UN concerned over Philippines tobacco fair

The United Nations has expressed concern that the Philippines could encourage smoking by hosting one of the world’s biggest tobacco trade shows, a health official said Tuesday.

UN agencies in the Philippines have written to President Benigno Aquino citing Manila’s treaty pledge to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, World Health Organization senior health adviser Eigil Sorensen said.

The ProTobEx Asia show, described on its website as featuring the latest innovations in processing, cigarette making and packaging, will be held at an indoor exhibition hall in the Pasay district of Manila from March 20-22.
“It’s important that there is no official endorsement by the government of the tobacco event,” Sorensen told AFP.

He praised the steps being taken by the Philippine government to curb tobacco use but said more needs to be done. Sorensen noted that it was the second straight year that the Philippines was hosting the annual tobacco fair, which the WHO says gathers some of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturers and advertisers.

“If there is a government endorsement, it might be seen as a mixed signal,” he added.
Sorensen took note of the significant reduction in the number of Filipino youth smokers, to one in 10 in 2011 compared to two in 10 four years earlier.

Last year the legislature passed a new law substantially raising tobacco taxes to help finance the government’s health care program. However, Sorensen said 14 million Filipinos out of the nearly 100 million population smoked daily, leading to 10 deaths by the hour from tobacco-related diseases.

“Despite the significant decrease in the prevalence of smoking among youths 13 to 15 years old, the tobacco epidemic in the country remains a serious issue,” Sorensen added.
“The Philippines has a vibrant tobacco industry. Tobacco has played, and continues to play, an important role in the domestic economy, earning millions of dollars for the country,” the ProTobEx site said of the venue selection. It praised the host city for lifting its blanket ban on indoor smoking at the trade show venue.

Organizers said the fair is not open to the general public or media. Aquino spokesman Ricky Carandang did not immediately reply to the AFP’s request for comment, while city officials were unavailable for comment.

Malaysia rejects militants’ ceasefire plea; PH should charge genocide, int’l law expert

The leader of Muslim militants in the Malaysian state of Sabah has called for a ceasefire as Malaysian security forces said they had more than 200 insurgents surrounded with no way out but the sea.

Jamalul Kiram III, the self-proclaimed sultan of Sulu, declared the ceasefire from his home in a Manila suburb on Thursday after Philippines President Benigno Aquino warned he would not allow his country to be ”dragged into war” with Malaysia.

Mr Kiram, who is facing arrest over his role in the crisis, told reporters through a spokesman his militants on Sabah would remain where they are.

”They will not take any action. They will not expand their operations,” Abraham Idjirani, the spokesman, said with the ailing Mr Kiram, 74, sitting next to him.

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”We hope Malaysia reciprocates the same call with a ceasefire”

But Malaysian Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi immediately rejected the ceasefire call.

”The unilateral ceasefire is rejected by Malaysia, unless the militants surrender unconditionally,” he wrote on Twitter.

Sabah police commissioner Hamza Taib said Malaysia’s police and army had cordoned off an area near Lahad Datu town in Sabah where they believe most of the militants are still hiding despite air and ground assaults.

”If there’s a way out it’s only by the sea,” Mr Taib said. ”However, I admit that there are challenges as we’re dealing with human beings, so they may have tricks up their sleeves.”

More than 40 people have been killed since the militants – portraying themselves as a royal militia in the service of the defunct sultanate of Sulu – arrived in Sabah on February 9, claiming they are rightful heirs to the area and prompting the most serious security crisis in Malaysia in decades.

The sultanate was an Islamic state that for centuries ruled the southern Philippines and parts of what is Malaysia’s Sabah state.

A three-week standoff between the militants and security forces escalated dramatically on March 2, when militants tortured and mutilated six policemen after an ambush in a village near the eastern Sabah coast town of Semporna on March 2.

One of the policemen was beheaded and had his eyes gouged out.

Azmi, a fisherman who lives near the village, told local journalists: ”It’s against our religion to behead anyone … it’s terrible, it’s cruel”.

The incident shocked Malaysian authorities and was the catalyst for Prime Minister Najib Razak deploying seven battalions of soldiers to Sabah with orders to use whatever force was necessary to defeat the militants, informed sources said.

The militants appear to be hardened fighters adept at guerilla tactics, raising the possibility of their links to insurgent groups in the southern Philippines such as the Moro National Liberation Front.

Those groups have often beheaded their enemies, including captured Philippines soldiers and hostages whose family did not pay a ransom.

The MNLF’s leader, Nur Misuari, has admitted some of his fighters have gone to Sabah to join the fighting. He warned Malaysian authorities not to harm the 800,000 Filipino civilians living in Sabah, many of whom work on palm oil plantations.

”Do not touch our civilians. Once you do that, that will be tantamount to declaration of war against our people and the Moro National Liberation Front,” he said.

The MNLF and Mr Kiram’s followers were excluded from a peace agreement signed last year between another group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Philippines government. Analysts say the incursion by Mr Kiram’s followers into Sabah has inflamed tensions in the southern Philippines and may scuttle the deal, which Malaysia helped broker.

Genocide. This is the crime that the Malaysian government has been committing when it launched an all-out attack to end the stand off in Lahud Datu in Sabah, claims an expert.

Llasos, who is running an independent campaign for Senate under Ang Kapatiran Party, was an understudy and protégé of University of the Philippines College of Law Dean Merlin Magallona. Llasos, also an expert on international law, issued the statement as he expressed disappointment with the way the Philippine government is handling the fluid situation in Lahud Datu.

“If Malaysian authorities are attacking a particular tribe or a particular group like the Tausug and they do it indiscriminately, affecting those who are not part of the alleged outlaws from the members of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu, that is an international crime,” Llasos said. “They are committing genocide, which can make the Malaysian authorities liable under the international humanitarian laws,” the practicing lawyer added.

The Tausugs are a minority of people living in Mindanao and Malaysia who originally came from the Sulu archipelago.

Llasos noted the Aquino administration should prioritize holding Malaysian government liable instead of looking for violations that Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s followers may have committed in sailing overseas to press their claim over the disputed territory, even without the authority from the Philippine government.

He clarified Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s declaration of all-out attacks to defend its “honour and sovereignty against Sulu intruders” does not justify Malaysia’s disregard against 600,000 Filipino non-combatants already living in Sabah before the security threat occurred.

Llasos criticized Malaysia for not considering the unarmed civilians who went with Kiram’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin, when its police launched mopping operations against at least 200 followers. He expressed frustration at President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s insensitivity to the cultural sentiments of Kiram’s followers, which he said may blow out of proportion.

“The cue came from no less than the president when he called those people (Tausug) as outlaws. So if they are outlaws, the Malaysian authorities will consider them as criminals and will shoot them on site,” he explained. “There is no sensitivity to the Tausug psyche and culture. The way the government is handling the Sabah issue really shows the ineptness and incompetence of this administration,” he noted.

The international law expert highlighted President Aquino’s “ignorance” about the country’s long-standing historical and legal claims on Sabah. The chief executive also ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to probe if Kiram’s followers committed violations.

“The president is clueless on most of these issues. My God! He doesn’t know that as early as 1962 there was already legal study that was already conducted,” Llasos said.

During the time of former President Diosdado Macapagal, recognized international law experts – former Senators Arturo Tolentino and Jovito Salonga – have studied and documented the nation’s claims on Sabah.He is also blaming the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its failure to gather intelligence report about the planned movement from Kiram’s followers, which could have prevented the Sabah stand off.

Llasos is baffled as to why the military failed to do its job in spite of gargantuan funds that go the AFP commands in Mindanao. “That (Sabah stand off) should not have happened if there is a military intelligence from the very beginning, if the president or the government was able to detect their (Kiram’s followers) move to go to sabah,” he said.

“This government is clueless and who is the commander in chief of the Armed Forces. Second, there was no backdoor negotiation asking (the Malaysian government) to spare their lives,” he added. On Tuesday, a Malaysian government spokesperson said at least 27 people were killed after Malaysian soldiers launched violent operations against Kiram’s followers.

Malaysia’s “drastic steps” began a few hours after the ultimatum for Kiram’s followers to leave Sabah expired last week. While working as an editorial assistant at the Institute of International Legal Studies, Llasos helped publish a book entitled “The Philippines Claim over a Portion of North Borneo: Documents, Materials, and Cases” in 2003.

Malaysian Hunts for Philippine Muslim Fighters After Assault

Residents leave their village in Tanjung Labian near Tanduo, where Malaysia launched an assault with fighter jets bombing the stand-off village followed by a ground assault by troops on March 5, 2013. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Malaysian security forces searched door-to-door in the eastern state of Sabah after attacking an armed Muslim clan from the Philippines that invaded last month to reclaim territory it lost more than 100 years ago.

Police moved cautiously in an area slightly larger than New York City’s Central Park to find followers of Jamalul Kiram, a Filipino who asserts he’s the sultan of Sulu. Authorities have yet to release a death toll from yesterday’s aerial and ground attacks, which came after earlier clashes between Malaysian police and Kiram’s followers killed 31 people.

“As the intrusion prolonged, it was clear that the intruders had no intention to leave Sabah,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday. “The government must take action to defend the country’s dignity and sovereignty.”

The battle on Borneo Island erupted weeks before elections in both countries, with Najib facing a late-April deadline to dissolve parliament as his ruling coalition seeks to maintain a 55-year grip on power. It also comes as Philippine President Benigno Aquino aims to conclude a peace deal with a Muslim separatist group that Najib is helping to broker.

The Philippines and Malaysia will form a naval blockage to prevent more Filipinos heading to Sabah as reinforcements, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mailed statement. An exit channel should be created for woman and children caught in the fighting, it said.

‘Fruitful’ Attack. Malaysian security forces operating in Sabah’s Tanduo village are being cautious to avoid more bloodshed, state-run Bernama news agency reported, citing Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar. Malaysia suffered no injuries, and casualties in Kiram’s group couldn’t be assessed, Bernama reported, citing Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

Three F-18 and five Hawk fighter aircraft were used in the attack, Bernama cited Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying.

Agbimuddin Kiram, the self-proclaimed crown prince of Sulu and brother of Jamalul, said in an interview with DZMM radio from Sabah that he couldn’t confirm casualties. About 180 members of the group, including 30 with weapons, invaded Sabah about three weeks ago.

“There will be no surrender,” Jamalul Kiram’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said at a briefing in Manila yesterday, adding that the group’s followers fear for their lives.

Peace Deal. Eight Malaysian police officers and 23 Kiram loyalists have been killed in shootouts since March 1. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario held talks with his counterpart after arriving in Malaysia earlier this week, Najib’s spokesman, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, said by phone. In a statement yesterday, Malaysia’s foreign ministry said it considered the group to be “terrorists.”

The Sulu sultanate, which dates back to the 14th century, says it leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company in 1878, an agreement that Malaysia views as a secession of the region. Sabah fell under British control after World War II and joined Malaysia in 1963, shortly after the sultanate ceded sovereignty to the Philippines.

The incident comes several months after Najib’s government helped Aquino reach a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Muslim separatist group in the southern Philippines. The Moro National Liberation Front, a splinter rebel group, called the accord — which will expand the country’s autonomous Muslim region — a conspiracy between Aquino and Najib for Malaysia to retain sovereignty of Sabah.

‘Total Chaos’. “Any agreement will be problematic and will be questioned” because Sabah wasn’t included in the self-governing region, said Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace Violence and Terrorism Research. “There will be consequences on the peace talks.”

Aquino risks putting the country in “total chaos” if he orders the arrest of Jamalul Kiram, said Nur Misuari, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front.

“It’s unbecoming for a head of state to be siding with the enemy of his people,” Misuari said yesterday. “What kind of leader are you if you abandon your own people for the sake of his friendship with colonial troublemaker Malaysia?”

Aquino tried to solve the conflict peacefully by sending intermediaries and agreeing to study the legal basis of the Sulu sultanate’s territorial claims, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said in a mobile-phone message.

“There’s only so much we can do if the Kirams insist on this course of action,” he wrote. “It defies logic.”

Copyright: BusinessWeek

USS Guardian Minesweeper still stuck at Tubbataha Reef

The minesweeper Guardian remains stuck on the Tubbataha Reefs in the western Philippines, but salvage teams have managed to board the ship several times to determine the vessel’s condition, U.S. Navy officials said Jan. 22.

“Salvage teams have been on and off the ship,” a Navy official in Washington said. “They’re not getting long windows when the weather breaks, but they’ve gotten some people on board to assess the situation.”

The ship, which is stuck on a reef at the Tubbataha natural marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, had just completed a port call at Subic Bay in the western Philippines when the grounding occurred last Thursday.

While the assessments continue, Navy salvors are working to figure how to remove the ship from the reef. It will be at least another week and maybe longer, the official said, before that decision is made.

The Navy still hopes to get the Guardian off the reef and return her to service.

“There are no plans to abandon the ship right now,” the official said.

Japan Commits Stronger Ties with PH

 

Japan vowed to develop stronger ties as Fumio Kishida, Japanese Foreign Minister, began his first foreign trip to Manila on Thursday since his country’s election last month.

These include improving infrastructure in the Philippines through official development assistance (ODA), expanding trade and investment by improvement of business environment and cooperation as dictated by big changes in the region’s security equation.

“I am pleased to come to the Philippines as my first country to visit after assuming the post of Foreign Minister. I am grateful to Secretary Del Rosario for his warm hospitality,” Kishida said.

For his part, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert Del Rosario noted that Japan is the Philippines’ number one trade partner with total trade exceeding US$13 billion last year.

He said that Japan also remains as the Philippines’ top export market for 2012.

The DFA Secretary said the Philippines is also looking into possible collaboration in the promotion of investments with Japanese small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

“Japan remains the number one source of development assistance in terms of loans,” said Del Rosario. “Thus, the Philippines looks forward to stronger cooperation with Japan in developing our country’s infrastructure particularly in the transportation sector.”

He also noted that Japan ranks third in tourist arrivals, as there were 375,248 Japanese tourist arrivals between January to November 2012.

Meanwhile, The Philippines and Japan are locked in separate territorial disputes with China which have simmered for decades but intensified recently amid what the two nations perceive as increasingly aggressive Chinese tactics.

Kishida said this also made it necessary to “enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and cooperate in shaping (a) peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. In today’s meeting we agreed on this point.”

“As the strategic environment in the region is greatly changing, it is necessary for us foreign ministers to share recognition of the situation,” Kishida said after meeting del Rosario.

He also added: “On the political and security front we agreed on strengthening policy dialogue and enhancing maritime cooperation and other measures.”

“We talked about the challenges that we appear to be facing in view of the assertions being made by China,” del Rosario said.

“I think we all understand that the assertions being made by China, in terms of their nine-dash line claim for example, they do pose threats to the stability of the region.”

“I think the president [Aquino] is of the view that a stronger Japan, acting as a counter-balance in the region, would help promote stability for the Asia-Pacific,” del Rosario said.

Phl Seeks Win-Win Situation In Shoal Row With China

President Benigno Aquino III said that the country will pursue a win-win situation with China within the claims with both countries regarding Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Aquino told the business forum of the Joint Alumni Clubs of US Universities last Wednesday that, “We have not stopped having communication with them in trying to look for a win-win situation.”

However, while the country intends to look for a win-win scenario for both parties, Aquino mentioned that he would still keep track of upholding and enforcing the laws.

“If it’s clear that we have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone designated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and both of us are parties to it, is it too much to ask that our rights are respected by our neighbors, in the same token that we respect their rights?” he asked.

With determination, Aquino also claimed that he is not going to give up any areas that belong to the country.

“I am not empowered to give up any of our territory,” he said.

Aquino added that the authority intends to handle the matter diplomatically.

“We do not want to present a threat to them in any shape, manner, or form in terms of military action,” he added.

On the other hand, Albert del Rosario the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, revealed that the Philippines has more investments in China than China has in the Philippines.

He stated that the Philippine investments in China amounts to nearly $3 billion as against to China’s investments in the Philippines which is approximately less than a billion and a half ($1.5).

Last Wednesday, Del Rosario told the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines that, “We benefit from our relations with China just as China benefits from its relationships with us.”

Del Rosario also mentioned that China, in which is considered the Philippines’ 3rd largest trading partner, signed a memorandum of agreement during President Aquino’s state visit last year that both countries would work towards accomplishing $60 billion in 2-way trade within a 5-year period and 2 million inward visitors within 5 years.

“It was also agreed upon that the bilateral agenda would be moved forward in the most positive way, while the areas of contention such as the West Philippine Sea would be abstracted and dealt with separately,” he added.

Having the fact that Chinese investments in the country is only half of Philippine investments in China, Del Rosario then said that Filipino businessmen will not be discouraged from investing in their country despite the recent activities and happenings taken by the Chinese travel agencies suspending tour packages to the Philippines as tensions over the borderline of the islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) increased.

Also, China possessed Philippine fruit exports suspected of carrying pests amid a tense argument between the two countries over Panatag Shoal.

“I don’t think that we should be discouraging our businessmen from investing in China. It’s a good thing if they see how we do it here but what we’re trying to do is at least equalize the amount of investments that go out and we’re hoping that more Chinese investors will take an interest in the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

“We’d like to believe it’s not,” Del Rosario replied when he was asked if the suspension of tour packages to the Philippines, the reduction in flights, and the possession of Philippine bananas are forms of pressure by China among the maritime argument between Philippines.

“We’d like to believe it’s a technical issue,” he added.

Economic pressure

If China continues to exert economic pressure to the Philippines such as blocking bananas and canceling tour packages, then, the lawmakers said and warned that the economy of the Philippines would be in danger.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said the suspension of tour packages and the controls on fruit importations is “China’s subtle warning versus Philippine on its vast economic arsenal.”

Also, they urged that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should step up efforts in paving the way for the creation of a joint Philippine-China study commission, which would focus on finding mutually acceptable solutions to end the dispute in the Spratlys.

“The decision of Chinese travel agencies to suspend travel to the Philippines could be China’s subtle warning that it does not even need its military to bring widespread economic destruction in the country,” Haresco said.

He warned the suspension of tour packages to the country by Chinese travel agencies “could be the beginning of a larger and more sustained campaign to remind the Philippines and even the US that its economic arsenal is as devastating as its three-million strong People’s Liberation Army.”

Also, he added that the effect of the travel suspension would already deny the economy millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues and warned that Beijing might even go further by obliging a ban on Filipino overseas workers, including those working in Hong Kong and Macau.

Haresco said that the only way to fix the problem in the Spratlys is through direct mutual dialogue with China without discounting the possibility of entering into a joint exploration arrangement in the areas claimed by the Philippines.

While the United States will always remain a valuable supporter to the Philippines, bragging Washington into the Spratlys argument “will do more harm than good” as this is being viewed as an indirect needling by Beijing.

Tactical support

On the other hand, Malacañang, restated that the presence of a US submarine in Subic had nothing to do with the Philippines’ disagreement with China over the disputed Panatag shoal.

Edwin Lacierda, Presidential spokesman, illiterates that the US government made a request last April 3, 2012, days before the April 10 standoff saying that they be allowed to dock their submarine in the area.

“And so it (US request) was addressed to the Department of National Defense and the DND gave its approval on April 24. So, I don’t need to answer or respond to the statements made by the Left,” Lacierda explicated.

Earlier, security officials revealed the visit of submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777) in Subic was a routine port call scheduled last April 3, before the standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Panatag shoal started. The US attack submarine rose last Sunday in Subic Bay.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the visit of a US submarine in Subic violated the country’s sovereignty.

In a statement, the CPP said the US is using the entire Philippines as a vast military base where it could dock its ships, land its fighter jets, fly its drones, conduct repairs and replenish supplies.

Filipino protesters led by former military rebel Nicanor Faeldon said they are planning to sail to Panatag as a show of support.

“They want to protest against the aggression being committed by China against our country, Faeldon’s spokesman kit guerrero said.

He said at least two fishing vessels carrying faeldon’s group were expected to arrive at the shoal later on Friday.

“They are intending to stay there at least three days and fish, if they are not prevented from doing so, Guerrero said, adding that planting a Philippine flag on the rock was also an option.

Fishermen from Batanes, Faeldon’s home province, along with fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales would be joining Faeldon to fish in Panatag that China has included in its declared fishing holiday.

The Philippines has reminded China that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of their bilateral relations.

The Philippines remains a safe and a welcoming country even as tensions over the disputed islands escalated.

Stay on the line

China has demanded manila not take measures in the political and legal aspects, saying it will worsen and complicate the situation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said last Monday in a press conference in Beijing that the Philippines should adhere to “diplomatic negotiations” to resolve the standoff.

“In particular, diplomatic negotiations should be adhered to in resolving the current situation, rather than continuing to incite public opinion and send contradictory messages,” Hong said.

DFA Chief Calls For Patriotism

In the interview yesterday of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, he said that resolving the territorial argument between China would not be easy as he called for a position of “patriotism” among Filipinos and sacrifice if the Philippines is tested.

While the consultations are yet to resolve the standoff in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal which is also called or knows as Bajo de Masinloc, it should be pursued, Del Rosario mentioned that the Philippines should continue to stand up and defeat its sovereign rights over the shoal and the West Philippine Sea in general.

“We need to defend what is ours. We need to stand up even as we look for ways to solve the disputes peacefully. We need to stand for what is ours. In order for us to do this, I think it is not going to be easy – and as you see it is not easy,” Del Rosario said before the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines.

“We need to get our people to bond together. We need to unite. We need to take a position of patriotism that what is ours is ours and we will stand for it. And it is possible that we may be tested and if we are tested, it is possible that everyone will need to make a sacrifice,” he added.

Del Rosario repeated that the Philippines is looking at different strategies to defend its claims and position in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in general which includes the legal track of dispute settlement mechanisms, including the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Do we have to have China with us when we go to this dispute settlement mechanism, the answer is no. There are mechanisms there where we believe we can pursue our objectives without China being with us,” he uttered.

A map was prepared by the USA Armed Forces in 1903 and was given to Del Rosario during his last visit to Washington.

The map included Panatag Shoal as part of the island groups of the Philippines, contrary to China’s claim that it is not included in the Philippine boundaries under the Treaty of Paris.

Del Rosario said that he and the Chinese Ambassador Ma Xeqing had began to discuss the pullout of ships in Panatag Shoal when they were engaged in consultations prior to the fishing ban China announced this week, but the two sides did not arrive at a conclusion or agreement.

No Chinese Travel Ban Vs Phl – Palace

Malacañang explained yesterday that there is a travel advisory but clears out that it is not a ban on Chinese citizens planning to visit the Philippines.

Deputy presidential spokesperson, Abigail Valte, stated in her weekly radio interview over state-run dzRB, that she used as a basis the statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that the travel advisory is not related to the Scarborough Shoal standoff.

“It’s not a travel ban, it’s just an advisory, which is normal when they feel that they have to give their citizens warning about a certain event,” she said.

Presidential spokesman, Edwin Lacierda said that more Filipino tourists are going to China than Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines. “Ironically, this is the year of friendly exchanges,” he said.

“That’s why we say it is unfortunate that this happened. But if the decision of tour operators in China is true then we will just have to work hard on the other markets.”

India, the second largest populated country in the world after China, Russia and among others are the other potential markets, Valte said.

Valte added that the Philippine government has not received any official communication about it, while the travel advisory may have been reported in media.

Shirley Lai, a representative of a travel agency, said at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport that the most affected when it comes to the declination of Chinese tourist arrivals are the chartered flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen bound for Boracay.

Regular flights are not yet affected, she added.

Lai said that the airlines affected are the chartered flights of Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, and Zest Air.

She handles about 20-50 Chinese tourists a day, she added.

Lai said that she was expecting Chinese tourists to arrive on May 10, 11, and 12 and proceed to Boracay but they canceled their travel.

She expressed hope that kinks in the issue will be ironed out soon because a lot of revenues were lost with the cancelled tours.

ADB Official Cites PH Development Path

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the country director for the Philippines mentioned last Wednesday that the Philippines is one of the good examples of countries taking path of development from an agricultural economy to one that is largely supported by services.

Neeraj Jain said at a briefing, that the traditional path is to move from agriculture to industries and then to services.

“This is happening amid the revolution in telecommunications in the Philippines, and experts are now raising the question of whether economies like these are conducive to growth that is inclusive or employment-friendly,” he said.

Also, the ADB official said that the Philippines financial market would need to acquire long-term instruments to help government efforts in encouraging investments in infrastructure.

Improved infrastructure

He stated that improved infrastructure would help efforts in the Philippines to move up to higher value-added activities, particularly the manufacturing and services sectors.

An example that Jain said as an example for the better infrastructure is that it can help in the push for the business process outsourcing sector to develop service offerings other than voice-based call centers.

He said longer-term loans had to be made available for undertakings such as public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

Funding for PPP

“Banks are now providing (loans) that mature in 10 or 12 years,” he said, adding that longer intentions will provide a greater boost to infrastructure projects.

The ADB announced last month the funding support for the PPP initiative “to help sustain the positive reform momentum.”

On the other hand, Australia, through the means of the Australian Agency for International Development, has set aside $15 million for the project development and monitoring facility (PDMF) that the ADB administers. The amount was on top of the $7 million provided to the facility last year.

Jain said the additional fund would mean that the PDMF would be able to support the preparation of more PPP projects than what was previously expected as doable.

With the additional fund, it is estimated that at least 12 PPP projects would be implemented or ready by 2016, more than twice the government target of five projects by the end of 2013.

Philippines Ignores China Demand To Quit Shoal

Declaring “that’s our territory” and giving a warning to Chinese vessels to back off, the Philippine officials last Wednesday disregarded China’s demand to remove Filipino vessels from Panatag Shoal.

BRP Edsa, a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, along with an archaeological survey mission aboard the MY Sarangani and a fishing boat was remained in the area, facing off two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and a fishing boat.

Last Monday an order was demanded by China that all Filipino vessels should be out or clear the area, which then calls Huangyan Island and which is known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, and also sent an aircraft to buzz a Philippine fishing boat in the second, such incident happened since Saturday.

According to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, “We’re also telling their ships to do the same,” he told the reporters.  “That’s our territory and we’re also saying the same thing to their ships.”

Carandang said talks between the Philippines and China were continuing. “Tensions have not degenerated,” he said, and the fact “that not a shot has been fired is already a sign that the situation is not deteriorating.”

Arbitration call ignored

Philippines and China have decided to settle the argument diplomatically but have both asserted on their ownership of the shoal, extending an eight-day deadlock on the high seas.

Last Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, asked China to bring the debate to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for negotiation. The Chinese embassy, though, disregarded the proposal and asked the Philippines to extract its vessels from the shoal “and restore peace and stability there.”

The latest standoff between Manila and Beijing over disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) began on April 8 when a Philippine Navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in Panatag, a cluster of reefs and islands around a lagoon.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the Philippine Navy flagship was transmitted to the area on April 10 and its officials boarded the fishing boats, but Chinese maritime surveillance vessel interposed. The fishing boats glided last Friday night.

The argument is just one of a countless claims over islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea that quarry china against the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Conflict has increased in the past 2 years over worries that China is becoming more aggressive in its claims to the sea that overlaps shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe also the Middle East.

Even though supplicant countries have vowed to fix the territorial gaps peacefully, the arguments have vented in violence in the past which includes the 1988 when China and Vietnam collided in the Spratly Islands in a defiance that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers. Many fear the disagreements that became Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.

Vietnam held a maritime ceremony last Monday near the area where the event happened to remember the dead soldiers, state-controlled media reported.

Numerous rounds of talks have failed to end the impasse at Panatag, which is 872 kilometer from Hainan province, China’s next-door territory to the shoal.

Ancient Chinese shipwreck

Zhang Hua, Chinese embassy spokesperson, acknowledged that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos, permits countries to claim an exclusive economic zone but was then reported that Philippines could not exercise sovereignty on areas within those waters that are owned by other countries.

One ancient Chinese shipwreck could be found at Panatag, but the Philippine research ship has no right to rescue it, Zhang said. “We urge the archaeological vessel to leave the area immediately,” Zhang said in a statement.

‘We will not leave’

In an interview with the reporters last Wednesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire De Gazmin called on Filipinos to come together and let the world know that ”we are being bullied” by China.

Also on Wednesday, Bayan Muna Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares filed a resolution condemning China and calling for an inquiry into the government’s failure to assert sovereignty over the shoal.

“We also do not want to go to war, but we must assert our sovereignty, through whatever means we can,” Casiño said.

On Tuesday, Gazmin said, “We will fight for what is ours. We are in the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks” between the DFA and Chinese authorities.