“Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario warned his peers at the regional meeting in Malaysia that China’s unabated reclamation in Philippine-claimed territory in the South China Sea, if not stopped, will irreparably alter the status quo and render moot diplomatic initiatives in the region.”
by Ducky Paredes
Chinese island-building efforts in the disputed South China Sea, where airstrips are being built on coral reefs, risk undermining “peace, security and stability” in the region, Southeast Asian leaders warned at a regional summit on Monday.
Beijing’s assertion that it owns almost the entire strategic body of water — also claimed in parts by several Asian nations — has set off alarm bells with its neighbors and beyond as China stakes its claim with growing boldness.
A statement to be issued at the close of the one-day summit, also notes “serious concerns” over land reclamation on reefs whose sovereignty is contested, which has triggered fears of tightening Chinese control of the seaway.
“We share the serious concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamation being undertaken in the South China Sea, which has eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability,” said the statement by summit chair Malaysia.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the sea, which is rich in energy reserves, fishery resources, and is a vital conduit for much of world trade.
But Beijing says nearly all of it is “indisputable” Chinese maritime territory.
Similar work is taking place at a handful of other sites. According to analysts, the construction drive will give China a permanent forward presence far out at sea from which to project its growing power.
The closing statement by Malaysia — which holds the rotating chair of 10-member ASEAN this year — instructs the region’s foreign ministers to “urgently address this matter” under dialogue mechanisms set up between the bloc and China.
But it stopped short of a call by the Philippine foreign secretary, who challenged ASEAN to “finally stand up” to Beijing and demand an immediate end to the reclamation.
Albert del Rosario had warned his regional peers in Kuala Lumpur that China was “poised to consolidate de facto control” of the sea.
But Malaysia brushed aside suggestions of a response that might antagonise China.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that ASEAN must deal with the issue in a “positive and constructive way.”
Despite its unity rhetoric, ASEAN members have diverging agendas, and the bloc avoids especially robust responses toward China on behalf of its members.
This is due to Beijing’s immense trade and diplomatic leverage and because not all ASEAN states have a stake in the maritime disputes.
The Philippines and Vietnam have been in the most direct face-offs with China at sea, including a number of tense confrontations in recent years.
Mamila warned that Beijing is moving toward “de facto control” of the South China Sea as it asked fellow Southeast Asian countries to stand up to their powerful neighbor.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario warned his peers at the regional meeting in Malaysia that China’s unabated reclamation in Philippine-claimed territory in the South China Sea, based on a fairy tale “Nine dash line” if not stopped, will irreparably alter the status quo and render moot diplomatic initiatives in the region.
Del Rosario warned that if the ASEAN, which will launch the integrated ASEAN Community in 2016, fails to act on the reclamation of most of the islands, reefs and atolls of the Kalayaan Island Group, that their failure would undermine the solidarity and credibility of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Is it not time for ASEAN to say to our northern neighbor that what it is doing is wrong and that the massive reclamations must be immediately stopped?” Del Rosario told his counterparts at the summit.
Malaysia, this year’s ASEAN chair, rejected the Philippines’ proposal for a stronger statement against China.
Malaysia instead came up with a draft of the statement that says, “We share the concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamation being undertaken in the South China Sea, which has eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea.”
“In this regard we instructed our foreign ministers to address this matter constructively under the framework of ASEAN-China relation.”
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It’s just too bad that no one could do anything to save Mary Jane Veloso from an Indonesian firing squad. Our President, the Vice President and the Foreign Secretary were all in Kuala Lumpur to meet with the ASEAN leaders.
Aquino asked Indonesian President Widodo for clemency for Velosow when they met at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit but Widodo would not budge.
Veloso and nine other drug convicts, were scheduled to be be executed today.
“Once I am there, I will try to speak to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to appeal once more for her case,” Aquino said before boarding his plane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.
Veloso, 30, a single mother of two boys, was arrested in 2010 with 2.9 kilograms of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase. She said she went to Indonesia for a job as a maid and was duped by an international drug syndicate.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Indonesian leader not to carry out the executions, saying international law limits crimes punishable by capital punishment.
The UN chief said the death penalty “should only be imposed for the most serious crimes, namely those involving intentional killing, and only with appropriate safeguards.”
French President Francois Hollande has warned of diplomatic consequences if their compatriot is executed, and said Saturday that there could be possible economic fallout as well.
Indonesia has strict drug laws and often executes smugglers. More than 130 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes. About a third of them are foreigners.
In January, six convicted drug smugglers – from Brazil, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Nigeria and Malawi –were executed at the same time.
Indonesia’s attorney general’s office notified Veloso and the nine others that their executions will be carried out within days, ignoring appeals by the UN chief and foreign leaders to spare them.
The executions by firing squad eill be carried oout in Besi prison on Nusakambangan Island.
Indonesian foreign ministry officials have met with representatives from six countries with citizens facing execution amid appeals for them not to push through with executions.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said Indonesian authorities allowed Veloso’s family and her lawyers to visit her on Nusakambangan Island.
Jose said a letter notice of execution was served Saturday to Veloso but she and her representatives refused to sign it pending the appeal for second judicial review.
The Philippines’ second appeal filed Friday before the Indonesia’s Supreme Court for a judicial review on Veloso’s case included a report from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) claiming that Veloso is not a drug trafficker but a victim of human trafficking.
PDEA said several charges have been filed against Veloso’s alleged recruiter, Maria Cristina Sergio, who reportedly stashed the heroin in Veloso’s suitcase.
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As the biggest-ever boxing promotion between Manny Pacquiao and the undefeated Floyd Mayweather nears, one gets the feeling that our Champion, the congressman from Sarangani may just surprise everyone by winning the bout. If he does, the winning streak of Maywather ends at 47 and he would not have tied the record of former undefeated Heavyweaight champion Rocky Marciano of 50 wins. Marciano died in a plane crash.
Manny would certainly be a better champion than Mayweather could ever be. Mayweather is a braggart and not at all anyone’s idea of what a world champion in any sport ought to be. If the Filipino champion wins, that would be a great day for us for boxing and for the world. Hopefully, however, it will not further encourage Manny to try for even higher office than Congressman. One hopes he never runs for President of this country because, if he does, most probably, he will win.
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# # # #Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at email@example.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.