Filipino ex-senators ask court to scrap new U.S. defense pact

admin   •   May 27, 2014   •   1454

Philippine President Benigno Aquino listens on his headset during the opening plenary session of the World Economic Forum on East Asia, at Manila’s Makati financial district May 22, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ERIK DE CASTRO

(Reuters) – Two former senators, who voted to evict two large U.S. military bases from the Philipiines in 1991, asked the Supreme Court on Monday to declare unconstitutional a new defense pact clinched with Washington, the first legal challenge to the pact.

The case will draw new attention to President Benigno Aquino’s battles with the courts, which have blocked many of his administration’s reforms since he came to power in 2010, including a landmark law creating a truth commission to examine the wrongdoings of past administrations.

Manila and Washington last month signed a new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to allow U.S. forces wider access to local bases and construct facilities to store logistics for maritime security and disaster operations.

On Monday, Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada filed a 63-page petition alleging that the government had failed to uphold and protect the country’s sovereignty and national interests.

“The executive has circumvented the correct and brave stand by the Philippine Senate in 1991 in refusing to renew the bases treaty by illegally entering into the EDCA,” the petitioners said in their submission.

Saguisag and Tanada were among a dozen senators who voted to terminate the military bases agreement signed in 1947 with the United States, a year after the Philippines won its independence from its former colonial masters.

“This will effectively allow them to establish and operate de facto military bases anywhere on Philippine soil, minus the cost of paying for one,” the submission said.

Aquino has clashed repeatedly with the Supreme Court and the chief justice was removed in 2012 after an impeachment hearing clearly backed by the president’s administration. But, the court has kept its independence, not always voting in his favor.

Public opinion has always been favorable to the United States, particularly in recent times as Manila has become embroiled in disputes with China over Beijing’s claim to most of the South China Sea.

Also signing the petition were nationalist and left-wing activists and the son of former Senate president Jovito Salonga, who opposed the presence of U.S. military bases. Many of the signatories turned up at the court house.

Peter Paul Galvez, a spokesman for the defense department, said the new pact in no way violated the 1987 constitution. But he said the petitioners were entitled to voice their opinion.

“We maintain that it’s within the constitution and existing laws,” Galvez told reporters at the main army base in Manila. “The interest of the country has been paramount in this negotiation.”

The military said the accord could upgrade the country’s ability to deal with external threats, including against intrusions into its vast maritime borders.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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)

US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese nationals involved in militarization of South China Sea

Marje Pelayo   •   August 27, 2020

The United States announced on Wednesday (August 26) that it is imposing visa restrictions on Chinese nationals involved in militarization activities in the South China Sea.

“The United States supports a free and open South China Sea,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“We respect the sovereign rights of all nations, regardless of size, and seek to preserve peace and uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law,” he added.

The US official specified restricting Chinese nationals who were “responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea or the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources.”

Pompeo further said that “These individuals will now be inadmissible into the United States, and their immediate family members may be subject to these visa restrictions as well.”

In addition, the Department of Commerce has added 24 PRC state-owned enterprises to the Entity List, including several subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

Likewise, workers of 24 People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned enterprises to the Entity List, including subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and their immediate family members are also not allowed to enter any US domain.

Pompeo said the United States will act until Beijing discontinues its coercive behavior in the South China Sea.

“We will continue to stand with allies and partners in resisting this destabilizing activity. continue to stand with allies and partners in resisting this destabilizing activity,” the official concluded.

Philippines files diplomatic protest against China over confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s gears

Marje Pelayo   •   August 21, 2020

FILE PHOTO: A Philippine fisherman watches a China Coast Guard vessel patrolling the disputed Scarborough Shoal, April 5, 2017. Picture taken April 5, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) lodged on Thursday (August 20) a diplomatic protest against China over the illegal confiscation by the Chinese Coast Guard of fish aggregating devices (payaos) of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc in May.

The DFA added that “the Philippines also resolutely objected to China’s continuing illicit issuances of radio challenges Philippine aircraft conducting legitimate regular maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.”

In July 2016, the arbitral tribunal in The Hague in the Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines to invalidate China’s historical claims on the self-proclaimed ‘nine-dash line’ in the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.

The Philippines maintains that Bajo de Masinloc is well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the arbitral ruling declares it as a common fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese or even Chinese fishermen.

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