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News from Metropolitan Manila Area and Around the World

23 October 2016

JIM GOMEZ,Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday that Filipino fishermen “may” be able to return to the Chinese-held Scarborough Shoal in a few days after he discussed the territorial rift with Chinese leaders, but he did not say whether China imposed conditions.

Duterte said that in talks in Beijing this past week, he insisted that the shoal off his country’s northwestern coast — which China effectively took control of in 2012 following a standoff with the Philippines — belonged to his country, but added that the Chinese also asserted their claim of ownership.

If Filipinos are allowed to sail back to Scarborough, a traditional fishing ground and storm shelter, Duterte said they would be prohibited from fishing inside a sprawling lagoon that is a fish spawning ground that should be protected.

“We’ll just wait for a few more days. We may be able to return to Scarborough Shoal, the fishing by our countrymen,” Duterte said in a speech in the northern city of Tuguegarao, making a visit after the region was lashed by a super typhoon.

Considering the delicate role of Scarborough’s shallow lagoon, which is a spawning area for tuna and other fish, “I myself said that if we’re able to sail back to Scarborough Shoal as its owner — and they insist they are also the owner — I myself will say, ‘Don’t fish there,'” Duterte said.

“What I know is he has also asked the Chinese fishermen to go away so there won’t be anybody who’ll be seen there,” he said without identifying the Chinese leader he talked with. “That’s what we discussed. I’m not sure if they’ll fulfill that.”

In another speech Sunday in the typhoon-hit province of Isabela, Duterte said a Chinese official insisted on China’s ownership of virtually the entire contested sea on historical grounds, citing the official as saying, “We will not give in on this.”

Duterte said he replied that the Philippines won’t budge “because we won in the court.'” In a landmark ruling in July, an international tribunal in The Hague invalidated China’s historic claims in the South China Sea and ruled that the Chinese government violated the Filipinos’ right to fish in Scarborough, which it declared a traditional fishing ground.

Duterte cited the Chinese as saying, “We can resolve this case peacefully, no fighting, no blood and it will take time.” Duterte said he responded by saying, “It’s OK … we’ll discuss the award that we got someday and we won’t get out of this document … we won in the ownership.”

“But I will not insist now, I will not impose now, I will not go to war now, I will not waste the life of my soldiers,” Duterte said. “Our two FA-50s have no rockets, how will I wage a war? In five minutes, their planes will reach Manila while ours, on takeoff, will just get stuck there and won’t be able to fly because they’ll be bombed.”

During his visit to China, Duterte met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials.

China effectively took control of Scarborough in 2012 after its ships had a tense standoff with Philippine vessels. Then-President Benigno Aquino III said U.S. officials brokered a deal for a simultaneous withdrawal of the ships. Aquino withdrew his government’s ships, but said China reneged on the verbal deal and went on to control Scarborough.

Since then, Chinese coast guard ships have guarded the shoal, blocking and driving away Filipino fishermen, who complained that the Chinese at times used water cannons or dangerously chased them away while yelling, through a bullhorn, that they were barging into Chinese territory.

In 2013, Aquino’s administration brought its territorial disputes with China to international arbitration, a move that China ignored.

China ignored the ruling by the tribunal and continued shooing Filipinos away from the shoal.

The tough-talking Duterte, who has reached out to China while stepping back from his country’s close security alliance with the U.S., has said he would not immediately insist on China’s compliance to the arbitration ruling. Instead, he said he would mend strained relations with Beijing and seek to expand two-way trade and investments with the Asian economic powerhouse.

China committed to provide up to $16 million in financial assistance, which could come next year, primarily for agriculture, aside from business deals with Philippine companies, Duterte said, praising China for “really being nice inside.”

—oOo—

Duterte says he cannot cut diplomatic ties with Washington: ‘Filipinos in the US will kill me’

ananya_roy,International Business Times UK Sat, Oct 22 2:17 AM PDT

Back to the country from his four-day state visit to China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told that he never said he wants to sever diplomatic ties with the US. “It’s not severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. I cannot do that,” he reportedly said on Friday (21 October) night after arriving at his hometown Davao.

Citing the reasons why he cannot end diplomatic ties with Washington, he said: “Because the Filipinos in the United States will kill me.” He also said that doing such a thing would not be in the best interests of his country and his people, considering many Filipinos live in the US and vice versa.

Explaining his earlier remarks on the issue, he said he meant to say that he will not follow a foreign policy that is influenced by the US. So far the Philippines has been taking cue from the US in framing its foreign policies, but “I will not follow” them, he added.

Further, the firebrand Filipino leader said he has been treating US officials negatively for being critical about his campaign against corruption, crime and illegal drugs. He also cited a 2002 incident in Davao city, where he was the mayor, in which an American national indicted in a hotel explosion was taken out of the country, skipping Filipino protocol.

Duterte termed the action as a breach of sovereignty and questioned the US if they would have tolerated such an act of violation of their sovereignty.

Michael Terrence Meiring was allegedly involved in an explosion at the Evergreen Hotel in Davao on 16 May, 2002, but was immediately taken back to America and the then US ambassador to the Philippines Francis Ricciardone had promised Duterte of a thorough investigation into the case.

“It has not really appeased me at all. America disrespected us. To this day, it’s like a Batman and Robin mystery.

—oOo—

2 October 2016

President Duterte to visit China next week

BEIJING (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will make a state visit to China next week in the latest instance of reaching out to Beijing despite an ongoing territorial dispute, while questioning his country’s traditional ties with the United States.

 The Oct. 18-21 visit will include talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang touching on ways to improve bilateral relations and deepen cooperation, Chinese

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday at a regular news briefing.

“China anticipates that President Duterte’s visit can help with enhancing political trust … dealing with disputes properly through dialogue and bringing the bilateral strategic cooperative relationship for peace and development back to the track of sound and steady development,” Geng said.

Without mentioning the dispute over waters and islands in the South China Sea, Geng said the Philippines was a “traditionally amicable neighbor of China.”

Duterte, who labels himself a socialist, has turned toward China amid a string of anti-U.S. pronouncements and a falling out with President Barack Obama, whom he has lambasted for criticizing his deadly anti-drug crackdown.

On Tuesday, he said he wouldn’t abrogate a defense treaty with the United States but questioned its importance and that of joint combat exercises, which China opposes. He also wants U.S. counterterrorism forces to leave his country’s south, saying their presence was inflaming restiveness among minority Muslims.

 On Monday, he said that when visiting China he wouldn’t discuss sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal, a fishing ground China seized in 2012 that is the crux of the China-Philippines territorial dispute.

 That action prompted the government of Duterte’s predecessor to file a case against Beijing with an arbitration panel in The Hague, which in July ruled overwhelmingly in Manila’s favor. That enraged China, which had refused to take part in the proceedings or honor the outcome.

 However, Duterte said he would ask China to allow Filipino fishermen to again operate in the area.

 “I will just say, ‘Just let my brother Filipino fishermen go back there to fish,’ then we can talk,” he said in a speech.

In an earlier speech, he also said that when he meets with Xi, he will offer to open all areas of trade and commerce, along with land leases of up to 120 years for Chinese companies.

Associated Press

Duterte to ban smoking in public

October 12, 2016

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will this month ban smoking in public, the health department said Wednesday, further strengthening some of the toughest tobacco regulation in Asia.

The firebrand leader has waged a ruthless law and order campaign since July that has left more than 3,000 people dead while, as a long-time mayor of the southern city of Davao, he imposed curfews on minors and banned public alcohol sales at night and shirtless men.

The upcoming law is in addition to legislation banning tobacco advertising and regulating smoking in indoor public places, as well as a statute that requires graphic images of smoking health hazards to be printed on cigarette packaging.

“There has been a significant reduction in smoking, but the reduction has been slow,” Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag told AFP. “We want to have in place all the tools that are needed to expand this campaign,” he added.

Tayag said the new drive was prompted by Duterte who, in 2002, banned smoking in all public places in Davao. The World Health Organization said 20.6 percent of the Philippine population smoked as of 2013, 10 years after the tobacco regulation act was passed.

The country of 101 million also remained one of 15 nations worldwide with a heavy burden of tobacco-related ill health, the WHO said.

The existing law bans smoking in indoor public places including government buildings, hospitals and schools as well as public transport. Bars and nightclubs are required to set aside designated smoking areas, but smoking outdoors is not regulated.

Tayag said the planned executive order would plug that gap by only allowing smoking outdoors at the back of buildings “where there are no people”. It will authorise municipal and city governments to impose penalties that could include prison terms, fines, community service or a combination of the three, he added.

—oOo—

18 September 2016

Manila: To rid of trikes, pedicabs in October

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila City government Mayor Joseph Estrada said  that  the city  will totally phase out gasoline-run tricycles, kuligligs and pedicabs next month.

Mayor  Estrada said the phaseout of these vehicles is part of his goal to transform Manila into the country’s electronic tricycle or e-trike capital.

Estrada  targeted date  is on  Oct. 15,  to rid  Manila  of  kuligligs, gasoline-run tricycles and pedicabs.  He expressed  his want to make  Manila as  the e-trike capital of the Philippines and to make Manila a green city.

Records indicate  that  there are 25,000 gasoline-run tricycles, kuligligs and pedicabs plying all over the city “without a franchise.”

The city government, with the requisite resolution from the city council, has appropriated an initial amount of P120 million to buy 10,000 seven-seater e-trikes.  He said an e-trike can be fully charged in four hours and travel up to 80 kilometers.

Estrada said the e-trikes will be distributed to qualified tricycle drivers and bona fide city residents who will lose their income from the phaseout. The drivers and residents will also get uniforms in orange, the mayor’s trademark color.

electronics-tricycle

E-trikes

“Tricycle drivers are paying a daily boundary of P150 and are spending P200 for their gasoline. That is P350 per day. On an e-trike, they will not spend a single centavo for gasoline. The battery charging will be shouldered by the city government,” Estrada said.

He said under the e-trike program, those who will receive the vehicles will pay P150 to P200 per day for four years.

“Even if we will require them to pay more than P200, it will still be favorable to them because they will still earn money more than what they are earning at present,” Estrada told The STAR.

Estrada said Binondo will be their pilot area for the e-trikes. He said the city government will put up two charging stations at both ends of each e-trike route.

“Pickup stations and two charging stations will be made available for them. There will be many routes. But we will have Binondo as our pilot area. We will also put e-trike stations in the university belt, Port Area, among others,” Estrada said.

City auditor Mario Lipana said the city government is also looking into setting up e-trike routes in Malate and Intramuros.

Lipana said the city government is working with the Manila Electric Co. to set up coin-operated battery charging stations for e-trikes.

—oOo—

 

 

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