Friday, June 29, 2012

India, Japan & South Korea agreed trilateral military pact against China

Japan and South Korea on 29th June 2012 agreed to share intelligence in their first joint military pact since World War II.

The agreement is seen as a breakthrough in ties between two neighbors with a difficult history. Japan ruled Korea as a colony for several decades until the end of World War II in 1945, and Seoul has often been wary of Japan's postwar military development, but the nations have many shared concerns, particularly North Korea and China.

Noting that the South China Sea was witnessing "competing claims", India strongly pitched for co-operation instead of competition in the seas and oceans at a trilateral meeting with Japan and South Korea.

With China's growing assertiveness in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), India, Japan and South Korea - Asia's three leading democracies –( June 29, 2012 )Friday held their first trilateral meeting in India and pitched for freedom of seas and expanding their multifaceted cooperation.

Asserting that India, Japan and Republic of Korea depend heavily on the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) for their energy security which are also the mainstay for trade and connectivity, Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in Ministry of External Affairs, said "there is indeed a compelling case for us to cooperate on maritime security."

"India has a valued geostrategic location straddling the SLOCs. The Indian Ocean Rim is characterized by large Exclusive Economic Zones and unexplored and untapped marine resources. Similar potential exists for example in the South China Sea which today is witnessing competing claims.

The three sides discussed a host of regional and global issues to cement their trilateral cooperation cutting across diverse areas, including maritime cooperation, security, terrorism, and trade and investment.

The trilateral dialogue seeks to address the three major themes - the evolving Asian security architecture, non-traditional security issues and prospects and challenges for this process.

The India-Japan-South Korea trilateral seeks to reinforce the India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue that also focuses on expanding strategic and maritime cooperation.

They identified the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Korea National Diplomatic Academy, and Tokyo Foundation as the three partnering institutions to carry forward the trilateral dialogue.

"Being leading democracies of the world, we share a common commitment to democratic values, open society, human rights and the rule of law," Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, said while underlining a congruence of strategic interests of the three leading economies of the region.

"We seek a peaceful and secure Asia free from the threats of terrorism, proliferation, piracy and conflict between states," he said.

Although China was not mentioned explicitly, it was very much the elephant in the room, with discussions focusing on maritime cooperation and freedom of navigation in international sea lanes of communication.

"There is common commitment to maintaining freedom of the seas, combating terrorism and promoting inclusive economic growth. India, Japan and ROK depend heavily on the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) for their energy security," Singh said.

"These are also the mainstay for trade and connectivity amongst our countries and other countries in the region. India has a valued geostrategic location straddling the SLOCs," he said.

In this context, the three sides noted that like the Indian Ocean Rim, West Philippines Sea has tremendous potential for cooperation, but is "is witnessing competing claims".

"Our common objective is to see that the seas and oceans become regions of cooperation instead of competition, particularly as our energy security and trade depends on them," Singh said.

Underlining the need for maritime cooperation, the sides discussed ways to expand trilateral cooperation to deal the conventional risks associated with nuclear power and confront the risks of nuclear and missile proliferation in our neighborhoods.

"Deepening cooperation amongst our defense and security establishments will promote our mutual security," said Singh.

Beijing has yet to react to the India-Japan-South Korea trilateral, but it has been uneasy about leading democracies of the region getting together in what it sees as an exercise in encirclement of a rising China.

Trilateral Military pact

The pact establishes a framework for sharing intelligence in such areas as missile defense, North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Chinese military operations and other regional security matters.

It was previously approved by South Korea, and Japan's Cabinet gave its final approval Friday ahead of a formal signing ceremony. "Considering the security situation in east Asia, it is very significant for us to create the foundations for sharing information," said Japan's foreign minister, Koichiro Genba. "I think this is a very historic event."

The pact reflects deepening mutual concerns that more cooperation is needed to enhance security readiness.

The two countries are increasingly concerned by potential threats from North Korea, which is developing its long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities. They are also closely watching the rise of China's military.

North Korea heightened regional tensions in April with the launch of a rocket that was widely criticized as a test of long-range missile technology. The launch was of particular concern to Seoul and Tokyo because they are within reach of the North's missile arsenal.

Such fears spurred the government efforts to cooperate more closely on intelligence sharing, though the pact remains controversial among some in South Korea.

"An accord for military-information protection with Japan is necessary given the ever-growing threat from the North," South Korea's JoongAng Daily newspaper said in an editorial. "The more quality information we have about the North, the better our security."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ancient 2000 years rice terraces in Philippines’ lone in S’ Asia re-preserved

Banaue Rice terraces or locally known as Hagdan-hagdang Palayan is one of the county's famous tourist "must seen" site in the island of Luzon Philippines back to 1980's and 90's and listed at the UNESCO's World Heritage.

After few decades of climate change, natural destruction and less of maintenance, it had been listed as World Heritage Sites in Danger.

Recently, rice terraces that have been farmed for 2000 years in the Philippines have been taken off the UN list of endangered heritage sites.

The Philippines culture is alone among Southeast Asian cultures in being wholly wood based and the terraces are the only form of stone construction from the pre-colonial period.

After a consistent preservation procedure done the beauty and fame of the Banaue Rices Terraces has been restored and had been remove from the list of endangered world heritage site.

Senator Eduardo Angara is pushing for the continued preservation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces even after it was removed from the United Nation’s list of endangered world treasures.

“This is good news for us. This achievement means we are on the right track but we should be reminded that there is still a lot of work to be done before we fully restore the majestic terraces,” said Angara who is the author of the National Cultural Heritage Act.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee, said the Philippines has restored at least 50 percent of the collapsed terraces, and that major parts of the irrigation system have been rehabilitated.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces, called by locals as “Payo”, was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995. Unfortunately, six years later, it was officially listed as one of the world treasures at risk.

Since then, the Philippine government has implemented policies and laws to preserve the terraces such as community-based land use, zoning, and proper management and protection against natural calamities.

“The Ifugao Rice Terraces is known worldwide as the 8th Wonder of the World and one of the country’s prime tourist destinations. They are the living testament to the Ifugao’s mastery of watershed ecology, terrace engineering, and water distribution. We should not allow the condition of the terraces to deteriorate,” Angara said.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces is covered by the National Cultural Heritage Act authored by Angara and his son Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara.
Likewise, Angara has a pending bill, Senate Bill No. 2008, which aims to establish the Cordillera Terraces Authority, which will come up with a 10-year Cordillera Terraces Master Plan for the continuous preservation and rehabilitation of the terraces.

“This bill is a first step towards an overall terraces management and preservation strategy with the end in view of establishing a permanent and effective body to coordinate and lead efforts to restore and protect the terraces of the entire Cordillera Region,” Angara said.

“The terraces of the Cordilleras are truly a rare engineering achievement. We are in a race against time to save them from deterioration,” he added.

First Public School raised the Philippines Flag in the Spratly Islands

The Philippine flag flies in the breeze as Kalayaan town Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon (center) poses with the teacher, schoolchildren and their parents at the opening of Pag-asa Elementary School on a disputed West Philippines Sea island on June 15. AP/OFFICE OF KALAYAAN MUNICIPAL MAYOR

Spratlys Public elementary School starts its regular classes in the Pagasa Island, Municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan, the territory of the Old Sultanate of Sulu back during the pre-colonial period. The Kalayaan Islands is also known as the disputed Spratlys archipelago after the other neighbors claimed it as their territory.

The old Sultanate of Sulu failed to regain its power to the entire territory and have turned over its rights to the Republic of the Philippines through Sultan Kiram in 1960's.

The weaken and deprived of power old kingdom was seen by the neighbors in doom resulting its claim to the territories under it. In spite of the turnover of the Sultan to the Republic of the Philippines, still neighbors claimed part of the territory as their owned.

Youth is the hope of our Mother land - Education must be given chance

Philippine government defend its opening of the first ever public school in the spratlys islands after china issued s warning against the operation of a public elementary school on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs Wednesday (June 27, 2012)  asserted "the Kalayaan group of Islands, which include Pag-asa, is an integral part of Philippine territory as declared in Republic Act 9522 and other relevant Philippine laws."

The DFA cited Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-on for providing basic services to his constituents, including the establishment of a public kindergarten school.

Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesman, pointed out "part of the responsibility of (Mayor Bito-on) is to govern his municipality, ensure the progress and development of his locality, and provide basic services to his constituents, including putting up a school for kids in his area of jurisdiction."

For its part, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said China is "definitely in no position to be making such absurd demands on the Philippines."

Beijing "must respect Philippine sovereignty and refrain from making threats," said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

"The area being claimed by China already has a Filipino community and has been under Philippine control, being part of the town of Kalayaan in Palawan province," Reyes added.

On Tuesday, Hong Lei, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, told a press briefing in Beijing that China "opposes any illegal activity that may infringe on China's claimed sovereignty in the old sultanate of Sulu"

Manila "should refrain from making any measures that will complicate and exacerbate the current situation and affect peace and stability in the South China Sea," Hong said.

He insisted that China had "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly chain of islands and its surrounding waters.

Hong expressed hope "relevant countries will abide by the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China," which was earlier entered into by Beijing and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The Philippines and three other ASEAN member-states – Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam – are among the Spratlys claimants, along with China and Taiwan.

Home to about 200 Filipinos, Pag-asa Island has been under the Philippine government's control since the 1970s, noted the DFA.

It has a town hall, a health center, an airstrip and a naval station, among other facilities.

Last week, the Kalayaan municipal government inaugurated the Pag-asa Elementary School, a school house built from an old multi-purpose hall using salvaged construction materials. The school held its first class on June 15, with only five kindergarten students. A Philippine flag fluttered in the breeze in the schoolyard.

The school hired one teacher from the mainland, getting her to agree to move her family to the island, which is about 285 nautical miles west of Palawan, or a boat trip that could exceed a full day, depending on the sea condition.

Mayor Bitoon earlier said "maybe in two months, we could open classes from Grade 1 to 3 if we can convince them to return to the island in time before the first grading period."

He said he was aware of the "problem of how children's schooling separated families. That's why; I thought it's high time for us to have a school house here."

Mayor Bito-on is requesting funding from the provincial government and the Department of Education to sustain the school's operation and build more classrooms in the future.

Patriotism in curriculum

Two party-list lawmakers on Wednesday also vowed to support the school, which used to be the old multipurpose hall in the area. The school has two new classrooms.

"Building a school within our territory cannot in any way undermine China's sovereignty… The Philippine government has all the right to make use of its own territory especially to provide social services to its people," Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said in a statement.

Bello, who visited the disputed territory last year, said China cannot interfere with the Philippine government's duty to provide its citizens with education and infrastructure.

"It's already bad that China is infringing on our sovereignty with its unimpeded incursions. Now it is virtually telling us where we can and cannot implement infrastructure projects within our territory. It is absurd and boorish," he said.

ACT Teachers' party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, for his part, pledged assistance to the school by sending teaching materials and school supplies to the area.

"This would be a tremendous help in advancing the education of the children in the disputed territory," he said in a separate statement.

He added that more students on the remote island, which lies 527 kilometers west of the Palawan mainland, can now have access to education. Most of the residents there are soldiers stationed on the island to protect the country's claim in the Spratlys.

"The families of students also would not have to be separated so that their children can go to school," he said.

Tinio likewise proposed that lessons on patriotism be included in the school's curriculum.

"The values of patriotism and love of country should be inculcated to the students considering that their homes and school stand in a contested area," he said.

Monday, June 25, 2012

FATF Blacklists Ecuador, Yemen, Vietnam, Upgrades Philippines

By Samuel Rubenfeld

The Financial Action Task Force said Friday (June 22, 2012) it added Ecuador, Yemen and Vietnam to its list of countries that haven't made sufficient progress in tackling money laundering and terrorist financing.

The three countries were slapped with a label saying they either didn't address deficiencies in fighting money laundering and terrorism finance, or that they didn't commit to an action plan with the FATF to deal with the issues.

"The FATF calls on its members to consider the risks arising from the deficiencies associated with each jurisdiction," it said in a statement.

Ecuador, Yemen and Vietnam have each, the FATF said, taken some steps toward fixing the problem, though none of them have done enough to prevent the blacklisting.

Countries that fail to implement FATF's recommendations run the risk of being labeled as high-risk or uncooperative jurisdictions, thereby making it even more costly and difficult for those nations to do business with the banking systems of FATF members. The FATF's members include the U.S., Mexico, France and the U.K.

The FATF's last plenary was in February, when it updated its recommendations to include tax evasion and smuggling as "predicate offenses" to money laundering. It met last week in Rome.

Turkmenistan was cited as having "largely met its commitments" under the action plan, and is therefore no longer subject to monitoring by the FATF, it said.

In addition, the FATF added Afghanistan, AlbaniaKuwait and the Philippines to its list of countries seen as countries making progress toward implementing plans to fight terrorism finance and money laundering.

The countries on the so-called "gray list" have strategic deficiencies in their systems for fighting the issues, but they have committed to action plans and are making progress in dealing with them.

The Philippines is by far the most notable in the list, because it was identified in February after the last FATF plenary session as not having made sufficient progress, putting it on a so-called "dark gray" list.

This month, the Philippines enacted an amendment to its money laundering law and a law to combat the financing of terrorism, both of which were lauded by the FATF on Friday. It "strongly encourages" the country to pass another pending change to the country's money-laundering law.

The FATF's announcement Friday upgraded the Philippines from the "dark gray" list to the "gray list." More coverage of the Philippines is available herehere and here.

Calling the announcement "positive news…particularly for our overseas workers and our economy," the country's Anti-Money Laundering Council said in a statement that the pending legislation would expand the definition of money laundering under Philippine law and increase the predicate crimes to include bribery, human trafficking, tax evasion and environmental crime.

"The Philippines will continue to contribute and support the global efforts against money laundering and terrorist financing in keeping with its commitment to good governance and upholding peace and order," the statement said. 

Wall Street Journal 

Philippines bests India in call centers

Aegis PeopleSupport workers at their workstations inside the company's offices in Makati City, near Manila, Philippines, Nov. 11, 2011. Many companies have moved their customer service lines to Manila to take advantage of workers who speak American English and are familiar with American culture. Photo: Jes Aznar, New York Times.

Filipino accents and knowledge of America are a big competitive advantage.

It's midnight in Manila, and the capital is slowly waking up to the start of another working day. At the Worldwide Corporate Center office block, thousands of young Filipinos are crowding into endless open-plan offices. Once seated, they quickly start answering the questions and calming the frustrations of vexed American consumers beginning their own day on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

These Filipinos are call-center workers. To outsiders it is hardly a glamorous profession, yet -- despite the antisocial hours -- these men and women have every reason to be as well-motivated and cheerful as they seem. They are well-paid and know that they work at the heart of their country's most dynamic industry.

The rise of what is known as business-process outsourcing (BPO) in the Philippines has been nothing short of phenomenal. The very first calls weren't taken until 1997, but today the sector employs 638,000 people and enjoys revenues of $11 billion, about 5 percent of the country's GDP.

Last year the Philippines even overtook India, long the biggest call-center operator in the world, in "voice-related services." The country now employs about 400,000 people at call centers, India only 350,000.

The Southeast Asian upstart, with a population of 101 million, is unlikely ever to surpass the Indian behemoth of 1.2 billion people across the entire range of outsourcing offerings, which also include all kinds of information-technology services.

Growth expected to explode

Yet, given its extraordinary growth so far, it is hard to ignore the Philippines' projection that its BPO industry could add another 700,000 jobs by 2016 and generate revenue of $25 billion. At that point the industry would make up a tenth of the country's GDP.

As in the call-center business so far, some of these new jobs will come at the expense of India. However, India's relationship with the Philippines in back-office work is more complex than the numbers suggest.

The main reason for the success of the Philippine call centers is that workers speak English with a neutral accent and are familiar with American idioms, which is exactly what their American customers want. Of these, many have taken to complaining bitterly about Indian accents, which no amount of "voice neutralization" coaching seems to have overcome. As a result, some Indian firms have been helping to move jobs to the Philippines by setting up call centers in Manila and other parts of the country.

Infosys and Wipro, as well as scores of other Indian firms, now have substantial operations there. And they aren't drawn to Manila by cheap labor: Wages in the Philippines are slightly higher than in India, since the Filipino accent commands a premium.

It also helps that the country has a big pool of well-educated workers. The million or so Filipinos who graduate every year have few other options to choose from, besides emigrating. Working in a call center is considered a middle-class job: New recruits start at $470 a month.

The big question is whether the Philippine BPO industry, having conquered the call-center market, can now move up the value chain. To keep growing rapidly, and profitably, it needs to capture some of the more sophisticated back-office jobs, such as those processing insurance claims and conducting due diligence. In these businesses, called knowledge-process outsourcing and legal-process outsourcing, India still rules supreme.

Integreon offers a glimpse of what the future may hold. The firm occupies only a few discreet, very secure offices. It employs 300 people in Manila, 40 of them lawyers who help multinational law firms with litigation. Familiarity with America helps.

"It makes it very easy for us to do legal research for American firms," says Benjamin Romualdez, the firm's country manager.

This sort of operation is new in Manila, but Romualdez expects that he can find the skilled workers to double his workforce in the next five years. Western banks also have discovered the Philippines. JPMorgan Chase now has more than 25,000 workers on its payroll in the country, many of whom do much more than answering phones.

In short, the Philippines is set to compete with India across the BPO board.


USS Louisville - US submarine docks at Subic Zambales

A nuclear-powered attack submarine of the United States Navy arrived yesterday for a port call in Subic Bay, Zambales amid tension between the Philippines and China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

The USS Louisville would replenish supplies and give its crew an opportunity to take their rest and relaxation, according to a statement from the US embassy.

The embassy said the routine port call "highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines."

The USS Louisville is the second US attack submarine that visited the Philippines since Washington announced plans to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The first was the USS North Carolina that docked in Subic Bay last May 2012.

The port call was made as China and the Philippines are in a standoff near Panatag Shoal, located 124 nautical miles from the coast of Masinloc, Zambales.

The military, however, clarified that the visit of the Louisville has nothing to do with the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

"(The ship) has no mission in the Philippines except replenishment. That was stated in its diplomatic clearance. They have no activity involving the Philippine Navy," said Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay.

He said there is nothing unusual even if the Louisville's visit came just a month after North Carolina's port call.

"I don't see anything unusual there if they will just replenish here in the Philippines. It's normal for ships to replenish," Tonsay said, adding that it was the US that sought clearance for the port call.

USS Louisville will dock in Subic Bay until June 30. The fast attack Los Angeles-class submarine is the fourth US ship to bear the name of the city of Louisville, Kentucky.

Journalists were not allowed to cover the visit of the submarine, which was commissioned on Nov. 8, 1986 at the Naval Submarine Base in New London, Connecticut.

The Louisville is 360 feet long, weighs 6,900 tons, and is armed with sophisticated MK48 torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The standoff in Panatag Shoal started on April 10 after Chinese maritime surveillance ships barred the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese fishermen who were caught poaching and illegally harvesting endangered marine species in the area.

Manila had protested Beijing's actions in the shoal, which is within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China maintained that it has sovereignty over the area even if it is a signatory of the UNCLOS.

Aside from Panatag Shoal, the Philippines is also claiming several islets, shoals, reefs and sandbars in the Spratlys group of islands, which is also being claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

Early this month, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the US is planning to deploy a majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020.

Speaking to the delegates of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Panetta said the move is in line with US efforts to boost its presence in the Asia Pacific.

He said the US naval assets would be realigned from a roughly 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about 60-40 split between those oceans.

Panetta said the move would involve key assets including six aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and submarines.

The US official claimed that the deployment was not meant to challenge China, which has been wary of Washington's plan to boost its presence in the region.

Panetta, nevertheless, said the US is "paying close attention" to developments at Panatag Shoal.

Information sharing not necessary

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said sharing with the US the information on Chinese intrusion in Philippine waters may not be necessary since Washington already has very sophisticated intelligence equipment.

Responding to a question during the Joint Membership Meeting of the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines last month about how the Philippines shares with the US information about Chinese intrusion, Del Rosario said, "I think we do not have to send pictures to the US."

US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said on Thursday that there is no doubt and no question that his government stands by its commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

Asked about questions and doubts raised on US support to the Philippines on the issue of maritime dispute because of deep economic ties between the US and China, Del Rosario said it is an opinion everybody is entitled to.

"We stand by our treaty commitment. It's amazing to me that people would question that," Thomas 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.

But Thomas did not provide 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."

Yamamoto and Thomas said the US supports settlement of the 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).

Yamamoto said, "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."

China had accused the US of creating tensions 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 of State Hillary Clinton recently testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerns on the US accession to UNCLOS, where she said Chinese claims exceeded what was permitted by the UNCLOS.

China Ship rammed Filipino Fisherman in Payaw off 78 NM Pangasinan- 1 dead, 4 missing 3 CD

A china ship with label "Hong Kong" rammed Filipino Fishing ship resting in "Payaw", a Philippine Government made artificial fish Sanctuary 78 Nautical Miles of Bolinao Pangasinan.

 A group of Filipino fishermen who were rescued after three days at sea has told authorities on Sunday (June 24, 2012) that their boat sank after being rammed by a Chinese vessel in the waters of Pangasinan Province.

The incident happened in the North of Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) where the Philippines and China have been engaged in a tense standoff since April 2012.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Vice Admiral Edmund Tan said on Sunday that four of the eight crew members of fishing vessel F/B Axl John were rescued last Saturday morning along the vicinity off Magsingal town in Ilocos Sur after the said vessel was reportedly rammed by a much bigger unidentified shipping vessel while taking shelter along a nearby "Payaw", (better known as artificial fish sanctuary) last June 20 along the vicinity off Bolinao in Pangasinan.

Tan disclosed that the group of eight which all came from the town of Bolinao went out for fishing venture last June 18 despite rough seas based on the report given to them by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Pangasinan.

Around 11:45 p.m. of June 19, F/B Axl John was already filled with too much amount of sea water due to big waves and caused the fishing vessel to be partially submerged few hours later but the crew fortunately manage to secure the vessel to a nearby "Payaw" located around 78-nautical miles northwest of Bolinao where they take shelter and started to conduct some repairs to their damage vessel.

The PCG chief explained that while the crew members are continuing to fix the damage suffered by the vessel, another vessel making its way northward suddenly rammed the "Payaw" and the Axl John causing all the eight fishermen onboard to drift into different direction.

The boat owner identified as Jonalyn Hondrado who is a resident of Barangay Concordia in Bolinao said she received a phone call from Posio Balmores, the boat operator saying that the Axl John was rammed by what appeared to be Chinese vessel while it was anchored at the said fish sanctuary.

On the boat with Balmores were Christopher Carbonel, Lino Damian, Boy Balmores, Fred Celino, Arnold Garcia, Domy delos Santos and Amante Resonable, residents of Barangay Concordia and Barangay Arnedo.

Both Posio and Boy Balmores together with Damian and  Christopher  Carbonel were rescued around 8 a.m. of Saturday in the vicinity waters of Magsingal in Ilocos Sur and they were brought at the Gabriela Hospital in Vigan City for immediate medical treatment.

Unfortunately, Christopher Carbonel, 32 year old from island village of Dewey in Bolinao died few minutes later while his other comrade is still under observation while the two others were discharged on Sunday and were brought back to Bolinao.

Meanwhile, still missing are Celino, Garcia, Delos Santos and Resonable.

Tan on Sunday dispatched one the agency's rescue vessel, Tug Boat-271 to conduct a follow-up search and rescue operations for the three missing crew along the vicinity off Ilocos Sur.

A Notice to Mariners was also issued in all the maritime vessels in the nearby areas to be on watch out for the said three fishermen and render immediate assistance when spotted.

Philippine authorities could not immediately verify if the vessel that hit the Axl John was Chinese.

Office of Civil Defense chief Benito Ramos was quoted by the Agence France Presse as saying the incident occurred north of Scarborough Shoal where the Philippines and China have been engaged in a tense stand-off since April.

"It's north of the Scarborough, though we could not determine how far in terms of distance or nautical miles," Ramos said.

Vice Admiral Tan meanwhile said that based on the statement given to them by one of the survivors, the vessel that rammed them was marked with blue and maroon paint both on the top and freeboard portions while a word "HONGKONG" was seen somewhere near the rear part of the ship.

The stand-off at Scarborough began in April, when a Philippine Navy ship tried to apprehend Chinese fishermen allegedly poaching in the shoal.

Chinese maritime security vessels prevented the PH Navy and Coast Guard from arresting the Chinese fishermen or confiscating their cargo of live sharks, clams and coral. –with additional reports from Agence France Presse.

The of recent clash is not exactly at the Panatag Shoal but it is in the northern part of the Shoal 78 Nautical miles in the waters of Bolinao, Pangasinan. The Philippines and China have been engaged in a tense standoff since April 2012 closer this area.

President Aquino earlier this month ordered two Philippine ships to pull out from the shoal during bad weather, a move that the Chinese said calmed tensions in the area.

While China said it would also ask its fishermen to leave the area, it stressed it had no intention of pulling out its bigger ships from there.

Last week, Aquino said the government will be re-deploying ships if Chinese vessels remain in the area.

"The guidelines are very clear," Aquino said.

"If there are vessels that are not ours, we have to send back our vessels. I have ordered them back (to port) because of the weather condition.

"If there's a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no other presence or other vessels that might impinge on our sovereignty, there's no need to deploy," he clarified.

As of last week, there were still seven Chinese ships at the shoal, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The dispute erupted in April after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen who were caught poaching and illegally harvesting endangered marine species like giant coral and sharks near the shoal.

Since then, both countries have maintained ships there to press their respective claims to the area.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries.

The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (124 nautical miles) off Masinloc town in Zambales. The nearest major Chinese landmass is 1,200 kilometers northwest of the shoal, according to Philippine Navy maps.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

WSJ: USA HAS BECOMING Unreliable Friend to Asian ALLIES


The hardheaded case for President Obama's foreign policy rests on twin pillars: He is a tough commander in chief who does not hesitate to slay the nation's enemies, and he is "pivoting" from the Middle East to East Asia to confront the No. 1 threat to American power—China. There is some truth to both claims, but their essential hollowness has been revealed by a little-noticed defeat the U.S. has just suffered in a place few Americans have ever heard of.

Scarborough Shoal is a minuscule rock formation in the South China Sea that was discovered by an unlucky British East India Company ship, the Scarborough, which grounded there in 1784. This outcropping has been claimed by both China and the Philippines because of the rich fishing beds that surround it and the possibility of drilling for oil.

You would think that the Philippines would have the better claim, having built a lighthouse and planted its flag there in the 1960s. The shoal is only 140 miles west of Luzon, the main Philippine island, well within Manila's 200-mile "exclusive economic zone" as recognized under international law. It is 750 miles from the Chinese landmass.

Nevertheless, China is trying to assert its sovereignty over nine-tenths of the South China Sea based on tendentious historical "evidence" ranging from purported trips by Chinese explorers 2,000 years ago to a 1947 map issued by China's Nationalist government and recognized by no other state.

However unconvincing its claims, China is attempting to make good on them by sending fishing vessels and paramilitary patrol boats into disputed waters. In early April, a Philippine navy ship tried to prevent Chinese fishermen from poaching seafood from the area. Two armed boats from the Chinese Marine Surveillance Agency intervened and a standoff ensued.

Over the past two months, China sent more than 20 ships to the shoal, including as many as seven paramilitary vessels. The Philippines' interests were protected by two Coast Guard cutters. The standoff finally ended, at least for the time being, when the Philippines withdrew its vessels rather than risk losing them in an approaching typhoon.

The U.S. is bound to protect the Philippines under the terms of a 1951 treaty. Yet even as our ally was being bullied by China, the Obama administration adopted a pose of studied neutrality.

The Philippines has offered to submit the Scarborough Shoal dispute to an international tribunal under the Law of the Sea Treaty, which both Beijing and Manila have signed. But China refuses, no doubt knowing it would lose. The Chinese leadership must figure they have a better chance to assert their claim by force majeure because there is no way a weak state like the Philippines can stand up to them.

The Obama administration did not orchestrate an international campaign to rally support for the Philippines. And it failed to take the most dramatic step of all by not sending an American destroyer or other warship to Scarborough Shoal. Would doing so have risked war with China? Hardly. In fact China is the classic bully with a glass jaw.

For evidence, look no further than the tiny Pacific Island of Palau. In late March, at virtually the same time that the Scarborough Shoal standoff was beginning, a Chinese fishing vessel illegally entered Palau's waters. When the poachers ignored repeated demands that they leave an area designated as a shark sanctuary, police from Palau's Fish and Wildlife Division opened fire, trying to sink the offending vessel.

The result: one fisherman dead and 25 captured. A couple of weeks later, under the terms of a deal with China, the poachers were fined $1,000 each and flown back home. The Chinese must have been furious, but their diplomat on the scene had nothing to say except "it is a good outcome."

No one is suggesting that either the Philippine or U.S. navies should have opened fire over the Scarborough Shoal dispute. But it is a sad day when Palau (population 20,000) is more assertive in standing up to Chinese aggression than the United States of America. The nations of Asia are watching carefully and making their calculations accordingly. In their eyes, the U.S. just became a less reliable friend.

Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the forthcoming "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present" (Liveright).

Wall Street Journal Opinion

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Philippine external debt ratio goes down but total foreign debt rises

The external debt ratio of the Philippines, or the total foreign debt taken as a percentage of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), has dropped in the first quarter of this year.

In a press statement issued on Friday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country's central bank, said the external debt ratio was down to 27.4 percent from January to March this year from the 29.5 percent registered for the same period last year.

However, the BSP said that in absolute terms, the outstanding external debt of the Philippines in the first quarter rose to 62.9 billion U.S. dollars, up by 3.3 percent from 60.9 billion U.S. dollars as of the same period last year.

The BSP explained that despite the increase in the absolute amount of debt incurred by the government and the private sector for the first quarter, the debt ratio dropped because the growth of GDP in the first quarter was much faster. The country's GDP grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter, a big jump from the 3.7 percent full-year growth in 2011.

According to BSP officials, the country's outstanding foreign debt grew because of an increase in investments.

"The increase is due largely to 2.3 billion U.S. dollars net availments (excess of borrowings over repayments) as investment and business activities by both public and private sector entities escalated due to the upbeat business sentiment," the BSP said.

Despite the higher debt level, major external debt indicators remain at prudent and comfortable levels in the first quarter, the BSP added.

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the Philippine government agency tasked to monitor and evaluate all economic data, said that the mix of indicators used to forecast economic developments points to sustained growth for the country in the second quarter of 2012.

After a decline in the third quarter of 2011, the composite leading economic indicators, or LEIs, accelerated over the next three consecutive quarters, strongly indicating a continuation of positive outlook for the country's economy, NSCB said.

In a report posted on its website, the NSCB said that the LEIs grew 0.125 in the second quarter of the year from a revised 0.064 in the first quarter.

NSCB Secretary General Romulo A. Virola said growth in LEIs hinted at better prospects for business and, thus, economic expansion for the rest of the year.

Of the 11 indicators that make up the composite LEI, seven contributed positively in the second quarter of 2012, the NSCB said.

The LEI System, or LEIS, was developed by the NSCB and the National Economic and Development Authority to serve as basis for short-term forecasting of macroeconomic activity in the country.

The NSCB has also estimated that as of the end of last year, every Filipino owed 51,675 pesos (1,200 U.S dollars), to domestic and foreign creditors.

The Philippines has now a population of more than 95 million.

Despite its huge debt burden, the Philippines managed to lend 1 billion U.S. dollars to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Malaca?ang, the seat of the Philippine government, said that it was an obligation on the part of the Philippines to help countries in dire need of funding through the (IMF) as it brushed off criticisms that it was improper for the government to lend money when it needs funds for programs to alleviate poverty and hunger in the country.

Edwin Lacierda, President Benigno Aquino's spokesperson, justified the move by saying that the Philippines had been a recipient of IMF assistance for the past 40 years.

"Now that we have been considered a creditor nation, we feel it is our obligation to assist those nations who require funding from IMF," Lacierda said in a press briefing.

Lacierda said that contribution of 1 billion U.S. dollars to IMF's standby fund of 456 billion U.S. dollars "would also help in stabilizing the crisis that's going on in Europe."

"It is our responsibility; it is part of our obligation (to the) IMF who has assisted us during our times of crisis in the Philippines," Lacierda said.

In a separate statement, BSP Governor Amando Tetangco said the Philippines will get returns from the loan it extended to the IMF.

Tetangco said that for nearly 40 years until 2006, the Philippines itself was a net borrower from the IMF. "We finally fully paid our loans to IMF in December 2006 as the implementation of continuing reforms has made our economy stronger," he said.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Philippines with other 19 countries Pledges Billion Dollars to Boost IMF

20 Countries Pledges to Boost IMF (International Monetary Fund) to save Europe

  1. Belgium - $13.2 Billion
  2. Brazil - $10 Billion
  3. Britain (UK)- $15 Billion
  4. China - $43 Billon
  5. France - $41.4 Billion
  6. Germany - $54.7 Billion
  7. India - $10 Billion
  8. Italy - $31 Billion
  9. Japan - $60 Billion
  10. Mexico - $10 Billion
  11. Netherlands - $18 Billion
  12. Philippines - $1 Billion
  13. Russia - $10 Billion
  14. Saudi Arabia - $15 Billion
  15. Spain - $ 19.6 Billion
  16. Sweden - $10 Billion
  17. Switzerland - $10 Billion
  18. Singapore - pledged smaller undisclosed amount
  19. South Africa - $2 Billion
  20. South Korea - $15 Billion
  21. USA - refused to pledge

President Aquino administration's pledge to lend $1 billion USD to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday drew mixed reactions.

A militant labor group slammed the administration's pledge, saying the funds should be spent for Filipinos suffering from widespread unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and hunger.

On the other hand, an administration ally in the House praised the government for agreeing to pitch in to the IMF's fund-raising efforts to bail out tumbling economies in Europe.

"Planet Earth to the Aquino government: The Philippines is still a poor country," the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said in a statement.

But Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol "Magi" Gunigundo said the move to lend $1 billion from the country's gross international reserves to the IMF would "actually hit two birds with one stone."

KMU said the pledge, which was announced at the recent Group of 20 meeting in Mexico by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr., would most likely be sourced from taxpayers' money and go to the IMF's "war chest" for helping economies distressed by the current severe economic crisis.

"What were they thinking? That amount can be used to improve social services such as education, health, and housing and build basic industries to generate employment," KMU chair Elmer Labog said.

"Where will the Aquino government get this huge amount? From a new tax measure, which will worsen the poverty and hunger being experienced by workers and the people?" he asked.

"We will earn interest and help our kababayans or overseas Filipino workers in Europe to keep their jobs by helping their economies survive the current turmoil," said Gunigundo. "If Europe's economy falls, our OFWs in the region will lose their jobs not to mention our exports will also fall."

Gunigundo said that while the Philippines does have its own problems, "we should have a global perspective considering that what happens in Europe will be felt in other regions such as Asia and the US."

Philippines with other 19

The country is one of an additional 12 that contributed to new crisis-fighting funds now amounting to $456 billion, the IMF said in a statement. The latest level is up from the $430 billion committed last April.

"Countries large and small have rallied to our call for action, and more may join," the statement quoted IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as saying.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the country wanted to help promote global economic and financial stability.

"The BSP's commitment to the Fund's bilateral borrowing facility is the Philippines' show of support...," central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., said in a text message.

The new pledges to boost IMF resources were made during a recent G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, although the Philippines is not part of the group of major economies.

"Having facilities such as this in place does not indicate -- one way or the other -- that the view is such that the situation can worsen," Mr. Tetangco noted.

"Rather, prudence dictates that the best time to have safety nets in place is when you don't need them yet. The facility is there when it is needed," he added.

The Philippines is a participant in the IMF's Financial Transactions Plan (FTP). From the country's contributions, the IMF drew down 96.4 million special drawing rights (SDR) or approximately $148.9 million as of the end of last year.

Participation in the FTP since 2010 paved the way for the country' admission to the IMF's New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) facility. The Philippines' commitment under this facility amounts to 340 million SDRs or about $524 million.

As of April, the IMF had drawn 34.7 million SDRs or $53.5 million from the NAB commitment to extend assistance to Portugal and Greece.

Dennis Botman, IMF resident representative, also welcomed the Philippines' new commitment.

"The [Philippine] government has made a generous contribution to the global firewall and the IMF is impressed by, and indeed grateful for, the strong support demonstrated by the Philippines," he said in an e-mail.

"This commitment will greatly help the collective endeavor to rekindle growth, restore confidence, and create jobs to put the global economy on the path of sustained recovery." Earlier this year, IMF made the call for additional resources to deal primarily with the euro zone debt crisis and its possible spillover.

BSP chief: $1B loan to IMF will earn interest, goodwill

Having near record-high foreign reserves of $76 billion, the Philippines is "capable of lending $1 billion" that will earn interest while helping other countries beset with financial problems, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. pointed out Wednesday.

 "The Philippines is supporting the global efforts to stabilize the world economy and maintain it on a growth path.  This is the reason why the Philippines is extending a $1 billion loan to the IMF," Tetangco said in a statement.

 "We are a member of the global community of nations and it is also in our interest to ensure economic and financial stability across the globe," he added.

 This pledge to the IMF fund marks the third time that the country has extended a helping hand to other countries that were in troubled fiscal waters. In the past months, the country pitched in for a fund to assist troubled European economies and another buffer fund, the Chiang Mai Multilateral Initiative.

Getting used to being a creditor nation

Tetangco recalled that the Philippines was an IMF borrower for 40 years until 2006.

"We finally fully paid our loans to IMF in December 2006 as the implementation of continuing reforms have made our economy stronger. Today, our economic fundamentals are sound, our banks are able to meet domestic credit needs, and we are capable of lending $1 billion from our international reserves to the IMF," the BSP chief noted.

At the G20 Leaders' Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde thanked the countries " large and small (that) "have rallied to our call for action, and more may join."

"I salute them and their commitment to multilateralism. As a result, total pledges have risen to US$456 billion, almost doubling our lending capacity," she said.

Lagarde explained that "(t)hese resources are being made available for crisis prevention and resolution and to meet the potential financing needs of all IMF members. They will be drawn only if they are needed, and if drawn, will be refunded with interest." 


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