Biden calls for ceasefire amid Israel-Gaza tension

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 18, 2021   •   154

United States President Joe Biden has expressed his support for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s militants.

In a statement, the White House said the US President has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Biden said the US is coordinating with Egypt and other country leaders to end the intercommunal violence.

He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians. The US President also expressed his support “for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks.”

“The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.” according to the White House.

For two weeks the Israel-Gaza tension has led to the death of over 200 people. As of May 18, approximately 3,440 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory, according to the Israel Air Force (IAF). IAF fighter jets and aircraft also struck military assets in Rimal, western Gaza City.

The IAF, meanwhile, takes all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians during its operational activity. AAC

 

 

US downgrades travel advisory for Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The United States has downgraded its travel advisory status for the Philippines from ‘Do Not Travel’ to ‘Reconsider Travel’.

The US State Department relaxed travel advisory to most countries as well after more than a month of barring its citizens from traveling to concerned countries due to surge in COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday (June 9), the State Department removed 61 countries from the ‘Do Not Travel’ or Level 4 Alert status and placed them under the ‘Reconsider Travel’ or Level 3 Alert Status following recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

PH gov’t to consult with Israeli experts on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Robie de Guzman   •   June 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government will seek advise from Israel’s Ministry of Health as part of its bid to further enhance the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

In a statement, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said three experts from Israel’s Ministry of Health will arrive in the country on June 20 to share their technical expertise and knowledge about the vaccination rollout.

“In particular, the experts will discuss strategies on the deployment of highly sensitive vaccine types, mechanisms that need to be put in place as the country transitions to the new normal, and ways on how to address vaccine hesitancy,” Galvez said.

Israel has been considered a model country due to its highly successful vaccination program. The country has recently ended its outdoor mask mandate policy after completely inoculating more than half of its population.

Schools in the country have also re-opened, as the Israeli government is now working to fully re-open the nation’s economy.

“We will study and look at the lessons learned by Israel and hopefully apply those in the Philippines,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar said the Philippine government is currently studying the feasibility of adopting one of Israel’s interventions to increase public uptake, which is “providing privileges to those vaccinated and restrictions for those unvaccinated.”

He explained that this method works by allowing people who have received the jab to increase their mobility and slowly return to normalcy, while those who have not been vaccinated will still need to follow quarantine protocols.

Meanwhile, Galvez expressed support for the measures being used by local government units and private sector to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“With the help of all sectors, unti-unti nang tumataas ang public uptake. We started with only 32% and now we are reaching 60% to 80% and with more aggressive efforts such as house-to-house campaigns, barangay town hall meetings, and tapping household advocates, tataas pa ‘yan,” said Galvez.

“Yung mga LGUs natin nagkakaroon din sila ng mga technique para magkaroon ng motivation sa kanilang mga residents, in a form of rice, pabuya, raffle, at iba pa,” he added.

LGUs have launched their respective incentive programs to encourage their constituents to get vaccinated.

Galvez said some LGUs are offering a sack of rice for every vaccinated individual, while some are organizing raffle draws for those who get the jab. Prizes include farm animals, groceries, motorcycles, and even a house and lot.

The private sector has also recently launched “Ingat Angat Bakuna Benefits” wherein vaccinated individuals get exclusive discounts and special gifts from the country’s leading restaurants nationwide.

He also said that the national government is now tapping “household advocates” to encourage their family members to get inoculated, noting that this approach is more effective as Filipinos trust and believe family members especially on topics of safety and protection.

 

US Pres. Biden wants to meet with PH’s Duterte to affirm bilateral ties — envoy

Robie de Guzman   •   May 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — United States President Joe Biden is eyeing to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte to affirm the two countries’ bilateral ties, Manila’s Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said on Monday.

In a Palace press briefing, Romualdez said Biden had sent a letter to Duterte to express his hope to meet him in the near future.

The US and the Philippines will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties in July.

“Sumulat na nga si President Biden kay President Duterte and not only the occasion of the 75th anniversary but to inform him about the relationship between the Philippines and the United States will continue,” he said.

“He hopes that he will be able to meet in person with the president at some point in time,” he added.

There is no schedule yet for the meeting between Biden and Duterte.

Romualdez also said that Biden likewise expressed hope that Duterte will extend the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington as part of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

The VFA came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Duterte last year order the abrogation of the VFA, which is anchored in the PH-US 1951 defense treaty.

The termination of the deal, however, was suspended citing the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant developments in the region.

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