Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gunmen release captive businessman in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (May 21): Gunmen release captive businessman in Sulu

A coffee shop owner,  held captive by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants for about a month, was freed unharmed Monday night in Patikul, Sulu following negotiations, according to a security official.

The victim Renato Yanga alias Reneboy, 50, was secretly released to his family about 11 p.m. Monday following negotiations led  Jolo councilor Luis Go, also the chief of the Jolo Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCCI).

Yanga is the owner of the Top Spot Coffee Shop.

There was no immediate confirmation if ransom was paid in exchange for the release of Yanga who was abducted last April 20 dawn while opening his coffee shop in the downtown of Jolo.

It was the second time that Yanga was abducted after the victim was also taken a few years back and subsequently released.

Meanwhile, two construction workers were also released Tuesday. They were held captive for a day in the hinterlands of Patikul, Sulu.

Hadji Sali Espada, truck mixer driver, and his helper, a certain Dimar,  who were seized Monday afternoon were released about 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Circumferential Road, Patikul town.

The two were freed without ransom.

The construction workers  were given stress debriefing before they were reunited with their families

Abus kidnap 2 construction workers in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (May 22): Abus kidnap 2 construction workers in Sulu

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped two workers of a private construction firm Monday afternoon in Patikul town, Sulu, a military official said.

Col. Jose Joriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu and 2nd Marine Brigade, said Espada Sali, a truck driver, and his helper who was not identified, were flagged down by 10 gunmen at about 2 p.m. in Sitio Santol, Barangay Latih.

Cenabre said one of the kidnappers was identified as Roger Saji.

The kidnappers and their captives were said to have fled toward the nearby  Barangay Maligay.

The kidnapping came 17 days after the same group snatched a truck driver and his companion in the same village. The victims were released five days later, reportedly after paying ransom.

Cenabre said intelligence units have been mobilized to track down the suspects and their captives.


3 soldiers killed in Albay ambush

From the  Philippine Star (Mar 21): 3 soldiers killed in Albay ambush

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Three soldiers were killed while another was wounded in an ambush believed staged by New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Camalig town, Albay yesterday morning.

Lt. Col. Andrew Costelo, commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, said nine soldiers were on patrol in Sitio Sta. Lucia, Barangay Maninila when they hit a landmine at past 8 a.m.

The explosion was followed by a firefight after some 40 rebels positioned at the area fired at the troops. The fatalities were identified as Corporal Sandy Seniadan and Privates First Class Jaypee Cotez and Roderick Barrameda,while the wounded was Private First Class Ruel Soltes.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, of the 9th Infantry Division, said the ambush was staged near the construction site of the Southern Luzon International Airport in Camalig.

He said the troops were tasked to secure the airport construction site, which was also attacked by the rebels last year.

Costelo said at the height of the firefight, the rebels took the K3 squad automatic weapon and two M16 rifles of the slain soldiers.

The attack came a week after the pullout of the troops deployed to secure the elections in Bicol.


NPAs raid Davao security agency, seize firearms, snatch 6 persons

From the Philippine Star (May 22): NPAs raid Davao security agency, seize firearms, snatch 6 persons

New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas stormed a security agency in Tagum City Monday night, seized seven firearms and kidnapped six persons before fleeing in three armored vehicles owned by the company.

The six hostages identified as Terencio Laplana, 56, manager of the security agency; his wife and daughter Concepcion, 47, and Honey, 10; mechanic Rene Aquilino and two security guards, were reportedly released yesterday afternoon. They were brought to the agency by a board member of  the Compostela Valley.

In another rebel attack yesterday morning, five soldiers were wounded in two separate landmine explosions in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Panisa, spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division, said the rebels  arrived in two separate vehicles at the DASIA Security Agency office located in Orange Subdivision, Barangay South, at about 8 p.m.

Panisa said the armed men introduced themselves to the security guards as policemen and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) purportedly tasked to serve a search warrant.

The rebels took seven high-powered firearms from the agency’s armory and fled taking with them the hostages.

Pursuing Army and police forces found the three armored vehicles along with a Montero and a Starex van in Barangay Lapu-Lapu in Maco, Compostela Valley.

The DASIA Security Agency is said to be one of the leading security agencies in the country, whose clients include banks and commercial establishments.

Meanwhile, among those hurt in the landmine explosions were PFCs Joseph Mendio, Ryan Torena, Erwin Cordero, Lovie Joy Semillano and Bai Johana Durado and Gina Gubantes, a relative of one of the soldiers.

The soldiers were traveling along the highway in Barangay Magdum, Tagum City at about 6 a.m. when their vehicle hit a landmine believed planted by the rebels.

The victims were brought to the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City for treatment.
No one was reported injured or killed in a second explosion that occurred in Mawab town in  Compostela Valley.


Philippine Navy, Indonesia kicks off civil-military exercise in Davao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 21): Philippine Navy, Indonesia kicks off civil-military exercise in Davao

The joint members of the Philippine Navy and Indonesia formally began the joint civil-military exercise called Corpat-PHILINDO XXVII-13 Tuesday in a simple ceremony at the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao Headquarters in Camp Panacan.

The exercise is aimed at improving the interoperability of both contingents in guarding their respective territorial waters in the Celebes Sea against terrorism, smuggling and illegal fishing.

Captain Severino David, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the joint civil-military exercise would be preceded with friendship basketball game Tuesday afternoon.

He said on Wednesday naval vessels of the Philippines and Indonesia would sail for Sarangani Island in Davao del Sur to conduct a medical- dental outreach program.

David said that on Thursday, both contingents proceed to Maruri Island, the first Islet of Indonesia on South to conduct the same activity for the Indonesian residents there.

“We’ll be conducting medical-dental assistance to the Filipinos and Indonesian in these areas,” he said.David said that in returning home, the Philippines will also pick-up three Filipinos arrested for illegal fishing in the Indonesian waters.

He said the Philippine Navy will bring the three Filipino to G’lan, Sarangani Province for processing at the Bureau of Immigration Office.

David said the joint exercise will involve two naval vessels and one airplane.

He said through the respective naval forces, Philippines and Indonesia have been working together to address the issues like terrorism and smuggling of illegal drugs.

Lt. Colonel Ardiansyah Muqsit, military attaché of Indonesia, said both navies will conduct communication exercise and replenishment of logistics at sea.

He said the border-crossing agreement between Indonesia and the Philippines is working smoothly to ensure the entry of fishermen from both sides without getting arrested.

Ardiansyah affirmed that the joint exercise will strengthen ties of both countries on their respective stance against terrorism and transnational crimes.

“We cannot allow anyone to bring guns and drugs to Indonesia from the Philippines or vice versa. We will also run after undocumented fishermen who conduct fishing expedition in our territory,” he said.


NPA rebels tagged in abduction of 4 guards, 2 others in ComVal

From the Philippine News Agency (May 21): NPA rebels tagged in abduction of 4 guards, 2 others in ComVal

Police authorities have tagged the New Peoples Army (NPA) as responsible in the abduction of four security guards and a wife and a child of one of the security guards in Maco, Compostela Valley Province Monday evening.

ComVal police director Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan said the security guards were on their way to Maco, ComVal when they were flagged down by armed men along the highway at around 8 in the evening last Monday.

Police reports said the armed men snatched the security guards including one of the guard’s wife and child.

In a follow-up operation, Cascolan said they had found three vehicles -– an armored van belonging to DASIA security agency, a Mitsubishi Montero (LGZ-129) and a Hyundai Starex (KCP-166) which were later found abandoned at Sitio Danao, Barangay Lapu-Lapu, Maco, Compostela Valley.

Cascolan believed that the suspects are members of the NPAs engaged in "agaw-armas" incidents. Authorities immediately dispatched a team hot pursuit to track down the suspects.


(UPDATE) 2 landmines explosion at Tagum-Mawab national highway

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): (UPDATE) 2 landmines explosion at Tagum-Mawab national highway

The troops of 66th Infantry Battalion, on board a military truck KM250 led by 1st Lieutenant Grace Joy P. Arado tasked to do procurement at Tagum City, hit a landmine while traversing the Tagum-Mawab National Highway at 6:00 a.m. Tuesday.

Five military personnel and one military dependent were wounded and immediately evacuated to Tagum Doctors' Hospital.

Of the five personnel two identified as Pfcs. Lovie Joy Semillano and Joseph A. Mendio presently confined for observation and treatment while Pfcs. Erwin Cordero, Bai Johana Durado and Ryan Torena, and Mrs. Gina Gubantes were declared outpatients after their treatment.

After one-and -half hour, another landmine exploded at place Mawab, Compostela Valley Province involving the reinforcing troops of 1001st Brigade on board KM450 vehicle. These troops were also tasked to further conduct road clearing patrols in the Tagum-Mawab highway.

Lt. Col. Michael Logico, 66th Infantry Battalion Commander reported that there were civilians injured and properties damaged in the land-mining incident."One taxi and a motorcycle were on the rear of KM450 when the landmine exploded. The windshield and bumper of the taxi were damaged while the two riders of the motorcycle incurred slight wounds."

These two land-mining incidents were both done along National Road wherein many commuters passed by.

Col. Angelito M. De Leon,1001st Brigade Commander condemned these barbaric acts of the NPA.

"These desperate acts of the New People's Army put innocent civilians in harm's way as they can no longer claim that they hit only military targets. This incident occurred in the national highways were many travellers pass. Nadadamay pati inosenteng civilian," he said.

This is a clear violation of Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. It is indicated in Part III, Art II, 15 that use of landmines is prohibited", de Leon added.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, Commander of the 10th Infantry Division has ordered intensified pursuit operations against the perpetrators of these criminal actions.


NPA rebel surrenders in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (May 21): NPA rebel surrenders in Agusan del Sur

An armed communist New People Army rebel surrendered to the military in Agusan del Sur, Maj. Leo Bongosia, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here said on Tuesday.

Bongos identified the man as Gino Mandahinog Mansinogdan, alias “Seme,” a member of the NPA’s propaganda unit of the Guerrilla Front 88, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

He said the NPA rebel turned over his service firearms - an AK-47 assault rifle and a magazine loaded with 20 rounds of live ammunition.

According to Bongosia, Mandahinog turned himself to Lt. Col. Jose Leonard B Gille, Commanding Officer, of the army 26th Infantry Battalion in Talacogon, Agusan del Sur last Saturday.

He said Mandahinog was turned over to the army’s main headquarters here where he is undergoing debriefing the army’s 26th Infantry Battalion.


GPH peace panel member facilitate truce in Maguindanao armed conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): GPH peace panel member facilitate truce in Maguindanao armed conflict

A member of the government peace panel talking peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has brokered a localized truce involving members of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Maguindanao, authorities here said Wednesday.

Members of MNLF have been fighting each other since Monday in the borders of North and South Upi, upland towns in Maguindanao.

North Upi Mayor Ramon Piang Sr. said the in-fighting was an offshoot of the recent midterm elections where a mayoral candidate was ambushed by suspected MNLF in South Upi, Maguindanao.

Piang, mayor of adjacent North Upi town and member of the government peace panel talking with the MILF, also in Maguindanao, said about 260 families of Moro and indigenous peoples have fled to safer grounds when the in-fighting erupted Monday and Tuesday.

Piang said Maguindanao Governor Esmael Toto Mangudadatu has already sent relief goods through the provincial social welfare and development office.

The feuding MNLF groups, one led by Salipada Sumael of Barangay Ganassi in North Upi, and the other by Basco Omar, of Barangay Lamod in South Upi, traded bullets Tuesday morning, sending villagers to flee.

South Upi Vice Mayor Baba Omar, who ran and lost in the election, survived an ambush on May 11 while heading for home. His niece was killed while another relative was wounded.

Upon Mayor Piang’s initiative, both Sumael and Basco agreed to a localized truce on Tuesday night.

Sumael and Omar, aside from supporting rival candidates in the election, were locked in a “rido” (family feud) over vast track of lands in the borders of North and South Upi.

Their animosities heightened during the elections. The Omars disarmed two members of the other group following the botched attempt to kill the South Upi vice-mayor in an ambush.

Piang said community elders have also been helping resolve the conflict amicably.

The warring groups used assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenades as they tried to outgun each other Tuesday morning.

Brig, Gen. Alex Balutan, chief of 1st Marine Brigade, said Marine combatants will be deployed in South Upi to immediate intervene if both sides violate the localized truce.

Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema, MNLF chairman, has sent emissaries to pacify the warring MNLF leaders and prevent bloodshed.

In Matalam, North Cotabato, forces of MNLF and rival MILF remained locked at each other as about 3,000 civilians remained in evacuation centers.

Local officials, led by North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, were trying to patch up the MNLF-MILF misunderstanding.


MILF: Victory of P-Noy's bets good for peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22): MILF: Victory of P-Noy's bets good for peace process

The chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday lauded the 9-3 victory of President Aquino's allies in the Senate, describing it as "good for talks."

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator and chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said the victory of majority of Liberal Party (LP) candidates in the local and national elections will help hasten the GPH-MILF peace talks.

"Its good for the peace process, it will pave the way for success of the talks," Iqbal said in radio interview.

Iqbal chairs the Transition Commission which was tasked to draft an enabling law that would deactivate and replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a more politically and administratively empowered new political entity.

During the campaign period, the President toured Maguindanao, a known MILF bastion, and assured that members of the LP running for different municipal, provincial and regional positions in the autonomous region can best help in GPH-MILF talks if elected.

“We are glad that the President’s partymates have been elected,” Iqbal said.

LP members who publicly expressed support for the peace process were ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong, Jr; Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, Tawi-Tawi Gov. Nurbert Sahali, Basilan Gov. Hadja Jum Akbar of Basilan, and Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, Jr.

Sahali’s older sister, Ruby, was also elected congressional representative of Tawi-Tawi, along with the re-electionist representative of the first district of Maguindanao, Bai Sandra Sema.


DND chief admits presence of Chinese ships off Ayungin Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (May 21): DND chief admits presence of Chinese ships off Ayungin Shoal

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Tuesday admitted that Chinese fishing ships, along with a naval vessel, are fishing off Ayungin Shoal which is part of the Spratlys Island Group being claimed by the Philippines.

"They are fishing in our territory," he said in Filipino.

Gazmin added that all the ships were positively seen flying the Chinese flag.

The DND chief added that the Philippines will deal with the issue "calmly," by filing a diplomatic process through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"We will do this in a calm manner so that it will not be interpreted that we are looking for a fight," he stated.


30 Chinese vessels, 1 warship sighted in Palawan

From Rappler (May 21): 30 Chinese vessels, 1 warship sighted in Palawan

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez confirmed on Tuesday, May 21, that around 30 Chinese fishing vessels, including 3 Chinese government ships, have been sighted for more than a week at Ayungin Shoal, part of the Kalayaan Island Group off Palawan.

Hernandez said the DFA has already filed a protest with the Chinese Embassy in Manila on May 10 over “the provocative and illegal presence” of the Chinese government ships, two China Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships and one warship, around the shoal.

“The Philippine calls on China to respect the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines over its continental shelf including the waters around the [Ayungin] shoal,” Hernandez said.

The incident is the latest flare-up of tensions between the two countries over competing territorial claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.

In 2012, at least 10 Chinese ships were monitored by the Philippine Navy's flagship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), when it was deployed at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal for maritime patrol in the area.

‘Harassing vessels’

Hernandez reported that the Chinese fishing vessels have been “going around” the shoal for more than a week, which triggered the DFA to file a protest to respect sovereign rights over the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“China's interference with the sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea is a violation of international law particularly United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the United Nations charter and the DOC," Hernandez said.

On Friday, May 17, Kalayaan Island Group Mayor Joel Bito-onon disclosed that two foreign vessels he believed were owned by the Chinese harassed him early Wednesday morning, May 15.

Bito-onon recalled that while they were sailing near Ayungin, the two vessels followed them with strong searchlights, with one only 30 meters away from them.

Ayungin Shoal is located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan and constitutes part of the Philippines’ 200 nautical miles continental shelf provided under UNCLOS.

“Ayungin Shoal is an integral part of our national territory,” Hernandez said.


PH on Taiwan issue: 'We are moving heaven and earth'

From Rappler (May 22): PH on Taiwan issue: 'We are moving heaven and earth'

Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Amadeo Perez assured that the Philippines has been doing everything to protect overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan amid continuing tensions over slain Taiwanese fisherman.

In an interview with ANC’s Headstart on Tuesday, May 21, Perez’s reiterated that President Benigno Aquino III has instructed him to prioritize the protection and needs of Filipino workers in Taiwan. He added that the incident has caused "so much" damage and tension to the 90,000 OFWs in Taiwan.

“We are moving heaven and earth to fix these things. There is only one at fault but thousands are suffering,” Perez said.

Perez’s statements came after reports of Filipino workers being harassed and attacked by locals in Taiwan. On Monday, Perez confirmed that there were 3 Filipinos who were attacked in Taiwan amid continuing tension between Manila and Taipei.

Perez also revealed the creation of a task force to check on the situation of Filipino workers in Taiwan.

“To the Filipinos in Taiwan, please don’t worry as there is a task force going around your area as ordered by the President Aquino,” Perez said.

'Good and kind'

Despite the "continued anger" over Filipinos in Taiwan, Perez said the Philippines has remained “good and kind” to Taiwanese staying in the Philippines.

"You know, we have been very good. We have been very kind to Taiwanese,” Perez said adding that 30,000 successful Taiwanese businessmen are currently in the Philippines and are treated very well.

Perez said that the bad image being portrayed about the Filipinos has often been coming from the Taiwanese media. He added that the Taiwanese media played a major role in criticizing the Taiwanese President to impose sanctions to the Philippines.

Perez also disclosed that since 2010, more than 800 Taiwanese, holding a Taiwanese passport, have been deported from the Philippines after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested them for being involved in cybercrimes.

Investigation almost complete

Meanwhile, President Aquino said on Tuesday that the Prime Minister of Taiwan, through Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has reported that Taiwanese government will help protect Filipino workers in Taiwan.

“It was reported to me that the Prime Minister of Taiwan and their Minister of Foreign Affairs [have issued statements] not to hurt Filipinos in Taiwan and to prosecute anyone that will do so to our countrymen,” Aquino said.

Aquino added that Philippine probers through the NBI and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima have almost finished its investigation except for the physical examination of the subject boat.

“We are just waiting for the team to go there to inspect mutually this boat, to complete the thorough investigation,” Aquino said.


PH: Video of shooting 'revealing and helpful'

From Rappler (May 22): PH: Video of shooting 'revealing and helpful'

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Tuesday, May 21, that a video clip of the shooting incident involving the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and a Taiwanese fishing vessel was “very revealing” and “helpful to the investigation.”

De lima said the video, as part of the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), will be released “in due time.”

“There will be premature conclusions if we release the video already. It’s just part of the whole report,” De Lima said.

De Lima also disclosed that the partial report of the Philippine investigation team has been “substantive.” She added that the NBI team has just been waiting for clearance to go to Taiwan and request the fisherman’s family for a re-autopsy of the body.

“More or less, there’s a clearer picture. But we reiterate that the result would be more exhaustive, thorough and complete if the NBI team’s requests are granted, especially the inspection of the Taiwanese fishing vessel,” she said.

Earlier, the Philippine Coast Guard said the Taiwanese fishing vessel had intruded into Philippine waters and tried to ram its patrol boat.

‘No intrusion’

But Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency released information on Tuesday, May 21, that the Taiwanese vessel’s position and movement throughout its voyage disprove claims that the fishing boat intruded into Philippines’ territorial waters.

The voyage data recorder (VDR), which was "kept operational all along the voyage” showed that the boat was operating within Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone and had never entered the territorial waters of the Philippines.

Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Tsay Tzu-yaw said that the ship arrived at 20° N latitude and 123° E longitude at 2:30am on May 7 and was operating in the area between 19°50' - 20°10' N latitude, and between 122° 48' - 123° 25' E longitude until 8:24am on May 9. These are all within Taiwan's exclusive economic zone, he said.

From midnight on May 9 to 6:18am that day, the ship was sailing west by south at a speed of between 3 knots and 8 knots (5.6kph and 14.8kph) before it arrived at 19° 57' N latitude, 122° 48' E longitude, where it sailed at a lower speed of between 0 knots and 1 knot.

Tsay said the data showed that the ship sailed at a speed of between 4 knots and 5 knots in an east-south-east direction at 8:24am on May 9, while its speed increased to 10 knots at 10:12am, when its location was measured at 19° 59' N latitude, 122° 55' E longitude, “presumably being chased” by the Philippine vessel. These data show the vessel was still within Taiwan's territorial waters.

Tsay added the ship lost power at 11:24am at 20° 7' N, 123° E, when the data showed its speed measured at zero.

“Analysis of the information has shown that it contained no disruption to data recording during the voyage, meaning that that the VDR system was operational,” Tsay said.

Tsay also said that the claims of the Philippines that its coast guard personnel were carrying out their duty to stop illegal fishing were “defamatory,” adding that the Philippines has not shown any evidence yet to bolster this.


PH files diplomatic protest vs China's 'provocative, illegal presence' in Ayungin Reef

From InterAksyon (May 21): PH files diplomatic protest vs China's 'provocative, illegal presence' in Ayungin Reef

AFP file photo of Spratlys

The Philippine government has protested a 'provocative and illegal presence' of two Chinese surveillance vessels and a military ship within its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Manila also called on Beijing to respect Manila’s sovereignty over its waters.

THe Philippines says two Chinese maritime surveillance ships and a warship have been spotted off Ayungin Shoal, which Manila says is within its territorial waters.

The Chinese ships appear to have accompanied some 30 fishing vessels from China, which are scattered around Ayungin Shoal, the Kalayaan Island Group and the Mischief Reef - a rich fishing ground within Philippine territory.

“On May 10, 2013, we  filed with the Chinese Embassy in Manila our protest on the provocative and illegal presence of the Chinese government ships around Ayungin Shoal,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said. “Ayungin Shoal is an integral part of our national territory.”

The shoal is located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan and constitutes part of the country’s 200-nautical mile continental shelf as provided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty.

The Chinese fishing vessels continue to roam around the Philippine waters, Hernandez said.

It was not clear if the vessels are part of the Chinese flotilla of fishing crafts that were deployed early this month.

“We have already sent communications (to China) on this,” Hernandez said. “We have already told them our position regarding these vessels which have intruded into our exclusive economic zone. The resources in our EEZs are meant for the Filipino people.”

This is not the first time that China has been accused of encroaching in Philippine waters. China has stationed government vessels in the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, another Philippine-claimed feature in the West Philippine Sea where Manila and Beijing figured in a tense standoff last year. China has prevented Filipino fishermen from gaining access into the shoal's vast lagoon.

The South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), a strategic waterway where a bulk of the world's trade pass and believed to be rich in oil and natural gas, has been a source of conflict among competing claimants - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan. Analysts feared the competing claims could spark a military conflict in the region.

China claims the waters nearly in its entirety, citing historical entitlements as the basis for its huge claim, which Manila branded as “excessive and a violation of international law.”

The Philippines has challenged this claim before a United Nations tribunal, where a resolution is pending.


Amid row with China, PNoy announces $1.8-B military upgrade vs 'bullies'

From InterAksyon (May 21): Amid row with China, PNoy announces $1.8-B military upgrade vs 'bullies'

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday announced a $1.8-billion military upgrade to help defend his country's maritime territory against "bullies", amid an ever-worsening dispute with China.

In thinly veiled comments referring to China, Aquino vowed during a speech to mark the navy's 115th anniversary that the armed forces would be given the resources necessary to protect Philippine sovereignty.

"We have a clear message to the world: The Philippines is for Filipinos, and we have the capability to resist bullies entering our backyard," Aquino told naval chiefs.

Aquino detailed a 75-billion-peso ($1.82-billion) military modernisation programme that gives priority to upgrading the navy, which is one of the weakest in Southeast Asia.

He said by 2017 the Philippines would acquire two new frigates, two helicopters capable of anti-submarine warfare, three fast vessels for coastal patrols and eight amphibious assault vehicles.

"We will also improve our communications, intelligence and surveillance systems," he said.

Aquino said the government had already spent 28 billion pesos on military modernisation over the past three years, including on two refurbished Hamilton-class cutters acquired from the US coastguard.

The first, renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, entered service as the navy's new flagship in 2011. The second is due to be delivered in August.

The Philippines had also announced this year that it would acquire for its coastguard 10 new patrol boats from Japan.

The increasingly bitter territorial dispute with China is over competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit above vast amounts of oil and gas. It is home to rich fishing grounds.

China insists it has sovereign rights to most of the South China Sea, including waters approaching the coast of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.

China has in recent years taken what the Philippines and Vietnam say are increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claims.

The Philippines says China has since last year occupied a shoal 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the main Philippine island of Luzon.

The shoal is 1,200 kilometres from China's nearest major landmass.

Even with the extra spending announced by Aquino, the Philippines' military budget will still dwarf China's. China announced in March its defence budget for 2013 would be about $115 billion.


Taipei releases ship satellite record, refuting Manila's claim it intruded into PH

From InterAksyon (May 21): Taipei releases ship satellite record, refuting Manila's claim it intruded into PH

Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin speaks during a press conference in Taipei on May 15, 2013. Taiwan on May 15 slapped sanctions on the Philippines, including a ban on the hiring of new workers, rejecting an apology by President Benigno Aquino for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman. AFP PHOTO

TAIPEI--Taiwan on Tuesday released a satellite record of the route of a fishing boat fired on by Philippine coastguards, flatly rejecting Manila's allegations that the boat intruded into Philippine waters.

The killing of crew member Hung Shih-cheng, 65, sparked outrage in Taiwan, which has announced a series of economic sanctions against the Philippines.

Taiwan's Fisheries Agency said the voyage data recorder from the fishing boat showed it was not in Philippine waters when it came under fire on May 9.

"The satellite records indicated that the Guang Ta Hsin 28 had been fishing within Taiwan's exclusive economic zone throughout," the agency's deputy chief Tsay Tzu-yaw told AFP.

"Since the Philippine authorities repeatedly alleged that the fishing boat had intruded into their waters, then why not make public the video records they claim they have taken from the coastguard boat?"

The Philippines said Monday it would make "coordinated efforts" with Taiwan to look into the incident.

Its coastguards claimed that the fishing boat intruded into Philippine waters and tried to ram their vessel, forcing them to to open fire.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has termed the killing "cold-blooded murder" based on an initial inquiry by Taiwan, which showed that the boat had more than 50 bullet holes and showed no signs of ramming.

The incident has sharply raised tensions between Taipei and Manila, sparking concern from Washington.

Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday a National Bureau of Investigation team would fly to Taiwan to examine the fishing boat and interview survivors.

De Lima said the Taiwanese investigators would be given access to their evidence, including statements from the coastguard.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has personally apologised for the incident but Taiwan has rejected his apology and announced sanctions.

These include a ban on the hiring of new Philippine workers, recalling its envoy and staging a naval drill in waters off the northern Philippines.

Taipei has repeatedly pressed Manila to issue a formal government apology, to compensate the fisherman's family and to apprehend the killer.

Philippine officials say the issue of a formal apology is complicated by the fact that Manila officially recognises Beijing over Taipei.