Sunday, 22 June 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Philippines will stick to diplomatic, legal options in resolving territorial row with China, says Palace

The Philippines will focus on diplomatic, legal and political tracks in pursuing its claim in the West Philippine Sea, even without China’s cooperation in the arbitration case filed by the Philippine government, the Palace said on Tuesday.

"We prefer to focus on diplomatic, political, and legal options that lead the way towards the peaceful settlement of disputes," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

"At ang nais natin ay humantong ito sa mapayapang resolusyon ng mga pagkakaiba ng posisyon ng iba’t ibang bansa na mayroong claims doon sa maritime entitlements in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea," he added.

At the same time, he said, the government is doing what is necessary to continue asserting its sovereignty in the contested areas.

He noted that the Philippine Coast Guard has been conducting periodic patrols in those areas and is assisting the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in its research and monitoring work.

The Philippines is also encouraging its ASEAN allies to pursue the crafting of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, he said.

The government has called for a moratorium on actions that contradict the principles of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct that have already been agreed upon by the ASEAN in 2002.

Meanwhile, UP Prof. Harry Roque said China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration filed by the Philippines in the international arbitral tribunal is “a serious and belligerent violation” of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China is a signatory.

Speaking at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International Law held at the Chuo University Law School in Tokyo last Sunday, Roque said that as party to the Convention, China has agreed to refer all matters involving interpretation and application of the UNCLOS to the Convention’s compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure.

Roque, who is also Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of International Legal Studies, said that the international community took a very long time to agree on the provisions of the UNCLOS because all countries of the world wanted the Convention to be the “constitution for the seas”.

In agreeing to the UNCLOS, the world community believes that the adoption of all of its provisions would do away with the use of force and unilateral acts in resolving maritime disputes, he said.

He noted that more worrisome is China’s recent resort to the use of force in bolstering its claims to the disputed territories.

It was reported that China has been building artificial islands in Johnson South Reef, expanding its artificial island in the Fiery Cross Reef, and deploying its naval forces to ward off any opposition.

“These constructions are happening in the face of China’s snub of the arbitral proceedings, which precisely impugns China’s legal rights to do so. Clearly, China’s conduct is not only illegal, as prohibited use of force, but is also contemptous of the proceedings," Roque said.

Roque also belied China’s claim that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territory and hence, the controversy cannot be resolved under the UNCLOS.

The Philippines has filed a case at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to have China’s nine-dash line declared as illegal since it is not sanctioned by the UNCLOS.

The Philippines is also asking the Hague-based arbitral tribunal to declare rocks that are only visible during low tide as part of the country's continental shelf and that waters outside the 12 nautical miles of the Panatag shoal be declared as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. PND (as)

Government reaffirms commitment to recover ill-gotten wealth

The Philippine government remains committed to recovering illegally acquired wealth despite facing numerous challenges, a Palace official said Wednesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr said during a press briefing that he is aware of Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Chairman Andy Bautista’s statement that, given its experience in running after the Marcoses for the past 30 years, the Commission is likely to encounter challenges in recovering the wealth that alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles has amassed illegally.

"Ipinunto niya (Bautista) na simula pa ‘nung 1986, na halos 30 taon na ang nakalilipas, ay nagsisikap ang pamahalaan na ma-recover nga, ‘yung alleged ill-gotten wealth," Coloma said.

"Bagamat mayroong mga hamon at balakid, katulad ng kanyang isinalaysay, determinado pa rin ang pamahalaan na pairalin ang batas," he added.

The government will continue to pursue the recovery of ill-gotten wealth regardless of who the culprits are, Coloma said.

According to state witnesses, Napoles has deposited millions of dollars in US banks and has made huge investments in US properties.

In the records of key whistleblower Benhur Luy alone, Napoles’ dollar remittances ranged from $30,000 to $100,000 almost every week in 2011.

She and three senators are facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan. PND (as)

Government monitoring prices of other food staples, says Palace official

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has begun monitoring the prices of basic commodities other than rice, garlic and ginger, in an effort to stabilize food supply and prices, a Palace official said on Wednesday.

“Ayon kay DTI Undersecretary Vic Dimagiba, pati ang presyo ng baboy, karne, ‘yung mga daily food staples, ay mino-monitor na rin nila para mapigilan ‘yung maaaring pagsasamantala,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing.
He warned that the DTI will strictly enforce anti-profiteering measures on retail outlets.

Coloma further said that the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) is slated to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss the food supply situation and come up with concrete actions to protect the public from unreasonably high prices.

The NPCC is made up of the DTI, Department of Health, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Justice, Department of Energy, National Economic Development Authority, and one representative each from the consumers’ sector, agricultural producers’ sector, trading sector, and manufacturers’ sector.

“We would like to get inputs from all stakeholders in this process and to assure that we have reliable data and information on food supply and food prices,” said Coloma.

On garlic supply, the Communications Secretary reported that according to the Department of Agriculture, locally produced garlic reached 8,308 metric tons last March.

“This is more than adequate to meet the current levels of demand,” he said, adding that the meeting thus aims to find out if the reported shortage in rice, garlic and ginger is artificial or if traders are manipulating the prices.

“Kaya nga magpupulong ang National Price Coordinating Council… to be able to size up the situation based on realities on the ground,” he said. PND (ag)