Maritime domain awareness in South China Sea top priority of US Air Force
By Frances Mangosing
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 7:17 pm
Maritime domain awareness in South China Sea top priority of US Air Force

Photo from US Embassy Manila

 

 

MANILA, Philippines — The US Air Force has been playing a big role in maritime domain awareness in the South China Sea to ensure that the disputed waterway will remain free and open.

US Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Charles Brown said they are supplying “accurate information” for the decision-makers and to their partners in the region to have a broad situational awareness that they can use for their own needs and missions.

“One of our key goals with our partners here is to provide domain awareness, both in the air and in this case, in the maritime. So we have a good understanding of what’s going on,” he said in a telephone briefing with reporters while in Manila.

“So, in negotiations in support of our diplomats, they have accurate information based on our ability to provide it to them, to ensure we can have that access to the global commons as well as ensuring a rules-based international order is adhered to,” he added.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea based on its mythical nine-dash line, which had already been rejected by an international court in 2016. Its claims included territories also being claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.

It has turned reefs and islands into military outposts, deployed warships and maritime militia to reinforce its territorial claims in the contested waterway.

While the US is not a claimant, it is making itself felt in the region to relay a message that it would not waiver in supporting allies in its commitment to protecting them against Chinese aggression.

‘No let-up in FONOPS’

US Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein in the same briefing vowed that the US has no plans to cut down its freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea, which prompt rebukes from China.

“There will be no let-up in our willingness or our ability to fly or sail where we need to and when we need to,” he said.

“We are absolutely doing freedom of navigations both in the air and at sea. They are coordinated and they are focused on ensuring that we all maintain access,” he added.

Brown, meanwhile, said these FONOPs are also meant to deter those that do not follow rules-based order.

“We have to highlight the facts when those that don’t follow rules-based international order, no matter who might that be, we do highlight that. So part of our operations (is) to deter, or also prove the fact that you should be able to fly, sail, and operate no matter what nation you are, where international law allows,” he said.

“I think quite frankly any activity that we see both at sea and in the air, and increasingly now we’re also having the same conversation in space and in cyber, has got to adhere to some international rules of order that we all live by.  So, anybody in the region that violates those, it’s concerning,” Goldfein said.

Goldfein and Brown were in the Philippines from August 15 to 18 to meet defense and military officials, including AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez.

The visit comes a few months after Brown’s first official visit to Manila.

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US Pacific Air Forces chief reaffirms bilateral ties during PH visit

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Lacson wants transfer of Filipinos convicted abroad to PH jails
By Christia Marie Ramos
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 7:09 pm
Panfilo Lacson

Sen. Panfilo Lacson (File photo by CATHY MIRANDA / INQUIRER.net)

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to pursue more Transfer of Sentenced Persons agreements with other countries as he noted efforts of the government to assist Filipino drug convicts abroad while “we’re killing people” in the Philippines.

“How do you reconcile [the fact that] here in our country we’re killing people and then we’re saving drug convicts detained in another country. I’m just curious,” Lacson asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday during the organizational meeting of the Senate Committee Foreign Relations.

“Going back to the repatriation of Filipino convicts, maybe you should pursue more Transfer of Sentenced Persons treaties, just like what we have with Spain. I’m just wondering if they would agree to be transferred to Muntinlupa [that is, the New Bilibid Prison] from where they are being detained abroad,” he added, speaking partly in Filipino.

Under the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, individuals tried and convicted in a foreign country would have the option to serve their time remaining their sentence in their home country.

Lacson issued the statement after the DFA presented data during the meeting showing that most Filipinos overseas were detained due to drug charges.

The DFA extends financial and legal aid to Filipinos abroad, including those detained or convicted, through the assistance to nationals (ATN) or the legal assistance fund (LAF).

According to DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola, P1 billion is allotted for the ATN while the LAF has a budget of P200 million.

According to Arriola, from January to July 2019 the DFA has spent P483 million, or 48%, of its ATN fund and P81 million, 41%, of its LAF.

She further noted that Filipinos on death row overseas due to conviction in drug cases had been provided with lawyers “since the inception of the case.”

“It’s just that many of them are drug mules or some of them, like in the case in Mexico we have constructive possession of drugs in a ship, but we make representations with the countries of destination that we ask for due process and speedy resolution of the case,” she said.

In July, the DFA reported that 19 Filipino seafarers were being held in Mexico allegedly over illegal drugs.

READ: Filipino seafarers are presently being held in Mexico allegedly over illegal drugs

Filipinos first, convicts second

“We are not saying that they [Filipino convicts abroad] should not be punished, but since they are our nationals, we take care of them, we monitor how they are treated, we look at their condition. So is that a way to rationalize?” Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said.

“Cause we will never ask a foreign country, do not punish our countryman who is involved in drugs because we also will jail him here if he violates our loss. But when you incarcerate him and you punish him, we should be allowed to take a look and pay a visit to our countryman and look at his condition or situation,” he added.

According to Lacson, a possible justification for the DFA effort to assist convicts overseas is that the Philippine government will treat them as “Filipinos first and convicts later or second.” Locsin agreed to this.

“If our intention is to really take care of our own nationals, it would be better if they were here. So maybe in coordination with hose foreign countries, we can pursue that path,” Lacson said.

/atm

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PH students conquer China in Math contest
By Neil Arwin Mercado
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 3:11 pm
PH students conquer China in Math contest

The young Pinoy medalists at the awarding ceremonies of the (clockwise from top) 19th China Western Mathematics Invitational (CWMI), 18th China Girls Mathematical Olympiad (CGMO) and 16th China Southeast Mathematical Olympiad (CSMO). (Photos by Mathematics Trainers Guild-Philippines)

MANILA, Philippines — Several Filipino students took home a total of 11 medals from three different Mathematics contests in China held in July and August.

The students won one gold, four silver, and six bronze medals at the 19th China Western Mathematics Invitational (CWMI), 18th China Girls Mathematical Olympiad (CGMO) and 16th China Southeast Mathematical Olympiad (CSMO).

“These Chinese Math contests are very hard and we congratulate our Filipino students for their triumph,” Dr. Isidro Aguilar, president of Mathematics Trainers Guild-Philippines, said in a statement.

The students who won the medals are:

19th China Western Mathematics Invitational (CWMI) held from August 11 to 16 in Zunyi City, Guizhou Province, China

  • Immanuel Josiah Balete from St. Stephen’s High School (gold medal)
  • William Joshua King from University of San Carlos in Cebu (silver medal)
  • Charles Justin Shi from the Philippine Cultural College Caloocan (silver medal)
  • Fedrick Lance Lim from Zamboanga Chong Hua High School (bronze medal)

18th China Girls Mathematical Olympiad (CGMO) held from August 10 to 15 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China

  • Vanessa Ryanne Julio from St. Jude Catholic School (silver medal)
  • Gwyneth Margaux Tangog from Southville International School and Colleges (silver medal)
  • Deanne Gabrielle Algenio from Makati Science High School (bronze medal)
  • Hiraya Marcos from Philippine Cultural College-Main (bronze medal)

16th China Southeast Mathematical Olympiad (CSMO) held from July 28 to August 2 in Ji’an City, Jiangxi Province, China

  • Charles Justin Shi from the Philippine Cultural College-Caloocan (bronze medal)
  • Issam Wang from Manila Science High School (bronze medal)
  • Stephen James Ty from Zamboanga Chong Hua High School (bronze medal)

/TSB

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Palace chides Chinese envoy: OFWs are in China to work, not to spy
By Nestor Corrales
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 3:06 pm
Palace chides Chinese envoy: OFWs are in China to work, not to spy

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua (FILE PHOTOS)

MANILA, Philippines – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in China are there to work and not to spy on the Chinese government, Malacañang said Monday in a rebuke to the statement of Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.

Zhao said OFWs in China may be accused of spying after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana raised concerns that the Chinese-run Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) near major military camps may shift their operations to spying.

“The Office of the President shares the sentiment of Secretary Lorenzana and Secretary Pernia when they said that the OFW went to China for the purpose of work,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

“Moreover, there is no place where they converge to work,” Panelo added.

The Palace official told reporters on Saturday that Zhao sent him a text message, saying: “What if we also think that your overseas workers are also spying on us. What can you say about that?”

READ: Envoy to Panelo: What if China suspects OFWs of spying, too?

At that time, Panelo’s reaction was that “maybe the problem is we are too security conscious.”

He also said Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte was not worried about the presence of Pogo hubs near military camps.

“Not that much. No, given the logic of what he was saying, he is not worried.”

READ: Duterte unfazed by Pogo hubs near military camps 

Panelo said the President told him that considering current technologies, “even if they are far away from China if they want to spy on us, they can.”

He reiterated that Zhao’s remark on OFWs spying in China was just his sentiment.

“It appears to me that it’s just his sentiment,” Panelo said.

READ: Chinese envoy remark on OFWs ‘spying’ just an ‘opinion’ — Panelo

/kga

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Pimentel: ‘There are no Filipino spies in China’
By Christia Marie Ramos
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 12:44 pm
Pimentel: ‘There are no Filipino spies in China’

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. (File photo by NIÑO JESUS ORBETA / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — There are no Filipino spies in China, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III assured Monday after Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the East Asian nation may be accused of spying.

Following an organizational meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations said in an interview: “Let me assure China, there are no Filipino spies in China. Kaya wag silang magalala, ang mga Pilipino po na nasa China ay para po sa pagta-trabaho.”

Over the weekend, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the Chinese envoy had texted him about concerns earlier raised by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana regarding Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs).

Lorenzana had said China-manned gambling centers near military camps may shift their operations to spying.

“Ambassador Zhao sent me a text. He said, ‘What if we also think that your overseas workers are also spying on us. What can you say about that?’” Panelo said.

READ: Envoy to Panelo: What if China suspects OFWs of spying, too?

READ: ‘Preposterous’: Lorenzana hits China envoy’s remark on OFWs ‘spying’  

However, Pimentel pointed out that there are more Filipinos residing and working in Hong Kong and Taiwan than in mainland China.

Figures presented by DFA during the organizational meeting showed that as of December 2018, there are only 15,376 Filipinos in mainland China.

Meanwhile, there are 233,288 Filipinos in Hong Kong; 151,759 in Taiwan; and 33,180 in Macau.

“Kung titignan po natin, na-subdivide po ‘yong mga Pilipino sa China, wala naman ang mga Pilipino sa China nando’n po sila sa Taiwan at nandun sila sa Hong Kong. So wala po sa mainland China, malayong-malayo sa Beijing, kaya wala po ‘yun, ‘wag po silang magalala,” Pimentel said.

The senator, however, also said that Zhao’s earlier statement on OFWs should not be a cause for concern.

“Para lang binalik nya ang accusation natin na: Paano kung nag-spy ang Pogo employees? Sabi nya (Zhao): Paano kung ganun din ang Filipinos? ‘Wag tayo mabahala, para lang ‘yon academic discussion,”  he said.

‘Location-specific’

In terms of licenses issued to Pogos, Pimentel said it should be “location-specific.”

“Dapat ang Pogo license [ay] location-specific. ‘Di lang siya ‘yong ‘I am allowing to engage in off-shore online gaming’ but you must also be limited to a certain area,” he said.

Asked whether Pogos should be situated away from military bases, he said: “‘Yong reasoning na ilayo sa military bases dahil baka may high-tech equipment na ginagamit, so it makes sense.”

“Ilayo sa military bases, ilayo sa eskwelahan, ilayo sa simbahan, ‘yung mga ganyang basic rules,” Pimentel suggested.

“So that is Pagcor’s (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation) call, binigyan sila ng kapangyarihan magbigay ng lisensya dyan. It must be location-specific,” he further said.

Earlier, Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo announced that the agency has suspended accepting applications for Pogos.

READ: Pagcor: No more Pogo applications, for now

“We will no longer, at this time, accept any more applications until we have reviewed and comfortably addressed all of the concerns of everybody,” Domingo said in a press conference on Monday. /kga

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‘PH should keep protesting presence of Chinese warships’
By Frances Mangosing
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 11:46 am
chinese warship How China’s failure to observe rules in PH waters clashes with own policy

Chinese-flagged surveillance ship with Bow No. 853 (Photo from Western Mindanao Command)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines should be consistent in protesting China’s intrusions at sea to spur international pressure and generate world opinion, a lawmaker said Monday.

The passage of Chinese warships in Philippine territorial waters without clearance from the government should not be tolerated, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said in an interview with CNN Philippines. 

“From a policy standpoint, this must be corrected because as we keep on tolerating, it weakens further our claim in the West Philippine Sea if we allow them,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the military in recent weeks have questioned the unauthorized transits of Chinese warships in Philippine territorial waters. This time around, it’s not over the contested West Philippine Sea but in the southern Philippines. 

The government had earlier protested the presence of Chinese warships and survey ships passing through the country’s territorial waters without permission. 

But the unannounced presence of warships continued even if Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua said that their warships would be required to inform their embassy when navigating Philippine waters. 

Because the Philippine military does not have enough capability to stop the Chinese who have seemed impervious to objections, Drilon said that diplomatic pressure should be used instead. 

“Obviously, we can’t wage a war against China. But through diplomatic pressure and exposing them to international pressure, we can generate world opinion to put pressure on China,” he pointed out.

“We have no military capability but we have venues in the world stage available to us to bring these issues to international bodies,” he said. /je

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DFA chief: File diplomatic protest over Chinese warships’ intrusion
By Christia Marie Ramos
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 11:18 am

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has ordered the filing of another diplomatic protest over the latest reports of the unannounced presence of five Chinese warships in Sibutu Strait since July.

“@DFAPHL fire diplomatic protest over Chinese warship; drop the diplomatic crap; say it is ours period; they’re trespassing,” Locsin said over Twitter on Monday.

“If we did it already fire another. We won’t run out. & don’t wait for formal intel. This is the Secretary of National Defense no less. Fire at will,” he further said.

The said protest is the latest of the diplomatic actions taken by the Philippine government over the unannounced transit of Chinese vessels in the country’s waters.

READ: DFA to file diplomatic protest for latest sighting of Chinese ships in PH EEZ 

“Tayo sa defense, naiinis na din tayo dahil hindi nga sila nagsasabi sa ‘tin,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters late last week.

READ: Lorenzana hits repeated intrusions of Chinese warships in PH waters 

Lorenzana is hoping that the said intrusions by these Chinese ships would be tackled be when President Rodrigo Duterte visits China later this month.

“Sana ma-mention ito para tapos na. Irritant na kasi ‘to ngayon eh,” he added. /gsg

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Panelo: Duterte believes it’s ‘natural’ for countries to spy on each other
By Darryl John Esguerra
INQUIRER.net
August 19, 2019 at 10:05 am
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte discusses the pressing concerns of the country during a dialogue with Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo at the Malacañan Palace on September 11, 2018. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte with his spokesperson Salvador Panelo at the Malacañan Palace on September 11, 2018. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Amid fears that the planned Chinese-manned Philippine offshore gaming operation (Pogo) hubs may “spy” on military camps in the country, Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte believes that it is only natural for countries to spy on each other.

Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said Monday that the Chief Executive had told him that China can spy on the Philippines if they want to without going near police or military camps as they can only use their technology.

“The President and I were talking about it yesterday and he was saying that you didn’t have to be near any military camp if you want to gather intelligence,” Panelo said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.

“He said that considering we’re high tech now, even if they are far away from China if they want to spy on us, they can. In fact, all countries as he correctly said are spying on each other. Natural lang ‘yun eh,” he added.

The Palace official made the statement after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Pogo workers could easily shift to spying activities.

READ: Chinese casinos near PH military camps worry DND

He had recommended that Pogos be moved away from the camps to hubs where finance and immigration authorities could monitor them, a plan already being pushed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Malacañang earlier it would support the proposed hubs for Pogo workers as long as the rights of their workers are not violated.

READ: Palace OK with Pogo hubs: ‘Basta walang violation’

The gambling regulator plans to establish Pogo hubs at Clark Freeport in Pampanga and in Kawit, Cavite, which is just 3 kilometers from a facility being used by the Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing and Philippine naval base Heracleo Alano in Sangley Point, a former US base in Cavite province.

But Panelo said it is up to Pagcor and security officials to decide whether they will move the Pogo hubs elsewhere. /je

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POEA cracks down on 21 foreign, 19 local recruiters
By Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 19, 2019 at 5:30 am

MANILA, Philippines — Twenty-one foreign recruitment agencies and direct employers were blacklisted while the licenses of 19 erring local recruitment firms were either canceled or suspended in a continuing bid by the government to rid the overseas placement industry of misfits, the Department of Labor and Employment said.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Bernard Olalia said cleansing the industry was part of the intensified regulatory exercise to protect Filipino workers seeking overseas employment.

The POEA said those meted with suspension, fine or cancellation of licenses were found to have violated recruitment rules from January to July.

Some of the agencies that faced suspension or cancellation eventually had their licenses restored after the cancellation or suspension was reversed on appeal.

Olalia said the POEA disclosed the list to make the public aware — especially those seeking employment overseas — of the erring agencies.

Disqualified

The disqualified foreign recruitment agencies or direct employers are AV Global Harvest Pte Ltd.; Isa KhouriMetal Industries Ltd. and Amir Khoury; Raffles International Christian School; Al Tauqueet Trading and Services Est/Al Tauqet Trading & Services Co.; Noora Salem Saad Occie for Recruitment of Domestic Helpers Office; All Pro Recruitment Agency, Marwan Slim;

Food Equipment Supplying Co. Ltd. & Thaer H. Abdou; Wanasah Manpower Supply & Mohammed Naser Al Naser; Bader Contracting & Trading Co./Bard Contracting and Trading; Speedy Tech Electronics Co. Ltd.; Staff Buro Staffing; Candice Cruz and Allan John Wilton; Jalal Al Jalal Construction Est./ Al Nassr Ahssa Trading Contracting Co./Jalal Al Jalal/Saad Saleh Al Jalal; Marhaba Shopping Center; Hadi Al Hamroor Contracting Est. and Fawzi Al Najrani Est./Fouzi Saleh Najrani Contracting; Yacht Tours Maldives Pvt. Ltd.;

Al Falax Electronics Equipment and Supplies Co./Al Falak Equipment; Agensi Pekerjaan YSL SDN BHD Lim Pooling and Saw Boon Foong; West Labour Supply and Abdalla Ali Adalla Alsari; Tsaheel Al Janoob Office for Recruitment; Al Bahli Manpower Recruiting Office & Omar Saad Al Hamad; and Special Manpower Supply.

Agencies with suspension or fine from January to July 31 are: Double M Marine Services; Danasan Manpower & Management Services; Summit Placement and Resources; Masters International Placement; Farland Personnel Management Corp.; Corinthians Placement Services; Ankor Management & Services & Consultant;

HBO International Manpower Services; Century High HR Inc.; First Champion & International Entertainment Inc.;  Jamal Human Resource; Farland Personnel Management Corp.; Boom International Recruitment Agency; Workgroup International Manpower Services; Osims Oriental Skills International, Health Carousel Philippines Inc.; Mitch International Recruitment Agency; and Falcon Maritime & Allied Services.

Canceled licenses

Agencies with canceled licenses include Rufean International Resources; Ace Globe Management Consultancy Services Corp.; Federal Overseas Manpower Inc.; American Prime Manpower Services Inc.; Filhigh GNS Inc.; Danasan Manpower & Management Service; Pacific Ace Human Resources Corp.; Highway Manpower Services & Promotion Inc.; and M&P Employment Inc.

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Pampanga workers ask gov’t help in getting pay from Saudi firm
August 19, 2019 at 5:16 am

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — At least 9,555 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated by the national government in 2016 are waiting to get P3 billion in salaries and benefits from a construction company in Saudi Arabia.

Last week, representatives of the workers asked Pampanga provincial officials to help them fast-track the payments that were approved by a Saudi Arabian court last month.

Court order

“We were informed by our lawyers in Jeddah on July 30 that the court had ordered Saudi Oger [Ltd.] to pay up SAR (Saudi Riyal) 283 million to more than 45,000 employees of different nationalities,” said Alex Ordoñez, a leader of the workers from Pampanga.

The construction company has not filed for bankruptcy, but Ordoñez said it only has SAR 83 million in sequestered assets.

Assistance

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is traveling to Saudi Arabia on Aug. 22 to discuss with his counterpart how to implement the court’s order on the compensation to Filipino workers, according to Esperanza Cobarrubias, director of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) in Central Luzon.

The labor department gave the workers P50,000 each in 2016 as “cash advance” for their claims, Ordoñez said, adding that some claimants received P20,00 from Owwa for livelihood projects.

Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda said the provincial government would pay for the travel and billeting expenses of two OFW representatives who would follow up their cases in Saudi Arabia.

Waiting

Antonio Mallari, one of the OFWs, said many of them had stayed in Saudi Arabia for a year waiting for payments.

“While we waited for payments, many of us got separated from our families, our children stopped schooling and we got sick in the process,” Mallari told Pineda. —Tonette Orejas

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