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Kalayaan Island (Spratly) / West Philippine Sea - AFP

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  • US carrier starts 'routine' patrols in South China Sea




    (CNN)The United States deployed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to the disputed waters of the South China Sea on Saturday as part of maritime "routine operations."
    Sailing with the 97,000-ton Vinson is the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, the Navy said in a statement. The Vinson carries a flight group of more than 60 aircraft, including F/A-18 jet fighters.

    The operation comes amid growing tensions between the United States and China over territory and trade, and as the Trump administration looks set to take a more confrontational stance toward China than its predecessor.
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  • Soon: Hotline between PH, China coast guards
    Officials of China Ministry of Foreign Affairs and and China Coast Guard are in the Philippines this week to discuss joint activities between the two coast guards



    FIRST MEETING. This handout photo taken and released by the Philippine Coast Guard-Public Information Office (PCG-PIO) on December 16, 2016 shows Philippine coast guard commander Commodore Joel Garcia (R) shaking hands with Chinese coast guard deputy director general Yun De (L) at the end of their meeting in Manila. Photo by PCG / AFP

    MANILA, Philippines – Officials of the China Ministry of Foreign Affairs and and China Coast Guard are in the Philippines this week, from February 20 to 23, to discuss with their counterparts future activities including the establishment of a direct communication line between the coast guards of the two countries.

    Commander Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson, said they will discuss in Subic, Zambales possible joint activities in the areas of search and rescue, marine pollution prevention, suppression of unlawful acts at sea, and counter-narcotics.

    "An interim arrangement to establish the proposed Hotline Communication and Point of Contact between the two coast guards will also be undertaken," Balilo said on Monday, February 20.

    They will also discuss port visits of their ships, training, and human resource development assistance for the Philippine Coat Guard.

    It is the second organizational meeting for the Joint Coast Guard Committee, which was created after the 2 countries signed in October a Memorandum of Understanding during President Rodrigo Duterte's state visit to China.

    The first meeting was held last December in Manila. (READ: China, Philippine coast guards meet despite sea row)

    Duterte seeks warmer ties with China after years of frozen communication lines because of an internatonal arbitration case that the Aquino administration filed against Beijing. (READ: Aquino legacy: Defying China)

    The Philippines succeeded in getting the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration to dismiss China's sweeping claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), but China refused to acknowledge the ruling.
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  • Yasay: We do not own disputed island in South China Sea
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    CA member 'very troubled' by Yasay statements on South China Sea row
    'We never categorically stated that we own the disputed islands,' Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr tells the Commission on Appointments



    SEA ROW. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr says the official position of the Philippine government in the South China Sea row is that the disputed area does not belong to anyone. File photo from Agence France-Presse

    MANILA, Philippines – A member of the Commission on Appointments said she was "very troubled" by the statements of Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr on the South China Sea dispute during the official's confirmation hearing on Wednesday, February 22.

    Responding to questions from CA members, Yasay reiterated the official stand of the Duterte government that the Philippines does not own the disputed area in the South China Sea, even after an arbitral tribunal ruled in the country's favor against China on the sea row.

    “My position, which is the official position, is that the disputed part of South China Sea has never belonged to anyone,” Yasay said in response to questions of CA members on Wednesday.

    Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato questioned Yasay about his earlier pronouncements on the arbitral tribunal’s ruling that favored the Philippines and declared China’s 9-dash-line as invalid.

    Yasay said that in not making provocative statements on the dispute that would anger China, he was only being consistent with the position of not causing any tension in the region.

    Pressed for the official government stance on the matter, Yasay said the government has never categorically claimed its ownership over the disputed islands.

    “Even if the tribunal rules in our favor, this area will continue to belong to international waters,” Yasay said.


    Sato told Yasay she was “very troubled” by the Cabinet official's statements.

    Yasay’s answers before the CA echo the position President Rodrigo Duterte made at his first Cabinet meeting on June 30, 2016.

    Duterte said he would not "flaunt" the ruling against China as he would prefer a "soft landing." He also said during the campaign season that he will not insist on ownership and instead make deals with China. (READ: Duterte’s last resort on West PH Sea: Let’s not insist on ownership)

    In the case filed before the artbitral tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines argued 5 main points.

    1. China has no historic rights over the water
    2. China’s nine-dash line is invalid
    3. China cannot claim EEZ over “rocks” because rocks are not islands that generate an EEZ
    4. China has breached the law of the sea when it prevented Filipino fishermen from entering our EEZ
    5. China has irreversibly damaged the regional marine environment


    In its decision, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines and added that China should have stopped its construction of artificial islands in the disputed area during the hearing of the case.

    Yasay clarified that the Philippines will continue to occupy areas that fall within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but tha the issue of ownership shall be removed from official statements.

    “I do not want to confuse the occupancy to the content of the tribunal decision, that's completely different. We will make sure that if there is encroachment into our sovereignty, we will assert our rights,” Yasay said.

    “I do not believe that the disputed islands case will be resolved soon, maybe even not in this lifetime,” he added.

    Senator Panfilo Lacson, who chairs the CA's commitee on foreign affairs, told reporters that the committee has suspended Yasay's confirmation hearing because of "concerns" of CA members, mostly from the House contingent.
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    -- edited by kawawawanaman on Feb 22 2017, 05:55 PM