Isko Moreno not inclined to bring back US bases

Isko Moreno not inclined to bring back US bases | Juan Manila


Presidential aspirant and Manila mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso vowed he would defend Philippine sovereignty and its territories even if it comes to a ‘David and Goliath‘ confrontation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Moreno cited China’s incursions into the West Philippines Sea (WPS), particularly in the country’s exclusive economic zones (EEZs), which has impoverished local fisher folk who have been victims of harassment by the Chinese coast guard and fishing militia vessels.

He added that as part of defending the WPS, he plans to pursue the continued modernization of the Philippine Navy (PN) and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The presidential aspirant also touched on the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, which he said he plans to strengthen to augment the country’s security, especially with the threat of expansionist policies in Asia clearly shown by Beijing, which is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal.

Domagoso clarified that he is not inclined to invite the US to reinstall military bases in the Philippines because this has to be thoroughly studied first before any decision is made, which should be certified with legislation.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, ZAMBALES — Manila’s chief executive visited the fisher folk in the town of Subic on Thursday and he disclosed that he would seriously assert The Hague ruling.

If it results in the refusal of Philippine claims by Beijing, he would back this up by building the country’s capacity to defend its waters in securing unimpeded access for small fisher folk to the abundant fishing grounds found within the WPS.

“We will be fearless in fighting for what is ours. We will insist The Hague ruling. But at the same time as being fearless, we are going to be fair with our discussion and management of the situation on both sides,” Domagoso told local fishermen during his visit which is part of his listening tour in Zambales.

The Manila mayor also revealed that he plans to intensify efforts in gaining trade treaties and agreements with regional neighbors in Southeast Asia, even with claimants to the West Philippine Sea and economic rivals of the US, as part of his administrative platform for the speedy recovery of the economy which has been gravely effected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Treaties will be recognized. Trade with America, Vietnam, China, and all other nations will continue because (the) WPS issue is far different from our economic issue in terms of trade.

“We’ll take that as an opportunity for us to gain: for the people to gain: for the country to gain.” (TRC/JuanManila)

Chinese vessels have returned to Julian Felipe Reef

Chinese vessels have returned to Julian Felipe Reef | Juan Manila


Hundreds of Chinese militia vessels were sighted near the Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea as the country observed All Saints’ Day.

It may be remembered that hundreds of Chinese ships were seen mooring in the vicinity earlier this year.


MANILA, Philippines — According to the US-funded news site Radio Free Asia, which referenced commercial satellite imagery Planet Labs, hundreds of Chinese ships have been photographed breaking territorial borders as they return to Julian Felipe Reef since November 1st and in the preceding days.

The Julian Felipe Reef is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and is part of the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks in the South China Sea. The same are claimed by Vietnam and China.

Hundreds of these Chinese boats were seen by Philippine patrol ships in October. From the 10th to the 16th of October, 151 of them were spotted all across Pagkakaisa Banks. The next week, the number was cut to 35.

According to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a Washington-based research think tank affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there has been an increase in the number of Chinese vessels in the region over the last three months.

Satellite imagery showed 40 boats on the northern side of the Union Banks, including the Julian Felipe Reef, as early as August. On September, more than a hundred vessels had been spotted, and by 17 October, “well over 150 can be seen.”

The vessels, according to the AMTI, are more uniformly distributed over the northern part of the Union Banks, with comparatively few at Whitsun Reef, compared to the massing at the same reef in March.

Although some of the ships were Vietnamese coast guard and fishing boats, the “great majority” were Chinese vessels with a length of at least 50 meters, according to the report.

According to the same source, the Chinese vessels remained in Philippine seas despite patrols by claimants, protests, or worldwide criticism. The boats, as previously noted, go from one feature to another but do not depart the region.

“This is evidence of the Chinese militia’s shell game in the Spratlys Islands,” AMTI said.

“When international outcry or patrols by other claimants convince them to leave a disputed feature, they disperse to nearby reefs for a time, but their overall numbers in the Spratlys remain consistent,” the AMTI continued.

The Philippine Foreign Affairs Department filed diplomatic complaints many times in March as 200 Chinese vessels swarming the Julian Felipe Reef were flagged. This led the Philippine armed forces to strengthen naval patrols in the region.

China claims practically the whole South China Sea with its nine-dash line creation, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has decided against it.

China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea was downplayed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in a tight embrace with China in exchange for supposedly massive investments and loans, which have yet to materialize with a few months left in Mr Duterte’s six-year term remaining. (RA/JuanManila

Featured image:  The Julian Felipe Reef where Chinese vessels are seen is a satellite imagery dated 20 March 2021 by Planet Labs. /Credit: Planet Labs

Chinese vessels also intimidate ordinary fishermen

Chinese vessels also intimidate ordinary fishermen | Juan Manila


A military commander on Sunday said that China’s constant provocative acts” against in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) are not only limited to Philippine authorities, but extends to ordinary Filipino fisherfolks as well.


MANILA — Chinese vessels have issued “illegal” radio challenges to Filipino fishermen working on their catch, according to Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez, commander of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea’s (NTF-WPS) Area Task Force West (ATF-West).

Hindi ‘yon specific lang sa ating mangingisda, pati sa ating mga barko at saka eroplano. china-challenge nila (That is not only specifically done to our fishermen, but also to our ships and aircraft they challenge),” said Enriquez over radio dzBB. The vice admiral is also the commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Command (WesCom) in Palawan.

Last week, there were over 200 monitored radio challenges, sounding of sirens, and blowing of horns illegally conducted by Chinese ships against Philippine authorities patrolling the WPS.

In September, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr has ordered the filing of a diplomatic protests against the alleged illegal movements of some 150 Chinese vessels around Iroquois Reef, which is located near the Recto (Reed) Bank in WPS. (HMP/JuanManila)

Featured image: Chinese vessels, more than 200 of them in the South China Sea, have been sighted going around from reef to reef, island to island but never leaving, even encroaching on territorial waters of other countries in the South China Sea.

BFAR eyes fuel subsidy to fishermen in WPS

BFAR eyes fuel subsidy to fishermen in WPS | Juan Manila


With the reduced income of fishermen due to rising oil prices, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is eyeing to give fuel subsidy to fishermen to allow them to expand their fishing activities in the West Philippine Sea.


MANILA — Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (WESCOM) chairman Vice Admiral Ramil Enriquez on Sunday, 24 October, in a television interview noted that some fishermen are forced to limit their fishing activities due to short funds for fuel supply.

Ang ibang fishermen kahit maraming isda medyo alanganin sila dahil gagastos sila ng krudo medyo malayo-layo yung lugar so lugi sa profit. Liliit ang kita nila (Some fishermen hesitate to venture into far-off fishing grounds where fish is abundant because of short fuel supply, limiting profitability.), Enriquez said.

Earlier, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said fishermen’s average income has been reduced to ₱120 per fishing trip from ₱300 due to rising oil prices.

Sa loob ng isang linggo, ₱480 o katumbas ng ₱120 kada araw na lamang ang kinikita ng isang maliit na mangingisda dahil sa tuluy-tuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis. Abot langit ang pagsirit ng gastos namin sa produksyon habang ang kita ay patuloy ang pagdausdos (In a week, a fisherman has an income of ₱470 or ₱120 per day because of the continued increase of oil prices. The cost of production is too high while profit remains low.), Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap said.

The fishermen’s group also lamented that the cost of production for small fisherfolk have also swelled to ₱180 per fishing operation, or a total of ₱720 additional fuel cost for a week of four fishing trips.

So nakikita ng BFAR na dapat tulungan ang mangingisda na bigyan ng subsidiya ng krudo (So the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said they are looking at giving crude oil subsidies for fishermen.), Enriquez further said. (JD/JuanManila)

Chinese vessels blare warning sirens on patrolling PH ships

Chinese vessels blare warning sirens on patrolling PH ships | Juan Manila


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that Chinese ships have delivered over 200 provocations to Philippine ships patrolling the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA calls out on such act as contrary to China’s obligations under international law.


MANILA — “These provocative acts threaten the peace, good order, and security of the South China Sea and run contrary to China’s obligations under international law,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in its post.

China’s vast claim over the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion in ship-borne trade passes yearly, was rejected by an international tribunal in 2016.

In 2016, an international tribunal invalidated China’s expansive claim on the South China Sea where about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes annually.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have all been filing claims for some or all of the islands.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, the Philippines has filed more than 80 diplomatic protests against China. (HMP/JuanManila)

Featured image: Philippines Navy ship BRP Jose Rizal (FF 150) steams in a multinational formation during a photo exercise off the coast of Hawaii during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise on 21 August 2020. /Credit: US Navy Photo

On SCS: PCA 2016, UNCLOS just and fair—Duterte

On SCS: PCA 2016, UNCLOS just and fair—Duterte | Juan Manila


Negotiations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China are still underway for the crafting of a final and binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which aims to promote peace and stability in the highly-contested waters.

ASEAN and China, nevertheless, remain committed to the full implementation of the non-binding Declaration on the Code (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea signed on 04 November 2002.

The DOC aims to exercise self-restraint and promote non-militarization within the South China Sea.


MANILA — Citing the importance of the country’s historic arbitral victory against China’s sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea (SCS), President Rodrigo Duterte said he believes that Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) 2016 ruling on the SCS disputes, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), provides a “clear path towards a just, fair, and win-win solution for all.”

“The award must be seen for what it is—a benefit across the board to all who subscribe to the majesty of law,” Duterte pointed out in his keynote speech that emphasized his commitment to keep the SCS “a sea of peace, security, and prosperity.”

He added no country can undermine the sea ruling that favors the Philippines because “no amount of willful disregard by any country, however big and powerful, can diminish the arbitral award’s importance.”

On July 12, 2016, the PCA in The Hague, Netherlands ruled in favor of the Philippines after it invalidated China’s supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire SCS under what Beijing claimed as the nine dash line which has been used by China to show the maximum extent of its claim without indicating how the dashes would be joined if it was continuous and how that would affect the extent of the area they claimed.

China has repeatedly ignored the 2016 PCA ruling while the Philippines has sought to resolve the sea disputes through peaceful and diplomatic negotiations, as it intends to keep its mended ties with Beijing.

In his latest speech, Duterte reiterated his stance to avoid provocative acts that could only trigger hostilities among claimants.

“We must resolve disputes peacefully, as we manifested in the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes,” he noted.

He was referring to the Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes approved by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1982, which provides for the obligation of all states to settle their international disputes by peaceful means. (TRC/JuanManila)

Featured image: Philippine warship BRP Antonio Luna conducts a maritime exercises with Indian counterparts INS Ranvijay and INS Kora in the West Philippine Sea. Photo taken 23 August 2021. /Credit: Philippine Navy

Quad meets at the White House for the first time

Quad meets at the White House for the first time | Juan Manila


A summit of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States in the White House has deep talk on matters that concern the global health crisis, infrastructures, and technological cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.


WASHINGTON D.C. — Their first in-person meeting—the leaders of four major democracies: Prime Ministers Scott Morrison, Narendra Modi, Yoshihide Suga, and U.S. President Joe Biden—have decided to pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific region “undaunted by coercion”.

In a joint statement, the four democracies say, “We stand for the rule of law, freedom of navigation, and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity of states.”

There was no mention of China in any of the public remarks from each of the leaders, neither in the lengthy statement the summit produced. A frequent mention of the leaders’ insistence on rules-based behavior is clearly directed at China as it attempts to flex its muscles in the region.

The meeting touched on other issues that are in focus in different areas in the region presently, including support for small Pacific island states with regards to their economy and environmental resilience.

They also urge North Korea to engage in diplomacy over nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Expansion of the distribution of more vaccines worldwide had been considered, with a welcome to India’s resumption of vaccines exportation starting October.

The summit came a week after the announcement of the trilateral AUKUS security pact among Australia, Britain, and the United States under which Australia favored the nuclear-powered submarines deal that Beijing denounced.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison pointed out the importance of a ‘free and open’ Indo-Pacific. He said the region should be free from coercion from any nation, as he addressed Beijing’s growing influence and increasing assertiveness in the region. (RA/JuanManila)

Quad leaders meet to counter China’s Indo-Pacific presence

Quad leaders meet to counter China's Indo-Pacific presence | Juan Manila


After their virtual meeting in March when they discussed China’s military build-up in the Asia-Pacific, the four leaders of the Quad alliance will meet for the first time in-person next week at the White House upon the bidding of U.S. President Biden.


WASHINGTON D.C. — Intending to deepen the cooperation among the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad)  alliance as they have agreed to counter China’s military presence in the Asia-Pacific, President Biden will host Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Monday.

According to Psaki, “The Biden-Harris administration has made elevating the Quad a priority, as seen through the first-ever Quad leaders-level engagement in March, which was virtual, and now this summit, which will be in-person.”

“The Quad leaders will be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combating Covid-19, addressing climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said.

Psaki’s referenced the tensions between Washington and Beijing in the western Pacific region where China has laid claims of sovereignty that Washington, her allies, and claimant-countries in the region rejected.

In a recent maritime conference, United States Coast Guard and Navy officials pledged to bolster their presence in the area and dismissed a new ruling Beijing enacted that requires all foreign ships entering what it claims as the South China Sea to register ship and cargo information with Chinese maritime authorities.

The summit follows a recent meeting by the Biden administration officials with Beijing and a phone call between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. With the call, Xi told Biden that relations with other countries were facing “serious difficulties” because of Washington’s policies towards China.

Biden has also made simultaneous deepening of ties with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and G7 (Group of Seven, an inter-governmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) while progressively developing its own China strategy.

In his July speech about the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Biden said maintaining a military presence there “was not in the national interest of the United States of America to continue fighting this war indefinitely.

“We also need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine our future,” he said.

As he testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about the withdrawal in Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed Biden’s rationale.

“There is nothing that strategic competitors like China and Russia–or adversaries like Iran and North Korea–would have liked more than for the United States to re-up a 20-year war and remain bogged down in Afghanistan for another decade,” he said. (SA/JuanManila)

More decisive measures need to be considered in the SCS

More decisive measures need to be considered in the SCS | Juan Manila


Although China now appears to be evaluating the pros and cons of moving to the final phase of its South China Sea domination strategy, United States military officials said that it would not take long before Beijing initiates the establishment of a Chinese exclusion zone across the entire area.

What could be next is the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) via activation of its sprawling network of military bases across the South China Sea basin and beyond.


WASHINGTON D.C. — The United States and like-minded powers, including key frontline states in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines and Vietnam, might have to consider more decisive measures, such as exercising diplomatic pressure, increasing joint drills near and around disputed areas, fortifying islands held by and rapidly developing minimum deterrence capabilities of smaller claimant states, and intensifying economic sanctions against Chinese elements involved in aggressive and unlawful activities in the South China Sea—all aimed at dissuading Beijing from imposing an exclusion zone.

“Some hard choices will have to be made in months and years to come, as China imposes its will on smaller rival claimants and gradually turns an international body of water into a de facto Chinese lake,” Pentagon officials warned.


The general view

In describing the situation, the US Pentagon said that this would clearly be too risky, potentially drawing in major powers, so Beijing is still sticking to its so-called “salami-slicing” approach until it feels confident enough to drop the gauntlet.

“So far, we see that the US and (our) allies, including the Quad powers, are examining various counter-measures against China’s domination strategy in the South China Sea, especially the usage of ‘gray zone’ provocation under the fourth phase of China’s domination strategy,” it said.

Thus, the increased frequency of American freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) as well as access patrols by other Indo-Pacific powers from Britain and France to India, Japan, and Australia.

“Much is at stake here, especially for smaller Southeast Asian states, which rely on the South China Sea for their food security. Livelihoods of millions of families along coastal regions of the Philippines and Vietnam will be further negatively affected by these latest Chinese restrictions.

As for the broader international community, this is about upholding rule of law and freedom of navigation in global sea lines of communications,” the Pentagon added.

It stressed that allowing China to get away with its tightening grip on an international waterway will have dire long-term consequences for a “free and open” order in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. (TRC/JuanManila)

Featured image: Ocean produce. Fishing grounds will be also be affected, including livelihoods of fisher folk, their families and communities.

PRC’s new law violates international law—U.S. Pentagon

PRC's new law violates international law—U.S. Pentagon | Juan Manila


China’s enactment of a new maritime law last 01 September, which geopolitical analysts say are directed to the United States and her allies.

The new law requires multiple classes of foreign vessels traversing the Beijing-claimed waters in the South China Sea to provide detailed information to state authorities and take aboard Chinese pilots.

Geopolitical analysts said the legal requirements are clearly aimed at U.S. military presence in the disputed waterways, including allies.


WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Pentagon has called the new law a “serious threat” and a violation of international law, although it is still unclear how aggressively and how widely the new law would be enforced by Beijing and over how wide of a geography or if indeed China’s ‘territorial waters’ would be interpreted to include nearly all of the hotly contested region of South China Sea (SCS).

Pentagon officials warned that without a question, China’s default strategy is bit-by-bit a gradual domination of adjacent waters—or at least areas covered by their so-called nine-dash line, which extends across two-thirds of the South China Sea basin—short of triggering armed confrontation with rival states and, more crucially, drawing in major powers such as the United States and its European allies.

Termed “salami-slicing” the region, the strategy, based on observations, has been an unqualified success throughout the past decades. The US military expects China to keep pushing the envelope through a combination of para-military, quasi-legal and ultimately military measures, which will allow it to dictate the texture and direction of the South China Sea disputes for the foreseeable future.

“We are increasingly moving towards the fourth phase of China’s domination strategy in the South China Sea. The first phase was the demarcation of Beijing’s areas of claims, roughly extending from the early-1970s to 2013, as China dominated the Paracel Islands (taken away from former South Vietnam), wrested control of Scarborough Shoal (taken away from the Philippines in 2012), and solidified its position on key land features within the Spratly Islands,” they noted.

The second phase began in late 2013, the Pentagon added, with President Xi Jinping overseeing massive reclamation activities, which radically changed the geology as well as geopolitical tempo of the disputes, as a whole host of low-tide elevations and rocks were transformed into massive islands.

Two years later, the third phase began with the rapid militarization of artificially-created islands through the deployment of advanced missile systems and establishment of kilometers-long airstrips capable of hosting large military aircraft.

This was followed by the fourth phase, in around 2019, with the systematic deployment as well as empowerment of Chinese coast guard and para-military forces to swarm, intimidate and, if necessary, use coercive force against rival claimant states.

“The introduction of the controversial coast guard law earlier this year and, most recently, the new foreign vessel law are quasi-legal maneuvers to give a veneer of legitimacy and formality to this new phase of China’s domination strategy,” US officials said. (TRC/JuanManila)