Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ex-Gabriela representative leads latest Duterte appointees

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 1): Ex-Gabriela representative leads latest Duterte appointees

Liza Maza. AFP FILE PHOTO

Liza Maza. AFP FILE PHOTO
 
President Rodrigo Duterte has announced new appointments to his administration a day after his inauguration.

Duterte has appointed progressive leader Liza Maza to head the government’s National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

Maza, a former Gabriela Partylist representative, is a staunch advocate for the protection of the welfare of the poor and marginalized.

READ: LGBT group welcomes ‘formidable voices for women’ in Duterte Cabinet

Aside from Maza, Duterte also made official the appointment of lawyer Rodolfo Salalima as Secretary of the newly-created Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT).

Salalima, a schoolmate of Duterte, finished his Bachelor of Laws in San Beda College in Manila. He was a former legal counsel of telecommunications company Globe.

READ: Duterte names ex-schoolmate Rodolfo Salalima DICT head

The President has also appointed Angelito Banayo as Managing Director and Resident Representative of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

Banayo is a veteran in government service, having served as Postmaster General, Philippine Tourism Authority Administrator, and National Food Authority Administrator.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/793666/ex-gabriela-representative-leads-latest-duterte-appointees

MILF: Editorial -- Inclusivity

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 1): Editorial -- Inclusivity

There has been pronouncement lately about the need for inclusivity in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as if to say that what was crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and introduced to Congress as House Bill No. 4994 in the Lower House and Senate Bill No. 2408 in the Upper House was lacking in such quality. This calls for clarification, lest the impression or perception would be accepted as fact. And the quick way to do that is to look at the proposed law.

But before that, what is inclusivity? The Collins English Dictionary defines it as the fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc.”

Even this definition, when viewed through the lenses of religious, cultural, and social differences of peoples and societies, will pose probably more problems than what it can address.  But we are not in this discourse here.

In general term, the first inclusivity in the BBL is that it is for the Bangsamoro people, with the indigenous people given the freedom of choice and the migrants a special treatment, because they happen to be the minority in the proposed Bangsamoro territory. The second inclusivity is that all its provisions, especially the Basic Rights and all other rights already enjoyed by them granted by the Philippine Constitution, are intended for their general welfare. The third is that when the BBL is passed in Congress and ratified by the people, all the three major groups named above --- as well as the MNLF --- will be represented in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

The MILF is not averse to the MNLF brothers being part of the transition body. In fact, we have made this known even to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
In precise term, any unimplemented provision or provisions of the 1996 GRP-MNLF Final Agreement (FPA) that can “improve or enhance” the proposed basic law is very much desired and welcomed. Towards this end, the MNLF under Muslimin Sema and the MILF under Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim have created a Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) with the task of “finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement/1996 FPA on the one hand, and the 2014 CAB on the other, as a means of harmonizing the two peace tracks”, as stipulated in Resolution No. 2/42-MM on Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines during the 42nd Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Kuwait, State of Kuwait on May 27-28, 2015.

The two leaders also called on the MNLF under Nur Misuari to join their efforts towards a common path of pursuing the Moro right to self-determination for freedom, peace, justice, and development. On the part of the MILF, it even sent a delegation to Sulu to talk to Misuari about this call for brotherly overture and cooperation.
But if this effort proves to be a hoping game for the MILF especially, but to the government it is more enigmatic. In August 2014, Misuari had declared independence and called for the renewal of armed struggle, and therefore, he had literally and unilaterally abrogated the 1996 FPA.  However, with President Rodrigo Duterte now in the helm of power, we think it is not as difficult as before. Duterte and Misuari are personal friends; in fact, the former had already indicated early on that he would visit the latter in Sulu soon.

Back on the issue of inclusivity, we are not saying here that the BBL is a perfect proposed law and there is no more room to “improve or enhance” it. This was clearly stated in Chairman’s Murad letters to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte in 2015 that while the MILF is pushing for the passage of the original BBL in Congress but it is open to enhancing or improving the proposed law. After all, Congress has plenary power over legislation.

However, pushing for more inclusivity in the proposed law has to be exercised with caution. First, we have to bear in mind that the proposed law shall be compliant to the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB); second, over-stressing the details will lead to incoherence or bulging of stomach, so to speak; and third, it has to be remembered that a hitch-hiker should not carry more load than those who are more deserving.

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/editorial/23-1st-issue-1-7/785-inclusivity

MILF: MILF to help in release of Indonesian kidnap victims

From the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 30): MILF to help in release of Indonesian kidnap victims



MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim assured on Sunday (June 26) Indonesian Col. Elphis Rudy of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) that the MILF would try to help in the release of seven Indonesian seamen who were abducted on June 22 in the Sulu Sea.

During the exit call of the Indonesian contingent of the IMT, Murad issued an instruction to the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to monitor the situation or whereabouts of the kidnapped Indonesians.

Murad said he felt “very sad about the kidnapping” and lamented that the incident is an “offshoot of the absence of effective authority in that place.”

Murad told the outgoing contingent --- 9 Indonesians and a Japanese --- that similar situations in the island-provinces are very difficult to control and sometimes they feel “helpless” over such incidents.

In the past, kidnapping also became rampant in mainland Muslim Mindanao but because of mechanisms like the CCCH and AHJAG the kidnappings almost disappeared, Murad said.

Col. Rudy, who led the Team Site 4 of the IMT based in General Santos City, expressed gratitude to the MILF members on the ground who assisted in the negotiations and eventual release of the previous groups of Indonesians kidnapped on March and April.

He also relayed their request for assistance from the MILF leadership to solve the recent kidnapping of their nationals.

Inspite of these, Rudy reiterated his government’s continuing support to the Bangsamoro struggle to have peace and development.

Chairman Murad, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) Chief of Staff Sammy Al-mansur and Peace Panel/BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal gave certificates of appreciation to Rudy as well as his fellow departing Team members such as Maj. Gara Hendrik Amd., Maj. Vinsenslaus Jemudin, Maj. Yudha Timor Saputro; Maj. Cokorda Gede Parta, Maj. Pas. Sulistiyo Utomo, Mr. Aris Garinto, Mr. Muhammad Sharul Murajjab, and Mr. Raksa Pernama Ibrahim.

Mr. Takayuki Nakagawa, head of the socio-economic assistance unit, also bid goodbye to the MILF leadership.

Nakagawa has been with the IMT since 2012. He would be assigned to JICA main office in Tokyo.

His substitute, Hiroyuki Kawamoto, was introduced already to the MILF Central Committee.

The next Indonesian contingent to the IMT would arrive on the first week of July. #### (A. Ibnusman)

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/news/20-central-mindanao/784-milf-to-help-in-release-of-indonesian-kidnap-victims

MILF: Bangsamoro multi- sectors to hold ‘iftar’ at Cotabato City People’s Palace

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 1): Bangsamoro multi- sectors to hold ‘iftar’ at Cotabato City People’s Palace



After series of meetings held by the “Tilagad group” (Breakfast Group) sponsored by some prominent individuals of Cotabato city, the idea of holding a mass Bangsamoro iftar (breaking of fast) came out and will be held on July 2, 2016 at in front of Cotabato City Peoples’ Palace .

Before the advent of Ramadhan, “Tilagad Group” has been regularly held every Sunday morning with the objective of forging unity and solidarity among old and new brothers. The group is headed by Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, Executive Director of Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS).

“The mass Bangsmoro iftar is just a continuation of the Tilagad group”, said Sheikh Abdulkadir Abdullah, a co-chairman of the upcoming Bangsamoro iftar.

Bobby Benito, who is in charge of media committee for the said activity said online that activity organizers are targeting at least 5000 to 7000 Moro and Non-Moro individuals to come and share the blessings by participating in the iftar.

Groups or organizations supporting the activity include, the Al-Balagh Foundation, Tabun Halal, City Government of Cotabato, League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO), other CSOs and NGOs in Cotabato City and neighboring areas.

Reports coming from invitation committee headed by Professor Hashim Manticayan that several groups and individual show their supports and he expected to a large number of people gather. Manticayan still in informing and encouraging people to attend.

Dr. Norodin Salam, a secretariat of the activity ensured the said activity will be successful and benefited to the all concerns Moro and non-moro people. He already divided the task and responsibility to the CSOs who were actively presents during the meeting.

The program will be properly started at 5pm on July 2, 2016 by speeches of the Bangsamoro Grand Mufti Abuhuraira Udasan.

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/news/20-central-mindanao/786-bangsamoro-multi-sectors-to-hold-iftar-at-cotabato-city-people-s-palace

MILF: MILF-MNLF sign Joint Communique for Peace

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 1): MILF-MNLF sign Joint Communique for Peace



In another milestone of Bangsamoro struggle for peace and development, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed yesterday, June 29, a historic Joint Communique for Peace at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao in the presence of leaders of the Moro fronts, members of civil society organization, and the media.

MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim represented the MILF and former Cotabato City Mayor Datu Muslimen Sema represented the MNLF. MILF 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar and MNLF Vice Chairman Hatimil Hassan were also present.

In his message before the formal signing, Vice Chairman Jaafar considered the signing as significant and important to the Bangsamoro struggle towards Right to self-determination (RSD). “We have to work for common good and differences shall not make us not to succeed’, Jaafar said. He also thanked the CSO’s for being instrumental in holding the historic event that he considered the opportune time for the Moro people.

In his message, MILF Chair Al Haj Murad considered the event as a demonstration of unity. “Despite the non-support of some groups, he stressed that the event “only strengthens the Moros steadfastness in their struggle for right to self-determination”.

In their joint communique, the two Moro Fronts said that, “As they join together, they declared a cohesive stand ion their efforts to regain their lost freedom and self-determination so that they will enjoy the blessings of peace, justice and development”.

‘We come together with a unified action to work at common goals and objectives to engage with the new Philippine administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte”, both leaders said in their communique.

To make the engagement with the new administration feasible and realistic, the Moro fronts stressed that the unity of the Bangsamoro people is founded on the basis of the mechanisms contained in the ICFM-OIC Resolutions and Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) Articles in recognition and acknowledgment of the peace efforts for the Muslims in South of the Philippines that resulted in the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) for the implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and the Malaysian facilitation, as recognized by the OIC, that led to the signing of the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

In their communique, the two Moro Fronts have also agreed to organize a Joint technical Working Group (JTWG) with the task of “finding common ground between the 1976 Tripoli Agreement/1996 FPA on the one hand, and the 2014 CAB on the other, as a means of harmonizing the two peace tracks”.

Muhammad Ameen, Chair of the MILF Central Committee Secretariat was the Master of Ceremonies, while Datu Romeo Sema read the joint communique before it was signed by the two Moro leaders.

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/news/20-central-mindanao/787-milf-mnlf-sign-joint-communique-for-peace

Presidential Envoy Reports Counter-ISIL Progress, Ongoing Terrorism Threat

Posted to the US Department of Defense Website (Jun 30): Presidential Envoy Reports Counter-ISIL Progress, Ongoing Terrorism Threat (By Cheryl Pellerin)

The U.S.-led multinational coalition is making progress in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and against its networks and affiliates, but an unprecedented terrorist challenge remains for nations everywhere, the presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL said June 28.

State Department official Brett McGurk testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noting that the global campaign plan being carried out by 66 coalition partner nations focuses on three areas for defeating ISIL.
Sailors prepare to load ordnance onto a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, June 28, 2016. The USS Eisenhower is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch
Sailors prepare to load ordnance onto a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, June 28, 2016. The USS Eisenhower is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch

Sailors prepare to load ordnance onto a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, June 28, 2016. The USS Eisenhower is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch Preparing to Launch
Sailors prepare to load ordnance onto a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, deployed in the Mediterranean Sea, June 28, 2016. The USS Eisenhower is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch
“We analyze ISIL in three dimensions,” he told the panel. “The core in Iraq and Syria; the networks that feed its strength -- foreign fighter networks, propaganda networks and financial networks; and the global affiliates … eight in all, that seek to expand its reach, with Libya and Sinai being the most significant.”

McGurk said that of the indicators used to track ISIL -- morale, territory, combat-ready fighters, access to revenue, access to borders, capable and confident leadership, social media and global branches -- many are trending in the right direction.

Dismantling ISIL

The number of foreign fighters joining ISIL is down, he said, and “more countries than ever before are sharing information to identify those who are still traveling. Outside financing has been severed and internal financing has taken a significant hit through painstaking intelligence work and precision targeting by military forces in Iraq and Syria.”

ISIL's propaganda is being challenged 24/7 through a global network of countries, civil society organizations, private companies and individuals, McGurk added, and ISIL leaders are being killed at a rate of one every three days, including ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's main deputies, Haji Imam and Abu Sayyaf, killed by U.S. military forces.

ISIL's territory is shrinking, he said, and the terrorist army has lost nearly 50 percent of territory it once controlled in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria over the past 18 months.

What makes ISIL different from other terrorist organizations is its attempt to hold territory and establish a self-proclaimed state-like entity in Iraq and Syria that McGurk called a “phony caliphate.”

Taking ISIL Territory

The notion of a caliphate, he added, “has been a primary driver in recruitment for the tens of thousands of foreign fighters that have joined ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The territory it controls also allows ISIL to extract vast resources, and most importantly for us, plan and launch highly sophisticated external attacks.”

McGurk said the attacks in Brussels and Paris, for example, stem from ISIL's external plotting network based in Raqqa and that ISIL has sent operatives from Syria to Europe through an area called the Manbij pocket.

“That is why we must take the territory away from ISIL,” he said. “And, just as important, stabilize areas after ISIL is [ejected].”

As local fighters take back important territory, McGurk added, coalition forces are collecting information about the foreign fighter network, about how it's put together and who leads it.

“That helps us really root it out,” he said, “not only in Iraq and Syria but in the branches and little networks that exist in France and other places.”

Retreating to the Shadows

Two years ago around this time, McGurk said in his written testimony, “I was in Iraq when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi pronounced the establishment of a caliphate from the largest mosque in Mosul.”

It was Ramadan, he added, and the announcement, despite being denounced by thousands of Muslim leaders and scholars around the world, spiked ISIL recruiting and its adherents’ confidence as a historic movement on the march. Throughout 2014, Baghdadi and other leaders appeared in the open, speaking and recruiting.

“I just returned from another trip to Iraq. It is Ramadan once again yet we have not heard from the so-called caliph in more than six months,” McGurk said. “This Ramadan is being celebrated not by Baghdadi but by millions of Iraqis taking the streets each night as ISIL and its leaders have retreated to the shadows.”

But ISIL still inspires new recruits and lone-wolf attacks around the world, he added.

“This is extraordinarily difficult to stop. We have to remain vigilant. That's why we have a global coalition, not just for Iraq and Syria but to make sure we are attacking the foreign fighter networks and sharing information [and] working with Interpol so, as these people try to travel, they can be picked up,” McGurk said.

“This is something we haven't seen before,” he added, “and [when] you add to it social media and the speed of international travel … it is an unprecedented challenge and it's going to be with us for years.”

Defeating ISIL in Cyberspace

McGurk said ISIL’s social media recruiting efforts are being countered by coalition efforts led by the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, providing counter-ISIL content with localized focus for different regions of the world.

“I have visited the Sawab Center in [the United Arab Emirates], which is led by smart and energetic young people determined to defeat ISIL in cyberspace,” he said in written testimony, “and they are succeeding with innovative media campaigns focused on ISIL defectors and the truth behind what ISIL promises versus what it delivers on the ground -- especially for women.”
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel visits the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the first-ever multinational online messaging and engagement program in support of the global coalition against ISIL, April 27, 2016. State Department photo
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel visits the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the first-ever multinational online messaging and engagement program in support of the global coalition against ISIL, April 27, 2016. State Department photo

Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel visits the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the first-ever multinational online messaging and engagement program in support of the global coalition against ISIL, April 27, 2016. State Department photo Sawab Center Visit
Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel visits the Sawab Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the first-ever multinational online messaging and engagement program in support of the global coalition against ISIL, April 27, 2016. State Department photo
In the United States, the State Department’s Global Engagement Center coordinates, integrates and synchronizes governmentwide communications activities to counter ISIL messaging, McGurk said.
“The GEC also provides assistance with content-development platforms and amplifying effective voices against the perverse ISIL narrative,” he added.

Countering ISIL Messages

McGurk said Twitter recently announced that it has eliminated nearly 125,000 ISIL-related or -affiliated “handles,” and that number is growing, and Facebook and YouTube are similarly removing ISIL-related content from their platforms.

“Within the coalition, we have widely publicized how anyone can report ISIL content online so platforms can remove it if the content violates a platform’s terms of service, which it often does,” he said.

Such efforts are having an impact, McGurk noted, adding that two years ago ISIL had nearly free reign in cyberspace and today there are reportedly six people opposing ISIL’s message online for each person who supports it.

“We need these numbers to increase,” he said, “and recognize that the most effective voices are not governments but individuals, with their own first-hand accounts of the horror under ISIL rule. As these stories increase, ISIL’s message is on defense and it is our job to help keep it that way.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)

http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/821436/presidential-envoy-reports-counter-isil-progress-ongoing-terrorism-threat

China Congratulates Philippines' New President Duterte

From The Diplomat (Jul 1): China Congratulates Philippines' New President Duterte

China hopes to turn over a new leaf in relations with Manila.

The Philippines swore in Rodrigo Duterte as its sixteenth president on June 30. Despite (or perhaps because of) rocky ties under previous President Benigno Aquino, the Chinese government wasted no time offering its congratulations to the new leader in Manila.

Xinhua reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations on Thursday, saying that “he is willing to work with Duterte to push for improvement of relations between their two countries.” The Chinese leader purposefully avoided mentioning the strained ties over the past four years, resulting from heated disputes over features in the South China Sea. Instead, Xi went on to praise the “good-neighborliness and friendship” that he described as an “historical inheritance for the thousands-year-long history of China-Philippine relations.”

Xi added that “China and the Philippines face important opportunities in the development of bilateral relations.”

Since Duterte was elected on May 9, China has been holding out hope that the new administration would drop Aquino’s hardline stance on maritime disputes in the South China Sea. After the results of the Philippine presidential election were announced, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said, “We hope that the new government of the Philippines can work with us towards the same direction, properly deal with relevant disputes, and bring bilateral relations back to the track of sound development with concrete actions.”

Most importantly, China wants Manila to drop the arbitration case over the South China Sea disputes brought by the Aquino administration. The case, submitted to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in January 2013, challenges China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, as well as claiming that Beijing has violated Manila’s maritime rights within its exclusive economic zone. China has refused to participate in the case, arguing that the tribunal does not have jurisdiction.

Beijing also holds that the arbitration is invalid (even illegal) because the Philippines filed it in violation of previous agreements to resolve disputes through bilateral negotiations. The PCA tribunal has rejected both those arguments.

A final ruling is expected on July 12, 2016; in preparation, China has issued a slew of media articles and official statements slamming the arbitration case. In the same press conference on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei first conveyed Xi’s message of congratulation to Duterte before offering a harangue on the arbitration case:
The unilateral initiation of arbitration by the Aquino administration breaches international law, goes back on the agreement between China and the Philippines on resolving relevant disputes in the South China Sea through bilateral negotiation as well as its own commitment in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea about resolving disputes through dialogue and negotiation by countries directly concerned, and abuses the international arbitration regime.
It’s interesting, however, that Beijing has shifted its rhetoric from denouncing “the Philippines” in general to holding “the Aquino administration” responsible. That leaves the door open for potential reconciliation now that Aquino is gone – providing, of course, that Duterte is willing to play by Beijing’s rules and disavow — or at least downplay — the case.

Duterte seems inclined to do so, judging by recent comments. In a recent Cabinet meeting, Duterte reportedly said that his government would tread carefully if the ruling goes the Philippines’ way, as expected: “it should be a soft landing for everybody… [if] we do not really taunt or flaunt it.”

He added that the case “would be a moral victory and put a country in an awkward position,” with “a country” likely referring to China. However, Duterte continued to say that the Philippines must also take into account “the reality.”

Likewise, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said he was “adverse” to the idea, raised by foreign governments in his talks, that the Philippines should “make stronger statements” if the ruling is in their favor.

“I told them in no unmistakable terms that the first thing that we will do when we get that decision is to study its implications and its ramifications,” Yasay explained.

Earlier this week, Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana told Reuters that his main priority would be rooting out militant groups in the country’s south, rather than the disputes with China and other claimants. While he acknowledged that “[w]e cannot ignore the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” Reuters reported Lorenzana planned to “invest in more speed boats and helicopters to help flush out the [Abu Sayyaf militant] group based on southern Jolo island, rather than divert funds into maritime security.”

These remarks seem to reflect a general tendency on Duterte’s part to downplay the disputes and return to dialogue with China — particularly if that leads to increased Chinese investments. Small wonder, then, that China was so eager to congratulate him on his victory. Despite its stated plan to ignore the PCA ruling, Beijing’s neuralgia over the South China Sea arbitration case is evident from its intense efforts to drum up support for its viewpoint over the past weeks. While the PCA is widely expected to rule mostly in Manila’s favor, that won’t matter as much if the Philippine government itself refrains from embarrassing China with the legal victory.

However, Duterte will be constrained by popular sentiment in how far he can go in smoothing over tensions. Aquino’s tough stance was generally popular in the Philippines; the former president was considered the most trusted official and most popular top official in the country. Meanwhile, a September 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center found that an astonishing 91 percent of respondents in the Philippines were concerned about the maritime disputes with China.

Still, the same survey found that a majority (54 percent) of Filipinos reported a favorable impression of China, meaning Duterte will likely have public support for reconciliation – provided China allows him to do so without completely capitulating on Manila’s claims.

http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/china-congratulates-philippines-new-president-duterte/