Duterte, Xi agree to resolve sea dispute through bilateral talks

Robie de Guzman   •   April 26, 2019   •   2789

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Pag-asa Island and Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed that the dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) could be managed through bilateral consultations, Malacañang said on Thursday (April 25).

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte raised the issue on the maritime dispute during his bilateral talks with Xi in Beijing.

“In the course of the bilateral meeting, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte raised the issue of the West Philippine Sea, particularly the situation in Pag-Asa Island,” Panelo said in a statement issued on Thursday night.

“Both agree that the situation can be managed by the mechanism of bilateral negotiations but it should not affect the cooperation being undertaken by both the Philippines and China and they look forward to a productive discussion on matters of mutual concern and interests,” he added.

Panelo, who joined Duterte in China for the second Belt and Road Forum, also said that Xi stressed the importance of “good neighborliness and proper handling of differences between the countries.”

“While the Chinese leader acknowledged the inevitable of having challenges to the bilateral relations, he placed importance on the mutual trust that exists between the two nations in order to resolve the same,” he added.

The Palace official added that Xi even cited the memorandum of understanding on oil and gas signed by the Philippines and China, which “suspended their differences for a joint exploration that would mutually benefit both countries and their peoples.”

Duterte, for his part, assured Beijing that Manila will remain its ally in Southeast Asia.

“The Chief Executive culminated the talk with the Chinese President articulating his position that the Philippines remains China’s ally in Southeast Asia. The former emphasized that both countries are allies, and allies strengthen—and do not destroy – each other,” Panelo said.

The meeting between Duterte and Xi comes on the heels of the reported harvesting of giant clams in Panatag shoal and the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near the Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, long-held by the Philippines.

READ: Duterte tells China: Back off from Pag-asa island

China has continued to assert its expansive claims over the contested territories even after the Philippines lodged and won its case at the Hague-based arbitral tribunal in 2016. – Robie de Guzman

Senate OKs bill giving Duterte power to delay class opening during public crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   June 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte ‘flexibility’ to schedule the opening of classes in schools during a state of emergency.

Voting 23-0, senators on Monday unanimously passed Senate Bill 1541, which proposes to amend Section 3 of the Republic Act 7797, a law which sets the opening of school-year as early as the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.

The measure covers all basic education schools, including foreign or international schools in the country.

Once enacted into law, the bill would authorize the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Education, to set the opening of classes nationwide or in selected areas at any date during a state of emergency or calamity.

A similar measure has been approved in the committee level in the House of Representatives on Saturday.

The approval of the proposed measure comes amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which has affected millions of people worldwide. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte certifies as urgent bill seeking to toughen PH anti-terror law

Robie de Guzman   •   June 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has certified as urgent a bill that seeks to strengthen the country’s anti-terrorism law.

In a letter to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday, Duterte certified as urgent House Bill No. 6785, which seeks to amend and toughen the Human Security Act of 2007.

In his letter, Duterte said the immediate enactment of the measure is to “address the urgent need to strengthen the law on anti-terrorism in order to adequately and effectively contain the menace of terrorist acts for the preservation of national security and the promotion of general welfare.”

The House Bill reportedly adopted the Senate version which passed on third and final reading in February.

Under the bill, anyone who threatens to commit terrorism, propose any terroristic acts or incite others to commit terrorism shall mete out a penalty of 12 years of imprisonment.

It also introduces provisions penalizing those who will propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation and facilitation of a terrorist act; as well as those who will provide material support to terrorists, and recruit members in a terrorist organization.

The measure also includes a new section on foreign terrorist fighters to cover Filipino nationals who commit terrorist offenses abroad.

It also aims to provide law enforcers the much-needed tools to protect the people from terrorism threat and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.

Once a bill is certified as urgent, the Senate and the House of Representatives can immediately pass a measure on second and third reading on the same day.

Rights advocates had earlier warned that the bill’s enactment would worsen the human rights situation in the country.

Duterte fires OCD Deputy Administrator Kristoffer James Purisima

Marje Pelayo   •   May 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has dismissed Kristoffer James Purisima as deputy administrator assistant secretary of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, the President decided to remove Purisima from office due to “loss of trust and confidence.”

Roque could not tell, however, under what circumstance prompted the President to fire Purisima.

Wala na po akong ibang impormasyon (I don’t have additional information) other than he was terminated due to loss of trust and confidence,” Roque confirmed.

The OCD is the government’s main unit responsible for disaster preparedness and response in times of calamity.

Prior to his position in OCD, Purisima served as spokesperson of Task Force Bangon Marawi. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

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