Oct 072016
Delfin Lorenzana

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana speaks during a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo on Oct. 7. AP

SAN ANTONIO, Zambales—Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday that he told the US military that plans for joint patrols and naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea have been put on hold, the first concrete break in defense cooperation after months of increasingly strident comments by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Lorenzana also said that 107 US troops involved in operating surveillance drones against Muslim militants would be asked to leave the southern part of the country once the Philippines acquires those intelligence-gathering capabilities in the near future.

Duterte also wants to halt the 28 military exercises that are carried out with US forces each year, Lorenzana said. Duterte has said he wants an ongoing US-Philippine amphibious beach landing exercise to be the last in his six-year presidency as he backs away from what he views as too much dependence on the US.

READ: 2016 PH-US war games will be the last–Duterte

With the turquoise backdrop of the South China Sea, US Marines and allied Filipino combat forces waded ashore in a mock assault Friday on a beach in San Antonio town in northwestern Zambales province. Gunfire rang out as the world superpower and its former colony showcased the lethal power of their alliance.

Pounding rain prevented military aircraft from joining the beach assault drills, but the US and Filipino forces managed to rapidly come on shore to take out a “notional target,” said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, a US military spokesperson for the drills.

Asked to comment on the possibility that the joint maneuvers will be the last under Duterte, Hollenbeck replied, “If it’s the last, so be it.”

READ: PH-US war games start amid uncertainty

“I have nothing to do with that and we are going to continue to work together, we’ve got a great relationship,” he said.

Duterte, who took office in June, has had an uneasy relationship with the US, the Philippines’ longtime treaty ally, saying in recent speeches that he wants to scale back the presence of visiting US troops in the country.

But while some Filipino officials have walked back on Duterte’s sometimes crude anti-US pronouncements—early this week he told President Barack Obama “to go to hell”—Lorenzana’s comments show for the first time that the Duterte administration will act by rolling back cooperation with the US military in the Philippines.

Despite the difficult stage in the countries’ relations, Lorenzana remained optimistic that those ties would eventually bounce back.

READ: Duterte to Obama: Go to hell!

“I think it’s just going through these bumps on the road,” Lorenzana told a news conference. “Relationships sometimes go to this stage … but over time it will be patched up.”

Duterte’s falling out with Washington will not necessarily spread to US allies such as Japan, for example, which has committed to delivering patrol ships for the Philippine coast guard and has signed a deal to lease five small surveillance planes the country can use to bolster its territorial defense. The planes may arrive as early as next month, Lorenzana said.

The US and Japan have helped the Philippines develop its capabilities to safeguard and defend its territorial waters amid China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. Under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, the US and Philippine militaries twice staged naval exercises near the disputed waters.

The split in military relations comes as Duterte, who describes himself as a leftist politician, has lashed out against US government criticism of his deadly crackdown against illegal drugs, which has left more than 3,600 suspects dead in just three months, alarming Western governments and human rights groups.

While taking a critical stance on US security policies, Duterte has reached out to China and Russia. Lorenzana said he has been ordered by Duterte to travel to Beijing and Moscow to discuss what defense equipment the Philippines can acquire from them.


Duterte policy to erode US influence in South China Sea–study

Duterte to US, EU, UN: We won’t beg for your assistance


TAGS: Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, San Antonio, US
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Oct 052016
‘White House smart enough to know what Duterte means’

President Rodrigo Duterte reviews an honor guard with his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang during a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sept. 29. AP The White House is “smart enough” to weigh on the verbal attacks of President Rodrigo Duterte against the United States, a businessman and economic expert said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Duterte launched fresh tirades against US President Barack Obama, saying he could “go to hell.” “It’s his manner of speaking, right? It’s his expressionism. He doesn’t mean for Obama to go to hell, right? It’s just the way he talks, right?” Peter Wallace told reporters in a Palace briefing. READ: Duterte to Obama: Go to hell! “I’m not sure that the foreign community will ever be able to understand it but I think people in the US government will, right? I think the people in the White House are smart enough to know that what he’s saying is not what he intends,” he added. Wallace, an Inquirer columnist, believes Duterte only wanted an “equal partnership” with its allies. “I don’t see him as trying to divorce himself from America. That would make no sense, right? He’s just trying to establish an equal partnership and that’s a different thing,” he said. READ: Action, not words The businessman said the public should not take Duterte’s words literally. “The way he talks is not the way in which he thinks,” he said. Wallace said the President only wanted to be “a truly independent country.” “He’s Read More …

Oct 012016
Israel condemns Duterte for invoking Hitler

President Rodrigo Duterte reviews an honor guard with his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang during a welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sept. 29. AP JERUSALEM—Israel’s foreign ministry says it’s “unfortunate” that President Rodrigo Duterte chose to invoke Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust in his bloody anticrime war. Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon says Saturday Israel is convinced the Philippine President “will find a way to clarify his words.” On Friday, the outspoken Duterte said “Hitler massacred 3 million Jews … there’s 3 million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Duterte, under fire for extrajudicial killings in the drug war, was referring to the estimated number of drug addicts in the country. The US has warned the President’s violent rhetoric could affect aid. The Nazis and their allies killed 6 million Jews during World War II as part of a campaign to obliterate European Jewry. Latest Pakistan rattled by 5.5-magnitude earthquake UAAP: FEU downs UST, gets share of 2nd Singh, Soltones star as Laoag routs Coast Guard in V-League opener NU pushes streak to 37 games in UAAP women’s hoops Recommended Disclaimer: Comments do not represent the views of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments which are inconsistent with our editorial standards. FULL DISCLAIMER View Comments For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Sep 172016
Turkmenistan, low on visitors, opens striking new airport

A view of the new international airport terminal outside Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Sept. 17. AP ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan—The capital of Turkmenistan, a country largely closed to outsiders, has opened a $2.3 billion terminal at its international airport in the shape of a flying falcon. The terminal, whose roof in profile resembles a bird with spread wings, adds to Ashgabat’s vast array of idiosyncratic buildings. The terminal that officially opened on Saturday is designed to process at least 1,600 passengers every hour. Strict visa regulations in Turkmenistan mean relatively small numbers of tourists and businessmen ever visit the isolated, energy-rich Central Asian nation. In 2013, the Guinness World Records recognized Ashgabat as having the greatest density of marble-clad buildings—estimated at more than 540. Many official buildings are noteworthy for literal or eccentric designs. The state publishing house, for example, is in the shape of a book. Latest Ochea nails game-winner as Adamson stuns Ateneo Perasol rues UP’s inability to close out games amid 0-3 start Repatriation of Libya workers lifted; deployment still banned–DFA Death toll rises to 15 after typhoon lashes China, Taiwan Recommended Disclaimer: Comments do not represent the views of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments which are inconsistent with our editorial standards. FULL DISCLAIMER View Comments For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Sep 172016
Repatriation of Libya workers lifted; deployment still banned–DFA

In this August 2014 photo, Filipinos fleeing from Libya wait for their flight to Manila at Malta International Airport after a 28-hour boat ride. The Department of Foreign Affairs has announced that the government’s mandatory repatriation of workers from Libya has been lifted but the deployment ban to the war-torn country is still being enforced. INQUIRER PHOTO Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. has said the government’s mandatory repatriation of workers from Libya has been lifted but the deployment ban to the war-torn country is still being enforced. In a statement, Yasay also said Filipino workers with valid and existing contracts were guaranteed that they would be allowed to return to Libya if they so desired. Yasay approved on Sept. 2 the lowering of crisis alert level in Libya from Level 4, which directs mandatory repatriation or evacuation, to Level 2, which imposes restriction. The downgrading of the alert level was based on the recommendation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) security assessment team with regard to the prevailing security situation in Libya after it visited Tripoli from Aug. 9-13. The Philippines has an existing deployment ban to war-stricken countries such as Libya, Iraq, and Syria since the Arab Spring in 2011. The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (Oumwa) said at least 23,000 Filipino workers had been repatriated since then, mostly from Libya. According to a DFA statement, alert level 2 is issued if there are threats to the life, security and property of Filipinos arising Read More …

Sep 142016
Duterte never empowered cops to kill drug suspects–PH envoy to UN

Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva Cecilia Rebong said President Rodrigo Duterte had never empowered police authorities to “shoot to kill” any individual suspected of drug crimes after the UN high commissioner for human rights criticized the rising summary killings in the Philippines, which is backed by the administration’s war on drugs. READ: Duterte urges public to kill drug dealers The Department of Foreign Affairs said Ambassador Rebong delivered the Philippine statement on Wednesday at the second day of 33rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in response to the speech of UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. She said the Philippine leader’s marching order to police was that they have the right to defend themselves when their lives are endangered when drug suspects violently resist arrest. READ: UN hits Duterte for ‘lack of understanding’ of human rights bodies Rebong emphasized that the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs had the overwhelming support of the Filipino public. She said the war on drugs was “being waged under the leadership and direction of President Rodrigo Duterte, with a firm adherence to the rule of law, due process, and human rights principles.” Rebong also said the anti-illegal drug war was unparalleled in Philippine history for its level of tenacity. “The Chief Executive, in his inaugural speech, affirmed in no vague language his respect for human rights and the rule of law,” said Rebong in his speech before delegates at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Read More …

Sep 142016
Balut, lechon, 13 other Filipino words join Oxford dictionary

At least 15 Filipino words, mostly traditional dishes and delicacies, have made it to the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). In its September 2016 update, the OED included names of Filipino food like balut (fertilized duck egg), kare-kare (peanut-based stew), leche flan (custard dessert), lechon (suckling pig), lechon asado, pancit (noodles) and puto (steamed rice cake). Also included in the list of about 1,000 new entries are Filipino terms referring to family members like lola (grandmother), lolo (grandfather), tita (auntie), and tito (uncle). Other terms like yaya (housemaid), arnis (martial arts form), tabo (dipper), and bayanihan (sense of community) also made it to the list. In the March 2016 updated, the words “kilig” (tingly romantic feeling) and “teleserye” (soap opera) were included in the dictionary. The next update will be in December. RELATED STORIES ‘Teleserye,’ ‘kilig’ now in Oxford Dictionary LIST: 40 Filipino-coined words added in Oxford dictionary Latest DOTr to open part of Naia expressway; free toll for a month US-PH alliance will ‘endure and remain strong’—official 3 suspected car thieves slain in Laguna 11 drug suspects nabbed in Olongapo operations Recommended Disclaimer: Comments do not represent the views of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments which are inconsistent with our editorial standards. FULL DISCLAIMER View Comments For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Sep 082016
Duterte sums up debut at Asean summit: ‘Perfect’

President Rodrigo Duterte addresses delegates of the Asean Business and Investment Summit, a parallel summit in the ongoing 28th and 29th Asean summits and other related summits on Sept. 6 in Vientiane, Laos. AP VIENTIANE—Perfect. This was how President Rodrigo Duterte described his inaugural attendance as the Philippines’ head of state at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit here, which ended on Thursday. The President answered questions from the media as he was entering the main hall of the National Convention Center for the closing ceremony of the three-day conference. “Perfect,” Mr. Duterte briefly replied about his debut in the regional bloc’s annual conference. “Good,” he said when asked regarding his condition. The 71-year-old Chief Executive failed to attend the Asean leaders’ meeting with the United States and India in the morning. Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the President was not feeling well. Latest Obama: Arbitral ruling should help clarify South China Sea claims 169 gov’t execs in Cagayan surrender to police, admit drug ties Mapua eliminates EAC in heated affair American traders:  Duterte words, drug slays may harm PH-US ties Recommended Disclaimer: Comments do not represent the views of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments which are inconsistent with our editorial standards. FULL DISCLAIMER View Comments For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Aug 132016
DFA to US: PH committed to rule of law, doesn’t condone killings

The Philippine government on Saturday assured the United States of its adherence to the rule of law and protection of rights amid the administration’s relentless war against drugs and criminality. Reacting to a statement by the US Embassy in Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines does not condone the spate of vigilante killings of drug suspects in the country. “The Philippine government is focused on its peace and order efforts, including the eradication of illicit drugs and its manufacture, distribution and use from our society. Nevertheless, while pursuing this objective, the Philippine government is committed to the rule of law, and the protection of human rights of all,” the DFA said in a statement. “Law enforcement officials are expected to abide by legal procedures and strict operational protocols. Alleged violations of these protocols will be investigated by the authorities and those who have broken the law will be prosecuted,” it added. The US Embassy in Manila on Friday expressed alarm over the rising death toll in the administration’s antidrug campaign. “We are concerned by reports regarding extrajudicial killings of individuals suspected to have been involved in drug activity in the Philippines,” it said. “We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts are consistent with its human rights obligations.” The DFA said Philippine authorities have already been instructed to look into the unlawful killings and bring perpetrators to justice. As of Aug. 12, the Inquirer’s “Kill List” notes 601 drug-related deaths since June 30 Read More …

Nov 212015
US, SE Asian nations press South China Sea issue

Associated Press November 21st, 2015 10:08 PM President Barack Obama waits for the media to leave after he spoke at a US-Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21. Obama is in Malaysia where he joins leaders from Southeast Asia to discuss trade and economic issues, and terrorism and disputes over the South China Sea. AP KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—Ten Southeast Asian heads of state and nine world leaders, including President Barack Obama, are meeting in Malaysia to discuss trade and economic issues. Terrorism and disputes over the South China Sea are also on the agenda. (All times local.) 9:30 p.m. The United States and Southeast Asian nations have pressed their call for freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed South China Sea, in a veiled rebuke to China. China has come under heavy criticism for recently transforming disputed reefs into islands in aggressive actions that have set off alarms in the region. Following an annual regional summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Saturday, the US and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also pressed for the peaceful resolution of the territorial conflicts “without resorting to the threat or use of force.” This is standard language that Washington and its allies have used against China’s increasingly assertive stance in the disputed waters. The joint US-Asean statement, however, did not mention China by name. 9:15 p.m. President Barack Obama has met with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Laos on the sidelines of a regional summit in Read More …