South China Sea issue related to regional peace and stability; ‘a concern for all’ – Japan

Marje Pelayo   •   March 24, 2021   •   306

MANILA, Philippines – The Embassy of Japan in Manila on Tuesday (March 23) reacted to the current situation in the South China Sea (SCS) following a statement from the United States expressing its concern over the presence of some 200 Chinese vessels at the Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a statement on Twitter, Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko said the matter is ‘directly related to peace and stability’ and therefore ‘a concern for all’ in the region.

“The South China Sea issues are directly related to peace and stability and a concern for all. Japan strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions,” Kazuhiko said.

“We support the enforcement of rule of law in the sea and work with the international community to protect the free, open, and peaceful seas,” he added.

On Monday (March 22), the Department of National Defense (DND) through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed that about 200 vessels, believed to be Chinese militia, have been sighted at Julian Felipe Reef.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila clarified in a statement that the vessels were actually fishing vessels taking shelter from rough seas. It also insisted that the area in question is part of China.

As the country’s defense ally, the United States said it stands with the Philippines as it expressed concern about the gathering of China’s maritime vessels near Julian Felipe Reef or Whitsun Reef.

In a follow up statement, the Embassy said “the United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue” and what it does is “fanning flames and provoking confrontation in the region will only serve the selfish interests of individual countries and undermine the regional peace and stability.”

The Julian Felipe Reef is a large shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs or Union Reefs. It is located approximately 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza, Palawan.

Enrile advises Duterte to ignore critics of foreign policy; keep friendly approach on West PH Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile advised President Rodrigo Duterte not to mind people who are criticizing his foreign policy, particularly on the issue involving China and the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.

During Duterte’s pre-recorded public address late Monday, Enrile told the president to just let his critics ramble on and to not engage them on the issue.

“That’s the best thing Mr. President. Pabayaan mo na lang sila,” Enrile said.

“After all Mr. President, you are only responsible to the Filipino people, and you are not responsible to any specific person for your foreign policy. Yours is to protect the interest of the nation and its people in the best way you can,” he added.

Duterte invited Enrile to Malacañang to speak on the issue concerning West Philippine Sea, the role in the issue of some officials, particularly former Senator Antonio Trillanes and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and why the Philippines lost access to the Scarborough Shoal during the Aquino administration.

“Alam na ngayon ng mga tao kug bakit hindi ako sumasagot. This is the best advise that I got ngayong gabing ito,” Duterte said.

“I hope that we would be able to weather any trouble with China now and in the future for as long as it’s very dangerous for us,” he added.

Earlier in the conference, the 97-year old former lawmaker also advised Duterte to keep his “friendly” approach towards China and the issue on the West Philippine Sea.

“Hindi dapat gamitin ang mainit na kaisipan na kagaya ng mga kritiko natin. Dapat balance lang ang approach natin at mahinahon,” he said.

“Kailangan na friendly ang approach natin diyan, hindi assertive and aggressive approach sapagkat kapag hindi tayo magkakaunawa sa China ay madadamay ang interes ng ating mga kababayan, ang ating ekonomiya, pati na rin ang ating seguridad dito sa usapin na ito,” he added.

Duterte thanked Enrile for his advise, reiterating that he prefers to talk with China instead of using force to defend the Philippine sovereignty.

Philippines records 5,979 new COVID-19 cases

Robie de Guzman   •   May 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ cumulative tally of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases climbed to 1,149,925 on Monday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 5,979 additional infections.

In its latest bulletin, the DOH said the number of active cases has reached 54,235 of which 93.3 percent are mild; two percent are asymptomatic; 1.25 percent are moderate; 2 percent are severe and 1.4 percent are in critical condition.

The DOH said five laboratories failed to submit data on time.

Total recoveries climbed to 1,076,428 after 6,602 more patients survived the viral respiratory disease.

The death toll rose to 19,262 with 72 new fatalities.

Enrile to speak on West Philippine Sea issue during Duterte’s public address Monday night — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   May 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The issue of the West Philippine Sea dispute and why the country lost the Scarborough Shoal will be discussed anew when President Rodrigo Duterte holds his weekly public address on Monday night, Malacañang said.

In an online press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the issue will be tackled after former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile accepted Duterte’s invitation to speak on the matter during the President’s Talk to the People.

Roque made the announcement a few days after Duterte invited Enrile to speak on the issue

Enrile will particularly shed light on the role of some officials, particularly former Senator Antonio Trillanes and Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and why the Philippines lost access to the Scarborough Shoal during the Aquino administration.

“Sabi nga ng Pangulo, former Senator Enrile was there right at the beginning. Kinakailangan po nating pakinggan ang sasabihin ng dating senador dahil magandang malaman ang papel ni dating Senador Antonio Trillanes at dating Secretary Albert del Rosario sa usapin ng pagkawala ng Scarborough shoal sa Pilipinas,” Roque said.

The Palace official insisted that the issue on the West Philippine Sea would not have been this heated if not for the stand-off incident between the Philippines and China in 2012.

“Wag ninyong kalilimutan, bilang ganti ng China sa ating arbitration, yung Scarborough Shoal incident din ang naging dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon po ng mga base militar ngayon ang China dun sa mga artificial islands na karamihan po ay kabahagi ng ating exclusive economic zone,” Roque said.

It has been reported that the Philippines and China agreed to simultaneously withdraw their respective vessels out of the contested area back in 2012 after a prolonged stand-off between the two countries.

The agreement, brokered by the United States to de-escalate the situation, was only complied with by the Philippines as China did not pull out its vessels in the area.

Aside from the West Philippine Issue, Roque said Duterte will also seek Enrile’s opinion on the Philippines’ Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)


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