PCG exec: Damaged WPS resources strengthen case build-up vs. China

MANILA: The marine resource assessment that showed damaged resources within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) will be part of the evidence being gathered to support a case build-up against China for environmental destruction and degradation.

National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) spokesperson and Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City that the findings of Dr. Jonathan Anticamara have been presented to the investigating bodies, pending the arrival the completion of the official scientific study.

Anticamara is a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Biology in Diliman, Quezon City.

‘From the Philippine Coast Guard together with BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), since we are the lead agencies in doing this research assessment with support, of course, from the University of the Philippines, we’re going to formally forward this to the NTF-WPS,’ Tarriela added.

Anticamara and his team
conducted the marine resource assessment in Pag-asa Cays 1, 2 and 3 to provide scientific basis on the destruction of marine resources inside the EEZ.

‘Now, in the case of the pile of rubble, what I found is that there are many characteristics of this pile of rubble and I’ll present the details of these characteristics that kind of convinced me that this is not a typical island formation that’s basically formed by nature. Many of these characteristics suggest that most likely these piles of rubble are somewhat… siguro ano (maybe), made by human,’ he said.

Another key finding is that many of the corals in Pagasa Island in the Kalayaan Island Group and the cays are degraded.

‘So, ibig sabihin ng (the meaning of) degraded is that many of the corals are now small, many of the large corals are now dead and there’s not a lot of live corals per unit area, so kaunti na lang ‘yung buhay (there are few of them that are still alive). And if you look at fish, it’s the same, all the areas that we surveyed, we swam, we
dove… there’s not a lot of fish anymore,’ Anticamara said.

Main suspect

Tarriela said the operations of Chinese vessels, which far outnumber Filipino ships, cause massive damage to coral reefs.

China also has the experience and capability in reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

‘So, if there is one country that we need to hold accountable dito sa (for the) damage ng environment na ito, sa ating (here, in our) coral reef dito sa (for the damage in our coral reefs in the) cays, that will only be the People’s Republic of China,’ he said.

Lawyer Jay Batongbacal of the UP College of Law, also the director of the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said China’s activities are violations of the international law because they contravene obligation to preserve and protect the marine environment.

‘At the very least, itong destruction ng (the destruction of the) corals and deliberate alteration ng (of the) marine environment, puwedeng maging basehan iyon ng isa pang kaso na pa-follow up
doon sa 2016 arbitration (it can be a solid basis for another case to add to the 2016 arbitration),’ Batongbacal said.

The 2016 arbitral ruling sided overwhelmingly with the Philippine claims in the WPS and disregarded China’s nine-dash line.

Other options

Aside from the usual diplomatic protest, Batongbacal said there are other legal options for the Philippines, like calling for a fact-finding mission before an international organization, leading to another case litigation.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Undersecretary Teresita Daza said in a forum on Friday that the PCG must file an official report as basis for the next action, whether it would be a diplomatic protest or a summon.

Tarriela assured the Coast Guard shares the level of emotion the public is experiencing and brushed off public criticisms on the response to China’s provocative actions.

‘We have a chain of command. We respect the guidance of our President (Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.). The guidance of the President is that we should
not be provoked, we should not be the reason of intensifying the escalation for China to justify to once again bringing the next level of aggression, kung anuman ang plano nilang gawin (whatever they’re thinking of next),’ Tarriela said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

PAGASA warns of dangerous heat index in 30 areas

MANILA: The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned of dangerous heat index levels in 30 areas across the country on Saturday.

Based on the weather bureau’s forecast, the following areas may have a heat index ranging from 42°C to 47°C:

NAIA Pasay City, Metro Manila – 42°C

Sinait, Ilocos Sur – 42°C

Laoag City, Ilocos Norte – 45°C

Dagupan City, Pangasinan – 47°C

MMSU, Batac, Ilocos Norte – 43°C

Bacnotan, La Union – 44°C

Aparri, Cagayan – 46°C

Tuguegarao City, Cagayan – 43°C

ISU Echague, Isabela – 42°C

Iba, Zambales – 44°C

Casiguran, Aurora – 42°C

Cubi Pt. Subic Bay Olongapo City – 42°C

Ambulong, Tanauan, Batangas – 42°C

Infanta, Quezon – 42°C

San Jose, Occidental Mindoro – 42°C

Puerto Princesa City, Palawan – 44°C

Aborlan, Palawan – 43°C

Cuyo, Palawan – 42°C

Virac (Synop), Catanduanes – 44°C

Masbate City, Masbate – 42°C

CBSUA-Pili, Camarines Sur – 44°C

Roxas City Capiz – 42°C

Dumangas, Iloilo – 43°C

La Granja, La Carlota, Negros Occid
ental – 42°C

Catarman, Northern Samar – 43°C

Borongan, Eastern Samar – 42°C

Guiuan, Eastern Samar – 42°C

Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Sur – 42°C

Cotabato City, Maguindanao – 42°C

Butuan City, Agusan del Norte – 43°C

PAGASA said heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.

The weather bureau advised the public to limit the time spent outdoors, especially at noon, and drink plenty of water.

People going outdoors are reminded to use umbrellas, or wear hats and sleeved clothing.

PAGASA said the Davao Region and Sarangani will experience cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms due to the easterlies.

Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms.

The whole archipelago will have light to moderate winds and slight to moderate seas.

Source: Philippines News Agency

4 female Palestinian journalists detained in Israeli jails

RAMALLAH: At least four Palestinian women reporters are among the journalists detained in Israeli jails, a Palestinian prisoners’ group said on Friday.

“Four female journalists are under arrest (in Israeli jails), including a nursing mother,” the Palestinian Prisoner Society said in a statement marking the World Press Freedom Day on Friday.

The statement identified them as Ikhlas Sawalha, Rola Hasanein, Bushra al-Tawil and Asmaa Heresh, noting that three of them (Sawalha, al-Tawil and Heresh) are under administrative detention without a trial or charge.

The Palestinian rights group also said that a fifth journalist, Somaya Jawabreh, is under house arrest after her release from Israeli prison in November last year.

Earlier on Friday, the group said in a joint statement along with other rights groups that Israel has been detaining 53 Palestinian journalists in its prisons and detention facilities, including 43 arrested after Oct. 7.

Source: Philippines News Agency

PH, Japan, US, Aussie defense chiefs call out Chinese actions in SCS

HONOLULU: The respective defense chiefs of the Philippines, Japan, the United States, and Australia have collectively called out China’s ‘dangerous use’ of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea (SCS).

The statement was made after the quadrilateral meeting among Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, and Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles at the Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom) Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii on May 2.

In a joint readout, the four ministers said they ‘strongly’ object to the dangerous use of coast guard and militia vessels; and that they are seriously concerned over the ongoing situation in the East and South China Sea.

‘They reiterated serious concern over the PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which
constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct,’ it read.

They also emphasized the need to uphold freedoms of navigation and overflight, and called on China to abide by the 2016 Arbitral Ruling on the South China Sea.

The ministers pledged to further strengthen cooperation among the Philippines, Japan, the US, and Australia ‘in support of regional security and stability.’

During the meeting, the four discussed ways to advance their defense cooperation – through continued maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, enhanced procedures to enable coordination and information sharing arrangements, as well as strengthening capacity building.

The meeting follows China’s most recent harassment and use of water cannon on Filipino civilian vessels conducting routine humanitarian mission to Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal on April 30.

The Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Bagacay suffered some damage to a part of its superstructure while the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel sustained
damage to its heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems; electrical, navigation, and radio systems; and superficial hull.

The meeting marks the second time the defense ministers of the four nations met, an engagement the US Department of State described as a reflection to the Philippines, Japan, the US, and Australia’s common goal to ‘advance a shared vision for a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.’

What needs to be done

In a recent meeting with Filipino journalists in Arlington, Virginia, former US Air Force General Herbert ‘Hawk’ Carlisle said the Philippines is ‘doing exactly what it needs to do’ amid China’s continuing harassment in the West Philippine Sea.

He lauded its efforts to fortify partnerships, including with the US, Japan, and Australia, citing the need to further improve interoperability with like-minded countries in the region.

‘The primary thing is to continue to grow those relationships and that interoperability with friends, partners, allies in the region,’ he sai

In addition, he cited the need for Manila to improve its air and missile defense systems.

Carlisle said China’s arsenal of weapons, including long-range bombers, ‘indicate that integrated air and missile defense for every nation in the Pacific region is critically important.’

‘I think the homeland defense of the Philippines is critical. I personally think that air and missile defense is one of the things that every nation in the Pacific has to invest in,’ he said.

A pressing concern

Even from far away back home, Filipinos in the US remain concerned over the situation in the South China Sea.

In an interview in San Francisco, California, 67-year-old Delma Lumo said she is ‘very much concerned’ about the developments in the area since she has a family in the Philippines.

She said she supports the path the Marcos administration is taking to defend the country’s rights over the area.

The same goes for 59-year-old Manolo Aquino, a Filipino-American aircraft mechanic from Newark who also had his fair shar
e of interactions with the Chinese in the South China Sea when he was still working as a helmsman before he immigrated to the US.

‘I like the policy of PBBM (President Bongbong Marcos) right now, because he is concerned about the West Philippine Sea, and it’s good for the future of the Philippines,’ he said in an interview.

Aquino said he also supports the improving relations between the Philippines and the US on the issue of the South China Sea.

‘I was a former seaman and I know that passage is very important in the maritime industry,’ he said.

Aquino retired as a helmsman in 2014 but he already witnessed what he described as ‘the Chinese expanding their power to control’ in the South China Sea has brought to the area.

‘At that time, wala pang problema, wala pang militarization masyado pero naririnig na namin na they require to call Chinese maritime entities na kapag dumaan ka doon, tatawag sila to identify yourself. This was around 2010 to 2014 (At that time there was not much militarization yet but we
were already hearing that they require to call Chinese maritime entities whenever you pass there. They’ll call to ask you to identify yourself. This was around 2010 to 2014),” he recounted.

‘Naririnig ko iyon as helmsman (I used to hear it when I was a helmsman). They require you to report. It’s like you’re entering the maritime area of the Chinese. That was in the area between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea until Taiwan,’ he said.

Before that, Aquino said, they could freely pass by the area without the need to report to China.

For seafarers, he said, the South China Sea is a vital sea-lane to safely ferry commercial goods from Africa and the Middle East, to Asia and the Americas.

‘We can sail on the other side of the Philippines, the Pacific Ocean pero kapag dumaan ka dito very rough, kaya dito talaga sa South China Sea ang safe passage (but if you go by that side, it’s very rough. That’s why the safe passage is here in the South China Sea),’ Aquino said.

‘Bihira ang dumadaan via Pacif
ic kasi ang iko-konsumo mo na fuel mas marami (Ships rarely use the Pacific route because this consumes more fuel).’

Source: Philippines News Agency

BOC seizes Liberian-flagged ship loitering in Bohol Sea sans authority

MANILA: A warrant of seizure and detention (WSD) was issued against a Liberian-flagged cargo ship for drifting and loitering in the Bohol Sea since last week while en route to the port of Kinuura, Japan, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) reported Saturday.

According to Commissioner Bien Rubio, although no contraband was found inside the Liberian-flagged M/V Ohshu Maru, the WSD was issued on May 3 along with a Notice of Preliminary Conference Hearing.

‘The WSD is issued because the captain did not issue a Notice of Arrival when the vessel started drifting to the Bohol Sea, which as I understand from the field report, started last April 22. Under our rules, the ship’s master only has 24 hours after its arrival to file a notice or protest explaining the circumstances of the change in its course,’ Rubio explained.

He added that a team composed of the BOC’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service – Cagayan de Oro (CIIS-CDO), Philippine Navy (PN), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Philippine Drug Enforcement Ag
ency (PDEA) inspected the vessel on May 1 but found no illegal shipment to indicate its involvement in a supposed smuggling activity.

The ship’s master, Capt. Pepito M. Agmata, executed an undertaking and a Letter of Apology dated May 1 to explain the circumstances of why the vessel was found drifting in Philippine internal waters.

Citing the contents of the letter, CIIS Director Verne Enciso said the vessel was supposedly advised by its charterer to drift to a safe place in the Philippine Sea, as well as change its estimated time of arrival in its original port of destination.

‘Capt. Agmata was also adamant that he and his crew did not allow any vessel to come close to their ship while it drifted to Bohol Sea. But while the letter expressed his apology for not reporting immediately, the vessel must still be subjected to seizure proceedings because it is the proper forum for Mr. Agmata to explain what happened,’ Enciso said.

He added that the captain’s explanation would be subject to approval under the Cu
stoms Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) and other applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

The WSD also recommended that the vessel be placed under continuous monitoring by the Navy and the Coast Guard until a clearance from proper authorities is issued.

The vessel, its master, and crew could face charges for violating Sections 214, 218, 300, and 1212 of the CMTA, the Customs Memorandum Circular (CMC) 08-2019, and Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 15-2020.

Section 1212 of the CMTA (Entrance of Vessel through Necessity) states that a master of a vessel only has 24 hours after its arrival to make a protest under oath, explaining the causes or circumstances of the necessity – whether by stress of water or other reasons – to be in a port other than its destination.

This order is complemented by Section 5.2.1 of CAO 15-2020 (Entrance of Vessel from a Foreign Port), which states that a vessel must report its arrival to the district collector at the port of entry or the customs officer authorized to meet the
vessel at the end of the sea passage.

On the other hand, Deputy Commissioner for Customs Intelligence Group Juvymax Uy noted that ‘an intent to avoid detection of any irregular movements by the vessel’ made it the subject of inspection proceedings because of the possibility of its involvement in smuggling activities.

‘We received the Vessel Tracking System records, which said that M/V Ohshu Maru turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmission in Malaysia for a day and eight hours before entering our waters. Even the Coast Guard Station in Siquijor was unable to establish a radio communication with the vessel,’ he said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

Filipino conjoined twins to fly to KSA for surgery

MANILA: Filipino conjoined twins are set to fly to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on May 5 for surgery.

In a media briefing on Friday, KSA Ambassador to the Philippines Hisham Sultan Abdullah Alqahtani said the medical help that would be provided to the twins Akhizah and Ayeesha Yusoph is part of their commitment to care for and concentrate on humanitarian work.

‘This humanitarian work reflects one of the prominent achievements of the kingdom in the field of separating conjoined twins and providing outstanding medical care, where the kingdom has become a pioneer in the field,’ he said.

‘It is expected that this noble humanitarian direction will positively impact the Filipino society, as it will help provide conjoined twins the opportunity to receive necessary treatment and overcome the health challenges they face.’

The KSA has performed 100 separation surgeries for conjoined twins from various countries.

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chairman and CEO Richard Gordon said the initiative is a ‘big help’ for
the Yusoph twins who could get good jobs and a better life in the future.

‘This is a strong gesture of Kingdom of Saudi people, of their King to help these people, these children. For PRC, usually, we provide support, maybe to their nutrition when they come back,’ Gordon said.

He noted that this is the second time that the KSA is performing surgery for conjoined twins from the Philippines, after the successful separation of Ann and Mae Manzo in Riyadh in March 2004.

The twins will be accompanied by their 19-year-old mother, Hashima Yusoph, throughout the whole procedure, which costs more than PHP500,000.

‘Wala naman akong iniisip na kaba, kasi wala naman sila sinasabi sa akin na ganun, na komplikasyon. Iniisip ko kung paano ko sila maaalagaan bilang nanay, at may nag-refer sa amin na matulungan kami (I don’t have worries because I am told there would be no complications. I was thinking how I could care for them as a mother, and someone referred us so we can get help),’ she said in an interview on the side
lines of the media briefing.

The twins are 16 months old and were born in Panabo City, Davao del Norte province. Their bodies share one liver.

The Saudi medical team and members of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, headed by Mr. Ibrahim Nasser Alsakran, arrived in Manila on Friday to bring them to KSA aboard a medically equipped evacuation plane.

Source: Philippines News Agency