation is part of a firmer U.S. public campaign over the past few months to demonstrate that Chinese activities in the South China Sea will not undermine freedom of navigation and overflight (See: “The Case for a Bolder US South China Sea Policy”). As U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put it in a speech addressing the South China Sea in Hawaii on May 27, “The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”  READ MORE...

ALSO: NPA rebels attack 12 security outposts; 1 dead


JULY 21 ---Attacks by communist rebels on government troops have been frequent in recent months, especially in remote areas of the country. Communist guerrillas attacked a dozen mostly rural army outposts, including in two provinces where officials have declared that the insurgents have been considerably weakened, the military said Tuesday. New People's Army guerrillas fired on 11 army outposts and a police station on Monday in the northeastern provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon, sparking a clash that killed one of the insurgents, regional military spokesman Maj. Angelo Guzman said. A police officer, a government militiaman and six villagers were wounded in the attacks. Authorities have declared that the decades-long insurgency has been considerably weakened in recent months in Albay and Camarines Norte, allowing civilian officials to take charge of the anti-insurgency program from the military. Army troops, however, have remained in those provinces to back up officials and police in battling the remaining insurgents. Guzman said the attacks were a desperate effort by the insurgents to project a strong image after being crippled by years of military offensives. They also wanted to retaliate following the deaths of seven guerrillas in recent clashes in the region, he said. "These attacks were done for propaganda," Guzman said. "They were not meant to overrun these army detachments because they have been so weakened to do that."  READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: After the noise, an eerie silence


JULY 22 ---THE contrast was stark. Following the conclusion of hearings before a UN tribunal in The Hague, administration officials are uncharacteristically silent on what questions were posed by the judges who will decide whether they should assume jurisdiction over the country’s territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea. In contrast, the same officials could not stop talking in the run-up to the oral arguments, and even played up its “powerhouse” delegation to The Hague and the various arguments it intended to raise before the judges. Never mind that only three of the 35 officials actually had any role in the oral arguments. Critics of this squandering of public funds were dismissed as attention seekers, and the official line was that the size of the delegation and its composition was to impress upon the Permanent Court of Arbitration that the nation was united behind the effort to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. It is unclear if the presence of so many cheerleaders—certainly a good approach in a basketball game—was particularly effective in serious legal proceedings, or if such an approach became a source of ridicule for the country. In any case, the public was then treated to a blow-by-blow account of what transpired from a presidential spokeswoman who was part of the official delegation. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, we were told, made an “impassioned plea” for the tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction due to the importance of the case not just to the Philippines but to the entire world, given its impact on the application of the rule of law in maritime disputes. The court concluded its hearings on jurisdiction on July 13 after oral arguments from July 7-9 and a second round in which the judges asked the Philippine representatives for clarifications. The Philippines was also given until July 23 to submit written answers to the questions posed by members of the five-member tribunal. Unlike the run-up to the oral arguments, however, administration officials were eerily silent on what clarifications were sought and what the Philippine replies to these questions were. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

US Navy commander stresses positives in China relationship


"We (China) have much more in common than we do in competition," Adm. Scott Swift told reporters in Tokyo. YAHOO NEWS PHOTO FILE

TOKYO, JULY 23, 2015 (PHILSTAR) (Associated Press) | Updated July 21, 2015 - The Navy's new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet sounded a conciliatory note toward China on Tuesday during the last stop of a three-country Asian tour.

"We have much more in common than we do in competition," Adm. Scott Swift told reporters in Tokyo.

He added, though, that the Navy is ready to respond to any situation that might arise, if called upon by the American president.

The U.S. and China have quarreled over China's land reclamation and construction activity on reefs in the South China Sea that are claimed by multiple countries.

Swift said that progress is being made on the U.S.-China relationship, but that the friction often overshadows it. He cited a new code to govern unplanned encounters at sea that both countries and others in the region have implemented.

He also predicted that any change in the Navy's ties with its Japanese counterpart resulting from legislation to expand Japan's military role would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Swift, on his first trip to Asia since assuming command of the Pacific Fleet in late May, visited the Philippines and South Korea before Japan. The 200 ships and submarines and 1,100 aircraft of the Pacific Fleet cover a vast area that encompasses nearly half the earth's surface.


PHILSTAR

‘US has freedom of overflight in South China Sea’ By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 22, 2015 - 12:00am 0 3 googleplus0 0


The USNS Impeccable is seen docked in Subic Bay for a routine port call yesterday. The ocean surveillance ship, which uses both passive and active low frequency sonar arrays to detect and track undersea threats, rescued 11 fishermen who were found adrift off Pangasinan last Monday on its way to Subic. Ernie Peñaredondo

MANILA, Philippines - There was nothing irregular or provocative about the recent US surveillance mission over the West Philippine Sea, as such operation was an exercise of freedom of overflight, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“They were flying over international airspace. They have every right to exercise freedom of overflight,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a press briefing, referring to last Saturday’s surveillance flight by a P-8A Poseidon aircraft over the West Philippine Sea.

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, was on the seven-hour flight “to witness first hand the full range of the P-8A Poseidon’s capabilities.” He called the flight a “routine” operation.

The mission was conducted a day after Swift assured US allies in the region that American forces are prepared to respond to any contingency in the South China Sea.

The US and several other countries have expressed concern over China’s island building activities in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

The Philippines is contesting China’s maritime claim before an international arbitral tribunal based in The Hague. Beijing has refused to take part in the proceedings.

READ MORE...

Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, meanwhile, said members of the Philippine legal team in The Hague were confident they had presented as best they could the country’s arguments in the case.

“We believe, based on our understanding of the case, that we have presented – including the answers we have given – the best forms of argument possible from our side,” Hilbay told reporters in an interview at the Supreme Court (SC).

But he said they couldn’t tell how members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration received the arguments presented by the Philippine side.

Even in the absence of the Chinese side in the arbitration proceedings, he said it would still not be easy for the Philippines to secure a favorable ruling from the tribunal.

“Under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) rules of procedure, the tribunal has to convince itself that it has jurisdiction over the case,” Hilbay said.

“In fact, given the absence of China in this case, there is a special burden on the Philippines and on the tribunal to ensure that proceedings are fair, reasonable and that the tribunal will be able to come up with a just solution, notwithstanding the absence of the other party,” he explained.

Hilbay said they are now preparing for the final requirement of the tribunal before the latter decides on the jurisdictional issue.

The tribunal has required the Philippine lawyers to address additional questions, which Hilbay said involved “some aspects of the case that weren’t fully articulated in our memorial.” With Edu Punay, Jennifer Rendon


PHILSTAR

Navy commissions 2 landing craft heavy ships from Australia By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated July 23, 2015 - 4:48pm 3 132 googleplus0 0


Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice. Adm. Tim Barret signed a memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines on Thursday, July 23, 2015 in a ceremony in Cairns, Australia. Philippine Navy/Released

MANILA, Philippines — The Navy on Thursday commissioned into service the two ships donated by Australia in a development seen to boost the Philippines's disaster response capabilities.

The two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels were formally handed over to the Philippines in a ceremony held in Cairns, Australia, Navy public affairs chief Commander Lued Lincuna said.

A memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines was signed by Navy chief Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice Adm. Tim Barret.

The LCH vessels are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August.

1234 Vice Adm. Jesus Millan and Royal Australian Navy chief Vice. Adm. Tim Barret signed a memorandum of understanding transferring the two ships to the Philippines on Thursday, July 23, 2015.

In his acceptance speech, Millan thanked the Australian Navy for donating the ships to the Philippine military, one of the weakest in the region.

READ MORE...

The two LCH vessels are expected to enhance the Philippines's capability to transport personnel, equipment and aid during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

"The vessels will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another,” Lincuna said.

The two ships will be named after indigenous tribes of the Philippines. It is a tradition of the Navy to name landing craft ships after tribes.

One of the ships will be named BRP Ivatan after an indigenous group in Batanes while the other will be called BRP Batak after a tribe in Palawan. The two former vessels of the Royal Australian Navy used to be known as HMAS Tarakan and Brunei.

In an earlier interview, Millan said the Navy has five LCH in its inventory but only three of them are operational.

The Australian government announced its plan to provide the two transport ships to the Philippines in January. The donation will include a package of spare parts, according to the Australian defense ministry.

The two vessels were turned over to the Philippine Navy after being refurbished with new safety and navigation equipment.

The vessels were decommissioned from Australian service at a ceremony in Cairns on Nov. 19, 2014.

The Australian Embassy previously said the lack of sealift capability hampered efforts to help Philippine coastal areas hit by typhoon "Yolanda" (international name "Haiyan") in 2013.

The Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to disasters because of its location. About 20 typhoons, five to seven of which are destructive, enter the country every year.


GMA NEWS ONLINE

Philippines cheers growing outcry over South China Sea July 19, 2015 7:45pm 9027 204 0 10.6K (Updated 8:41 a.m., July 20)

The Philippines on Sunday hailed what it termed growing international support for its efforts to counter China's claims to most of the South China Sea.

The comments from a presidential spokesman came as the US Pacific Fleet released photographs of its commander in a surveillance flight over the sea, where tension is rising between Manila and Beijing.

Herminio Coloma, spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III, said that "there are additional voices supporting our move for a peaceful resolution to the debate over... the South China Sea."

He said many nations agreed that the dispute "must go through legal process as signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."

"We welcome the growing support for the position of our country," Coloma told reporters, citing the European Union, Australia, Japan and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

READ MORE...

Coloma also cited recent remarks by leading US senators such as John McCain, praising the Philippine efforts to resolve the matter peacefully and calling on the United States to continue to maintain peace in the region.

The Philippines earlier this month argued its case before a UN-backed tribunal in the Hague, challenging China's claim over most of the resource-rich sea.

China has refused to take part in the proceedings and called on the Philippines to agree to bilateral talks instead.

The Philippines and other countries have also recently raised alarm at China's reclamation of outcrops in the Sea to create islands that could house military facilities.

China claims most of the South China Sea, even up to the coasts of its neighbors.

The Philippines, as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, all have their own claims.

The Philippines, which has one of the region's weakest militaries, has been improving defense ties with its close ally, the United States.

In an apparent sign of the continued alliance, the US Pacific Fleet released photographs on its website on Sunday of its commander, Admiral Scott Swift, aboard a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft, flying a "seven-hour maritime surveillance mission" over the South China Sea on Saturday as part of his recent visit to the Philippines.

It was not stated which parts of the sea the US commander flew over.

The Philippines said Thursday it would reopen a US naval base that was closed more than 20 years ago, stationing its own military hardware at Subic Bay facing the South China Sea.

China recently called the Philippines a "real troublemaker in the region" after reports came out that Philippine naval officials were reinforcing the hull and deck of the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, which is being claimed by China.

The Department of National Defense on the other hand said the reparing of the vessel did not violate the Philippines' diplomatic track to resolve territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea. —Agence France-Presse/KG, GMA News


INQUIRER

PH hopeful of returning to The Hague to discuss case vs China By: Tetch Torres-Tupas @T2TupasINQ INQUIRER.net 04:29 PM July 21st, 2015


THE HAGUE

THE Philippine government is hopeful that they will be able to return to The Netherland-based Permanent Court of Arbitration to discuss the merits of its case against China in connection with the territorial dispute on the West Philippine Sea.

Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay of the Philippine legal team said they are confident that they were able to present the Philippines’ side well.

“We are confident that we presented the best forms of the argument. [But] how the arbitrators, how members of the Arbitral Tribunal received them, we don’t know. We have impressions of course. But we believe, based on our understanding of the case that we have presented and the answers we have given, these are the best forms of argument possible,” Hilbay said.

“So, we hope that we survive the jurisdictional phase and be able to return to The Hague,” he told reporters on the sidelights of the oral argument on Torre de Manila.

READ MORE...

The Philippines took China to the arbitral tribunal in January 2013 as it challenged the legality of the latter’s nine dash line claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas included in the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

China’s sweeping claims over the South China and its aggressive stance, including the reclamation activities in Kagitingan, Zamora and Panganiban Reefs as well as the building of artificial islets over Mabini, Burgos, Calderon and Kennar Reefs have angered other claimant countries, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam.

Hilbay said observers from other countries were present during the hearing.
“We welcomed it. In fact, we are quite happy with the presence of the observers, we considered it as a sign that they were really interested in the issues. This is not really between the Philippines and China. This is both a regional and global concern,” he added.

The July hearing at the Arbitral Tribunal was to address the objections to jurisdiction set out in China’s Position Paper. The Arbitral Tribunal will also consider other matters concerning its jurisdiction and the admissibility of the Philippines’ claims.

Should the Arbitral Tribunal rule in favor of the Philippines, another hearing will be conducted and the court is expected to rule on the merits in the first quarter of 2016.


THE DIPLOMAT ONLINE

US Commander Joins South China Sea Surveillance Flight During Philippines Trip 7XRzjYON By Prashanth Parameswaran July 20, 2015


Admiral Scott Swift joins a mission on board a P-8 aircraft.

The new U.S. commander of the Pacific Fleet participated in a surveillance flight over the disputed South China Sea in an American spy plane as part of his inaugural trip to the Asia-Pacific.

Admiral Scott Swift, who assumed command of the Fleet in May, joined a seven-hour maritime surveillance mission on board a P-8A Poseidon plane this weekend. According to the U.S. Pacific Command, he took part “to witness firsthand the full range of the Poseidon’s capabilities.”

The P-8A Poseidon is designed for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions as well as long-range anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. It is capable of broad-area maritime and littoral operations, and can fly as high as 41,000 feet and travel up to 490 knots.

Swift’s participation in the operation is part of a firmer U.S. public campaign over the past few months to demonstrate that Chinese activities in the South China Sea will not undermine freedom of navigation and overflight (See: “The Case for a Bolder US South China Sea Policy”). As U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter put it in a speech addressing the South China Sea in Hawaii on May 27, “The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

READ MORE...

In May, a U.S. Navy P-8 flew over the disputed area where China had been building artificial islands and was warned to leave repeatedly by Chinese radio callers. The U.S. Navy has also considered sailing ships within 12 miles of one of China’s reclaimed features to show that Washington does not recognize that they generate a 12-mile territorial sea (See: “How Would the US Challenge China in the South China Sea?”).

Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, the chief of the Philippine Armed Forces Western Command, said that the mission was good for the Philippines as it was a way for it to monitor what China was doing in its own backyard. He said there was nothing wrong with such routine patrols as they were conducted within international airspace and over international waters.

“Only the Chinese claim that these areas are theirs,” Lopez added.

Swift took part in the surveillance mission on Saturday after a trip to the Philippines. His visit also covers Southeast Asia and Japan before his return to Hawaii.


PHILSTAR

NPA rebels attack 12 security outposts; 1 dead (Associated Press) | Updated July 21, 2015 - 8:36pm 0 16 googleplus0 0


Attacks by communist rebels on government troops have been frequent in recent months, especially in remote areas of the country.

MANILA, Philippines — Communist guerrillas attacked a dozen mostly rural army outposts, including in two provinces where officials have declared that the insurgents have been considerably weakened, the military said Tuesday.

New People's Army guerrillas fired on 11 army outposts and a police station on Monday in the northeastern provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon, sparking a clash that killed one of the insurgents, regional military spokesman Maj. Angelo Guzman said.

A police officer, a government militiaman and six villagers were wounded in the attacks.

Authorities have declared that the decades-long insurgency has been considerably weakened in recent months in Albay and Camarines Norte, allowing civilian officials to take charge of the anti-insurgency program from the military. Army troops, however, have remained in those provinces to back up officials and police in battling the remaining insurgents.

Guzman said the attacks were a desperate effort by the insurgents to project a strong image after being crippled by years of military offensives. They also wanted to retaliate following the deaths of seven guerrillas in recent clashes in the region, he said.

"These attacks were done for propaganda," Guzman said. "They were not meant to overrun these army detachments because they have been so weakened to do that."

READ MORE...

In one of three attacks in Albay, the guerrillas fired a rifle grenade that missed army troops in Daraga town. The grenade instead hit a nearby house and wounded six villagers, including a child, Guzman said.

The Marxist insurgency has flared on and off for 46 years, one of the longest-running rebellions in Asia. Norway-brokered negotiations to end the fighting have stalled.

-----------------------------------------

RELATED

Rebel dead, militiaman hurt in Camarines Norte clash By Dennis Carcamo (philstar.com) | Updated July 21, 2015 - 2:39pm 1 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - A suspected communist rebel was killed on Monday while a government militiaman was wounded during an encounter in Camarines Norte, the military said.

A report from the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army identified the injured as Hubert Pagao, a member of the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit.

The military said that the firefight began around 10 a.m. in Barangay Sta. Elena in Jose Panganiban town when a group of patrolling soldiers, led by a certain Sgt. Pujeda, was fired upon by around seven armed men.

The rebels fled the area after the five-minute gun battle, the military added. .

Soldiers later recovered one of the rebels' body in the area while Pagao was rushed to a nearest hospital for treatment.


MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

After the noise, an eerie silence Jul. 22, 2015 at 12:01am

THE contrast was stark.

Following the conclusion of hearings before a UN tribunal in The Hague, administration officials are uncharacteristically silent on what questions were posed by the judges who will decide whether they should assume jurisdiction over the country’s territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea.

In contrast, the same officials could not stop talking in the run-up to the oral arguments, and even played up its “powerhouse” delegation to The Hague and the various arguments it intended to raise before the judges.

Never mind that only three of the 35 officials actually had any role in the oral arguments. Critics of this squandering of public funds were dismissed as attention seekers, and the official line was that the size of the delegation and its composition was to impress upon the Permanent Court of Arbitration that the nation was united behind the effort to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

It is unclear if the presence of so many cheerleaders—certainly a good approach in a basketball game—was particularly effective in serious legal proceedings, or if such an approach became a source of ridicule for the country.

In any case, the public was then treated to a blow-by-blow account of what transpired from a presidential spokeswoman who was part of the official delegation.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, we were told, made an “impassioned plea” for the tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction due to the importance of the case not just to the Philippines but to the entire world, given its impact on the application of the rule of law in maritime disputes.

The court concluded its hearings on jurisdiction on July 13 after oral arguments from July 7-9 and a second round in which the judges asked the Philippine representatives for clarifications.

The Philippines was also given until July 23 to submit written answers to the questions posed by members of the five-member tribunal.

Unlike the run-up to the oral arguments, however, administration officials were eerily silent on what clarifications were sought and what the Philippine replies to these questions were.

READ MORE...

Instead, we were given a generalized assessment from the Department of Foreign Affairs that the second round of questioning augured well for the Philippines as it signaled that the court was seriously considering assuming jurisdiction over the case.

“For us, that’s positive. That means they are exhausting all possible questions and erase any doubt on their jurisdiction,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose.

He added that the decision of the court to hold a second round for questions did not mean that the Philippine presentations were insufficient.

“Sometimes, they just need to hear the clarifications and elaborations again; it does not necessarily mean something is lacking,” he added.

Neither the spokesman nor any of the other 30-odd members of the “powerhouse” delegation, however, bothered to inform the public what transpired during the second round of questioning, including details on the clarifications that were sought.

Why were these questions not revealed to the public?

The absence of this information highlighted the lack of transparency that has marked the administration’s approach to The Hague mission from the start, beginning with the exact composition of the delegation and how much the junket would cost the Filipino taxpayer.

The Foreign Affairs Department’s reassurances notwithstanding, the second round could just as well have been a sign that the judges were dissatisfied with what they heard from the Philippines during the oral arguments.

Instead of sugarcoating its analysis of developments, the administration would probably be better off in reporting honestly what happened during the second round and what questions were asked as a way of managing public expectations. This way, the people can assess for themselves—based on solid information—the country’s chances for success before the UN tribunal.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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