Saturday, July 07, 2012

Boracay named 2012 world's best island

Boracay has been named as this year's world's best island getaway by an international travel magazine.

Discovery Shores in Boracay was also named best hotel spa in Asia by "Travel + Leisure " magazine's 2012 World's Best Awards.

The magazine's editor, Nilou Motamed, made the announcement Friday on the "Today"  daily American morning television show that airs on NBC.

Boracay, which placed 4th in the same awards last year, garnered 93.10 points to take the top spot this year.

Travel + Leisure's top 10 island destinations in 2012, based on a survey of readers are:

1. Boracay, Philippines - 93.10
2. Bali - 90.41
3. Galápagos - 89.55
4. Maui - 89.53
5. Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia  - 89.28
6. Santorini, Greece - 89.20
7. Kauai - 89.09
8. Big Island, Hawaii  - 87.95
9. Sicily, Italy - 87.87
10. Vancouver Island, British Columbia - 87.48

"The world's best island, I confess to never having heard of it in the Philippines," "Today" host Willie Geist said.

"This is important, Boracay. It beat out Bali, number 2. It's one of those islands you should know about if you're interested in culture and value," Motamed told Geist.

"Our readers love this, it's not been on anyone's radar. It's in the Philippines. This is the place that you're gonna get not only hotels that you can stay for $50 a night but incredible hotels like the Shangri-la," she added.

Boracay's Discovery Shores also secured top honors for being the best hotel spa in Asia this year, the magazine said.

Aside from Boracay and Discovery Suites, the winners in other categories are Bangkok (world's best city), Singita Grumeti Reserves (world's best hotel), Crystal Cruises (world's best large ship cruise line), Seabourn (world's best small ship cruise line), Viking River Cruises (world's best river cruise line), Singapore Airlines (world's best international airline), Virgin America (world's best domestic airline), Micato Safaris (world's best safari outfitter), Row Adventures (world's best tour operator), Hertz (world's best car rental agency), Red Mountain Resort (world's best destination spa), and Capella Pedregal (world's best hotel spa).
"Even after 17 years, the opportunity to see what travel experiences resonate with our readers still intrigues and delights me. While some passions change over time, the allure of the exotic and the new remains as strong as ever, as does the attraction to trips that provide distinctive and long-lasting memories," "Travel + Leisure" editor-in-chief Nancy Novogrod said in a press statement.

The full results of the 17th annual "Travel + Leisure" World's Best Awards survey revealing readers' favorite hotels, cities, islands, cruise lines, airlines, car rental agencies, spas, safari outfitters, and tour operators are listed on  and will be featured in the magazine's August digital editions and its August print issue that will hit US newsstands on July 20.

The 2012 World's Best Awards winners will be honored at a ceremony on July 19 that will be hosted by Novogrod and the magazine's vice-president and publisher, Jean-Paul Kyrillos, at the newly opened Conrad New York.-ABS-CBN News (July 07, 2012 12:09PM)

3 Pinoys fall in $10-million scam in Thailand

Three Filipinos were among 15 foreigners arrested by Thai authorities for allegedly running a call center scam that duped people into wiring more than Bt320 million (more than US$10 million or more than P400 million) into their bank accounts.

A report Saturday in the Thai English language newspaper The Nation did not identify the suspects but said six are British, two American, two Romanian, three Filipinos, a German and a South African.

The report said the suspects were arrested at an apartment in Sukhumvit Soi 13 from where they operated the scam, which was based on bogus stock market trading.

The Nation quoted Thai police as saying the suspects, posing as independent brokers, would tell their victims, mostly Westerners, that they could make a 95-percent profit on their investments in return for a 25-percent cut of the profits.

The ring allegedly had a Swiss bank account from which they would transfer money to Malaysia and then to Thailand.-Interaksyon (July 07, 2012 10:19PM)

Myanmar releases detained activists

YANGON - Authorities in Myanmar on Saturday released all of the student leaders detained in the country's biggest crackdown on activists since the dissolution of the junta, a government official said.

"The arrested student leaders were all released an hour ago," a government official said.

Prominent activists confirmed the release of the students, who were held ahead of the 50th anniversary of a brutal army suppression of a student protest in Yangon.-Interaksyon (July 07, 2012 9:42PM)

If you can't beat them, buy them: Japan eyes purchase of disputed islands

TOKYO - Japan is considering buying a chain of islands at the centre of a bitter territorial dispute with China and Taiwan, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Saturday.

The move could potentially reignite tensions with both Beijing and Taipei, which also claim the islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

"There is no question that the Senkakus are an integral part of our country's territory in terms of history and international law," Noda told reporters. "There exists no territorial issue or ownership issue as Japan is in effective control of the islands."

"From the viewpoint of how to maintain and manage the Senkakus in a calm and stable manner, we are making comprehensive studies on the matter by keeping in touch with the owner," he said.

The prime minister's comments come after a report in the Asahi Shimbun said the government on Friday informed Tokyo's governor Shintaro Ishihara of its plan to buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owner.

In April, Ishihara announced he was in talks to buy the three islands—Uotsurijima, Kitakojima and Minamikojima—claiming that Japan was not doing enough to protect the territory.
The chain includes two other islands and an outcropping of rocks.

The influential daily said senior government officials were already negotiating with the owner, the Kurihara family, hoping to finalise the nationalisation plan by the end of the year.

The Tokyo metropolitan government said it had already collected more than 1.3 billion yen ($16.3 million) in donations from across the country to fund the purchase.

The governor confirmed later Saturday that senior government officials had visited him on Friday to apprise him about Noda's plan to put the three islands under state control.

"It could be a mere publicity stunt," said the outspoken Ishihara, well known for his nationalistic views. "If they really want to buy them, they should have said earlier."

The island chain, which lies in rich fishing grounds and may harbour valuable mineral reserves, was bought by the Kurihara family decades ago from descendants of the previous Japanese owners.

The islands were inhabited by Japanese fishermen before the end of World War II.

The waters around them have been the scene of territorial spats including the arrest of a Chinese trawlerman in late 2010 when he rammed his boat into two Japanese patrol boats.

On Thursday, two Japanese nationals swam to Kitakojima and stayed there for 90 minutes, the coastguard said. Earlier this week Taiwanese vessels brushed against Japanese patrol ships in waters near the islands.-Interaksyon (July 07, 2012 2:45PM)

US framing message to ASEAN and China: Tensions could undermine Asia as engine in global recovery

BEIJING - The United States will emphasise the importance of easing friction over competing claims in the South China Sea during regional talks in Cambodia next week, a US government official said Saturday.
The talks of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and regional powers including China will be attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the South China Sea likely to be high on the agenda.
Tensions have risen recently over territorial claims in the resource-rich waters amid a standoff between China and the Philippines at the Scarborough Shoal and between China and Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel islands.
All parties must realize that "there is an enormous potential for developments that undermine the very confidence on which Asia prosperity is built", a US government official told reporters in Beijing.
"With the slowdown in Europe and some uncertainties on the recovery in the United States, it's clear that role of Asia is central," he added.
"The South China Sea issues are complicated by the fact that they stir intense nationalist sentiment in all of the countries involved."
Clinton, who paid an unannounced visit to Kabul Saturday, will attend a major development conference for Afghanistan in Japan Sunday, before travelling to Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos ahead of the talks in Cambodia.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries.-Interaksyon (July 07, 2012 7:05PM)

Friday, July 06, 2012

7,000 tobacco farmers rally against proposed smoking law

An estimated 7,000 tobacco farmers rallied outside the Health Ministry office, Jakarta, on Tuesday against a proposed Tobacco Impact Control legislation that would require cigarette packs in Indonesia to carry a graphic warning on their cover, limit tobacco advertising and regulate smoking in buildings.

The farmers then marched to the Justice and Human Rights Ministry before ending at the People’s Welfare Coordinating Ministry on Jalan Merdeka Barat, Central Jakarta. 
“If the regulation is passed, we, the farmers, will lose buyers,” The Jakarta Globe quotes Temanggung Regency, Central Java, tobacco farmer Musafid as saying.

“At the moment, the local cigarette industry has been reluctant to buy our harvest.”
The farmers, who support the National Coalition to Save the Clove, travelled to Jakarta from places such as Temanggung, Wonosobo, Kediri, Madura, West Java, Central Java, and Sumatera aboard 100 buses.

The newspaper quotes Tobacco Farmers Alliance, East Java, director Amin Subarkah as saying: “We’re not against the regulation, it is alright to pass tobacco control in government regulations, but we haven’t been asked our opinion before lawmakers drafted the regulation.

“Why is the Health Ministry dealing with things that are not related to health, like advertisement laws and tobacco warnings?

“It should be done by the Trade Ministry.”

The newspaper quotes coordinating minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono as saying the government had no plans to stall the regulation. 

“The regulation won’t even ban people from smoking, let alone ban farmers from planting tobacco,” he told a media conference.

“I don’t think it is necessary to delay it.”

But Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar has called for a delay in implementation of the proposed legislation saying the new law would cost about 500,000 their jobs.

Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo announced in April that his administration would comply with the Constitutional Court ruling that requires building owners to provide smoking rooms.

The governor, who had earlier issued a decree that would have prohibited the smoking rooms, as said the administration would now: “We will not stop our efforts in upholding the smoking ban as mandated by the bylaw.

“We will boost our efforts and we will also seek help from NGOs to help monitor our efforts,” he said.

The Constitutional Court finalised its judicial review of the 2009 Health Law regarding smoke-free zones, ordering all government and privately owned buildings to “isolate” smokers in a special room earlier the same month.

In September, Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, Bali chapter, chairman Gusti Ngurah Sudiana announced that the country's major Hindu organisation would support the banning of smoking in temples.

Temples were the hub of Balinese Hindu society and should be kept smoke-free, he said. “Essentially, anywhere in the temple area should be free of cigarettes, not just the middle or inner temple,” he said.

The chairman was speaking during a meeting with government officials in Denpasar to discuss developing an island-wide series of anti-smoking policies entitled Commitment to Development and Application of No Smoking Zone Policy.

Data Processing and Information Centre representative Dr Rohani Budi told the meeting that treating smoking-related health issues in Indonesia was costing an average of rupiah 186 trillion, about US$21.3 billion, each year.

“This amount is triple the cigarette tax revenue obtained by the government each year, which amounts to rupiah 62 trillion, about $7.3 billion,” he said.-The Southeast Asian Times (July 06, 2012)

Thailand's 15th faultline discovered in Nakhon Nayok

A new faultline, caused by a previous earthquake, was found in Nakhon Nayok province and could be considered the country's 15th active faultline, a seminar of geological professionals and related agencies was told yesterday.

Songpop Polchan, president of the Geological Society of Thailand, said they were planning to propose that the earthquake map be reviewed to cover tambonlevel risk areas so people can be better prepared and can build structures that are better able to cope with tremors.

The proposal, along with a fivepoint recommendation, will be submitted to the government in two weeks, he said.

As seen from natural disasters over the past four months, including the 4Ritcher quake in Phuket where 400 homes were affected, people start panicking because Thailand still lacks a proper disasterwarning system and the public lacked sufficient knowledge, he said. Hence, the experts decided that PM Yingluck Shinawatra and related agencies are given a fivepoint guideline to mitigate earthquake impacts.

Firstly, the Mineral Resources Department's (MRD) map of risky zones based on the 14 faultlines going through 22 provinces only provided provinciallevel data, not information about how much risk villages or tambons were facing. Hence studies should be conducted to clarify this issue so proper criteria can be set for constructing buildings and installing a disasterwarning device.

Secondly, companies conducting Environmental Impact Assessment studies for the government's antiseismic infrastructure should include a certified geologist.

Thirdly, though the Interior Ministry’s regulation for new buildings in risky provinces required that they be strong enough to withstand earthquakes, most old buildings were not built to survive seismic activity, hence the government should provide funding to strengthen hospitals, schools and health centres.

Fourthly, the MRD should educate communities and local administration bodies, as well as provide them with earthquaketackling guidelines. Lastly, the Education Ministry should include an earthquake drill and basic information in primary and secondary school curricula, he added.

Geologist Lerdsin Raksasakulwong said the MRD had been studying the Nakhon Nayok faultline, which meets with the Mae Ping faultline at Nakhon Nayok's Ban Na and Ongkharak districts as well as at Sa Kaew province.

This faultline could cause some serious damage in case of a major earthquake because it lies near Ayuttahya, Saraburi, Uthai Thani, Lop Buri and Bangkok, he said. He added that geologists had also found some torn layers of sediment indicating a previous movement hence samples were being collected to determine when that quake occurred so future tremors can be predicted.

Lerdsin went on to say that the MRD had made a list of atrisk villages and installed tremordetecting devices along active faultlines, though residents still had to be properly educated.

"Most deaths during earthquakes result from buildings collapsing onto people," he said.

He explained that since most houses were halfwood, halfconcrete structures with nonflexible concrete beams and ceilings, people living in atrisk areas needed to adjust their houses and use flexible materials such as bamboo. He said people living along the Mae Chan and Mae Ing faultlines in the North and those living along the Khlong Marui and Ranong faultlines in the South should be the first group to be informed.-The Nation (July 06, 2012)

Phl warned of unknown respiratory disease in Cambodia

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and neighboring countries have been warned of an “unknown respiratory disease” that has killed 61 children in Cambodia.

In a statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the disease has “neurological symptoms” and the Cambodia Ministry of Health was first alerted about this “by the physician of Khanta Bopha Children’s Hospital in Phnom Penh.”

“WHO is closely monitoring the situation and is providing technical assistance to Ministry of Health on field epidemiology, clinical management and active case finding,” said Dr. Nima Asgari, team leader of the WHO Country Office in Cambodia.

The disease starts with high fever, followed by respiratory and/or neurological symptoms with rapid deterioration of respiratory functions.

A majority of the cases came from southern part of Cambodia and no apparent clustering of cases had been observed so far.

Cambodia Minister of Health H.E. Man Bung Heng said the “MoH and the WHO are currently investigating the cases and possible causes of the disease are being considered but definite identification of the cause and source may take some time.”

The WHO said the neighboring countries of Cambodia “have already been officially informed through a posting made through the International Health Regulations (IHR) event information system.

“Cases of severe respiratory disease with neurological symptoms have been reported to the Ministry of Health,” the WHO said.-The Philippine Star (July 06, 2012)

Phl ignores China's opposition to discussions on West Phl Sea

MANILA, Philippines - No bilateral meeting was scheduled between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and his Chinese counterpart at the sidelines of the 45th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) as the Philippines ignored China’s opposition to a discussion on the West Philippine Sea.

Manila however is expected to bring up the issue during a key regional security summit in Cambodia from July 8 to 12.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said the secretary could hold bilateral meetings at the sidelines of the AMM with Brunei, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, India, Republic of Korea and Australia, depending on the availability of parties involved.

China is not included in the countries for the bilateral meeting at the sidelines of AMM.

“I don’t think he has a bilateral meeting with China. There’ll be ASEAN-China meeting but as far as I’m concerned there’s no scheduled bilateral meeting between the Philippines and China during this trip of the secretary,” Hernandez said during a press briefing.

Although a bilateral meeting between Del Rosario and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not on the schedule, Hernandez said, “But you never know if one will be.”

Clinton will arrive in Phnom Penh next week to participate in the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
The ARF is a key forum for security dialogue in Asia. It draws together 27 countries including the US and China which have a bearing on the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

“The objective and purpose of the ARF is really to discuss and consult on political, security issues that’s why it was formed for that purpose to discuss regional issues, which have political and security meaning and color,” Hernandez said.

“For now we are in the process of preparing our position on different political and security issues that are part of the concern of the region.”

Del Rosario will also attend the 13th ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea and the ministerial meetings with dialogue partners Australia, India, China, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, European Union, Russia, Republic of Korea, and the United States. The Philippines will co-chair the meeting with the US and turn over to Myanmar the coordinator’s role for ASEAN-US relations for 2012-2015.

The Secretary will likewise attend the 10th Southwest Pacific Dialogue (SwPD), a forum for dialogue to exchange views and information on various important issues in the region for the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Timor-Leste.

The 2nd East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and the 19th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Retreat and Plenary Sessions are also included in Del Rosario’s itinerary.

Discussions during the aforementioned meetings will include Regional and International Issues; Maritime Security and Non-Proliferation; Human Rights, Protection of Migrant Workers, and Trafficking in Persons; Climate Change, Disaster Management, and Biodiversity; ASEAN Community and Connectivity; Trade and Investments and Micro Small-Medium Enterprises (MSMEs); and Renewable Energy.

Japan supports Phl’s territorial stand

Meanwhile, Japan has backed the Philippines’ stand that the territorial row in the West Philippine Sea should be resolved through international law, the Department of National Defense (DND) said.

The view was expressed during the ministerial meeting between Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Japanese Minister of Defense Satoshi Morimoto in Tokyo last July 2.

“Japan emphasized the need to maintain freedom of navigation in maritime areas and conveyed its support for the Philippines position of primacy of international law in addressing disputes in the West Philippine Sea,” DND spokesman Peter Galvez said yesterday.

Gazmin and Morimoto signed the Statement of Intent on Defense Cooperation and expressed mutual desire to deepen the security ties between their countries.

The two ministers also exchanged views on how the Philippines and Japan could cooperate in defense-related matters. They likewise tackled regional security issues including maritime security.

Both Japan and the Philippines have territorial disputes with China. The two countries have also accused China of intruding into their territory. 

Japan has claimed that China had intruded into the Senkaku Islands in 2004 but no conflict escalated.

On the other hand, the Philippines has accused China of intruding into various areas that are within its exclusive economic zone

The latest intrusion committed by China is the entry of its surveillance vessels into the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, located 124 nautical miles from the nearest base point in Zambales.-The Philippine Star (July 06, 2012)

PH protests establishment of China prefecture

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines announced Thursday it had filed a diplomatic protest with China over Beijing's establishment of a new prefecture called "Sansha" to administer disputed territories in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Sansha's establishment violated Manila's claim to the Scarborough Shoal and parts of the Spratly islands, as well as other areas within the South China Sea.

He said the DFA sent a note verbale to Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing last June 28 to protest the establishment of Sansha City. He told reporters the ministry was awaiting the Chinese government's response to the protest.

The State Council, or China's Cabinet, earlier approved the establishment of the prefectural-level city of Sansha to administer the Nansha (Spratlys), Xisha (Paracels), and Zhongsha (Macclesfield Bank) islands and their surrounding waters. Sansha means “city of three sands” in Chinese.

A China Daily report, meanwhile, said an aquaculture research center will be built in Sansha.

The base will be located in the Manbu Ansha area, a submerged shoal in the Zhongsha Islands, according to the Hainan Provincial Department of Ocean and Fisheries. With a report from Agence France-Presse. -ABS-CBN News (July 05, 2012 9:34PM)

PNoy tells China to leave Scarborough

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino on Thursday called on China to pull out all its ships from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal as he assailed Beijing for asking the Philippines to stop making provocative statements while itself continuing to talk.

“It’s not clear to me what provocative statements the Philippines or Filipino officials have made. But we know that the other side has been saying a lot. So maybe they should read first what have been written on their end and with all due respect, maybe they can balance that with reality,” Aquino said yesterday.

Malacañang also said that the redeployment of ships to Panatag Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, would depend on the weather.

“There are many schools of thought on how to handle (or) how to deal with the Chinese. So we will be getting, in effect, a discussion on the opposite points of view on what is the best approach to settle this issue,” Aquino noted.

As this developed, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) summoned on Wednesday China’s top diplomat in the Philippines and gave her a note verbale protesting Beijng’s establishment of a new “prefectural-level” city of Sansha to administer three disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea and future development of the islands.

“The DFA sent a note verbale dated 28 June 2012 and handed this to Ambassador Ma yesterday, protesting the establishment of Sansha City as the extent of the jurisdiction of the city violates Philippine territorial sovereignty over the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratlys) and Bajo de Masinloc and infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

He pointed out “it was a diplomatic protest” since the declaration of the establishment of Sansha City contradicts the spirit of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the non-aggression accord in 2002.

A senior security official also noted that China’s latest move showed that it has no respect towards its neighbors when it comes to peacefully settling territorial disputes in the region.
“With the way Beijing is behaving, it only showed that they don’t have any respect towards its neighbors,” the security official, who asked not be named, said.

Contrary to Beijing’s claim that the Philippines is plotting to further increase the tension in the region, its present actions to bolster its territorial claim of the entire South China Sea showed otherwise, the security official said.

Earlier, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Chinese officials and the state media were the ones who should be careful about issuing statements.

“Can I say to the Chinese ‘xiao xin yi dian.’ Be a little careful about your statements,” Lacierda said in reaction to a commentary in the People’s Daily of China, which admonished the Philippine government for its plan to ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the West Philippine Sea to help monitor the country’s territorial waters.

Lacierda stressed the Philippines has the right to explore all options in safeguarding its territorial waters, including seeking help from the US.

He added that the request should be viewed in the context of the defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US.

“So there’s no issue to us. We do not view it as a provocative statement,” Lacierda said. “And as the President said, by no stretch of the imagination can you consider the Philippines as an aggressor.”

Defending Kalayaan

Meanwhile, Kalayaan, Palawan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon said his civilian constituents in the Spratly region are not disturbed by China’s current aggression.

“We are not disturbed at all,” Bito-onon said, adding that aside from the Philippines, China has also to deal with other Spratlys claimant countries if Beijing so decides to settle the territorial dispute by force.

Western Command (Wescom) commander Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban also vowed that they would defend at all costs Kalayaan municipality.

“We will keep on doing our duty, prepare for any contingency and let our leaders do the high level solutions. Kalayaan municipality is ours. We will defend it,” Sabban said.

Wescom, a composite military unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has operational jurisdictions over the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) and has forward troops deployed in the region.

The Philippines and China are currently locked in a territorial dispute not only in Panatag Shoal but also in the Spratly region, which is also being claimed in whole or in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

The Spratly archipelago is a chain of islets, reefs, atolls and sand bars straddling the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in mineral and fuel deposits.

Panatag Shoal is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales Province and is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.

China stands on a historical claim while the Philippines has taken the view that Beijing’s claim is not supported by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).- ABS-CBN News (July 06, 2012 12:07)

No need to import rice next year – Aquino

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines will no longer need to import rice next year, President Aquino declared on Thursday during the launch of the Department of Agriculture’s food staple sufficiency conference.

“Next year, we’d no longer import rice because we’re already rice self-sufficient,” President Aquino said two years after he assumed office and after the Arroyo administration imported millions of tons of rice toward  the end of its term due to a rice shortage.

President Aquino said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala credited the government’s irrigation program and use of certified seeds for the milestone in the administration’s food supply program.

President Aquino also said the Philippines could even export rice if the weather permits.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 05, 2012 2:18PM)

Korean govt honors Filipino vets of Korean War

MANILA - Filipino veterans of the Korean War were honored in Korea by the Korean government as well as Korean veterans, the Department of Foreign Affairs ssid Thursday.

Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Luis T. Cruz attended the wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Filipino soldiers who fought in the Korean War at the Philippine Monument in Goyang City last June 22. 

The ceremony was organized by the Presbyterian Church under the South Korean Government’s Revisit Korea Program for war veterans, in coordination with the Philippine embassy, Goyang City officials, and the South Korean Army.

The event was attended by members of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) Veterans Association Inc., including 11 surviving veterans and seven relatives of those who already passed away.     

The Philippines was one of the first nations to respond to the United Nations’ call to defend South Korea from a communist invasion, which started on June 25, 1950.

Then President Elpidio R. Quirino uttered the following words as he sends the 7,500-strong PEFTOK contingent to war. 
“What you will do will prove to all the world that this republic and all of you who are part of it have the will and power to survive… to make our own lives as we want them to be, and to keep them that way."

PEFTOK units distinguished themselves in several battles against the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, particularly in the Battle of Hill Eerie and the Battle of Yultong Bridge, where they defeated a numerically superior communist force while sustaining minimal casualties.  

One of the heroes of the Korean War, then Second Lieutenant Fidel V. Ramos eventually became the Philippines’ 12th President. 

Last March 29, President Benigno S. Aquino III, son of the late Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr., a young journalist who covered the Korean War, inaugurated the PEFTOK War Memorial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani to immortalize our men’s gallantry and serve as a fitting symbol of the enduring friendship between the Philippines and South Korea.-Interaksyon (July 05, 2012 11:35AM)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Burma: Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo resigns

Burmese authorities have confirmed that a vice president known as a hardliner has resigned.

Tin Aung Myint Oo had been ill and there have been reports that he left the post in May.

The military, who hold a quarter of the seats in parliament, will be choosing his successor.

The confirmation comes during the new parliamentary session, as MPs from the opposition party NLD began work for the first time.

The National League for Democracy's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is unable to attend the opening days of the session, citing exhaustion as a reason.

Ms Suu Kyi, who was freed from arrest in 2010 and elected to parliament this year amid continuing political reforms, has just returned from a high-profile trip to Europe.

Mr Tin, a former high-ranking general who was close to former military ruler Than Shwe, served as one of two vice presidents in Burma.

The second vice president, Sai Maw Khan, is a civilian doctor from the Shan ethnic group.

Mr Tin was nominated by military delegates in parliament.

The new vice president is expected to be named before 10 July.-British Broadcasting Corporation (July 04, 2012) (Western Time)

'China's behavior in West Phl Sea pushing region in wrong direction'

China’s behavior in the West Philippine Sea is pushing the region in the wrong direction as Beijing’s overly broad scope and basis of its claims are fostering a climate of anxiety among countries in the region to fortify their own claims, according to a US lawmaker.

Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman expressed concern over China’s behavior in the region, saying the way in which the conflicts there are responded to is a “test” of whether the geopolitics of a rising Asia are going to be defined by win-win cooperation or zero-sum competition.

“The way we handle these conflicts is going to be a test of whether the countries of the region can resolve these differences peacefully according to international law or through coercion and force,” Lieberman said.

Although the US is not a claimant in the disputes in the region, Lieberman said Washington has $1.2 trillion of trade flowing through the waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) every year.

And because of the long-standing commitment of the US to uphold freedom of navigation and open access to maritime commerce, Lieberman said it has been one of the reasons why the Asia-Pacific region has experienced such explosive and progressive economic growth in the decades since World War II.
“And most important of all, I think, in the larger picture to the United States and the region and the world, the South China Sea really and the conflicts that are ongoing there now are going to provide a special and very important test for China itself, which is to say how will Beijing relate to its neighbors as it grows more powerful, and in a larger sense, what kind of great power will China be in this century,” Lieberman said during the second annual conference on Maritime Security in the South China Sea last Thursday in Washington hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

When China pursues policies in the South China Sea that are heavy-handed or lack a clear basis in international law, Lieberman said, “it naturally creates distrust, increases the danger of miscalculation and leaves China... more isolated in the region and in the world.”

“That’s not an outcome that any of us should want, least of all the United States,” he said.

On the contrary, Lieberman said the US has for decades consistently supported China’s integration into the global economy and the international system.

The US senator described as “unsettling” China’s lack of clarity over the rationale for China’s 9-dash line.

“I believe it is pushing the region in the wrong direction and sending a message that is discouraging about what kind of great power China will be and how it will relate to its closest neighbors,” Lieberman said.

“The overly broad scope, nature and basis of China’s claims are quite naturally fostering a climate of anxiety and driving other parties, most recently Vietnam and the Philippines, to fortify their own claims. It doesn’t need to be this way,” he said.

In April 2011, the Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest against China’s 9-dash line territorial claim over the whole of the West Philippine Sea.

The map is called “9-dash line” or “9-dotted line” because it showed a series of nine dashes or dotted lines forming a ring around the West Philippine Sea, which China claims is part of its territory.

The area includes the Spratlys group, a cluster of oil-rich islands disputed by five other countries, including the Philippines.

China has been using the map with nine dashes in asserting its territorial claim over the whole of the South China Sea. The map first made its way to a United Nations body when China used it to challenge the claim made by Vietnam and Malaysia over their extended continental shelves in the South China Sea.

In the Asia-Pacific region itself, Lieberman noted there are significant and hopeful precedents for peacefully resolving disputes that are not that dissimilar under international law.

He cited the resolution of intense disputes that existed between Malaysia and Singapore, between Malaysia and Indonesia, and between Singapore and Indonesia.

Rather than becoming a combat zone for 19th-century-like competition, Lieberman said the South China Sea should become a model for 21st-century cooperation and mutually beneficial joint development of the enormous natural resources under the sea in a way that benefits the people of the region and the world.

Multilateral context

To do so, however, Lieberman said certain principles are needed to be recognized by all.

With some of the claims of national sovereignty literally overlapping each other, bilateral negotiations simply will not resolve all the outstanding differences, he said.

Only by working together in a multilateral context, and preferably under some third-party mediator or arbitrator, Lieberman said, can the challenges of the South China Sea be addressed in a fair and comprehensive way.

Lieberman noted a first important step would be for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to move as quickly as possible to agree on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

All parties need to recognize that disagreements over the South China Sea can only be settled on the basis of international law. Trying to solve these disagreements on the basis of dueling historic claims, by contrast, is a recipe for endless disagreement, continuing tensions and the genuine risk of violence, he said.

“We know from history that territorial disputes usually are very emotional for the people of the countries involved. And precisely for this reason, the countries that are involved in these disputes today need to exercise restraint and moderation,” he added.-The Philippine Star (July 05, 2012 12:00AM)

Beijing: Asean gab not venue for shoal issue

Beijing on Wednesday said the 45th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia next week was not “the right venue” for the Philippines to raise the issue of the standoff at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said the meeting was an event aimed at enhancing mutual trust among member-countries.

“The Chinese side believes that the [meeting]  is an important platform for enhancing mutual trust and strengthening cooperation, not the right place to discuss the South China Sea issue,” Liu said in a statement.

He made his statement following the claims by Chinese newspapers that the Philippines was planning to fuel tensions during the Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in Cambodia, which will be held on July 6 to 13 at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh.

The meeting will be attended by Asean member countries and their partners Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, North and South Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and the United States.

Liu said the Chinese government had no intention of discussing the month-long standoff on the shoal, but would exchange views on China-Asean relations, East Asia cooperation, Asia Pacific security cooperation,  regional and international concerns, and preparations for the coming East Asian Summit in November.

“We hope achievements can be made in enhancing mutual trust between countries in this region and maintaining regional peace, stability and prosperity,” Liu said.

When asked if China was concerned that the Philippines might instigate talks on the West Philippine Sea issue, Liu said Beijing was willing to continue to hold dialogues with countries involved in the issue but in a “peaceful means”.

“The communication channels between China and other parties are open and effective,” Liu said.

“China is willing to continue to hold dialogues and consultations with countries involved to solve the South China Sea issue with peaceful means.”

The standoff between Manila and Beijing started on April 10, when Chinese government vessels prevented the Philippine Coast Guard from arresting Chinese fishermen who were caught poaching in the shoal, which is 24 nautical miles west of Luzon.

The Chinese government insists that 90 percent of the islands in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea) belongs to them, but the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia are also claiming them as their own.-Manila Standard Today (July 05, 2012)

Iran threatens to destroy US military bases

Iran has threatened to destroy U.S. military bases across the Middle East and target Israel within minutes of being attacked, Iranian media reported on Wednesday, as Revolutionary Guards extended test-firing of ballistic missiles into a third day.

Israel has hinted it may attack Iran if diplomacy fails to secure a halt to its disputed nuclear energy programme. The United States also has mooted military action as a last-resort option but has frequently nudged the Israelis to give time for intensified economic sanctions to work against Iran.

"These bases are all in range of our missiles, and the occupied lands (Israel) are also good targets for us," Amir Ali Haji Zadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, was quoted by Fars news agency as saying.

Haji Zadeh said 35 U.S. bases were within reach of Iran's ballistic missiles, the most advanced of which commanders have said could hit targets 2,000 km (1,300 miles) away.

"We have thought of measures to set up bases and deploy missiles to destroy all these bases in the early minutes after an attack," he added.

It was not clear where Haji Zadeh got his figures on U.S. bases in the region. U.S. military facilities in the Middle East are located in Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Turkey, and it has around 10 bases further afield in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.


Defence analysts are often sceptical about what they describe as exaggerated military assertions by Iran and say the country's military capability would be no match for sophisticated U.S. defence systems.

Iranian media reported that this week's three-day "Great Prophet 7" tests involved dozens of missiles and domestically-built drones that successfully destroyed simulated air bases.

Iran has upped its fiery anti-West rhetoric in response to the launch on Sunday of a total European Union embargo on buying Iranian crude oil - the latest calibrated increase in sanctions aimed at pushing Tehran into curbing nuclear activity.

Revolutionary Guards commanders have also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than a third of the world's seaborne oil trade passes out of the Gulf, in response to the increasingly harsh sanctions.

Major powers have said they would tolerate no obstruction of commercial traffic through the Strait, and the United States maintains a formidable naval presence in the Gulf region.

Iran accused the West of disrupting global energy supplies and creating regional instability and says its forces can dominate the vital waterway to provide security.

"The policy of the Islamic Republic is based on maintaining security in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz for all ships and oil tankers," Iranian English-language state Press TV quoted the chairman of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, as saying.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of using its nuclear programme to covertly develop all the components required to produce nuclear weapons, accusations the Iranian officials have repeatedly denied.

The world's No. 5 oil exporter maintains that it is enriching uranium for nuclear fuel only to generate more energy for a rapidly growing population.-ABS-CBN News (July 05, 2012 1:26AM)

China leader urges resistance against Western forces

China's top security official has urged the ruling Communist Party to resist Western "attacks" on the country's political and legal systems, in comments timed ahead of a 10-yearly leadership change.

Zhou Yongkang, one of China's top nine rulers and reputedly one of the most hardline, said the Communist Party must repel the "mistaken views" of Western political theorists.

"We will never change in our endeavour to defend the party's leading role and socialism with Chinese characteristics," he wrote in the latest edition of a Communist Party publication, "Qiushi".

"We will resolutely resist the attacks of hostile forces on our nation's political and judicial systems, and we will resolutely resist the influence of mistaken Western political and legal views."

Zhou was writing in his position as head of the party's Politics and Law Commission, which oversees China's courts, prosecution and police.

His commission oversees a budget this year of $111.6 billion -- higher than China's declared military budget -- that is used to suppress political opposition, as well as dissidents in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Zhou is regarded as an ally of Bo Xilai, a charismatic party figure whose downfall earlier this year triggered the nation's biggest political scandal in decades.

Bo's dramatic fall has reportedly led to turmoil in China's ruling elite ahead of the transition this year that will see President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and other top leaders give way to a new generation of leadership.

In May, a group of party elders openly called for Zhou's ouster due to his links to Bo, who was removed from the his party post and is under investigation for "serious violations of discipline" -- code for graft.

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, has also been detained for suspected involvement in the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Zhou, 69, has served only one five-year term in the elite standing committee of the party's politburo, meaning he may serve another. However, because of his age, it is unclear whether he will remain in the standing committee.-ABS-CBN News (July 05, 2012 12:14AM)