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We, the People, Can Defend the West Philippine Sea (Commencement Speech, University of San Carlos, Cebu City, 20 April 2018)

Justice Antonio T. Carpio Excerpt: Today, a new threat has emerged, not internally but externally across the South China Sea. China, a nuclear armed state and the superpower in our region, wants to seize 80 percent of our Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea. The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared before an international audience in Washington, DC in February 2016 that the Philippines and China are “very close neighbors” separated only by a “narrow body of water.” That “narrow body of water” is the distance between our shorelines in Palawan and Luzon and China’s nine-dashed line. That means we would have a common sea boundary with China stretching 1,700 kilometers long, starting 64 kilometers off the coast of Balabac Island, our southernmost island in Palawan, to 44 kilometers off the coast of Y’ami Island, our northernmost island in the Batanes. This huge maritime area that China wants to grab from the Philippines, an area larger than the total land area of the Philippines, is rich in fishery, oil, gas and other mineral resources. If will lose this huge maritime area, we lose it forever. This generation, and future generations of Filipinos, will never be able to recover this vast area with all its rich natural resources. I call this the gravest external threat to the Philippines since World War II, bar none. * * * Download the full statement here:

Is China’s Belt and Road working? A progress report from eight countries


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GWADAR, Pakistan — The idea of transforming the ancient fishing village of Gwadar into a bustling port city has been around since at least 1954, when Pakistan commissioned the U.S. Geological Survey to examine its coastline. Their conclusion: Gwadar, which sits on the Arabian Sea, would be an ideal location for a deep-water port. Gwadar’s potential went unrealized for decades, but it is now at the heart of a hugely ambitious plan known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC. China has pledged to spend $63 billion to bolster Pakistan’s power plants, ports, airports, expressways and other infrastructure under the initiative, which Beijing positions as one of the pillars of its $1 trillion global Belt and Road Initiative championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The investment is clearly visible at Gwadar. More than 1,000 people, about half of whom are Chinese, work at a recently completed 660-meter container terminal. Nearby is a hospital built using Chinese funds. Pearl Continental Hotel, a luxury hotel owned by a local company, stands on a hill overlooking the port. The pier is dotted with Pakistani naval and coast guard ships. Armed boats and pickup trucks patrol the area, while wooden fishing boats float in the distance.


Prime minister says Australia will sail in South China Sea

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s prime minister said the Australian navy has a “perfect right” to traverse the South China Sea after a media report Friday that the Chinese navy had challenged three Australian warships in the hotly contested waterway. The Chinese “challenged” two Australian frigates and an oil replenishment ship this month as the Australian ships were sailing to Vietnam, Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing anonymous defense officials. Related Stories Australian, Chinese ships face off in South China Sea — report It is not clear what took place during the encounter while China was conducting its largest ever naval exercises in the region. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did not comment on the specific incident when questioned by reporters in London. “We maintain and practice the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world and, in this context, we’re talking about naval vessels on the world’s oceans, including the South China Sea, as is our perfect right in accordance with international law,” Turnbull said. Read more at


Australia asserts right to South China Sea passage

MELBOURNE • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asserted his country’s right to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea after a media report said three Australian navy warships had been challenged by Chinese forces. The Australian Broadcasting Corp said the People’s Liberation Army, conducting its largest ever naval exercises in the region earlier this month, challenged the warships as they were transiting toward Vietnam for a goodwill visit. It cited one official saying the exchanges with the Chinese navy were polite but “robust”. China’s Defence Ministry yesterday confirmed the “encounter” happened on Sunday but said the reports in Australian media “did not accord with the facts”. It said China acted professionally and lawfully. “The Chinese side’s ships used professional language to communicate with the Australian side, and their operations were lawful, in compliance, professional and safe,” its statement said. China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea are hotly disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.


Australian warships to conduct exercises in West Philippine Sea

MANILA, Philippines — Two Australian warships docked yesterday at Subic Bay in Olongapo City for a four-day goodwill visit in the country and will conduct maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea. Dubbed Passing Exercises (PASSEX), the exercise will be held as the two visiting warships – the long–range guided missile frigate HMAS Anzac and HMAS Success – sail out of Subic on Sunday. “The goodwill visit will be capped by a send-off ceremony and the customary Passing Exercises, which include a replenishment-at-sea operation wherein Philippine Navy personnel are invited to board the two warships while underway to observe the activity,” Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna said. While in the country, the visiting Australian sailors will be engaging with their Filipino counterparts in various activities, including a luncheon aboard Anzac, goodwill games and a traditional boodle fight which will be held on April 14 at the headquarters of the Navy’s Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) in San Antonio, Zambales. The boodle fight is a tradition practiced by most militaries around the globe to bolster friendship, camaraderie and cooperation among frontline units. Lincuna said Capt. Bradley White, Australia’s defense attaché to the Philippines, along with Cmdr. Michael Devine, commander of the Anzac and Comdr. Grant Zilko, commander of Success, are scheduled to make a courtesy call on Rear Admiral Allan Ferdinand Cusi, commander of the Navy’s NETC. “This visit is expected to further strengthen the relationship between the two navies and accordingly amplifies the PN’s firm commitment of maintaining good relationship with other navies,” Lincuna said. Australia has openly supported the ongoing freedom of navigaton operations conducted by the US Pacific Command in the South China Sea and East China Sea in the wake of mounting concerns over China’s real intentions in line with Beijing’s massive maritime and territorial claim on the two regions. While China is claiming almost 90 percent of the entire South China Sea and fortifying its occupied areas in the region, it is also laying claim to Japan’s Senkaku Island Group in the East China Sea. Read more at



United States officials claimed that China has installed military jamming equipment on fortified artificial islands in the South China Sea which will allow Beijing to block enemy radar and communications systems. This latest step in China’s militarization of its island bases signifies Beijing’s determination to assert its regional territorial claims, regardless of U.S. opposition. According to The Wall Street Journal, the jamming systems were installed within the last 90 days. The Journal quoted a U.S. Defense Department official who said that China “deployed military jamming equipment to its Spratly Island outposts” in the southern part of the sea. The claim was reportedly backed by satellite images provided by commercial satellite company DigitalGlobe. China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. The images showed what is believed to be a jamming system with its antenna extended on Mischief Reef, one of seven fortified artificial Spratly outposts. China has been constructing such bases since 2014. Existing reefs and rocks are covered with sand and eventually concrete, creating military bases in the middle of the ocean.


US, Japanese, Australian warships dock in PH this week amid sea tensions

Some warships of the Philippines’ traditional allies – US, Japan, and Australia – are set to dock in the Philippines this week for port visits amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea. The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Manila on Wednesday for a port visit, the US Embassy announced. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is on a Western Pacific deployment. It sailed the disputed South China Sea before it arrived in Manila. “The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group will continue on their regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment after departing Manila, conducting a variety of operations, including addressing shared maritime security concerns, building relationships with partner navies and enhancing interoperability and communication with partners and allies throughout the area of operations through exercises and visits,” the warship’s public affairs said in a statement. The US, which claims it will continue to allow vessels to sail wherever international law allows, has three aircraft carrier strike groups currently within or around the South China Sea. Royal Australian Navy vessels Her Majesty’s Australian Ship (HMAS) Anzac (FFH 150) and logistics vessel HMAS Success (OR 304) are scheduled to arrive on Thursday at Alava Wharf in Subic for a four-day goodwill visit, the Philippine Navy said in a media advisory. Read more:


U.S. and China Have Bigger Problems Than a Trade War

Fake islands, the Taiwan Travel Act and Chinese outreach to Russia are making military conflict more likely. The tit-for-tat trade sanctions fight between the U.S and China may be getting the headlines and rocking financial markets, but some less-noticed recent flare-ups between the world’s preeminent powers may present more lasting, and perilous, complications for American policymakers. The new National Defense and National Security Strategies produced by the Donald Trump administration made clear that Washington has a decidedly more pessimistic outlook on its future relationship with China. For years, the U.S. had focused on China’s potential to integrate more effectively into the international system; it is now girding for a return to the great-power competition of the 20th century. Chinese officials, who spend a lot more time poring over U.S. strategy documents than most American do, certainly interpreted this shift as presaging a downturn in relations, preparation for military conflict, and confirmation of their long-held belief that the U.S. seeks to blunt China’s rise and limit its global influence. Meanwhile, in response to China’s growing military and diplomatic assertiveness in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy has gradually routinized its freedom of navigation operations in the Spratly Islands — conducting one every two or so months since early 2017. In late March, the Navy conducted — and publicized — a pointedly ambitious operation near Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef, intended to signal that the U.S. considers the reef a “low-tide elevation” rather than a true island, challenging China’s claim to sovereignty and a surrounding 12-mile exclusive territorial area. China was likely also displeased when last month the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson visited Da Nang — the first U.S. carrier trip to Vietnam since 1975. In response, China’s Defense Ministry condemned the Mischief Reef operation as a “serious military provocation,” and shortly thereafter conducted its own large naval exercise, involving 40 ships and an aircraft carrier, off of Hainan Island on China’s southeast coast. This week, U.S. officials publicly called out China’s installation of radar-jamming equipment (with obvious military applications) on two of its newly constructed islands in the Spratly chain. Yet China’s most tendentious act may have been verbal rather than martial. On a visit to Moscow this month, China’s new defense minister, General Wei Fenghe, declared, “The Chinese side has come to Moscow to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia, and that we’ve come to support you.”


US wants Code of Conduct on West PH Sea negotiations ‘transparent’

MANILA — As an “interested party” in the achievement of peace in the Pacific region, the United States is encouraging transparency in the negotiations for the crafting of the Code of Conduct (COC) on the West Philippine Sea. In a conference call with the press on Thursday, Patrick Murphy, US State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, said Washington welcomed the fact that there is now an inclusive dialogue to manage maritime disputes in the sea lane. “All 10 members of ASEAN with China are participating in that dialogue. That’s the good news,” Murphy said. “At the same time, as an interested party, we very much encourage that this process be transparent, that it leads to a binding, meaningful result in accordance with international law,” he added. While the US is not a claimant country, Murphy stressed they are a “very interested and engaged country” as part of the Pacific region. “We have great interest in this part of the world for our commerce, but also in exercising our legal freedoms of navigation and overflight,” he said. For more than a decade, China and the ASEAN reaffirmed their commitment to work towards the early adoption of the COC. But it was only during the 20th ASEAN-China Summit in November last year that development on the document began to move forward. As the dialogue progresses, Murphy encouraged parties to adhere to the basic principles of international law, as he cited the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on a case between the Philippines and China, and the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) on the West Philippine Sea. Murphy said COC discussions can only work if the environment is conducive for dialogue. “That’s why we encourage all parties to cease any militarization, construction or reclamation of disputed outposts,” he said. “That would be in accordance with the 2002 DOC and that would improve the backdrop, the environment for successful dialogue.” US wants Code of Conduct on West PH Sea negotiations ‘transparent’

Are China and the Philippines Agreeing to Share the South China Sea?

In theory, any resource-sharing agreement should be consistent with both countries’ national as well as the 2016 international tribunal ruling at The Hague, which nullified much of China’s nine-dash line map claims to areas Manila views as its own. The Philippine constitution bars any JDA with a foreign entity that refuses to acknowledge the country’s sovereignty within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Any JDA within China’s nine-dash line map will also potentially violate international law by legitimizing the Asian powerhouse’s excessive and expansive claims in adjacent waters. According to the 2016 arbitral award ruling, the Philippines and China have no overlapping EEZs, thus it’s not clear what would be the legal basis for a fair and legitimate resource-sharing scheme in accordance to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio has described any resource-sharing agreement with China within Philippine waters as unconstitutional and potential grounds for Duterte’s impeachment. Leading defense officials also continue to ring alarm bells over China’s expanding military footprint in adjacent waters. The two sides likely envision resource-sharing ventures similar to the Camago-Malampaya gas project, located off the coast of the Philippine island of Palawan in the South China Sea, where multinational energy giants Chevron and Shell are the lead investors. One proposal is for the Philippine National Oil Company to subcontract CNOOC to develop energy resources in the nearby Calamian Islands, which lies outside the Philippines’ EEZ as well as China’s nine-dash line map. The arrangement would seemingly clear most potential legal hurdles and seems politically viable. A similar arrangement, though more controversial, is being considered in neighboring Reed Bank, a potential site of huge untapped hydrocarbon resources.