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Senators point out ‘sovereignty issue’ in PH-China joint probe on Recto Bank incident

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, June 24th, 2019

(L-R) Crewmen of the sunken fishing vessel, F/B GEN-VER 1 reunited with their families; wreckage of F/B GEN-VER 1 after getting hit by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank on June 9, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines – Several Senators have questioned the planned joint investigation of the Philippines and China into the boat-ramming incident near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank).

In separate statements, Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan both opposed the move, saying this is a clear violation of international treaties and will prejudice the country’s territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Drilon said the Philippines should not allow a joint probe with China because the law is on Manila’s side. He added that a joint investigation will only serve Beijing’s interests.

“Not only the credibility issue, you have a lot of legal complications and sovereignty issues,” he stressed.

Drilon also pointed out that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 ruled that China cannot claim Recto Bank as this is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Pangilinan echoed Drilon’s sentiments, emphasizing that the joint probe is against the country’s fisheries code, which mandates the government to ensure the safety of our fishery and aquatic resources and prosecute local and foreign violators.

“A joint investigation is against our fisheries code. Our fisheries code mandates the government to safeguard the safety of our fishery and aquatic resources and to prosecute local and foreign violators. Part also of the government’s mandate is to address foreign illegal entrants in our waters,” he said in a statement released on Sunday (June 23).

Senator Panfilo Lacson also believes that conducting a joint probe with China into the allision incident in Recto Bank may be seen as a waiver of the Philippines’ ownership rights over the area.

READ: Lacson says PH-China joint probe may be seen as waiver of Recto Bank ownership

“The 2016 Hague ruling expressly states that Recto Bank is part of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and therefore cannot be claimed by China. Having said that, allowing a joint investigation with China and a third party may be interpreted as a waiver of our right of ownership of Recto Bank,” Lacson said in a statement issued on Sunday.

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, thinks there is no need for a joint probe since Manila has already filed a diplomatic protest against China over the issue.

“I still don’t think there’s a need for a joint probe. We already filed a protest before the UN IMO and other international forum. There are two cases here,” he said.

“The enforcement of the Philippine-China arbitration award should have been an immediate priority of the National Security Council especially after the incident,” he added.

In the end, Drilon suggested for President Duterte to form an independent body to look into the incident like the Melo and Feliciano commissions created by past administrations.

Drilon said the investigating body should be given authority to make recommendations, inquire into the Recto Bank incident and submit a report the President and Congress.

“This body, I would propose, should be composed of men of independence, integrity, a retired supreme court justice is preferable by having this we are able to resolve this issue with credibility,” he said.

The lawmakers’ statements come after the chief executive welcomed the Chinese government’s offer for a joint probe into the ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea, adding that it should be done with a third neutral party. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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Senators expect to hear salary, labor, sea dispute issues in Duterte 4th SONA

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, some senators have already picked out certain topics that they want the Chief Executive to discuss in his speech.

According to Senator Sonny Angara, he expects the president to outline his plans not only for his remaining three years in office but for the next decade.

In particular, Angara said the 2020 national budget should lay down the framework for the 10-year development plan for the country.

“This should result in the next administration building on what the President has achieved and what he started during his term and not the perennial focus on going after its predecessors,” he said in a statement.

The lawmaker added he would also like to hear the president fulfilling his promise of raising the teachers’ salaries, as well as his plan on creating more jobs and livelihood opportunities for Filipino workers.

“We want to see the creation of more jobs and opportunities for the Filipino people so that they are able to improve their lives and no longer see the need to go abroad in order to make ends meet,” Angara said.

Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva said he wants to hear during the president’s SONA the administration’s commitment to further protect and promote the interests of Filipino workers.

READ: Villanueva expects gov’t commitment to protect Filipino workers on Duterte SONA

Villanueva said he is particularly eager to find out the outcome of the Security of Tenure bill, popularly known as the “End Endo” bill, which seeks to put an end to the practice of illegal labor contracting.

“The bill adheres to the Constitution, which mandates the regulation of relations between workers and employers, recognizing the right of labor to its just share in the fruits of production and the right of enterprises to reasonable returns on investments, and to expansion and growth,” he said.

“Thus, the Security of Tenure bill manages to strike a balance between contrasting interests of labor and employers,” he added.

For Senator Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel, he wants to hear about the president’s priority bills, as well as his view on the surge of illegal foreign workers in the country.

“His priorities for one year usually, and then priorities for the last second half of his term,” he said.

Aside from labor issues, Senator Risa Hontiveros also expects the president to tackle in his speech the issue on the West Philippine Sea and the country’s assertion of Philippine sovereignty in the disputed waters.

“Wish ko lang na sasabihin ni Presidente na sa wakas after 3 years ay i-champion na niya, itataguyod yung tagumpay natin vis a vis China sa West Philippine Sea,” she said.

Duterte has been facing criticisms over his stance on China’s continued trawling in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

He earlier stressed that his position on allowing Chinese fishermen access to Philippine waters was not a violation of the Philippine constitution. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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Filipinos want Duterte to tackle inflation, jobs, China in 4th SONA – Pulse Asia

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Workers’ pay, inflation and jobs have topped the list of issues that Filipinos would like President Rodrigo Duterte to tackle during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, a survey conducted by Pulse Asia Research, Incorporated revealed Friday.

The survey, conducted from June 24 to 30, showed that 17.1 percent of the 1,200 respondents said they want to hear Duterte talk about workers’ salaries, while another 17.1 percent wanted him to discuss about plans in reducing the prices of basic commodities.

Meanwhile, 15.2 percent of the respondents said they would like to hear Duterte’s accomplishments and plans on generating more jobs or livelihood opportunities.

Other topics Filipinos want the president to mention in his speech on Monday are the issues surrounding the relations between the Philippines and China (9.2 percent), particularly the assertion of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea (6.1 percent) and the country’s policy in relation to China (3.1 percent).

Some 7.8 percent of the respondents also want to hear about the government’s war on drugs during Duterte’s SONA, 5.9 percent wanted him to discuss about improving the agricultural sector while 2.6 percent said they want pension increase to be tackled.

For residents in Metro Manila, the top issues they want discussed in Duterte’s SONA are the Philippine-China ties (20.2 percent), employment (18.3 percent), workers’ pay (16.6 percent) and prices of goods (10.7 percent).

The rest of Luzon cited salaries, while Visayans and Mindanaons want the president to talk about inflation, the survey showed.

The study also revealed that 75 percent of Filipino adults were aware of Duterte’s previous SONAs. Majority awareness levels are recorded across geographic areas and socio-economic classes, the Pulse Asia said.

The pollster said it has 95 percent confidence level in the survey results with an error margin of +/-2.8 percent.

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Villanueva expects gov’t commitment to protect Filipino workers on Duterte SONA

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

Senator Joel Villanueva

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday said he is looking forward to hearing President Rodrigo Duterte’s push to protect and promote the interests of Filipino workers in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22 (Monday).

In a statement, Villanueva said he is particularly eager to find out the outcome of the Security of Tenure bill, popularly known as the “End Endo” bill, which seeks to put an end to the practice of illegal labor contracting.

The president asked Congress to pass the bill at last year’s SONA, certifying the measure as urgent. Congress was able to pass the bill in the 17th Congress and transmitted it to Malacañang last month.

“The bill adheres to the Constitution, which mandates the regulation of relations between workers and employers, recognizing the right of labor to its just share in the fruits of production and the right of enterprises to reasonable returns on investments, and to expansion and growth,” Gatchalian said.

“Thus, the Security of Tenure bill manages to strike a balance between contrasting interests of labor and employers,” he added.

Villanueva expressed hope that Duterte would sign the measure into law.

The lawmaker also expects the president to discuss other measures that will advocate for the interest of Filipino labor.

He cited the rise of illegal foreign workers and the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) sector as a growing cause for concern, saying its effects to the country’s economy must be carefully monitored.

“We have to be careful about this new industry because the benefits we stand to lose may be greater than those we could gain,” Villanueva said.

He said he intended to file a resolution to examine the supposed benefits from the POGO industry.

Villanueva reiterated his earlier position that POGO sector’s impact is minimal, at best, since it primarily does not create employment opportunities for Filipinos, and the industry’s rise is causing stress in the real estate market to the detriment of Filipino businesses and workers.

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