Noy to raise sea row at Asean Summit in Malaysia

  • 8 January 2016, Friday

Source: The Daily Tribune
21 Nov 2015

President Aquino is expected to raise the territorial dispute in South China Sea during the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

This comes after his failure to get the different heads of state to stand against the massive reclamation activities of China during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit.

In his speech, Aquino, however, dwelt on strengthened economies, tightened security, and appropriate care for the people for members of the Asean community, but failed to unfold his expected opposition to the activities of China in the South China Sea that continue to create unrest in the region. The President instead noted that it would be the last time he will attend the Asean Summit as chief executive. Aquino made no assurance that the South China Sea woes would indeed be raised, but promised to bring back “good news” from the summit.

“You can be assured that whenever we go out the country, we do everything we can to exhaust each opportunity to take home the good news to our people,” he said. “(We thank the Asean) in their help in securing the region, and their partnership for peaceful and just resolutions to our problems.”

While the South China Sea issue was not directly raised before Apec leaders in general, it was tackled in various bilateral talks of the Philippines with the United States, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, among other countries, on the sidelines of the Apec All Leaders’ Meeting (Aelm).

In Aquino’s bilateral meeting with Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang, he said that the Philippines is committed to the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DoC) of Parties in the South China Sea, urging parties to conclude negotiations on the Code of Conduct.”

A total of five members of the Asean bloc have interlapping claims over the South China Sea, which is mostly claimed by China. Among the five states, only the Philippines raised the issue before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands this year.

The diplomatic resolution prompted by the Philippines had support from many world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, who attended the Apec Summit while committing Washington’s support for Manila on the territorial disputes with China.
Obama told China to stop building artificial islands in the hotly contested South China Sea, which earned the ire of Beijing which slammed Obama for interfering on the issue to which the United States have no claim.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who likewise held talks with Aquino, said Tokyo and Manila “took the opportunity to discuss the security challenges that confront both our nations, and pledged to cooperate in advancing our shared advocacy for members of the international community to act responsibly,” in reference to the sea dispute.

China is claimed to have forcibly claimed the Senkkaku Islands in the South China Sea, despite it falling within Japanese territory under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLoS). All territorial claimants in the region are signatories to the international agreement.

Meanwhile, Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh told the Associated Press that the region needs a legally binding agreement to ensure that a maritime dispute with China is resolved peacefully, because an existing declaration of amity has proved to be useless.

This is in support of the long-awaited DoC, which has yet to be crafted among claimants in the South China Sea. The 10-member bloc and China signed the declaration, known by its acronym DoC, in 2002, promising in good faith to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without “resorting to the threat or use of force.”
However, China, as assailed by other claimants, grossly violated the agreement, as it continues to reclaim territories in the seas and build artificial islands in the name of its sovereignty that further escalated tensions in the South China Sea.


China’s PLA Navy commander to US: Stop provocations

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy commander Wu Shengli on Thursday called on the United States to stop its “provocations” in the South China Sea.

The Chinese navy, “bearing the bigger picture of bilateral ties in mind,” had exercised “maximum restraint” in the face of US provocations, Admiral Wu of the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy told Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, in a meeting in Beijing.

He was referring to recent US maneuvers near Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea without the permission of the Chinese government. The Chinese navy had been closely monitoring those “provocative acts” and had given warnings on several occasions, Wu said.

The Chinese admiral urged the US to cherish the “good development” of ties between the countries, and “control” its maritime military operations.

Wu commended Admiral Swift’s welcome visit to China as a sign that both sides attach great importance to the development and maintaining of the new type of major-country and military relations between the two sides.

The visit will contribute positively to the deepening of practical cooperation between the two navies and to the alleviation of tensions in the South China Sea as well as safeguarding regional peace and stability, he said.

But recent maneuvers by US aircraft and naval vessels near Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea in the name of “freedom of navigation and aviation” have been a sheer provocation to China’s sovereign rights and posed grave threats to the security of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, Wu said.

“The US conduct does not contribute to peace and stability in the South China Sea whatsoever,” he said, “The US cannot impose its own claims on other nations. It cannot sabotage other nations’ sovereignty and security.”

The Chinese admiral went on to defend China’s island building in the South China Sea as “sensible, reasonable and legitimate,” adding that Chinese and US navies should view their differences rationally, and avoid “situations of exigency.”
Admiral Swift, for his part, said the US navy does not want the South China Sea to become an issue disrupting ties between the two sides, expressing hope that the two navies could maintain high-level exchanges and hold more joint drills.
The navies should also improve implementation of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, to preclude misunderstandings and misjudgment and avoid maritime and aerial accidents, Swift said.


Destruction worsens fate of fisheries in South China Sea — study

A US marine biologist, a lawyer and a topnotch Filipino geologist have warned of “enormous environmental damage” in the South China Sea owing to China’s destruction of coral reefs to host its artificial islands in contested areas.
J. B. Lim, the geologist trained at the University of the Philippines (UP) who is now based in Canada and an experienced diver, said China must stop transforming coral reefs that took centuries to grow into airstrikes and naval facilities, denying reef fish their habitat and pushing pelagic fish species further away.

His warnings came as Filipino marine biologist Remelyn de Ramos cautioned all players in the SCS to engage in the responsible management of fisheries, with China accounting for 45 percent of the total annual catch in the vast sea.

De Ramos said fish biomass in some parts of Philippine inland waters is down to only 10 percent of the biomass in the 1960s.
While the Chinese are busy building artificial islands at the SCS, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been supporting conservation projects like the Coral and Taklobo Gardening (CTG) in Taytay, Palawan through a team led by Dr. Lope Calanog.
Calanog recently presented the project at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) and said it would protect the coral reefs surrounding the islands of Apulit, Pabellon, Noa Nmoa and Talakanen while five beaches, namely, Dinamayan, Denot, Quimbaludan and Sader could be developed to lure more tourists, in addition to the dive spots in Nabat, Pabellon Grande, Lopez Reef and Black Rock.

“This project is like hitting two birds with one stone,” Searca director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said, “since it protects the coral reefs and nurtures the giant Taklobos while generating income from tourists for such activities.”

In the article “Boom or Bust: The Future of Fish in the South China Sea” published by the Canada-based Nereus Program, Drs. William Cheung and Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia (UBC) revealed the results of their study on the threats to the SCS until 2045, if nothing is done to mitigate the situation and protect the biosystems that support fish and marine invertebrates.