US shift in COVID-19 response, return to Paris Agreement under Biden could benefit PH — Analyst

Marje Pelayo   •   November 10, 2020   •   464

MANILA, Philippines — Some policies under the administration of US President-elect Joe Biden could benefit the Philippines, according to political analyst Tony La Viña.

Under Biden, the US government is expected to be more active and open to working with other nations in the search for a COVID-19 cure.

The Philippines may now consider the US as another potential source of Covid vaccine other than China and Russia.

“Kung si Trump ang nanalo, hindi niya ibabahagi ang vaccine nila sa atin. Ngayon kay Biden […] first day of office sabi niya, ‘We are going back to the World Health Organization to cooperate with other countries on the vaccine.'” La Viña noted.

As a country prone to natural disasters, the Philippines may also benefit from America’s return to the Paris Climate Change agreement.

On the other hand, La Viña said, one of the possible conflicts between the administrations of Biden and President Rodrigo Duterte is on the issue of human rights given the Democrats’ strong stand on the matter.

It can be recalled that the Duterte administration’s relationship with the administration of then President Barack Obama turned sour because of the latter’s criticisms on the former’s war on drugs.

Nevertheless, the overall US-Philippines relationship remains good despite conflicting stands.

Minsan ine-exaggerate natin ang presidential statements. But in reality even under Duterte, we have been able to collaborate and cooperate with the US very well,” La Viña said.

With regard to the territorial issues on the West Philippine Sea, the US has been vocal about its support for the Philippines, and Biden is expected to sit down with its allies in the region. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PH, US discuss concerns over Chinese presence in WPS, anti-Asian violence

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, in a phone call, discussed their concerns over the presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, the US State Department said Friday.

“Substantive conversation today with my Philippine counterpart, @teddyboylocsin, discussing our concerns with People’s Republic of China militia vessels in the South China Sea and our efforts to combat anti-Asian hate and violence. #FriendsPartnersAllies,” Blinken said on Twitter.

The phone conversation between Locsin and Blinken follows reports on alleged Chinese “militia boats” scattered within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In a separate statement, US State Department Ned Price said that Blinken also reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. Both expressed their shared concerns with the massing of PRC maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, including at Whitsin Reef, and reiterated their calls on the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to abide by the 2016 arbitration ruling issued pursuant to the Law of the Sea Convention,” Price said.

Price was referring to the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines and nullified China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea, including parts that are within the Philippines EEZ.

Beijing has ignored the 2016 international tribunal decision.

Apart from the Philippines and China, other countries competing for territorial claims in the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Aside from the renewed tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Locsin said they also tackled the string of anti-Asian hate and violence in the United States.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Romualdez earlier said that Washington has been taking steps to curb the anti-Asian attacks, including the setting up of hotlines and the deployment of more law enforces in areas with a large population of Asian Americans. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

PH Military to probe alleged China harassment of TV crew in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been ordered to conduct an investigation into the alleged harassment of Chinese vessels on a Filipino television crew in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

In a statement, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the AFP will gather and validate all information relating to the incident.

“The Defense Department has directed the AFP through its Western Command to investigate, gather, and validate all the relevant facts on the incident,” he said.

Andolong said the outcome of the investigation will be used to coordinate any appropriate action through the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, as well as engagement among the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, and other concerned agencies.

“We are concerned for the safety of anyone — unarmed civilians — at sea. As such, we view the report with concern,” he said.

In a separate statement, the AFP has expressed concern over the reported harassment of Chinese PLA Navy Vessels and a Chinese Coast Guard on another vessel carrying a television crew.

The media team was reportedly chased by Chinese boats while on its way to Ayungin Shoal, about 105 nautical miles from Palawan. The area is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

AFP Spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo said the Western Mindanao Command is looking into the incident to establish what really transpired.

“We have made representations with the news reporter to provide us raw footage or photographs they have of the incident to help us establish the circumstances and document the incident,” Arevalo said.

He, likewise, appealed to journalists to “exercise prudence in the course of their job.”

“We have accommodated members of media in our ships and aircraft to do their coverage so they can be protected while in the practice of their profession,” Arevalo said.

He added, “The AFP is concerned with the safety and well-being of our Kababayans that we have been forthright and transparent in our reporting about the situation in our EEZ.”

“Amidst the situation, the AFP reiterates its commitment to follow the dictates of the Constitution to protect the people and secure our sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

PH gov’t on South China Sea issue: ‘We keep all options open’

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is keeping all its options open amid growing tensions over the presence of Chinese vessels in the contested South China Sea, the Department of National Defense (DND) said.

Disputes over the resource-rich waters have escalated in March after the Philippine military spotted more than 200 Chinese boats at the Julian Felipe Reef.

China claims that the area is part of its traditional fishing ground and that the vessels there were not a maritime militia but fishing boats that were only seeking temporary shelter due to rough sea conditions.

The Philippine government, however, insists that Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of the Philippines. It is located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza town in Palawan and 638,229 nautical miles from Hainan Island.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly fired off diplomatic protest and called for the immediate withdrawal of the vessels. China, however, refused the appeals.

“As the situation in the West Philippine Sea evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States,” DND spokesperson Director Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Andolong’s issued the statement after the United States reminded China of Washington’s obligations to its treaty partners, including the Philippines, in the event of an attack in the waters.

“An armed attack against the Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday.

“We share the concerns of our Philippine allies regarding the continued reported massing of PRC maritime militia near the Whitsun Reef,” Price said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Andolong said the United States’ admonition to China against the use of force on Philippine public vessels and aircraft, which are performing their constitutional mandate to protect and defend Philippine rights in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, “is an additional affirmation of the long-standing partnership between our two countries.”

“This also demonstrates the strength of our alliance and mutual commitment to promote the rules-based international order,” he added.

Andolong said the Philippines is closely coordinating with the United States on the matter of mutual defense.

“Both parties are committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states’ inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively,” he said.

“We remain committed to protecting and defending our national interests while upholding the security and stability in the region through a peaceful and rules-based approach,” he added.

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