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BY JAY BATONGBACAL: NO NEED FOR COOPERATION IF DUTERTE DECIDES NO COMMON INTEREST WITH U.S.


SEPTEMBER 30 -By JAY BATONGBACAL The annual Balikatan exercises have always been a sore point for China, especially since 2012, because it has provided the basis for US military presence in the West Philippine Sea during the crucial summer months. Stopping the exercises would naturally result in reduced American operations and allow Chinese military and civilian maritime forces more freedom and flexibility in operating anywhere in the WPS without having to worry about the possibility of encountering US units that could provide surveillance of, or deterrence to, their activities. Combined with the announcement that the government will no longer hold joint maritime patrols with allies, and that unilateral patrols will not extend into the EEZ and be limited to only the 12 nautical mile territorial sea, these policy pronouncements signal that PRRD is ready to grant China's pre-conditions for negotiation of a settlement of the WPS issues: principally on China's terms and without the supporting role of the US (or any other ally, for that matter). For the homegrown Left, it would be a major victory, as ending US military presence in the PH in any form has always been a battle-cry for the CPP-NPA-NDF.READ MORE...

ALSO: By Jay Batongbacal - The Philippines’ pivot to China


President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting with banana production businessmen in Davao city, in southern Philippines, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr/File Photo PRRD's upcoming visit to China may formally mark the swing back of the pendulum called Philippine foreign policy. In the past few months, the Philippines has steadily and unambiguously provided China with all the concessions it wants in the aftermath of the arbitration: no hype over the arbitral award, withdrawal of patrols from the EEZ, and stepping (and potentially breaking) away from the alliance with the US, as well as other allies. At the same time, after a sustained push to get the ASEAN members to begin standing up to China in the SCS and securing a massive legal victory that could be the solid basis of a united front between claimants, the Philippines has dropped the ball and withdrawn at the eleventh hour to deal bilaterally with China. READ MORE...

ALSO: EARLIER RELATED NEWS - PNoy urges ASEAN pressure on China for rules on West PHL Sea


JANUARY 9, 2016 - Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Friday urged Southeast Asian neighbors to put pressure on China to agree on a binding code of conduct to ease tension in South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea, following Chinese test flights to an island it has built. Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Friday urged Southeast Asian neighbors to put pressure on China to agree on a binding code of conduct to ease tension in South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea, following Chinese test flights to an island it has built. Since 2010, China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been discussing a set of rules for rival claimants in the South China Sea aimed at avoiding conflict. "Can we put a little more pressure on China to sit down and agree on a binding code of conduct?" Aquino said to reporters in southern Davao City, referring to ASEAN. China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year, and has been increasingly assertive in staking its claim. READ MORE...

ALSO: INFOGRAPICS - The Philippines and China: The West Philippine Sea dispute


JULY 11, 2016 - Six nations – China and five ASEAN countries, including the Philippines – have conflicting territorial and maritime claims on the South China Sea. Justice Antonio Carpio, in his primer "The South China Sea Dispute" said the primary driver of the dispute in the South China Sea is the 9-dashed Lines Map adopted by the Kuomintang Government in China in December 1947. China is claiming “indisputable sovereignty” to all the islands and waters enclosed by the nine U-shaped lines that enclose 85.7 percent of the entire South China Sea. Carpio said China's claim to these waters, equivalent to 3 million square kilometers out of the sea's 3.5 million square kilometers surface area of the South China Sea, has triggered several disputes that include, among others: READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

No need for cooperation if Duterte decides no common interests with US


By JAY BATONGBACAL

MANILA, OCTOBER 17, 2016 (GMA NEWS) Published September 30, 2016 8:33pm By JAY BATONGBACAL - The annual Balikatan exercises have always been a sore point for China, especially since 2012, because it has provided the basis for US military presence in the West Philippine Sea during the crucial summer months.

Stopping the exercises would naturally result in reduced American operations and allow Chinese military and civilian maritime forces more freedom and flexibility in operating anywhere in the WPS without having to worry about the possibility of encountering US units that could provide surveillance of, or deterrence to, their activities.

Combined with the announcement that the government will no longer hold joint maritime patrols with allies, and that unilateral patrols will not extend into the EEZ and be limited to only the 12 nautical mile territorial sea, these policy pronouncements signal that PRRD is ready to grant China's pre-conditions for negotiation of a settlement of the WPS issues: principally on China's terms and without the supporting role of the US (or any other ally, for that matter).

For the homegrown Left, it would be a major victory, as ending US military presence in the PH in any form has always been a battle-cry for the CPP-NPA-NDF.

READ MORE...

Joint PH-US military exercises have historically provided the AFP with much-needed opportunities for training and practice in advanced military operations and tactics that are useful not only for external but also internal security operations.

They were also a useful conduit for transfer of smaller-scale, lighter equipment needed by units on the ground but which could not be supported by government appropriations.

Scaling back on joint PH-US military operations will also cut off the AFP from regular access to US military communications, computer, and intelligence resources which were effectively used in operations against the local armed groups like the ASG in years past.

If implemented as suddenly as PRRD makes it appear, the PH should expect suddenly wide, gaping holes in its ability to provide adequate security coverage and response capability against existing external and internal threats. While PRRD has also promised the AFP the money and support for AFP modernization, it typically takes years for equipment purchases to be completed and delivered, and for the military to master their operation.

Although the AFP is a competent and experienced fighting force on its own, it has been able to use regular PH-US military cooperation to extend and expand its capabilities.

A sudden, un-calibrated halt will leave yawning gaps that the AFP likely has not yet planned/prepared to fill (after all, it may have been decided only the other day). There will be extraordinarily large windows of opportunity for either China or the CPP-NPA-NDF to take advantage of these security gaps in the event of failure in the negotiations.

How will the US respond?

The US interest in the SCS is based on freedom of the seas and law maritime commerce, while its interest in South East Asia in general is regional stability. If the peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF is successful, resulting in a well-ordered and stable peace and order situation in the country, it would contribute to regional stability and therefore be in keeping with US interests.

If the SCS status quo stabilizes and the threat to US freedom of the seas recedes, the US will have to content itself with relocating the center of its regional presence to more stable and reliable partners elsewhere. If the threat to freedom of navigation increases, the US will respond independently of the PH without having to accommodate PH security needs.

None of these conditions require that the WPS disputes be resolved in favor of the PH (it doesn't matter who owns the islands as long as they do not threaten navigation and overflight), nor that the PH government be without CPP-NPA-NDF participation (the US deals with many "communist" governments elsewhere in the world).

The US will certainly be very concerned about how the PH will have suddenly bucked expectations and thrown existing plans and strategies out the window, but overall will likely adapt its strategies and leave the PH to its own devices in facing its unique security challenges alone. Since 2012, US security engagement with the PH has been based on convergent interests in the maritime domain.

If the PRRD administration has decided that there are no convergent interests, then there is no basis for further close PH-US security cooperation.

(This piece was originally posted by Professor Batongbacal on his Facebook page. He is the Director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. He teaches courses on Property, Obligations & Contracts, and Law of the Sea and Natural Resources. He is a graduate of the UP College of Law, has a Masters degree in Marine Management and a Doctorate in the Science of Law, both from Dalhousie University in Canada.)


The Philippines’ pivot to China Published October 12, 2016 1:13pm By JAY BATONGBACAL


President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a meeting with banana production businessmen in Davao city, in southern Philippines, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr/File Photo

PRRD's upcoming visit to China may formally mark the swing back of the pendulum called Philippine foreign policy. In the past few months, the Philippines has steadily and unambiguously provided China with all the concessions it wants in the aftermath of the arbitration: no hype over the arbitral award, withdrawal of patrols from the EEZ, and stepping (and potentially breaking) away from the alliance with the US, as well as other allies.

At the same time, after a sustained push to get the ASEAN members to begin standing up to China in the SCS and securing a massive legal victory that could be the solid basis of a united front between claimants, the Philippines has dropped the ball and withdrawn at the eleventh hour to deal bilaterally with China.

READ MORE...

According to China, nothing is negotiable on the basis of the arbitration award, but everything is negotiable if it is discarded. PRRD has publicly insisted that he will "not go out of the four corners of that paper," but at the rate things are going, that is precisely all that will be left: a piece of paper.

By alienating allies like the US and Australia; refusing to push through with basic surveillance of the WPS; discarding an ASEAN role; declaring that the Philippines cannot defend its territorial/jurisdictional areas; even exhorting the public to "not dwell" on Scarborough Shoal, PRRD is methodically eliminating all means of leverage with which the Philippines could secure its interests against its larger, more powerful neighbor. He is taking a huge risk, betting all on China’s goodwill and beneficence without the insurance provided by the diversified, multi-lateral support of historical and traditional friends and allies.

Over the long term, China unmistakeably stands to gain much, while the Philippines’ fate remains uncertain.

STARK REALITY

This pivot to China echoes a stark reality of Philippine politics: local politicians switch sides as convenience demands, whichever party will enable the former to achieve his/her goal of gaining benefits for the constituency and maintaining political leadership.

The sudden uncalibrated swing bears the marks of political turncoatism played out on an international stage, despite being portrayed as a shift to an “independent foreign policy”.

The trouble is that independence cannot be equated with personality-based politics; turning back on previous alignments without so much as a smooth and strategic transition, careful coordination and accommodation of interests; suddenly repudiating prior agreements, plans, and/or strategies; and squandering available strategic political leverage.

An independent foreign policy position, equidistant between geopolitical poles and able to carefully navigate geopolitical influences, is indeed ideal for the Philippines given its unique geo-strategic position, but it cannot be achieved by simply peddling oneself to whichever side can provide the most benefits.

Good relations with China are just as important as with the US, but should be based on clear and consistent principles. Principles still matter, even in a real-political world: they provide the compass by which a State weighs and decides on its options in a way that preserves its national interests over the long term.

FIRST TEST IN DIPLOMACY


CHINA PRESIDENT XI JINPING AND PRRD

PRRD’s meeting with Xi Jinping will be first major test of his crude and apparently transactional diplomacy.

He has bet all his chips on China reciprocating for his abandonment of the previous administration’s strategy for the WPS, expecting a concession for Philippine fishing and a windfall of Chinese economic investments.

If he returns without any concessions, it will be a humiliating blow since he has given practically all the possible political leverage that he had in reserve. If he does come back with rewards, his critics and opponents will see him to have succumbed to the power of Chinese economic inducements.

Generosity to PRRD would be in China’s best interest. China has a golden opportunity, beyond expectations, to hobble the US SCS strategy by neutralizing the hub of US regional presence and silencing the most vocal and daring (or perhaps reckless?) of all the ASEAN claimants.

Acknowledgment of China’s maritime pre-eminence will enable the unhindered control and administration of the SCS. China is also taking steps to ensure that the Philippines’ withdrawal from the board cannot be remedied.

 Already, it is attempting to brow-beat Singapore, the next most important US current ally in the region, into submission in order to hinder any future US adjustment for the cracking Philippine-US security relationship.

It is a stark demonstration of how much China respects other countries’ national sovereignty and independence when Chinese interests and image are concerned.

No doubt, the US and like-minded allies will be left in a lurch.

The regional balancing strategy against China’s maritime expansion in the SCS was premised on the active cooperation of the only US treaty ally actually located on its maritime borders. PRRD’s threat to switch alliances to China and Russia, if carried out, would severely undermine attempts to counter China’s move toward regional maritime dominance.

Without the Philippines, the US would have to rethink its regional strategy and turn to more reliable allies like Japan and Australia, and perhaps seek to strengthen ties with more consistent strategically-minded partners like Vietnam and Indonesia.

It is difficult at this point to determine where PRRD’s foreign policy will eventually go, and one could hope that there is still a chance that such a radical change in direction can still be moderated. After all, there are still many good people in the foreign service who have both the institutional memory, critical and strategic thinking, and extensive diplomatic experience to halt the apparent free-fall in the Philippines' SCS/WPS policy.

PRRD still has the opportunity to carefully weigh his own personal biases against the country's long-term national interests. But this requires timely and firm intervention on the part of institutional policy—and decision-makers: it is quite possible that once the Duterte-Xi meeting takes place, the die will be cast.

Oddly enough, the heady flair and atmospherics preceding PRRD’s foreign policy swing actually matches former President Benigno Aquino’s anti-China posturing, from portraying China as a threat to the region to comparing it with the Nazi regime. This time, China is the new best friend in the anti-drug war and the US is shown as a historic violator of human rights.

Where previously the Philippine-US security relations was seen as the only tangible means of protecting Philippine maritime interests, now it is portrayed as the lightning rod for unwanted regional armed conflict.

Unfortunately, more than anything, PRRD’s pivot to China tends to prove a singular constant in Philippine personality-based foreign policy in matters of external and regional security: unreliability and instability over the long term, with a penchant for theatrics.


SEPTEMBER 30 -By JAY BATONGBACAL(This piece was originally posted by Professor Batongbacal on his Facebook page. He is the Director of the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. He teaches courses on Property, Obligations & Contracts, and Law of the Sea and Natural Resources. He is a graduate of the UP College of Law, has a master's degree in Marine Management and a doctorate in the Science of Law, both from Dalhousie University in Canada.)


RELATED EARLIER NEWS GMA NEWS ONLINE JANUARY 9, 2016

PNoy urges ASEAN pressure on China for rules on West PHL Sea Published January 9, 2016 11:24pm


JANUARY 9, 2016 - Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Friday urged Southeast Asian neighbors to put pressure on China to agree on a binding code of conduct to ease tension in South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea, following Chinese test flights to an island it has built.

MANILA - Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Friday urged Southeast Asian neighbors to put pressure on China to agree on a binding code of conduct to ease tension in South China Sea, also known as the West Philippine Sea, following Chinese test flights to an island it has built.

Since 2010, China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been discussing a set of rules for rival claimants in the South China Sea aimed at avoiding conflict.

"Can we put a little more pressure on China to sit down and agree on a binding code of conduct?" Aquino said to reporters in southern Davao City, referring to ASEAN.

China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year, and has been increasingly assertive in staking its claim.

READ MORE...

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines have rival claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to have rich deposits of oil and gas.

Aquino said the Philippines had done everything it could to push forward discussions on the code - a set of rules setting out how claimant states should behave, and imposing sanctions on countries that violate it, aimed at preventing provocative action, the raising of tension and conflict.

Aquino said China and ASEAN were due to meet next month to draw up elements of the code.

China, which has long said it was ready to discuss rival claims bilaterally, has said it will agree on a code of conduct when "the time is ripe".

Analysts say it might be waiting for the completion of its work on artificial islands it is building in the South China Sea before sitting down with ASEAN.

China landed two test flights on one of the islands on Wednesday, four days after its first landing on the 3,000 meter (10,000 feet) runway on a reef in the Spratly Islands.

The Philippines denounced the flights.

In 2013, the Philippines filed an arbitration case in The Hague to force China to negotiate a peaceful settlement of their territorial dispute.

China has ignored the case but Aquino said China, as a responsible member of the international community, could not ignore a ruling from the court, expected in May or June.

The Philippines is also calling for a moratorium on all construction activities in the disputed sea. — Reuters


The Philippines and China: The West Philippine Sea dispute Published July 11, 2016 5:05pm

Six nations – China and five ASEAN countries, including the Philippines – have conflicting territorial and maritime claims on the South China Sea.

Justice Antonio Carpio, in his primer "The South China Sea Dispute" said the primary driver of the dispute in the South China Sea is the 9-dashed Lines Map adopted by the Kuomintang Government in China in December 1947.

China is claiming “indisputable sovereignty” to all the islands and waters enclosed by the nine U-shaped lines that enclose 85.7 percent of the entire South China Sea.

Carpio said China's claim to these waters, equivalent to 3 million square kilometers out of the sea's 3.5 million square kilometers surface area of the South China Sea, has triggered several disputes that include, among others:

READ MORE...

territorial disputes in the Spratly Islands between the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei; territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal, and maritime dispute between China on one side and on the other side, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia as these countries resist China’s 9-dashed Lines claim as it encroaches on their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZs). These EEZs are covered by the United Nation's 1982 Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

On July 12, a UN arbitration tribunal is expected to issue a ruling on one of these disputes – the maritime case filed by the Philippines against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague – on whether the Philippines' rights to its EEZ under UNCLOS were violated by China.

The Philippines' EEZ is part of the "West Philippine Sea" that includes:

Luzon Sea; Kalayaan Group of Islands in Palawan, and the Panatag Shoal (called internationally as Scarborough Shoal and Huangyan Island by China). Panatag Shoal's old Spanish name was Bajo de Masinloc, meaning lower Masinloc. It is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales in the South China Sea and is part of the municipality of Masinloc, Zambales.

The shoal, made up of a triangular chain of rocks and coral reefs, is a fertile fishing ground located within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

However, China took control of Panatag Shoal in 2012 and built an artificial island in the Fiery Cross Reef, called Kagitingan Reef by the Philippines.

China also built a 55-meter-high lighthouse in Subi Reef, called Zamora Reef by the Philippines.

In 2013, the Philippines brought the maritime dispute before the PCA because of China's actions. China, however, insisted that it has historic rights that predates UNCLOS, citing the 9-dashed lines claim.

See the infographic below for a comparison of the Philippines' claim based on UNCLOS, and China's claim based on the 9-dashed lines map. — Veronica Pulumbarit and Jannielyn Ann Bigtas/RSJ, GMA News


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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