Wednesday, April 22, 2015


FINALLY, we’re making loud noises about China’s incursions in our territory but, short of dropping a few bombs in Beijing, whatever we say in protest will probably make no dents on China’s take-over of our islands in the South China Sea. Too bad that China has grown too big and is showing the world that no one is big enough or strong enough to stop whatever it wants to do in what it claims is part of its territory because of its fictional invention it calls the nine-dash line.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang can only protest: “We have compelling reasons to raise our voice to tell the whole world the adverse effects of China’s aggressiveness that has created tensions not only among the countries who have overlapping claims in the area, but also among the countries around the world who are using the international sea lanes in the WPS for trade and commerce.”

Catapang points out that China’s massive reclamation activities are causing irreversible and widespread damage to the biodiversity and ecological balance of the West Philippine Sea. 

“China’s claim that its activities has not caused damage to the ecological environment in this area is not acceptable,” the AFP chief adds.

For example, the destruction of 300 acres of coral reef systems resulting from the reclamations is estimated to lead to economic losses to coastal states valued at USD100 million annually.

“We are saddened hearing the reports that China has driven away Filipino fishermen near these reclamation sites and also in Bajo de Masinloc, denying our people of their own fishing areas which are the source of their livelihood.” The AFP chief also revealed that China has tolerated environmentally harmful fishing practices by its fishermen who now occupying Bajo De Masinloc in Philippine territory.
“These bad fishing practices are violations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” he says,
Catapang points out that China’s massive reclamation activities causes tensions among claimant countries not only because it deters freedom of navigation but also due China’s apparent military purposes.

“We support the government’s move to protest the ongoing construction works which clearly violated ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct in which the signatories agreed to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes,” he adds.

“We call on China to stop the reclamation activities and to be mindful of its responsibilities as a claimant state and an important member of the international community.” 

Secretary Albert del Rosario of Foreign Affairs points out that China’s reclamation of land in disputed South China Sea waters is a “threat” to all nations in Southeast Asia.

Del Rosario repeated a warning last year that Beijing was reclaiming land around isolated reefs in the South China Sea to turn them into islands which could hold fortified positions or even airstrips.

The Philippine foreign secretary said the Chinese actions in the Spratly islands impacts on freedom to navigate the strategic mineral-rich waters, through which large volumes of the world’s trade pass.

“I will re-emphasize this and invite the concern of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) states because it is a threat to all of us,” said del Rosario. 

Manila accused Beijing last year of reclamation work in the Cuarteron, Johnson, Johnson South and Gaven reefs in the Spratly group, which the Chinese call Nansha.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, a claim which conflicts with those of ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as non-member Taiwan.

Beijing rejects Philippine protests that the land reclamation was being conducted in its territory, with a People’s Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan defending it as “justifiable.” While the Philippines and Vietnam have been vocal in accusing China of aggressive actions, other ASEAN members have been reluctant to criticize the regional giant.

Del Rosario said he would raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers, pushing for countries involved in the dispute to adhere to a code of conduct to not increase tensions in the maritime region.

He said the Philippines hoped to receive a positive decision by early next year to the formal plea it filed to the United Nations last March challenging China’s claims.

A US official attending a strategic dialogue with the Philippines on Wednesday also expressed concern over China’s behavior in the South China Sea.

“We believe bigger nations can’t bully the small,” assistant secretary of state Daniel Russel told reporters after the two-day dialogue.
Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) Secretary-General Iyad bin Ameen Madani arrived in the country and met with key officials of the Philippine government before flying to Mindanao to preside over the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF),
where he separately met with leaders of the MNLF and MILF. The MNLF enjoys observer status in the OIC.

The BCF is an OIC-sponsored body that was formed in 2014 to harmonize and settle differences between the MILF and the MNLF.

The OIC played a key role in forging the Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF. It expressed its full support to the peace process with the MILF.

Madani is in the country to rally support for the peace agreement between the Manila and the MILF. His visit is the first to be made by an OIC secretary-general to Mindanao.

Madani first called on President Benigno Aquino 3rd in Malacañang where he expressed full support and commitment to full fruition of the peace process.

In a statement, the OIC said it was encouraged by the “sincere desire” and the “serious effort” displayed by both the MILF and MNLF and the Philippine government in the peace process.

“We feel on both sides the sincere desire, and the serious effort to reach a conclusion [in the peace process]. We are optimistic. We are supportive,” Madani said.

He announced that the OIC will invite representatives of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum to the 42nd OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Kuwait on May 27.

In a news conference at the Senate, also on Monday, the OIC official expressed hope that the bloody Mamasapano clash would not affect the peace process.

“In a process like this, we all have to expect some hiccups as unfortunate as this tragedy might be and we fully agree that it should not distract us,” Madani said.

He added, “We think it is an unfortunate event. We have expressed condolences to all those who lost their lives and to their families.”

Senate President Franklin Drilon said that there was no occasion to discuss the Mamasapano incident during their meeting “because this is a completely a separate issue from our desire to put in place the BBL [Bangsamoro Basic Law].”

When asked if Madani’s meeting with lawmakers is putting pressure on Congress to pass the BBL, Drilon said it should not be seen that way.

“[His visit to the Philippines] is part of his itinerary. He came from Malaysia to get inputs from the Malaysian government, which, as you know, played a critical role in the peace process,” he added.

“[Madani’s] presence is certainly a manifestation of their support, and he has expressly said that they are supportive of the CAB [Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro] and of the passage of the BBL. He realizes that it is a very critical process so their hope is that we as a people will see through the passage of the BBL and the success or the completion of the peace process. The passage of the BBL is part of that,” Drilon said.

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