Philippines and Indonesia ratify ‘model’ maritime border agreement

Updated 24 May 2014

Philippines and Indonesia ratify ‘model’ maritime border agreement

MANILA: The Philippines and Indonesia have signed an agreement resolving a sea border dispute after 20 years of negotiations, with the neighbors’ leaders vowing to forge closer ties.
The two countries hailed the accord as a model for peacefully settling increasingly tense territorial disputes in the region.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and outgoing Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday witnessed the signing of the deal delimiting the countries’ Exclusive Economic Zone boundary in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea. Also signed were agreements on cooperation on anti-terrorism and higher education.
Aquino says the border deal serves as proof “to our steadfast commitment to uphold the rule of law and pursue the peaceful and equitable settlement of maritime concerns.”
The Philippines is locked in a territorial spat with China in the South China Sea and has filed an arbitration case before an international tribunal.
Yudhoyono said the agreement, the result of 20 years of negotiations, showed that the escalating rows in the South China Sea could be resolved without violence.
“This indeed is a model, a good example, that any disputes including maritime border tension can be resolved peacefully -- not with the use of military might which (may) endanger stability and peace in our region,” Yudhoyono said after overseeing the signing with Philippine President Benigno Aquino at the presidential palace in Manila.
Tensions have flared in the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast oil and gas deposits, with China embroiled in separate rows with Vietnam and the Philippines over disputed waters.
Deadly riots broke out in Vietnam last week after China deployed an oil rig in contested waters.
Aquino said the new agreement between Indonesia and the Philippines served as “solid proof of our steadfast commitment to uphold the rule of law and pursue the peaceful and equitable settlement of maritime concerns.”
Signed by the Indonesian and Philippine foreign ministers, the agreement delineates the boundaries of both nations’ overlapping exclusive economic zones in the Mindanao Sea, the Celebes Sea and the Philippine Sea.
Under international law, countries have exclusive economic zones extending 200 nautical miles from their coasts that give them rights to resources in those waters. But these zones can overlap between neighbouring countries.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have conflicting claims to parts of the South China Sea.
The Philippines and Vietnam have repeatedly expressed concern and more recently anger at what they perceive as increasingly hostile Chinese efforts to assert China’s rule over the disputed areas.
China is also engaged in a worsening dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea that has severely damaged relations between Asia’s two biggest economies.
Yudhoyono, in Manila for a state visit and to attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia, voiced alarm at the gro wing disputes. “The situation in East Asia is filled with tensions and so is the situation in Southeast Asia, including the South China Sea,” he said.


As virus spreads to more Chinese cities, WHO calls emergency meeting

Updated 39 min 56 sec ago

As virus spreads to more Chinese cities, WHO calls emergency meeting

  • Third death reported in Wuhan, where outbreak started
  • Total number of cases more than triples to 221

BEIJING: An outbreak of a new coronavirus has spread to more Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, authorities said on Monday, and a fourth case has been reported beyond China’s borders.
China’s National Health Commission confirmed that the virus, which causes a type of pneumonia, can pass from person-to-person, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was a top priority as the number of patients more than tripled and a third person died.
Adding to the difficulties of containing it, hundreds of millions of Chinese will be traveling domestically and abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.
Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travelers from Wuhan, the central city where the virus was first discovered.
“Wuhan is a major hub and with travel being a huge part of the fast approaching Chinese New Year, the concern level must remain high. There is more to come from this outbreak,” said Jeremy Farrar, a specialist in infectious disease epidemics and director of the Wellcome Trust global health charity.
Authorities confirmed a total of 217 new cases of the virus in China as of 6 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Monday, state television reported, 198 of which were in Wuhan.
Five new cases were confirmed in Beijing and 14 more in Guangdong province, the report said. Another statement confirmed a new case in Shanghai, bringing the number of known cases worldwide to 222.
“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” President Xi was quoted as saying by state television.
The virus belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people globally during a 2002/03 outbreak that also started in China.
Its symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.
Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak, confirmed that two cases of infection in Guangdong province were due to human-to-human transmission, Xinhua said. Some medical staff have been infected, it added, but gave no number.

BEYOND BORDERS
South Korea on Monday confirmed its first case, a 35-year-old Chinese national who had traveled from Wuhan, the fourth patient reported outside China.
Last week, two cases were reported in Thailand and one in Japan. All three involved people from Wuhan or who recently visited the city.
A report by London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimated that by Jan. 12 there were 1,723 cases in Wuhan City with onset of related symptoms. Chinese health authorities have not commented directly on the report.
“This outbreak is extremely concerning. Uncertainty and gaps remain, but it is now clear that there is person to person transmission,” Farrar said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday “an animal source” appeared most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak and that some “limited human-to-human transmission” occurred between close contacts.
The Geneva-based UN agency later convened an emergency committee for Wednesday to assess whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency and what measures should be taken to manage it.
So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions, but a panel of independent experts could do so or make other recommendations to limit spread.
China’s state council reiterated the government will step up prevention efforts and find the source of infection and transmission channels as soon as possible, state television said on Monday.
Shares in pharmaceutical firms and mask makers in China surged Monday because of the outbreak.
“Who knows how many people who have been to Wuhan may be unaware that they have already been infected?,” said one commentator on Chinese social media platform Weibo
The state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the government needs to disclose all information and not repeat the mistakes made with SARS. Chinese officials covered up the SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced it to reveal the epidemic.
“Concealment would be a serious blow to the government’s credibility and might trigger greater social panic,” the editorial said.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Josh Horwitz in Shanghai, Roxanne Liu, Sophie Yu, Judy Hua and Colin Qian and Se Young Lee in Beijing, Joyce Lee in Seoul, Kate Kelland in London, and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Angus MacSwan)