Locsin On WPS: If I want ignorance I’ll ask for it

Locsin on WPS: If I want ignorance I'll ask for it | Juan Manila


MANILA — What an irked Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr has to put up with a Harry Roque Jr statement regarding the Julian Felipe Reef as “not even part of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone).”

Before his tweet was deleted, he calls Roque’s statement a “betrayal upon betrayal.”

Locsin quickly responded with, “Where the ef is it?” The DFA has the “last word” on the West Philippine Sea, he adds in a series of tweets.

“… And no one else” has the last word on the Philippines’ EEZ.

Ask no one outside the DFA,” Locsin tweets. “If I want ignorance I’ll ask for it.”

And the tweet was deleted.

After all the diplomatic and extra-diplomatic efforts the Foreign Affairs Department has mustered, together with the Defense Department’s official statements, and other Government agencies and affiliate agencies (National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard), a former magistrate, diplomats, individuals, interest groups, organizations, and the Filipino nation in whole, who thought it incumbent upon themselves (via their special contributions and efforts), including and equipped by the arbitral position of The Hague and the Philippine Constitution, to defend the Philippine territory from being occupied, abused, misused, etc. by others is a matter the Duterte administration needs to not only take into account but look into as going ‘against the grain’ of the fabric of the Philippine sovereignty.

It was not clear whether the presidential spokesperson was merely thinking out loud or that what he uttered was an official palace position in a regular press briefing.

This despite a previous chiding for contradicting the Foreign Affairs Secretary’s official statements on foreign policy, Roque was directed to “lay off” and was slammed “not competent” in the field. (JSM/JuanManila)

China earns PH Senate’s displeasure for ‘contorting facts’

China earns PH Senate's displeasure for 'contorting facts' | Juan Manila


MANILA — China’s claim of jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea after maritime exercises were conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the area earned the senate’s displeasure.

China is again “contorting facts to suit her baseless claims,” says Senator Risa Hontiveros after China foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called on the Philippines to stop its maritime exercises.

The Philippines has every right to conduct maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea, two senators say in response to Beijing’s call.

“Let us make it clear: Beijing has been the one disrespecting Philippine sovereignty; not the other way around,” Hontiveros says. “In truth, it is China that has been harassing our fisherfolk, reclaiming land in territories she does not own, and even using war vessels to chase off Filipino civilians.”

“If China truly wants respect, she should stop twisting and contesting the basic principles of international law. Just accept the hard truth: the West Philippine Sea belongs to us, not you.”

Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, negates claims that the PCG’s drills escalated tensions.

“The intention is to patrol our seas, which involves a few civilian ships, less than 10, and not an armed floating militia numbering hundreds of vessels,” he says, referencing the outsized presence of Chinese ships in Philippine waters in recent weeks.

“It is a peaceful exercise of our rights. It is to check on our fishing grounds. It is not an advance party of a reclamation expedition. Our ships are going there in peace.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr files another diplomatic protest over China’s remarks.

“If China sincerely wants to avoid escalation, it should pull back her navy and maritime militia. China can’t even respect freedom of navigation on the high seas, and now she wants respect for her unfounded nine-dash line?” Hontiveros says.

“It seems that China is the one hallucinating. She must be the one living in an alternate reality.” (JSM/JuanManila)

PH Senate draws resolution condemning China’s acts in WPS

PH Senate draws resolution condemning China's acts in WPS | Juan Manila


MANILA — China’s activities have drawn widespread condemnation, including the filing of Senate Resolution 708 which condemns the act and calls on China to uphold the rule of law and to respect Philippine sovereignty.

“I am one with my colleagues in the Senate in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, China’s incessant activities in the West Philippine Sea. We are united in our call for China to uphold the rule of law and to respect our country’s sovereignty. This resolution will give a strong signal to the Filipino people that we are your partners in the fight against Chinese intervention,” says Senator Risa Hontiveros.

It also reminds China that its activities in the West Philippine Sea violates the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines. That China’s refusal to play by international rules “must be resisted and denounced.”

The resolution strongly states that “neither close diplomatic and political ties nor promise of donations, aids or loans, whether they actually materialize or not, should be mistaken as acceptance of China’s creeping hegemony over our region and country.”

Statements denouncing China’s provocation come from numerous organizations of fisherfolk from affected provinces, the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, the PMA Retirees Association and business groups, among others.

From other parts of the globe, condemnation of China’s actions have also been stated by the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia. Southeast Asian countries as Vietnam and Indonesia have pushed back against China’s recent actions in the South China Sea.

“Our voices are getting louder and stronger. We must keep asserting our victory at The Hague; we must keep making China accountable for her actions; we must keep defending our sovereignty and we must keep protecting the Filipino people. The more that we consistently amplify our voices, the more that China will be forced to finally rethink her actions,” says Hontiveros.

Previously she called that China should pay over ₱800 billion in reparations for environmental and economic damages it caused in the West Philippine Sea.

“We cannot shirk our collective responsibility to defend the Philippines. China’s overreaching ambitions should never be at the expense of any country, and therefore, her moves that endanger any nation should be blocked at every turn. We are not alone, so let’s stand together….,” she says.


Recent developments

China asks the Philippines to halt its exercises in the West Philippine Sea as it reasserts its claim of sovereignty on islands and land features over resource-rich disputed waters.

“China enjoys sovereignty over Nansha (Spratly) Islands including Zhongye (Pag-Asa) Island and Zhongsha Islands, including Huangyan Island (Panatag Shoal) and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters,” says Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.

“We urge the relevant side to respect China’s sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes,” Wang adds.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have no statement issued yet regarding China’s comment.

The Defense Department and the armed forces have been firm in maintaining its presence over the West Philippine Sea, particularly its exclusive economic zone, citing that China’s intrusion into Philippine territory has been causing tensions since
Chinese vessels were spotted in different areas since March.

The number of diplomatic protests have already been filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), questioning the presence of the Chinese vessels and demanding their pullout from the West Philippine Sea. (JSM/JuanManila)

Lorenzana lauds public support vs ‘communist terrorists’

Lorenzana lauds public support vs 'communist terrorists' | Juan Manila


MANILA — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana lauds the “support of the people” that the Government continuously enjoys. The Defense chief calls on the public to remain vigilant against ‘communist terrorists’ who should be held accountable for their alleged crimes.

On the occasion of the founding of the National Democratic Front (NDF), Lorenzana says the discredited ideology of the NDF and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as well as the New People’s Army (NPA) has never received significant support from the people, nor has it contributed an iota of good to the country.

“As the National Democratic Front celebrates another year of their bane existence, its members could no longer ignore the fact that the government continuously enjoys the support of the people, while they continue to fade into oblivion,” he says.

“The NDF and its member organizations continue to weaken as Filipinos have unmasked their lies and rapaciousness. Enabling communist terrorists, the NDF must be held liable for the violence and destruction wrought by the CPP-NPA,” Lorenzana points out.

“In extreme desperation, they would surely resort to more heinous acts to undermine our democracy and our way of life,” he adds.

The Defense chief says the Government is calling on the people to “remain vigilant against the duplicity of these terrorists. Let us do our share by supporting the reintegration of our ‘kababayans’ who were led astray by the CPP-NPA/NDF. Now is the time for us to heal our nation, reconcile our differences, and unite for our lasting peace and progress.”

The NDF marked its 48th anniversary on 24 April. (JSM/JuanManila)

Senate condemns China’s intrusion in PH exclusive economic zone

Senate condemns China's intrusion in PH exclusive economic zone | Juan Manila


MANILA — The Philippine Senate is preparing a resolution condemning China’s illegal activities in the West Philippine Seas (WPS) after its more than 200 vessels linger within the exclusive economic zone, moving and mooring around but within the area.

“The illegal occupation by China of parts of the West Philippine Sea Territory is well within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines,” Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon points out.

The Senate’s condemnation of these illegal acts by China in the West Philippine Sea territory expects to encourage more people to speak out against Chinese intrusions. Notwithstanding, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr has been firing up diplomatic protests against China since the ships lingered with the addition of warships that are now infringing on Philippine territory.

Drilon says, the resolutions may be considered the Senate’s contribution to laying down the country’s foreign policy in partnership with the Executive branch.

The minority leader also backs the suggestion of General Cirilito Sobejana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, in setting up government structures in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen the country’s claim and affirming these parts are the Philippines’.

The resolution has the full support of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Sensators Richard Gordon, Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, Lito Lapid, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Joel Villanueva, as co-sponsors.

The resolution will be filed by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon with co-authors of the Minority bloc, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Leila de Lima. It is expected to be formally adopted by Majority senators led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III as soon as Congress reconvenes. (JSM/JuanManila)

Beijing to deploy advanced amphibious assault ship in SCS

Beijing to deploy advanced amphibious assault ship in SCS | Juan Manila


CAM RANH BASE, VIETNAM — Despite continuing protests and a warning from the United States and even the European Union that it will not tolerate incursive action from Beijing in the South China Sea (SCS) region, China has stepped up its claim of a huge swath in the area as it commissions its first type 075 amphibious assault ship which is expected to be deployed in the disputed territories.

According to military observers, the said warship, named the Hainan, may also be deployed in missions around Taiwan which in recent times have been under threat of an imminent Chinese invasion as shown by repeated entry of reconnaissance planes and coast guard vessels in both its sea and air spaces.

State media report the amphibious assault ship was commissioned by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) last Friday, 24 April, at a ceremony attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping at a naval base in Sanya in the Hainan province, along with a Dalian Type 055 destroyer and the nuclear submarine Long March-18 that could launch the JL-1 and JL-2 gig wave ballistic missiles.

Based on satellite images, US military intelligence have noted that the Type 075 is capable of carrying an estimated 30 helicopters and hundreds of troops which can be used for defensive maneuvers but much more for offensive attack. It is China’s largest amphibious assault ship with an estimated displacement of about 40,000 tonnes.

Although the Z-8J and Z-20J armored helicopters that it will carry are not yet ready for use, Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military affairs commentator and former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) instructor, said the ship can carry various types of helicopters, including airborne early warning helicopters.

“The ship is deployed to the South Sea Fleet under the Southern Theatre Command. It does not mean it will only be responsible for the South China Sea. It will also be used for missions around Taiwan and other cross-theatre command tasks. But presumably it will mainly be for the South China Sea,” Song says.

Observers added that the warship could play a more important strategic role in the South China Sea, where China has a number of competing territorial claims with Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the disputed waters and has responded by sending warships and planes to the region to conduct what it describes as freedom of navigation operations. Even the EU has pronounced its apprehension, saying that recent developments triggered by China’s incursions are igniting tension that endangers peace and stability in the region.

In response to the US military’s recent operations, Beijing has said that these violate China’s territorial sovereignty and thus increases the risk of conflict.

Other claimants in the SCS have likewise criticized Beijing’s ‘expansionist’ activities and have complained about Chinese coastguard vessels and fishing boats entering their territories.

Collin Koh, a research fellow from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, says the deployment of the PLAN’s most advanced amphibious assault ship to the Southern Theatre Command is designed to send a message to China’s neighbors.

“The ship can perform offensive functions—such as capture of terrestrial features in the disputed Spratlys,  as well as, a Taiwan invasion scenario or it can also be used for providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in times of peace,” Koh says.

Moreover, the international geopolitical analyst says China’s neighbors may feel the need to respond to the “widening asymmetry” in the military balance of power by upgrading their own armed forces and seeking support from external powers.

“As far as the region is concerned, given uncertainty over China’s strategic intentions and its proclivity to use military coercion, this vessel will more generally be seen with wariness by regional countries especially those which have territorial and sovereignty disputes with China,” he says. (TC with reports from the internet/JuanManila)

Featured image: The third Type 075 LHD for PLAN launched in January at the Hudong Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. /Photo credit: Naval News

PCG holds drills in West Philippine Sea

PCG holds drills in West Philippine Sea | Juan Manila


MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard conducts drills in the West Philippine Sea, which, an official says, is part of the efforts to secure “our maritime jurisdiction” over the disputed waters.

“We are supporting the whole-of-nation approach in securing our maritime jurisdiction,” says coast guard spokesman Commodore Armando Balilo.

The exercises involve training in navigation, small boat operations, maintenance and logistical operations.

The exercises are conducted near the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island and China-controlled Scarborough Shoal amid increased tensions over the resource-rich waters. There are also drills in the Batanes islands in the north, and the southern and eastern parts of the country.

The Chinese vessels earlier spotted mooring near Julian Felipe Reef have dispersed but did not disappear. The Philippines, meanwhile, deploys patrol vessels, including coast guard and navy ships, to intensify surveillance and prevent illegal fishing activities.

The drills started as soon as the Balikatan 2021 joint exercises of the Philippine and United States military ended Friday.

Beijing has ignored a 2016 international tribunal decision that declared its historical claim over most of the South China Sea to be without basis.

But the once-frosty relations between Manila and Beijing have warmed under President Rodrigo Duterte, who set aside the ruling in exchange for promises of trade and investment. The Philippine foreign and defense secretaries, however, have been engaged in a war of words with Beijing.

The foreign affairs department has been filing daily protests over the Chinese vessels and, in a rare move, have summoned Beijing’s envoy to express its “utmost displeasure” over the issue. (JSM/JuanManila)

Featured photo: In this undated handout photo of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), coast guard personnel conduct maritime exercises near Thitu island, in the disputed waters. /Photo credit: Philippine coast Guard (PCG)

Balikatan’ exercises, not aimed against other countries, conclude

Balikatan’ exercises, not aimed against other countries, conclude | Juan Manila


MANILA — The joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States are not aimed at using force against other countries, says Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The exercises concluded Friday.

“We have been doing this for the past 36 years. These military exercises… we’ve never used even once, our knowledge to fight another country. But for disaster and humanitarian purposes we have done this many, many times,” he says at the concluding ceremony of Balikatan 2021 which was scaled down because of the pandemic.

What the Balikatan shows, Lorenzana says, is the strong alliance between the two military allies and the resolve of both nations to preserve international order amid emerging security challenges in the region.

“Our success brings forth two important messages to the world: first, that nations become stronger if we work together. Second, there is no threat too daunting if the burden is shared and shouldered together,” he says.

Lorenzana and US embassy in the Philippines Charge d’Affaires John Law led the simple closing ceremonies for the Balikatan at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo.

The 11-day Balikatan exercises that opened 12 April was scaled down with only about 225 military personnel from the US and 415 from the AFP. (JSM/JuanManila)

Chinese vessels remain, increasing geopolitical tensions

Chinese vessels remain, increasing geopolitical tensions | Juan Manila


MANILA — For occupying waters within the West Philippine Sea and increasing geopolitical tensions between the two countries, the Philippines has filed two more diplomatic protests against China.

There are still 160 Chinese fishing vessels in the areas near the Spratlys Islands and the Scarborough Shoal, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Also seen within the Philippine exclusive economic zone are five Chinese Coast Guard ships near the shoal, Thitu Island, and Second Thomas Shoal, says DFA in its statement.

“The presence of these vessels blatantly infringe upon Philippine sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”

“The continued swarming and threatening presence of the Chinese vessels creates an atmosphere of instability and is a blatant disregard of the commitments by China to promote peace and stability in the region,” the statement says.

The latest diplomatic protests are in addition to those being filed daily against the continuing presence of the Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, the agency says.

The DFA demands that China adhere to international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and a 2016 United Nations arbitral ruling that rejects China’s claim to more than 80% of the disputed waterway.

Last week the Philippines has fired off a diplomatic protest against China after authorities spotted the same swarm of Chinese vessels spotted mooring earlier near the Julian Felipe Reef, including six war ships within its waters in the South China Sea.

Presidential spokesman Herminio Roque Jr denies an alleged “verbal fishing agreement” between President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jin Ping.

He refuted claims that the Chinese vessels were encouraged to stay within Philippine waters. “This is without basis and is quite simply a conjecture,” were the official words.

President Duterte does not condone illegal fishing but recognizes that “subsistence (non-commercial) fishing may be allowed as a recognition of traditional fishing rights,” Roque said, citing the arbitral ruling.

Notwithstanding, Salvador S. Panelo, the President’s chief lawyer, in 2019, the same vein, said the verbal fishing agreement between Duterte and Xi was valid.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, however, says the Philippines should pursue a “multilateral approach” in dealing with China, including welcoming the position of allies such as the US, Japan, European Union and France.

The President should also raise the arbitral award again at the UN General Assembly in September to obtain support from other nations, he says in a statement. Chinese officials should be held accountable and China should pay for destroying fishing grounds, del Rosario says.

Del Rosario adds the Government should develop its Navy and Air Force and exhaust all legal means. (JSM/JuanManila)

US ready and willing to help in WPS—Washington Envoy

US ready and willing to help in WPS—Washington Envoy | Juan Manila


WASHINGTON – The United States government is ready and willing to help its Philippine ally in the South East to secure its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in removing Chinese vessels that swarm the area, says Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez.

This is the position of the U.S. government during his talks with its representatives, says Romualdez during an online press briefing.

“The United States is obviously waiting for us to call them if we need their assistance in removing or asking the vessels that are parked in our area of responsibility or economic zone [to leave],” Romualdez says.

The coordination between the Department of National Defense and the US Pentagon recently led to the deployment of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt near the Julian Felipe Reef, where the Philippine military had spotted over 200 Chinese militia vessels since 07 March.

According to reports, the combined presence of the Philippine and US naval assets led to some of the Chinese ships in the reef to disperse.

In his public address, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will only deploy ships to the country’s EEZ if the Chinese vessels start extracting mineral resources there.

Until then, he said he prefers to maintain the status quo, saying the country cannot compel China to leave the disputed territory without bloodshed.

Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr says Duterte’s friendship with the Chinese has limitations. He says Duterte’s pronouncement is an assurance he will not allow any further loss of the Philippines’s island territories to China as what happened in the previous administration.

Roque was referring to the Scarborough Shoal. The triangle-shaped chain of reefs and rocks was occupied by Chinese forces in 2012 during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III, who also filed the Philippine complaint against China that caused a UN arbitral tribunal to dismiss Beijing’s “excessive” claims in the South China Sea in 2016. (JSM/JuanManila)

Featured image: A Philippine Navy ship docked on the Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea where Chinese vessels are spotted. Photo credit: ABS-CBN