Thursday, July 14, 2016

PHL counsel debunks China’s claims on arbitration ruling

From GMA News (Jul 14): PHL counsel debunks China’s claims on arbitration ruling

One of the Philippines' legal counsels in its arbitration case against China debunked Friday the claims of Beijing in its refusal to recognize the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Martin Lawrence, counsel for the Philippines, said China has been claiming that since it did not give consent to the arbitration, the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the territorial dispute, and the ruling is not binding.

But Lawrence stressed that China did give its consent when it signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“When it ratified the UNCLOS, China agreed on all the provisions of the convention particularly on the section that one state may initiate an arbitration. By signing UNCLOS, China specifically agreed to that, China did give its consent,” Lawrence said during a forum on the arbitration case.

He added that that Tribunal has authority to decide whether it has jurisdiction on any matter brought before it and not China.

Further, Lawrence said that UNCLOS states that awards rendered by the arbitration court will be final and binding.

“The Convention on the Law of the Sea is perfectly clear. China agreed to the provisions when it ratified the convention so there is no serious argument on its claim that it did not give consent to the arbitration, the tribunal has no jurisdiction over the territorial dispute, and the ruling is not binding,” he said.

Lawrence also defended the members of the Tribunal.

“This tribunal is unmistakably one of the most qualified ever to sit. These are the gentleman of the  highest repute. I think they are fearless and they are committed to get it right. I think they are owned a tremendous amount of gratitude by the international community,” he said.

The forum is ongoing as of posting time.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/573768/news/nation/phl-counsel-debunks-china-s-claims-on-arbitration-ruling/just_in

Chinese ships drive Filipino fishermen away from Scarborough Shoal

From The Standard (Jul 14): Chinese ships drive Filipino fishermen away from Scarborough Shoal

Chinese patrol vessels have driven away the boats of Filipino fishermen who were heading to the Scarborough Shoal.

This comes two days after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China has no historic claim over the South China Sea.

As a group of Filipino fishermen were sailing toward the Scarborough Shoal, Chinese vessels began to surround the boats.

Those on board the Chinese vessels ordered the Filipino fishermen to leave the area at once.

The patrol ships tailed the fishermen’s boats as they turned around to go back to the bay.

http://thestandard.com.ph/news/-main-stories/210721/chinese-ships-drive-filipino-fishermen-away-from-scarborough-shoal.html

AFP plan: Credible defense

From The Standard (Jul 15): AFP plan: Credible defense

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday vowed to pursue the next phase of the military modernization program from 2017 to 2022 which focuses on having  a credible defense and on securing  maritime territory.

“In the long run, we will still follow our modernization because it jibes with   long-term plans like having credible deterrence to secure our territory, maritime plan especially now that we have more water territory,” Lorenzana said.

The first phase of the  AFP modernization used up P81 billion for the  purchases of  the  jets and  warships,  Lorenzana said, expressing gratitude to the former administration.

The Defense chief  said resupply missions to  a Marine contingent in Ayungin Shoal  will continue following a UN tribunal decision  upholding the Philippine position in a maritime dispute with China.

He made this statement Wednesday after noting that the scheduled resupply for Ayungin Shoal, slated for last week, was cancelled  pending the ruling of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Lorenzana said the mission was scrubbed to avoid giving the impression that the Philippines  was  trying to provoke China.

“There was a scheduled resupply sometime last week, but we postponed it because of the impending ruling to avoid giving the impression that we are trying to provoke China. I don’t know when the next resupply will be but definitely we are going there to resupply them by any means,” the DND chief stressed.

The Philippines has Marine units deployed in Ayungin Shoal, Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Likas (West York) Island, and Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island.

At 5 p.m. July 12 (Manila time), the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration handed down its decision on the case which invalidated China’s claim over its “historic rights” to the disputed waters, stressing that its ‘Nine-Dash-Line’ claim has no legal basis.

The ruling also added that China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone through meddling with Philippine fishing and oil exploration in the region, allowing the illegal entry of Chinese fishermen into the disputed waters and causing harm to marine environment in the region through its massive reclamation activities.

Such actions, according to the tribunal, has also caused the escalation of tension between the two parties.

http://thestandard.com.ph/news/-main-stories/210773/afp-plan-credible-defense.html

PH, Indon, Malaysian defense chiefs to discuss Abu problem

From Malaya Business Insight (Jul 14): PH, Indon, Malaysian defense chiefs to discuss Abu problem

DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday said he will go to Malaysia next week to discuss with his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts the growing number of Abu Sayyaf kidnappings in the waters of the three countries.

Lorenzana, in his first conference since assuming the defense portfolio last July 1, said the discussion will be a continuation of the one held last month with his predecessor, Voltaire Gazmin, which he attended.

“We are going to discuss that (issue) again because the problem is getting worse and we should be addressing this already,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said his visit to Malaysia will be on Wednesday and Thursday next week.

He announced the visit four days after the kidnapping by suspected Abu Sayyaf members of three Indonesian sailors in Malaysian waters.

“This is just a continuation (of the last meeting)… We have plans but I cannot tell you now what we will do there in the south to control the movements of boats so we can prevent pirates, kidnappers from abducting crews members of tugboats, passenger boats or fishing boats,” Lorenzana said.

Fourteen Indonesian and four Malaysian tugboat crew members were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in three separate incidents in May and June in these areas. The victims were later released in Sulu, purportedly after payment of ransom.

Last June 22, four more Indonesian tugboat crew members were abducted and are still with their Abu Sayyaf captors in Sulu.

Last Saturday, suspected Abu Sayyaf men seized three Indonesian tugboat crew members.

President Duterte has vowed to end the Abu Sayyaf problem during his term. AFP chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya vowed non-stop operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which has about 300 to 400 members, and operates mainly in Sulu and Basilan.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/ph-indon-malaysian-defense-chiefs-discuss-abu-problem

Joma asks China to respect ruling

From Malaya Business Insight (Jul 14): Joma asks China to respect ruling

CHINA will “certainly face reputational damage” if it continues to violate international law, according to Jose Ma. “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Sison issued the statement after an arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that China has no historic title over the South China Sea and that it breached the sovereign rights of the Philippines by constructing artificial reefs and blocking Manila’s fishing and petroleum exploration activities.

China has long been saying it would not recognize any ruling by the arbitration court.

Sison asked China to respect the ruling.

“It cannot boast of its supposed economic and military power to ignore or violently oppose the judgment of the Tribunal,” Sison said.

He said it is a time of “serious economic and social troubles for China domestically because of its own crisis of overproduction and extreme abuse of credit and public debt and because of the ever worsening crisis of the global capitalist system.”

Sison said the tribunal holds China “culpable for having violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines, unjustly attacking or hindering Filipino fishermen, preventing Philippine oil exploration and other economic activities, damaging marine life and environment by unlawfully building artificial islands and endangering navigation.”

“China must accept the ruling in the face of the international community, especially the signatories of the UNCLOS, the majority members of the UN General Assembly, the Asean and other neighboring countries,” he said.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/joma-asks-china-respect-ruling

Three Marines dead in Abu Sayyaf attack

From Malaya Business Insight (Jul 15): Three Marines dead in Abu Sayyaf attack

THREE Marines on a housekeeping run died yesterday in an ambush staged by the Abu Sayyaf group in Indanan, Sulu.

The slain soldiers were assigned with the Marine Battalion Landing Team 10. Their names were withheld pending notification of their families.

Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said initial reports from ground units showed the three soldiers were procuring supplies in Barangay Manilop at around 8 a.m. when they were waylaid by an undetermined number of suspects. They were on foot and were not able to fire back at the Abu Sayyaf men.

Tan said the bodies of the slain soldiers were brought to Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo town.

Government soldiers have intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and in Basilan in the wake of President Duterte’s promise to end the group notorious for kidnap-for-ransom activities and beheading its hostages.

The Abu Sayyaf is holding about a dozen of foreign and Filipino hostages in Sulu. Authorities are checking if the Abu Sayyaf was indeed involved in the kidnapping of three Indonesian sailors in Malaysia last Saturday and if the victims are in Sulu.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/three-marines-dead-abu-sayyaf-attack

11 BIFF members, girl killed in Maguindanao

From Malaya Business Insight (Jul 15): 11 BIFF members, girl killed in Maguindanao

ELEVEN members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a 15-year-old girl were killed while 19 other BIFF men and two soldiers were injured in skirmishes in Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao on Wednesday.

Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 601st Brigade, said soldiers from his brigade were on a security operation when they caught up with about 35 BIFF men in barangay Kuloy around 6:20 a.m.

“We conducted clearing operation there because of reported presence of the BIFF,” Sobejana said.  The BIFF men were under commanders Rocky, King Itim and Sukarno Sapal.

He said sporadic fighting, which spread to the nearby Shariff Aguak town, was still ongoing between the two sides as of yesterday afternoon.

“Based on our accounting, 11 died and 19 were wounded on the enemy side,” said Sobejana. He said the military has names of five of the slain BIFF personnel.

On the military side, Sobejana said two soldiers were wounded and are recuperating at a hospital.

“A child was hit in the crossfire. We cannot yet establish from whose side the bullet came from but she died and the government is now helping her,” said Sobejana.

Sobejana said 15-year-old Fatima Elian, a resident of barangay Meta in Datu Unsay town, was hit by a bullet from a cal. 50 weapon. He said the soldiers and BIFF men used cal. 50 machineguns during the fighting.

 “We are maintaining the momentum. They (enemy) are on the move and are also able to maneuver left and right so in the process, engagements are happening….There is still sporadic fighting,” he said.

Military estimates placed the entire strength of the BIFF at about 300 men. The group is composed of former leaders and members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed a peace accord with government in 2014.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/11-biff-members-girl-killed-maguindanao

US launches quiet diplomacy to ease S. China Sea tensions

From Malaya Business Insight (Jul 15): US launches quiet diplomacy to ease S. China Sea tensions

The United States is using quiet diplomacy to persuade the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and other Asian nations not to move aggressively to capitalize on an international court ruling that denied China’s claims to the South China Sea, several US administration officials said on Wednesday.

“What we want is to quiet things down so these issues can be addressed rationally instead of emotionally,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private diplomatic messages.

Some were sent through US embassies abroad and foreign missions in Washington, while others were conveyed directly to top officials by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other senior officials, the sources said.

“This is a blanket call for quiet, not some attempt to rally the region against China, which would play into a false narrative that the US is leading a coalition to contain China,” the official added.

The effort to calm the waters following the court ruling in The Hague on Tuesday suffered a setback when Taiwan dispatched a warship to the area, with President Tsai Ing-wen telling sailors that their mission was to defend Taiwan’s maritime territory.

The court ruled that while China has no historic rights to the area within its self-declared nine-dash line, Taiwan has no right to Itu Aba, also called Taiping, the largest island in the Spratlys. Taipei administers Itu Aba but the tribunal called it a “rock,” according to the legal definition.

The US officials said they hoped the US diplomatic initiative would be more successful in Indonesia, which wants to send hundreds of fishermen to the Natuna Islands to assert its sovereignty over nearby areas of the South China Sea to which China says it also has claims, and in the Philippines, whose fishermen have been harassed by Chinese coast guard and naval vessels.

‘UNKNOWN QUANTITY’

One official said new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte remains “somewhat of an unknown quantity” who has been alternately bellicose and accommodating toward China.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that ahead of the ruling he had spoken to Carter, who he said told him China had assured the United States it would exercise restraint, and that the US government made the same assurance.

Carter had sought and been given the same assurance from the Philippines, Lorenzana added.

China, for its part, repeated pleas for talks between Beijing and Manila, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying it is time to get things back on the “right track” after the “farce” of the case.

On Thursday, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party said China had shown it can fix territorial issues via talks, pointing to agreement reached with Vietnam over their maritime boundary in the Gulf of Tonkin and ongoing talks with South Korea.

“China is a faithful defender of the principle that countries large and small are equal and has consistently upheld using consultations to resolve border issues on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect,” the People’s Daily said in a commentary.

CONTINGENCY PLAN

Two Chinese civilian aircraft landed on Wednesday at two new airports on reefs controlled by China in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a move the State Department said would increase tensions rather than lower them.

“We don’t have a dog in this fight other than our belief ... in freedom of navigation,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing on Wednesday. “What we want to see in this very tense part of Asia, of the Pacific, rather, is a de-escalation of tensions and we want to see all claimants take a moment to look at how we can find a peaceful way forward.”

However, if that effort fails, and competition escalates into confrontation, US air and naval forces are prepared to uphold freedom of maritime and air navigation in the disputed area, a defense official said on Wednesday.

Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said confrontation is less likely if the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries work with the United States rather than on their own.

“I don’t think China wants a confrontation with the United States,” he told reporters. “They don’t mind a confrontation with a Vietnamese fishing boat, but they don’t want a confrontation with the United States.”

The court ruling is expected to dominate a meeting at the end of July in Laos of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, and his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang, will attend the ministerial.

Sino-American relations suffered two fresh blows on Wednesday as a congressional committee found China’s government likely hacked computers at the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the United States challenged China’s export duties on nine metals and minerals that are important to the aerospace, auto, electronics and chemical industries.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/us-launches-quiet-diplomacy-ease-s-china-sea-tensions

Communist rebels go back to mainstream society

From Update.Ph (Jul 14): Communist rebels go back to mainstream society

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Five former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were integrated into the government’s Comphrensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) during short ceremonies at the Governor’s Office Provincial Capitol Building, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on Wednesday.

In the same event, the ex-NPA fighters were also inducted into Palawan’s Local Social Integration Program (LSIP).

Each CLIP beneficiary received PHP65,000 worth of aid from the government, with PHP15,000 as immediate cash assistance and the remaining PHP50,000 for livelihood initiatives.

While their LSIP grant amounted to PHP25,000 as inclusive livelihood assistance.

Western Command commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said that the continuous rise of NPA surrenders in Palawan shows the local government’s earnestness and partnership with WESCOM in attaining peace and order through the implementation of CLIP and LSIP for reconciliation and reintegration into the society of former rebels.

This is also a manifestation of former rebels desire and hope for new beginnings and a better future, he added.

“We welcome them with open arms as our brothers and sisters, and celebrate their ‘homecoming’. It’s about time that they get to live peaceful lives that they deserve just like everyone else,” Mercado stressed.

http://www.update.ph/2016/07/communist-rebels-go-back-to-mainstream-society/7544

Philippines to raise West PH Sea issue at regional summit

From Rappler (Jul 14): Philippines to raise West PH Sea issue at regional summit

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay will attend the two-day Asia Europe Summit in Mongolia along with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang   

 China warned Thursday of a "decisive response" to provocations in the South China Sea, as it faced mounting pressure to accept an international tribunal's ruling against its claims to most of the strategically vital waters.

The Philippines, which launched the legal challenge, called for China to respect the decision and defied Chinese objections by saying it would raise the issue at a summit of Asian and European leaders in Mongolia starting on Friday, July 15.

China, which had already vowed to ignore Tuesday's verdict by the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague, responded with another firm warning that it was in no mood to back down.

"If anyone wants to take any provocative action against China's security interests based on the award, China will make a decisive response," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

China claims nearly all of the sea – which is of immense military importance and through which about $5 trillion worth of shipping trade passes annually – even waters approaching the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

China justifies its claims by saying it was the first to have discovered, named and exploited the sea, and outlines its territory using a vague map made up of nine dashes that emerged in the 1940s.

'Unlawful' China

However the tribunal sided with the Philippines in ruling China's claimed historic rights to resources within the nine-dash map had no legal basis.

It also declared that China had acted unlawfully by violating the Philippines' sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone -- waters extending 200 nautical miles from the Filipino coast.

China had done so by interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration within the exclusive zone, as well as by building artificial islands there.

China has in recent years undertaken giant land reclamation works in the Spratlys archipelago, one of the biggest island groups in the sea which partly falls within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

The United States and Australia were among Philippine allies this week to quickly call on China to respect the ruling, pointing out it was legally binding.

The Philippines had initially refrained from asking China to abide by the verdict – in line with new President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to achieve a "soft landing" with Beijing on the issue.

The Philippines filed the legal challenge against China in 2013 under Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino. Relations between Beijing and Manila plummeted over the row.

Duterte, who took office on June 30, has said he wants better relations with China and to attract Chinese investment for major infrastructure projects.

Unlike Aquino, Duterte has said he wants to talk directly with China over the issue. Beijing also wants to negotiate, but at the same time insists it will never concede on sovereignty.

Tougher stance

But the Philippines hardened its stance Thursday with a statement detailing Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay's priorities when he attends a two-day Asia-Europe summit, known as ASEM, in Mongolia along with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

"Secretary Yasay will discuss within the context of ASEM's agenda the Philippines' peaceful and rules-based approach on the South China Sea and the need for parties to respect the recent decision," the foreign affairs department said in a statement.

Even just raising the issue at the summit would anger China, which has long bridled at Philippine efforts to have the dispute discussed at multilateral events.

Chinese assistant foreign minister Kong Xuanyou insisted on Monday the ASEM meeting was "not an appropriate venue" to discuss the South China Sea.

But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said Thursday as he left for Mongolia that he wanted the sea to be discussed at the summit.

Vietnam, another claimant in the sea, added to the pressure on Beijing.

"Vietnam asks China to immediately end moves that violate Vietnam's sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told reporters in Hanoi.

The Chinese government and state media have this week unleashed a tirade of vitriol against the tribunal, and vowed never to give up claims to the sea.

"Do not turn the South China Sea into a cradle of war," vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday in a warning to rivals.

He also said China may introduce an air defense zone over the sea, which would give its military authority over foreign aircraft, depending on the "threat" level.

China and the United States, which insists it must help ensure freedom of navigation in the sea, had already deployed significant naval firepower into the disputed waters ahead of the verdict.

Taiwan, which has a very similar claim to the waters as China, sent a warship into the waters on Wednesday to protect its interests.

http://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/139742-china-decisive-response-sea-provocations

Marine general Balutan to head Bureau of Corrections

From Rappler (Jul 14): Marine general Balutan to head Bureau of Corrections

The Marine officer who testified against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be supervising the national prison

The Marine officer who defied former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be the new head of the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor), which supervises national prisons such as the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

Major General Alexander Balutan, a Mindanao combat veteran, is replacing retired Army General Ricardo Rainier Cruz as the new head of Bucor, according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. Balutan will assume the post on August 1, he added.
 
“General Balutan's integrity is unquestionable,” Aguirre told Rappler. “Matibay ang loob, firm in his commitment to rid BuCor of illegal drugs and corruption, and he’s a good manager,” he added. The justice department supervises Bucor.
 
In an earlier interview with Rappler, Aguirre said that his priority under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is to cleanse and reorganize Bucor, particularly the NBP.
 
BuCor and the NBP continue to make headlines due to issues of corruption, drug trade, and violence.
 
"Because of what's happening within BuCor, I think this will be the first mission which we'll accomplish," Aguirre said. He plans to eliminate drug trading in prisons, especially since "about 75% of drug transactions are cooked in Muntinlupa" – mostly by detained Chinese drug lords.
 
Outspoken officer
 
A 1983 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Balutan is expected to retire from the military upon his assumption as Bucor director.
 
The Marine general is best remembered for testifying at the Senate about alleged election fraud in the 2004 presidential elections that then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo won. Balutan, then a colonel, was assigned in Central Mindanao during that election.
 
He defied a Malaca├▒ang gag order and was charged in a military court for it.
 
Balutan’s military career however was resurrected under the Aquino administration. But that didn't stop him from speaking out. At the height of the pork barrel scam, he posted on Facebook that the misuse of lawmakers' pork barrel is the root of the rebellion in Mindanao.
 

Duterte names presidential adviser for military, defense undersecretary

From Rappler (Jul 14): Duterte names presidential adviser for military, defense undersecretary

Retired military general Arthur Tabaquero is appointed presidential adviser for military affairs, while Raymundo De Vera Elefante is appointed DND undersecretary for finance

File photo of Lt Gen Arthur Tabaquero from Philippine Information Agency

File photo of Lt Gen Arthur Tabaquero from Philippine Information Agency

Retired Lt General Arthur Tabaquero was appointed Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The president also named Raymundo De Vera Elefante his Undersecretary for Finance, Ammunitions, Installations and Materials under the Department of National Defense.

Tabaquero's and Elefante's appointments were announced through a Malaca├▒ang press release sent on Thursday, July 14.

Tabaquero, who has been given the rank of undersecretary served as the commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' East Mindanao Command.

Previously, he also served as commander of the 8th Infantry Division in Leyte and in the National Capital Region Command.

Tabaquero is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, the adopted class of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He was on the list of possible successors to lead the AFP after the retirement of then AFP chief General Eduardo Oban in 2011.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/139706-duterte-appointments-presidential-adviser-military-defense-undersecretary

LIVE: West Philippine Sea after PH victory

From Rappler (Jul 15): LIVE: West Philippine Sea after PH victory
 
 
This forum is scheduled from 9 am to 12:30 pm at the Malcolm Theater of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law

The biggest names involved in the Philippines’ case against China gather on Friday, July 16, for the first forum of its kind after Manila won the arbitral proceedings against Beijing.

The forum, "Upholding the Law of the Sea Convention and the Post-Arbitration Philippine Challenge", is scheduled from 9 am to 12:30 pm at the Malcolm Theater of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.

It takes place only 4 days after an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled to strike down China's expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea.

It was organized by the UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS) and the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute, named after the former Philippine foreign secretary who led the move to bring China to court.

Speakers include former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr, lawyer Lawrence Martin of the Washington-based firm FoleyHoag, and UP IMLOS director Jay Batongbacal.

Watch it live on Rappler.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/139748-live-upholding-law-sea-convention-philippines

China rejects talks with PH if 'based on ruling'

From Rappler (Jul 14): China rejects talks with PH if 'based on ruling'

The historic ruling on the West Philippine Sea 'is nothing more than a piece of waste paper,' says Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin

REJECTING THE RULING. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin holds up a policy paper on China's position on the ruling of an arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea during a press conference in Beijing, China, on July 13, 2016. Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA

REJECTING THE RULING. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin holds up a policy paper on China's position on the ruling of an arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea during a press conference in Beijing, China, on July 13, 2016. Photo by How Hwee Young/EPA

While Manila eyes bilateral talks with Beijing, China said it cannot negotiate with the Philippines if the Duterte administration does not junk a historic ruling on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"China will not allow any negotiation based on the ruling," Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said in a briefing Wednesday, July 13.
 
Liu made this statement after a journalist asked him if it is "a precondition for the resumption of negotiations that the Philippines should also not accept the ruling."
 
This ruling by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, invalidated China's expansive claim over the disputed waters. The Philippines "welcomed" the decision but China, as expected, snubbed it.
 
Liu said: "China expects the new Filipino government to cooperate and recognize that the ruling is nothing more than a piece of waste paper and cannot be enforced. China hopes that the Filipino side will set aside the award and return to the negotiation table."
 
This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte wants to engage China in bilateral or one-on-one talks, according to his Cabinet members.
 
Duterte, who has met with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua at least 3 times, is considering offers of "goodwill" from China, such as building a railway from Metro Manila to Clark in two years. (READ: Duterte: PH won't 'flaunt' sea dispute ruling vs China)
 
Ruling seen as leverage
 
"We have to talk with China. We could not avoid it," Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Thursday, July 14.
 
Quoting Duterte, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said, "We will start the bilateral talks, and now we're starting from a better position because of that decision, because we're in the right place."
 
Even under former president Benigno Aquino III, government officials shared the same view: A favorable ruling can serve as leverage in bilateral talks with Beijing.
A victory in The Hague will allow the Philippines to "at least negotiate from a strong position," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in April 2015.
 
Liu, however, said China views the Hague tribunal's ruling as "merely a pile of invalid papers which will never be observed."
 
Liu said: "I kindly advise you to throw the papers concerning the arbitration into the rubbish bin, put them aside on book shelves, or put them in the archives. The disputes will eventually have to return to the table for negotiations and China hopes the Philippines to return to the track of bilateral negotiations."
 

12 killed including a youngster as Army battles BIFF in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Jul 14): 12 killed including a youngster as Army battles BIFF in Maguindanao

Reports reaching Manila indicated that at least 11 armed men were killed Wednesday, plus a youngster who died in the crossfire, as government troops and forces of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) tangled in sporadic firefights in the towns of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak, both in Maguindanao, Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, indicated.

BIFF is a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Sobejana said there was no body count of the BIFF casualties, but indicated that ground troops were able to gather intelligence.

"But we already have the names of five of the casualties," he said.

Sobejana said that, as of Thursday afternoon, sporadic firefights continue as two soldiers were reported wounded with 19 wounded on the BIFF side.

He identified the youngster killed in the crossfire as Fatima Elian, 15, who was hit by caliber .50 machine gun fire.

"The other side were using at least one Barert cal .50, and we also have a cal. 50. We can't as yet establish conclusively whose bullet hit her."

He said the encounter broke out Wednesday in Barangay Kuloy, Datu Unsay and spread into nearby barangays, including some areas in Shariff Aguak.

The encounter started at around 6:20 a.m. when soldiers made contact with a group of an estimated 35 BIFF fighters.

The fight forced the BIFF band to scatter into groups that also broke the soldiers' main flank going into pursuit mode.

Sobejana said that the armed encounter dragged on as more BIFF lawless elements joined their comrades led by commanders identified only as Rocky, King Itim and Sukarno Sapal.

"Our last estimate of the lawless elements involved in the firefights is between 70 and 80 men," Sobejana said.

He said his command is utilizing the 34th, 57th, 33rd, and 40th Infantry Battalions to operate against the lawless elements.

"We haven't started deploying our 105mm Howitzers considering their wider lethal radius. So far, our calibrated offense includes air assets, like the MG-520 helicopter gun ships equipped with rockets and cal .50 machine gun," he said.

http://interaksyon.com/article/130360/12-killed-including-a-youngster-as-army-battles-biff-in-maguindanao

Military alerted for possible attacks in Maguindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 14): Military alerted for possible attacks in Maguindanao

Security forces were in heightened alert following a recent attack by ISIS-affiliate Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao province in the restive Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Tuesday’s fighting between government soldiers and BIFF had killed a villager and left 2 infantrymen wounded in Datu Unsay town. Officials blamed the attack on BIFF leader Ismael Abubakar and that his group is also planning to attack army bases in the province.

Troops were sent to the town to track down Abubakar and his lieutenant Muhaiden Animbang who, according to the military, has been tasked to carry out deadly assault on military installations.

The BIFF has pledged allegiance with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and vowed to establish an Islamic caliphate in Mindanao.

Hundreds of civilians have already fled their villages for fear they would be trapped in the fighting or used as shield by soldiers or rebels.

http://mindanaoexaminer.com/military-alerted-for-possible-attacks-in-maguindanao/

USAID awards grants on biodiversity, coastal area projects in Quezon province

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): USAID awards grants on biodiversity, coastal area projects in Quezon province

The United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) has awarded grants to organization protecting the environemnt including the coastal areas of Quezon province, the US Embassy in Manila said in a report on Wednesday.

USAID has awarded seven new grants to support local organizations combating human trafficking and protecting the environment.

Five biodiversity conservation partnerships were signed days after the US State Department announced the Philippines’ elevation to Tier 1 status in the annual Trafficking In Persons Report.

The local grantees included Haribon Foundation, PATH Foundation Philippines, Soil and Water Conservation Foundation, South Pacific Integrated Area Development Foundation, and Tanggol Kalikasan.

With USAID support, these organizations will work to improve management of biodiversity resources in nearly 200,000 hectares of terrestrial and coastal areas in Oriental Mindoro, Quezon, Cebu and Southern Leyte.

Launched in September 2013, the Phil-Am Fund is a five-year PHP984-million project that supports civil society organizations, cooperatives, social enterprises, and private companies in implementing innovative solutions that address the country’s development challenges.

To date, the USAID has awarded a total of 33 grants on biodiversity, economic growth, good governance, anti-trafficking in persons, and basic education.

Through its Philippine-American Fund (Phil-Am Fund), the USAID initiated and signed the partnerships with BALAOD Mindanaw Inc. and the Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors Inc. to extend assistance to victims of trafficking in Cagayan De Oro and Cebu City.

The US diplomatic mission in Manila also informed that for the first time, the country fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking as defined by the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Signatories to the grant partnership agreement early this month were Dr. Steve Andoseh, director of the USAID’s Office of Economic Development and Governance and Judy Araneta-Roxas, president of the Gerry Roxas Foundation as the Phil-Am Fund administrator.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=903991

3 soldiers die in Sulu ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): 3 soldiers die in Sulu ambush

Gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands have killed three marine soldiers in an ambush in the province of Sulu, an official disclosed Thursday.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman, disclosed the ambush occurred around 8 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Manilop, Indanan, Sulu.

Tan did not release the identities of the slain soldiers except in saying they belong to the Field Artillery Battalion attached to the Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 (MBLT-10).

Tan said the soldiers were procuring provisions when the ASG brigands ambushed them.

He said troops from the MBLT-10 rushed to the ambush site but the suspects have already fled.

He said the remains of the slain soldiers were taken to the Camp General Teodulfo Bautista in Barangay Bus-Bus, Jolo, the province’ capital.

The incident occurred as the government forces are continuously pursuing the ASG brigands in the province of Sulu.

So far, 22 ASG brigands were killed since the start of the focused military operations last week in the Sulu hinterlands.

 http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=903979

Westmincom sets three-day Youth Leader Summit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Westmincom sets three-day Youth Leader Summit
 
Over 50 promising young leaders across from this city and the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are set to converge in an event dubbed as Youth Leadership Summit (YSL).

The YSL, which is scheduled to be conducted from Saturday, July 16, to Monday, July 18, will be held in this camp that houses the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

The three-day event will be spearheaded by Westmincom under the stewardship of Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz in partnership with the 4th Civil Relations Group of the Civil Relations Service and other stakeholders.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Westmincom spokesperson, said the YSL aims to develop and empower the youth in order to reach their full potentials by engaging and implementing peace and development programs geared towards nation building.

Tan said the YSL will not only provide a venue for convergence but will also provide capacity building through skills development.

Tan said the YSL would also develop avenues for youth leaders purposely to help them put their aspirations and hopes into action, with the end goal of fostering a more peaceful and productive community.

He said the YLS 2016 Western Mindanao Leg shall also serve as a venue where deserving participants from Region 9 will be selected to join the National Youth Congress to be held in Cebu City in November this year.

He said the participants will undergo series of lecture-workshops during the summit with invited resource persons from non-government agencies such as Environmental Talk Sibugay, Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), and other partner agencies like the Philippine National Police.

He said Westmincom believes that the three-day event will open more opportunities for youth leaders to empower them to become productive members of the society.

“This (summit) will also help them acknowledge their potentials when performing their duties and responsibilities as youth leaders,” he said.

Likewise, Tan said the summit will open more opportunities for the participants to be empowered and become productive members of the society especially when interacting with various religious and cultural groups.

“In this way, these youth will continuously establish fruitful and meaningful relationships as they promote peace and development to the people in their respective hometowns,” Tan said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=904057

Moro fronts join anti-drugs fight, agree on info sharing with gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Moro fronts join anti-drugs fight, agree on info sharing with gov't

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are fighting another war -- the war on illegal drugs, and this time working alongside the government's law enforcers.

This developed after the MILF signed on Tuesday an agreement of cooperation with the government on suppressing the proliferation of illegal drugs throughout the country.

This move by the MILF verifies the organization’s concern on the illegal drugs problem. The MILF’s Central Committee passed a resolution to take immediate action against the drug problem.

In a press conference here in Davao City on Wednesday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said, “We saw the willingness of the MILF in eradicating drug problems in their area. They saw how drugs affected their lives.”

Both the government and the MILF formalized five provisions in conducting the anti-illegal drug operations in respect to all existing protocols under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and all agreements signed between the GPH and the MILF.

But Sueno clarified that the cooperation is limited only to information sharing on the illegal drug trade within the area of the MILF.

The cooperation was sealed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) on the campaign against illegal drugs in MILF affected areas. It was signed by the chair of the MILF CCCH Butch Malang, MILF AHJAG chair lawyer Abdul Dataya, and their counterparts in the GPH, BGen. Glenn Macasero and BGen. Arnel De La Vega.

Sueno said the MILF will help the law enforcement authorities in identifying drug peddlers or pushers operating within their area.

“The MILF will operate in their area in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). The MILF and the government forces will have a sharing of notes on the alleged drug personalities,” Sueno told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday morning.

Under the agreement, the parties agreed that all government anti illegal drug units of shall coordinate with the AHJAG and CCCH.

“Information exchange/sharing, which includes, but not limited to, the submission of the MILF of a list of drug personalities identified in its area subject to validation of the law enforcement agencies,” the agreement states.

It is also agreed that the MILF can conduct information drive on the ill-effects of illegal drugs in the MILF affected areas as part of its demand reduction activities and such information drive may be conducted in coordination with the barangay, municipal, city, or provincial anti-drug abuse councils.

The MILF will also conduct information drive on the ill-effects of illegal drugs in their jurisdiction as part of its demand reduction activities. This will also be in coordination with the barangay, municipal, city or provincial anti-drug abuse councils

Meanwhile, The MNLF earlier offered to join the campaign but wanted that their members first be trained on evidence gathering.

MNLF chief negotiator Randolph Parcasio recalled they joined the anti-drugs operations in Davao particularly Barangay 23-C but cases filed against suspects were dismissed due to failure of providing evidence.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=904046

5 ex-rebels integrated into government's CLIP, LSIP projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): 5 ex-rebels integrated into government's CLIP, LSIP projects

Five former New People's Army (NPA) rebels were integrated into the government's Comphrensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) during short ceremonies at the Governor's Office Provincial Capitol Building, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on Wednesday.

In the same event, the ex-NPA fighters were also inducted into Palawan's Local Social Integration Program (LSIP).

Each CLIP beneficiary received PHP65,000 worth of aid from the government, with PHP15,000 as immediate cash assistance and the remaining PHP50,000 for livelihood initiatives.

While their LSIP grant amounted to PHP25,000 as inclusive livelihood assistance.

Western Command commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said that the continuous rise of NPA surrenders in Palawan shows the local government’s earnestness and partnership with WESCOM in attaining peace and order through the implementation of CLIP and LSIP for reconciliation and reintegration into the society of former rebels.

This is also a manifestation of former rebels desire and hope for new beginnings and a better future, he added.

“We welcome them with open arms as our brothers and sisters, and celebrate their ‘homecoming’. It’s about time that they get to live peaceful lives that they deserve just like everyone else,” Mercado stressed.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=903823

Resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal to continue -- DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Resupply missions to Ayungin Shoal to continue -- DND

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said resupply missions to the Philippine Marine Corps contingent in Ayungin Shoal will continue.

He made this statement Wednesday after noting that the scheduled resupply for Ayungin Shoal, slated for last week, was cancelled due to then impending ruling of the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Lorenzana said the mission was scrubbed to avoid giving the impression that the Philippines is trying to provoke China.

"There was a scheduled resupply sometime last week, but we postponed it because of the impending ruling to avoid giving the impression that we are trying to provoke China. I don't know when the next resupply will be but definitely we are going there to resupply them by any means," the DND chief stressed.

The Philippines has Marine units deployed in Ayungin Shoal, Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Likas (West York) Island, and Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island.

At 5 p.m. July 12 (Manila time), the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration handed down its decision on the case which invalidated China's claim over its "historic rights" to the disputed waters, stressing that its 'Nine-Dash-Line' claim has no legal basis.

The ruling also added that China violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone through meddling with Philippine fishing and oil exploration in the region, allowing the illegal entry of Chinese fishermen into the disputed waters and causing harm to marine environment in the region through its massive reclamation activities.

Such actions, according to the tribunal, has also caused the escalation of tension between the two parties.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=903930

Rumors saying AFP on red alert, military activity a hoax -- DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Rumors saying AFP on red alert, military activity a hoax -- DND

There is no truth to reports claiming that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is on red alert and military activity is now ongoing in Clark Air Base, Pampanga.

This is allegedly in response to China's fierce reaction to the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling on Tuesday which invalidated the former's claim over its "historic rights" to the West Philippine Sea, pointing out that its 'Nine-Dash-Line' claim has no legal basis.

"We would like to inform the general public that there is no truth in the text that is circulating about the AFP being on red alert and military activity in Clark in relation to China's possible reaction to the recent ruling of the PCA," Defense undersecretary for defense policy Ricardo A. David said.

"Said text is a hoax and I would like to assure everyone that there is no cause for alarm," he added.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he is hoping China will comply with the ruling for the good of the entire region.

"I hope China will abide (with the ruling) because it will be good for the whole region if everybody will follow the rule of law, nobody can just cherry pick the laws that we are going to abide by it. We believe in a community of nations (that) exist side-by-side harmoniously," he added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=903955

President Duterte open to bilateral talks with China

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): President Duterte open to bilateral talks with China

President Rodrigo Duterte is open to holding bilateral talks with China after the historic decision by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague that the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) belongs to the Philippines.

“Sabi niya (President), let’s see we will start the bilateral talks and we’re starting from a better position,” Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told reporters on Thursday.

Diokno said the issue was discussed during a Cabinet meeting in Malacanang on Tuesday night after the Netherland-based tribunal released its decision on the WPS.

He noted that enforcing the decision will be the difficult part.

“Ang mahirap dyan sa decision ay enforceability, how do you enforce that?,” he added.

When asked about President Duterte’s reaction to WPS ruling, the budget chief said “let’s be magnanimous in victory.”

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=904170