PHL’s strong defense must remain in the West Philippine Sea, expert says

UNTV News   •   March 6, 2019   •   2377

A Filipino soldier patrols at the shore of Pagasa island (Thitu Island) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/RITCHIE B. TONGO/POOL

The government must maintain its strong defense surrounding the Pag-asa Island and some areas in the West Philippines Sea that are still part of the Philippine territory based on the 2016 arbitration resolution.

This is what the maritime law expert, Dir. Jay Batongbacal said after reports surfaced that Chinese coast guards are preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing in the disputed territory.

Batongbacal said, the presence of China’s naval vessels in the said area is a tactic that Philippine authorities should note as an indication of the need to strengthen its defenses in the country’s territory.

“In a way, it’s not new. But what makes it important is that, it is clearly being employed to monitor and to maybe make it difficult for the Philippines to carry out its repair works on the island,” Batongbacal said.

However, according to defense analyst, Jose Antonio Custodio, the government still has to take an action to protect the Filipino fishermen in the disputed territory.

Batongbacal also suggested that the government should carry out a protest against the harassment that Chinese vessels are inflicting on Filipino fishermen despite warming relations with China following the administration’s foreign policy rebalancing towards Asia.

“A protest is necessary, even a quiet one, just to make sure we will never be seen as having accepted the situation,” Batongbacal said.

Meanwhile, Malacañang is yet to confirm with the Department of National Defense reports about the alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen. — Freema Salonga- Gloria (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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)

Duterte to invoke arbitral ruling in China visit

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte receives a warm welcome from People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping prior to the start of the bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 25, 2019. (KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set for another visit to China in late August.

According to presidential spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo, the Chief Executive is determined to invoke the Hague ruling to Chinese President Xi Jinping which upholds the Philippines’ rights over the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea.

The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claim of historic rights to resources within the disputed waters falling within its self-proclaimed demarcation line known as ‘nine-dash line’.

He said: ‘Remember that I said before that there will be a time when I will invoke that arbitral ruling — this is the time. That’s why I’m going there.’” That’s what he said,” Panelo revealed citing President Duterte’s words.

The Palace said the President believes this is the right time to raise the issue midway before he steps down from office.

Aside from the WPS issue, the two leaders are also expected to discuss plans on the 60-40 joint exploration in the area.

“He’s also interested that 60-40 joint exploration on minerals, oil; pag-uusapan nila yan (they will discuss these issues),” Panelo noted.

Panelo did not mention of the exact date of the President’s visit to China as well as to how the President plans to bring up the WPS issue at the two leaders’ meeting.

But Panelo said the two heads of state may also exchange words regarding the maritime incident that recently happened in Recto or Reed bank. – with details from Rosalie Coz

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