Thursday, May 30, 2013

EU/UK workers complained for alleged that AMEC replaced their Labors with Philippine Workforce at a lower Pay

Concern: the jacket for the Jasmine platform in the UK North Sea is towed out

Amec denies foul play over Filipino hirings

UK CONTRACTOR Amec has defended using up to 70 employees from the Philippines on the hook-up and commissioning of ConocoPhillips' Jasmine platform off the United Kingdom.

Other workers on the project raised concerns with Upstream that Filipino staff had been employed as cheap alternatives to UK or European Union labor.

They allege the Filipino staff, understood to be working a three-week on, three-week off shift rota, are receiving $900 per week after deductions with no pay for time spent onshore.

Amec confirmed it had engaged 38 Filipino personnel through the V-Ships agency to work as pipefitters and platers.

Up to 30 more and one Indian national are working as commissioning technicians for Amec subsidiary Gedi.

Amec denies the international workers are receiving lower rates than UK or EU employees and Upstream was unable to verify independently the alleged pay figures.

Pay rates and employment terms for the project have been agreed between the Unite and GMB unions and the Offshore Contractors Association (OCA), using the collective OCA pay agreement as a benchmark.

UK or EU workers in similar roles to the Filipinos — classified as Category B under the OCA agreement — would receive a minimum of £247 per day ($370) as well as onshore pay, it is understood.

Amec said the workers all have the required competency levels and added: "The total remuneration of the Filipino workers is in line with OCA rates — i.e. rates for UK or EU workers.

"All personnel engaged, whether from the UK or from overseas, are employed according with the OCA with all personnel, including commissioning, being paid competitive market rates."

Unite regional organizer Wullie Wallace said he was not aware that international workers were receiving less pay than UK workers.

The international labor element on the project represents about 5% of the 1400-strong labor force.

Amec said the employment of overseas personnel on this North Sea project was "a contingency exercise to mitigate risk... to deliver the job safely and on time for the customer".

The overseas workforce would be used in the short-term to meet peak labor requirements and the company remained committed to using UK labor, it said.

A spokesperson for the UK contractor said recruitment for the Jasmine project had entailed a "huge coordinated program of advertising, road shows and working in partnership with the GMB and Unite unions".

Both Amec and the Unite union said the campaign to recruit UK labor had been more successful than anticipated and that less international labor than expected was being used.

V–Ships were unavailable for comment by press time.

Amec said V-Ships are recognized internationally for its high standards of employment and remuneration packages.

With report from Upstream

How did the Philippines trump China to become the fastest growing economy in Asia?

Economic expansions compared. The graph above shows the first-quarter growth in the GNP in the last five years. Illustration from Manila Standard Today

The Philippine economy grew by 7.8% in the first three months of 2013, surpassing every single analyst estimate and putting it just above China as one of Asia's fastest growing economies. The torrid growth, the best in nearly three years, is especially impressive given that exports declined 6.2% as electronics shipments collapsed.

So how is it growing so fast?

1) Infrastructure

The Philippines, like Thailand, is pursuing a massive infrastructure spending program worth around $10 billion. It covers a wide range of investments, from power plants and bridges to roads and schools. Although not all the money has been spent, the program has already created upwards of 400,000 jobs and helped win an investment grading from rating agencies, opening up the country to more international money.

2) Domestic Demand

If foreigners aren't going to buy your goods, you better hope the locals are. Domestic demand in the Philippines has been very strong, driven by private investment and consumer growth in a way that China must envy. Manufacturing growth in the country is up by 9.7% due to demand for food, appliances, communication and transport, and construction were up a whopping 32.5% in the first three months of the year. Services expanded 7%.

Filipinos preferred their products and called their Philippine made products as "genuine and Original" with better quality than imported products from china which they called them as "Lokal" or imitation with poor quality. Consumer's patronizing locally made Philippine products also boost the manufacturing sector in the country.

"Initially, this was led by infrastructure spending from the government," the National Economic and Development chief Artemio Balisacan told the Philippine Star. "By the second half of 2012, private construction started to rebound."

3) Overseas Filipino Remittance Payments

Underpinning domestic demand is a raft of Overseas Filipino remittance payments that make their way to the Philippines each year from its vast Diaspora—over $5 Billion Dollars in the first quarter of 2013. The cash transfers have long helped the Philippines pay off foreign debt and boost domestic consumption.

Can it continue?

Good news lasts only so long, and analysts have pointed to several risks. Exports may continue to fall as China slows and Europe stagnates. But the global slowdown had little impact on manufacturing so the Philippine could rely on domestic strong demand. Overseas Filipino Remittance payments, although large, are at their lowest in nearly four years, and the Philippine stock market tumbled almost 4% on Thursday, in line with the Nikkei, despite the strong economic growth figures. Manila is sticking with a 6-7% growth target for the whole of 2013.

"There's a disconnect between the economy and the valuation of the market," a Manila-based trader told Bloomberg. "While overseas investors say they like our economic fundamentals, they find valuations to be stretched."

The Philippine stock market is one of Asia's best performing bourses, up 41% in the last year, but traders are clearly worried about whether there is an asset bubble in the making. The Philippines has strengths China doesn't, but building roads and pushing up the budget deficit is not enough when it comes to a long-term strategy.

With report from QUARTZ

Philippines 2013 fastest growth in Asia hits up 7.8% in Q1 nudged ahead China and Indonesia’s 7.7 & 6%

Philippine unexpected growth beat all estimates in a Bloomberg News survey of 22 economists.

The country's economy posted better than expected growth in the first quarter of 2013 (January-March), lifted by strong manufacturing and construction sectors, and cementing views the central bank will leave its key policy rate on hold for the rest of 2013.

With the Philippines facing export headwinds as global growth shows signs of an extended slowdown, analysts expect the central bank to tweak some policy levers to support domestic consumption.

Gross domestic product expanded a seasonally adjusted 2.2 per cent in the first quarter over the prior three months, faster than the upwardly revised 1.9 per cent in October-December, and above a market forecast of 1.6 per cent.

The quarterly rate was the fastest since the first quarter of 2012, when it grew at the same pace.

From a year earlier, the economy grew 7.8 per cent, helped by increases in public and private spending, making the Philippines the fastest growing economy in Asia as it nudged ahead of China's growth of 7.7 per cent on an annual basis and 1.6 per cent quarter on quarter.

The Philippines' annual GDP figure was also higher than 6.1 per cent growth forecast in a Reuters poll.

The January-March data marked the third consecutive quarter of above 7 per cent annual growth for the Southeast Asian country, with the yearly growth rate in the period the highest for any single quarter during the three-year-old Aquino administration, the economic planning agency said in a statement.

The export-reliant Philippines is facing some risk that demand for its high-tech products will slow on more evidence that global growth is losing momentum.

"We remain vigilant of the downside risks; disasters can negate the gains and push back development. The global economy remains fragile," economic planning chief Arsenio Balisacan told reporters, adding capital inflows were also another risk.

Markets' reactions to the data were mixed. The peso was off early lows and was quoted at 42.35 per dollar at 02.16 GMT from a low of around 42.515 in early deals. But the Philippine stock market was down about 1 per cent.

Economists said the central bank would most likely leave its key overnight borrowing rate on hold for the rest of the year, with inflation forecast to stay within the central bank's 3 to 5 per cent target band this year despite strong growth.

The central bank next meets to review policy on June 13. It has kept its policy rate steady at a record low of 3.5 per cent since December 2012, but has slashed the rate on its special deposit account (SDA) facility by more than 200 basis points since July 2012 to divert credit to more productive use.

"We think the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) will continue to cut the SDA rate to lift domestic spending as well as save costs," said Trinh Nguyen, economist at HSBC in Hong Kong.

With the outlook on exports still murky, domestic consumption will remain as the main driver for economic growth this year. Manila is targeting growth of 6 per cent to 7 per cent in 2013 after a revised 6.8 per cent expansion the prior year. Domestic demand is seen holding up well in 2013, underpinned by strong remittances, low inflation and record-low borrowing costs.

Economists in the same poll forecast full-year 2013 growth of 6.2 per cent, slower from the previous year but better than the 5.9 per cent estimate in a Reuters quarterly poll in April.

National Economic and Development Authority director general and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Artemio Balisacan said the country grew fastest in Southeast Asia, even overtaking growth rates of neighbors China and Indonesia having 7.7 percent and 6 percent respectively.

"Impressive performance of these sectors prove that the country is already reaping the benefits of strengthening priority sectors that are potential growth drivers and employment generators," said Balisacan. "Business confidence and consumer optimism fuelled this growth, putting to rest doubts cast on the 2012 figures as being due to base effects only."

"The numbers speak for themselves. The numbers exceeded market forecasts, including my own," Balisacan added.

He also said the impressive growth of various sectors would also generate employment for Filipinos.

In 2012, the Philippine economy grew 7.1 percent

Pineapples are stacked on a truck at a Dole Food Co. plantation in Polomolok,  South Cotabato, Mindanao, the Philippines. Exports, which make up the equivalent of about 30 percent of the economy, fell in two out of three months through March, data showed. photo: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Growth sectors

Albert said the robust growth was boosted by the strong performance of manufacturing and construction, backed up by financial intermediation and trade.

Increased domestic demand led to the local manufacturing sector growing at 9.7 percent while the construction sector grew by 32.5 percent in the first three months of the year.

"Initially, this was led by infrastructure spending of the government. By the second half of 2012, private construction started to rebound," said Balisacan.

On the other hand, Albert cited the continued inflow of remittances from overseas Filipino workers, which accelerated the Net Primary Income from the rest of the world to grow by 3.2 percent.

This boosted the Gross National Income (GNI) growth to 7.1 percent from 5.7 percent in 2012, according to the NSCB chief.

The agriculture sector also grew by 3.3 percent as the fisheries subsector bounced back to a growth of 5.5 percent during the first quarter.

Capital formation spurred overall growth with its 47.7 percent expansion, according to Balisacan.

"For the first time, expenditure in capital formation, including other private sector investments such as on durable equipment, contributed more to growth than household consumption expenditure," the Cabinet official said.

Government consumption also grew by 13.2 percent due to state support for social programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Balisacan is also expecting the growth to be sustained regardless of the sluggish growth of developed countries.

"Despite what's happening in other countries, (the global economy) will not hamper our growth," he said.

Inclusive growth?

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang said the government is not resting on its laurels with the faster-than-expected growth in the first quarter.

"Our challenge is to sustain the growth and ensure that all Filipinos feel its positive effects," he said on Twitter.

A recent survey has reported that some 1.1 million young Filipinos have joined the unemployed and underemployed pool of 10.05 million this year and a reverse migration which the country currently experiencing could also affect the figure.

There has also been little change in poverty and hunger figures, standing at 27.9 percent in early 2012.

Related story: The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines' Economic Growth

"To address this, we need to create more jobs than that number," Balisacan said.

Meanwhile,  Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said the Aquino administration remains focused on fostering inclusive growth.

"Since our administration took office, we have worked to drastically expand social safety nets to help the most vulnerable in our country...The recent election results show that the public has confidence in the President, and agrees with the direction the country is going. Therefore, our administration will continue to promote and expand policies that lead to a Philippines where no one is left behind," Valte said in a statement.

2012 growth figures revised

On Wednesday night, the NSCB also revised the 2012 annual GDP growth figures from 6.6 percent to 6.8 percent.

"The revision was brought by the upward revisions in Public Administration and Defense: Compulsory Social Security (PAD), Mining & Quarrying, Other Services, and Construction," the NSCB said.

Net Primary Income was similarly revised upward from 3.3 percent to 4.8 percent which consequently resulted in an upward revision of GNI for 2012 from 5.8 percent to 6.5 percent.

In contrast, the 2011 GDP growth figure was revised downward from 3.9 percent to 3.6 percent due to the revisions in Construction, Other Services and Real Estate, Renting & Business Activities.

The GNI for 2011 was also revised downward from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent.

Meanwhile, GDP growth figure for fourth quarter of 2012 was revised upward from 6.8 percent to 7.1 percent due to upward revisions in construction, financial intermediation and PAD.

"Released last January 2013, the preliminary GDP estimates for said quarter were based from limited data available 15 days after the reference period," the agency said.

With report from Financial Times, Bloomberg and philSTAR

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Philippines Says It Followed Rules of Engagement in Sea Shooting

The Philippines said a coast guard vessel obeyed the rules of engagement when it fired on a Taiwanese boat in a May 9 confrontation that killed a fisherman and strained relations between the two countries.

Officers on the patrol boat opened fire when the fishing vessel's crew tried to stop them from boarding a separate, bigger Taiwanese ship that was also in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya told reporters in Manila today. The shots were meant to immobilize the fishing boat that was blocking the way, he said.

"We complied with the rules of engagement," Abaya said. "There is no authority to fire at human beings or target them, and whoever died was not seen."

Taiwan and the Philippines are separately investigating the shooting, which has soured trade ties after Taiwan rejected President Benigno Aquino's offer of an apology and imposed economic punishments. The standoff highlights strains in a part of the South China Sea beset by competing territorial claims from countries including Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and China.

"We want to show that if China intrudes into our waters, we will take an equally harsh stance," Benito Lim, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, said by phone. "Aquino could have officially apologized and scolded the coast guard to end it all, but he didn't."

'Continuously Monitoring'

Travel agencies have canceled trips amid a broader Taiwanese halt to diplomatic engagement. Taiwanese visitors, who made up 4.2 percent of the 1.27 million foreigners who came to the Philippines in the first quarter, may drop by about 20,000 a month after a travel warning from Taiwan's government, Philippine Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said yesterday.

In an interview earlier this month, the captain of the Taiwanese fishing boat, Hung Yu-chi, called the Philippine coast guard attack unprovoked and said his fishing boat had been in Taiwanese waters. He said his father was struck by a bullet and killed as he and the crew hid in an engine room.

Philippine authorities are "continuously monitoring" the fishing area off the coast of the northern Philippine province of Batanes in the Philippine Sea, where the shooting occurred, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Asis Perez said in a separate briefing today.

Agriculture officials from the Philippines and Taiwan will hold fishery talks by July as part of a continuing dialogue, he said, adding that meeting had been scheduled before the diplomatic tensions began.

China Tensions

The Philippines assured China it would only send food and water to its soldiers on Ayungin Shoal in the disputed Spratly Island area and won't build other structures there, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters in a separate briefing today after meeting with Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing.

China is monitoring the BRP Sierra Madre vessel that serves as a base for Philippine soldiers after it went aground in 1999 on the shoal, which is 110 nautical miles off Palawan province, Gazmin said in Manila.

There are currently two Chinese surveillance vessels in the area, Philippine Navy spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said by phone today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Norman P. Aquino in Manila at naquino1@bloomberg.net; Joel Guinto in Manila at jguinto1@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg 

UP Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Speaks - Taiwanese government is officially sponsoring & condoning illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Philippine waters

Map: The actual incident where Taiwanese fishermen shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard

University of the Philippines Speaks: Assistant Professor, UP College of Law and Director, UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea to Taiwan and the Philippine Maritime row

  1. Test of Foreign Policy of the Philippines
  2. Bias reports from Taiwanese Media
  3. Taiwanese intentionally ventured beyond even Taiwan's own "provisional boundary"
  4. Taiwan is not entitled to claim Philippine waters as being within its EEZ as if the Philippines does not exist
  5. Taiwan violates its own law by unilaterally and illegally appropriating for itself the Philippine EEZ around the Batanes Islands through the provisional boundary
  6. Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) was justified in attempting to intercept, board, inspect, and if necessary, arrest the Taiwanese vessel since it was in flagrante delicto with absolutely no right to fish in Philippine waters
  7. Opportunistic politics Taiwanese government has absolutely no moral or legal right to enact sanctions against the Philippines, nor to demand that the Philippines surrender its fisheries resources through a fisheries agreement, nor to allow or encourage personal reprisals against Filipino citizens in Taiwan.
  8. Taiwanese government Acts of bad faith for condonation and encouragement of illegal fishing in Philippine waters by encouraging their fishermen to ignore the fact that they are fishing in Philippine watersAnd taking advantage of the weakness of Philippine naval and law enforcement assets
  9. Taiwanese government is officially sponsoring and condoning illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Philippine waters
  10. The recent conduct of military exercises in the north, and the threat that Taiwanese government is ready to send its navy into Philippine waters to protect its fishermen who fish illegally, may be considered as a threat of the use of force and tantamount to an act of aggression prohibited by international law.
  11. If Taiwan persists in these aggressive activities, the Philippines has sufficient reason to bring the matter to the attention of the UN Security Council as an act of aggression and a threat to regional peace and security instigated by a non-State actor
  12. The Philippines should not act so timid and ashamed of enforcing its own laws and protecting its own natural resources, even if law enforcement leads to incidents such as this.
  13. Philippines may acknowledge own mistakes, but we should never bow to shameless bullying

Standing firm against Taiwan's strong-arm tactics

The death of Taiwanese fisherman Huang Shih-Cheng on account of Philippine law enforcement activities is yet another test of Philippine foreign policy, particularly its resolve to protect the nation's territory and marine wealth.

It should be clear that the loss of a human life under any such circumstance is regrettable and a valid cause for reflection and concern. But a singular misfortune should not be unscrupulously used as a political hammer with which to bludgeon Philippine dignity and demand a surrender of legitimate Philippine interests.

The context of the incident must be clarified. Information from Taiwanese media reports on the incident, biased as they are, reveal that the Taiwanese fishing boat Guang Da Xing 28 was illegally fishing well within Philippine waters.

The assertion that the vessel was in Taiwanese waters at the time is an assertion made in bad faith, shown indisputably by the geographic coordinates and vessel track publicly released by Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (TCGA).

First, the vessel's track shows that it intentionally ventured beyond even Taiwan's own "provisional boundary," which it unilaterally established without the consent of the Philippines for purposes of maritime regulation of its own vessels. In other words, the vessel was fishing outside Taiwan's own claimed maritime areas.

Second, the vessel was fishing approximately 43 nautical miles east of Balintang Island, far beyond any Taiwanese territory and undeniably closer to Philippine territory.

Third, the vessel deliberately sailed into and intentionally fished beyond the median line created by the overlapping EEZs of the Philippines and Taiwan. In international law, while all coastal states are entitled to claim EEZs of up to a maximum of 200 nautical miles, in case of overlapping zones, they may legitimately claim only up to the median line which is equidistant at all points from their respective baselines. The only exception is if they agree upon a different boundary by treaty.

Even if Taiwan were a full-pledged coastal state, it is not entitled to claim Philippine waters as being within its EEZ as if the Philippines does not exist. If that was a valid argument, then Taiwan should consider most of its waters open to Philippine and Japanese fishing vessels up to the mainland coasts which are all within 200 nautical miles of either Philippine or Japanese territories.

Furthermore, Article 4 of Taiwan's own EEZ law requires Taiwan to seek an agreement on the basis of equity to resolve overlapping EEZ boundaries. In international law, a median line based on equidistance is presumed prima facie to be an equitable line, unless special circumstances show it to be otherwise.

Caught in the act

Instead of establishing the boundary by agreement and on the basis of equity, Taiwan violates its own law by unilaterally and illegally appropriating for itself the Philippine EEZ around the Batanes Islands through the provisional boundary.

A map of the area of the incident, showing the Philippine treaty limits, Taiwanese provisional boundary, and median line of the overlapping EEZs from the two countries' respective baselines, and the vessel's track, all prove (based on Taiwanese accounts) that the vessel was committing a violation of Section 87 of the Philippine Fisheries Code, or the offense of poaching in Philippine waters.

The Guang Da Xing 28 deliberately fished about 130 nautical miles inside the Philippine EEZ. For this reason alone, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) was justified in attempting to intercept, board, inspect, and if necessary, arrest the Taiwanese vessel since it was in flagrante delicto with absolutely no right to fish in Philippine waters.

Until the offending vessel is actually boarded and inspected, the PCG cannot afford to let its guard down; the limited naval and coast guard assets in that area are faced with multiple possible threats.

The area of the incident in particular has long been a problem for maritime law enforcement not only on account of illegal fishing, but also smuggling, drug trafficking, illegal logging, and illegal migration activities. Whether any other violations were also being committed, unfortunately, may no longer be determined since the PCG was unable to carry out the arrest.

Duplicity, opportunism

The incident having arisen on account of the commission by the Taiwanese vessel of an offense, Taiwan has absolutely no right to demand that the Philippines enter into a fisheries agreement with it, in order to give Taiwan access to the Philippine EEZ. Neither does it justify Taiwan's imposition of economic sanctions against the Philippines. Such an agreement would be morally unacceptable because in effect, it allows Taiwan to profit disproportionately from an illegal act.

More sanguine Taiwanese observers and scholars admit that the Taiwan government is merely over-reacting to the situation. But this is an understatement; taken as a whole, the Taiwanese government's reactions smack of duplicity and opportunism.

What Taiwan is legitimately entitled to is only an honest and impartial investigation of the incident, just as in any other case where a person suffers injury or death on account of law enforcement. The use of force is generally authorized in all law enforcement operations (otherwise it would not be credible or effective).

In international practice, such use of force is generally disfavored but not absolutely prohibited. Even the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF), a generally-accepted international instrument that includes guidelines for fisheries law enforcement by coastal states, recognizes that it may be necessary to use force to physically stop a suspect vessel. This is in cases where a vessel does not respond to standard instructions to stop and permit boarding and despite repeated warnings by radio or loud hailer.

The CCRF does admonish, though, that particular care be taken when using force, and that states should employ only the minimum amount necessary to ensure compliance with lawful instructions.

What is not permitted is the use of "excessive" force. In accord with standard international practice, whether a degree of force applied is still permissible or already excessive depends on the circumstances.

For maritime law enforcement by the Philippine Navy or the PCG, this depends on the so-called "rules of engagement" that govern their operations at sea. Such rules prescribe, in a clear and calibrated manner, the actions that a vessel may take in order to carry out its functions. They describe the conditions under which a ship captain may or may not use force, and to what degree.

This makes it even more important to determine, through proper, calm, and impartial investigation, whether the PCG was justified in shooting at the Guang Da Xing 28 in the manner that it did.

Three questions are key to this issue.

First, whether the PCG vessel followed proper procedures in intercepting and attempting to board and inspect a foreign vessel caught fishing in Philippine waters. Second, whether the Guang Da Xing 28 attempted to resist or elude the PCG in carrying out its law enforcement mandate. And lastly, whether the act of firing upon the Guang Da Xing 28 was a reasonable course of action under the circumstances in order for the PCG to carry out its duty to enforce the law at sea.

If the investigation results in a finding that there was indeed an "excessive" use of force, then the chips must fall where they must and the officers responsible must be held accountable in accordance with our law. This is the appropriate, principled, and dignified response.

Beyond that, the Taiwanese government has absolutely no moral or legal right to enact sanctions against the Philippines, nor to demand that the Philippines surrender its fisheries resources through a fisheries agreement, nor to allow or encourage personal reprisals against Filipino citizens in Taiwan.

The Taiwanese President's highly inflammatory remarks calling the death "cold blooded murder," his government's outright denial of working visas to Filipino workers, his rejection of the President's personal apology (despite the absence of solid basis), and use of the fisherman's demise as an excuse to threaten the Philippines with economic sanctions in order to coerce the Philippines to grant its unjustified demands, all smack of opportunistic politics.

The reprisals taken against innocent OFWs in Taiwan and Filipinos in general are racist responses and not acts of civilized nations nor of responsible members of the international community.

Acts of bad faith

The Taiwan government's actions expose a patently illegal agenda of forcing its modern industrialized fishing fleet upon Philippine waters to the detriment of our artisanal fishing communities, and is rooted in Taiwan's own official condonation and encouragement of illegal fishing.

The location and configuration of the TCGA's provisional boundary, the assertion of a full 200 nautical mile EEZ that disregards the presence of Philippine land territory, and the disproportionate sanctions in response to an unfortunate outcome of Philippine law enforcement operations, are all acts of bad faith. They should be considered as an affront to the rights and dignity of the Philippines as a full-pledged and independent coastal State.

By encouraging their fishermen to ignore the fact that they are fishing in Philippine waters, and taking advantage of the weakness of Philippine naval and law enforcement assets, the Taiwanese government is officially sponsoring and condoning illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Philippine waters.

A number of international instruments condemn IUU fishing, and the Philippines should consider having Taiwan declared an IUU-sponsoring entity in bodies such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, so that the international community can take action against its entire fishing fleet everywhere in the world.

Furthermore, the recent conduct of military exercises in the north, and the threat that Taiwanese government is ready to send its navy into Philippine waters to protect its fishermen who fish illegally, may be considered as a threat of the use of force and tantamount to an act of aggression prohibited by international law. It is an open declaration that it will use force to take the country's marine fisheries in its EEZ.

By taking this course of action, the Taiwanese government transforms Taiwan into a rogue maritime nation, flaunting its military and economic assets against smaller, weaker coastal nations in order to appropriate their natural resources. It amounts to nothing less than official blackmail and extortion.

While Taiwan is not recognized as an independent state and is not a member of the United Nations, as an international actor it is still subject to the same basic rules of international relations. If Taiwan persists in these aggressive activities, the Philippines has sufficient reason to bring the matter to the attention of the UN Security Council as an act of aggression and a threat to regional peace and security instigated by a non-State actor.

Even if it later turns out that Philippine law enforcement authorities committed a serious mistake in law enforcement that caused the unfortunate death of a Taiwanese citizen, the country should not succumb to the completely unjustifiable and disproportionate reactions of the Taiwanese government.

The country's relative weakness in terms of economic and military might, and our OFWs' employment and the dependence of their families on their remittances, do not justify the strong-arm tactics that the Taiwanese government.

The Philippines should not act so timid and ashamed of enforcing its own laws and protecting its own natural resources, even if law enforcement leads to incidents such as this.

We may acknowledge our mistakes, but we should never bow to shameless bullying.

The author is Assistant Professor, UP College of Law and Director, UP Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

With report from Rappler.com

Batanes Fisher folks Opposed signing Philippines-Taiwan fishing rights; Violation of “Archipelagic State” UNCLOS

A Filipino Friendly Taiwanese fisherman; Mr Hung was shot inside the Philippine archipelagic baseline waters in the balintang Channel last May 9, 2013 

Philippines could be sanction if will violate the article 51 with the Bahamas, Indonesia, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea

In the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) held in Jamaica last December 10, 1982; Five (5 ) Sovereign nations that includes the Bahamas, Indonesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines were approved and qualified as "Archipelagic States" which terms and conditions mentioned in the Part IV Archipelagic State: Article 51- Existing agreements, traditional fishing rights and existing submarine cables .. as  said ..

" for the exercise of such rights and activities, including the nature, the extent and the areas to which they apply, shall, at the request of any of the States concerned, be regulated by bilateral agreements between them. Such rights shall not be transferred to or shared with third States or their nationals".

This article 51 of the UNLCOS in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea held in Jamaica last December 10, 1982 means for the case in Southeast Asia and east Asian countries, only Indonesia and the Philippines could share its fishing rights as both are archipelagic states and "shall not shared with third States or their nationals"

The Philippines could not share its fish in between islands of the country to Taiwan as Taiwan is not an archipelagic State.

An Archipelagic State; In various conferences of the United Nations on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Bahamas are among the five sovereign nation that got the approval in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) held in Jamaica last December 10, 1982 and qualified as Archipelagic States.

"Archipelagic States are states that composed of groups of islands forming a state as a single unit, with the islands and the waters within the baselines as internal waters. By this concept (Archipelagic doctrine), an archipelago shall be regarded as a single unit, so that the waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, irrespective of their "breadth and dimensions", form part of the internal waters of the state, subject to its exclusive sovereignty"

Looking at the archipelagic baseline of the Philippines, the Philippines could not share its fish to Taiwan for the fishing ground in the  Batanes group of Islands up to the Y'ami island and the  Balintang Channel, where the recent shootout of a Taiwanese fishermen who is a very friendly to Filipinos happened,.

Fishing agreements that would not violate the UNCLOS provision article 51 would be only applicable in Bashi Channel beyond Y'Ami Island or in between Orchid Island and Y'Ami Island with coordinates of 21° 33'42" N and 121° 44'51" E.

Another case of shootout happened to a wandering Taiwanese fishermen in 2006 happened in Batanes Group of Islands shore which 2 Philippine police men were listed by Taiwan as "wanted" after the shootout inside the Philippine Archipelagic Baseline.

Taiwan's fishing agreement would be limited only outside the Philippine Archipelagic baseline as it would jeopardize the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) held in Jamaica last December 10, 1982 it if would allow Taiwan to fish inside the Philippine archipelagic baseline.

Taiwan is not an archipelagic state which UN convention article 51 is not applicable to them.

Filipinos Opposed the Fishing Agreement between the Philippines and Taiwan inside Philippine Archipelagic baseline

As reported in the BBC News Asia, for generations, Quirino Gabotero Jr's family and the estimated 15,000 people in the Philippines' northernmost Batanes Islands have been relying on the sea for a living. But in recent decades, they have seen their food source decline.

The same body of water around the islands is also claimed by neighboring Taiwan as its exclusive economic zone. Taiwanese fishermen are able to catch more fish with their bigger boats and more sophisticated fishing methods.

They have even depleted the stock of flying fish - something they use as bait, but is staple food for Batanes residents, said Mr. Gabotero.

"During the times when we don't see them, we get 1,000 or 2,000 flying fish in one catch. When they're around, we don't catch so many, perhaps only 100," said Mr. Gabotero.

Unlike Taiwanese fishermen, many of the Philippines 1.6 million fisher folk are not commercial fishermen, and nearly half of them are considered poor, according to the government.

"Our fishermen catch just enough to feed their family, but nothing more. They can barely build their house, or send their children to school. Some of them are so poor they have to work as migrant workers on the Taiwanese fishing boats to fish in their own waters," said Mr. Gabotero.

Tensions over this unequal ability to tap the rich marine resources of the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea have been brewing for years.

They exploded in a diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines this month when 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was shot dead after Philippines coast guard opened fire on his boat while he was fishing in the overlapping waters of the two sides' exclusive economic zones.

Since then, both Taipei and Manila have sent naval vessels to disputed parts of the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

This incident highlights how unresolved disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea and West Philippine Sea could potentially threaten good relations among countries in the region, and even regional stability.

"We are against signing a fisheries agreement because that means we are giving our resources to them without getting our fair share" Quirino Gabotero, Filipino fisherman"

'No shelter'

Besides Taiwan and the Philippines, several countries, including China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim part or all of the sea - believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits, besides fish stocks.

While attention has been focused on the Philippines-Taiwan dispute, other countries are also involved in fishing and territorial disputes in the sea. Taiwan's boats also have been detained by Indonesia and Vietnam, while the Philippines regularly deal with "poachers" from China, Malaysia and Vietnam.

"The most problematic is China, not really Taiwan, because they have made a map which includes our territorial waters," said Jonathan Bickson, chief of the captured fisheries division in the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

"One country even sends maritime patrol vessels. When our fishermen go to these fishing grounds, they even drive them away, even though these are our fishing grounds, especially Scarborough Shoal in western Philippines," he said.

"So our fishermen now cannot even make shelter in Scarborough when there's rough seas or when there are typhoons. The situation has gotten worse in recent years."

China insists the shoal is historically Chinese territory.

In the case of the body of water separating Taiwan and the Philippines, Philippine fishermen have been notifying their coast guard when they spot Taiwanese boats. That has led to a rise in fines and arrests of Taiwanese fishermen.

Taiwan's Fisheries Agency estimates that in the past three decades, there have been 108 incidents of Taiwan's fishing boats being stopped, fined or confiscated or crews detained for six months to a year by Filipino authorities.

Fines imposed on the crews have ranged from $50,000 (£33,000) to $60,000, according to the agency. The actual numbers are believed to be higher because some cases are settled without being reported to Taiwan's authorities.

'Don't dare to sleep'

Taiwanese fishermen also see themselves as victims. For generations, they have lived off the sea, but they say each time they head out to what they consider as their fishing grounds, they face risks.

"The Philippines consider the area their waters, so they've confiscated our boats, fined us and they've opened fire in the past. This was not the first time. It's happened many times before," said Tsai Bao-hsin, director of Taiwan's Liouciou District Fisheries Association, whose fishermen regularly fish in the area.

At least one other Taiwanese fisherman was shot dead a few years ago. More than 1,000 boats have been confiscated, according to Mr. Tsai.

When confronted, many of the fishermen have to make the split-second decision of whether to stop and pay a huge fine, risk having their boat confiscated and being jailed, or try to get away.

Investigators from both sides are probing the shooting of Mr.. Hung, but his son - who was onboard at the time - has said the boat was sprayed with bullets when they tried to get away to avoid paying a fine they didn't think they should pay because they were fishing in waters Taiwan considers its territory.

Despite the dangers, more than half of Taiwan's estimated 350,000 fishermen sail to the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea. That's because it's a good place to catch the very valuable tuna - of which Taiwan is one of the biggest producers in the world.

But the killing of Mr. Hung is considered by the Taiwanese as the last straw. Taiwan's fishermen are demanding their government negotiate an agreement with the Philippines on fishing rights to stop the harassment they say they regularly face and to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

"Sometimes we don't even dare to sleep at night when we are out at sea," said Hung Sheng-huei, who had fished since the age of 16 but gave it up after he was arrested by the Philippines in 2010 and spent three months in a crowded jail cell.

"When they stopped us at sea, they all had guns. They demanded I pay $120,000. It's like we were an ATM machine. I offered to wire them the money, but they wanted cash. I didn't have it."

Mr. Hung said he ended up turning over his boat to them to get out of jail. He now works odd jobs for other fishermen and lives on his savings.

"It's a big impact on my family. We depend on the sea for a living," said Mr. Hung, who added that he will only return to sea if the two sides reach a fishing agreement.

But most Batanes fishermen are opposed to the signing of such an agreement, even though Manila has expressed interest in holding talks at some point.

"We believe the Batanes territory, including the waters within it from the north to south, the Philippine government owns that," Mr. Gabotero said. "We are against signing a fisheries agreement because that means we are giving our resources to them without getting our fair share."

It remains to be seen whether the two sides can find a mutually beneficial and acceptable way of resolving this difficult dispute. If they do, it could set an example for other countries with claims to these waters.

With report from BBC News Asia

Monday, May 27, 2013

Philippine Manufacturer of M4 Assault Rifles step-up Self-Reliant Defense Program (SRDP), call for “buy Filipino” cause

UDMC M4s

Philippine defense companies fight for "buy Filipino"

By Norman Sison, VERA Files

It was not your usual errand. Several days ago, the head of the security force tasked with protecting President Aquino, toured a small three-storey plant in a Manila suburb that manufactures M4 assault rifles, the standard battle rifle of the US Army.

In April, United Defense Manufacturing Corporation sent a letter inviting Aquino to visit and see what the company could do for the military. In line with his efforts to modernize the armed forces, Aquino forwarded the letter to the Presidential Security Group and ordered them to take a look.

Last May 16, General Chito Dizon, who heads the PSG, went himself to see if the rifles will meet the requirements of the PSG's Special Reaction Unit, which responds to an emergency at a moment's notice. Dizon was impressed. If United Defense's rifles pass further testing, the PSG will place an order for its elite unit.

This is a welcome relief for Gene Cariño, president of United Defense. Since the company started in 2009, Cariño could only look as the country's military and police forces bought rifles and other weapons from abroad. Because of requirements imposed by law, his company is not qualified to bid for government contracts for assault rifles.

Earlier this month, the Department of National Defense awarded a contract for 50,000 M4s to US company Remington. The other bidders were legendary American firearms company Colt, Manroy and Sig Sauer.

"We are really no match for foreign brands," Cariño says, exasperated.

UDMC Assembly

UDMC Assembly

It is a frustration shared by Bert del Mundo, vice president for corporate planning and corporate development for local gun company Armscor. Last year, the company lost a bid for a Philippine National Police contract for 60,000 9mm pistols to an importer of the Austrian-made Glock. Armscor was the only Philippine company that made a bid.

In an attempt to change the landscape, del Mundo called on several local defense companies, including United Defense, to explore the possibility of putting up an association to push their "buy Filipino" cause. Two representatives showed up at the meeting on March 28 at Armscor's Ortigas Center office.

One idea for the proposed Defense Manufacturers Association of the Philippines is for it to form a core group of defense contractors that will meet the needs of the military and other security forces.

"We submit a plan to the government telling them, 'This is the focus of each group member.' We match the government's future requirements. That is the concept of the Self-Reliant Defense Program (SRDP)," says del Mundo, referring to the government efforts for the country to develop its own defense industry and rely less on other countries for weapons.

In 1974, when the Philippine military was still the envy of Asia, Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential Decree 415, establishing the SRDP. However, it was discontinued for some reason. By the time Marcos was ousted by a popular revolt in 1986, the military had become among the world's weakest because of neglect, corruption and incompetence.

The Aquino administration has revived the SRDP following China's seizure of Scarborough Shoal from Philippine control last year.

Cariño was unable to attend the Armscor meeting, but had sent his thoughts to del Mundo in a letter. One, that the SRDP be made into a law to ensure continuity. "Enacting SRDP into a law by Congress will hopefully bring it forward as a mandate rather than as a mere initiative by the current and future administrations," he wrote.

Two, seek court relief from a government procurement law, Republic Act No. 9184, that Cariño says "unwittingly tends to favor foreign manufacturers".

Expecting Congress to take forever to act, Cariño said the group should file a "petition for declaratory relief with the proper court with the objective of hopefully gaining the court's favorable ruling that the SRDP takes precedence and importance over and above RA 9184 and other laws that tend to impede upon the SRDP program."

Del Mundo explains how the government procurement law stunts the local defense industry: "When you hold a public bidding, the agencies are not required to name any specific brand because it is an open bidding. So, for example, when they need a standard pistol, it should be generic — 45-caliber pistol, period. If you state a specific brand, you are favoring that brand, which is against the law. Since it's an open bidding, anybody can bid whether you are local or foreign."

Cariño has a long-term view for the proposed defense association. He envisions its members pooling their assets and resources into research and development and produce more sophisticated weaponry. "Size is might when leveraging with the banks and other creditors," he says. Cariño points to South Korea, which produces its own rifles, fighter planes, tanks, missiles, navy ships and other weaponry.

Cariño intends to push for the creation of the defense association and lead the "buy Filipino" charge, saying that to back off now would only waste the millions he has already invested in his company.

"There is strength and influence in numbers. No matter how noble and novel your idea is, if you are just one company, you are weak," he says. "It becomes more difficult if the company driving the novelty is up against a government that seems to favor foreign brands."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true".)

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