• ‘Bold steps’ needed to stop reclamations

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    BEST FRIENDS Presidents Aquino and Obama engage in small talk before the start of their bilateral meeting. MALACANANG PHOTO

    BEST FRIENDS Presidents Aquino and Obama engage in small talk before the start of their bilateral meeting. MALACANANG PHOTO

    Obama ignores China’s call to keep sea dispute at bay

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    US President Barack Obama put more pressure on China on Wednesday as he underscored the need to take “bold steps” to prevent the Asian giant from continuing with its reclamation activities and “militarization” of disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) which, he said, threatens freedom of navigation.

    Ignoring Chinese President Xi Jinping’s calls for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting to focus on economic ties, Obama demanded “bold steps to lower tensions” between China and its smaller Southeast Asian neighbors.

    In a statement following a bilateral meeting with Philippine officials, The US President said they have agreed to increase Washington’s maritime assistance to the Philippines “to record levels” in support of a “rules-based” approach to settle the dispute.

    “We discussed the impact of China’s reclamation and construction activities on regional stability. We agreed on the need for bold steps to lower tensions including pledging to halt further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea,” he added.

    Beijing has turned a series of reefs and outcrops in disputed waters — mostly within the Philippines’ internationally sanctioned exclusive economic zone — into artificial islands capable of hosting facilities with military purposes, alarming other claimants.

    Aside from the Philippines, APEC members Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Taiwan have rival claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas resources.

    Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbors on the basis of a 9-dash line concept, which Manila questions before a UN tribunal.

    Upon his arrival, the US leader vowed to provide two additional vessels for the Philippine Navy to increase its maritime effectiveness.

    “As President [Benigno] Aquino [3rd] indicated, disputes need to be resolved peacefully, that’s why the United States support the Philippines’ decision to use arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to peacefully and lawfully address differences,” Obama pointed out.

    “Here in the Philippines, you are pursuing reforms and good governance; together, we support a rule-based order in the region, which is critical to regional security and the global economy. Now, our rebalance to the Asia Pacific is rooted in our treaty alliances including with the Philippines,” he said.

    Obama on Tuesday reiterated Washington’s “iron-clad” treaty obligations to defend the Philippines — and other allies — and vowed to boost military ties through new defense cooperation agreements similar to one it had with Manila that was assailed before the Philippine Supreme Court (SC).

    A few weeks before the start of the APEC meetings in Manila, The Manila Times reported that the High Court will most likely declare constitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that Manila and Washington had signed.

    Opponents of the EDCA were quick in criticizing the leak, saying the would-be ruling was meant as a “gift” to Obama. The SC later announced that the ruling on the case would be out by December.

    “[The EDCA] when implemented will bring our militaries even closer together, and we are especially committed to ensuring maritime security in the region, including freedom of navigation,” Obama explained.

    He described the Philippines and the US as “great allies” and went on to express his gratitude “for my partnership with President Aquino who has been a valuable and trusted friend to the United States.”

    “This is an occasion of me to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the security and defense of the Philippines. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder: ‘Balikatan,’” he said, referring to the annual military exercises between the armies of the two countries.

    But wary of drawing the United States or its allies into direct conflict with China, Obama also stressed the need to settle disputes under the rule of law.

    “Disputes need to be resolved peacefully,” he said, backing the Philippines’ decision to seek UN arbitration in several disputes with China.

    China has so far refused to recognize the UN panel’s authority.

    Beijing hits back
    Beijing also on Wednesday saidPresident Obama should not get involved in disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

    “The United States should stop playing up the South China Sea issue, stop heightening
    tensions in the South China Sea and stop complicating disputes in the South China Sea,” Hong Lei, a foreign ministry spokesman, said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

    “No country has the right to point fingers at” China’s construction activities, he added.

    US ships to be given to PH
    The White House has identified the two ships that the US leader has pledged to donate to the Philippine Navy shortly after his visit to the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar.

    These ships are the high-endurance US Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell and research vessel R/V Melville.

    The USCGC Boutwell is the sister ship of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (formerly the USCGC Hamilton) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (the ex-USCGC Dallas).
    The Boutwell is the third ship of the Hamilton class cutters.

    “This will provide the Philippines the ability to maintain greater maritime presence and patrols throughout its EEZ [exclusive economic zone]. We are also in the process of transferring the research vessel R/V Melville to support naval research and law enforcement capabilities,” the White House said.

    The Philippines remains the largest recipient of maritime security assistance, and will receive a record $79 million in bilateral assistance of the Fiscal Year 2015 funds allocated for developing Southeast Asian maritime capabilities.

    This assistance is largely focused on building the training and logistical base for expanding the Philippine Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force ability to conduct operations within waters off the Philippines’ coasts.

    “We are assisting with naval maintenance capacity building as well as providing interdiction vessels, naval fleet upgrades, communications equipment and aircraft procurement,” the White House said.

    The US also vowed to continue to support the National Coast Watch System and assist the Philippines through the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), building capacity in Philippine maritime vessel maintenance, training, law enforcement support and intelligence assistance to expand the country’s ability to detect, track and interdict where necessary criminal and terrorist elements involved in the smuggling of sensitive items and illicit goods.

    With AFP and PNA

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    6 Comments

    1. If our leaders are not capable of making the Philippines great economically, I for one would rather make this country return as a commonwealth again or making it one of the states of the U S of A thus peace in the region would be achieved. China would leave us in peace.

    2. The best & bold steps for PI to do, is to build “Nuclear Plants” where we could produce more nuclear bombs ASAP. For our best defends, PI must buy more F21 or F24 bombers to carry nuclear bomb missiles & drop or hit to whoever countries who have done evil or grab our seas and islands. Small countries with such nuclear bombs are not easily intimidated like what China is doing to our West Philippine Sea.

      May God use His meteors, earthquakes, tsunami to strike the said country.

    3. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      19 Nov. 2015

      President Obama obviously did the Philippines a great favor by “rubbing in” the message that the US is a good and reliable ally of the Philippines under the terms of a Mutual Defense Treaty as well as the EDCA. He took the occasion to tell President Aquino that the US was going to “donate” two more warships to the Philippines.

      His message was directed to China which continues to warn the United States not to violate its “international waters and airspace in the Spratlys archipelago.” The US has chosen to ignore that warning and has already started its Freedom of Navigation Operations precisely in disputed waters close to the Spratlys.

      A showdown is in the offing.

      MARIANO PATALINJUG
      patalinjugmar@gmail.com

      REPLY
      The 2 boats are not warships. They unarmed patrol boats.

    4. Larger U.S. influence and assistance, whether it be financial, intelligence, or direct military assistance is good for the Philippines and for the security of southeast Asia as a whole. If the U.S. had not been patrolling Asian seas since the beginning of the 20th century, the area would have succumbed to piracy and terror in an area where a huge majority of world trade passes. Quite honestly, a great debt of gratitude is owed to Washington for maintaining an economically positive world order throughout the last century.

    5. Gaucho McGringo on

      Yes, the leftists do not have the country’s interest at heart. The NPA basically originated from China, and is a Maoist organization. I wonder if they still get funding from them?

      The only thing that might actually cause the Chinese to stop their reclamation projects or at least slow it down is if the Philippines actually acquired modern navy warships, not the rusted out coast guard ships that Obama is offering. What happened to Aquino’s promise to buy Italian or South Korean frigates? If they were serious, they would use some of the money wasted on the APEC conference to begin purchasing a real navy.

    6. No matter who the President the Philippines has, the LEFTISTS just keep on opposing what the government plans for the people. The leftists never stop opposing/complaining whatever help the Philippines gets from the U.S. Why don’t these leftists complain against China? Well, you all know the obvious reasons. The Filipino people are now very tired of the leftists’ whining/complaining/opposing whatever is good for the country. Why don’t you leftists just go China and experience hard labor instead of making demonstrations? The solution to this is to release Palparan and let him take care of them if they don’t want to go China.