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

RP, CHINA CLASH AGAIN OVER U.N. ARBITRATION
[China in 2006 declared it would not accept arbitration of disputes concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, in accordance with the Unclos, Wang said. “The Chinese government will certainly stick to this position,” Wang said, adding that more than 30 countries, including Australia, have also made similar “exclusive” declarations. He gave a list of reasons the Philippines’ arbitration attempt is invalid and unacceptable, including unilateral moves without consulting China, which goes against international norms, as well as the common sense argument that arbitration applications are usually lodged only when all other means are depleted.]


MARCH 1 -The Aquino administration stepped up its criticism of China yesterday as Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario chided his Chinese counterpart for issuing “negative statements” against the Philippines and asked China to respect the upcoming decision of an international tribunal on the South China Sea conflicts to prove that Beijing does not consider itself “above the law.” The law that Del Rosario was referring to is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) a law which China made clear it does not consider as applying on the arbitration of territorial disputes. “As we presume to be responsible states, the Philippines, as well as the international community, are asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal and together advance an international rules-based regime,” Del Rosario said. “If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?”, he added. In his official visit to Washington last Feb. 17 for a meeting with US Secretary John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the Philippines of “political provocation” when it sought arbitration to resolve their two countries’ maritime disputes in the resource-rich waters. Wang said China was merely observing the law in its non-acceptance of the South China Sea arbitration filed by the Philippines. Unclos, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources, but in which the United States is not even a signatory. READ MORE...RELATED,
China is observing international law in the true sense...

ALSO: China takes Philippine atoll (Quirino/Jackson coral reef)
[In 2012, the Chinese took control of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal after a brief standoff with a Philippine Navy vessel whose crew had tried to arrest Chinese poachers. Outnumbered and outgunned by the Chinese, the Filipinos were forced to release the poachers along with their illegal cargo of live baby sharks, giant clams and endangered corals. The Chinese have never left the shoal since then.]


MARCH 2 -Image from Google Maps shows the location of Quirino (Jackson) atoll, a ring-shaped coral reef 140 nautical miles west of Palawan.
The Chinese have taken over another traditional Filipino fishing ground near Palawan where they have stationed up to five ships to keep local fishermen at bay, sources said. Now effectively under Chinese control is Quirino or Jackson Atoll, which has been a rich source of catch for a long time for fishermen from Palawan, Southern Luzon, Western Visayas and even Manila. Gray and white Chinese vessels have not left the atoll, which Filipino fishermen also call Jackson Five, because of the existence of five lagoons in the area. The Chinese are claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Manila is contesting Beijing’s claim before an international arbitral court based in The Hague. Filipino fishermen lamented the Chinese vessels would not allow them to come near or linger in the Quirino Atoll. The area is between the Philippine-occupied Lawak Island and the Chinese-occupied Panganiban (Mischief) Reef. Fishermen from Mindoro Occidental who asked not to be named said Chinese boats chased them away when they tried to enter the area last week. “These gray and white Chinese ships, around four of them inside the lagoon, prevented us from entering our traditional fishing ground,” one of the fishermen said. Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said the Chinese ships have been staying in Quirino Atoll for more than a month now. “They have many ships there,” he said, without elaborating. Philippine air patrol has confirmed the presence of at least four Chinese coast guard ships in the Jackson lagoons. READ MORE...RELATED, China’s moves alarm nations... AND SE Asian foreign ministers voice concerns on South China Sea ...

ALSO: 'GOV'T WILL NOT ALLOW IT' - No 'sustained' Chinese presence in disputed atoll, says PHL military


MARCH 2 -Saying the Philippines will not allow Chinese occupation of the Quirino Atoll near Palawan, a high ranking military official on Wednesday denied that Chinese forces have taken over the disputed formation near Palawan.
Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of the military's Western Command, said there was no "sustained presence" by the Chinese Navy in the atoll but added that three to five Chinese Coast Guard ships have been sighted in the area. "That's inaccurate, that's not true… In so far as we are concerned, there is no continued or sustained presence by the Chinese there," he said. Lopez said the government will not allow occupation of territories in the disputed waters. "It's the policy of the government that the government will not allow it," Lopez said. A newspaper on Wednesday reported that China barred Filipino fishermen from fishing in waters near the atoll. The formation is just 180 nautical miles off Palawan and is well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. ‘Speculative’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario dismissed as "speculative" the suggestions that the Chinese presence in the atoll was a prelude to a takeover. “We are monitoring the situation on the ground. According to reports, they are not there today so the theory about occupation may not be accurate because if they are occupying they should be there,” Del Rosario said. “That’s my take of situation. They may be back tomorrow or they might not,” he said. Lopez said a reconnaissance flight on February 24 showed Filipino fishermen in the area. However, he admitted that three to five Chinese Coast Guard vessels were monitored prior to the surveillance. "It's not true that they have control of Quirino Atoll. In fact, in our last flight, we have Filipino fishermen there," Lopez said. Fishermen’s reports Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., the mayor of Pagasa Island in the disputed Spratly Islands, said China had deployed up to seven ships at the Quirino Atoll. READ MORE...RELATED, China: Ships have left disputed Spratlys atoll...

ALSO: SE Asian foreign ministers voice concerns on South China Sea


MARCH 2 -VIENTIANE, Laos – Foreign ministers from the 10 countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations said Saturday that they were "seriously concerned" by recent developments in the disputed South China Sea region and will seek a meeting over the issue with China. At the end of their annual retreat, held this year in the Laos capital of Vientiane, they noted their worries and reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability in the area. The strategically important South China Sea is at the center of a territorial dispute involving China on one side and a number of ASEAN countries on the other, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Tensions have ramped up since China began a massive land reclamation program in 2013. Recent satellite imagery suggests that China has installed surface-to-air missiles in a disputed area in the Paracels chain, prompting accusations that Beijing is militarizing the area. READ MORE...RELATED, Singapore, China to work on reducing risks in South China Sea...  AND China navy launches first self-propelled floating dock...

ALSO: Pentagon chief says China actions will have 'consequences'


MARCH 2 -U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Carter discussed encryption at a speech before the Commonwealth Club and referenced Apple's court fight with the government, warning against future policy being determined by any one case and said a law hastily written in "anger or grief" would be the wrong approach. AP/Jeff Chiu United States (US) Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday stressed that China should not pursue militarization in the disputed South China Sea as it would result in conflict among claimant states. "China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea. Specific actions will have specific consequences," Carter said in a speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, California. Carter recalled that Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier said that his country will not militarize the disputed sea despite its reclamation activities in the area. The US Defense Secretary noted that almost 30 percent of the world's maritime trade passes by the South China Sea annually. "That's why the United States joins virtually every nation in the region in being deeply concerned about the artificial island construction and militarization in the South China Sea, including steps, especially by China, as it has taken most recently, by placing anti-access systems and military aircraft on a disputed island," Carter said. Carter, however, clarified that the US is not holding back or pushing any country down in its freedom of navigation activities in the region. READ MORE... RELATED, Singapore, China to work on reducing risks in South China Sea... AND President Xi backs "China-U.S. Tourism Year"...

ALSO: What we know about the Philippine atoll that China occupied


MARCH 2 -Chinese defense capabilities in the South China Sea as mapped by Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. AMTI/CSIS
A Philippine-claimed maritime feature in the disputed South China Sea was recently taken by China, effectively preventing Filipino fishermen from conducting activities in the traditional fishing ground, according to a report by the STAR.
Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., who heads Philippine-claimed Pag-asa Isand in the Spratly Islands off Palawan province, said he saw the Chinese ships at the Jackson Atoll for two straight days last week while flying in a plane over the area. Bito-onon said Chinese government vessels have not been stationed at the atoll, which the Philippines calls Quirino, in the years he has been passing by the uninhabited reef. The newly occupied feature, which the Philippines calls Quirino Reef, is named Wufang Jiao in Chinese and Băi Hải Sâm in Vietnamese. It lies 140 nautical miles west of Palawan and a few kilometers south of Philippine-occupied Nanshan Island, named Lawak Island in Filipino. Infographic based on map in US Department of Defense's report "Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy." Philstar.com / RP Ocampo Reports say Jackson Atoll takes on a ring shape, but hydographic surveyors D. J. Hancox and John Robert Victor Prescott wrote in 1995 that the atoll has a roughly rectangular shape. READ MORE... RELATED, China navy launches first self-propelled floating dock...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

RP, China clash anew over UN arbitration
[BEIJING INSISTS IT FOLLOWS UNCLOS]

MANILA, MARCH 7, 2016 (TRIBUNE) Written by PNA Tuesday, 01 March 2016 00:00 - The Aquino administration stepped up its criticism of China yesterday as Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario chided his Chinese counterpart for issuing “negative statements” against the Philippines and asked China to respect the upcoming decision of an international tribunal on the South China Sea conflicts to prove that Beijing does not consider itself “above the law.

” The law that Del Rosario was referring to is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) a law which China made clear it does not consider as applying on the arbitration of territorial disputes.

“As we presume to be responsible states, the Philippines, as well as the international community, are asking China to respect the forthcoming ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal and together advance an international rules-based regime,” Del Rosario said.

“If China does not heed our collective call, does it mean that China considers itself above the law?”, he added.

In his official visit to Washington last Feb. 17 for a meeting with US Secretary John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the Philippines of “political provocation” when it sought arbitration to resolve their two countries’ maritime disputes in the resource-rich waters.

Wang said China was merely observing the law in its non-acceptance of the South China Sea arbitration filed by the Philippines.

Unclos, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty, defines the rights and responsibilities of nations with respect to their use of the world’s oceans, establishing guidelines for businesses, the environment, and the management of marine natural resources, but in which the United States is not even a signatory.

READ MORE...

Wang branded the government’s legal action “irresponsible” as it accused the Philippine government of shutting its doors on one-and-one or bilateral negotiations with China to try to resolve the conflicts.

“We note that Foreign Minister Wang said that China is a member of the international community and that it abides by international law. We have had countless meetings with China to try to address the issue between the two of us to no avail.

We have invited China many times to join us in arbitration as early as 2012, again to no avail,” Del Rosario said.

China in 2006 declared it would not accept arbitration of disputes concerning territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, in accordance with the Unclos, Wang said.

“The Chinese government will certainly stick to this position,” Wang said, adding that more than 30 countries, including Australia, have also made similar “exclusive” declarations.

He gave a list of reasons the Philippines’ arbitration attempt is invalid and unacceptable, including unilateral moves without consulting China, which goes against international norms, as well as the common sense argument that arbitration applications are usually lodged only when all other means are depleted.

China and the Philippines have several agreements that disputes should be solved through dialog and consultation.

The Philippines has also signed the fourth article of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which states that disputes should be solved by those countries directly related, through negotiation and consultation.

Wang said that the arbitration attempt before the Hague violated previous agreements and raised suspicion of its complicated international background or even hidden political motives.

RP wants arbitration

The Philippines initiated an arbitration case against Beijing in March 2013 to nullify China’s massive claim, which is represented by nine dashes that resembles a tongue-shaped encirclement of nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas that are within Manila’s territory.

Within this enclosure, China has rapidly undertaken enormous reclamation activities in seven disputed reefs, which has alarmed several countries like the United States, Australia, Japan and the Group of 7 nations.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings and said it will not honor the final ruling by the Netherlands-based tribunal which is expected on or before May this year.

Analysts believe the reclamation will allow China to project military power in Asia’s maritime heartland and cement their claims in the resource-rich waters.

The Philippines said China’s actions raises the level of tensions in the region and is threatening freedom of navigation in the waters where a bulk of the world’s trade passes through.

China has defended its building spree, saying the reclamation is within its sovereign rights while admitting that the facilities it constructed would both have civilian and military functions.

This month, China was reported to have installed surface-to-air missiles on the disputed Woody Island in a part of the South China Sea, called the Paracels, and is jointly claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

China follows law

China through its state run paper, People’s Daily, said in a commentary that “by not accepting and not participating in the arbitration initiated by the Philippines, China is observing international law in the true sense.”

“The Philippines has lately been selling the South China Sea arbitration case it unilaterally initiated to the international community while defaming China, claiming that China’s non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration undermines international rule of law,” it said.

Such moves are best captured by a Chinese saying: the guilty party files the suit first.

“The Philippine side is misleading public opinion by playing the ‘victim’ in the arbitration farce it started in an attempt to cover up its moves that violate international law and trample upon international legal order in pursuit of illegal interests for itself. Non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is the move China has made to safeguard the international rule of law,” it said.

China claims upholding Unclos

China said its non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is to uphold the sanctity of the Unclos expressing its belief that it does not apply to territorial disputes. Furthermore, China’ s declaration in accordance with Unclos in 2006 excludes disputes concerning maritime delimitation from arbitral proceedings.

Undeniably, the dispute between China and the Philippines is in essence a dispute over territorial and maritime delimitation issues. In fact, the Philippines’ initiation of the arbitration, in total disregard of international law and the spirit of Unclos undermines the authority and sanctity of the Convention.

In response to the Philippines’ illegal moves, China refuses to “dance with it”, and follows the policy of not accepting or participating in the arbitration.

This position testifies to China’s strong sense of responsibility, and is the righteous act China has taken to defend the legitimate rights and interests of a State Party to Unclos and to uphold the authority and sanctity of this international instrument.

China’s non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is to honor the joint commitment it has made with the Philippines, it said.

It added the two sides reached consensus on how to address the dispute.

“China and the Philippines have issued joint statements and news releases on multiple occasions and they both signed the DOC, in which the two sides have pledged to settle disputes through friendly negotiations and consultations.

By unilaterally initiating the arbitration, the Philippines has negated its solemn commitment to its neighbors and the international community, and breached one of the core principles in international relations - Pacta sunt servanda (‘agreements must be kept’),” it said.

China said the Philippines jeopardized its own international credibility.

“By contrast, China’s position of not accepting or participating in the arbitration demonstrates that it is true to its words,” it added.

China said in another state-controlled outfit, Global Times, that the United States is courting trouble by intruding into the South China Sea territorial disputes.

“The South China Sea issue has been hyped since 2009, gradually escalating into a regional security hotspot and a key topic of Sino-US competition. Although an external player, the US has been playing a primary role in internationalizing the South China Sea issue,” it said.

It added that Washington has launched a rebalancing policy with its “return” to Southeast Asia to further consolidate and expand its relations with countries in the region. Meanwhile, it has also kept meddling in the South China Sea disputes.

Instead of keeping a neutral position in territorial disputes, the Obama administration accuses China of worsening the scenario over the waters through political dialogues with the Philippines, Vietnam and other states who boast rival claims, it said.

The US has carried out a series of dialogs with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean ), expecting it to adopt a united and powerful stand in the South China Sea controversy and making it an issue between China and the whole bloc, it added.

“Washington has accused Beijing of land reclamation activities outside the scope of Beijing’s sovereignty, and called for it to halt the ongoing projects and stop militarizing disputed areas. Besides patrolling at the sea frequently, the US has also increased defense dialogues with Southeast Asian countries and deepened military cooperation with them,” China added.

“Washington is seeking trouble for itself by intervening in the South China Sea issue. And its next government will have to put in more resources to cope with this legacy of the Obama administration,” it said.

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RELATED FROM EUROP.CHINA.DAILY.COM

China is observing international law in the true sense Updated: 2015-12-19 15:38 (people.com.cn) Comments() Print Mail Large Medium Small


China's lawful and sensible response to arbitration CHINADAILY ONLINE JANUARY 2016

BEIJING - The People's Daily on Friday carried the fifth of a series of commentaries on the Philippines' South China Sea arbitration farce, titled "By not accepting and not participating in the arbitration initiated by the Philippines, China is observing international law in the true sense."

Following is a translated version of the full text:

The Philippines has lately been selling the South China Sea arbitration case it unilaterally initiated to the international community while defaming China, claiming that China's non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration undermines international rule of law.

Such moves are best captured by a Chinese saying: the guilty party filing the suit first.

The Philippine side is misleading public opinion by playing the "victim" in the arbitration farce it started in an attempt to cover up its moves that violate international law and trample upon international legal order in pursuit of illegal interests for itself. Non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is the move China has made to safeguard the international rule of law.

China's non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is to uphold the sanctity of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS does not apply to territorial disputes at all. Furthermore, China' s declaration in accordance with UNCLOS in 2006 excludes disputes concerning maritime delimitation from arbitral proceedings.

Undeniably, the dispute between China and the Philippines is in essence a dispute over territorial and maritime delimitation issues.

In fact, the Philippines' initiation of the arbitration, in total disregard of international law and the spirit of UNCLOS, undermines the authority and sanctity of the Convention.

In response to the Philippines' illegal moves, China refuses to "dance with it", and follows the policy of not accepting or participating in the arbitration. This position testifies to China's strong sense of responsibility, and is the righteous act China has taken to defend the legitimate rights and interests of a State Party to UNCLOS and to uphold the authority and sanctity of this international instrument.

China's non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is to honor the joint commitment it has made with the Philippines.

The two sides reached consensus a long time ago on how to address the dispute. China and the Philippines have issued joint statements and news releases on multiple occasions and they both signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), in which the two sides have pledged to settle disputes through friendly negotiations and consultations.

By unilaterally initiating the arbitration, the Philippines has negated its solemn commitment to its neighbors and the international community, and breached one of the core principles in international relations - Pacta sunt servanda ("agreements must be kept"), thus jeopardizing its own international credibility. By contrast, China's position of not accepting or participating in the arbitration demonstrates that it is true to its words.

READ: ASEAN’S Code of Conduct in the South China Sea: A Litmus Test for Community-Building?

China's non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is to uphold its lawful rights and interests. China has sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and lawful rights and interests in the South China Sea.

No one, no country and no entity but the Chinese government has the right to make the decision on behalf of the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

The Philippines chose to illegally occupy some of China's islands and reefs in the South China Sea first, and then, file the case against China instead. Its purpose is no other than to cover up its illegal moves. China will not condone such illegal actions. China's position of non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is legitimate and justified.

China's non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration conforms with the general practice in addressing international disputes. National consent is the very core and soul of international law. The key to resolving disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests is for parties directly concerned to reach consensus ad idem.

The Philippines' unilateral initiation of arbitration is by no means aimed at resolving the dispute. Rather, it is to further complicate the situation and to vilify China. What the Philippines is doing is an out-and-out political provocation.

By contrast, China's way of addressing disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests through bilateral consultations and negotiations has proven effective. As a matter of fact, China has properly settled land boundary issues with 12 countries and completed the delimitation of maritime boundary in the Beibu Bay with Vietnam. China will continue to follow its current practice and will not accept arbitration as a way to settle disputes over territory and maritime rights and interests.

China is firmly committed to upholding and building the international rule of law. The Philippine's unilateral initiation of arbitration regarding the South China Sea is purely an attempt to sabotage the international rule of law and encroach upon China's rights and interests under the cloak of international law.

China's non-acceptance of and non-participation in the arbitration is a lawful and sensible response to the illegal moves of the Philippines.

In addressing the South China Sea disputes, it is of no use to employ treacherous means, scare-mongering or slandering, or resort to a third party. The only viable way forward is for the Philippines to admit its mistake, change its course, and return to bilateral negotiations and consultations.


PHILSTAR

China takes Philippine atoll (Quirino/Jackson coral reef) By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 2, 2016 - 1:00am 1 1 googleplus0 0


Image from Google Maps shows the location of Quirino (Jackson) atoll, a ring-shaped coral reef 140 nautical miles west of Palawan.

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese have taken over another traditional Filipino fishing ground near Palawan where they have stationed up to five ships to keep local fishermen at bay, sources said.

Now effectively under Chinese control is Quirino or Jackson Atoll, which has been a rich source of catch for a long time for fishermen from Palawan, Southern Luzon, Western Visayas and even Manila.

Gray and white Chinese vessels have not left the atoll, which Filipino fishermen also call Jackson Five, because of the existence of five lagoons in the area.

The Chinese are claiming almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Manila is contesting Beijing’s claim before an international arbitral court based in The Hague.

Filipino fishermen lamented the Chinese vessels would not allow them to come near or linger in the Quirino Atoll.

The area is between the Philippine-occupied Lawak Island and the Chinese-occupied Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

Fishermen from Mindoro Occidental who asked not to be named said Chinese boats chased them away when they tried to enter the area last week.

“These gray and white Chinese ships, around four of them inside the lagoon, prevented us from entering our traditional fishing ground,” one of the fishermen said.

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. said the Chinese ships have been staying in Quirino Atoll for more than a month now. “They have many ships there,” he said, without elaborating.

Philippine air patrol has confirmed the presence of at least four Chinese coast guard ships in the Jackson lagoons.

READ MORE...

A Palawan-based fishing operator said the Chinese began deploying ships to Quirino Atoll after a Manila-based fishing carrier boat ran aground in the area due to bad weather.

The fishing operator said his boats have since been avoiding the area due to the menacing presence of presumably armed Chinese ships. “We can’t enter the area anymore,” he bewailed.

Early last month, Chinese gray and white ships – presumably naval and maritime surveillance vessels – harassed Philippine Navy logistic ship BRP Laguna near Hasa-Hasa (Half Moon) Shoal, another Filipino fishing ground in the West Philippine Sea just 60 nautical miles from the southern tip of Palawan.

In 2012, the Chinese took control of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal after a brief standoff with a Philippine Navy vessel whose crew had tried to arrest Chinese poachers.

Outnumbered and outgunned by the Chinese, the Filipinos were forced to release the poachers along with their illegal cargo of live baby sharks, giant clams and endangered corals. The Chinese have never left the shoal since then.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

China’s moves alarm nations posted February 28, 2016 at 12:01 am by PNA and AFP


The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea in this August 15, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/U.S. NAVY/MASS COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST 3RD CLASS DECLAN BARNES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS/FILES China accused the United States on Monday of seeking maritime hegemony in the name of freedom of navigation after a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims. FROM PEACE AND FREEDOM BLOG

MORE nations expressed concern at China’s rising maritime assertiveness with Japan, Australia, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressing “concerns” about tensions in the region.

Senior officials of Japan, Australia and India met in Tokyo on Friday to stress the importance of maintaining the rule of law in the South China Sea and expressing “strong concerns” about tensions in the region amid China’s rising maritime assertiveness.

“We shared strong concerns about moves to unilaterally change the status quo that would lead to destabilization in the region,” Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki told reporters after talks with his Australian and Indian counterparts.

The three-way meeting comes as China’s deployment of an advanced surface-to-air missile system has stoked concerns the country is pursuing militarization in the South China Sea, adding to tensions already heightened by Beijing’s massive and fast-paced reclamation works in the sea.

China is also boosting its presence in the Indian Ocean, which provides essential maritime traffic access for the transportation of oil, gas and other resources from the Arabian Sea.

“We also shared the need to establish a new rule in the region to secure the rule of law and the freedom of navigation,” Saiki said.

Saiki was referring to the ongoing discussions between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to conclude the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, a legally binding document that could be used to resolve deadlocks, disputes and tensions in the sea.

Peter Varghese, secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar took part in the three-way meeting, the second of its kind following a meeting in India last June.

The diplomats also discussed their responses to North Korea, following its nuclear test last month and long-range rocket launch earlier this month.

Given the likelihood that the UN Security Council may soon adopt a fresh resolution that would expand sanctions on North Korea, the three officials also agreed to steadily implement the sanctions to prevent North Korea from further promoting its nuclear development, Saiki said.

The trilateral framework is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to promote a “security diamond” strategy connecting Japan, Australia, India and the US state of Hawaii to safeguard maritime interests stretching from the Indian Ocean region to the western Pacific.

Abe introduced the concept in December 2012 to counter Beijing’s military buildup and perceived attempts to change the status quo in the South China and East China seas.

Ahead of the three-way talks, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference, “The trilateral cooperation covering the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean contributes to the peace and stability of the region.” “Japan seeks to further strengthen trilateral ties,” he added.

In Vientiane, officials said China’s recent artificial island-building and fortification of its garrison in the South China Sea is among the pressing political and security challenges that Asean foreign ministers will discuss when they meet in the Laotian capital.

One diplomat said Asean ministers are “seriously concerned” by recent and ongoing developments in the South China Sea.

Specifically, Asean sources said the ministers will have frank discussions about the land reclamation and escalation of activities in the disputed sea, saying “these assertive moves erode trust and confidence, increase tension and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

Charles Jose, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the Philippines will focus on maritime security, saying that China’s construction of islands in the disputed waters has heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

Jose said that reports claiming Beijing has positioned surface-to-air missiles in the disputed territory in the Paracel Islands chain are a cause of concern.

“We are expressing concern over these developments, including the reported missiles on Woody Island,” Jose said.

“Of course all these things raise our concern and its effect on freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded flow of commerce. In this meeting we will continue to express our concern with the developments in the South China Sea.”


Filipino and Vietnamese protesters gather in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati city near Manila on Thursday. They denounced China's deployment of a surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island... HEADLINE: South China Sea row haunts Asean meeting in Vientiane 26 Feb 2016 at 20:31 3,743 viewed2 comments FROM BANGKOKPOST.COM WRITER: CHANANTHORN KAMJAN © Post Publishing PCL. All rights reserved.

Laos, this year’s Asean chairman, is expected to issue a press statement at the end of the day-long retreat Saturday.

“There are ongoing discussions and consultations on whether to include in the press statement a line that says that ministers reaffirmed their commitment to non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in the South China Sea,” an official source said.

As of Thursday night, an Asean official said the draft press statement still contains paragraphs on maritime security and the South China Sea “that may or may not be there [in the final statement].”

Like in past meetings, the ministers are expected to stress the importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea.

Asean officials said the ministers will again “emphasize the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation” in the disputed sea.

The ministers are also expected to underscore the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that China and the 10-member Asean signed in 2002, according to the officials.

Another Asean official said that Asean wants “substantive development” and “an expeditious establishment” of the code of conduct, a binding code aimed at reducing the risk of conflict in the disputed sea that Asean and China have been trying to hammer out since efforts to reopen talks began in 2012.

Competing claims to the South China Sea have for decades been a source of tension in the region.

China’s recent moves to conduct massive land reclamation in the sea have further escalated tensions, leading even non-claimants like the United States to voice concerns.

The overlapping territorial and maritime disputes involving China and four Asean members—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam—have divided Asean on how to deal with the issue.

Topics: China , South China Sea , West Philippine Sea , Japan , Australia , India , Association of Southeast Asian Nations , Brunei , Malaysia , Philippines , Vietnam

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RELATED FROM FOX NEWS ASIA

SE Asian foreign ministers voice concerns on South China Sea Published February 27, 2016 Associated Press Facebook2221 Twitter0 livefyre Email Print

NOW PLAYING US Navy: China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea Never autoplay videos VIENTIANE, Laos – Foreign ministers from the 10 countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations said Saturday that they were "seriously concerned" by recent developments in the disputed South China Sea region and will seek a meeting over the issue with China.

At the end of their annual retreat, held this year in the Laos capital of Vientiane, they noted their worries and reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability in the area.

The strategically important South China Sea is at the center of a territorial dispute involving China on one side and a number of ASEAN countries on the other, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Tensions have ramped up since China began a massive land reclamation program in 2013. Recent satellite imagery suggests that China has installed surface-to-air missiles in a disputed area in the Paracels chain, prompting accusations that Beijing is militarizing the area.

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A joint statement said the ASEAN foreign ministers "remained seriously concerned over recent and ongoing developments and took note of the concerns expressed by some members on the land reclamations and escalation of activities" in the South China Sea.

The statement added that the activities have "eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region."

Vietnam's foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, told reporters as he left the meeting that he was "seriously concerned about the situation" and called for the "non-militarization" of the South China Sea.

Cambodia's foreign minister, Hor Namhong, said ASEAN would seek a meeting with China over the matter, though no date or venue had been set.

Other matters were on the agenda too. The ministers reiterated their perennial call for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also addressed Islamic extremism, in the wake of an attack in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in January that left eight people dead.

"The threat is real. It's no longer fictitious or mere imagination," said Malaysia's foreign minister, Anifah Aman.

Other topics included ways to bring about ever closer economic cooperation since the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of last year.

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GMA NEWS NETWORK

'GOV'T WILL NOT ALLOW IT' No 'sustained' Chinese presence in disputed atoll –PHL military Published March 2, 2016 6:49pm Updated March 2, 2016 8:15pm

Saying the Philippines will not allow Chinese occupation of the Quirino Atoll near Palawan, a high ranking military official on Wednesday denied that Chinese forces have taken over the disputed formation near Palawan.

Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of the military's Western Command, said there was no "sustained presence" by the Chinese Navy in the atoll but added that three to five Chinese Coast Guard ships have been sighted in the area.

"That's inaccurate, that's not true… In so far as we are concerned, there is no continued or sustained presence by the Chinese there," he said.

Lopez said the government will not allow occupation of territories in the disputed waters.

"It's the policy of the government that the government will not allow it," Lopez said.

A newspaper on Wednesday reported that China barred Filipino fishermen from fishing in waters near the atoll.

The formation is just 180 nautical miles off Palawan and is well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, as provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

‘Speculative’

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario dismissed as "speculative" the suggestions that the Chinese presence in the atoll was a prelude to a takeover.

“We are monitoring the situation on the ground. According to reports, they are not there today so the theory about occupation may not be accurate because if they are occupying they should be there,” Del Rosario said.

“That’s my take of situation. They may be back tomorrow or they might not,” he said.

Lopez said a reconnaissance flight on February 24 showed Filipino fishermen in the area. However, he admitted that three to five Chinese Coast Guard vessels were monitored prior to the surveillance.

"It's not true that they have control of Quirino Atoll. In fact, in our last flight, we have Filipino fishermen there," Lopez said.

Fishermen’s reports

Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., the mayor of Pagasa Island in the disputed Spratly Islands, said China had deployed up to seven ships at the Quirino Atoll.

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Lopez said the report may have been based on the account of fishermen who saw the earlier presence of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

China has already confirmed sending vessels to the atoll to tow a grounded ship and that these vessels have since left the waters.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China's Ministry of Transport had sent vessels to tow the grounded ship and they had since left the surrounding waters.

"To guarantee safety of navigation and of work conditions, China urged fishing vessels near the site to leave," Hong said, adding that China had indisputable sovereignty over the atoll.

The Spratlys are the most contested archipelago in the South China Sea, a resource-rich region and critical shipping lane linking North Asia to Europe, South Asia and the Middle East. —KBK/NB, GMA News

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

China: Ships have left disputed Spratlys atoll By Jaime Laude and Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 3, 2016 - 12:00am 3 9 googleplus0 0


Protesters flash thumbs-down signs as they shout slogans during a rally near the Chinese Consulate in the financial district of Makati city, Philippines, to denounce the alleged deployment of surface-to-air-missiles by China on the disputed islands off South China Sea, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. The protesters are calling on China to halt its island-building on some of the disputed islands and its alleged increasing militarization. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese vessels have left Quirino (Jackson) Atoll near Palawan after completing their mission to remove a grounded Filipino fishing vessel in the area, Beijing’s foreign ministry said yesterday as it reiterated China’s indisputable sovereignty over the atoll.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China’s Ministry of Transport had sent the vessels that Filipino fishermen said were preventing them from dropping their nets in the atoll.

“To guarantee safety of navigation and of work conditions, China urged fishing vessels near the site to leave,” Hong said.

Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr.(photo) of Pagasa Island in the Spratlys confirmed accounts from fishermen that China had deployed several ships to Quirino Atoll. The STAR earlier reported that up to five gray and white Chinese vessels were stationed in the atoll at any one time.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday it was verifying reports of China’s taking over Quirino Atoll, a traditional Filipino fishing ground.

“We are in the process of verifying this report with concerned agencies,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Quirino Atoll is 33 nautical miles from Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the Spratlys, where China has carried out extensive land reclamation work for possible military use.

“This is very alarming, Quirino is on our path when we travel from Palawan to Pagasa. It is halfway and we normally stop there to rest,” Bito-onon said.

“I feel something different. The Chinese are trying to choke us by putting an imaginary checkpoint there. It is a clear violation of our right to travel, impeding freedom of navigation,” he said.

Fishermen told the mayor one Filipino boat had run aground in the area and was still there but was not being harassed by the Chinese vessels.

Checking reports The military also said it was trying to verify the presence of Chinese ships near Quirino Atoll, where a Chinese warship allegedly fired warning shots at Filipino fishermen in 2011.

“We know there are Chinese ships moving around the Spratly area,” spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla told Reuters. “There are also ships around Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, so we want to make sure if the presence is permanent.”

Ayungin Shoal is where the Philippine Navy has been occupying and reinforcing a rusting ship that it ran aground in 1999 to bolster its claims to the disputed reef.

A military source from Palawan said a surveillance plane had seen four to five ships in the vicinity of Quirino Atoll last week. The source could not say if the ships were passing through or permanently stationed there because the area is close to Panganiban Reef, where China is building an artificial island.

“There are no indications China will build structures or develop it into an island,” the source, who was not authorized to speak to the media about the South China Sea, said, referring to Quirino Atoll.

Along with China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

In Tagbilaran, Bohol, President Aquino slammed China anew for claiming almost the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

Without directly referring to the Quirino Atoll issue, Aquino said it was distressing to hear the Chinese always insisting on their “indisputable” right over disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea.

While the DFA was still verifying the issue, the President said China had been sending signals that “all of these are ours, do not get in.”

“We have been talking to them for a long time now, the problem is they always say these are all ours,” the President said in a meeting with local leaders at the Bohol Cultural Center.

Still, rule of law On Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated the Philippine position on the primacy of the rule of law in resolving maritime disputes. He said rule of law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, would be the basis for any decision by an arbitral court on Manila’s case against Beijing.

Also in Bohol, Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II said the Philippines should remain sober and just continue tapping peaceful and legal means to address the issue.

“It is important that we remain sober because if we use violence, we do not know how it will end. It is important that we bring this before the United Nations,” Roxas said in an interview.

“This is in line with the dispute settlement resolution treaty signed by China, the Philippines and other countries which states that when there is disagreement among countries, this should be brought before the international tribunal,” he added.

Senate President Franklin Drilon also reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to peaceful settlement of the maritime spat with China.

“The government will never engage in any provocative step that would escalate the tension between the Philippines and China, and pose danger to the country’s peace, stability and security,” Drilon said.

“The rule of law should always prevail and our actions will always be in accordance with international law,” he added.

For opposition vice presidential candidate Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, now is the time to test the country’s bilateral ties and security arrangement with the United States and with other countries, especially those belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.

“Will they help us in fighting against China who keeps on bullying us?” he added. He said the Quirino Atoll incident has underpinned China’s determination to further assert its claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“As of now, we feel that we are helpless and we can’t do anything but to watch them claiming the whole South China Sea as fast as they can,” said the senator.

“I want to know if the treaties that we arranged in the US and other countries continue to serve our national and mutual interests. Do they help? If they don’t, then let’s just forget about them,” he said.

Honasan is the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay who earlier raised his openness to talking with Beijing for joint exploration in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

“If our bilateral agreements with other countries do not serve our own interests, then let’s continue to talk to China in a multilateral arrangement,” he said. “Let’s make a joint exploration with them.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares yesterday denounced China for occupying another piece of disputed territory that is a traditional fishing ground of Filipinos.

“It seems China’s strategy now is to take as much territory as it can in the West Philippine Sea before the ruling of The Hague Arbitral Court comes out, so other claimants would be hard put to evict the rising superpower from their claimed areas,” he said.

Goodwill visit Meanwhile, two minesweepers of the Japanese navy docked in Manila yesterday.

Navy Capt. Lued Lincuna, director of the Naval Public Affairs Office, said vessels of the Minesweepers Division 51 of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSFD) anchored at South Harbor’s Pier 15 for a three-day goodwill visit.

The vessels – Urga and Takashima – were under the overall command of Capt. Toshiro Takaiwa.

“Part of the visit was the shipboard tour on board the two Japanese ships participated by Filipino sailors,” Lincuna said.

He said the visit is expected to further enhance the strong relations between the Philippine Navy and the JMSDF.

Japan and the Philippines early this week signed an agreement paving the way for Tokyo’s transfer of defense equipment and technology to Manila.

Both have been strengthening defense relations in response to security concerns stirred by China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

“It is another manifestation of a sustained promotion of regional peace and stability and enhancement of maritime cooperation between the neighboring navies,” Lincuna said. – Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Alexis Romero, Janvic Mateo, Jess Diaz


PHILSTAR

Pentagon chief says China actions will have 'consequences' By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated March 2, 2016 - 12:59pm 3 308 googleplus0 0


U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Carter discussed encryption at a speech before the Commonwealth Club and referenced Apple's court fight with the government, warning against future policy being determined by any one case and said a law hastily written in "anger or grief" would be the wrong approach. AP/Jeff Chiu

MANILA, Philippines — United States (US) Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday stressed that China should not pursue militarization in the disputed South China Sea as it would result in conflict among claimant states.

"China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea. Specific actions will have specific consequences," Carter said in a speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, California.

Carter recalled that Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier said that his country will not militarize the disputed sea despite its reclamation activities in the area.

The US Defense Secretary noted that almost 30 percent of the world's maritime trade passes by the South China Sea annually.

"That's why the United States joins virtually every nation in the region in being deeply concerned about the artificial island construction and militarization in the South China Sea, including steps, especially by China, as it has taken most recently, by placing anti-access systems and military aircraft on a disputed island," Carter said.

Carter, however, clarified that the US is not holding back or pushing any country down in its freedom of navigation activities in the region.

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"The United States wants every nation to have the opportunity to rise and that includes China. We welcome its rise and its inclusion in this architecture. But we don’t welcome aggressive behavior," the US Defense chief said.

Carter said that the US will continue to provide defense systems to their allies and assist them in advancing maritime security, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries have recently voiced out their concern over the recent developments in the South China Sea.

This follows reports that Beijing has deployed surface-to-air missiles at Woody Island in the Paracel chain. It has also been reported that China has been building radar systems in some of the reefs in the Spratly Group of Islands.

The Chinese have also reportedly taken over Quirino atoll, a traditional Filipino fishing ground near Palawan, and have been keeping local fishermen at bay.

RELATED: Obama, SE Asian leaders seek resolution to maritime disputes

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RELATED FROM ABS-CBN

Singapore, China to work on reducing risks in South China Sea ABS-CBN News Posted at 03/01/16 11:44 AM


Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, left, shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Singapore and China said they will continue to work on ideas that will help reduce tensions in the South China Sea.

During a visit to Beijing, Singapore’s foreign affairs minister said both countries will work on expediting negotiations in formulating a code of conduct among parties involved in the territorial dispute.

Singapore is not a claimant state in the contested sea but it is a country coordinator of ASEAN-China relations.

China echoed Singapore’s statement, adding it wants stability in the region.

But it stressed its stance in the row remains unchanged.

-Mornings @ ANC, March 1, 2016

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RELATED FROM XINHUA PEOPLE'S DAILY

Xi backs "China-U.S. Tourism Year" (Xinhua) 16:50, March 01, 2016


President #XiJinping FACEBOOK PHOTO (PEOPLE'S DAILY)

BEIJING, March 1 -- President Xi Jinping has said he is looking forward to increased people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States as the two sides kick off a major tourism promotion.

In a message to a ceremony launching the "China-U.S. Tourism Year" in Beijing on Monday, Xi said the relationship between the two countries since they forged diplomatic ties has not only benefited China and the United States, but also promoted peace, stability and prosperity worldwide.

The president said he hopes the two sides will take advantage of the tourism year, noting both China and the United States boast colorful culture and beautiful scenery, and their people share strong aspirations to get to know each other more deeply.

The China-U.S. Tourism Year was announced last September after Xi's state visit to the United States.


PHILSTAR

What we know about the Philippine atoll that China occupied By Camille Diola (philstar.com) | Updated March 2, 2016 - 5:11pm 3 182 googleplus0 0


Chinese defense capabilities in the South China Sea as mapped by Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. AMTI/CSIS

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine-claimed maritime feature in the disputed South China Sea was recently taken by China, effectively preventing Filipino fishermen from conducting activities in the traditional fishing ground, according to a report by the STAR.

Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr., who heads Philippine-claimed Pag-asa Isand in the Spratly Islands off Palawan province, said he saw the Chinese ships at the Jackson Atoll for two straight days last week while flying in a plane over the area.

Bito-onon said Chinese government vessels have not been stationed at the atoll, which the Philippines calls Quirino, in the years he has been passing by the uninhabited reef.

The newly occupied feature, which the Philippines calls Quirino Reef, is named Wufang Jiao in Chinese and Băi Hải Sâm in Vietnamese. It lies 140 nautical miles west of Palawan and a few kilometers south of Philippine-occupied Nanshan Island, named Lawak Island in Filipino.

Infographic based on map in US Department of Defense's report "Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy." Philstar.com / RP Ocampo Reports say Jackson Atoll takes on a ring shape, but hydographic surveyors D. J. Hancox and John Robert Victor Prescott wrote in 1995 that the atoll has a roughly rectangular shape.

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The feature's Chinese name means that reefs can be found in five directions, as five coral patches called Dickinson, Petch, Hampson, Deane and Hoare Reefs line the lagoon.

Hancox and Prescott described the atoll as follows:

The lagoon has depths varying from 25 to 46 metres with a few coral heads in Fly Patches between Hoare and Dickinson Reefs on the northern perimeter. There are four entrances to the lagoon. The two lie on either side of Hoare Reef and the other two lie between Dickinson and Petch Reef and they are separated by Middle Shoal with a least depth of 7 metres. While the bottom of the coral and sand provides good holding ground the lagoon provides no shelter from rough weather.

"I'm alarmed because we frequently pass by that atoll on our way to Pag-asa," Bito-onon told The Associated Press by telephone, using the Philippine name for Thitu Island, where he frequently travels to visit a Filipino fishing community guarded by troops. "What will happen now if we sail close by with all those Chinese ships?"

Filipino, Vietnamese and Malaysian fishing boats have gone to the vast fishing lagoon Jackson for years, Bito-onon said, adding that Filipino fishermen were looking forward to the start of the octopus-catching season that starts next month.

When a Chinese warship fired at Filipino boats In February 2011, three Philippine fishing vessels F/V Jaime, F/V Mama Lydia DLS and F/V Maricris 23 operating off Jackson Atoll were challenged by Chinese naval vessel Dongguan 560, a Jianghu-V Class missile frigate.

Respected security analyst Carlyle Thayer cited an Armed Forces of the Philippines report that the Chinese warship warned the fishing vessels over radio:

You are in Chinese territory. Leave the area immediately... I will shoot you. The fishing boats began to withdraw, but the naval ship fired three shots that landed 0.3 nautical miles (556 meters) from the F/V Maricris 12. The same fishing vessel returned to the area three days after to recover an anchor detached from it earlier that week following the Chinese personnel's warning. Upon returning near Jackson Atoll, the Filipino crew spotted three Chinese fishing vessels exploiting marine resources in the area, Thayer noted.

Then Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao later denied that any Chinese vessel had fired at Filipino fishermen. — with reports from the Associated Press

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RELATED FROM ABS-CBN

China navy launches first self-propelled floating dock Reuters Posted at 03/01/16 10:21 AM


A Chinese navy ship is seen docked after an exercise with Cambodian naval officers in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia February 26, 2016. REUTERS/SAMRANG PRING

BEIJING - China's navy has launched its first self-propelled floating dock, giving it the ability to repair warships far from the coast, the official People's Liberation Army Daily said on Tuesday, Beijing's latest move to modernize its navy.

The newspaper said the dock, the Huachuan No. 1, would enable the navy to return damaged ships to fighting capability "in very rapid time" and was designed to be sent into combat zones.

"The ship's launch marks a further breakthrough in shifting repairs to our military's large warships from set spots on the coast to mobility far out at sea," it added, showing a picture of a warship inside the floating dock.

The use of the dock means that ships with minor damage will not have to be taken out of service, while those with severe damage will not have to return to a shipyard, the paper said.

The dock can handle cruisers, destroyers and submarines, but not aircraft carriers, and cope with waves up to 2 meters (6.6 ft) high, it added.

Beijing has invested billions developing its homegrown weapons industry to support its growing maritime ambitions in the disputed South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Beijing has also cast an eye towards foreign markets for its comparatively low-cost technology. Its total military budget in 2015 was 886.9 billion yuan ($141.45 billion), up 10 percent from a year earlier.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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