China, Philippines argue over defense chief’s island visit

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Philippine troops march as a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane carrying Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Eduardo Ano and other officials, sits on the tarmac at the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island off the disputed Spratlys chain of islands in the South China Sea on April 21, 2017 in western Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
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Students with their teacher walk past a flag near the airport during the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to the Philippine-claimed island Thitu in The Spratlys on April 21, 2017. (AFP / TED ALJIBE)
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Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (3L) gestures as he and military chief Eduardo Ano (R) inspect the runway of the airport during a visit to Thitu island in The Spratlys on April 21, 2017. (AFP / TED ALJIBE)
Updated 22 April 2017

China, Philippines argue over defense chief’s island visit

MANILA, Philippines: China has protested the visit by Manila’s defense and military chiefs to a disputed island in the South China Sea, but the Philippine government maintained Saturday that it owns the territory where Filipino troops and villagers have lived for decades.

The public argument comes amid a thaw in once-frosty relations between the neighbors after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office last June and moved to rekindle Manila’s friendship with Beijing, which has been strained by the long-seething territorial disputes.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Ano flew to the island, which Filipinos call Pag-asa, with dozens of journalists Friday to inspect an eroded airstrip. The Philippine government plans to reinforce and lengthen the airstrip and build a dock starting next month to accommodate ships with construction materials, Lorenzana said.

About 1.6 billion pesos ($32 million) has been earmarked for the construction, including a fish port, solar power, water desalination plant, improved housing for soldiers, and facilities for marine research and tourists.

WATCH: Asserting Philippine sovereignty in disputed Spratlys

Accompanied by military top brass, Lorenzana and Ano also met Filipino troops and villagers and took part in a flag-raising ceremony on Pag-asa, which is internationally known as Thitu and is called Zhongye Dao by China. It’s the second-largest island in the South China Sea’s hotly contested Spratlys archipelago.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang expressed China’s displeasure over the high-profile Philippine visits to the island, saying China was “gravely concerned about and dissatisfied” by the island visits and adding that China “has lodged representations with the Philippine side.”

“We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development the bilateral relations are experiencing, faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leaderships, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he said.

The Philippine government replied by saying the island was part of an island municipality under its western province of Palawan, which faces the disputed waters.

“Our visits there are part of the government mandate to ensure the safety, well being, livelihood and personal security of our citizens there,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said in a statement in Manila.

During the trip to Pag-asa, Chinese forces tried to drive away two Philippine air force planes that carried Lorenzana, Ano and others as they flew near a Chinese man-made island called Subi, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) away.

Lorenzana said their aircraft continued uninterrupted without any incident after Filipino pilots messaged back to the Chinese that they were flying over Philippine territory. The Chinese warned the Philippine aircraft they were entering the periphery of Chinese installations and told to avoid miscalculation.

The Chinese navy has similarly warned US ships and aircraft to leave what Beijing claims as its territory, messages which the Americans also ignored.

China claims virtually the entire sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its foothold by transforming in recent years seven mostly submerged reefs into island outposts, including Subi. Three of the artificial islands were built with runways, along with buildings, towers, radars and more recently weapons systems, to the consternation of other Asian claimant governments and the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters.


Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

Updated 17 January 2020

Global civil unrest and violence in quarter of countries in 2019, expected to rise in 2020: Report

  • Identified Sudan as most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world
  • According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of the world’s nations witnessed a rise in unrest and violence in 2019 with the figure expected to rise in 2020, according to a study released earlier this week.

Verisk Maplecroft, a socio-economic and political analysis company, said in its index of global civil unrest that 47 of the world’s 195 countries were affected and that the number could hit 75 in the year ahead.

The UK-based consultancy firm identified Sudan as the most troubled and “extreme risk” country in the world, which had previously been held by Yemen.

According to the report, 2019’s biggest flashpoint locations were Hong Kong and Chile and neither is expected to be “at peace” for at least two years its researchers claim.

“The reasons for the surge in violent unrest are complex and diverse. In Hong Kong, protests erupted in June 2019 over a proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, However, the root cause of discontent has been the rollback of civil and political rights since 1997,” the firm said.

“In Chile, protests have been driven by income inequality and high living costs but were triggered by a seemingly trivial 30-peso (USD0.04) increase in the price of metro tickets,” it added.

Other countries now considered hotbeds unrest include Lebanon, Nigeria and Bolivia. Asia and Africa are disproportionately represented with countries such as Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe also coming under the “extreme risk” label.

Since authoritarian leader Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in April, Sudan was gripped by protests, violence and killings as armed forces battled democracy supporters for control of the new government.

The index predicts that a further 28 countries examined will see a “deterioration in stability,” suggesting that nearly 40% of all countries will witness disruption and unrest at some point in 2020.

Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are all expected to see the sharpest rises in unrest, but the report highlights growing concern in the world’s biggest and most powerful countries as well.


Countries identified include the hugely influential nations of Russia, China, Turkey, Brazil and Thailand.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.