Tropical Storm Tembin Heads to Vietnam

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WEATHER CHANNEL)

 

Hundreds of Thousands Evacuated as Deadly Tropical Storm Tembin Heads to Vietnam

By Associated Press
Dec 24 2017 09:15 AM EST
weather.com

Story Highlights

Hundreds of thousands in Vietnam have been forced to evacuate ahead of Tropical Storm Tembin’s arrival.

More than 160 people are dead and over 160 are missing in the Philippines due to the storm.

Tembin caused deadly flash floods and landslides in the Philippines.

It s expected to strengthen as it tracks westward.

Hundreds of thousands of residents in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam were told to evacuate Monday as deadly Tropical Storm Tembin tracks westward from the Philippines.

Officials say several hundreds of thousands fled their homes, a majority of which are made of tin sheets and wooden panels. In Vung Tau city, thousands of fishing boats were forced to halt their several-month-long trips to return to the shore.

Tembin caused more than 160 deaths and left 171 missing after it lashed the southern Philippines, triggering flash floods and landslides.

Most of the deaths from Tropical Storm Tembin were in the hard-hit provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur and on the Zamboanga Peninsula, according to an initial government report on storm casualties.

It’s the latest disaster to hit the Philippines, which is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon belt one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

(MORE: Southern California’s Thomas Fire Now Largest in State History)

A search and rescue operation was underway for more than 30 people swept away by flash floods in the fishing village of Anungan, Mayor Bong Edding of Zamboanga del Norte province’s Sibuco town said by phone. Five bodies have been recovered so far in the village.

The rest of the deaths were reported in Lanao del Norte, where floodwaters from a mountain also swept away several riverside houses and villagers, and Lanao del Sur, police and officials said.

Lanao del Norte officials reported the highest death toll at 64 with 139 missing followed by Zamboanga del Norte province, where officials reported at least 29 storm deaths with 19 others missing. The storm left 21 dead and one missing in the lakeside province of Lanao del Sur, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government.

More than 97,000 people remain in 261 evacuation centers across the south, while nearly 85,000 more people are displaced and staying elsewhere as of Monday.

An inter-island ferry sank off northeastern Quezon province last week after being lashed by fierce winds and big waves, leaving at least five people dead. More than 250 passengers and crewmen were rescued.

Tembin, known locally as Vinta, strengthened and picked up speed late Saturday, packing maximum sustained winds of 105 kilometers (65 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 145 kph (90 mph). It struck the southern section of western Palawan province late Saturday and is forecast to blow away from the southern Philippines on Sunday toward the South China Sea.

1 of 8

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

Philippines Mall Dozens Trapped and Feared Dead in Fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

At least 37 people were trapped inside a burning shopping mall in the southern Philippines city of Davao. The cause of the fire remains unknown. CreditYas D. Ocampo, via Reuters

MANILA — Fire crews battling an enormous blaze that tore through a shopping mall in a southern city in the Philippines, trapping at least 37 people, pulled one body from the building, the mayor said on Sunday.

But the vice mayor said there was “zero” chance of survival for the other 36.

Firefighters have been unable to enter the mall in Davao City after the fire started on Saturday morning, the vice mayor, Paolo Duterte, said.

“Our firemen are still struggling to find a way in as the fire is still burning,” Mr. Duterte said. He said of those still trapped inside, “Their chances of survival is zero.”

Mayor Inday Sara Duterte said that one body had been recovered and that rescuers’ priority was now to find all those who are missing.

“Do not stop until you find the 37,” she said, calling the mall fire “an unfortunate incident.”

Photo

The blaze began Saturday morning. Twenty-four hours later the fire continued to burn, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter the building. CreditManman Dejeto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The blaze erupted as city officials and emergency-relief workers were trying to rescue survivors of flash floods and landslides unleashed by Tropical Storm Tembin elsewhere in the region. The storm slammed into the eastern portion of Mindanao late Thursday, dumping torrential rains.

Continue reading the main story

By Sunday, the death toll stood at 231, officials said, with scores more missing.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the father of Davao City’s mayor and vice mayor, visited the mall on Saturday night and met with family members of those inside. Photographs released by his office showed him consoling relatives and wiping tears from his eyes.

The president, who was previously mayor of Davao City and was in town for the holidays, “assured the relatives of the victims that the government would extend help,” said Harry Roque, Mr. Duterte’s spokesman.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Officials said the blaze started near a furniture store on the building’s third floor. Many locals were doing their Christmas shopping, and employees were wrapping up their workweek before the holiday. Officials said many of the people trapped inside worked at a call center inside the mall.

More than 24 hours later, the building remained on fire and was too dangerous to enter, the authorities said.

“We are currently coordinating with the authorities,” said Thea Septaan Padua, a spokeswoman for the mall, adding that for now, no deaths had been confirmed.

The authorities have been on heightened alert amid fears that Islamist militants could target shopping malls and other public areas. In September, when the president was visiting Davao, militants who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State bombed a night market in the city, killing 15 people.

Tropical Storm Tembin Leaves At Least 75 Dead In Philippines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Tropical Storm Tembin hit the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines on Fridaykilling at least 75 people, authorities said.

At least 58 people have been reported missing, according to spokeswoman Mina Marasigan of the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
More than 70,000 people have been affected by Tembin, called “Vinta” in the Philippines. At least 30,000 people were taken to shelters, Marasigan said.
Heavy rain from the storm led to the collapse of artificial dams, which prompted widespread flooding and triggered landslides in the mountains.
Most of the deaths occurred in Lanao del Norte, with additional ones in several other towns, including Payao and Lanao del Sur, the affiliate reported
close dialog
Receive Fareed Zakaria’s Global Analysis
including insights and must-reads of world news
Activate Fareed’s Briefing
By subscribing you agree to our
privacy policy.

Rescue workers evacuate flood-affected residents in Davao on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao after Tropical Storm Tembin dumped torrential rains across the island.

Other fatalities included a 4-year-old who died after being trapped in a landslide in Payao and a prisoner killed when the jail’s roof collapsed due to strong winds and rains in Butuan City, CNN Philippines reported, citing the Philippine Red Cross.

Police officers evacuate a baby in Cagayan city after Tropical Storm Tembin hit.

By Saturday morning, Tembin was packing maximum sustained winds of 80 kph (50 mph). The storm is headed toward the island province of Palawan, according to Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration.

Tropical Storm Unleashes Deadly Destruction on Philippines

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Tropical Storm Unleashes Deadly Destruction on Philippines Four Years After Super Typhoon Haiyan

Screenshot from local news coverage of tropical storm Kai-Tak (local name Urduja) by PTV Philippines.

Philippine officials reported that at least 46 people were killed while another 28 are still missing after tropical storm Kai-Tak (local name Urduja) battered Eastern Visayas, the region hardest hit by super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) four years ago.

Eastern Visayas is composed of the three main islands Biliran, Leyte, and Samar, which are the easternmost islands of the central Philippine island group of Visayas. Facing the Pacific Ocean to its east, the region is the typical entry point of tropical storms to the Philippines.

Most of the people killed or missing — mostly by landslides, authorities say — hail from the province of Biliran, which posted 25 dead and 25 missing people. Over 44,000 families have been evacuated and at least 16,000 passengers were stranded in various areas of the Philippines.

Tropical storm Kai-Tak caused damage to five bridges that effectively cut off Biliran from Leyte and the rest of the region, thus posing challenges on the bringing of heavy equipment and supplies to the island.

Activist Joshua Musico Sagdullas writes for Eastern Visayas-based alternative news site Eastern Vista to ask if the new government has learned any lesson at all from the devastation wrought by super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013:

What we expected was for the rain to pour and winds to howl, we thought work would be suspended for a day or two and some roads impassable due to slight debris pile up. We would never have thought the storm would cause evacuation-efforts spanning three regions or paralyzed the economy of close to three provinces in Eastern Visayas.

Netizens and journalists have used the hashtag #UrdujaPH on social media to give updates on the storm and post photos of its impact. Groups have also taken to social media to call for donations and disaster relief efforts, especially for some of the most affected areas like Biliran.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Photos: Pinsalang iniwan ni Bagyong Urduja sa Leyte

The dead left by typhoon Urduja in Leyte.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Queue of stranded vehicles outside Matnog Port in Sorsogon reaches 4 km. (📸 MDRRMO Matnog) |  @InquirerSLB

Netizens have also asked if Kai-Tak’s impact on Biliran was further magnified by the presence of sulfur mining in the area. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau has warnedabout the threat of landslides in Biliran ahead of Kai-Tak’s appearance.

May sulphur mining man daw ha iyo 💔

Tungod ha ira, damo nagkamatay. Dre la sulphur mining it nagaganap ha Biliran. Sana maging sensitive it Province ngan LGU para ma-address it mga sugad na issue, ginhihinay hinay la nira pagguba ht Biliran. 💔

Many died because of this. Sulphur mining is happening in Biliran. Hopefully the provincial local government unit would be sensitive and address this issue. They are slowly destroying Biliran.

: Melanie Bingco gives updates on the situation in Biliran amid pic.twitter.com/vA6fwVNny6

My Sulfur mining sa bundok ng Biliran province 35 years na ako ngaun lang ngyari sa province namin ito.. Nakakaiyak 😦

There’s sulfur mining in the mountains of Biliran. I’ve been in Biliran province 35 years this happened to our province only now. Heartbreaking.

But even as tropical storm Kai-Tak has already left the Philippines as it moved to the West Philippine Sea, the country is again bracing for the entry of another weather disturbance which is expected to make landfall on Christmas eve.

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Dozens Killed in Philippine Tropical Storm

Sunday, 17 December, 2017 – 11:30
Some 26 people were killed and 23 missing in the Philippines due to landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Tropical Storm Kai-Tak. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat

At least 26 people were killed in the Philippines in landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak, authorities said on Sunday.

Some 23 were missing in the eastern Philippines a day after the storm pounded the archipelago nation.

Kai-Tak tore across the major islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday, toppling power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaging roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.

“There is a total of 26 people dead from landslides in four towns of Biliran. We have recovered the bodies,” Sofronio Dacillo, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told AFP.

Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province just east of Leyte, gave the same figure for deaths in an interview on ABS-CBN television. He said 23 people were missing.

The national disaster risk reduction agency could not immediately confirm if the 26 deaths in Biliran included the initial three fatalities it reported on Saturday.

Kai-Tak weakened on Sunday afternoon, with gusts of up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) an hour, and was reclassified as a tropical depression, state weather forecasters said.

But disaster officials warned that more floods and landslides were possible and said 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region.

“I’ve been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas,” Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told AFP from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon.

The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces.

The nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year.

Samar and Leyte bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Saturday’s storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5 meters (five feet) and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief.

“The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain,” Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban’s disaster risk reduction office, told AFP.

Bernadas said 82 percent of Tacloban’s districts were flooded.

Heavy rains and large waves have stranded at least 11,000 people in various ports in the region, according to the Philippine Coast Guard. More than 10,000 people have fled to evacuation centers, local media reported.

Several provinces were placed under storm warning signals, where heavy rains may persist, the weather bureau said.

Thanks To Trump: The World Wide Winner Is… China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE Philippine INQUIRER.NET)

 

OPINION / COLUMNISTS
  • 58
    SHARES

And the winner is … China

 / 05:22 AM November 19, 2017

At the festival of summits to which the Philippines dutifully played host last week, three basic standpoints by which humanity describes and criticizes the state of affairs in the world vied for space.

The first is the human rights standpoint, the modern version of the value placed by natural law on human dignity and equality, which today is encoded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The second is the semantics of national self-determination, which became deeply entrenched in the era of decolonization. The third is the working-class perspective, which took shape in the last century with the rise of socialism, but is now mostly expressed as a critique of neoliberalism.

These competing viewpoints were not visible in equal measure at these summits. But, the resonance of particular issues, alongside the muted presence of others, gives us a good picture of how today’s leaders are reacting to the complex problems brought about by globalization. These problems include the massive flows of migrants and refugees, terrorism, bigotry, uneven development and sharp inequalities within and across countries, mass poverty, ecological disasters, and war. They are problems that need the kind of global perspective for which multilateral talks might have been suited.

ADVERTISEMENT

But, the hands-down winner in these summits has been the nation-state perspective — and the vocabulary of national sovereignty, noninterference, and peaceful coexistence, in which it is officially articulated. The other name for it is the Chinese template. Rather than global agreements transcending nation-state divides, what we find instead are the bilateral deals by which every country tries to secure from another what it needs for itself.

No one could have formulated this standpoint more bluntly than US President Donald Trump, who had won the presidency on a campaign to put “America first.” Even as he railed at the glaring trade imbalance between the United States and China during his recent official visit to China, he ended up praising his host. To resounding applause, he declared: “After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.” For the abysmal state of affairs in which the United States finds itself today, he blames Barack Obama instead.

Though it sounded like a backhanded compliment, his fawning comment on China’s behavior merely underscores the point that in the end, it is the economic interests of their respective countries that matter most to these world leaders. Not surprisingly, Trump ended his China visit with about $250 billion in commercial deals between American and Chinese companies.

Trump’s deal-making pragmatism may appear to many as a pathetic reversal of America’s defining role in the world as the voice of humanity’s highest ideals. But this is a symptom not only of America’s decline as a world economic power but, more importantly, of the emergence of a world system without a center.

As Trump himself concedes, China has indeed become the model for today’s world. But, make no mistake about it. What this template represents is neither socialism (not even working-class solidarity) nor the primacy of universal values, but, rather, the advantages of a state-led capitalism with an authoritarian face.

On the side of the Asean Summit, there were separate summits with the United Nations and with the European Union. But, compared to the events attended by China, there was little interest in what was taken up at these meetings. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would have been the logical interlocutor for human rights concerns. At the Asean-EU summit, he did speak briefly on the Rohingya crisis, drawing from his experience as former UN High Commissioner on Refugees, and called for humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya. But, while he expressed interest in helping to strengthen the Asean human rights commission, he avoided mentioning extrajudicial killings, speaking at length instead on the threat from terrorism and violent extremism.

European Council President Donald Tusk, who represented the European Union, took more or less the same tack in his address to the Asean leaders. He politely avoided any mention of human rights issues and dwelt almost entirely on the need for international cooperation to combat radicalization and terrorism. This is in stark contrast to the human rights concerns persistently aired by EU delegations in recent months.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only leader who was bold enough to bring up the sensitive matter of EJKs in his brief one-on-one meeting with President Duterte on Nov. 14. He did so in the most courteous way possible, prefacing his remarks with an admission that his own country is guilty of neglect and mistreatment of its indigenous peoples. Trudeau thought that he and Mr. Duterte had “a very cordial and positive exchange.”  But, after he left, Mr. Duterte wasted no time in telling the media what he thought of Trudeau’s human rights comment — “a personal and official insult.”

ADVERTISEMENT

And so this vicious reaction unfolds, where any hint of criticism of another government’s treatment of its own nationals is treated as an insult and an affront to national sovereignty.  Given such a standpoint, one wonders how it is possible — except in the most limited terms — to express any concern for global problems such as the plight of migrant workers, of refugees, of children, and of the millions of victims of racial bigotry, religious oppression, and misogyny across the world.

[email protected]

Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and the latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit http://inquirer.net/asean-2017.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: 31st Asean SummitAseanasean 2017drug killingsextrajudicial killingsJustin TrudeauPublic LivesRandy DavidRodrigo Dutertewar on drugs
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

 

No one can ‘contain’ China: Chinese envoy on US selling arms to India

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

No one can ‘contain’ China: Chinese envoy on US selling arms to India

Political analysts in the west have described the sale of arms to India as a US move to contain China.

INDIA Updated: Oct 31, 2017 10:40 IST

Press Trust of India, Washington
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, US.
US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping walk along the front patio of the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, US.(Reuters File Photo)

The Chinese envoy to the US said on Monday that no one could “contain” China now, expressing his displeasure over the formation of an “exclusive club” in the Indo-Pacific region.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai was responding to questions on the recent India-centric policy speech by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the decision of the Trump administration to sell to India high-tech military equipment, including state-of-the-art armed drones, and the Japanese proposal of a strategic quadrilateral dialogue involving India and Australia.

“I don’t think that the sales of advanced arms would really serve that purpose,” Cui said.

Political analysts in the west have described the sale of arms to India as a US move to contain China.

“By the way I don’t think anybody would be able to contain China,” the Chinese Ambassador asserted in his rare press conference at the Embassy of China here.

The top diplomat was addressing media ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to China early next month.

Trump is scheduled to embark on a 10-day visit to China. He would also visit Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Cui said China is “open to cooperation among the regional countries” for stability and prosperity.

The relationship between China and India “have been developing quite steadily over the years”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said, has always said that Pacific Ocean is large enough to accommodate that development both of China and the US, and the Asia-Pacific region is big enough to accommodate the development of China, India and Japan.

“In this regard I hope all parties will do things conducive to better relations, better mutual trust,” he said.

Without mentioning the recent stand-off between India and China, Cui said he does not think that “confrontation” is in the interest of either of the two countries.

“I’m quite confident that both countries have a clear recognition of what will serve their respective interests best,” he said, responding to a question on India and the move to have a strategic dialogue involving four countries – India, Japan, US and Australia.

Any relationship between any two countries in the region, between any regional country and another country outside of the region should not be a zero sum game, he said when asked about the strengthening of India US relationship, which many say is aimed at China.

“Good relations between China and the US is not at the expense of any other country. The same should be true for relations between US and India and Japan and India,” he said.

It is not in the interest of these countries if their aim is to sort of “contain” China, the top Chinese diplomat said.

Cui said all the regional countries in the Indo-Pacific have shared interests in greater stability, peace and better prospects for prosperity.

In order to achieve that regional countries have to work together and have to promote closer cooperation among them and maybe establish appropriate regional mechanisms, he said.

As such, China is open to cooperation with all its neighbours so that Asia-Pacific will continue to be a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.

“We are following developments in the region very closely and hopefully other countries will have the same approach as we have,” he said, responding to a question on quadrilateral dialogue between India, Japan, US and Australia.

Cui said he does not think that “any attempt to form exclusive clubs in the region following a so-called zero sum approach will help anybody”.

Read more

Five-month Battle with Militants Ends in Philippine’s Marawi

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Five-month Battle with Militants Ends in Philippine’s Marawi

Monday, 23 October, 2017 – 08:00
File photo: Damaged houses and buildings are seen in Marawi city. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters
Asharq Al-Awsat

Five months of military operations against ISIS supporters in the southern Philippines that claimed more than 1,100 lives has ended, defense chiefs said on Monday.

“We now announce the termination of all combat operations in Marawi,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Clark, a northern Philippine city.

“There are no more militants inside Marawi city.”

The conclusion of the conflict ended immediate fears that ISIS would establish a Southeast Asian base in the southern city of Marawi. But concerns remained about its longer-term intentions and capabilities for the region.

Hundreds of local and foreign gunmen who had pledged allegiance to ISIS rampaged through Marawi on May 23. They then took over parts of the city using civilians as human shields.

An ensuing US-backed military campaign claimed the lives of at least 920 militants, 165 soldiers and 47 civilians, according to the military.

More than 400,000 residents were displaced as near-daily air strikes and intense ground combat left large parts of the city in ruins.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte traveled to Marawi on Tuesday last week and declared the city had been “liberated”, a day after the Southeast Asian leader for ISIS, a Filipino militant named Isnilon Hapilon, was shot dead there.

However the continued fighting in subsequent days raised questions over whether the city was indeed free of militants.

“The presence of the Maute-ISIS was confined to two buildings: one of them a mosque,” armed forces chief General Eduardo Ano told reporters on Monday as he explained the situation in Marawi following Duterte’s liberation proclamation.

“That is where the last fighting occurred and that is the place where we rescued (an) additional 20 hostages.

“In that fighting, we gave the chance for these militants and terrorists to surrender. But they fought to the last breath so we had no choice.”

The bodies of 42 militants were recovered after the final battle, including two women and five foreigners, according to Ano.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday praised the Philippines for its success.

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” Mattis told reporters on board a flight to the Philippines to attend the security meeting in Clark.

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China  

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ASIA FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FORBES)

 

Asia #ForeignAffairs

Vietnam Is Becoming Asia’s Most Aggressive Maritime Nation After China

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Activists chant anti-China slogans during a rally in Hanoi on March 14, 2016, to mark the anniversary of a 1988 battle in the Spratly Islands, a rare act of protest over an issue that has come to dog relations between Hanoi and Beijing. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

China has stoked many of Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes by reclaiming land to build artificial islands and, in some cases, adding military infrastructure to those islands. To rub in the message that it has the more power than anyone else in the widely disputed, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea, the Beijing government glibly sails coast guard ships around the exclusive ocean economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Off its east coast, China routinely passes boats through a tract of sea disputed with, and controlled by Japan.

But let’s linger on another country for a second – Vietnam.

A fisherman and his son try to fix the roof of their boat on Thuan Phuoc port in prior to the next fishing trip on August 30, 2016 in Danang, Vietnam. (AFP/Getty image)

The country with a 3,444 kilometer-long coastline shows every sign of being Asia’s second most expansion-minded maritime power after China.

Here’s the evidence:

  • Last year the American Center for Strategic & International Studies said Vietnam had landfilled more South China Sea islets than China itself, though China’s method was probably more destructive. It holds 21 tiny islets in the Spratly archipelago, more than any of its regional rivals.
  • This year Vietnam renewed a deal with the overseas subsidiary of state-owned Indian oil firm ONGC to explore for fossil fuels under the ocean floor. Beijing will likely bristle at this move because it too claims waters off the Vietnamese east coast as part of its position that 95% of the whole sea is Chinese, but Vietnam has not backed down. In any case, India is Vietnam’s new best friend — to wit its call in July to step up a year-old partnership.
  • Vietnamese fishing boats, a large share of the 1.72 million that trawl the South China Sea, have been sent off by other coastal states and as far off as Indonesia and Thailand, scholars who follow the maritime dispute say. Two Vietnamese fishermen turned up dead 34 kilometers from the Philippines last month in what’s believed to be an incident involving an official vessel from Manila. Fish were 10% of Vietnam’s export revenues as of a decade ago, the University of British Columbia says in this study. “Fish stocks in Vietnam have been depleted, so they have to venture further away to continue their business,” says Le Hong Hiep, a fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “As they venture further away it’s easier for them to get into other countries’ waters and they commit illegal fishing.”
  • Vietnam protests when Taiwan makes its presence felt on Taiping Island. Although Taiping is the largest feature in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago, Taiwan has little clout in the bigger sovereignty dispute and has even used its Taiping facilities to help Vietnamese fishermen in distress. But the Vietnamese foreign ministry formally protested at least once in 2016 and again in March this year when Taiwan had a live-fire military drill. “They said Taiwan’s activities violated its sovereignty,” said Huang Kwei-bo, vice dean of the College of International Affairs at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Whenever Taiwan makes a move, Vietnam always protests. It’s been like that all along. Vietnam is pretty assertive.”
  • China has to watch it, too. China is using economic incentives to get along with other South China Sea states but things keep going wrong with Vietnam. In June, a senior Chinese military official cut short his visit to Vietnam as the host was looking for oil in disputed waters, and in August foreign ministers from the two countries cancelled a meeting – presumably over their maritime disputes — on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations event.

Vietnam’s maritime muscle makes a lot of sense. The country of 93 million people is on the move economically, dependent on the sea. Nationalism is growing, too, and citizens believe the government should gun hard for its claims.

In Philippines The Government Says Your Life Is Worth $20.00

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

What’s the Value of Human Rights? According to the Philippines House of Representatives, $20.

Youth protest against drug-related extrajudicial killings. Source: Anakbayan. Used with permission

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez have voted to give 1,000 pesos (20 US dollars) to the 2018 budget of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), a constitutional body tasked to ensure that the state is upholding various human rights laws and treaties.

Around 112 lawmakers joined the house speaker in the vote to render the agency practically useless in performing its mandate. The CHR has been consistently voicing its concern over the excesses of Duterte’s “war on drugs,” which has already killed 13,000 drug suspects.

The CHR was created by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to prevent a repeat of the massive human rights abuse committed under the 21-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Duterte has repeatedly said he looks up to the former strongman whom he allowed to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) in 2016.

The meager budget is all but the latest blow from the Duterte administration, which has deemed the CHR as a nuisance to its campaign to fight illegal drugs.

But the CHR is not alone in condemning the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug personalities. Aside from the political opposition, church groups, and various civil society organizations, Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs” has also earned the disapproval of the international community such as the European Union and the UN Commission on Human Rights.

During a media interview, Speaker Alvarez explained the reasons why the majority decided to defund the CHR:

I see no reason for this government to fund [CHR]. You prefer to protect the rights of criminals instead of the victims.

Commission on Human Rights logo

Responding to the criticism of some Congress members, the CHR clarifiedits official duty:

We regret that despite continued clarifications on our mandate, they have wrongly perceived our role as combative rather than a collaborative effort to bolster Philippine democracy by ensuring that all public officials are honest in the performance of their duties and adhere to universally accepted principles of human rights.

The CHR said it will continue to perform its mandate even with the small funding:

Despite these circumstances, we will not turn our backs on our Constitutional duty to render justice for all and give everyone their due. The concern for human rights is beyond partisanship or disagreement. We shall seek means to move forward and navigate through the hurdles mindful of our oath to serve the people and the Republic—because it is what is right and what is needed of the times.

After the media reported the 1,000-peso budget of the CHR, Filipinos quickly took to social media to express their outrage.

Ted, a young professional, criticized the government on Facebook:

The 1000-peso CHR budget means the government is crap and has no regard for human rights.

Facebook user Kim Tanhui urged fellow Filipinos to stop tolerating human rights abuses:

EVERY person’s rights as a human must be protected, whichever official, candidate, or party he or she may be supporting.

This is about the public tolerating this blatant disregard for human rights and morality, which unfortunately, has become the norm during the recent months. Wake up, people! This is your government telling you that your human rights is worth only P 1,000. This is your government rendering the CHR, the body which was designated to protect you from government abuses, powerless.

Twitter user @DonyaJemimah did some quick number crunching to highlight how much Duterte’s allies have valued human rights:

1K = CHR’S BUDGET (HUMAN RIGHTS)
1K = 103M FILIPINOS = 0.000009 EACH

APPARENTLY, 1 VFRESH CANDY IS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN OUR HUMAN RIGHTS 🙄

Even United Nations special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, posted her dismay:

Reprehensible and unconscionable:  Congress slash annual budget of Commission for Human Rights to 20 USD @UNHumanRights

Even some supporters of the president expressed their shocked by the brazen move of the Lower House. With the Lower House essentially done with their part of the budget process, the ball is now with their counterparts in the Senate, the upper chamber of the Philippine Congress whose members are able to move with more flexibility away from the president’s line as they enjoy a broader and nationwide constituency. Some senators have already committed to restoring the CHR’s original proposed budget of 678 million pesos ($13.2 million) once they resume their budget deliberations.

Will this outrage be sustained and help opposition senators in giving the CHR a more appropriate budget? How will the Duterte administration maneuver to ensure the CHR is rendered useless with its $20 budget? With activists and various cause-oriented groups gearing up for a big gathering this coming September 21 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, which ushered in massive human rights abuses by the Marcos dictatorship, this move by the Duterte administration will certainly be not forgotten.