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Duterte: ICC case vs Xi won’t strain PH-China ties

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, March 22nd, 2019

FILE PHOTO: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping of People’s Republic of China pose for a photo prior to their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace on November 20, 2018. | PCOO\King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte remains positive that the stronger diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China will not be jeopardized by the case filed against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Duterte expressed the remark on Thursday (March 21) after two former high-ranking Philippine officials filed a communication against Xi before the ICC for China’s supposedly aggressive militarization and reclamation in the disputed territories in the South China Sea.

“No, I’m sure it won’t,” Duterte said when asked if the case would affect the ties between the two countries at the sidelines of the 122nd Anniversary celebration of the Philippine Army in Taguig City.

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario filed the complaint on behalf of Filipino fishermen allegedly injured and persecuted by China’s “most massive, near permanent and devastating destruction of the environment on humanity’s history” in the South China Sea.

Carpio-Morales and Del Rosario also accused Xi and other Chinese officials of committing crimes against humanity for implementing “systematic plan to control the South China Sea.”

The complainants said that China’s “atrociously inhumane actions” that “adversely affects and injures not only myriad groups of vulnerable fishermen, including 320,000 Filipino fishermen, but also present and future generations of people across nations” remain unpunished.

“They are entitled to file the case. They are Filipino citizens and I think we’ll just also have to defend our position vis-à-vis sa kanila. They think they have a good case and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China,” Duterte said.

“The Philippines is a democratic country and anybody can bring a suit against anybody, but whether or not it would prosper, or whether or not we have the jurisdiction, that’s something else,” he added.– Robie de Guzman (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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Duterte back in China for 2019 Belt and Road Forum

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Thursday, April 25th, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte receives a warm welcome from People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping prior to the start of the bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on April 25, 2019. (KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

President Rodrigo Duterte is back in China for the 4th time since he assumed the presidency.

The president is among the 37 international government and state leaders in attendance at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that kicked off in Beijing.

In his arrival speech, the President said he sees the establishment of more “high-quality” and “good-impact” projects between the Philippines and China, adding that the sooner they are completed, the sooner the people will feel the benefits of the relations of the two countries.

The President made this remark before he sat down with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the forum.

The President also expressed hope that the two countries will work together to explore new areas of cooperation and partnership.

“We look forward to a productive discussion on matters of mutual interest and concern,” Duterte said.

The President also thanked the Chinese leader for his personal invitation to the forum, which he believes is a chance to further strengthen ties.

Duterte further said, “the forum provides another opportunity to renew and reaffirm our valued relations based on mutual trust, respect, and friendship and must continue to grow strength and meaning in the coming years.”

Duterte also attended the 1st Belt and Road Forum in May 2017.  –Maris Federez

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Senators: PH patrimonial assets not up for China loan collateral

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

This magnificent stretch of the Chico River in Brgy. Katabbogan, Pinukpuk, Kalinga will be the source of the P4.37 Billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, which aims to irrigate 8,700 hectares in Kalinga and Cagayan.Emerging from the slopes of Mt. Data of Bauko, Mountain Province, the Chico River, the most extensive river in the Cordilleras; traverse through several municipalities of Mountain Province and Kalinga before it merges with the Cagayan River. | Courtesy: National Irrigation Administration

MANILA, Philippines – Some senators believe that it is unlikely for the Philippines to default on its loans to China.

This is following concerns raised by some groups that China could seize natural resources in the hotly contested territories in the West Philippine Sea, if the Philippines fails to pay its loan obligations.

Last week, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that the infrastructure loan agreement with China could put the country at a disadvantage.

Carpio claims the loan deal for the $62-million Chico River Irrigation project allows China to seize gas-rich Recto Bank (also known as Reed Bank) if the Philippines is unable to pay for its debts.

READ: Philippines at a disadvantage over Chico River deal

But Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon explained that the Philippines automatically pays its debts because the Presidential Decree No. 1177 mandates the automatic appropriations for annual debt servicing.

“So that provision on patrimonial property being held to pay for these debts will never happen,” he said.

Lacson also echoed Drilon’s statement, however, he does not agree with any loan provision that puts up any Philippine natural resources as collateral.

“But to say that the patrimonial assets could be collateralized, I think it’s wrong. In that case I disagree,” he said.

Malacañang has earlier said that the government has no plans of declaring Reed Bank as a patrimonial asset of the Philippines.

However, Carpio noted that under the Oil and Exploration Development Act of 1972, the Energy Department has already granted a service contract to exploit gas on the reed bank.

The move, Carpio said, made the oil and gas deposits in the area as the country’s patrimonial assets.

Patrimonial assets refer to government-owned properties which are not for public use, but are alienable and disposable.

A law is necessary to convert a public property to patrimonial asset.

Constitutional Law Expert Prof. Tony La Viña agreed with Carpio’s stance.

“He is correct. We converted potential oil resources into patrimonial assets. We already collateralized it in our commercial transactions,” La Viña said

La Viña has long been studying the government’s loan agreements, noting that the provision on patrimonial assets as collateral has always been stated in deals made with China.

“They really want collateral, but it’s not a standard when it comes to other foreign loan deals. Let’s be clear about that. That’s why China already took over ports, airports. They take over what are called patrimonial assets,” he said.

According to reports, Sri Lanka is one of the countries that had fallen into china’s debt trap. Chinese State-owned companies allegedly took over its strategic airport, the Hambantota, after it failed to pay its over $1 billion debt.  

Djibouti in East Africa was also reported to be in danger of falling into debt trap, with China poised to take control of its ports.          

The Department of Finance and Malacañang have insisted that the government did not offer any of the country’s natural resources as collateral for the loan deals it took with China. – Robie de Guzman (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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Panelo sorry for hurting Miriam kin but…

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday apologized to the sister of the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago for his remark that the latter’s election as International Criminal Court (ICC) Judge was void.

In a press briefing at the Malacañang, Panelo apologized for hurting her feelings. However, he stood by his earlier position that the late Senator’s election to the ICC was void as the Philippines was never under the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

On Monday, Defensor-Santiago’s sister, Dr. Linn Defensor-Evangelista slammed Panelo’s statement, saying it is “deeply disturbing when politics enters the realm of a person’s life and personal achievement.”

She also denounced the spokesman’s words as “immoral and extremely disrespectful” considering that her sister is no longer around to defend herself.

“To say that the Philippine membership in the ICC is not valid and that Miriam was not a valid ICC judge is irresponsible, offensive and full of malice,” she added.

Santiago was elected as ICC judge in 2011 but gave up the post due to health condition. She passed away in 2016.

Evangelista also called on Panelo to apologize and withdraw such statement.

“I am beyond upset; this is a cowardly attack and an evil attempt to undermine that which is true. I have been a close witness to Miriam’s hard work and dedication,” she said.

“Despite her encyclopedic knowledge of constitutional and international law, she continued to learn and affirm her knowledge by constant learning- waking up really early or staying up all night to read books, documents, opinions and intelligent discourse,” she added.

But Panelo said his earlier statement was only misunderstood, stressing that he is an admirer and a friend of the late senator.

“I’m apologizing for hurting her but I think the concern and the hurt is misplaced. I am an admirer and a friend of the late Miriam Defensor Santiago,” he said.

Panelo stood firm that the Rome Statute, which created the ICC, was never formally enforced in the country as it was not published on a newspaper or the Official Gazette, as required for it to become a law.

“What I said if the theory is that we were never under the jurisdiction of the ICC, it goes without saying, that’s the logic, any appointment to international court would be void,” he added.

Panelo said Santiago’s appointment was only seen as valid then because of the perception that the Philippines was under the ICC.

He added that Santiago was very much qualified to be a justice because she had the credentials.

“But the problem is, prior to the assumption of the president, nobody knew that we were never under the jurisdiction of the ICC. Everybody took for granted that we signed a treaty that we were under the jurisdiction of the ICC,” he said.

The country formally withdrew from the tribunal on March 17, a year after President Rodrigo Duterte announced his decision in response to ICC’s move to launch a preliminary examination on alleged abuses under his campaign against illegal drugs. – Robie de Guzman

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