Latest News Headlines from in and around the Philippines
News Headlines in and around the Philippines
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Pinoys scramble for shot at seventh, bow to IraqisMANILA, Philippines - South Gas Club Sports Iraq repeated over the PLDT Home TVolution Philippines, 25-17, 25-21, 25-21, yesterday to stay in the hunt for fifth while relegating the hosts to a shot at seventh place in the 2014 Asian Men’s Volleyball Club Championship presented by PLDT Home Fibr at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
Cop arrested for mauling trike driverMANILA – A police officer was arrested after he allegedly beat up a driver in Cubao, Quezon City early Wednesday, reports said.
Pampanga bettor wins P80-M lotto jackpotMANILA - A bettor from San Fernando, Pampanga won the P80-million jackpot of the 6/45 Mega Lotto draw on Monday, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) said yesterday.
Lyrid meteor shower visible next weekMANILA - Skywatchers can enjoy the Lyrid meteor shower early next week, the state weather bureau said yesterday.
Driver, passenger hurt after tree falls on taxiBAGUIO CITY – A driver and a passenger were hurt when a tree fell on a passing taxi in Brgy. Lourdes Extension in Baguio City, reports said.
U.S., China in ‘productive’ talks after North Korea test threat
(Reuters) – The United States and China have held “productive” talks on North Korea, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday, part of stepped up international diplomacy after Pyongyang warned of plans to conduct a new type of nuclear test.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies met with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in New York on Monday and Tuesday. Wu would continue discussions with Davies and other U.S. officials in Washington on Friday, a State Department statement said.
“The United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea,” it said, adding that the meetings were part of a series of high-level U.S.-China discussions on how to achieve that in a peaceful manner.
The talks follow meetings last week between the United States, Japan and South Korea, the countries that along with China and Russia were trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea until Pyongyang declared the so-called six-party talks dead in 2008.
North Korea said on Friday that the world would have to “wait and see” when asked for details of the “new form” of nuclear test it has threatened to carry out.
Pyongyang made the test threat after the United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea’s firing of two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles into the sea on March 26.
It was North Korea’s first firing in four years of mid-range missiles that can hit Japan and followed a series of short-range rocket launches over the past two months.
Members of the Security Council condemned the move on March 27 as a violation of U.N. resolutions and agreed to continue discussions on an “appropriate response.”
Diplomats said then that it was possible the Security Council would expand a current U.N. blacklist to include additional North Korean entities involved in Pyongyang’s missile program. But they said it could take weeks to reach agreement.
The council expanded its sanctions on North Korea after Pyongyang’s February 2013 atomic test, its third nuclear detonation since 2006.
Current U.N. sanctions target North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and attempt to punish its reclusive leadership through a ban on the export of luxury goods to the country.
Nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in the United States, said last week that North Korea’s reference to a new form of test could mean simultaneous detonation of two or more devices as part of a program of more intense nuclear testing expected over the next few years.
While North Korea has detonated several nuclear devices, analysts have expressed doubt it currently has the technical capability to reliably mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
U.S. President Barack Obama is to visit South Korea and Japan as part of a tour of Asia next week, and the North Korea issue will be high on the agenda.
Earlier on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying warned against any action that could lead to the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and said China would continue to play a positive role in promoting a “soft landing” there, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.
She termed the situation on the peninsula fairly “sensitive” and “fragile,” it said.
4 killed, several hurt as bus hits truck in Camarines Sur At least four people were reported killed while several others were injured after a bus hit a truck in Camarines Sur, a radio report said Wednesday.
6 flights cancelled due to bad weather
At least six flights were cancelled early Wednesday due to bad weather, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said.
DOTC posted on its Twitter account that the cancelled flights included:
- 2P-2021 Manila to Masbate
- 2P-2022 Masbate to Manila
- 2P-2079 Manila to Catarman
- 2P-2080 Catarman to Manila
- 5J-893 Manila to Caticlan
- 5J-894 Caticlan to Manila.
Miley Cyrus hospitalized for allergic reaction, cancels Kansas City showSinger Miley Cyrus canceled her Tuesday show in Kansas City, Missouri, after being hospitalized for a "severe allergic reaction to antibiotics," the show venue said.
Rebel videos show first U.S.-made rockets in Syria
(Reuters) – Online videos show Syrian rebels using what appear to be U.S. anti-tank rockets, weapons experts say, the first significant American-built armaments in the country’s civil war.
They would signal a further internationalization of the conflict, with new rockets suspected from Russia and drones from Iran also spotted in the forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
None of that equipment, however, is seen as enough to turn the tide of battle in a now broadly stalemated war, with Assad dominant in Syria’s central cities and along the Mediterranean coast and the rebels in the interior north and east.
It was not possible to independently verify the authenticity of the videos or the supplier of the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank rockets shown in the videos. Some analysts suggested they might have been provided by another state such as Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, probably with Washington’s acquiescence.
U.S. officials declined to discuss the rockets, which appeared in Syria around the same time Reuters reported that Washington had decided to proceed with plans to increase aid, including delivery of lower-level weaponry.
U.S. officials say privately there remain clear limits to American backing for the insurgency, given the widely dominant role played by Islamist militants. A proposal to supply MANPAD surface-to-air missiles was considered but rejected.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the Obama administration was giving support she did not define.
“The United States is committed to building the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate armed opposition,” she said in response to a query over the rocket videos.
“As we have consistently said, we are not going to detail every single type of our assistance,” she said.
While the number of U.S. rockets seen remains small, reports of their presence are steadily spreading, analysts say.
“With U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles now seen in the hands of three groups in the north and south of Syria, it is safe to say this is important,” said Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution Doha Centre and one of the first to identify the weapons.
The first three videos were posted on April 1 and 5, Lister said. While two have since been removed, one remains on YouTube.
He posted clearer still images on a blog for Huffington Post last week.
Several other arms experts and bloggers on the Syrian conflict have also reviewed the videos. They include Eliot Higgins, a Britain-based, self-taught arms and video specialist who blogs under the name “Brown Moses” and has emerged as one of the leading authorities on foreign firepower reaching Syria.
The rebel faction shown operating the U.S. missiles in the first videos, a relatively secular and moderate group called Harakat Hazm, declined comment. But an opposition activist based in southeastern Turkey who is a former member of Harakat Hazm said that they were provided by the Americans.
The Syrian activist, who identified himself as Samer Muhammad, said Harakat Hazm received 10 anti-tank missiles earlier this month near Aleppo and Idlib, two cities torn by heavy fighting near the northern border with Turkey.
He said that Harakat Hazm had launched five of those rockets to destroy four tanks and win a battle in the Idlib suburbs of Babulin and Salheiya, and this was the first time such U.S. arms had figured in Syria’s fighting.
His information could not be confirmed independently.
SAUDI, QATARI SUPPLIES
More recent videos had shown the rockets in the hands of the Syrian Revolutionary Front and another group named Awliya wa Katalib al-Shaheed Ahmed al-Abdo, Lister said. Both are also seen as broadly moderate, in contrast with radical Islamists.
Western states have long been reluctant to make good on repeated talk of supplying weapons to Assad’s foes, nervous of arms falling into the hands of jihadi militants or simply abetting more bloodshed in a conflict that has killed over 150,000 people and displaced millions over the past three years.
Lister said that if Washington were unwilling to supply TOW rockets itself, the most likely point of origin was Saudi Arabia which has thousands of anti-tank projectiles in its arsenal.
Under terms of the original sale, Riyadh would be obliged to tell Washington if it were transferring them to any third party.
“Considering the groups already seen with these missile systems and considering Saudis’ already established reputation for providing weapons to moderate… groups, Saudi would seem the most likely candidate at this stage,” Lister said.
The other major regional supporter of the rebels, Qatar, apparently do not hold such rockets in its regular military stores, analysts say, and may have bought Chinese weaponry from elsewhere, perhaps Sudan, for shipment to rebels last year.
Chinese-built HJ-8 anti-tank guided missiles remain a relatively common part of the rebel arsenal, according to Syria arms experts. HJ-8s first popped up largely in the hands of Islamist groups early last year, possibly coming from Qatar.
More recent shipments have been noticed in the hands of relatively secular insurgent factions and are believed by analysts to have been supplied by Saudi Arabia instead.
RUSSIAN ROCKETS, IRANIAN DRONES
Use of Chinese MANPAD anti-aircraft missiles by Islamist militants has dwindled in recent months, monitors say. Such missiles arrived last year, again believed to have come from Qatar, a development that particularly worried Western states.
“I suspect there’s been two waves of Chinese weapons, the first from Qatar and the second from Saudi Arabia going to different groups,” said “Brown Moses” blogger Higgins.
The United States and other Gulf Arab states have bemoaned Qatar’s scattergun approach to arming rebel forces that has seen many weapons end up in the hands of fighters affiliated with al Qaeda linked and other radical Islamists. Qatari and Saudi officials will not discuss their Syria policy in detail.
Gulf states have also been alarmed by growing signs of support from Iran for Assad’s military. The latest new piece of Iranian equipment to appear on the battlefield, an unmanned Shahed 129 drone photographed over Damascus, is said by Tehran to carry weapons as well as conduct surveillance.
Higgins said the other most significant development in Syrian conflict firepower this year had been the government’s growing use of Russian-made BM-27 and BM-30 rocket launchers to deliver cluster munitions. While the former had long been known to be part of Assad’s armories, the latter was not.
2 die of suspected meningococcemia in Cebu and Davao Sur A 17-year-old from Cebu province and a young boy from Davao del Sur died from suspected meningococcemia within days of each other.
U.N. should halt arms shipments via Ivory Coast after China breach – panel
(Reuters) - United Nations experts have called for the world body to stop allowing arms for its Mali peacekeepers to be shipped through Ivory Coast after they said a load of military hardware sent by China violated the country’s arms embargo.
In a confidential report presented to the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee on Friday, the panel of experts said the shipment of weapons, ammunition and hardware which passed through Ivory Coast in November lacked proper permission and said China had understated its actual size by 21 metric tons (23.15 tons).
In response to Reuters’ questions, Beijing denied it had misstated the shipment’s size and said all the equipment was correctly received by its contingent, rejecting the experts’ criticism they had been unable to trace it.
Chinese troops form part of a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission being deployed to help stabilize Mali after a French-led military intervention last year drove off Islamist fighters who had seized the country’s desert north.
Ivory Coast’s main port of Abidjan has been a primary transit point for cargo shipped to landlocked Mali’s mission, known as MINUSMA. However, the country remains under an arms embargo following a decade-long political crisis that ended in a brief civil war in 2011.
“The Group investigated and collected…various documents proving the transfer of military equipment, arms, munitions in Cote d’Ivoire without the Sanctions Committee’s approval, which constitutes an arms embargo violation,” said the panel’s report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
The Chinese government sent a packing list to MINUSMA specifying 3,020 kg of military equipment in the shipment. The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) requested approval from Ivorian authorities to transit the cargo through the country, despite the lack of prior approval by the sanctions committee.
The U.N. panel of experts, however, said the bill of lading for the consignment stated that three of the 202 containers carried 8,484 kg of military goods, 5,202 kg of rifles and bullets and 10,721 kg of ammunition.
A bill of lading is a document issued by the shipping company and serves as a receipt for the goods to be transported. A hazardous cargo declaration as well as a request for permission to unload the containers from the local shipping agent addressed to the director general of Abidjan port both cited the same quantities.
“The Group is concerned about the missing difference of 21,387 kg of arms, ammunitions and military equipment that are not recognized as having been delivered to MINUSMA,” said the panel’s report, obtained by Reuters.
UNOCI’s unit charged with monitoring the embargo, IEMU, was not present when the weapons were unloaded at the port.
“Since the IEMU has no capacity to efficiently comply with security requirements…the Group believes that the transit of MINUSMA arms…through Cote d’Ivoire should not be allowed in future,” the experts wrote.
The report did not say who was responsible for the violation nor did it allege the arms were intentionally diverted.
Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for MINUSMA, said she was unable to comment as the U.N. experts’ report has not been made public.
China’s foreign ministry said the three containers cited by the experts contained only three metric tons of arms and ammunition while the remaining 21 metric tons were articles for daily use.
“The above arrived in its entirety in the mission area for the Chinese United Nationspeacekeepers in Mali at the end of 2013 – none of it went missing,” the ministry said in a emailed statement.
It said the experts had not attempted to verify this with China, and expressed its regret and concern to the group. China, which participates in several U.N. missions, has contributed 394 soldiers to the Malian force, including 169 engineers.
The U.N. investigators said they were not able to determine what happened to the shipment after it arrived in Abidjan. They traveled to the border crossing of Pogo on December 17, 2013 and were told that a shipment of MINUSMA containers had crossed into Mali but no arms or ammunition were specifically registered.
Ivory Coast Defence Minister Paul Koffi Koffi told Reuters the whole cargo shipment destined for the Chinese peacekeepers was transported to Mali under an Ivorian military escort.
In a letter to Koffi Koffi, MINUSMA’s shipping agent Etablissement Victoire Transit (EVT) had requested the Ivorian military secure the consignment and escort it to the border. EVT also requested the shipment not be subject to the established customs transit control process.
“All of that was done. I don’t know what happened after it left Ivory Coast,” Koffi Koffi told Reuters. “After that, it’s up to the U.N. to check. It’s the U.N. that must verify what arrived.”
Good Friday walk from Pasay to Manila to seek protection from disastersOn Good Friday, several Catholics are expected to take part in a seven-kilometer penitential walk seeking God's protection from environmental disasters this year.
Aquino to inspect transport terminals
President Benigno S. Aquino III is scheduled on Wednesday to visit several transportation hubs in Metro Manila to check security arrangements for the influx of travelers this Holy Week.
The President’s inspection tour will begin at the Ninoy Aquino International Aquino (NAIA) terminals 3 and 4 on Wednesday afternoon.
Aquino, who earlier directed the police to ensure peace and security during the observance of Holy Week, is expected to inspect the security facilities, including x-ray machines for passenger baggage, at the two airport terminals.
Aquino’s next stop will be the North Passenger Terminal Complex at the Manila North Harbor. He is expected to check the pier’s ticketing booths, passenger and baggage screening area, and other facilities.
The President will then visit two bus terminals in Cubao, Quezon City — Five Star bus terminal and JAC Liner terminal.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya will give the President a briefing on the status of operations and arrangements made for the Holy Week. (Genalyn Kabiling)
US, China in ‘productive’ talks after N.Korea test threatWASHINGTON - The United States and China have held "productive" talks on North Korea, the US State Department said on Tuesday, part of stepped up international diplomacy after Pyongyang warned of plans to conduct a new type of nuclear test.
Venezuela opposition resumes talks with government
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s opposition resumed negotiations with the government Tuesday amid rising doubts that the talks will produce a long-sought political opening.
The closed-door meeting hosted by Vice President Jorge Arreaza was aimed at setting an agenda and framework for future talks. It followed a six-hour marathon of speeches last week that drew record TV ratings as Venezuelans tuned in past midnight to watch the two sides air their differences in a rare display of civility after 15 years of rancorous polarization.
The opposition wants President Nicolas Maduro’s government to free jailed opponents and create an independent truth commission to determine responsibility for 41 deaths tied to protests that have rocked the nation since February. It’s also urging him to disarm pro-government groups known as “colectivos” and give critics a bigger say in the running of institutions that the government dominates, such as the Supreme Court and National Electoral Council.
Despite Maduro’s more conciliatory tone and broad support for dialogue, hopes for a breakthrough are slim. The government has shown no sign of making any broad concessions, and more radical elements of the opposition, including students, are boycotting the talks, calling them a political stunt by Maduro to deflect foreign criticism of his handling of the crisis while keeping a boot on the necks of protesters.
“No negotiations or pacts,” Maduro declared at last week’s meeting, which took place under the supervision of three South American nations and a Vatican envoy. “What’s happening here is a debate, a dialogue.”
Instead of ceding more political space, some observers say Maduro, who on Monday marked a year in office, may try to quietly orchestrate an economic opening to rebuild support battered by widespread frustration with long lines for scarce goods and galloping 57 percent inflation.
They point to the rolling out of a new foreign currency exchange mechanism that could increase the private sector’s access to dollars as a move toward more pragmatic policymaking. The government has also allowed struggling businesses to quietly raise price caps on basic goods.
“The government seems to be trying to undertake adjustments without paying the associated political costs, which is difficult to do in the current political climate and could undermine their commitment to these measures,” Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow wrote in a report Tuesday. “As a result, the economic outlook will likely remain challenging, which implies that the potential for discontent to rise will remain high.”
Amnesty: Haiti human rights activist threatened
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — A leading human rights activist in Haiti has been threatened for his work, Amnesty International said Tuesday, marking the latest documented case of attacks or threats against watchdog groups in the Caribbean nation.
Pierre Esperance received a menacing letter at his organization’s office in the Haitian capital earlier this month, along with a bullet, according to a statement from Amnesty.
The letter accused Esperance, executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network, of publishing false reports aimed at destabilizing President Michel Martelly’s government.
It also mentioned an earlier attack on Esperance when he survived bullet wounds to the shoulder and knee while driving his car.
“In 99 we missed you, this time you won’t escape it, stop speaking,” the letter said, according to Amnesty.
A complaint was lodged with the public prosecutor, and judicial police are believed to have opened an investigation, Amnesty said.
Esperance and his group have been actively publishing reports that range from the government’s alleged ties to drug traffickers to the sluggish case involving Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former dictator who faces charges on human rights abuses and embezzlement.
The alleged threat against Esperance is the latest aimed at Haiti’s human rights advocates over recent months.
Some attorneys have reported being followed or receiving menacing phone messages. One lawyer working on a corruption case was locked up overnight by police who said he was detained on unrelated charges.
In February, an activist and his wife were gunned down in Port-au-Prince. The case is still under investigation.
Martelly’s administration has repeatedly said it won’t tolerate corruption.
Frustration with the government boiled over into the streets Tuesday when about a thousand people demonstrated in the capital to call for the departure of Martelly for alleged corruption and waste. Young men burned tires and debris along the route.
The demonstration culminated near the grounds of the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, when police fired tear gas canisters and rifles in the air to disperse the crowd. Protesters retaliated by throwing rocks.