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Archive for Philippines

Newsline: Philippine top diplomat says Manila, Beijing to resume talks in May

The Philippines and China will resume discussions about jointly exploring oil and gas resources in the South China Sea in May, the Philippines’ foreign minister said. “They were proposing that we begin talks again on oil and gas. I think we will begin in maybe around six weeks but…at a technical level,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said in an interview with local network GMA News. Excerpts of Manalo’s interview were shared with the media by the Philippines Foreign Ministry. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/manila-beijing-resume-oil-gas-talks-may-philippine-minister-2023-03-30/) China claims jurisdiction over almost the entire South China Sea and the risk of disruption has made it difficult for the Philippines to find foreign investors, despite an arbitration court clarifying Manila’s entitlements in the sea. Efforts to find a legally viable way to cooperate on energy exploration have stalled repeatedly, with the administration of Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, abandoning talks last June citing constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty. The resumption comes on the heels of the first in-person meeting between diplomats from Manila and Beijing since before the pandemic, where they pledged to use diplomacy to resolve differences peacefully.

Newsline: Philippines, China pledge peaceful diplomacy to solve maritime issues

Maritime issues between the Philippines and China remain a “serious concern”, a Philippine official said on Friday, as the countries pledged to use diplomacy to resolve differences peacefully during high-level talks. The Philippines hosted this week the first in-person meeting between diplomats from the countries since before the COVID-19 pandemic, amid a flare-up in tensions over what Manila described as China’s “aggressive activities” in the South China Sea. “Both our countries’ leaders agreed that maritime issues should be addressed through diplomacy and dialogue and never through coercion and intimidation,” Philippine foreign ministry undersecretary Theresa Lazaro said at the opening of bilateral talks on the South China Sea. “Maritime issues are an important part of China-Philippines relations that should not be ignored,” China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said. “In the past years, through friendly dialogue and consultations, the two countries have generally managed and effectively dealt with our differences on maritime issues. And we have also advanced our practical cooperation and our mutual trust,” added Sun, who is on a three-day visit to Manila. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/philippines-china-say-need-work-together-over-maritime-issues-2023-03-24/) The discussions come two months after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s state visit to China, where President Xi Jinping said he was ready to manage maritime issues “cordially” with Manila. Last month, Marcos granted the United States expanded access to military bases, amid China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea and towards self-ruled Taiwan. Beijing, which claims large parts of the South China Sea, including some areas in Philippine waters, has expressed concern over an increasing U.S. military presence in its neighbour, accusing Washington of increasing regional tensions.

Newsline: Former U.S. Embassy employee sentenced for sex crimes in Philippines

A former State Department employee who sexually abused minors while working overseas was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday. (https://news.yahoo.com/former-state-department-employee-sentenced-131147740.html) The Department of Justice said 63-year-old Dean Edward Cheves, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines from 2017 to 2021, pleaded guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place in October 2022. According to court documents, Cheves used his personal cell phone to communicate inappropriately with two teenage girls in the Philippines whom he had met online, and he was aware that the two victims were minors. The DOJ also said that Cheves used his government-issued iPhone 11 to film multiple videos of sexual acts involving one of the girls. The child sex abuse material that he produced was found on the phone after it was seized from his embassy residence in the Philippines.

Newsline: Philippines files diplomatic protest to China over “aggressive activities”

The Philippines on Tuesday filed a diplomatic protest calling on Beijing to ensure its vessels cease “aggressive activities” after Manila accused China’s coast guard of trying to block one of its ships in the South China Sea using a laser. The Philippine coast guard said on Monday a Chinese coast guard ship directed a “military-grade laser” at one of Manila’s vessels supporting a resupply mission to troops in the disputed waterway on Feb. 6, temporarily blinding its crew on the bridge. “These acts of aggression by China are disturbing and disappointing as it closely follows the state visit to China of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in early January during which he and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to manage maritime differences through diplomacy and dialogue,” Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a statement on Tuesday. The ministry said the Chinese vessel undertook dangerous manoeuvres by approaching at a close distance the Philippine vessel, risking a collision that endangered the crew, and issuing “illegal radio challenges” demanding the Philippine ship leave the area. The actions of China’s coast guard vessel were a threat to Philippine sovereignty and security and the country had a prerogative to conduct legitimate activities within its exclusive economic zone, the ministry said. There was no immediate comment from the Chinese embassy in Manila, but China’s foreign ministry said on Monday that its coast guard had conducted actions according to the law. “We urge the Philippines to avoid such actions, and the actions of China’s staff are professional and restrained,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, told a regular briefing. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including the area around the Spratly islands. The Philippines has filed 203 diplomatic notes against China since last year, foreign ministry data showed.

Newsline: Chinese embassy in Manila says Bejing abides by consensus after Philippines orders strengthened military presence near disputed islands

The Chinese embassy in Manila reiterated that China strictly abides by a consensus reached among claimants that included not developing uninhabited reefs and islands. Asked to respond to the defence ministry’s statement, it said both countries would “properly handle maritime issues through friendly consultations.” (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/philippines-orders-strengthened-military-presence-after-chinese-activities-near-2022-12-22/) The Philippines’ defence ministry on Thursday ordered the military to strengthen its presence in the South China Sea after monitoring “Chinese activities” in disputed waters close to a strategic Philippine-held island. The ministry did not specify what activities those were and its statement follows a report this week of Chinese construction on four uninhabited features in the disputed Spratly islands, news that Beijing has dismissed as “unfounded”. Any encroachment or reclamation on features within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone “is a threat to the security of Pagasa island, which is part of Philippine sovereign territory,” the ministry said in a statement, using the Filipino name for Thitu island. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which billions of dollars worth of goods pass each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have overlapping claims to various islands and features.

Newsline: China’s embassy in Manila accuses U.S. over South China Sea

China’s embassy in Manila accused the United States on Tuesday of driving a wedge between the Philippines and Beijing to stir up trouble in the South China Sea. Beijing was reacting to a Dec. 19 statement by U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price voicing concern over the reported “escalating swarms” of Chinese vessels in the disputed waterway and an incident involving a floating piece of rocket. Price said China’s actions “reflect continuing disregard for other South China Sea claimants and states lawfully operating in the region”. He reiterated that the United States stands by the Philippines in upholding rules-based international order. In a statement, China’s embassy in Manila said it was “only natural for neighbours to have differences.” “The U.S. keeps meddling in the South China Sea disputes and trying to drive wedges between countries in the region, creating tensions and harming regional peace and stability,” it said. (https://neuters.de/world/us-china-trade-barbs-over-south-china-sea-2022-12-20/) China claims vast swathes of the South China Sea that overlap with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Philippines last week expressed “great concern” over the “reported swarming” of Chinese vessels in a reef and shoal inside its exclusive economic zone. That came a few days after the foreign ministry filed a diplomatic protest over a Chinese coastguard ship which the Philippine military said used force to retrieve a piece of rocket floating in the ocean that was being towed by a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea. China has denied it forcefully grabbed the object, which it said last month was debris from the casing protecting the nose cone of a spacecraft launched by Beijing.

Newsline: No comment from Chinese embassy in Manila on vessels ‘swarming’ in disputed waters

The Chinese embassy in Manila refrained from comment on reported swarming of Chinese vessels in Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines’ defence chief on Wednesday said the reported presence of dozens of Chinese vessels in disputed waters in the South China Sea was an “unacceptable” action that violates the country’s sovereignty. “The president’s order to the department is clear – we will not give up a single square inch of Philippine territory,” Jose Faustino, the officer-in-charge at the Department of National Defense said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/philippines-concerned-over-chinese-vessels-swarming-disputed-waters-defence-2022-12-14/) Manila refers to the part of the South China Sea that it claims as the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines had won a landmark arbitration case in 2016, which invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea where about $3 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes annually. The ruling, which China refused to recognise, states that the Philippines has sovereign rights to exploit energy reserves inside its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, where both Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal are located. Iroquois is 127 nautical miles from the Philippine island of Palawan in the disputed waters, which U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited last month to reiterate Washington’s defence commitments to Manila and its support for the 2016 arbitration ruling. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr will go to Beijing next month for a state visit.

Newsline: Former U.S. diplomat pleads guilty to sex with minors in Philippines

A former State Department employee pleaded guilty Monday to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors while working at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines. Dean Edward Cheves, 63, served at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines from 2017 to 2021. During that time, he met multiple minors over the internet, according to the Department of Justice. Between December 2020 and March 2021, Cheves communicated with a then-15 to 16-year-old Philippine minor whom he paid to produce and send sexually explicit images, the DOJ said. (https://www.foxnews.com/us/former-state-department-employee-pleads-guilty-sexual-conduct-minors-philippines) In February 2021, Cheves engaged in sex acts on two separate occasions with another Philippine minor who he met online, using his government-issued cell phone to film the encounter. The illicit material was later found on devices seized from his embassy residence in the Philippines, the DOJ said, adding that he was aware of the minors’ ages. Cheves was sent back to the U.S. in March 2021. Cheves is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 20, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison for each count.

Newsline: Philippines Eyes Diplomatic Compromise with China on South China Sea

The Philippines is interested in renewing talks with China on joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea to expand and diversify its sources of energy, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. The Southeast Asian country seeks a compromise with China, which is claiming parts of the South China Sea that are within Philippine territory, Marcos said, stressing that any agreement must not violate his nation’s laws. While the Philippines and China couldn’t agree on which nation’s law would apply, “we continue to explore, perhaps there can be other ways that we can do it,” Marcos said. “There have been examples around the region where there have been similar differing views on exclusive economic zones and baselines, where they have managed to find a way to have joint explorations with the Chinese, with the Americans.” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/philippines-marcos-seeks-china-compromise-051025015.html) In June, Marcos’s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, ended talks with Beijing on oil and exploration in the South China Sea, with then-foreign affairs chief Teodoro Locsin saying discussions had gone as far as “it is constitutionally possible to go.”

Newsline: Philippine Top Diplomat Says Open to Resume Talks With China

The Philippines is open to new talks with China on oil and gas exploration, the Southeast Asian nation’s top diplomat said. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-08-31/philippine-top-diplomat-says-open-to-resume-oil-talks-with-china) President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s government is ready to resume discussions, but any deal will have to comply with Philippine laws, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo told lawmakers during his agency’s budget hearing.