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Calm, vigilance urged after strong quake

The public is also urged to refrain from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm and panic. #DavaoSurQuake

Francis Wakefield

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A collapsed building with trikes squeezed underneath after a 6.8- magnitude earthquake hit the town of Padada in Davao del Sur. (Photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA / AFP)

The Office of the President requests everyone to remain calm but stay vigilant in anticipation of aftershocks after another strong earthquake hit many parts of Mindanao on Sunday afternoon, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

In a statement, Panelo said they also likewise ask the public to refrain from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm and panic among affected communities.

Panelo said the Executive Branch, through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), together with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), is closely monitoring the situation in Davao del Sur after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the area at 2:11 p.m. this Sunday.

“All concerned agencies of the government have been mobilized to respond to the present conditions and provide immediate assistance to those in need,” Panelo said.

Earlier, the Palace official said President Rodrigo Duterre is doing okay following the tremor in Matanao.

The quake was felt at Intensity 7 in Matanao and Magsaysay, Davao del Sur and Intensity 6 in Kidapawan City, General Santos City, Bansalan in Davao del Sur, Alabel and Malapatan in Sarangani and Koronadal City.

Intensity 5 was felt in Tulunan and Matalam in Cotabato, Cotabato City, Davao City, Glan in Sarangani; Intensity 3 in Kalilangan, Talakag and Dangcagan in Bukidnon; Intensity 2 in Impasugong in Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro City and Dipolog City; and Intensity I in Zamboanga del Sur.

Panelo said the President was in his house in Davao City with his daughter Kitty when the earthquake struck.

First Lady Honeylet Avanceña was on her way home when the ground rumbled and trembled. She said the car she was riding was swaying. They are unhurt.

Meanwhile, Maritime Industry Authority OIC Narciso Vingson Jr. said the regional offices in Davao City and General Santos City reported no casualty and damage from the earthquake.

Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Joel Garcia said all Coast Guard District South Eastern Mindanao stations reported no casualty and damage in their areas. Garcia advised them to coordinate with their directors for needed search and rescue assistance.

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Velasco breaks silence, refutes accusers

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Rep. Lord Allan Velasco: Silence does not mean I am disinterested. (Facebook grab)

Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco broke his silence Tuesday night amid accusations by a colleague that he is plotting the ouster of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and
assume the post after allegedly being unproductive for the past 15 months.

“I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker,” said Velasco in a statement following Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro’s charges against him.

“My silence does not mean I am disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant. Mum on issues means I just don’t want to call attention to myself,” Velasco said.

“Being party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time,” he added.

Velasco denied Castro’s allegations that he has been sitting idly and waiting for his turn to be Speaker under a term-sharing deal with Cayetano.

“Since I became a lawmaker I have worked quietly, away from publicity, to support this Administration and help accomplish the legislative agenda of President Duterte to improve the lives of the Filipino people. When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately, to the Filipino people. To God be all the glory,” said Velasco.

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Israel, Bahrain, UAE sign diplomatic pacts

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From left, Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. (BNA photo)

WASHINGTON, United States — Israel normalized relations with long-time foes Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates at a White House ceremony on Tuesday as President Donald Trump said similar US-brokered deals were close between the Jewish state and several other nations including Saudi Arabia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE sealed the accords establishing full diplomatic ties with a ceremony on a flag-decorated White House South Lawn.

Hundreds of guests attended the event, which Trump is hoping will boost his reelection chances in November, despite the coronavirus pandemic but there were no handshakes to cement the historic agreements.

Bahrain and the UAE are the first Arab nations to establish relations with Israel since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 and Trump hailed it as a “historic day for peace in the Middle East.”

“After decades of division and conflict we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” he said.

Trump said the agreements, which have been denounced as a “betrayal” by the Palestinians, “will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region.”

Speaking later to reporters, he said Israel would enter into similar deals with “seven or eight or nine” other countries soon including regional power Saudi Arabia “at the right time.”

Netanyahu called the day a “pivot of history” and thanked Trump for his “decisive leadership.”

“It heralds a new dawn of peace,” he said. “Ultimately it can end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.”

“To all of Israel’s friends in the Middle East, those who are with us today and those who will join us tomorrow, I say as-salaam alaikum, peace unto thee, shalom,” Netanyahu said.

‘Two-state solution’

Neither Trump nor Netanyahu made any reference to the Palestinians during their remarks, and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday that only an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories can bring peace to the Middle East.

“Peace, security and stability will not be achieved in the region until the Israeli occupation ends,” Abbas said.

As the accords were being signed in Washington, rockets were fired into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Two people were slightly wounded.

For the Mideast, the deals mark a distinct shift in a decades-old status quo where Arab countries have tried to maintain unity against Israel over its treatment of the stateless Palestinians.

Both the UAE and Bahrain foreign ministers made a point of mentioning the Palestinians in their remarks before the signing ceremony.

“Thank you for choosing peace and halting the annexation of Palestinian territories,” UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan told Netanyahu. “I stand here today to extend a hand of peace.”

Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani said a “just, comprehensive and enduring two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” would be the “bedrock” for lasting Middle East peace

Trump, speaking to Fox News ahead of the ceremony, said the agreements would put pressure on the Palestinians to also negotiate or face being “left out in the cold.”

“The Palestinians will ultimately come in too,” he said.

“And you’re going to have peace in the Middle East without being stupid and shooting everybody, and killing everybody, and having blood all over the sand.”

Trump predicted that Iran — a regional rival to Bahrain and the UAE — would seek to make a deal with the United States if he is reelected.

“I think they want to make a deal,” he said. “I’ll make a very fair deal.”

F-35 sale to UAE

All the four countries at the White House share a common hostility to Iran, which Trump has put under crippling economic and diplomatic pressure.

The thaw will give Israel and its two new Arab partners a big economic opening, just when they are looking to rebuild after the international slowdown triggered by the pandemic.

And it allows Trump to enjoy the optics of presiding over a historic breakthrough less than 50 days before the November 3 election, which opinion polls suggest he is currently on course to lose.

It also provides a dose of good news coverage to Netanyahu, a close Trump ally who faces a corruption trial and criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

The UAE, meanwhile, has been using the negotiations as part of its campaign to pressure Washington to sell it the cutting edge F-35 warplane.

Trump said Tuesday he was willing to sell the warplanes to the UAE despite Israeli opposition.

“I would have no problem in selling them the F-35,” he told Fox News, adding that it would mean “tremendous jobs at home.”

The UAE is eying the stealth fighter jet as a component in its ambitious plans to make the small, wealthy country into a regional military power.

Ahead of the signing ceremony, hundreds of Palestinians protested Tuesday against the normalization deals with Israel.

Clutching Palestinian flags and wearing blue face masks for protection against the coronavirus, demonstrators rallied in the cities of Nablus and Hebron in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Several dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators also staged a protest outside the White House.

“This is a backstab to the Palestinian people,” said Zeina Hutchison, head of a coalition of pro-Palestinian associations behind the rally.

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Duterte approves raps vs. PhilHealth execs

MJ Blancaflor

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Former PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales and six other colleagues face criminal and administrative charges.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday approved the filing of criminal and administrative charges against ex-Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and CEO Ricardo Morales along with other officials over irregularities found within the state insurer.

Duterte, in his public address, said charges would also be filed against senior vice presidents Jovita Aragona, Renato Limsiaco Jr., and Israel Pargas; officer in charge Calixto Gabuya Jr.; executive vice president and chief operating officer Arnel de Jesus; and division chief Bobby Crisostomo.

The charges were in relation to the disbursement of the controversial Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM) funds and the anomalous IT project that was supposed to reduce corruption in the agency.

“The issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and to everybody, and everybody, again, is also placed in jeopardy by the actions of the officials,” Duterte said.

“I’m sorry for them but they have to undergo a trial. Although, they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence still attaches, but the report of another agency says otherwise,” he added.

This was based on the report submitted to him by Department of Justice-led Task Force PhilHealth which was created last month to probe anomalies hounding the state-run firm.

The task force, meanwhile, urged Duterte to “strongly admonish and remind” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other ex-officio members of the PhilHealth board of the “grave consequences of their action or inaction.”

Duterte added that the investigation on Morales, De Jesus, Aragona, Limsiaco, Gabuya, and Crisostomo revealed their dishonesty, gross neglect of duty, grave misconduct, falsification of official documents, disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines and to the Filipino, and inefficiency and incompetence in the performance of official duties.

Composed of representatives from the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Ombudsman, the special panel interviewed 14 witnesses in the course of seven hearings and looked into documents and reports.

The Senate committee of the whole has previously recommended that Duque and Morales should be charged with malversation and graft for the “improper and illegal implementation” of IRM or cash advances to hospitals.

Duterte has been pressed to axe Duque over his supposed lackluster performance as Health chief while the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Calls for Duque’s resignation have been ignited by fresh allegations of corruption within the state insurer.

Duque has since denied his involvement in the purported fraudulent schemes in PhilHealth, particularly the IRM which was allegedly used by PhilHealth executives to pocket P15-billion worth of funds.

He said he was a non-voting chairman in PhilHealth under the Universal Health Care Law and neither attended the deliberation nor signed the board resolution on IRM.

Earlier this month, Duque said he would step down from his post if his services are “no longer needed,” but maintained that he had only intended to work with dignity and to advance public health care in the country.

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LGBTQ+ groups outraged by Pemberton’s pardon

Roel Hoang Manipon

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LGBTQ groups rally outside the Department of Justice building on 3 September 2020. (Bahaghari photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte on 7 September granted “absolute pardon” to United States Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton over his 2014 killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude. This was after the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court’s Branch 74 decided to grant the 25-year-old solider an early release on 1 September due to the good conduct time allowance.

The Court of Appeals’ initial sentence for Pemberton was a maximum of 12 years of imprisonment, which was later reduced to a maximum of 10 years. He would be released four years earlier.

Many LGBTQ+ organizations as well as youth and progressive groups denounce the pardon.

“President Duterte’s claim that Pemberton has suffered injustice when he served time in a special holding cell in Camp Aguinaldo for just five years and 10 months out of a 10-year jail sentence is unacceptable and ludicrous. Pemberton should have served time in the National Bilibid Prison, and the President could have granted presidential pardon to a Filipino instead of an American,” says a group of LGBTQ+ organizations in a unity statement.

“Such acts done by the President at this time confirm how his government has been using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to promote and kowtow to foreign interests which have caused profound suffering, indignity, and injustice to the Filipino people,” it adds.

The act of compensating is totally unacceptable because no life can ever be replaced by pecuniary recoupment and a short period of incarceration. We strongly express our disapproval and disappointment over the lack of transparency regarding Pemberton’s alleged good conduct and participation in Camp Aguinaldo.

 

The group is composed of the makers of the documentary Call Her Ganda, LakanBini Advocates Pilipinas, Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men Movement, Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), Transman Equality and Awareness Movement (TEAM), Lagablab LGBT Network, Metro Manila Pride, Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY), University of the Philippines (UP) Babaylan;

Rainbow Rights Philippines, Babaylanes, Inc., Polytechnic University of the Philippines  Kasarianlan, Bulacan State University Bahaghari, Benilde Hive, Technological University of the Philippines Dugong Bughaw, Gayon Albay LGBT Organization, True Colors Coalition;

Bicol University Magenta, KAIBA Academic Collective, UP Babaylan Baguio Chapter, Asia-Pacific College Bahaghari, Queer Quezon, GALANG Philippines, Camp Queer, UP Babaylan Clark Chapter, Tribu Duag, LGBTQ+ Partylist, Youth Voices Count, Love Is All We Need, Migrante Europe, Pinay sa Holland and Gabriela Germany.

The statement further says that “the President’s pardon shows that his so-called support for the LGBTQI community is just mere posturing and exposes the truth about Duterte and his legacy—that as a leader, he is nothing but unjust, misogynistic, and transphobic” and “sends out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter, that it is open season for discrimination and violence against transgender people, and that American soldiers will continue to get away with murder in Philippine soil.”

The network of groups disputes the claim that the administration has the most for the LGBTQ+ community and says that “all he has done is to use the LGBTQI community to further his popularity. His government never served our interests nor protected our rights and lives, and today proves that only a murderer can empathize with another murderer.”

Another unity statement was released by a group of Metro Manila student organizations including several Far Eastern University organizations, Anakbayan chapters, Kabataan Partylist Morayta, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan and Paaman sa Tueun-an, on the latest Pemberton issue, “strongly” denouncing the grant of absolute pardon.

“This is a strong disregard for Filipino life, noting that Laude’s death is equivalent to the ‘symbolic death’ of Philippine sovereignty according to the Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who represented Laude’s family during the trial,” the group says.

“The act of compensating is totally unacceptable because no life can ever be replaced by pecuniary recoupment and a short period of incarceration. We strongly express our disapproval and disappointment over the lack of transparency regarding Pemberton’s alleged good conduct and participation in Camp Aguinaldo,” they further say, urging again the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill “that aims to further protect the rights and liberty of everyone, whether they belong in the LGBTQIA+ community or not.”

“This is not about placing special rights for a specific minority group, but a gesture that recognizes the equal rights and protection of the LGBTQIA+ community that should have already been in place under the ambit of both national and international laws. This, indeed, will not be protested only if the law and the government are able to grant the justice that the LGBTQIA+ community deserves. Must we let another gruesome death of a fellow member of our community pass by before we act on this urgent matter? We must not and we cannot let our fallen brothers and sisters down. We urge everyone to unite against the injustice, the hate, the discrimination, and the inequality that we face up to this day,” the group emphasizes.

LGBTQ+ group Bahaghari, who marched towards the Mendiola Peace Arch, on 8 September, tells that “it is time that we, the Filipino LGBTQ+, take our place in history, and recognize that there can be no justice for our slain sister for as long as the accomplice to her murderer sits squarely in Malacañang.”

 

 

 

Benilde Hive “recognizes how this decision may harm the community and perpetuate the idea that violence against our brothers and sisters is tolerated in any form.”

 

 

On the other hand, the organizers of the Metro Manila Pride stand “firm against this infuriating and blatant act of betrayal in the service of foreign interests, enabling systemic violence to happen to the most vulnerable of us; enabling violence against trans women and the trans community.” They also “ask the entire community, in the face of this betrayal, to remain vigilant, to continue to be vocal, and to find strength in each other as we fight against injustice.”

De La Salle University- College of Saint Benilfde’s LGBTQ+ student group, Benilde Hive, “recognizes how this decision may harm the community and perpetuate the idea that violence against our brothers and sisters is tolerated in any form.”

PANTAY, representing students advocating for equality, says that the act “reveals just how hostile Duterte and his administration is towards the LGBTQ+ community, their rights and interests.”

“It is acts like these that awaken us to the reality that, indeed, in society, LGBTQ+ persons are marginalized and oppressed by a system that seeks to deny them their humanity,” they explain.

Laude, then 26 years old, met Pemberton, who was then 19, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Battalion-9th Marines of the West Pacific Express, at the bar Ambyanz Disco in Olongapo City, on 11 October 2014. She was later found dead inside a motel, Celzone Lodge, naked and with her head in the toilet bowl.

Police report said that she died of strangulation. Pemberton said she choked her upon learning that Laude was not biologically female. The Olongapo City Regional Trial Court convicted him of homicide.

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Not time for Duque to resign–Duterte

Gabbie Parlade

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Sec. Duque: Filing of charges "heart of injustice."

Secretary Duque, this is not the time for you to resign. I have full trust in you.

President Rodrigo Duterte told this to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during his public address Monday night putting his foot down on clamors to fire the latter over alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“Ang akin lang naman dyan eh corruption, wala ka doon (For me it’s really just the corruption, and you’re not there),” the President said in the presence of Duque and other Cabinet members.

Duterte’s pronouncement came after Duque on Wednesday said he was ready to resign if his services were no longer needed and the Senate Committee as a Whole recommended the filing of graft and malversation charges against him and other officials of PhilHealth.

Duterte also brushed off accusations that Duque committed “negligence” in leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic despite his long hours of work.

“Pero you know, if you handle a big organizaton..talagang magne-negligent, kasi hindi mo mahabol minsan eh,” Duterte said.

In response, Duque said he was upset that his name was included in the Senate’s list of people who were charged with despite not signing the approval of the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism that paid some hospitals for services not related to coronavirus disease 2019.

“Yung mga pumirma hindi ni-recommend for filing of cases. Yung hindi pumirma, sila ang dinawit. Bakit naman ganun? Heart of injustice…Masakit po ‘yan, yung hindi ka nga pumirma, ikaw pa yung pinipilit na idawit,” Duque said.

(“Those who signed were not recommended for the filing of cases. Those who did not sign, they were said to be part of it. Why is it like that? Heart of injustice.. That hurts, when you didn’t sign but they say that you are involved in it,” he said.)

Duque, who is the chairman of the board of PhilHealth being the health secretary, has since been denying his involvement in the alleged fraudulent scheme stating that he never attended any deliberation or signed any board resolution.

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Second Pinoy sailor from missing ship found

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TOKYOJapan — Japanese authorities racing to find dozens of missing sailors from a cargo ship that sank in a typhoon found a second survivor on Friday, as another, much more powerful storm drew near.

The Gulf Livestock 1, which was carrying 6,000 cows, issued a distress call early Wednesday as Typhoon Maysak passed through the area, setting off a desperate search for the 43 crew on board.

A first survivor was found on Wednesday evening, with the body of a second crew member recovered at sea early Friday, as hopes began to fade for the operation and powerful Typhoon Haishen barrelled towards the area.

But the coast guard said they found a second survivor on Friday afternoon, a 30-year-old Filipino who was spotted in a life raft several kilometres from Kodakarajima, a remote island in southwestern Japan.

The man, identified as a deckhand, was reached by a patrol boat and was alone in the raft. He was able to walk unassisted, the coastguard said.

The first survivor from the ship, a 45-year-old Filipino chief officer, told rescuers he had put on a life jacket and jumped into the sea after a warning announcement on board.

He said one of the boat’s engines had stalled and the vessel was overturned by a powerful wave before eventually sinking.

Precisely when and where it sank remained unclear.

Dramatic footage of Wednesday’s rescue showed the man bobbing in the open ocean in an orange lift jacket and rescuers battling violent waves to pull him on to their boat with a rope.

After he was moved to a larger boat and wrapped with blankets, he asked for water and thanked his rescuers.

“I am the only one? No other one?” he asked.

The ship is believed to have been caught up in Typhoon Maysak, which moved through the area with gusts of up to 160 kilometres per hour.

But Haishen is a much stronger storm, and is expected to affect Japan from late Saturday, with winds of up to 290 kilometres per hour (180 miles per hour), making it a “violent” storm — the top level on Japan’s classification scale.

‘Water started coming in’

There has been little sign so far of other survivors, with the coast guard spotting an empty rubber dinghy and a life jacket during their search.

Dead cows from the boat have also been seen in the waves.

In Manila, relatives of the crew were waiting desperately for news.

Captain Dante Addug’s sister told AFP that he had been in touch with his girlfriend shortly before the boat sank.

“He told her there was an engine failure but they were able to restart it after an hour,” Fredelyne Sanchez said.

“But then the big waves worsened and water started coming in.”

Four coastguard vessels, a defense ministry plane and specially trained divers are involved in the search.

But it is unclear how much longer their efforts can continue, with Haishen heading towards the area.

The storm was expected to begin affecting areas including Okinawa in southern Japan and parts of western Kyushu from Saturday night to Monday, and the government warned residents to prepare.

“In the region that the typhoon is approaching, record rains, storms, high waves and high tides are feared,” government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Friday.

In preparation, water was being emptied from behind dams to make room for heavy rainfall and a quick response system to warn residents was being activated, he added.

The Gulf Livestock 1 crew was made up of 39 Filipinos, two New Zealanders and two Australians. The boat was travelling from Napier in New Zealand to the Chinese port of Tangshan.

It had experienced engine problems before: a 2019 observer report by Australian authorities noted that the boat was forced to drift at sea for 25 hours after an issue with its main engine while en route to China.

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Ship with 39 Filipino seamen missing

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The Gulf Livestock 1 vessel. (VesselFinder)

A livestock ship with 39 Filipino crewmembers went missing in East China Sea, according to a tweet from the vessel finder app MarineTraffic.

“The GULF LIVESTOCK 1 has disappeared, probably hit by high waves & strong winds caused by typhoon #MAYSAK, our data shows. The search for the livestock carrier in load began as concern for the safety of 43 crew onboard rises,” the tweet read.

A post from the Facebook page of The Seamanship said the ship issued a distress signal at around 0145H off Ryuku Islands, Japan.

“The ship is carrying livestock en route from New Zealand to China. It is also boarded by 43 Crew including 39 Filipino, 2 New Zealand Nationals, 1 Australian and 1 Singaporean National,” the post read.

A patrol plane reportedly searched the area but didn’t find the ship. The search continues as of 1500H Tokyo time, according to The Seamanship.

“Japan Coast Guard Ship was in the area and say that the Livestock carrier last position dated 1230H of Sept. 1, the ship was adrift. Observing the Ship’s track, it is maybe caught by Typhoon MAYSAK who currently on the same position and the wind gusts is up to 130Kt,” the Seamanship post added.

The Daily Tribune has asked the International Maritime Organization in an email for comment but the London-based agency has yet to reply.

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NCR remains in GCQ, Iligan reverts to MECQ

MJ Blancaflor

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Pres. Duterte approved the recommendation to impose GCQ in the capital region, along with Bulacan, Batangas, Tacloban City and Bacolod City until the end of the month. (RTVM)

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night kept Metro Manila under general community quarantine (GCQ), while Iligan City will tighten its restrictions from 1 to 30 September.

In his public address, Duterte approved the recommendation to impose GCQ in the capital region, along with Bulacan, Batangas, Tacloban City and Bacolod City until the end of the month.

The rest of the Philippines will remain under the most relaxed quarantine status or modified GCQ.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who serves as the chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, noted that Iligan City saw a spike in coronavirus infections due to returning residents who are possible carriers of the virus.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III acknowledged the continuous surge of coronavirus cases — which hit the 220,000-mark earlier in the day.

“The daily cases remain high so we should boost our preventive measures to stop the rising number of infections,” Duque told Duterte during the meeting.

The Health chief, however, has previously rejected the reimposition of stricter quarantine protocols, saying that this would “irreversibly injure, if not damage the economy beyond repair.”

The large-scale lockdown measures in March and April plunged the economy into a recession and its worst downturn in 30 years.

Earlier, statisticians and analysts from the University of the Philippines OCTA Research projected the flattening of the virus curve in September, noting that the virus’s reproduction number declined from 1.5 last week to 1.1 at the present.

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Ex-NBI director to head PhilHealth

Francis Wakefield

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Dante A Gierran was the NBI director from 2016 to 2020. (RTVM)

President Rodrigo Duterte has named former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dante Gierran as the new president and CEO of the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

The President made the announcement during his address to the nation aired over government station People’s Television Network (PTV-4) Monday night.

Duterte directed Gierran, who is a lawyer and an accountant by profession, to rid the agency of corrupt officials and restore the people’s trust in PhilHealth.

The President also ordered Gierran to reshuffle different regional offices within the coming weeks as part of efforts to cleanse the agency of corruption.

“Iyong mga tao na ayaw tanggalin, ibigay mo ‘yung pangalan nila, I will send them a memorandum. I will ask them to report to me dito sa Malacañan. Tutal pagkatapos, wala naman akong gamit dito. I will ask them to do a research on how to — how not to serve a government properly,” Duterte told Gierran who was with Duterte and some cabinet officials.

“That should be the — ‘yung thesis niya. How not to serve the government properly. You study on that and ‘yung lahat ng ano — mga regional vice president, tanggalin ninyo whether performing at par or in parity with the other good ones,” he added.

The President, at the same time, ordered the new PhilHealth chief to remove all regional vice presidents regardless if the person is performing or not.

“‘Yung lahat ng regional vice presidents, tanggalin ninyo whether performing at par or imparity with the good ones. You know, if they are there for so long a time, the element of familiarity always enters the picture. Iyan ang mahirap diyan. Kung matagal na, tanggalin na. Iyong ayaw magtanggal, ayaw magpatanggal, mag-report kayo dito sa opisina,” Duterte said.

“And, anyway, the Secretary of Justice is winding up his investigation. I think that he has seen proof enough to come up with an indictment. I hope that this sad episode in our national life — in our journey towards nation-building will be somehow corrected,” he added.

Gierran, meanwhile, thanked Duterte for his new assignment and vowed to restore people’s confidence on PhilHealth.

Speaking during the Cabinet meeting with the President presiding, Gierran said he’s aghast over the corruption mess at PhilHealth. He said despite him not applying for the position, he accepted the Chief Executive’s offer to run the agency.

He also stressed that he’s good soldier and wont back out from the challenge.

“I’ve been listening about hearings conducted by the two Chambers in Congress, Senate and the House of Representatives. I was really aghast about the sorry state of PhilHealth, corruption hear and there. The investigations is not yet over but the Senate has indicated that they will render a report next week and there will be cases filed. The NBI is also investigating it,” Gierran said.

“I did not apply for the position because I know it’s very, it’s a very tough job. But you know as a… just a good soldier, just like General Galvez and of course the Secretary of National Defense, I’m also a good soldier. I’m one who would not back down.:

“And this is a mission. I know its a huge mission and I am consoled by the fact that this early, there have been supports coming in,” he added.

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