US DEFENSE CHIEF VISITING PHILIPPINES FOR TALKS WITH SENIOR OFFICIALS — PENTAGON
MANILA — US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III will visit the Philippines to reaffirm defense ties and bilateral relations between the two countries, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
This comes hours after President Rodrigo Duterte in a prerecorded address aired Monday night said that the extension of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the termination of which was put on hold for another six months in June, is still "on the table."
The president has threatened to go ahead with junking the decades-old agreement unless the US sends more vaccines or pays the Philippines for the use of facilities.
"I just want to...speak or communicate or I just want to talk to some people in Washington, be it from the Office of the President or the State Department or the Defense Department," Duterte said partially in Filipino.
"Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III departs on a trip Friday, July 23 to visit Alaska, Singapore, Hanoi and Manila," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement. "Throughout his trip, Secretary Austin will meet with key leaders to reaffirm defense relationships and conduct bilateral meetings with senior officials."
"Secretary Austin’s visit will demonstrate the importance the Biden-Harris Administration places on Southeast Asia and on ASEAN as an essential part of the Indo-Pacific’s architecture," the Pentagon also said.
"This trip will underscore the enduring US commitment to the region, and our interest in upholding the rules-based international order in the region and promoting ASEAN centrality."
DUTERTE DENIES CHINA HELPED IN 2016 ELECTIONS; THREATENS TO SUE EX TOP DIPLOMAT
MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte denied on Monday that China helped him win the presidency in 2016.
Del Rosario earlier said he believes Duterte's actions "fit into a disturbing pattern of loyalty to a foreign power."
Duterte rejected such an allegation.
“Daldal ka ng daldal diyan, anong China magtulong sakin? Gago ka, saan mo nakuha iyan? Sixteen million, makuha mo ng tulong mula sa ibang bayan? Sixteen million mabili mo? Ang aking majority ay 6 million over, lahat 16 million. Sixteen million voted, 6 million of that if my majority over your friend," the president said during his weekly recorded public address.
Duterte also threatened to press charges against Del Rosario for allegedly ceding control of the Scarborough Shoal to China during his term.
According to Duterte, Del Rosario is guilty of treason, and even questioned the latter's nationality.
"Alam mo ikaw Albert, Alberto, 'pag nasilip ko lang na mayroon ka. . . I will charge you for sa, marami akong idedemanda sa'yo," he said.
"I have not, for the life of me, sued anybody, libel or anything during my 23 years, 4 years as congressman, tapos vice mayor hanggang presidente, pero ikaw ang hahabulin ko kasi ikaw ang nagtransmit ng message."
"You are, in olden times, kung at war lang tayo sana, you are guilty of treason. Kaya nga pala kasi hindi ka Filipino. Kung saan ka napulot, bakit itsura mo? Hindi ka talaga Filipino sa totoo lang.
"I want to see you personally. Where can I meet you? Saan ka ba nagkakape-kape? Ibuhos ko 'yang kape sa mukha mo."
Back in May, Duterte threatened to execute Del Rosario "by hanging" after the former top diplomat urged him to stand up to Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
Del Rosario earlier said a "most reliable international entity" had informed him that senior Chinese officials were "bragging that they had been able to influence the 2016 Philippine elections so that Duterte would be president."
Del Rosario, a key player in the Philippines' landmark arbitration victory against Beijing's sweeping South China Sea claims, did not elaborate on the source of the information he said he received in early 2019, how it was obtained, or how China might have influenced the election outcome.
Duterte spokesperson Harry Roque, in his regular briefing, described Del Rosario's remarks as "nonsense" and called him a "proven traitor."
LORENZANA: CHINESE NAVY SHIP SPOTTED NEAR PALAWAN LEFT PROMPTLY TO AVOID INCIDENT
MANILA — Recent reports of Chinese vessels leaving Philippine waters after being challenged may be to avoid incidents, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Monday night.
Lorenzana made the comment after President Rodrigo Duterte asked about an encounter last week between coast guard patrol vessel BRP Cabra and a Chinese navy ship at Marie Louise Bank off El Nido, Palawan and in the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte noted in Filipino that the Chinese navy ship and five Chinese fishing vessels earlier challenged in the area were "easy to get rid of."
He said: "Talagang pinaalis sila (they were really asked to leave) and they readily, well, agreed to the suggestion of the Coast Guard to move away from the territorial waters."
Responding in Filipino, Lorenzana said: "Ah, Mr. President, my suspicion is that they left because they were nearing Palawan and that is already not contested, it belongs to us. So that's one [reason]."
"Second, it seems as if they don't want to have an incident there involving their naval ships because they are using their naval ships while what we are using is the civilian coast guard ship. So those could be the reasons why they did not want a confrontation and left instead," the defense secretary also said.
EID AL-ADHA: DUTERTE PRAISES SACRIFICE; ROBREDO HIGHLIGHTS SHARED HUMANITY
MANILA — As Muslim Filipinos celebrate Eid al-Adha in quarantine, President Rodrigo Duterte highlighted the value of sacrifice while Vice President Leni Robredo called for solidarity and and a sense of shared humanity.
In a message, Duterte said the Feast of the Sacrifice, which celebrates the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice his son at Allah's command, "remains a fervent reminder to our people that, even amidst life's difficulties and challenges, our sacrifices have profound value and meaning."
"It is my sincere hope that our Muslim brothers and sisters will find renewed faith and spirituality, especially when called to emulate Ibrahim's devotion to his belief."
He said that he stands with Filipino Muslims in "pursuing our shared goal of building a society that transcends religious, political and cultural barriers."
In a separate message, the vice president said: "As we mark the Feast of Sacrifice this year, let us come together in solidarity, shared humanity and the common good."
Eid al-Adha is one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic calendar. It marks the end of the annual pilgrimage or hajj to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
"This day is a celebration of faith and its ability to endow us with the courage to meet any challenge. As we have seen countless times during this pandemic, there are more things that bring us together than tear us apart — kindness, compassion, and the genuine desire for a world where people of all faiths thrive and flourish under a banner of hope."
"Let us hold fast to these values as we journey towards the vision of a better normal. Though the road may be long, I know that the Filipino has the resolve to reach this aspiration," the vice president also said.
"May the Peace of Allah be with us all."
DOJ CHIEF: VP NOT IMMUNE FROM SUIT
MANILA — A vice president is not immune from legal action, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said yesterday.
“When Vice President (Leni) Robredo was included in sedition charges in 2019 in connection with alias Bikoy’s allegations, I remarked that the Vice President was not immune from suit under the present Constitution. My opinion on the matter has not changed,” Guevarra said.
He noted that the complaint against Robredo was “eventually dismissed by the panel of prosecutors for insufficiency of evidence, not on account of immunity.”
“Please note that I am not commenting on President Duterte’s recent statement about his belief on the vice president’s immunity from suit, which I consider as part of a political statement rather than a legal conclusion on his part,” Guevarra added.
Malacañang, however, believes that Duterte’s statement can trigger efforts to determine whether such a privilege can be extended to the second highest post.
“Let’s just say perhaps this is an opportunity to provoke jurisprudence,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.
NOGRALES: CUSI GROUP REACHING OUT TO KOKO, PACMAN
MANILA — The camp of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi continues to reach out to Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Manny Pacquiao, according to PDP-Laban executive vice president and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
Nograles said Pacquiao, who was ousted as acting party president during the PDP-Laban assembly last weekend at Clark in Pampanga, and Pimentel remain as party members and that there are ongoing efforts to reach out to them.
“We’ve always invited them to the meetings. In fact, even if Senator Pacquiao... is training for his fight, we’ve invited him to attend the Zoom meetings so he can voice out his views. And of course, for Senator Pimentel, we continue to reach out to him from the very beginning,” Nograles said.
“So we still continue to open the doors to both of them and in fact in the national council meeting, there was even a suggestion to create a council of elders and one of the proposed members.. (was) Sen. Koko Pimentel,” he added.
NO FACE-TO-FACE CLASSES YET IN SCHOOL OPENING
MANILA — There will be no face-to-face classes in public schools when school year 2021-2022 opens on Sept. 13.
President Duterte only allowed blended learning in all schools for the scheduled September class opening, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in a Laging Handa virtual press briefing yesterday.
“I want to clarify that the President only approved blended learning. He has not approved face-to-face,” Briones said in a mix of Filipino and English.
“What we are asking for, what we are proposing, and which is also being endorsed by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) is pilot face-to-face classes,” she said. “So when we start with the opening of classes, we will not endanger schoolchildren because it will still be blended learning.”
Briones said the President also has yet to approve their proposal for pilot testing of face-to-face classes in 100 schools.
8 PINOYS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 DELTA VARIANT AFTER RETESTING: DOH
MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday said 8 Filipinos tested positive for the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 after they underwent RT-PCR retesting.
Of the 8 active Delta variant cases, 4 are in Cagayan de Oro, 1 is in Manila, another 1 is in Misamis Oriental, while 2 others are Filipinos who arrived from abroad, DOH spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
"Lahat sila ay walang sintomas. Sila ay mino-monitor ngayon hanggang matapos nila ang 14-day quarantine," she said in an online press conference.
The DOH initially said that of the 35 Filipinos who were infected with the Delta variant, 2 have died while the rest have recovered from the disease.
NCR mayors, MMDA want minors banned outdoors again amid Delta threat
Metro Manila mayors and the Metro Manila Development Authority again want to bar children at least 5 years old from being outdoors as the Delta COVID-19 variant threatens the country.
In a taped briefing on Monday, MMDA Chairman Benhur Abalos told the country's inter-agency task force on COVID-19 that the proposal was arrived at unanimously by National Capital Region mayors.
"Sila ay posible po maging superspreaders (They are potential superspreaders)," Abalos said, citing children have not been immunized.
In an interview Tuesday on ABS-CBN's Teleradyo, MMC chairman Parañaque mayor Edwin Olivarez added: "Alam naman po natin ito pong mga bata ang mga superspreaders, asymptomatic yan paguwi sa bahay yayakap sa kanilang lolo, nanay nila, napakahirap po noon."
The IATF's decision on the matter is expected within a day, according to Olivarez.
"Tinitingnan pa ho natin ang ating preparedness para sa variant na ito, preparedness ng ating healthcare facilities," he added.
The mayors had also decided to prohibit children aged 5 and above outdoors again following the detection of 3 Delta variant cases in the capital region, Abalos said.
"Nakita naman po natin na 3 kaso nasa NCR na po. Sa amin pong talaan ay talaga pong tumaas ang mga kaso sa NCR at ito ay inamin naman po ni (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque kagabi," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
PHILIPPINES COVID-19 CASES UPDATE
Health authorities record 5,651 new coronavirus infections in the Philippines, pushing the national caseload to 1,513,396.
Recoveries: 5,332 new; 1,439,049 total
Deaths: 72 new; 26,786 total
Active cases: 47,561 or 3.1% of total
LAS PIÑAS VACCINATION UP BY 205%
MANILA — The move of Las Piñas City Rep. Camille Villar to give away raffle prizes, including a brand new house and lot, proved to be effective in encouraging more residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Villar’s office reported that the number of inoculated residents increased by 205 percent a month after the congresswoman launched “May bahay sa bakuna” incentive program.
Based on data from the city health office, Villar said 100,535 residents have been fully vaccinated as of July 15, up from 32,971 fully inoculated individuals on June 14.
Of the total 313,045 vaccinees, 100,535 were fully vaccinated while 212,510 got their first dose.
Las Piñas ranked second among 17 local government units in Metro Manila with a vaccine utilization rate of 95.74 percent.
“I am so happy and overwhelmed by the response of the residents to this program as we ensure to get as many people as possible to get vaccinated,” said Villar, who led the first monthly raffle draw last week.
SAN ROQUE DAM HITS CRITICAL LEVEL
URDANETA CITY — The San Roque Dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan has not released water for irrigation since July 15 due to low water level.
In an advisory released recently, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said there was also no generation of the contracted power capacity of 115 megawatts by the San Roque Power Corp. (SRPC).
“This unwanted situation may prevail until sufficient amount of rainfall will occur at the San Roque Dam watershed,” the NIA said.
Tom Valdez, SRPC vice president for corporate affairs, said the dam’s water level was at 225.40 meters above sea level, which was not sufficient to generate power.
Power generation will resume as soon as the water level rises, Valdez said, adding that rains brought by tropical storm Fabian irrigated the farms.
A similar situation happened in 2007 when the reservoir elevation dropped to 225.42 meters.
FABIAN INTENSIFIES; FLOOD ALERT RAISED
MANILA — The state weather bureau warned residents of western Luzon yesterday of possible floods and landslides due to monsoon rains triggered by severe Tropical Storm Fabian and another storm outside the Philippine area of responsibility.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said moderate to heavy rains will be experienced in the next 24 hours over the Ilocos region, Zambales, Bataan, Occidental Mindoro and Palawan.
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the center of Fabian was located 1,075 kilometers east northeast of extreme Northern Luzon, packing winds of 95 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 115 kph.
Fabian (international name In-fa) was “almost stationary” over the sea, the agency said in its 5 p.m. bulletin.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Cempaka was estimated at 945 kms. west northwest of extreme Northern Luzon as of 4 p.m., with maximum sustained winds of 75 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph.
It was moving northwest slowly.
PAGASA said the southwest monsoon will also bring moderate to rough seas (1.5 to 3.1-meter waves) over the western seaboard of Palawan, including the Kalayaan Islands.
The agency advised residents and disaster managers in Batanes and Babuyan Islands to continuously monitor the tropical cyclone bulletins as any further southward shift in the track of Fabian may result in the hoisting of tropical cyclone wind signal No. 1 over these areas.
Fabian, the country’s sixth tropical cyclone, was forecast to exit the Philippine area of responsibility by Thursday afternoon or evening.
ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE
'MY AMANDA' IS MOST POPULAR PINOY TITLE ON NETFLIX PH
MANILA – Piolo Pascual and Alessandra de Rossi’s movie “My Amanda” is currently the most popular Filipino title on Netflix Philippines.
The movie is about unusually close best friends, TJ (Pascual) and Amanda (de Rossi), with pet names Fuffy and Fream, as they go through the motions of their relationship as long-time best friends while dealing with their own complicated relationships.
De Rossi wore many hats while working on “My Amanda.” Aside from being the lead actress opposite Pascual, she was also its director, writer and one of the producers.
Producer Spring Films reported that "My Amanda" was also the top film on Netflix in Qatar and United Arab Emirates.
While she described the whole experience as fun, De Rossi admitted in an interview last July 7 that it was challenging for her to fulfill so many tasks.
Nonetheless, she would love to wear the director’s hat again in the future.
De Rossi previously described the film as a “gift” for Pascual, whom she credited for turning her life around when he produced her indie blockbuster “Kita Kita.”
“My Amanda” was originally planned for release in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed that schedule.
It made its global premiere via Netflix on July 15.
TEAM PHILIPPINES SET UP SHOP IN OLYMPIC VILLAGE
Filipino athletes have made their presence felt at the Olympic Village in Tokyo, hanging up the country's flags and banners ahead of the formal opening of the Summer Games on July 23.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz shared a photo of their set up at the Olympic Village, as well as a photo of herself and gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo.
Several members of the Philippine delegation are already at the Village, with swimmers Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule among the latest to arrive on Monday.
On her Instagram page, track star Kristina Knott also revealed that she is on her way to Japan.
Team Philippines begins its campaign on July 23 with rower Cris Nievarez competing in the heats of the men's single sculls.
Meanwhile, judoka Kiyomi Watanabe and boxer Eumir Marcial will carry the flag during the Opening Ceremonies.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
We get our most important education not through books but through our work. We are developed by our daily task, or else demoralized by it, as by nothing else. - Anna Garlin Spencer