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Marina, PCG to conduct further probe on West PH sea collision

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

The joint meeting of the Economic Development and Security, Justice, and Peace clusters was held to tackle issues relative to the West Philippine Sea/Reed Bank incident that resulted in the sinking of the fishing boat F/B Gem-Vir 1.

MANILA, Philippines – The Maritime Authority (Marina) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has been tasked to jointly conduct further investigations into the collision incident involving Filipino and Chinese fishing vessels near Recto Bank (also called Reed Bank) in the West Philippine Sea, a Cabinet official said Monday.

Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles said the issue was discussed in a Cabinet cluster meeting on Monday afternoon.

Nograles said that during the meeting of the Economic Development and Security, Justice and Peace clusters, it was agreed that Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol would lead the government response primarily focused on assisting the 22 Filipino crewmen who were rescued from the sinking boat.

“Sec. Piñol has been directed to tap all available government resources – including assistance from DA (Department of Agriculture) and DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) – to assist our countrymen, with components of the support package to come from other government agencies,” Nograles said.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who was also Region 4-B Cabinet officer for regional development and security (CORDS) was designated as co-lead.

Last June 9, 22 Filipinos were left at sea after their boat F/B GEM-VIR 1 was rammed and sunk by a Chinese vessel. They were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.

China’s Embassy in Manila earlier said the incident was accidental, claiming that the Chinese vessel Yuemaobinyu 42212 was berthed at the vicinity when “suddenly besieged by 7 or 8 Filipino fishing boats.”

READ: DA-BFAR says Filipino fishing boat ‘rammed’; China says they were besieged

The Embassy said that the Chinese crewmen decided to sail away after confirming that the fishermen from the Filipino boat were rescued by other Filipino fishing boats.

Nograles said the Philippine government last week filed a “strongly-worded” diplomatic protest as an initial action to the incident.

Initial inquiries have also been conducted by Cusi, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the PCG to determine the extent of the liabilities involved and in order to ascertain the most effective legal means to obtain justice for our countrymen.

Malacañang earlier said it will wait for the results of the investigation before taking further action.

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SC grants IBP request to talk with fishermen in West PH Sea Kalikasan suit

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

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday granted the request of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for more time to talk with Zambales and Palawan fishermen who were involved in a petition for the West Philippine Sea.

SC Public Information chief Brian Keith Hosaka said the high court has decided to grant the IBP’s motion for extension of time to confer with clients to comply with SC’s order to move in the premises in the Writ of Kalikasan suit.

“Supreme Court En Banc has granted the ‘motion for extension of time to confer with clients and obtain special authority’ filed by the IBP on behalf of the petitioners in the case of Abogado et al. vs DENR et al. GR No. 246209 last July 12, 2019,” Hosaka said.

A “move in the premises” resolution means that the parties involved are obliged to inform the Court of pertinent developments to the case which may be of help to the Court in its immediate disposition.

The IBP earlier asked the SC to give them time to confer with the fishermen in Zambales and in Palawan so “they can more appropriately act on the developments in the case” after the government claimed fishermen involved in the case have disowned the petition.

READ: IBP wants time to talk with fishermen in West PH Sea Kalikasan petition

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier said 19 of the fishermen who were named as petitioners backed out from the case, saying they had no knowledge of the Writ of Kalikasan suit seeking for the protection of the West Philippine Sea. Of the total 37 petitioners, 13 said they did not sign their affidavits while 24 signed but presented no identification.

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy available to persons or groups whose right to a balanced and healthy ecology is threatened or violated.

The IBP was given until July 19 (Friday) to talk with their clients and comply with the SC’s order.

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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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