Monthly Archives: June 2012

‘UNCLOS won’t resolve sea row’

By Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington Bureau (The Philippine Star) @ WASHINGTON – US accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will not resolve conflicting claims by a number of countries including the Philippines and China to barren islands, reefs, shoals and coral outcrops in the South China Sea, said retired admiral James Lyons, a former commander of the US Pacific Fleet. “The argument made that we must have a ‘seat at the table’ to secure the US Navy’s freedom of navigation and other transit rights, including the right of innocent passage, is nonsense,” he wrote in an article published in Wednesday’s issue of The Washington Times. President Aquino during an official visit to Washington in early June to seek US backing in the West Philippine Sea was careful not to publicly voice support for the Obama administration’s efforts in Congress to make the US a signatory to UNCLOS, but aides privately said the Philippines supported such a move. Lyons said the assertion that US rights to freedom of navigation would be eroded unless it joined the treaty was simply false. The United States has enjoyed the same navigation rights and freedoms available to the 153 parties to UNCLOS for decades and will continue to do so without becoming a member, he said. Ratifying the treaty will not end excessive and illegal claims by other nations nor will it help resolve US issues with Iran and China, he said. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 He pointed out Iran was not a party to the treaty and therefore viewed itself as not bound by its terms. China, which is party to UNCLOS, has nonetheless undertaken illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea, manipulating the text of the treaty as a means to support these claims, Lyons said. “Furthermore, China illegally has claimed sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, rendering UNCLOS inapplicable in China’s view,” he said. He said the UNCLOS had provisions that could seriously interfere with legitimate US naval operations by allowing other nations to avail themselves of the treaty’s mandatory dispute-resolution mechanisms. “These could be used to interfere with training exercises and other operations, such as hydrographics or intelligence. Such interference could adversely impact our anti-submarine warfare operations with serious consequences,” he added. Feasible but costly Meanwhile, the former president of the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (ASEP) yesterday said putting up a permanent structure in the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is feasible but costly. While it would be the Aquino administration that will decide on whether a permanent structure would be built in Panatag Shoal, the possibility is present, said former ASEP president Cesar Pabalan. “This is possible but (erecting a bridge from Zambales to Panatag Shoal) would be very long. It would also be very costly, the funding, where will it come from?” said Pabalan. It has been reported that the shoal is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales province. Pabalan added that even if the shoal is at times exposed to harsh weather such as typhoons that bring about rough seas, infrastructure projects could still be built there. “It can withstand weather. It can be designed (and built) as long as it would conform with the National Building Code and National Structural Code of the Philippines. Anything that would be designed and constructed should conform with our building codes,” Pabalan said. Apart from complying with the building code, he added that the design should also take into consideration “the lateral load against the wind and the earthquake.” He also said that there “should be a geotechnical report on the material, classification of soil so that we can choose what foundation type would be used.” He says the depth of the water leading to the shoal will also not be a problem. He, however, stressed that the success of these projects will depend on whether or not there will be objections from other claimant countries. US, Phl stand by treaty For the United States’ top diplomat in the Philippines, there is no doubt and no question that his government stands by its commitment under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). “We stand by our treaty commitment. It’s amazing to me that people would question that,” US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. told the media during the first Kapihan sa Embahada. He said the US is concerned about the events in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including the tensions surrounding Panatag Shoal, emphasizing that Washington opposes coercion by any nation to advance its claim and the US clearly supports the Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN. However, Thomas did not give a categorical answer when asked about the provision in the MDT on an attack on one party being considered an attack on the other, saying it is hypothetical and the US hopes for de-escalation and no violence in the disputed waters. “All we can say (is) we stand by our commitments and I’m not going to change that. The Secretary of State, the President of the United States have also said we stand by our treaty commitments,” he said. US embassy Political Counselor and acting Deputy Chief of Mission Joy Yamamoto said, “The language of the MDT demonstrates our very strong commitment to the Philippines.” According to Yamamoto and Thomas, the US supports settlement of disputes in the West Philippine Sea towards the use of a rules-based regime in accordance with international law and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). “We’ve been very consistent throughout the dispute in supporting international law and settlement of this kind of dispute under international law so we would support China and the Philippines settling the issue through international means,” Yamamoto said. China accused the US of creating tension in the region and repeatedly warned that territorial disputes over the West Philippine Sea were issues between China and claimant countries. Beijing said it would not allow US involvement in territorial disputes. The ambassador said the US has been very clear that it takes no side in territorial disputes or cross cutting claims between several states not just China, but urged all parties to sit down and iron out disputes in a peaceful and legal manner. Although the US position is not to get involved in territorial disputes, Secretary […]

P-Noy won’t drag US military into West Phl Sea dispute

By Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington Bureau (The Philippine Star) @ WASHINGTON – President Aquino assured Americans he would not drag the United States in any military intervention in the West Philippine Sea crisis and said he was committed to defusing the tension in Panatag Shoal where Chinese and Philippine vessels have been locked in a standoff since April. In a speech at the launching of the United States-Philippine Society, Aquino said his administration was engaged in a dialogue with China to find a mutually beneficial way to break the impasse. “We fully intend to come up with a solution that will maintain the peace and stability of the region while at the same time upholding the dignity and sovereign rights of our people,” he said. “It is not our intention to embroil the United States in military intervention in our region. At the same time we do recognize that our two nations, with so many other nations, will all share in the peace and prosperity that comes from the US adding its voice to supporting and guaranteeing a rules-based international system,” he said. The President, who is on a three-day official visit to Washington, will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday (today) at which time he is expected to lay out his request for US military materiel to build a credible defense force. Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang told reporters he did not know how specific Aquino would get because of time constraints “but certainly the broad strokes of what we need will be brought up.” Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 He emphasized the Philippines was trying to acquire equipment to enhance its defense and not its offensive capability “so that should put to rest concerns other countries might have about our intentions.” “It is not our intention to enter into an arms race,” he said. In his speech Aquino spoke about his anti-corruption drive and was greeted with a prolonged applause. He said the Senate expulsion of Renato Corona as chief justice of the Supreme Court for unexplained wealth was a giant step for the Philippines “especially since in today’s global environment, a culture of transparency and accountability is a major competitive advantage.” “The economy grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year and my economic team tells me this is just the beginning and they expect better numbers in the succeeding quarters,” he said. Investments Earlier in the day, Aquino met officials of GN Power which is currently operating two 300-megawatt coal-fired power plants in Mariveles, Bataan. GN hopes to unveil 2,300 MW power plants in the Philippines for $1 billion by 2015. He also met with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based company that is investing in a global technology and research center in Manila. In his briefing, Carandang said having a credible defense force would make potential aggressors think twice before attacking the Philippines. “If someone wants to attack us we may not be able to hold them off forever, but we can make it very costly for them economically, militarily and politically,” he said. President Aquino was also honored with a bipartisan Senate reception at Capitol Hill. He later conferred on Sen. Richard Lugar, a long-time friend of the Philippines, the order of Lakandula with rank of Grand Supremo. Lugar was the author of a US senate resolution passed on the eve of Aquino’s arrival here calling for increased defense and security cooperation with the Philippines, including support for its defense modernization. In Manila, Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the US Senate resolution is also likely to have a positive impact on US-Philippine economic relations. “Other than promoting greater alliance and enhance security ties, there’s also an economic side to include reforms and trade capacity building,” Galvez said. He also said the resolution was a reaffirmation of US commitment to help the country. “It’s a common practice to reiterate issues. People change, administration changed. It would always be good to reiterate our commitment to each other,” he said. For Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate resolution proves that the US will keep a commanding presence in the region. “America will always be a Pacific power. So it cannot allow anybody in this part of the world to dominate the Pacific area,” Enrile said. “Ang America hindi nila maaring pabayaan ang Pilipinas. Sila ang nagdala ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas. Sa kaisipan ng buong mundo, ang Pilipinas ay creation ng US (America will never abandon the Philippines. They brought democracy to the Philippines. To the world, the Philippines is a creation of the US),” Enrile said. Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said it would launch protest actions in Manila and in major US cities to coincide with Aquino’s US working visit. “Aquino’s visit to the United States is the culmination of months of meetings, negotiations and discussions for increasing US troop presence in the country and reaffirming unequal economic and politico-military relations. Aquino and US President Barack Obama are expected to once again reaffirm Philippine-US special ties which are nothing more than neo-colonial relations,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said. He said Bayan-US chapter will lead protest actions in Los Angeles, Washington, New York and San Francisco. The Human Rights Watch, for its part, said Obama needs to speak frankly with Aquino regarding the alarming record of abuses committed by Philippine security forces. “Accountability for abuses is not only a matter of justice for victims, but vital for the Philippines’ future as a rights-respecting democracy,” said John Sifton, HRW Asia advocacy director. “Rather than arguing, making promises, and offering excuses, President Aquino should focus on ending and prosecuting extrajudicial executions,” Sifton said. “He should let actions do the talking.” He also said US military expansion in Asia should not deter Obama from raising human rights concerns. – With Jaime Laude, Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Pia Lee-Brago