Friday, February 28, 2014

Philippines ask Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam to join the case to K.O China from Asean Waters

illustration from voanews.com

 

Philippines asks neighbors to join case against China

 

 The Philippines on Thursday called on Malaysia, Vietnam and other claimants to join its legal challenge to China’s massive territorial claim in the South China Sea.

 

In a bold step, Filipino officials took their territorial disputes with China to international arbitration in January last year after Chinese government ships took control of a disputed shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

 

They asked the tribunal to declare China’s claim to about 80 percent of the strategic waters and Beijing’s seizure of eight South China Sea shoals and reefs illegal. China has ignored the legal challenge but the tribunal has proceeded and asked the Philippines to submit its legal arguments and evidence by March 30.

 

The Philippines chief lawyer, Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza, said Malaysia, Vietnam and two other governments could either take part in the Philippine case or file their own complaints against China. Smaller countries, he said, can only have a chance to peacefully defend their territories against the Asian superpower in a legal arena.

 

“Where can the weak go?” Jardeleza asked in a Manila forum on the territorial disputes.

 

“We are here to prove that from the point of view of the rule of law, all of the actions and all of the claims of China are ... invalid.”

 

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims across the busy South China Sea. The disputes have periodically erupted into dangerous confrontations, sparking tensions and straining ties.

 

animation from wix.com

 

Law professor Raul Pangalangan told the forum that the Philippines wanted China to explain the limits and basis of its vast claims. China, Jardeleza said, could still change its mind and join the arbitration, which would take at least two years to conclude.

 

China has asked the other claimants to settle the disputes through one-on-one negotiations, something that would give it advantage because of its sheer size and clout. It has also warned Washington not to get involved.

 

The Philippines may include recent aggressive Chinese acts in its complaint, including what it said was the firing of a water cannon by a Chinese coast guard ship to drive away Filipino fishermen from the disputed Scarborough Shoal on Jan. 27, Jardeleza said.

 

China has controlled the shoal since Philippine vessels backed off from a tense standoff there in 2012. Chinese coast guard and surveillance ships have guarded the territory and chased away Filipino fishermen if they ventured close.

 

After the Philippines raised the Jan. 27 incident publicly, the Chinese Embassy in Manila responded that Beijing “has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters,” Scarborough Shoal included. - Arab News

 

Monday, February 24, 2014

China Fired Cannon to Philippine Fishermen in Palawan Waters

China used water cannon on Philippine fishermen Spratly Islands. Photo: rt.com

 

Philippines says China used water cannon on fishermen in disputed sea

MANILA (Reuters) - A Chinese coastguard ship used a water cannon last month to drive Filipino fishermen out of disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), illustrating aggressive enforcement of new Chinese rules, the head of the Philippine military said on Monday.

 

China has since the beginning of the year required foreign fishing boats to get approval before entering waters that China claims as its own.

 

"The Chinese coastguard tried to drive away fishermen to the extent of using water cannon," Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista told foreign correspondents, referring to a January 27 incident near the Scarborough Shoal.

 

China claims about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)'s 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) waters. The sea provides 10 percent of the global fish catch, carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade a year and is believed to be rich in energy.

 

Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.

 

Bautista declined to give more details about the confrontation in the area, about 130 nautical miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, saying the military still had to talk to the fishermen.

 

He said the Philippine military would try to avoid confrontation with China but would react if China used violence against Philippine fishermen.

 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of details of the situation, and repeated that China had sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and its islands.

 

"The relevant Chinese maritime forces carry out normal official patrols in that area," she told a daily news briefing.

 

A senior Philippine navy official said it was the first time China used water cannon in the area.

 

"Our fishermen are used to playing a dangerous cat-and-mouse game but China has become very aggressive," said the navy official who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

 

The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea but China is refusing to participate in the case.

 

China has rejected challenges to its sovereignty claims and accused the Philippines of illegally occupying Chinese islands in the seas and of provoking tension.

 

This month, the commander of the U.S. Navy said the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of conflict with China over disputed waters.

 

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, who was attending the same forum as Bautista, urged the Association of South East Asian Nations and China to accelerate negotiations on a code of conduct for the sea to avoid accidents and miscalculations.

 

"We believe that the agreement on the code of conduct is long overdue," Goldberg said, adding that the United States supported Philippine efforts to bring the dispute to international arbitration.

 

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Reuters

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

$29 Million or ₱1.3 Billion from Marcos' Swiss bank accounts returned to the Philippine Government



An estimated $29 million or ₱1.3 Billion, previously stored in secret Swiss accounts kept by the late President Ferdinand Marcos and family members, have been returned to the Philippine government. 

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) made this announcement on Wednesday, roughly two weeks before the Philippines is set to commemorate the 1986 People Power Revolution that deposed Marcos who, with close family members, relatives, and cronies, sought exile in Hawaii. 

Worth P1.3 billion, the funds were from accounts held in the name of several foundations which were later proven to be "fronts of the [members of the] Marcos family," Andres Bautista, PCGG Chairperson said in a press briefing held on Wednesday morning. 

The funds—which were originally denominated in two currencies including the British pound—were transferred to the national treasury after the PCGG, on the strength of Philippine, Swiss, and Singaporean court decisions, engaged in talks with several financial institutions to recover the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth. 

In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ordered the funds to be turned over to the Philippine government, Bautista explained. 

"There was enough evidence to convince the Swiss courts particularly the highest court of Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, to say that these are really ill-gotten wealth and that's why they agreed to the repatriation of these funds back to the Philippines," he said during the briefing. 

However, the Swiss court set conditions before the funds be turned over to the Philippine government. 

These conditions were: that the funds were to be invested in a double A bank; that a final decision regarding the matter be issued by the Philippines' Supreme Court; and that the Philippine government should enter an escrow arrangement with another bank. 

As a result of the Swiss court ruling, the money was later placed in West Landesbank in Singapore and the Philippine government arranged to have the money temporarily held by the privately-led Philippine National Bank, which used to be one of the government's depository banks but is now a lender controlled by businessman Lucio Tan, a known associate of the Marcoses. 

In July 2003, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a decision granting the forfeiture of these assets in favor of the government. 

Not long after, a case was filed in Singapore by lawyers of human rights victims during the Marcos dictatorship. The case sought to stake a claim on funds from the Swiss accounts that were, at that time, stored in West Landesbank. 

But in August 2012, a Singapore High Court sustained the claim of the Philippine National Bank, stating that "it holds the legal title as a trustee of the Republic of the Philippines," Bautista explained during the briefing. 

In December 2013, the Singapore Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, paving the way for a meeting between "the PCGG, the PNB, as well as the [Wes Landesbank] which held the funds," regarding the fund turnover, Bautista said. 

And on February 5 and 10, the PCGG was finally able to turn over the funds to the Philippine national treasury, Bautista said. 

A total of P166 billion have been recovered by the PCGG in its 28-year existence, Bautista said.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Israel offers excess defense radars for ₱2.6 Billion to the Philippines; 1 lent radar to arrive this year

 

Israel offers excess defense articles to Philippines

 

Israel has offered to provide the Philippines with excess defense articles.

 

Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Galvez said Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon discussed the matter during a bilateral meeting in Tel Aviv last week.

 

“Israel also offered assistance in the development of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence capabilities as well as the availability of excess defense articles for Philippine acquisition,” he said.

 

Gazmin and Ya’alon also discussed the prospects of information exchange, particularly on terrorism and technology-sharing.

 

Earlier, The STAR reported that the Philippines would acquire three air search radars from Israel to boost monitoring activities in the West Philippine Sea.

 

The radars will be purchased from state-run Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.-Elta for ₱2.6 billion.

 

Last week, security officials signed an implementation arrangement to pave the way for the purchase.

 

Part of the deal is for Israel to lend one radar for the immediate security needs of the Philippines.

 

The delivery of the three radars is expected within the next two years.

 

The radar to be lent will arrive in a year.  

 

The radars will be used to improve the country’s maritime domain awareness in the West Philippine Sea.

 

Galvez said Gazmin and Ya’alon also discussed the establishment of a working group to examine the security situation in their countries and to explore efforts to address common concerns.

 

“The working group will also come up with available solutions with cost considerations in regard to further enhancing the defense capability build-up of the Philippines,” he said.

 

Upon the invitation of Ya’alon, Gazmin visited Israel en route to his official visit to the Golan Heights - philSTAR

 

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