Nov 242016

Russia has offered to sell rifles to the Philippines at an apparent bargain after a United States senator questioned the country’s planned purchase of guns from America, according to President Duterte who is seeking more robust ties with Moscow.

Mr. Duterte had met with Russian President Vladimir Putin made at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.

The Philippines’ planned purchase of assault rifles from the United States has been put under review after Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin questioned the sale amid concerns over human rights violations.

Mr. Duterte said the Philippines would explore other potential transactions that offer “better deals and more advantageous terms.”

Putin had offered to sell guns to the Philippines, he said.

“If the Senate—I forgot, Cardin?—does not want to sell rifles to us, Putin said that you can have, I’ll give you, buy one and take one. Almost like that,” he said in a press briefing upon arrival from Peru and New Zealand.

“He said, ‘If you cannot buy arms anywhere, you go to me,’” he added.

Upon arrival Wednesday night in Davao, Duterte said he did not discuss any arms deal with Putin during their meeting in Peru.

The President, who bristles at criticism of his antidrug war and the killings that have marked it, said he sees no reason to “belabor the point” with Cardin.

There are other countries the Philippines can ask for help, he said. But he added that a country should not deprive an ally of key equipment.

Mr. Duterte also said he welcomes the invitation of Putin, his “idol,” to Russia.

In preparation for this, he asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to undertake an advance visit to Russia “soonest” in order to firm up a substantive agenda with Moscow.

TAGS: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, assault rifles, Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, Duterte, Peru, Putin, Rodrigo Duterte, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Putin
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Nov 232016
No talks with Abu Sayyaf for German hostage

SUMISIP, BASILAN—Various factions of the Abu Sayyaf group have demanded ransom money for German captive Juegen Kantner, who has been held captive since early this month, making it difficult for the military to pinpoint his exact location,  a ranking military official said on Wednesday. Kantner and his wife, Sabine Merz, were sailing in Malaysian waters when kidnapped on Nov. 5. Merz was killed after she allegedly tried to shoot the attackers. Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz, the commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said the military has not pinpointed which Abu Sayyaf faction was really holding the German captive. “There’s a lot of them asking for ransom. There was Alhabshi Misaya (who is under Radulan Sahiron) and there is Muammar Askali, who is also asking for ransom,” De la Cruz said. Askali, a self-proclaimed Abu Sayyaf spokesperson, was the latest Abu Sayyaf figure who had asked for ransom for Kantner. Askali said they wanted P500 million—not P5 million as earlier reported—for the foreigner’s freedom. “We are demanding P500 million in ransom, not P5 million, and we will issue an ultimatum soon,” Askali said, without directly saying what the bandit group planned to do with Kantner if no ransom was received. It was also Askali who announced the beheading of Canadian captives Robert Hall and John Ridsdel earlier this year after Canada refused to fork over ransom for the two victims. Unwanted But De la Cruz said the Abu Sayyaf might not get what it wanted for Kantner, describing Read More …

Nov 232016
NZ foreign minister ‘charmed’ by Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte “charmed” New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully on Tuesday as he justified the Philippine government’s controversial war on illegal drugs. Mr. Duterte also commiserated with the country over the strong earthquake that struck its South Island earlier this month. Mr. Duterte discussed a wide range of topics with McCully, including cooperation between the two countries against terrorism in the Asia Pacific region and the need to maintain peace and stability in the region, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said. The two leaders conveyed their desire to boost bilateral cooperation between their countries, particularly through improved trade and investment in key areas such as the dairy industry, said Andanar. The President made a brief stop in Auckland on his way home from Peru, where he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit with other world leaders. He also met with and posed for pictures with Filipinos in Auckland, many of whom even mimicked his signature clenched fist pose. “[The President] highlighted the importance of the Philippines’ fight against criminality particularly against illegal drugs, emphasizing its vital importance in the Philippines and the region, and warned of its dire consequences if unchecked,” Andanar said. McCully for his part said he discussed the disputed South China Sea with the “charming” Philippine leader. McCully said the pair had a wide-ranging discussion late on Tuesday but declined to comment on whether Duterte’s controversial drugs crackdown was discussed. “He’s a tough guy but he was warm, courteous and actually quite charming,” McCully told Read More …

Nov 232016
Abu Sayyaf snitches get cash rewards

The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Wednesday awarded a total of P5.9-million cash reward to two informants who provided intelligence information to the military that led to the “neutralization” of two top Abu Sayyaf members involved in large-scale kidnap-for-ransom activities in Mindanao. In the awarding ceremony held in Camp Aguinaldo, AFP chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya turned over P5.3 million to Informant X, whose face was covered with a hood to hide his identity. He led joint elements of the military and police to the killing of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Sihatra Muallam Asmad, alias Latip, in Sulu province in November 2014. Asmad was involved in the kidnapping of foreign guests and workers of the Sipadan Beach Resort in Sabah, Malaysia, in April 2000, as well as members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Patikul, Sulu in August 2000. Asmad, who was wanted for six counts of kidnapping and illegal detention, had a bounty of P5.3 million. On the other hand, Informant Y received P600,000 for providing the information that led to the arrest of Yakan, who was wanted for the kidnappings and serious illegal detention of 15 and killings of two residents of Golden Harvest Plantation on June 11, 2001 in Barangay Tairan in Lantawan town, Basilan province. Yakan was captured by the military on May 23, 2014. He carried a reward of P600,000. Cooperation Visaya said he was pleased with the cooperation shown by the people in the military campaign to neutralize the terrorist group. “The information provided by the Read More …

Nov 232016
Subic fishermen buck fishing ban at Panatag lagoon

NO RESTRICTION This time, a Filipino fisherman is undisturbed by Chinese coast guards while fishing at Panatag Shoal off Zambales province.RICHARD A. REYES SUBIC, ZAMBALES—Fishermen from this coastal town are opposing President Duterte’s plan to declare the lagoon in the contested Panatag Shoal (international name: Scarborough Shoal) a marine sanctuary, claiming that a ban would deprive them of their traditional fishing ground. The shoal, a rich fishing ground, became accessible to Filipino fishermen last month after the Chinese Coast Guard allowed them in the area that had been closed to them since 2012. “We are not in favor of that plan. It (shoal) has been our traditional fishing ground so we don’t understand why suddenly our government wants it to be off limits,” said fisherman Tirso Atiga, 44, president of Calapandayan Fishermen’s Multipurpose Cooperative. Instead of a ban, Artiga said the government could tap them to help safeguard the shoal from poaching and destructive fishing. He said they were worried that the move could be disadvantageous to Filipino fishermen. Mr. Duterte said he would issue an executive order declaring the triangle-shaped lagoon inside the Panatag shoal a marine sanctuary, where neither Filipino nor Chinese fishermen would be allowed to fish. This was relayed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to reporters after Mr. Duterte discussed the plan with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their talks on Nov. 19 on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru.   No certainty “There’s no certainty that China and other Read More …

Nov 172016
Will Duterte do a Putin and pull out of ICC?

Incensed at foreign criticism of his brutal war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday threatened to follow in Russia’s footsteps  and pull the Philippines out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the UN-backed tribunal that handles cases involving war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Like Russia, the Philippines has drawn ICC warning because of extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs. On Monday, the ICC angered Moscow by referring to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2015 as an armed conflict. The court is also examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian and Georgian forces during a brief war in 2008. Russia is also under pressure for its bombing of opposition forces fighting President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war. An angry Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Wednesday to withdraw Russia from the ICC. The Russian foreign ministry explained that the court “failed to match the hopes one had and did not become a truly independent and respected body of international justice.” ‘Shameless bullies’ Speaking in his hometown, Davao City, shortly before flying to Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, Mr. Duterte said: “They (the Russians) may have thought the International Criminal Court is useless, so they withdrew their membership. I might follow. Why? Because these shameless bullies only pick on small countries like us.” Mr. Duterte’s comments came just two days after he told reporters that he was excited to meet Putin, who he said was into Read More …

Nov 172016
Pinoys are like fish out of water at Panatag Shoal

PANATAG SHOAL—Filipino fishermen have continued to sail back to this traditional fishing ground despite the presence of six Chinese Coast Guard vessels. On Monday, the fishing boat Bhuboy reached Panatag Shoal and anchored less than a kilometer from the Chinese vessels. China and the Philippines have reached a “friendly understanding,” and Filipinos may now fish at Panatag, internationally known as Scarborough Shoal. Still, the fishermen said they did not want to risk any confrontation with the Chinese coast guards. “Let us not go any closer to the ships. The [Chinese Coast Guard] might drive us away,” said Mattias Pumicpic, 55, captain of the Bhuboy. His boat ferried reporters to the shoal, including a team from the Inquirer. From the boat, Pumicpic could see two white Chinese vessels guarding the mouth of the shoal. Also within sight were four Chinese Navy ships. Just fishing About 200 meters from Pumicpic’s boat, another fishing vessel manned by Filipino fishermen was moored near the shoal. “We are here only to fish. Let’s not do anything that will make the Chinese angry,” Pumicpic said. As long as Filipinos can freely fish near the shoal, there is nothing wrong with Chinese vessels patrolling the area, he said. “If the Chinese coast guards won’t harass and drive us away, I don’t have any problem concerning their presence here,” he said. But unlike Pumicpic, most of his crew members want all the Chinese vessels to leave the shoal. “Scarborough Shoal is ours. Those Chinese should not be here. Read More …

Nov 172016
Drug killings: UN special rapporteur sets terms for probe

Agnes Callamard seeks assurance of freedom of movement and security. —INQUIRER PHOTO The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings has asked the Duterte administration to guarantee her unfettered access in investigating the spate of deaths in its bloody war on illegal drugs. Agnes Callamard, responding to an invitation from President Rodrigo Duterte, said she wanted assurance of freedom of movement and security in her talks with officials, witnesses and individuals and in her visits to detention facilities, among many others. Sen. Bam Aquino said during his sponsorship presentation Wednesday night of the P16.59-billion budget next year of the Department of Foreign Affairs that Mr. Duterte’s invitation to Callamard had conditions, including a public debate. “She has responded already with her own conditions, and now the interagency body has been created to discuss each of the parties’ conditions,” Aquino said. Conditions Sen. Leila de Lima, who is among those calling for the UN investigation, had inquired about the status of Mr. Duterte’s invitation, prompted by the criticism of his war on drugs that had incensed him. Mr. Duterte at one point had threatened to take the Philippines out of the United Nations. Callamard’s conditions, read out by Aquino, included: A similar invitation to the UN special rapporteur on health. Freedom of movement, including facilitation of transport, in particular, to restricted areas. Freedom of inquiry with regard to access to all prisons, detention centers and places of interrogation. Contacts with central and local authorities. Contacts with representatives of nongovernment organizations, private institutions Read More …

Nov 172016
Foreign journalists look forward to meeting Duterte

DEPARTURE TALK Before leaving for Peru to attend the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, President Dutertediscloses his message to Apec leaders: The Philippines is open for business. —BING GONZALES LIMA, Peru—President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to arrive here for his first Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders Meeting before midnight Thursday under the gaze of a curious foreign press, many of whom may be wondering what controversial thing he will say next. There has been a marked interest in Mr. Duterte among foreign journalists, according to Malacañang insiders privy to requests for media coverage of the President’s activities in this annual trade summit of the leaders of 21 Pacific Rim economies. “Our past Presidents don’t usually get that much attention from the foreign press,” said one source, who disclosed that at least one international media agency and a Peruvian news organization were seeking an opportunity to cover or interview  Mr. Duterte. The requests have been forwarded to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), though it is believed he will have no time to speak to journalists during the two-day event. Bigger stage Mr. Duterte, who left the Philippines on Thursday and was to make a short layover in New Zealand, is expected to land in Lima about 11:30 p.m., Thursday. Lima is 13 hours behind Manila. One Philippine official earlier said Mr. Duterte, who is notorious for his profanity-laced language—he has called US President Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the European Read More …

Nov 172016
Philippine seeks strong ties with Pacific rim

The Philippines hopes to strengthen relations with Pacific rim economies at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, in Lima, Peru. “In Apec, our goal is cooperation and free trade—how economies in the region can help each other in collectively ensuring free trade and implementing trade facilitation measures, with the aid of technology, to help more of our [micro, small and medium enterprises],” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said before leaving for Peru on Tuesday night. The strategy is a continuation of the Philippine push for MSMEs when it played host to  Apec meetings last year. On the sidelines of the Apec meetings in Lima, Lopez will meet with trade ministers from Russia, Chile, Hong Kong and Peru for talks to boost cooperation and increase bilateral trade and investment. This year’s talks could lead to the creation of joint economic commissions that would facilitate bilateral exchanges among member economies. Such efforts could lead to free trade agreements, although these take time and are usually subject to further discussions, Lopez said. He said Apec members had a long way to go before they could negotiate and agree on the proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific. TAGS: Amy R. Remo, APEC, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, Pacific rim, Philippines foreign relations, Ramon M. Lopez For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.