Nov 222016
New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, left, and Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, attend a meeting with business leaders during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, Summit in Lima, Peru, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, left, and Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, attend a meeting with business leaders during the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, Summit in Lima, Peru, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

The success of President Duterte’s debut at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit should be measured by how much the country had gained from the trip, not by his attendance at a gala dinner and pictorial with fellow world leaders, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

The President’s visit to Peru for the Apec summit had yielded “positive results,” especially with Russia, China and Vietnam promising to share their technology with the Philippines, said Assistant Communications Secretary Ana Marie Banaag.

“The nonattendance of the President at the gala dinner and picture-taking should not be a barometer to measure whether the participation of the Philippines is successful or not,” Banaag said.

Banaag said Malacañang respects the opinion of former President Fidel Ramos, who expressed disappointment at Mr. Duterte’s absence at the events. Ramos said it was the President’s duty to attend even if he wasn’t feeling well.

The President sent Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay to represent him.

Mr. Duterte said he skipped the dinner and pictorial at the end of the summit because he was feeling lightheaded from jet lag. The events coincided with his sleeping hours back home, and he could barely keep his eyes open, he said.

This was not the first time Mr. Duterte had skipped events at an international gathering.

He failed to show up at a meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the United States and India during the regional summit in Laos in September.—LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

TAGS: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Global Nation, Philippine news updates, President Duterte, Secretary Ana Marie Banaag
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Nov 222016
UK envoy at Read-Along: Helping kids be kids again

British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, left, and with Inquirer president and CEO Sandy Prieto Romualdez and Inquirer employees —PHOTOS BY ROMY HOMILLADA Asked why he chose to be part of the Inquirer Read-Along Festival for the second time last week, British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad recalled how he first set foot in the country in 2013, just as the nation woke to the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in Tacloban, Eastern Visayas. “One of the ways in which we helped was not just in delivering food and aid,” he recounted. “We discovered the power of storytelling because a lot of kids were traumatized. As we went to some of the projects we funded, teachers and anybody who could would gather kids while their parents run around to rebuild their lives. And just through storytelling and acting out scenarios and small things, the kids were kept amused and distracted, which basically allowed them to be kids again,” Ahmad said. Bonding with kids through storytelling is something that the ambassador is familiar with. “As a father, we used to do this thing with my two sons where, just before going to bed, each one can pick a character—anything, an object or an animal,” Ahmad said. “My challenge was to tell a 15-minute story, completely made up that evening. The beauty of the story was, I would start off with whatever they gave me but what they would wait for was how, somewhere in the story, they would appear Read More …

Nov 212016
Duterte narrates how he became ‘fast friends’ with Putin

President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time during a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru on November 19. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./ Presidential Photo LIMA, Peru—President Duterte hit it off with Russian President Vladimir Putin when they first met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit here on Saturday. Sounding like a starstruck schoolboy who just met his idol, Mr. Duterte gushed about his initial interaction with the former KGB colonel. “It was like we have known each other for a long time and even [by] the way we pat each other’s hand in a handshake,” Mr. Duterte told reporters. He said that at one of the side events with the Apec leaders, he was having a conversation with a Vietnamese official who thanked him for the release of Vietnamese fishermen who were apprehended in Philippine waters. “When I finally sat down, I found out that President Putin was on my left side, so we shook hands,” he said. “And then after I shook his hand again and I finally said ‘I [will] go ahead.’ He told to me, ‘Don’t forget to visit Russia,’” he said. Like with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the only other leader he had a bilateral meeting with, he said he had become “fast friends” with the Russian president. He joked that the moment Putin entered the room, the Russian leader went up to him and told him, Read More …

Nov 212016
Duterte to declare Panatag a marine sanctuary

LIMA, Peru—President Duterte plans to issue an executive order unilaterally declaring the lagoon of the disputed Panatag Shoal a marine sanctuary, where neither Filipinos nor Chinese may be allowed to fish. Mr. Duterte told Chinese President Xi Jinping about his plan during their bilateral meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum here, according to National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who was present at the meeting. “The President has decided to declare that a sanctuary. That is a unilateral action from the government,” he said, referring to the triangular lagoon “as big as Quezon City” and known to be a spawning ground for fish. Panatag Shoal, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal, is a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos. China seized the shoal after a two-month standoff with the Philippines in 2012 but recently loosened its grip to allow Filipinos to fish again in the area following friendly overtures from Mr. Duterte. If Mr. Duterte’s plan proceeds, Filipino, Chinese and other fishermen would only be allowed to fish in the deeper waters just outside Panatag. Mr. Duterte’s plan is delicate because it may imply Philippine territorial control over the shoal, whose ownership the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague did not resolve when it ruled in favor of the Philippines in the maritime dispute in July. Esperon said Mr. Duterte “clearly talked about maritime arrangements” with Xi, including the prospect of cooperation between the coast guards of the two countries. “The implication and Read More …

Nov 212016
Apec leaders look to China on trade

Leaders of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC, wave during the group photo in Lima, Peru, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. Front row, from left: Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, China’s President Xi Jinping, Peru’s President Pedro Kuczynski, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korea’s Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak. Back row, from left: Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Philippines’s Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Taiwan ‘s special APEC envoy James Soong, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong, US President Barack Obama and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia) LIMA, PERU—Leaders of 21 Asia-Pacific nations ended their annual summit on Sunday with a call to resist protectionism even as more countries looked forward to joining a China-led trading bloc after Donald Trump’s election victory raised fears the United States would scrap free trade deals. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum closed with a joint pledge to work toward a sweeping new free trade agreement that would include all 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) members as a path to “sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth,” despite the political climate. “We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism,” the Read More …

Nov 212016
Russia to buy $2.5B worth of PH fruits, vegetables

President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet for the first time during a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Lima, Peru on November 19. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./ Presidential Photo LIMA, Peru—Russia committed to buy $2.5 billion worth of Philippine fruits, grains or vegetables during Saturday’s bilateral discussions between President Duterte and President Vladimir Putin, officials said on Sunday. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the Russian side had agreed “immediately” to a proposal for the importation of Philippine fruit and other agricultural products in the next 12 months. “Their immediate estimate is $2.5 billion. That’s a number they [Russian side] quoted,” Lopez told Filipino journalists covering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum here. Dwarfs current exports The estimate dwarfs the $46 million worth of exports the Philippines currently ships to Russia every year, he said. “We were talking of what they could buy from us, especially agricultural products, but nothing was specified. But I understand we supply them with a huge quantity of bananas… and mangoes. With these kinds of discussions, these present more trading opportunities between us,” Lopez said. He said Putin also offered to help the Philippines through investments in energy and infrastructure. “[They will help] in machine engineering, hardware, modernizing industrial machineries, railways, especially long-range railways, port infrastructure, monorails, light transit transport system, agriculture and, of course, tourism,” he said. The Philippines may also expect more tourists from Russia, he added. “Of course, the other side of this Read More …

Nov 202016
PH eyes Russia’s, China’s help to  boost defenses

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping greet each during a bilateral meeting at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Lima, Peru on November 19. REY BANIQUET/ Presidential Photo The Philippines plans to beef up its defense capabilities with the help of countries like Russia and China, as it seeks to establish industrial defense complexes in areas considered highly “vulnerable to attacks.” These complexes, which will house defense-related manufacturing firms, are targeted to be put up in places like Palawan, since it faces the Spratlys and Zambales, because of the Scarborough Shoal, said Charito B. Plaza, director general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza). “We have military reservations that can be utilized as defense industrial complexes depending on the studies to be undertaken by the Department of National Defense (DND). I suggested that we should put up these defense industrial complexes in vulnerable areas of attacks like Palawan and Zambales,” Plaza said.  ‘Window shopping’ She also suggested that two defense industrial complexes be put up in Mindanao. “This is not just about the transfer of technology. We will also be able to modernize our armed forces and the police.” Plaza explained that Peza had begun “window shopping” for prospective locators from Russia, China, Israel and other countries that have sophisticated defense industries. The target is to have locators from these countries to manufacture drones, equipment as well as the hardware and software needed by the military and police both for export and local Read More …

Nov 152016
‘Islamist hyperextremism’ threatens religious rights

Religious liberty has worsened around the world in the last two years, with violent Islamist attacks taking place in one out of five countries, from Sweden in northern Europe to Australia in Oceania and including 17 African countries, according to a report by the  Aid to Church in Need (ACN), a Vatican foundation that provides relief to Christians and non-Christians in high-conflict areas. The biennial report, “Religious Freedom in the World,” released simultaneously on Nov. 15 in the Vatican and Manila where ANC has opened a Philippine office at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) complex in Intramuros, said that religious freedom had declined in 11 of 23 worst-offending countries such as Syria, Iraq, North Korean and China. The situation is very grave in Syria and Iraq because of “hyperextremisim” as shown by the genocidal campaign of the Islamic State (IS) to wipe out non-Muslim populations, the report noted. The last two years has seen the “emergence of a new phenomenon … [of] Islamist hyper-extremism, a process of heightened radicalization, unprecedented in its violent expression.” Extreme violence, cruelty The ACN report said that hyperextemism is characterized by “an extremist creed and a radical system of law; systematic attempts to annihilate or drive out all groups that don’t conform to their outlook, including coreligionists; cruel treatment of victims; use of social media to recruit followers and to intimidate opponents by parading extreme violence.” The report added that hyperextremism has had a “global impact—enabled by affiliate extremist groups and well-resourced Read More …

Nov 152016
What Trump’s vow to deport 3 million illegals would mean

WASHINGTON—President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to deport up to 3 million immigrants who have committed crimes suggested that he would dramatically step up removals of both people in the United States illegally and those with legal status. If carried out, the plan potentially would require raids by a vastly larger federal immigration force to hunt down these immigrants and send them out of the country. Addressing the issue in an interview broadcast on Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” Trump adopted a softer tone on immigrants than he did during his campaign, when he called many of them rapists and criminals. He instead referred to them as “terrific people,” saying they would be dealt with only after the border had been secured and criminals deported. But by placing the number of people he aims to turn out of the country as high as 3 million, Trump raised questions about which immigrants he planned to target for deportation and how he could achieve removals at that scale. Dividing communities “If he wants to deport 2-3 million people, he’s got to rely on tactics that will divide communities and create fear throughout the country,” said Kevin Appleby, the senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York. “He would have to conduct a sweep, or raids or tactics such as those, to reach the numbers he wants to reach. It would create a police state, in which they would have to be aggressively looking for people,” Read More …

Oct 042016
PH-US war games start amid uncertainty

EMBASSY RALLY Policemen block protesters trying to get near the US Embassy during a rally against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and the Philippines. AP US AND Philippine Marine commanders stressed the value of joint training as American and Filipino forces opened combat exercises under some uncertainty on Tuesday, days after President Duterte said the drills would be the last in his six-year term. Marine commanders from both sides said at the opening of the Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex 33), involving 1,400 American and 500 Filipino military personnel, the drills were aimed at improving readiness by the two countries to respond to a range of crises while deepening their historic ties. Last week, Mr. Duterte, angered by US criticism of his brutal war on drugs, said Phiblex would be the last war games during his term, which started on June 30. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said, however, that the decision was not final, sparking questions as to whether other annual US-Philippine military exercises would proceed as planned. US Embassy officials said Manila had not formally notified Washington of any move to scrap other planned drills. Such a move by Manila would impede Washington’s plans to expand the footprint of US forces in Southeast Asia to counter an increasingly aggressive China. War games between US and Philippine forces are held every year under the Visiting Forces Agreement, an offshoot of the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the two countries in 1951. Security accord Two years ago, Read More …