Monthly Archives: January 2018

On cowardice and cop-out


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Even without the July, 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which stated that China has no legal basis to claim “historic rights” over the Bajo de Masinloc, the world knew that China’s “ownership” of the shoal was a sham, a fishwives tale of the 13th century Chinese fishermen who supposedly laid first claim on it. The “carta hydrographica y chrorographica de las Islas Filipinas” of 1734 called Bajo de Masinloc by another name – Panacot Shoal. The map of the Malaspina Expedition published in Madrid in 1808 named it Bajo de Masinloc, for the Masinloc town in Za mbales province, which is the land mass nearest to the shoal. All the old maps had the Bajo on it. All the maps drew the Bajo not too far from the land mass of West Central Luzon. The Philippine flag was raised at the shoal in 1965. This was followed by the construction of a small lighthouse. And to top it all, by reason of proximity, Filipinos were the first to fish in the area. They also used the shoal as a shelter during bad weather. Fishermen from Zambales and Pangasinan have been there from time immemorial. And look at the names applied to the territory. Masinloc, Panacot, Bajo. They are all words that belong to Central Luzon. My hometown in Pampanga, Lubao, got its name from Lo Bajo, the low place, or the place always under water.


Fallout from Philippines’ pivot to China

Manila recently allowed a Chinese ship to conduct maritime research at a resource-rich vast underwater plateau known as Benham Rise, east of the main island of Luzon, near US bases in Guam and Hawaii. For months, the Philippines has been drumming up a joint venture with China to explore for oil and gas in a contested area of the South China Sea. China is also dipping its fingers into the Philippine telecoms industry. Shenzhen-based telco ZTE is leading a consortium that plans to invest US$2 billion (S$2.6 billion) to build 50,000 microcell towers and compete with the two leading players. Most big-ticket infrastructure projects have some level of Chinese involvement. Tourists from China are also pouring in. The Chinese have dislodged the Koreans as the top tourists on the resort island of Boracay. Some 376,000 tourists from the mainland visited Boracay last year, compared with 375,000 from South Korea. A historic ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague granting the Philippines rights to vast waters China is claiming, meanwhile, is fast slipping out of the national consciousness.


Disputing China’s Spurious Territorial Claims in the South China Sea

On January 22, Chinese government media angrily accused the U.S. of “wantonly provoking trouble” in the South China Sea. The alleged American provocation? On January 17, the U.S. Navy’s USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, passed within 12 miles of Scarborough Shoal — a sea feature within Filipino territory that China now calls Huangyan Island. Got that? Within Filipino territory, but China claims it. Despite a 2016 ruling by the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration that China’s shenanigans in the South China Sea have violated the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, Beijing asserted the Hopper’s action violated sovereign Chinese territory. It gets worse. Someone in China’s defense ministry deemed the American ship’s passage a dire threat and dispatched a Chinese navy frigate. The Chinese warship then “drove it (the Hopper) away with a warning.” Beijing’s propaganda portrays the incident as a near-clash of nuclear-armed giants. A warship belonging to the U.S. violated sovereign Chinese territory. The brief cruise was so ominous an outrage that China risked starting a war. Most American and European media dismissed China’s reactions to a rather routine U.S. Navy Freedom of Navigation Operation as political theater. However, completely dismissing China’s response as theatrics is a mistake.


Chinese navy preparing for island dispute: expert

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is strengthening its combat capability by conducting drills in the South China Sea in an effort to deal with potential disputes and national reunification in the future, a military expert said on Wednesday, adding that other countries should familiarize themselves with the situation. Website, affiliated to PLA Daily, reported six landing ships taking part in an exercise in the South China Sea on Monday. The fleet conducted training, including artillery practice, the website reported on Monday. China’s Type 071 amphibious landing ships – Jinggangshan and Kunlunshan – joined the exercises, according to the report. “The PLA Navy is responding to the Central Military Commission’s call for more training to strengthen combat capabilities,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, told the Global Times on Wednesday.


China Wants Confrontation in the South China Sea

Last Wednesday, the USS Hopper, an Arleigh Burke–class missile destroyer, sailed within twelve nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a few rocks in the northern portion of the South China Sea. We would not have known about the sail-by if we were relying on the Pentagon. Beijing announced the event and then made threats. The Chinese, we have to conclude, are itching for a confrontation. Therefore, strategic Scarborough Shoal, a mere 124 nautical miles from the main Philippine island of Luzon and guarding Manila and Subic bays, could be the hinge on which America’s relations with China swings. Think of Scarborough as perhaps this century’s Sudetenland. In the spring of 2012, Chinese and Philippine vessels sailed in close proximity of contested Scarborough. Washington brokered an agreement between Beijing and Manila for both sides to withdraw their craft. Only the Philippines did so, leaving China in control of the feature, which had long been thought to be part of the Philippines even though it was inside Beijing’s infamous “nine-dash line.” Washington, unfortunately, did not enforce the agreement it had arranged, undoubtedly under the belief it could thereby avoid confrontation with China. The White House’s inaction just made the problem bigger, however. By doing nothing, the Obama administration empowered the most belligerent elements in the Chinese capital by showing everyone else there that duplicity—and aggression—worked. An emboldened Beijing then ramped up pressure on Second Thomas Shoal, where China employed Scarborough-like tactics by swarming the area with vessels, and the Senkakus, eight specks under Japanese administration in the East China Sea. In short, Washington, through timidity, ensured the Chinese took ever more provocative actions. And ensured American allies questioned Washington’s leadership. Today, American policymakers complain that the current Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, has been cozying up to Beijing. Although thoroughly anti-American all his adult life, the Philippine leader has a point when he said his country, despite the mutual defense treaty with America, could not rely on Washington to defend his islands. The result of irresolute American policy is that China, which is dismembering the Philippines, is now more influential in Manila than the United States, the only nation pledged to defend the archipelago’s security. In view of China’s growing confidence and assertion, it is no surprise that its reaction to the Hopper’s passage has been intense. State and party media, while replaying old themes of protecting “indisputable” sovereignty, went into overdrive with their most provocative language, that of inflicting indignity on the United States. “The reckless provocation ended in disgrace for the U.S. Navy,” wrote Curtis Stone of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily, China’s most authoritative publication. The Global Times, the tabloid controlled by People’s Daily, predicted that if Washington did not change course, it would become “a lonely pirate” and “suffer complete humiliation.” Washington’s reaction was, in keeping with its traditional posture, low-key. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, without specifically mentioning Hopper’s patrol.’


China’s help not needed in PHL Rise resource exploration—group

Contrary to Palace claims, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the Philippines, despite its limited resources, can explore and exploit the still untapped resources of the Philippine Rise on its own, even without China’s help, with sufficient funding for research and development. As early as 2013, the Philippines, through the Department of Agriculture—Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Department of Science and Technology and before that, the Department of Energy (DOE), have been conducting exploration in the Philippine Rise, particularly the Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the 13-million hectare underwater plateau. A traditional fishing ground 250 kilometers off Aurora province, the Philippine Rise had been observed to have 100-percent coral cover. It is also a spawning ground for the commercially viable bluefin tuna. The Philippine Rise is also being eyed for magnesium and other minerals, including natural oil and gas by the DOE. In a news statement, Pamalakaya said by promoting and developing the local marine science industry, the Philippines can exploit the country’s newest territory “on our own even without the help of China.” The group was reacting to Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr.’s statement on Tuesday, saying Filipinos do not have the ability or financial means to carry out the research in the Philippine Rise after criticisms mounted over the government’s decision to partner with China to conduct marine research in the territory believed to be rich in natural resources. According to Pamalakaya, which strongly opposed the joint exploration, China has vested interest over the Philippine Rise. It said the joint research is a precursor to Chinese incursion of the country’s territorial waters, similar to what happened in the Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Located opposite to the disputed South China Sea, the Philippine Rise has been declared by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in April 2012 as part of the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone. Through Executive Order 25 signed by President Duterte in May last year, the undersea feature has been renamed from Benham Rise to Philippine Rise. To recall, a joint research between the Philippines and China has been approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs, an agreement which Pamalakaya opposed, saying the joint research blanketed with the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking is a pretext of China for another occupation activity in Philippine marine territory. The group noted scientist group Agham’s claim that the University of the Philippines College of Fisheries had once acquired three research vessels, namely, the Merchant Vessel (MV) Pompano, MV Albacore and the Research Vessel Sardinella which can be used in the conduct the underwater research in the area. According to Pamalakaya, the MV Pompano, which was acquired in 1962, has 113 gross tons equipped with tuna long line and oceanographic equipment. The vessel was also equipped with radar and various electronic equipment onboard, such as fish finder, signal buoys and radio direction finder, among others. It had been utilized for training and research in different waters, such as Celebes Sea, Sulu Sea, Visayan Sea, and the waters of Luzon. China’s help not needed in PHL Rise resource exploration—group

Pentagon: Chinese Warship Did Not Force US Destroyer from South China Sea

The Pentagon has denied that a U.S. destroyer was driven out of the South China Sea by Chinese forces, as the country’s defense ministry has claimed. “No one runs a navy ship out of anywhere,” an unnamed senior defense official told The Washington Free Beacon on Tuesday. “This whole notion that we got run off is not true.” “On January 17, the U.S. Navy’s guided-missile destroyer the USS Hopper sailed near China’s Huangyan Island without permission from the Chinese government,” read a report in the Communist Party of China’s official newspaper, People’s Daily. “The Chinese Navy immediately identified the trespassing U.S. warship and warned it leave Chinese waters. The reckless provocation ended in disgrace for the U.S. Navy.” The official told the Free Beacon that although the Chinese did hail the ship by radio, the Hopper never deviated from its set course, and that the ship was conducting an “innocent passage” operation, the 13th warship operation conducted by the U.S. Navy in that region since 2015. “U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea,” Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told the Free Beacon. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.”

Filipinos exploring Benham Rise region for years

This government’s claim that the Philippines cannot explore Benham Rise without China is a total sham meant to disempower and demean Filipinos and their capacity and capability as a people I am outraged by the huge hollow block thrown against the entire Filipino nation by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque when he claimed that Filipinos cannot afford to explore Benham Rise – that “no one can do it,” that the Philippines “needs China” to do it, and “only China qualifies.” That is completely wrong, based on ignorance, a serious disservice to Filipino scientists in particular and the Filipino people in general, and an over-exaggeration of China’s potential role in Philippine ocean sciences. In the first place, Filipinos have been exploring the Benham Rise Region for years now. From 2004 to 2008, then again in 2010, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) sent BRP Hydrographer Presbitero on multiple bathymetric and hydrographic surveys of the Benham Rise Region. The surveys produced a highly detailed 3D digital bathymetric model (resolution of 1 meter for an area covering 30 million hectares) of the entire region, compliant with the highest quality standards of the International Hydrographic Organization. That was a Philippine vessel with full Filipino crew (mariners of the Coast and Geodetic Survey Division) funded completely by the Philippine government. That batheymetric model was absolutely necessary for the Philippines to support its claim to the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles with 2D and 3D geomorphological analysis.


Beijing has hit back at the U.S. after Washington sailed a guided-missile destroyer near the disputed Huangyan Island—otherwise known as Scarborough Shoal—last Wednesday without permission from the Chinese government. The USS Hooper warship was spotted within 12 nautical miles of the island and described as part of “routine” operations in international waters by the Pentagon. However, on Monday, Global Times, China’s ruling Communist Party official newspaper, responded with a commentary that threatened Washington with “complete humiliation” if it continued “provocations” in the South China Sea. “China has exercised restraint against U.S. provocations in the South China Sea, but there are limits. If the U.S. doesn’t stop its provocations, China will militarize the islands sooner or later,” the editorial read, in a report titled “U.S. No Longer Predominates in South China Sea.” “Washington will be left with no countermeasure options and suffer complete humiliation,” it continued. Earlier on Monday, People’s Daily, another official Communist Party newspaper, criticized the U.S. for carrying out its “freedom of navigation” operations, saying that they damaged China’s efforts to “enhance peaceful cooperation” in the region. The paper also stated that Huangyan Island and its waters were Chinese territory; however, the Philippines and Taiwan also lay claim to the area. People’s Daily also repeated the threat of militarization made in Global Times, stating, “Against this backdrop of peace and cooperation, a U.S. ship wantonly provoking trouble is single-minded to the point of recklessness.

China will again triple dredging and will have over 50 fortified islands by 2030 in South China Sea

China has purchased 200 dredging ships over the last 11 years. Most of the technology was from Germany, Japan and other countries. China tripled its dredging capacity over the last 15 years. China can now build its own large and modern dredging ships. China has stated that a US ship passing within a dozen miles of one of its islands is provocation for more island building and fortification in the South China Sea. Clearly, China was always intending to build up more islands. China has built a 140-meter-long, 28-meter-wide dregger, the Tian Kun Hao, which has described by some local media as “Asia’s most powerful island maker”. It is expected to go into service in the summer of 2018. The Tian Kun Hao has a deck the size of nine basketball courts, it is capable of dredging up to 6,000 cubic meters an hour and can dig as deep as 35 meters under the sea floor. It also has an advanced global positioning system and thanks to an automatic control system can be operated without any crew. The previous largest Chinese dregger could dig 4500 cubic meters per hour. Tian Kun can blast through seabed rocks, suck up sand, and pump material through a pipeline over a distance of up to 15km, allowing it to dredge in one spot and refill in another without requiring landfill material to be transported from elsewhere. That gives it the unique edge to reclaim land at a faster speed and greater efficiency than conventional operations. The US expects China to build up in the Paracel Island area. This will weaken Vietnam’s claims. China has a deal with the Philippines so China will not build more islands in the Spratley’s to keep relations with the Philippines. Nextbigfuture makes the obvious observation that China will modernize its dregger fleet and triple dredging capacity again over the next 15 years. China will spend $2 to 4 billion per year on better ships and on operations to build islands. China will again triple dredging and will have over 50 fortified islands by 2030 in South China Sea