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CHINESE VESSELS OUT OF PANATAG - PALACE
[RELATED UPDATE OCT 30: China still guarding shoal but Filipino fishermen back—Lorenzana]
[RELATED(2): Pinoys able to fish freely, undisturbed]


OCTOBER 29 -There are indications the Chinese Coast Guard have left Scarborough Shoal, one week after President Rodrigo Duterte visited China to repair strained ties, his spokesman said Friday. PHOTO FROM ASIA MARITIMES.NET FOLLOWING President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China, Chinese Coast Guard ships are no longer in the waters around Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Malacañang announced on Friday. Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Filipino fishermen have been fishing at Panatag Shoal in the past three days without interference from the Chinese Coast Guard. “Regarding fishing in Scarborough Shoal, for the past three days it has been observed that there are no longer any Chinese Coast Guard vessels and that Filipino fishing boats are no longer being intercepted and that they are now able to fish in the area without being intercepted,” Abella said during a news conference. READ MORE...RELATED, China still guarding shoal but Filipino fishermen back—Lorenzana...RELATED(2) Pinoys able to fish freely, undisturbed...

ALSO BIG CATCH IN  PANATAG: Zambales fisherfolk see merry Christmas
[RELATED: Filipino fishermen back from Panatag Shoal with big catch]


OCTOBER 31 -Fisherman Archie Macosta shows his catch from Scarborough Shoal to reporters yesterday. CESAR RAMIREZ
STA. CRUZ, Zambales, Philippines – Residents here look forward to a merry Christmas after learning that fellow Filipino fishermen have gone back to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and returned home with a big catch unharmed. “They were no longer shooed away,” Oscar Tabat Sr. from Riverside, Sta. Cruz, Zambales told The STAR yesterday. “They were already allowed to fish again in Scarborough.” Tabat was quoting other fishermen who arrived yesterday from Scarborough Shoal aboard two bancas in Cato, Pangasinan. He said his village learned about the fishermen’s successful catch from excited fish buyers in their village. READ MORE...RELATED,
Filipino fishermen back from Panatag Shoal with big catch...

ALSO: AMID PRESENCE OF CHINESE COAST GUARD SHIPS, More Filipino fishermen sail back to Panatag Shoal


OCTOBER 30 -More and more Filipino fishermen are sailing back to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to fish, without any "intimidation" from the Chinese Coast Guard.
A Balitanghali report on Sunday said at least 10 Filipino fishing vessels have resumed fishing in the disputed shoal, one of them has been at the area for the last five days, while another one for the last three days. The report said three Chinese Coast Guard vessels were spotted circling the shoal's perimeter but were not "intimidating or blocking" the Filipino fishermen. Just three months ago, in October, Chinese Coast Guard not only drove away Filipino fishermen but also seized their catch and fishing equipment. "Iyong huli namin, pinagtatapon nila. Iyong mga gamit namin, mga kawil, kinukuha din nila tiinatapon nila [noon]," Jon, one of the Filipino fishermen, said in a separate 24 Oras report Saturday evening. "Itapon nila, bago, iyong iba, kuhanin nila [at] i-karga nila," he added. READ MORE...

ALSO: US assessing situation at Panatag
[ALSO: Duterte's staunch oppositionist De Lima seeks probe on pacts signed in China]


OCTOBER 29 -Fishermen on the boat Ruvina drop anchor in Infanta, Pangasinan after a surprisingly bountiful sortie in Masinloc. Their nets got filled in just a few days because suddenly, Chinese coast guard rubber boats did not drive them away or stop them from fishing. This, as incoming president Duterte finally met with Beijing's ambassador to Manila.
THE United States is verifying reports that Chinese coast guard vessels have finally opened up Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) to Filipino fishermen. In a news briefing in Washington on Friday (Saturday morning in Manila), State department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was aware of the reports and was “assessing” the situation at Panatag. “[We are] still assessing. We hope it is certainly not a temporary measure,” the State department official said. On Friday, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Filipino fishermen have been fishing at Panatag Shoal in the past three days without interference from the Chinese coast guard. READ MORE...ALSO, Leila seeks probe on pacts signed in China...

ALSO: Asia Maritime Reviews - Is Rodrigo Duterte a Fool, a Genius—or Both?


OCTOBER 16 -Image: A Philippine Marine member of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force posts security after executing an amphibious landing during Exercise Balikatan 2016. DVIDSHUB/Public domain
Rodrigo Duterte is a fool. Doesn’t he know that Scarborough Shoal is the place to draw a “line in the sand”? That, with the United States, he and the Philippines could make Xi Jinping “lose face” there? That the shoal should be the launching point for a new concerted effort to challenge every Chinese overreach, early and often,” and is a dispute worthy of “indecent” operations? He seems blissfully unaware that China’s activities around the shoal, along with its other maritime territorial claims, are mere precursors to China claiming the entire Pacific Ocean and achieving “global hegemony.” READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Chinese vessels out of Panatag – Palace


There are indications the Chinese Coast Guard have left Scarborough Shoal, one week after President Rodrigo Duterte visited China to repair strained ties, his spokesman said Friday. PHOTO FROM ASIA MARITIMES.NET

MANILA, OCTOBER 31, 2016 (MANILA TIMES) BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE, TMT ON ON OCTOBER 29, 2016 - FOLLOWING President Rodrigo Duterte’s state visit to China, Chinese Coast Guard ships are no longer in the waters around Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Malacañang announced on Friday.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Filipino fishermen have been fishing at Panatag Shoal in the past three days without interference from the Chinese Coast Guard.

“Regarding fishing in Scarborough Shoal, for the past three days it has been observed that there are no longer any Chinese Coast Guard vessels and that Filipino fishing boats are no longer being intercepted and that they are now able to fish in the area without being intercepted,” Abella said during a news conference.

READ MORE...

Duterte had discussed the return of Filipino fishermen to Panatag with Chinese leaders during his state visit to China last week.

On Sunday, while visiting typhoon-ravaged northern Luzon, Duterte said Filipino fishermen might be able to return to the shoal, but was not sure if the Chinese would keep their word.

“We’ll just wait for a few more days. We may be able to return to Scarborough Shoal, the fishing by our countrymen,” he said.

Scarborough Shoal, known to Filipinos as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, is a triangular chain of reefs and rocks surrounding a 46-kilometer lagoon, spanning an area of 150 square kilometers.

The shoal, located 124 nautical miles off Zambales, lies within China’s nine-dash line claim, which covers about 90 percent of the South China Sea.

China seized the shoal after a two-month standoff with the Philippines in 2012 and barred Filipinos from fishing there.

Last July, the Philippines scored a victory in the lingering maritime dispute when an arbitral court in The Hague ruled that China’s nine-dash line has no legal basis.

The court said China had also violated its duty to respect the traditional fishing rights of Filipinos when it barred them from entering Panatag Shoal in 2012.

China refuses to recognize the court’s decision, calling it a “mere piece of paper” and “illegal since day one.” The shoal lies within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone guaranteed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China is a signatory.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

China still guarding shoal but Filipino fishermen back—Lorenzana Associated Press / 04:37 PM October 30, 2016


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 Philippine defense chief says aerial surveillance shows Chinese coast guard ships are still guarding a disputed shoal but Filipinos were seen fishing there "unmolested" for the first time in years. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, the return of Filipino fishermen to Scarborough Shoal was "a most welcome development." (AP Photo/Renato Etac, File)

MANILA — Philippine aerial surveillance showed Chinese coast guard ships were still guarding a disputed shoal in the South China Sea but they allowed Filipinos to fish “unmolested” for the first time in years, the defense secretary said Sunday.

The return of Filipino fishermen to Scarborough Shoal, which China effectively seized in 2012, was “a most welcome development” because it brings back their key source of livelihood, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

China granted access to the tiny, uninhabited shoal 123 nautical miles (228 kilometers) from the northern Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte reached out to Beijing and met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders this month. After his China trip, Duterte announced without elaborating that Filipinos may be able to return to the shoal soon.

A Philippine Navy plane spotted at least four Chinese coast guard ships around the shoal during a surveillance flight over the weekend, Lorenzana said, adding that an earlier report by the Philippine coast guard that the Chinese had left the area was incorrect.

“Flybys of our planes reported Chinese coast guard ships are still there but our fishermen were fishing unmolested,” Lorenzana told The Associated Press.

It’s unclear how long China would keep the shoal open to Filipinos or if there were any conditions attached.

DISPUTE FAR FROM OVER

Duterte made clear that the dispute over the shoal, which the Philippines calls Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag and the Chinese refer to as Huangyan Island, was far from over. He said he insisted in his talks with Chinese leaders that the shoal belonged to the Philippines, but that the Chinese also asserted their claim of ownership.

Since 2012, Chinese coast guard ships had driven Filipino fishermen away from the area, sometimes with the use of water cannons. Farther south in the Spratly Islands, China went on to construct seven man-made islands in recent years despite protests from other claimants and the U.S., which insists on freedom of navigation in what it considers international waters.

The new development brought joy to the first Filipinos who ventured back to Scarborough in flotillas of small fishing boats.

“We’re happy that we were able to sail back there,” said Gil Bauya, who returned Saturday with a huge catch of red snappers and other fish to Cato village in the northwestern province of Pangasinan.

“They just let us fish,” Bauya said, referring to three Chinese coast guard ships fishermen saw at the shoal from a distance. “We were waiting what they would do, but they didn’t do anything like deploying small rubber boats to chase us like they used to do.”

After three days of fishing, Bauya said they ran out of ice to preserve their catch and had to sail back home for the All Souls’ Day holiday. Amid the festive air in Cato, where villagers helped them unload their bumper catch, Bauya said he and his crewmen plan to travel back to Scarborough in the coming week.

Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Beijing on Saturday that China’s withdrawal from Scarborough Shoal would be welcomed by Washington.

He said it would be consistent with an international arbitration ruling in July that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea. The ruling said that both Filipinos and Chinese can fish at the shoal, but China ignored it./rga

RELATED STORIES

Filipino fishermen are back in Panatag

China stand on sea row stays, say analysts

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RELATED(2) FROM PHILSTAR

Pinoys able to fish freely, undisturbed By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 30, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Filipino fishermen unload their catch in this photo taken on Oct. 15, 2016. Over the last few days, fishermen from Pangasinan have been able to fish in waters near Panatag Shoal without being chased away by Chinese ships. An international arbitral court ruled in July that Panatag was a common fishing ground open to fishermen from the Philippines, China and other countries.

INFANTA, Pangasinan, Philippines – Fisherman Gilbert Baoya came home yesterday from a fishing trip to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales province with a substantial catch.

“Happy days are here again,” he said in Filipino.

Baoya and seven companions were able to drop nets at Panatag Shoal “freely and undisturbed” by the Chinese, who used to chase them away from the area.

He said they attempted to fish in the area on Oct. 24 but were rudely turned away by Chinese coast guards.

READ MORE...

They tried their luck the following day and got a pleasant surprise when no Chinese came to harass them or ask them to go away.

“We were really rejoicing,” he said. They continued fishing until Oct. 28 when they ran out of ice in their fish hold.

But Philippine and US officials said they are still verifying if the Chinese had indeed left the shoal.

The Chinese took control of the shoal in 2012 after a standoff with the Philippine Navy, which tried to arrest Chinese poachers on several boats.

A UN-backed international arbitral tribunal based in The Hague has declared Panatag Shoal a common fishing ground, and invalidated China’s massive claim in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea. The ruling was on a case filed by Manila.

On his return from China last Oct. 21, President Duterte said Filipinos would likely be “allowed” by the Chinese to fish again at Panatag Shoal, which is also called Bajo de Masinloc.

Baoya, skipper of the fishing boat Ruvina, said he used to fish at the shoal three times a month in good weather until 2012. He said their income suffered greatly due to Chinese harassment.


Fishing boats like this in Barangay Cato, Infanta, Pangasinan are now free to fish in disputed Scarborough Shoal. (Tita Roces) PHOTO FROM PUNCH.DAGUPAN.COM BLOG

Filipino fishermen, he said, were monitoring developments in the area and they learned recently that Duterte had asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to allow Filipinos to fish in the area.

“Maybe that was the good fruit of their talk,” Baoya said.

He said they had a huge catch consisting of first class isdang bato, grouper, maya maya, tanigue and bakalaw, among others.

“We hope this will be the start of renewed good fishing of Filipinos in Panatag,” Baoya said.

He noted Chinese coast guard ships were still at Panatag “but they are kind now.”

He said while they were at the shoal two members of the Philippine Coast Guard rode on their boat to make video recording of the situation.

“Finally, we are free again to fish in Kalburo,” said Gilbert’s wife Wilma, using Panatag’s local name.

Not sure yet

Town officials, meanwhile, expressed elation at reports of Filipino fishermen now being allowed by the Chinese to drop nets at Panatag.

But barangay captain (village chief) Charlito Maniago told The STAR they could not yet confirm the development as most fishermen in the town fish only in payaw or fish enclosure as they were afraid to get near the shoal.

Maniago said those who go out to fish log out in their barangay and indicate their destination based on an agreement with local leaders and with the Philippine Coast Guard.

With the agreement, authorities would be aware of any fishing expedition so they can take appropriate measures in case of emergencies or inclement weather.

“I verified in the barangay hall through my administrator if there are fishermen who went out the past days going to Scarborough Shoal but based on record, there is none,” Maniago said.

“If they did not log out, that means they escaped,” he added. It takes about a week for fishermen to return from Panatag.

Those who logged out said they would fish only in the payaw area, which is about 20 nautical miles from Panatag Shoal, Maniago said.

Payaw is a square fish structure made of steel floating on the water with leaves at the bottom that attract fish, he said.

But he said there is a possibility that fishermen in a payaw would try to venture into Panatag Shoal if they get good news from other fishermen returning from the shoal.

“In our area, not all who logged out to fish went to Panatag Shoal, especially when situations became different when our fishermen started being harassed by Chinese coast guard then,” he said.

A fisherman could be said to have made it to Panatag Shoal if he had first class fish catch like grouper and maya-maya.

“So far, they only have tambakol, tuna, among others,” he said.

Barangay kagawad (councilman) Jowe Legaspi said a cousin, Joseph Daruca, joined a group of fishermen intent on getting to Panatag. But he was not sure if they reached the shoal.

“Based on information I got, they went there but I am not aware up to where or how close they reached,” he said. It takes about two hours by ordinary fishing boat to reach Panatag Shoal from the payaw.

“It’s far but it is big and wide like that of Dasol Bay,” he said.

Fishermen would visit Panatag Shoal from the third week of February to June, he said.

Legaspi used to have eight boats. He sold seven of them when he started losing money when the Chinese barred them from Panatag.

Still Verifying

In Manila, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippine Coast Guard reported that Chinese ships have not been sighted at Panatag Shoal in the last three days, but he added the report has to be validated.

Lorenzana told the AP the Philippine Air Force plans to conduct aerial surveillance of the shoal to check the situation.

After seizing Panatag, the Chinese went on to construct seven man-made islands near Palawan.

WELCOMED BY WASHINGTON

Deputy US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters in Beijing yesterday that China’s withdrawal from Panatag Shoal, even if it were a product of bilateral talks with Duterte, “would be a positive development” welcomed by Washington.

He said it would be consistent with an international arbitration ruling in July that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea. The ruling said that both Filipinos and Chinese can fish at the shoal, but China ignored it and its coast guard continued to block Filipino fishermen.

Blinken said that the US would continue to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea that challenge Beijing’s territorial claims at a time when countries in the region – including those that are not directly involved in the China-Philippine dispute – have signaled “increased demand” for American presence.

Duterte has attempted to repair relations with China, but he has also ruffled feathers with the Philippines’ longtime ally by threatening to scale down military ties with the US and hurling insults at President Barack Obama.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was still assessing reports that Chinese boats have left Panatag Shoal and Filipinos have resumed fishing there.

“We hope it is certainly not a temporary measure. We would like it to be a sign that China and the Philippines are moving toward an agreement on fishing access at Scarborough that would be in accordance with the July 12 arbitral decision,” Toner told reporters in Washington.

After visiting Beijing last week, Duterte said without elaborating that Filipino fishermen “may” be able to return to Panatag after he discussed the territorial rift with Chinese leaders.

He said he insisted in his talks with Chinese leaders that the shoal belonged to the Philippines, but that the Chinese also asserted their claim of ownership.

“If the Chinese ships have left, then it means our fishermen can resume fishing in the area. We welcome this development,” Lorenzana said.

 “Our fishermen have not been fishing there since 2012. This will return to them their traditional source of livelihood.” – Jaime Laude, AP


PHILSTAR

BIG CATCH IN PANATAG: Zambales fisherfolk see merry Christmas By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 31, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Fisherman Archie Macosta shows his catch from Scarborough Shoal to reporters yesterday. CESAR RAMIREZ

STA. CRUZ, Zambales, Philippines – Residents here look forward to a merry Christmas after learning that fellow Filipino fishermen have gone back to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and returned home with a big catch unharmed.

“They were no longer shooed away,” Oscar Tabat Sr. from Riverside, Sta. Cruz, Zambales told The STAR yesterday. “They were already allowed to fish again in Scarborough.”

Tabat was quoting other fishermen who arrived yesterday from Scarborough Shoal aboard two bancas in Cato, Pangasinan.

He said his village learned about the fishermen’s successful catch from excited fish buyers in their village.

READ MORE...

“They said there is no more fear. Fishing is continuous now,” he added, noting his fellow fishermen were talking and rejoicing about the positive development.

Tabat said he and his village mates are anticipating the same good news from his cousin Weng-weng Tabat, who also went to Scarborough Shoal the other day.

Weng-weng joined a group of fishermen in Cato, Infanta, Pangasinan on board a fishing boat he owns.

Tabat said his cousin’s group saw other fishermen from other areas in Scarborough Shoal.

“Okay na ang Kalburo. Masaya na ang Pasko (Kalburo is now okay. Christmas will be merry),” he said. Kalburo is what local fishermen in Zambales and Pangasinan call Scarborough Shoal.

According to Tabat, about a hundred men from their village, including his son and namesake, Oscar Jr., go fishing in Scarborough to earn a living.

He said local fishermen are overjoyed by the positive development at Scarborough Shoal that they are looking forward to paying off their debts soon.

He recalled the time the Chinese Coast Guard were bullying and driving away local fishermen like him at the shoal, when their earnings were so little they had to resort to loans to sustain their families.

“Nabaon kami sa utang (We were deep in debt),” he said.

Tabat said he and nine others from the village plan to go back to Scarborough Shoal on Nov. 3. – With Cesar Ramirez

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Filipino fishermen back from Panatag Shoal with big catch By: Gabriel Cardinoza / @inquirerdotnet
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:19 AM October 30, 2016



INFANTA, Pangasinan—After being angrily chased away by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel from the Scarborough Shoal days earlier, fisherman Gil Bauya and his crew of eight were sailing home when they passed by a fishing boat anchored off the rich fishing ground.

Emboldened, he immediately deployed four small vessels to different fishing areas near the shoal and were surprised that Chinese vessels ignored them.

The next three days were a bonanza. Bauya and his crew filled their cargo hold with as much catch as they could, becoming the first fishermen from Pangasinan allowed back into the shoal since March, when other fishermen from his village tried to enter but were driven away.


Lapu-lapu from the West Philippine Sea. PHOTO FROM BAM ALEGRE GMA NEWS REPORTER

READ MORE...

Bauya, skipper of Ruvina 3, first sailed to the area on Oct. 23, but were met by a rubber boat with five fully armed Chinese Coast Guard personnel who intimidated them and shouted “Go, go, go!”

Fishing spree

“We had no choice but to leave,” Bauya, 58, said, adding that he sailed some 10 nautical miles away from the shoal and fished at the payao (artificial reefs) for two nights.

Two days later, they were returning to shore when they passed by the shoal and spotted a fishing boat from Zambales province anchored in the area. Chinese vessels were also seen in the shoal up until the time the fishermen left, but they seemed not to mind.

More vessels arrive

One of the Chinese vessels even passed near Ruvina 3 but ignored them, Bauya said. “Maybe, they have been told that we can already fish here,” he said.

Three more fishing boats from Zambales arrived on the same day, and they too were also ignored by the Chinese Coast Guard ships.

Ludivina Arcalas, owner of Ruvina 3, was all smiles as she watched the boat’s crew unload tons of fish on Saturday.

“Not being able to fish in the Scarborough Shoal had been very difficult for boat owners like me,” Arcalas said. “I hope this will be the start for us to fish again freely in the Scarborough Shoal.”

In 2014, she said, one of her boats was destroyed by the Chinese when they fired water cannons as it anchored at the shoal.

Officials in Pangasinan and Zambales were surprised to hear about the fishermen’s successful return to the shoal, which came after President Duterte’s recent state visit to China.

Goodwill visit

Officials said the issue was quietly raised in Beijing. The trip, described as a goodwill visit, also netted millions in promised investments from Chinese firms.

Scarborough Shoal, known to Filipinos as Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, is a triangular chain of reefs and rocks surrounding a 150-square-kilometer lagoon. It is about 240 kilometers southwest of Infanta town, and a traditional fishing ground for locals.

In 2012, China seized the shoal after a two-month standoff with the Philippines and had since barred Filipinos from fishing there, sometimes using water cannons to drive them away. Manila then filed a case with a UN-backed arbitral tribunal, which in July, ruled in favor of the Philippines.

No green light

But Beijing has steadfastly ignored the ruling. Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Filipino fishermen have been playing a potentially dangerous cat-and-mouse game at the shoal, ending in few instances with the fishermen getting hurt.

Nestor Domenden, Ilocos regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said the Infanta fishermen should have waited first for the green light from Malacañang before venturing back to the shoal.

Domenden said they were not aware of the Scarborough trips, but stressed it was also possible that some of the Infanta boats were registered at the BFAR in Central Luzon because they dock in Zambales province, about 5 km from Infanta.

No formal advisories yet

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which had earlier discouraged fishermen from returning to the shoal to avoid a clash with the Chinese coast guards, said it has not issued formal advisories against going to Scarborough.

“We issued clearances [to fishermen] who wanted to conduct fishing west of Zambales but they don’t usually specify if they would go to

the [shoal],” PCG station commander Jonathan Marfil told the Inquirer.

“As far as PCG Subic is concerned, we have no advisories to the fishermen not to go or fish in Scarborough area. But I’m not sure if they can now go near the shoal,” he said.

Fishermen were required to register but only to track their movements and prevent them from sailing during bad weather.

Chinese vessels were still at the shoal as of Friday when the Infanta fishermen left the area, Bauya said.

No more Chinese ships?

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella welcomed the news Saturday, calling it a “welcome development.”

“There is no sign of Chinese Coast Guard vessels in the area. While we do not have any official explanation for this, it sends a positive signal regarding relations,” Abella said.

“Since three days ago there are no longer Chinese ships, coast guard or navy, in the Scarborough area,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana added. “If the Chinese ships have left, then it means our fishermen can resume fishing in the area.”

Lorenzana did not explain the circumstances of the Chinese pullout from the shoal, however. —WITH REPORTS FROM ALLAN MACATUNO, AP AND AFP/TVJ

RELATED STORIES

Chinese vessels leave disputed shoal—Palace

Philippines rejects China language in Scarborough proposal


GMA NEWS NETWORK

AMID PRESENCE OF CHINESE COAST GUARD SHIPS More Filipino fishermen sail back to Panatag Shoal Published October 30, 2016 1:39pm


More and more Filipino fishermen are sailing back to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal to fish, without any "intimidation" from the Chinese Coast Guard.

A Balitanghali report on Sunday said at least 10 Filipino fishing vessels have resumed fishing in the disputed shoal, one of them has been at the area for the last five days, while another one for the last three days.

The report said three Chinese Coast Guard vessels were spotted circling the shoal's perimeter but were not "intimidating or blocking" the Filipino fishermen.

Just three months ago, in October, Chinese Coast Guard not only drove away Filipino fishermen but also seized their catch and fishing equipment.

"Iyong huli namin, pinagtatapon nila. Iyong mga gamit namin, mga kawil, kinukuha din nila tiinatapon nila [noon]," Jon, one of the Filipino fishermen, said in a separate 24 Oras report Saturday evening.

"Itapon nila, bago, iyong iba, kuhanin nila [at] i-karga nila," he added.

READ MORE...

Filipino fishermen resumed fishing in Panatag Shoal, also called Scarborough Shoal and called Huangyan by the Chinese, following a bilateral meeting in Beijing between President Rodrigo Duterte and the Chinese government.

Upon his return to the Philippines last week, Duterte announced that Filipino fishermen can go back fishing in the disputed territory.

Duterte's pronouncement came despite the supposed informal agreement on fishing rights between China and the Philippines being noticeably absent from the official joint statement of the Philippines and China during Duterte's state visit.

Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque Jr earlier revealed why the issue on Panatag Shoal was not formally announced.

"The reason why it was not formally announced and the reason why it was not reduced into writing was because there was disagreement on the use of words," said Roque, who was with Duterte in China.

"We don't want the word 'allow' or 'permit' to be used by China," said Roque, stressing that the Philippine contingent invoked an arbitral ruling by an international tribunal that Filipinos, Chinese, and Vietnamese "can look forward to Scarborough Shoal as their traditional fishing ground."

Roque maintained that the Philippine government "does not need to negotiate on the status of these [disputed islands]." —Mark Merueñas/ALG, GMA News


MANILA TIMES

US assessing situation at Panatag BY MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO, TMT AND PATRICK ROXAS, TMT ON ON OCTOBER 29, 2016 TOP STORIES


OCTOBER 30 -Fishermen on the boat Ruvina drop anchor in Infanta, Pangasinan after a surprisingly bountiful sortie in Masinloc. Their nets got filled in just a few days because suddenly, Chinese coast guard rubber boats did not drive them away or stop them from fishing. This, as incoming president Duterte finally met with Beijing's ambassador to Manila.

THE United States is verifying reports that Chinese coast guard vessels have finally opened up Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) to Filipino fishermen.

In a news briefing in Washington on Friday (Saturday morning in Manila), State department spokesman Mark Toner said the US was aware of the reports and was “assessing” the situation at Panatag.

“[We are] still assessing. We hope it is certainly not a temporary measure,” the State department official said.

On Friday, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters Filipino fishermen have been fishing at Panatag Shoal in the past three days without interference from the Chinese coast guard.

READ MORE...

Abella told AFP on Saturday: “There is no sign of Chinese coast guard vessels in the area. While we do not have any official explanation for this, it sends a positive signal regarding relations.”

“This is a welcome development especially for Filipino fisherfolk,” he added.

Panatag is a triangular chain of reefs and rocks surrounding a 46-kilometer lagoon, spanning an area of 150 square kilometers. It was seized by China after a two-month standoff with the Philippines in 2012.

In a case brought by the administration of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd, the Philippines won a resounding victory at an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague on July 12 over Beijing’s extensive maritime claims in the area, infuriating the Asian giant.

But President Rodrigo Duterte has made a point of not flaunting the ruling and Chinese President Xi Jinping told the Philippine leader on his recent visit that there was no reason for hostility and difficult topics of discussion “could be shelved temporarily.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no direct confirmation on the Chinese coast guard’s withdrawal, but spoke in a conciliatory note on the reported resumption of Philippine fishing activities at Panatag.

“With President Duterte’s visit, bilateral relations have turned to a new page of all-around improvement. Under such circumstances, it is fully possible for the two countries to return to the track of managing disputes through consultation and focusing on cooperation,” a ministry spokesman said during a news briefing in Beijing on Friday.

The ministry noted that the two sides agreed to fishing industry cooperation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during the meeting.

CPP hits US

Washington, which supported the arbitration process, however said it hoped the deal between Manila and Beijing took the July 12 ruling into account.

“We’d like it to be a sign that China and the Philippines are moving toward an agreement on fishing access at Scarborough that would be in accordance with the July 12 arbitral decision,” the State department’s Toner said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) pounced on Toner’s statement and hit the US for interfering in the country’s affairs.

“In the first place, the US has no standing whatsoever the make any assessment in an area that is part of Philippine maritime territory,” said the CPP in a statement. “Secondly, it is US war-mongering and naval buildup in accordance with its US pivot to encircle China that is at the root of the outstanding security problems in the South China Sea.”

The CPP, which is in talks for a final peace deal with the government, congratulated Manila and Beijing for the apparent breakthrough.

“The settlement of the Scarborough issue underscores what can be achieved by asserting national independence, building friendly relations with neighboring countries and opposing outside interference, especially war instigations by the US military,” it said.

Big catch

A report by GMA Network said fishermen from the northern province of Pangasinan had returned to shore Saturday with “a huge load of big species of fish” caught at Panatag Shoal.

Fishermen from Pangasinan, who ventured back to the Panatag on Wednesday, said Chinese coast guard vessels did not intercept them.

The fishermen described the shoal as an abundant fishing ground, especially at the west side of the lagoon.

Fishermen from Subic, Masinloc and Santa Cruz towns in Zambales as well as those from Bataan also started sailing toward Panatag Shoal on Wednesday.

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

ALSO FROM PHILSTAR

Leila seeks probe on pacts signed in China By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 28, 2016 - 12:00am 3 1693 googleplus0 0


Sen. Leila de Lima, whom the President Rodrigo Duterte has subjected to public scrutiny over her alleged links to illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary, raised two issues against Duterte: the bilateral deals signed during his recent China state visit as well as his statements about the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. GEREMY PINTOLO, file

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Leila de Lima said President Duterte is digging himself into a hole in efforts to win over China as the country’s new major strategic ally.

De Lima, whom the President has subjected to public scrutiny over her alleged links to illegal drug trade in the national penitentiary, raised two issues against Duterte: the bilateral deals signed during his recent China state visit as well as his statements about the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal.

The senator said she would file a resolution calling for an inquiry into the agreements signed in China, including the loans committed to the Philippines.

Duterte’s state visit to China was touted to have generated $24 billion in future investments and soft loans. But De Lima said she suspects these are “tied loans,” thus illegal based on Philippine laws.

Under tied loans, De Lima explained, the lender would dictate the terms in implementing the projects to be financed, including the contractors to be hired.

“This is the essence of tied loans, which is unconstitutional and illegal under our laws,” De Lima said, referring to the Government Procurement Reform Act.

De Lima pointed out that all projects implemented in the country must go through regular public bidding procedures for the contractor, including the procurement of needed supplies and materials.

De Lima said the Duterte administration might classify the deals with China as executive agreements just to circumvent the procurement law.

She noted that tied loans are unconstitutional, as stated by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a dissenting opinion he issued for one of the cases taken up by the court.

De Lima said the agreements, even if they were just memorandums of understanding, should be scrutinized carefully to see if these contained provisions not compatible with Philippine laws.

“We must review these because they are the root of fraudulent practices,” she said. --MORE ON DE LIMA LATEST REPORTS FROM INQUIRER READ HERE >>> http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/tag/senator-leila-de-lima  


ASIAMARITIMES.NET

Asia Maritime Reviews: Is Rodrigo Duterte a Fool, a Genius—or Both? BOOK REVIEWS
October 14, 2016


Image: A Philippine Marine member of the Joint Rapid Reaction Force posts security after executing an amphibious landing during Exercise Balikatan 2016. DVIDSHUB/Public domain

Rodrigo Duterte is a fool.

Doesn’t he know that Scarborough Shoal is the place to draw a “line in the sand”? That, with the United States, he and the Philippines could make Xi Jinping “lose face” there? That the shoal should be the launching point for a new concerted effort to challenge every Chinese overreach, early and often,” and is a dispute worthy of “indecent” operations? He seems blissfully unaware that China’s activities around the shoal, along with its other maritime territorial claims, are mere precursors to China claiming the entire Pacific Ocean and achieving “global hegemony.”

READ MORE...

 
LINE IN THE SAND -SCARBOROUGH SHOAL

It’s not just foreign voices. Duterte is ignoring Filipinos too. His own predecessor took China to the Hague Tribunal and won just a few months ago—an advantage that Duterte is calmly throwing away. A Filipino law professor opined last April that “Southeast Asian states will not quietly surrender sovereign rights guaranteed by international law. Against overwhelming power, the only logical recourse is to gravitate closer together, and join with external powers.” The expert consensus is overwhelming: regional governments “cannot back down because that risks encouraging China to be more aggressive still.”

Yet, in the teeth of the evidence, the government of the Philippines has recently shown itself to be uninterested in drawing lines in the sand, making China lose face, challenging China’s territorial claims or joining the United States as a junior partner in checking China’s rise. To the contrary, President Rodrigo Duterte has declared that he would pursue an “independent posture and independent foreign policy.” Here’s what that policy looks like.


America Doesn't Owe China Anything after the Verdict. Washington has no obligation to help Beijing save face.

First, the Philippines has been signaling that it will conduct bilateral territorial negotiations with China, as opposed to America’s preferred method of lawsuits or multilateral discussions. Bilateral talks on Chinese investment, infrastructure and trade are being planned first, to promote cooperation before tackling the more difficult territorial issues. “The natural effect of engaging China in other areas of concern will precisely open the door for more open discussions of the [maritime] dispute with the view of resolving the dispute peacefully,” Perfecto Yasay, the Philippine secretary of foreign affairs, said in September. This sort of practical engagement will evidently begin next week, as Duterte visits China with hundreds of business executives in tow.

Second, President Duterte has declared that the Philippines will no longer conduct patrols with the United States in the South China Sea: “We will not join any expedition or patrolling the sea. I will not allow it because I do not want my country to be involved in a hostile act.” Lest any doubts remain, the Philippines’ defense secretary has since confirmed it.

Third, Duterte has indicated that he wants U.S. Special Forces to leave the Philippines, and is looking to China and Russia for arms purchases.

Why is Duterte pursuing such irrational policies? He apparently rejects the three myths that have seduced the American commentariat. What myths?

1. China could gracefully submit to the Hague ruling.

2. Amped-up American and allied “resolve” would force China to comply.

3. China’s rejection of the ruling signifies its rejection of international order.

Disagreeing with the ruling of a tribunal in The Hague (not, by the way, the UN, as some erroneously claim) hardly expresses an intention to destroy international society or dominate the Pacific. Disagreeing with your local court doesn’t mean that want to overthrow your nation’s government. Duterte isn’t irrational. He prefers to work with China to resolve the dispute in a mutually beneficial way. He agrees with an influential Filipino commentator: “Relations between China and the Philippines should go beyond the South China Sea issue.”

Scarborough Shoal has become an abstraction for everything commentators dislike in China: North Korea’s nuclear program, “aerial intrusions” in the East China Sea, “seaborne incursions” in Okinawa Prefecture, human-rights abuses, aircraft demonstrations when U.S. defense secretaries are visiting Beijing, the “calculated humiliation” at the G-20 summit, “economic and trade matters,” and “environmental degradation” in the South China Sea. Among such commentators, the solution is obvious: reinforced U.S. primacy, stronger regional alliances and the trumpeting of America’s “undoubted ability to prevail.”

To make Scarborough Shoal—or any other rock or reef of the South China Sea—serve as an abstract picture containing every complaint the United States has about China is foolish and dangerous. Political scientists have shown that territory is already the single issue any two states are most likely to fight over. Packing all other issues of contention into a territorial dispute—an exercise in grab-bag hawkishness—is a certain way to enflame the territorial dispute and to make it unsolvable.

There is nothing new here. In the spring of 1913, Russian foreign minister Sergey Sazonov told Serbian prime minister Nikola Pašić, who was eager to extend Serbian territory into the former Ottoman state of Albania, that Russia was not going to risk a war with Austria-Hungary over a few small towns. Pašić replied:

Here it is not a matter of Djakova, Dibra and Scutari, but the question is: Is Russia with its friends stronger or weaker than Austria and its friends? The whole Slavic world and everybody else will consider Russia defeated through the policy and threats of Austria. The belief and confidence in Russia will not only be weakened, but it will be annihilated, and the Austrian-German policy will triumph.

This was what dispute abstraction looked like before World War I. Aware that Russia had no actual territorial interest in the small towns of Albania, Pašić abstracted the issue into one of prestige and credibility, attempting to make the dispute a “trial of strength” between Russia and Austria-Hungary (and its ally Germany).

Today in the South China Sea, the Philippines is opting out of dispute abstraction. Duterte apparently cares about rehab centers more than unpopulated reefs, and has decided that the costs of antagonizing China outweigh the benefits of cooperating with it.

But segments of America’s foreign policy elite disagree. These elites desire to abstract the territorial disputes of the South and East China Seas into a modern-day “trial of strength.” That is what all the tough talk of “indecent” naval operations and drawing lines in the sand is about. The specific issue hardly matters. According to these elites, China must be put in its place. The way to do this is to reassert American primacy.

Such a perspective is myopic, ahistorical, and foolish.

In 1914, a trial of strength turned into a world war. In 432 BC, the Corinthians convinced the Spartans that they should stand up to Athens using four arguments.

First, they said, Athens was growing stronger and Sparta had done nothing to check its growing power.

Second, the Corinthians explained how the Athenians “gradually encroach upon their neighbors,” or what critics today call “salami slicing.”

Third, they declared, “The likeliest way of securing peace is . . . to make it perfectly plain that one is resolved not to tolerate aggression” (Thucydides, 1.71)—i.e., to pursue a policy of deterrence.

And finally, the Corinthians argued that Sparta had to maintain its “greatness.” Today, we say “primacy,” but the idea is the same.

Back in 432 BC, the Spartans were convinced by the argument of the Corinthians, and in 431 a war broke out between Sparta and Athens that would last twenty-seven years and end the Athenian Golden Age. Today, we—the United States and China—risk walking down the same road to war.

DUTERTE IS NO FOOL

Duterte is no fool. He has stepped off the road to war by rejecting the abstraction of disputes. That means considering each dispute individually, seeking to understand the other side’s argument, refraining from pursuing a moralistic or legalistic position, and recognizing that in a world with multiple great powers, the only way to live at peace is to ignore areas of minor disagreement and to respect one another’s vital interests. If, in your reading of history, you find that being pushy is a better way to get along, by all means, speak up. If not, then no more myopia, abstraction and presumption about other states’ purported interests, please.

Jared McKinney is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Pangoal Institute in Beijing, a Junior Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC, and an incoming Ph.D student in International Relations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


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