Recto Bank collision an ‘accident’, not armed attack – Lorenzana

Marje Pelayo   •   June 19, 2019   •   1635

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana maintained that the incident in Recto Bank involving the Chinese vessel, Yuemaobinyu 42212 and the Filipino fishing vessel, F/B GEM-VER 1 on June 9 was not an armed attack but only an accident.

“I think it’s just an accident based on the information we got from some of the crew. Siguro hindi rin sinasadya ng kabila (Perhaps it was not intentional),” Lorenzana said.

Since it was such, Lorenzana said he agrees with Malacañang that the Philippines cannot insist its mutual defense treaty with the United States to deal with the present issue because such treaty applies only to armed conflicts.

Lorenzana was the first to disclose the report on a Chinese vessel hitting and sinking a Filipino fishing vessel in the contested area in the West Philippine Sea.

The Defense Chief condemned the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the 22 Filipino fishermen adrift at sea while struggling to survive.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through Secretary Teddy Locsin, has already elevated the matter to the International Maritime Office (IMO).

But though Lorenzana supported Locsin for that matter, the Defense Secretary said the Philippine government can only act once all the needed information is gathered specifically China’s official statement on the incident.

For now, the government is pursuing a case against the Chinese crewmen for abandoning the Filipino fishermen which, the Secretary said, is a violation of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which the Philippines and China are both signatories.

While waiting for China’s side on the matter, Secretary Lorenzana appeals to the public to be patient as the government works on resolving the issue while extending assistance to the affected fishermen.

“I ask our countrymen to be patient dahil lalabas naman talaga ang totoo kapag nakuha na natin ang lahat ng (the truth will come out once we have all) information so that we can move on from this,” he said. (with details from April Cenedoza)

Senate probe on AFP-Dito Telco deal sought

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Some senators are seeking to probe a deal signed between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and China-linked Dito Telecommunity Corp. (formerly Mislatel Consortium) amid concerns that the agreement could pose a threat to national security.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said she has filed Senate Resolution No. 137 after Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated that he was not aware of the said agreement, which allows Dito Telecommunity, the country’s third major telecommunications player, to rent spaces where they can set up equipment and other facilities inside military bases across the country.

Dito is a company comprised of Udenna Corporation, led by businessman Dennis Uy, and China Telecom.

“Is there now a ‘sign first, worry about security later’ policy under this administration?” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Ito na ang pangalawang beses na hindi nakonsulta ang defense secretary tungkol sa mga diumanong Chinese deals na pinapasok ng ating pamahalaan na may seryosong implikasyon sa ating pambansang seguridad,” she added.

Hontiveros further said that entering into a deal with a Chinese-linked firm is “irresponsible” amid continuing maritime disputes between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea.

“Sa isang panahon na patuloy ang panghihimasok ng Tsina sa West Philippine Sea, napaka-iresponsable na pumasok tayo sa mga kasunduan sa kanila na hindi sinusuri ang epekto nito sa ating pambansang seguridad at kaligtasan,” Hontiveros added.

(In this time when China continues to infiltrate the West Philippine Sea, it is irresponsible for us to enter a deal with them without scrutinizing its effects on our national security and safety.)

The senator cited Article 7 of China’s National Intelligence Law which states that Chinese organizations and citizens are obligated to support “state-intelligence gathering efforts.”

Hontiveros said that under China’s law, Chinese corporations cannot refuse to assist such acts of espionage, since its Counter-Espionage Law requires that “when the state security organ investigates and understands the situation of espionage and collects relevant evidence, the relevant organizations and individuals shall provide it truthfully and may not refuse.”

“There is an urgent need to determine whether or not the presence of Chinese facilities in military bases and installations undermines national security and whether or not the lease agreements entered into for this purpose comply with applicable law,” she said.

The lawmaker added the agreement may be violating the Public Land Act which states that “military reservations cannot be subject to lease, occupation, entry, sale, or other disposition, until declared alienable by provisions of the Act or by proclamation by the President,” and the AFP Modernization Act, which states that any “sale, lease or joint development of military reservations must be authorized by Congress.”

Senator Francis Pangilinan agreed with Hontiveros’ sentiments.

In a statement, Pangilinan pointed out that two high-ranking government officials, Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, have earlier raised concerns on issues involving China, including the proximity of Chinese-dominated offshore gaming operators’ hubs to military camps and the influx of thousands of its nationals in the country.

“Hindi biro itong China telco involvement dito sa ating military camps,” Pangilinan said.

(This Chinese telco’s involvement in our military camps is no joke.)

“Ang concern: gagamitin nung Chinese government yung information na nakukuha [at] dumadaan doon sa kanilang mga sistema para itulak ang interes ng China,” he added.

(The concern is the Chinese government will use the information that passes through their system to advance China’s interests.)

The senator stressed the security risk is not a mere speculation, citing the move of other countries such as Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand to ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei due to security concerns.

READ: Pangilinan questions deal allowing Chinese-linked Dito Telco to build facilities in military camps

Pangilinan said he will raise these concerns during the hearings on the budget proposal of the AFP and the DND.

“We will ask clarificatory questions regarding this deal. And we will look into this because popondohan natin ang AFP, DND,” he said.

The military earlier allayed these concerns while Malacañang said the country can simply leave the deal if this poses any threat to national security.

Pro and anti-Beijing supporters face off at shopping mall

Jeck Deocampo   •   September 13, 2019

Pro-Beijing supporters flooded into a Hong Kong shopping mall waving China flags and singing the Chinese national anthem on Friday (September 13) where they were confronted by with anti-Beijing groups.

The confrontation came hours before a city-wide Mid-Autumn festival celebration where demonstrators are set to carry lanterns and form human chains on the scenic Victoria Peak, an area popular with mainland Chinese tour groups. The human chain is also due to be formed on Lion Rock which separates the New Territories from the Kowloon peninsula.

The anti-China demonstrations started in June in response to a bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts, but have broadened into calls for democracy.

China says Hong Kong is now its internal affair. It denies meddling in Hong Kong and has accused the United States, Britain and others of fomenting the unrest.

Britain says it has a legal responsibility to ensure China abides by its obligations under the Joint Declaration. (REUTERS)

P53-M misdeclared agri-products from China seized in Manila Port

Robie de Guzman   •   September 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Nearly P53 million worth of misdeclared agricultural products from China were seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in the Port of Manila.

The BOC said the products that were shipped inside 16 containers arrived in Manila last August 8.

The shipment was consigned to a certain Shinerise Trading Service. It was initially declared as fishballs.

However, upon inspection of the containers, the BOC found that the shipment contains carrots and onions estimated to worth P40.1 million, broccolis worth P10.04 million, and P2.5 million worth of potatoes.   

The bureau has issued a warrant of seizure and detention against the said shipment.

The BOC also cancelled the accreditation of the Shinerise Trading Service and its broker was placed under investigation.

The confiscated agriculture products will be destroyed as these did not have necessary clearance as proof that these items are safe for public consumption, the BOC said. RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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