Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Encircling China: Filipino Front

Need to fortify it first:

"US and Philippines, united by China, ramp up military alliance" by Floyd Whaley New York Times  April 13, 2016

MANILA — After a rocky patch of 25 years, the United States and the Philippines will solidify a new, increasingly complex military relationship this week, driven partly by China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea.

A new agreement that allows the United States to build facilities at five Philippine military bases will spread more US troops, planes, and ships across the island nation than have been here in decades.

Joint military exercises this week and the arrival Wednesday of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will allow the two countries to show off their cozy relations and will include events rich in military symbolism.

Carter is scheduled to observe the firing of a long-range missile system, one that could cover all the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea if needed, though the United States has not confirmed that the missiles will be deployed here. Carter will also tour the location of a planned US military facility on the edge of disputed waters with China.

Analysts say the resurrected US presence could tilt the balance of power in this part of the South China Sea.

The Philippines currently defends its claims in the sea with two nearly 50-year-old former US Coast Guard cutters, which sometimes break down, and two fighter jets. This allows China to control territory, build artificial islands, and chase off Filipino fishermen with little risk.

The new agreement could change that.

“The Chinese goal is not to pick a fight,” said Gregory B. Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, based in Washington. “The Chinese goal is to put enough pressure that someone else blinks first.

That's the U.S. government's job.

The Philippines has been a strategic partner with the United States since World War II, and it is one of the oldest US allies in Asia. For decades, it hosted major US military bases at Subic Bay and Clark air base.

But in a wave of nationalist sentiment, Philippine lawmakers ejected the US military from the country in 1991.

And now we're baaaaaack!

Years of strained military relations followed, but the two countries have come together in recent years over concerns about China.

Carter said last week that the United States would also provide about $40 million in military aid to the Philippines to be used in part to improve the country’s patrol vessels, as well as to operate unmanned surveillance blimps that can watch over the islands controlled by the Philippines in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, a 1.4-million-square-mile expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The country says it is entitled to shoals and islets also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam, as well as much of what the Philippines says is its exclusive economic zone. Beijing has asserted its right to these areas in part by reclaiming land and building fortified artificial islands with military facilities.

The Philippines has sought international arbitration on the dispute, which could yield a decision in the next few weeks.... 

It has, and Laos.


"US sending commandos, combat aircraft to Philippines" by Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press  April 15, 2016

MANILA, Philippines — In a military buildup certain to inflame tensions with China, the United States said Thursday it will send troops and combat aircraft to the Philippines for regular, more frequent rotations, and will conduct more joint sea and air patrols with Philippine forces in the South China Sea.

The announcement by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in a news conference with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was the first time the United States disclosed that its ships had carried out sea patrols with the Philippines in the South China Sea, a somewhat rare move not done with many other partners in the region.

Carter insisted that the United States did not intend to be provocative and was ‘‘trying to tamp down tensions here.’’ But Gazmin said he expected that US forces, ‘‘with their presence here, will deter uncalled-for actions by the Chinese.’’

How would AmeriKan leaders take it if China was moving stuff into the Mexican side of the Gulf? 

I'm sure it would be leading my news,  and the pre$$ would be screaming for war.

The increased troop presence is part of a broader US campaign to expand its assistance to the Philippines as America shores up its allies in the Asia-Pacific that are roiled by China’s building of man-made islands in the South China Sea. While the military boost does not include permanent basing for US troops, China views any increased US military presence and activities in the region as a threat.

Can't imagine why they would?

‘‘Military exchanges by relevant countries should not target third parties, much less support a few countries in challenging China’s sovereignty and security, inciting regional contradictions and sabotaging regional peace and stability,’’ the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement in response to Carter’s announcement.

Carter said the United States will keep nearly 300 troops, including Air Force special operations forces armed with combat aircraft and helicopters, in the Philippines through the end of the month. The United States will increase troop rotations to strengthen training and support increased military operations in the region.

Speaking in the guest house of the presidential complex, Carter said the joint patrols will improve the Philippine navy and ‘‘contribute to the safety and security of the region’s waters.’’ Two patrols have taken place since March. The United States also has conducted joint patrols with Japan in the region.

Carter has said that China’s increased aggression in the region is compelling more countries to reach out to the United States, strengthening their military ties with Washington.

The increase in military support comes days after the Philippines’ ambassador to the United States asked the Obama administration to help persuade China not to build in the nearby Scarborough Shoal, which is viewed as important to Philippine fishermen. Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. said the Philippines cannot stop China from building there. China has built man-made islands in other contested spots in the South China Sea.

Charlito Maniago, the leader of a northwestern Philippine village where many fishermen lost access to the disputed Scarborough Shoal after China seized it in 2012, said the joint patrols will bring hope that fishermen can again sail freely to the rich fishing ground.

‘‘This will boost the confidence of our fishermen because they think the United States has the capability to defend them,’’ Maniago told the Associated Press by telephone from the coastal village of Cato in Pangasinan province. ‘‘The presence of America will make China think twice.’’

Thank the Lord they do because this could so quickly escalate into a shooting war between ships.

The Pentagon said the US forces that will remain in the Philippines are already participating in the Balikatan, or shoulder-to-shoulder combat exercises, that will end Friday. About 200 airmen, including special operations forces, will remain at Clark Air Base, along with three of their Pave Hawk attack helicopters, an MC-130H Combat Talon II special mission aircraft and five A-10 combat aircraft.

This initial contingent will provide training to increase the two militaries’ ability to work together, laying the groundwork for forces to perform joint air patrols.

Up to 75 Marines will stay at Camp Aguinaldo to support increased US and Philippine combined military operations.

The troops and aircraft are expected to leave at the end of April, but other US forces and aircraft would do similar rotations into the Philippines routinely in the future.


Then disaster. A presidential election:

"Philippine mayor draws huge crowd in show of force before vote" by Teresa Cerojano Associated Press  May 07, 2016

MANILA — The outspoken city mayor who is the front-runner in the Philippine presidential race drew the largest crowd Saturday as the candidates held their final rallies, despite efforts by the president to block his election bid over fears he could threaten the country’s democracy.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it, Americans?

After crisscrossing the archipelago nation, the five presidential candidates, led by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, converged in the vote-rich capital, Manila, as three months of bruising campaigning came to an end ahead of Monday’s election.

About 300,000 people turned up at Duterte’s rally at a historic grandstand by Manila Bay where presidential inaugurations have been held, according to an initial police estimate. Crowds at the other candidates’ gatherings were much smaller based on police counts.

‘‘All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,’’ Duterte told the huge crowd, using his typically coarse style of speaking. He said he would risk his life to fulfill a bold promise to end crime and corruption within months if he wins.

He probably is risking his life by even running.

‘‘I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots,’’ he said as the crowd cheered.

At the end of his speech, Duterte tried to shift from his crude demeanor, promising that if he wins, ‘‘I’ll be decent.’’

Duterte’s jubilant allies declared that the election was all but decided.

Ronald Holmes, president of independent pollster Pulse Asia, however, said the race, one of the most closely fought in the country’s electoral history, remained too tight to call.

Duterte’s lead of 11 percentage points over former interior secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe in Pulse Asia’s final poll would be difficult to overtake, but it can still be ‘‘wiped out’’ depending on sudden loyalty shifts by voters, Holmes said by phone.

On the eve of the final day of campaigning, President Benigno Aquino III made a desperate call on candidates to agree to an alliance to defeat the brash Duterte, who has been likened to US Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump for his provocative remarks but has topped election polls.

You said it; I didn't!

Duterte’s lead in the polls can be overcome if his trailing rivals — mainly Roxas and Poe — join hands, Aquino said, implying that some of them should back out and support a single aspirant.

Under the Philippine electoral system, a candidate who gets the most votes is proclaimed the winner, even if no one gets a majority.

Poe, however, refused an invitation by Roxas, who is backed by Aquino, to meet and discuss an arrangement where she would be forced to back out. Vice President Jejomar Binay also said he would not step aside. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who has trailed far behind in the polls, said she would never surrender.

Duterte’s camp said calls for an alliance against him ‘‘reeks of stench of defeat.’’

‘‘It’s an admission that a victory by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has virtually become inevitable,’’ said the mayor’s national campaign manager, Leoncio Evasco Jr.

A longtime mayor of southern Davao city, Duterte, 71, courted controversy with his profanity-laden speeches, vulgar jokes, and devil-may-care irreverence, but has successfully tapped into public insecurities with a bold promise to wipe out crime and corruption in three to six months if he is elected.

The national police chief has doubted that campaign promise. Police have issued statistics showing Davao city, where Duterte has served as mayor for more than 22 years, placed fourth among 15 major Philippine cities with the highest number of crimes from 2010 to 2015.

‘‘I thought he was like Batman and Superman combined,’’ Aquino said sarcastically of Duterte’s anticrime pledge.

Aquino, business executives, and church leaders felt that Duterte crossed the line when he joked about wanting to have been the first to rape an Australian missionary who was gang-raped and brutally killed by inmates in a 1989 jail riot.


"Tough-talking Philippine mayor set to be new president" by Jim Gomez Associated Press  May 09, 2016

MANILA — A mayor who has pledged to kill suspected criminals and end crime within six months looked set to become the next president of the Philippines after taking an unassailable lead in an unofficial vote count in Monday’s elections.

The son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had a narrow lead in the vice presidential race.

Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor of southern Davao city, had secured more than 14.4 million votes, according to a count of 87 percent of precincts nationwide. The closest of his four main rivals — the former interior secretary, Mar Roxas — had 8.6 million votes. Final results are expected Tuesday.

‘‘We can call it now because the gap got so big relative to the maximum the No. 2 can get’’ of the remaining votes, said William Yu of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. The group is accredited by the Commission on Elections to conduct the unofficial ‘‘quick count.’’

A victory by Duterte would amount to a massive political shift in the Philippines. Starting as an outsider, Duterte built his popularity with radical pledges to eliminate poverty and end corruption and crime.

Yes, not a toady of the U.S. like the previous puppet.  Thus he is getting the Trump treatment.

He has a reputation for fighting crime as mayor of Davao for 22 years, but has been accused of ordering extrajudicial killings to achieve that.

On the last day of campaigning Saturday, he made clear he intends to continue his hard-line approach.

‘‘I will really kill you,’’ Duterte, 71, a former prosecutor, said of drug pushers. ‘‘I have no patience, I have no middle ground, either you kill me or I will kill you idiots.’’

Statements such as that have won him the nickname ‘‘Duterte Harry,’’ a reference to the Clint Eastwood movie character ‘‘Dirty Harry’’ who had little regard for rules. He has also been compared to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate.

Duterte is known for jokes about sex and rape, talking often about his Viagra-fueled sexual escapades, and for undiplomatic remarks about Australia, the United States, and China.

He has threatened to dismiss the Philippine Congress and form a revolutionary government if he is confronted with uncooperative legislators.

Benigno Aquino III, the outgoing president, tried to discourage Filipinos from voting for Duterte over fears the mayor may endanger the country’s hard-fought democracy and squander economic gains of the last six years, when the Philippine economy grew at an average of 6.2 percent, one of the best rates in Asia.

But on election day, with opinion polls giving him the best chance to win, Duterte reached out to his opponents.

‘‘Let us be friends,’’ he said at a news conference. ‘‘Let us begin the process of healing.’’

Among the other presidential candidates, Senator Grace Poe had 8.1 million votes and Vice President Jejomar Binay had 4.8 million, according to the partial unofficial results.

In the vice presidential race, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator who ruled the Philippines from 1972 until he was ousted in 1986 in a ‘‘people power’’ revolt, led with 12.6 million votes in the unofficial count.

That people power revolt was rigged by the CIA. 

Bill Casey told Marcos you gotta go. He refused, and then.... voila!


I'm going to withhold judgement on him for now until we see how his administration plays out:

"Rodrigo Duterte’s rivals concede in Philippine election" by Richard C. Paddock and Floyd Whaley New York Times  May 11, 2016

MANILA — As mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte sometimes drove a taxi at night, to see firsthand what was happening in his city. On other occasions, when his car got stuck in a traffic jam, he would jump out and try to untangle the mess personally, said Luzviminda Ilagan, a former member of Davao’s city council.

Duterte, who is all but certain to be the Philippines’ next president, is known for a disregard for civil rights and made international headlines with off-color remarks about subjects like rape. But he also has a reputation for a hands-on style of leadership, one that has endeared him to many Filipinos and helps to explain his success in the Monday election.

“He is perceived as a very strong personality with ideas to put immediately into action,” said Ilagan, who has known Duterte for more than 30 years. “He is willing to try anything new. He is not afraid to be innovative. And he is not afraid to go against the traditional way.”

With more than 92 percent of the votes counted Tuesday, Duterte appeared to have an unbeatable lead in the presidential race. Unofficial returns showed him with nearly 39 percent of the vote, putting him more than 15 percentage points ahead of his closest competitor.

“It’s with humility, extreme humility, that I accept this, the mandate of the people,” the Agence France-Presse news agency quoted Duterte as saying early Tuesday as the returns were coming in. “I feel a sense of gratitude to the Filipino people.”

Duterte visited his mother’s grave and cried early Tuesday, according to video posted on YouTube.

Both of Duterte’s top rivals, former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe, had conceded by Tuesday afternoon. “Digong, I wish you success,” Roxas, who had been polling in second place, said Tuesday, referring to Duterte by his nickname and acknowledging that he had won.

Poe, who at one point had been leading in the polls, conceded Monday night, saying she had telephoned Duterte to congratulate him. “I promise to join in the healing of our nation and to unify our countrymen for the sake of our country’s progress,” she said.

In the Philippines, candidates for the highest offices need only a plurality to win, and it is common for victors to receive less than 40 percent of the vote.

During the campaign, Duterte touted his record in making Davao safe from crime using extreme measures, saying last year his crime-fighting strategy was “kill them all.” If elected, he said recently, he would aggressively pursue those who break the law, vowing to kill them himself and grant himself a presidential pardon.

Duterte has been accused of having ties to death squads that carried out extrajudicial killings in Davao during one of his previous terms as mayor, in the 1990s. In a television interview during the presidential campaign, he appeared to confirm his involvement in the killing of criminals in Davao. Some in Davao have praised his approach, saying that the police in the city know that they have to do their jobs.

At a campaign rally, he made light of the rape and murder of an Australian missionary during a 1989 prison riot in Davao, when Duterte was mayor. He later apologized.

Such language has offended many, but Duterte’s blunt talk has also resonated with Filipinos who have become tired of the more measured tones of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Yeah, the status quo establishment campaigned agains this and got shellacked.

Aquino, who was barred by term limits from seeking reelection, has voiced alarm about the prospect of a Duterte presidency, saying it was tantamount to a return to the dictatorship of the Ferdinand Marcos years. He had called on other candidates to unite to defeat Duterte, but none agreed.

Despite strong economic growth and resurgent foreign investment, the Philippines still has high levels of poverty and unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and a raging war in the southern part of the country against insurgents and kidnap-for-ransom gangs.

Filipinos cast their ballots separately for president and vice president, and in late counting on Tuesday in the vice-presidential race, Maria Leonor Robredo, a member of the House of Representatives, had overtaken Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the former dictator, by a slim margin.

Marcos, known by his nickname Bongbong, was seeking a return to national prominence for the family name. His father, who was backed by the United States, was forced from office by the “people power” movement in 1986. Robredo was leading Marcos by fewer than 200,000 votes out of some 40 million cast.

In the Senate contest, the retired boxer Manny Pacquiao was running eighth and appeared likely to win one of 12 open seats.

Duterte’s spokesman, Peter Lavina, said at a news conference that the new president would attempt to change the constitution and shift power to the regions while trying to negotiate peace with rebel groups that have long battled the central government.

Ilagan, the former Davao city council member, who also served in Congress, said she believed that Duterte’s willingness to be frank and spontaneous made him the kind of leader who could bring an end to the conflicts.

I'll bet that is not what the U.S. wants to see.

“He expresses what others are not able to say in polite society,” she said. “He is friendly and open to all sides, which is exciting for his presidency.”


"Aquino’s legacy in Philippines clouded by Duterte win" by Jim Gomez Associated Press  May 12, 2016

MANILA — Philippine leader Benigno Aquino III had called this week’s election a referendum on his ‘‘straight path’’ style of reformist governance, but his candidate lost by millions of votes to a shoot-from-the-lip mayor.

And if the vice presidency goes to a son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted 30 years ago by a revolt led by Aquino’s mother, that will cloud the political legacy of a family that has been regarded as a bulwark against authoritarianism.

Aquino campaigned against tough-talking Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has won the presidency by a wide margin based on the unofficial count, and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., warning both could be looming dictators. He said they could set back the country’s democracy and economic momentum achieved in his six-year term, which ends in June. 

I'm getting the message loud and clear.

Aquino, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a second term, remains popular — indeed, his approval ratings are among the highest for a departing Philippine president in the post-Marcos dictatorship era. But the rise of Duterte, whose tough talk has reinforced perceptions that he could become a strongman, is a reality check on the extent of public dissatisfaction and perceived failures during the reformist Aquino’s watch.

The disaffection may have been felt mostly by the growing middle class, said Julio Teehankee, dean of a college dealing with political science and international relations at Manila’s De La Salle University.

Under Aquino, the government expanded a program that provides cash to the poorest of the poor in exchange for commitments by parents to ensure their children would attend classes and receive government health care. Big business, meanwhile, benefited from government partnership deals that allowed them to finance major infrastructure projects such as highways and airports for long-term gain.

‘‘The middle class,’’ Teehankee said, ‘‘felt shortchanged.’’

He said they must endure maddening traffic by land and air, infrastructure problems, taxes that are high relative to the Philippines’ neighbors and even what’s known as the ‘‘bullet drop racket.’’ Many travelers have accused Manila airport personnel of slipping bullets into their luggage, then extorting money from them in exchange for not being criminally prosecuted.

Aquino won a landslide victory in 2010 on a promise to fight corruption and poverty, which afflicts more than a fourth of the more than 100 million Filipinos. 

We had the same over here in 2000.

But his victory was also seen as a protest vote because of widespread exasperation with the scandals that rocked the presidency of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is currently detained on corruption charges.

Shoe on other foot now.

The expectations were high and while Aquino moved against corruption — detaining Arroyo and three powerful senators over corruption allegations — and initiated antipoverty programs, the problems remain daunting.

Critics have also pounded on what they say were his administration’s bungling of a number of crises, including a Manila bus hostage crisis that ended with the shooting deaths of eight Chinese tourists from Hong Kong by a disgruntled police officer, and delays in recovery efforts in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Aquino backed Mar Roxas in the presidential election. Roxas served as the president’s transport secretary and later interior secretary, leading departments that were regularly criticized.

On the campaign trail, Aquino and Roxas highlighted how the government’s anticorruption drive and other reforms allowed the Philippines to register one of the highest growth rates in Asia from 2010 to last year. Once regarded as the sick man of Asia, they said the country is now considered ‘‘Asia’s bright star.’’

Duterte won voters with promises to wipe out crime and corruption within six months, although police officials say that would be almost impossible to accomplish.

If Marcos becomes vice president, that might be a more bitter pill for Aquino to swallow.

Last February, Aquino evoked horrific memories of Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship in a speech marking the anniversary of the 1986 ‘‘people power’’ revolt led by his mother, Corazon Aquino.

His father, anti-Marcos politician Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated in 1983 while under military custody at the Manila airport, which now bears his name.


She has been cleared:

"Philippine court clears Arroyo of plunder, orders her freed" by Associated Press  July 19, 2016

MANILA — The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plunder case against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and ordered her freed immediately after nearly five years of hospital detention — a decision the grateful ex-leader indicated can help her deal with those who ‘‘through self-serving interpretation and implementation of the law’’ made her suffer.

The 15 justices voted 11-4 to grant Arroyo’s petition seeking to dismiss the case before the special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court because of insufficient evidence, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said. The case involved the alleged misuse of 366 million pesos ($7.8 million) from the state lottery agency, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Arroyo thanked the court ‘‘for finally stopping the persecution I had unjustly gone through the last five years’’ and President Rodrigo Duterte ‘‘for allowing due process to take its course.’’

She released a statement while still detained in the hospital, with the serving of the court’s order for an immediate release apparently delayed by paperwork.

‘‘It is my fervent hope that nobody else will suffer the persecution that had been levied on me through self-serving interpretation and implementation of the law,’’ she said. ‘‘And that the disregard for truth for which I was made to suffer be dealt with accordingly at the soonest possible time.’’

Arroyo was detained under former president Benigno Aquino III, who accused her of corruption and misrule. Aquino’s successor, Duterte, however, has said the plunder case against her was weak. She rejected his offer of a pardon because it would require that she be first convicted, preferring to fight the allegation.

Aquino has not commented on the court decision. But his former justice secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima said the Supreme Court seems to have assumed a role as a ‘‘trier of facts’’ in the case, supplanting the anti-graft court’s assessment when it declared there was insufficient evidence of guilt.

‘‘It’s disappointing,’’ she told reporters. ‘‘Why did they have to wait for the change in administration to issue that ruling?’’


Back to the vice president's office:

"Philippine poll chief to Marcos: Prove vote count anomaly" by Teresa Cerojano Associated Press  May 12, 2016

MANILA — Philippine election officials challenged Senator Ferdinand ‘‘Bongbong’’ Marcos Jr. on Wednesday to prove his allegation of irregularities in the counting of votes for vice president, where he has been overtaken by his closest rival.

After the last 15 years I'm surprised when you don't find any.

They also rejected Marcos’s request for a stop to the unofficial tally by an accredited citizens’ watchdog, which uses the same election returns that are transmitted to the Commission on Elections.

The son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had initially led the partial count by the watchdog known by its acronym PPCRV. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the administration’s candidate, Representative Leni Robredo, was leading by more than 230,000 votes, putting her 0.6 percentage points ahead of Marcos.

The tally is based on results from 95.5 percent of precincts nationwide. Ballots from overseas Filipinos are now considered crucial in the race for vice president.

Rodrigo Duterte, the bombastic mayor of southern Davao city, is poised to become the new president, based on PPCRV results that gave him an unassailable lead.

The official count and proclamation of the president and vice president are done by Congress, which will convene May 24.

If Marcos wins, that would put him a step away from the presidency 30 years after his late father was ousted by a public uprising amid allegations of plunder and widespread human rights abuses.

I hope Détente has reliable and trusted security. 

He might want to avoid military bases for a while.

On Tuesday, Marcos’s campaign adviser, Representative Jonathan dela Cruz, said they sent an urgent request to the Commission on Elections to halt the PPCRV count because it showed ‘‘an alarming and suspicious trend’’ contrary to independent exit polls and the campaign’s estimates.

That's always alarming, yeah.

‘‘These accusations are not true ... we are committed to being impartial, to be neutral,’’ elections commission chairman Andres Bautista said.

He said any complaint would be acted upon based on evidence.


So what is it that Duterte has against the U.S.?

"Mysterious Blast in Philippines Fuels Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘Hatred’ of U.S." by RICHARD C. PADDOCK, MAY 13, 2016

MANILA — For more than a decade, a mysterious explosion at the Evergreen Hotel in Davao City has been a footnote in the long, checkered history between the Philippines and its former colonial master, the United States. But among those who never let it go was the city’s mayor, Rodrigo Duterte — who is now poised to become the Philippines’ new president.

In an interview last year before he announced his candidacy, Mr. Duterte went so far as to acknowledge “hatred” for the United States stemming from the obscure episode, when an American named Michael Terrence Meiring was charged with possession of explosives but managed to flee the Philippines.

Mr. Meiring called himself a treasure hunter and joked about being with the C.I.A., meaning “Christ in Action.” He told the hotel staff not to touch a metal box in his room, apparently with good reason. On May 16, 2002, the box exploded, mangling his legs and damaging the hotel.

Say no more!

But three days later, despite severe injuries and the charges against him, Mr. Meiring vanished from his hospital room. Philippine officials later said that men waving F.B.I. badges had taken him in the dark of night and flown him out of the country without their permission.

Mr. Duterte expressed outrage that the United States would help a criminal suspect leave the country without regard to Philippine law. He also fanned speculation that Mr. Meiring was involved in covert operations conducted by the United States in the Philippines.

Fourteen years later and scheduled to be sworn in as president on June 30, Mr. Duterte is still angry.

I don't blame him!

Last month, he threatened to cut ties with Washington in response to critical comments from the United States ambassador to the Philippines, Philip S. Goldberg. “Go ahead and sever it,” Mr. Duterte snapped, referring to diplomatic relations. His spokesman, Peter Laviña, explained that Mr. Duterte’s hostility originated with the Meiring case.

Now I understand all the rotten pre$$ he was/is getting!

“Mayor Duterte has his own personal experience in Davao,” Mr. Laviña said in a television interview. “We were able to capture a bomber, a suspect in the bombing in Davao. He was an American. He was spirited away by the U.S. Embassy. I think that’s when the bad relations started.”

The Philippines has long been the United States’ closest ally in Southeast Asia. The two nations have a mutual defense pact, and the Philippines recently agreed to allow the Pentagon to station troops and weapons at bases in the country. For more than a decade, American forces have also trained and advised Philippine soldiers hunting the Abu Sayyaf, a gang of rebel kidnappers operating in the southern islands that recently swore allegiance to the Islamic State.

Davao City is the most populous city in the south, and a pair of bombings there killed 38 people in 2003. But Mr. Duterte, its mayor for the past 20 years, has long expressed skepticism about the American military presence. In 2013, he said he had blocked an American proposal to base drones at Davao City’s old airport, citing his concerns about the Meiring case.

“I do not want it,” he was quoted saying in local news media. “I do not want trouble and killings. They will only add to the problem.”

Aides to Mr. Duterte did not respond to requests for comment. But in the interview in which he discussed the case last year, Mr. Duterte said that his “hatred” for the United States was a “personal” sentiment that he could set aside in the national interest. He also said, though, that his anger over the Meiring case had not diminished.

A spokesman for the United States Embassy, Kurt Hoyer, said it would have no comment on the drone proposal, the Meiring affair, or how the episode might affect relations with the incoming president. He said an embassy press statement in 2002 was the final word on the case, but was unable to provide it.

What is up with all that anyway?

In the statement, according to published reports, the embassy acknowledged that F.B.I. agents went to the Evergreen Hotel to investigate the explosion but “categorically” denied that the agency “had any role in Mr. Meiring’s departure.”

The Meiring affair has long been the subject of conspiracy theories in the Philippines.

They just tipped their hand!

Much remains unexplained, including why there were explosives in Mr. Meiring’s room and who mounted the operation that helped him escape.

The print copy I saw left it right there.

“Why should the U.S. take him out of the country? That’s the puzzle,” said a former high-ranking Philippine intelligence official who declined to be identified because he was not directly involved in the case. 

You know that picture on the front of the box showing you what it looks like?

According to news reports, Mr. Meiring had been going to Davao City on the island of Mindanao for many years, usually staying in the same suite at the Evergreen. He had documents allowing him to hunt for treasure — which was believed to have been left by occupying Japanese forces during World War II — and an identity card allowing him to travel in territory held by separatist Islamic rebels.

At the time, the southern Philippines was plagued by armed conflict with the rebels and occasional bombings, including a blast a month earlier that killed 15 people in the city of General Santos, about 90 miles south of Davao City.

When the police first questioned Mr. Meiring about the explosion at the Evergreen, he said someone had thrown a grenade into his room. But investigators quickly found conclusive evidence that the blast was caused by explosives in his room, according to the police file, including the remains of two 6-volt batteries, an electric blasting cap and a circuit board.

Doctors amputated one of Mr. Meiring’s legs, but he was taken from the hospital and flown from Davao by charter plane, the police said at the time. He received medical treatment in Manila and left the country soon after.

Witnesses said that the men who took him from the hospital displayed F.B.I. badges. The hospital’s owner told reporters that he agreed to release Mr. Meiring despite his injuries after American officials promised to issue a work visa for his daughter, a nurse. 

That doesn't mean they were FBI, and in fact it points to CIA.

Mr. Meiring returned to the United States, where he also went by the family name Vande-Meer. He died in 2012 at 76, public records show, without ever telling his story publicly. His former wife, Angela, contacted by phone, declined to discuss his time in the Philippines. 

Oh, I'm sorry, there was one last little bit of print.

A Davao City court official, who had not been informed of Mr. Meiring’s death, said there was still an outstanding warrant for his arrest on charges of illegal possession of explosives and reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property.

There has long been unsubstantiated speculation in the Philippines that Mr. Meiring was responsible for bombings in the turbulent region as part of a covert American operation aimed at gathering intelligence on the rebels or prompting the Philippine government to approve greater United States military assistance. 

It's called a false flag, and that's how they do it.

But a former C.I.A. official who served in the Philippines discounted the possibility that Mr. Meiring was a C.I.A. operative. While the former official was not familiar with details of the Meiring case, he said keeping explosives in his hotel room and joking about “Christ in Action” would be obvious violations of agency protocol. 

They are trained to lie, and a denial from them is damn near a confirmation. More so than the no comment they are supposed to give. 

Btw, no such things as "former."

Ramon Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, a nonprofit organization promoting democracy in the Philippines, said the burden would be on Washington to win Mr. Duterte’s trust, perhaps starting with an explanation of what happened at the Evergreen Hotel. 

We will never hear about it, but....

“He will try to improve relations with the U.S. but it is really more of the U.S. building relations with him,” Mr. Casiple said. “As far as he is concerned, the U.S. record in Mindanao is not that good.”


I doubt I will ever see anything on that again. 

On to the wars....

"Philippine president-elect to offer rebels positions, use death penalty" by Teresa Cerojano Associated Press  May 16, 2016

MANILA — President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he will reimpose the death penalty, offer Cabinet posts to communist rebels, and move to amend the Constitution to give more power to the provinces, in some of his first policy pronouncements since winning last week’s election based on an unofficial count.

In his first nationally televised news conference since the May 9 vote, Duterte also said he will launch a major military offensive to destroy Abu Sayyaf extremists on southern Jolo Island.

The announcements, a sharp departure from current government policy, reflect his brash campaign pledge to end crime and corruption in the impoverished nation in three to six months.

Police officials have said the plan is undoable, and that crime remains prevalent in Davao city, where Duterte has served as mayor for more than 22 years.

The military has been fighting a decades-long Marxist insurgency in the countryside. 

In addition to the Islamists?

Duterte said he would probably offer the Cabinet posts of environment and natural resources, agrarian reform, social welfare, and labor to the communist rebels. ‘‘They are the most vigilant group in the Philippines about labor so they would get it,’’ Duterte said.

The move would likely be strongly opposed by big business and industry.

That can get you in a lot of trouble if not dead.

Duterte said he would ask Congress to reimpose the death penalty, which has been suspended since 2006 in the face of staunch opposition from the dominant Roman Catholic church. Capital punishment by hanging, he said, should be imposed for heinous crimes, and criminals convicted of killing along with robbery and rape should be meted ‘‘double the hanging.’’

‘‘After the first hanging, there will be another ceremony for the second time until the head is completely severed from the body,’’ he said.

Bit graphic, ain't it?

Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon said his agency opposes the death penalty and would block any attempt to reimpose it, adding that the Constitution forbids cruel and degrading punishments like hanging.

‘‘In a country where the rule of law has so many loopholes and problems, what will happen is the possibility of a mistaken conviction,’’ Gascon said.

Duterte also plans to switch to a federal form of government, aiming to give more power and resources to regions, including the country’s south, where Davao city is located. Such a change would require an constitutional amendment.

In a populist move, Duterte said he would sell the presidential yacht and use the money to buy medical equipment for military and police personnel.

‘‘When people are hungry and jobless . . . it would be an obscene thing’’ to have the luxury vessel lying unused, he said.

TV network ABS-CBN also quoted him as telling reporters in Davao late Sunday that he plans to ban the use of luxury cars by Cabinet members and will use his personal pickup truck as his official presidential vehicle.

Oh, now he has gone too far! 

Who does he think he is, Scott Brown?

Duterte reiterated Monday his vow to control illegal drugs and crime, even if it means losing the presidency or his life. ‘‘Stop messing with me, because I have a sacred promise to save the next generation from the evil of drugs,’’ he told critics.

I will give him this: he is putting his life on the line as I have asked of war-making politicians in this country.

He also promised to cut government red tape and remove corrupt officials. Duterte said ‘‘contaminated’’ police generals facing corruption cases should ‘‘get out now’’ before he assumes office. If not, they should prepare to be sent to invade the Abu Sayyaf militants, who have been blamed for multiple kidnappings and beheadings.

Related:  "At least 18 soldiers were killed in fierce daylong fighting with Abu Sayyaf extremists in the southern Philippines on Saturday in the largest single-day government combat loss this year, officials said. At least 52 other soldiers were wounded in the clashes with the Abu Sayyaf and its allied gunmen in the hinterlands bordering Tipo Tipo and Al-Barka towns on Basilan island, three military officials told The Associated Press. Four militants were killed in the clashes, they said. Government forces were deployed to kill or capture Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon, who has publicly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State."

I'm sure rolling up that CIA operation isn't going over well back in Washington.

‘‘And if you are taken hostage there, say your ‘Our Fathers’ because I will never, never pay anything to retrieve you,’’ he added.

Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, whom Duterte is considering to head the military, said he met over the weekend with the mayor, who told him he wanted troops to finish off the Abu Sayyaf within the president’s six-year term and to back up the police in going after drug syndicates.

After the news conference, Duterte met with the ambassadors of China, Japan and Israel. Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua gave him a book of writings by Chinese President Xi Jinping.


"Western hostages in Philippines plead for their lives in new video" New York Times  March 10, 2016

MANILA, Philippines — Two Canadians and a Norwegian man being held by Islamic extremists in the southern Philippines pleaded for their lives in a video that was uploaded to social media sites on Thursday, saying they would be killed in a month if their kidnappers’ demands were not met.

The three hostages, all emaciated, bearded and shirtless, were videotaped while on their knees being threatened by a man wielding a knife and surrounded by other men in fatigues holding automatic weapons.

The Canadian government has to “do what is necessary to get us out of here soon,” said one of the Canadians, Robert Hall, as his countryman, John Ridsdel, screamed while his neck was twisted by one of the captors.

After the fake beheadings of Foley, et al.... 

The two men, along with Kjartan Sekkingstad of Norway and Marites Flor, a Filipino woman, were abducted from a southern Philippine resort in September by members of Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic extremist group that has been operating as a kidnap-for-ransom business around the island of Mindanao for more than a decade.

“Try to meet their demands in 30 days or we are all dead,” Sekkingstad said to the camera. Flor does not speak in the video but can be seen kneeling with her head down near the other captives.

The embassies of the foreign captives have declined to comment on the demands being made by the kidnappers, although in November the group released a video demanding 1 billion pesos ($21 million) for each hostage. 

Say some Our Fathers 'cuz they ain't getting $quat.

Restituto Padilla Jr., a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said Thursday evening that the video is being authenticated and military operations were continuing.

According to Matt Williams, the Philippines country director for Pacific Strategies & Assessments, a risk mitigation company that tracks rebel groups, the release of a dramatic, threatening video is a common tactic of the group.

“The Abu Sayyaf are seasoned negotiators and look at kidnappings as commercial transactions,” Williams said in an email. “Setting ransom deadlines is straight out of their playbook and typically reflects a growing impatience with the speed of negotiations. However, Abu Sayyaf leadership have a history of extending deadlines at the eleventh hour.” He added that the one-month deadline is more of a “bargaining chip.”

According to the military, the same group is believed to be holding other foreigners. They include Rolando del Torchio, an Italian who was dragged from his pizzeria in the southern Philippines last year, and Ewold Horn, a Dutch bird watcher who was abducted in 2012. The group is also holding Toshio Ito, a Japanese treasure hunter abducted in 2010.

In November, the group killed a Malaysian hostage and left his severed head on the doorstep of a southern Philippine police station.

Abu Sayyaf has received financial and technical support from al-Qaida in the past, according to the U.S. military, which stationed Special Forces in the southern Philippines for more than a decade to help Filipino soldiers fight the extremists. 

Meaning it's an arm of Al-CIA-Duh and the next paragraph will walk that back.

But security analysts and the Philippine military have said that despite the high-profile association with al-Qaida, the group operates primarily as a nonideological for-profit criminal organization.

The Philippine government signed a preliminary peace deal in 2012 with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim insurgent group in the Philippines, but the smaller and more extreme Abu Sayyaf was not included in the negotiations. Although government negotiators signed the deal, the measure stalled in the Philippine legislature and has not been carried out.

A senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim, said Monday that the legislature’s failure to approve the peace deal had caused frustration in Mindanao and could result in more people in the southern Philippines joining extremist organizations.


We are all praying for them, man and woman.

Canadian hostage’s severed head found in Philippines

A second Canadian man is beheaded by Islamist militants in the Philippines

Time to take some heads of their own:

"Philippine troops kill 40 Abu Sayyaf extremists in south" Associated Press  July 11, 2016

MANILA — Philippine troops have killed 40 Abu Sayyaf extremists and wounded 25 others in two battlefronts in the first major counterterrorism offensive in the south under the new president, the military said Monday.

Regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said 22 militants had been killed and 16 others wounded in the assaults that started last week in the jungles of Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province where the ransom-seeking militants are also believed to be holding a number of foreign hostages.

One soldier had been killed in the fighting in impoverished Sulu, about 590 miles south of Manila, he said.

On the nearby island province of Basilan, 18 Abu Sayyaf fighters had been killed and nine others wounded in a simultaneous offensive centering in the town of Tipo Tipo, according to Tan.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who started his six-year term on June 30, has warned the Abu Sayyaf to stop a wave of ransom kidnappings.


At least there is an upbeat start to peace talks. 

Back to the war on crime:

"The Philippine president-elect has encouraged the public to help him in his war against crime, urging citizens with guns to fight back in their neighborhoods and shoot and kill drug dealers who resist arrest...."

"Philippines’ New President, Rodrigo Duterte, Vows Tough Stance on Crime" by Austin Ramzy New York Times   July 01, 2016

Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in on Thursday as president of the Philippines, promising to carry out an uncompromising crackdown on crime across the country.

Duterte said in his inaugural speech that the harm of corruption and drugs justified his tough approach, and he dismissed concerns that such a campaign would abuse the rule of law.

“I know the limits of the power and authority of the president,” he said. “I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising.”

While Duterte was mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines, hundreds of people were killed by what human rights groups say were government-linked death squads. Duterte denied involvement with the killings, but he made little secret of his support for a violent approach to curbing crime.

During his election campaign, he pledged to reinstate the death penalty and said he would unleash law enforcement officials to battle criminals on the streets. So many lawbreakers would die during his first months in office that the fish in Manila Bay “will grow fat,” he warned at one point.

Such language, coupled with coarse comments on the campaign trail on subjects like rape, did little to dent his appeal. He won about 16 million votes, nearly 39 percent of the total, with his closest rivals trailing by more than six million votes.

Duterte, 71, took his oath in a low-key event at the presidential palace in Manila. Independent news media were barred from the ceremony, which was broadcast by state television and streamed live online.

The new president has had a contentious relationship with news outlets. He has threatened to not grant interviews during his presidency and suggested that some of the high number of journalists killed in the country deserved their fate.

In a rare joint editorial, several of the country’s leading news organizations called on Duterte to uphold transparency, adding that despite their tensions, “we must at all times cover him, his actions and his statements.”


Time to turn to the enemy abroad:

"2 US carriers sail in western Pacific in show of force" by Jane Perlez New York Times  June 18, 2016

BEIJING — China seeks to dominate the western Pacific Ocean as part of its long-term strategy, US strategists say.

Meaning its the exact opposite.

The message of the exercise by the two carriers and their attendant warships was unmistakable, and the timing was deliberate, said a US official familiar with the planning of the operation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. It could have been conducted later, he said.

So they are admitting the air defense and sea surveillance operations that involved 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft, and six smaller warships, was a provocation.

The Philippines is challenging China’s claims to what has come to be known as the nine-dash line, an area that covers almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to the Philippine coast.

The issue of the nine-dash line is delicate because China has claimed it since ancient times as its territory, and the South China Sea has become part of the increasingly nationalistic vocabulary of President Xi Jinping.

In the past two years, China has built artificial islands equipped with military runways in the Spratly archipelago, inside the line and not far from the Philippines.

The carrier John C. Stennis conducted exercises with Japanese and Indian naval forces in the western Pacific and the South China Sea earlier in the week, an operation that was shadowed by a Chinese surveillance vessel.

Early this month, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, foreshadowed the dual-carrier exercise during a speech in Singapore, saying it was part of increased US vigilance in the Pacific.

Also last week, the United States dispatched four Navy electronic attack aircraft, known as Growlers, and 120 military personnel to Clark Air Base in the Philippines....


Of course, “any misunderstanding could lead to disaster.”

"Tribunal rejects Beijing’s claims in South China Sea" by Jane Perlez New York Times   July 12, 2016

BEIJING — An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, including its construction of artificial islands, and found that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

The landmark case, brought by the Philippines, was seen as an important crossroads in China’s rise as a global power and in its rivalry with the United States, and it could force Beijing to reconsider its assertive tactics in the region or risk being labeled an international outlaw. It was the first time the Chinese government had been summoned before the international justice system.

And Israel? 

Never mind that the charge is coming from the EUSraeli empire. 

Talk about pot hollering kettle.

In its most significant finding, the tribunal rejected China’s argument that it enjoys historic rights over most of the South China Sea. That could give the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam more leverage in their own maritime disputes with Beijing.

What sea is it again?

The tribunal also said that China had violated international law by causing “irreparable harm” to the marine environment, endangering Philippine ships and interfering with Philippine fishing and oil exploration.

“It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” said the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler.

But while the decision is legally binding, there is no mechanism for enforcing it, and China, which refused to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, reiterated Tuesday that it would not abide by it.

The mechanism is the U.S. military, by God!!

Speaking at a meeting with European leaders, President Xi Jinping was defiant, reasserting China’s claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea “since ancient times,” the state-run People’s Daily reported. His remarks echoed a statement from the Foreign Ministry. The tribunal’s decision “is invalid and has no binding force,” the ministry said. “China does not accept or recognize it.”

Behaving like Japan in the '30s, right? 

Well, no, not really. They haven't invaded or committed atrocities yet. 

The foreign secretary of the Philippines, Perfecto Yasay Jr., welcomed the ruling as “significant” and called on “all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety.”

The five judges and legal experts on the tribunal ruled unanimously, and the decision was so heavily in favor of the Philippines that there were fears about how the Chinese leadership would react. Many in the region worry that Beijing will accelerate its efforts to assert control over the South China Sea, which includes vital trade routes and fishing waters as well as possible oil and mineral deposits.

“Xi Jinping has lost face here, and it will be difficult for China to do nothing,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “I expect a very tough reaction from China, since it has lost on almost every point. There is virtually nothing that it has won.”

You will just have to wait about 5 years. That's how the Chinese are. They don't lash out rashly like some other global powers I know.

The Philippines filed its case in 2013, after China seized a reef over which both countries claim sovereignty. There has been speculation that Beijing might respond to the decision by building an artificial island at the reef, Scarborough Shoal, a move that could set off a conflict with the Philippines and its treaty ally, the United States.

The main issue before the panel was the legality of China’s claim to waters within a “nine-dash line” that appears on official Chinese maps and encircles as much as 90 percent of the South China Sea, an area the size of Mexico. The Philippines had asked the tribunal to find the claim to be in violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both China and the Philippines have ratified.

In its decision, the tribunal said any historic rights to the sea that China had enjoyed “were extinguished” by the treaty, which lays out rules for drawing zones of control over the world’s oceans based on distances to coastlines. The panel added that while China had used islands in the sea in the past, it had never exercised exclusive authority over the waters.

Oh, man, tell that to the Israelis!

The panel also concluded that several disputed rocks and reefs in the South China Sea were too small for China to claim control of economic activities in the waters around them. As a result, it found, China was engaged in unlawful behavior in Philippine waters, including activities that had aggravated the dispute.

The tribunal cited China’s construction of a large artificial island on an atoll known as Mischief Reef. China has built a military airstrip, naval berths, and sports fields on the island, but the tribunal ruled that it was in Philippine waters.

The judges also said that Beijing had violated international law by causing “severe harm to the coral reef environment” and by failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles and other species “on a substantial scale.”

In an early indication of the regional response, Vietnam — which has fraternal Communist ties to China but also significant territorial disputes with it, including over oil exploration rights — quickly issued a statement endorsing the tribunal’s decision.

Everyone wants their cut of the goodies.

China has argued that the tribunal had no jurisdiction in the case. Because the sovereignty of reefs and islands in the sea is disputed, Beijing asserted, the tribunal could not decide on competing claims to the surrounding waters. The treaty covers only maritime disputes, not land disputes.

In a tough speech in Washington last week, a former senior Chinese official, Dai Bingguo, said that the findings would amount to no more than “waste paper” and that China would not back down from its activities in the South China Sea even in the face of a fleet of US aircraft carriers.

But with the geopolitical stakes high, Dai also counseled moderation, saying that the situation “must cool down.”

China is not expected to vacate or dismantle the artificial islands it has built. That makes the legal arguments important, analysts said.

“In a way, the tribunal will not solve the South China Sea issue but will heavily influence future negotiations,” said Markus Gehring, a lecturer in law at Cambridge University. “The tribunal rulings will move the goal posts towards the Philippines and the smaller countries.”


They like an amoeba, those Chinese!

No sooner does the Globe say they should abide by ruling....

"China says it could declare air zone over South China Sea" by Gillian Wong and Jim Gomez Associated Press  July 13, 2016

BEIJING — China warned other countries Wednesday against threatening its security in the South China Sea after an international tribunal declared Beijing had no legal basis for its expansive claims there.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said Beijing could declare an air defense identification zone over the waters if it felt threatened, a move that would sharply escalate tensions. But Beijing also extended an olive branch to the new Philippine government, saying the Southeast Asian nation would benefit from cooperating with China. 

I can only think of a few on this planet who wouldn't.

The Philippines, under a UN treaty governing the seas, had sought arbitration in 2013 on several issues related to its long-running territorial disputes with China. In its ruling Tuesday, the tribunal found China’s far-reaching claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis and that Beijing had violated the Philippines’ maritime rights by building up artificial islands and disrupting fishing and oil exploration.

While introducing a policy paper in response to the ruling, Liu said the islands in the South China Sea were China’s ‘‘inherent territory’’ and blamed the Philippines for stirring up trouble.

There is no doubt in my mind it was at the behest of their former colonial masters.

‘‘If our security is being threatened, of course we have the right to demarcate a zone. This would depend on our overall assessment,’’ Liu said in a briefing. ‘‘We hope that other countries will not take this opportunity to threaten China and work with China to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not let it become the origin of a war.’’

In 2013, China set up an air defense identification zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea, requiring all aircraft entering the area to notify Chinese authorities or be subjected to ‘‘emergency military measures’’ if they disobey orders from Beijing. The United States and others refuse to recognize the zone.

While blaming the previous Philippine government for complicating the dispute by seeking arbitration, Liu said China remains committed to negotiations with the Philippines and noted new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s positive remarks on the issue.

All of this flows together quite well, doesn't it? 

The tide in Asia has turned against AmeriKa.

‘‘After the storm of this arbitration has passed, and the sky has cleared, we hope this day (of negotiations) will come quickly, but whether it can come, we still have to wait,’’ Liu said, adding that China believed that cooperation would also bring Filipinos ‘‘tangible benefits.’’

Duterte has not directly responded to China’s overtures. He is navigating a tightrope in which he wants to revive relations with Beijing while being seen as defending the major victory the country has won through arbitration.

That tightrope is labeled "Made in U.S.A.," and you can see why.

Former Philippine president Benigno Aquino III, who initiated the case, said the ruling brought clarity that ‘‘now establishes better conditions that enable countries to engage each other, bearing in mind their duties and rights within a context that espouses equality and amity.’’

Cooperation, however, would remain elusive if conflicts over claims persist, he said.

Six regional governments have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, waters that are rich in fishing stocks and potential energy resources and where an estimated $5 trillion in global trade passes each year.

Beijing says vast areas of the South China Sea have been Chinese territory since ancient times and demarcated its modern claims with a map that was submitted under the UN treaty. The tribunal said any historical resource rights were wiped out if they were incompatible with exclusive economic zones established under the treaty, which both countries have signed.


Maybe the Chinese should disregard it like would Israel:

"China: Disregard the South China Sea ruling. The Philippines: No." by Emily Rauhala Washington Post  July 19, 2016

BEIJING — Not a week after the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a sweeping rebuke of China’s maritime claims, irking Beijing and boosting Manila, the foreign ministers of China and the Philippines met on the sidelines of a Europe-Asia summit. You can guess what they talked about.

On Tuesday, the Filipino foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, went public with an account of their conversation, telling ABS-CBN, a local news channel, that China offered conditional talks.

‘‘[China’s foreign minister] had asked us to open ourselves for bilateral negotiations but outside, or [in] disregard of, the arbitral ruling,’’ Yasay told the cameras.

‘‘This is something I told him was not consistent with our constitution and our national interest.’’

The Chinese side did not like that answer, according to Yasay. ‘‘They said that if you insist on the ruling and discussing it along those lines, then we might be headed for a confrontation,’’ he said.

Although Beijing has yet to comment on the exchange, officials there have spent the last seven days making their displeasure and defiance clear.

In the decision issued July 12, the tribunal found there was no legal or historical basis for China’s claims to most of the South China Sea. It also found that China violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights by constructing artificial islands. Beijing dismissed the decision as a piece of ‘‘trash paper.’’

The question now is whether China’s leaders will double down on their hardball strategy or find a way to take a step back. So far, Beijing has pursued the former — at least publicly.

After days of aggressive editorials, China this week began what it said will become regular military air patrols over the South China Sea.

Oh, they get war propaganda like me?

Xinhua, a party-controlled newswire, said Monday that China’s air force ‘‘recently’’ flew an air combat patrol over the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed fishing ground not far from the Philippine coast. Photographs released by the news agency show a Chinese H-6K bomber cruising high above a submerged shoal in an azure sea.

China seized control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012, and its coast guard has since angered Manila by chasing out Filipino fishermen. The Permanent Court of Arbitration last week ruled that barring Filipinos from the shoal violated ‘‘traditional fishing rights.’’

Related: New limits on lobster catch may come soon


No more lobster rolls?

Filipino television crews on Friday reported that, despite the ruling, China continued to block Filipino fishermen from the area. There has been speculation that China may eventually reclaim land or even build on the feature, a move that many experts see as a ‘‘red line’’ because of its proximity to the Luzon coast.

Hasn't Obama laid down enough of those?

The air patrol announcement coincided with a meeting between the commander of China’s Navy, Wu Shengli, and US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, which ended with more stern words from the Chinese

Thankfully, that is all they are.

Although Wu reportedly called for ‘‘cooperation’’ with the United States, he made it clear that China plans to continue its island-building and would not cease ‘‘no matter what country or person applies pressure,’’ according to state media reports. China is also conducting military drills off its southern coast this week. 

Apparently only the U.S. and its allies are allowed to do that (and God help the planes flying nearby).

It is not clear why Yasay decided to go public with a Chinese offer made on the sidelines of an event. In the run-up to the Asia-Europe summit, which took place in Mongolia last week, a senior Chinese diplomat said the Philippines’ case would absolutely not be discussed.

‘‘The ASEM leaders summit is not a suitable place to discuss the South China Sea. There are no plans to discuss it there on the agenda for the meeting. And it should not be put on the agenda,’’ Kong Xuanyou, assistant foreign minister, told the press.

Yasay’s comments seem to defy that sentiment, but he insisted there is still room for negotiation. ‘‘I really honestly feel that this is something they have to make on a public basis but I also sensed there was room for us to talk very quietly using backdoor channeling” — a very public call for private talks.

Think what you want of the Chinese, but at least they keep their cool.


UPDATE: Philippine ships on way to blockade North Korea 

They will have to go through the Taiwan straight to get there.