AMID reports of Chinese construction in the disputed areas in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte said China had assured him it would honor its word not to build structures on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Speaking to reporters upon his arrival from an official trip to Thailand on Thursday, the President said China won’t do anything that would jeopardize its relations with the Philippines.“I was informed that they are not going to build anything at Panatag. Out of respect for our friendship they will stop it. Hindi nila gagalawin ‘yan sabi ng China. ‘Huwag kayong mag-alaala, magkaibigan tayo’ [They won’t touch it, China said. ‘Don’t worry, we’re friends],” Duterte said during a news conference.

“That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They are not going to build anything on Panatag because they want our friendship. They [won’t] do anything to place it in jeopardy…China has a word of honor,” he added.

China is reportedly preparing to build monitoring stations on the islands situated in the disputed waters, including Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales province.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has said the Philippine government should file a “strong protest” against China’s building activity, which could lead to militarization in the disputed waters.

Carpio urged Duterte to send the Philippine Navy to patrol at Panatag Shoal and invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty if China attacks the Philippine Navy.

‘Why pick a fight?’

But Duterte reiterated that his administration wants to avoid a rift with the Chinese government because it is not ready to wage war.

“This is what I said in China and it was bilateral… I said I come here in peace… I said I just want to trade with you and I want business because my country needs the money. But certainly, during my term, before it ends or in the middle of my administration, there has got to be a time when I will confront you with the arbitral judgment,” Duterte said.

“In the meantime, I set it aside. But I said remember my caveat that I will bring it up…When? When they shall have dug the minerals and the riches of the bowels of the sea. Bakit ako makipag-away ngayon [Why will I pick a fight today]?” he added.

Duterte is referring to the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines over China. The tribunal ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over areas within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers practically the entire South China Sea.

China has refused to recognize the ruling, calling it “a mere piece of paper.”

‘Free to enter’

The President also said that he had allowed the Chinese “innocent passage” in the disputed territories.

“You are free to enter, just inform the Navy, inform the Foreign Affairs secretary,” Duterte told the Chinese.

The Defense department earlier this month bared that Chinese survey ships were seen last year at Benham Rise, an undersea region that forms part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf east of Luzon, and is not a disputed area.

The President backtracked on his campaign statement that he would go to the disputed islands on a jet ski and wave the Philippine flag to dramatize the country’s claim to the islands.

During the 2016 presidential debates, Duterte said he would ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of the Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands so he could “ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag.”

“Why do you have to go there and look for a friction? A friction could cause explosion?… There is always the unchanging rule for that. I’m not bright but I’m a lawyer, the reality is miscalculation,” he said.
Published in News
Monday, 20 March 2017 10:42

Duterte: I can’t stop China in Panatag

DAVAO CITY—President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said he would not stop China from building on a disputed shoal near the Philippine west coast because it was too powerful.

Mr. Duterte made the statement in reaction to reports that China would set up an environmental monitoring station on Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) off the coast of Zambales province.

“We cannot stop China from doing those things. Even the Americans could not stop them,” he said during a press conference here shortly before flying for his state visit to Burma (Myanmar).

“What do you want me to do? Declare war against China? I can’t. We will lose all our military and policemen tomorrow and we [will be] a destroyed nation,” he told a press conference before departing for a visit to Burma.

Mr. Duterte said he would tell the Chinese: “Just keep it (the waters) open and do not interfere with our Coast Guard.”

Benham Rise

He also brushed aside concerns over Chinese survey ships that had been seen near Benham Rise—waters east of the main island of Luzon that have been recognized by the United Nations as indisputably Philippine territory.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he was very concerned that the Chinese ships had been seen at that location, sometimes for as long as a month.

But Mr. Duterte said: “So what if they stop there? They admit it is within the territory of the Philippines. That does not satisfy you?”

He described the complaints against China as “nit-picking.”

Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, had actively challenged China’s claim to control most of the South China Sea, despite counterclaims by several other nations.

But Mr. Duterte, who took office last year, has reversed that policy and was seeking billions of dollars worth of investments and grants from Beijing.

“We are now improving the economy because of the help of China. Why will you be so shameless just because they are passing by?” he told reporters on Sunday.

Beijing has already reclaimed large areas around several islets and reefs in the Spratly archipelago and elsewhere in the South China Sea, and installed military facilities on some of them.

Warning by analysts

However, analysts warned that China’s building on Panatag Shoal would radically change the situation since it is just 230 kilometers (143 miles) from Luzon.

Outposts on the shoal would put Chinese jet fighters and missiles within easy striking distance of military bases in the Philippines, some of which could host US troops.

The shoal also commands the northeast exit of the sea, so a Chinese military outpost there could stop other countries’ navies from using the waters.

In this Monday, March 13, 2017 file photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reacts during a press conference at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines. Duterte says his militarily inferior country can't stop China's actions in contested waters, responding to a reported plan by Beijing to construct an environmental monitoring station in a disputed shoal off the Philippines' northwest coast. Duterte, however, warned Sunday, March 19, that he would invoke a July 12 arbitration ruling that invalidated China's territorial claims in the South China Sea if the Chinese "start to tinker with the entitlement," apparently meaning when Beijing starts to tap the offshore area's resources.

China seized the strategic shoal, which is also claimed by the Philippines, in 2012, and Washington has warned Beijing against carrying out the same land reclamation work there that it has done in other parts of the South China Sea.

Monitoring stations

Xiao Jie, the mayor of what Beijing calls Sansha City, an administrative base for disputed South China Sea islands and reefs it controls, said China planned preparatory work this year to build environmental monitoring stations on a number of islands, including Scarborough Shoal.

The monitoring stations, along with docks and other infrastructure, form part of island restoration and erosion prevention efforts planned for 2017, Xiao told the official Hainan Daily.

The report comes ahead of a visit to Beijing at the weekend by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, where he was expected to reiterate US concern about Chinese island building.

Tillerson has called the activity “illegal” and last June, then US Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that any move by China to reclaim land at Scarborough Shoal would “result in actions being taken by the both United States and … by others in the region which would have the effect of not only increasing tensions, but isolating China.” —WITH A REPORT FROM THE WIRES
Published in News
China welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendly remarks on the Chinese presence of research vessels, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

“China welcomes and commends relevant remarks by President Duterte. As he said, China and the Philippines have already communicated and had a friendly exchange of views on the relevant issue, clarified the facts and appropriately handled the issue,” she said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Duterte said in a press briefing on Monday that he was informed beforehand of Chinese sending of survey ships to Benham Rise. He also said he instructed the military to assert Philippine ownership in a friendly manner.

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed that Chinese survey ships were spotted in Benham Rise for as long as three months last year.

Hua said China respects the Philippines’ rights over the continental shelf in Benham Rise and they are not challenging those rights.

“But the basic principle of international law says that the EEZ (exclusive economic zone) and the continental shelf do not equate with territories,” she said.

The United Nations granted the Philippines’ claim to Benham Rise as an extension of the country’s continental shelf in 2012. The undersea region and biodiversity hotspot located east of Luzon in the Pacific Ocean is not part of China’s nine-dash-line claim. CBB
Published in News
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 09:56

Can Duterte keep both US and China?

WILL President Rodrigo Duterte still be all praise for newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump when/if the latter makes good his threat to go after China as a cheating trader and a regional bully?

Sooner or later, especially if State Secretary nominee Rex Tillerson joins the Trump team, Duterte may have to choose between continuing to cozy up to the next-door Mandarin suitor or swing back to good old Uncle Sam.

Or, summoning his skills in handling such triangular love affairs, Duterte may just succeed – to everyone’s relief – in positioning himself as a moderating influence in the seething regional rivalry between China and the US.

In his Davao home base over the weekend, Duterte was gushing over the inauguration of the 45th US President: “It was a very superb ritual and Trump was at his best.” He talked of looking forward to repairing bilateral ties that took a beating during the Obama administration.

Appreciating that the New York tycoon-turned-politico “talked from the heart,” Duterte said he liked Trump’s “Make America great again” slogan reminiscent of the martial law Marcosian “Make this nation great again” mantra.

But after the excitement of the inaugural wears off and everybody settles down to realpolitik, Duterte may have to spend time guessing how Trump would translate into policy and action his thoughts about the Asian dragon:

• China must be laughing at how easy it has been to take advantage of the US. Better to slap all its exports to the US a 25-percent tax to make American products competitive and balance out the trade deficit.

• The US must rethink the opening of its market to countries like China that “steal (e.g. intellectual property) from us” or oppress and violate the human rights of their people.

• China’s currency manipulation should stop. Although American products are better, Chinese goods are given a competitive edge by the currency manipulation.

• Pressure or motivate US firms to close their factories in China and relocate home to provide more jobs to Americans.

The US-China rivalry will loom bigger if Tillerson, an outspoken former Exxon Mobil Corp. chairman and chief executive, is confirmed as State Secretary and given a chance to influence and enforce foreign policy.

• Tillerson favors confronting China

TESTIFYING days ago before the Senate foreign relations committee, Tillerson batted for stopping China’s building of artificial islands in areas within the territorial seas of its neighbors – and the building of military installations on them.

He said the US must reaffirm its security ties with its regional friends. He did not mention the Philippines, a treaty ally, but cited Taiwan (which China regards as a renegade province) with which he said the US must renew its commitments. This departs from the standing One-China US policy.

Beijing bristled at the declarations of a figure who stands to become the key enforcer of a more aggressive US foreign policy that could put the US on collision course with China.

As the two superpowers gird for a showdown in the South China Sea, where will Duterte position the Philippines, a military pygmy and a medium-scale economic player in the region?

Assuming Trump attempts to catch up, will Duterte put on hold the multimillion-dollar development projects and aid that Beijing has started to position in the pipeline? Or will he just open the country indiscriminately to both Chinese and American assistance?

As reported by Reuters, Tillerson appearing for confirmation in the Senate described China’s building and militarizing of artificial islands as “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea” from Ukraine – a move that triggered a US-NATO military response.

Asked whether he supported a more aggressive stance toward China, he said: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” He did not elaborate.

Using a unilaterally drawn “nine-dash line” boundary, China claims most of the energy-rich waters through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing territorial claims.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said he could not guess what Tillerson was referring to when asked about the nominee’s suggesting blocking access to the islands.

• Pope warns against ‘populist saviors’

A NEW CROP of leaders of varying shades and styles of “populism” has sprouted in several countries, eliciting cautionary counsel from Pope Francis that “populism” in some cases could lead to the election of Hitler-like “saviors.”

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais conducted as Trump was being sworn in as President, the Pontiff also condemned the idea of using walls and barbed wire to keep out foreigners.

“Build bridges, not walls,” the Holy Father once quipped after a visit to Mexico. Trump, then a candidate, had announced he would build a wall on the US border with Mexico to stop illegal migration and the smuggling of narcotics.

In his El Pais interview, the Pope said, “Of course crises provoke fears and worries,” but that for him “the example of populism in the European sense of the word is Germany in 1933… Germany was looking for a leader, someone who would give her back her identity and there was a little man named Adolf Hitler who said ‘I can do it!’”“Hitler did not steal power,” the Pope said. “He was elected by his people and then he destroyed his people.”

The Germans at that time also wanted to protect themselves with “walls and barbed wire so that others cannot take away their identity.” He added: “The case of Germany is classic… Hitler gave them a deformed identity and we know what it produced.”

As for the new US President, the Pope said it was too early to pass judgment on Trump: “Let’s see what he does and then we will evaluate.”
Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 24 January 2017 09:40

PH, China firm up 30 projects worth $3.7B

China and the Philippines have agreed to cooperate on 30 projects worth $3.7 billion focusing on poverty reduction, the two countries announced after a meeting in Beijing on Monday.

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng announced the agreement without giving details, saying it involved an “initial batch” of projects that still needed to be finalized and paperwork still needed to be processed by the banks involved.

Duterte visit

In a statement from Beijing, Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez mentioned irrigation systems, hydroelectric power plants and railways, details of which, he said, would be fleshed out with Chinese officials during two days of meetings that end on Tuesday.

The deal is the first announcement from a two-day visit of a Philippine Cabinet delegation to China that comes three months after President Duterte visited Beijing to clear the way for new commercial alliances.

China has welcomed Mr. Duterte’s foreign policy shift away from the United States and toward doing more regional deals for loans and business under his “pro-Filipino” policy.

Relations between the Philippines and China “fully recovered” after Mr. Duterte’s visit, and “China supports President Duterte to lead the Philippines people in developing their economy,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Monday.

Hua was referring to Mr. Duterte’s fence-mending after relations between China and the Philippines were frayed by a territorial dispute in the South China Sea that Beijing lost to Manila in the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year.

After taking office in June last year, Mr. Duterte deferred assertion of the court’s ruling to ease tensions between the two countries and improve relations.

Chinese officials pledged $15 billion of investment to Manila during Mr. Duterte’s visit to Beijing in October last year, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

Asked by reporters in Beijing whether US President Donald Trump’s economic policies would affect commercial ties between China and the Philippines, Dominguez said: “It’s better to be with good friends.”

“I’m not sure at this moment exactly what the new US policies [are], but I believe that the reorientation of our President to our neighbors really was very smart,” he said.

The Philippine delegation was scheduled to meet Vice Premier Wang Yang at Zhongnanhai, the Beijing complex that houses China’s central government, later on Monday.

In his statement released by the DOF, Dominguez said he had a “very productive” meeting with Gao and that they had discussed large projects in rural areas, as well as some smaller projects.

“This will be our second discussion [with Chinese officials about the projects] since November last year. We hope that [during] our visit here, we [will] be able to proceed with the projects that are ready to be implemented,” Dominguez said.

Matching priorities

“We submitted last November a list of projects to the Chinese government through the Chinese Embassy in Manila for their review. The Philippine team would like to get their reactions and determine what their priorities are and see whether this also match our priorities,” he said.

Dominguez said “the generous assistance offered by China to the Philippines is among the concrete results of the President’s foreign policy rebalancing toward accelerated integration with [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and its major Asian trading partners China, Japan and South Korea.”

“The President has recognized the importance of China in the region and he has redirected our economy more toward China and the Asean than to the West,” he said.

“I believe that China will continue to lead the world and continue to lead the Asean in becoming the engine of global growth,” he added.

Philippine delegation

The Philippine delegation includes Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

Besides meetings with Gao and Wang, the Philippine delegation will also meet Vice Chair Wang Xiaotao of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s chief planning and strategy agency.

The Filipino officials also plan to meet top executives of China Investment Corp., a sovereign wealth fund.

“The meetings will cover discussions on the government-to-government projects signed between the Philippines and China, the proposed projects for financing and feasibility studies, the chairmanship of the Philippines this year of the Asean, and matters concerning the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Philippines’ flagship infrastructure projects,” the DOF said in a statement.
Published in News


First of two parts

President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent visit and diplomatic detente to China and his proclamation of a military and economic “separation” from the United States was like a nuclear bomb detonated on a peaceful Friday afternoon.

Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 27 October 2016 10:49

PH a sinking ship — FVR


THE ship of state is leaking and sinking as its captain, President Rodrigo Duterte, has been oblivious of the danger signs, former President Fidel V. Ramos said Saturday.

“Because we are all together onboard Ship Pilipinas—which is still leaky and slow-moving, because of internal strife and disunity, we all need to pull an oar or plug a leak [instead of adding more holes],” Ramos said.

Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 16:58

PH eyes huge Chinese investments


Washington – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will seek billions of dollars in infrastructure investments from China in the coming months as the country seeks to alter its relationship with Beijing, Philippines Finance Minister Carlos Dominguez said on Saturday.

Published in News
Benigno Aquino stepped down as Philippine president on Thursday after a six-year term that was highly regarded overseas, but partly condemned by voters at home.

After his preferred successor was soundly defeated in last month's elections, here are what political and economic analysts interviewed by AFP say were his key legacies:
Published in News
Sunday, 08 May 2016 19:44

American Power Under Challenge

Masters of Mankind (Part 1)

Cross-posted with

[This piece, the first of two parts, is excerpted from Noam Chomsky’s new book, Who Rules the World? (Metropolitan Books). Part 2 will be posted on Tuesday morning.]
Published in Commentaries
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