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Analyst: ICC case vs China’s Xi Jinping faces challenges

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The complaint filed by two former high-ranking Philippine officials against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) is facing many challenges, a maritime law expert said on Friday (March 22).

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario filed the complaint on March 13 on behalf of Filipino fishermen, accusing Xi and other Chinese government officials of committing crimes against humanity for implementing “systematic plan to control the South China Sea.”

“Over the several years, Chinese President Xi Jin Ping has ordered engineers to pile sand onto some of the sea’s disputed offshore reefs, mostly in the Spratlys, with the apparent goal of building military bases there,” the group stated in their communication.

“[Chinese Foreign Minister] Wang Yi is the Primary promoter of China’s plan in the South China Sea,” the complainants said.

“As China’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Xiao Jianhua defends, promotes and facilitates the crimes stated in this communication,” they added.

The complainants said the situation is both unique and relevant because “it presents one of the most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment on humanity’s history.”

“It adversely affects and injures not only myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, including 320,000 Filipino fishermen, but also present and future generations of people across nations,” the complainants added.

But Prof. Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the complaint faces many challenges, including questions on whether ICC has jurisdiction of the case.

“’Yung loss of livelihood kasi it doesn’t per se fall under categories of crimes sa ICC. Medyo maraming magiging paliwanag pang kailangan kung talagang papasok iyon (the loss of livelihood does not per se fall under the ICC”s categories of crimes. It needs more explanation on whether it really falls under its jurisdiction),” Batongbacal said.

Despite reports on China’s alleged harassment against Filipino fishermen in the contested waters, massive reclamation of reefs and militarization in the region, the analyst thinks the complaint is lacking in certain elements.

“Hindi siya nag-involve ng tinatawag na use of force in international law, iyong aktibong pag-atake at paggamit ng dahas. Tapos in terms of injuries, hindi naman natin makita ‘no kung mayroong physical injury talaga, kahit nangyari iyon sa [Vietnamese fishermen], pero sa atin walang report. Threat lang o banta (The issue doesn’t involve what we call use of force in international law. There is no active armed attack. In terms of injuries, we do not see any physical injuries, even if it happened to Vietnamese fishermen, but in Filipinos, there was no report. Just threats),” he explained.

“Ang concern ay loss of fishing resources, iyong pag-regulate sana, paghinto sana ng illegal fishing sa ating EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), iyong mga gano’n pwede iyong pag-usapan sa ibang bodies tulad ‘nung within the UN (United Nations) System (The obvious concern here is the loss of fishing resources, the regulation or stoppage of illegal fishing. Those kind of concerns may be discussed by other foreign bodies within the UN system),” he added.

The Philippines’ formal withdrawal from the Hague-based body could also obstruct the case filed by del Rosario and Carpio-Morales, aside from the fact that China has never been a member of the ICC.

“Mayroong malaking obstacle diyan, iyong fact na hindi naman ever naging miyembro ng ICC ang China. Tapos pangalawa na iyong tayo, nag-withdraw pa tayo kasi supposedly, dapat iyong partido diyan ay involved iyong mga state, (There is a very big obstacle here, the fact that China is not a member of the ICC. Next is the Philippines’ withdrawal from the body. Supposedly, the states who are parties to the case should be involved with the ICC)” Batongbacal said.

Meanwhile, Opposition Senator Leila de Lima has lauded the “bold, unprecedented” move of Carpio-Morales and del Rosario to call the attention of the ICC on the plight of local fishermen affected by the maritime dispute.

“It’s in fact a masterstroke na nagpapakita kung bakit kailangan manatili tayo sa ICC. Kasi kung ganyan na foreign aggressor ang involved eh saan tayo pupunta? Kundi sa isang independent international body with universal jurisdiction (that shows why we really need to remain in the ICC. Because if a foreign aggressor is involved in the case then where will we go? To an independent international body with universal jurisdiction),” de Lima said in a statement.

READ: Duterte: ICC case vs Xi won’t strain PH-China ties

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the case won’t affect the stronger diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Mai Bermudez)

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I call on our beloved president to help us —captain of sunken PH boat

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

Cerillo Escuterio recalled they already caught three tons of fish before a Chinese vessel rammed into their fishing vessel, F/B GemVir 1, on June 9.

The 22-man crew was then left floating in the open sea for three hours before a Vietnamese vessel came to rescue.

Escuterio has been a fisherman for seven years. He said the amount of fish caught in the region is what made him decide to become a fisherman.

The fishes were not only abundant but also beautiful, he added.

But after their fishing vessel was destroyed, Escuterio and his companions were left with no choice but to think of other ways to earn for their family.

F/B GemVir 1’s captain Junel Insigne insisted the Chinese vessel intentionally rammed into their boat.

He remembered how their ship sank. He also remembered how the Chinese vessel turned off their lights before they sail off.

“Pagbangga biglang lumubog na iyong bangka namin. Paglubog umikot iyong Chinese fishing vessel, pagikot inilawan kami. Kita namin mga tao sa lantsa na Chinese fishing vessel. Pagilaw nila nakita kami lubog, umatras [sila] nang todo bago sabay patay uli [ng] ilaw takbo palayo (They hit us and our boat sank. When it did sink, the Chinese fishing vessel turned around and shed a light on us. We saw the people there. After lighting on us, they sailed backwards and turned off their lights),” he said.

Escuterio also denied claims that it was an accident because the engine wasn’t even on.

“Mali ang kanilang statement na sinasabi nilang aksidente. Mali po iyon talagang sinadya nila na banggain kami kasi kami ay naka-anchor. Steady bangka namin ang engine namin patay hindi kami naandar (Their statement that it was an accident is wrong. That is wrong, they intentionally hit us because we had our anchor down. Our boat was steady because our engine was off),” Escuterio said.

Both fishermen called on the president to help them, not only for their financial needs but also to hold those involved accountable.

“Ang panawagan ko lang sa ating mahal na pangulo gusto ko lang mapaayos iyang bangka na iyan kasi diyan lang kami kumukuha ng aming ikabubuhay (I call on our beloved president, I just want our boat fixed because that’s where we get out livelihood),” Insigne said.

READ: Business groups vow aid for Filipino fishers hit by Chinese ship

Meanwhile, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Industry and the Philippine Silk Road International Chamber of Commerce gave P1 million financial aid to the 22 Filipino fishermen.

The P500,000 will be used to repair their boat while the remaining P500,000 will be for their livelihood assistance. —AAC (with reports from Sherwin Culubong)

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Tugade allays flooding concerns amid construction of Sangley Airport

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

File photo: DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Friday allayed fears of flooding amid the ongoing construction of the Sangley Airport in Cavite.

During an inspection led by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade at the construction site, he said there was no trace of flooding in the area despite rains that occurred overnight.

“Umulan ng malakas kagabi hanggang kaninang madaling araw, pero kita niyo naman, walang baha dito sa airport,” Tugade said in a statement posted on Facebook.

IN PHOTOS: DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade led the inspection on the construction progress of Sangley Airport in Cavite…

Posted by Department of Transportation – Philippines on Thursday, 13 June 2019

He also assured that the airport development will continue despite inconveniences to meet the operational timeline set by President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ: DOTr orders 24/7 construction of Sangley airport

Tugade earlier ordered the 24/7 construction of Sangley Airport to expedite the transfer of domestic flights to reduce congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“Let us not see shadows when there is no sun. If we are all to answer the ‘perhaps’ and the ‘maybes,’ nothing will happen in this country,” he said.

“We should not stop development simply because we are afraid of future inconveniences. Bear in mind that the price of development is an inconvenience,” he added.

During Friday’s inspection, Tugade checked the completed asphalt overlay of the runway, as well as the ongoing construction of the Passenger Terminal Building (PTB), the drainage system, and the hangars.

He also inspected an area for the landing berth of the ferry operations.

The DOTr reported that the construction of additional facilities at the Sangley Airport, which started last year and is now at 48.68% completion rate.

The inspection was conducted in collaboration with the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy.

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Too good to be true — Duterte on investment scams

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte again urged the public not to join any investment scheme operations reportedly similar to Kapa Community Ministry.

“If it is too good to be true, then it is really wrong,” he said. “Maniwala kayo sa akin kasi abogado ako, presidente niyo ako. Kung kung totoo pa iyan, porbida ako na magsasabi ‘sige’ pati ako sasali na. Huwag kayo pumasok diyan, panloloko iyan (Believe me because I am lawyer, I am your president. If it were legitimate, I would be the first to say yes; I’ll even join one. But it’s a scam, so don’t enter into one).

“I’m sorry. The operation will be stopped or shall stop immediately,” he added.

The chief executive also reiterated his order to stop the operation of Kapa Community Ministry and the arrest of the officials as well as its founder.

“Ang sinabi ko sa NBI at police, hulihin. Kasi iyang estafa sa batas natin na ginawa ng Congress, large scale estafa in non-bailable, hindi ka makakapyansa. (I told the NBI and police to arrest [the officials]. Because that is large scale estafa which is non-bailable)” he said.

Duterte also warned the members of Kapa that they might get arrested if their names were listed as members of the organization.

Meanwhile, Kapa Community Ministry Official Lecturer Rene Catubigan insists that their group is not an investment scheme.

“Pumirma po kasi ang member ng deed of donation kaya I would like to correct the term na hindi po investment ang kanilang inilaan kundi donation. Iyong interes hindi namin tinatawag na interes iyon kasi ang tawag naming doon ‘love gift’ or ‘blessing’ (The members signed a deed of donation so I would like to correct the term. It is not an investment but a donation. The interest is not called an interest but a ‘love gift’ or ‘blessing’),” he said.

Kapa members held a prayer rally on Thursday (June 13) in General Santos, however, founder Joel Apolinario did not attend due to fear of arrest.—(with reports from Janice Ingente)

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