JUNE 2, 2018


Philippines, China Draw ‘Red Lines’ in South China Sea Dispute

MANILA, Philippines — Both the Philippines and China have identified actions that would be deemed unacceptable in the South China Sea, the Philippines’ top diplomat said Monday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said that the Philippines has informed China of some “red lines” over the disputed waterway.

The Philippines also warned China against attempting to remove the BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine Navy ship anchored near Second Thomas or Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.”What is our red line? Our red line is that they cannot build on Scarborough [Shoal],” Cayetano in Filipino said during a flag-raising ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

According to Cayetano, Beijing is also not supposed to harass Filipino soldiers resupplying or repairing Manila-controlled features in the West Philippine Sea.

“Another red line for is: Nobody can get natural resources there on their own,” Cayetano said.

If China breaks these conditions, President Rodrigo Duterte would be willing to wage war against Beijing.

“That’s what the president said. If anyone gets the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea-South China Sea, he will go to war. He said: ‘Bahala na.’ He will go to war. So those were our red lines,” Cayetano said.

Duterte has been consistent on his position that he does not want to go to war against China.

China’s ‘red line’

China, meanwhile, also set its “red line” with the Philippines such as following Section 5 of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which states that uninhabited features should remain uninhabited.

“Two, let us not embarass each other in front of everyone, in front of multilaterals and bilaterals. We should talk,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano noted that China did not object to the ASEAN statement declaring that no country should further complicate nor militarize the South China Sea.

“It is just that they don’t want to be singled out. If you were the US, if you were Russia, if you were EU, you also don’t want to be singled out because you want fairness,” Cayetano said.

The DFA secretary’s pronouncements came days since critics have been urging the Philippine government to formally protest China’s landing of an H-6K bomber on Woody Island, Beijing’s largest outpost on Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

Cayetano clarified that the dispute over the Paracels Islands is between Vietnam and China.

“When the president said it’s not against us... we have to have that element of doubt because it’s a democracy and we have to ask the right questions, but we also have to have trust in the president as our chief diplomat that he has more information than we do,” Cayetano said.

Despite media reports and information released by independent think tanks involving China’s recent deployment of missile systems and jamming equipment in the Spratly Islands, the Philippine government has only said that it is still verifying such reports.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque admitted that the government does not have the capability to independently confirm Beijing’s deployment of weapons in the disputed features. On the other hand, the Chinese government had confirmed the deployments, which it said were meant to “safeguard China’s sovereignty and security.”(www.philstar.com)

Wage Hike to Aggravate Situation of Unemployed — ECOP

MANILA, Philippines — Employers yesterday warned that a wage hike at this time would only aggravate the situation of the unemployed.

In a statement, Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) acting president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said the P800 per day minimum wage nationwide, as proposed by the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), “will continue to neglect the unemployed sector of our labor force.”

“The pain of inflation triggered by a wage hike will worsen the plight of the rest of the wage and salary workers,” said Ortiz-Luis, adding that only minimum wage earners will benefit from any wage adjustment.

ECOP’s warning comes following the recent spike in inflation that prompted organized labor to press for a new round of wage adjustments.

President Duterte has ordered the Department of Labor and Employment to convene the wage boards to revisit wage levels across the country and discuss the effect of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law on workers.

Another measure seeking a legislated wage increase was filed before Congress despite strong opposition from the government and employers’ groups.

The TUCP yesterday reported that their sectoral representative has filed a proposed bill mandating a P320 national wage hike.

The ALU also supported the passage of the National Minimum Wage Law that seeks a uniform P750 to P800 across-the-board pay hike for all workers nationwide.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) criticized employers for raising “disaster and doomsday scenarios” of closure and mass displacement if a national minimum wage is implemented.

Reports on the erosion of workers’ purchasing power, PM said, are not imagination but based on a study conducted by the Department of Finance (DOF).

PM also urged Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to stand behind workers’ welfare.

ECOP said the estimated number of minimum wage earners nationwide stands at 3.2 million, less than eight percent of the total Philippine labor force. In the NCR, the group said the estimated number of minimum wage earners stands at 952,485. (www.philstar.com)

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Air Seek Approval for Price Increase

Traveling to the Philippines could be more expensive. Philippine Airlines Inc. and Cebu Air applied for regulatory approval to add fuel surcharges to be imposed on customers. Rising fuel costs and the weakening of the peso have prompted the airlines to seek price hikes.

“We will have to adjust prices accordingly,” said Lance Gokongwei, president of Cebu Air Inc., which owns the nation’s largest budget carrier.

Philippine Airlines, owned by tycoon Lucio Tan, incurs $11 million a year in additional costs for every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of fuel, President Jaime Bautista said in a mobile-phone message. The nation’s largest carrier consumes about 11 million barrels a year, while the price of jet fuel has risen by $13 from January to April, he said.

Cebu Air’s costs are increasing by $13 million a month from a year ago with jet fuel prices hitting $87 per barrel and the peso declining to 52.50 against the dollar, Gokongwei said. The currency’s decline is already diminishing Filipino consumers’ appetite for air travel, Bautista said.

‘Lift Ban on Direct Recruitment of Household Workers’

MANILA, Philippines — The recruitment sector has urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to lift the ban on foreign principals or their agents directly interviewing prospective Filipino household helpers.

Alfredo Palmiery, president of the Federation of Manpower Exporters Inc. and head of the Hong Kong association deploying domestic helpers to the former crown colony, said the POEA circular is a virtual ban on deployment of household helpers.

Palmiery urged POEA administrator Bernardo Olalia to lift the ban, saying the circular is a curtailment of the recruitment activities of licensed agencies. The circular, issued when the Philippines banned worker deployment to Kuwait, was meant to prevent abuses of domestic helpers in the Middle East.

Olalia said the main purpose of foreign principals in coming to Manila is to personally select applicants to match the needs of their clients.This is to prevent any mismatch of applicants to work, which may result in disadvantages to the workers themselves, Olalia said.

Sometimes this may end up in termination or repatriation, he added.

Palmiery, however, said the circular should not apply to Hong Kong or in countries where reports of abuses of Filipino domestic helpers are not rampant.

He added that the letter of authority issued by the POEA was requested by agencies to replace the special working permits issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

The industry negotiated with the BI that a letter of authority from the POEA would suffice for foreign principals to interview workers instead of the permit that has been the practice since 2001.

Numerous cases of arrests and extortion were reported against foreign principals before 2001, especially Japanese principals who were interviewing applicants for the entertainment industry.

Palmiery added that if the objective of the circular is to reduce the number of workers applying for work abroad, this will not happen. (www.philstar.com)

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