Tag Archives: DFA

Termination of VFA pressed after Jolo incident

Termination of VFA pressed after Jolo incident

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) today urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) a day after an explosion incident occurred in Jolo on Tuesday morning, killing 2 US soldiers and a Filipino Marine.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice-chairperson Salvador France said President Arroyo should order the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to prepare the termination paper, sign it right away and just fax it to the US Embassy and the Office of US President Barack Obama.

“The termination of VFA by the Philippine government can be done in less than 24 hours. What is decisive here is political will and the readiness of President Arroyo to face her American military master and tell him it is the end of the road for military pact,” France explained.

The Pamalakaya leader agreed with the observations raised by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that the US troops in Jolo were actually engaged in combat operations because of their presence in combat zones, and supported her call for the abrogation of the VFA.

France said the Jolo incident should lead senators to update their previous resolution—Senate Resolution No. 1356 entitled “Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the DFA should seek to renegotiate the VFA with the US, in a case of denial, should give notice of termination of the VFA.

Pamalakaya proposed to update Senate Resolution No. 1356 that should be read: “ Resolution expressing the sense of the Senate strongly urging President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to terminate the VFA in the name of national sovereignty.”

“We hope the senators, as well as the congressmen in the House of Representatives will rise above the occasion, express the patriotic will of the people through legislative action. No more debates please, just send the Yankees home,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said the Jolo incident would also remind the Supreme Court of their past mistakes in upholding the constitutionality of the VFA, the last of which is the 2009 case Nicolas vs. Romulo, where the high tribunal, through a 9-4 vote, declared the military agreement as constitutional,

Quoting Senate Resolution No.1356 sponsored by Sen. Santiago, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Pamalakaya said US troops in the country are engaged in combat operations. It said, the first commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-Philippines) Col. David Maxwell, clearly implied that combat operations are part of the US military business.

According to Maxwell ,the Philippine constitution only prohibits stationing of foreign forces but it does not ban US troops from engaging in combat operations. The US military official said the Task Force that he had led once as conducting operations under the guise of an exercise.

From April 2001 to October 2007, more than 50 US war ships entered in the Philippine territory and docked in various parts of the Philippine archipelago. #

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Palace told: Indefinitely suspend VFA, while talks of renegotiation is on

Palace told: Indefinitely suspend VFA, while talks of renegotiation is on

A group calling for the abrogation of the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on Saturday urged Malacanang to immediately and indefinitely suspend the effectivity of the military agreement, while talks of its renegotiation or possible scrapping is still being finalized by senators and officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In a press statement, the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should immediately notify the US government of the proposed suspension of the VFA because talks are underway for its renegotiation or possible abrogation as the case may be.

Malacanang on Friday said it was supporting the position of some senators to renegotiate the VFA and has asked the Commission on the VFA to work with senators on the issue.

But Palace deputy press secretary Lorelei Fajardo appealed to senators not set aside the gains and benefits the country are getting from the military agreement, which the Senate ratified in 1999, eight years after the same constitutional body rejected the 1991 RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

“Given this latest development in the Senate and the mounting protest against the military agreement, the executive department led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her defense and foreign affairs officials should open their hearts and minds for the immediate suspension of the VFA and the near future dissolution of the VFA in the name of national sovereignty and public interest,” Pamalakaya’s Hicap added.

To put premimum to its assertion that the VFA should be abrogated, Pamalakaya said in Bicol region where one of the joint RP-US military exercises was held this year, their members saw US troops joining their local counterparts in conducting census activities which they said were part of the surveillance operations conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the New People’s Army in the region.

“As far as we are concerned US troops are strictly prohibited from conducting census and military surveillance according to the 1987 Constitution because its violates the sovereign rights of the Filipino people and by nature, by design and by purpose the census participated by US troops is US military intervention,” the group said.

“Why they are allowed to join government census? It is not the job of American mercenaries to conduct census and surveillance unless they are really planning something big like directing and joining actual combat operations against state targets. It is not even the job of AFP regular forces to conduct census since it is the job of civilian authorities,” said Pamalakaya.

In a report sent to Pamalakaya headquarters in Quezon, it said small fishermen started seeing US personnel joining the military census activities in Barangay Mayngaran in Masbate City, Barangay Bagacay, Marintuk, Lalaguna and Balatukan in Mobo town, barangays Marcilla, Dapdap, Panisihan, Buenvista, Armenia, Sawang, Buenasuerte and Magsaysay in Uson town, and in the municipality of Cataingan proper all in Masbate.

Lambat-Bicol also noted the disturbing presence of US troops in Oas town, Albay, particularly in the farming villages of San Pascual, San Miguel and Talisay, where the 5th engineering battalion of the Philippine Army is currently detailed. A number of US troops were also seen in Barangay Liyang, municipality of Irosin in Sorsogon province, ahead of the scheduled RP-US joint military exercises last March.

Pamalakaya said the survey of communities was followed by the announcement of Mr. Celso del Socorro, Officer-in-charge of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Reforms (BFAR-V) about its plan to impose a region-wide fish ban in Bicol once the Balikatan exercises start in April 2009.

The fish ban according to Pamalakaya was announced, because the war games will make use of the interconnecting bodies of water in Bicol region namely the Ragay Gulf, Albay Gulf and Sorsogon Bay that join the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate for the loading and unloading of 3,000 US troops and personnel who will participate in the Balikatan exercises.

To show proof that a Balikatan-induced fish ban was implemented, a fish ban in the form of curfew in three coastal towns— Tiwi, Tabacco and Malilipot, all in Albay province were executed last Feb. affecting the fish capture activities of not less than 10,000 small fisherfolk.

The curfew ordinance in Tiwi, Tabaco and Malilipot was effectively utilized to effect a fish ban ahead and during the Balikatan exercises. The three coastal areas in Albay are being used as pilot areas for the Bicol wide fish ban in the name of the RP-US Balikatan exercises and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) last march.

Reports that reached the national secretariat office of Pamalakaya said the local government units and barangay officials in mentioned coastal towns in Albay have started implementing a 9-hour fish curfew and fish ban from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am beginning February 23 until the Balikatan exercises officially ended sometime in April. #

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Don’t hide content of RP-EU partnership pact, leftists told DFA

Don’t hide content of RP-EU partnership pact, leftists told DFA

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to make available the content of the RP-European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was initially drafted by EU a few years ago, and a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine government on Feb.1 2006.

“This is dangerous and a complete disregard of the country’s national sovereignty. The PCA is supposed to be a joint partnership agreement, but the proposed pact between EU and RP is authored solely by the European Union in accordance with the EU’s economic and political interests in the country and this is totally unacceptable,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Hicap added: “Worse, this development and the situations surrounding the PCA evolution has been kept from national scrutiny and public discourse over the last three years by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo.”

The Pamalakaya leader learned that Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo requested the office of Secretary Romulo to furnish him documents regarding the ongoing negotiations between the Macapagal-Arroyo government and the European Commission but what was given to activist lawmaker was the statement of the DFA on the RP-EU ongoing negotiations on the partnership and cooperation agreement.

“Why this agreement is being processed through the syndicate way? What is the big secret being concealed by the Philippine government and the European Commission from the Filipino people? If there is nothing wrong or sinister about the PCA, then both governments, by all means, should reveal the content and let the Filipino people judge according to their collective interest,” said Hicap.

Likewise, Pamalakaya urged Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and 22 other senators to compel the DFA Secretary Romulo to furnish the Senate all the important and vital documents concerning the PCA that involves issues such as trade and investment cooperation, economic and development cooperation, political cooperation and institutional framework.

“While the executive department’s job is to negotiate, the Philippine Senate which is the sole ratifying body should not be kept in the dark. The senators are constitutionally bound, legally mandated, politically and morally obliged to look into the impact and consequences of the PCA is which is currently being syndicated among top officials of Malacañang and the European Commission,” the fisherfolk group stressed.

Pamalakaya further asserted that the Senate should not be caught flat footed like in the case of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) where the Senate, the ratifying body were kept in the dark in the early stages of the negotiations and was compelled to seal the agreement despite Jpepa’s all-out violation of national interest and the 1987 Constitution.

“If Jpepa is nightmare, the RP-EU partnership and cooperation pact is an across-the-nation tragedy that will soon hit this nation of impoverished and starving people. The real agenda of EU in orchestrating this biggest sell-out of the century is to pass the burden of their economic and global crisis to the downtrodden people of the Third World like RP,” the militant group said.

DFA undersecretary Edsel Custodio on Feb.19 released a foreign affairs statement on Feb.9, 2009 on the draft RP-EU PCA which was submitted by the European Commission on Nov.21 2006.
Usec. Custodio said the Philippines had received from the EC the initial draft of the PCA on 1 February 2006. At that time, the PCA consisted of two separate Framework Agreements: the first refers to the main PCA, while the second refers to the political elements on WMD, Terrorism, and the ICC.

In May 2006, President Macapagal-Arroyo had met with then-EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, and expressed the Philippines’ keenness on pursuing negotiations after thorough evaluation by the agencies of the Philippine government. In accordance with this directive, the DFA established the Inter-Agency process on the PCA.

According to Custodio, since then, the initial draft underwent further revisions by the EC. The second revised PCA draft dated 21 November 2006 merged the two separate Agreements of 1 February 2006 into one omnibus PCA. It is this version that has undergone a lengthy but thorough Inter-Agency process, spanning a period of over two years and involving around 30 agencies and offices of the Philippine government.
Inter-Agency deliberation continued throughout much of 2007.

Some issues—particularly the nature and rationale behind the PCA and its relation to the regional FTA—emerged that required further discussion. For this reason, the DFA and the EC held the first informal consultations on the draft PCA on 24 September 2007.

There we discussed the draft PCA with the EC in order to arrive at some clarity on the nature and rationale of the PCA and how to proceed further with a view to engaging in more substantive discussions.
Inter-agency discussion intensified in frequency and deepened in analysis in 2008. The number of agencies involved in the PCA increased, while some sub-clusters consolidated due to the inter-relatedness and cross-cutting nature of certain provisions. The Philippine response to the PCA—the Counter-Draft—was now taking shape.

On 6 October 2008, a second informal consultation was held with the EC. By this time, our agencies have thoroughly deliberated on the PCA, with some changing positions reflecting the changing times and the complexity of the issues. A Philippine Counter-Draft was almost substantially complete. Both sides tackled the issue of how to proceed further towards actually commencing formal talks and some institutional matters regarding possible structure and modalities of the impending bilateral negotiations.

On 24 October 2008, at the fringes of the ASEM Leaders Summit in Beijing, our Leaders, President Macapagal-Arroyo and EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, had made the announcement that both sides have agreed to commence negotiations. With the political mandate clear, and with no foreseeable legal or substantive impediment to negotiations, the only question left unanswered is when.

According to Usec. Custodio, this question was taken up during the 6th RP-EU Senior Officials Meeting, the official bilateral dialogue of the Philippines and the EU. There both sides agreed to start the first round of negotiations on the PCA on 9-10 February 2008, in Manila. The EC also announced formally that an updated PCA draft, with new sections on labor and employment, justice, governance, and climate change, was to be transmitted to the Philippines by the end of 2008.

“This new EC draft, dated 22 December 2008, is still being considered by the Inter-Agency. Notwithstanding this development, the Philippines stands ready to discuss in more substantive detail its counter-proposal in this first Round of Negotiations on the PCA,” the DFA official added..#

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Pamalakaya assailed Japanese envoy

Pamalakaya assailed Japanese envoy
for snubbing diplomatic protest vs. poachers

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday assailed Japanese Ambassador to Manila Makoto Katsura for sitting on a diplomatic protest filed by the fishers group last week against the poaching activities of Japanese tuna factory ships in Aurora province.

“We don’t deserve this kind of snub and cold treatment. We are raising a very serious matter here,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement. According to Hicap, the three-page diplomatic protest was faxed last week to the Japanese embassy in Manila upon the instruction of a Filipina staff of the embassy.

“We did our assignment. The ball is now on the court of the Japanese embassy in Manila to act with dispatch and in accordance with the national and collective interest of the Filipino people,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz who faxed the three-page diplomatic protest last week said, the Filipina staff of the Japanese embassy in Manila told him that they should first call the attention of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) before writing the embassy.

But Corpuz told the Filipina staff of the Japanese embassy that Pamalakaya’s three-page diplomatic protest was an independent act of his group, adding that DFA is a white elephant and insensitive to the cause of the Filipino fisherfolk and the general public.

“Who are they to tell us what to do?” he added.

The three-page diplomatic protest note was faxed Tuesday afternoon at around 3:00 pm last week was signed by Hicap and Salvador France, Pamalakaya national vice-chairperson for Luzon, and was addressed to the Japanese ambassador to Manila Makoto Katsura.

The protest letter read: “The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), a national federation of small fisherfolk organization in the Philippines that counts a total mass membership of not less than 100, 000 small fisherfolk across the archipelago is bringing to your attention the alleged poaching activities of Japanese owned and operated factory ships to fish tuna off the waters of Aurora province from January to July 2008.”

It further said: “Honorable Ambassador, the national leadership and mass membership of Pamalakaya in the name of 1.8 million small Filipino fisherfolk and close 90 million Filipino people, strongly condemned this poaching frenzy of Japanese corporate factory ships inside the Philippine waters.”

In their protest letter the Pamalakaya leaders said they view this poaching and invasion activities of Japanese factory ships as gross violations of our national sovereignty and patrimony as people and as a nation, and therefore, we lodge this strongly worded protest in behalf of affected sector and in behalf of the 90 million Filipinos.

Pamalakaya cited a recent interview with Senator Edgardo Angara who revealed that Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese fishing vessels regularly come to Baler Bay in Aurora province between January to July every year to fish for tuna.

In that story, Senator Angara said the haul cannot be ascertained but the lawmaker said eight fishing vessels, some with canneries were seen almost daily during those months. Her sister, Aurora Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo had asked the Philippine Coast Guard to establish a station in Northern Aurora and assign patrol boats to protect the province’s waters from foreign poachers.

According to Aurora provincial fishery officer Victoriano San Pedro, fishermen reported seeing
long-line fishing gears being used in the hauling of tuna, blue marlin and other high value fish species. He said foreign fishing vessels even entered in the 15-kilometer municipal fishing waters from the shoreline.

“Your Honor, to give you an idea on how much a Japanese tuna factory ship could create damage to Philippine tuna resources, a 3,000 Japanese single-ton tuna factory ship, accompanied by support fishing fleets can catch as much as 150 metric tons of tuna on a 24-hour operation basis. By industry standard, a single factory ship could harvest 50,000 metric tons of tuna per year,” Pamalakaya said.

Let us say there are eight Japanese tuna fishing vessels that regularly poach in the waters of Aurora province daily from January to July that means a total haul of 27,000 tons of tuna per factory ship during the period or 216,000 metric tons of tuna for all eight fishing vessels.

According to Pamalakaya’s computation, the owners of the eight fishing vessels could have earned as much as US $ 1.274 billion or US$ 160 million per fishing vessel in just six months from tuna poaching in Aurora and other tuna-rich waters of the Philippine territory.

“Honorable Ambassador, the situation is expected to get worse with the Senate ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) last October because under the one-sided agreement, the Philippine government fully recognizes the entry of Japanese factory ships into the Philippine waters at the detriment and expense of our small tuna fishermen and the already fragile marine environment,” the group said.

“Mr. Ambassador, your country is known to consume 630,000 tons of tuna per year or 11 pounds of tuna per person. With the current shrinking catch in Japan seas and in the Philippines as its’ one of the major sources of tuna in Southeast Asia, particularly the country’s fishing areas with confirmed rich tuna deposits like the Moro Gulf and Celebes Sea in Mindanao, the Northern Aurora waters and other tuna potential areas across the Philippine archipelago,” added Pamalakaya.

The militant group said Japan was once a leading tuna producer in Asia and in the world, but was overtaken by Taiwan in recent years. The other tuna producers are the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and China. Japan is now reviving its interest in tuna, because of the scarcity of supply and high demand for tuna which is equivalent to lucrative business and promise of huge return on Japanese investments.

Pamalakaya stressed that the fishing aspect of Jpepa is meant for the benefit and survival of Japan’s commercial tuna fishing at the expense of Filipino tuna producers and small fisherfolk across the archipelago.

“With the increase in the supply of tuna produced by Japanese factory ships and their shipment to Japan and other countries, the local tuna producers and small tuna fishermen would be at their mercy by way of depressed prices, or worst when tuna stocks in Philippine EEZ are depleted it could lead to supply constraints and closure of local tuna producers’ of livelihood of 180,000 tuna fishermen and fish workers,” it further said.

“The situation is very, very alarming. The Philippine waters which is part of the country’s national territory has become an open city for foreign fishing plunderers led by Japanese tuna fishing interests yet the Japanese government is not making any decisive action to stop this “gang rape” of Philippine tuna stocks” by Japanese tuna factory ships,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group was hopeful that the diplomatic protest they filed would reach proper Japanese government authorities including Japan’s lawmaking body—the Japanese Diet for swift, concrete and reasonable resolution and dispatch. #

Pamalakaya leaders discuss Jpepa and invasion of Japanese tuna factory ships in RP waters

Pamalakaya leaders discuss Jpepa and invasion of Japanese tuna factory ships in RP waters

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