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(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

DUTERTE READY FOR 'MARATHON' TALKS WITH REDS
[RELATED: President - 'Road to peace will be rocky']
[RELATED(2): PHL peace panel headed to Malaysia to relaunch peace talks with MILF — Dureza]


AUGUST 2 -“I dare them. This is my challenge to them: let us not only talk, let’s have a marathon,” Duterte said. “I hope that we can proceed with the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).” ACE MORANDANTE/PPD
But Rody hits back at Joma MANILA, Philippines - After lifting a unilateral ceasefire, President Duterte said yesterday his administration is still ready not just to talk but to hold “marathon” peace negotiations with communist rebels. Duterte reiterated his desire for the country to achieve lasting peace before he steps down from office. “I dare them. This is my challenge to them: let us not only talk, let’s have a marathon,” Duterte said. “I hope that we can proceed with the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).” Duterte lamented that he is being blamed for calling off the ceasefire even if the government side was the one that sustained casualties. Despite being criticized by communists for his supposed hasty decision to call off the truce, Duterte said he is still open to a ceasefire. “I will see if I will also be happy to re-install a ceasefire. Maybe at Christmas time… in the spirit of the season,” the President said. Duterte, however, lashed back at CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, who criticized him for calling off the truce. “Do you believe in them? Whom do you believe in? Me or them?” Duterte added. He said that for all this fighting for 47 years, the communists never had control of one barangay for one day. “Me, I was elected by about 16 million of our countrymen for whom I am really thankful. They could not even get to elect a leftist. They always lose,” he added. Duterte said the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the communists, would resume as scheduled on Aug. 20. He believes that the negotiations would not be that easy. “And so, the best way really is to talk again and find out whether it is reachable or beyond our reach,” he added. READ MORE...RELATED, President - 'Road to peace will be rocky'...RELATED(2), PHL peace panel headed to Malaysia to relaunch peace talks with MILF — Dureza...

ALSO: ‘Annihilate Abus to the last man’ -Duterte


AUGUST 6 -President Duterte delivers a speech at the AFP Central Command at Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City the other night.
 President Duterte vowed there would be no let up in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, calling on government forces to kill the bandits down “to the last man.” “There will never be any peace negotiation. You have to destroy them. That is the order: Destroy them,” Duterte told the troops last Friday night at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command in Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City. “Just wait. When I was mayor, I said: ‘There will be a reckoning for all of these cruel and brutal things that you are doing. We will collect someday.’ Just wait because we are just assembling our troops,” he told the troops over the weekend. He said he has no tolerance for the Abu Sayyaf, notorious for kidnap-for-ransom activities and beheading its hostages. “Finish the problem, finish them to the last man,” he said. Duterte noted how terrorism would remain the biggest threat to the country in the next decade. “I am warning you, five to ten years from now, the biggest problem would be terrorism,” he said. Duterte promised the troops and the police he would take care of them as long as they do their duty to the country well. He stressed the military should be loyal to the country and the Constitution, and no one else, not even the President. “I feel strongly for the soldiers. I don’t need anything from you. I do not need your personal loyalty for me. Just love your country. Obey the Constitution, period,” he said. Duterte said the military and the police are his partners in combating the apparatus of the illegal drug trade in the country. He admitted giving the military and the police the go signal to hunt down all illegal drug syndicates in the country. “And I feel for my soldiers and Davao City really improved to what it is now because of the police and the military. To tell you the truth, who killed the criminals there? It’s the military and the police,” Duterte said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Belmonte gets China sea panel chair


AUGUST 2 -Former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON
FORMER Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has been given the chairmanship of the House committee on the West Philippine Sea. In an interview with reporters, Belmonte said he found the newly created committee timely in view of the Philippines’ victory at the United Nations Tribunal in The Hague.
Belmonte said the committee’s priority would be to make sure that China would abide by the arbitral tribunal’s ruling that the Philippines’ sovereignty in this part of the South China Sea be respected. “We should not take these things for granted. Where have you seen that a foreign military base is right at your doorstep,” said Belmonte, who was part of the Philippine delegation that presented the Philippines case in The Hague. Belmonte said he was given a choice of committee by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as one of the Liberal Party’s perks as a member of the majority coalition led by the PDP-Laban. Gil Cabacungan FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Ramos visit to China a ‘start’ but not much expected—experts


AUGUST 5 -Former President Fidel Ramos. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
BEIJING—An expected visit to China by a special envoy from the Philippines will offer direct channels for improving icy ties between the two countries but neither side should harbor hopes of an instant breakthrough, experts said on Thursday. New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that former President Fidel Ramos will visit China as a special envoy. He did not give a date for the trip. BACKSTORY: Ramos accepts Duterte offer to become special envoy to China Ramos, 88, served as Philippine President from 1992 to 1998 and has maintained good personal ties with China. Ties between the two countries became deadlocked in 2013 after the previous Philippine government led by Benigno Aquino sought third-party compulsory arbitral proceedings against China. Last month, an arbitral tribunal in The Hague issued a ruling in Manila’s favor. Beijing has urged the Duterte administration to put aside this ruling before resuming political dialogue and negotiations. Duterte said on Wednesday that when the time comes for negotiations, the Philippines will not stray from the arbitral award. READ MORE,,,

ALSO: ASEAN rift raising risk of conflict in South China Sea – experts


AUGUST 3 -FILE - In this July 14, 2016 file photo, a woman walks past a billboard featuring an image of an island in South China Sea on display with Chinese words that read: "South China Sea, our beautiful motherland, we won't let go an inch" in Weifang in east China's Shandong province. An international arbitration panel’s decision on the contested waters of the South China Sea so far is fueling regional tensions rather than tamping them down. In the ensuing 11 days, China has responded to the sweeping victory for the Philippines by flexing its military might. The Philippines faces pressure both at home and abroad not to cede an inch to China after the July 12 decision by a tribunal at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. (Chinatopix via AP, File)
MANILA — Diplomats and international legal experts raised concern that the deep divide in Asean has not been helping tame China’s massive military buildup and activities despite an arbitration ruling that upheld Philippine sovereign rights on strategic waters in the South China Sea. Prof. Michael Heazle of Griffith University in Australia said “the risk of conflict is increasing in the South China Sea due to lack of unified position of Asean.” “The lack of unified position of Asean is allowing major powers to come into play,” said Heazle said in his presentation at the Second Manila Conference of the South China Sea held at Manila Hotel on Wednesday. Sumathy Permal, senior researcher of Center for Maritime Security and Diplomacy, Maritime Institute of Malaysia said failure of Asean to come up with a unified position will create three scenarios where China will be able to increase military presence in the disputed waters. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Duterte ready for ‘marathon’ talks with reds


“I dare them. This is my challenge to them: let us not only talk, let’s have a marathon,” Duterte said. “I hope that we can proceed with the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).” ACE MORANDANTE/PPD

But Rody hits back at Joma

MANILA, AUGUST 8, 2016 (PHILSTAR)  By Alexis Romero Updated August 2, 2016 - After lifting a unilateral ceasefire, President Duterte said yesterday his administration is still ready not just to talk but to hold “marathon” peace negotiations with communist rebels.

Duterte reiterated his desire for the country to achieve lasting peace before he steps down from office.

“I dare them. This is my challenge to them: let us not only talk, let’s have a marathon,” Duterte said. “I hope that we can proceed with the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).”

Duterte lamented that he is being blamed for calling off the ceasefire even if the government side was the one that sustained casualties.

Despite being criticized by communists for his supposed hasty decision to call off the truce, Duterte said he is still open to a ceasefire.

“I will see if I will also be happy to re-install a ceasefire. Maybe at Christmas time… in the spirit of the season,” the President said.

Duterte, however, lashed back at CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, who criticized him for calling off the truce.

“Do you believe in them? Whom do you believe in? Me or them?” Duterte added.

He said that for all this fighting for 47 years, the communists never had control of one barangay for one day.

“Me, I was elected by about 16 million of our countrymen for whom I am really thankful. They could not even get to elect a leftist. They always lose,” he added.

Duterte said the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the communists, would resume as scheduled on Aug. 20.

He believes that the negotiations would not be that easy.

“And so, the best way really is to talk again and find out whether it is reachable or beyond our reach,” he added.

READ MORE...

Duterte declared a ceasefire with the communists during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25. The truce was meant to support the resumption of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

The President, however, called off the ceasefire Saturday night after the NDF failed to declare its own truce before 5 p.m. of July 30, the deadline he set.

Duterte asked the communists to implement a truce after communist guerrillas ambushed government militiamen in Davao del Norte last July 27, two days after he announced the ceasefire. The attack left one militiaman dead and four others wounded.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) debunked claims of the New People’s Army (NPA) that the rebels merely retaliated against the militiamen, who were allegedly involved in offensive operations against insurgents.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the militiamen or CAFGUs were on their way back to camp when they were attacked by the enemy.

NPA rebels ambushed the CAFGUs in Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

Padilla cited another incident in Agusan del Sur where NPA rebels ambushed another group of government troops.

He said the AFP would continue the offensive against communist rebels after Duterte withdrew the ceasefire.

The President is also willing to grant amnesty to Sison, his former college professor, and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari.

There is no difference between Sison and Misuari, as far as he is concerned, because both fugitives have waged rebellions based on ideology.

“I am talking to Sison, he is a fugitive,” he said. “They are waging rebellions, okay? It is ideology driven. The redeeming factor there is that you rebel because you want a better life for the people,” Duterte said, providing the contrast between the Moro rebel groups and the Abu Sayyaf.

He noted that rebellion under the Revised Penal Code is penalized up to 12 years, not the maximum penalty.

“These guys, I will consider an amnesty if we are able to talk and agree to a peaceful co-existence,” he said.

Duterte said he is going to Mindanao within 10 days ahead of the resumption of the government negotiations with the NDF in Oslo on Aug. 20 to 27.

According to Duterte, he is planning a trip to Jolo to talk to Misuari.

The President said he is ready to provide safe conduct pass to Misuari and his men who were charged for the Zamboanga siege in 2013 during the Aquino administration.

Peace groups appeal

A peace advocacy group urged the leadership of the CPP-NPA-NDF to resume the stalled peace talks with the Duterte administration.

Ernesto Alcanzare, lead organizer of Yes for Peace-Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Kasaganahan, explained that almost five decades of armed struggle being waged by the CPP-NPA have cost the Filipinos billions of pesos worth of human and material resources.

He said government resources could be allocated to address the roots of the problems the rebels seek to solve.

Alcanzare said his group is urging the CPP-NPA to go back to the negotiating table and participate in the peace talks, stop their armed struggle and conduct the peace talks in the country instead of abroad.

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) yesterday warned that the ceasefire issue could be prejudicial to the peace talks, and appealed to Duterte not to use the truce as a precondition for negotiations.

Duterte should learn from past administrations that used and abused the ceasefire issue as a precondition to peace talks, said KMP secretary-general Antonio Flores. With Ramon Efren Lazaro, Jose Rodel Clapano, Rhodina Villanueva, Christina Mendez, Cecille Suerte Felipe


INQUIRER

President: Road to peace will be rocky SHARES: 1 VIEW COMMENTS By: Leila B. Salaverria @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:01 AM August 2nd, 2016


Pres Rodrigo Roa Duterte INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday acknowledged a “rocky road” to peace but held out hope communist rebels would continue the search for an end to a conflict that had torn the country for nearly half a century.

Mr. Duterte sounded optimistic in an interview with reporters a day after government and communist negotiators issued statements stepping back from the brink after the collapse last week of his unilateral ceasefire declaration following the insurgents’ failure to reciprocate.

His peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison, in statements to the press at the weekend, expressed hopes that a ceasefire could be negotiated at the resumption of peace talks in Oslo next month.

“Along the way, it’s always a rocky road. There is no negotiation that comes easy to us given the turmoil of our country,” Mr. Duterte said before he led a mass oath-taking of new appointees.

‘Despicable thought’

He said he was hoping to talk again with the negotiators. “Maybe we did not understand each other,” he said, “and so the best is really to talk again and find out whether it is reachable or beyond our reach.”

The cost of fighting with each other and knowing that bullets from the government would kill fellow Filipinos is a “despicable thought,” the President said.

“My desire is just to see my nation at peace and for everybody in this generation before I make my exit,” he said.

Mr. Duterte’s remarks came after he lifted on Saturday the unilateral ceasefire he announced on July 25 in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) when the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political wing of the CPP and its armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA), failed to meet his ultimatum to announce a similar gesture.

The President was also distressed by the NPA attack on government troops in Kapalong, Davao del Norte province, two days after his truce declaration.

The NPA has said the attack was to preempt a military offensive against them, while the 77-year-old Sison, who founded the CPP in 1968, castigated Mr. Duterte, his former student, for being “volatile” and a “butangero” (hoodlum).

READ MORE...

By week’s end, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police rescinded directives to troops to suspend operations and ordered them to resume their normal tasks to secure the nation from the NPA, whose strength has been dramatically reduced from a peak of 25,000 during the martial law years to around 4,000 now, according to the military.

Asked on Monday during the Palace news conference if he would reinstate the government ceasefire, Mr. Duterte said he would wait for the recommendation of his advisers.

He said he could not be an “ideological poltergeist”—a ghost making noises.

“I can only go along, coast along and get the advice of the people whom I have tasked. I cannot run my own errands. I have to do serious work here,” he said in his first meeting with Palace reporters since he assumed the presidency.

“Whatever advice they will give me, I will think about it, sleep on it. Perhaps then I will make a decision,” he added.

He also said he could not be “foul-mouthed” because he was talking for the Republic of the Philippines.

But he noted that it was the government that lost a soldier to an NPA attack, which was why he was wondering why he was being made out to be the bad guy.

The President also pointed out that he won by 16 million votes, while the communists had not been that successful in attempts to land elective office.

Little time to consult

In a Facebook chat with the Inquirer, Fidel Agcaoili, the NDFP spokesperson based in the Netherlands, blamed Mr. Duterte for the collapse of the ceasefire.

“He declared a unilateral ceasefire without giving us any details, even though we had been asking his negotiators to provide us with a copy should he decide to declare one during the Sona so that we can reciprocate,” Agcaoili said.

“The least he should have done was to give us more time, since we have been giving them more time to do what they are expected to do under the Oslo Joint Agreement of 15 June 2016,” he said.

He also pointed out that the NDFP negotiators in the Netherlands had to consult and seek approval of the CPP leadership on the ground before it could reciprocate Mr. Duterte’s truce declaration—a process that takes time.

Despite the setback, Agcaoili said the movement was optimistic that the Duterte administration would not just end hostilities but, most importantly, address crucial socioeconomic and political issues behind one of the world’s longest communist insurgencies.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said division among the factions loyal to Sison on one hand and CPP Central Committee leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon on the other was part of the reason for the NDFP’s failure to reciprocate Mr. Duterte’s moves.

“There are cracks within the organization and the government should look at this dynamic. If the Tiamzons do not agree to the terms set by the President, then we have a problem,” Alejano told the Inquirer by phone.

The Tiamzons were the highest communist officials until they were arrested in a joint military and police operation in 2014. They are detained at Camp Crame. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao

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

RELATED FROM GMA NEWS ONLINE

PHL peace panel headed to Malaysia to relaunch peace talks with MILF — Dureza Published August 2, 2016 10:33am By ROSE-AN JESSICA DIOQUINO, GMA News


DUREZA

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine peace panel to head to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia within the next two weeks to relaunch peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said on Tuesday.

In an interview on "News To Go," Dureza said the President discussed this with him on Monday.

"He has already directed our government panel, my office, to already go to Kuala Lumpur within the next two weeks para we can relaunch again already the peace engagement with the MILF and the Bangsamoro," he said.

"We're preparing already for that particular trip. We still have to make a lot of preparations along that line. But yes, hindi lang 'yung CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) ang aasikasuhin natin. We'll work on another very important meeting in KL with government and the Bangsamoro sector," he added.

On Monday, Duterte said he would be spending 10 days in Mindanao to focus on building the framework for the Bangsamoro peace process, including the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

"I have to fix the Mindanao issue. Tingnan ko ang framework, etc. I have to travel to Cotabato to talk again to hurry up and I will travel to Jolo to talk to (MNLF founding chairman) Nur [Misuari]," the President said.

"Sabi ko sa mga military, pati sa mga pulis, you might want to consider just for a day makalabas lang sila," Duterte added.

He reiterated that he is willing to give Misuari a safe conduct pass for the talks.

READ MORE...

"When you talk to the rebel, you have to give them a safe conduct pass, or at least a sense of security to face you and talk to you about what's bugging the country," he said.

"Kapag hindi ko nakausap, how do I fix this thing? ... Once the talk starts, I will give everybody a safe conduct pass," he added.

The President, however, did not give a concrete date on when he will fly to Mindanao for the tasks but he hinted it may be within the week.

Duterte had also urged the 17th Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without the provisions deemed to violate the Constitution.

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), he said the passage of the controversial bill — coupled with the government's shift to federalism — is "the only way to proceed" with the bid to solve the conflict in Mindanao. — VVP, GMA News


PHILSTAR

‘Annihilate Abus to the last man’ By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 7, 2016 - 12:00am 13 688 googleplus2 0


President Duterte delivers a speech at the AFP Central Command at Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City the other night.

MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte vowed there would be no let up in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, calling on government forces to kill the bandits down “to the last man.”

“There will never be any peace negotiation. You have to destroy them. That is the order: Destroy them,” Duterte told the troops last Friday night at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Central Command in Camp Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City.

“Just wait. When I was mayor, I said: ‘There will be a reckoning for all of these cruel and brutal things that you are doing. We will collect someday.’ Just wait because we are just assembling our troops,” he told the troops over the weekend.

He said he has no tolerance for the Abu Sayyaf, notorious for kidnap-for-ransom activities and beheading its hostages.

“Finish the problem, finish them to the last man,” he said.

Duterte noted how terrorism would remain the biggest threat to the country in the next decade.

“I am warning you, five to ten years from now, the biggest problem would be terrorism,” he said.

Duterte promised the troops and the police he would take care of them as long as they do their duty to the country well.

He stressed the military should be loyal to the country and the Constitution, and no one else, not even the President.

“I feel strongly for the soldiers. I don’t need anything from you. I do not need your personal loyalty for me. Just love your country. Obey the Constitution, period,” he said.

Duterte said the military and the police are his partners in combating the apparatus of the illegal drug trade in the country.

He admitted giving the military and the police the go signal to hunt down all illegal drug syndicates in the country.

“And I feel for my soldiers and Davao City really improved to what it is now because of the police and the military. To tell you the truth, who killed the criminals there? It’s the military and the police,” Duterte said.

READ MORE...

In exchange for the soldiers and cops’ support for his leadership, Duterte vowed to be loyal to them.

Duterte said he would back all his men against criticisms and legal challenges that may arise from his strong anti-drug campaign.

“I had the full cooperation. And in return I was also loyal to my men… The soldiers and the policemen are confident because I was there to protect them,” he said.

Duterte said Defense Secretary Deflin Lorenzana has requested a budget for the recruitment and training of 20,000 new soldiers.

“And I told him, ‘it would be difficult, perhaps I could only provide a budget for 10,000 new soldiers and 5,000 more policemen.’ I will have to prepare the Philippines’ defense… next year, we will be… The Philippines’ (defense) is actually okay. But under my term, we will be better,” Duterte declared.

The President has been visiting military camps over the weekend in his effort to lift the morale of the troops and explain the administration’s programs to talk peace with the rebel groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Duterte, however, stressed he would never negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf, saying “the time of reckoning will come.”

The United States and the Philippines have both listed the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.

The bandit group emerged in the early 1990s as an extremist offshoot of the decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion in the south.


INQUIRER

Belmonte gets China sea panel chair @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer August 2nd, 2016


Former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

FORMER Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has been given the chairmanship of the House committee on the West Philippine Sea.

In an interview with reporters, Belmonte said he found the newly created committee timely in view of the Philippines’ victory at the United Nations Tribunal in The Hague.

Belmonte said the committee’s priority would be to make sure that China would abide by the arbitral tribunal’s ruling that the Philippines’ sovereignty in this part of the South China Sea be respected.

“We should not take these things for granted. Where have you seen that a foreign military base is right at your doorstep,” said Belmonte, who was part of the Philippine delegation that presented the Philippines case in The Hague.

Belmonte said he was given a choice of committee by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as one of the Liberal Party’s perks as a member of the majority coalition led by the PDP-Laban. Gil Cabacungan


INQUIRER

Ramos visit to China a ‘start’ but not much expected—experts 1:13 pm | Friday, August 5th, 2016


Former President Fidel Ramos. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

BEIJING—An expected visit to China by a special envoy from the Philippines will offer direct channels for improving icy ties between the two countries but neither side should harbor hopes of an instant breakthrough, experts said on Thursday.

New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that former President Fidel Ramos will visit China as a special envoy. He did not give a date for the trip.

BACKSTORY: Ramos accepts Duterte offer to become special envoy to China

Ramos, 88, served as Philippine President from 1992 to 1998 and has maintained good personal ties with China.

Ties between the two countries became deadlocked in 2013 after the previous Philippine government led by Benigno Aquino sought third-party compulsory arbitral proceedings against China.

Last month, an arbitral tribunal in The Hague issued a ruling in Manila’s favor. Beijing has urged the Duterte administration to put aside this ruling before resuming political dialogue and negotiations.

Duterte said on Wednesday that when the time comes for negotiations, the Philippines will not stray from the arbitral award.

READ MORE...

Zhang Jie, a researcher of Asia-Pacific studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it is unlikely that Manila will completely put aside the arbitral ruling as this gives it an effective tool or bargaining chip.

“China has political needs, while the Philippines has economic needs. Both countries should show flexibility to enable dialogue and negotiation,” Zhang said.

“Such a resumption should start with unofficial, lower-level contacts before proceeding to negotiations requiring multiple rounds. So we should not have too great an expectation at first,” she added.

READ: PH to China: Let’s start with things we can agree on

Teng Jianqun, a researcher of US studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said China’s recent responses have left plenty of room for the Philippine Cabinet to rebuild contacts./rga


INQUIRER

ASEAN rift raising risk of conflict in South China Sea – experts 6:24 pm | Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016


FILE - In this July 14, 2016 file photo, a woman walks past a billboard featuring an image of an island in South China Sea on display with Chinese words that read: "South China Sea, our beautiful motherland, we won't let go an inch" in Weifang in east China's Shandong province. An international arbitration panel’s decision on the contested waters of the South China Sea so far is fueling regional tensions rather than tamping them down. In the ensuing 11 days, China has responded to the sweeping victory for the Philippines by flexing its military might. The Philippines faces pressure both at home and abroad not to cede an inch to China after the July 12 decision by a tribunal at The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. (Chinatopix via AP, File)


MANILA — Diplomats and international legal experts raised concern that the deep divide in Asean has not been helping tame China’s massive military buildup and activities despite an arbitration ruling that upheld Philippine sovereign rights on strategic waters in the South China Sea.

Prof. Michael Heazle of Griffith University in Australia said “the risk of conflict is increasing in the South China Sea due to lack of unified position of Asean.”

“The lack of unified position of Asean is allowing major powers to come into play,” said Heazle said in his presentation at the Second Manila Conference of the South China Sea held at Manila Hotel on Wednesday.

Sumathy Permal, senior researcher of Center for Maritime Security and Diplomacy, Maritime Institute of Malaysia said failure of Asean to come up with a unified position will create three scenarios where China will be able to increase military presence in the disputed waters.

READ MORE...

One, the sea disputes will be causing more conflict of the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) between China and major powers; two, China will be able to push through with building marine nuclear plants; and three, China will continue to hold military exercises over the disputed waters.

Asean Foreign Ministers have been held in a deadlock, not coming up with a joint communiqué since 2012 due to the divided stand on South China Sea disputes, as four members — Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei are claimants to the disputed waters.

During recent Asean meeting in Vientiene, Laos, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said he vigorously pushed but failed to convince Asean to include the arbitration ruling in the joint communiqué.

Heazle said the best approach for the region would be to share similar views on South China Sea disputes to avoid the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea.

“If that kind of unified opposition and support is not forthcoming, it creates the more dangerous situation because that means that external powers to the dispute such as the United States and potentially its allies will become more directly involved,” said Heazle in an interview at the sidelines of the forum.

He added that unity in Asean as a political front would be needed “to keep the situation from escalating into greater tension between the great powers.” SFM


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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