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Duterte tells China: Back off from Pag-asa Island

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Pag-asa Island and Chinese President Xi Jinping

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has told China to back off from the Pag-asa Island amid reports that hundreds of Chinese vessels have “swarmed” the island, also known as Thitu, in the West Philippine Sea.

Speaking at PDP-Laban’s campaign rally in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on Thursday night, Duterte said he will not allow China to occupy Pag-asa Island, which has long been held by Manila.

“I assure you, unless China wants a war with us, eh ‘di ako papayag kung pati ‘yung Pagasa i-occupy nila? No, of course not,” he said.

“I’m trying to tell China, Pag-asa [island] is ours. We have been there [since] 1974. Kung inyo ‘yan, bakit hindi ninyo kami pinaalis?” he added.

Duterte, who has been aiming to attract trade and investment from the Asian economic giant, has mostly withheld his criticism of China’s expansive claims in the West Philippine Sea.

But his rare remark against Beijing came after the Philippine Military warned that hundreds of Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels were spotted in the disputed waterway in the first quarter of 2019. The vessels were described as “suspected maritime militia.”

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement called the presence of Chinese ships near the Pag-asa island a violation of the country’s sovereignty.  

“This is not a warning, this is just a word of advice to my friends kasi kaibigan tayo ng China,” Duterte said.

“I will not plead or beg, but I’m just telling you that layoff the Pag-asa because may mga sundalo ako diyan,” he added.

But if Beijing touches the island, Duterte said he is prepared to order his soldiers to suit up for a dangerous mission.

“At ‘pag ‘yan ang ginalaw ninyo, ibang istorya na ‘yan. ‘Di sabihin ko na ‘yang mga sundalo ko, ‘prepare for suicide missions’,” he said.

Duterte has repeatedly said before that war with China would be futile and that the Philippines would lose heavily and suffer in the process.

The President, however, assured he is prepared to reach for a compromise with China and that there is no need for the Philippines to use force against its more powerful neighbor.

“We go into a compromise for the time being, kasi hindi nga, if we go to war or there is a violent conflict, we would never win and I would suffer beyond imagination. I would just go there send my soldiers and policemen to be slaughtered. I am not prepared to do that,” Duterte said.

Beijing, for its part, has downplayed the rising tension in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, saying that both sides had exchanged amicable and constructive views on the issue.

“During the meetings,both sides exchanged views in a frank, friendly and constructive manner on the issues which each side is concerned about, such as the recent situation in the South China Sea and maritime activities,” said
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang in an interview during the 4th Bilateral Consultation Mechanism meet between the Philippines and China held in Manila.

“Both sides proactively discussed ways to resolve these issues. Both sides reiterated that they wanted to continue to expand cooperation and discuss measures to promote trust,” he added. —Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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China’s Xi holds talks with N.Korean leader Kim about ‘new era’: foreign ministry

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2019

Xi, Peng, Kim, Ri posing for photo with DPRK officials. Pyongyang, DPRK – June 20, 2019. Courtesy : Reuters

China’s President Xi Jinping held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang as part of his two-day state visit.

They discussed the ‘new era’ of relations between the two countries, as they mark the 70th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in North Korea on Thursday (June 20) as Beijing looks to bolster its neighbor, hit by U.N. sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs, a week before Xi and U.S. President Donald Trump meet amid a bitter trade dispute.

Xi, whose entourage includes the head of China’s state economic planner, will be in reclusive North Korea for two days, becoming the first Chinese leader to visit in 14 years, and could bring fresh support measures for its floundering, sanctions-bound economy.

China is the North’s only major ally and the visit comes amid renewed tension on the Korean peninsula as the United States seeks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. (REUTERS)

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Makabayan bloc believes boat captain was pressured to change statements

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2019

Courtesy :Secretary Manny Piñol’s FB page

Makabayan bloc believes that the boat captain of the sunken fishing vessel was pressured to change statements after their meeting with Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Piñol.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Zarate said the fishermen might have been intimidated or bribed in order to change their statements about the incident.

“There was really a pressure. They are bombarded by so much misinformation. Itinu-twist ang kanilang statement siguro may mga pagbabanta pa and offer of parang bina-bribe bigyan ng mga ganitong bangka etc. but it will not erase the fact, (They twist [the fishermen’s] statement maybe there are even threats and bribes. They may have bribed them with these kinds of boats etc.),” he said.

Outgoing Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano said the Reed Bank fishermen are facing a lot of pressure.

The group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) called for transparency on the closed-door meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

“We demand an explanation and transparency from Piñol on what actually happened inside that house that led to the complete turnaround on the position of the boat captain on the incident that happened on the night of June 9,” their statement reads.

In a radio interview, Secretary Piñol denied there was any intimidation during the meeting. He said his actions are only brought by good intentions.

Meanwhile, Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Sato said there should be a ‘marine inquiry’ on the incident.

“Kami po ay humihiling, sa lalong madaling panahon, na magkaroon ng marine inquiry, (We wish to have a marine inquiry as soon as possible)” she said.

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Recto Bank collision an ‘accident’, not armed attack – Lorenzana

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana maintained that the incident in Recto Bank involving the Chinese vessel, Yuemaobinyu 42212 and the Filipino fishing vessel, F/B GEM-VER 1 on June 9 was not an armed attack but only an accident.

“I think it’s just an accident based on the information we got from some of the crew. Siguro hindi rin sinasadya ng kabila (Perhaps it was not intentional),” Lorenzana said.

Since it was such, Lorenzana said he agrees with Malacañang that the Philippines cannot insist its mutual defense treaty with the United States to deal with the present issue because such treaty applies only to armed conflicts.

Lorenzana was the first to disclose the report on a Chinese vessel hitting and sinking a Filipino fishing vessel in the contested area in the West Philippine Sea.

The Defense Chief condemned the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen adrift at sea while struggling to survive.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through Secretary Teddy Locsin, has already elevated the matter to the International Maritime Office (IMO).

But though Lorenzana supported Locsin for that matter, the Defense Secretary said the Philippine government can only act once all the needed information is gathered specifically China’s official statement on the incident.

For now, the government is pursuing a case against the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the Filipino fishermen which, the Secretary said, is a violation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which the Philippines and China are both signatories.

While waiting for China’s side on the matter, Secretary Lorenzana appeals to the public to be patient as the government works on resolving the issue while extending assistance to the affected fishermen.

“I ask our countrymen to be patient dahil lalabas naman talaga ang totoo kapag nakuha na natin ang lahat ng (the truth will come out once we have all) information so that we can move on from this,” he said. (with details from April Cenedoza)

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