Philippines to propose no action to raise tension in sea disputes

admin   •   July 30, 2014   •   2146

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario delivers a statement during a news conference in Manila March 30, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO

(Reuters) – The Philippines will propose a freeze on all activity that raises tension in disputed waters in the South China Sea as part of a three-part plan at a regional security meeting next month, Manila’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers will hold security talks with various counterparts including those from the United States, China and the European Union in Myanmar next month, with escalating sea disputes in Asia likely to be a main issue.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain oil and gas deposits and has rich fishery resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to parts of the sea, where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

Relations between China and the Philippines have been tested recently by their dispute over part of the sea.

“We have this plan to submit a suggestion on a moratorium and that would be the immediate approach to the exacerbating problems in the South China Sea,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said after meeting Catherine Ashton, European Union foreign policy chief.

“It’s constructive, it’s positive and it’s comprehensive. No one will quarrel with you on that right to get a moratorium on exacerbating situation there and ultimately to manage tension.”

The United States, a close ally and former colonial power in the Philippines, has also called on all parties to halt all activity in the disputed sea to ease tension, and the Philippines supported that call.

But China responded by telling the United States to stay out of disputes and leave countries in the region to resolve problems themselves.

Del Rosario said the other two elements of his “triple-action plan” were the implementation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea and arbitration to settle disputes.

The Philippines has filed an arbitration complaint against China, seeking clarification on its right to exploit resources in its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Ashton, in Manila for a two-day visit to strengthen trade, aid and security relations, called on all parties to refrain from using force to resolve disputes. She also urged against unilateral attempts by any party to assert claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force.

Del Rosario accused China of violating an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea when it placed an oil rig in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam in May. China removed the rig this month. He said China was also doing some reclamation work on at least three shoals in the Spratly Islands.

China says it has irrefutable sovereignty over the Spratlys, where most of the competing claims overlap, and it has demanded the immediate withdrawal of personnel and equipment of countries “illegally occupying” China’s islands.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Travel ban to lapse January 15, extension possible —Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Travelers from a total of 32 countries with reported cases of the new variants of coronavirus are still not allowed to enter the country.

However, the travel ban is only until Friday (January 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday that with the Philippines reporting its first patient infected with the new COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom, the travel ban will likely be extended and may include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the list.

“Ang aking payo po doon sa mga nagpaplanong magbiyahe na covered ng travel restrictions, yung mga dayuhan, wag ninyo na pong ituloy dahil yung naunang travel restrictions na inimpose ng president ay subject po to extension upon the approval of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) at number one in the agenda po yan,” said Roque.

Roque added that the IATF will meet within the day to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, the national government assures that the country has enough quarantine facilities for returning Filipinos coming from countries covered by the travel ban.

President Rodrigo Duterte hopes the new variant will not cause severe danger to the Filipinos.

“May bagong monster na naman. And I pray to God really na sana na hindi ito more dangerous, more toxic than the original covid,” he said.

Treatment czar Usec. Leopoldo Vega, meanwhile, said it is still best to conduct contact tracing and sampling to curb the spread of the new variant and designate a separate isolation facility for such cases.

“Kung magiging dominant po ang gagawin po namin talagang magbubukod kami ng ward for (new) COVID variant patients,” he said. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte vouches for China’s Sinovac, says LGUs may choose any vaccine brand

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (January 13) vouched for the efficacy of Sinovac, the COVID-19 vaccine developed in China.

He said the Chinese-made vaccine is “as good as any other” vaccines developed in the United States and Europe.

“Hindi nagkulang ang Chinese sa utak (The Chinese is not lacking in knowledge). They would not venture kung hindi sapat (if it’s not) safe, sure, and secure. Iyang tatlo. It must be safe, sure and secure. That is the guarantee,” the President said.

His remark comes after several local government units (LGUs) opted to choose and procure the brand of their choice other than the ones preferred by the national government. 

“We are not forcing anybody to join the cause of the national government,” Duterte said.

“I am addressing this to the mayors. You can choose any vaccine you like to buy. Wala kaming pakialam kung ano ang pipiliin niyo (We don’t care which one you choose). Hindi kami makialam sa lahat ng bagay in the purchase (We won’t meddle in anything that has to do with the [vaccine] purchase),” he stressed.

But he reminded the local chief executives that it is still the national government that approves whatever medicine or drugs should be made available for public consumption.

The President maintained that he prefers whatever vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez will procure, for after all, he is his representative and that his decision will be the President’s responsibility.

“Ang responsibility niya ay responsibility ko rin. Kung may bulilyaso at the end of the day, akin talaga yang responsibility (His responsibility is my responsibility. If there are problems along the way, at the end of the day, it is my responsibility),” the President stressed.

During the meeting, Galvez confirmed that the national government is set to grant the Chinese drugmaker Sinovac its emergency use authorization (EUA) for its vaccine before February 20.

The official added that initial delivery will be 50,000 doses, followed by 950,000 doses in March then to one to three million in increasing volumes in the succeeding months. 

First 50,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine allotted for health workers — Malacañang

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the first 50,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccines for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will arrive in the country next month.

The first shipment of vaccines will be allotted for medical frontliners, Roque said.

The Palace official added that the health workers cannot choose their preferred brand of vaccine because the Sinovac shipment is the only vaccine expected to arrive in the country from February to July.

All other brands are expected to arrive in July onwards.

“Pagdating po sa Pebrero hanggang Hunyo, wala po talagang pagpipilian. Kung ayaw ninyo ng Sinovac, well hindi po kayo pipilitin,” Roque said.

 (Come February until June, there are no other brands to choose from. If you don’t want Sinovac, you will not be forced to take it.)

Una pong (The first) 50,000 will all go to health workers. Mauuna po ang priority areas na health workers na mabibigyan (Health workers in priority areas will be the first to receive the vaccine). Pero ang initial agreement po — although hindi pa po ito in a form of resolution — ay uubusin ang lahat ng healthcare workers sa Pilipinas (The initial agreement — although it is not yet in a form of a resolution— is to inoculate all healthcare workers in the Philippines) before we move on to the next sector,” he added.

Since the inoculation program of the government is free and voluntary, those who are included in the priority list who refuse to be vaccinated will have to sign a waiver, particularly the healthcare workers and senior citizens.

They will have to wait for another vaccine along with the general population, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

Kung mayroong maa-identify tayong medical frontliners (If there are medical frontliners) for example, who do not wish to be vaccinated, ang mangyayari niyan is, (what will happen is) we will have them sign some sort of waiver or understanding, or a document that they understand the implications of them wavering their slot to get vaccinated,” he said.

“Magiging magulo kung magka-kanya-kanya tayo ng pili ( It would be troublesome if everyone will insist on their preferred brand), then we have to put some order in terms of the queue,” he added.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said they are willing to be vaccinated with the Sinovac vaccine. It is approved by the FDA and if they are allowed to be vaccinated according to the prioritization list of the government.

“If we are included in the list of priorities, yes of course. Any type of vaccine as long as it enters the country and it has been issued EUA by the Food and Drug Administration, we are confident that it’s going to be safe and effective,” Vergeire added.

Sinovac Biotech ltd., has yet to apply for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Philippine regulator. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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