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China has promised to protect the Philippines

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China has assured the Philippines that it will come to its aid in the event of external threats, according to President Rodrigo Duterte. “China said, ‘We will protect you. We will not allow the Philippines to be destroyed. We are just here and you can call for our help anytime,'” the President said in a speech in Davao City on Friday. He criticised the United States, saying it would not protect the Philippines because it was afraid of war. The Philippines and the United States are defence treaty allies, but the President is distancing the Philippines from the United States because of US expressions of concern over the thousands of killings in his brutal war on drugs.

The President recalled how he decided to seek help from China and Russia after some American senators filed a bill that would block the sale of assault rifles to the Philippine National Police, as these could be used against Filipinos. He thanked China and Russia for giving firearms to the Philippines without asking for anything in return. “So to this day, China and Russia has not asked me for a single piece of paper or pencil in return. And I told them that I’m not ready to enter into military alliances because we have this pact with the US. If I have a treaty with them, I cannot enter into other treaties,” he said.

 

Philippines’ president recognizes alliances with US, Japan

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President Duterte recognized yesterday the importance of the Philippines’ military alliances with the United States and Japan through the years since World War II. “The brotherhood between the Philippines and the US has been forged by the second World War when the Filipinos and American soldiers fought side by side under the flag of freedom, and democracy still remains strong,” it’s possible to read in a note sent to the occasion of the commemoration of “the Day of Valor” at Mt. Samat in Bataan and read by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea before hundreds of guests, including war veterans, foreign dignitaries and local officials.

In the note, Duterte recognized the alliance between the Philippines and the US in terms of military and economic support and also noted how Japan has become a friend from being a foe during World War II. “The Japanese against whom our soldiers defended Bataan for many years now remain as one of our closest allies, a major trading partner and the largest provider of Official Development Assistance, which helps us in the fight against poverty and our quest for economic progress,” Duterte said. During the commemoration, Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda also underscored the importance of the bilateral relations between the two countries as he offered an apology for the atrocities of World War II.

Report: Facebook data scandal linked to the 2016 Duterte’s election

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A London-based behavioral research and strategic communication company assisted President Rodrigo Duterte’s victory in the May 2016 national elections, according to SCMP report. Strategic Communications Laboratories or SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, helped portray Duterte as a “strong, no-nonsense man of action” on social media, according to a report from South China Morning Post. The London-based company has removed the content but SCMP posted an archived version of the report. “SCL used the cross-cutting issue of crime to rebrand the client as a strong, no-nonsense man of action, who would appeal to the true values of the voters,” it added. The web content, however, did not identify Duterte as its Philippine client but the brief pointed to the former Davao City mayor. Late last year, Facebook faced criticism for sending out teams to train politicians around the world, including Duterte, on how to use the platform as a campaign tool. Malacañang, however, has shrugged off reports linking Facebook to Duterte’s presidential campaign. “All candidates did so, unfortunately for his detractors, President Duterte appeared to have been the best candidate who utilized Facebook the most,” Roque said. 

Government won’t remove CPP-NPA terror tag

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The Duterte administration will withdraw the court petition seeking to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups only when a peace agreement is signed, Malacañang said yesterday. Last November, Duterte scrapped the talks with the communists, accusing them of bad faith by attacking security forces and civilians while negotiations were ongoing and about 600 persons, including communist peace consultants, were declared as terrorists. Now Duterte has authorized the resumption of peace talks subject to certain conditions like the forging of a ceasefire agreement and stopping the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax. Meantime, CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, on the other hand, said they are willing to return to the negotiating table and “to meet as soon as possible” but said both sides should “bring different positions on issues to the table in order to thresh out the differences and arrive at agreements.” Roque said the President is also willing to grant Sison an assurance that he can come home without being arrested so he can join the negotiations, and said former Pangasinan representative Hernani Braganza has been instructed to meet with communist negotiators to relay the information to them. If the talks resume, communist peace consultants would again enjoy immunity from arrest, Roque added. However, security operations against the rebels would continue until a ceasefire deal is forged. The government peace panel is set to reconvene today to discuss preparations for the resumption of peace negotiations with the communist rebels. 

PH assumes chairmanship of ASEAN’s nuclear program

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Being the representative of the country, Philippine Energy Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos has been elected recently in Malaysia as chairman of the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector Network (NEC-SSN) under the auspices of the ASEAN Energy Cooperation. Marcos explained that the strategic thrusts of the NEC-SSN shall include “building capabilities in policy, technology and regulatory aspects of nuclear energy as an option for the future in the ASEAN region” and “the Philippines will lead the implementation of NEC-SSN’s work program for 2018-2019.” The Philippines is among the countries in the region keenly advancing its “nuclear renaissance” aspiration, not just with the planned re-powering of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) but even with the deployment of new nuclear technologies, including the floating modular nuclear facilities that are ideal for off-grid areas. The country is currently at its nuclear policy fine-tuning phase, and the next step as previously indicated by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi shall be to present the national roadmap to President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Duterte orders 6-month closure of Boracay

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During a Cabinet meeting, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told to reporters on Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of Boracay, a world-famous tourist destination, for 6 months, starting on April 26. The recommendation to close Boracay from tourists for 6 months – or until October – came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Duterte announced his intention to “close” Boracay last February 10, angered by environmental violations by commercial establishments that he thinks turned the popular tourist destination into a “cesspool.” This could mean non-residents would be physically barred from entering the island. But the Department of Trade and Industry had suggested implementing the closure in phases. Boracay stakeholders had said that closing the island for a year would take away the jobs of 36,000 people and would mean foregone revenues of P56 billion. The National Economic and Development Authority, however, said a 6-month closure of the tourist area would have minimal impact on the economy. 

‘Cebu City mayor not on Duterte’s narco list’

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Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is not on President Duterte’s list of politicians allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino said yesterday. Aquino said PDEA has not received any report confirming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s statement that Osmeña is in the payroll of drug lords. Aquino said 87 politicians, including mayors and vice mayors, are on the President’s drug watchlist. Aquino said PDEA would tap other agencies in validating Aguirre’s statement. Aguirre’s revelations against Osmeña came after the mayor threatened to file graft and disbarment cases against the justice chief over his supposed interference in the tax evasion charges filed by the Cebu City government against executives of SM Prime Holdings and BDO Unibank Inc. 

9 major infra projects up for NEDA Board approval

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Nine big-ticket infrastructure projects, including San Miguel Corp.’s proposed PHP700-billion airport project in Bulacan, are up for approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board (chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte), the state planning agency said Tuesday. Tungpalan said other projects up for approval include the Subic-Clark Railway, bridges across Pasig River and the proposed Davao agro-industrial complex project of the National Development Company. He noted these nine projects are “moving up to NEDA Board either by ad referendum or a NEDA Board meeting, it will be held soonest.” Meanwhile, diversified conglomerate SMC offered to build a new airport in north of Metro Manila with at least four runways and covering 2,000 hectares in Bulacan. “They will start with the negotiations with the original proponent and if they agree, then there will be a Swiss challenge. Then, they will see how the Swiss challenger will make their bid,” said Tungpalan. Aside from the project’s reasonable rate of return, the NEDA official said there are minimum performance standards and specifications and key performance indicators that will go with the Swiss challenge. 

Aguirre accuses Cebu City mayor of drug trade

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Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is involved in the illegal drug trade, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said yesterday. Aguirre said they have a witness who submitted an affidavit who named Osmeña as a “protector of drug lords.”  The witness surfaced last year, but he did not divulge it because they were still building the case. Aguirre said the NBI would file charges against Osmeña once the information is verified. Asked about the specific charges to be filed against Osmeña, Aguirre said, “Something like protection of drug lords together with police officials.” Last week, Osmeña threatened to file graft and disbarment cases against Aguirre over his supposed interference in the tax evasion charges filed by the Cebu City government against executives of SM Prime Holdings and BDO Unibank Inc. Aguirre said the respondents requested the transfer because they feel they could ”hardly expect fairness since the people (in Cebu) will favor the mayor” and there was nothing irregular in his order to transfer the cases against SM and BDO executives to the Department of Justice from the Cebu prosecutor’s office.

Philippines, Duterte: ‘Still no peace talks’

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After the calls from 61 lawmakers – through House Resolution 1803 –  for the resumption of talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the communist rebels’ political arm, government peace panel chairman and labor chief Silvestre Bello said that a resumption of peace negotiations with communist rebels will have to wait as there is no “enabling environment” yet to convince President Duterte to reconsider his suspension of the talks.  Bello said the Chief Executive needs more convincing proof of the NDF and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)’s sincerity in talking peace with the government. the lawmakers said forging peace with the communists would ultimately benefit the poor, especially those in the countryside, but a major factor that would likely convince Duterte to reopen the peace negotiations is the cessation of attacks by the NPA on military and civilian targets, Bello maintained.  “We support this call from legislators urging Duterte to resume and continue peace talks with the NDF and complete the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),”  Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairman Danilo Ramos said. “The resumption of peace talks and finalization of the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and the National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) will be for the best interest of Filipino farmers and the people,” Ramos said

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