What keeps you up at night?

This cliche, what keeps you up at night?, became popular in the United States in the very late 1990s. It replaced the other cliche, At the end of the day…

Well, I think I can guess what keeps President Aquino and his Foreign Secretary, Albert Del Rosario, up at night.

What are our options, Mr. President?

"President "Noynoy" Aquino on Time magazine's cover" retirednoway

President "Noynoy" Aquino on Time magazine's cover

PHL files second diplomatic protest as China bullies research boat
April 16, 2012 7:20pm

The Philippines filed its second diplomatic protest against China on Monday as Chinese vessels and an aircraft started harassing the M/Y Saranggani, a Philippine-registered boat doing archeological research near the Panatag Shoal, 124 nautical miles west of Zambales province.

Any act by Chinese ships or aircraft against the M/V Saranggani will be considered by the Philippines a gross violation of its national laws and of international laws, a Foreign Affairs spokesman said.

China and the Philippines remain in a deadlock over the shoal the Chinese call Huangyan Island after diplomatic negotiations yielded no solution.

The Philippines on April 8 tried to arrest Chinese fishermen found to have poached marine life in the area–also known by its international name Scarborough Shoal–but Chinese marine vessels blocked Philippine authorities onboard the BRP Gregorio del Pilar from doing so.

(The BRP G del Pilar is is the flagship of the Philippine Navy.)

“This afternoon, we lodged a protest to China through the Chinese ambassador with respect to the harassment by Chinese ships and aircraft of the M/Y Saranggani, a Philippine registered boat doing archeological research in the area. Such actions are in violation of the sovereign right and jurisdiction of the Philippines to conduct marine research in the Philippines’ EEZ,”  referring to the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as spelled out under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS and enshrined in the Philippine Constitution.

On board the ship being harassed are French archeologists.

— Online News Article  (GMA News)

Call in the marines!

U.S. Marines of the 31st Expeditionary Unit (Balikatan exercise in Palawan, Philippines)

U.S. Marines of the 31st Expeditionary Unit (Balikatan exercise in Palawan, Philippines)

Yesterday, Sunday, I was surprised at the line in front of my regular ATM machine.

“Army?,” I asked casually. No, he shook his head without volunteering to correct me. They were U.S. Marines. Out of uniform, they looked like typical American young men: 19, 20, or 21. I didn’t have my camera with me but they–these civilian-clothed young men–are effective warriors. They were off yesterday since today, Monday, they began their two-week long joint exercise with Filipino soldiers.

PHL-US military exercises begin amid latest PHL-China territorial tiff
April 15, 2012 1:48pm

More than 4,000 American troops will join their Filipino counterparts Monday for a series of military exercises that Malacañang hopes will not provoke China as tension persists at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

The Palace said on Sunday the joint RP-US Balikatan military exercises are not meant to be a show of force against China as it had been scheduled several months in advance. Some venues of the exercises are in the West Philippine Sea, a hotbed of conflicting claims among six parties, including the Philippines and China.

(The “West Philippine Sea” is name that the Philippine president has given to what is internationally known as the “South China Sea.”)


The Balikatan is the biggest combined military exercises between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Pacific Command. It aims to promote regional peace and security and improve the interoperability and contingency planning of both forces for defense in accordance with the Mutual Defense Treaty.

(A “balikat” is a shoulder, so “balikatan” figuratively means being shoulder-to-shoulder, a nice image that shows cooperation and partnership.)

Some 6,500 troops — 4,500 American and 2,000 Filipinos — are expected to participate in this annual exercise, which includes computer-simulated command post exercises, multiple field training exercises and humanitarian civic assistance projects in pre-selected areas in Palawan, the Philippine Information Agency said.

However, the Philippines remains in a standoff with China off Panatag Shoal, about 124 nautical miles off Zambales, after the Philippine military spotted Chinese fishing vessels poaching in the area. But before the Philippine Navy could make arrests, two Chinese maritime vessels blocked its path. Following talks between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing, the eight Chinese fishing vessels left the area Friday night. The standoff has not ended after China sent back one of its ships to the area.

The venue of the actual training exercises includes the West Philippine Sea (also South China Sea) off Palawan where both forces will be pursuing amphibious exercises; and gas and oil platform defense and retake.

The West Philippine Sea encompasses the Spratly Islands, a chain of islands and islets believed to rich in oil and minerals deposits. The islands are being claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

— Online News Article (GMA News)

The next war will break out over this

I think the next shooting war–this time between the Americans and the Chinese–could erupt over this. Here’s a link to one of my posts from the past. It’s entitled but “China will not compromise over the Spratley islands.” Stay tuned!


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