Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pinoy Top Thinkers Today!(2016)

This year, the Philippines made several breakthrough acts, carved by its leaders and thinkers. The results of the national elections gave mandate to an alpha male, chauvinist, and risk-taker president whose deconstructed values and post-modern family tree tries to outdo traditional norms. His oblique and shrewd diplomacy outwits estranged partnership with an old ally, instead, he has created a new bridge with emerging big powers. His tyrant and bloody banner policy on the war on illegal drugs supported by his youngest police chief and opposed by a lady senator has placed the country on the world map, but devoured by criticisms on his method in eradicating this national security threat.

Top lawyers contributed in shaping the current narratives of the Philippines, while the country is embattled with its sovereignty issues with a giant civilization. The Philippines may have won a landmark maritime and territorial case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague, still it remains at the mercy of powerful naval states.

Both the elected president and vice president of the Philippines are lawyers but sit in a seesaw in dealing on different national and global issues,

Dean of law schools have topped the list. They are precisely tapped based from their expertise on constitutional law, maritime law and international humanitarian law. Senior journalists are also included in the gallery of thinkers given their powerful headlines and stories at the height of the conflict in the West Philippine Sea. Thus, the country is now blessed with strict guardian of the environment. The business sector remains a pillar in our list as they expand our economic prowess in the integrated ASEAN region.

Young thinkers bandwagon in delivering their expertise representing the millennials' crowd. We could also never be wrong with our top entertainers and athletes as they bring home laurels of honor to the country. Joining the ranks are topnotch Filipino filmmakers, actress, rock/alternative icons, Olympic medalist, senator-boxer, and beauty queen as they zoom glamour in our tradition of excellence.

Below are the names (in alphabetical order) of distinguished Filipino top thinkers this year! For more than half a decade of documenting our visionaries, the Philippines is still blessed to have nurtured colorful and world-class thinkers!

***Apologies this year for not highlighting the achievements of our top thinkers. This is to ink no biases for some personal political convictions! Thank you.

Ranhilio Aquino (law dean, priest

Jay Batongbacal (maritime law expert)

Ely Buendia & Rico Blanco (music icons, songwriters)

Danilo Concepcion (UP president, law dean)

Hidilyn Diaz (Olympics silver medalist)

Lav Diaz (filmmaker)

Nicollete “Nikko” Dizon (journalist)

Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte (16th president of the Philippines)

Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa (police chief)

Richard Heydarian (TOYM awardee)

Jaclyn Jose (Cannes best actress)

Leila de Lima (senator)

Regina Paz “Gina” Lopez (environment secretary)

Manny Pacquiao (senator, eight-division world champion)

Raul Pangalanan (International Criminal Court judge)

Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo (15th vice president of the Philippines)

Henry Sy (tycoon, richest Filipino)

Oscar Franklin Tan (columnist, lawyer)

Kylie Verzosa (2016 miss international)

Chiara Zambrano (broadcast journalist)

Monday, November 21, 2016


             Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2016 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

Singapura! This powerhouse Southeast Asian city-state vibrates with zest as the knowledge-intense capital of the region while it invests much on education, innovation, and research and development. Still, the most expensive city to live in on earth but worth the visit for its ultra-modern and futuristic skyline. Been here several times for business, work and leisure, but Singapore never stops to amaze me! I heart Singapore. Mwah!  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tổng thống Duterte được khuyên thăm Mỹ

By Tin Moi Nhat

(NLĐO) - Tiến sĩ Chester Cabalza tại Trường CĐ Quốc phòng Quốc gia Philippines cho rằng Tổng thống Philippines Rodrigo Duterte nên thăm Mỹ trong tương lai gần bất chấp những lời chỉ trích của ông đối với Washington.

“Năm tới sẽ là thời điểm tốt nhất để thăm Mỹ. Còn bây giờ, tôi nghĩ ông ấy không nên đi vì những lời chỉ trích Washington nặng nề (vẫn chưa lắng xuống)” – ông Cabalza nói với mạng lưới truyền hình ABS-CBN hôm 28-10.
Vị tiến sĩ này còn gợi ý thời điểm lý tưởng để nhà lãnh đạo Philippines thực hiện chuyến thăm là sau tháng 1-2017. Lúc đó, Mỹ đã có tổng thống mới.
Trước đó, hôm 26-10, nghị sĩ Harry Roque cũng khuyên ông Duterte nên cân nhắc thăm Mỹ. Ông này lo ngại Washington sẽ lật đổ tổng thống Philippines nếu ông Duterte tiếp tục tỏ ra chống đối.
Theo ông Roque, cựu Tổng thống Philippines Joseph Estrada đã bị đảo chính vào năm 2001,sau khi ông không nghe lời cố vấn của Tổng thống Mỹ khi đó là ông Bill Clinton về việc ngừng cuộc chiến tổng lực với nhóm vũ trang Mặt trận giải phóng Hồi giáo Moro ở Mindanao.
Về chuyến thăm Nhật Bản kéo dài 3 ngày gần đây, ông Cabalza cho rằng đó là động thái tốt nhằm trấn an Nhật Bản trong bối cảnh Manila và Tokyo đều đang tranh chấp lãnh hải với Bắc Kinh (Philippines là bãi cạn Scarborough ở biển Đông, còn Nhật Bản là quần đảo Senkaku ở biển Hoa Đông).
Nhận xét chuyến thăm tới Nhật Bản là một trong những khoảnh khắc quyết định kể từ khi Tổng thống Duterte nhậm chức ngày 30-6, ông Cabalza tin rằng Nhật Bản thích hợp để trở thành quốc gia cân bằng những vấn đề hàng hải giữa Philippines và Trung Quốc trong quá khứ, đồng thời giúp nâng cao quan hệ đối tác chiến lược giữa Manila và Tokyo.
Các quan chức Philippines cho biết các công ty tư nhân Nhật Bản đã cam kết đầu tư 1,85 tỉ USD vào Philippines bên cạnh khoản vay và viện trợ 162 triệu USD của chính quyền Tokyo.
Song song đó, ông Cabalza cũng ca ngợi Tổng thống Duterte đã làm rõ quan điểm của mình về các tranh chấp lãnh thổ ở biển Đông, kêu gọi giải quyết tranh chấp hàng hải một cách hòa bình, không sử dụng vũ lực.
“Hai nhà lãnh đạo Philippines – Nhật Bản đã khẳng định tầm quan trọng của việc tự kiềm chế và phi quân sự hóa biển Đông. Điều đó rất tốt vì chúng tôi đang nhìn thấy ánh sáng trong chính sách đối ngoại độc lập do Tổng thống Duterte khởi xướng” - ông Cabalza nói.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


                    Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2016 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

The visit to Vietnam renews my perception of a nation in progress blurred by what I have read in textbooks from yesteryears. The bullish economy in Ho Chi Minh, formerly known as Saigon, is rejuvenating! The Cu Chi Tunnel exposure is a reminder how the petite and lean disciplined Vietcongs can kick the ass of a superpower! The river cruise along the Mekong River is kinda iconic! In Hanoi, we thank the Communist Party and its Armed Forces for hosting us their warmth hospitality! The bustling city of Hanoi is quite conservative yet upbeat because of their cool millennials! Motorcycles are everywhere like ants with common direction! Vietnamese food is heavenly good and the country is one of the best places to visit in ASEAN!  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Using military tactics vs Abu Sayyaf not a long-term solution: analyst

Arriane Merez, ABS-CBN News
Posted at Oct 03 2016 05:12 PM

MANILA--Combating the Abu Sayyaf group using military tactics may not be an effective long-term solution, an analyst said Monday.
National Defense College associate professor Chester Cabalza explained that the recent releases of Abu Sayyaf hostages with the help of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is a good message since it shows cooperation from different stakeholders given that the government is keen on its peace efforts.
Cabalza however added that using military tactics to counter kidnapping and terrorism attacks of the Abu Sayyaf does not solve the problem. 
"It's a matter of respect and sincerity as of the moment. We are trying to build this trust with the secessionist group--the MNLF group, but it all boils down to what's next given that you still have captives there by the ASG and we still see presence of ASG in Mindanao," he said.
Last Sunday, three Indonesian nationals held captive by Abu Sayyaf were freed through the help of the MNLF.
The MNLF also helped negotiate the release of four Abu Sayyaf captives, including Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad and three more Indonesians last September. 
Cabalza said medium and long term solutions would require addressing the socio-economic problems of Mindanao.
"It all boils down to socio-economic conditions in Mindanao. We have to deliver basic services and of course we have to look at some of the issues on human rights abuses [and] marginalization of the Muslims so it's very complex," he said.
Cabalza noted that there are many ways to look at the problem in Mindanao. He is however positive that the government is looking at it from a new light given that President Rodrigo Duterte is from Mindanao.
"The president is from Mindanao. He's looking at the problem from inside. He knows what he's going for and that could help perhaps to heal some of the wounds that has been done to some of our Muslim brothers," Cabalza said.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Duterte gains momentum after Japan, China visits: analyst

Posted at Oct 28 2016 12:27 PM | Updated as of Oct 28 2016 12:47 PM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has gained momentum with his consecutive trips to Beijing and Tokyo, an analyst said Friday.
Dr. Chester Cabalza of National Defense College said Duterte's recent visit to Japan was a good move since the President was able to reassure Japan of the Philippines' commitment especially since the two countries are both locked in maritime disputes with China.
"It was done in the right time because you have these Asian Argonauts. You have China there, and, of course, Japan. These are two Asian powerhouses, and there would always be room for comparison," he told Mornings@ANC.
"You know what happened in China. We had some problems in the past with China because of maritime claims but, all of a sudden, Japan is there to balance the equation."
"I think it was (a) good move from the President, especially coming from China. He was able to gain some momentum there. His visit to Japan is one of the defining moments in his administration for the past four months."
Cabalza said Duterte's trip elevated the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan.
"Of course, we also gained some economic and trade deals with Japan. Japan has been very supportive of our economic programs and of course with some of our security programs in the Philippines," he said, noting the support given to the expansion of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Philippine officials said Thursday Duterte's three-day visit to Japan yielded investment commitments worth $1.85 billion from private companies and 17.1 billion yen ($162 million) worth of loans and grants.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told Kyodo News the investments, forged through memoranda of understanding and letters of intent, are in the automotive, egg-laying technology, optical imagery, and biofuel fields, among others.
"The fresh commitments may generate between 200,000 to 250,000 direct and indirect jobs over the years," Trade Undersecretary Nora Terrado told Kyodo News in a separate interview.
Cabalza also praised Duterte for clarifying his position on territorial disputes in the South China Sea "and to peacefully settle these maritime disputes without resulting to the use of force."
"They also asserted the significance of self-restraint and non-militarization in the South China Sea. That’s good because we’re seeing some light in the independent foreign policy of the President that is slowly finding its own niche because of the President’s engagement with these Asian capitals."
Arriving at a peaceful resolution, he said, would also stimulate economic growth in the region, because at the moment, "we are gaining more momentum in terms of the economic trade activities in the Asia-Pacific."
"For sure, that would be the intention of these countries on how to elevate that kind of Asian century mentality because we see that economics will become the engine for all these activities in the region," he said.
Cabalza also believes President Duterte should visit the United States in the near future despite his criticisms of the US. He said Duterte can schedule a visit after the next American president is inaugurated on January 2017.
"Next year would be the best time to visit the US, but as for now, I don’t think he should visit the US because of those radical rhetorics," he said.
Cabalza said the Duterte administration's push for an independent foreign policy is "seeing some light."
"Things are changing, evolving and we are seeing a very ambiguous policy at the moment because of the vulnerable regional security that we are seeing right now."
"For sure, since these rhetorics and pronouncements are evolving as well, we could connect and give all the dots there that would help us define and clarify our independent foreign policy."

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

China stand on sea row stays, say analysts

 / 01:09 AM October 24, 2016

Security analysts expect China to continue building its “great wall” in the South China Sea despite the Philippines’ friendliness under President Duterte and Chinese talk of giving Filipino fishermen conditional access to the disputed Scarborough Shoal off Zambales province.

“Despite the initial agreement to allow fishermen [to go back to] Scarborough, it is not clear what’s China’s stand in the disputed areas … which leads us to believe that there has been no change in China’s position. They will continue to build their great wall in the sea. They will not give up their claim in the South China Sea,” Chester Cabalza, a professor at National Defense College, said on Sunday.

“I think that President Duterte has made the determination that he can cut a deal with China like fishing access to the Scarborough Shoal based upon an assumption of Chinese goodwill and the desire in Beijing to negotiate in good faith. But where that idea comes from I am not entirely sure,” said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (Amti).

Amti estimates Beijing has “created [1,248 hectares] of new islands” in the Spratlys. Each artificial island hosts a military base that is expected to be fully operational by next year.

The military installations will allow China to carry out its Anti-Access Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, a military doctrine used to deny foreign militaries access to a certain area.

By using A2/AD, China is denying other militaries access to the South China Sea and impinging on other countries’ freedom of navigation.

Poling told the Inquirer on Friday that China “has completed hangars base, three full regiments of 24 fighter jets at each of the three biggest islands it occupies including Mischief Reef.”

Likely behavior

Poling said “recent history” would indicate China’s likely behavior even toward its newest friend.
“China has not shown one shred of willingness to negotiate with any Southeast Asian claimant as an equal member of the maritime community,” he said.

Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have overlapping claims with China in the South China Sea.

Despite its ties with Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, China has flexed its muscles against them in their maritime disputes, Poling said.

“Why do we assume that all of a sudden everything’s going to be different?” he said.

Arbitral ruling

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, where an estimated $5.3 trillion in global trade passes annually.

In an action brought by the Philippines, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in July that China’s claims had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ rights to fish and explore for resources in waters within its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.

China rejected the decision and the Philippines agreed to direct talks last week to resolve the dispute. But Cabalza warned that China would seek to dominate the Philippines in those talks.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

If you’re not with us, you’re against us

 / 01:10 AM October 08, 2016

President Duterte’s foreign policy in his first 100 days in office could generally be characterized as being, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” at least in his war against illegal drugs.

His near-obsession with ridding the country of some 3 million drug addicts has left him railing against the Philippines’ closest allies, the United States and the European Union, and even the United Nations, which have cautioned him against his seeming disregard for human rights.

Just before leaving for his first international appearance as head of state in Laos for the 28th and 29th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summits, he made international headlines for cussing US President Barack Obama, something he has denied doing and explained away as being taken out of context.

His communications group made matters worse by announcing that Mr. Duterte would be seated between Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but he actually sat between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The seating arrangement allowed him to speak with the Indonesian President on the plight of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso. But then again, Mr. Duterte drew strong criticisms from the Filipino community for his conversation with Widodo where he was said to have given the “go-ahead” to Veloso’s execution.

In his defense, the President’s men explained that what he had told Widodo was, “Follow your laws. I will not interfere.”

After the summits, Duterte proclaimed that he was the one who snubbed Obama and that he was inclined to send home the American troops in Mindanao, hinting at scrapping the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States.

Returning from his official visit to Vietnam, Mr. Duterte earned the ire of the international community by saying that he would just be happy to slaughter 3 million drug addicts similar to Adolf Hitler’s massacre of millions of Jews.

He was quoted in his return speech in Davao City from Vietnam to have taken exception to comparisons of him with the leader of Nazi Germany during the campaign period in May and said in disgust, “Then I am him.”

He drew the line, though, that while Hitler slaughtered innocent Jews, he would be killing criminals.
When the rhetoric drew the ire of the international community, particularly the Jews, he apologized and compared himself to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu instead.

Flames of scorn

But within days, the President fanned the flames of scorn anew by telling Obama that he can go to hell after his criticisms of the bloody war against drugs while the EU can go to purgatory “because hell’s already full.”

Over at the House of Representatives, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a member of the opposition, might have seen the succeeding events before they took place.

On Oct. 4, Tuesday, Lagman declined to give an assessment of President Duterte’s first 100 days in office.

“Let us wait until we reach the 100 days, because between now and Friday, he (Duterte) might make a serious blunder or an important miracle,” Lagman said at a press conference.

The very next day, Mr. Duterte once again lambasted US President Barack Obama and the European Union, telling them to go to hell and purgatory, respectively, for supposedly meddling in his administration’s war against drugs.

There was no letup from the President. On Thursday, he called international foreign aids as “crumbs from other nations’ favors” in a speech in Butuan City.

He also said that if the United States refuses to sell the Philippines arms, his administration is inclined to buy arms from Russia and China instead.

US officials have started finding his rhetoric “at odds” with the long and warm relations between our two countries and said that the Philippines is always free to pursue other diplomatic links if it so wishes.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay’s statement on Duterte’s independent foreign policy where he said, “America has failed us,” did not help in any way fortify the two countries’ ties.

In his latest tirade, Mr. Duterte dared the United States and the EU to pull out its assistance from the Philippines saying, “We can survive onour own.”

Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said there’s something wrong with always “playing the victim in circumstances that he (the President) created.”

Villarin said it was high time for the President “to be like a statesman.”

“If the approach to governance is all emotion-laden, that there’s always an outburst of emotions that is being made into policy—that is dangerous. In governance, you really have to take all sides. In the end, you will have to look at the perspective of differing, opposing views,” Villarin said.

Villarin said the Duterte administration is likely to “implode” after the 100 days if it would continue with a “lack of coherence in policies.”

Villarin, who is also from Davao, noted that President Duterte is not exactly a leader exposed to foreign policy and diplomacy, having been ensconced in Davao City all his life but thrown into the national scene all too suddenly.

National security analyst Chester Cabalza said that the President “should clarify and define his foreign and security policies as he asserts the country’s own interests and direction.”

“Although his intents for independent foreign and security policies are sound and revolutionary, his approach of expressing it seems tactical that may lead to the misconstruction of his language,” Cabalza said, adding:

“The Philippines under his tenure has the right to explore engagements and renew friendships with other big powers but an old ally should still be accorded with special attention.”

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Monday, October 3, 2016

‘Foreign policy must be clear’

12:42 AM September 13th, 2016

THE ADMINISTRATION needs to clearly spell out the “independent foreign policy” being adopted by President Duterte for the international community to understand the path the Philippines would be taking in the next six years, a security analyst said.

“The President must clearly define what he means by an independent foreign policy in order for the international community to know our intents and values,” Chester Cabalza of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) told the Inquirer.

“Our independent foreign policy should regard the importance of present alliances notwithstanding the long-term goal of self-reliance in its defense posture to safeguard its people and territory,” Cabalza said.

Mr. Duterte emphasized the Philippines’ independent foreign policy during a speech in Davao—before his unusual debut on the world stage at the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit—where he directed obscenity-laced remarks at US President Barack Obama.

As a result, the White House canceled a scheduled bilateral meeting between the two leaders.

Mr. Duterte fumed at Obama’s intent to discuss human rights issues with him, but later regretted spewing an expletive.

He, however, continued with his tirade against the United States when he showed the brutality of American troops against Filipinos in World War II in a speech before heads of state at the Asean summit.

No fan of longtime ally

Mr. Duterte also said he was no fan of the United States, a long-time ally and strategic partner of the Philippines.

“Interpreting the Constitution, the government can and may forge an independent foreign policy. But the intent and validity of the prerogative should be taken at the right time. There should be a thorough study of past foreign policies that connects to the present global and regional security environment,” Cabalza said.

Cabalza said an independent foreign policy must be executed in a manner “not maligning small, middle and great powers.”

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hague ruling may lead to US, China power play

01:56 PM July 12th, 2016

The decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague which will be released Tuesday is akin to the “beginning of an end,” a Filipino security expert said.

“The case will end today but this will only be the start of an intensified power play between China and the US, the two opposing titans, eventually dwarfing the Philippines. And this will happen whoever wins in the case,” Chester Cabalza, a security expert and professor at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), told the INQUIRER on Monday afternoon.

Experts believe that Tuesday’s landmark ruling, which will be released at 5 p.m. local time, is likely to be in Manila’s favor.

“After the ruling comes out, whoever wins, it won't be about the case anymore,” Cabalza said. He said it will be about what the US and China would do next.

Cabalza said that even before the ruling, both the US and China have already stepped up their information warfare. The two superpowers have also shown their military might.

Cabalza also said that whatever the decision of the arbitral court would test the mettle of Pesident Rodrigo Duterte as the country's chief diplomat, particularly his abiliy to morph into a regional leader. 

“This will be a litmus test for the President. The world will be watching us,” said Chester Cabalza.

Cabalza said indeed, Duterte and his Cabinet must study the decision of the arbitral tribunal very well, as their next steps in the dispute will have far-reaching implications.

“The decision will become key to unlocking alternative options for the new administration. It could either go for a convergence or cooperation in terms of diplomacy, economy, and defense, or it could opt for divergence,” Cabalza said. 

Cabalza said that 2017 would particularly be significant, and challenging, for Duterte's skills in diplomacy.

With the Philippines chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) next year, Manila will host the regional bloc’s 50th founding anniversary.

The Asean itself has grappled with the South China Sea maritime dispute, as four of its member nations have overlapping claims in the vast ocean where an estimated $5.3 million worth of trade passes.

These claimant countries are the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

Moreover, Laos and Cambodia, while non-claimants, are strong supporters of China.

Former President Benigno III had pushed for the adoption of a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to allow the smaller claimant nations to protect their interests but he stepped down from office last June 30 with Asean and China nowhere closer to achieving the document. 

Cabalza pointed out that as a realist, Duterte has shown a pragmatic approach to dealing with the South China Sea row, recognizing that China is “the giant neighbor with military might and economic prowess.

“The President has to do something to assert his leadership. This is the best time for us to morph into a regional power. While we cannot yet have military might, we are strong diplomartically and economically,” Cabalza said.

He said Duterte could build on the legacy of Aquino who turned the Philippines into the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia and left a surplus of P1.5 trillion.

Aquino also brought the country back to the international stage, with his good governance campaign and his defiance of China’s expansionism in the South China Sea by lodging the petition before the United Nations arbitral court in 2014.

Cabalza said a sudden shift in the Philippines’ strategy in the South China Sea conundrum would make the country a “laughingstock,” especially after other claimant nations like Vietnam and Malaysia, as well as other countries, have thrown their support behind the Philippines’ case against China.

Cabalza said that nothing precludes the Duterte administration from dealing with China bilaterally, “for as long as we assert our national interests.”

He said that the administration could do “multiple diplomacy” - have a bilateral approach with China with regard to Scarborough Shoal and do multilateral talks in dealing with the Spratlys, to include the other claimant countries. RAM/rga

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World awaits South China Sea verdict amid fears of further tensions

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  •  |  
  • Updated: Jul 10, 2016 22:13 IST

A rusted US-made World War 2 warship stands at The Philippines’ lonely outpost amid China’s prowling battleships and frenetic island-building activities in the South China Sea.
The Philippines deliberately grounded the BRP Sierra Madre in the late 1990s on the Second Thomas Shoal, a chain of islets around shallow waters, to mark its claims on the Spratly archipelago. 
China calls the archipelago Nansha islands and claims it along with nearly the entire SCS.  Since 1999, the rat-infested warship has housed elite Filipino marine forces who have watched Chinese navy and coastguard ships becoming more aggressive over the decade and in recent years, reclaiming land and building artificial islands with airstrips. 
China, Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan (which China claims as a breakaway province) have claims and counter-claims over islands, shoals and reefs in the SCS. 
In the East China Sea, China is locked in separate but similar island-claiming dispute with Japan. US hasn’t remained quiet. Armed with its military pact with the Philippines and better ties with Vietnam, Washington has not only repeatedly spoken on the “freedom of navigation” in the SCS but has also dispatched warships and aircraft to test how choppy the situation was in the region. 
In 2015, Manila realised that a crumbling warship will not be able to hold off the world’s largest armed forces – and Beijing’s money-fueled international diplomacy -- for long. It decided to march to the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) under the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague with maps, copies of claims and complaints. 
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is set to announce its final decision on Tuesday. 
The International Crisis Group said China claims all land features in the SCS and its claims “slices into the Philippines’ claimed (maritime) Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The Philippines claims about 50 land features in the Spratly island chain and the Scarborough Shoal.’’ 
“Manila opted to sue China, firstly on the jurisdiction of ITLOS on the maritime dispute and secondly on the legality of the historical claim of China's nine-dash line. The legal track proceeded after a reality check on the part of the Philippines that it could not level off with the strength of a giant neighbour. There is an asymmetry of military capability between China as Goliath and the Philippines as David in the maritime dispute,” Professor Chester Cabalza fromNational Defence College of the Philippines told HT over email. 
Ahead of the verdict, China dismissed it, particularly as there’s a possibility that it might go against Beijing.  “It is a sheer delusion to expect to force China into accepting the decision via diplomatic channels or public fanfare,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said.  “The arbitration was unilaterally initiated by the “President (Benigno S) Aquino administration and distorts the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), challenges the dignity of the international law and undermines the rule of law in essence,” Hong said. 
Zhu Feng from the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the SCS at Nanjing University told state media that the new Duterte government needs to refrain from hyping the arbitration ruling, not rely on it as the only basis for settling the disputes, and actively improve bilateral relations.  “The most expected action from the Duterte government ...would be to drop the case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.”
To China, that’s the only way out because as Hong put it: “China will never change its stance.” 
The decision will be keenly followed. Global trade worth $5 trillion passes through the region annually, and SCS contains nearly 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves, as per US Energy Information Administration. 
If it is in favour of China, Beijing is likely to flex its diplomatic and strategic muscles more in the region. 
“The increasing militarisation in the SCS definitely affects trade, commerce, diplomacy, ecological resources and power relations among major actors in the region including the US, China, Japan, and India. Global security is also at risk in the SCS conundrum, a choke point for trade and security, among claimant countries,” Cabalza said. 
If Manila emerges winner, the war of words between China and other claimants is likely to escalate with Beijing expected to dismiss the decision and increase its show of power in the region. 
Cabalza expects India to be involved. 
“India has been playing its part to influence Asian neighbours to resolve their maritime differences peacefully. As a naval power itself, India has the moral responsibility to push for 'freedom of navigation' as a global interest in the hotly contested Indo-Pacific region. No state has the monopoly of seas and oceans. We need maritime and international laws to prevail in attaining an equi-balance of powers in an evolving multipolar world,” he said. 

‘CHexit’ PH waters urged: Netizens raise call on eve of UN ruling

IT IS TIME for China to do a #CHexit from the West Philippine Sea, social media users and activists in the Philippines said on Monday on the eve of a crucial UN tribunal ruling.

Inspired by the Brexit term coined for Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the catchy new reference for China has quickly gained currency on Facebook, Twitter and protest placards ahead of the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Beijing’s claims to most of South China Sea, including Philippine territorial waters.

“We ask our friends from other countries, especially our brothers and sisters in Southeast Asia, to call for a #CHexit,” Mong Palatino said as he protested with a small group of people outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila.

"China should stop bullying its neighbors."

On social media, some of the messages were more blunt. “China, get out of Philippine territory! #CHEXIT,” wrote @emiletabiar on Twitter.

“The West Philippine Sea is not for you to own. #CHexit,” said @rmcocoba.

Other Filipinos were not amused. “‘CHexit’?!?!? Cringing on this one,” said @titobabis.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, even waters approaching the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations.

Challenging China claim

Manila filed a case in the arbitral tribunal in The Hague in 2013 challenging China’s claim.

China refused to participate in the hearings and vowed to ignore Tuesday's verdict.

Experts have said that the ruling is likely to be in Manila’s favor.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson, Charles Jose, said the ruling would clarify the maritime entitlements of coastal states like the Philippines based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In a statement on June 29, the court said it would not rule on questions of sovereignty over the land territory and would not delimit any maritime boundary between the parties.

China has repeatedly announced it will not abide by the arbitration court, saying the Philippines failed to exhaust negotiations to settle disputes.

Former Foreign Undersecretary Lauro Baja Jr. said “China will use every excuse to justify (its moves). They (Chinese) are worried that the tribunal panel will rule against them.”

“The decibels of China’s rhetorics are increasing. If we analyze the statements coming from China, they look like people who are losing,” Baja said.

Comply with Ruling

The Philippines has called on China to respect and comply with the decision.

The DFA said it was confident that the arbitration ruling would be favorable to the Philippines, but maintained it would “respect and comply” if ever the ruling was favorable to China.

A key factor that could change the equation of the consequences of The Hague ruling is how President Duterte decides to respond.

His predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, filed the case, straining Manila’s relations with Beijing, but Duterte has shown readiness to mend frosty ties with China.

Mr. Duterte has pointed out the benefits of nurturing friendly relations with Beijing, including a Chinese offer of financing railway projects in the Philippines. His rise has given China an opening to make inroads in one of America’s closest security allies.

Last week, Mr. Duterte said his administration stood ready to talk to China if the Philippines gets a favorable ruling.

“When it’s favorable to us, let’s talk,” he said. “We are not prepared to go to war, war is a dirty word.”

It remains to be seen, however, how far Mr. Duterte can stray from Manila’s critical stance on Beijing’s territorial assertiveness, given his country’s close ties with Washington and growing nationalist sentiment against Chinese actions.

The decision of the arbitral court would test the mettle of Mr. Duterte as the country’s chief diplomat, said Chester Cabalza, a professor at National Defense College of the Philippines.

Jay Batongbacal, an expert on South China Sea issues at the University of the Philippines, said Manila should avoid revealing its cards ahead of potential negotiations with Beijing, “otherwise you lose the leverage that you have.”

Experts say the outcome of the dispute could provide ammunition for other countries involved in disputes with China.

Six states have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea—China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

In addition, China’s nine-dash line overlaps waters that are part of Indonesia’s internationally recognized exclusive economic zone.

“This is a time for China not to keep pushing forward too aggressively because they could embolden Vietnam and Indonesia to file a case as well,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Regardless, the ruling is unlikely to stop China from continuing to pursue more effective control over the sea space and airspace of the South China Sea, Glaser said.

US exercises

Over the last few months, the United States has held combined exercises by two Navy aircraft carrier strike groups off the coast of the Philippines and freedom of navigation cruises near China’s man-made islands to assert its presence in the Western Pacific.

Chinese state media have accused Washington of trying to turn the South China Sea “into a powder keg” and warned it not to underestimate China’s determination to defend its territorial claims.

Chinese warships, fighter jets and submarines have held live-fire war games as part of what the People’s Liberation Army Navy called routine exercises in the week running up to the tribunal’s ruling, drills that were seen at least in part responding to the US presence.

“There’s a real game of nerves going on here with China perhaps assuming that the US is bluffing and the US hoping that China will actually not test American resolve,” said Hugh White, professor of strategic studies of Australian National University. Reports from AFP, AP, Nikko Dizon and Estrella Torres