War not necessary to defend PH’s rights over West Philippine Sea

Allowing China to ‘categorically’ declare ownership of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) contradicts the arbitral award of the disputed territory to the Philippines in 2016.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte said that going up against China in pursuit of ownership in the WPS is like going to war and we, the whole nation, have no choice but to let it be.

“We have to go to war. And I cannot afford it. Maybe some other president can but I cannot. Inutil ako diyan. Talagang inutil ako diyan. Walang magawa. I cannot,” Duterte declared.

“China is claiming it, we are claiming it. China has the arms. We do not have it. So, it’s as simple as that. They are in possession of the property… so what can we do?” he added.

But let it be a reminder that, even if WPS is part of the South China Sea, it comprises the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and extended continental shelf (ECS) of the Philippines, waters, and resources over which the Philippines has sovereignty or sovereign rights.
The country has the right to claim and to fight for it. It’s not necessarily going to war, just like what Duterte’s ‘lucid’ mind can think of.

China happy about Duterte’s ban on military in West Philippine Sea drills

President Rodrigo Duterte’s inclination toward China became stronger as it orders the Philippine Navy to cease from joining maritime drills in the West Philippine Sea, a move that favors Beijing’s claims in the region.

“We appreciate President Duterte’s remarks and stand ready to properly resolve maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the entire region,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin in a report by China Global Television Network.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that president has a standing order for the Philippine military to stay out of naval exercises with other navies in the West Philippine Sea except if these were within 12 miles from Philippine shores.

 

Australia PM bares war with China possible over growing tensions on territorial claims

Amid China’s continued aggression in claiming the West Philippine Sea, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted that the possibility of war between two countries is becoming clearer. Morrison called for an alliance among Indo-Pacific nations against the growing threat of China. Just like the United States (US), Australia tagged Beijing’s West Philippine Sea claims as illegal.

Australia has also criticized China for its imposition of the controversial security law in Hong Kong, called for an investigation about the origin of COVID-19, and removed Huawei from Australia’s 5G network. In response, China has implemented heavy sanctions on Australian goods and hit back Australia’s remark over the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, despite China’s growing aggression in the disputed region, the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte prefers to continue its diplomatic relationship with the Asian giant. Duterte even ordered the military to stop participating in joint exercises in the West Philippine Sea after he admitted incapability to challenge China.

China in possession of West Philippine Sea has become Duterte’s mantra

In his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte showed his defeatist stance explaining how the Philippines cannot afford to go to war with China to contest its West Philippine Sea (WPS) claims. This isn’t the first time that pro-China Duterte has enunciated such a statement. He previously mentioned China’s possession of the WPS during the ASEAN-India Summit in Singapore on November 15, 2018, and in his fourth SONA on July 22, 2019.

In an opinion piece published by former Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on Inquirer.net, it’s clear that the words ‘China is in possession of WPS’ has become Duterte’s mantra, despite the Philippines’ victory on July 12, 2016 when an arbitral award invalidated China’s WPS claims based on the nine-dash rule.

“Mr. Duterte directly contradicts the Award which ruled that China never controlled the SCS. To possess a sea like the WPS means to control that sea. Mr. Duterte is subverting the very basis of the Award that gave the Philippines a maritime area in the WPS larger than the total land area of the country. For Mr. Duterte to say that China is “in possession” of Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf (ECS) in the WPS is to concede to China more rights than what international law or the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) grants to any state,” said Carpio.

Carpio added that with Duterte saying that China is “in possession” of the WPS, under the international law doctrine of unilateral declarations, China can later claim that the Philippines has “ceded sovereign rights over its EEZ and ECS to China. “Under this doctrine, unilateral declarations of heads of state bind the state even if such declarations are contrary to the Constitution and laws of a state,” he added.

Following the statements of Duterte which China can fully take advantage of to claim the WPS, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should issue a clarification that China is not in possession, and can never be legally in possession of the WPS. Carpio also urged the Filipino people to “vigorously show their rejection of Mr. Duterte’s false claim that China is “in possession” of the WPS.”

“All professional, civic, social, political, student, and alumni organizations, and all Filipino citizens, should storm Malacañang with statements and text messages: China is not, and will never be, in possession of the WPS. This is the moment for all Filipinos to unite in defense of Philippine sovereign rights in the WPS,” Carpio stressed.

Duterte ban on West Philippine Sea drills a show of allegiance to China — Trillanes

President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to ban the Philippine navy from joining United States (US) military exercises in the West Philippine Sea is a proof of his allegiance to China, according to retired navy officer and former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

“To the US and other allies, that directive is a clear manifestation of Philippine support of China’s foreign policy in the West Philippine Sea,” said Trillanes. He added that the said directive from Duterte “would now be factored in by the US as they analyze the balance of power in East Asia and the Pacific.”

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said that the president has a ‘standing order’ that the Philippines shouldn’t be involved in naval exercises in the West Philippine Sea, “except in our national waters, 12 miles off our shores.” Lorenzana added that the ban is to keep a lid on tensions in the disputed waters after the US left its neutral stance on territorial disputes over the “unlawful” claims and aggression of China.

Senate rocks PhilHealth’s hierarchy over corruption charges

As corruption charges begin to hound the Philippine Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the state insurer’s unfazed officials threw a bigger picture of what lies ahead by 2022.

Two years from now, PhilHealth is about to run out of funds due to massive losses in 2020 and 2021 amid the COVID-19 crisis, according to Nerissa Santiago, acting senior vice president for actuarial services. Santiago was among several top PhilHealth officials called in for the Senate hearing on the alleged widespread corruption in the agency.

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales told the Senate that their office is currently investigating some 20,000 cases of fraudulent transactions, and they’ve already hired additional investigators to help resolve the cases.

The Senate hearing came after the controversial resignation of some of its officials, including anti-fraud legal officer Thorsson Montes Keith. Keith, in his resignation letter, claimed widespread corruption and other anomalies in the PhilHealth system, including an unfair job promotion process. Agency officials and staff denied the accusations.

Despite the controversy, President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Morales and he won’t fire him unless proven guilty.

Crime of the year: PhilHealth execs allegedly pocketed 15B from state-run firm

In what he touted as the “crime of the year,” Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) former anti-fraud officer Thorrson Montes Keith said that there are some officials of the state-run firm who pocketed around P15 billion in funds.

Keith, who did not name the officials allegedly involved, said that the culture of corruption in PhilHealth remains prevalent because the “mafia” or “syndicates” behind illegal operations are working with high-ranking executives.

He added that overseas Filipino workers (OFW), whom PhilHealth targeted to burden with an increased monthly premium contribution in May, are being unfairly charged. He also mentioned the overpriced items listed on PhilHealth’s IT budget, including laptops worth more than P115 million.

Keith is among the PhilHealth officials who resigned due to the massive corrupt practices within the agency which is supposed to shoulder the COVID-19 tests and medical bills of its members. PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales did not respond to Keith’s statements during the recent Senate investigation.

Duterte scolds frontliners after heeding ‘timeout’ appeal

President Rodrigo Duterte approved Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III’s recommendation to place Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan back to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) as the number COVID-19 cases breach the 100,000th mark at the onset of August.

Duterte’s approval came after the medical community urged the government to reimpose stricter quarantine for a timeout.

Despite heeding the request and expressing sympathy, the president berated the health workers for trying to “demean” the government. “There is no need for you and for the guys, 1,000 of you, telling us what to do publicly. You could have just written us a letter. Lahat naman ng sinasabi ninyo sinusunod namin,” said Duterte.

“Do not try to demean government. You are not actually criticizing. You demean my government, your own government,” he added.

PACC wants death penalty vs corrupt government officials

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement of his desire to revive the death penalty, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) pushes for the same punishment against corrupt government officials.

PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica believes that corruption should be categorized under heinous crime and death would be the appropriate punishment for it.

Duterte called on Congress to revive the death penalty by lethal injection for drug-related crimes in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), which was met by silence until he reminded the audience that “nobody’s seemed to be interested.”

If he’s to be given the authority, Belgica prefers death by hanging for corrupt government officials as their punishment.

Gov’t to give COVID-19 cash aid to more than 200,000 waitlisted PUV drivers

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) plans to include 217,170 public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers in the government’s waitlisted beneficiaries for COVID-19 cash aid.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said that 84,014 waitlisted beneficiaries from the National Capital Region (NCR) were already given cash subsidy under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

PUV drivers in Cagayan Valley, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, and SOCCSKSARGEN have also received cash aid.

DSWD Spokesperson Irene Dumlao said this covers drivers of public utility jeepneys, buses, UV express, taxis, motorcycle taxis, Transport Network Vehicle Services (TNVS), and tricycles.

Bautista explained that 24,581 PUV drivers who received cash aid from other government programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino are excluded from the list. He added that about P795 million were allocated for 98,132 drivers in NCR in the first tranche.