Sunday, January 26, 2014

Philippines annex "Bangsamoro State" for Muslim self-rule in SOUTHERN PART MINDANAO signed for 2016


The Manila government has signed a deal with a MILF Muslim separatist group on the decommissioning of rebel weapons, paving the way for the creation of a new self-governing region for the country's Muslim minority in Mindanao by 2016.


The agreement – with the country's biggest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – is the final piece of a deal initially agreed in October 2012 that many people hope will end more than four decades of violence in the southern Philippines that has left more than 100,000 people dead and retarded economic growth. Other aspects of the deal, on wealth, revenue and power sharing, have already been completed.


A peace agreement signed with another rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in 1996 is largely considered a failure. Fighting worsened after it came into effect and the autonomous regional government created in its wake proved ineffectual.


"The agreement represents the culmination of decades of excruciating diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the conflict in Mindanao," said Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University. "This provides an unprecedented opportunity to end one of the world's longest-running intrastate conflicts."


The groups left out of the agreement are the most violent in the southern Philippines, including the Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, which has carried out kidnappings, bombings and beheadings for more than a decade and says it wants to set up a strict Islamic state.


The peace deal is expected to be signed within the next several weeks, but analysts consider that just a formality. They say the true test of the pact will be in its implementation; a peace deal with another militant group in 1996 failed in part because of widespread corruption in the area it was supposed to control.


The negotiations were brokered by Malaysia, where the deal was reached, and countries including the United States and those in the European Union are expected to help in the implementation, providing aid and advice on good governance. Those countries want to sap the strength of Islamic insurgencies in the region.


On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry offered congratulations for "concluding negotiations toward an historic, comprehensive peace agreement. This agreement offers the promise of peace, security, and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao."


The conflict between Muslim insurgent groups on Mindanao and the Christian-dominated government in the north of the country has simmered since the late 1800s. Every government since Philippine independence in 1946 has struggled to resolve the violence, through peace talks and sometimes military action.


In recent decades, the conflict has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. It has also kept the southern Philippines mired in poverty even as the country has undergone an economic renaissance of sorts, becoming one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia, with a growth rate that surpassed China's in some quarters last year.


"In a world looking for peaceful solutions to all troubles, we are grateful that we have found ours," Teresita Quintos Deles, a presidential adviser on the peace talks, said Saturday.


The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been working on the details of the peace deal since October 2012, when they reached a framework agreement for ending the conflict.

Earlier interim agreements dealt with sharing power and resources. Under those deals, the national government will retain authority over national defense, foreign policy and monetary issues, while the newly formed autonomous region, to be called Bangsamoro, is expected to have broad local powers.


The two parties also agreed that 75 percent of the tax revenue from metallic minerals mined in the region would stay in Mindanao. In addition, half of the taxes collected from fossil fuels developed in the region would remain with local authorities.


Saturday's agreement dealt with the delicate issue of disarmament. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to incorporate some of its 11,000 fighters into Philippine government forces and gradually disarm the others with the oversight of a third party yet to be named.


After the deal is formally signed, it must be passed by the Philippine congress and approved through plebiscite in the newly formed autonomous areas, but analysts consider passage extremely likely.


The success of the agreement may hinge in good part on the ability of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will now be in charge of internal security in the autonomous area, to curb the violence of other militant groups. To do so, the peace deal envisions Muslim authorities working closely with Philippine security forces.


Another major group, the Moro National Liberation Front, signed the 1996 peace deal, but that agreement allowed the rebels to retain their arms and did little to end the violence. Those militants oppose the latest deal, which they say encroaches on the autonomy they were granted under their own pact. Factions of the group were involved in an incursion into the southern city of Zamboanga in September that left more than 200 people dead, most of them militants.


Government negotiators have said that bringing greater prosperity to Mindanao and empowering the largest peaceful Muslim groups in the area will help decrease violence and lawlessness. The United States has about 500 Special Forces troops based in Mindanao to help the Philippine military fight the most violent groups.


One analyst expressed skepticism about the chances for a lasting peace.


"The Aquino administration is in a hurry to finish this and claim credit for peace, but this isn't peace," said Bobit Avila, a columnist for The Philippine Star newspaper. "It will not bring peace unless all the armed groups in Mindanao will join in."


"I can visit Muslim countries around the world without fear, but I can't go to Mindanao or I will be kidnapped," Mr. Avila said. "I don't think this agreement will change that." - NY Times


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Thursday, January 23, 2014

China ask the Philippines to agree order all fishermen of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Taiwan to ask permit from Hainan before fishing in West Philippines


Philippines urged anew to meet Beijing halfway


China has reiterated its call on the Philippines to meet Beijing halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.


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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China stays committed to resolving disputes with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) together with all parties concerned, and upholding the principle of "shelving disputes and seeking joint development."


The ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Bagan, Myanmar last week touched upon recent developments in the South China Sea and called on all parties concerned to resolve disputes through peaceful means and reaffirmed ASEAN's Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.


"The key is that all parties should commit themselves to the full and effective implementation of the DOC and do more to promote mutual trust and cooperation. China hopes that relevant countries could meet China halfway to jointly maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea," Hong said.


On Friday, the Philippines rejected China's call on Manila to meet halfway on the new Chinese fisheries law, reiterating its invitation to Beijing to join in arbitration.


China had softened and called on the Philippines to meet Beijing halfway on the new fishing rules in the South China Sea that requires foreign fishing vessels to obtain the approval of Chinese authorities before entering the waters.


At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario raised the issues on the new Chinese fishing regulation in the South China Sea as well as the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) established last November.


The ECS ADIZ similarly obligates aircraft flying through the zone to provide identification and follow instructions or face defensive emergency measures from China's armed forces.


Del Rosario said these latest developments violate the legitimate rights of other states under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), freedom of navigation and overflight, and is contrary to the DOC.


Del Rosario also said that ASEAN's work on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) might be undermined if such changes to the status quo persist.


China's 'provocation is continuing'


A security official also expressed concern yesterday over China's "continuing" provocative moves in the West Philippines Sea, the most recent of which was the deployment of two destroyers and an amphibious landing ship for naval exercise.


The official said Chinese warships coming from Hainan province started the exercises last Monday, but he did not disclose the exact area where China's Navy is conducting the naval drill.


"Their provocation is continuing," the security official said.


Earlier, China announced that it is deploying a 5,000-ton civilian patrol ship to one of its main islands in the South China Sea to conduct regular patrol, a move likely to fuel maritime disputes.– With Jaime Laude / ABS-CBN


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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Australia Aid – SWS Survey corruption in the Philippines down and UPS 56% worsen

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Corruption in the Philippines: Survey of Business Execs Reveals 'Mixed' Findings

By Ky D. Johnson


On January 15, the results of the latest "SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption" were released during an afternoon session of the Good Governance Summit 2014. The previous survey in 2012 showed an impressive record low of 43 percent of business executives who considered corruption to be widespread. This time that finding rose to 56 percent, and has led some to notice a few potholes and dips in the "Daang Matuwid," ("straight path") with which President Aquino launched his campaign against corruption.


Of the 24 government institutions rated for sincerity in fighting corruption, five have improved, nine have not changed, 10 have downgraded, and two were included for the first time. Meanwhile, and perhaps more disturbingly, the practices in the private sector (such as the prevalence of double bookkeeping and the low number of companies that report paying taxes honestly) remains unchanged over the past decade.


Since 2000, the Social Weather Stations (SWS), the Philippines' foremost nonprofit, nongovernmental data generation organization, has conducted 11 rounds of surveys of Filipino business people. As in previous rounds, this survey examines the attitudes and actual experiences of enterprise owners and managers with regard to public and private sector corruption. The methodology has advantages over most other corruption indices: it surveys domestic enterprises (rather than reliance on multinational respondents) leading to greater possible effects on political will; it asks about specific experiences of corruption (rather than perceptions); and it covers various parts of the country (rather than only focusing on the capital city or treating the country as a whole).


The survey also provides a time-series analysis of key indicators such as business executives' experience of and attitudes toward corruption, the perceived magnitude and prevalence of corruption in the public and private sectors, the sincerity ratings of government agencies in fighting corruption, actual business practices, and private sector behavior in dealing with government agencies. Thus it also allows for comparison over time, allowing analysts to spot trends and monitor changes.


The findings of the 2013 survey are based on face-to-face interviews conducted from the end of July to the end of November 2013 with executives of 951 companies (315 large and 633 small/medium) from seven metropolitan areas across the country: Metro Manila, Metro Angeles, Cavite-Laguna-Batangas, Metro Iloilo, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, and Cagayan de Oro-Iligan.


This is the second time that the survey has been conducted under President Aquino's administration. Whereas the impressive gains of the 2012 round were in the context of significant expenditures of political capital by the administration (such as the impeachment conviction of the chief justice and the resignation of the Ombudsman), 2013 witnessed the exposure of a number of high profile cases of corruption (but not yet a satisfactory resolution to these cases). These cases are not necessarily linked to the current administration, but they definitely colored the public discourse during the time of the data collection and interviews.


Other notable findings from the 2013 survey include:


Executives seeing "a lot" of corruption in the public sector rose to 56 percent in 2013, from the record-low 43 percent in 2012. Nevertheless, the 56 percent in 2013 is the second lowest since 2000.


Solicitations of bribes from enterprises are falling. A record-low 44 percent say they were solicited for any of seven listed types of bribes, an improvement from 50 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2009.


The Office of the President maintained the "excellent" net sincerity rating in fighting corruption it obtained in 2012 (+80) in 2013 (+77), after a "Bad" -37 in 2009 (during the tenure of the previous president).


The Philippine Senate recorded the biggest downgrade, from "good" +36 in 2012 to "neutral" -8 in 2013, after a "neutral" -1 in 2009.


The only agency with a "very bad" net sincerity rating is the Bureau of Customs, which downgraded from "bad" -46 in 2012 to "very bad" -63 in 2013, after "very bad" to "execrable" ratings in 2005-2009.


Executives saying that the administration's steps to eradicate corruption are "somewhat/very effective" fell slightly to 73 percent in 2013, from 78 percent in 2012.


Although these results are, for the most part, quite an improvement over the Enterprise Surveys of the past decade under the previous administration, the audience for the Good Governance Summit 2014 presentation seemed to be slightly disappointed by the dip (when compared to last year's noticeable improvement in the results for public sector corruption). Some in the media subsequently went so far as to write that graft had surged and indicated that there was a significant backsliding in the battle against public sector corruption. In response, SWS rightly clarified that the survey results related to public sector corruption reflect "mixed findings" –partly good and partly bad.


What was clearly a disappointment was the lack of improvement in the long-running practices of the private sector – practices that, like last year, remain basically unchanged over the past decade. For example:


42 percent say that "most/almost all" companies in their own sector of business give bribes to win government contracts, practically the same as the record-low 41 percent in 2012.


Those with personal knowledge of public sector corruption in their sector of business in the last three months rose to 38 percent in 2013, still the third lowest since 2000, from a record-low 33 percent in 2012.


Citations that "almost all" companies in their line of business conduct honest business practices are flat: demand receipts for all payments (45%); pay the right contributions for employee benefits (45%); issue receipts for all revenues (35%); pay correct wages to employees (35%); keep only one set of books (22%); and pay taxes honestly (20%).


Despite the slight dip in the public sector practices and the continued disappointing practices of the private sector, the business optimism again strengthened:


Satisfaction that the national government is promoting a good climate reached a new record-high 70 percent in 2013, versus 69 percent in 2012.


Satisfaction that the city government is promoting a good climate hit a new record-high 67 percent in 2013, versus 64 percent in 2012.


Business expectations for the next two years are excellent/good, representing a new record-high 76 percent in 2013, versus 74 percent in 2012.


While the Aquino administration has shown significant gains in the fight against corruption, as he reaches the halfway point of his term, the challenge for his administration will be to sustain the focus of his fight against corruption and bring about lasting reforms that are felt by business executives and the nation as a whole.


The 2013 SWS Survey of Enterprises on Corruption was supported through the Australian Aid-Asia Foundation Partnership in the Philippines, and implemented in collaboration with the Makati Business Club through the Integrity Initiative and the National Competitiveness Council.

Ky D. Johnson is The Asia Foundation's deputy country representative in the Philippines. He can be reached at The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.


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Philippine Customs linked rice Smuggler Davidson Bangayan is the same as David Tan documents said – admitted

Businessman Davidson Bangayan answers questions from senators during a hearing on rice smuggling at the Senate yesterday. MANNY MARCELO


Import document shows Davidson is David Tan


Businessman Davidson Bangayan was found to have admitted in an import document that he is also known by the name "David Tan," whom authorities tagged as a big-time rice smuggler.


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The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into the document, a four-page complaint affidavit that Bangayan executed in a libel case he filed against Jesus Arranza, president of the Federation of Philippine Industries Inc.


In the document submitted to a Caloocan court in 2005, Bangayan said he is among the stockholders of Advanced Scrap Specialist Corp. with office address in Dagat-dagatan, Caloocan City.


Bangayan had earlier denied reports that he and Tan are the same person.


Arranza, who accused Bangayan of being the real David Tan, gave a copy of the complaint-affidavit and other documents to the Department of Justice (DOJ).


The businessman also produced a certification, saying he is also known by the controversial name David Tan.


"This is to certify that Advanced Specialist Corp. headed by Davidson Bangayan a.k.a. David Tan has been supplying our company of scrap metals for the last two years," read the certification signed by Justin Chan, managing director of Taylor Overseas Marketing.


Bangayan had earlier showed up at the NBI to deny Arranza's accusations.


NBI director Virgilio Mendez told reporters yesterday that the documents submitted by Arranza are being considered as evidence.


"We have enough evidence to prove that Bangayan and Tan are one and the same," he said.


Farmers' coops used as dummies


 Bangayan appeared at the Senate hearing on rice smuggling yesterday and admitted that he was involved in rice trading.


During his testimony before the committee on agriculture and food, the businessman admitted that he used farmers' cooperatives to secure permits to import rice under the minimum access volume (MAV) in 2012.


"I think, some. As I understand the NFA has a farmers-as-importers program. But I seldom went into that business," he said when asked by Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano if he ever had dealings with farmers' associations.


Bangayan said that his businesses involved the trading of scrap metal and other commodities, including rice.


The businessman said there was nothing illegal when he used farmers' cooperatives.


But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that what Bangayan did was illegal and prejudicial to the interest of the farmers.


De Lima told the committee that the NBI has secured the testimonies of two witnesses from the cooperatives, detailing the modus operandi of Bangayan.


The witnesses claimed that they went to the office of Bangayan in Caloocan City to finalize the pre-qualifying documents for rice importation.


Bangayan uses coordinators or brokers to deal with the cooperatives, De Lima said.


She added that the witnesses claimed that some of the rice imports were declared as hardware, construction materials and other items.


Smuggling links


Further links were provided by Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairman of the committee on agriculture, between Bangayan and Starcraft International Trading Corp., a firm that has caused a lot of headaches to the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) with its importation of rice into the country.


Villar said that Eugene Pioquinto, an incorporator of Starcraft, has stated that Willy Sy was one of its brokers.


Bangayan admitted that Sy was one of his business partners.


Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla noted that Starcraft was responsible for bringing in a significant shipment of rice that was held at the ports because these were not supported by import permits.


Villar said that yesterday's hearing established that Bangayan is an importer of rice.


"I don't need to prove that Davidson Bangayan is David Tan because the former admitted that he is connected to rice importation. I am no longer concerned with David Tan," she said.


During the hearing, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile chided the BOC for being part of the problem on smuggling.


Enrile said that it has become the normal practice of Customs personnel to forgo the examination and evaluation of some container vans that enter the ports.


Joint forces vs rice smuggling


The NBI will dig deeper in its probe on rice smuggling in the country, with the plan to create an inter-agency team targeting other personalities involved in the illegal activity, apart from Bangayan.


Mendez said he met with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to discuss possible joint efforts of the DOJ, DA, National Food Authority and BOC in curbing the illegal entry of rice into the country.  – With Marvin Sy, Edu Punay - philSTAR


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Philippines to purchase 28 Israeli armored vehicles with Elbit Systems ₱882-Million contract

Illustrative photo of Israeli armored vehicles.  (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90/File)


Deal signed last week states that Elbit Systems will provide AFVs within two years


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Philippines is set to acquire 28 light armored vehicles from Israel at a total price of 882-Million or $19.7 million US Dollar.


The purchase was agreed upon last week after a contract was signed between representatives of both the DND and the IDF, the Philippines News Agency reported.


The armored vehicles will be supplied by the Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems.


The report further stated that 14 of the 28 armored vehicles will be equipped with 76 mm artillery cannons with night vision systems and fire control systems.


Velez declined to divulged the vehicles' specifications citing security reasons during the interview.


Six additional vehicles will be used for transportation, four will be used for infantry support, and four more are designed to help evacuate wounded soldiers or damaged vehicles from the battlefield, the report said.


He said that four of the 28 armored vehicles are recovery models to be used to tow damaged units and those incapacitated in the battlefield.


Fourteen of the new acquisitions, meanwhile, will be used as fire support vehicles equipped with 76mm cannons taken from decommissioned vehicles.


The vehicles are expected to be supplied to the Philippines within two years and are expected to be completed by January 2015.


The Philippine Army is so far equipped with 343 armored fighting vehicles for its 10 infantry divisions.


The 28 armored infantry fighting vehicles are among the department's planned acquisitions this year for the Army. The list includes a shore-launched anti-ship missile system, various grenade launchers, 155mm Towed Howitzers and a few other trucks. The Times of Israel / philStar


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Sunday, January 19, 2014

FIFA penalized Hong Kong racist to the Philippines AZKALS; fined 33,000 Swiss Franc – HKFA Disappointed


HK football body fined over slurs vs. Azkals


Philippines - The alleged racist behavior and acts of violence of Hong Kong supporters against the Philippine Azkals and Filipino fans during a June 4, 2013 "international friendly" at Mong Kok Stadium drew sanctions from the world governing body of football.


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Acting on the complaint filed by the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), the International Football Federation (FIFA) slapped the host Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) with a fine of 30,000 Swiss francs (roughly 1.4 million) for the misbehavior of fans during the controversial match that the Azkals won, 1-0.


According to the Filipino complainants, a group of Hong Kong supporters shouted racial slurs such as "slave nation" and booed while the Philippine national anthem was being played.


Some Hong Kong fans, they added, even threw bottled water and other debris at the Philippine section, which included some women and children.


The PFF complained that this was in violation of "FIFA regulations on security for international matches and discrimination of supporters."


According to the FIFA disciplinary code, the host association will be sanctioned for the "unruliness" of the fans.


Additionally, the FIFA ordered the HKFA to pay an additional 3,000 francs (148,000) to cover the Filipinos' expenses for the proceedings.


"The decision shows that FIFA vigorously implements the non-discrimination provisions of the FIFA statutes wherever the conduct is displayed and whoever the guilty party is. It also stressed the responsibility of the host member association for the spectators' conduct in any friendly match in its territory," the PFF said in a statement yesterday.


"Indeed, any discriminatory conduct or acts of violence during any football match cannot be condoned. Football should unite and not divide," it added.


Azkals team manager Dan Palami, who witnessed and experienced the incident, expressed hope it would not be repeated.


"Certainly, racism and disrespect for another country and its people do not have room in any sport, especially in the beautiful game of football. We are optimistic that this sad incident will not be repeated, not just in Hong Kong but in any other country that the Azkals will play in," Palami was quoted as saying by the ABS-CBN News Channel.


The HKFA, meanwhile, expressed disappointment over the FIFA decision and maintained it was just a "minor incident" involving a few Hong Kong fans.


"In my opinion, the incidents were very minor in nature and there was significant provocation by a number of the Philippine players," said HKFA chief executive officer Mark Sutcliffe.


"Having said that, we do not condone any acts of violence or racial discrimination and… we will implement stadium bans on any individuals convicted of an offense of this nature," he said.


Sutcliffe added that they may appeal the FIFA decision. – philSTAR


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Friday, January 17, 2014

China’s law banning all fishermen in waters of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam – Escalating to ASEAN meeting

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario

Phl to bring China fishing law to ASEAN

The Philippines will discuss with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) the new fisheries law of China that raises both regional and international concern for its serious implications.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday he would raise China's fishing restrictions with his counterparts at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, which began on Jan. 15 and ends this Saturday.

Del Rosario is in Bagan, Myanmar for the meeting.

"The reported new Hainan fisheries regulations have serious implications on freedom of navigation, maritime security, respect for UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and regional peace and stability," Del Rosario said in a statement.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday that China responded to the Philippines' call for clarification of its new fisheries law, with Beijing insisting that it is not a new measure but an implementation of their fishing regulations covering Hainan.

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"As an international issue, all concerned countries should be able to express their views in our common search for security and stability based on the rule of law," Del Rosario said.

China came under fire Tuesday at a US House joint committee hearing for its alleged propensity to use coercion, bullying and "salami slicing tactics" to secure its maritime interests in the East and South China Seas.

"We take note of the recent pronouncement by members of the US Congress concerning disputes in the seas of East Asia," Del Rosario said.

He stressed that the Philippine government has always advocated a peaceful and rules-based settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS.

"Stakeholders in these disputes should refrain from acts that are detrimental to peace and stability of the region and ensure global economic progress through unimpeded maritime commerce," he said.

The DFA reiterated its strong protest on June 28, 2012 as the jurisdiction of Hainan province includes Philippine territories and impinges on the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines called on China to conform to international law, particularly the UNCLOS.

It asked Beijing to immediately clarify the regulation, saying it is a gross violation of international law.

The new fisheries law issued by the Hainan Provincial People's Congress requires foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese authorities before they are allowed to fish or conduct surveying activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The DFA said China's latest move would only further escalate tensions in the disputed territory and affect peace and stability in the region.

The US slammed China for the new fishing restrictions in disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea, saying they were "provocative and potentially dangerous."

Move aims to weaken food security

A lawmaker warned that China's move to restrict foreign fishing vessels in the disputed West Philippine Sea was aimed at weakening the country's food security.

Assistant Majority Leader and Palawan Rep. Franz Josef Alvarez described Beijing's imposition of a fishing permit on parts of the West Philippine Sea it is claiming as its own as a "blow to our stomachs, and an assault on our food security." – Paolo Romero / philSTAR


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