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Duterte places Metro Manila under lockdown

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Duterte places Metro Manila under lockdown
Image Credit: PCOO

President Duterte has placed the entire Metro Manila under community quarantine on Thursday night (March 12) as a way to contain the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has now taken the lives of five persons in the country.

Duterte, in nationally televised address, also said the Philippines is now under Code Red Sub-Level 2 alert, the highest level.

Community quarantine means there will be no land, domestic air and domestic sea travel to and from Metro Manila from March 15 to April 14. However, intra-region travel via mass transports like trains and metro rail transit will be allowed.

Duterte assured that this “lockdown” is now a Martial Law but is necessary in the fight against COVID-19.

“Ayaw naming gamitin yan kasi takot sa lockdown, but it’s a lockdown,. There is no struggle of power here, it is a matter of protecting and defending you from COVID-19,” he said.

Duterte added: “It’s subject again for review day to day, tingnan namin nangyayari if there is a slowdown in the contagion… Hindi ito martial law. It is not a martial law. It is not even something extraordinary. But what is sought to be solved here is the again, walang iba except to fight the virus, and to exact compliance.” 

Duterte also suspended work in the government’s Executive Branch, except for those dealing with health and emergency matters. Offices, however, need to ensure there will be a skeletal force manning their agencies.

Private firms, while encouraged to continue operations, will need to practice strict social distancing measures. 

Classes for all levels in Metro Manila have been suspended up to April 12.

“Mass gatherings, defined as a planned or spontaneous event, where the number of people attending could strain the planning and response resources of the community hosting the event, shall be prohibited during said period,” he also declared.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 52 as of Thursday night, with fatalities at 5. Four of those who died were Filipinos. The first fatality was a Chinese.

Several national government officials, local executives and lawmakers, meanwhile, have placed themselves under self-quarantine after they appeared in events that were attended by COVID-19-infected persons.

President also had himself tested for COVID-19 after he attended an event last March 5 where a COVID-19 patient was present.

Govt task force sets criteria in determining countries to be included in travel ban

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Govt task force sets criteria in determining countries to be included in travel ban

More countries, including Japan, could be included in the country’s travel ban depending on the criteria that will be set by the government in determining future travel restrictions to contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the new criteria is set for release on February 28 once finalized by the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Duque, in an interview with radio stations DZMM on Thursday (February 27), said among the considerations being looked at in including a country in the travel restrictions are the number of local transmission of COVID-19 and the volume of travelers that go in and out of that country.

Latest reports said there were already 186 cases of COVID-19 in Japan, with 8 fatalities.

The government has already banned travels to and from China and the South Korean province of North Gyeongsang.

If Japan is included in the ban, the Philippines’s tourism sector will surely suffer a big blow, as South Korea, China and Japan are three of the top 4 tourism markets of the country.

In 2019, there were 1.98 millions arrivals from South Korea, followed by China with 1.74 million, the US, 1.06 million, and Japan, 682,788.

These markets recorded hikes in tourist arrivals in 2019.  Korean arrivals went up by 22.48 percent, China by 38.58 percent, US by 2.90 percent, and Japan by 8.07 percent.

Overall, the Philippines received 8.26 million international visitors in 2019, up 15.24 percent from 2018.

“Depende, kung ito (Japan) ay pumasok (sa criteria)…Magde-decision ang task force,” Duque said.

Duterte wants PH to strengthen military on its own, not keen on defense pacts with China, other nations

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Duterte wants PH to strengthen military on its own, not keen on defense pacts with China, other nations
Image Credit: PCOO

Contrary to insinuations that President Duterte will also be pivoting toward China for the country’s defense policies, Malacanang stressed that the Chief Executive will not entertain a joint military pact with Beijing after he junked the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s chief legal counsel and spokesman, said the President would rather that the country rely on its budget and capabilities in strengthening its military prowess than continue relying on foreign powers.

“Talagang desidido siya (Duterte) na tumayo na tayo sa ating kakayahan. If that will mean you will be spending more, then let’s spend more,” Panelo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) on Friday (February 21).

Panelo narrated that he asked if Duterte is looking at having a pact similar to the VFA with China or any other country, and the President answered “no”.

Manila has already informed Washington of its decision to end the 20-year VFA, which legalizes the presence of US troops on Philippine soil and the joint US-Philippines military exercises. 

This was after Washington included in its 2020 budget law a provision that bans the entry of Philippine officials who had  something to do with the incarceration of opposition Senator Leila de Lima. 

Subsequently, the US visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa was scrapped.

But there is still a possibility that the Executive Branch’s move to end VFA without prior approval from the Senate could be questioned before the Supreme Court.

Panelo said for the President, the country’s only enemies are the terrorists and Moro rebels, which can be handled by the government troops. “Sabi niya ito lang ang kalaban natin. Kaya natin iyon dahil kung hindi natin kaya ito, wala tayong karapatan maging gobyerno.”

Ban on travels to and from Taiwan lifted

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Ban on travels to and from Taiwan lifted
Image Credit: thetravelmentor

Malacanang announced that the government has decided to lift the travel ban covering travels to and from Taiwan after a determination made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) that Taipei has put in place strict measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19).

The decision immediately drew a positive reaction from the Taiwanese government, which earlier threatened to retaliate if Manila would continue to impose the travel ban.

Salvador Panelo, the President’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, said: “Accordingly, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa. The lifting of travel restrictions for Taiwan has been agreed by the members of the IATF by reason of the strict measures they are undertaking, as well as the protocols they are implementing to address the COVID-19.”

The lifting of the ban on travels to and from was “effective immediately”.

In a statement, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECO) said it welcomes the announcement. “Taiwan has taken all measures needed to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Taiwan will continue to work closely with the international community, including the Philippines, to fight against the COVID-19 to safeguard the health and welfare of humanity.”

Aside from the Taiwan, the government is also likely to lift the travel ban covering Macau. 

Panelo said Macau has submitted the protocols it has been observing to contain COVID-19.

These measures, Panelo added, prevents potential carriers of the virus from entering and departing their territory and enable others to determine the recent travel history of any traveler exiting their borders.”

Manila previously banned the entry of any foreigner coming from China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Filipinos or holders of Philippine permanent visa are allowed to enter the Philippines, on the condition they will be on a 14-day quarantine.

Taiwan was included in the ban based on the advice from the World Health Organization.

The IATF met again on Friday (February 14) to firm up plans to address the threats posed by COVID-19.

TECO added in its statement: “The Republic of China (Taiwan) attaches great importance to its long-standing relationship with the Republic of the Philippines. We are determined to strengthen our bilateral ties and promote our people-to-people connectivity. TECO would like to express deep appreciation to all Filipino friends who have voiced their sincere support for removing Taiwan from the temporary travel ban. We especially commend the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for its tireless efforts to help remove Taiwan from the travel ban.”

At least 300 people who had contact with two nCoV patients now being traced by govt

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At least 300 people who had contact with two nCoV patients now being traced by govt
Image Credit: GMA Network

Contact tracing of the people that came in contact with the two Chinese nationals that tested positive for the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) is now one of the top concerns of lawmakers and government officials.

This is because the two patients managed to travel to different places, such as Cebu and Dumaguete, and boarded Cebu Pacific (CEB) and Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights.

The problem now is that only 17 percent of the at least 300 persons who boarded the same planes with the Chinese patients have been accounted for by the Department of Health (DOH).

Because of this, Duque became the subject of intense grilling during the Senate inquiry on Tuesday afternoon. Senators said there was a failure of leadership on the part of Duque.

The secretary countered by saying he even personally supervised the contact tracing of the people that had contact with 2019-nCoV patients. 

He added that their search was hindered by the airlines’ reluctance to share information, citing the data privacy law. “Airlines are not sharing the contact details of the passengers. They are invoking confidentiality,”

“They’re saying that the airlines are the ones contacting the passengers and informing them and that we’re not given the number,” Duque said. “I’m told that these airlines are invoking the Data Privacy Act, I don’t know how. This is rather strange in a time of urgent situation, I do not understand why this is the case but I think that has to be investigated.”

This was, however, immediately denied by the two airlines.

PAL’s Cielo Villaluna said: ”Philippine Airlines shared contact details of passengers of the concerned flight. We shared it to enable DOH to carry out the callouts and on top of that, PAL carried out callouts.” 

Cebu Pacific, in a statement, said: “Per the request of both the DOH and BOQ, CEB has already provided a list of the passengers aboard both flights. There is no impediment whatsoever for CEB to provide any and all information that the BOH and DOQ would need from us for their purposes.”

But Duque is also looking at possible mishandling by DOH officials. “Heads will roll… Somebody’s head is really going to roll,” Duque said, without giving names.

Reports said the two Chinese patients boarded 5J 241 (Hong Kong-Cebu, January 21), DG 6519 (Cebu-Dumaguete, January 21), and Philippine Airlines’ PR 2542 (Dumaguete to Manila -Jan 25). 

Govt sets in motion repatriation, quarantine procedures for Filipinos in Hubei, China

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Govt sets in motion repatriation, quarantine procedures for Filipinos in Hubei, China

The Philippine government on Tuesday night (January 28) announced that it has put on standby two charter planes so Filipinos in Hubei Province — the source of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)—can be repatriated immediately should they wish to come home.

This was upon the instruction of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., according to DFA Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Brigido J. Dulay.

In a tweet at 9:34 p.m. on Tuesday, Dulay said :

This action followed a meeting between the DFA and the Department of Health (DOH) on what actions the government needs to take to safeguard Filipinos from the spread of the deadly 2019-nCoV, which originated in Wuhan, a city in the Chinese province of Hubei.

Around 150 Filipinos are currently in Wuhan, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana. These Filipinos are now in distress as they are already running out of water and food supplies due to the lockdown implemented by the Chinese government in the area.

Should they decide to come home, Dulay said they will be immediately placed under quarantine, per the agreement between the DOH and DFA.

Reports said the 2019-nCoV has already claimed the lives of more than 100 people. The new strain of coronavirus has also reached several countries, including the US, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan.

The DOH said while 24 individuals are now being tested for possible 2019-nCoV infection in the Philippines, the country is still officially free from the disease as of now.

As another measure to protect the country from the new coronavirus, the Bureau of Immigration has already suspended the no-visa entry for Chinese nationals.

Several Chinese schools in Manila have also suspended classes to make sure those who travelled to China in celebration of the Chinese New Year will not mingle with other students.

EDITORIAL: DOH should be lauded for immediately treating 2019-nCoV a public health emergency

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DOH should be lauded for immediately treating 2019-nCoV a public health emergency
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

The pronouncement of the Department of Health (DOH) that the government is already treating the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) as a public health emergency even if no domestic case has been confirmed yet as of January 24 is indeed laudable.

This only shows that the DOH is now ready to take proactive measures to make sure the new coronavirus strain that originated from Wuhan will not reach Philippine shores; or if it is already here, it would not infect more Filipinos.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said it well in an interview with ANC: “We are treating it as a public health emergency. We want to make sure that if it does get here, we are able to contain it, isolate it.”

Declaring a public health emergency allows the DOH and other concerned agencies to tap the necessary resources to make sure proper actions and measures will be in place to prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV.  In the United States, where there is a confirmed 2019-nCoV case already, a public health emergency declaration releases resources meant to handle an actual or potential public health crisis.

Why is this important? We all know how unscrupulous traders took advantage of the ash fall that reached Metro Manila after the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano last January 12. Due to the sudden spike in demand for face masks, some establishments reportedly raised the prices of their N95 and surgical masks, prompting the DOH and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement a price freeze and conduct operations against erring retailers and suppliers.

With the 2019-nCoV feared to be communicable, face masks would again be in demand. With the declaration of a public health emergency, authorities will be able to guard the public against overpricing and hoarding of N95 and other face masks again.

This is just an example. Of course, there are many other things that the government needs to do to shield Filipinos from this new strain of coronavirus. Some measures would certainly entail more budget, so the DOH and other concerned agencies should not be hindered by bureaucratic red tape in getting needed funds. 

In China, for instance, the Chinese government has started building a new 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan solely for coronavirus patients. The Philippine government, of course, does not need to do this also for now. However, interventions of a smaller magnitude—but would entail additional funding—need to be undertaken also as proactive measures. Ensuring adequate medicines and facilities for 2019-nCoV patients are examples. At the ports of entry, the quarantine personnel, as well as their testing capabilities, should be enhanced. Authorities should also prepare to dedicate experts and resources for the isolation of people suspected as being infected by the deadly virus.

The DOH is still waiting for the result of the confirmatory test on a five-year-old Chinese who arrived in sick in Cebu from Wuhan. Also, a 36-year-old Filipino worker in Wuhan just came homesick and is now in a hospital in Tacloban. 

While there is no confirmation yet that the 2019-nCoV is already here in the Philippines, it is indeed a positive signal that the DOH has declared that it already considers the spread of the new coronavirus strain as a public health emergency. Caution and preparedness are paramount in situations like this. As the saying goes—better safe than sorry.

DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after the spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

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DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

Passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong will be made to undergo physical tests, including temperature scanners, upon arrival at Philippine airports to make sure the currently unknown disease that has infected more than 50 people in Wuhan, China will not enter the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday (January 6).

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, DOH spokesman, said arriving passengers would be quarantined if necessary, especially if they were found to have flu-like symptoms and coughs.

“Doble bantay lang po sa mga flights galing China at Hong Kong para ma-detect lang po natin agad kung may mga pasaherong may lagnat. I-interviewin, phyisical exam at kung meron nakitang dahilan, baka kailangan natin i-quarantine,” Domingo said in an interview over DZMM radio station.

According to the report of Agence France-Press, the Wuhan infection broke out between 12 and 29 December, with some of the patients employed at a seafood market in the city that has since been closed for disinfection. No obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found so far, added the province’s health commission. 

Domingo said there is still no indication if the disease is caused by the SARS virus, which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2003. 

Still, Domingo advised Filipinos traveling to China and Hong Kong to avoid going to populous places. They should also wear face masks and regularly wash their hands. He said Hong Kong was included on the watch list because two of its residents returned home sick from Wuhan.

Domingo also urged Filipinos who just arrived from China and Hong Kong to immediately see a doctor if they are not feeling well. “Pa-check up na, lalo na sa mga infectious disease hospitals like San Lazaro, para malaman natin and avoid na rin makahawa,” he said.

Domingo stressed that the Philippines need to handle the matter with prudence since it is a new disease and “we don’t know yet its extent”. The DOH’s Bureau of Quarantine at the airports, he said, is already on top of the matter.

PH economy expands 6.2 percent in Q3 to outpace growth of China, other neighbors

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PH economy expands 6.2 percent in Q3 to outpace growth of China, other neighbors

The Philippine economy grew 6.2 percent in the July-to-September period, lifting the year-to-date growth to 5.8 percent, or just a little slower than the government’s full-year target of 6 percent to 7 percent.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the Philippines performed better in the third quarter of the year compared to other Asian countries.

“The Philippines likely ranked second behind Vietnam’s 7.3 percent but higher than China’s 6.0 percent, India’s expected Q3 growth of below 6.0 percent, and Indonesia’s 5.0 percent for the period,” Pernia said.

The economy now needs to expand by at least 6.7 percent in the final quarter of 2019 to reach the lower end of the government’s full-year growth target.

This, according to Pernia, is still doable, with the expected surge in private consumption for the holiday season, as well as the higher spending from the government and more investments from private firms.

“Yesterday, the Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet level and the Committee on Infrastructure approved the updated list of infrastructure flagship projects of the Duterte administration, subject to further refinements. We deem that these projects are more feasible, responsive to medium and long-term demands and challenges towards uplifting the quality of life of the Filipino people, especially those being left behind. Thus, we call on our colleagues in the government, the private sector, partner international organizations, and the citizenry at large to work together to overcome hurdles and ensure that these projects get completed on time, or at least started substantially,” Pernia added.

He added: “For the remaining months of the year, the benign inflation outlook, and more upbeat consumer confidence, are expected to stimulate private consumption, especially with the nearing holiday season that has begun.”

“Meanwhile, the expansionary monetary policy stance of the government is expected to encourage private investments. The Central Bank has already cut its key policy rates by a cumulative 75 basis points this year. It has also lowered banks’ reserve requirement by a total of 400 bps – including the recent 100bps reduction for thrift banks effective December 2019.” 

The agriculture sector is also expected to boost growth in the last quarter of the year, especially with the relatively favorable weather conditions providing the opportune time to ramp up agricultural production, particularly of high-value crops. 

“We note that the upbeat performance of the agriculture sector, growing by 3.1 percent in the Q3 from 0.8 percent earlier this year, was driven by increased production of corn, coconut and pineapple.  We urge the Department of Agriculture and other concerned agencies to swiftly implement the programs and projects under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.  Perhaps, among the priority projects should be the provision of mechanical dryers, particularly in areas where we lack “solar drying” facilities. As the harvest season is ongoing, the government should continue to directly buy palay from local producers affected by the unprecedented decline in farm gate prices to help curb their losses,” Pernia said.

To counter the risk of the spread of African Swine Fever, the government must continue to enforce its biosecurity measures. More stringent quarantine checkpoints, provision of disinfection facilities, and intensified anti-smuggling and meat inspection efforts are also needed, he added.

“As we can see, the Philippine economy has been steadily growing for the past three years. We expect to sustain this momentum in the following years and cement the Philippines’ standing as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia,” Pernia said.

Duterte criticizes major economic powers for protectionist policies that hurt Asean

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Duterte criticizes major economic powers for protectionist policies that hurt Asean
Image Credit: https://pcoo.gov.ph/

While not directly naming them, President Duterte criticized the “major economic powers” for their protectionist policies and trade skirmishes that are threatening the growth of the Asean region.

In his address at the 35th Asean Summit Plenary in Thailand, Duterte said the rise of protectionism and ongoing trade wars undermine the progress of the Asean economies. “The far-reaching consequences may adversely impact on food security in the developing world.”

With this, the President called on the Asean to strengthen and deepen their economic integration to counter protectionism and trade-related tensions happening in other parts of the world.

Currently embroiled in trade wars are China and the US, as well as Japan and South Korea, among others.

“We need an open and rules-based trading system to sustain growth. Thus, we should ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of the World Trade Organization. And, Asean must accelerate deeper economic integration through concrete programs and projects, such as RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership],” Duterte said.

The RCEP is an emerging economic bloc composed of the 10 Asean member-countries plus their free-trade partners China, Japan, India, South Korean, Australia and New Zealand. Collectively, they account for about 40 percent of world GDP and about half of the world’s population.

Duterte noted that the Asean declarations and joint statements that aim to protect the region’s population, especially the most vulnerable, are steps toward sustainable and inclusive development.

He also called for more measures that allow the greater direct benefit to certain sectors of the population, including the expansion of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) and the empowerment of women, migrant workers and persons with disabilities.

Key components of these MRAs are the harmonization of standards on nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Duterte also called on Asean to ensure environmental sustainability and protect biodiversity in the region’s pursuit for development. 

“Asean should not sacrifice the environment and the region’s rich biodiversity, particularly in the maritime domain, in its quest for progress. We must work together to address the problem of marine debris. And we must build resilient and stronger communities to adapt to the effects of climate change,” he stressed.

Duterte added that the regional grouping should support economic sectors of high productivity and follow sustainable business practices.

Duterte has full plate in fifth China visit

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Duterte has full plate in fifth China visit
image credit: pcoo.gov.ph

President Duterte is now in Beijing for his eighth bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and make good his promise to negotiate for a mutually beneficial deal on the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte’s August 28 to September 1 stay in China, his fifth visit there as Chief Executive will also take him to Guangzhou—the site of the 2019 FIBA World Cup—to cheer for Gilas Pilipinas when the team plays Italy on August 31.

image credit: pcoo.gov.ph

According to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre, Duterte, who left Manila at 7 p.m. and arrived around 11:10 p.m. in Beijing, will discuss with Xi some measures that will accelerate the pace of cooperation between the two countries in terms of concrete projects, as well as on issues of mutual interests.

These will include the Code of Conduct and joint explorations in the contested territory in the West Philippine Sea, where President Duterte would push for no less than a 60-percent revenue share, as he announced earlier. Duterte also vowed to raise the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling on the sea dispute favoring the Philippines.

Duterte and Xi will witness the signing of a number of bilateral cooperation documents and memorandum of understanding (MOU) in the areas of education, science and technology, and economic and social development.

He is also scheduled to discuss with Premier Li Keqiang economic matters and ASEAN-China cooperation on Friday.

image credit: pcoo.gov.ph

Before leaving Beijing, Duterte will attend a business forum arranged by the Department of Trade and Industry.

He will then travel to Guangzhou for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. 

In Guangdong, the President will also meet with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation, increase trade and investment, and deepen the friendship between the people of Guangdong and the Philippines.

The members of the government’s economic and security clusters are with President Duterte in the trip.

Duterte ready to enforce PHL’s territorial rights in “unfriendly manner”

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Duterte ready to enforce PHL’s territorial rights in “unfriendly manner”
image credit: pcoo.gov.ph

President Duterte has had enough of foreign intrusions into Philippine waters, declaring that Philippine authorities will be compelled to enforce its territorial rights in an “unfriendly manner”.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, on Tuesday (August 20) said: “To avoid misunderstanding in the future, the President is putting on notice that beginning today, all foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage.”

Malacanang’s pronouncement came after persistent reports of foreign vessels—including those from China and Vietnam— being spotted within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone.

“Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner,” Panelo said.                           

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier disclosed that Chinese warships have been spotted in Sibutu Strait in the South since February.



Chinese research vessels were also monitored by a US-based maritime expert within the Philippine EEZ.

Vietnamese and Chinese fishing vessels, as well as a coast guard vessel of China, were spotted by the AFP in Ayungin Shoal.

Because of these recent intrusions, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. already ordered on Monday the filing of another diplomatic protest against Beijing.

This is a prelude to President Duterte’s scheduled visit to China from August 28 to September 2.

Manila and Beijing are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which allows innocent passage of ships through the territorial sea of a coastal state provided that it will be “continuous and expeditious.”

On Monday, Panelo told reporters that Duterte takes the unannounced entry of foreign vessels into Philippine territory seriously. “It is an issue with the Office of the President given that we need to be informed in advance of any passage in our territory, because that is what the UNCLOS says.” 

Malacanang says incursions of Chinese warships not an act of friendship

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Malacanang says incursions of Chinese warships not an act of friendship
image credit: pcoo.gov.ph

The Manila-Beijing diplomatic relations are getting worse by the day in the run-up to President Duterte’s state visit to China at the end of the month, with Malacanang branding the recent sea incursions of Chinese warships as not a sign of friendship.

“We express concern with that kind of incident. Because if they keep on saying that we’re friends, I don’t think this is an act of friendship,” Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters on Thursday (August 15).

A US-based maritime expert earlier revealed that two Chinese research vessels were spotted within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Also, Chinese warships were spotted along the Sibutu Strait in Tawi-Tawi in four instances from February to July. This was repeated this month, with three warships sailing through Philippine waters in the South, again without proper coordination with Philippine authorities. The automatic identification systems of these Chinese warships had been reportedly switched off, which can be considered a deceptive move.

Panelo said these sea incursions by Chinese warships will be taken up with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua when they meet for a “working dinner”.

He, however, said a note verbale could be sent to China anew if it was deemed proper by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. “If there’s a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we will file a diplomatic protest.” 

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said four Chinese ships sailed through the Sibutu Strait unannounced at least four times since February. Because of this, Locsin announced he would be filing a diplomatic protest, the third since June.

“With respect to what Secretary Lorenzana said that when you drive away fishermen from our EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone), I agree with him when he says that’s bullying,” Panelo said.

Duterte is set to visit China anew at the end of the month to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  While no exact date and agenda has been announced, Duterte said he plans to discuss the West Philippine Sea issue with his Chinese counterpart.

Duterte to settle for 60% share in sea exploration with China

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Duterte to settle for 60% share in sea exploration with China

President Duterte is now open to a 60-40 revenue sharing with China if Manila and Beijing would conduct joint oil explorations and development in the West Philippine Sea, but quickly stressed that the Philippines should get the bigger share.

The Chief Executive’s new pronouncement on Thursday (August 8) was a turnaround from his position last year, when he said the Philippines should get more than 60 percent.

Duterte, in a speech at the Eastern Mindanao Command camp in Davao City on August 23, 2018, said what he wants is for the Philippines to get a higher share than the 60-40 he earlier broached.

But speaking to reporters on Thursday, Duterte said: “They have proposed a 60-40 (sharing). Okay na ‘yan para sa akin (That’s okay for me).”

“Of course, 60… 60 in favor of our country,” he added.

The President is scheduled for a state visit to Beijing for the fifth time at the end of the month.

Like in his previous visits to China, the issue on the South China Sea will again be a sticky topic. 

Duterte already said he’ll be bringing up the South China Sea Code of Conduct (COC) to avoid more adverse incidents and conflicts between the two countries in the oil- and mineral-rich West Philippine Sea.

“Once we have set the agenda, I’d talk first about jurisdiction, the COC, and the exploitation of the natural resources of my country since, as far as I’m concerned, we own it. So that is my position. We still own what we are claiming,” Duterte said.

Malacanang has already given assurances that all deals that will be forged regarding the West Philippines Sea would be according to the Philippine Constitution and would redound to benefits for Filipinos.

Philippines files another diplomatic protest vs China

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PAG-ASA ISLAND. Philippine construction on Pag-asa Island provokes a paramilitary response from China. Photos courtesy of CSIS/AMTI/DigitalGlobe

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has filed another diplomatic protest against China, the second since June, after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. received reports that more than a hundred Chinese ships have been spotted around Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea.

“Diplomatic protest fired off,” Locsin tweeted on Tuesday, in reaction to the report and suggestion of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

“I listen only to military intelligence; I distrust civilian sources of ‘misinformation.’ When it comes to national security, I am the thinking trigger; the finger is the commander-in-chief and the Armed Forces which are the protector of people & state,” Locsin was quoted in a report of the Philippine Star.

Manilla also lodged a diplomatic complaint against Beijing in June after the reported sinking of a Filipino fishing boat allegedly by a Chinese trawler.

In a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said it is time for Manila go to the United Nations Assembly again to “persuade” Beijing to follow the 2016 decision of Permanent Court of Arbitration favoring the Philippines in its arbitration case against China over claims in the West Philippine Sea. The West Philippine Sea is part of the South China Sea, a very important sea route, business, and military-wise.

“I think it’s time for us to consider going the UN General Assembly to be able to get the necessary votes to persuade China to abide by the outcome of the arbitral tribunal,” Del Rosario said at a fellowship meeting of the Philippine Bar Association held in Makati. 

Sources: www.philstar.comwww.inquirer.net

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