U.S. hopes Chinese island-building will spur Asian response

admin   •   May 28, 2015   •   2300

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. NAVY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

By releasing video of Beijing’s island reclamation work and considering more assertive maritime actions, the United States is signaling a tougher stance over the South China Sea and trying to spur Asian partners to more action.

The release last week of the surveillance plane footage – showing dredgers and other ships busily turning remote outcrops into islands with runways and harbors – helps ensure the issue will dominate an Asian security forum starting on Friday attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter as well as senior Chinese military officials.

As it pushes ahead with a military “pivot” to Asia partly aimed at countering China, Washington wants Southeast Asian nations to take a more united stance against China’s rapid acceleration this year of construction on disputed reefs.

The meeting, the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, will be overshadowed by the tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing has added 1,500 acres to five outposts in the resource-rich Spratly islands since the start of this year.

“These countries need to own it (the issue),” one U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity, adding that it was counterproductive for the United States to take the lead in challenging China over the issue.

More unified action by the partners, including the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), needed to happen soon because “if you wait four years, it’s done,” the official said.

While some ASEAN members, including U.S. ally the Philippines and fellow claimant Vietnam, have been vocal critics of Chinese maritime actions, the group as a whole has been divided on the issue and reluctant to intervene.

But in a sign of growing alarm, the group’s leaders last month jointly expressed concern that reclamation activity had eroded trust and could undermine peace in the region.

Experts dismiss the idea of ASEAN-level joint action any time soon in the South China Sea. “It’s absolute fantasy,” said Ian Storey of Singapore’s Institute on South East Asian Studies.

But stepped-up coordination between some states is possible. Japan’s military is considering joining the United States in maritime air patrols over the sea. Japan and the Philippines are expected to start talks next week on a framework for the transfer of defense equipment and technology and to discuss a possible pact on the status of Japanese military personnel visiting the Philippines.

Carter, speaking in Honolulu en route to Singapore, repeated Washington’s demand that the island-building stop, saying China was violating the principles of the region’s “security architecture” and the consensus for “non-coercive approaches.”

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

SHOWING CHINA SOME “RESOLVE”

As part of Washington’s drive to energize its allies, a U.S. Navy P-8 reconnaissance plane allowed CNN and Navy camera crews to film Chinese land reclamation activity in the Spratly islands last week and release the footage.

“No one wants to wake up one morning and discover that China has built numerous outposts and, even worse, equipped them with military systems,” Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said.

Ernest Bower, a Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said the U.S. goal was to convince China to buy into the international system for dispute resolution rather than impose its sweeping territorial claims on the region.

But in the near term, he added: “I think the Americans are going to have to show China some resolve.”

U.S. officials have said Navy ships may be sent within 12 miles (19 kms) of the Chinese-built islands to show that Washington does not recognize Beijing’s insistence that it has territorial rights there.

Washington is also pressing ahead with its rebalancing towards Asia, four years after President Barack Obama announced the strategic shift, even as some countries say it is slow to take shape.

The United States has updated its security agreements with treaty allies Japan and the Philippines and is bolstering missile defenses in Japan with an eye on North Korea.

U.S. Marines are training in Australia on a rotational basis, littoral combat ships are operating out of Singapore and new P-8 reconnaissance planes stationed in Japan have flown missions across the region.

Overall, defense officials said, the Navy will increase its footprint by 18 percent between 2014 and 2020. The aim is to have 60 percent of Navy ships oriented toward the Pacific by 2020, compared to 57 percent currently.

Military officials in the Philippines say the U.S. shift has been noticeable, including military exercises, training and ship and aircraft visits. The emphasis has shifted from anti-terrorism to maritime security, one official said.

China has not shown any sign of being deterred. On Tuesday it held a groundbreaking ceremony for two lighthouses in the South China Sea, vowed to increase its “open seas protection,” and criticized neighbors who take “provocative actions” on its reefs and islands.

(Additional reporting by Greg Torode in Hong Kong, Nobuhiro Kubo in Tokyo, Manuel Mogato in Manila, Sui Lee Wee in Beijing; editing by David Storey and Stuart Grudgings.)

Duterte renews call for regional unity to attain peace, stability in South China

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2021

President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his call for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to remain united in pursuing peace, stability, and prosperity in the South China Sea, Malacañang said Wednesday.

In a press statement, the Palace said that Duterte made the remarks during the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits on Tuesday.

Duterte said the regional bloc should pursue initiatives to resolve the dispute in the contested waters in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 Arbitral Award that favored the Philippines.

“We have come a long way in keeping the peace and promoting prosperity in our region. We must not allow those with diverging interests to make our efforts fail,” he said.

Duterte, in his intervention at the 24th ASEAN-China Summit, urged countries to translate their commitments into action regarding the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in the midst of the evolving geopolitical situation in Asia.

“Talks should not remain empty rhetoric. They should be translated into action to fortify the trust and confidence we have cultivated through the years. Acta non verba. Deeds, not words,” he said.

As claimants craft a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, Duterte lauded the Philippines’ contribution to the substantive progress in the second reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, as the country reaffirms its commitment to the conclusion of an effective and substantive COC.

Noting 2017-2027 as the Decade of Coastal and Marine Environmental Protection in the South China Sea, the president reiterated the Philippines’ call for holistic efforts to protect and preserve biodiversity and the marine environment.

Also during his intervention, the Filipino leader pointed out that a dynamic ASEAN-China cooperation puts both sides in a formidable position to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, address climate change and manage geopolitical issues.

He expressed his gratitude to China for supporting ASEAN’s pandemic response, particularly by “making life-saving vaccines global public goods,” the Palace said.

Also during the summit, the president said that ASEAN’s road to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be long and difficult as the region reels from the impact of the contagion.

He emphasized the need for a phased and comprehensive implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and called for the immediate establishment of the ASEAN Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases.

Aside from COVID-19 and the territorial dispute, the Palace said that Duterte also called on his fellow ASEAN leaders to stand with Myanmar in solving its crisis peacefully for the welfare of its people.

He likewise urged Myanmar’s political players to “engage in constructive dialogue,” and allow the ASEAN Special Envoy to visit the country.

At the 22nd ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit, Duterte welcomed the Joint Statement on Advancing ASEAN-ROK Cooperation and underscored the need for deeper regional integration to accelerate post-pandemic recovery.

At the same time, he welcomed the signing of the Philippines-ROK Free Trade Agreement Tuesday, noting it is needed “for our economies to recover and bounce back,” the Palace said.

He also pushed for the full implementation of the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the early entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, it added.

Malacañang also said that the President welcomed the United Kingdom as ASEAN’s new Dialogue Partner and vowed to enhance relations with the European Union (EU) as the new Country Coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations.

Duterte attended Tuesday’s summit via video conference. This is Duterte’s second straight year of virtually attending the meeting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

 

Duterte to virtually attend ASEAN Summit meetings

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the 38th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit virtually, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. confirmed that Duterte will attend the summit which will be held between October 26 and 28 in Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei.

Dadalo po ang ating Presidente (Our President will take part in the Summit) via Zoom or computer hook-up from October 26 to 28,” Roque said.

The meeting will center on the pandemic response, security, and economic issues in Asia. AAC

DOF orders tighter watch on rice imports following tariff cuts

Robie de Guzman   •   June 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) on Monday ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to keep a tighter watch on incoming rice imports to ensure the proper collection of taxes following the implementation of tariff rate cuts.

In a statement, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III issued the directive pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 135, which mandates the temporary adjustment of tariff rates on rice imports to offset the effect on consumers of the continuous increase in the price of rice from other countries, particularly those coming from ASEAN countries, and thereby reduce inflationary pressures.

The DOF said the EO 135 would enable the country to diversify its market sources for rice and maintain the stable supply and affordable price of the cereal for Filipino consumers.

Dominguez cited India as a possible source of cheap rice imports.

“I think there will be a shift in the imports of Thai and Vietnamese rice, and Burmese (Myanmar) rice, to rice from other countries where the value is much lower. Just keep an eye on that,” Dominguez told Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a recent executive committee meeting.

During the meeting, Guerrero said the BOC is currently reviewing the valuation of rice shipments from Vietnam, noting that most of the imports from there were “declared with values lower than the published prevailing prices for such exports from that country.”

“We discovered that many of these importations are under a tentative assessment so we are reviewing the payments,” Guerrero said.

He said the average value of rice imports, coming mostly from Vietnam, dropped 12.7 percent to P19,312 per metric ton (MT) in May 2021, compared to P22,119 per MT in the same month last year.

The average value of rice in May was also lower than the P21,066 per MT recorded in April and P22,119 per MT in March.

Guerrero previously reported increasing tariff collections despite lower import volumes because of a steady improvement in the BOC’s valuation system.

Preliminary data showed that from January 1 to April 30, a total of 804,360MT of rice shipments worth P17 billion entered the country, representing a 9.2-percent decline from the 885,645MT valued at P16.4 billion that were imported during the same period last year.

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