Saturday, September 15, 2012

PH Gilas whips Lebanon in Asia Cup

Smart Gilas Pilipinas crushed the Lebanon Cedars to notch their first win, 78-68, in the FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday.
Marcus Douthit led the Filipinos with a double-double performance of 25 points and 21 rebounds.

Douthit also received scoring support from his teammates and this enabled Gilas to upset Fadi El-Khatib’s high-scoring game.

Fadi El-Khatib led Lebanon with 24 points.

Gilas coach Chot Reyes was pleased with the performance of the Philippine team, which lost its opening game to a younger Chinese team, 71-68.

“We learnt from our mistakes last night,” Reyes said in 

“We were constantly reminding ourselves throughout the night, especially in the last few moments about last night. I think that kept us in good stead.”-ABS-CBN News (September 15, 2012 8:30PM)

WORLD NEWS: Anti-Japan protests in China swell, turn violent

Chinese demonstrators clash with policemen at the barricades during an anti-Japan protests outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Angry protesters staged anti-Japanese demonstrations in cities across China Saturday over Japan's control of disputed islands, with a protest in Beijing turning violent before being brought under control by police. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Protests against Japan over its control of disputed islands spread across more than two dozen cities in China and turned violent at times Saturday, with protesters hurling rocks at the Japanese Embassy and clashing with Chinese paramilitary police before order was restored.

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the embassy in Beijing. Hundreds tried to storm a metal barricade backed by riot police armed with shields, helmets and batons. Many threw rocks, bottles, eggs and traffic cones.

While protests were orderly in some cities, demonstrators in southern China's Changsha ransacked a Japanese-financed department store and smashed Japanese cars, according to online reports. Similar acts targeting Japanese companies and businesses were reported in other cities.

Anti-Japanese sentiment, never far from the surface in China, has been building for weeks, touched off by moves by Tokyo and fanned by a feverish campaign in Chinese state media. Passions grew more heated this past week after the Japanese government purchased the contested East China Sea islands from their private Japanese owners.

Japan's Kyodo News agency said more than 60,000 people protested in at least 28 Chinese cities, making the anti-Japanese demonstrations the largest since the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. The protests were expected to continue Sunday.

A Japanese Embassy employee declined to comment on the protests.

Although Japan has controlled the uninhabited islands — called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese — for decades, China saw the purchase as an affront to its claim and as further proof of Tokyo's refusal to negotiate over them.

Beijing made angry protests and tried to bolster its claim by briefly sending marine surveillance ships into what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands and by ratcheting up state media coverage. Some news programs featured bellicose commentary.

In Japan, candidates vying to lead the top opposition party called for a tough stand against Beijing in the dispute.

Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister seen as a leading contender to head the Liberal Democratic Party, said in an election debate that Japan should send a strong message to China that it will not back down.

"This is something that Japan should do as a nation," he said.

Smaller demonstrations had been staged in China throughout the week. But they boiled over Saturday, especially in Beijing. Outside the Japanese Embassy, the protesters — most of whom appeared to be students — shouted slogans demanding that Japan relinquish the islands. Some hurled rocks, bottles and traffic cones at the embassy. As the crowd grew, police closed off a main thoroughfare to traffic. City buses skipped the stop near the embassy.

Zhang Zhong, a 32-year-old computer worker, said Chinese should stand up against Japan, remembering its brutal occupation of much of China before and during World War II.

"We cannot lose the Diaoyu Islands," he said. "We cannot forget our national shame."

In Shanghai, about 200 police officers cordoned off the street leading to the Japanese Consulate, allowing protesters in groups of 100 to approach the building. Demonstrators had to register first with police.

But in Changsha, protesters ransacked the Japanese department store Heiwado. They also smashed a police car made by Mitsubishi and overturned another Japanese-model car, according to online reports. Provincial police asked motorists driving Japanese-brand cars to avoid major thoroughfares and refrain from parking on the street.

Kyodo said protesters ransacked at least 10 Japanese restaurants in Suzhou and damaged a Jusco supermarket run by Japan's Aeon group in Qingdao.

Li Yiqiang, a Chinese activist for the islands, said he opposes violence but that heated behavior is unavoidable when strong feelings boil over.
"When the national emotions erupt, it is understandable that some people would overreact," Li said. "How can you control spontaneous acts?"
The demonstrations came before the anniversary Tuesday of the 1931 Mukden Incident which often triggers anti-Japanese sentiment. The incident was used by Japan as a pretext to invade northern China, and activists have called for more demonstrations Tuesday.

The Japanese government had hoped its purchase of the disputed islands would calm rather than inflame the situation. The nationalistic governor of metropolitan Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, had proposed buying the islands in April and planned to develop them — something that Beijing would have seen as a powerful attempt to solidify Japan's claim. By purchasing them instead, the central government promised to keep them undeveloped.-Yahoo News (September 15, 2012 7:24PM)

Prominent Myanmar activist cancels trip to US

A prominent Myanmar activist said Saturday that he is canceling a trip to the United States to receive a democracy award, to show solidarity with more than a dozen fellow activists whose applications for passports have apparently been denied.

Min Ko Naing was to be recognized by the National Endowment for Democracy as one of five Myanmar activists who have made significant contributions to the democracy movement in the former military-ruled country.

"I really value the award given by the National Endowment for Democracy, but I have decided not to travel to Washington to accept it," Min Ko Naing told The Associated Press.

"On principle, I will not travel alone when my colleagues are denied their citizens' rights," he said. "We should be treated as equals and be given passports together."

The ceremony is taking place Thursday in Washington, with a keynote speech to be given by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's most famous democracy crusader. She is to leave Sunday on her first U.S. trip since she was put under house arrest in 1990.

Min Ko Naing was a key leader of pro-democracy protests in 1988 and 2007. He spent most of the past 20 years as a political prisoner in solitary confinement until his release in January. Other activists endured similar sentences for participating in the protests, which were outlawed along with all dissent by the former military junta.

Authorities granted passports to Min Ko Naing and a handful of other prominent activists, including Ko Ko Gyi, also a high-profile leader of the 1988 student-led democracy rallies.

But nearly two dozen other pro-democracy activists have been left in limbo. Some applied for passports up to six months ago and have been told by the Home Ministry that their requests have been put on hold for a year, Ko Ko Gyi said.

Passports in Myanmar are generally issued within three weeks.

Zaw Thet Htwe, a journalist who was imprisoned under the junta and freed in January, said he was given no formal reason for not getting a passport. But he was told informally that he and others were under surveillance for a year because they had been let out of prison early and authorities wanted to keep an eye on them, he said.

Over the last year, President Thein Sein's government has spearheaded unprecedented change in Myanmar, relaxing decades of harsh rule and allowing freedoms previously unheard of in the Southeast Asian nation, which is also called Burma. But major challenges remain. Rights groups say human rights abuses continue, rule of law is weak and corruption remains strong.

The four others being recognized for the 2012 Democracy Award include Hkun Htun Oo, the leader of an ethnic Shan political party who was jailed for many years, and film actor-director turned activist Kyaw Thu, who leads a social organization called the Free Funeral Service Society.

Also being honored are Cynthia Maung, an ethnic Karen doctor who provides medical care on the Thai side of the border for more than 50,000 people from Myanmar every year, and Aung Din, a leader of the 1988 student movement and former political prisoner who is now director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma.-Yahoo News (September 15, 2012 7:24PM)

300 Japanese Manufacturing firms in China keen on relocating businesses to the Philippines

Some 300 Japanese manufacturing companies operating in China and Japan have expressed interest to relocate their businesses in the Philippines in the next five years.

Takashi Ishigami, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines Inc., said that some of the firms had already started moving their operations here last year, viewing the Philippines as a very competitive country. "We have now many inquiries from Japanese firms. There are already 1,700 Japanese companies located here. And we will have more; it can increase by 200 to 300 easily," he said.

Ishigami said on the sidelines of the Joint Foreign Chamber Networking Night that most of the companies were engaged in information technology while some others in automotive parts manufacturing.      Ishigami did not divulge any planned investment details, but noted "it's a big number. It depends on the companies."

He said more Japanese companies were establishing their business presence here, owing to Philippine investment and tax incentives given to foreign investors. "The Philippines has very good investment program and tax incentives for foreign companies particularly those offered by PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) and BOI (Board of Investments)," he said. "These are giving the Japanese firms opportunities to expand their business."

Ishigami said China's rising wages also prompted some firms to move their production here.

He also cited other competitive advantages of the Philippines, including its well educated English-speaking workforce and good quality infrastructure.

"The business environment here is getting better. At first, only few Japanese companies had interest but now, many of them have interest to invest in the Philippines," he said.-Asia News Network (September 15, 2012)

Chinese ships cause alarm

Following the intrusion of six Chinese surveillance ships into Japan's territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, yesterday, local fishermen and others expressed concern, while the Japan Coast Guard said the incident must be handled calmly.

The JCG headquarters in Tokyo was informed by its 11th regional branch that one of the six Chinese ships entered Taishoto island's contiguous zone shortly before 5 a.m. A number of senior JCG officials were then called to the headquarters.

"We have to deal with [the incident] in a calm manner," a senior JCG official said.

In the wake of the government's nationalisation of three of the Senkaku Islands, it was reported Tuesday that surveillance ships were dispatched to the islands. The JCG stepped up its surveillance and prepared for the ships' possible entrance into the contiguous zone or territorial waters.

But a senior JCG official said, "I was surprised six ships came."

In Okinawa Prefecture, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima expressed uneasiness, saying at a press conference, "I find [the incident] quite disturbing."

"When there are intrusions into the nation's territorial waters or land, it's the state's mission to protect [people's] lives and assets as well as ensure the safety of fishermen. It's a diplomatic issue, and we have no choice but to leave it to the government," Nakaima said.

Kameichi Uehara, 50, head of the Yaeyama fishermen's association in Ishigaki, was concerned about the possible impact on fishing operations near the islands, saying, "We shouldn't make a big deal out of it."

"We can just see what happens. We hope the government makes all possible diplomatic efforts to protect the nation's territory," Uehara added.

Travel agencies also are worried their businesses could be adversely affected if tensions grow.

A public relations official of H.I.S. Co.'s Fukuoka branch said: "Trips to China have decreased by about 10 per cent in the last couple of weeks compared with last year. We've heard other agencies are facing cancelations of school trips and group tours [to China.] We don't think there will be any problems with China trips, but we're worried rumours might adversely affect the situation."

HTB Cruise Co., which launched services between Nagasaki and Shanghai in late February, said reservations have not increased even though China's National Day holidays are later this month.

A spokesperson of the company said, "Sales should be increasing now, and we hope the Senkaku issue will not have a negative impact."-Asia News Network (September 15, 2012)

Phl hosts Asean human rights meeting

The Philippines hosted the second regional consultation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the ninth meeting of AICHR on September 12 to 14 at the Bellevue Hotel in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. 

Ambassador Rosario Manalo, Philippine representative to the AICHR, reported to Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario the conclusion of the second regional consultation with civil society organizations (CSO) on the Asean Human Rights Declaration (AHRD) and the ninth meeting on the AHRD, a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said. 

The consultation and meetings were chaired by Chet Chealy, the alternate representative of Cambodia to AICHR. 

Manalo said the September 12 regional consultation with representatives of national, regional and international CSOs on the AHRD was hosted by the Philippines upon instructions of the Asean foreign ministers to further improve the draft. She added that the consultations were interactive and meaningful. 

At the ninth meeting of AICHR, representatives discussed and considered the inputs received from CSOs to refine the draft AHRD. 

In addition, AICHR also met with human rights experts Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, Ray Paolo Santiago of the Ateneo Human Rights Center and Yuniyanti Chuazifah of the National Commission on Violence Against Women from Indonesia to seek their views and inputs on the AHRD. 

The AICHR representatives completed its first full draft called the “Manila Draft” for submission to the Informal Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting (IAMM) on September 27 in New York, United States. 

The AHRD is a historic document that seeks to promote the full realization of human dignity and the attainment of a higher quality of life for the Asean people. 

The human rights declaration is one of the outcome documents scheduled for adoption by Asean leaders during the upcoming 21st Asean Summit on November 17 to 20 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.-Philippine Information Agency (September 15, 2012)

China: Intl community won't accept PHL renaming of South China Sea

The international community is not likely to accept the Philippines' bid to rename part of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea, China claimed Friday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the renaming violated the international standardization of geographic names.

"China has repeatedly urged the Philippines to stop such man-made disputes that complicate the situation in the South China Sea," Hong said, according to an article posted on China's government web portal Saturday.

Earlier this week, President Benigno Aquino III signed an administrative order renaming part of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine government said it will provide the United Nations with a copy of the order and a revised official map of the Philippines.

The Philippines and China have been locked in a territorial dispute over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal since April.

Both parties are also claimants to the Spratly Islands, which are also being claimed by Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

However, Hong also pointed out the name "South China Sea" has long been acknowledged by the international community, adding the Philippines has also accepted and used this name in the past.-GMA News (September 15, 2012 7:04AM)

Officials seek to boost trade ties with Cambodia

A group of Chinese trade officials from South China's Shenzhen city has been visiting Cambodia to promote the bilateral trade and investment ties.

The group was led by Zhang Jinsheng, director of Shenzhen WTO Affairs Office.

Addressing a Shenzhen Economic and Trade Forum on Friday afternoon, Zhang said that the visit to Cambodia was to introduce Shenzhen's trade and investment potentials to Cambodian businesspeople and to explore Cambodia's investment potentials for Chinese investors.

The forum was attended by some 40 Cambodian and Chinese companies' executives.

Zhang also promised to encourage Chinese firms to look into business opportunities in Cambodia to contribute to strengthening and expanding bilateral ties between China and Cambodia.

At the forum, Yum Sui Sang, chairman of the China Hong Kong and Macau Expatriate and Business Association of Cambodia, said the event was very important to boost economic and trade ties between Cambodia and China's Shenzhen.

"The forum is an opportunity for Cambodian businesspeople to learn about the economic and trade potentials in Shenzhen and also a chance for us to tell Shenzhen officials about Cambodian potential sectors for investors," said Yum Sui Sang, who is also the president and CEO of the Union Commercial Bank.

The bilateral trade volume between Cambodia and China amounted to $2.5 billion in 2011, up 73.5 percent from a year earlier. The two countries' leaders vowed to double the volume to $5 billion by 2017.

On the investment side, during the first six months of this year, Cambodia attracted the investment of $141 million from China in the sectors of garment and textile industry and rice milling, according to a report of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

Shenzhen, bordering with Hong Kong, is located in Southern China's Guangdong province, which is known for its international business and trade.-China Daily (September 15, 2012)

Top Asean officials discuss social welfare

The 7th Asean Senior Officials' Meeting between China, Japan and South Korea on Social Welfare and Development was held in Hanoi yesterday.

In his opening speech, Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam said that disadvantaged people were always the last to enjoy the benefits of science and technology development. Meanwhile, they were the first to suffer from socio economic turbulence such as economic crisis and natural disasters. Therefore, regional countries should work harder to boost social welfare and development.

During the meeting, Asean member countries and the three partners shared views on measures to enhance social services and security for the disadvantaged, exchanged updates on ongoing projects on social welfare and development, and mapped out future plans.

Over the past years, the three Asean partners have provided technical and financial assistance to Asean member countries via training courses and seminars to improve awareness and competence in this issue.-Asia News Network (September 15, 2012)

Philippines seizes $4.8m rice shipment from Vietnam

Less than two months after the seizure of an allegedly smuggled 430-million peso (US$10.3 million) worth of Indian rice, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) seized and detained yesterday a Vietnamese vessel carrying 200 million peso ($4.8 million) worth of undocumented rice imports. The shipment arrived in Legazpi, Albay, two weeks ago.

“The import authority legitimising the importation of the rice shipment has not been presented to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) up to this day. That is why, the importation of the cargo is now subject to seizure,” said Commodore Joel Garcia, the PCG commander for Bicol.

The Minh Tuan 68, which is reportedly carrying 94,000 bags of rice, was brought closer to the Legaspi pier from the Albay Gulf anchorage area where the ship had been held for the past two weeks.

Garcia said the PCG action was based on a warrant of seizure and detention that the Bureau of Customs issued earlier this week against the Vietnamese vessel “for alleged illegal transport of a rice shipment from Vietnam.”

BOC and PCG personnel are guarding the ship to prevent it from unloading the rice.

The vessel, with 16 Vietnamese officers and crewmen on board, reportedly arrived in the waters off Legazpi on Sept. 2.

When the PCG and BOC boarded the vessel a week ago, they discovered that the shipment lacked the import authority document that should have been issued by the National Food Authority (NFA).

Officials said it was puzzling why the vessel chose to dock in Legazpi when the consignees were in Central and Northern Luzon.

Earlier this week, the BOC office in Legazpi said the NFA and the rice shipment’s five consignees promised to produce the importation papers on Monday, but none were delivered.

Yolanda Navarro, the head of the NFA office in Albay, said in a phone interview that the importation was covered by proper documents, with the rice consigned to five multipurpose cooperatives, all of which are based in Luzon.

However, some of the consignees have yet to complete the papers that were needed to be presented to the BOC, she said.

The required documents include the import permit issued by the NFA, the memorandum of undertaking between the NFA and the private consignees, the authenticated notice of award and notice to proceed, the bill of lading, and the payment of BOC duties and other fees.

Navarro said the consignees of the Vietnamese rice shipment were: the Ugnayan Magbubukid ng San Pedro Inc. from Candaba, Pampanga, 21,000 bags; Karapatan Takusa Multipurpose Cooperative, Candaba, 21,000 bags; Malipampang Concerned Citizens Multipurpose Cooperative of San Ildefonso, Bulacan, 18,000 bags; Samahan ng Magsasakang Capampangan at Katagalogan Multipurpose Cooperative, also of San Ildefonso, 18,000 bags; and the Sili Multipurpose Cooperative, Naguilian, La Union, 16,000 bags.

The NFA official said there was nothing wrong with using Legazpi as the port of entry for the rice shipment as Albay has been a regular port of discharge of imported rice consigned to the NFA.

The head of the NFA office in Bulacan said the four Central Luzon-based farmers’ cooperatives among the consignees of the Vietnamese rice shipment were legitimate groups.

"Their documents [as organisations] are in order," said Serafin Manalili.

He said the Ugnayan Magbubukid ng San Isidro Inc., Karapatan Takusa Multipurpose Cooperative, Malipampang Concerned Citizens Multipurpose Cooperative and the Samahan ng Magsasakang Capampangan at Katagalogan Multipurpose Cooperative “have not been involved in any controversy in the past three years.”

The leaders of the four farmers’ groups could not be reached for comment.

Manalili explained that the bidding for rice importations is carried out at the NFA national office in Metro Manila.-Asia News Network (September 15, 2012)

Four shot dead and burnt in Thai south unrest

Three paramilitary soldiers and a woman were shot dead by militants who then torched their bodies in an early morning ambush in Thailand's restive south, police said Saturday.

The victims were attacked as they drove to a market in Yala, one of the hotbeds of the eight-year insurgency which has claimed around 5,300 lives in Thailand's Muslim-majority border provinces.

"I think that they had already died before the gunmen set fire to their pick-up truck," said Lieutenant Colonel Charas Chinapong, of Muang district police, adding that the bodies were found inside the truck.

Hundreds of bullet cases were found at the scene, he said.

A lattice of militant groups who want greater autonomy carry out near-daily attacks in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces.

In response to an uptick in the violence over the summer Thai authorities have said they are stepping up efforts to talk with militant leaders but analysts are skeptical of the likelihood of peace in the near future.-ABS-CBN News (September 15, 2012 12:14PM)

Friday, September 14, 2012

China: Renaming of South China Sea won't change sovereignty

China on Thursday scoffed at the Philippines' renaming the South China Sea to the West Philippine Sea as it would not affect China's sovereignty over the area.

Furthermore, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei pointed out that the international community had previously acknowledged the name South China Sea for the area.

"The move will not change China's sovereignty over the Nansha islands, Huangyan Island and their surrounding waters," Hong said at a regular news briefing, according to an article posted late Thursday on the Chinese government's web portal.

Nansha Islands is also known as the Spratly Islands, Huangyan Island is China's name for the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

The Spratlys have been the subject of a dispute between China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan. The Philippines and China have been locked in a territorial dispute over the Scarborough Shoal area since April.

Earlier this week, President Benigno Aquino III signed an administrative order formally renaming the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine government said it will provide the United Nations with a copy of the order and a revised official map of the Philippines.

Taiwan had already said that it does not recognize the Philippines' renaming.-GMA News (September 14, 2012 12:49AM)

₱2 Billion Project NOAH Philippines – World’s Most Advance Technology

The Philippines is no stranger to disasters. Floods, earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons frequently ravage the archipelago, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the work.

But now a new plan aptly dubbed Project NOAH – National Operational Assessment of Hazards – intends to give Filipinos a better chance of overcoming these calamities by providing real-time access to weather information and updating maps, some of which date back to the 1960s.

Spearheaded by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology, the ₱2 billion pesos, or $48 million US Dollar , project was launched in July 2012. Automated rain gauges first were installed in river basis around the country, allowing scientists and other experts to track rainfall and river water levels in real time. This month, the project will roll out LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, technology which allows for high-resolution 3D mapping of the country's topography – something which scientists say will help the Philippines' better prepare for potential disasters. The entire country is expected to be digitally mapped within two years, according to scientists running the project.

"Using the best technology available is the only way to minimize casualties," said Mahar Lagmay, executive director of Project Noah and a scientist at the University of the Philippines in Manila. "We need to develop a culture of preparedness and safety.

He also added that the project will likely draw on newly-developed "super wifi" technology to get around some necessary infrastructural upgrades still lacking in the Philippines.

Just weeks after Project Noah was launched by the country's president Benigno Aquino III, the system was quickly tested when monsoon winds and rain dumped unusually heavy rainfall on critical cities in the Philippines, including Manila. The torrential rains caused the most severe floods seen since Tropical Storm Ketsana in 2009 which left the capital submerged for days.

Initial assessments of the August floods showed that better tracking and disaster response times helped to limit the death toll to just over 100 people, compared to over 700 during 2009's floods. A report from the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, said local governments were "managing the situations well", and that that follow-up relief operation was put into action quickly. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the population displaced by the floods reduced by 10% in a week – a far better record than during Typhoon Ketsana, whose impact lasted months though similar levels of rainfall were recorded, according to Project Noah's tracking maps.

Mr. Lagmay added that the improved maps could also serve another practical purpose – as a tool for urban planning and development, crucial for private sector investors that are starting to bet big on increased domestic spending in the country including in malls and on real estate. The project has some private sector partners – including San Miguel Corp SMC.PH's Petron oil refinery, Philippine telcos Smart Communications Inc TEL.PH, SUN Cellular and Globe Communications though none of them have pledged funding as yet. Smart Communications, for example, has been working to set up free call stations at disaster evacuation centers with charging facilities and internet provisions and opens SMS channels to receive donations during crisis situations.

It is becoming increasingly important for Asian countries to adopt modern disaster relief strategies in the decades to come, experts say. According to a report from the Asian Development Bank, a projected 410 million urban Asians are at risk of coastal flooding in the next decade, with another 350 million at risk of inland flooding – similar to that experienced by Bangkok last year, and Manila this August.

Observers note that social media is an important component in Project Noah's success. Comscore ranks the country the world's biggest market for Facebook FB, with more than 90% of its online population using the social networking tool, with an overall internet penetration rate of about 33% of its 100 million people. Representatives from Global Systems Mobile, the system on which many cellular phone networks function, are examining the Philippines to see how mobile phones can help bolster early warning networks elsewhere.

Twitter provided some of the fastest alerts about a 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the eastern coast of the Philippines last month. And analysts say social media will become even more useful as radio stations and other broadcast media increasingly rely on the Internet for information.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (September 13, 2012)

5 reasons NGOs reject current version of ASEAN Human Rights Declaration

Nongovernmental organizations on Thursday rejected the draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration they were shown for consultation and which is set for ratification by the regional bloc’s 10 member-states at their summit in Cambodia this November.

Sixty-two representatives from 54 NGOs based in members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, loosely organized as the Civil Society Forum on ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, met in Manila September 10-11 in Manila ahead of their consultation with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights on September 12.

Cynthia Gabriel, of Malaysia’s Suaram, called the draft as it is currently worded a failure.

“Equality and non-discrimination must be the cornerstone of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. Anything less than that is a failure,” she said.

At a press conference, the CSO Forum participants gave their reasons for rejecting the draft and presented their proposed amendments:

1. The draft is below the standard set by current international laws on human rights, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Several provisions, including those in the “General Principles,” impose “overarching limitations and conditionality in the enjoyment of rights.”

All human beings are entitled to the same set of human rights, regardless of class, gender, ethnicity, and other categorizations, said Dr. Aurora Parong, of Amnesty International. But the draft declaration puts a limit to the enjoyment of these rights on issues of “national and regional contexts,” “different cultural, religious, and historical backgrounds,” “public morality,” and “balanced with the performance of duties.”

If the draft puts a limit to these rights, then it is below the standards set by the UDHR, Parong said.

The NGOs proposed that these provisions be removed and replaced with a provision that “upholds the universality and inalienability of human rights and the non-derogability of fundamental rights.”

The right to liberty is a derogable right, meaning a person’s right to liberty may be limited if he is proven to commit some crime, Parong explained, but the right not to be tortured and to be enslaved are non-derogable rights, meaning nothing limits these rights.

2. The process of consultation has not been transparent and inclusive from the start.

Ging Cristobal, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said the AICHR process has lacked transparency -- from the selection of representatives to the body, to consultations on the draft and the criteria of who would be invited to the consultations, and how AICHR representatives vote.

The AICHR limited the participation of some NGOs, including freedom of expression advocate Southeast Asian Press Alliance, AIDP (an organization advocating for the rights of indigenous people), and Forum Asia.

Yap Swee Seng of Forum Asia said that in the two consultations, the AICHR limited the participation of NGOs to four organizations per country.

“It is unfortunate that this is happening in this regional human rights forum. CSOs (civil society organizations) are advocating for transparency and open participatory process of all AICHR work. We want the draft declaration made public. We want the people’s right to know and right to participate in the process actualized in this process,” Yap said.

“We continue to press ASEAN governments and the AICHR for more open and transparent engagements with NGOs,” he added.

Parong said that at Wednesday's consultation, no NGO from Myanmar was represented.

She also said that, initially, the NGOs were not given any drafts, only elements of the declaration. The current draft was given only to NGOs from the Philippines and Thailand.

In the June consultation, the AICHR received the NGOs’ recommendations with a “blank face,” said Cristobal. “There is no validation of CSO partnership. There is no equal partnership. We are always begging from our end.”

Parong also said a translation of the draft into the many ASEAN languages is a step towards allowing people’s participation. Without these translations, people would be “deprived of the right to respond to the draft. The declaration should reflect the voices of the people, not just the governments’,” she added.

3. Some marginalized sectors such as children, women, indigenous peoples, and migrant workers are not explicitly protected by the draft declaration.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is 62 years old and since then the international community has adopted other international conventions that have enriched the concept of human rights, such as the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

Parong reminded the AICHR that all 10 ASEAN member-countries are signatories to these and other similar conventions and cannot use the ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights to circumvent their commitments there.

This is why, Parong said, the draft declaration must provide specific provisions for the protection of these specific groups.

At the consultation, Cristobal said AICHR members seem “to have made up their minds that sexual orientation and gender identity (as criteria for discrimination) have no place in the declaration.”

The AICHR “overlooks the violence, discrimination, and even death that the LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals) experience from state and non-state actors,” she said.

Some AICHR members cite religion and culture as bases for denying LGBTs their rights, and say their sexual orientation and gender identity are abnormal.

“Even the World Health Organization has disputed this,” Cristobal said.

“We are not asking for special rights. We are only claiming our basic human rights,” she said, adding that of the 10 ASEAN member-countries, only Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand have been supportive of LGBT rights.

Non-discrimination, non-violence, and equal protection are crucial for future of ASEAN, Cristobal added.

4. The provisions of the draft are vague and weak on key human rights issues like enforced disappearances.

The history of many ASEAN member-countries is replete with gross human rights violations, including enforced disappearances. Thousands of HR defenders and activists have involuntary disappeared, Parong said, and the declaration must send a strong message against similar occurrences in the future.

Atnike Sigiro, of Indonesia’s Commission for the Disappearances and Victims of Violence or Kontras, created in 1998 when the military kidnapped many activists, said this issue has been raised in the June consultation in Kuala Lumpur but the current draft still does not contain this particular concern.

Enforced disappearances “violate not only the rights of the arrested, but also their relatives’,” Sigiro said.

5. The draft does not reflect the concerns of the people of ASEAN.

The formation of an economic bloc was the primary rationale of ASEAN, noted Malaysia’s Cynthia Gabriel. “And the people’s economic, social, and civil rights must be upheld, not derogated in context of economic globalization,” she said. “The declaration must be reflective of the needs and desires of the people.”

These include the right to work, right to sustainable environment (in the context of development), and right to social security (in the context of developing nations), she added.

Given the wide spectrum of development in ASEAN -- from developed Singapore to developing Myanmar, the declaration must cover every citizen’s right to development, and specifically right to sustainable development.

“This right cannot be taken away because of lack of development,” she said. 

Gabriel said she is hopeful that the declaration would finally reflect the people’s concerns.-Interaksyon (September 13, 2012 6:26PM)

Indonesia demands YouTube block anti-Islam film

Indonesia demanded Thursday that YouTube block an anti-Islamic film that has triggered violent protests to prevent it being watched in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The US-made movie enraged protesters in Cairo, who stormed the American embassy on Tuesday and was also linked to an attack on the US consulate in Libya's Benghazi which left the ambassador and three other Americans dead.

"We demand YouTube block the 'Innocence of Muslims' videos from being watched in Indonesia," Communications and Information Ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto told AFP.

"We are also working with Internet service providers here to block access," he said. "We are still in talks with YouTube management and believe they will cooperate," Broto added, saying no deadline had been set.

YouTube said Wednesday it was restricting access in Libya and Egypt. In Indonesia, the low-budget film could still be accessed on the video-sharing website as Broto made his remarks.

"The film certainly is offensive... and has upset Indonesian Muslims. We don't wish for anyone to be provoked by it and for violence to break out here," Broto said.

So far, there has been no trouble in Indonesia, where most of the 240 million population practise a moderate form of Islam.

Indonesia's demand to YouTube came after a wave of protests in Muslim countries against the US-made amateur Internet film that mocks and insults the Prophet Mohammed.-Interaksyon (September 13, 2012 2:49)

Cambodia court orders release of Khmer Rouge 'First Lady'

Cambodia's war crimes court ordered the release Thursday of Ieng Thirith, dubbed the "First Lady" of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, saying she was unfit to stand trial.

"As there is no prospect that the accused can be tried in the foreseeable future, the trial chamber has confirmed the severance of the charges" against the 80-year-old, a statement from the UN-backed tribunal said.

Explaining its decision to stay proceedings against Ieng Thirith -- who was the sister-in-law of regime leader Pol Pot -- the court said her "cognitive impairment is likely irreversible".

One of only a handful of people ever brought before a court over the 1975-1979 regime, blamed for the deaths of up to two million people, Ieng Thirith was accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The tribunal said the order to release her "is not a finding on the guilt or innocence of the accused, nor does it have the effect of withdrawing the charges against the accused".

Three other ageing top former regime leaders -- including her husband, former foreign minister Ieng Sary -- remain on trial.-Interaksyon (September 13, 2012 12:38)

Taiwan opposes Philippine plan to rename South China Sea - report

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs opposes the Philippine plan to rename South China Sea as West Philippine Sea, Taipei's Central News Agency said.

Reacting to an administrative order recently signed by President Benigno Aquino III, the Taiwan ministry issued a statement late Wednesday reaffirming its previous statement that from the perspective of history, geography, or international law, the Spratly Islands, the Paracel Islands, the Macclesfield Bank, and the Pratas Islands as well as their surrounding waters, sea beds, and subsoil, are all inherent parts of the territory of the Republic of China.

The Taiwan claim over these waters is as encompassing as China’s.

The Taiwan ministry reiterated that it upholds the basic principles of "safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, peace and reciprocity, and joint exploration" but remains willing to work with other countries in exploring the resources of the disputed seas.

Aside from the Philippines, China, and Taiwan, the other countries with partial claims are Brunei, Malaysia, Japan, and Vietnam.-Interaksyon (September 13, 2012)

Vietnam prime minister targets anti-government blogs

Rock Portrait Photogaphy

Vietnam's prime minister has hit out at three blogs critical of the government, ordering that those behind them be ''seriously punished''.

A statement on a government website said PM Nguyen Tan Dung had ordered police to investigate and take action against those responsible.

He has also ordered civil servants not to read the blogs, which he said, had "agitated against... the state".

Media in Vietnam is state-owned and operates under strict regulations.

Three blogs - including the popular Dan Lam Bao (People Doing Journalism) and Quan Lam Bao (Officials Doing Journalism) - were named in the government statement.

"This is a wicked plot of the hostile forces,'' the statement said, adding that the blogs had "slandered the country's leadership, fabricated and distorted information, agitated against the party and the state, and caused suspicion and mistrust in society".

'Secret world'

Two of the blogs said they would keep publishing, with one saying its bloggers were prepared to be jailed.

The government, which does not allow freedom of expression, has been under pressure from a number of blogs and bloggers over corruption cases or human rights issues.

"Dan Lam Bao and its companions are prepared to be repressed and imprisoned rather than leading the life of a dumb dog that dares not to bark, subservient to those who abuse their power," one of the blogs being targeted said in response to the statement.

Quan Lam Bao began publishing only in May but quickly became one of the most popular blogs in Vietnam.

It mostly publishes unverified sensational news about the power struggle at the top of the leadership and details of personal lives of Communist Party leaders, says the BBC's Nga Pham.

In an atmosphere lacking information and transparency, it offers a glimpse - albeit unsourced in many cases - into the secret world of these leaders, our correspondent says.

The blog also clearly targets the prime minister and this may be the reason why he is targeting the blog, she adds.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Vietnamese government of jailing dozens of bloggers and peaceful activists.

In July, the mother of a prominent blogger died after setting herself on fire to protest against the detention of her daughter, Ta Phong Tan, who is among a group of bloggers facing charges of anti-state propaganda.-British Broadcasting Corporation (September 13, 2012)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thailand faces flood disaster again

Up to a quarter of Thailand's provinces, including the tourist resort of Ayutthaya, have been inundated by floodwaters amid concerns the government failed to act fast enough to strengthen flood defenses after last year's devastating floods.

Thousands have fled their homes in Northern Thailand after heavy rain caused a major river to overflow at the start of the month, sending up to a meter of water into some towns. So far, four people have died.

Scenes of residents wading through waist-high water and stacking large sandbags around shops and homes in Sukhothai, about 430 km north of the capital Bangkok, are a stark reminder of last year's floods that killed more than 800 people.

Thailand registered just 0.1 percent annual growth in 2011, largely as a result of the floods which swept down into Bangkok.

Although the latest flooding is not as bad as a year ago, another disaster could deal a blow to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Puea Thai government which came under fire for mismanaging the 2011 crisis. 

Industrial estates have scrambled to build flood walls and dredge nearby canals in time for this year's rainy season, but other parts of the country remain vulnerable to sudden inundation.

“Barriers designed to prevent the Yom river from overflowing were in need of repair but this wasn't done after last year's floods,'' Plodprasop Suraswadi, Thailand's Water and Flood Management Commission, told local radio on Wednesday referring to a main river in the north. 

Flood defenses at seven key industrial zones were badly hit in 2011, crippling Thailand's electronics and auto sectors and crushing foreign investor confidence.

“Japanese companies are satisfied with the earth flood barriers we built this year and we're ready if water reaches us,'' said Somnuk Sansomboonsuk, director and project manager of Hi-Tech Industrial Estate, 60 km from Bangkok.-The Standard  (September 12, 2012 17:35)

Clean energy expo opens in Bangkok

Thailand – Close to 100 industry leaders and global energy experts gathered yesterday at the Clean Energy Expo Asia (CEEA) being held at the Centara Grand and Bangkok Convention Center at CentralWorld, Bangkok.

Event organizers led by Koelnmesse noted that renewable energy presents a viable option for Asian countries to meet ever increasing energy demand. With an abundance of natural resources, governments across Asia are putting in place strategies to decrease reliance on fossil fuel and promote the development of clean energy sources, it said.

Michael Dreyer, vice president, Asia Pacific, Koelnmesse, said: “Renewable and sustainable energy remains a key concern globally and a top priority in the region. Asia is rapidly moving to establish robust energy policies that will drive the future of clean energy in the region. This year, Clean Energy Expo Asia makes its way to Thailand, aligning itself with the flourishing clean energy landscape in the Greater Mekong subregion. ThaIland is fast emerging as a hub for clean energy project development and the growing number of clean energy projects in the neighboring ASEAN countries further underlines the nation’s role in advancing clean energy solutions. Staging Clean Energy Expo Asia in Thailand brings participants closer to rising opportunities in these markets.”

Koelnmesse is one of the world’s largest trade fair organizers and its international trade fairs are widely acknowledged as global leaders in their fields.

Supawan Teerat, exhibition director of Thailand’s Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) said: “As the government agency operating directly under the Prime Minister’s Office, TCEB is responsible for promoting meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. Exhibitions are vital to the country’s economy and industry development. Clean Energy Expo Asia 2012 adds to TCEB’s success in attracting a major regional show to Thailand for the first time. Clean Energy Expo Asia’s show profile fits into Thailand’s national agenda in energy and it brings limitless potential to ASEAN.

As such, TCEB is working closely as a consultant and partner with the organizer, Koelnmesse to provide full event support. This includes market study support, links to private sectors and government agencies, as well as being part of the buyer appreciation program: Be My Guest. This program seeks to attract potential international buyers to CEEA 2012.”

Phichai Tinsuntisook, chairman of the Renewable Energy Industry Club, Federation of Thai Industries, said: “CEEA 2012 will further accelerate Thailand’s plans of becoming a leader in the renewable energy landscape in Asia. Our collaboration with Koelnmesse combines the expertise of a well-known organizer of global trade fairs and conferences with Thailand’s strong pipeline of renewable energy projects. The Renewable Energy Industry Club of the Federation of Thai Industries and its members strongly support CEEA 2012 through our participation in the exhibition pavilion and conference as well as through the organization of the technical visits and clinics.”

China will also be well represented on the Trade Floor this year. Among those exhibiting for the first time at Clean Energy Expo Asia is China’s Yunnan Tianda Photovoltaic Co., Ltd., one of the first and largest professional companies in China that provides solar modules and photovoltaic systems.

Dreyer said Clean Energy Expo Asia will delve into the business, finance, policy and commercialization aspects of sustainable energy. Close to 100 exhibitors from 16 countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines are participating in the CEEA.-The Philippine Star (September 13, 2012 12:00AM)

Phl assures Asian neighbors on fight vs graft

The Philippines, through the Office of the Ombudsman, assured Southeast Asian nations and other countries of its commitment to work with foreign counterparts in fighting graft and corruption in government.

Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael, representing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, joined a three-day international workshop on international cooperation and mutual legal assistance in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The workshop provides insights on the practices and policies of varying jurisdictions regarding international cooperation as well as a venue by which enforcement authorities may strengthen linkages for effective and speedy investigation of criminal offenses, especially graft and corruption, and the recovery of illicit wealth, according to Micael.

He said that as a rule, the Philippines does not decline requests for mutual legal assistance, “be they treaty or non-treaty based, on the ground of absence of dual criminality.”

Micael, who works for the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the prosecutorial arm of the Office of the Ombudsman, said one example of a successful team up resulted in the remittance to the United Kingdom of $730,000 in laundered funds in relation to a fraud case in 2003.

“This case involved two legal persons, particularly corporations, which were established to launder funds that were fraudulently obtained from a London-based company,” he explained.

Micael bragged of how the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was able to remit in 2004 $110,000 to the United States representing funds laundered in the Philippines in relation to a murder and insurance fraud case.

In order to further strengthen international cooperation in fighting crime, he said the Philippines hopes to forge more treaties on mutual legal assistance as well as extradition.-The Philippine Star (September 13, 2012 12:00AM)

WORLD NEWS: US urges calm after China sends ships to disputed islands bought by Japan

The United States called Tuesday for calm between Japan and China after Beijing sent ships to disputed islands in the East China Sea in response to Tokyo's purchase of them.

"We think, in the current environment, we want cooler heads to prevail, frankly," said Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Campbell, echoing remarks this weekend by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the end of a tour of Asia, said that calm was critical because the region serves as a "cockpit of the global economy."

"The stakes could not be bigger," Campbell said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

"We believe that peaceful dialogue and the maintenance of peace and security is of utmost importance always but particularly now in this set of circumstances," Campbell said.

In line with repeated US statements, Campbell said that Washington did not take positions on the various and increasingly bitter territorial disputes around Asia.

China said that it was dispatching two marine surveillance ships to "assert its sovereignty" over the islands in the East China Sea known in Chinese as the Diaoyu and in Japan as the Senkaku islands.

The move came after Japan said it would nationalize the islands through a purchase from private Japanese landowners. The islands lie near potentially lucrative mineral resources and are strategically close to the Taiwan Strait.

Asia has been riveted by a series of disputes including tensions in the South China Sea and a flare-up between US allies Japan and South Korea over islets in the Sea of Japan, which Koreans call the East Sea.

Clinton, speaking Sunday at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vladivostok, Russia, said that she urged Japan and South Korea to "lower the temperature and work together."

More broadly in Asia, Clinton warned that it was "not in the interest of the United States or the rest of the world to raise doubts and uncertainties about the stability and peace in the region."-Interaksyon (September 12, 2012)

Philippines – Korea Inked ₱3 Billion Puerto Princesa Airport Modernization

The gateway to one of the Philippines' trendiest destinations will soon get a makeover.

The declaration of Palawan's Underground River as one of the "7 New Wonders of the World" has drawn record numbers of tourists to the nation's westernmost province.

But their introduction to the province is a congested backwater airport.

This may soon fade as a bygone era, with a recently signed agreement between Seoul and Manila.

South Korea agreed to support the development and rehabilitation of Puerto Princesa Airport by providing a $71.6-million US Dollar loan ₱2,968,894,000.00 Billion pesos as official development assistance or ODA.

Philippines and South Korea signed last month the loan agreement covering the financial side of giving the Puerto Princesa Airport a makeover – officially called the Puerto Princesa Airport Development Project of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

The Department of Finance on Wednesday said that Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima signed the agreement on August 23 on behalf of the Philippine government. Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) chairman and President Yong Hwan Kim signed on behalf of the Republic of Korea.

The money would finance the construction of a new passenger terminal with facilities and a new access road.

Part of the money will also help improve the runway and finance navigational aids to cover the increasing number of domestic and international flights to and from Puerto Princesa.

Once complete, the project is expected to revitalize the transport and trade linkages within the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area or BIMP-EAGA, Purisima said.

The $71.6-million US Dollar loan (₱2,968,894,000.00 Billion pesos) is the second deal KEXIM and the Philippine government signed this year.

A $207.88-million loan agreement for the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II of the National Irrigation Administration was clinched last month between KEXIM and the Philippine government.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (September 12, 2012)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Phl-US amphibious landing drills set next month

Around 3,000 Filipino and American soldiers will participate in the annual Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) to be held next month in various parts of the country.

1Lt. Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the Philippine Marine Corps, said the exercises will be held from Oct. 8 to 18 in Crow Valley in Tarlac, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Ternate in Cavite, Subic in Zambales, and Palawan.

Tindog said 1,200 Filipino soldiers and 2,000 to 2,500 troops from the United States military will be involved in the event.

“The objective of PHIBLEX is to enhance our interoperability, improve our military relationship (with the US) and improve our disaster response capability,” she said.

Tindog said only humanitarian and civic action programs will be conducted in Palawan, a province facing the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Humanitarian activities in PHIBLEX include the construction of school buildings and distribution of school supplies to students in far-flung areas.

The West Philippine Sea is the subject of a territorial row among the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

The Philippines is claiming several islets, shoals, reefs and sandbars in the Spratly group of islands in the West Philippine Sea.

China claims virtually the entire area while Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

The opening ceremony of PHIBLEX will be held in Subic on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.

Tindog said boat raid, boat handling and jungle survival drills will be held in Ternate while amphibious assault training will be conducted in Crow Valley.

Participating soldiers are expected to undergo artillery exercises in Fort Magsaysay, the headquarters of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division.

Tindog said some US soldiers have arrived as early as last week to start engineering projects.

Personnel from all major services will participate in the PHIBLEX.

“The trainings are very holistic. We want to maximize the benefits we will obtain from he exercises,” Tindog said.-The Philippine Star (September 12, 2012 12:00AM)

13 Asians saved off El Salvador after 40 days adrift

Thirteen Asians who spent 40 days adrift in the Pacific after their ship's engine broke down have been rescued by a Salvadoran trawler, immigration authorities said Monday.

A statement from the General Directorate of Migration said they were 11 Vietnamese and two Indonesians.

They were spotted September 3 by the fishing boat, and their ship was towed to waters near the Salvadoran port city of La Union where it arrived Sunday, the directorate said.

The sailors were granted transit permission to travel to San Salvador airport to return home.-Interaksyon (September 11, 2012)