IBP wants time to talk with fishermen in West PH Sea Kalikasan petition

Robie de Guzman   •   July 12, 2019   •   1278

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Friday said it will request the Supreme Court (SC) for time to talk with Zambales and Palawan fishermen involved in a petition for the West Philippine Sea.

The IBP issued the statement days after the government claimed fishermen involved in the suit have disowned the petition.

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday said 19 of the fishermen who were named as petitioners backed out from the case, saying they had no knowledge of the writ of kalikasan suit seeking for the protection of the West Philippine sea.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy available to persons or groups whose right to a balanced and healthy ecology is threatened or violated.

He added that apart from the 19 who allegedly recanted their statements, 13 of the total 37 petitioners did not sign their affidavits while 24 signed but had no identification.

Due to Calida’s claims, the oral arguments were suspended and Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin called for a closed-door meeting of the parties.

After the conference, Calida said the government and the petitioners’ lawyers agreed that the case be dismissed. Both the petitioners’ side and the Supreme court did not confirm Calida’s claim.

In a statement, the IBP said lawyers handling the case will seek time to confer with the fishermen.

“Considering the new allegations by the Office of the Solicitor General, the handling lawyers will request the Supreme Court for time to confer with the fishermen in Zambales and in Palawan so that they can more appropriately act on the developments in the case,” the IBP said in a statement signed by its president, Domingo Egon Cayosa.

“The IBP stands firmly with the fishermen, IBP chapters, and the lawyers involved in the petition for a writ of kalikasan filed before the Supreme Court,” it added.

The IBP also reiterated its advocacy for the “enforcement of environmental laws, protection of the rights and welfare of fisherfolks and securing the territory and patrimony of our country in the West Philippine Sea.”

All eyes on PH as Duterte arrives in China to discuss sea row

Marje Pelayo   •   August 29, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in China on Wednesday evening (August 28) for a three-day working visit and meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Palace is confident that China will hear the President once he opens up The Hague’s arbitral ruling over the territorial dispute in the West Philippines Sea considering the solid bond that the two countries have already established.

The discussion, according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, aims to prevent further escalation of tension and violence at sea due to the decade-long maritime dispute.

“I think China will have an open ear, after all they kept on saying that we’re friends and friends can always talk on anything,” Panelo said.

“Moreover, it’s really about time to talk about it since if the concern is maritime security, and peace in the region, then they really have to talk because this has been a source of some irritants between the two countries as well as other countries,” he added.

Also, included in the agenda of the President’s visit is the proposed joint exploration with China in the WPS under the ’60-40 sharing scheme.’ This means that the Philippines will get 60% of the profit while China will receive the remaining 40%.

“It’s mutually beneficial because both countries are agreeing on a modus vivendi with respect to the exploitation of natural resources,” Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has accepted the recent apology of the owner of the Chine vessel to the involved Filipino fishermen in the June 9 maritime incident in Recto Bank.

“We accept the recent apology extended by the owner of the Chinese vessel to our fishermen affected by the incident,” Panelo said.

“We likewise welcome the owner’s humility to take responsibility and acknowledgment that compensation must be provided to cover the actual loss,” he added.

Duterte and Xi will meet on Thursday evening (August 29) and shall witness the signing of certain agreements between the two countries.

Joining President Duterte in China are nine of his Cabinet officials to include:

  1. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr.
  2. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea
  3. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III
  4. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
  5. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez
  6. Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena
  7. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi
  8. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon
  9. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

Also included in the President’s delegation are Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Prospero De Vera III and Customs Commissioner Rey Guerrero. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Senate to probe on Chinese investments in three islands in Cagayan, Zambales provinces

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2019

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Senate seeks to investigate reports that Chinese investors are planning to develop the Fuga Island in the province of Cagayan and the islands of Grande and Chiquita in Zambales.

In a statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said she is wondering why the government allowed these movements despite China’s alleged bullying practices in the West Philippine Sea.

She added that these islands are no ordinary islands as they have an important role in the military’s history.

“Amid China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, it is baffling that the Duterte government allowed this to happen. These are no ordinary islands. These parcels of land are strategic maritime fronts that play a significant role in our military history, which only proves how invaluable they are to our national security,” the senator’s statement reads.

Senator Panfile Lacson also pointed, “security concerns dahil kung Chinese investors ang magde-develop at yung proximity dun sa mga facilities. Lalo’t may report na lumabas na yung western command in Palawan merong allegedly Chinese tourists na kumukuha ng pictures so anong intention [security concerns because if Chinese investors will the ones to develop (these islands) and their proximity is in (our military) facilities. Especially now that the Western Command in Palawan has reported that there is an alleged Chinese tourists taking pictures, on what intention]?”

Aside from the three islands, the Senate may possibly discuss the development of the 32-hectare lot of Island Cove Resort in Kawit, Cavite that is to be used by the Philippine Off Shore Gaming Operator (POGO) industry.

This is only several kilometers away from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) air and naval bases. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

USS Ronald Reagan sails in PH waters

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – One of America’s warships has arrived in Philippine Waters in the latest show of the United States’ military might amid tensions in the West Philippine Sea and new flare-ups between the U.S. and China.

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan led the Ronald Reagan Strike Group which includes Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62).

USS Ronald Reagan is a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier which carries supersonic F/A-18 jets, spy planes, and helicopters.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is in the country for a brief port call that “highlights the strong community and military connections” between the two countries.

“This visit is a great representation of our strong friendship, partnership, and alliance with the Philippines, as well as a testament to our joint commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said in a statement.

The warship’s visit to the Philippines comes after the U.S. criticized China’s “destabilizing” behavior in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday accused China of using predatory economics and debt for sovereignty deals, including weaponizing the global commons and promoting state-sponsored theft of other nations intellectual property.

READ: United States opposes ‘destabilizing’ behavior by China in Indo-Pacific – Pentagon chief

Ronald Reagan, Chancellorsville, and Antietam are forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“This port call is a direct reflection of the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines and underscores our strong support to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, Commander of Task Force 70 said in the same statement.

While it is one of America’s most visible symbols of resolve and lethal instruments of war, the ship operates on its motto “peace through strength” by using its presence to deter attacks from enemies, according to its website.

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said that while the ship is docked in Manila, the U.S. and Philippine navies will participate in sporting events, engage in senior leadership exchanges, and take part in community relations and cultural events. 

The ships will also be open for tours for students and youth.

“Visiting the Philippines is always incredible and I’m glad that the officers and sailors of Carrier Strike Group 5 will have the chance to deepen ties with our critical ally while enjoying the culture and beauty of this wonderful country,” Thomas said.

The EmbasFor over 65 years, the U.S. and the Philippines have maintained a Mutual Defense Treaty demonstrating our joint commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region. (with a report from Reuters)

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