PH, US defense chiefs tackle West Philippine Sea situation, regional security issues

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021   •   569

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Sunday (April 11) discussed the situation in the West Philippine Sea and some measures to deepen the defense cooperation of two countries amid recent tensions in the contested waters.

In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the defense chiefs of the two nations held a telephone conference to talk about the situation in the West Philippine Sea and recent developments in regional security.

DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said that the Philippines is “keeping all options open” but said they are closely coordinating with the United States government on the matter.

Andolong also said that both parties are “committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states’ inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively.”

The United States and the Philippines signed the mutual defense treaty in 1951.

In a separate statement, Austin said he spoke with his counterpart to reaffirm their commitment to the alliance between the US and the Philippines.

“I had a productive call with SND @del_lorenzana to discuss challenges in the South China Sea and the need for unity in ensuring security and stability in the region. #FreeandopenIndoPacific,” he said.

The DND said both defense chiefs “are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was canceled last year.”

Austin also reiterated the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations and “hopes that it would be continued.”

“Secretary Lorenzana committed to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval lies with him,” the DND said.

Also during the phone conversation, Lorenzana sought Austin’s assistance to speed up the delivery of Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine doses that were procured by the Philippine government.

“To which, Secretary Austin replied that he would look into the issue and bring it to the attention of the office concerned,” the DND said.

Clusters of Delta variant cases seen in Northern Mindanao, Antique – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reported that clusters of Delta COVID-19 variant cases have been observed in Northern Mindanao and the province of Antique in Western Visayas.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the cluster of infections in the Northern Mindanao was seen in a family while different clusters of infections were observed in Antique.

She said one family cluster may have stemmed from an individual who came home from work and infected the household.

“Ito pong ating cluster of infection na isa, dito sa may Delta variant, nakitaan natin na mayroon isang kapamilya na nagtratrabaho sa isang lugar at umuwi sa kanilang pwesto, at doon sila po ay nagkaroon ng pagkakahawa-hawa. There is a link,” Vergeire said in a press forum.

The DOH earlier confirmed the local transmission of the highly contagious variant following the phylogenetic analysis conducted by the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center, and case investigation by the DOH Epidemiology Bureau and the regional and local epidemiology and surveillance units.

The number of Delta variant cases in the Philippines rose to 47 after 12 more local cases were detected. Of these cases, three died while eight remain active.

The DOH reminded the public to continue adhering to COVID-19 health protocols, such as the wearing of face masks and face shields, social distancing and avoiding unnecessary travels and gatherings.

They must also get vaccinated against COVID-19 when it is their turn.

The DOH likewise urged local government units to shorten the duration of case detection to isolation and immediately isolate symptomatic patients, and ramp up their vaccination and prioritize the senior citizens and people with underlying conditions.

Philippines lists 6,845 new COVID-19 infections; active cases up to 55,069

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday reported that the Philippines has logged 6,845 new cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), pushing the cumulative tally to 1,537,097.

The DOH said that the country’s number of active cases rose to 55,069.

Of this, 93.4 percent are mild, 1.3 percent are asymptomatic, 1.6 percent are moderate, 2.3 percent are severe, and 1.4 percent are in critical condition.

The DOH noted in its report that two accredited testing laboratories failed to submit their data on time.

The DOH also reported 2,330 more patients who have recovered from the disease, bringing the total recoveries to 1,455,137.

The death toll remained at 26,891 as there were no reported new fatalities.

Data from the DOH also showed that 52 percent of the country’s ICU beds are occupied and 36 percent of ventilators are being used.

In the National Capital Region, 42 percent of the ICU beds are occupied while 32 percent of the ventilators are in use.

The DOH also noted a positivity rate of 12.3 percent out of 43,668 tests reported last July 21.

PNP chief Eleazar orders probe on slay of Cebu radio commentator Cortes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Guillermo Eleazar on Friday said he has directed the Cebu Provincial Police Office to conduct a thorough investigation into the killing of radio commentator Reynante “Rey” Cortes.

Eleazar said police investigators will look into the killing of Cortes, including threats that the victim may have had received.

“All angles will be investigated to determine the motive in the crime, especially if this was related to his profession,” the PNP chief said in a statement.

“The local police will also investigate if there were threats to his life prior to the incident,” he added.

Initial investigation showed that Cortes was shot dead on July 22 by an unidentified gunman after his radio program.

He was killed in front of the station DYRB Radyo Pilipino along N. Bacalso Avenue in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City.

Cortes was rushed to a hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Eleazar said investigators are coordinating with Cortes’ family, friends, and colleagues for information that could help the probe.

He also joined calls for justice in the killing of Cortes and underscored that threats and attacks against journalists have no space in a democratic country.

“Nananawagan tayo sa mga maaaring makapagbigay ng impormasyon sa kasong ito, makipagtulungan kayo sa mga awtoridad upang agarang maresolba at mabigyan ng hustisya ang pagkamatay ni Cortes,” he said.

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