PH gov’t urged to suspend issuance of all visas to visitors from Wuhan, other nCoV-hit Chinese areas

Robie de Guzman   •   January 29, 2020   •   733

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to suspend the issuance of all visas to visitors from Wuhan and other parts of China reported to have been hit by the spread of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan renewed his call for the suspension of visa issuances to Chinese nationals as the deadly virus continues to spread rapidly.

“Visa upon arrival lang ang suspended para sa mga Chinese. Yung tours, delegates, at businessmen, tulad nung cruise ships sa Subic, tuloy-tuloy pa. Dapat lahat,” Pangilinan said, referring to a cruise ship carrying close to 1,000 Chinese tourists that arrived in Manila from Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The cruise ship M/V World Dream and its 778 passengers were authorized to travel by the Bureau of Quarantine after it was declared cleared and safe during a mandatory inspection.

The ship was supposed to arrive at Subic Bay on Wednesday but it decided to cancel its arrival and head back to Hong Kong after residents and local officials in Olongapo protested the scheduled port call.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday, January 28 announced the temporary suspension of visa upon arrival (VUA) issuance for Chinese nationals following concerns on the spread of the novel coronavirus in China and other countries.

The bureau said the move aims to slowdown the influx of Chinese group tours in the Philippines, and possibly help prevent the entry of the new coronavirus strain. However, it clarified that there is no order yet barring Chinese nationals from entering the country.

Pangilinan also questioned the “unequal treatment” for Filipino and Chinese travelers after the Department of Health (DOH) said it would quarantine Filipinos who will be repatriated from China.

“But what is the rule for the thousands of Chinese arrivals? Bakit mga turistang Chinese galing China sakay ng cruise ship as per Bureau of Quarantine at Coast Guard, walang quarantine?” he said.

“DoH at Malacañang, kumilos kayo agad at huwag papasukin ang mga turista galing ng China habang nariyan ang outbreak,” he added.

Pangilinan also said that as of Tuesday, even Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and have since expanded the travel ban to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million people.

Aside from China, he said Malaysia has suspended the issuance of visas for Chinese citizens from Wuhan and the areas around Hubei province to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV).

He also noted that the US State Department has issued a travel advisory to “reconsider travel to China due to novel coronavirus,” while the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warning Level 3 urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China, and Level 4 which means a ban on travel to Hubei province.

Chinese National Health Commission on Wednesday reported that the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has reached 5,974 as the death toll rose to 132.

The current figure of 2019-nCoV infection in mainland China has overtaken the 5,327 reported number of people infected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2002-2003. SARS outbreak killed more than 770 people globally, including 349 in China.

Statements of ‘alter-egos’ also reflect Duterte’s stand on West PH Sea issue — Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   April 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Monday said there is no need for President Rodrigo Duterte to speak on China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea, saying the strong statements of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND) also reflects the president’s stance on the issue.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement to dispel notions that Duterte has been silent on the reported number of Chinese vessels still lingering in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“Doctrine of qualified political doctrine, kapag po hindi dini-dis-own ng president ang mga sinasabi ng kaniyang mga alter-egos, parang siya na po ang nagsasalita, hindi na kailangang siya ang magsalita,” Roque said in an online briefing.

The Palace official was referring to a Constitutional Doctrine which states that “utterances of alter egos are utterances of the President unless the president renounces them.”

Roque also reiterated that Duterte already stressed the importance of the 2016 Hague Ruling on the West Philippine Sea and that the Philippines will not set aside the landmark decision.

The National Task Force-West Philippine Sea earlier reported that at least 240 Chinese vessels were found lingering in various parts of the West Philippine Sea during its latest sovereignty patrols in the area.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier demanded the immediate withdrawal of the remaining Chinese vessels in the Julian Felipe Reef, telling the ships to sail away and for the Chinese to “leave our sovereign territories and abide by the international law.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also repeatedly fired off diplomatic protests and called for the immediate withdrawal of Chinese vessels in the disputed waters.

Palace cites recent responses to tensions in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday cited the Philippine government’s recent responses to the developments in the West Philippine Sea following calls for China to withdraw its vessels spotted in various parts of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government has repeatedly filed diplomatic protests and deployed more ships for maritime patrols in the contested waters in an attempt to peacefully settle the issue.

Roque also said that the National Task Force on West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) “has always been consistent” in invoking Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

He further stated that President Rodrigo Duterte already stressed the importance of the 2016 Hague Ruling on the West Philippine Sea and that the Philippines will not set aside the landmark decision.

“President Rodrigo Duterte underscored the importance of 2016 Arbitral Ruling before the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly,” he said, referring to Duterte’s virtual attendance to the UNGA session in September last year.

It can be recalled that during the UN assembly, Duterte asserted the Philippines’ rights over the disputed waters even if China continues to ignore the ruling.

Roque also noted that the Department of Foreign Affairs has earlier filed an appropriate diplomatic protest against China and summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian over the Julian Felipe Reef situation.

He also said that the presence of Philippine maritime security and law enforcement forces have been stepped up in the municipality of Kalayaan to protect Filipino fishermen and the marine resources.

Roque issued the statement after Filipino business groups joined the call on China to withdraw its maritime militia and Navy vessels in the Philippines’ EEZ.

The NTF-WPS earlier reported that at least 240 Chinese vessels were found lingering in various parts of the West Philippine Sea during its latest sovereignty patrols in the area.

NTF-WPS: Over 200 Chinese vessels still in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — An estimated 240 Chinese vessels continue to linger in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the NTF-WPS denounced the continuous swarming in the West Philippine Sea by the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia which are claimed by Chinese authorities to be ordinary fishing vessels.

The NTF-WPS said that its sovereignty patrols conducted on April 11 observed an estimated 240 Chinese vessels in the Philippines’ territorial waters.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Command (WesCom) reported the presence of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the territorial waters of the Municipality of Kalayaan, Province of Palawan, and the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The AFP-WesCom said that the Chinese vessels were found in the following areas:

  • 136 vessels at Burgos (Gaven) Reef
  • 9 vessels at Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun)
  • 65 at Chigua (McKennan) Reef
  • 6 at Panganiban (Mischief) Reef
  • 3 at Zamora (Subi) Reef
  • 4 at the Pagasa (Thitu) Islands
  • 1 at Likas (West York) Island
  • 5 ay Kota (Loaita) Island
    11 at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal

“These 240 CMM vessels, now dispersed at the Pagkakaisa (Union) Banks and Pagasa Islands are about 60 meters in length. A minimum estimate that each can catch one ton of fish amounts to a conservative total of 240,000 kilos of fish illegally taken from Philippine waters every single day that the massed Chinese fishing vessels remain in the West Philippine Sea,” the NTF-WPS said.

“These acts fall under illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” it added.

The task force also said that an earlier patrol conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard observed Chinese poachers collecting giant clams in the vicinity of the Pagasa Islands. The poachers quickly departed when approached by the Philippine Coast Guard.

“This act is a blatant violation of Philippine fisheries and wildlife laws, and the Convention International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),” the NTF-WPS said.

Also spotted during the sovereignty patrol were the following People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels – two Houbei class missile warships at Panganiban Reef, one Corvette class warship at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef, and one Navy Tugboat at Zamora Reef. Further, two CCG vessels were seen in the territorial sea of the Pagasa Islands.

Additional monitoring by the AFP reported two PLAN, three Chinese Coast Guard, and 10 maritime militia vessels at Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough) Shoal. All these warships of the PLA Navy contribute to the militarization of the area.

The NTF-WPS said the combined presence of PLAN warships, CCG, and CMM in the Municipality of Kalayaan and the Philippine EEZ is “prejudicial to the peace and security of the region.”

“The continuous swarming of Chinese vessels poses a threat to the safety of navigation, safety of life at sea, and impedes the exclusive right of Filipinos to benefit from the marine wealth in the EEZ,” it said.

“The Philippine government reiterates its demand upon China to withdraw all its vessels from the Municipality of Kalayaan and the Philippine EEZ,” it added.

The NTF-WPS further called on China to respect Philippine sovereignty.

“In keeping with its role as a development partner, China should take the Philippine representations seriously and respect Philippine sovereignty, rights, and interests in consonance with the further strengthening of Philippine-China bilateral relations,” it said.

The NTF-WPS’ intensified maritime operations in the West Philippine Sea follow the recent escalation of disputes over the resource-rich waters in March after the Philippine military spotted more than 200 Chinese boats at the Julian Felipe Reef.

China claimed that the area is part of its traditional fishing ground and that the vessels there were not maritime militia vessels but fishing boats that were only seeking temporary shelter due to rough sea conditions.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said it has summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to explain the lingering presence of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

The DFA has repeatedly fired off diplomatic protest and called for the immediate withdrawal of the vessels.

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