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Philippines confirmed joining the 40% world trade through Trans-Pacific Partnership

Thu, 06/25/2015 - 16:40

Trans-Pacific Partnership Map- image:

Confirmed: Philippines Wants to Join TPP

The Philippines is committed to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the country’s trade chief confirmed Wednesday morning in the clearest declaration made to date on the issue.

“I want to state clearly and irrevocably that we want to join TPP,” Philippine trade secretary Gregory Domingo told a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

Domingo’s statements come after what some perceived as ambiguity in recent months about the Philippine position regarding the U.S.-led agreement, whose members currently represent more than half of global output and over 40 percent of world trade. Reports in late March had suggested that Manila would not take part in TPP negotiations under the current government due to legal and constitutional complications which imposed significant time constraints. Some had interpreted this to mean a general unwillingness of the Philippines to commit to the pact at all.

But with the confirmation in his remarks Tuesday – the clearest yet by a Philippine official – Domingo sought to assuage any doubts in Washington that he said may have been caused by a “mistranslation” of comments by Philippine officials. Domingo also reiterated that Philippine officials – including President Benigno Aquino III himself – had on several previous occasions over the past few years expressed interest in joining the TPP.

Domingo acknowledged that Manila’s willingness to join the TPP did not make confronting existing challenges to doing so any easier. As is the case for several current and potential TPP negotiating parties, there are concerns on a number of sensitive issues for the Philippines, including state-owned enterprises. Philippine officials including Domingo had previously requested “flexibility” on these matters.

Joining the TPP may also require the Philippines to amend its constitution, which currently has restrictions on foreign ownership in certain sectors. Yet Domingo acknowledged that there were not enough votes right now in the Philippine legislature to do so, even if there was a possibility that it might get to try later this year ahead of presidential elections in 2016 and the end of Aquino’s five-year term in office.

“When it comes to constitutional amendments, it is very difficult to make a prediction,” he admitted.

Nonetheless, Domingo said that it was critical for the Philippines to negotiate some kind of bilateral economic agreement with its ally the United States, which has traditionally been among Manila’s top trading partners and its largest investor. The TPP would provide an avenue for this to occur, he said.

“It behooves the Philippines to have an agreement with the United States one way or another,” he said.

Though the Philippines’ only bilateral agreement of this kind is currently with Japan, Domingo said Manila is currently pursuing a free trade agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. He added that the Philippines had also been approached by six other countries for bilateral agreements as well.

Meanwhile, as The Diplomat previously reported, the TPP has inched forward on Capitol Hill in recent days after a period of stalling, even though there is still a long way to go. The Senate got the necessary votes to move to a standalone vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) earlier this week, days after the House had passed a similar vote on its side. TPA or “fast-track” is viewed as critical to passing TPP since it ensures Congress can only have an up-or-down vote on the pact, rather than opening up and amending specific provisions, which could delay or kill the deal.

Once the TPP is finalized among the existing 12 members, U.S. officials have stressed that the agreement remains “open” to other countries once they meet the standards, including China.

The TPP currently groups the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. - Diplomat

Philippine President Slams Beijing for Acting like Nazis in the South China Sea

Wed, 06/03/2015 - 23:54

Philippine President Benigno Aquino delivers a speech in the Japanese parliament during his visit to Tokyo on June 3, 2015. - Kazuhiro Nogi — AFP/Getty Images

This isn't the first time he’s compared the Chinese leadership to the Third Reich

Philippine President Benigno Aquino refused to pull his punches in Tokyo on Wednesday when he compared Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea to Nazi Germany’s demands for Czech territory in the 1930s.

During a speech to business leaders in the Japanese capital, Aquino blasted the Chinese Communist Party’s ongoing claim to a majority of the potentially resource-rich waters of the South China Sea.

“I’m an amateur student of history and I’m reminded of… how Germany was testing the waters and what the response was by various other European powers,” said Aquino, in an apparent reference to the Nazis’ territorial conquests in Europe during the run up to World War II, according to Agence France-Presse.

Aquino’s remarks echo similar sentiments made during an interview with the New York Times last year when he also made comparisons between Beijing’s maritime maneuvers now with Nazi Germany’s actions in the late 1930s.

At the time, Chinese state media outlets lambasted the comparison and said the president was an “amateurish politician who was ignorant both of history and reality.”  - TIME

Malaysia summons Philippines, Sultanate of Sulu claimed Sabah. Bangsamoro betrayed Philippines for Malaysia

Mon, 05/25/2015 - 16:38

(North Borneo) Sabah is ours, Malaysia tells the Philippines - Image from

Malaysia summons Philippine Charge d' Affaires over claims on Sabah

Malaysia summons Philippine Charge d' Affaires over claims on Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 (Xinhua)-- Malaysian Foreign Ministry summoned the Philippine Charge d'Affaires on May 19 over recent remarks made by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III on the Philippines'claim on Sabah, according to a statement of Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman on Sunday.

It said that Medardo G. Macaraig, the Philippine Charge d' Affaires, was summoned on May 19 over Aquino's remarks on the Philippines'claim on Sabah in an interview with Philippines journalist Raissa on May 15.

During the interview, Aquino said that he would not drop the Philippine claim to Sabah. "The government of Malaysia reiterates its position that Malaysia does not recognize and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah,"Anifah said in the statement, adding that Sabah is recognized by the UN and international community as part of Malaysia since Sept. 16, 1963.

The Philippines has made a territorial claim over the eastern part of Sabah, claiming that the territory, via the heritage of the Sultanate of Sulu, was only leased to the North Borneo Chartered Company in 1878 with the Sultanate's sovereignty never being relinquished.

The question was posed to Aquino amid growing speculation that Manila would drop the Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia’s support for a Bangsamoro government in southern Philippines.

Bangsamoro promised to Malaysia not to claim Sabah North Borneo but to support and strengthen Malaysia's position over Sabah in return for their support on the ongoing Bangsamoro sub state negotiation with the Manila government.

Malaysia, however, considers this dispute as a"non-issue,"as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession and it deems that the residents of Sabah had exercised their right to self- determination when they joined to form the Malaysian federation in 1963. -  with sources from Global Post and Xinhua News Agency

Death Execution just Suspended: Why Mary Jane Veloso got last-minute reprieve

Wed, 04/29/2015 - 18:50
  Widodo said Mary Jane Veloso's execution is just postponed. - image:

Why Mary Jane Veloso got last-minute reprieve by Nick Perry, Agence France-Presse Posted at 04/29/2015 3:18 AM | Updated as of 04/29/2015 5:00 AM

Indonesia early Wednesday executed eight drug convicts, including two Australians, by firing squad but a Filipina was spared at the 11th hour, local reports said.

Defying a firestorm of international criticism and heartrending pleas by relatives, authorities put the seven foreigners and a local man to death after midnight Tuesday (1700 GMT), the reports said.

However the Filipina, Mary Jane Veloso, was spared after someone suspected of recruiting her and tricking her into carrying drugs to Indonesia turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines, MetroTV and the Jakarta Post reported.

Eight convicts -- two Australians, one from Brazil and four from Africa, as well as the Indonesian -- were put to death on the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, the reports said.

In Indonesian executions, convicts are led to clearings just after midnight, tied to posts and then giving the option of kneeling, standing or sitting before being executed by 12-man firing squads.

President Joko Widodo has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, claiming Indonesia is facing an emergency due to rising narcotics use.

He has turned a deaf ear to appeals from the international community led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon.

In an 11th hour bid to stop the executions, the European Union, Australia and France warned in a joint statement late Tuesday the move would have an "impact on Indonesia's position in the world and its international reputation".

Anguished visits

In the hours before the convicts were put to death, there was a flurry of activity as ambulances carried coffins to the island, and relatives made final anguished visits to their loved ones.

Relatives of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the Australian ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin trafficking group, wailed in grief as they headed to the island, and one relative collapsed amid a huge scrum of journalists.

"I am asking the government not to kill him. Call off the execution. Please don't take my son," said Sukumaran's mother Raji, in a tearful plea after visiting him.

Chan, who like Sukumaran is in his 30s, married his Indonesian girlfriend in a jailhouse ceremony with family and friends on Nusakambangan on Monday, his final wish.

The news of the temporary reprieve for Veloso, who claims she was duped into smuggling drugs into Indonesia by international drugs syndicates, comes after a huge campaign to save her in the Philippines.

President Benigno Aquino had urged Widodo on the sidelines of a summit this week to grant her clemency.

'Unspeakable grief'

Australia had mounted a sustained campaign to save its citizens, who have been on death row for almost a decade.

Ahead of the executions, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop Tuesday criticised Indonesia's "chaotic" handling of the execution arrangements.

The families "do deserve respect and they do deserve to have dignity shown to them at this time of unspeakable grief", she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In Sydney late Tuesday about 300 supporters of the Australian pair held a vigil, with several people displaying signs calling for the Indonesian president to show mercy.

The execution of the Brazilian convict, Rodrigo Gularte, has also generated much criticism in his homeland, with his family saying he should not face the firing squad as he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Three of the African traffickers are confirmed as being from Nigeria. However it is not clear whether the fourth holds Ghanaian or Nigerian nationality.

A Frenchman was originally among the group set to be executed but was granted a temporary reprieve after authorities agreed to allow an outstanding legal appeal to run its course.

Jakarta executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, in January sparking an international storm as Brazil and the Netherlands -- whose citizens were among those put to death -- recalled their ambassadors.


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