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

PHL WILLING TO SHARE NATURAL RESOURCES WITH BEIJING IN SOUTH SEA - GOVT[RELATED: Yasay clarifies stand on ‘sharing South China Sea’]


JULY 8 -Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told Agence France Prese Friday. Yasay said President Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. “We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory. How we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping,” Yasay told AFP in an interview. The Philippines, under Benigno Aquino’s previous administration, filed a legal challenge with a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China’s claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea. China’s claims reach almost to the coasts of the Philippines and some other Southeast Asian nations, and it has in recent years built giant artificial islands in the contested areas to enforce what it says are its indisputable sovereign rights. The Philippines’ case enraged China, which repeatedly vowed to ignore the tribunal’s ruling and is currently holding military drills in the northern part of the sea as a show of force. Duterte, who took office on June 30, has adopted a more conciliatory approach to China than Aquino. The previous president refused to hold direct talks, and likened China’s expansionist efforts in the sea to Nazi Germany’s march on parts of Europe ahead of World War II. Yasay signaled on Friday that Duterte would be making no such analogies, emphasizing his administration would seek to ensure the best possible relations with China. READ MORE...RELATED, Yasay clarifies stand on ‘sharing South China Sea’...

ALSO: China on war footing; Missile launched Sunday in combat drill
[At the congressional hearing in Washington on Thursday, senior US state department official Colin Willett said the United States would not hesitate to defend its national security interests and honor its commitments to Asia-Pacific allies and partners. “Scarborough Reef is a disputed feature that we don’t recognize any countries sovereignty over. That said, our treaty commitment to the Philippines is absolutely ironclad,” Willett said, adding that occupying a currently unoccupied land feature or militarizing an occupied feature would be very dangerous and destabilizing.]


JULY 10 -LIVE FIRE The Chinese missile frigate Yuncheng launches an antiship missile during a military exercise in the waters between China’s Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands. The drills are held ahead of the ruling in the case filed by the Philippines at a UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague. The photo was released on Friday by Xinhua News Agency. Xinhua via AP
BEIJING—China has begun military drills in the South China Sea, state media reported on Saturday ahead of a ruling by an international arbitration court on a dispute with the Philippines over the strategic waters. The Navy on Friday carried out “combat exercises” with “live missiles” between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan, the PLA Daily, the military’s official newspaper, said on its website. State television CCTV broadcast images of fighter aircraft and ships firing missiles, helicopters taking off and submarines surfacing.
“The drill focused on air control operations, sea battles and antisubmarine warfare,” said the PLA Daily, whose article was reposted on the defense ministry website. The military maneuvers come as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is set to make its final decision on Tuesday in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China. The PLA Daily, however, insisted they were “routine exercises” and unrelated to the court’s ruling. China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam. READ MORE...

ALSO: Why the Philippines' legal case vs China matters
[RELATED: Beijing holds South China Sea war games before ruling]


JULY 8 -A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. Erik De Castro, Reuters HONG KONG - On July 12, a panel of five judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will announce their ruling in a case brought by the Philippines against China over its actions in the South China Sea.1. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
- The Philippines' case against China marks the first time any legal challenge has been bought in the South China Sea territorial dispute. Centerd on the Spratlys archipelago which straddle vital international shipping lanes, tensions in the South China Sea have simmered for decades, intensifying in recent years. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim the Spratlys and/or surrounding waters. China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim all of the Paracel Islands in the north of the South China Sea. - The dispute has intensified political and military rivalry across the region between the rising power of China and the long-dominant player, the United States. China has been projecting its growing naval reach while the U.S. is deepening ties with both traditional security allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, and newer friends, including Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar. - Chinese analysts say the South China Sea will only grow in importance to Beijing, particularly as its submarine base on Hainan Island will be crucial to China's future nuclear deterrent. 2. WHAT DOES THE CASE INVOLVE? - The Philippines formally lodged its arbitration case under the UN's 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, in January 2013.
- China repeatedly warned the Philippines against pushing ahead with the case, and Beijing has refused to participate in any of its hearings, forgoing its right to appoint a judge. China says the court has no jurisdiction, and that its historic rights and sovereignty over the South China Sea predates UNCLOS. - UNCLOS does not deal with sovereignty issues, but sets out what countries can claim from various geographic features at sea, as well maritime behavior. That regime allows for 12 nautical miles of territorial waters from islands and rocks and 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone from islands that can sustain ordinary human habitation. An EEZ is not sovereign territory but gives a country the right to the fish and seabed resources, including oil and gas, within that zone.
- China and the Philippines are among the 167 parties that have signed and ratified UNCLOS. The United States has not, as the law has been blocked in the U.S. Senate in the past. But its government recognizes it as customary international law, including during naval patrols of the South China Sea. WHAT IS THE KEY TO MANILA'S CASE? - Manila's case is built around 15 points that seek to clarify its rights to exploit its EEZ. It challenges Chinese activities, including fishing, dredging and law enforcement patrols, as well as Beijing's reclamation and construction on seven reefs in the Spratlys. It also challenges China's effective control of the Scarborough Shoal, seeking a ruling that shows it sits entirely within the Philippines' EEZ. READ MORE...RELATED,
Beijing holds South China Sea war games before ruling...

ALSO: US official says South China Sea tribunal ruling presents choice for Asia[RELATED COMMENTARY: South China Sea dispute: Rewriting the history of Scarborough Shoal]


JULY 8 -FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2015, file photo, Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines' new president said Tuesday July 5, 2016, that Manila is ready to talk to China, not go to war, if an arbitration tribunal rules in its favor in a case it brought against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea. AP/Renato Etac, File
WASHINGTON — An international tribunal ruling next week on a challenge to China's expansive claims in the South China Sea could determine whether the region is ruled by law or "raw calculations of power," U.S. officials said Thursday. But the officials testifying at a congressional hearing declined to say whether any move by China to militarize more disputed land features would prompt a U.S. military response. The Permanent Court of Arbitration will rule next Tuesday in the case brought by the Philippines, a U.S. ally. China is boycotting the case in The Hague-based court and says it will not accept the verdict.
Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, urged both parties to comply with the ruling. Denmark said it would be chance to determine "whether the Asia-Pacific's future will be defined by adherence to international laws and norms that have enabled it to prosper, or whether the region's future will be determined by raw calculations of power." Rep. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on sea power, said the world is watching whether China behaves like a responsible stakeholder in the international system, and, if not, to see how America responds. "What we do — or don't do — to support our allies and the rules-based international system in the weeks ahead will have echoes across the region and in other corners of the globe," Forbes said. READ MORE...C0MMENTARY: South China Sea dispute: Rewriting the history of Scarborough Shoal...

ALSO: With UN court verdict, Asean can make stand on sea dispute
[RELATED: South China Sea row: No consensus on verdict expected]


JULY 10 -SWORN IN AS ICC JUDGE Inquirer publisher and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law Raul Pangalangan is sworn in as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in ceremonies held at the ICC headquarters at The Hague in the Netherlands. ICC-CPI
International Criminal Court (ICC) Justice Raul Pangalangan on Friday said members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could use this week’s ruling by an international court to make a stand on the South China Sea territorial disputes without hurting China. With four members—the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia—having conflicting claims with China in the South China Sea and other members leaning toward China because of economic interests, Asean faces serious divisions over the ruling to be handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Tuesday. Most legal experts expect the ruling to go against China, depriving it of a basis for its claims to almost all of the South China Sea.
‘Game changer’ But Pangalangan, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law who is also a trustee of the think tank Stratbase ADRi, said the Philippine case was a “game changer,” as it elevated the dispute to the level of international law. He said the Philippines would have been at a disadvantage if it pursued bilateral negotiations with China in trying to resolve the territorial dispute. ‘David vs Goliath’ “In a David vs Goliath scenario, the Philippines would have been helpless; by filing the case, we have shifted it from a two-party settlement and submitted it to a third-party decision-maker on the tribunal,” Pangalangan said in a statement issued by Stratbase ADRi. READ MORE...RELATED, South China Sea row: No consensus on verdict expected...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Philippines willing to share South China Sea—gov’t


Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay

MANILA, JULY 11, 2016 (TRIBUNE) Written by Tribune Wires Saturday, 09 July 2016 00:00 - The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told Agence France Prese Friday.

Yasay said President Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory. How we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping,” Yasay told AFP in an interview.

The Philippines, under Benigno Aquino’s previous administration, filed a legal challenge with a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China’s claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea. China’s claims reach almost to the coasts of the Philippines and some other Southeast Asian nations, and it has in recent years built giant artificial islands in the contested areas to enforce what it says are its indisputable sovereign rights.

The Philippines’ case enraged China, which repeatedly vowed to ignore the tribunal’s ruling and is currently holding military drills in the northern part of the sea as a show of force.

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has adopted a more conciliatory approach to China than Aquino.

The previous president refused to hold direct talks, and likened China’s expansionist efforts in the sea to Nazi Germany’s march on parts of Europe ahead of World War II.

Yasay signaled on Friday that Duterte would be making no such analogies, emphasizing his administration would seek to ensure the best possible relations with China.

READ MORE...

“I would like to be forward-looking on these matters,” he said when asked to comment on Aquino’s Nazi statement.

“I would like to make sure whatever actions this administration will take, the statements we will be making will be in the pursuit of strengthening our relationship with everybody and will be for the purpose of making sure there will be no stumbling block to our negotiating a peaceful solution to the issue.”

He also said China and the Philippines had agreed not to make any “provocative statements” following the release of the ruling.

Yasay said after the ruling the Philippines would study it closely, discuss it with allies, and then seek to launch talks with China “as soon as possible.”

Yasay said the Philippines was open to sharing Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that China took control of in 2012.

He said the Philippines would also consider jointly exploring a natural gas field at Reed Bank, which is also within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.


President Duterte greets Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua during a courtesy call at the Malacanan Palace on Thursday. ABS-CBN FILE

However Yasay insisted the Philippines would not concede any of its rights in the sea.

Duterte and Yasay met with China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, on Thursday. Zhao was seen again at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday.

Ex-envoy: China can’t afford to be an enemy of RP

Former Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary and Philippine Ambassador Albert Encomienda yesterday said our leverage in the South China Sea dispute does not end with the upcoming Permanent Court of Arbitration decision only, as China cannot afford to be an enemy of the Philippines.

The looming ruling of the PCA filed by the Philippines against China contesting the latter’s so-called nine-dash line claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea and various territorial areas of its neighboring countries will be decided by July 12.

In a forum, the former envoy to the Philippines said that our immediate action is to observe silence, noting that the PCA ruling should be subjected for review first. In consolation, Encomienda said the upcoming award is not the sole weight of our country in this row.

Alleviating fears he said “China cannot afford to be enemy of the Philippines just as we cannot afford to be an enemy of China. Our location as a state and a transit to a lot of ships is leverage for us.”

Oust US on SCS issue

In the same lecture, Professor of the University of the Philippines Roland Simbulan noted that there is tension growing between the two powerful countries displaying military exercises in the region ahead of the arbitral decision, China and the United States.

According to him, Philippine interest on the maritime issue should be upheld without being a pawn to the latter.

“Actually the US wants the decision to be favorable to the Philippines because the position of China will weaken internationally.”

Simbulan noted the award will be legally part of international law, “China may not recognize it but for the US, the ruling will back up its assertion, its submarine fleets, and its aircraft carriers can have a show of force in the South China Sea for its own interest.”

On this note, “we should be magnanimous even if the ruling is favorable to the Philippines. We should not make very strong statements because we would still want to be open for bilateral talks with China.”

In late June US sent two carriers in the area for operational activities and just this week China announced its own drills in the contested area from July 5 ending on July 11, a day before the decision.

According to the professor, it is China’s way of saying “that whatever the decisions will be even if it’s not favorable to China, it is not going to recognize it” but despite these instances, “we should not close ourselves from bilateral talks with China, we have tried multilateral. If we win this case I think that will just be leverage for us and for our bilateral negotiations,” he clarified.

He was positive that Beijing will be open talking to the Philippines, “They (China) do not want our territory to be used against them because through Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement , we are allowing US forces to actively use our territory against them,” he said adding that such possibility could “lead to war”.

“If there’s a war , it will be the Philippines that will be hit, since China’s target will be the US forces.”

Beijing will not ‘step back’ in SCS: media

Beijing will not take a “single step back” in the contested South China Sea, state-run media said Friday, despite reports of US naval patrols close to its artificial islands ahead of a tribunal ruling in the dispute.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from Southeast Asian neighbours, and has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

It is currently holding a week of military drills around the Paracel Islands in the northern part of the sea, during which other ships have been prohibited from entering the waters.

The Virginia-based Navy Times reported this week that three US destroyers — the Spruance, Stethem and Momsen — have been patrolling near the Chinese-claimed Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands further south.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and supporting vessels are also in the South China Sea, the US Navy has said.

The Navy Times cited experts describing the deployments as “a message of resolve to the Chinese and US allies in the region” and “a deliberate show of force” ahead of an international tribunal ruling.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague is set to release its final decision Tuesday in a case brought by the Philippines, challenging China’s position.

In an editorial Friday the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Communist Party and often takes a nationalistic tone, said: “If the US and the Philippines act on impulse and carry out flagrant provocation, China will not take a single step back.”

Faced with further escalation from Manila, the paper said China “will fight back.”

It could turn Scarborough Shoal — an islet it wrested from Philippine control in 2012 — “into a military outpost”, it said, and “tow away or sink” an old landing craft Manila grounded on the Chinese-claimed Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratlys to “resolve the standoff once and for all”.

It blamed Vietnam and the Philippines for provoking tensions by carrying out reclamation work in the area earlier.

Beijing cites a vaguely defined “nine-dash line” on Chinese maps dating back to the 1940s as the source of its territorial claims, but Manila contests that the line has no basis under international law, and that Beijing has no historic right to the area.

Manila lodged the PCA suit against Beijing in early 2013, saying that after 17 years of negotiations it had exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues to settle the dispute.

Beijing has boycotted the proceedings, with an editorial in the China Daily newspaper Friday calling them a “farce” and the tribunal’s forthcoming ruling “illegal, null and void from the outset”, saying the court had no jurisdiction over the issue.

The ruling was likely to result in “increasing threats” to China, which “has to be prepared for all eventualities”, it said, adding: “This is not being alarmist, it is being realistic.” 
AFP and Joyce Rocamora

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

RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Yasay clarifies stand on ‘sharing South China Sea’ By: Yuji Vincent Gonzales @YGonzalesINQ
INQUIRER.net 05:02 PM July 9th, 2016


Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. in an interview said he was open to entering into arrangements such as joint exploration and utilization of resources in disputed areas in the South China Sea. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/INQUIRER

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Saturday clarified his statement on sharing resources in the disputed West Philippine Sea as reported by an international news agency.

In a rejoinder to an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) ahead of the arbitration ruling next week, Yasay wrote that what he said was “we have to wait for the ruling and study and dissect its implications.”

READ: Duterte open to talks with China, joint exploration at disputed sea

“As the ruling will not address sovereignty and delimitation, it is possible that some time in the future, claimant countries might consider entering into arrangements such as joint exploration and utilization of resources in disputed areas that do not prejudice the parties’ claims and delimitation of boundaries in accordance with Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” Yasay said in a statement.

The AFP report quoted Yasay as saying that the Philippine government was keen on a joint exploration of the resource-rich South China Sea even if it wins its arbitration case against China.

READ: We have to talk to China, says Yasay

“We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory: how we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping,” Yasay reportedly said in the interview.

The UN-backed tribunal in The Hague is set to release its verdict on the case filed by the Philippines in 2013 against Beijing’s claim to almost all of the contested areas.


INQUIRER

China on war footing
NAVY HOLDS COMBAT DRILLS AHEAD OF UN COURT RULING
SHARES: 568 VIEW COMMENTS @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:32 AM July 10th, 2016


LIVE FIRE The Chinese missile frigate Yuncheng launches an antiship missile during a military exercise in the waters between China’s Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands. The drills are held ahead of the ruling in the case filed by the Philippines at a UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague. The photo was released on Friday by Xinhua News Agency. Xinhua via AP

BEIJING—China has begun military drills in the South China Sea, state media reported on Saturday ahead of a ruling by an international arbitration court on a dispute with the Philippines over the strategic waters.

The Navy on Friday carried out “combat exercises” with “live missiles” between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan, the PLA Daily, the military’s official newspaper, said on its website.

State television CCTV broadcast images of fighter aircraft and ships firing missiles, helicopters taking off and submarines surfacing.

“The drill focused on air control operations, sea battles and antisubmarine warfare,” said the PLA Daily, whose article was reposted on the defense ministry website.

The military maneuvers come as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is set to make its final decision on Tuesday in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

The PLA Daily, however, insisted they were “routine exercises” and unrelated to the court’s ruling.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam.

READ MORE...

Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway crisscrossed by sea-lanes where $5 trillion in seaborne global trade passes every year and where islets, reefs and atolls are believed to be sitting atop vast energy reserves.

To bolster its claims, China has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

Violation of sea law

Manila lodged its suit against Beijing in 2013, challenging China’s claims to much of the strategic waterway and saying it was in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), to which both countries are signatories.

Beijing has boycotted the proceedings, saying the court has no jurisdiction over the issue and that it will ignore the ruling.

The United States, a longtime treaty ally of the Philippines, on Thursday urged respect for the arbitral court’s ruling, which most legal experts and analysts expect to go against China.

“We urge both parties to comply with the ruling and urge all claimants to avoid provocative actions or statements,” Abraham Denmark, the senior Pentagon official responsible for East Asia, told a congressional hearing about the decision.

Although the United States is not directly part of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it has urged they be resolved through diplomacy, not Chinese force.

Washington, however, has boosted its military presence in the region, dealing with neighboring countries’ concerns about China’s actions in the South China Sea.

The United States has also strengthened its defense alliances with the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries in the region.

US naval patrols

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is currently patrolling the South China Sea.

Three US destroyers—the Stethem, Spruance and Momsen—also have been patrolling near Chinese-held reefs in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago and Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal), a resource-rich reef that China seized from the Philippines in 2012 after a two-month standoff with the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard.

It was the loss of Panatag Shoal, located in the West Philippine Sea, South China Sea waters within the Philippines’ 360-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recognized under Unclos, that forced Manila to bring the law of the sea suit in January 2013.

The Philippines asked the UN-backed court to void China’s claims to almost all of the South China Sea and demanded respect for its right to explore resources within its EEZ.

Manila’s move angered China, which insists it has “undisputed sovereignty” over nearly 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea.

‘Price to pay’

The dispute and US backing for the Philippine move and challenge to China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea through naval patrols and surveillance flights have raised tensions in the region, with Chinese state media warning in recent days that there will be a “price to pay” if the United States crossed China’s “bottom line” by meddling in the disputes.

“If the United States, regardless of the cost, chooses the path of ‘brinkmanship’ that pressures and intimidates others, there will be only one result, that is, that the US bears all responsibility for possibly further heightening tensions in the South China Sea,” the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily wrote in an editorial on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the state-run newspaper Global Times published an editorial saying China should prepare for military confrontation over the South China Sea disputes.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei, however, played down the comments, saying on Wednesday that China was committed to peace.

Hong said China would work with Southeast Asian countries “to safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

But following reports of US naval patrols near the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea and as expectations of the arbitral court’s ruling built up, Global Times on Friday wrote that China will not take a “single step back” if the United States and the Philippines “act on impulse and carry out flagrant provocation.”

Faced by international pressure to respect the court’s ruling, China, the paper said, will “fight back.”

China, it said, could turn Panatag Shoal “into a military outpost” and “tow away or sink” the BRP Sierra Madre, an old and rusting hospital ship that Manila grounded on Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratly archipelago, to “resolve the standoff once and for all.”

‘Ironclad’ commitment

At the congressional hearing in Washington on Thursday, senior US state department official Colin Willett said the United States would not hesitate to defend its national security interests and honor its commitments to Asia-Pacific allies and partners.

“Scarborough Reef is a disputed feature that we don’t recognize any countries sovereignty over. That said, our treaty commitment to the Philippines is absolutely ironclad,” Willett said, adding that occupying a currently unoccupied land feature or militarizing an occupied feature would be very dangerous and destabilizing.

Denmark said the arbitral court’s ruling would be a chance to determine “whether the Asia-Pacific’s future will be defined by adherence to international laws and norms that have enabled it to prosper, or whether the region’s future will be determined by raw calculations of power.”

China has repeatedly said it does not consider any decision reached by the arbitral court to be legally binding.

“China adheres to the position of settling disputes through negotiation and consultation with states directly concerned,” state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Saturday. “This has always been China’s policy, and it will never change.”

The Philippines said on Friday it was willing to share natural resources with Beijing in the contested seas even if it wins next week’s legal challenge.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said President Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict.

He said the negotiations could cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ EEZ.
Reports from AFP and AP/TVJ


GMA NEWS NETWORK

Why the Philippines' legal case vs China matters Reuters Posted at Jul 08 2016 11:59 AM


A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. Erik De Castro, Reuters

HONG KONG - On July 12, a panel of five judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will announce their ruling in a case brought by the Philippines against China over its actions in the South China Sea.

1. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

- The Philippines' case against China marks the first time any legal challenge has been bought in the South China Sea territorial dispute. Centered on the Spratlys archipelago which straddle vital international shipping lanes, tensions in the South China Sea have simmered for decades, intensifying in recent years. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim the Spratlys and/or surrounding waters. China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim all of the Paracel Islands in the north of the South China Sea.

- The dispute has intensified political and military rivalry across the region between the rising power of China and the long-dominant player, the United States. China has been projecting its growing naval reach while the U.S. is deepening ties with both traditional security allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, and newer friends, including Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar.

- Chinese analysts say the South China Sea will only grow in importance to Beijing, particularly as its submarine base on Hainan Island will be crucial to China's future nuclear deterrent.

2. WHAT DOES THE CASE INVOLVE?

- The Philippines formally lodged its arbitration case under the UN's 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea, known as UNCLOS, in January 2013.

- China repeatedly warned the Philippines against pushing ahead with the case, and Beijing has refused to participate in any of its hearings, forgoing its right to appoint a judge. China says the court has no jurisdiction, and that its historic rights and sovereignty over the South China Sea predates UNCLOS.

- UNCLOS does not deal with sovereignty issues, but sets out what countries can claim from various geographic features at sea, as well maritime behavior. That regime allows for 12 nautical miles of territorial waters from islands and rocks and 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone from islands that can sustain ordinary human habitation. An EEZ is not sovereign territory but gives a country the right to the fish and seabed resources, including oil and gas, within that zone.

- China and the Philippines are among the 167 parties that have signed and ratified UNCLOS. The United States has not, as the law has been blocked in the U.S. Senate in the past. But its government recognizes it as customary international law, including during naval patrols of the South China Sea.


WHAT IS THE KEY TO MANILA'S CASE?

- Manila's case is built around 15 points that seek to clarify its rights to exploit its EEZ. It challenges Chinese activities, including fishing, dredging and law enforcement patrols, as well as Beijing's reclamation and construction on seven reefs in the Spratlys. It also challenges China's effective control of the Scarborough Shoal, seeking a ruling that shows it sits entirely within the Philippines' EEZ.

READ MORE...

- Any ruling on the legality of the nine-dash line, Beijing's controversial claim to much of the South China Sea, will be closely watched. Created in the late 1940s and used on official Chinese maps, the line bisects the EEZs of several other countries and reaches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

- Manila's lawyers have also argued that none of islands, shoals and reefs across the Spratlys are significant enough to lay claim to an EEZ.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

- While the findings are legally binding, UNCLOS has no enforcement body and legal experts say it remains unclear what can be done when China ignores the ruling. (Cases involving a ruling over actual sovereignty require mutual consent by states and are heard by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. ICJ rulings are enforceable by the United Nations Security Council.)

- Chinese officials have not ruled out future military action to enforce their claims, including construction on the Scarborough Shoal or the imposition of an air defense zone over the area. They have warned against further expansion of the U.S. military presence in the area.

- U.S. responses could include an increase in the frequency of so-called freedom of navigation operations and overflights in the region and increased defense aid to Southeast Asian countries, according to U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

- Other claimants, particularly Vietnam, are being closely watched to see whether they will launch their own action against China. Hanoi has sought legal opinions on a possible case, and its officials have yet to rule out such action.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Beijing holds South China Sea war games before ruling SHARES: 255 VIEW COMMENTS @inquirerdotnet Agence France-Presse 03:14 PM July 9th, 2016


In this Friday, July 8, 2016 photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Chinese missile frigate Yuncheng launches an anti-ship missile during a military exercise in the waters near south China’s Hainan Island and Paracel Islands. They are controlled by Beijing but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. China’s navy is holding a week of military drills around the disputed islands ahead of a ruling by an international tribunal in a case filed by the Philippines challenging China’s claim to most of the South China Sea. China is boycotting the case before The Hague-based court and says it will not accept the verdict. (Zha Chunming/Xinhua via AP)

BEIJING—Beijing has begun military drills in the South China Sea, state media reported Saturday ahead of a ruling by an international arbitration court on a dispute with the Philippines over the strategic waters.

The navy Friday carried out “combat exercises” with “live missiles” between the Paracels and the southern Chinese island of Hainan, the PLA Daily, the military’s official newspaper, said on its website.

State television CCTV broadcast images of fighter aircraft and ships firing missiles, helicopters taking off and submarines surfacing.

“The drill focused on air control operations, sea battles and anti-submarine warfare”, said the PLA Daily, whose article was reposted on the defense ministry website.

The military maneuvers come as the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is set to make its final decision on Tuesday in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

READ: China president talks tough ahead of UN ruling

The PLA Daily however insisted they were “routine exercises” and unrelated to the court’s ruling.

China asserts sovereignty over almost all of the strategically vital waters in the face of rival claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam.

To bolster its claims it has rapidly turned reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes.

Manila lodged its suit against Beijing in 2013, challenging China’s claims to much of the strategic waterway and saying it was in violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), to which both countries are signatories.

Beijing has boycotted the proceedings, saying the court has no jurisdiction over the issue and that it will ignore the ruling.

The Philippines said Friday it was willing to share natural resources with Beijing in the contested seas even if it wins next week’s legal challenge.

READ: Duterte goes soft on China: Let’s talk

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told Agence France-Presse that President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict.

He said the negotiations could cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.


ABS-CBN

US says South China Sea tribunal ruling presents choice for Asia By Matthew Pennington (Associated Press) | Updated July 8, 2016 - 9:32am 5 58 googleplus0 0


FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2015, file photo, Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines' new president said Tuesday July 5, 2016, that Manila is ready to talk to China, not go to war, if an arbitration tribunal rules in its favor in a case it brought against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea. AP/Renato Etac, File

WASHINGTON — An international tribunal ruling next week on a challenge to China's expansive claims in the South China Sea could determine whether the region is ruled by law or "raw calculations of power," U.S. officials said Thursday.

But the officials testifying at a congressional hearing declined to say whether any move by China to militarize more disputed land features would prompt a U.S. military response.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration will rule next Tuesday in the case brought by the Philippines, a U.S. ally. China is boycotting the case in The Hague-based court and says it will not accept the verdict.

Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, urged both parties to comply with the ruling.

Denmark said it would be chance to determine "whether the Asia-Pacific's future will be defined by adherence to international laws and norms that have enabled it to prosper, or whether the region's future will be determined by raw calculations of power."

Rep. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on sea power, said the world is watching whether China behaves like a responsible stakeholder in the international system, and, if not, to see how America responds.

"What we do — or don't do — to support our allies and the rules-based international system in the weeks ahead will have echoes across the region and in other corners of the globe," Forbes said.

READ MORE...

China claims most of the South China Sea, including islands far from its mainland, where the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. China asserts it has historic rights of sovereignty and that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction as it did not consent to arbitration. It also says that the U.S. has no business intervening as it is not party to the disputes.

The U.S., however, says it has a stake in ensuring freedom of navigation and commerce in seas that carry more than half the world's merchant fleet tonnage. Senior State Department official Colin Willett told the hearing that the U.S. will not hesitate to defend its national security interests and honor commitments to Asia-Pacific allies and partners.

Some experts have speculated that China might militarize a reef off the Philippine coast, the Scarborough Shoal, where a standoff with China prompted the Philippines to initiate the legal case in 2013. In the past two years, China has constructed artificial islands and placed military facilities on disputed features elsewhere in the South China Sea.

Willett said the ruling in the case would not resolve sovereignty issues, but could potentially narrow down the areas that are legitimately subject to dispute.

Denmark declined to comment on whether militarization of Scarborough Shoal by China would hurt U.S. national security interests, or invoke a U.S.-Philippine treaty, which calls for the allies to help defend each other if there is an armed attack on their armed forces, public vessels, aircraft or island territories under their jurisdiction in the Pacific.

"Scarborough Reef is a disputed feature that we don't recognize any countries sovereignty over. That said our treaty commitment to the Philippines is absolutely ironclad," said Willett, adding that occupying a currently unoccupied land feature or militarizing an occupied feature would be very dangerous and destabilizing.

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

RELATED FROM ASIA TIMES (OPINION)

South China Sea dispute: Rewriting the history of Scarborough Shoal BY PETER LEE on APRIL 16, 2016 in AT OPINION, CHINA


map1

Today, occupation of Scarborough Shoal symbolizes the PRC threat in the South China Sea.

As the PRC faces imminent repudiation of its Nine Dash Line claim inside the Philippine EEZ under the UNCLOS arbitration panel, there have been a blizzard of reports in the western press that the PRC intends to extend its infamous island-building program to the shoal, located less than 150 nautical miles from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

In an op-ed in the Financial Times, Senator John McCain proposed a US carrier group patrol the area near the Scarborough Shoal “in a visible display of US combat power.” Sean Liedman, at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that the United States covertly sabotage the PRC dredging equipment if and when it showed up at the shoal.

Holy writ for pivoteers is that the PRC seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, proving both its duplicity and the futility of bilateral engagement, so the Philippines had no choice but to internationalize the dispute by taking its South China Sea issues to binding arbitration under UNCLOS, and the US had no choice but to insert itself into the South China Sea between an aggressor state and its helpless victims.


DFA Secretary del Rosario INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The reality is that the PRC and the Philippines were successfully negotiating their differences bilaterally, so successfully in fact that the Philippine Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alberto Del Rosario had to step up to sabotage the talks.

Indeed, PRC permanent occupation of the shoal was a consequence, not a cause, of Philippine internationalization of the dispute.

Diplomatic ruse?

The story put out in the West—specifically through a backgrounder provided to the Financial Times in 2014—was that Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, had negotiated a deal with PRC Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in a Virginia motel room for simultaneous withdrawal of PRC and Philippine vessels from the contested shoal.

The naïve Philippines left, the nasty PRC stayed, and Chinese perfidy dictated that the Philippines file its arbitration case with UNCLOS.


Scarborough Shoal

As I discussed at the time, this story was highly suspect.

The PRC was committed to excluding the United States from its bilateral discussions with its overmatched South China Sea neighbors, so the idea that it would undercut this strategy and, for that matter, cut a deal with the US without the Philippines even being in the room was absurd.

Bear in mind, also, that the US had repudiated the “G2” proposition that the PRC and US superpowers would settle the affairs of the little guys in Asia between them, and so Kurt Campbell cutting a backroom deal with Fu Ying was contrary to US policy as well.

Beyond the fundamental illogic of this story, there were also ample indications in the Philippine press that it was wrong.


FORMER PRESIDENT AQUINO AND FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL BET SENATOR TRILLANEZ -FROM PINOY NEWS MAY 2016

President Aquino, in fact, was involved at the time in intensive bilateral negotiations with the PRC through Antonio Trillanes IV, a flamboyant Philippine senator seen as a close ally of Aquino.

Trillanes had 16 meetings in Manila and Beijing (as opposed to Campbell’s single confab in the Virginia motel) including meetings with Fu Ying. Trillanes believed he had successfully hammered out an agreement by which the PRC and the Philippines would conduct a sequential — not simultaneous — withdrawal from the shoal.

The US and the Philippines have held joint military exercises in Philippines waters near Scarborough Shoal.

These details came out in late 2012 in an acrimonious session in the Philippine Senate, during which the Senate speaker, 92-year old Juan Ponce Enrile, entered into the record his embroidered account of the confidential notes provided by the Philippine ambassador to China, Sonja Brady, in an effort to discredit Trillanes, largely by quoting statements by Trillanes indicating his dismissive, unpatriotic attitude toward the importance of Scarborough Shoal and his unseemly contempt for Del Rosario.

However, at the same time the notes confirm the seriousness and progress of Trillanes’ negotiations on behalf of Aquino. The only issue is how his deal for a sequential withdrawal fell apart.

Trillanes subsequently provided a four page “Aide Memoire” describing the 2012 fiasco to Rigoberto Tiglao, a Manila Star columnist. It apparently makes for interesting reading.


TIGLAO, MANILA TIMES FILE

Tiglao quoted an excerpt from the Aide Memoir on his website and concluded:

I believe him when he made one of his particular allegations: that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario deliberately caused the aggravation of our territorial disputes with China in 2012.

....

It is in the course of his “back-channelling” mission that he concluded that del Rosario was provoking the Chinese, so much so that an angry Trillanes blurted out: “He should be shot by firing squad for what he did.”

As quoted in a series of columns by Tiglao, the Aide Memoire paints a pretty clear picture of Del Rosario screwing up the withdrawal, apparently based on whatever he was cooking up with Kurt Campbell, with some emphasis added:

“PNoy [President Aquino] directed me to work on the sequential withdrawal of government ships inside the shoal. However, on the morning of June 4, PNoy called me to inform me that our BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources] vessel has already left the shoal but China reneged on the agreement of simultaneous withdrawal of their ships, so two of them [were] still inside the shoal.

“I asked him who agreed with what, since I was just hammering out the details of the sequential withdrawal because the mouth of the shoal was too narrow for a simultaneous withdrawal. The President told me that Sec. del Rosario told him about the agreement reached in Washington.

“This time I asked PNoy: ‘If the agreement was simultaneous withdrawal, why did we leave first?’ PNoy responded to this effect: “Kaya nga sinabihan ko si Albert kung bakit niya pinalabas yung BFAR na hindi ko nalalaman.” (“That’s why I asked Albert [del Rosario] why he ordered the BFAR vessels to leave without my permission.”)

When are you going to Scarborough Shoal?

Just to make it clear what happened: Trillanes is negotiating a sequential withdrawal as Aquino’s representative. Del Rosario, who is not conducting the negotiations, gets a phone call from the US (apparently in the middle of the night from US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas), orders a unilateral withdrawal without telling his own president, and accuses the PRC of violating an agreement for a simultaneous withdrawal.

Despite Del Rosario’s determined efforts at sabotage, by Trillanes’ account, the sequential withdrawal agreement was still alive in early July. The final deliverable would be the Philippines not internationalizing the dispute by declining to raise it at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia, at which time the PRC would withdraw its last three ships.

According to Trillanes’ Aide Memoir the Aquino cabinet rejected this option and voted overwhelmingly to internationalize the dispute at ASEAN, even after briefings on the dire impact a PRC-Philippine breach might have on the Philippine economy.

China once was a true love of mine …

Del Rosario made sure to burn any bridges to China at the meeting by whipping out a Hitler analogy to criticize ASEAN’s unwillingness to take a joint stand against the PRC. The leaked notes of the ASEAN deliberations found their way to Carleton Thayer and were reported in Japan Focus:

Finally, Del Rosario concluded his remarks by quoting from the German anti-Nazi theologian, Martin Neimöller:

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

With the Philippine decision to publicly internationalize the dispute, according to Trillanes’ account, the PRC would not vacate Scarborough Shoal.

So Del Rosario had successfully sabotage the bilateral, sidelined ASEAN, and whittled down the Philippines’ options to arbitration or nothing.

Trillanes seems to have regarded the internationalization gambit is the work of his arch-nemesis, Alberto Del Rosario.


US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell

Remember me to one who lives there …

It is, of course, possible that Kurt Campbell innocently engaged in some great power diplomacy ignorant of the Trillanes channel and Del Rosario’s machinations, and the whole thing backfired … but even so the US inadvertently harvested the benefits of the polarization of relations between the PRC and the Philippines when proponents of the US alliance were able to push through the “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement” that signaled the de facto return of US military forces to Philippines bases 25 years after they were kicked out.

On the other hand, Del Rosario was an aggressive advocate for the American relationship, the key phone call that let him to torpedo Trillanes’ sequential withdrawal arrangement came from the US ambassador, and I find it difficult to believe that the Philippine cabinet would agree to internationalize the dispute and provoke the PRC without pretty strong confidence that the USA had its back.

The question is what did Kurt Campbell know and when did he know it. I’m guessing: quite a bit.

Peter Lee runs the China Matters blog. He writes on the intersection of US policy with Asian and world affairs.

The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.

(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


PHILSTAR

US says South China Sea tribunal ruling presents choice for Asia By Matthew Pennington (Associated Press) | Updated July 8, 2016 - 9:32am 5 58 googleplus0 0


FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2015, file photo, Chinese Coast Guard members approach Filipino fishermen as they confront each other off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, also called the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines' new president said Tuesday July 5, 2016, that Manila is ready to talk to China, not go to war, if an arbitration tribunal rules in its favor in a case it brought against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea. AP/Renato Etac, File

WASHINGTON — An international tribunal ruling next week on a challenge to China's expansive claims in the South China Sea could determine whether the region is ruled by law or "raw calculations of power," U.S. officials said Thursday.

But the officials testifying at a congressional hearing declined to say whether any move by China to militarize more disputed land features would prompt a U.S. military response.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration will rule next Tuesday in the case brought by the Philippines, a U.S. ally. China is boycotting the case in The Hague-based court and says it will not accept the verdict.

Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, urged both parties to comply with the ruling.

Denmark said it would be chance to determine "whether the Asia-Pacific's future will be defined by adherence to international laws and norms that have enabled it to prosper, or whether the region's future will be determined by raw calculations of power."

Rep. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House subcommittee on sea power, said the world is watching whether China behaves like a responsible stakeholder in the international system, and, if not, to see how America responds.

"What we do — or don't do — to support our allies and the rules-based international system in the weeks ahead will have echoes across the region and in other corners of the globe," Forbes said.

READ MORE...

China claims most of the South China Sea, including islands far from its mainland, where the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. China asserts it has historic rights of sovereignty and that the tribunal lacks jurisdiction as it did not consent to arbitration. It also says that the U.S. has no business intervening as it is not party to the disputes.

The U.S., however, says it has a stake in ensuring freedom of navigation and commerce in seas that carry more than half the world's merchant fleet tonnage. Senior State Department official Colin Willett told the hearing that the U.S. will not hesitate to defend its national security interests and honor commitments to Asia-Pacific allies and partners.

Some experts have speculated that China might militarize a reef off the Philippine coast, the Scarborough Shoal, where a standoff with China prompted the Philippines to initiate the legal case in 2013. In the past two years, China has constructed artificial islands and placed military facilities on disputed features elsewhere in the South China Sea.

Willett said the ruling in the case would not resolve sovereignty issues, but could potentially narrow down the areas that are legitimately subject to dispute.

Denmark declined to comment on whether militarization of Scarborough Shoal by China would hurt U.S. national security interests, or invoke a U.S.-Philippine treaty, which calls for the allies to help defend each other if there is an armed attack on their armed forces, public vessels, aircraft or island territories under their jurisdiction in the Pacific.

"Scarborough Reef is a disputed feature that we don't recognize any countries sovereignty over. That said our treaty commitment to the Philippines is absolutely ironclad," said Willett, adding that occupying a currently unoccupied land feature or militarizing an occupied feature would be very dangerous and destabilizing.

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

RELATED FROM ASIA TIMES (OPINION)

South China Sea dispute: Rewriting the history of Scarborough Shoal BY PETER LEE on APRIL 16, 2016 in AT OPINION, CHINA


map1

Today, occupation of Scarborough Shoal symbolizes the PRC threat in the South China Sea.

As the PRC faces imminent repudiation of its Nine Dash Line claim inside the Philippine EEZ under the UNCLOS arbitration panel, there have been a blizzard of reports in the western press that the PRC intends to extend its infamous island-building program to the shoal, located less than 150 nautical miles from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

In an op-ed in the Financial Times, Senator John McCain proposed a US carrier group patrol the area near the Scarborough Shoal “in a visible display of US combat power.” Sean Liedman, at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested that the United States covertly sabotage the PRC dredging equipment if and when it showed up at the shoal.

Holy writ for pivoteers is that the PRC seized Scarborough Shoal in 2012, proving both its duplicity and the futility of bilateral engagement, so the Philippines had no choice but to internationalize the dispute by taking its South China Sea issues to binding arbitration under UNCLOS, and the US had no choice but to insert itself into the South China Sea between an aggressor state and its helpless victims.


DFA Secretary del Rosario INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The reality is that the PRC and the Philippines were successfully negotiating their differences bilaterally, so successfully in fact that the Philippine Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alberto Del Rosario had to step up to sabotage the talks.

Indeed, PRC permanent occupation of the shoal was a consequence, not a cause, of Philippine internationalization of the dispute.

Diplomatic ruse?

The story put out in the West—specifically through a backgrounder provided to the Financial Times in 2014—was that Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, had negotiated a deal with PRC Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in a Virginia motel room for simultaneous withdrawal of PRC and Philippine vessels from the contested shoal.

The naïve Philippines left, the nasty PRC stayed, and Chinese perfidy dictated that the Philippines file its arbitration case with UNCLOS.


Scarborough Shoal

As I discussed at the time, this story was highly suspect.

The PRC was committed to excluding the United States from its bilateral discussions with its overmatched South China Sea neighbors, so the idea that it would undercut this strategy and, for that matter, cut a deal with the US without the Philippines even being in the room was absurd.

Bear in mind, also, that the US had repudiated the “G2” proposition that the PRC and US superpowers would settle the affairs of the little guys in Asia between them, and so Kurt Campbell cutting a backroom deal with Fu Ying was contrary to US policy as well.

Beyond the fundamental illogic of this story, there were also ample indications in the Philippine press that it was wrong.


FORMER PRESIDENT AQUINO AND FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL BET SENATOR TRILLANEZ -FROM PINOY NEWS MAY 2016

President Aquino, in fact, was involved at the time in intensive bilateral negotiations with the PRC through Antonio Trillanes IV, a flamboyant Philippine senator seen as a close ally of Aquino.

Trillanes had 16 meetings in Manila and Beijing (as opposed to Campbell’s single confab in the Virginia motel) including meetings with Fu Ying. Trillanes believed he had successfully hammered out an agreement by which the PRC and the Philippines would conduct a sequential — not simultaneous — withdrawal from the shoal.

The US and the Philippines have held joint military exercises in Philippines waters near Scarborough Shoal.

These details came out in late 2012 in an acrimonious session in the Philippine Senate, during which the Senate speaker, 92-year old Juan Ponce Enrile, entered into the record his embroidered account of the confidential notes provided by the Philippine ambassador to China, Sonja Brady, in an effort to discredit Trillanes, largely by quoting statements by Trillanes indicating his dismissive, unpatriotic attitude toward the importance of Scarborough Shoal and his unseemly contempt for Del Rosario.

However, at the same time the notes confirm the seriousness and progress of Trillanes’ negotiations on behalf of Aquino. The only issue is how his deal for a sequential withdrawal fell apart.

Trillanes subsequently provided a four page “Aide Memoire” describing the 2012 fiasco to Rigoberto Tiglao, a Manila Star columnist. It apparently makes for interesting reading.


TIGLAO, MANILA TIMES FILE

Tiglao quoted an excerpt from the Aide Memoir on his website and concluded:

I believe him when he made one of his particular allegations: that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario deliberately caused the aggravation of our territorial disputes with China in 2012.

....

It is in the course of his “back-channelling” mission that he concluded that del Rosario was provoking the Chinese, so much so that an angry Trillanes blurted out: “He should be shot by firing squad for what he did.”

As quoted in a series of columns by Tiglao, the Aide Memoire paints a pretty clear picture of Del Rosario screwing up the withdrawal, apparently based on whatever he was cooking up with Kurt Campbell, with some emphasis added:

“PNoy [President Aquino] directed me to work on the sequential withdrawal of government ships inside the shoal. However, on the morning of June 4, PNoy called me to inform me that our BFAR [Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources] vessel has already left the shoal but China reneged on the agreement of simultaneous withdrawal of their ships, so two of them [were] still inside the shoal.

“I asked him who agreed with what, since I was just hammering out the details of the sequential withdrawal because the mouth of the shoal was too narrow for a simultaneous withdrawal. The President told me that Sec. del Rosario told him about the agreement reached in Washington.

“This time I asked PNoy: ‘If the agreement was simultaneous withdrawal, why did we leave first?’ PNoy responded to this effect: “Kaya nga sinabihan ko si Albert kung bakit niya pinalabas yung BFAR na hindi ko nalalaman.” (“That’s why I asked Albert [del Rosario] why he ordered the BFAR vessels to leave without my permission.”)

When are you going to Scarborough Shoal?

Just to make it clear what happened: Trillanes is negotiating a sequential withdrawal as Aquino’s representative. Del Rosario, who is not conducting the negotiations, gets a phone call from the US (apparently in the middle of the night from US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas), orders a unilateral withdrawal without telling his own president, and accuses the PRC of violating an agreement for a simultaneous withdrawal.

Despite Del Rosario’s determined efforts at sabotage, by Trillanes’ account, the sequential withdrawal agreement was still alive in early July. The final deliverable would be the Philippines not internationalizing the dispute by declining to raise it at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia, at which time the PRC would withdraw its last three ships.

According to Trillanes’ Aide Memoir the Aquino cabinet rejected this option and voted overwhelmingly to internationalize the dispute at ASEAN, even after briefings on the dire impact a PRC-Philippine breach might have on the Philippine economy.

China once was a true love of mine …

Del Rosario made sure to burn any bridges to China at the meeting by whipping out a Hitler analogy to criticize ASEAN’s unwillingness to take a joint stand against the PRC. The leaked notes of the ASEAN deliberations found their way to Carleton Thayer and were reported in Japan Focus:

Finally, Del Rosario concluded his remarks by quoting from the German anti-Nazi theologian, Martin Neimöller:

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.

With the Philippine decision to publicly internationalize the dispute, according to Trillanes’ account, the PRC would not vacate Scarborough Shoal.

So Del Rosario had successfully sabotage the bilateral, sidelined ASEAN, and whittled down the Philippines’ options to arbitration or nothing.

Trillanes seems to have regarded the internationalization gambit is the work of his arch-nemesis, Alberto Del Rosario.


US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell

Remember me to one who lives there …

It is, of course, possible that Kurt Campbell innocently engaged in some great power diplomacy ignorant of the Trillanes channel and Del Rosario’s machinations, and the whole thing backfired … but even so the US inadvertently harvested the benefits of the polarization of relations between the PRC and the Philippines when proponents of the US alliance were able to push through the “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement” that signaled the de facto return of US military forces to Philippines bases 25 years after they were kicked out.

On the other hand, Del Rosario was an aggressive advocate for the American relationship, the key phone call that let him to torpedo Trillanes’ sequential withdrawal arrangement came from the US ambassador, and I find it difficult to believe that the Philippine cabinet would agree to internationalize the dispute and provoke the PRC without pretty strong confidence that the USA had its back.

The question is what did Kurt Campbell know and when did he know it. I’m guessing: quite a bit.

Peter Lee runs the China Matters blog. He writes on the intersection of US policy with Asian and world affairs.

The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.

(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


INQUIRER

With UN court verdict, Asean can make stand on sea dispute By: Estrella Torres @inquirerdotnet
Philippine Daily Inquirer 03:02 AM July 10th, 2016


SWORN IN AS ICC JUDGE Inquirer publisher and former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law Raul Pangalangan is sworn in as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in ceremonies held at the ICC headquarters at The Hague in the Netherlands. ICC-CPI

International Criminal Court (ICC) Justice Raul Pangalangan on Friday said members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) could use this week’s ruling by an international court to make a stand on the South China Sea territorial disputes without hurting China.

With four members—the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia—having conflicting claims with China in the South China Sea and other members leaning toward China because of economic interests, Asean faces serious divisions over the ruling to be handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Tuesday.

Most legal experts expect the ruling to go against China, depriving it of a basis for its claims to almost all of the South China Sea.

‘Game changer’

But Pangalangan, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law who is also a trustee of the think tank Stratbase ADRi, said the Philippine case was a “game changer,” as it elevated the dispute to the level of international law.

He said the Philippines would have been at a disadvantage if it pursued bilateral negotiations with China in trying to resolve the territorial dispute.

‘David vs Goliath’

“In a David vs Goliath scenario, the Philippines would have been helpless; by filing the case, we have shifted it from a two-party settlement and submitted it to a third-party decision-maker on the tribunal,” Pangalangan said in a statement issued by Stratbase ADRi.

READ MORE...

He said the Philippine challenge to China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea also undermined the military aspect of the maritime disputes and instead “highlighted the primacy of international law.”


Pangalangan -SINGULAR HONOR The legal community welcomes the election to the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Inquirer publisher and former University of the Philippines Law Dean Raul Pangalangan, who fills the seat vacated last year by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the first Filipino and Asean elected to the ICC. “May he continue to make the nation proud by practicing law in the grand manner,” says Santiago, as she congratulated her former student at the UP College of Law. INQUIRER PHOTO POSTED 05:22 AM June 26th, 2015.

The Philippines has asked the arbitral tribunal to void China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea, and demanded its right to explore resources in its exclusive economic zone, waters locally known as West Philippine Sea, be respected.

“It (arbitration) will provide our neighbors in Asia and our allies abroad a neutral ground upon which to take a position on the issue. In other words, without states saying ‘China is right’ or ‘the Philippines is right,’ we provide even the erstwhile hesitant Asean states an opportunity to take a decision without riling China’s sensitivities,” Pangalangan said.

Joint exploration



President Duterte said on Thursday he expected the ruling to be in favor of the Philippines and, if it is, he was willing to talk with China about joint exploration of resources in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Mr. Duterte and Ambassador Zhao Jinhua discussed joint exploration during the Chinese envoy’s visit to the President in Malacañang on Thursday.

No preconditions

“If the Chinese, in respecting the decision of the arbitral tribunal, would like to negotiate within the context of that arbitral tribunal along with the other claimants, if at all that would be covered by the decision, to see how we can jointly use and explore the area, by all means let’s pursue that,” Yasay said at a news forum in Makati on Thursday.

Earlier, Zhou said China hoped bilateral negotiations with the Philippines could start soon.

He said there should be no preconditions for the talks, as both countries were committed to friendship and cooperation.

“Let me emphasize this, we have been talking too much about the disputes in the last six years. Let’s focus on friendship and cooperation. That’s better,” Zhou said.
TVJ

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

RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

South China Sea row: No consensus on verdict expected @inquirerdotnet The Straits Times/Asia News Network 06:37 PM July 10th, 2016


n this photo taken on June 15, 2016 a vendor stands behind a map of China including an insert with red dotted lines showing China’s claimed territory in the South China Sea, in Beijing.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. The Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbour significant oil and gas deposits. AFP

The South China Sea territorial disputes have proved to be a divisive issue for Asean, and the arbitration ruling this week on the case brought by the Philippines will be no different, analysts have said.

While it is important for Asean to come up with a statement in support of the verdict to nudge claimant states towards observing international law, said political analyst Richard Heydarian, he does not expect a consensus on this. Cambodia last month called the arbitration a “political conspiracy” and is likely to oppose a statement.

It was Cambodia and Laos – two Asean states reliant on Chinese aid and trade – that reportedly scuppered an Asean joint statement last month that voiced “serious concerns” over developments in the South China Sea and called for peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law. The statement was released after a special meeting between Asean and China, and retracted hours later.

In 2012, Asean failed for the first time to issue a joint communique after its foreign ministers’ meeting following disagreement over whether to include mention of the disputes.

After last month’s “diplomatic fiasco,” as some analysts call it, there is little expectation there will be an Asean joint statement on the arbitration ruling due out on Tuesday. Instead, it is expected that some Asean members such as Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam will issue their own statements.

Still, “Asean cannot skirt the issue and will duly issue a statement,” said Dr. Tang Siew Mun, who heads the Asean Studies Centre at Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute. However, it will be a delayed response at the Asean foreign ministers’ meeting later this month in their joint communique affirming the rule of law and peaceful settlement of conflicts.

While analysts agree that the arbitration tribunal’s ruling will test Asean’s unity, they do not think that the situation is dire.

“Asean’s unity does not rest solely on its response to the… ruling,” said Dr. Tang.

Professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok said Manila would help Asean-China ties by backing off, even if the decision is in its favor.

“Ultimately, the ruling should pose an opportunity for China and Asean to mend their rifts by working together with a common set of rules, namely, the Code of Conduct,” he said, referring to ongoing talks on a legally binding set of rules to manage disputes in the South China Sea.

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