US to take part in Iranian investigation into plane crash

UNTV News   •   January 10, 2020   •   192

Washington – The National Transportation Safety Board of the United States announced on Thursday that it had accepted an invitation from Iran to participate in its investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian aircraft amid speculations that an Iranian missile might have brought down the plane.

The federal agency said in a statement that the Iran Civil Aviation Organization has notified them that they could take part in the investigation of the plane crash that occurred near Tehran Thursday, in which all 176 people on board lost their lives.

“The NTSB has designated an accredited representative to the investigation of the crash,” said the independent US government agency tasked with investigating transport accidents.

Since the aircraft was a US-made Boeing 737-800, international regulations allow Washington to be a part of the accident investigation.

However, it remains unclear to what extent the NTSB representative will be able to play an active role in the probe, as US sanctions complicate cooperation with Iran, and the two countries have no diplomatic relations.

The NTSB announcement came hours after US intelligence sources told several media outlets that the Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) Flight 752 could have been accidentally shot down by an Iranian missile.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later confirmed that his government had “evidence” indicating that the aircraft “was shot down by an Iranian surface to air missile,” although he added it may have been unintentional.

The accident occurred shortly after the Middle Eastern country launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq, in retaliation for the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

However, the Iranian authorities have denied that they had accidentally shot down the plane and claimed the accusations were a part of a psychological warfare campaign against Tehran.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said they welcomed the presence of experts from countries whose citizens have died in the tragic accident, and requested the Canadian prime minister and any other government to provide any information they had regarding the crash.

At least 63 Canadians, mostly of Iranian origin, were traveling on the plane bound for Kiev. The aircraft crashed shortly after take off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. EFE-EPA

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PH now working on terminating PH-US VFA, says Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

Philippine Marines rush to shore during an amphibious landing exercise with United States counterparts on a beach on the coast of the Naval Education and Training Command in Zambales Province, northwest of Manila, Philippines, 09 May 2018. The Philippines-US Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) Military Exercise is on its 34th iteration, which is aimed to enhance interoperability between security forces of the two countries. EPA-EFE/ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang confirmed Friday that the Philippines has started the process of terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to end the deal if it does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the president issued the termination order Thursday night despite giving a month for the US to restore the senator’s visa.

Panelo said the order has already been relayed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as well as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

“I just talked with Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, and he said that he will start with the process and he called up already the vice chair and they talked, and Ambassador Romualdez has already been informed, I was also talking to him earlier,” he said.

In a tweet on Friday, Locsin confirmed he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have taken the first step in ending the 1998 deal with the US government.

Locsin sits as the chairperson of the Commission on Visiting Forces while Lorenzana serves as vice chairman.

“Del Lorenzana and I- as Vice and Chair of USVFA – are starting the process of terminating it by first contacting the Senate because it is a treaty on our side, an executive agreement on the US side. I’m leaving for Washington on a totally unrelated matter,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Lorenzana, for his part, refrained from commenting into Duterte’s latest pronouncement.

“Will study it first,” he said in a message to reporters. “No comment muna. Too soon to comment.”

The VFA is a bilateral accord between Washington and Manila that 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.

The deal may be terminated by either of the two countries by writing to the other party signifying their intent to end the agreement. Its expiration will come 180 days from the date of notification. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Rosalie Coz & Lea Ylagan)

Duterte can scrap PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement without Senate approval – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 24, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte can terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) even without the concurrence of the Senate, Malacañang said on Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after the president threatened to scrap the VFA if the US government does not reverse the cancellation of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s visa.

“Because it (VFA) is an executive agreement so he can cancel it without the approval of the Senate,” Panelo said.

Dela Rosa on Wednesday confirmed to media that he is not allowed to travel to the US for now after he received notification about his visa cancellation.

The senator said the exact reason on why his US visa was cancelled remains unclear but he heard reports it might be linked to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs that he spearheaded when he was the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2016 to 2018.

The VFA, signed by Manila and Washington in 1998, is a bilateral deal which outlines the guidelines for the conduct of government troops when they are visiting the US or the Philippines.

Panelo said the US government should not intervene with the Philippines’ internal issues.

The Palace official also believes the president’s threat to cancel the VFA will not affect Filipino workers in the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

US government to restrict visas to pregnant foreigners

UNTV News   •   January 24, 2020

A US flag flutters in the wind in front of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarter in Brussels, Belgium, 06 January 2020. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Washington – United States President Donald Trump’s government announced on Thursday it will restrict tourist visas for pregnant foreign women visiting the country.

The measure will come into effect on Friday in a bid to stop “birth tourism,” a practice of taking trips to the US to obtain American citizenship for children born there.

The State Department will no longer issue temporary visitor (B-1/B-2) visas to anyone it suspects of trying to carry out “birth tourism”.

“This rule change is necessary to enhance public safety, national security, and the integrity of our immigration system,” the White House press secretary said in a statement.

According to the US Constitution, people born in the United States have the right to citizenship, even if their relatives are not citizens.

At 21 years of age, these people have the right to request the legal permanent residence of their relatives, something that critics of the system have described as “chain immigration”.

“The birth tourism industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and is rife with criminal activity, as reflected in Federal prosecutions,” the White House added.

“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice.”

It continued: “It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism.

“The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”

The statement did not provide figures on the number of “birth tourism” cases, the costs that this practice may incur for the economy, nor did it explain how it threatens national security.

The US government issued 5.7 million B1 and B2 visas in the 2018 fiscal year.

Anti-immigration think tank the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that every year there are about 20,000 deliveries of women who arrived in the country on tourist visas and then left the US.

The US government admits 1.1 million immigrants every year and 79 per cent of legal immigration is based on family reunification, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Chain visas have been the main source of legal immigration for people with low education, which has depressed wages and employment opportunities for US workers with the same levels of training, according to the department. EFE-EPA

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