US says chemical arms inspectors still have not entered site of Syrian attack

admin   •   April 18, 2018   •   2171

A boy walks along a damaged street at the city of Douma in Damascus, Syria, April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

The United States believes inspectors from a global chemical weapons watchdog have not yet been able to enter the site of the April 7 alleged chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Douma.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday she was aware of reports from Syria that inspectors from the organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons had been able to see the site but the team has not entered Douma.

She said the United States had information that both chlorine and sarin nerve gas were used in the attack and was concerned that evidence was deteriorating the longer inspectors were kept from reaching the site.

“The longer that it takes to get OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) inspectors in to take a look at soil samples and other information that they can get on the ground, that delay further degrades any evidence that’s on the ground. So that is our chief concern,” Nauert said. — Reuters

US, PH soldiers build two classrooms in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Robie de Guzman   •   February 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Two new classrooms jointly built by United States and Philippine troops have been opened in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The new classrooms were inaugurated on February 19, at the Malatgao National Elementary School, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

US Navy Lt. Joshua Moore said the new learning facilities, built by American and Filipino soldiers under arrangements through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), will be used by over 100 students residing in the community.

“This project provides a much-needed schoolhouse for the Malatgao National Elementary School in Palawan, which will be utilized by over 120 students,” Moore was quoted as saying in the statement.

“We are proud to assist this community working hand-in-hand with our Filipino counterparts,” he added.

Under the VFA, US and Philippine troops participate in war and disaster response drills and assist in humanitarian projects like erecting multi-purpose buildings or helping repair schools.

The deal, which came into force in 1999, was terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte last week. The notice of termination will take effect after 180 days.

The US Embassy said that in the last four years, its Navy engineers, known as Seabees, have completed 24 humanitarian projects across the Philippines.  

These projects include single- and double-room classrooms, water catchment systems, multipurpose school huts, and multipurpose communal buildings.

Joint construction operations such as these between the Philippine Navy Seabees, U.S. Navy Seabees, Philippine Marines, and local Barangays serve to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine partnership.

“I think working with U.S. troops will make our alliance stronger and continue to increase our bonds for years to come,” said Apprentice Fireman Construction Electrician Joel Nioda from Zamboanga City.

“This will help unify and grow our bilateral relationship,” he added.

Since October 2016, the U.S. Navy Seabees construction projects for Philippine communities are valued at more than PHP100,000,000 ($1.9 Million).

Syria’s Aleppo airport receives first scheduled flight in eight years

UNTV News   •   February 19, 2020

A SyrianAir passenger plane landed on Wednesday (February 19) at Aleppo’s civilian airport, the first scheduled flight to touch down in the country’s war-devastated economic hub for eight years.

The reopening of the airport comes days after the Russian-backed Syrian army said it had seized rural areas northwest of Aleppo, a major strategic gain in weeks of bombing of the last rebel bastion in northwestern Syria.

On an organized trip, local and international media were invited by the Syrian transportation ministry to travel on the first plane that took off from the capital Damascus, and land at the Aleppo airport.

Government officials hope the resumption of commercial flights will help revive the economic activity in the city, which was the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war between 2012 and 2016. Rebel-held eastern Aleppo was regained by government forces in 2016.

Transport Minister Ali Hammoud said authorities were waiting for approvals to resume international flights, with plans to reopen the route to Cairo next month.

Aleppo’s other airport Nairab is a major military base that the Syrian air force uses to strike opposition areas and has also been a target of Israeli strikes on alleged Iranian bases.

In another strategic gain for President Bashar al-Assad, Syrian government forces aided by Iranian-backed militias consolidated their control over the M5 highway linking Aleppo to Damascus, a vital trade artery in northern Syria.

The highway, the fastest route between Syria’s two biggest cities, should be ready for civilian use in the coming days for the first time in years, the authorities said. (Reuters)

(Production: Firas Makdesi, Kinda Makieh, Michael Fiorentino)

US, evacuate citizens from Japan cruise ship; South Korea to follow suit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 17, 2020

The United States (US) has evacuated its citizens from the virus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess off the coast of Japan.

Two planes carrying around 300 American citizens left Haneda Airport on Monday morning (February 17).

South Korea also plans to bring home their citizens in the said cruise ship.

“Even before February 19, the government plans to bring those South Koreans home if they are tested negative from screenings by the Japanese authorities and are willing to return. We will first check our people’s intentions and then cooperate with the Japanese government,” according to South Korea Minister of Health and Welfare, Park-Neung Hoo.

Canada and Hong Kong will also send planes to evacuate their citizens.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said they will assist in repatriating Filipino crewmen aboard the cruise ship.

538 Filipinos are aboard the Diamond Princess, 531 are crewmen while 7 are passengers. There already 27 of them who tested positive of COVID-19.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez said the Filipinos who tested positive of the virus are already brought to the hospital for better care.

“We received information that aside from the 11 Filipino crew members who are earlier identified, another 16 have been identified over the weekend to have been identified as COVID positive,” he said.

The DFA also said the Inter-Agency Task Force will discuss their planned action in a meeting to assist the Filipinos aboard the cruise ship.—AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

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