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Yoshihide Suga named Japan’s new prime minister

Agence France-Presse

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Japan’s parliament on Wednesday elected Yoshihide Suga as prime minister, with the former chief cabinet secretary expected to stick closely to policies championed by Shinzo Abe during his record-breaking tenure.

Suga, 71, won an easy victory, taking 314 votes of 462 valid ballots cast in the lower house of parliament, where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) holds a commanding majority.

He bowed deeply as lawmakers applauded following the announcement, but made no immediate comment.

“According to the results, our house has decided to name Yoshihide Suga prime minister,” lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima announced after the votes were counted.

Suga is expected to announce his cabinet later Wednesday, with local media reporting he will retain a number of ministers from Abe’s last government.

Suga, who on Monday was elected leader of the LDP, is viewed as a continuity candidate and has said his run was inspired by a desire to pursue Abe’s policies.

Abe, who resigned earlier Wednesday along with his cabinet, is ending his record run in the office with a year left in his mandate.

He was forced out by a recurrence of ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that has long plagued him.

Suga has spent decades in politics — most recently as chief cabinet secretary, where he was known for pushing government policies through a sometimes intractable bureaucracy.

He has also been the face of the government, doggedly defending its policies as spokesman, including in sometimes testy exchanges with journalists.

‘This is my mission’

His upbringing, as the son of a strawberry-farmer father and schoolteacher mother, sets him apart from the many blue-blood political elites in his party and the Japanese political scene.

But while he has championed some measures intended to help rural areas like his hometown in northern Japan’s Akita, his political views remain something of a mystery.

He is viewed as more pragmatic than ideological, and during his campaign spoke more about the need to break down administrative obstacles — so-called bureaucratic silos — than any grand guiding principles.

He will face a raft of tough challenges, including an economy that was already in recession before the coronavirus pandemic.

Suga has said kickstarting the economy will be a top priority, along with containing the virus — essential if the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics are to open as planned in July 2021.

His recipe for doing that? More of the same, he says.

“In order to overcome the crisis and give the Japanese people a sense of relief, we need to succeed in what Prime Minister Abe has been implementing,” Suga said after being elected LDP leader on Monday.

Suga’s cabinet is expected to bring few surprises, with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Finance Minister Taro Aso expected to stay on in their jobs.

Defence Minister Taro Kono is tipped to be replaced by Abe’s brother Nobuo Kishi, who was adopted by his uncle as a child and carries his surname.

Kono is reportedly set to become minister in charge of administrative reform, a portfolio Suga considers particularly important.

‘All my strength’

Just two women are so far reported to be in the cabinet, as Olympic minister and justice minister, down from the three who served in Abe’s last government.

Analysts say Suga is likely to stick with his predecessor’s signature Abenomics program, involving vast government spending, massive monetary easing, and the cutting of red tape.

On the diplomatic front, Suga is a relative novice, with little foreign policy experience.

There too, experts say, he is likely to tread the path charted by Abe, prioritizing the key relationship with the United States, whoever is president after November’s election.

Relations with China may prove trickier with a global hardening of opinion against Beijing after the coronavirus and unrest in Hong Kong.

There has been speculation that Suga could call a snap election to consolidate his position and avoid being seen as a caretaker prime minister, but he has been circumspect on the prospect.

Abe will stay on as a lawmaker, with some mooting the possibility he could undertake diplomatic missions.

On Wednesday morning as he prepared to resign, Abe said he had given “all my strength” and was ending his tenure “with a sense of pride”.

“I owe everything to the Japanese people.”

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More shopping experiences under ‘new normal’ at SM Masinag

David John Cubangbang

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It is said that disinfectant foggers reduce or eliminate microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungus, mold, and mildew.

Shoppers can now get their cars safely sanitized while they run errands and do shopping.

Shoppers who have a minimum or accumulated receipt purchase of P5,000 from any mall tenant/s of the same day can avail of a free anti-bacterial fogging for their car interior.

Plantitos and Plantitas need not worry about where to find their latest venture with their plant collection as SM City Masinag opens ‘Green Hub’ – a special store for gardening needs. Green Hub offers a hassle-free plant shopping experience. ‘Plantipolo Blooms’, a local gardening shop in Antipolo City sells ornamental plants, herbs, and pots.

Located at the service lane of SM City Masinag near SM Supermarket, shoppers won’t need to leave the mall to buy plants and other essentials after running other errands.

As the use of bicycles surged in this quarantine period, SM Supermalls installed special racks for shoppers and its employees to park their bicycles. Aside from shoppers’ individual chains and locks, the bike parking, including at SM City Masinag’s Open Parking A, is secured with dedicated security personnel to monitor and guide shoppers on where to park their bikes. A maximum of 72 bicycles can occupy the bike racks at SM City Masinag’s bike parking.

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Duterte calls for peace as US-China tension comes to fore at UN summit

MJ Blancaflor

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President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the 193 member-states of the United Nations to keep peace and “not hate each other” as tensions between Washington and Beijing came to the fore during the annual assembly of the international body.

Without dropping names, the President told other world leaders that there will be a terrible toll on human life and property if the “word war” deteriorates into a real war of nuclear weapons and missiles.

“Escalating tensions benefit no one. New flashpoints heighten fears and tend to tear peoples apart. When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled flat,” Duterte said during his maiden speech at the summit which was aired early Wednesday.

“I, therefore, call on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Africa: if we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much. I heard it once said, and I say it to myself in complete agreement,” he added.

President Duterte also called on UN member-states to implement the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Chemical and the Biological Weapons Conventions to ensure peace across the globe.

The Chief Executive added that the global health crisis has complicated the world’s security environment as he warned against weapons of mass destruction.

“No aspiration nor ambition can justify the use of weapons that destroy indiscriminately and completely. There is no excuse for deaths that a nuclear war could cause nor the reckless use of chemical and biological weapons that can cause mass destruction,” he said.

“These weapons of death put us all at mortal risk, especially if they fall in the hands of terrorists without a shred of humanity in their souls,” Duterte added.

The President also emphasized that mutual understanding, accompanied by mutual tolerance among countries with different faiths and cultures, is the foundation of peaceful societies.

During the summit, United States President Donald Trump blamed China for the spread of coronavirus, saying it must be held “accountable” for the pandemic which gripped economies worldwide.

“In the earliest days of the virus, China locked down travel domestically, while allowing flights to leave China and infect the world. China condemned my travel ban on their country, even as they cancelled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes,” Trump said.

For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing has “no intention to enter a Cold War with any country.”

Trump and Xi, leaders of the world’s two largest economies, laid out competing visions at a time when relations have plunged to their worst level in decades.

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Alvarez urges House to let Cayetano finish 3-year term as Speaker

Michelle R. Guillang

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Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday urged members of the House of Representatives to let Alan Peter Cayetano lead the lower chamber until 2022.

Alvarez made the call as he reiterated his position against the term-sharing deal, describing it as “divisive” and defies the unity the lower chamber is supposed to uphold.

“From the start when there was still no newly elected speaker, I clearly stated that I opposed the term-sharing deal because this is not about the speakership, this is about the country. It’s not about making a person the speaker,” said Alvarez in an interview on Wednesday.

In 2019, through the intercession of President Rodrigo Duterte, Cayetano has struck a term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.  In the deal, Cayetano would lead the House during the first half of the 18th Congress or until Octobe 2020, and the remaining 21 months would go to Velasco.

“The term-sharing is divisive and that’s what we are trying to abstain from. The speaker is prevented from laying out plans for the next three years, this is why there’s an ongoing conflict at the House. What we need is a united House of Representatives, so whatever the administration needs, the Congress can support it and be planned out by the Speaker. We shouldn’t be always replacing [the Speaker],” Alvarez said.

Stressing that he was not taking sides, the former House leader said Cayetano should be allowed to stay as Speaker to sustain the programs the House has been implementing.

“I’m not choosing a side in the two of them. In fact, Cong. Velasco is my partymate in the PDP–Laban. But I really have to be consistent on my stand that whoever is the incumbent, let him finish the term.

“Since we have reached the last quarter of 2020 and the filing of the certificate of candidacy begins next year, it will be difficult for a new Speaker to implement new programs in the Congress,” he pointed out.

Velasco in a Facebook post on Tuesday night has expressed his interest in becoming the next House speaker.

To respond to accusations that he was an inactive member of the Congress, he said he was just “working quietly and away from publicity.”

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Phoenix includes Abueva in roster for PBA bubble

Bea Micaller

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Phoenix Super LPG is ready to gamble on Calvin Abueva when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup resumes on 9 October.

Team manager Paolo Bugia said they have included the fiery forward in their 15-man roster despite having no assurance that he would be reinstated to see action the PBA bubble in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Abueva already completed all requirements for his reinstatement, but PBA commissioner Willie Marcial has yet to formally lift his indefinite suspension that has been dragging for more than a year.

“We’re definitely putting him on the roster with the hopes of bringing him there, but we’re hopeful that commissioner, before the opening on 9 October, will get him reinstated,” Bugia said in a telephone interview.

“We’re taking that risk and we’re optimistic because it’s been a long time coming and we’ve seen the changes in Calvin both on and off the court. Hopefully, the commissioner will reconsider his reinstatement.”

Bugia said Abueva is worth the roster spot.

“I think based on the rules of the league, once we decided not to reinstate Calvin, we cannot bring in another player,” Bugia said.

“So, we will have to live with it, but we’re talking the risk because I think he’s worth it.”

Even with Abueva staying suspended, the Fuel Masters still have a loaded frontcourt in Jason Perkins, JC Intal, Jake Pascual, Alex Mallari, Justin Chua and Dave Marcelo.

“As of now, we will stick with the current team because it’s a short-term plan,” Bugia said.

“But if he does get reinstated, that’s going to be a huge factor for us.”

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US seeks breakthrough on Sudan before election

Agence France-Presse

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo poses for a picture with Sudan's top general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan in Khartoum on an August 2020 visit. (Yahoo)

With weeks to go before US elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is racing to make a breakthrough with Sudan that he hopes could also benefit Israel.

Sudan’s new civilian-led government is urgently seeking to be removed from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism and is seen by Washington as open to becoming the latest Arab state to recognize Israel — a major cause for President Donald Trump’s electoral base.

“The United States has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that compensation is finally provided to victims of the 1998 Al-Qaeda-backed terrorist attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania,” Pompeo wrote in a letter to senators that was confirmed by congressional sources.

“We also have a unique and narrow window to support the civilian-led transitional government in Sudan that has finally rid itself of the Islamist dictatorship that previously led that country.”

Sudan is one of four nations listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, severely impeding investment as businesses worry of legal risks in dealing with the country.

The designation dates back to 1993 when then strongman Omar al-Bashir welcomed Islamists including Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, which carried out the embassy attacks that claimed more than 200 lives.

Washington had been gradually reconciling with Bashir, who agreed to independence for mostly Christian South Sudan.

But Sudan was transformed last year when Bashir was deposed following a wave of youth-led protests. British-educated economist Abdalla Hamdok has become the new prime minister with a reformist mandate in a transitional arrangement with the military.

Question for Congress

Sudan’s delisting has been held up by a dispute over a package of some $335 million that Khartoum would pay as compensation to victims’ families and survivors of the embassy attacks.

Completing a compensation package “is one of the highest priorities for the Department of State,” a spokesperson said.

In his letter, Pompeo said it was “very likely” that an agreement on claims and on delisting Sudan from the terror blacklist would be completed by the end of October — days before the November 3 election.

But Congress also needs to pass legislation to provide Sudan immunity from further claims.

Senate Democrats are divided in part because the draft package would provide more money to US citizens than Africans, who made up the bulk of the victims — an arrangement some call discriminatory but others say is realistic and in keeping with precedent.

Some lawmakers also want further discussion on compensation for other attacks by Al-Qaeda, notably the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen.

Why the sudden push by Pompeo, who in his more than two years as America’s top diplomat has rarely seemed preoccupied by Africa?

Sudan has hinted at a willingness to engage Israel, whose prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in February met Khartoum’s top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in Uganda.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain last month recognized Israel, a coup for the Jewish state, and a signature foreign policy win for Trump.

Pompeo briefly stopped in Khartoum in late August in the first visit there by a US secretary of state in 15 years.

Hamdok demurred in his meeting with Pompeo, saying that his transitional government, which is set to rule until 2022 elections, did not have a mandate to normalize relations with Israel — in what would be a major about-face for a country until recently considered Islamist-run.

But some observers believe there can still be forward movement on relations with Israel, especially with the prospect of removal from the terror blacklist.

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White sand beaches of Boracay ready for more local tourists on 1 October

Raymart Lolo

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Boracay Island will start receiving more local tourists from different parts of the country starting 1 October, the tourism department announced on Wednesday.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the island paradise will start allowing visitors even from areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) which includes Metro Manila.

This development came as a result of a special meeting convened by the principals of the Boracay Interagency Task Force (BIATF) led by its Chairperson Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and Co-Vice Chairpersons, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ed Ano and  Romulo-Puyat, with the Province of Aklan.

The BIATF leaders approved the request earlier made by the Aklan Province to expand Boracay’s reopening to domestic travelers in addition to tourists from Western Visayas who have already been permitted to visit the island since 16 June.

Targeting a safe and calibrated resumption of tourism business and operations on the island, the BIATF will impose measures that will ensure safety of the people of Boracay.

This includes the implementation of “Test Before Travel” which requires tourist a negative RT-PCR result 48 to 72 hours prior to travelling to Boracay. Travelers are also advised to go on a strict quarantine immediately after the test and until the time of travel to the island.

The Test Before Travel regulation will allow visitors from destinations under a GCQ classification to visit the island. Age restriction is likewise relaxed permitting travelers below 21 and above 60 years old with no comorbidity.

Airlines are also advised to use the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Municipality of Malay, as the only airport of entry in moving tourists to the island.

“We are pleased that the BIATF and the LGUs of the Province of Aklan and Municipality of Malay have agreed to put health and safety as the priority as we carefully and safely welcome more guests to the island.” Secretary Puyat said.

“The reopening of Boracay to new market sources signals a gathering momentum for domestic tourism all over the country,” she added.

Since the island’s reopening to travelers from Western Visayas last June, the DOT has already issued Certificates of Authority to Operate (CAO) to 199 hotels and resorts representing 4,416 rooms.

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Go reminds DSWD to prioritize the poor and vulnerable

TDT

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Senator Christopher “Bong” Go issued a strong reminder to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to prioritize and ensure the delivery of various government social services to the poor and vulnerable sectors.

On Tuesday, 22 September, Go participated in a budget hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Finance to discuss the proposed budget of the department, its supervised and attached agencies for fiscal year 2021.

In his opening statement, the Senator, who is one of the Vice Chairs of the Senate Finance Committee, expressed full support for the proposed budget and stressed the importance of DSWD and its work to deliver critical social services to Filipinos throughout the country, a fact that is made evident by the annual increases in its budget.

With P171.221 billion proposed to be allocated for the DSWD and its attached and supervised agencies for 2021, Go urged its leaders to ensure that every peso goes directly to the less fortunate, most especially in these trying times.

He expressed his gratitude to the department for their efforts to facilitate the nationwide distribution of COVID-19 cash aid under the Social Amelioration Program.

He recognized that the ongoing public health crisis and quarantine measures had made the process difficult. However, he maintained that challenges such as these must not prevent the department from fulfilling its mandate to serve the poor and vulnerable.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa DSWD sa inyong effort na maipaabot ang tulong ng gobyerno sa mga tao sa pamamagitan ng Social Amelioration Program o ‘yung SAP habang tayo ay nasa gitna ng pandemya. Kahit medyo matagal at mahirap ang disbursement dahil sa pandemic, siguraduhin po natin na mabigyan ng prayoridad at unahin ang mga mahihirap at vulnerable sectors,” said Go.

“Alam kong hirap po kayo sa pag-distribute kaya’t medyo natagalan, pero suportado namin kayo dito dahil importante po ay makarating talaga doon sa mga mahihirap na mga kababayan natin at talagang naghihirap po na kailangan ng ayuda sa panahong ito,” he continued.

Despite delays and amid the economic hardships, Go was heartened by the fact that many honest Filipinos came forward to return the money that is not intended for them.

“At ako naman po, sa handling ninyo ng Social Amelioration Program, kahit matagal, gaya ng sinabi ko, talagang ‘yung second round ninyo po ay dapat mapunta doon sa pinaka-nangangailangan, wala pong pambili ng pagkain. Basta importante, ‘yung mga mahihirap ang makatanggap,” continued the Senator.

“Mayroon namang nadodoble, balita ko, may nakakatanggap ng doble. At marami naman pong Pilipino ‘yung honest at nagbalik po ng SAP dahil doble natanggap nila. Ang importante po ay ginamit nila ito pambili ng pagkain, ‘wag lang po isugal at ‘wag lang po ipambili ng droga,” he added.

In the end, the Senator reiterated his full support and gratitude to the DSWD for the work that they do.

“Pinapaalala ko din sa lahat na i-prioritize po natin ang kapakanan ng ating kapwa lalo na ngayong krisis. Magtulungan tayo. Magbayanihan po tayo para maiwasan natin ang hindi pagkakaunawaan at para magkaisa ang ating bansa sa panahong ito,” said Go.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the national government was directed to implement a multi-billion cash subsidy program for poor families, including the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, who were expected to receive the brunt of the economic difficulties triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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DTI: Filipino Christmas will not be as merry as past Christmases

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THE Department of Trade and Industry said Christmas this year would not be as merry as compared to the previous years as the country continues to face threats of the coronavirus pandemic.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said due to the prevailing fear of the virus, he is expecting a restrained celebration as families would not be allowed to attend big gatherings on Christmas day.

“Definitely Filipino’s will not be happy during this Christmas. It will be a subdued Christmas I would say, because we will have less of a big reunion and maybe more of intimate reunions with immediate families only,” according to Lopez.

He said families might tend to do virtual gatherings on Christmas because of the abnormal situation brought about by the coronavirus (Covid 19) pandemic.

“Kasi bawal pa rin tayo sa mga mass gathering eh. Everyone must have to be careful. I would say that there’s still be a merry Christmas although it’s not like before. Medyo iba pa rin out of fear, number 1. Number 2 is that limited yung mga reunions. I would suspect there would be more virtual reunions,” according to Lopez.

Lopez noted since there will still be no mass gatherings and a reasonable tight budget because of the pandemic, he foresees that gift-giving would only be shared to immediate families, and “pass” for the godchildren.

“In terms of shopping, there is more reason to give only to your immediate families,” Lopez quipped.

It is because most private companies and government agencies have already shelled-out half or full 13th month pays of their employees during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), while most businesses were shuttered during April and May.

Records from the DTI showed that 38 percent of companies were closed and about 50percent partially operated during the height of the ECQ or from April to May.

Only 6 percent of the said number or an estimated 3,100 gradually opened in August and September as the economy reopened, according to Lopez.

In a separate radio interview last week, Lopez said prices of goods are expected to be stable this Christmas season amid weak consumer demand.

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Carpio, del Rosario welcome Duterte assertion of 2016 arbitral award

Gabbie Parlade

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Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario on Wednesday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong assertion of the 2016 arbitral award that junked China’s claim over the South China Sea during his address to the United Nations General Assembly late Tuesday night.

Carpio hoped that the president’s statement was not just a lip service, and his policy would be implemented across all levels.

“It is heartening that President Duterte has welcomed ‘the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award,’” Carpio said in a statement.

“This is the policy that the Duterte administration will implement across all levels – in the protection of our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippines Sea, in the negotiations for the Code of Conduct, and in gathering the support of the international community for the enforcement of the arbitral award.”

Carpio was one of the key Philippine officials who fought for the Philippines’ claims on the West Philippine Sea claims at the Hague.  The two others were former Supreme Courty Justice and former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and del Rosario.

In an interview with ANC, Del Rosario said the President’s move showed he is ‘faithful’ to the Constitution and to the people in pushing for national security.

“By invoking the arbitral award the President has acted more faithfully to our constitution which mandates him and our military to secure our country’s sovereignty and protect our lands and seas,” he said.

He also hoped that the president that this strong stand would be put into action.

“Our government should work earnestly to get the support of more countries so that the arbitral award will be raised more emphatically next year, or 2021. We hope that this puts to rest the misconception that bringing the arbitral award to the UNGA is litigating the case,” Del Rosario said.

“All Filipinos should now unite so that the world will help our country enforce the arbitral award against China,” he added.

Duterte in his first-ever address to the UNGA, said the Philippines’ victory against China in 2016 ruling over the South China Sea “is now part of the international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.  We firmly reject attempts to undermine it.”

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