AFP to beef up monitoring amid ‘volatile’ situation in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2020   •   236

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will intensify its monitoring in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) amid “volatile and uncertain” situation there.

AFP chief of staff General Gilbert Gapay said they will deploy a Japanese-made radar at the the Matinloc gas platform in Malampaya, Palawan which is near the WPS.

“You see, we [decided that] the Matinloc platform [will] be assigned one of the radars coming from Japan to beef up our monitoring capability in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Gapay said they are also eyeing to partner with Japan to develop the military’s cyber defense and security capabilities as well as improve its unmanned aerial systems.

“I think we can partner with Japan in this area, cyber-defense and security which is also one of their thrusts of the Japan Self Defense Force,” he said.

The Matinloc gas platform situated in northwest Palawan has ceased operations last year and is being eyed to be converted into floating monitoring stations for the Philippine Navy due to its strategic location.

Gapay said the situation in the West Philippine Sea remains “very tense” due to the “aggressive actions” of China as well as the activities of the United States.

The AFP chief said China has been conducting its own unilateral exercises in the area while the US has been displaying a show of force as it advocates freedom of navigation.

China has been claiming almost all of the South China Sea despite having no legal basis.

The Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan as well have claims in the disputed seas. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

Duterte lifts moratorium on oil exploration in West Philippine Sea

Marje Pelayo   •   October 16, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted the moratorium or the suspension of oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea upon the recommendation of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Following the lifting of moratorium, the DOE will resume issuance of work notice to authorized service contractors within the area covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

According to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the resumption of oil exploration in the area will provide the Philippines additional source of oil fuel to ensure energy security in the country.

One expected benefit is the increase in natural gas reserve of the Malampaya Power Plant.

“It gives hope to the Filipino people that eventually, we will have that energy independence and energy security and a more affordable energy,” Cusi said.

The agency hopes such development will generate more jobs during the pandemic especially to residents near the disputed territories through the entry of foreign investors.

The DOE expressed confidence that the said decision will not affect the relationship between the Philippines in China despite the signed memorandum of understanding for oil and gas development cooperation in the disputed territories.

“It’s done in good faith because alam naman natin na meron tayong MOU na pinirmahan [because we know that we have an existing MOU signed] together with China saying it was in good faith,” Cusi explained.

“Because it does not affect that MOU, it does not stop the joint development activities that we might arrive at with China,” he added.

The oil exploration in West Philippines Sea was halted in 2015 due to the increasing tension among claimant states in the disputed territories. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

DND assures Philippine sovereignty even with Chinese companies in gov’t projects

Marje Pelayo   •   September 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines— Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez expressed concern that allowing the third telecommunication company, Dito Telecommunity Corporation, to construct cell sites in military camps would threaten national security.

Rodriguez noted that the firm is 40 percent owned by the Chinese.

“Can you imagine there will be Chinese allegedly employees of Dito who may be spies for China – where we have a conflict especially in the West Philippine Sea – entering our camps and being able to secure installations which should not be known by outside forces?” he said.

But Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Dito will only be allowed to construct cell sites within existing ones.

“Most camps actually in the Philippines already have cell towers of Globe and Smart,” Lorenzana explained.

“The contract for the Memorandum of Agreement that I signed or approved between the (the Armed Forces of the Philippines) and Dito is that, it will just be limited to those camps as well,” he added.

Rodriguez also opposed the Philippine government’s accommodation of Chinese contractors for the Sangley Airport project, the same Chinese contractors involved in the contractions of structures in the West Philippine Sea.

“The advice that we can give maybe to the President is to properly screen these companies before they can conduct business here.” Lorenzana noted.

“As I said a while ago, the President had already decided that they can continue their project here so all we can do now is to be very, very sure that their entering into our territory will not endanger our sovereignty,” he added.

Lorenzana also reminded that if the contract gets canceled, the Philippine government will be fined with a huge amount. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Lawmaker calls on gov’t to scrap contracts with Chinese firms involved in militarization of WPS

Marje Pelayo   •   August 31, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros urges the government to scrap all contracts with Chinese companies that are involved in constructions of military structures and other establishments in the West Philippine Sea. 

This follows the move by the United States government to blacklist a total of 24 Chinese firms that are helping the Chinese military in establishing artificial islands and militarized the disputed territory in the South China Sea and China’s alleged missile launches in the island. 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin previously announced that he would recommend that the Philippine government cut business ties with Chinese companies if proven that they are involved in the militarization activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Hontiveros argued that it is alarming to know that the Philippine government is dealing with Chinese firms that destroy the country’s own territory. 

The lady senator claimed that several subsidiaries of the China Communications Construction Company Limited that were among the companies the US government blacklisted, have existing Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippine government particularly in infrastructure projects in Manila, Davao City, Cebu and Clark in Pampanga.

Among these projects include:

  • Davao Coastline and Port Development Project
  • Manila Harbour Center Reclamation Project
  • Cebu International and Bulk Terminal Project
  • Manila-Clark Railway

Additionally, the Chinese firm China Harbor Engineering Company has won the bidding in the construction of an access road to New Clark City. 

Hontiveros said these projects must stop.

“Hindi pwedeng magpatuloy ang mga proyektong ito. [These projects must stop.] If we continue with these deals, it may be equivalent to giving up our territories,” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, the group Akbayan urges President Rodrigo Duterte to reveal to the public all Chinese-loaned contracts that his administration has entered into.

“A comprehensive debt audit of all Chinese loans is necessary to determine if these loan agreements are legitimate, don’t carry unjust conditionalities that could undermine our country’s sovereignty, territory, economy and security, and not the result of questionable transactions,” Akbayan Chairman Emeritus and former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Etta Rosales said. 

Malacañang is yet to respond on the matter. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

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