Duterte ‘tolerating’ Chinese fishing in PH’s EEZ draws flak

Marje Pelayo   •   June 26, 2019   •   1477

MANILA, Philippines – Hoping to get the government to side with them, the 22 fishermen who were abandoned at sea by Chinese crewmen in the Recto Bank maritime incident have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to bar Chinese fishermen from fishing within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

A country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is an area which is beyond, and is adjacent to, a given country’s territorial seas. It extends no more than 200 nautical miles out from a country’s own coastlines.

In case of the Philippines, any marine resource available within a country’s EEZ is for the exclusive use and benefit of the Philippine government and the Filipino people.

The controversial Recto or Reed Bank is within the Philippine’s EEZ.

It is rich in marine resources that is why the so called “Recto 22” wants the government to insist the Philippine’s exclusive rights in the area.

However, President Duterte said he will not bar the Chinese from fishing in Recto Bank “for friendship’s sake” when asked if he would prevent the Chinese from doing so.

“I don’t think that China would do that. Why? Because we’re friends. And they are of the same view that that should not result in any bloody confrontation,” the President told reporters on June 26.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed the President’s statement.

“Kasi friends nga daw. Kung friends, ‘di magbibigayan kayo, (Because we’re friends. Friends share with each other), Panelo said.

But Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said the government cannot allow Chinese fishermen to fish in the Philippine’s EEZ because “it will violate the Constitution.”

Carpio explained: “The Constitution mandates, The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has the specific task to be “the protector of the people” as mandated by the Constitution and to “secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory.”

“The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is the President, who has the constitutional duty to direct the Armed Forces is the President, who has the constitutional duty to direct the Armed Forces to protect the nation’s marine wealth in its Exclusive Economic Zone,” Carpio explained further.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, pointed out in his tweet that the word ‘friend’ is not stated in the Constitution criticizing the President’s remarks allowing the Chinese to enjoy resources in the country’ archipelagic waters.

Professor Jay Batongbacal, for his part, said the President’s stance on the issue is tantamount to ‘renouncing’ the Philippine’s victory against China granted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 which ruled in favor of the Philippines as having the sovereign rights over the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is how the Philippines surrenders and renounces it victory in the Philippine v. China arbitration,” the Maritime Law Expert concluded. – With details from Rosalie Coz

Duterte spokesman denies hand in looming release of ex-Calauan Mayor Sanchez

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Wednesday denied any involvement in the looming release of his former client, former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

Panelo was the defense lawyer of Sanchez when he was sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua in 1995 for the rape and murder of student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in 1993.

Panelo, who is now President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said there is no need for him or anyone else to intervene in the case citing the Republic Act 10592 or the law that increased the Good Conduct Time (GCTA) allowance for inmates.

“Hindi na kailangan ng kahit na sinumang tao na mag-intervene, kasi mayroong batas na,” he said.

Panelo added that he has withdrawn as Sanchez’s legal counsel after the conviction. He also admitted to being happy with the release of his former client.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier announced that Sanchez is among the thousands of inmates who are eligible for recomputation of sentence on the basis of GCTA as provided by the law.

READ: DOJ: Ex-Calauan Mayor Sanchez, thousands others set for release

DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has no reason to believe that Panelo or any other party’s intervention is necessary because prison time records on good conduct had been in existence prior to the ruling of the Supreme Court last June on GCTA’s retroactivity. (Correspondent Rosalie Coz contributed to this report)

China calls on Philippines to ban all online gambling operations

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – China expressed hope that the Philippine government would ban all online gambling operations following its move to suspend the issuance of new licenses for offshore gaming companies.

Based on an official transcript of a press conference held Tuesday (August 20), China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said it welcomes the Philippines’ suspension of new applications for online gambling licenses.

“We also note the Philippine government’s announcement and appreciate it. We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling,” Geng said. 

“We hope it will further strengthen law enforcement with China and jointly tackle criminal activities including online gambling and cyber fraud. This will help create an enabling environment for our bilateral relations and peace and stability in the region,” he added.

Geng made the statement after the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) on Monday announced a moratorium on applications for new Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) over several concerns.

The Chinese official also said that “online gambling is a most dangerous tumor in modern society detested by people all across the world.”

The Chinese Embassy in Manila said that based on China’s laws and regulations, any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online-gambling, gambling overseas, opening casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is illegal. 

“The casinos and offshore gaming operators (POGOs) and other forms of gambling entities in the Philippine target Chinese citizens as their primary customers. A large number of Chinese citizens have been illegally recruited and hired in the Philippine gambling industry,” it said.

“In many cases, the employers of Philippine casinos, POGOs and other forms of gambling entities do not apply necessary legal work permits for their Chinese employees. Some Chinese citizens are even lured into and cheated to work illegally with only tourist visas,” it added.

Thousands of Chinese workers were earlier reported to be illegally working for more than 50 online gambling hubs in the Philippines.

Beijing earlier expressed grave concern over Pagcor’s move to transfer Chinese POGO workers to self-contained communities, saying this may infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens concerned.

It also appealed to Manila to pay attention to Beijing’s position and concerns and punish Philippine casinos and other forms of gambling entities that are illegally recruiting its citizens.

“The Chinese side also urges relevant departments of the Philippine Government to strengthen law enforcement cooperation with China to jointly combating gambling-related crimes such as money-laundering, illegal employment, kidnapping, extortion, torture, murder etc so as to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens, and to promote China-Philippine friendship and cooperation,” it added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier raised concern over the proximity of POGOs to military installations as these may be used for espionage.

Malacañang earlier said it sees nothing wrong with the location of POGO hubs near military installations and the creation of self-contained communities of foreign workers as long as it doesn’t violate the law.

READ: Malacañang: No risk in POGO hubs near military camps

However, the Palace would defer to the National Security Council to assess any risk being posed by the foreign operated online gaming operations.

Oplan Pamamalakaya: US, PH soldiers install artificial reefs in Batangas

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 20, 2019

Jackstone-type artificial habitat reefs made from simple construction materials

The Philippine and the United States military divers, along with local government units and non-government organizations installed artificial reefs in Batangas on August 15.

Oplan Pamamalakaya is a collaboration between by the Philippine Air Force, DV Boer Farm, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, and Municipality of Calatagan local government and residents.

The team were able to install a total of 30 jackstone-type artificial habitat reefs made from simple construction materials. 

“This project was a fantastic opportunity for us to partner with our friends in the PAF and help preserve the Philippine environment for future generations,” said Major Zach Hart, a participating diver.—AAC

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