Saturday, June 15, 2013

ASEAN, US meet to discuss enhancing trade, investments

Economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met with US government officials on Thursday to discuss initiatives to expand job-creating trade, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) said.

In a statement, the USTR said a high-level US delegation led by acting US Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro met with Asean trade ministers on the sidelines of the last leg and day of the latter's US roadshow. Philippine Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo was part of the ASEAN delegation.

This roadshow by ASEAN--which is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam--began in California and culminated in Washington, D.C.

"The high-level representation reflects the growing importance of US economic ties to ASEAN, which collectively is our fourth largest export market," the USTR said.

According to Sapiro, deepening the ties between the US and the regional bloc is a priority for their government and he is "pleased" that this week's ASEAN Road Show highlighted the opportunities to promote jobs through enhanced trade and investment between the two.

"We believe that [the] discussions will propel our efforts to further our economic partnership, which holds significant promise, especially as Asean works to achieve full regional economic integration by 2015," she added.

During the meeting, ASEAN and US officials discussed "concrete initiatives to deepen their economic ties and create new opportunities that would benefit their businesses and workers," the USTR said.

The trade officials also took note of the inroads made so far in the US-ASEAN Enhanced Economic Engagement Initiative launched last year.

Asean and US officials also expressed support to make the World Trade Organization Ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia in December a success.

The regional bloc was the US' fourth biggest export market and fifth largest trading partner last year with two-way goods trade reaching $198 billion.

In 2011, ASEAN-US trade in services countries hit $30 billion, while over $159-billion worth of US foreign direct investment were infused into the region, the latest USTR data showed. - Interaksyon

Philippines files racist complaint with FIFA

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) has complained to FIFA that Filipino supporters and players were subject to racist abuse during last week's friendly in Hong Kong.

PFF General Secretary Ed Gastanes said in a written statement on Thursday that officials asked FIFA to investigate the allegations and had filed a complaint on Tuesday after reports of physical and racist abuse against Philippine players and supporters.

Ged Grebby, chief executive of Britain's anti-racism educational charity Show Racism The Red Card, backed a FIFA investigation into the incident on Friday.

He told Al Jazeera that FIFA should act under its tough new anti-racism rules if it found the complaints to be true.

The complaint contains statements from Filipino fans who said they were called "slaves'', in reference to the thousands of domestic helpers who work in the former British colony.

"In that context it sounds like racist abuse," Grebby said.

The Philippines also complained that Hong Kong fans threw bottles at them and booed the Philippine national anthem before the game, which the Philippines won 1-0 after their star Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge pulled off some spectacular saves.

'Players targeted'

The Hong Kong Football Association condemned inappropriate behaviour last week and said it was investigating the incidents. Spokesman Benny Chan said that the HKFA has a zero-tolerance approach to racism.

A representative of the Asian Football Confederation in Kuala Lumpur said that it had not received any formal complaint and would only be able to investigate or take action if asked to do so by the Philippines or FIFA.

Cedelf Tupas, a reporter for the Philippine Daily Inquirer who covered the June 4 match, said last week that Hong Kong fans jeered and taunted the Filipinos, including calling their country a "slave nation".

Tupas said that the hostility intensified after the Philippines scored in the second half, when spectators threw bottles and juice cartons at the Filipino fans and later the players. He said others made obscene gestures.

The Filipino fans, who were mostly women and children, made up about 10 percent of the crowd of 4,500.

Some in the southern Chinese city hold a grudge against the Philippines after a Manila hostage-taking incident in 2010, in which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a bungled police rescue. The Hong Kong government has maintained a travel warning for the Philippines since the incident.

More than 100,000 Filipinos work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong, toiling long hours taking care of children and doing chores for middle-class families for low pay. - Al Jazeera

Myanmar monks end meeting with call for peace

A meeting of more than 200 Myanmar Buddhist monks on how to solve deadly communal conflicts that have pitted majority Buddhists against Muslims declared Friday they seek peace and accused the media of tarnishing their religion’s image.

A statement released at the end of the two-day meeting did not mention a prominent Buddhist monk’s proposal that a law be enacted to regulate inter-religious marriages, particularly specifying that anyone who marries a Buddhist woman must convert to Buddhism.

The monk Wirathu, who is known for his anti-Muslim sermons, told reporters Thursday on the sidelines of the conference that he would propose the legislation to parliament.

Conference spokesman Dhammapiya, another monk, said the proposal was not directly related to the meeting.

“The draft law was proposed at the wrong place and caused confusion,” he told The Associated Press.
The remarks had fueled unease that Buddhist monks are promoting religious intolerance. Wirathu is a key leader of “969,” an ultra-nationalist movement of monks that preaches that the country’s small Muslim minority threatens racial purity and national security.

The conflict has threatened to undermine the political and economic reforms undertaken by President Thein Sein, who came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of repressive military rule.

Sectarian violence began in western Rakhine state last year, when hundreds died in clashes between Buddhist and Muslims that drove about 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes. The violence had seemed confined to that region, but in late March, similar Buddhist-led violence swept the town of Meikthila in central Myanmar, killing at least 43 people.

Several other towns in central Myanmar experienced less deadly violence, mostly involving the torching of Muslim businesses and mosques.

Regarding the violence, Dhammapiya said that anyone who broke the law should be dealt with according to the law.

“We have to ascertain if the monks who took part in the violence were fake or genuine monks,” he said. “It has to be investigated and there should be rule of law to stop the violence.” News reports suggested that some monks were armed and encouraged the bloodletting.

Participants in the meeting, held at a monastery in Hmawbi, about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Yangon, complained that the media had presented a distorted view of Buddhism’s role in the violence.
Dhammapiya told reporters on Thursday that “We are just requesting you to write the news with the right information.”

“There are many media that report ethically. But there are some which get backing from some sort of organizations,” he said, without elaborating. “We feel that it’s not balanced.” - Philippine Daily Inquirer

China, Taiwan to hold high-level talks June 21

Taiwan and China will hold their ninth round of high-level talks in Shanghai on June 21 and are expected to ink an agreement on trade in services, the two sides said Friday after a preparatory meeting in Taipei.

Ma Shaw-chang, deputy secretary general of Taiwan's quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation, which handles exchanges with China in the absence of formal ties, said the foundation chairman Lin Join-sane will visit Shanghai from June 20-22 for the talks.

He said Lin and his Chinese counterpart Chen Deming, who heads the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, will meet on the morning of June 21 and the services pact is likely to be signed in the afternoon.

If inked, it will be the third follow-up pact after China and Taiwan concluded a landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in June 2010.

Pacts on investment protection and customs cooperation were signed in August 2012. The two sides are still negotiating pacts on commodity trade and dispute resolution, hoping to conclude those negotiations by the end of this year.

The two sides have held eight rounds of high-level talks and signed 18 agreements since President Ma Ying-jeou was first elected in 2008 on a platform of seeking friendlier ties with China.

Wang Yu-chi, minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said that if the pact on trade in services is signed, it would facilitate Taiwan's hope to sign free trade agreements with various countries and advance the island's economic integration in the region.

ARATS Deputy Chairman Zheng Lizhong, who was in Taipei for the preparatory talks, said he hopes the services pact will help advance the establishment of a "common market" across the Taiwan Strait.

The services industry accounts for about 40 percent of China's gross domestic product and nearly 70 percent of Taiwan's GDP.-ABS-CBN News

Japan eyes Philippines, US keeping China in check

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is making final arrangements to visit the Philippines later this month and Hawaii in the United States next month in a bid to keep China in check, a Japanese government source said Friday.

Onodera, during his trip to the Southeast Asian country from June 26 and his Hawaii trip on July 1, aims to stress the need to ensure maritime safety based on the rule of law amid China's growing assertiveness at sea, the source said.

In Hawaii, Onodera aims to reconfirm that the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea fall under the scope of the Japan-U.S. security treaty which requires the United States to defend Japan in the event of an armed attack.

Ahead of the July 4 start of the House of Councillors election campaign, the government also wants to assure conservatives at home that Japan is maintaining a hard-line posture in security issues, political analysts say.

The Japanese defense minister plans to discuss with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin the current tensions in the East China Sea and South China Sea and coordinate their responses to China, the source said.

Japan and China remain at odds over the ownership of the Senkaku Islands. Japan says no dispute exists since the islets are an inherent part of the country's territory in terms of history and international law, while Beijing claims the islands and calls them Diaoyu.

China is also involved in a dispute with the Philippines and several other Southeast Asian nations over the ownership of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Both Tokyo and Manila have protested Chinese vessels' intrusion in their respective territorial waters near the disputed areas.

In Hawaii, Onodera is also set to discuss with Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, on whether the current missile defense system is sufficient to deal with North Korea given Pyongyang's progress in missile development.

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December, he has been striving to bolster defense ties between Japan and other countries, having already sent top officials of the Self-Defense Forces to Southeast Asian nations including Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.-ABS-CBN News

Friday, June 14, 2013

Malaysia to repatriate Myanmar nationals after clashes

Malaysia said Thursday it would work with Myanmar to repatriate thousands of their nationals following clashes in the community that left at least four dead and led to a security sweep.

The two Southeast Asian nations insisted that violence -- beginning late May at a wholesale market in Kuala Lumpur -- linked to strife between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in Myanmar was under control.

Malaysian authorities have suggested Buddhists came under attack from Muslim countrymen seeking vengeance over deadly sectarian strife back in Myanmar.

"It is a clash of Myanmars among themselves... The quarrel they have back home is brought to our country," Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar told reporters after meeting a delegation from Myanmar.

He said some 257,000 Myanmar nationals work in Muslim-majority Malaysia -- 144,000 of these illegally -- filling mostly lowly paid jobs in plantation, construction and other sectors shunned by locals.

Some 250 people remain in detention here after a security sweep last week following the deadly clashes, in addition to illegals held previously.

"We have 4,400 Myanmar detained in immigration detention centres now, and we have invited the Myanmar authorities, especially the embassy, to... bring them back," Wan Junaidi said.

He also called on the United Nations refugee agency to swiftly process those who say they are refugees and feel unsafe to return to Myanmar.

The agency has documented some 95,000 Myanmar refugees in Malaysia, which does not grant them any legal status but allows temporary stays.

Of them, 28,000 are Muslim-ethnic Rohingyas, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar. The United Nations has described them as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

Deadly sectarian strife pitting ethnic Rakhines against the Rohingyas has continued since last year in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine.

Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Zin Yaw said in separate comments to reporters that the attacks in Malaysia were believed to be "gang-related" and not necessarily religious.

"We ask help from the Malaysian government to protect our people working here. Some want to go back to Myanmar so (we will) make arrangements for them to go back quickly," he said.-Channel News Asia

Thai patience over southern violence wearing thin

Thailand Thursday expressed impatience at continuing insurgent violence in its Muslim-majority south as delegates began a third round of peace talks in the Malaysian capital with the rebels.

Thai National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut told reporters he needed "concrete outcomes" to violence that has killed more than 5,500 in the past decade "so I can answer to the people".

"Our agenda is to reduce violence in a particular timeframe or by area. Today we must get clear answer on the facts (behind the recent spike in violence)," Paradorn, Bangkok's lead negotiator, said before meeting rebel representatives.

Talks which began on March 28 have so far failed to end near-daily violence in the three provinces bordering Malaysia.

Thai authorities had floated the idea of handing some local decision-making to the provinces dominated by ethnic Malay Muslims. But Paradorn said the issue was unlikely to come up in this round, which would be dominated by the violence.

Five Thai security personnel were killed in a fresh spate of gun and bomb attacks two weeks ago, which the government blamed on insurgents seeking to disrupt the fragile peace process.

Despite two rounds of peace talks since March, near-daily bloodshed has raised questions over how much control rebel leaders have over radical militants.

But a Thai delegation official expressed confidence Thursday that "they are the real representatives of all groups" in southern Thailand.

"Every group, they are now together. They are talking to us," said deputy permanent secretary for defence Nipat Thonglek.

The rebels had in April demanded "liberation" from the Thai kingdom and made a series of demands. But Paradorn has insisted that discussions are not about autonomy but about local administration. - Channel News Asia

Philippines recommends coast guard charges over Taiwan shooting

Undated handout photo released by Liuqiu fishing committee on 10 May 2013 shows the Guang Ta Hsin 28 fishing vessel in Liuqiu

Philippine justice officials have recommended that charges be filed against coast guards who shot dead a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the findings had been presented to President Benigno Aquino for review.

The incident, which took place on 9 May, sparked a serious diplomatic row between the two sides.

The coast guard said it fired in self-defence - something disputed by the Taiwanese side.

Fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was shot dead in waters which both sides say lie within their 200-nautical-mile from shore exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines apologised for the incident, but Taiwan rejected the apology, saying it lacked sincerity.

"The NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] has recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the Philippine coastguard personnel," Ms De Lima told Agence-France Presse news agency.

She said specific charges are yet to be disclosed pending a review from Mr Aquino's office.

Meanwhile, a Taiwanese official in the Philippines said they will wait for the final report before issuing an official statement.

Last month, the Philippines and Taiwan launched parallel investigations into the incident.

Taiwan has also imposed a host of economic measures against the Philippines, including suspending visa processing for Filipino workers and cutting trade exchanges.-British Broadcasting Corporation

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Philippines, India boost defense ties

Four ships of the Indian Navy are in the country for a five-day goodwill visit to boost defense ties between India and the Philippines.

The vessels arrived yesterday at Manila’s South Harbor and were welcomed by officials and personnel of the Philippine Navy.

The ships, which are under the command of Rear Admiral P Ajit Kumar, are INS Saptura, a Shivalik-class stealth multi-role frigate; INS Shakti, a Deepak-class fleet tanker; INS Ranvijay, a Rajput class destroyer; and INS Kirch, a Kora class corvette.

The visit coincided with the port call of USS Chosin, a guided missile cruiser that docked in Subic yesterday.

Navy spokesman Lt Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said the visiting Indian crew would join activities related to security and intelligence, shipboard tours, passage exercise tours and goodwill games. - The Philippine Star

US Senators blast China's use of force in sea disputes

US senators have filed a resolution condemning China's use of threats and force in territorial disputes with other countries.

Senate Resolution 167, filed on Monday by Senators Robert Menendrez (Democrat, New Jersey), Marco Antonio Rubio (Republican, Florida), and Ben Cardin (Democrat, Maryland), also urges countries contesting ownership of parts of the West Philippine Sea and East China Sea to create and approve a code of conduct to avoid conflicts.

Menendez chairs the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, while Rubio is being touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.

The resolution, which has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, cited many dangerous incidents involving Chinese actions in the West Philippine Sea and the East China Sea.

These include Chinese vessels cutting the seismic survey cables of a Vietnamese oil exploration ship in May 2011; Chinese vessels barricading the entrance to the Scarborough Reef lagoon in April 2012; China issuing an official map that defines its contested "9-dash line'' as China's national border; and, since May 8, 2013, Chinese naval and marine surveillance ships maintaining a regular presence in waters around the Second Thomas Shoal, located approximately 105 nautical miles northwest of Palawan.

It also cited a Department of State spokesperson expressing concern in 2012 over China's upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha City in the West Philippine Sea and the establishment of a new military garrison in the contested area.

The resolution added that in January 2013, a Chinese naval ship allegedly fixed its weapons-targeting radar on Japanese vessels near the Senkaku islands, and on April 23, 2013, 8 Chinese marine surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off the Senkaku Islands, further escalating regional tensions.

The senators said Beijing recently took other unilateral steps, including declaring the Senkaku Islands a "core interest", "improperly drawing'' baselines around the Senkaku Islands, and maintaining a military presence around the islands that are under control by Japan.

The resolution is asking the US Senate to condemn "the use of coercion, threats, or force by naval, maritime security, or fishing vessels and military or civilian aircraft in the South China Sea and the East China Sea to assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo."

It urged all parties in the disputed areas to exercise self-restraint to prevent any acts in that would escalate tensions.

The resolution, which highlighted US interests in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the Asia-Pacific, urged member-states of ASEAN and China to develop a code of conduct of parties in the West Philippine Sea.

It said claimants in the West Philippine Sea should resolve disputes through processes that adhere to international law, including via international arbitration.

The resolution also supports the alliances forged by the US Armed Forces with other countries in the region to ensure peace.

Fil-Ams to protest China's Ayungin invasion

A group of Filipino-Americans, meanwhile, announced on Wednesday plans to launch a protest-rally on July 24 at the United Nations headquarters in New York to raise awareness on China's occupation of the Philippines' Ayungin Reef.

The reef is located just 105 nautical miles from Palawan and is found within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

"China seized the Philippines' Mischief Reef in 1994, then our Scarborough Shoal last year," said US Pinoys for Good Governance chairperson Loida Nicolas Lewis. "This year, China is set to invade and occupy the Ayungin Reef. 
This is unacceptable!" Lewis, in a statement, said July 24 will mark the first year that China established its Sansha City Prefecture that covers more than 2 million square kilometers of the West Philippine Sea, including islands and reefs in the Spratlys that are within the Philippines' 200-nautical-mile EEZ.

Sansha City is the subject of a Philippine diplomatic protest against China, according to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said the creation of the prefecture violated the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which aims to deter use of force and instead promote peace and self-restraint among countries claiming resource-rich territories in the region.

Ayungin dispute

According to the Philippine military, Chinese ships including a frigate and maritime surveillance vessels have been spotted in the vicinity of the Ayungin Shoal.

Military spokesman Major Ramon Zagala Jr., said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has no plans to confront the ships because it might aggravate the situation.

He said they will continue to monitor the ships' movements and defend the interests of the country through diplomatic means.

Zagala said Filipino troops stationed in the area have a constitutional duty to protect the country's territory.

The military has forwarded pictures and information of the exact locations of the Chinese ships in Philippine territory to Malacanang and the DFA.

The reef is considered the gateway to the Recto Bank, which the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates to contain 2.5 billion barrels of oil and 25.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Fewer than 10 personnel of the Philippine Marines are reportedly guarding the shoal.

The Palace said that taking the diplomatic approach in resolving does not contradict the government's desire to establish its "minimum credible defense posture" in protecting its territory.-ABS-CBN News

Philippines vows to defend territory, sovereignty

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, left, arranges a wreath during ceremonies marking the 115th Philippine Independence Day at Liwasang Bonifacio, a square named after Filipino revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio a in Manila, Philippines on Wednesday June 12, 2013. Aquino vowed Wednesday his country will not back down from any challenge to its sovereignty and territory amid a sea dispute with China. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III vowed Wednesday his country will not back down from any challenge to its sovereignty and territory amid a sea dispute with China.

He said in a speech marking the 115th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain that the Philippines has not claimed territory that clearly belongs to another country but only asks that "our territory, rights and dignity be respected."

"Aggression does not run in our veins, but neither will we back down from any challenge," Aquino told government workers, diplomats and supporters at a public square named after revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio, where he also led a flag-raising ceremony.

Aquino said in the next five years, 75 billion pesos ($1.74 billion) will be spent to modernize the armed forces.

He did not mention China by name, but the two countries have an ongoing territorial row in the disputed Spratly islands.

Last month, the Philippines protested the presence of a Chinese warship, two surveillance vessels and fishing boats off a shoal occupied by Filipino troops in the Spratlys in the latest territorial squabble between the two Asian countries.
Ayungin Shoal lies 196 kilometers (122 miles) from the southwestern Philippine province of Palawan. It is guarded by a Filipino marine unit based in a rusty warship that ran aground on a coral outcrop several years ago. The shoal is near Mischief Reef, which the Philippines had claimed but was occupied by China in 1995, sparking intense protests from Manila.

Chinese maritime surveillance ships have also taken control of Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing calls Huangyan Island, and have roped off the entrance to its vast fishing lagoon following a two-month standoff with Philippine government ships last year. The chain of reefs and rocks 230 kilometers (143 miles) west of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales falls under its 200-nautical miles (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone, Filipino officials say.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the Spratlys, a chain of islands, islets and reefs.

On Tuesday, some 30 Filipino protesters wearing colorful fish masks gathered outside China's consular office in Manila to demand a stop to Chinese intrusions into Philippine claimed islands in the Spratlys.-Yahoo News

Export slowdown threatens emerging Asia's credit-fuelled boom

A deepening slump in exports is sending tremors through Asia, threatening to undermine some booming emerging economies that have surged ahead in recent years on a heady combination of easy credit, buoyant consumer demand and strong domestic investment.

Export growth throughout Asia has sagged in recent months, hit by slackening demand from the United States, Europe and China and by slumping commodity prices. Leading indicators are also pointing to weaker factory activity in the coming months.

The slowdown is being felt most keenly by Southeast Asian countries whose strong domestic economies are sucking in imports more rapidly and which now face sharp deteriorations in their trade balances that could spook investors.

Heavy stock market and currency falls in the region this week have underlined the risks as investors grow nervous that the U.S. Federal Reserve may taper its quantitative easing (QE) policy that has fuelled a surge of credit in Southeast Asia.

"For countries like Indonesia, and to a certain extent Malaysia, you've had this perfect storm of weak external demand, weak commodity prices, and strong domestic demand," said Robert Prior-Wandesforde, director of Asian Economic Research at Credit Suisse in Singapore.

"One doesn't want to see it go too far. We don't want these countries running into huge, unsustainable deficits because inevitably we'll run into Asian financial crisis type stories."

Malaysia's trade surplus fell to its lowest level in April since the 1997 crisis with a surprise 3.3 percent year-on-year fall in exports announced last week. The country could soon run its first trade deficit in 16 years.

Exports from the Philippines, which already runs a trade deficit and last month reported the fastest annual economic growth in Asia of 7.8 percent, plunged 12.8 percent in April from a year earlier. 

Indonesia reported a trade deficit in April after exports contracted for a 13th straight month. Thai exports have slowed, contributing to a record trade deficit in January.

Underlining broader Asian trade weakness, China posted on Saturday its lowest export growth in almost a year in May. China's economy has been a major source of export demand for other Asian nations, but that is expected to fade as the world's second-largest economy begins shifting to a slower growth path.

While the U.S. economy is showing signs of regaining traction, much of Europe remains mired in recession and China is showing worrisome signs of stumbling.

"It's going to be the new reality for Asia. Exports will not be as exciting as they used to be," said Euben Paracuelles, Southeast Asia economist at Nomura in Singapore.

Shrinking factory orders also point to a loss of momentum for economies whose fortunes are closely linked to China, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. Some officials, however, played down the slowing exports, saying it did not signal a structural weakness or a persistent trend.

"What I see is a large drawdown in existing inventories on the part of our trading partners," said Diwa Guinigundo, the deputy governor of the Philippine central bank.

"...It's a matter of time before we see a more definitive widespread recovery of global growth and in turn, exports."

Too much of a good thing?

Robust domestic demand has been a source of strength for Southeast Asia's emerging economies in recent years as growing spending by the middle class and a rise in infrastructure investment has reduced their traditional export dependence.

They are in a far healthier state than in 1997, having built up hefty foreign exchange reserves, reduced external debt and gained credit upgrades through improved public finances.

But worsening current account balances could still be a problem at a time when foreign funds are reducing exposure to risk and seeking safer havens. One concern in Southeast Asia is a surge in household debt in recent years. Philippine and Indonesian banks have been expanding consumer lending at an annual pace of around 20 percent, for example.

"There are certainly dark clouds hanging over a number of countries," said Jayant Menon, a senior economist at the Asian Development Bank. "This is not talked about much but if you get a huge deterioration in capital flows, high levels of household debt could really bite."

Nomura's Paracuelles said Southeast Asian governments and central banks would need to respond with policy changes in coming months, tightening fiscal policy where possible and raising interest rates to protect currencies and dampen frothy domestic conditions.

The first such response came late on Tuesday when Indonesia's central bank raised overnight interest rates to combat heavy selling pressure on the Indonesian rupiah.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, looks the most vulnerable to a worsening external position, economists say, due to its dependence on commodities and slow progress on reforms.

Credit Suisse said on Wednesday it was downgrading its investment growth forecast for Indonesia this year to 5 percent from 8.6 percent, citing a sharp slowdown in capital growth.

While the slowdown should reduce overheating pressures, it said Indonesia could still struggle to fund a current account shortfall due to weak commodity prices and lingering obstacles to foreign investment in key sectors such as mining.

"A lot of Indonesian companies use profits from commodities to invest in other parts of the economy," said Prior-Wandesforde. "The weakness in commodities could spill over into consumer spending."- Interaksyon

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Myanmar minister backs Rohingya two-child limit

Mahasen 5

Myanmar Immigration and Population Minister Khin Yi defended his nation's two-child policy against the Rohingya ethnic group, claiming in a Reuters interview that it would "benefit the Bengali [Rohingya] women." 

The two-child policy has existed since 2005, but has only recently begun to be enforced in Rakhine state, where the majority of Myanmar's estimated 800,000 Rohingya reside. The stateless Muslim minority are called "Bengalis" by the Myanmar government, which identifies them as migrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

The reproduction limit has gained new popularity among Myanmar officials as tensions between Buddhists — who form the vast majority of the population — and Muslims continue to rise, following violent unrest that erupted in June 2012 and has continued to emerge in various regions of the nation. 

"The Bengali women living in the Rakhine State have a lot of children. In some areas, one family has 10 or 12 children," Khin Yi told Reuters. "It's not good for child nutrition. It's not very easy for schooling. It is not very easy to take care of the children." He replied with "Yes" when asked if he supported the policy. 

Thousands of Rohingya remain displaced in camps in Myanmar's northwest, living in often unpleasant conditions — which are likely to worsen as monsoon rains come in. 

"Fear of punishment under the two-child rule compel far too many Rohingya women to risk their lives and turn to desperate and dangerous measures to self-induce abortions," said Human Rights Watch spokesman Brad Adams in a recent report.

Political icon and National League for Democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, long silent on the Rohingya topic, officially denounced the two-child policy at the end of May, calling it "against human rights."

Suu Kyi also called for the revision of Myanmar'sCitizenship Law during last week's World Economic Forum, a regulation which was first created in 1982 and has been used to bar the Rohingya and other minority groups within the nation from full citizenship. - The Global Post

Japan to exempt Thai, Malaysian tourists from visa requirement

Japan tourism 2013 5 11

The government plans to exempt short-term tourists from Thailand and Malaysia from having to obtain a visa and incorporate the measure into an envisaged action program to help spur the nation's tourism industry, sources familiar with the matter said Monday.

The exemption is in line with the government's goal of more than tripling the overall annual number of Japan-bound travelers to over 30 million by 2030, the sources said. The action program will be adopted on Tuesday by ministers in charge.

Japan-bound travelers from the two countries are currently issued multiple-entry visas enabling holders to enter Japan as often as they want during the validity period.

The government is considering the start of multiple-entry visas for travelers from other Southeast Asian countries as well, they said.

In 2012, a total of 8.37 million foreigners traveled to Japan, with Thailand and Malaysia accounting for 390,000 of them. - Global Post

New Philippines 'missile-firing' warship on its way, says U.S. gov't

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (Photo from the Philippine Embassy in Washington)

The Philippines will soon have its second warship, as the newly-refurbished BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) is now on its way to the country from South Carolina.

On its Twitter account, the Philippine embassy in Washington D.C. confirmed the missile-firing capable warship has left Charleston and will arrive in Manila around first week on August.

“Members of the Filipino community on hand to send off crew of the Alcaraz, the Philippine Navy’s latest acquisition,” the Philippine embassy in Washington said.

“Emotional farewells for members of the Filipino community in Charleston and the crew of Alcaraz prior to departure for the Philippines,” it added.

Alcaraz, a 378-foot decommissioned US Coast Guard ship that the Philippines acquired last year, underwent a $15.5 million or P620 million-worth of refurbishment in Charleston.

The Filipino community in Charleston served as foster families for the crew of Alcaraz, which stayed in South Carolina for a year.

The Hamilton-class weather high endurance cutter, which also underwent another month of sea trials, was named after World War II hero, Commodore Ramon Alcaraz.

The warship will join BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the country’s first warship, amid continuing tensions between Chinese and Taiwanese governments over various islands in the West Philippine Seas.

“Expectations are high but I am sure the men and women of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz will live up to those expectations,” Captain Ernesto Baldovino, who will lead the voyage, said prior departure.

Reports say the warship has been fitted with anti-ship harpoon missiles, which is heavier and more sophisticated than that of BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

Aside from harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, Alcaraz is has also been armed with 76-mm Oto Melara automatic cannon, two 25-bushmaster guns and heavy machine guns.

The new warship has a cruising range of 14,000 miles and can stay in the high seas for 45 days.

On the eve of its departure, Ambassador Jose Cuisia reminded the crew of BRP Alcaraz of their duty to defend the country’s territory even as the Philippine government continues to ease tensions in the West Philippine Seas.

“As you know, there are some tensions in the West Philippine Sea and this may put you in harm’s way but there is no doubt that you will perform your duty of protecting Philippine territory if needed,” Cuisia said .

“We do not want to see a confrontation and we are hoping that diplomatic efforts would ease these tensions. We are for peace and for the stability of the region but at the same time, we are prepared to defend what is ours,” he added.-Yahoo News

New York museum returns 'looted' Cambodian statues

Cambodian statues returned

Two 10th Century Khmer statues, believed to have been looted from a temple in Cambodia decades ago, have been sent back from the United States.

The life-size sculptures, known as the "kneeling attendants", had been displayed at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art for nearly 20 years.

The museum pledged to return the artefacts after evidence suggested they had been illegally exported.

A ceremony was held at Phnom Penh airport to welcome them back.

Cambodian officials hailed the return journey of the sandstone sculptures as a "historic" moment for the country.

Buddhist monks chanted blessings during the ceremony, which was attended by government officials as well as executives from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The statues are believed to have been stolen from the Koh Ker temple 80km (50 miles) north-east of Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex in the early 1970s at the height of the country's civil war.

The museum announced its decision to return the statues in May after extensive consultations with the Cambodian authorities.

"The museum is committed to applying rigorous provenance standards not only to new acquisitions, but to the study of works long in its collections in an ongoing effort to learn as much as possible about ownership history," museum director Thomas P Campbell said in a statement at the time.

The Cambodian government is also pursuing other artefacts it believes were illegally removed the country in recent decades.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has returned artefacts to Phnom Penh before - in 1997 it sent back a 10th Century Shiva's head it had been given.-British Broadcasting Corporation

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Emerging Strategic Triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia


For China’s new premier Li Keqiang, the choice of India for his first foreign trip was a smart one. Li went to New Delhi amid a public outcry in India over the territorial spat with China, and then visited Pakistan at a time when a new government was preparing to take office. The context meant the timing was meaningful.

Li took pains to make it clear to India that “we are not a threat to each other, nor do we seek to contain each other,” and pledged to open China’s markets to Indian products to address the trade imbalance and boost commerce to $100 billion a year. The premier also sought to reassure India over the vexed boundary issue and called on the countries to use their wisdom to find “a fair and mutually acceptable solution.” The challenges are many, but the strong political will of the Chinese leadership to keep the bilateral relationship on the right track deserves recognition.

What Beijing will find disturbing, however, is the Indian public’s growing wariness towards China. A recent poll by the Lowy Institute in Australia suggested that more than 80% of Indians view China as a security threat, even though China has become India’s largest trading partner. Moreover, 65% agree that India should join with other countries to limit China’s influence, although 63% would like to strengthen relations with China.

Australia may be the country that does the best job observing and assessing the evolving dynamics between Asia’s two giants, China and India. Chinese strategists keep a very close eye on the research outlets and debates within Australia. One of the most powerful intellectual innovations by Australian international relations scholars in recent years is the concept of “Indo-Pacific Asia”. It is a concept that has inspired many Chinese strategic thinkers and planners to begin to look at China’s grand strategy across a wide Indo-Pacific swath.

And it is true that a power game of great significance has unfolded in Indo-Pacific Asia. The United States, India, Japan and other players are seeking to collaborate to build an “Indo-Pacific order” that is congenial to their long-term interests. China is not necessarily excluded from this project, and it should seek a seat at the table and help recast the strategic objectives and interaction norms that bind all participating states.

The biggest challenge in Indo-Pacific Asia is the grand accommodation among one hegemon and two rapidly rising giants. The pressing task for China, the U.S. and India is to build and sustain substantial and purposeful dialogues to find viable mechanisms for communicating their interests and concerns to each other, managing the impending rivalry and generating synergy for regional stability and prosperity.

The deployment of U.S. Marines to Darwin, a location that can be viewed as a crossroads between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, indicated that the U.S. is adopting a new two-ocean strategic framework, and is part of the U.S. military pivot to the region.

A U.S. strategic guidance document released in January 2012 emphasized “the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia” and specifically highlighted that “the United States is also investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region,” echoing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s encouragement of India not only to “Look East”, but also to “Go East”.

Undoubtedly, China does not want to see India become the linchpin of the U.S. alliance system in the Indo-Pacific region. In June 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted, “America is at a turning point. After a decade of war, we are developing a new defense strategy…In particular, we will expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia. Defense cooperation with India is a linchpin in this strategy.”

However, neither the U.S. nor China should make the mistake of assuming that there is a natural Indo-U.S. alliance vis-à-vis China. Since independence, India has pursued strategic autonomy as a guarantee for its leading role in world affairs. Most Chinese observers are very confident that India will stick to that creed and will manage its relations with both China and the U.S. effectively.

Indeed, Beijing and Washington might find a “Non-Alignment 2.0” strategy potentially adopted by India quite palatable, since it would allow India to play an important role in sustaining equilibrium within the region.

So, in what areas could the emerging strategic triangle be helpful? Many, in fact. Take Afghanistan, for example. India worries about stability in its front yard, China is concerned about its economic investments and American fears terrorism. Each has a considerable stake in keeping Afghanistan from becoming a failed state. The three powers have much more in common than not when it comes to stabilizing Afghanistan.

Nor should we forget Pakistan, which is also struggling through a very difficult period, but which has an opportunity now under its new government to enjoy belated economic development and normalized relations with India. While helping to mediate conflicts between North and South Korea and between Palestine and Israel, China could do more to facilitate a reconciliation between Pakistan and India.

Most important, the three sides should immediately compare notes on their own Indian Ocean strategies. Secure maritime navigation from Africa and the Middle East to East Asia is vital to energy and resource access. In light of its high dependence on the Indian Ocean sea lanes, China has legitimate rights to safeguard its geoeconomic interests. Beijing has no intention of squeezing the presence and interests of India and the U.S. and contesting for primacy, and cannot afford to do so at any rate. But it should not shy away from articulating its concerns over Indian Ocean security.

The three sets of bilateral ties (China-U.S., China-India and America-India) are today quite fluid. Strategic planners in Beijing, New Delhi and Washington would do well to approach their work with an awareness of this emerging triangle in Indo-Pacific Asia as one of this century’s decisive regions.-The Diplomat

More foreign military troops, equipment arriving for exercise in Brunei

More military troops and equipment are arriving in Brunei in support of the inaugural multi-national live military exercise, dubbed as ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise (HADR & MM Ex).

The military exercise is scheduled to start from June 16, which is expected to see participation from ASEAN countries and its eight dialogue partners, the Defense Ministry of Brunei said Monday.

Earlier, China's transport ship called KUNLUN SHAN had arrived in Brunei's Muara commercial port to transport equipment and personnel required for the exercise. On Sunday morning, IL-76 aircraft from China has also landed at the Royal Brunei Air Force, Rimba Air Base. The IL-76 comprises 15 crew members and 34 passengers. The aircraft is transporting HADR medical equipment.

On Wednesday, these convoy of heavy vehicles will be traveling from Penanjong Garrison to exercise site in Temburong. The convoy will start at 4.00 a.m. where they will be traveling through Muara- Tutong highway, Jerudong Road, Mulaut-Limau Manis Road and Kuala Lurah Road, the Defense Ministry said.

On Sunday, Singapore's RSS ENDURANCE Class LSTs arrived and docked at the Royal Brunei Naval Jetty. The ship was unloading exercise support equipment such as heavy vehicles and personnel. On Monday morning, the equipment has been transported to the exercise site in Bangar, Temburong District using two of Singapore ' s Fast Craft Utility and two Royal Brunei Navy's Landing Craft.

Concurrently, the Philippines' aircraft C-130 has also arrived on Monday morning. The C-130 comprises 11 crew members, 17 passengers, and carrying HADR equipment such as one Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) with trailers, two outboard motors and an alternative inflatable boat.

The current tally for participating countries already in Brunei include China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. Throughout next week, arrivals of other supporting nations are expected via air and sea.

Brunei said earlier it is ready to host the exercise. This combined exercise will bring together more than 2,000 military personnel from the 10 ASEAN countries as well as the 8 Plus countries which include Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

The exercise is essentially a military-to-military cooperation exercise, designed to formulate and develop a common set of Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs). The exercise objective is to elevate military practical cooperation from ASEAN level to ASEAN Plus level, and build upon ASEAN militaries' experiences of previous exercises.

Essentially, the objective is to enhance military-to-military interoperability, coordination and cooperation amongst the 18 participating countries.-Philippines News Agency

ASEAN people unaware of 2015 economic integration

Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are struggling to get ready for full economic integration by 2015, and most of their 600 million people are unaware of the changes that will take place.

That was the conclusion by policy makers and business people speaking at the Lippo-UPH Dialogue at the World Economic Forum in Myanmar's capital Naypidaw.

But participants were also hopeful the issues would be resolved, as the leaders did not renege on their commitments but recognised the need for action.

Key areas still to be resolved include an 'open skies' aviation agreement, elimination of subsidies for rice farmers, and the need to develop the human capital needed to exploit the opportunities.

"In the last ASEAN meeting that we had we had come to the recognition that we cannot be as idealistic as we were. I think most of the boxes are going to be checked off by the end of 2015, but some countries I think have come to the realisation that we are not going to be as ready as we might have thought in 2003 by the end of 2015," said Gita Wirjawan, Indonesia's Minister of Trade.

This delay was a worry for business people eager to explore opportunities in other ASEAN markets previously closed to them.

"I would say that the business community is somewhat disappointed and our clients within that, largely based on the expectations. They were all expecting 2015 to be the date and somehow they don't see enough traction. And I think the reason for that is really two or three. I think given the crises we are going through there is a risk that the national priorities will overtake the compulsion. There isn't really a compulsion mechanism for ASEAN," said Jaspal Bindra, CEO of Asia and Group Executive Director of Standard Chartered Bank PLC.

Differences between members states was another reason for slow progress.

"One of the challenges with an integration like this is about how you tie countries together economically but respect the political and social differences that exist in a region that's as diverse as the ASEAN region," said John Rice, Vice Chairman of General Electric (GE).

"I think it's a little bit of a 'thread the needle' activity but very important and if you can get it right you can unlock a tremendous amount of growth. I think this region with the population, with the growth in the middle class and the interest that people have in improving lends itself this kind of activity," Rice said.

But Minister Wirjawan said: "Now, by 2015, December 31st, there's going to be a few boxes that Indonesia is likely not going to be able to check off. But that's okay. Because by way of joining this community we're only going to be encouraged and also forced to basically try to check off those boxes as early as possible. That's only by way of competition coming from our brothers and sisters in other ASEAN countries, but also from the world over."

One example was fuel subsidies, which were being cut despite the measure being unpopular.

Another panellist was also more sanguine about the deadline.

"Please do not expect a big bang event in 2015 where everything is going to happen overnight when the ASEAN Economic Community comes into being. We've made progress in some areas and unfortunately regressed in some areas," said former Singapore Ambassador to the United Nations and Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Kishore Mahbubani.

"But over time and following the ASEAN pace, gradually the ASEAN Economic Community will come to be and by the end of the decade, whatever the vision was, if it's not done by 2015 it will be done by 2020," Mahbubani said.

He highlighted that politicians and bureaucrats from the region met freely to cooperate on various matters, engaged major global powers, and most importantly, have enjoyed peace for many years.

"The one region of the world that is the most diverse region in the world, with 300 million Muslims, 80 million Christians, 150 million Buddhists and Taoists and Confuscianists and all that. Guess what. This most diverse region in the world has achieved peace, so it brings metaphysical significance to the world as a whole because ASEAN is teaching the world that as you become a global village we can all live together and work together. And that's why it's such a tragedy that this ASEAN story is not even understood by the citizens of ASEAN," said Mahbubani.

Awareness among the 600 million people living in ASEAN countries about the Economic Community and the changes it will bring is very low.

"The reality is, ladies and gentlemen, if you take a drive out of Jakarta for a mere 15 to 20 minutes you will meet up with so many people who still don't have a clue as to what the ASEAN Economic Community is, and what it means to Indonesia", said Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan.

It was a view echoed by Serge Pun, Executive Chairman of Singapore Exchange-listed Burmese conglomerate Yoma Strategic Holdings.

Serge Pun said businesses were not familiar with how things will change when the ASEAN Economic Community takes effect on December 31, 2015.

"We talk about ASEAN integration and we actually don't know what we are going to integrate. Or at least, the vast population doesn't. The vast number of businesses doesn't. A few government officials may. So there's a lot of concern about what is this zero tax, how does it really affect us, does it benefit us or does it hurt us. There's no answer," he said.

Import duties for ASEAN products and services will be cut to zero, and all economic sectors will be open for investment, with equal treatment of ASEAN investors in all other ASEAN countries.

Some restrictions, such as visa requirements for some member states, will remain, which was raised as a concern for some panellists and members of the audience.

One of the biggest challenges for the region is to train and educate its 600 million strong population to seize the opportunities that lay ahead.

"It's an exciting time for business and the entire region but I think one of the challenges that remain that will become a hurdle for ASEAN to really realise its full potential is human capital. We need to make sure that each country and each person has the adequate human capital to be able to compete and also receive the benefits of this integration," said John Riady, Director of The Lippo Group and Dean of the Faculty of Law at Universitas Pelita Harapan (UPH).

"So, in Indonesia we are making a contribution through UPH, which is now one of the leading private universities in Indonesia. It is our hope that every Indonesian receives that they need in order to be competitive and to excel in this regional environment," Riady said.

GE's John Rice said skills were required at all levels, from technicians to future business leaders.

Jaspal Bindra from Standard Chartered highlighted that access to banking services was a critical enabler in economic development, that brings more people into the middle class.

There are stark income disparities among member states.

Singaporeans have an average per capita income of US$49,754 a year, while Myanmar is at the bottom of the rankings with US$1,040.

Even within Indonesia there are vast disparities, acknowledged by Trade Minister Wirjawan, between the main islands of Java and Sumatra in the west, and poorer provinces in the east.

The so-called MP3EI Masterplan for Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia Economic Development aims to address this.

ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei, Myanmar (then Burma), Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam joined later, and Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea are observers.

It covers a land area of 4.46 million square kilometres, about half the land area of the United States.-ABS-CBN News

Sunday, June 09, 2013

What's the World's Most Gay-Friendly Country? The Answer May Surprise You

Spain: 88, United States: 60. No, this isn’t the latest score from a fútbol match. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey (better warn the guys at Fox News), most Americans are becoming more tolerant of homosexuality in society, but the survey found that tolerance and support is highest in Europe and Latin American countries. The study was conducted in 39 countries and found stark geographical differences when participants were questioned about whether homosexuals should be accepted in society. Take a look at the map here:

In countries that aren't known for their history of a strong state-sponsored religion, Canada "won" with a resounding 80% of participants expressing tolerance and support for gays, with Australia a close second at 79% and France not too far behind at 77%, mes amis. 

Most surprising, maybe (although only for those who haven’t experienced the country's extensive, hedonistic nightlife), is Spain having the most tolerance for homosexuals out of any country in the survey, with 88% support. Even as a predominantly Catholic country, Spain has allowed same-sex marriages since 2005, a law that was recently upheld by Spain’s Constitutional Court, which makes Spain the world’s third country to approve gay marriage nationwide. 

Other Catholic countries like Italy, Argentina, and the Philippines are predominantly tolerant of homosexuality. The United States is accepting it at a rather pathetic rate for a first-world country, especially one that constantly touts itself as the leader of the world, at 60% supporting homosexuality — coming in at 11th place behind 13 other countries. What Pew found as an overwhelming factor in the responses they received from American participants was age, with those under 30 more accepting of homosexuals than people 30 to 49. Both of these groups, of course, were more likely to be tolerant of homosexuals than the age group of 50 and older. 

Apart from Israel, most of the Middle East, unsurprisingly, falls in stark contrast to Europe and Latin America, with some countries not even breaking double digits for support. Gary Gates, a demographer with the Williams Institute said, “There are cultures where religion is a very, very important factor, as a regular part of daily life ... in those countries, it’s harder to distinguish what’s religious and what’s culture. But in other countries, like Italy or Spain, the culture has always had a live-and-let-live dimension to it. Even with a very strong religious presence, you see that kind of attitude coming out.” - Policy Mic

Philippine Army ready to repel Chinese fleet

The military is ready to defend the country’s sovereignty in case a large Chinese fleet reportedly headed for the Spratlys enters Philippine territory.

Speaking to reporters, Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said the defense of Philippine sovereignty will involve the entire government.

“We are taking action on the report… so that we will be able to advise other government agencies and so the AFP will be able to undertake what should be undertaken,” he said.

Asked if the Chinese would be arrested if they enter Philippine waters, Tutaan said it would depend “on the ground situation.”

The country’s sovereignty will also be asserted through a diplomatic protest, he said.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Navy spokesman for West Philippine Sea issues, said the Navy is closely monitoring the huge Chinese fleet reportedly sailing toward the Spratlys.

“We have our own Navy ships patrolling the area,” he said.

“We have sailors and Marines stationed in or near the area that shall serve as our eyes and ears.

“But as of now, it’s too early to comment on what to do if they will enter Philippine territory as that remains to be a contingency as of the moment.”

Arevalo said the Navy has orders to monitor and report any unusual incidents in the Spratlys.

“These include intrusions and other illegal activities like fishing in our maritime domain,” he said.

“The Philippine Navy, being a force provider, will act as directed by higher headquarters,” he added.

Arevalo said the Navy will secure Philippine territory despite its limited capabilities.

“Your sailors and Marines manning their posts are, and will remain, steadfast in performing their mandate to secure our maritime and territorial domains,” he said.

The Palawan-based Armed Forces Western Command has also been tasked to intensify monitoring in the West Philippine Sea, Tutaan said.

On Tuesday, Chinese media reported that a large Chinese fishing fleet had been sent to the Spratlys,

State-run China Daily said the fleet includes 30 fishing vessels each weighing more than 100 metric tons.-ABS-CBN News