Saturday, June 22, 2013

NPA murdered five men, burned equipment in Agusan del Sur

From the anti-communist ANAD Facebook page (Jun 22); NPA murdered five men, burned equipment in Agusan del Sur

In Esperanza town, a rubber plantation owned by town mayor Leonida Manpatilan was attacked by NPA killing its 2 caretakers and burned a bulldozer parked at the plantation 1O AM on June 18, 2013.

... The plantation is located at Sitio Camarangan in Brgy Hawilian.

Witnesses revealed that caretakers Angel Cosan and Danny Linonsag were hand tied by the communist terrorists before they were shot to death.

Esperanza MPS on its investigation conducted said that the NPAs continued to Km 7 of Brgy Milagros and attacked a church of “Pinagbuklod” group capturing 3 others identified as Felipe Hadraque, a former Philippine Army member, Remy Polintan a resident of brgy Milagros and Jun Tria who were also tied up and shot to death.

Witnesses said that Jun Tria tried the escape but was shot and died before he reached the local hospital.

The NPAs also burned another seven (7) heavy equipment parked near the church. The equipment were owned by Shanalyn Corporation.

Government troops are now deployed in the area for a pursuit operation.

Authorities learned that the NPAs boarded 2 Forward Trucks bearing plate numbers YJL 880 and PYZ 731, one Van Truck bearing plate number YBY 131.

Vehicle drivers said they were hired to deliver corn products and beach outing but were intercepted by the NPAs at Sitio Landing in Brgy Tungao, Butuan City.

Troops from 401st Brigade Phil Army together with ADS PPSC and 14th SAC are deployed in the area for a pursuit operations against the fleeing NPAs.

A Special Investigation Task Group is formed to handle the incident.

Gov't confident final MILF peace deal signed before 2016

From ABS-CBN (Jun 22): Gov't confident final MILF peace deal signed before 2016

MANILA, Philippines -- The government is confident it can sign a final peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front even before President Aquino's term ends in 2016.

Chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said the formal peace talks will resume next month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ferrer has already turned over to her MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal, the government's proposal on the wealth sharing annex so the MILF can study it.

The MILF had complained about the delay in the negotiations but said the resumption of the talks next month will help iron out the kinks in the peace process.

PHL probe results of USS Guardian grounding still under review — Malacañang

From GMA News (Jun 23): PHL probe results of USS Guardian grounding still under review — Malacañang

While the US Navy has made public its findings of its probe into the grounding of the minesweeper USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef last January, Malacañang said Saturday it is still reviewing the investigation report of Philippine authorities.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte did not give a timetable on when the government will make public the findings of the Philippine side.
The results of our investigation (are) currently under review. Hindi pa tayo magkukumento hanggang hindi na-review nang kabuuan ang report (The results of our investigation are still being reviewed. We will defer comment until the review is completed),” she said on government-run dzRB radio.
On Friday, the US Navy released online a redacted version of its report indicating lapses in leadership may have led to the grounding of the USS Guardian at Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17.
US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Cecil Haney added a "lack of leadership" led to the watch team's disregard of visual and electronic cues and alarms.
“I understand this is result of their investigation. We do have our own,” Valte said.
Earlier, the Philippine Coast Guard had submitted its report to the Department of Transportation and Communications, which in turn submitted it to President Benigno Aquino III.

US Navy report on ship grounding nothing but alibis — militant group

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 23): US Navy report on ship grounding nothing but alibis — militant group

The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) yesterday dismissed the US report on USS Guardian grounding on the Tubbataha Reef as “tall tale of usual alibi,” saying the report was meant to obscure the truth and reduce the issue to some technical blunder.

“In fact it is not a report, it is just a long narration of excuses authored by propaganda department of Washington DC. It is like a tall tale of usual alibi made to treat the global public to a roller coaster ride,” said Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz in a statement.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commanding officer of the US Pacific Fleet, in a 160-page document, said lack of leadership and faulty navigational equipment led to the grounding of the former USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef last January, which could have been prevented if the officers and members of the American minesweeper adhere to prudent, safe and sound navigation principles.

The US military official said the watch team’s observations of visual cues in the hours leading up to the grounding, combined with electronic cues and alarms, should have triggered immediate steps to resolvewarnings and reconcile discrepancies.

Haney said the Jan.17 incident was a “tragic mishap” which is wholly preventable and was the product of poor voyage planning, poor execution and unfortunate circumstances. The US report said the investigation uncovers no single point of failure; instead, there were numerous links in the error chain leading up to the grounding — had any one of which been appropriately addressed, the grounding would have been prevented.

The US report, however, recommended “further administrative action against the commanding general of the USS Guardian, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, the executive officer and navigator Lt. Daniel Tyler, the assistant navigator and the officer of the deck at the time of the grounding.

For his part, Pamalakaya vice chairman Salvador France said that they were right all along that the US report would be biased.

“We were correct with our fearless forecast that the US report on Tubbataha Reef is biased to Washington DC and would be meant to absolve this global policeman from his crime against the Filipino people and its heinous crime to Philippine environment. The 160-page document affirmed the sum of all our fears,” France said.

“The US report on Tubbataha environmental disaster exonerated Washington DC and reduced the highly questionable incident to a drama of unfortunate event and plain and simple human error,” France noted.

The Philippine government previously reported that USS Guardian damaged 2,345.67 square meters of the marine protected area and had asked the US government to pay the Manila government a fine of P58 million for the damage.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya followed up their request to Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima to file criminal and other appropriate charges against officials and 79 other crew members of USS Guardian.

The militant group said it was wondering why until now there is no progress on their request letter to the justice chief filed last February urging De Lima to investigate and file appropriate charges against officials and 79 other crew members of the US minesweeper ship.

NPA fighters kill 2 soldiers in Agusan del Sur

From Rappler (Jun 22): NPA fighters kill 2 soldiers in Agusan del Sur

Two soldiers were killed in a clash with New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, Saturday afternoon, June 22, the Philippine Army said.

Lieutenant Col. Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, said troops from the 26th Infantry Brigade encountered about 15 rebels in the vicinity of Barangay Maliwanag at around 4 pm.

The encounter occurred just days after communist rebels killed 5 workers of Shannalyne Corporation in the same town.

The Philippine Army has yet to identify the two slain soldiers.

Bongosia said government troops continue to pursue the rebels.

University employee abducted in Zamboanga City

From Rappler (Jun 22): University employee abducted in Zamboanga City

An employee of the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) here was abducted by armed men – some of them wearing military uniform – just outside his house on Saturday evening, June 22.

The Zamboanga City police identified the victim as Alrashid Maha Roxas, 56, married, and a clerk at the Islamic Studies unit of the WMSU.

Authorities said Roxas got a text message at around 7:50 pm on Saturday, prompting him to go outside of his house on Amping Drive, Barangay Campo Islam, in Zamboanga City.

Four armed men wearing Philippine Army and Philippine Marines uniforms were waiting for him outside. One of them shouted, "Amo na yan!" It's Tausug for "That's him!"

He was then reportedly handcuffed and dragged toward the shoreline approximately 50 meters away, where 4 other armed men were waiting in white sea craft.

The suspects, believed to be part of a kidnap-for-ransom group, steered the sea craft toward Basilan province.

Authorities have alerted all military units in the area. They have yet to establish the motive for the kidnapping.

RP-US sign trade data exchange accord to fight cross-border crimes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): RP-US sign trade data exchange accord to fight cross-border crimes

Without much fanfare but replete with subdued and dire warning to perpetrators of cross-border crimes, a landmark bilateral agreement on exchange of trade data was forged recently between the Philippines and the United States.

Signatories to the Trade Transparency Agreement held (June 20) at the US Embassy in Manila were Bureau of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, Deputy Director of the Office of Internal Affairs for ICE Homeland Security Investigations David A. Thompson and Deputy Assistant Director Joseph A. Gallion.

This accord in the continuing partnership of the two countries marks a milestone in combating the multi-faceted global menace of trade fraud, money laundering, contraband smuggling, tax evasion, international terrorist financing, and other transnational crime.

Under the agreement, which is part of the Mutual Assistance on Customs Administration pact between the US and the Philippines that was signed on July 27, 2000, the US will help the Philippine government develop a Trade Transparency Unit (TTU) at the BOC.

The TTU, which shall be manned by BOC personnel trained by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), shall monitor 24/7 the movement of cargoes and transactions at the BOC to detect suspicious trade and financial transactions susceptible to exploitation by criminal and terrorist organizations.

Biazon said, “The cooperation between the Philippines and the US through the establishment of the TTU will mutually benefit our two countries in terms of helping enhance our fight against illicit trade, smuggling and money laundering, among others.”

“Moreover, with the new data sharing agreement between the US and the Philippines, coupled with the new technologies that would be infused in the TTU, ordinary Filipinos could just as well benefit from this agreement through the tighter control of our borders against the entry of anti-social goods and contrabands.”Biazon added.

As a backgrounder, the first TTU was created by the ICE in 2004 and, since 2005, it has partnered with other countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and now the Philippines, in its global war against the “the rise in complex and sophisticated financial and trade crimes around the world.”

DND acquiring 2 strategic sealift vessels for navy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): DND acquiring 2 strategic sealift vessels for navy

The Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it is acquiring two strategic sealift vessels (SSVs).

DND bidding and awards chair Undersecretary Efren Q. Fernandez said the ships have an approved budget contract of P4 billion.

The money will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.

It will use to improve the transport and lift capabilities of the Philippine Navy.

Interested parties must be able to deliver the SSVs within 1,095 calendar days (with the first ship to be delivered within 730 calendar days of the opening of the letter of credit and the second SSV to be delivered after 365 calendar days from the delivery of the first).

They must also have integrated logistic support for the vessels.

Fernandez said bidders must have completed a similar project from the date of submission and receipt of bids.

He stated that bidding is open to all local and foreign companies provided that they comply with the country's procurement law.

Pre-bid conference will be held on July 2 and bid opening on July 16 at the DND-BAC conference room, basement right wing, DND building, Camp Gen. Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

2 Filipino-Algerian women abducted by Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 22): 2 Filipino-Algerian women abducted by Abu Sayyaf in Sulu

About 10 heavily armed Abu Sayyaf members abducted two Filipino-Algerians in Sulu Saturday, the military reported.

Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the sisters Nadjova and Linda Abdelbasit were snatched at 9 a.m. while traveling in a passenger jeep in Barangay (village) Liang in Patikul town.

Cenabre said witnesses identified at least two of the kidnappers. They were Aljini Mundo alias Ninok Sapari and Bensaudi Mundoc, who alledgedly belonged to the “Lucky Nine” group of the Abu Sayyaf.

“The victims … were on board a passenger jeep enroute to Jolo and they came from Tambang village in Patikul. However upon reaching Sitio Baunoh in Liang barangay around 10 armed Abu Sayyaf Group members identified with the Lucky Nine forcibly took them,” Cenabre said.

He said the bandits fled with the victims toward Sitio (sub-village) Kanjimaw, which is still part of Patikul.

“We were informed the victims were Filipino-Algerians based in Manila and they were conducting documentary about the Sultanate of Sulu. We are of impression that they were sent by the Sultanate of Sulu,” Cenabre said.

But Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of Jamalul Kiram III, who claims the title of Sulu sultan, said they had no knowledge of the visit of the sisters to Sulu.

ASG kidnaps 2 Fil-Algerians in Sulu

From Rappler (Jun 22): ASG kidnaps 2 Fil-Algerians in Sulu

Members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) kidnapped two Fil-Algerian sisters in Barangay Liang, Patikul, Sulu, on Saturday, June 22.

Authorities identified the victims as Nadjova B. Abdelbasit and her sister Linda Abdelbasit.

Reports said the Abdelbasits were onboard a passenger jeepney from Barangay Tambang in Patikul, going to the town of Jolo. When the jeepney was approaching Sitio Baunoh in Barangay Liang, they were forcibly taken by more or less 10 armed men.

The men were identified as part of the kidnap-for-ransom group's Lucky Nine Group. They were led by Aljini Mundoc, Ninok Sapari, and Bensaudi Mundoc.

The suspects fled with their victims toward Sitio Kanjimaw, through Barangay Tugas, in Patikul.

CAFGU killed in Sultan Kudarat clash

From ABS-CBN (Jun 22): CAFGU killed in Sultan Kudarat clash

A member of the Civilian Auxiliary Unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CAFGU) was killed in an encounter between the military and an armed group in Barangay Bagumbayan, President Quirino town, Sultan Kudarat on Friday morning.

Authorities said the clash occurred after the military was fired upon by around 100 lawless elements led by a certain Commander Carialan.

The killed CAFGU member was identified as Vicente Macaraeg.

A farmer, identified as Roy Viala, was also killed in the firefight.

Around 80 families fled their homes due to the clash.

Colonel Edmund Pangilinan, commander of the Army's 33rd Infantry Battalion, said fighting has been ongoing in the area for some time now due to land disputes.

Abu Sayyaf seizes 2 Fil-Algerians in Sulu - source

From InterAksyon (Jun 22): Abu Sayyaf seizes 2 Fil-Algerians in Sulu - source

Two Filipino-Algerian sisters were abducted Saturday morning in Patikul, Sulu by gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf, the military said.

“The abduction happened at around 8:45 a.m. today,” said a source from the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command who spoke on condition he not be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.

The officer said Nadjova Abdelbasit and her sister Linda were seized in Barangay Liang from a public utility vehicle they were riding to Jolo.

“They were forcibly dragged by the bandits and vanished into a forested portion in the area,” he said.

Marines were immediate deployed to pursue the kidnappers led by Aljini Mundoc, Ninok Sapari and Bensaudi Mundoc.

The operations are concentrated in Sitio Kanjimaw, Barangay Tugas, where the gunmen and their victims were last spotted.

There is no word yet if the provincial and municipal governments have activated the crisis management council to deal with the abduction.

Food poisoning downs 8 soldiers in Davao del Sur

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 22): Food poisoning downs 8 soldiers in Davao del Sur

At least eight soldiers from the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur ended up in a hospital after eating a type of poisonous mushroom they cooked with other vegetables on Friday, the unit’s commander said Saturday.

Lieutenant Colonel Norman Zuniega, 39th Infantry Battalion commanding officer, said the soldiers were on patrol in Barangay (village) Kapatagan in Digos City when they decided to take a break, gather some vegetables and mushrooms and cook them.

A few minutes after feasting on the food, Zuniega said his men started experiencing abdominal pains and dizziness.

“The soldiers were fetched by an ambulance from Sitio Mainit and were evacuated to a hospital in Davao City for medication. They are now in stable condition after undergoing treatment,” Zuniega said.

Despite the incident, he said the anti-communist operation in Kapatagan and other parts of Davao del Sur remained unhampered.

“The operation was meant to thwart any attempts by the New People’s Army to sow terror,” Zuniega said.

The Davao del Sur police office reported that the NPA has acquired some 500 police uniforms and that the rebels might have been planning a bigger offensive.

Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera, Davao del Sur police director, said this was the main reason why all police units in the province have been placed under high alert status.

MILF: Tahderriyah Schools Conduct s its 1ST Intramurals (MUSABAKAH) in BDA Southern Mindanao Region

From the MILF Website (Jun 22): Tahderriyah Schools Conduct s its 1ST Intramurals (MUSABAKAH) in BDA Southern Mindanao Region

Nine (9) schools (Modaris) plural forms of madrasah) coming from different barangays in the Municipality of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat in Biwang Province participated to the 1st Intramurals (Musabakah) held last May 7, 2013 at Madrasah Usra Al-Islamie the host school in Barangay Kraan.
Around 300 Kindergarten (Tahderiyyah) Pupils joined in various fields of competitions that included Quor-anic reading,  arranging of English and Arabic Alphabet, identifying color and shape, and reciting  of some saying (Hadith) of Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) Peace be upon him which is translated both English and local dialect by the students.

Mohalikin D. Piang BDA Regional Manager in Southern Mindanao Region said that to this encouraging exercises of the young students could develop their mental and physical capability as they grow. He also stressed, “Education is more important thing that could inherit of our children rather than anything. Hence, we always mentoring our children for their right future he added.”
Piang also emphasized that the UNICEF program implemented by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) based on the Partnership Contract Agreement (PCA) between the BDA and UNICEF to the seven (7) Regional Management Offices of the BDA in Mindanao namely;  Davao Region, Southern Mindanao Region, Central Mindanao Region, Ranaw Region, Zamboanga Peninsula Region, Zamboanga Basilan Region and Sulu Tawi-taw- Region which is under the supervision of its Central Management Office headed by Dr. Mohammad S. Yacob BDA Executive Director. 
The intramurals was organized by the School (Madrasah) Administrators, Parents Teachers Community Associations (PTCA) and Teachers in order to promote the sportsmanship of the young students. Moreover, the students will be encouraged more and learn lot either academic or sportsmanship.

A group of Teachers (Asatidz) Chaired by Ustadz Abdullah Minanga the Provincial Secretary of Biwang Province designated as members of the judges during the competitions.

Some Parents, Barangay Officials, and Municipal Official of Palimbang were graced the event.

BDA Southern Mindanao Region extended its support to the activity particularly on prizes of the winning madrasah. The Musabaqa is one way to inspire and motivate young learners to strive more in education.

Top US diplomat backs 'peaceful' stance on West PH Sea

From  Rappler (Jun 22): Top US diplomat backs 'peaceful' stance on West PH Sea

Malacañang on Friday, June 21, said the support of a top US diplomat for a peaceful resolution over West Philippine Sea disputes is a boost for the country.

Current White House senior director for Asian affairs Danny Russel said during his Senate hearing confirmation that the West Philippine Sea has no place for “coercion and bullying.”

“I certainly will do everything in my power to try to lower the temperature, push claimants including China, into a diplomatic track and continue to warn them that the region in which China will flourish is a region of law, a region of order and a region of respect for neighbors, not one in which there is space for coercion and bullying,” he said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte explained the Philippines had gone to proper venues such as the ASEAN and the United Nations to push for its claim through diplomatic means.

She said diplomacy is the right way to end conflict.

Russel expressed strong US support for efforts by ASEAN to negotiate as a bloc and frame a “code of conduct” to manage the disputes. For him, it was “unacceptable” for China to demand only bilateral negotiations with the other claimants.

This call was consistent with the Philippine’s actions, Valte said.

"Our position has always been that there needs to be no coercion when it comes to resolving maritime disputes, and our approach has always been to adopt the rules-based scheme, which is very evident from the steps that we’ve taken in the several disputes...that we are currently involved in," Valte said over drRB.

She added that Russel's pronouncements were welcome as they were in line with

the country’s efforts to attain peace and development in the region.

The management of the disputes for the West Philippine Sea is an issue to be taken up at regional security talks in Brunei later this month.

New appointments

Valte said there is no update yet on the case filed by the Philippines against China regarding the disputed territory except for Judge Chris Pinto’s resignation for being married to a Filipina.

Last April, International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) president Shunji Yanai appointed the remaining 3 members of the 5-member United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Arbitral Tribunal, including himself, to hear the statement of claim filed by the Philippines against China.

"I think the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) expects there will be movement...The next step, apart from the formation of the panel, would be that the panel will be deciding if it has jurisdiction over the action, and I think that is supposed to come sometime in July," she said.

The top US diplomat

Russel is a nominee to become assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, replacing Kurt Campbell, who resigned in February to enter business.

His association with Asia began in his 20s when he studied martial arts for 3 years in Japan. He has a long experience in Japan and Korea.

He played a central role in the Obama administration's strategic “pivot” to Asia.

The diplomatic stance of the US on maritime issues irked Beijing when Washington said it has a national interest in the peaceful resolution of the West Philippine Sea disputes.

Six governments claim the tiny reefs and islands across the resource-rich waters of the West Philippine Sea. China claims it has sovereignty over virtually all of it.

Though not a claimant, US says it has a stake in the freedom of navigation in the sea’s busy lanes which are crucial to world trade.

Russel said the issue of China’s behavior on the seas had been raised by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with its leaders, and the Chinese “are in no doubt that America stands by our allies.”

Beijing has blamed the Philippines and Japan—both US treaty allies—for triggering maritime disputes involving China for the past couple of years.

Army honors 4 wounded soldiers

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 22): Army honors 4 wounded soldiers

Brig. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya, commanding general of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division pinning a 'Wounded Personnel Medal' to a trooper wounded in action during a gunbattle between communist insurgents and government troops in Alegria, Surigao del Norte. (Photo by Mike U. Crismundo)

Four Army soldiers on Friday were conferred the “Wounded Personnel Medal” (WPM) at Camp Evangelista Station Hospital Station, in Cagayan de Oro City.

Brig. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) personally pinned the medal to these wounded soldiers receiving treatment from gunshot wounds sustained from encounters with hostile forces last month.

The encounters occurred in the hinterlands of Alegria, Surigao del Norte, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur and in Malitbog, Bukidnon.

Among the soldiers given the award was Pfc. Aleps Andilong of 58th IB. Pfc Andilong paid tribute to his platoon leader 2Lt Dennis Avila, who died when they encountered rebel NPA’s in Malitbog, Bukidnon. 2Lt Avila and Pfc. Andilong were extricated together from the encounter site by helicopters, but 2Lt Avila expired hours later in the hospital.   

 Pinning the medals, Gen. Visaya congratulated each trooper and appreciated the heroic deeds in the accomplishment of their respective unit’s tasks and of Division’s mission in the region. 

 The 4th ID chief conveyed to commanders in the field to be steadfast and ready as always to respond to the call of duty in securing the region and serving the communities.

Palace welcomes US statement on SEA territorial disputes

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 22): Palace welcomes US statement on SEA territorial disputes

Malacañang on Saturday welcomed the statement of Danny Russel, the nominee of United States President Barack Obama to become the top US diplomat in East Asia, rejecting coercion and bullying by China in territorial disputes.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview with government radio dzRB on Saturday that Russel's statement is in line with the Philippine government's position for a peaceful resolution of its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.

"That’s a welcome statement considering that it’s very---it’s in line with our efforts with what we’ve been doing. Our position has always been that there is no need for coercion in resolving our maritime disputes," Valte said.

"And our approach has always been to adopt the rules-based scheme, which is very evident from the steps that we’ve taken in the several disputes that—in the dispute that we are currently involved in," she added.

She stressed that the Philippines has always wanted that the dispute be settled in peaceful means and at the proper venue.

The Philippine government early this year brought its territorial dispute with China before a United Nations (UN) arbitration tribunal in its desire to resolve the dispute with China within the framework of international law.

Russel at a confirmation hearing on Thursday reportedly said that "there’s no place for "coercion and bullying in the region’s seas."

He reportedly told a Senate panel that "he will do everything in his power to lower the temperature in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas and push claimants, including China, toward diplomacy."

It was “unacceptable” for China, he said, "to demand only bilateral negotiations with the other claimants."

He also reportedly voiced "strong support "for efforts by Southeast Asia to negotiate as a bloc and frame a “code of conduct” to manage the disputes.