Neighbors citing PHL court victory vs China in sea dispute

SOUTHEAST Asian nations, both with or without claims in the South China Sea, are now citing the 2016 international court ruling in favor of the Philippines to protest against China’s activities in the disputed waters, an expert said. Nguyen Hung Son, director general and head of the Institute for the South China Sea, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, said there is a new trend among Southeast Asian states of showing “greater recognition” of the ruling. The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Haque favored the Philippines in its lawsuit against China in 2016, rejecting the latter’s nine-dash line claim to most parts of the South China Sea.“The Philippines after three years of keeping quiet on the tribunal’s ruling, this year did a remarkable thing of officially putting the tribunal’s ruling back onto its official policy in its note verbales sent with the UN,” Mr. Nguyen said Friday at the Virtual Speaker Series: Sailing a Course through Contested Waters, hosted by the United States Embassy in the Philippines. Mr. Nguyen also said the Philippine government’s action showed its neighbors that “the Philippines has not trashed the ruling as many suspected.” The Department of Foreign Affairs recently protested against the establishment of the “Nansha” and “Xisha” district in China’s self-declared “Sansha City,” which is within the Philippine territory. Malaysia and Vietnam had done the same in firing off note verbales against China, in which the two states committed to aligning their respective claims with the tribunal ruling. “What’s remarkable too, the recognition of the ruling of the tribunal also came from non-claimants,” he said, citing Indonesia and Singapore. Mr. Nguyen raised the importance of acknowledging the ruling, on top of demonstrating that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is not crippled by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. “We hear that the Chinese center for contemporary international relations submitted their report to the top leadership in Beijing, warning of an unprecedented international hostility towards Beijing after the pandemic,” he said. This, he said, “would indicate how insecure the Chinese leadership feels and the assessment of the negative strategic environment China is facing at the moment.” Moreover, he said the negotiation on the South China Sea Code of Conduct (CoC), which has been delayed by the pandemic, also lies on the willingness of China to modify its behavior in the disputed sea. China and the ASEAN had agreed to work on the completion of the CoC by 2022. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

OFWs required to sign at-your-own-risk form

THE Philippine Overseas Employment Administration(POEA) announced Friday that workers will not be deployed overseas unless they sign a declaration form indicating they understand the risks posed by the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In its Advisory No. 60 dated May 15, the POEA said “Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) whether land-based or sea-based shall be allowed to be deployed abroad upon the execution of a Declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved as advised by the Philippine Government.” This comes after the national COVID-19 task force announced that OFWs will be allowed for deployment under the eased quarantine policies. POEA also said recruitment and placement agencies are now allowed to resume operations. Health care workers whose contracts were not signed before May 8 are still banned from deployment. — Gillian M. Cortez

Journalists group tells practitioners not to interview suspects without legal counsel

THE National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called on news organizations to include in their reporting manual the prohibition of interviewing persons who have been arrested without the presence of their legal counsels. NUJP noted that the media “may find themselves abetting possible miscarriages of justice” by interviewing those arrested without their lawyer. “As journalists, it is our duty not to cause or minimize harm,” NUJP said in a statement. The statement was prompted by the interviews of the media with Ronnel Mas, who was arrested for posting on Twitter that he will give a P50 million reward to anyone who can kill President Rodrigo R. Duterte. The prosecutor said the warrantless arrest of Mr. Mas was invalid but this defect in the arrest was “cured” when he admitted to the media that he posted the statement. He has been indicted for inciting to sedition. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas