Pompeo says US doesn’t ask Southeast Asians to take sides

Robie de Guzman   •   August 2, 2019   •   948

Courtesy: Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Southeast Asian counterparts at a meeting in Bangkok on Thursday (August 1) that the United States never asked Indo-Pacific nations to take sides.

Regional rivalry between the United States and an increasingly powerful China hangs over this week’s security meetings between foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and world powers.

“Look, we don’t ever ask any Indo-Pacific nations to choose between countries,” Pompeo said at the start of the meeting. “Our engagement in this region has not been and will not be a zero-sum exercise. Our interests simply naturally converge with yours to our mutual benefit,” he added.

The ASEAN 10-nation regional bloc consists of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Brunei, and Singapore. (REUTERS)

(Production: Artorn Pookasook, Vorasit Satienlerk, Jiraporn Kuhakan, Juarawee Kittisilpa)

US downgrades travel advisory for Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The United States has downgraded its travel advisory status for the Philippines from ‘Do Not Travel’ to ‘Reconsider Travel’.

The US State Department relaxed travel advisory to most countries as well after more than a month of barring its citizens from traveling to concerned countries due to surge in COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday (June 9), the State Department removed 61 countries from the ‘Do Not Travel’ or Level 4 Alert status and placed them under the ‘Reconsider Travel’ or Level 3 Alert Status following recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

DOF orders tighter watch on rice imports following tariff cuts

Robie de Guzman   •   June 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) on Monday ordered the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to keep a tighter watch on incoming rice imports to ensure the proper collection of taxes following the implementation of tariff rate cuts.

In a statement, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III issued the directive pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 135, which mandates the temporary adjustment of tariff rates on rice imports to offset the effect on consumers of the continuous increase in the price of rice from other countries, particularly those coming from ASEAN countries, and thereby reduce inflationary pressures.

The DOF said the EO 135 would enable the country to diversify its market sources for rice and maintain the stable supply and affordable price of the cereal for Filipino consumers.

Dominguez cited India as a possible source of cheap rice imports.

“I think there will be a shift in the imports of Thai and Vietnamese rice, and Burmese (Myanmar) rice, to rice from other countries where the value is much lower. Just keep an eye on that,” Dominguez told Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero during a recent executive committee meeting.

During the meeting, Guerrero said the BOC is currently reviewing the valuation of rice shipments from Vietnam, noting that most of the imports from there were “declared with values lower than the published prevailing prices for such exports from that country.”

“We discovered that many of these importations are under a tentative assessment so we are reviewing the payments,” Guerrero said.

He said the average value of rice imports, coming mostly from Vietnam, dropped 12.7 percent to P19,312 per metric ton (MT) in May 2021, compared to P22,119 per MT in the same month last year.

The average value of rice in May was also lower than the P21,066 per MT recorded in April and P22,119 per MT in March.

Guerrero previously reported increasing tariff collections despite lower import volumes because of a steady improvement in the BOC’s valuation system.

Preliminary data showed that from January 1 to April 30, a total of 804,360MT of rice shipments worth P17 billion entered the country, representing a 9.2-percent decline from the 885,645MT valued at P16.4 billion that were imported during the same period last year.

US Pres. Biden wants to meet with PH’s Duterte to affirm bilateral ties — envoy

Robie de Guzman   •   May 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — United States President Joe Biden is eyeing to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte to affirm the two countries’ bilateral ties, Manila’s Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez said on Monday.

In a Palace press briefing, Romualdez said Biden had sent a letter to Duterte to express his hope to meet him in the near future.

The US and the Philippines will celebrate 75 years of diplomatic ties in July.

“Sumulat na nga si President Biden kay President Duterte and not only the occasion of the 75th anniversary but to inform him about the relationship between the Philippines and the United States will continue,” he said.

“He hopes that he will be able to meet in person with the president at some point in time,” he added.

There is no schedule yet for the meeting between Biden and Duterte.

Romualdez also said that Biden likewise expressed hope that Duterte will extend the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Manila and Washington as part of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

The VFA came into force in 1999. It outlines the guidelines about the treatment of their troops when visiting the US or the Philippines. It includes provisions on visa and passport policies for US troops and the American government’s right to retain jurisdiction over its personnel, among others.

Duterte last year order the abrogation of the VFA, which is anchored in the PH-US 1951 defense treaty.

The termination of the deal, however, was suspended citing the coronavirus pandemic and the relevant developments in the region.

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