Philippines says China ships still at shoal, but fishermen unhindered

admin   •   October 31, 2016   •   12462

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

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

 

China has scaled down its presence at a disputed South China Sea shoal but has not interfered with Filipino fishermen, the Philippine president’s security adviser said on Sunday, after the administration had said China had withdrawn completely.

Hermogenes Esperon said Chinese ships were still present but had not blocked Filipino boats at the Scarborough shoal, a rocky outcrop central to an international arbitration case, since President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to Beijing two weeks ago.

The situation at sea remains unclear, however, as do the circumstances behind an apparent softening of China’s position regarding an area significant not only for fishing, but for the broader balance of power in the South China Sea.

China had repelled fishermen since seizing the Scarborough Shoal in 2012, but Filipino boats returned from the area at the weekend with tonnes of fish, broadcaster GMA reported, showing images of smiling crew and a large catch.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had on Friday declared Chinese vessels were no longer there and fishing could resume. Duterte’s spokesman also made similar comments.

However, Esperon said military monitoring of the situation showed a reduced Chinese presence, but not a total withdrawal.

“From Oct. 17 to 27, there had been only two Chinese ships,” Esperon said in a text message. “There are no written agreements or rules but Filipino fishermen who went there lately attest that they were not driven away.”

He said in the past, on an average day, there had been about five Chinese navy and four coastguard ships.

China’s blockade of what is a prime fishing spot prompted the previous Philippine government to take on China by filing a case in 2013 at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, infuriating Beijing.

The tribunal’s July ruling, which China refuses to acknowledge, declared the shoal a traditional fishing ground that Chinese, Philippine and Vietnamese could all exploit. It also invalidated China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.

A frosty Philippine-China relationship changed dramatically after Duterte took office four months ago and started praising China while denouncing the United States in a sudden reversal of his predecessor’s foreign policy.

China’s Foreign Ministry was asked by media on Friday about the situation at the shoal but gave a non-committal answer.

Returning fishermen said two or three Chinese coastguard ships circled the shoal but had not harassed them.

Esperon said a Chinese survey ship was seen near Scarborough on Oct. 19 and a navy frigate the following day, but when Duterte returned home from Beijing, they left the area.

He said there had been no update on the situation since Friday, but a defense source told Reuters a surveillance plane had on Saturday seen four Chinese ships at the shoal.

A senior coastguard official, who declined to be named because he was unauthorized to speak to the media, said a Chinese withdrawal appeared unlikely.

“China will not abandon this area but if it will no longer harass local fishermen, that’s a positive development,” the official said. — Reuters

Malacañang allays public fear of possible Facebook ban

Marje Pelayo   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has allayed public fear of a possible ban on social media giant Facebook following President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks on Tuesday night (September 29) expressing his disappointment over the platform’s policy.

“You cannot lay down a policy for my government. I allow you to operate here. You cannot bar or prevent me from espousing the objectives of the government,” Duterte said. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President wants to have a talk with Facebook to clarify issues regarding its censorship policy against pages that support the government.

“Number 1 po kasi tayo sa buong mundo sa Pilipinas so kung wala tayo, malaking kawalan yan sa Facebook [The Philippines is the number 1 user in the world. It’s a big loss to Facebook],” Roque said.

“Pero at the same time, dahil nga number 1 tayo, marami ring Pilipino ang gumagamit ng Facebook. Maapektuhan din. So sinabi naman ng president, pag-usapan iyan [But at the same time since we are number 1, many Filipinos are using Facebook. It will affect us. So the President wants a discussion about it],” he added.

Among the accounts that have been taken down is the advocacy group Hands Off Our Children, a page which aims to protect minors from recruitment by extremists who entice youths to become combatants and fight the government.

Meanwhile, Malacañang has again questioned Facebook’s choice of fact-checkers— online news platforms Rappler and Vera Files— who are critical of the present administration.

Roque said the government is now contemplating on commissioning fact-checkers of social media platforms in the country similar to what other countries are doing.

“Pag-aaralan po natin kung dapat gawin natin iyan dahil di po tayo makakapayag na ang fact-checkers ay tanging mga laban lamang sa gobyerno [We will take that into consideration because that has to be done. We cannot allow that fact-checkers are only those who are all against the government],” Roque concluded. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Lacson, Sotto to Duterte: Don’t resign, just apply anti-graft laws to both friends, foes

Robie de Guzman   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Phillippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said that President Rodrigo Duterte should just implement the anti-graft laws to all violators instead of resigning if he wants to end corruption in the government.

READ: Duterte admits offering to resign over endless corruption in government

“Instead of resigning, the President only needs to be consistent in applying the anti-graft and corruption laws to both friends and foes,” Lacson said in a statement.

Lacson issued the statement after Duterte said he has offered to step down from office out of frustration over the rampant corruption in the country.

“Ewan ko kung sabihin ko ito sa inyo. I offered to resign as president. Pinatawag ko yung lahat, sabi ko, ‘Kasi nagsasawa na ako. In my years of government […] talagang wala na katapusan itong korupsyon. Mahirap talaga pigilin,” Duterte said during his public address late Monday night.

The president’s remarks follows on the heels of fresh allegations of irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).

Duterte earlier promised to fire officials over just “a whiff” of corruption.

“Strong words and warnings may work, but only when backed by political will and followed by concrete actions. There is no better way,” Lacson said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also said that it is the corrupt officials who should be resigning and not Duterte.

“Dapat ‘yung mga corrupt sa gobyerno makaisip noon, hindi siya. He was elected by the country, he cannot turn his back on the specified task by the Filipinos! I don’t think he means it,” Sotto said in a message to reporters.

As for Duterte’s offer to appear before a Congressional hearing to tackle corruption, Lacson said it may not be necessary.

“In fact, the Senate is already proposing in a bill to give him Bayanihan-like powers to address red tape in government,” he said.

Lacson was referring to Senate Bill 1844 which seeks to authorize the president to expedite the issuance of national and local permits and licenses in times of national emergency to address corruption and red tape in the government. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte admits offering to resign over endless corruption in government

Marje Pelayo   •   September 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has mentioned more than once in the past, wanting to step down from his post due to massive corruption in government.

He repeated himself on Monday evening (September 28) during his late night public address.

“I offered to resign as president. Ipinatawag ko ang lahat. Sabi ko, ‘Kasi nagsasawa na ako. In my years of government, talagang wala na katapusan itong korupsyon. Mahirap talaga pigilin (I called everyone and said, “I am getting tired of it. In my years of government service, corruption is endless. It’s very difficult to eradicate),” the President said.

Specifically, the President expressed deep dismay over corruption and irregularities in the management of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

He said he is keen on proposing to Congress to dissolve the state insurance agency as he admits privatizing it cannot be an option. 

PhilHealth, I am going to propose to Congress to abolish [it]. Kung i-privatize mo naman, walang pera (If it will be privatized, there is no money), he said.

PhilHealth is facing a big revamp or reorganization among its officials and employees following a series of hearings and investigations on the anomalies within the agency.

Meanwhile, the President defended the government’s move to sell several state properties. He cited the need to raise funds to support the health sector’s COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response plan.

“That is why we are selling properties. That’s the reason why we are selling real estate properties in Japan — because we have to raise money,” he said.

Wala nang pambayad diyan sa PhilHealth na iyan. Kaya walang ibang remedy diyan (There is no more money to pay for PhilHealth. There are no other remedies). It must be a surgical move,” he said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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