Albayalde: Cocaine bricks hauled off PH waters may have been bound for Australia

UNTV News   •   February 27, 2019   •   2015

Cocaine bricks intercepted by police along the shores of Camarines Norte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Quezon from February 10 to 18, 2019

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde said on Wednesday that the cocaine bricks recovered off the waters of Mindanao and Luzon in the past two weeks may have been part of a drug shipment bound for Australia.

Albayalde said they are now coordinating with their Australian counterparts to determine the signature of the cocaine slabs in order to confirm if these were among those being used by drug dependents in Australia.

“I talked with my Australian counterpart earlier. Parang nanggaling ito sa Pacific Ocean, pero hindi ito delivery sa Pilipinas (It looks like it came somewhere from the Pacific Ocean and these are not for delivery in the Philippines),” Albayalde told media after his meeting with Australian Federal Police officials.

Both the Philippine and Australian authorities believe that the contraband which floated to the eastern seaboard are connected to the cocaine bricks that were recovered in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in September last year because of its similar markings.

“Sometime in 2018, ‘yung Australian Federal Police assisted a police [operation in] Solomon Islands, meron silang nakuha na the same nature, the same package na cocaine,” Albayalde said.

The PNP Chief said Australian authorities had reported about the operations they conducted in three drug trafficking incidents in the Pacific Ocean in 2018.

First was in June where two suspects were arrested in Melbourne for conspiring to import and ship 300 kilograms of cocaine from Peru through the Pacific.

The second incident occurred in September in Siassi Island in Papua New Guinea, which yielded the arrest of six Hong Kong nationals and one Montenegro national following a high speed chase. The group allegedly dumped some of the cocaine slabs they were carrying in their boat during the chase but authorities were unable to find it after the operation.

Authorities also seized in September around 500 kilograms of cocaine from a yacht from Solomon Islands bound for Australia.

“Ito ‘yung nakuhang ship noon. Maliit lang kaya there’s a possibility na ito ay mga nag-capsized. Itong nakuha kasi ay yate, saka ang mga ganitong klase, way back in September, may nakuha sa Solomon island na around 500kg of cocaine,” Albayalde said.

“Meron din silang narecover with the help of Australian Police na the same package,” he added.

Since February 10, more than 100 kilograms of cocaine have been recovered on the shorelines or waters off Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Dinagat Island, Quezon, Aurora, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.

The PNP is awaiting results of the laboratory examinations of the seized cocaine samples they sent to Australian authorities. – Robie de Guzman (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Women win landmark class action against Johnson & Johnson in Australia

Robie de Guzman   •   November 21, 2019

Sydney, Australia – More than 1,350 women who have suffered debilitating side effects of pelvic mesh implants won a landmark class action suit against multinational giant Johnson & Johnson on Thursday in Sydney, Australia.

The case, which began in 2012, has been described by the prosecution as the biggest class action concerning women’s health in Australia’s history.

The Federal Court of Australia held the behavior of the American multinational and its subsidiary Ethicon as “negligent” underlining that “the risks were known, not insignificant, and on the respondents’ own admission, could cause significant and serious harm if they eventuated.”

Women have said that the pelvic implants – mesh or tape surgically placed to resolve pelvic floor damage such as that commonly caused during childbirth – have caused debilitating problems such as urinary incontinence, chronic pain, including during sex, infections and a significant psychological toll.

The court heard that three women who brought the class action — Kathryn Gill, Diane Dawson and Ann Sanders — described their symptoms ranging from “pain… so bad she struggles to breathe,” “excruciating pain across her buttocks, pain deep inside her vagina, and pain that radiated down her leg,” and “chronic pain and multiple other symptoms. Her enjoyment of life has been substantially diminished” to “frightened about what the future holds.”

The court judgment said one or more surgical procedures may be required to remove mesh that had eroded, and that “removal carried the risk of new complications or of aggravating existing complications.”

“I found that the respondents were liable to compensate any applicant and/or group member who suffered an injury because of the defect for the amount of the loss and damage she sustained as a result of that injury,” Judge Anna Katzmann said.

She granted the parties time to read the judgment and reach an agreement, and “each of the applicants will need to make an election as to whether she wishes to receive damages under the Trade Practices Act or at common law” before her final decision in February next year.

The compensation is expected to reach millions of dollars given that some 8,000 women are estimated to have been affected, according to Shine Lawyers, a legal firm representing the women in the case.

“It has been a long journey to get here through this legal process. We have fought hard to have these women’s voices heard, as they’ve struggled with the chronic pain and complications from their mesh and tape implants,” Shine Lawyers’ Special Counsel for Class Actions Rebecca Jancauskas said in a statement.

Thousands of women in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom and Canada, among others, have sued Johnson & Johnson over side effects of pelvic implants. EFE-EPA


More than 150 bushfires rage in eastern Australia amid weather caution

Robie de Guzman   •   November 14, 2019

A bushfire burns close to homes on Railway Parade in Woodford, New South Wales (NSW), Australia, 08 November 2019. Hot, windy conditions have seen bushfires burn out of control across parts of New South Wales, with 15 emergency warnings currently in effect in the state. EPA-EFE/DAN HIMBRECHTS

Sydney, Australia – More than 150 bushfires were still active in eastern Australia a day after “catastrophic” conditions were recorded and that threaten to be repeated Wednesday.

New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service said on Wednesday morning that 73 fires remained active in the state, out of which around half were uncontrolled.

“Yesterday was a day of exceptional fire danger. Sadly, it appears based on early reports, at least 50 homes have been damaged or destroyed in yesterday’s fires,” it said.

Authorities in the northeastern state of Queensland warned of the danger of fires escalating on Wednesday due to strong wind.

“It will make conditions really challenging for our firefighters on the ground,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s Victoria Dodds, underlining the possibility of thunderstorms, dry ground and the absence of rain.

The state’s emergency department told EFE that around 80 fires burn in this region, without specifying the number of uncontrolled fires.

Queensland firefighters have ordered residents of towns such as Noosa North Shore, Woodgate, and Kinkuna, north of Brisbane, to leave the area because of the proximity of the fires.

Meanwhile, a helicopter fighting the blazes suffered a heavy landing on Wednesday afternoon in the town of Pechey, about 150 kilometers west of the city of Brisbane.

One patient was transported to a hospital in a stable condition, Queensland Ambulance service said on Twitter.

Three people have died and more than 100 have been injured by the fires, which have devoured some 300 buildings in eastern Australia, according to data provided by New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

Authorities are investigating whether some of the fires, including those that burned yesterday on the periphery of Sydney, were deliberately lit.

In Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, emergency services on Tuesday sprayed fire retardant from aircraft, which has resulted in houses, roads, and cars being dyed red.

Actor Russell Crowe took to social media to share images of the partial damage to his house from the fire in the town of Nana Glen, some 600 kilometers (373 miles) north of Sydney.

According to the fire services, the surface area affected by the wildfires since mid-2019 has increased to 11,000 square kilometers — about the size of Jamaica.

The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions although they are generally recorded in the southern summer (between the months of December to March).

In recent years, bushfires in Australia – this year battling a severe drought – have increased in intensity, with many experts linking it to the effects of climate change.

The worst fires in the Oceanic country in recent decades occurred in early February 2009 in the state of Victoria, leaving 173 people dead and 414 injured, as well as burning an area of 4,500 sq km. EFE-EPA


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Gov’t of Australia warns its citizens against polio outbreak in PH

Marje Pelayo   •   September 25, 2019

The Australian National flag is seen flaming on the paddock in Melbourne, Australia, 25 March 2010. EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL

MANILA, Philippines – The Australian government on Tuesday (September 24) issued a travel advisory to its citizens warning them against the health risks of polio virus.

Australians are also advised to make sure they get polio vaccine to keep protected from the disease.

“The Philippines Department of Health has reported a polio outbreak. Make sure you’re vaccinated against polio,” the Australian government said in its latest travel advisory posted on its official website, Smartraveller.

“We haven’t changed the level of our advice ‘exercise a high degree of caution’ in the Philippines. Higher levels apply in the southern parts of the country,” the advisory concluded.


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