Duterte to listen to public’s sentiment on VFA issue

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 26, 2021   •   514

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is open to listening to the public about their sentiments on the issue regarding the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said those who wish to voice out their opinions on whether the VFA should be abolished or not can send messages through the government hotline 8888.

Kung nais ninyong marinig ang inyong boses tungkol dito, huwag po kayong mag-atubili, kayo po ay magpadala ng e-mail o mensahe o kung anuman doon sa mga linya ng ating mga ahensiya sa gobyerno para makarating po kay Presidente (If you want your voices to be heard, do not hesitate and send an email or message through government agency hotlines for it to reach the President), he said.

Duterte, during his public address on Wednesday (February 24), said he is still undecided on what to do. He previously demanded the US to pay if it wants the VFA to continue.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military will support the decision of the President but also said the Philippines should be able to defend itself without any assistance. -AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

US, PH military forces conclude 36th Balikatan Exercise

Robie de Guzman   •   April 23, 2021

 MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine military and the United States Armed Forces have concluded the 36th Balikatan Exercise on Friday with a ceremony held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“The successful conduct of this year’s Balikatan Exercise 36-2021 has definitely brought us a step closer towards our goal of capacitating our forces, and as such, will consequently contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific Region,” said AFP Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana.

The AFP said soldiers participating in the joint exercise were able to achieve the activity’s objectives in strengthening both militaries’ capability and experience.

“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Filipino and American forces were able to achieve the objectives of this year’s Balikatan Exercise – to train together on defense and security efforts, leveraging on the capability, experience, and strength of both militaries’ longstanding friendship,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, Commander of the AFP Education Training and Doctrine Command and this year’s Exercise Director.

Due to the global health crisis, the AFP said the magnitude of Balikatan 2021 was scaled down both in numbers of events and participants. Approximately 225 U.S. military personnel and 415 AFP personnel participated.

Major Balikatan 2021 events were held in Colonel Ernesto Ravina Airbase in Tarlac, where combined Air Force and Special Operations forces conducted close air support training, increasing interoperability across the joint forces.

AFP Northern Luzon Command Battle Staff and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command representatives conducted a bilateral staff exercise in Clark, Pampanga, while Philippine and U.S. Special Operations forces conducted a Bilateral Staff Academic Seminar in Taguig City.

Academic discussions and subject matter expert exchanges were held virtually to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The Philippine Air Force and U.S. Pacific Air Forces conducted a virtual Global Health Engagement and other virtual training on various air operations and capabilities.

The Exercise also included Humanitarian and Civic Assistance activities, which began on March 26, prior to the opening of the exercises. Philippine and U.S. service members completed the construction of two classrooms and a daycare center in Plaridel, a classroom in Atimonan, and a health clinic in Mauban, all of Quezon Province.

The AFP assured that health and safety protocols were strictly followed during the conduct of the exercise.

“The 36th Balikatan Exercise brought together AFP and U.S. Armed Forces amidst the challenge of a never-before-experienced health emergency. Our participants greatly benefitted from trainings, exchange of knowledge, and cooperative activities aimed at better enhancing our capabilities,” Arevalo said.

“Balikatan showcases the strength and resolve of the Philippine-U.S. alliance. These exercises demonstrate and improve our ability to jointly respond to crises. But training is never over. We will continue to advance our military-to-military partnership in pursuit of our shared commitment to mutual defense in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law, who was also present during the closing ceremony.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, on the other hand, recognized the continuous commitment to the longstanding alliance of the Philippines and the U.S. government.

“Allow me to convey my gratitude to the U.S. Government, represented here by Mr. John Law, for its unwavering support to this annual exercise. I am likewise grateful for your constant and continued assurance of the ironclad commitment to our Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Filipino, embodies the alliance and friendship between the Philippines and the United States.

The exercise officially opened on April 12 and was conducted in Northern and Southern Luzon for two weeks.

Chauvin guilty of all 3 charges over Floyd’s death

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 21, 2021

Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, was convicted on three charges over the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin was convicted by a United States (US) jury on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin was the police officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes on May 25, 2020.

Someone took a video that went viral globally. The video sparked a worldwide protest against racism and the use of brutal force by police authorities.

Floyd was apprehended by Chauvin and other police officers on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in Minneapolis.

Floyd physically resisted and was handcuffed. Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes. Floyd was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Chauvin will remain in police custody to await his sentence. He may face several decades in prison for the charges. AAC (with reports from Klarenz Shaughnessy)

US gives P170M support for Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccine deployment

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The United States (US) government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided P170 million or $3.5 million funds to support the Philippines in its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, the US Embassy in Manila said Thursday.

U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law announced this during a visit to a vaccination site in Caloocan City with Philippine Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III, Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan, USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, and other U.S. and Philippine officials.

The embassy said the new assistance will support the Philippines in strengthening the vaccine supply chain, monitoring vaccine safety, and delivering effective communication campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy.

It will also support local government units as they plan for, track, and administer vaccines, it added.

“While the pandemic has tested our peoples and our economies, the strong bonds between Americans and Filipinos will help us rise above this challenge,” Law said.

“We will continue to fight this unprecedented global health crisis together,” he added.

The latest assistance fund brings the total U.S. government support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response to nearly P1.3 billion ($27 million), the embassy said.

Meanwhile, the embassy further reported that the White House recently announced a P194 billion ($4 billion) commitment to support the COVAX facility.

COVAX Facility is a global initiative to support early vaccine access for 92 countries, including the Philippines.

An initial P97.2-billion ($2 billion) contribution, provided through USAID, is supporting the purchase and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the embassy said.

The Philippines has so far administered over 1.2 million vaccine doses out of the more than 3 million doses that were delivered in the country.

Government data showed that 1,093,651 people received their first shot while 162,065 individuals already got two doses since the vaccination program started on March 1.

 

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