Apr 152014

Japan Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. AFP file photo

MANILA, Philippines—Japan, which is facing similar security issues with China, has reaffirmed its support for the Philippine recourse to international arbitration over its dispute with Beijing involving territories in an area of the South China Sea, called the West Philippine Sea by the Philippines, citing its basis in international law.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has conveyed his government’s support for the Philippines’ filing of a case before a UN tribunal to settle its dispute with China as he reiterated Tokyo’s advocacy of the rule of law, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

“Referring to the Philippines’ submission of its memorial in furtherance of the arbitration proceedings it has initiated relative to South China Sea/West Philippine Sea issues, Minister Kishida reiterated Japan’s support for the Philippines’ effort to seek a resolution grounded on international law, which is consistent with Japan’s own rule of law advocacy,” the DFA said.

Kishida met with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario for talks at the former’s residence in Hiroshima on April 11. Hiroshima, which bounced back from the devastation wrought by an atomic bomb in 1945, hosted the 8th ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI).

The 12-nation regional grouping of ministers was formed in 2010 with the goal of a “world free from nuclear weapons” through advancing nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament processes, the DFA said. The Philippines joined the initiative in September last year.

Bilateral cooperation

During the meeting, Kishida and Del Rosario resolved to promote bilateral maritime cooperation, with Japan vowing to sustain its support to boost the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard through the provision of communication systems, patrol vessels and personnel training.

The two sides also committed to pursue a continuing dialogue on security issues through various forums, including the 7th Philippines-Japan Political-Military Dialogue to be held next month in Manila.

Kishida reiterated Japan’s commitment to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” Tokyo is one of the biggest donors to the multinational effort, giving some $120 million in immediate assistance

The Japanese official also assured Del Rosario of Japan’s sustained support for the Mindanao peace process as he congratulated the government on the conclusion of the peace talks with the Muslim rebels and the recent signing of a final agreement.

Japan was closely involved in negotiations with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), being a member of three instrumentalities of the peace process—the international monitoring team, the international contact group and the independent commission on policing.

On the ground, Japan is also implementing grassroots projects to spur development in conflict-affected areas across Mindanao through the broad-based Japan-Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction and Development.

Japan is also locked in a maritime dispute with China for ownership of territories in the East China Sea, over which China last November unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone.

The Philippines filed a case against China before the United Nations arbitral tribunal in January last year as a “last recourse” in hopes of clarifiying maritime entitlements of both sides in the South China Sea, nullifying China’s “excessive” nine-dash line claim that encompasses 90 percent of the waters, and stopping Chinese incursions into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

While China has refused to take part in the proceedings and called for direct negotiations instead, the Philippines is pushing ahead with the legal action, filing on March 30 a memorial detailing the merits of its case.

The United States, Germany and the European Parliament have also expressed support for the Philippines’ decision to seek arbitration as a peaceful means of resolving the dispute.


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Feb 282014
Corpses still being found in Tacloban

U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce and USAID staff encourage Tacloban residents whose home was completely destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. Royce (R-CA) with seven other members of U.S. Congress visited and assured continued U.S. humanitarian support for the people of Tacloban. (MNS photo) MANILA, February 27, 2014 (AFP) – Bodies are still being found under the wreckage almost four months after Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines as survivors struggle to rebuild their lives, officials said Thursday. The government’s confirmed death toll of 6,201 has not been updated for a month, as officials investigate whether the recently-discovered corpses are among the 1,785 listed as missing. This development came in the way of a U.S. congressional visit led by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce visited and assured continued U.S. humanitarian support for the people of Tacloban, the Philippine city devastated by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Nov. 8. Accompanied by Mayor Alfred Romualdez during the visit to the city and surrounding areas, Chairman Royce visited U.S. and international-funded aid projects for residents, many of whom had their homes completely destroyed. At a rice distribution site, Chairman Royce and the delegation were briefed on aid efforts by representatives from the U.S.  Agency for International Development (USAID), which along with the World Food Program (WFP) and Samaritan’s Purse are distributing food aid to those in need. Chairman Royce and the delegation also visited a USAID shelter and settlement site, at which aid organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and PLAN Read More …

Feb 262014

FOREIGN governments, embassies, diplomatic missions and international organizations located in the Philippines are granted immunity from taxes on their employees’ salaries, regardless of the workers’ nationality. In other words, such organizations are not treated as withholding agents of the Philippine government.

Jan 182014
PH to proceed with UN arbitration even without China

OVER SEA ROW By Kristine Angeli SabilloINQUIRER.net 2:27 pm | Saturday, January 18th, 2014 DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday reiterated that it would proceed with arbitration procedures on the disputed areas of the South China Sea with or without China. However, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said it wants China, as much as possible, to join the arbitration. “To this end, we reiterate our invitation to China to join us in arbitration as we intend to proceed with or without China for a final disposition,” Hernandez said in a text message to media. It followed the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement that it wants to meet the Philippines “halfway.” Hernandez also pointed out that the Hainan provincial government’s new fishing policy is only one of the several measures imposed by China on other countries. “Hainan fisheries law is only one of the unilateral measures by China to force a change in the regional status quo in order to advance its 9-dash line position of undisputed  sovereignty over nearly the entire [South China Sea],” Hernandez said in a text message. He said the 9-dash line claim is a “gross violation of international law” that should be “fully addressed.” “In 2011, we had proposed to China that we should proceed with moving forward with our major bilateral agenda while abstracting the contentious issues and dealing with them separately. This became the content of a signed declaration between the Philippines and China’s presidents then. Read More …

Jan 072014
ILO: More job creation program needed in Yolanda-hit areas

TANAUAN, LEYTE Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors in this town wait for the distribution of food items from a helicopter in this photo taken two days after Yolanda struck. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOHN CHUA MANILA, Philippines—The International Labor Organization has launched a program aimed at providing emergency employment and sustainable livelihood opportunities in areas devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda. “Since ‘Yolanda’ (international name Haiyan) struck on 8 November, the ILO supported the Department of Labor and Employment in creating over 20,000 jobs under the emergency employment program,” said Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office in the Philippines. Johnson said that his organization has reached out to 100,000 people during the initial phase of the rebuilding efforts in 2013. “But more needs to be done to provide access to safe and decent work that includes ensuring minimum wages, sound occupational safety, skills development and social protection in line with national laws,” Johnson said. Aside from guaranteed social security and health insurance, the ILO has equipped its workers with masks, hats, gloves, boots and long sleeved shirts to minimize the risk of disease and injury. Of the estimated 5.9 million jobs lost or suspended due to “Yolanda,” the ILO estimated that 2.6 million were in vulnerable employment and living near the poverty line even before the typhoon. Plea for decent jobs   Workers in vulnerable forms of employment, mostly drivers and operators in Tacloban, called for the prioritization of decent jobs after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” nearly took out the sense of normalcy in the Read More …

Jan 022014
52 OFWs still in strife-torn South Sudan

By Matikas SantosINQUIRER.net 5:07 pm | Thursday, January 2nd, 2014 In this handout image provided by the United Nations Mission South Sudan, taken on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, civilians arrive at the UNMISS compound adjacent to Juba International Airport to take refuge. AP FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – There are still 52 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in strife-torn South Sudan as the government declared a state of emergency due to the continuing violence. “Our Embassy continues to monitor the security situation in South Sudan and alert level 3 is still in effect over that country,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message Thursday. “So far, our Embassy has confirmed that there are still 48 OFWs in [the capital city] Juba and four others are in a town called Paloch, an hour and a half away by plane from Juba,” he said. A state of emergency was declared by South Sudan president Salva Kiir in two of its states on Wednesday as more than 1,000 people have been killed from the violence between rebel forces and government security forces. The DFA placed the country under crisis alert level 3 last December 23 banning deployment of OFWs going there and urging Filipinos already there to undergo voluntary repatriation. Hernandez said that 30 OFWs have already been repatriated while “57 were evacuated to neighboring countries and Dubai.” The United Nations has already sent reinforcements for its peacekeeping force in the country and continued to appeal for more. Read More …

Dec 272013
Defiant typhoon survivors welcome Christmas

By Cecil Morella Children in Leyte (MNS photo) TACLOBAN, December 24, 2013 (AFP) – Philippine survivors of deadly typhoon Haiyan defiantly prepared to celebrate Christmas in their ruined communities Tuesday where hogs were being roasted, festive trees adorned streets and churches were filled to overflowing. “Nothing can stop us from welcoming Christmas even though we have lost our home,” 63-year-old butcher’s wife Ellen Miano told AFP from a tiny shanty rising from a field of debris in the central city of Tacloban. Haiyan’s ferocious 315 kilometers (195 miles) an hour winds flattened the gritty Magallanes neighborhood on Tacloban’s coast, then swept up everything else with giant waves in a day of terror on November 8. Tacloban and nearby districts accounted for more than 5,000 of the 6,000-plus confirmed deaths, with nearly 2,000 others missing, making it the country’s deadliest storm and one of its worst natural disasters. The storm made 4.4 million homeless and caused $12.9 billion in damage, according to the government, which estimates it will take the affected central region, an area the size of Portugal, four years to recover. Miano, who lives with her husband and four young nephews and nieces in the 2×3-metre (6×10-feet) home put together from salvaged wood and sheet metal, said the family would eat a traditional Christmas dinner at midnight, with fried noodles and sliced bread given to them by a relief agency. Their 20-year-old neighbor Ronfrey Magdua built a giant, 4-metre-tall star-shaped lantern using salvaged wood and wrapped in the Philippine Read More …

Dec 262013
Don’t let PHL become a ‘forgotten crisis’: UN chief

President Benigno S. Aquino III bids farewell to United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the Malacañan Palace Grounds after the courtesy call on Saturday (December 21, 2013). The UN Chief is also scheduled to visit communities that were devastated by super typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City, one of the areas hit hardest by the super typhoon when it made landfall in the Visayas and Southern Luzon last November 08, 2013. (MNS photo) MANILA (AFP) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on donor nations Sunday to ramp up aid to typhoon-battered Philippines as it grapples with a funding shortfall on the long road to recovery. “We must not allow this to be another forgotten crisis,” Ban told reporters a day after touring the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban. He said the UN had only achieved 30 percent of the $791 million in aid it had appealed for to boost relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan last month. “I am appealing (to) the donor community, to speed up, scale up their support,” Ban said, adding that he had met with the ambassadors of key donor countries in Manila on Sunday. He said he was deeply moved and inspired by his visit to Tacloban on Saturday, where despite the many challenges “people are working hard to recover”. Ban acknowledged some bottlenecks in relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon owing to logistical challenges in reaching remote central Philippine islands impacted by the typhoon. However, Read More …

Dec 162013
UN leader Ban coming to get firsthand view of Tacloban

Agence France-Presse 3:47 am | Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 UN leader Ban Ki-moon will go to the typhoon-stricken Philippines city of Tacloban this week to highlight the growing number of weather disasters. AP PHOTO/THE UNITED NATIONS, MARK GARTEN UNITED NATIONS—UN leader Ban Ki-moon will go to the typhoon-stricken Philippines city of Tacloban this week to highlight the growing number of weather disasters. “2013 was another year of extreme weather—as we saw most recently with Typhoon Haiyan. On Thursday, I will depart for Manila and Tacloban for a firsthand assessment of the aftermath,” Ban said Monday as he announced the visit. The UN secretary general is to arrive in Manila on Friday for talks with government leaders and will go to Tacloban on Saturday, UN spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said. “He will visit affected communities in Tacloban,” Kaneko said. The UN leader will leave the Philippines on Sunday. The Philippines government says that more than 6,000 people died in the Nov. 8 typhoon—one of the strongest storms ever recorded—which badly hit Tacloban and surrounding regions. Almost 1,800 people are still missing. Ban said that he is organizing a major summit on climate change for Sept. 23 next year, just ahead of the UN General Assembly. RELATED STORIES: Citing Philippines, UN chief urges action at climate talks Philippine typhoon warning to man, says UN chief UN to launch major aid appeal for battered Philippines Follow Us Recent Stories: Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free Read More …

Dec 082013
UN worries aid has not reached Yolanda victims in remote villages

CANBERRA, Australia — The United Nations is investigating reports that aid has yet to reach remote parts of the Philippines a month after a devastating typhoon, the UN humanitarian chief said on Monday. Valerie Amos, UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said she had expected that aid had been delivered by helicopter to survivors in even the most remote outlying islands following the Nov. 8 disaster. “Although we’ve got significant aid now coming in to the major centers, we still have a little bit of a worry that in a couple of the smaller islands that there may be needs there that we haven’t managed to meet yet,” she said. “I’m still hearing worrying reports in the media — indeed I heard one this morning — where people said they hadn’t received any aid as yet, and we’re looking into that,” she said. Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and its tsunami-like storm surge plowed through Tacloban and other coastal areas, leaving more than 5,700 dead and more than 1,700 missing throughout the region. About 4 million people were displaced. Amos, in Australia for aid talks with the government, defended the Philippine government against criticisms that it was too slow to deliver aid to victims. She said the Philippines responded to more than 20 typhoons a year and was well prepared for storms. “But the scale and severity of this was something which none of us could have anticipated,” Amos said. —Associated Press