April 2012

Former Philippine President
Manila Bulletin

“The South China Sea which connects to the Gulf of Thailand and the Java Sea in the east flows into the most complex series of maritime crossroads in the world. This is Southeast Asia’s maritime heartland…”  ­— National Security Council Report, 15 February 1995

TO many concerned citizens, the Philippine team playing in the “Scareborough tournament” appears to be losing in the “shadow-boxing” bout with China – with time running out. Yet, our side has fielded top national players, starting with President Benigno Aquino III himself as Captainball, plus Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, SND Gazmin, and other officials.

In contrast, the Chinese have put out only their “B” team, mainly: Embassy Spokesman Zhang Hua in Manila, Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing (who is a strong-willed lady), and Beijing underlings.

China’s rigid “U-Line” stand on Spratly/Scarborough issues and China’s maritime maneuvers replicate obsolescent gunboat diplomacy accompanied by soothing double-speak. This way, Beijing maintains a laid-back stance (as if uninvolved). In reality, China’s Central Government is calling the shots from behind dragon curtains, in accordance with a strategic gameplan forged back in July, 1992, when the Manila ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea was promulgated.

P-Noy and Cabinet, on the other hand, have become embroiled almost daily in clarifying Philippine actions re that hotpotato.

N.A.T.O (No Action, Talk Only)

On Scarborough (Masinloc’s “Karburo”) and the larger claims in the West Philippine Sea/Eastern Vietnam Sea/South China Sea, so much verbiage has occupied Manila’s front pages and TV/radio primetime since P-Noy assumed office.

News sources range from Malacañang and DFA, to Congress and LGUs, to Asian experts from think-tanks, and to Zambales and Pangasinan fisherfolk. The noise and ruckus in support of our Philippine position, nevertheless, amounts almost to “N.A.T.O.” (No Action, Talk Only) so far, it appearing that our officials have resorted solely to cautious niceties and fancy ‘abante-atras’ (forward-backward) footwork.

For so long, we’ve been hearing about… “the elevation of the West Philippine Sea conflicts to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.” So, we say: “Don’t delay further. Why not JUST DO IT NOW, since it takes only a phone call or text message to instruct our capable Permanent Representative in the UN Ambassador Libran Cabactulan to do so?”

And, for even longer, the post of Philippine ambassador to China has been vacant because Ambassador-designate Domingo Lee couldn’t hurdle the Commission on Appointments. This is so unfortunate, but it also smacks of poor crisis management in a critical game – where high stakes are involved, and no less than the Philippine team’s best players are needed onsite. Up to now, however, Malacañang/DFA are “still searching” for a career ambassador with proper job credentials. Shouldn’t the search have been conducted long before, and one replacement already earmarked, ratified, posted, and updated on Philippines-China-ASEAN relations? Why not reshuffle some senior career ambassadors in other posts or at the Home Office – since some are overstaying anyway?

Surely, heavyweight China deserves to have a top diplomat to represent middleweight Philippines – not just a junior chargé d’ affaires, even if he is competent enough.

Coast Guards In Civilian Law Enforcement

We revisited last Sunday the historical antecedents of the Philippines’ and China’s claims over the islets in the West Philippine Sea.

We also recalled the apprehension/arrest — in 1995 in the Hasa-Hasa (Half-Moon) Shoal, Palawan – of 62 Chinese fishermen and the impounding of their four vessels for poaching and possession of explosives.

In ASEAN littoral countries and archipelagos, Coast Guards have evolved as strong partners in civilian law enforcement, particularly in border security.
This type of intra-regional cooperation is an emerging global phenomenon – where Coast Guards of adjacent/contiguous countries have forged tighter cooperation and greater visibility in overlapping areas of concern – in such activities as maritime safety, environmental protection, border patrolling, anti-smuggling, narcotics interdiction, anti-piracy/human trafficking, etc.

This new trend was clearly expounded by Sam Bateman, leading Asia-Pacific political-military analyst in his “Coast Guards: New Forces for Regional Order and Security” (Analysis on Asia-Pacific Issues, No. 65, East-West Center, 2003).

“Posse Comitatus” And Civilian Players

Bateman concluded that perceived provocations on national sovereignty, especially along territorial boundaries, are minimized when the Coast Guard is used, since its mission and functions are geared to a common interest in law enforcement shared with adjacent countries.

This current practice is embraced by the international legal principle called “Posse Comitatus” (Latin for ‘Power of the County’) of separating civilian authority and military power in law enforcement.

Accordingly, maritime law enforcement duties emanate from the policy regime established by international shipping communities through their respective country representatives in the International Maritime Organization. In turn, IMO formulates rules by which member-states are mandated to develop stronger border cooperation and peaceful joint undertakings (thereby eliminating irritants on questionable “encroachments”).

In ASEAN, such has long been practiced in multi-lateral maritime/customs operations. And, since 1982, the ASEAN National Police Organizations (ASEANAPOL) have functioned as a closely-knit brotherhood of law enforcers when it was established with Camp Crame as host venue.
In effect, this model of cooperation along borders, once instituted, is foreseen to enhance national security, since it does not involve military interventions that are frowned upon by neighboring countries as signs of belligerency or mistrust.

The notion of “posse comitatus” has its roots in English Law, growing out of a citizen’s inherent duty to rouse fellow villagers to assist the “Sheriff” in pursuing culprits, according to Bateman.

Some may not notice it, but both the Philippines and China are deploying maritime law enforcement (Coast Guard) assets, instead of naval warships, to Scarborough Shoal – probably in observance of the “posse comitatus” principle.

Flashback To Mischief Reef

The “Mischief Reef” encroachment in the West Philippine Sea in late January, 1995, bears many valuable lessons for SCS claimants, particularly the Philippines, Vietnam, and China.

On 24 February 1995, Hongkong Asiaweek’s feature story Islands of Discord reported: “The Philippines feels particularly betrayed. China endorsed a declaration urging all six claimants to pursue peaceful means in resolving their dispute. Signed by ASEAN foreign ministers in Manila in July, 1992, the non-binding document allayed fears of a military confrontation. China and Vietnam figured in a naval battle over the Spratlys as recently as 1988. Manila assured that claimants would maintain, but not expand, their positions. The Filipinos kept to their settlements on eight islets belonging to the Kalayaan (Freedomland) Island Group, of which Mischief Reef is part.

“China shattered those hopes. ‘The Chinese have gone much farther east and much closer to Palawan,’ warned Philippine Defense Secretary Renato de Villa. But Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo stressed that Manila will exhaust ‘all peaceful means in resolving this issue’ – including a possible case before the International Court of Justice. President Ramos made a measured response. Said he: ‘The Philippines views these actions taken by elements identified with the People’s Republic of China as inconsistent with international law and the spirit and intent of the 1992 Manila ASEAN Declaration.”

Continued Asiaweek: “The discovery of Mischief Reef set off a flurry of diplomatic protests, denials, and debate. Summoned by Philippine Foreign Affairs officials, Chinese Ambassador Huang Guifang insisted that his country was not building a military base on the reef known to China as ‘Meijijiao.’ (Aptly enough, mariners call the islet ‘Mischief Reef.’)

“The structures are facilities for fishermen in case of distress, said Huang. Later, Manila declared several China warships had withdrawn from the area, leaving only three vessels. On 15 February, President Ramos ordered more soldiers to beef up Philippine detachments on nearby islets.”

In a subsequent press interview, FVR also countered that if, indeed, Mischief Reef is for distressed fishermen seeking sanctuary, then it should be open and available to all fishermen and vessels that need humanitarian help, regardless of nationality.

At that time, Malacañang’s Press Office released photographs showing four octagonal concrete structures on stilts, each flying the Chinese flag, on top of the 80 sq.km. shoal, and gunboats nearby.

What Else To Do?

So what do the claimant-countries need to do to resolve the impasse, and to move on to truly productive undertakings based on their previous commitments/declarations for a peaceful, harmonious Asia?

We propose that they:

(1) De-militarize the SCS problem by the use only of Coast Guard assets and civilian auxiliaries (scientists, environmentalists, fisherfolk, sportspeople) functioning as a “posse comitatus.”

(2) Make available and jointly maintain safety structures in disputed areas such as lighthouses, anchorages, typhoon shelters, etc.

(3) Jointly exercise their Coast Guard units regularly to enhance coordination and collaboration in law enforcement, search/rescue, and other humanitarian missions.

(4) Organize, among claimant-nations, tourism activities and water sports like scuba-diving, skateboarding, dragonboat racing, and other friendly contests like chess, ping-pong, and beach volleyball.


Please send any comments to fvr@rpdev.org. Copies of articles are available at www.rpdev.org.


By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star

George is my Ateneo schoolmate. He classifies himself as a Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino). George described that he’s treated as a Filipino when he’s in China and as Chinese when he’s in the Philippines. George has been frequenting China since 1980 and saw its transformation.

George told me: “I saw the change through the years brought about by sheer political will and a system where there is no TRO at the drop of a hat to stop or drag a project until it becomes expensive or unviable for the proponent. Although I don’t believe the system can be transplanted here entirely, there are many things that we can pick up and apply here. But we can do this only if we embrace humility over abilidad (one-upmanship).

George liked my April 26 column (Factor these when dealing with China) and shared his own insights, which proved to be spot on. We will honor the request of George not to mention his surname. After all, his insights are what we can use in this row with China over the Scarborough Shoal.

George wrote: “I must take my hat off to you for a very well written piece. Allow me to make this rejoinder, with my two cents worth.

1. If we watch the CCTV news channel and read Chinese papers (if possible in Chinese), one will have the unmistakable feeling that the Chinese government does not treat this as a tiff between Philippines and China, but between China and the US.

2. The bottom line of sovereignty is economics. Countries go to war or to colonize and claim sovereignty (as Spain and Portugal had done, followed later by the biggest colonizer, England) and risk their resources and the lives of its people for only one thing: economics. Resources. Warm bodies, namely slaves, in whatever form had their economic value. This was true in Roman times, still true today. Hitler promulgated lebensraum for Germany. It may surprise many people that Hitler also wanted peace, but peace under German hegemony. The Japanese launched a war to establish the Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and it was clear whose prosperity they have in mind.

Even without sovereignty, the stealing and plunder can go on. The British legitimized piracy by issuing letters of marque, and called the perpetrators privateers instead of pirates. Done for economic reasons that would benefit their country. Three hundred years hence, the British government backed up their drug dealers and used it as an excuse to poison, invade and plunder China.

The current standoff is solvable only if there is someone on either side that can think outside of the box. Unfortunately, it looks like there is none for the moment. The last person who qualifies for this has been dead for quite some time, namely Deng Xiao Ping. During the discussion for the turnover of Hong Kong, and faced with the dilemma of bridging a capitalist and a communist system which is apparently an impossibility, the grand old man came up with the idea of “One country, two systems.” That broke the deadlock.

3. In your article, you mentioned, “Know first your opponent.” This is from Sun Zi’s Art of War. It may come as a surprise to most people that Sun Zi is an advocate for peace, not war. If you read and re-read Sun Zi, you will probably come to the conclusion that the bottom line of the Art of War is not to fight any war at all; in fact to prevent war. His distilled philosophy was to “establish an army that will win a war without firing a shot (if we use modern lingo).”

Since it’s apparent that we cannot win in a shooting war, and since it is useless to depend on other countries as they would come in only if it is to their national interest to do so, there is an alternative operative philosophy which I sent you sometime back, that of Lao Zi, item 43 of his Dao De Jing, or the Tao of Power.

4. There was Chinese goodwill before toward the Americans. This arose from the fact that when the Western powers were extracting their pound of flesh from a prostrate China, the West including Japan were moving these “payments” out of China, back to their own country. Only the Americans invested their share back in China. Mao was initially not antagonistic toward the Americans, since America started also with a revolution. But the ideology war changed everything.

5. You mentioned also that China remembers the bitter periods of its history. On the other side of the coin, they also remember their friends, especially during the times when they were down. Sihanouk, until today, lives like a king in China. In the Philippines, until today whenever the Chinese embassy has a function, guess who is sitting at the presidential table? Madame Imelda, even during the time when the Marcoses were out of power. All because the Chinese recognized Imelda’s role in establishing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China, even ahead of the Americans.

6. The Philippines is part of Asia. That is a fact, and our destiny will be tied to that of Asia. Our foreign policies should be based on this fact and extend to one of five to ten years. There probably is a working group in the DFA for this. A wrong decision will affect not only us but also a generation or two to come. Sensationalism and grandstanding is a disservice to the country.

7. Before a country can build a strong military, it has to build first a strong economy. That’s what history taught us. After the industrial revolution in Europe, the West built up their wealth and expanded their empire using the military assets afforded by their wealth. It’s the same with Japan after the Meiji restoration, and now — China. A nation cannot depend on other nations to defend it. It’s always national interest first for any country.

8. Our sources of information on international issues are mostly Western, with their point of view, biases and all. This isn’t healthy for our next generation and us. Sources for written media are predominantly western: Agence France Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times. CNN, BBC, and Bloomberg dominate visual media. Al Jazeera, which is located in Qatar, sounds like Western media masquerading as Arab. Watch CCTV, Taiwan stations, even NHK and Arirang and you can feel like they are talking about a different world altogether.

Media can influence the way the children think, especially during their formative years. It could be a form of neo-colonization through mind control. Something has to be done about this if we want a population that loves the country.”

Somehow, that makes a lot more sense than what a lawyer on ANC, posturing to know something about the current row with China, was suggesting.

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must never unwatched go.”

Chair Wrecker email and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

With Due Respect 
By: Artemio V. Panganiban
Philippine Daily Inquirer 

Tomorrow, April 30, is the last day for all public officials and employees to file their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) required by the Constitution, Anti-Graft Law (Republic Act 3019) and Ethical Standards Law (RA 6713).

Acquisition cost. Yet, due to many questions raised during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, many government workers are still at a loss on how to fill out the two-page, back-to-back SALN form prescribed by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) since 1994.

Especially problematic is the requirement to declare three kinds of values for real estate properties: “assessed value, current fair market value and acquisition cost.” In Republic vs. Sandiganbayan (Jan. 30, 2002), the Supreme Court, speaking through Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr., held that the acquisition cost, not the market or assessed value, should be used in computing whether public functionaries had amassed ill-gotten wealth or property that is manifestly out of proportion to their lawful income. Under RA 1379, unexplained wealth shall, after due process and hearing, be forfeited in favor of the state.

The acquisition cost is easy to declare. All that is needed is to enter in the SALN form the amount stated in the deed of sale for each property. However, the column on “improvements” is harder to fill out because renovation or improvement costs are difficult to pinpoint. An honest, educated estimate made in good faith should suffice.

Assessed and market values are often hard to ascertain. However, the assessment level made by city or provincial assessors should be acceptable. Market value is at best a matter of opinion. I do not think employees should be accused of falsifying their SALNs simply because they made honest errors in approximating market values. After all, as held in the above-cited case, anti-graft laws are focused on acquisition cost, not on market value.

The SALN form is easier to fill out in regard to “personal and other properties.” It has only three columns: “kind, year acquired, and acquisition cost.” All these information can be sourced from the invoices or sales receipts used in acquiring them. For example, when one purchases appliances like TV sets and radios, the stores issue invoices and receipts showing the information needed to fill out the spaces in the SALN form.

Motor vehicles should also be declared in this section on “personal and other properties.” In Flores vs. Montemayor (June 8, 2011), an employee was dismissed from the service for his unjustified failure to include “two expensive cars” in his 2001 and 2002 SALNs.

Complete, accurate and truthful. On the backside of the SALN form, “business interests and financial connections” must be declared. In Rabe vs. Flores (May 14, 1997), the respondent was dismissed from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and accrued leaves and a prohibition from being reemployed in the government, for dishonesty and failure to disclose her “business interest” which was merely a “stall in the market.”

In Ombudsman vs. Valeroso (Apr. 2, 2007), the high court said that the law mandates the “true, detailed and sworn declaration” in the SALN as “the means to achieve the policy of accountability of all public officers and employees in the government. By the SALN, the public [is] able to monitor movement in the fortune of a public official; it is a valid check and balance mechanism to verify undisclosed properties and wealth.”

Hence, complete, accurate and truthful declarations are required. Accordingly, the CSC advises the filling out of all spaces in the SALN form. Do not leave any space unfilled. If the item is not applicable, put “N.A.” on the blank space.

Failure to file complete, accurate and truthful SALNs may subject the erring personnel to administrative, criminal and civil penalties. Administrative sanctions take the form of reprimand, fine, suspension or dismissal from the service, plus forfeiture of benefits, and a permanent ban to reemployment in the government, including government-owned or -controlled corporations.

So too, can criminal cases for falsification or perjury or violations of the Anti-Graft Law and Ethical Standards Law be filed separately from the administrative complaints. The penalty is imprisonment or fine or both. Civil sanctions can include forfeiture of the properties that are adjudged to be manifestly or grossly disproportionate to the legitimate income of the respondent public officers.

How SALN is enforced. All these cases are usually initiated by the superiors of the erring employee, or even by private citizens. But the main responsibility for disciplining public officers is lodged by the Constitution and the law on the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).

The Constitution mandates the OMB to “investigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.”

On the other hand, RA 6770 (Ombudsman Act of 1989) empowers the OMB to investigate and initiate the recovery of ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth and the prosecution of the parties involved. High government officials removable by impeachment, like the President, Vice President, Supreme Court justices and members of constitutional commissions like the Commission on Elections, may, per RA 6770, be investigated by the OMB “for the purpose of filing a verified impeachment complaint, if warranted.”

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Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com

By Ira Pedrasa

Jurisdiction of Ombudsman over case questioned

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The defense team of Chief Justice Renato Corona raised the issue of jurisdiction of the Ombudsman over his supposed bank accounts, even as they debunked allegations he has $10 million.

In a phone interview, defense lawyer Tranquil Salvador told ABS-CBNnews.com that they stand by their answer that Corona does not have $10 million as alleged by several petitioners who sought to bring the case before the Office of the Ombudsman.

He said the timing of the order has raised speculations among stakeholders and observers in the trial of Corona, which would resume May 7.

He said the issue could be used to “push the Chief Justice to sit on the witness stand to supposedly explain the $10 million when no such funds or accounts actually exist.”

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales asked her former colleague in the Supreme Court to explain in writing how he was supposed to acquire peso and dollar accounts.

“This office finds that there is reasonable ground to proceed further with the conduct of an inquiry vis-à-vis the charges that you, during your incumbency as a public officer, accumulated wealth that is purportedly grossly disproportionate to your salary and other lawful income,” Morales was quoted as saying in her April 20 order, a copy of which has yet to be formally disclosed.

Salvador did not answer whether or not Corona has already replied to the order, noting only that a copy of which was received last week.

“All individuals in [the petition] have interest in the [impeachment trial proceedings]. There was already a forfeiture case instituted by a congressman during the break. This one, I’m not surprised,” he said.

In their February 17 complaint, Ruperto Aleroza, Gibby Gorres, Harvey Keh, Risa Hontiveros and Albert Concepcion sought to have Corona investigated for allegedly amassing “real and personal properties in significant amounts” and not declaring them in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by law.”

In a text message, Keh said: “I can confirm story that we filed the complaint and we gave the bank accounts that we asked ombudsman to investigate…The main aim of the complaint was to allow the Ombudsman to instruct the [Anti-Money Laundering Council] to investigate the CJ dollar accounts.”

He said: “The dollar accounts po kasi is key to the impeachment.”

‘We’ve already answered everything’

Salvador stressed, however, that Corona does not have $10 million in the banks. The properties enumerated by the petitioners have already been explained before the impeachment court, he said.

“The question of jurisdiction of the [Ombudsman] can be raised before a court of law. My personal view on the matter is that the Chief Justice is an impeachable officer. You will have to complete the process before instituting another complaint,” he said.
He did not answer when asked if the defense team will question the order before the Supreme Court. “Maybe [the Ombudsman] is just asking for an explanation, there is no ruling yet.”

“The second issue is why all of the matters presented in so called three (3) complaints are mere reiterations of issues in the impeachment proceedings. Again to my mind, the complainants who filed the complaints in February and March would like to highlight these issues to undermine the advances and successes of the defense in explaining and destroying the alleged 45 properties of the CJ,” he said.

He noted, however, that the release of the order “will just confuse the people on [the motivation]. It’s an old complaint that was filed even before the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order.”

The SC issued a halt order on the opening of Corona’s alleged dollar accounts, citing the Foreign Currency Deposit Act that allows only the opening of foreign currency accounts by virtue of a go-signal from the depositor.

Salvador said the Ombudsman order has caused many speculations now that the trial of Corona will resume in a week’s time.

“Maybe it’s to bring back the interest of the people…But it is an old complaint,” he said.


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Corona Camp Hits Ombudsman’s Order


MANILA, Philippines — The camp of Chief Justice Renato Corona criticized Sunday the Office of the Ombudsman  for issuing an order directing the SC chief to explain his alleged ownership of US$10-million in bank accounts just a week before the Senate impeachment court is set to resume his impeachment trial.

Ramon Esguerra, one of the lawyers of Chief Justice Corona, said it is apparent that the new round of accusations being hurled against their client is in anticipation of a possible acquittal of the chief magistrate who stands accused of betraying public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Acting on the complaints filed before her office, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered Corona to explain within 72 hours how he acquired several peso and dollar accounts which are purported to be “disproportionate” to his salary.

Corona has denied he owned a $10-million and that bank account ever existed. The ruling he said, was also part of a black propaganda and mind-conditioning in preparation for the resumption of Congress sessions.

But the Palace said that it does not consider the investigation by the Ombudsman into the bank accounts of Corona as “overkill” even though he is already facing an impeachment trial at the Senate.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the investigation against Corona is initiated by an independent constitutional body based on a complaint filed by some individuals.

Lacierda instead appealed anew to Corona to explain his alleged huge wealth, insisting the Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is doing her job. “There is a process by which the Ombudsman undertook the investigation. There was a complaint filed by several individuals regarding Chief Justice Corona before the Office at the Ombudsman and it is incumbent upon the Ombudsman to perform her mandate of investigating.” (With a report from Genalyn Kabiling)



By Carmela Fonbuena

NEW BATTLEGROUND: Ombudsman asks Chief Justice Renato Corona to explain $10-M dollar deposits
NEW BATTLEGROUND: Ombudsman asks Chief Justice Renato
Corona to explain $10-M dollar deposits

MANILA, Philippines – Now it is out, courtesy of the Office of the Ombudsman. Chief Justice Renato Corona allegedly has at least US$10-million worth of dollar deposits or nearly half a billion pesos, based on current exchange rates.

The Chief Justice is denying the money exists, but the Ombudsman said these are supposedly deposited in various banks.

“There are several bank accounts in PSBank and several other banks in your name, including those denominated in US dollars the aggregate value of which amounts to at least US$10,000,000,” reads the April 20, 2012 order of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales for Corona to explain his wealth that “purportedly grossly disproportionate to your salary and other lawful income.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer revealed this order in its top story on Sunday, April 29.

The order was sent barely two weeks before the May 7 resumption of the Corona impeachment trial. The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, has heeded an earlier Supreme Court order stopping the Philipine Savings Bank (PSBank) from disclosing Corona’s alleged dollar accounts.

The prosecution has appealed the SC decision. But the High Tribunal has scheduled deliberations on it on June 26 yet.

How did the Office of the Ombudsman get around the bank secrecy law, which expressly states that no foreign currency deposits may be examined without the “written permission of the depositor?”

It’s simple. Corona has given the Office of the Ombudsman the permission.


The Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) is not only a document that requires public officials to declare their assets. It is also a waiver allowing the Office of the Ombudsman to verify declarations by the same public officials.

At the back of the form, a paragraph on top of a filer’s signature reads […]

Read the full story >> How Ombudsman got access to CJ’s dollars


Noynoy Must Lead; Everyone Must Do Their Part

By Leandro D. Quintana

My last article urging reforms vis-à-vis the Philippine culture of graft and corruption drew considerable interest. Many vowed to do their part. Others expressed frustration. More still seemed resigned to what they see as our “way of life” in the Philippines. Desperate indeed. The question is, is a way out really possible? Is reform a realistic expectation? Is it too late? Have we missed our opportunities for societal and cultural reform?

Many (this writer included) rued the failure of Corazon Aquino to carpe diem when she assumed the presidency after EDSA I in 1986 and use her immense mandate at that time to fundamentally alter the course of Philippine history and initiate true and lasting reforms. She could have ruled by decree for a couple of years and the people would have backed her because of her husband’s ultimate sacrifice and her own personal honesty and integrity. What they wanted to see were results. None came. Hope fizzled. In due time the failed and discredited institutions, the empty shells of democracy, so to speak, were restored and as a result the oligarchy is back, established and stronger (and viciously destructive) than ever.

Twenty years after she left office her son is now entering the third year of his six-year term as president. And he is struggling just as badly, if not worse, as his late mother was with the forces of a deeply imbedded system of corruption that undermines fair and efficient delivery of government services. In every area of existence, it seems. Be it peace and order, public works, foreign policy, traffic, smog, energy issues, every aspect of daily life. Conditions get worse. Yet, he is all we have.

Yes, Noynoy is all the Filipino people have and they knew going into the 2010 elections that they were not necessarily voting for the wunderkind of the executive elite; they voted for him because he was the last best hope that, thru leadership by example, he can make a serious dent in the fight against graft and corruption that eats away at the very core of the Filipino soul.

His ability to take bold action is constrained by many factors. The Congress, one of the main instruments of the oligarchy, has demonstrated that it is adept at obstruction and tepid in its support of his programs. The Supreme Court, thanks to the rear guard action of the Macapagal-Arroyos, has become an instrument, not for carrying out justice, but undermining and hogtieing the administration. What exacerbates the situation is that the country’s overall infrastructure, already fragile at best, is once again showing signs of further collapse. The brownouts that characterized the ineptness of Corazon Aquino’s government, is also now rearing it’s ugly head with reports of 8 hour power outages all over Mindanao. Noynoy and his government is touting and mouthing promotion of business growth yet how can this come about if the country cannot provide electric power for new factories and industries? How can commerce be enhanced when, thanks to traffic gridlock in Metro Manila and most of the country’s major cities the efficient movement of people and merchandise is dramatically impeded? How can business and enterprise thrive when people are literally suffocating in the smog that hangs a pall over the metropolis? How can the country progress when its police forces cannot be relied upon to keep the peace, protect the population and reassure both the business community and the citizenry that thieves, murderers and all kinds of scoundrels do not have a free run of the country like they now do? The list of ails seems endless.

Clearly there is a need for bold and decisive leadership. Example alone will not curtail graft and corruption. Desire alone will not lift the country’s economic standing to the aspired “Tiger” status one sees all over Asia. Concrete actions are needed. The problems are many thus priorities need to be established and set.

The police forces need to perform at higher professional levels; criminal elements within the ranks must be uprooted. Police officers must rededicate themselves to the oath of serving and protecting the population, not enriching themselves thru means both foul and dastardly.

The infrastructure problems need to be addressed and fixed. Roads, bridges, public thoroughfares, transportation systems, electricity and water supply systems need to be upgraded and modernized. Short term solutions, such as those seen during the Ramos years must be brought on-line immediately while long term solutions are reviewed and implemented.

All government offices must be reconverted into service centers for the people, not instruments for the enrichment of government officials and employees. As with the police forces, clean out the grafters and only those willing to truly serve the country be kept in employ.

It is true that Noynoy cannot simply wave a magic wand and bring order to the chaos of inefficiency and incompetence that abounds. But he can openly demand that all segments of society join him in the crusade to turn the tide around for the Philippines. He must issue the clarion call for reform and progress and entice, induce, persuade, cajole and if need be, embarrass, leaders of all segments of society to actively join the crusade to bring about the needed changes. And the people, all the suffering multitudes who seek a better tomorrow, must take strong and concrete steps to pressure their institutions, be it corporations or businesses, schools or churches, organizations or clubs, to be active participants in the process. The people will have to be the daily monitors and auditors of progress in the many areas and arenas of action. Their voices need to be heard and loudly when there is police inaction, when government workers do not perform as expected, when corporations and businesses cheat and oppress their employees or gouge the public for unjustified profits and largess, when political leaders look only after their vested interests, when those in media lie, distort and serve as minions for those adept at bribery. The people must rise in unison and demand that their country once and for all become the “ bayang Magiliw” that they have hoped it to be for countless generations. It must become a country that speaks to their highest aspirations, reflective of their best ideals and worthy of the very nobility of their race. It is a country worth working and fighting for. It must start with Benigno Aquino III. He must fully awaken to the dreams of his father and truly embrace the spirit of selflessness of his mother. He must make his voice heard not in the shrillness of political gimmickry but with the deep, full throated commitment and intensity that will finally awaken his people. There is a way out. He must find it. He must lead the way. And he must bring his people with him. It is a worthwhile journey. It must start now. All must join him or get out of the way so that he can accomplish a most worthwhile mission.


By Danny Dangcalan
The Philippine Star

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The ruling Liberal Party (LP) is set to coalesce with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in preparation for the 2013 elections, Sen. Francis Escudero said.

“LP and NPC, I believe, are in coalition with each other. Kanya-kanyang coalition yan (Each of them will have their own coalition),” Escudero said here Thursday.

According to Escudero, the LP-NPC coalition and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay are both inviting him to join their senatorial lineup for the 2013 elections.

UNA is a coalition of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) of Binay and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) of former President Joseph Estrada.

Binay has expressed his intention to run for president in 2016 under UNA.

When asked which coalition he is inclined to join, Escudero said he does not need to choose between them, claiming he is open to joining both.

Escudero said he had supported a Noy-Bi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem in the 2010 elections, which explains the invitation from both political mergers.

“I welcome it and I thank them for their support,” Escudero said, stressing he is “joining the lineup but not the parties.”

Escudero noted LP stalwart and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad had announced the other day that LP is considering him to join the senatorial slate.

Escudero, whose six-year term expires in 2013, said he is running for senator in next year’s midterm election, but as an independent.

Escudero said he resigned from NPC in 2009 because he wanted to be an independent candidate, and he “intends to remain independent, at least for the 2013 elections.”

In the run-up to the 2010 presidential elections, Escudero had expressed intention to run for president, but backed out.

When asked if he is running for president in 2016, Escudero said he would decide at a later time.

He said that in the 2010 elections, those who announced their candidacies early eventually lost the race, as against those who came in later, referring to President Aquino and Binay.

In the end, the presidency is a matter of “faith and fate,” Escudero said.


By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer 

After languishing in prison for 16 years, one of the five men convicted for the 1996 killing of Col. Rolando Abadilla is puzzled why President Aquino still hasn’t acted on a September 2011 recommendation commuting their sentence.

Lenido Lumanog, who is confined at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute for treatment of kidney ailment, said he and the rest of the “Abadilla 5” can’t wait forever for approval of the commutation, which would pave the way for their release.

He said they had lost “16 good years” of their lives, and were growing old and sick behind bars.

“I hope they will do some action on this matter at least before I die,” Lumanog, who was rushed Wednesday from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa to the NKTI due to a weak kidney, said in an interview Friday afternoon.

In September 2011, the Board of Pardons and Parole recommended to the Office of the President the commutation of the sentence of the Abadilla 5 to 16 years. Since they had served 16 years, they would be released as soon as the commutation was approved.

The wife of one of the Abadilla 5 said Malacañang had issued a new set of requirements for them, but could not give specifics.

The Supreme Court affirmed in February 2011 the Court of Appeals’ ruling upholding the conviction of the Abadilla 5 by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

Lumanog and his coaccused, Cesar Fortuna, Joel de Jesus, Rameses de Jesus and Augusto Santos, insisted they were innocent and accused their police captors of torturing them into admitting the crime.

Abadilla, an intelligence chief of the now defunct Philippine Constabulary who gained notoriety as an alleged torturer of political prisoners during martial law, was ambushed and killed while driving along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City on June 13, 1996. The communist hit squad Alex Boncayao Brigade claimed responsibility for the killing.

Lumanog said the wait for the commutation of their sentences and subsequent release had become “painfully long.” He said he hoped the government would be “more compassionate.”

“This is very painful for us. Since December last year, we were thinking we’d be set free. New Year’s came, and we were hoping again to be set free. Come Valentine’s Day, we expected our release. It’s very hard to be imprisoned for a very long time, especially for a very sick person, on false charges,” he said.

Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, who has championed the Abadilla 5’s cause, said he hoped the government would avoid a repeat of the case of Mariano Umbrero, who was granted an executive clemency four days after he died on July 15, 2011.


By Aurea Calica and Pia Lee-Brago
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang yesterday maintained the Philippines would stand its ground and not be provoked by the Chinese military’s posturing in the West Philippine Sea.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the country would come up with a unified and strong stand to defend its claims before international forums.

Valte also said there were no talks for the permanent presence of US forces in the Philippines amid the West Philippine Sea row, particularly the standoff at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

China’s armed forces have vowed to “fulfill their duty” to safeguard their territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and they would collaborate closely with related governing bodies, including fishery administration and maritime law enforcement, to jointly ensure the country’s maritime rights and interests.

Nine Chinese vessels were reported to have arrived at the shoal being guarded by two Philippine vessels.

This developed as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Philippine Coast Guard yesterday reported another incident of “bullying” by Chinese vessels in the area.

Coast Guard Commander Vice Admiral Edmund Tan said a Chinese Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) 310 vessel tried to scare off two Coast Guard vessels during their turnover of the area yesterday morning.

“At 9 a.m. FLEC 310 approached a stationary BRP Pampanga 003 from her left bow, heading towards her, then at 600 yards veered away crossing past the right side of BRP 003 at a speed of 20.3 knots,” Tan said.

“At 9:15 am, FLEC 310 passed by BRP Edsa 002 from her right to the left at a distance of 200 yards and speed of 20.6 knots. In these instances, the speeding FLEC 310 generated a 2-meter wave in her wake but no damage was inflicted on our two ships, which did not react to the ‘bullying’ by FLEC 310,” he said.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said the actions of the Chinese vessel were properly documented by the Coast Guard.

Tan said BRP 003 departed the area at 9:25 a.m. to reprovision in Manila.

“These maneuvers by the Chinese vessel posed a danger to the Philippine vessels, which could mean a violation of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions of Ships at Sea (COLREGs),” the DFA said.

The DFA said on Friday that China dispatched more vessels as 10 Chinese ships were sighted in the area.

Hernandez said three Chinese government vessels, including the Chinese maritime surveillance ship 71, FLEC 310 and one still unidentified Chinese ship located about eight nautical miles away from the Philippines’ BRP Pampanga, remain in Panatag Shoal.

Reports to the DFA on Friday morning showed seven Chinese fishing vessels were also spotted inside the lagoon, while two unidentified aircraft flew over the area on Thursday around 10 p.m.

These were in addition to the three Chinese government ships, Hernandez said.

The Philippines only had two vessels in the area – BRP Pampanga and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel.

The deployment of more ships to the area represented increased activities by the Chinese side, Hernandez said.


China’s armed forces have vowed to “fulfill their duty” to safeguard the territory it is claiming in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as Chinese vessels continue to engage in more activities in the Philippines’ Panatag Shoal.

President Aquino, on the other hand, said the Philippines would keep showing its flag in the area while employing diplomatic means to resolve the dispute.

Aquino has also stressed that he did not want violence to erupt and a military solution would not be resorted to, as the country would continue to talk and not go to war.

Valte said Malacañang was grateful for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s call for the Filipino people to rally behind Aquino on the issue and that it would be up to Filipinos to find ways to express their support.

She said the DFA had announced that legal experts would be formed to prepare the country’s evidence in asserting claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“Senate President Enrile’s stand on this is certainly well taken and that is why the DFA is already forming their team of legal experts that will be taking care of this,” Valte said.

She said it would be up to the DFA to decide who would compose the team of legal experts and personalities to “bolster our claim.”

Valte added the DFA would continue talking with their Chinese counterparts as regards the presence of nine Chinese vessels at Panatag Shoal that was clearly in Philippine waters based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“From what I understand, there are two surveillance (Chinese) ships and fishing vessels again in that area, not military presence. I have not seen any particular report pointing to that. But certainly we will let the Department of Foreign Affairs take this recent development into consideration and we will let them deal with their counterparts because of the recent development,” she said.

Asked if the Chinese side seemed to be taunting or provoking the Philippine side, Valte said it “is something that they have to answer for, that they have to explain in particular when the DFA addresses that particular development.”

The Senate yesterday conducted a hearing over the issue of China’s claiming Panatag Shoal.

International law expert Merlin Magallona told the lawmakers that the continued presence of the Chinese vessels in Panatag Shoal should be observed very carefully, especially if they start showing signs of aggression.

Magallona, former dean of University of the Philippines’ College of Law, told Coast Guard and Navy officials during the hearing that it should take note of the presence of any military vessels from China in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal, which the government could use to file a case against China.

He said the presence of Chinese warships or even naval vessels there could be treated as a threat of the use of force on Philippine vessels.

“If there is, then we should charge China with the threat of the use of force, which is a fundamental principle under the UN Charter,” Magallona said.

“It’s important to consider the threat of force on the part of China, especially in relation to its claim on Panatag Shoal, because it is at the same time an attempt to settle the dispute not in a peaceful manner. I think we should alert the international community and we will get a good opinion out of it if we make a protest with China,” he added.

Enrile said the Navy and Coast Guard should look out for those surveillance vessels, which he said would most likely be armed.

While the threat of an attack by Chinese vessels is always there, Enrile said he is optimistic that the Chinese would not commit the mistake of firing on Philippine vessels because of the repercussions this would have on them.

“One reason why China will not dare fire on any Philippine military vessel in that area is because we have treaty alliance with an equal superpower in the world, in fact the only one in the world right now, America, and we can invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) if China will make the error of firing at us,” he said.

“That will squarely come under the ambit of the Mutual Defense Treaty. Any attack on any vessels of the contracting parties within the Pacific area and the South China Sea, within the treaty area of the MDT, is an attack on the other,” he added.

Enrile said China has been trying to avoid bringing the dispute before the international arena because this could bring the US into the fray.

No permanent US presence

Valte, on the other hand, stressed the Philippines would only seek assistance from the US to improve the country’s defense capabilities and there was no agreement for new bases being discussed.

“Permanent presence? If this is something similar to any basing agreement, we have already said that that is not in the works,” Valte said, reacting to some lawmakers’ suggestions that the US be asked to station forces permanently in the country to boost its defense against territorial incursions.

In 1991, the Philippine Senate voted not to renew a lease agreement that would have kept Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base.

This effectively “limited” US soldiers’ presence in the country to joint military exercises under the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

The Philippines and the US also have the long-standing MDT.

Valte said US assistance in upgrading the Philippine military’s capabilities would be discussed when Filipino officials meet with their American counterparts in Washington on April 30.

“Certainly we have always been on the look out to upgrade our military capabilities and we hope that this meeting will push us further down that road,” Valte said.

Also asked how Filipinos could unite and rally behind Philippine claims in the West Philippine Sea, Valte said, “How they should show it is entirely up to the people. You cannot dictate on people how they wish to show their support. But that is certainly a very (good development).”

Weakest link

The military’s Northern Luzon (Nolcom) commander Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara said the situation remains stable in the area.

Nolcom has military jurisdiction over Panatag Shoal, a rock formation located 124 nautical miles off Zambales that is being claimed by China.

The standoff at Panatag Shoal began on April 10 when two Chinese surveillance ships stopped the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar from accosting eight Chinese fishing boats suspected of poaching.

Alcantara said the Chinese FLEC vessel, after establishing her intimidating presence in the area, is no longer around but two Chinese maritime vessels remain.

He said the Coast Guard’s BRP Pampanga and a ship from the BFAR are in the area, closely watching developments.

“The prevailing security situation remains stable,” Alcantara said.

He also urged a peaceful resolution of the standoff through diplomatic channels.

Alcantara, however, said the military is also doing its share in addressing the security situation in the area under the guidance of the national leadership, specifically coming from the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, along with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, flew to the US for a scheduled meeting tomorrow with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

While the scheduled US meeting will tackle wide-ranging political and economic issues including the forthcoming state visit of President Aquino, it is also expected that the 2+2 meet will also take up the prevailing standoff in Panatag Shoal.

For his part, AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa said diplomacy should go hand in hand with capability to defend the Philippines’ rights as a sovereign nation.

Dellosa made the statement during the closing ceremony of the Balikatan exercises in Camp Aguinaldo.

“It is apparent that a practical blend of the concepts/ of ‘might is right’ and ‘right is might’ should be explored, shared among friends and allies, and eventually put to good use,” Dellosa said.

“For the Philippines, striking a workable mix may also require increasing capacities to defend its dignity and its rights as a sovereign nation,” he added.

While diplomacy is the “normative path to tread,” Dellosa it should be matched with capabilities “to attain stability, security and development.”

“That is the prevailing logic of Balikatan and the strategic partnership of our forces. It is what it is. It will be into the future,” the military chief said.

Critics claimed the lack of military equipment had made it easy for China to bully the Philippines.

Officials have acknowledged that the standoff highlights the urgent need to beef up the military’s capabilities.

Early this month, Gazmin said China might have been bullying the Philippines because of its weak military capability.

“In our region, in terms of the capability of the armed forces, we are the weakest,” Gazmin said in a press briefing last April 3.

“We are below par. If you are the bully, you will look for the weakest,” he added.

Gazmin nevertheless said the modernization efforts of the armed forces is not directed towards China or any particular country.

“This is for our protection to make sure that our laws are enforced and we are able to protect our territorial waters,” he said.

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma yesterday said Filipinos should defend their integrity and supremacy over Panatag Shoal.

Palma said Filipinos should defend what they believe belongs to them.

“In truth, I think in principle we have to defend our integrity and supremacy over the land which we believe is our very own,” he said. – With Jaime Laude, Alexis Romero, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan


By Florante S. Solmerin 
Manila Standard Today

DEFENSE and military officials said Friday they will use the country’s decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States to modernize the country’s Armed Forces in the face of China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines’ recent standoff with China over the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands will be a test of the US government’s willingness to come to the aid of a small nation against Chinese aggression.

“Most importantly, it shall further enhance our security relations and, most importantly, demonstrate our unequivocal resolve to support each other against the threats of external aggression and the enemies of freedom and liberty,” Gazmin said in a speech read for him by Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta during the closing ceremonies for the Balikatan exercises in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

President Benigno Aquino III has sent Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario Thursday to Washington to seek US help in the ongoing dispute. They will meet US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Gazmin said that “as long-time and durable friends and allies” the Philippines and the United States had common obligations as embodied in the defense treaty, which must be rekindled not only in joint military and humanitarian exercises.

He did not specify what military equipment they were going to request from the US government, but based on the Philippines’ priorities Manila would likely seek F16 jet fighters and warships.

Gazmin brought along with him Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Macapagal and Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama.

Armed Force chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa said it was the mandate of the Mutual Defense Treaty to respect national sovereignty, peace and goodwill.

“While diplomacy is the best policy, it should be matched with capabilities to attain stability, security and development,” he said.

Azcueta said the government would ask the US for excess military hardware for its territorial defense. Those, he said, could include systems that had been removed from a Hamilton-class cutter that the Philippines acquired from the US, as well as long-range patrol aircraft and radar systems.

Military officials on Friday said China’s fastest surveillance ship, the FLEC 310, and another maritime surveillance vessel remained in the disputed Scarborough shoal to guard seven Chinese fishing boats.

Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara said the ship was spotted briefly by the Coast Guard about four nautical miles southwest of the Panatag Shoal.

A Chinese defense ministry spokesman said Thursday the armed forces have vowed to fulfill their duty to safeguard China’s territory in the South China Sea.

“China’s military forces will collaborate closely with related governing bodies, including fishery administration and maritime law enforcement, to jointly ensure the country’s maritime rights and interests,” Geng Yansheng said in Beijing.

This was the first official remark from the Chinese armed forces following a standoff with a Philippine warship in the waters off the Panatag Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, on April 10.

The official People’s Daily on Friday said politicians and the media were drumming up “radical” views on the territorial dispute and pandering to the United States.

Malacañang said the planned protests by Filipinos against Chinese embassies and consulates abroad was “a patriotic response” to Chinese aggression in the Panatag Shoal.

“Certainly [it is patriotic]. If they feel their country is put at a disadvantage, this is certainly their reaction to that,” deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Friday.

“We cannot stop them from mounting these actions. This is a private initiative. The government is committed to taking the diplomatic track. We expect to pursue that track fully, but of course these are private citizens. The citizens of China also do express their thoughts on this matter and we do not take it against them.”

Loida Nicolas Lewis, national chairwoman of a Filipino-American good governance organization, made the call on Filipinos on Thursday, drawing positive responses from an initial batch of Filipino groups in Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and Australia.

Rodel Rodis, national president of the US Pinoys for Good Governance, called on the Global Filipino Diaspora Council representing 12 million Filipinos in 220 countries throughout the world to support the country’s sovereign claim to the Panatag Shoal.

“Our only appeal is for them to keep the protest actions orderly and peaceful,” Valte said.

The standoff in Panatag has also resulted in an online war between Chinese and Filipino hackers, with the Budget Department website being the latest to be defaced on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, at least three Malacañang websites were also attacked by Chinese hackers. On April 20, hackers attacked the University of the Philippines website and uploaded inflammatory content about the country’s dispute with China over the Panatag Shoal.

Filipino hackers retaliated and defaced some Chinese websites on Sunday.

China, meanwhile, has approved a development project that would support tourism and fishing around South China Sea islands, a move likely to inflame territorial disputes.

The southernmost Hainan province wants to build a supply dock over more than 823 acres of water off Jinqing island, which is part of the Paracel chain. Vietnam claims the Paracels as its territory and has protested China’s tourism plans there.

The State Oceanic Administration said Thursday it had agreed “in principle” to Hainan’s proposal. It was considering a proposal for another supply dock in the South China Sea, the statement said without elaborating.

China also complained about a Philippine plan to build a primary school on what Beijing calls Zhongye, a disputed island in the South China Sea occupied by Filipinos. With Joyce Pangco Pañares and AP