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China pledges $148-M grant, other economic measures to PH

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping

China has pledged to provide a grant of one billion yuan or approximately $148 million to help boost the Philippine economy, Malacañang said on Thursday (April 25).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Beijing made the commitment to Manila during the bilateral meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum.

READ: PH to explore new areas of cooperation, partnership with China

“President Xi committed to provide one billion yuan grant to the Philippines,” Panelo said in a statement issued on Thursday night.

Panelo added that Xi also committed to pouring more investments into Luzon and Mindanao “to spur regional economic growth as well as promote Clark Green City through the building of an industrial park.”

“The Palace hopes to highlight the discussion between President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and how this will further help in the economic development of the Philippines,” he said.  

“President Xi manifested that China will provide more resources to Luzon and Mindanao to spur regional economic growth, as well as promote Clark Green City through the building of an industrial park,” he added.

Panelo also quoted Xi as saying that the BRI would have an important role in the relations between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), where Philippines plays an effective role as a country coordinator.

He also stressed BRI’s role in increasing cooperation in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area or BIMP-EAGA.

“We consider the BRI, as articulated by PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte), as another opportunity to renew and reaffirm our valued relationship, which we must continue to foster in the coming years with an aspiration that our fellow Filipinos will feel the true benefits of the PH-China relations,” he added.

Apart from China’s commitment in relation to the BRI, Panelo said Xi also mentioned that the first group of Filipino teachers may soon start teaching English in China.

Xi also committed to continuing donating rice and fingerlings and importing our local fruits, Panelo added. – Robie de Guzman

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Heads up sky gazers! Partial lunar eclipse visible in PH early Wednesday

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Photo by Doug Walters on Unsplash

MANILA, Philippines – Astronomy enthusiasts in the country will get to see a partial lunar eclipse which will be visible on early Wednesday (July 17), the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said.

Based on Pagasa’s astronomical diary, the eclipse will begin at 2:42 a.m. and will end at 8:19 a.m., Philippine Standard Time (PhST).

The state weather bureau said the partial lunar eclipse will begin at 4:01 a.m. and will peak at 5:30 a.m. (PhST).

A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, but the three celestial bodies do not form a straight line in space. When this happens, only a small part of the moon’s surface is covered by the Earth’s shadow.

During a partial lunar eclipse, part of the moon can get a reddish hue.

Pagasa said the astronomical event will also be seen in Australia, Asia except for the northeastern part, Africa, Europe except N. Scandinavia and most of South America.

The state weather bureau said sky observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes as lunar eclipses are safe to watch.

The agency added that sky gazers may also use a binocular to help magnify the view and will make the moon’s red coloration brighter.

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PH to deploy social welfare attachés for OFWs under new law

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law establishing the Office for Social Welfare Attaché to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFW), especially those who have fallen prey to illegal recruiters.

Duterte signed the Republic Act 11299 on April 17, a copy of which was made public on Monday (July 15).

The newly-signed law amended the Republic Act 8402 or the Migrant Workers Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 to include the said office.

It mandates the Office for Social Welfare Attaché (SWA) to deploy personnel to countries with large concentration of Filipino workers, as determined in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Under the measure, a social welfare attaché’s duty includes management of cases of Filipino workers in distress, such as victims of trafficking or illegal recruitment, rape or sexual abuse, maltreatment and other forms of physical or mental abuse, and case of abandoned or neglected children;

SWAs are also mandated to undertake survey and prepare social welfare situationer on the OFWs in their areas of assignment; establish a network with overseas-based social welfare agencies or individuals which may be mobilized to assist in the provision of appropriate services.

They should also respond to and monitor the resolution of problems and complaints or queries of Filipino workers and their families; establish and maintain a data bank and documentation of OFWs and their families to provide effective social welfare services; submit regular reports on plans and activities undertaken, recommendations and updates on the situation of OFWs.

The law states that the budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Development while the DFA, DOLE, the Department of Health and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are tasked to craft the measure’s implementing rules and regulations within 60 days after the effectivity of this act.

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PH mulls severing ties with Iceland, 17 other nations – Malacañang

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is mulling over the possibility of cutting ties with Iceland and 17 other nations that voted in favor of a resolution calling on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to conduct a comprehensive review on the human rights situation in the Philippines amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, Malacañang said Monday (July 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said they will take a serious look into the country’s diplomatic relationship with other nations, adding that Iceland and other nations’ move can be considered as interference in the Philippines’ domestic affairs.

On July 11 (Thursday), 18 of the 47-member of the UNHRC voted to adopt the resolution filed by Iceland, tasking the UN Human Rights Office to prepare a comprehensive report on the Philippines’ human rights situation amid its ongoing anti-drug campaign.

Among the countries that voted in favor of the resolution are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Italy, Iceland, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Uruguay.

“’Pag ang isang bansa ay nagpapahayag ng mga posisyon na makakasira sa ating kasarinlan o sovereignty ay kailangang talagang putulin natin ang relasyon natin sa kanila kung wala silang gagawin kundi siraan tayo ng siraan sa mga kalakaran na di naman batay sa tunay na pangyayari dito sa ating bayan,” Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.

(If a country is making declarations that are affront to our independence or sovereignty, if they continue to do or say negative things that are not based on facts or occurrences in our country, then we need to sever our ties with them.)

However, Panelo said that Duterte will have the final say on the matter, as well as on calls for the Philippines to withdraw its membership from the UNHRC.

READ: Philippines eyes withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council

“In the ultimate analysis, he is the chief architect of foreign policy. Then, it’s the call of the President,” he said.

The palace official assured that they will also factor in every aspect, including the welfare of Filipinos living and working in the mentioned 18 countries, and circumstances that could lead to the cutting of ties.

The UN resolution asked the Philippine government to cooperate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, including preventing and refraining from all acts of intimidation of retaliations on human rights defenders.

The resolution also urged the Philippine government to take up measures against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, conduct impartial investigations of human rights violations and hold those involved accountable.

With the adoption of the Iceland-led resolution, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet was tasked to prepare a report on the Philippines human rights situation by June 2020.

Although the Duterte administration does not consider the resolution a legally-binding document, Panelo said the government is willing to respond to the UN council’s formal questions or communication about Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.

“They have to believe what this government tells them, because this government does not lie,” Panelo said.

However, he stressed that the government will not oblige if the questions are designed to “embarrass” the Duterte administration. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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