China Widens Presence&Aggressiveness in WPS & Threatens PH to Stop Ban of China on COVID19 Virus

Lorenzana confirms ‘intermittent’ presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday confirmed the “intermittent” presence of Chinese vessels surrounding Pag-asa (Thitu) Island in the West Philippine Sea.

“There were presence there intermittently but varying in numbers,” he told reporters in a text message.

The Defense chief was responding to queries about the constant presence of Chinese maritime militia and coast guard near the Philippine-occupied island in the Spratlys.

Pag-asa is the only outpost occupied by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands with a civilian community.

Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) director Gregory Poling said on Twitter that China has “maintained a constant maritime militia and CCG [Chinese Coast Guard] deployment around Thitu Island for 424 days and counting.”

“Somehow this isn’t on the front pages of the Manila papers,” he said.

The AMTI has reported extensively about the presence of Chinese militia and coast guard near Pag-asa and other Philippine-occupied features in the West Philippine Sea since 2018.

The presence of these Chinese boats near Pag-asa Island had notably increased since 2018 after the Philippines began the construction of a beaching ramp and sheltered port on the island.

The Philippine government later filed several protests last year against the presence of the Chinese vessels.


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Chinese envoy warns PH stands to lose more if travel ban, trade restriction stay as COVID-19 precautions

The Philippines was likely to lose more than it could gain if it blocks trade of goods and closes its borders to visitors from mainland China for an extended period to protect against the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said on Monday (Feb. 17).

Huang told members of the Association for Philippines-China Understanding (APCU) that while China’s manufacturing, services and trade sectors were taking a hit from the lockdown of Wuhan City and Hubei province to contain COVID-19, “the fundamentals of China’s long-term economic development remain unchanged.”

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Envoy rejects PH travel ban to China

Imposing a travel ban to China is not needed, the Philippine's Ambassador to Beijing said Thursday as the death toll of the new coronavirus continued to climb in the mainland.

China has imposed a lockdown in 18 cities in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected.

"A travel ban in a sense is not needed because a travel ban has been imposed by China itself," Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sto. Romana told ANC's Early Edition.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, however, has directed its embassy there not to issue visas to residents of Hubei, where the virus originated, and Chinese citizens with recent history of travel to the province.

Philippine authorities are also preparing for the repatriation of some 50 Filipinos in China.

They are, however, urged to "rethink the situation" as returning home to Manila would mean "increased risk to exposure" to the virus, Sto. Romana said.

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Chinese envoy warns of economic impact of travel ban

An extended ban on travel to and from China will have serious effect on the Philippine economy, the Chinese ambassador said at a forum yesterday.

“The epidemic, especially the travel ban imposed by the Philippine government, would inevitably have negative impact on the Philippine economy,” Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said at the 5th Association for Philippine-China Understanding (APCU) forum in Ortigas, Pasig City.

Huang noted that China is now the Philippines’ top trading partner, the largest source of imports as well as the third export market.

The Philippines banned all travel to and from China and its two administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau, as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He echoed the opinion of Aambis-Owa party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, chair of the House economic affairs committee, that Chinese tourists’ contribution is “actually 2.2 percent of Philippines’ gross domestic product” and “the epidemic will have a big impact on the country’s economy.”

The Chinese envoy also cited the Department of Tourism’s report noting that the local tourism industry is expected to lose an estimated P42.9 billion from February to April this year.

“Some experts worry that the travel ban may lead to thousands of domestic workers losing their working opportunities in Hong Kong and Macau,” said Huang.

“Philippines’ tropical fruits export to China may also be affected by the epidemic. I recently received many phone calls from Filipino friends. Some banana farmers have been worried about their banana export to China,” he said.

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