Monday, November 2, 2015

NPAs launch ‘Undas’ offensive in Davao

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 2): NPAs launch ‘Undas’ offensive in Davao

Heavily armed New People’s Army (NPA) rebels attacked a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit(CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (CAA) Patrol Base of the 72nd Infantry Battalion in Sitio Ipil, Barangay Suminao in Paquidato Distritct here Sunday that resulted in a 20-minute encounter.

No one was hurt during the All Saints’ Day harassment made on the CAA detachment.

A report from the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (10th ID) said the insurgents launched the attack at 7 a.m. but the CAFGU militiamen were able to repulse the assault after they were able to secure a position 300 meters from the patrol base.

10th ID commander Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia condemned the indiscriminate attack made by the NPA rebels, calling the same as a “complete disregard for the welfare and feelings of the people who were observing All Saints’ Day.”

Pursuit operations are still on-going in the area, the 10th ID added.

Meanwhile in Davao del Sur, a soldier was wounded when elements of 39th Infantry Battalion encountered an undetermined number of NPA rebels Thursday morning, October 29 in Sitio don Carlos, Barangay Managa in Bansalan town.

The Scout Platoon of 39th IB was checking the reports of planted landmines along the road in Barangay Managa when fired upon by the rebels, believed to be from the guerrilla front 51 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC), Capt. Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of 10th ID, said in a statement sent to the media here

US to go 'wherever' int'l law allows in South China Sea

From Rappler (Nov 3): US to go 'wherever' int'l law allows in South China Sea

Admiral Harry Harris in Beijing: 'International seas and airspace belong to everyone and are not the dominion of any single nation'

In this file photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) is underway in formation with the Republic of Korea patrol craft Sokcho (PCC 778) during exercise Foal Eagle 2015, off the coast of South Korea, March 12, 2015. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Wright/Released

In this file photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) is underway in formation with the Republic of Korea patrol craft Sokcho (PCC 778) during exercise Foal Eagle 2015, off the coast of South Korea, March 12, 2015. U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin Wright/Released

The US military will continue to operate "wherever" international law allows, including in the South China Sea, a top US admiral said in Beijing on Tuesday, November 3, a week after America infuriated China by sailing close to artificial islands it is building in the contested waters.

"International seas and airspace belong to everyone and are not the dominion of any single nation," Admiral Harry Harris said, according to prepared remarks for a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University.

"Our military will continue to fly, sail, and operate whenever and wherever international law allows. The South China Sea is not -- and will not -- be an exception."

NPA rebels attack Army engineers building school in Sarangani

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 3): NPA rebels attack Army engineers building school in Sarangani
Communist rebels attacked a team of Army engineers working on a school-building project in Malapatan, Sarangani, the military said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, told the Inquirer that none of the members of the 512th Engineering Battalion were harmed during Sunday’s attack that took place in Sitio (sub-village) Albual in Barangay (village) Upper Suyan.

However, Babac said the attack, which also spawned a 20-minute firefight, temporarily delayed the construction of the three-classroom in the said village as clearing operations had to be conducted.

“The engineering team was there to put up a facility donated by Representative Manny Pacquiao for the use of children of the community and it was sad that the NPA (New People’s Army) was trying to jeopardize it,” Babac said.

Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the school project was a concerted effort and it involved villagers.

“While the local government and the people of Malapatan, Sarangani province and the congressman have felt the need of the people of Barangay Suyan for their children to have legitimate education, the NPA showed its anti-people character by mounting this attack,” Valencia said.

NPA to release captive soldiers today

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Nov 3): NPA to release captive soldiers today

Members of the New People’s Army are set to release today the two soldiers taken last September 30.

Private First Class Niño Alavaro and PFC Marjon Añover belong to the 25th Infantry Battalion and were captured at a checkpoint in Barangay Casoon, Monkayo.

In an earlier statement to the press, Aries Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA-Comval North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command said the two “came from the Army’s headquarters in Banlag, Monkayo and were en route to combat operations at the time of their capture, warranting the Red fighters to take action and arrest them.”

But the military said the two were “not in combat operations and are traveling as individuals.”

Francisco said they mounted the checkpoint “in response to the atrocities committed by the 25th IB (Reengineered Special Operations Team).”

The family of Pfc. Añover has called for his immediate release early last month.

The Exodus for Justice and Peace who will be acting as the third party facilitator has called for the immediate resumption of peace talks.

Rev. Angelico Confreros, Jr. Confreros said “peace talks must resume on the table for these cases will continue if there are still fighting between the state forces and the rebel group.”

Davao City Mayor and chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council Rodrigo Duterte will be receiving the two soldiers.

US, Japan push for mention of South China Sea in defense forum statement

From GMA News (Nov 3): US, Japan push for mention of South China Sea in defense forum statement

The United States and Japan are pushing to get concerns about the South China Sea included in a statement to be issued after regional defense talks in Malaysia despite Chinese objections to any mention of the disputed waterway, officials said.

A senior US defense official said Beijing had made clear as early as February that it didn't want the South China Sea discussed at the meeting between Southeast Asian defense ministers and their counterparts from across the Asia-Pacific in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

"We've been very clear along with many other like minded countries that South China Sea language should be included but there are members who feel differently," said the US defense official, adding China was the main obstacle.

A draft of the concluding statement being prepared by host Malaysia makes no mention of the South China Sea, said a separate source familiar with the discussions, focusing instead on terrorism and regional security cooperation.

Wednesday's gathering brings together the 10 defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) along with ministers from countries such as the United States, Japan, China, India and Australia.

The meeting, first held in 2006, is a platform to promote regional peace and stability.

It is taking place a week after a US warship challenged territorial limits around one of Beijing's man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago with a so-called freedom-of-navigation patrol.

That prompted China's naval chief to warn that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if Washington didn't stop its "provocative acts."

The source familiar with the talks said Japan had requested Malaysia "improve" the draft and make note of the South China Sea. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has in the past been critical of China's actions in the waterway.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Struggling for unity

ASEAN meetings routinely become a venue for countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam to argue for the grouping to take a stronger stance against China's territorial ambitions.

Countries like Cambodia are pro-China while Malaysia has sought to steer a more neutral path, even though it's a claimant and only last month its armed forces chief called China's island-building an "unwarranted provocation."

In his opening remarks to a separate meeting of ASEAN defense ministers on Tuesday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein made no mention of the South China Sea.

China says the seven man-made islands in the Spratlys will have mostly civilian purposes as well as undefined defense uses.

The US Navy plans to conduct patrols within 12 nautical miles of the islands about twice a quarter to remind China and other countries about US rights under international law, a separate US defence official said on Monday.

"That's the right amount to make it regular but not a constant poke in the eye," the official said.

The USS Lassen's patrol last Tuesday was the most significant US challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit China claims around the artificial islands.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter may also visit a US Navy ship during his visit to Asia, but is not expected to be on board during any Navy freedom-of-navigation operations, the official said.

"I think this meeting will be very important for ASEAN partners to politely signal that they support freedom of navigation, and I think some will ... but at the same time to emphasise that this is not an anti-China issue," said Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University.

US Navy eyes two or more patrols in South China Sea per quarter

From GMA News (Nov 3): US Navy eyes two or more patrols in South China Sea per quarter
The US Navy plans to conduct patrols within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands in the South China Sea about twice a quarter to remind China and other countries about US rights under international law, a US defense official said on Monday.

"We're going to come down to about twice a quarter or a little more than that," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about Navy operational plans.

"That's the right amount to make it regular but not a constant poke in the eye. It meets the intent to regularly exercise our rights under international law and remind the Chinese and others about our view," the official said.

US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on Monday said there would be more demonstrations of the US military's commitment to the right to freely navigate in the region.

"That's our interest there ... It's to demonstrate that we will uphold the principle of freedom of navigation," Rhodes told an event hosted by the Defense One media outlet.

Rhodes' comments came a week after a US guided-missile destroyer sailed close to one of Beijing's man-made islands in the South China Sea last week.

China's naval commander last week told his US counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in the disputed waterway.

The USS Lassen's patrol was the most significant US challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit China claims around artificial islands it has built in the Spratly Islands archipelago.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade transits every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan all have rival claims.

Rhodes said the goal in the dispute was to come to a diplomatic framework to resolve these issues.

US Vice Admiral John Aquilino, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategies, declined to comment about when the next patrols would take place.

"We do operations like that all the time around the world. That will continue for us," he told Reuters after his remarks at the same conference. "We'll just keep going."

Defense Secretary Ash Carter may visit a US Navy ship during his upcoming visit to Asia, but is not expected to be on board during any Navy freedom of navigation operations, the US defense official said.

PAF looking for MD-520MG powertrain spare parts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 3): PAF looking for MD-520MG powertrain spare parts

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is now looking for bidders who can supply spare parts needed for the maintenance of the powertrain system of one of its McDonnell Douglas MD-520MG attack helicopters.

Budget for the project is placed at Php26,362,776.88.

Powertrain or powerplant describes the main components that generate power and deliver it to the air.

Submission and opening of bids is scheduled for Nov. 13, 9 a.m. PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

The PAF MD-520MG is armed with .50 caliber machine guns and seven-tube rocket pods and operates as a light attack aircraft.

Around 18 to 20 units are still operational.

AFP shakeup looms as generals retire

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 2): AFP shakeup looms as generals retire

A MAJOR revamp in the military’s key positions is expected following the retirement of area commanders this month.

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad will retire on November 22 and Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero will retire on November 24.

Guerrero is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981.

Baladad is a member of the PMA Class of 1982 and has been tagged in the Morong 43 case in Rizal in 2010.

Seen to replace Baladad is Maj. Gen. Leonardo Guerrero of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Western Visayas, while Guerrero will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz, chief of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Division in Tarlac.

Dela Cruz is a member of PMA Class of 1983 while Guerrero is from PMA Class of 1984.

The leadership of the Philippine Marines also needs to be filled after Maj. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo was recently named as the AFP vice chief of staff.

“There will be a movement because there will be vacancy of positions,” said AFP spokesperson Col. Noel Detoyato on Monday.

“The positions are very vital because these are for combat operations,” he said.

Candidates for the positions are selected by the AFP Board of Generals led by the AFP chief.

Shortlisted candidates are forwarded to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and then will be sent to President Benigno Aquino III.

INS Sahyadri in Philippines for Goodwill Visit

From (Nov 2): INS Sahyadri in Philippines for Goodwill Visit

File INS Sahyadri. Photo by Indian Navy

INS Sahyadri. Photo by Indian Navy

The INS Sahyadri, a Shivalik-class stealth frigate, of Indian Navy arrived in Manila on Sunday for a four-day goodwill visit to the country.  It is docked at the South Harbor.
The warship is likely to remain in Manila till November 4 for extensive interaction with the Philippines Navy before it continues into the North West Pacific region as part of India's Act East policy.
The visit of INS Sahyadri, an indigenously built warship of the Shivalik class, is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing inter-operability between navies of India and the Philippines, said a government statement.
Commanded by Captain Kunal Singh Rajkumar, the warship will also conduct interoperability exercises and search and rescue procedures with the Philippines Navy.
According to the Philippine Navy, Filipino sailors will be allowed to tour and familiarize themselves with the Indian Navy ship to get a feel of Indian naval operations and equipment. 
On departure, the ship is planned to exercise with the Philippine Navy ships for improving interoperability in communication as well as search and rescue procedures, the release said. 

Irregular Forces at Sea: “Not Merely Fishermen—Shedding Light on China’s Maritime Militia”

From the Center for International Maritime Security-CIMSEC (Nov 2): Irregular Forces at Sea: “Not Merely Fishermen—Shedding Light on China’s Maritime Militia”

Maritime Militia_Photo_Flotilla Heading to Spratlys

Maritime militia, dead ahead! In a just-published Defense News article, Chris Cavas has made an important contribution to our understanding of the operations and applications of China’s irregular maritime forces. The forces he describes are almost certainly neither ordinary merchant ship operators nor random fishermen, but rather militiamen operating in pre-planned roles in conjunction with USS Lassen’s Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea (SCS) on 27 October 2015.

Cavas cites a U.S. Navy source: “‘There were Chinese merchant vessels present that were not as demure as the Chinese Navy. One came out of its anchorage in the island and crossed the destroyer’s bow but at a safe distance, and the Lassen did not alter course as the merchant ship circled around.’ Fishing vessels in the area added to shipping traffic in the immediate area, the source said, but the ship did not have to maneuver around them. But the extra craft seem to have been present, the source noted, ‘because they anticipated the Lassen’s transit.’”

In what follows, the authors trace maritime militia involvement—in close coordination with other Chinese maritime forces—to a variety of important incidents at sea. It is thus not surprising to see these forces active near such China-occupied Spratly features as Subi Reef. But greater awareness is needed to address this vital but too-long-understudied issue. To that end, we offer the following major points:

China’s maritime militia is understudied, but it is important for understanding Beijing’s maritime strategy, especially in the SCS.

The militia work with other instruments of Chinese sea power—the military and the coast guard—to defend and advance China’s position in its disputes. They may also support military operations in wartime.

They allow China to vigorously pursue objectives without risking military conflict or creating an image of gunboat diplomacy.

This article series will profile four of the most important militia units operating in the SCS.

While Russia has employed “Little Green Men” surreptitiously in Crimea, China uses its own “Little Blue Men” to support its outstanding island and maritime claims in the East and South China seas. These maritime militia forces have participated in some of Beijing’s most important military and paramilitary operations in the SCS. They will be directly involved in future Chinese efforts, possibly including the direct harassment of U.S. and allied FONOPS. By “sending civilian, rather than military, ships to track or confront U.S. Navy vessels,” explains Huang Jing of the National University of Singapore, “China can issue a firm response to the U.S. while signaling that they don’t want to escalate the situation militarily.”

No ordinary civilian fishing boats, these! They are operated by members of China’s maritime militia (海上民兵). These irregular forces are recruited from a local fishing community or other maritime industry and remain employed there while being trained and available for government tasking. China’s modern maritime militia building dates to the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, when a rudimentary People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) faced Nationalist blockading of mainland ports and depredations against merchant vessels. As a stopgap measure, the nascent PRC trained and equipped its fishermen militias, both for their self-defense and to support ground and naval operations. Within today’s maritime militia, a small but growing set of elite units are the ones most likely to be deployed on more sophisticated operations that involve monitoring, displaying presence in front of, or opposing foreign actors. They frequently operate in concert with China’s navy and coast guard.

The PLA’s official newspaper states, “putting on camouflage they qualify as soldiers, taking off the camouflage they become law abiding fishermen.” Make no mistake: when national needs dictate, maritime militia are used as frontmen trolling in support of territorial claims. You can read our analysis to date here, here, here, and here. Now, with the potential role and impact of China’s maritime militia growing, it’s time to document their precise nature before Beijing is able to mischaracterize or selectively portray an interaction or incident as simply involving random civilian fishermen or other marine workers motivated by spontaneous patriotism unfairly oppressed by foreign forces.

The concept of deputizing civilians to perform state functions is not novel to China. The United States, for instance, has Naval Militia, as well as Coast Guard Auxiliary and a Craft of Opportunity Program—but they serve vastly different purposes. Many states’ naval militias, such as the Rhode Island Naval Militia, are not currently active. Only the New York Naval Militia has remained continuously active since its founding. The few that have remained active post-World War II or recently (re)activated assist with law enforcement, evacuations, disaster recovery, anti-terrorism, and defense of undisputed American territory and port facilities against mines and other hazards. Importantly, U.S. Naval Militias, like the U.S. Coast Guard, do not harass foreign vessels or conduct other assertive activities to further contested island or maritime claims. In fact, the United States has very few contested claims, and has a track record of adhering to international law to manage or resolve them. It does not resort to harassment or threats of force against foreign vessels regarding disputes; hence there is no need for its Naval Militias to do so.

By contrast, such “maritime rights protection” activities are important responsibilities for China’s leading irregular maritime forces. Selected elite Maritime Militia units prepare for the most advanced missions, in part by receiving training from the PLA Navy (PLAN). As the first article in our series will explain, Vietnam, one of the few other countries with a Maritime Militia similar to China’s in purpose, knows about their efforts only too well. Chinese maritime militia capabilities are poised to grow still further as Beijing’s desire for calibrated SCS operations grows and demobilized military forces may be offered as a result of Xi Jinping’s 300,000-troop downsizing to make the PLA, literally, leaner and meaner.

To challenge future U.S. and allied FONOPS, in addition to verbal challenges and conspicuous monitoring and tracking, Beijing will attempt to further portray itself as the victim of foreign predations, forced to respond “defensively.” In addition to close, ambiguous approaches by China coast guard vessels or aircraft, which—unlike naval warships—are not subject to the bilaterally-accepted Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) or the associated air annex, it may entail closer, even more ambiguous approaches by maritime militia forces. The vast majority would likely operate trawlers, but some may employ other marine economic assets as well, such as the “merchant vessel” that cut in front of USS Lassen. Beijing may attempt to mischaracterize or selectively portray an interaction or incident as simply involving random civilian fishermen or other marine workers and “island residents” unfairly oppressed by foreign forces motivated by spontaneous patriotism—when in fact these are irregular selectively-uniform-wearing forces controlled by the PLA through land-based military People’s Armed Forces Departments (PAFDs). It will also require proactivity and getting out ahead of Beijing’s narrative. Among other things, the U.S. government should document to the world the nature of China’s maritime milita and its government-controlled deception and harassment activities. That will be far easier and more effective before Beijing orchestrates any militia-related confrontation.

To better understand these important dynamics and their strategic, operational, tactical, and policy implications, the authors will therefore offer a series of five articles on the vanguard militia forces of Hainan Province, most relevant to SCS disputes. Four of the leading militias will be surveyed in depth.

Located on Hainan’s west coast, the Danzhou Militia of Dongfang City played a significant role in China’s operation to seize the Crescent Group of islands from Vietnam in the January 1974 Battle of the Paracel Islands.

Established in 1985, the Tanmen Village Maritime Militia Company of Qionghai County on Hainan’s south-southeast coast has long delivered supplies and building materials to China’s Spratly outposts. It was directly involved in the April 2012 Scarborough Shoal Standoff, with the boats of Chen Zibo and another Squad Leader likely summoning Chinese coast guard intervention when boarded by Philippine Navy forces seeking to confiscate a diverse harvest of endangered marine species. The Tanmen Militia benefited greatly from a visit by Xi himself on 8 April 2013, after which Tanmen Village was declared a model village and received further government investment.

Learning from the model set forth by the Tanmen Militia, the Sansha City Maritime Militia was established in its new, eponymous municipality in 2013. Given its location, it promises to play an important role in future Paracel affairs.

Last but not least, based in Sanya City near the center of Hainan’s southern coast, is the Sanya maritime militia built out of entities like Fugang Fishery Co. Ltd., which was established in 2001. Given its status as the militia perhaps most likely to be used for near-term frontline operations, such as harassment against U.S. or allied FONOPS, it is the subject of this first article in our series.

Lahad Datu intrusion: Digital forensics analysis could not verify exhibits’ relevance to ‘Ops Daulat’

From the Malaya Mail Online (Nov 2): Lahad Datu intrusion: Digital forensics analysis could not verify exhibits’ relevance to ‘Ops Daulat’

 An armed Malaysian policeman mans a security checkpoint in Lahad Datu on March 6, 2013. — AFP pic

An armed Malaysian policeman mans a security checkpoint in Lahad Datu on March 6, 2013.

A forensics analysis could not verify a number of digital exhibits’ relevance to ‘Ops Daulat’, an operation to rid Lahad Datu of intruders, the High Court here heard today.

CyberSecurity Malaysia’s senior digital forensics analyst Jazreena Abdul Jabar said this was based on an analysis on data extracted from the exhibits.

“In paragraph 5.0 on page nine of the Cyber Security Forensics Report, it states that from the forensics analysis conducted on the exhibits, several data and documents had been extracted.

“However, DFD (Digital Forensics Department of CyberSecurity Malaysia) could not verify which findings were relevant to Ops Daulat that showed intention or a plan to infiltrate Sabah,” she said.

Jazreena said this under cross examination by counsel Majnah Abdillah in the trial of 30 individuals linked to the intrusion by Sulu gunmen at Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu in February 2013.

The witness also agreed with counsel that the findings in that report fulfilled the request by the police to extract all data relevant to the operation.

Earlier during examination-in-chief, Jazreena said she received the exhibits from ASP Muhammad Zulkifly Mohd Isa and ASP Zairolnizal Ishak.

Upon receiving the exhibits, she made markings on each one and handed them to Digital Forensics Operation Manager Fauzi Mohd Darus.

“After I made the markings, I resealed the exhibits and handed the exhibits, received from ASP Muhammad Zulkifly to Encik Fauzi on March 29, 2013, and the exhibits received from ASP Zairolnizal to Encik Fauzi on April 14, 2013.”

She answered, “No”, when asked by deputy public prosecutor Jamil Aripin whether Muhammad Zulkifly and Zairolnizal had revealed to her about the source of the digital exhibits.

In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group and waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

They are also alleged to have recruited members for a terrorist group or wilfully harboured individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.

The offences were allegedly committed between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.  The hearing before Justice Stephen Chung at the Sabah Prisons Department continues tomorrow. — Bernama

Police seek Army’s help in arresting suspects in lumad slays

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 2): Police seek Army’s help in arresting suspects in lumad slays

 Manobo infants are most at risk in the evacuation center at the Tandag City gymnasium in Surigao del Sur province. ALEX BALUYUT/CONTRIBUTOR

Manobos who fled from their villages stay in the evacuation center at the Tandag City gymnasium in Surigao del Sur province. ALEX BALUYUT/CONTRIBUTOR
TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte, Philippines – Police in the Caraga Region have admitted they have not caught anybody from the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani, which has been tagged in the killing of three people in a lumad (indigenous peoples) community in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on Sept. 1.
The killings also forced over 4,000 villagers from five towns to flee their homes two months ago.
Supt. Martin Gamba, Caraga region police spokesperson, said they have asked the help of the military and village residents to help police authorities hunt down members of the Magahat-Bagani, an anti-communist militia composed of Manobo tribesmen.
“It’s difficult to hunt these suspects down because they operate in a vast mountainous area which encompasses several municipalities and where NPA (New People’s Army) guerrillas also roam,” Gamba told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone on Monday.
He said they asked for the assistance of the military for its familiarity with the terrain and for having the necessary manpower and logistics for the mission.
Of the dozens of armed Magahat-Bagani militiamen who swooped down on Sitio (Sub-village) Han-ayan, Diatagon village, in Lianga last Sept. 1, three suspects have already been identified and arrest warrants have been issued by a local court against them, namely, Bobby and Loloy Tejero and Garito Layno.  The others remained unidentified.
“We’ve asked the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) to put a bounty on the head of the three identified suspects so people would help in providing information leading to the suspects’ arrest,” Gamba said.
The police spokesperson said they could not set a timetable for the suspects’ arrest considering the vast area security forces must search through to locate and apprehend the gunmen.
The Magahat-Bagani holes up deep into the Andap Valley complex, a mountainous region straddling the municipalities of Lianga, San Miguel and Marihatag, according to Gamba.
Compounding the difficulty, he said, has been the presence of an NPA front there, which can result in armed encounters.
He said the operation was being carried out by the entire Surigao del Sur police backed by troops from the Philippine Army.
“Our policemen can only operate up to five days deep in the complex, and have come down to the urban areas to resupply while these militiamen are highly mobile,” Gamba said.

 Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel has complained of alleged government inaction in arresting the suspects.
“It has been two months and still no arrest has been made,” he told the Inquirer in an interview in Tandag City where almost 3,000 evacuees are staying at the provincial sports complex.
At least 1,000 more evacuees are staying at the municipal gym in Marihatag town.
Pimentel described as “doable” the demands of the evacuees for the police and military to arrest the suspects and disband the paramilitary groups.
“If they (police and military) have the will, they can do it,” he said.
The governor earlier said the paramilitary group was created, trained, armed and funded by the military, and allegation that the military denied.
Pimentel said it has been two months since the killing since the Senate held a hearing in Tandag City, and yet no arrest has been made.
Senators Teofisto Guingona and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Oct. 1 held a two-day hearing on the lumad killings. At the hearing, both military and police promised to work for arrest of the suspects.
On Sept. 1, members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani arrived in Sitio Han-ayan in Diatago village, gathered its residents and killed lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo. The paramilitary group also killed Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Livelihood and Development, a secondary school catering to lumad students.

AFP, NPA recruiting ‘lumad’–CHR

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 3): AFP, NPA recruiting ‘lumad’–CHR

‘LUMAD’ MARCH  “Lumad,” indigenous peoples from Mindanao, march from the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to protest the killings and other human rights violations in their communities. The Commission on Human Rights says both the military and the New People’s Army were involved in extrajudicial killings of lumad. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

‘LUMAD’ MARCH “Lumad,” indigenous peoples from Mindanao, march from the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, to Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila to protest the killings and other human rights violations in their communities. The Commission on Human Rights says both the military and the New People’s Army were involved in extrajudicial killings of lumad. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

BOTH the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) are actively recruiting “lumad,” or indigenous peoples, for combat, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Both the AFP and the NPA have also been tagged in extrajudicial killings of members of the indigenous peoples (IP) communities in Mindanao since 2001, the human rights body said on Monday in its strongest condemnation yet of the attacks on lumad settlements.

The CHR issued the statement as hundreds of lumad from Mindanao took their protests back to the city of Manila on Monday in hopes that government agencies close to Liwasang Bonifacio would finally see their plight.

They left the comforts of the campus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, where they had camped out starting in October.

“If you want to see what our situation is like in Mindanao, come visit us here (Liwasang Bonifacio),” said Jomorito Goaynon, chair of Kalumbay, a regional lumad organization in Northern Mindanao.

He said about 700 members of lumad organizations from five different regions in Mindanao will stay in Manila until Nov. 22.

The CHR statement was a categorical acknowledgement of the military’s role in the bloodshed that has displaced hundreds of indigenous folk from their homes and their ancestral domains. In the past, the CHR generally used equivocal language to describe the military’s involvement in the violence in those parts.

But the CHR, chaired by Jose Luis Martin Gascon, took no sides in the simmering propaganda and turf war between the AFP and the NPA in Mindanao’s lumad communities, implying that both were essentially to blame.

Extrajudicial killings

The CHR cited 35 cases of extrajudicial killings from 2001 to September 2015 involving 59 members of IP communities in Mindanao.

“Of these, 10 cases were allegedly perpetrated by the AFP, while eight cases were attributed to the NPA,” the CHR said. “Thus, neither side can claim to have the moral high ground to attribute excesses on the other.”

Days after hundreds of lumad refugees traveled to Manila and gathered on the UP campus in Quezon City to call attention to their plight, the CHR directly asked the government to uphold the rights of all indigenous folk and to stop all perpetrators of human rights abuses targeting them.

In the statement, the CHR asked the government to protect the rights of the lumad to self-determination, and to stop attacking their ranks and exploiting them for “partisan political agenda.”

The CHR said it was committed to ensuring the “fulfillment of all human rights on the basis of equality and nondiscrimination, in particular for the marginalized and vulnerable.”

“The CHR condemns in the strongest possible terms the violence and gruesome killings of members of the lumad community. The fundamental right to life is non-derogable: Any violation thereof can never be justified by the identity, affiliation or ideology of the perpetrator/s,” it said.

The extrajudicial killings in the lumad communities have had a “cross-cutting effect,” according to the human rights body.

“The killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and of Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, allegedly at the hands of elements affiliated with the AFP, are not only gross human rights violations by themselves, but also derogate the right of the local community to receive culturally appropriate education,” the CHR said.

Likewise, it said the grisly execution of Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza and his son by the NPA violated not only their right to life but also their right to hold contrary political beliefs, particularly in relation to their advocacy of convincing NPA members to “go back to mainstream society,” for which he was punished.

Food basket, gold deposits

The CHR also said it wished to clarify a number of issues “with the end view of contributing toward their resolution and the attainment of genuine social justice for the lumad.”

It acknowledged that:

Mindanao is not only a food basket, but also holds the country’s biggest deposit of gold, nickel and copper found in select areas, such as Davao, Agusan del Sur and especially Surigao.

These mineral deposits are mostly found in the ancestral domains of the lumad, ironically among the “poorest of the poor.”

Their ancestral domains are slowly being encroached upon by mining companies, characterized by lack of genuine compliance in the exercise of free prior and informed consent, as stipulated in the Indigenous Peoples Republic Act.

Both the AFP and the Communist Party/National Democratic Front/NPA have recruited, and continue to recruit the lumad to their combat.

Gov’t duties

The CHR also asked the government as the “duty-bearer” and other stakeholders to do the following:
Uphold the right of the lumad to self-determination in all spheres—cultural, economic, social and political.

Stop all cases of human rights violations perpetrated against the lumad.

Address issues on the speedy issuance of certificates of ancestral domain titles, and genuine implementation of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan as concrete steps in recognizing the legitimate struggles and aspirations of the lumad for development and social justice.

Refrain from exploiting the lumad for furtherance of partisan political agenda.

Review and recognize the significant role and contribution of the lumad in Philippine society as natural stewards of the Philippine environment.

Enter into genuine partnership with the lumad in supporting their indigenous practices of attaining peace and resolving conflicts among themselves.

Pursue dialogues, rights and evidence-based processes in finding durable solutions to the concerns of the lumad.

The CHR said it “shall continue to maintain its integrity and independence in the fulfillment of its mandate under the Constitution, as well as its obligations in accordance with the Paris Principles for National Human Rights Institutions.”

Apec meetings

At Liwasang Bonifacio, lumad leader Goaynon said the protest would include possible investment proposals in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings this month. They will hold it daily until the leaders leave on Nov. 23.

“We all know Apec is about investments and we are afraid the government would offer our lands to these investors,” Goaynon said, even as he expressed fear that this would worsen their situation in the provinces as it could further drive them out of ancestral lands.

He said the lumad were particularly against large-scale mining, plantations and the building of water dams.

5 major tents

As rain poured, lumad protesters set up five major tents to represent the five different regions in Mindanao affected by the violence between the NPA and the military. Their food supplies come from various nongovernment organizations and church leaders.

“Our main problem here is the lack of toilets and laundry areas,” he said.

Goaynon acknowledged that some of the lumad had opted to join the NPA. He said the lumad were not tolerating the rebels but the lumad organizations had “no right” to stop them.

He reiterated that the lumad were not opposing military operations against the rebels. But they were against soldiers who were living in their communities and forcing them to join paramilitary operations.

“We are not against military operations. We are not asking them to stop. But we don’t want them in our communities because innocent lumad often get caught in the crossfire,” he said.

Lumad caravan leaves UP for Liwasang Bonifacio

From InterAksyon (Nov 2): Lumad caravan leaves UP for Liwasang Bonifacio

Save our Schools Network supports Lumad children, 21 October 2015 PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY ANA RELOVA

A week after pitching camp at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Lumad participants of Manilakbayan 2015 left at 6 a.m. on Tuesday after a program held at Quezon Hall for Liwasang Bonifacio.

“With fists raised high, we give our sincerest and highest salutations to the Lumad and people of Mindanao who stayed in our university. The Lumad reminded us the value of our collective actions – from building schools, developing the lands for your communities, and protecting the environment to resolutely fighting against state fascism and terrorism,” said League of Filipino Students (LFS) UP-Diliman Chapter chairman Ben Galil Te.

Te said the Lumad and people of Mindanao can expect more students, not just from UP, to join in their fight against intensified human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Aquino government.

The UP students joined the Manilakbayan caravan to the University of Sto. Tomas (UST), where some youth and students were waiting.

Later, they marched with the Lumad and people of Mindanao to Liwasang Bonifacio, the new camp-out grounds of Manilakbayan 2015.

Even as they marched to Liwasang Bonifacio, LFS national chairperson Charisse Banez criticized AFP spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao’s statement on Lumad killings denying the military’s participation in the murders of the leaders of indigenous people (IP) and insisting the allegations against the military were “imaginary.”

Banez said it is the AFP that is hallucinating and fabricating cases, manufacturing evidence and promoting lies, noting that the Philippine government got a big black eye when the military “twisted the exit statement of UN special rapporteur on the rights of displaced persons when its spokesman in Eastern Mindanao claimed that Dr. Cheloka Beyani said the 700 IP evacuees at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City were ‘manipulated’ and were ‘victims of human trafficking.’”

Beyani promptly slammed the AFP before the international community for distorting his statement and said it was the military and its allies who were trying to manipulate the evacuees, prompting a regional spokesman to resign as scapegoat.

Hao claimed the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) had already organized a group to apprehend the perpetrators of the killings, all of whom are soldiers and paramilitary men organized and armed by the military and financed by logging and mining companies that financially support Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas’s presidential run.

“Stop the hypocrisy! The AFP and the Aquino government cannot fool the people! The 700-member Lumad contingent that travelled from Mindanao to Manila is already a testament of the regime’s accountability,” Banez said.

She added that documents were presented to different government agencies showing the intense militarization in Mindanao.

In the photos, members of the AFP are shown occupying schools and communities in violation of UN covenants and international agreements against military occupation of schools, hospitals, and civilian homes.

“As it is in the past, the AFP is a mercenary agent of the government that violates human rights, oppresses and kills the people who are not in favor of government’s programs. In the case of the Lumad, their resistance to foreign mining, logging, and plantation corporations resulted in the intensifying attacks of the military to the schools, communities, and the people,” said Banez.

According to the youth leader, Hao is trying to rub salt into the wounds of the Lumad and other victims of its atrocities and disgustingly trying to cover up Aquino’s accountability.

“Military activities and human rights violations by the AFP are systematically executed in accordance to the regime’s National Internal Security Plan called Oplan Bayanihan (OPB), for which Aquino and his army should be held responsible,” Banez stressed.

“The Lumad are here in Manila. We challenge Aquino and Hao to listen to them. Their datus and leaders can describe the horrors and specificities of the attacks they experienced. Even the children can easily tell who are oppressing them. There are still thousands of them in evacuation centers in Mindanao, and they will also be able to narrate the same stories. Thousands of Lumad will be able to identify that the AFP and Aquino are the perpetrators of the human rights violations,” said Banez.

“AFP’s attempt to discredit the Lumad and the protesters is an old trick of the army and the regime. It has done this thousands of times to desperately escape liability,” she noted.

Banez warned Aquino that this latest Hao episode will only fuel their determination to push for their legitimate demands for the pullout of the AFP battalions out of Mindanao and the reopening of Lumad alternative schools.
“These tactics would not stop us from dragging Aquino out of his office and make him accountable. His tyranny must end,” she said.

A Legal Analysis of the Philippine-China Arbitration Ruling

From The Diplomat (Nov 2): A Legal Analysis of the Philippine-China Arbitration Ruling (by James Kraska)

The ruling offers a glimpse into what to expect in the decision on the merits.

 A Legal Analysis of the Philippine-China Arbitration Ruling

Image Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions – especially about the future.” Last week’s ruling in the Philippine-China arbitral tribunal, however, sheds light on the likely outcome of the China-Philippine arbitration case and illuminates an end game to the crisis. In short, the tribunal’s decision to determine the legal entitlements of ten disputed features in the South China Sea significantly weakens China’s hand and benefits the Philippines and the other claimant states. The merits decision will not decide which states ultimately have sovereignty over any of the disputed features, but the tribunal’s decision on the merits likely will recognize that the small reefs and islands at issue are entitled to either no or perhaps very small maritime zones.
Having lost on the issue of maritime zone entitlements at the jurisdictional phase of the arbitration, China is now set to lose on the issue on the merits due to the geologic and geographic facts of the contested features. The natural and physical composition and verticality of the features, and their situational adjacency with large territories (namely, the Philippine islands of Luzon and Palawan), means that the tribunal likely will issue a decision next year that will deeply undermine China’s legal claims and strategic position.
The jurisdictional phase separated those issues that the tribunal will decide during the merits phase from those issues that are shelved. China was able to shield from the tribunal’s scrutiny its most audacious claims. For example, the tribunal did not agree to adjudicate China’s specious historic dashed-line claim or determine sovereignty over any feature in the South China Sea. It avoided jurisdiction over the question of whether Mischief Reef and Second Thomas Shoal are part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, although I predict that the tribunal actually will make this determination obliquely and tacitly in favor of the Philippines during the merits stage. Even though the decision on the merits will not address sovereignty over the features or the dashed-line claim, it will nonetheless severely undercut China’s position on both issues. How? By so reducing the entitlements generated by these features to no more than a tiny territorial sea, the reefs become remote, isolated outposts surrounded by Philippine EEZ; their value becomes nugatory. This ironic outcome is number seven of the “Nine Ironies of the South China Sea.”
The tribunal also did not accept for determination whether China has unlawfully failed to prevent its nationals and vessels from exploiting Philippine resources, or whether China’s occupation of Mischief Reef violates article 60 of UNCLOS concerning coastal state authority over artificial islands in the EEZ. The tribunal similarly stayed away from military issues, declining to review the efforts by China to disrupt rotation and replenishment of the eight Philippine Marines stationed on the BRP Sierra Madre at Second Thomas Shoal.
Unsurprisingly, the tribunal agreed to consider whether China’s island-construction campaign is inconsistent with its obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment under article 92 of UNCLOS. The tribunal is likely to declare that China should have conducted an environmental impact assessment of its activities. In accordance with the Malaysia v. Singapore case No. 12 at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the tribunal will say that China should have engaged and consulted in advance with nearby affected states.
More importantly, however, the tribunal will decide maritime zone entitlements under UNCLOS to ten features: Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, Subi Reef, Gaven Reef, McKenan Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef. When the Permanent Court of Arbitration examines whether these features generate a territorial sea, EEZ, and continental shelf, they will adhere to the legal standard of article 121 of UNCLOS and, importantly, a progeny of international case law. This analysis suggests how the tribunal will come out on the merits in light of these legal authorities – not just UNCLOS, but the prior decisions of the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Likely Findings
Fiery Cross Reef, Cuarteron Reef, and Johnson Reef, all occupied by China, likely will be found to be islands that cannot sustain human habitation or an economic life of their own. These features will not be awarded an EEZ. Fiery Cross Reef is, in its natural state, below water at high tide and may be a low-tide elevation, or at least no more than a rock with a 12 nm territorial sea. China has expanded the feature with 2.7 million square meters of “reclaimed” land into a sprawling complex with a helipad, harborworks, and a 3,000 meter airstrip. Cuarteron Reef on the Western side of the Spratly Islands is a coral rock outcropping that China has expanded with more than 250,000 square meters of “reclaimed” land. Similarly, China has added 109,000 square meters of “reclaimed” land to build up Johnson Reef in the northwest corner of the Spratly Islands. Like Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson Reef may be considered either a low-tide elevation or, at most, a rock that cannot sustain human habitation and lacking an EEZ. If asked, the tribunal likely would be generous and consider both rocks, but remember that the Philippines only asked whether the features are entitled to an EEZ. If the tribunal simply answers in the negative, it may have no compulsion to go further and determine if the features generate a territorial sea. The tribunal will not consider sovereignty over these three features, yet since China has occupied them, the tribunal’s findings that they are not entitled to an EEZ will pave the way for China to declare at most a territorial sea around them. That is the end of the good news for Beijing, however.
Scarborough Shoal is comprised of rocks that form a horseshoe lagoon. The feature, which sits just over 100 nm from Subic Bay in the Philippines, juts out of the water less than two meters at high tide. The tribunal likely will determine Scarborough Shoal is a rock with a 12 nautical mile territorial sea. China does not occupy Scarborough Shoal, but controls access to the lagoon, having forced Philippine fishermen from their historic fishing grounds. China’s control of access to the feature is dependent upon coercive law enforcement and militia fishing vessel operations, including ramming and shouldering Philippine ships, and harassment of Philippine fishermen.
The Philippines has specifically requested the tribunal to find that Chinese law enforcement tactics around Scarborough Shoal are in violation of UNCLOS, and the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). The COLREGS apply to private commercial ships and government vessels, including warships, and reflect one of the most fundamental norms of good order at sea. My view is that the tribunal will find for the Philippines on this issue, and such a legal holding will make China more cautious in employing its favorite method of maritime coercion in the gray zone. The finding also frustrates China’s intentions to employ massive “supercutters” capable of ramming and sinking the largest naval craft of other states in the region. Such a result also may help stymie China on conversion of Scarborough Shoal into another massive artificial island.
The tribunal will accord maritime zone entitlements to features based only on their natural state. Although the natural state of some of the features is unclear, and such determination made more difficult by China’s industrial-scale island manufacturing, there is ample data on which to base a decision. Only naturally formed islands above water at high tide generate a territorial sea, and only those features that can sustain human habitation or an economic life of their own may under article 121 of UNCLOS generate an EEZ and continental shelf. While at least one feature in the South China Sea may meet this standard, namely Itu Aba, which is occupied by Taiwan, the tribunal is likely to find that none of the features at issue do. The implications for this likely outcome are enormous.
A small rock generates a territorial sea that is 452 square nautical miles in area, whereas a rock that can sustain human habitation or an economic life of its own generates a territorial sea, as well as a vast EEZ with a combined area subject to coastal state sovereign rights and jurisdiction of 125,664 square nautical miles. Such a feature also may generate an extended continental shelf beyond 200 nm. Thus, the costs to China in “losing” an EEZ are enormous, whereas the surrounding waters will be considered Philippine EEZ generated from Luzon and Palawan.
Second Thomas Shoal, also known as Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines, is a low-tide elevation located 105 nm west of Palawan in the Philippine EEZ. The Philippines occupies the shoal from the vantage of a grounded, dilapidated warship, the BRP Sierra Madre. The eight Philippine Marines aboard the warship have two factors, however, that play in their favor. First, they are covered under article V of the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. This tripwire gives China considerable pause. Second, the recent U.S. freedom of navigation (FON) operation within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef furthers American involvement in the region, and makes U.S. Navy replenishment of the marines on the BRP Sierra Madre more likely. If that occurs, any interference with the U.S. mission to provision the outpost may be considered a demonstration of hostile intent under U.S. standing rules of engagement.
China occupies Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, McKennan Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef. Gaven Reef is a two-meter-high sand dune that China has supplemented with 136,000 square meters of “reclaimed” land. Hughes Reef is a low-tide elevation that China has built up with 76,000 square meters of “reclaimed” land. McKennan Reef, near Hughes Reef, is also occupied by China, which has begun to develop the reef into an artificial island. Mischief Reef is a low-tide elevation that was seized from the Philippines by China in 1995, and since 2014 has been converted into a behemoth artificial island with more than 5.6 million square meters of “reclaimed” land. The feature lies in the Philippine EEZ, only 129 nautical miles from Palawan Island. Subi Reef, seized by China in 1988, is another low-tide elevation. The tribunal will award no maritime zones to the feature, which China has expanded with nearly 4 million square meters of “reclaimed” land.
This analysis is summarized in the accompanying table.
Philippine Claim
Tribunal’s Likely Finding
Maximum Maritime Zone Entitlement
Johnson Reef
12 nm territorial sea
Cuarterton Reef
12 nm territorial sea
Fiery Cross Reef
Reef or Rock
12 nm territorial sea
Scarborough Shoal
12 nm territorial sea
Mischief Reef
Low-tide elevation
Low-tide elevation
Second Thomas Shoal
Low-tide elevation
Low-tide elevation
Subi Reef
Low-tide elevation
Low-tide elevation
Gaven Reef
Low-tide elevation
Low-tide elevation
Hughes Reef
Low-tide elevation
Low-tide elevation
McKennan Reef
Low-tide elevation
Low-tide elevation
Legal Precedent
The decision to examine the entitlements of these features is significant because the tribunal can be expected to apply legal precedent from other international cases that minimize entitlements to isolated mid-ocean features, and thereby reduce their overall value. In the 2009 case concerning maritime delimitation in the Black Sea (Romania v Ukraine), the International Court of Justice simply ignored tiny Snake Island as a factor in maritime boundary delimitation. The court held that: “to count [Snake] Island as a relevant part of the coast would amount to grafting an extraneous element onto Ukraine’s coastline; the consequence would be a judicial refashioning of Geography.”
Similarly, in the Case of Alleged Violations of Sovereign Rights and Maritime Spaces in the Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua v. Colombia), the International Court of Justice compared the lengthy mainland coast of Nicaragua against the tiny natural coastline of isolated small mid-ocean features. Colombia’s Serrana and Quitasueño Islands were enclaved within 12 nautical mile territorial seas entirely surrounded and enclosed by Nicaragua’s EEZ. When the Permanent Court of Arbitration applies these precedents, the benefits inure to the Philippines, since Manila, unlike China, enjoys vast territorial sea, EEZ and continental shelf entitlements generated by very large islands with extensive natural coasts on the South China Sea, namely Luzon, Mindoro, and Palawan.
Thus, the tribunal likely will agree with the Philippines and find that none of the features – and especially those now occupied by China – are entitled to an EEZ or a continental shelf. China’s seizure, occupation and island construction on these remote disassociated, mid-ocean features will be revealed as pyrrhic, because their legal entitlements will be so meager compared with the monumental reputational costs incurred. This analysis also suggests that the tribunal will find that the six other features specifically referred to in the Philippine memorial will be determined to be low-tide elevations. The Philippines occupies one of these features, and China occupies five of them. They are all, however, located in the Philippine EEZ, and therefore revert within Manila’s sovereign resource rights and jurisdiction once they are determined by the tribunal to be mere low-tide elevations.
[James Kraska is Howard S. Levie Professor of International Law at the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law, U.S. Naval War College and Distinguished Fellow, Law of the Sea Institute, University of California at Berkeley School of Law.]