Category Archives: Philippines

The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean.

Punch Drunk in the Oval Office

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Helle Dale
March 28, 2012 at 9:15 am

Could someone get the President some new speechwriters? President Obama is woefully in need of new vocabulary, as a recent expose by Danish television hilariously and embarrassingly reveals.

For leaders of smaller nations, a meeting and a photo op with the American President in the White House is always a huge thrill. And so Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was no exception when she received the presidential treatment on February 24, basking in the glow of President Obama’s approval. The President (rightly) praised Denmark’s military contribution in Afghanistan and Libya, saying that the small Nordic country of 4.5 million people ”punches above its weight.”

As sweet as this praise must have been to the ears of the Danish prime minister, it was soon tempered by revelations that President Obama is very free with the use of this phrase. Danish television clipped together a montage showing Obama complimenting the leaders of Norway, Ireland, and the Philippines in exactly the same words, all for ”punching above their weight.” President Obama apparently has not used the expression about the British, despite the fact that he borrowed it from British Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd.

The conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands–Posten noted that Obama must really be pleased with the Danes, as he said the same thing to the previous Danish prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, during his state visit last year, sitting in the very same armchairs under the same picture of George Washington. Meanwhile, an editorial in the left-of-center newspaper Politiken grumbled that it was the unfortunate Danish desire to ”punch above their weight” that had gotten the Danes involved in the Iraq war and other American affairs. The newspaper advocated that Danes stick to their own bantam weight class in the future.

The real question might be, however, whether the United States under President Obama is punching below its weight, making the contributions of others seem all the greater. From premature military withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan to selling out U.S. missile defense to the Russians and mouthing mechanical blandishments to U.S. allies like the Danes, President Obama is squandering a great foreign policy legacy.

Helle C. Dale is Senior Fellow in Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation—and a native of Denmark.

Posted in American Leadership

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Watching World Energy: Turmoil in the South China Sea

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Even as world attention is mesmerized with the Strait of Hormuz, worrisome problems are now arising in the South China Sea, a region along the all-important energy sea lane of communication out to Asia Pacific.

‘You have this conundrum of a region that needs energy and yet has a lot of territorial disputes or gray areas that inhibit the ability to produce some of it,’ said Robert Hormats, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment.

Hormats’ remarks came after the Philippines said that it has the right to invite foreign companies to explore for oil and gas in waters located between its western coast and the South China Sea – remarks dismissive of China’s own claims.

‘It is illegal for any country, government or company, without the Chinese government‘s permission, to develop oil and natural gas in waters under Chinese jurisdiction,’ said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

EXPLORATION ANNOUNCED

The dispute arose after the Philippines’ Energy Secretary Jose Almendras announced that his country had invited international oil companies to explore for oil and gas offshore Palawan province in two areas that fall within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Palawan province faces the South China Sea, which is claimed entirely by China. But other nations in the region, including the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, have competing claims of their own.

Claims over portions of the sea can have immense bearing on ownership of any oil or gas that lies under the region’s waters, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But no one knows for sure just how much oil and gas is actually there.

According to EIA, one Chinese estimate suggests potential oil resources as high as 213 billion barrels of oil (bbl), but EIA also mentions a 1993/1994 estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey which put reserves at just 28 billion bbl.

EVIDENCE QUESTIONED

EIA notes speculation that the Spratly Islands could be an untapped oil-bearing province, but it said that, ‘There is little evidence outside of Chinese claims to support the view that the region contains substantial oil resources.’

Of course, there is only one way to find out and that is to explore, explore, explore. The problem, though, is that overlapping claims to the region are hindering exploration.

That was certainly true a year ago when two Chinese vessels threatened to ram the Veritas Voyager, a survey ship hired by U.K.-based Forum Energy PLC.

The Philippines government dispatched a surveillance plane, patrol ships and light attack aircraft to the disputed area, known as Reed Bank. By then, though, the Chinese vessels had vanished and Forum decided to suspend its exploration activities.

Now, a year on, Forum Energy apparently is planning to return to Reed Bank, aiming to drill its first well for oil and natural gas, an event that some analysts say could spark a military crisis if China responds more aggressively than it did last year.

TOP PRIORITY

Still, that year has seen a significant change in the posture of the U.S. in the region, with President Barack Obama announcing in January that Asia Pacific is now his country’s top priority in terms of global defense.

That view was underlined in early March by Admiral Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, who said that the America’s military must be present in the South China Sea.

China was less confrontational in 2011 in asserting its claims in the South China Sea than it was in 2010, Willard told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But Willard also noted that China continues to challenge vessels conducting oil and gas exploration within space that it claims as its own. In a word, he said, ‘They remain aggressive.’

LITMUS TEST

Just how aggressive they will remain is yet to be determined, perhaps by U.S. plans for war games in April with the Philippine navy near Reed Bank – war games that one analyst suggests will be viewed by China as provocative.

‘This will be a litmus test of where China stands on the South China Sea issue,’ said Ian Storey, a fellow at the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

According to Storey, the Chinese ‘could adopt the same tactics as they did last year and harass the drilling vessels, or they might even take a stronger line against them and send in warships.’

Contribution by Eric Watkins from Oil Diplomacy
Link to original article

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US plan to deploy combat ships in PH spark protest

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A group of Philippine Marines wait to board a navy ship inside a navy headquarters in Manila

Manila : Philippines | Dec 16, 2011 at 9:04 PM PST
By GerryAlbert

By Handog Malaya Vera, Gerry Albert Corpuz and Himala dela Cuesta

MANILA, Philippines-The alleged plan of US President Barack Obama to deploy combat ships in the Philippines to offset China’s growing military presence in South China Sea and the Southwast Asian region sparked outrage among groups in Manila highly critical of US military aggression and intervention.

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday protested what it called an upcoming intervention in Manila as they urged Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to clarify reports about a US plan to station American combat ships in the disputed Spratlys group of islands.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap cited an online report published by Interkasyon, the website news of ABC 5 which said the US Navy is planning to deploy combat ships in Singapore and in the Philippines to check China’s threatening presence in Spratlys.

“President Aquino should tell all about this US military project in Spratlys. Is he aware of this upcoming deployment of Washington combat ships inside the territorial waters of the Philippines? Did he agree with this military escapade of US President Barack Obama? What is the real score Mr. President,” asked Hicap in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader also asked officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila to shed light on the report, which Hicap said is a direct affront to the country’s national sovereignty.

Hicap said the report likewise merits a full-blown congressional inquiry by the Philippine Senate and the oversight committee of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), saying the deployment of combat ships is tantamount to allowing Washington to use the country as a launching pad to attack countries which the US categorized as rival powers like the China and other nations highly critical of American interests in Asia and the Pacific.

The report said regional defense analysts said the ships were small, but agreed the symbolism of the moves, which come after Washington announced it was increasing its engagement in Asia, would upset Beijing.

Last November, the United States and Australia announced plans to deepen the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with 2,500 U.S. Marines operating out of a de facto base in Darwin in northern Australia.

A report published by the U.S naval Institute said in coming years, the U.S. Navy will increasingly focus on the strategic “maritime crossroads” of the Asia-Pacific region, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert wrote in the December issue of Proceedings.

The plan highlights the deployment of several of US newest littoral combat ships at Singapore’s naval facility and will help the American navy sustain its global forward posture with what may be a smaller number of ships and aircraft than today.

Greenert described littoral combat ships as shallow draft vessels that operate in coastal waters and can counter coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines and small, fast, armed boats. Greenert admitted the ships would focus on the South China Sea, conducting operations to counter piracy and trafficking, both of which are endemic in the area.

“Similarly, 2025 may see P-8A Poseidon aircraft or unmanned broad area maritime surveillance aerial vehicles periodically deploy to the Philippines or Thailand to help those nations with maritime domain awareness.”

Defense experts argued that the disputed ownership of the oil-rich reefs and islands in the South China Sea is one of the biggest security threats in Asia. The sea is claimed wholly or in part by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.

They agreed that the shortest route between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, it has some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. More than half the globe’s oil tanker traffic passes through it.

At a regional summit held in November, US President Obama told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that the United States wanted to ensure the sea lanes were kept open and peaceful. But Jiabao lashed back declaring “outside forces” had no excuse to get involved in the complex maritime dispute, a veiled warning to the United States and other countries to keep out of the sensitive issue.

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