Gov’t tells Alejano: Trip to Panatag shoal OK but should be cleared

Robie de Guzman   •   April 16, 2019   •   1741

Senatorial candidate Gary Alejano (📷 Twitter)

Everyone may visit the disputed Panatag Shoal off Zambales, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Spokesperson Captain Armand Balilo said on Monday.

Balilo made the statement after Otso Diretso Senatorial candidate and Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano wrote a formal letter to the PCG to request for permission to visit the contested shoal.

The letter, dated April 13, was addressed to PCG Commandant Admiral Elson Hermogino.

“Sir, the PCA ruling in 2016 clearly stated that the Scarborough Shoal is a traditional fishing ground of Filipino and Chinese fishermen, hence, both of our fishermen can fish there. However, our local media has reported otherwise, which, if left unchecked would greatly undermine our people’s rights to the resources found there,” Alejano’s letter read.

Balilo said there is no policy that prohibits people from visiting Panatag Shoal as long the trip is properly coordinated with the PCG station for rescue operation in case of emergency.

However, the Philippine Navy said Alejano and other opposition senatorial candidates cannot just sail to the disputed area, saying this should be cleared with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM).

The Philippine Navy said Alejano’s request should be forwarded to the AFP-NOLCOM as it has operational control of the navy ships deployed in Panatag shoal.

Nevertheless, authorities expressed doubt that the trip would be permitted if it’s going to be used for something other than fishing.

The PH Navy also stressed it can always deny request to travel to Panatag Shoal as it is not a tourist destination that anyone can visit.

The military said the AFP-NOLCOM’s priority concern is safety, and the current maritime dispute between the Philippines and China comes second. – Robie de Guzman

PH Navy receives, commissions ex-South Korean warship

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2019

Courtesy: Philippine Navy Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Navy has formally commissioned into active service BRP Conrado Yap (PS39), a former Pohang-class corvette from South Korea.

In a statement, the Philippine Navy said the warship was handed over during a commissioning ceremony held at Jinhae Naval Base in South Korea on Monday (August 5).

National Defense Assistant Secretary Jesus Rey Avilla witnessed the transfer and signed its documents with his South Korean counterpart, Logistics Management Administrator Kim Soo Sam.

The Republic of Korea Navy ship Chungju (PCC-762) was used by South Korea from 1987 to 2016.

It was given the namesake BRP Conrado Yap upon Philippine Navy commission in an aim to uphold the legacy of a Filipino soldier who served in the Korean war as part of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea. Yap, a Philippine Army captain, was considered as the most decorated Filipino soldier during the Korean war.

During the ceremony, Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Robert Empedrad assured to take care of the ship and “will always be in shipshape condition and shall defend our country’s maritime waters with same valor as displayed by our hero Capt. Conrado Yap 68 years ago.”

The BRP Conrado Yap, which is set to sail to the Philippines this month, will be commanded by Capt. Marco Buena.

The ship is expected to beef up the Navy’s frontline defense and enhance the fleet’s Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capabilities.

Duterte-Xi ‘verbal agreement’ on WPS yields conflicting Cabinet remarks

Marje Pelayo   •   July 4, 2019

FILE: (Left-Right) Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation at Yanqi Lake International Convention Center in the northern suburb of Beijing, China on May 15, 2017. (PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines – Some Cabinet members are throwing inconsistent statements regarding the controversial ‘verbal agreement’ between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping over the issue of fishing rights in the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea.

In June, President Duterte explained in public what is involved in his ‘mutual agreement’ with President Xi.

“Nagtanong sila, (They asked) ‘Will you allow the Chinese to fish?’ Sabi ko, (I answered) ‘Of course.’ ‘Yan ang pinag-usapan namin noon, (That’s what we [Xi] discussed before),” the President said.

“And that was [why] we were allowed to fish again. It was a mutual agreement,” he added.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the ‘agreement’ is in effect because China is no longer harassing Filipino fishermen in the disputed waters such as in Panatag Shoal.

“Ano bang hindi enforced? Ano pang tawag doon? Iyong usapan, may usapan sila: Puwede kayong mag-fish, hindi gagambalain ang mga fishermen. Hindi ba nangyayari na nga? (Not enforced? What do you call that? They had an agreement: ‘You may fish, we will not block your fishermen.’ Isn’t it happening already?),” Panelo explained.

This agreement Panelo said, was documented as it was officially recorded.

But when asked if Malacañang could present it to the public, Panelo has no direct answer.

“Sinabi na nga niya (He already said it) exactly as it transpired. Kung ano ang sinabi niya (what he said) we should trust the President’s word,” he said.

“Besides, nandoon kami and all of us are saying narinig naming lahat ng iyon, (we were all there and all of us are saying, we heard everything),” he added.

But for Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin, that said ‘verbal agreement’ is pointless and cannot be executed by the Philippine government unless it becomes a policy.

Even Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles agreed that an agreement can only become a policy or legally binding if it has specific rules and regulations.

“Unless that is translated into hard and specific words and sentences and provisions, then it’s just an agreement to come to an agreement,” Nograles argued.

The Palace admitted that Cabinet officials can have individual interpretation on the issue.

But Panelo noted that both Nograles and Locsin were not present nor involved in the conversation of the two heads of states.

“Magkakaiba kasi nga, wala sila duon. Hindi ba sinabi na nga ni Presidente, wala kasi iyong dalawang doon,” Panelo stressed.

When asked if he thinks the interpretation of the two officials are incorrect, Panelo said, “Ano pa nga ba? Hindi yun ang sinasabi ng presidente, (What else can that be? That is not what the President meant) but they are entitled to their interpretation. Kung iyon ang intindi nila, ano ang magagawa natin? (If that’s how they see it, what else can we do?)” he concluded. – with details from Rosalie Coz

SC postpones debate on writ of kalikasan for areas in West Philippine Sea

Marje Pelayo   •   June 18, 2019

An aerial view shows the Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines July 20, 2011. REUTERS/ROLEX DELA PENA/POOL

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 18) postponed its debates on a plea for writ of kalikasan for areas in West Philippine Sea.

The SC moved the oral arguments to July 2 instead of June 25.

The petition, filed by Palawan fisherfolk and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), seeks to compel the government to impose measures to protect parts of the West Philippine Sea where Chinese fishermen harvest and damage marine resources.

The SC already issued writ of kalikasan to protect Philippine territories such as Panatag Shoal, Ayungin Shoal and Mischief Reef.

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