China Would Be Favored By Gunboat Diplomacy

At least five vessels and several smaller Chinese salvage fleet boats steamed last week into a shoal off Palawan Island to rescue a People’s Liberation Army warship that ran stranded a reef while patrolling disputed waters in the Spratly archipelago in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The expedition at one point threatened to trigger a new confrontation between the Philippines and China and push the intensity of their territorial dispute to a higher notch since the start of a standoff of their vessels in April.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) entered the fight on Saturday by flying surveillance planes over the Spratlys and photographing the salvage party working to free Missile Frigate No. 560 from a reef at Hasa-Hasa Shoal (international name: Half Moon Shoal).

The Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald, which broke the news on Friday, said the 103.2-meter, 1,425-ton frigate was patrolling disputed waters when it ran into the shallows 111 kilometers west of Palawan, and that the frigate got “thoroughly stuck” on the reef. A Philippine Coast Guard vessel was dispatched to the area to monitor the Chinese rescue operations.

The Herald story followed reports that the Philippine government was  verifying other reports that China had installed a powerful radar on Subi Reef, an islet 22 km from the Philippine-occupied Kalayaan group of islands in the Spratlys.

According to the Herald, the frigate “has in the past been involved in aggressively discouraging Filipino fishing boats from the area,” in what appeared to be an act using warships to intimidate fishermen.

“The accident could not have come at a more embarrassing moment for the Chinese leadership, who have been pressing territorial claims and flexing the country’s muscle ahead of a leadership transition later this year,” the Herald article said.

Philippine defense officials went out of their way to avoid issuing offensive statements over the reef incident, and said the Philippine military was prepared to provide assistance to the wracked warship.

[In the latest development yesterday, Chinese naval ships safely removed the grounded frigate and a Chinese Embassy spokesperson said the warship was sailing back to port with minor damage].

The row over the warship spawned sensitive diplomatic issues. The Philippine government was in a quandary over whether to lodge a diplomatic protest to Beijing. If the setting up of a powerful Chinese radar station was confirmed, Malacañang officials had said, that would be a “provocation.”

Although the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was not considering a protest, its spokesperson Raul Hernandez said “we need to find out what really happened with the Chinese frigate in our territory.”

He said the DFA would ask Beijing to explain why the frigate became stuck on the shoal.

It would been embarrassing for China to accept the Philippine offer to help them out of a mess which they created by snooping into Philippine waters through their maritime patrols.

30-vessel fleet

On Thursday, after the frigate struck the reef, the Chinese mounted another show of force. Beijing dispatched one of its largest-ever fishing expeditions from Hainan Island to the Spratly archipelago.

Chinese fishing boats regularly travel to the Spratlys, which China claims as part of its territory on historical grounds but which are also claimed wholly or in part by Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The 30-vessel Chinese fishing fleet is one of the largest ever launched from Hainan, according to a report by Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency.

Debacle in Phnom Penh

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to channel territorial disputes to a regional mediating body suffered a setback on Friday when the Asean foreign ministers meeting in Phnom Penh failed to issue a joint communiqué on a code conduct that would  provide for multilateral resolutions of territorial disputes.

Cambodia, the host country, blocked a consensus on a draft communiqué, which would bind China. Beijing opposes a multilateral approach to conflict-resolutions, preferring a bilateral approach, which would allow her to settle disputes individually with rival claimants. That debacle shifted the arena of resolution to gunboat diplomacy through which China enjoys coercive advantage.

Japan To Give 12 Boats to The Philippine Coast Guard

Department of Foreign Affairs said that The Philippines and Japan have agreed to further improve their joint cooperation on “shared regional strategic concerns,” including maritime security. This developed following Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s meetings with his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba, and Deputy Prime Minister Katsura Okada during the DFA head’s official visit to Tokyo last week.

In Philippine Daily Inquirer, Del Rosario said that aside from the United States, three other countries – Japan, South Korea and Australia – were helping the Philippines establish a minimum reliable defense posture to complement its diplomatic capacity in dealing with its territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China). He revealed that the Tokyo government would likely provide the Philippine Coast Guard with 12 patrol boats. “They’re considering 10 40-meter boats on official development aid and two larger ones as grants,” said Del Rosario.

The foreign office said “the two ministers engaged in comprehensive discussions reviewing key aspects of relations and affirmed their respective governments’ commitments to advancing the multifaceted bilateral relations on the two countries’ shared values and long history of cooperation.”

DFA added that “Talks centered on the enhancement of political dialogue, economic cooperation, official development assistance, and business-to-business and people-to-people ties, as well as on the furtherance of bilateral cooperation on shared regional strategic concerns, including maritime safety and disaster risk reduction”. However, the foreign office did not provide details about the two officials’ dialogue on maritime security-related matters.

The head of the embassy’s chancery, Minister Shinsuke Shimizu told this paper Tokyo would continue to help the Coast Guard deal with its maritime safety and law enforcement concerns. However, Shimizu clarified “it is of different nature from establishing the minimum credible defense capabilities” of the Philippines. “Nor is it aimed at addressing a specific regional situation,” said the diplomat. He was apparently referring to the Scarborough Shoal dispute between Manila and Beijing. He noted that “since 1990, Japan has been helping the Coast Guard in its capacity-building program.”

Navy Monitors 79 Chinese Boats Near Shoal

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday that China has already positioned close to a hundred numbers of vessels within the Philippine territorial waters for about 124 nautical miles from our mainland Zambales, to further heightening the territorial row in the area.

Reports coming from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were forwarded to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showing that in the present times, there are already 5 Chinese vessels within the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on top of 16 Chinese fishing boats that have been situated 56 utility boats for their ongoing fishing operations.

In addition, it has already added 2 additional Fishery Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels in Panatag, harmonizing the first fishery vessels.

Nevertheless, China’s foreign department refused such number of vessels in the area. It was said that it was only 20 fishing boats that were present in Panatag, the usual; number during May in past years.

Raul Hernandez, DFA spokesman, stated that China has sent the vessels while conversing with the Philippines on how to resolve tensions in the area.

At around 7 p.m. of May 21 the 5 Chinese vessels were monitored near the shoal which corresponding names, namely Chinese Maritime Ships (CMS-71) CMS-84, and FLEC 301, FLEC 303 and FLEC 310.

2 of the Chinese vessels were considered as the most advanced Chinese vessels, FLEC 301 and FLEC 303 respectively, it’s the latest addition in the disputed shoal against the 2 Philippine civilian vessels positioned in the area just to symbolize the country’s territorial ownership.

Last Tuesday, Hernandez mentioned that there were still 16 Chinese fishing vessels and that the number of utility boats rises up to 76.

“It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a de-escalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area,” Hernandez said in a press briefing.

He added that the Philippines even objected for these actions of China as clear misruling of Philippine sovereignty and authority over the shoal and sovereign rights over the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that covers the waters around Panatag Shoal or also known as Bajo de Masinloc

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed it sincere concern over these continuous actions by China that worsen the tension in Panatag Shoal in a note verbale dated May 21, 2012  that was sent to the Chinese government through the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Hernandez cited that the actions of China are also in violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea, specifically paragraph 5, which calls the Parties “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Phl demands pullout of Chinese vessels

Despite China’s self-imposed fishing ban it was said by the FCG reports that reached the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), that Chinese fishermen have still been running fishing in the area aside from reaping giant clams and other endangered species inside the shoal.

Moreover, the PCG report to the DFA also highlighted the 16 Chinese fishing boats in which 10 of them were inside the lagoon fishing while the 6 others were outside. It was monitored that it arrived last Monday evening escorted by a Chinese vessel.

“The increase in the number of China’s vessels in the area imperils marine biodiversity in the shoal and threatens the marine ecosystem in the whole of the West Philippine Sea,” Hernandez said.

He as well said that the Chinese fishermen have unlawfully scoured the area and dishonestly garnered giant clams and corals.

He said the recent actions of China are also in violation of the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 2.4, which provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

“The Philippines, therefore, demands that China’s vessels immediately pull out from Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines’ EEZ and for China to refrain from taking further actions that exacerbate the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” Hernandez said.

China: Only 20 vessels

Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said yesterday that the Philippines have taken some offensive actions in the Huangyan Island waters which in is required “China to adopt corresponding measures to strengthen management and control.”

“To our knowledge, now there are about 20 Chinese fishing boats working in that area. This number is roughly the same with that in the same period of the previous years. The way these fishing boats are working complies with the related Chinese laws and the fishing moratorium issued by the Chinese government,” Hong said.

On Tuesday, China said that the involvement of countries in the standoff will meet steadfast opposition from the Chinese government.   Beijing was alarmed that some countries would help the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense posture by providing the country with patrol boats and military aircraft, so as to complement the Philippines’ diplomatic initiative in dealing with territorial disputes with China.

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.

VP to appeal Filipina’s death sentence

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is sending Vice President Noli De Castro to Kuwait to appeal for the life of a Filipina domestic worker whose death sentence was recently affirmed by the country’s highest court, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Sunday.

De Castro will carry a letter from the President addressed to the Emir of Kuwait interceding for the life of Jakatia Pawa, who was convicted for stabbing to death Dala Al-Naqi, the 22-year old daughter of her Kuwaiti employer, on May 14, 2007.

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Lea Salonga helps raise P9.3M in Hawaii for cyclone victims

Lea Salonga has lifted up the image of Filipinos through her artistic achievements. She did it one more time for leading Filipino volunteers in Hawaii in raising millions of pesos for victims of recent cyclones in the Philippines.

Philippine officials in Hawaii thanked world-renowned Salonga and Filipino volunteers there for raising more than P9.299 million for victims of recent tropical cyclones Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma).

Hawaii Councilman Romeo Cachola, Vice Speaker Michael Magaoay and Senator Robert Bunda gave Certificates of Appreciation to Salonga for enhancing the prestige and image of Filipinos through her artistic achievements and for her humanitarian contribution to the typhoon relief drive, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

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RP better at controlling corruption—DFA chief

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The government has become better at controlling corruption, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said Tuesday, citing the Control of Corruption indicator, which showed an improved ranking from 39 down to 33.

He said this was better than the 37 median of the 73 countries classified as low income in the Millennium Challenge Corporation list.

At the same time, Romulo said the Philippines’ MCC scorecard showing below the median scores in a number of indicators was the result of “technicalities in evaluation.”

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In contrast to the country’s scorecard last year, Romulo said, the Philippines would have showed improved performances had it not been elevated to a higher income category.

3 Pinoys among seamen freed by Somali pirates

MANILA, Philippines — Somali pirates released three more Filipino seamen and the entire crew of a ship after their employer paid ransom, the Associated Press reported on Sunday, quoting Belgian officials.

The Filipinos were among the 10-member crew of the Belgian dredger Pompei, which pirates seized on April 18 near Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, the report said.

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PNP experts tell how to catch a hacker

MANILA, Philippines—Just as criminals are identified through clues left on the scene, computer forensic experts may trace infiltration into computer networks and sites through “digital fingerprints” hackers leave in a target’s hard drive.

Computer forensic experts from Camp Crame national police headquarters need only to look into the hard drive of a “compromised” computer of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to see whether hackers have indeed penetrated the system.

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RP cited in Tel Aviv meet for protection of workers

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials in Israel were cited for the protection of Filipino migrant workers there during a recent meeting with representatives from Israel’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the meeting was at the request of Rachel Gershuni, national coordinator of the Battle against Traffic,king in Persons of the Ministry of Justice.

“Ms. Gershuni stated that the Philippine Embassy is perceived as offering the best protection for its workers among the labor-sending countries, aside from having the most systematic procedure in labor recruitment and deployment,” the DFA said in its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

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