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AFTER SC DECISION: CHINA HARSHLY CRITICIZES US-PHILIPPINES BASE DEAL


JANUARY 13 -Philippine Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te briefs the media on the highest court's decision declaring the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. The court declared as constitutional on Tuesday the 10-year defense pact that allows American forces, warships and planes to temporarily base in local military camps in a boost to U.S. efforts to reassert its presence in Asia, where China has loomed large. "EDCA is not constitutionally infirm as an executive agreement," Te said. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
China’s official Xinhua News Agency has harshly criticized the Supreme Court’s backing of a defense pact that allows American forces, warships and planes to be based temporarily in local military camps. Supreme Court spokesman  Xinhua said Wednesday, January 13, that the agreement would escalate tensions and undermine regional peace and stability. It said the Philippines is “turning to Uncle Sam” to counter China, using a phrase harkening back to the Cold War. Manila is engaged in a sharpening rivalry with China over maritime claims in the South China Sea. It said Manila would bear the negative consequences of what it called a “stupid move.” The court’s ruling Tuesday, January 12, bolsters U.S. efforts to reassert its presence in Asia and dovetails with Philippine desires for American help in countering China’s territorial claims. THE FULL REPORT, RELATED...US and Philippines to launch largest 'war games' amid China row....

ALSO: US welcomes court ruling on PH defense pact


JANUARY 12 -Philippines Foreign Relations Secretary Albert Del Rosario listens as left as Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting between the U.S. and the Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in the Benjamin Franklin room of the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
WASHINGTON — The United States on Tuesday welcomed a court ruling on the constitutionality of a defense pact with the Philippines, saying it would allow the allies to strengthen their maritime cooperation amid tensions with China in the disputed South China Sea.
The Philippines accused China of using flashing lights and flares to challenge Philippine military flights over the contested Spratly Islands and said it wanted to see more U.S. operations to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. The top diplomats and defense officials of the U.S. and the Philippines met at the State Department Tuesday, hours after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the enhanced defense cooperation agreement, signed by the two governments in 2014, is constitutional. The pact will allows American forces, warships and planes to temporarily base in local military camps. Defense Secretary Ash Carter described the Philippines as a critical ally as the U.S. looks to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific. He said the two sides were discussing how to use the defense pact “to strengthen our maritime security capabilities and our role in keeping a peaceful region, a region without divisions, without tensions, and a region where everyone has freedom to carry out their affairs, including commerce.” Speaking to reporters after the talks, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said they discussed locations where the Philippines can provide access to U.S. forces for “mutual benefit.” The Philippines has increasingly testy relations with China over their territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where six Asian governments are vying for control of small islands and shoals in seas that a thoroughfare for about one-third of world trade. The U.S. is looking to support the ill-equipped Philippine military and counter assertive Chinese action. READ MORE...

ALSO: Philippines files protest against China's test flights in disputed sea


JANUARY 13 -A photo released by Chinese official Xinhua News Agency shows a China Southern Airlines civilian plane landing Wednesday at an airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef in a disputed area of the South China Sea PHOTO: HANDOUT/REUTERS MANILA -The Philippines has filed a protest against China's test flights from an artificial island in the South China Sea, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, describing the actions as "provocative" and a violation of an existing informal code. Last week, Beijing landed three flights on Fiery Cross in the disputed Spratly archipelago, angering Vietnam and drawing criticism from the United States, which expressed deep concern it will exacerbate tension in the region. "We formally protested on Jan. 8 the recent test flights by China to Kagitingan Reef," Charles Jose told reporters, using the local name for Fiery Cross Reef, saying the foreign ministry summoned China's embassy official to hand over the protest. Jose said the test flights were "provocative actions" that will restrict the freedom of navigation and overflights in the South China Sea. Every year more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, which China claims almost entirely. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims. "These actions by China have elevated tensions and anxiety in the region and are in violation of the spirit and letter of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of parties in the South China Sea," he added. Since 2010, China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been negotiating a legally binding code of conduct to replace the informal rules contained in a political declaration made in Phnom Penh in 2002. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected Manila's complaint, saying China had the right to freely fly over the South China Sea, as did other countries. READ MORE...

ALSO: China refutes Philippines' protest against test flights in S. China Sea


JANUARY 13 -Vietnam has accused China of violating its sovereignty by landing a civilian plane on an artificial island on Saturday as contentious debate continues over the South China Sea. China has continuously defended its creation of artificial reefs, arguing it is legal and necessary to safeguard its own sovereignty. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo0 China refuted the Philippines' protest against test flights at a newly built airport in the South China Sea, stressing the test flights fall totally within China's sovereignty.
"China enjoys the freedom of overflight in the South China Sea as other countries do," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a routine press briefing. The nature of China's test flights to the airport on Yongshu Jiao is professional, technical and civil, Hong said, adding the flights are being conducted for public interests. In response to another question regarding the Philippines' plan to issue bond to fund military modernization, Hong urged relevant countries not to turn back the wheel of history and do more to help regional peace and stability. On Monday, the Philippine Congress asked the Philippine government to study a proposal to issue a 150 billion peso (3.2 billion US dollars) retail bond to fund a long-term military modernization plan to secure its strategic reserves in the South China Sea, according to reports. The Asian economy and regional cooperation are currently on a sound track, Hong said, adding that peace, cooperation and development have become trends of the times and represent the common aspirations of people around the world. Posted in: Diplomacy THE FULL REPORT FROM GLOBAL TIMES

ALSO Philippines: China’s new runways heighten sea tension


In this satellite image released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the the northwest side of Mischief Reef is seen as of January 8, including a 1,900 foot seawall and newly-constructed infrastructure including housing, an artificial turf parade grounds, cement plants, and docking facilities. CSIS/AMTI
China’s building of additional runways in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands is a violation of international laws and would further contribute to tensions in the region, Malacañang said yesterday.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed that the Philippines is determined to “assert the importance of freedom of navigation and over flight” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. The building of additional runways contributes to heightened tensions in the region, Coloma told state-run radio dzRB. “We reiterate that these actions by China violate not only pertinent international laws but also the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea of which China is a signatory, along with the member countries of ASEAN,” he added, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In a report posted on its website, think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said China is progressing faster than expected with its construction works in Panganiban Reef and Zamora (Subi) Reef. According to AMTI, the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) airstrip took at least seven months from the start of grading, while the grading in Zamora “seems to be proceeding slightly quicker.”  READ MORE...

ALSO By Ninez Cacho-Olivares: RP, now a vulnerable, helpless target


JANUARY 15 -A part from the confrontational stand taken by Noynoy with China and his insistence in toeing the American line of multilateral dialogs on the disputed islands and waters along the South China Sea that started it all, amid urgings from China to hold bilateral talks with not only the Philippines but also the other claimant countries. The situation was bad enough when the country went to a United Nations arbitral court on the disputed islands, when the issue could have been eased a bit had the Noynoy administration acquiesced to bilateral talks with China. The situation got worse when all that talk about the Philippines opening up its military bases and estbalishing additional ones too, for use of the American troopers which created the situation where China actively moved to start building islands in the disputed sea. The relationship between China and the Philippines is certain to deteriorate further with the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) upholding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and deeming this accord as constitutional. Agree with the ruling or not, the SC has spoken, and there is nothing the people can do about this — at least not with the incumbent members of the High Court. Perhaps, with the change in Constitution, or a change of membership in the high court, the ruling may change. The EDCA accord is good for 10 years and hopefully no war or serious gunbattle erupts between Philippines and the US on one side with China in the other. From the perspective of the Philippines, since the country does not have a credible defense to safeguard what the country claims as part of its territory, the Noynoy government banks on America to fight its battles for the Philippines and with it came the EDCA, which Noynoy and his Palace boys insist is not a treaty and needs no concurrence of the Senate, EDCA being an integral part of the Visiting Forces Agreement stemming from the Mutual Defense Treaty, where nothing is said about the US Government fighting the battles and wars of the Philippines, unlike say, the US agreement with Japan, where it is stated clearly that the US will defend Japan to the hilt. From China’s perspective, however, with the American forces now virtually having bases in the country disguised as Philippine bases, such a “permanent” presence of the Americans and their bases, with even reportedly eight bases offered for the US forces’ use, represents an external threat to China, and not surprisingly, again, from the Chinese perspective, China had to act quickly to safeguard its national security and national interest. While the US and the Philippines claim that the presence of the US troops is temporary, how do the country and the people even get to know just how many US troopers arrive and leave the country, when these US military troopers and officers don’t even go through our immigration system? And how temporary is a temporary stay of these troopers when they come when the immigration does not know whether they left or stayed and don’t know either how many more troopers have been added? Can the Philippines really check all of these US military personnel that come and go, if they go at all? Even now, when US warships and submarines come around, the Philippine authorities can’t even inspect these warships in the matter of their nuclear weapons. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

China harshly criticizes US-Philippines base deal


Philippine Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te briefs the media on the highest court's decision declaring the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. The court declared as constitutional on Tuesday the 10-year defense pact that allows American forces, warships and planes to temporarily base in local military camps in a boost to U.S. efforts to reassert its presence in Asia, where China has loomed large. "EDCA is not constitutionally infirm as an executive agreement," Te said. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, JANUARY 18, 2016 (MANILA BULLETIN) by AP January 13, 2016 - China’s official Xinhua News Agency has harshly criticized the Supreme Court’s backing of a defense pact that allows American forces, warships and planes to be based temporarily in local military camps.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te briefs the media on SC’s decision declaring the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) Xinhua said Wednesday, January 13, that the agreement would escalate tensions and undermine regional peace and stability.

It said the Philippines is “turning to Uncle Sam” to counter China, using a phrase harkening back to the Cold War. Manila is engaged in a sharpening rivalry with China over maritime claims in the South China Sea.

It said Manila would bear the negative consequences of what it called a “stupid move.”

The court’s ruling Tuesday, January 12, bolsters U.S. efforts to reassert its presence in Asia and dovetails with Philippine desires for American help in countering China’s territorial claims.

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RELATED FROM AL JASEERA (FLASHBACK APRIL 14, 2015)

POLITICS

 US and Philippines to launch 'war games' amid China row  Ted Regencia | 19 Apr 2015 22:57 GMT | Politics, Asia Pacific, Philippines, US, China Share via Facebook 2712 Share via Twitter Share via Reddit1All Social Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker EmailPrintSend Feedback


About 12,000 American and Filipino soldiers, double the number from last year, are expected to join the 10-day drills.  A Philippine military spokesman told reporters in Manila that "no specific threat was factored" into the drills [File/EPA]

The US and the Philippines are set to launch their biggest annual joint military exercises in years, amid growing tensions over China's recent activities in disputed South China Sea waters.

The "war games" beginning on Monday will involve an estimated 12,000 troops - double the number from last year - in simultaneous drills across the Philippines for 10 days.

Analysts have described the drills as a "show of force".

About 6,656 American soldiers will join the exercises, to be supported by 76 US aircraft and three naval vessels, according to reports.

Philippines defence pact boosts US influence As part of the exercises, American and Filipino troops will carry out naval drills on Tuesday at a base west of the Philippines. The area faces the disputed islands in the South China Sea, where China is reportedly building a runway that could accommodate "any type" of Chinese aircraft.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the area.

A Philippine military spokesman told reporters in Manila on Sunday that "no specific threat was factored" into the drills.

But in an interview with the AFP news agency last Tuesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino cautioned of possible military conflict in the region over Chinese activities. He said the latest moves by Beijing "engender fear for the rest of the world".

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed those claims, saying the Philippines should "respect China's sovereignty".

Intriguing symbols

While the Philippines will not overtly admit that the size of forces involved in the exercises reflects its anxieties over China, it is "replete with intriguing symbols," Alexander Yano, a retired general and former head of the Philippine military, told Al Jazeera.

"It could be viewed as a show of force amidst the ongoing tension," he said. "The significant increase in numbers invariably sends strong signals of overt 'muscle-flexing' particularly by the US, the Philippines' strongest ally.

"The usual line that such moves have nothing to do with the current row in the South China Sea is expected as a diplomatic cloak."

The expanded number of US and Filipino troops participating in the exercises could be "construed as an enhancement in the level of military-to-military engagement" between the two decades-old allies "to address common threats," Yano said.

The US and the Philippines have had a military treaty since 1951. Until 1992, the country hosted two of the largest US military facilities outside the US, until a volcanic eruption and a Philippine senate vote forced the closure of these bases.

But in 1998, US troops returned to the Philippines through a "visiting forces agreement", and in April 2014, during the visit of President Barack Obama, the agreement was expanded to allow more troops in the country for an extended duration.

Related Story: Philippines sues China over sea claims

Jose Torres, a Filipino journalist who has covered the military, told Al Jazeera the while the Philippines is closely allied with the US, it should "be careful in handling the China issue, and should use all diplomatic channels in dealing with Beijing".

Yano, the US-trained former Filipino general, agreed saying that the Philippine government should work with neighbouring South East Asian countries to address the dispute with China.

But he also said that the Philippines should be self-reliant in defending its borders.

"When push comes to shove, the Philippines should be able to have credible defence in case such contingency arises. Such military preparedness can only be ensured through an honest-to-goodness modernisation programme that should be pursued with urgency."

The latest US-Philippines military exercises also come seven months after a 19-year-old US soldier was accused of killing a Filipino transsexual during a visit in the city of Olongapo north of Manila, near a former US air base. That incident has prompted fresh waves of protests against the military exercises.

Meanwhile, Renato Reyes, head of the leftist group Bayan, said the "war games will not help the Philippines against the expansionist activities of China in the region".

"The US has repeatedly said that it that does not take sides in the maritime dispute," he said, adding that the Philippine national interest "is not identical with US strategic pivot to the region."

Source: Al Jazeera


MANILA BULLETIN

US welcomes court ruling on PH defense pact by AP January 13, 2016 Share1 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share25 image: http://www.mb.com.ph/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/US-PH-defense.jpg


Philippines Foreign Relations Secretary Albert Del Rosario listens as left as Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting between the U.S. and the Philippines, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in the Benjamin Franklin room of the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — The United States on Tuesday welcomed a court ruling on the constitutionality of a defense pact with the Philippines, saying it would allow the allies to strengthen their maritime cooperation amid tensions with China in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippines accused China of using flashing lights and flares to challenge Philippine military flights over the contested Spratly Islands and said it wanted to see more U.S. operations to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

The top diplomats and defense officials of the U.S. and the Philippines met at the State Department Tuesday, hours after the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the enhanced defense cooperation agreement, signed by the two governments in 2014, is constitutional. The pact will allows American forces, warships and planes to temporarily base in local military camps.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter described the Philippines as a critical ally as the U.S. looks to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific.

He said the two sides were discussing how to use the defense pact “to strengthen our maritime security capabilities and our role in keeping a peaceful region, a region without divisions, without tensions, and a region where everyone has freedom to carry out their affairs, including commerce.”

Speaking to reporters after the talks, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said they discussed locations where the Philippines can provide access to U.S. forces for “mutual benefit.”

The Philippines has increasingly testy relations with China over their territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where six Asian governments are vying for control of small islands and shoals in seas that a thoroughfare for about one-third of world trade. The U.S. is looking to support the ill-equipped Philippine military and counter assertive Chinese action.

READ MORE...

The Philippines has protested to China over recent test landings by aircrafts to one of several artificial islands Beijing has built in the Spratlys. Del Rosario said that China’s “provocative” challenges to Philippine military flights amounted to China establishing a de facto air defense identification zone, as it did over the East China Sea.

He said the Philippines was looking at the possibility of joint activities with the U.S. in the South China Sea, but stopped short of saying they were considering joint patrols. In October a U.S. Navy warship sailed within the supposed 12-nautical-mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit of Subi Reef, another of the features built up by China.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. has an “ironclad commitment” to the security of the Philippines, and that they shared a commitment to democracy and human rights.

Nearly a century of U.S. military presence in the Philippines ended in 1992 when Americans shut their bases, including the largest military facilities outside the U.S. mainland, after Filipino senators voted a year earlier not to renew the lease on the bases amid a tide of nationalism. But the Philippines territorial dispute has prompted Manila to reach out to Washington.

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RELATED FROM AL JAZEERA (FLASHBACK APRIL 28, 2014)

POLITICS

Philippines defence pact boosts US influence Ted Regencia | 28 Apr 2014 19:41 GMT | Politics, Asia Pacific, US & Canada, China, Philippines Share via Facebook 373 Share via Twitter Share via Reddit1All Social Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker EmailPrintSend Feedback


Signing of deal during Obama trip raises concern over US influence and impact on Manila's already strained Chinese ties.

Manila - US President Barack Obama has arrived in the Philippines in a visit widely seen as a part of Washington's "pivot to Asia strategy."

Obama landed just hours after Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed a new military agreement allowing more troops in the country.

The Philippine government said the pact was an affirmation "of the robust and enduring strategic partnership between" the two allies.

Talking to reporters in Manila, Goldberg, said that the new agreement would not allow the reopening of US bases in the Philippines, something that has been opposed by nationalist forces and is prohibited by the 1987 Constitution.

In Depth: US and Philippines sign ten-year defence pact No way home for Filipino 'Amerasians' Toxic trail shadows US-Philippine bases deal But the agreement essentially allows US access to Philippine military bases across the country.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Philippines Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Al Jazeera that the agreement has "marginal advantages" for the country, and is more beneficial to the US.

With the signing of the agreement, Santiago said the US "could claim that it has 'contained' China, because the Asian countries involved, including the Philippines, are now bound by their respective agreements with America".

"It would make the Philippines sounds as if we are a satellite ally of America," she said.

During a joint press conference with the Philippine president, President Obama said he goal of the US was not to contain China.

"We welcome China's peaceful rise. We have a constructive relationship with China," Obama said.

"Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make international rules and norms are respected, and that includes areas of maritime disputes.

"Our primary interest is the peaceful resolution of conflict, including navigation that allows for continued progress and prosperity. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder to uphold peace and security in this region and around the world."

Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, said the agreement "reaffirms our countries’ commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability."

"Both President Obama and I share the conviction that territorial and maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific region should be settled peacefully, based on international law. We affirm that arbitration is an open, friendly, and peaceful approach to seeking a just and durable solution," he said.

Disputes with China

Anti-China sentiments have been on the rise in the Philippines, which is engaged with Beijing over disputed atolls in the potentially oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, with both countries claiming Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal as their own.

The Philippines has accused Beijing of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the sea, and has called on the US for greater military as well as diplomatic support.

China and the Philippines are stuck in territorial dispute While the treaty is seen to boost Manila's confidence in countering the Chinese power, Santiago warned that the country must be careful in handling the agreement, and avoid the violation of the Philippines constitution.

"Filipinos should keep uppermost the supremacy of the Philippine Constitution," she said.

"We should not accommodate any foreign power at the cost of the sovereignty of our Constitution, even if the problem is presented as if it were a problem of national survival."

Activists opposing what they call "US imperialism in Asia," raise the question of sovereignty.

They cite a case in 2005 when five US soldiers were initially sentenced to life in prison for allegedly raping a Filipino woman, before the ruling was overturned by another court and they were set free, despite public anger.

Another issue that has spiked contempt is the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the northern Philippines, supposedly by US military ships which Washington denies.

'Exaggerated threat'

Jose Maria Sison, the exiled leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and one of the top opponents of the deal told Al Jazeera that the agreement practically reopens the US bases in the country.

"The US military bases shall be practically re-established under the guise of facilities built on Philippine military grounds, with the Filipino military personnel practically serving as perimeter security guards and with the Philippine government sharing the costs," he said.

Sison also said the US "is exaggerating the threat of Chinese aggression in order to justify its pivot to East Asia" while establishing bases in the Philippines and "at the same time claiming neutrality between The Philippines and China".

But he also said that China "is not helping itself by outlandishly claiming about 90 per cent of the entire South China Sea, including its high seas, and threatening to grab 90 per cent of the exclusive economic zone and 100 per cent of the extended continental shelf of the Philippines".

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dr Francisco Nemenzo, a political scientist and former president of the University of the Philippines, criticised the negotiators for concealing the details of the agreement.

Nemenzo said the deal "just legitimises what they [the US] have been doing all these years: allowing the establishment of an American base within a Philippine base, which a Filipino commander cannot even enter.

"We want to know if the deal is a blanket agreement, allowing the US to set up a military facility wherever they want to."

Security around the capital for the two-day visit is tight, including the ordering of a no-fly zone by the Philippine government during the arrival of Air Force Once.


REUTERS

Philippines files protest against China's test flights in disputed sea (Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie) JANUARY 13, 2016


A photo released by Chinese official Xinhua News Agency shows a China Southern Airlines civilian plane landing Wednesday at an airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef in a disputed area of the South China Sea PHOTO: HANDOUT/REUTERS

MANILA -The Philippines has filed a protest against China's test flights from an artificial island in the South China Sea, a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, describing the actions as "provocative" and a violation of an existing informal code.

Last week, Beijing landed three flights on Fiery Cross in the disputed Spratly archipelago, angering Vietnam and drawing criticism from the United States, which expressed deep concern it will exacerbate tension in the region.

"We formally protested on Jan. 8 the recent test flights by China to Kagitingan Reef," Charles Jose told reporters, using the local name for Fiery Cross Reef, saying the foreign ministry summoned China's embassy official to hand over the protest.

Jose said the test flights were "provocative actions" that will restrict the freedom of navigation and overflights in the South China Sea.

Every year more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, which China claims almost entirely. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

"These actions by China have elevated tensions and anxiety in the region and are in violation of the spirit and letter of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of parties in the South China Sea," he added.

Since 2010, China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been negotiating a legally binding code of conduct to replace the informal rules contained in a political declaration made in Phnom Penh in 2002.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected Manila's complaint, saying China had the right to freely fly over the South China Sea, as did other countries.

READ MORE...

"The Philippines' criticism has ulterior motives and is not worth refuting," Hong told a daily news briefing.

In Washington, foreign and defense ministers of both the Philippines and the United States held talks on trade and security issues, including the U.S. Navy's plan to hold more freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

U.S. ships and planes will have longer time to patrol the disputed sea because they were given access to Philippine naval and air bases under a new military deal, which the Philippine Supreme Court allowed on Tuesday, called the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter welcomed the court's decision as both Philippine and U.S. military began discussions on a dozen possible locations in its former colony where American ships and planes will have access.


GLOBAL TIMES

China refutes Philippines' protest against test flights in S. China Sea Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-1-13 22:19:02


Vietnam has accused China of violating its sovereignty by landing a civilian plane on an artificial island on Saturday as contentious debate continues over the South China Sea. China has continuously defended its creation of artificial reefs, arguing it is legal and necessary to safeguard its own sovereignty. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo0

China refuted the Philippines' protest against test flights at a newly built airport in the South China Sea, stressing the test flights fall totally within China's sovereignty.

"China enjoys the freedom of overflight in the South China Sea as other countries do," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei at a routine press briefing.

The nature of China's test flights to the airport on Yongshu Jiao is professional, technical and civil, Hong said, adding the flights are being conducted for public interests.

In response to another question regarding the Philippines' plan to issue bond to fund military modernization, Hong urged relevant countries not to turn back the wheel of history and do more to help regional peace and stability.

On Monday, the Philippine Congress asked the Philippine government to study a proposal to issue a 150 billion peso (3.2 billion US dollars) retail bond to fund a long-term military modernization plan to secure its strategic reserves in the South China Sea, according to reports.

The Asian economy and regional cooperation are currently on a sound track, Hong said, adding that peace, cooperation and development have become trends of the times and represent the common aspirations of people around the world.

Posted in: Diplomacy


PHILSTAR

Philippines: China’s new runways heighten sea tension By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 18, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


In this satellite image released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the the northwest side of Mischief Reef is seen as of January 8, including a 1,900 foot seawall and newly-constructed infrastructure including housing, an artificial turf parade grounds, cement plants, and docking facilities. CSIS/AMTI

MANILA, Philippines – China’s building of additional runways in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands is a violation of international laws and would further contribute to tensions in the region, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed that the Philippines is determined to “assert the importance of freedom of navigation and over flight” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

The building of additional runways contributes to heightened tensions in the region, Coloma told state-run radio dzRB.

“We reiterate that these actions by China violate not only pertinent international laws but also the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea of which China is a signatory, along with the member countries of ASEAN,” he added, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In a report posted on its website, think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said China is progressing faster than expected with its construction works in Panganiban Reef and Zamora (Subi) Reef.

According to AMTI, the Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) airstrip took at least seven months from the start of grading, while the grading in Zamora “seems to be proceeding slightly quicker.”

READ MORE...

“In Mischief, where grading began in September or October, construction is already approaching completion just three to four months later. Meanwhile, China is rapidly building out other facilities on both Mischief and Subi,” the report read.

Panganiban Reef is located 21 nautical miles from the BRP Sierra Madre, the rusty ship that serves as headquarters of Filipino Marines at the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

It has been occupied by China since 1995. The Chinese government initially put up structures on stilts at the reef, supposedly to provide shelter for fishermen. The structures, however, were later transformed into a garrison with powerful radars.

“This strategic location combined with its size (China has reclaimed twice as much land at Mischief Reef as it did at Fiery Cross and about 50 percent more than at Subi) makes developments at Mischief of particular concern the Philippines,” AMTI said.


TRIBUNE COMMENTARY

RP: A vulnerable, helpless target now Written by Ninez Cacho-Olivares Friday, 15 January 2016 00:00



A part from the confrontational stand taken by Noynoy with China and his insistence in toeing the American line of multilateral dialogs on the disputed islands and waters along the South China Sea that started it all, amid urgings from China to hold bilateral talks with not only the Philippines but also the other claimant countries.

The situation was bad enough when the country went to a United Nations arbitral court on the disputed islands, when the issue could have been eased a bit had the Noynoy administration acquiesced to bilateral talks with China.

The situation got worse when all that talk about the Philippines opening up its military bases and estbalishing additional ones too, for use of the American troopers which created the situation where China actively moved to start building islands in the disputed sea.

The relationship between China and the Philippines is certain to deteriorate further with the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) upholding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and deeming this accord as constitutional.

Agree with the ruling or not, the SC has spoken, and there is nothing the people can do about this — at least not with the incumbent members of the High Court. Perhaps, with the change in Constitution, or a change of membership in the high court, the ruling may change.

The EDCA accord is good for 10 years and hopefully no war or serious gunbattle erupts between Philippines and the US on one side with China in the other.

From the perspective of the Philippines, since the country does not have a credible defense to safeguard what the country claims as part of its territory, the Noynoy government banks on America to fight its battles for the Philippines and with it came the EDCA, which Noynoy and his Palace boys insist is not a treaty and needs no concurrence of the Senate, EDCA being an integral part of the Visiting Forces Agreement stemming from the Mutual Defense Treaty, where nothing is said about the US Government fighting the battles and wars of the Philippines, unlike say, the US agreement with Japan, where it is stated clearly that the US will defend Japan to the hilt.

From China’s perspective, however, with the American forces now virtually having bases in the country disguised as Philippine bases, such a “permanent” presence of the Americans and their bases, with even reportedly eight bases offered for the US forces’ use, represents an external threat to China, and not surprisingly, again, from the Chinese perspective, China had to act quickly to safeguard its national security and national interest.

While the US and the Philippines claim that the presence of the US troops is temporary, how do the country and the people even get to know just how many US troopers arrive and leave the country, when these US military troopers and officers don’t even go through our immigration system?

And how temporary is a temporary stay of these troopers when they come when the immigration does not know whether they left or stayed and don’t know either how many more troopers have been added?

Can the Philippines really check all of these US military personnel that come and go, if they go at all?
Even now, when US warships and submarines come around, the Philippine authorities can’t even inspect these warships in the matter of their nuclear weapons.

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The Phiippine Constitution states that the country is nuclear arms free, yet it is evident that these US warships are not only equipped with nuclear weapons because there is no way for the Philippine authorities to inspect these, as the US will hardly allow such inspections.

The presence of more foreign troops in the country plus the creation of the bases which will be used by the US, certainly present China with a clear and present danger to its security and interest, if one looks at it from China’s perspective.
And so began the creation of more and more artificial islands.

With two conflicting perspectives, and with the increased military American presence in the country, it is the Philippines that will be the biggest collateral damage should a war ensue between the US and China.

Filipinos should recall what happened during World War II, where Manila was the worst war-devasted area, and America, the country’s ally, failed to help the war torn country by way of aid and rehabilitation. Instead, it was the US’ then enemy, Japan, where Americans poured its resources to make Japan a prosperous country.

China, with the Philippines now open in its total support for the US, no longer sees the country as a friendly Asian neighbor.

While a world war breaking out does not seem likely in the near future, tensions will escalate between the two military powers, where the Philippines will be caught in the middle and get the brunt of it.

Let’s hope the next administration does not adopt the confrontational stance of the Noynoy administration and not kowtow to American interests instead of ensuring the full protection of the Philippine interest while remaining on amicable grounds with China.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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