US, PH soldiers build two classrooms in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Robie de Guzman   •   February 21, 2020   •   630

MANILA, Philippines – Two new classrooms jointly built by United States and Philippine troops have been opened in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The new classrooms were inaugurated on February 19, at the Malatgao National Elementary School, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

US Navy Lt. Joshua Moore said the new learning facilities, built by American and Filipino soldiers under arrangements through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), will be used by over 100 students residing in the community.

“This project provides a much-needed schoolhouse for the Malatgao National Elementary School in Palawan, which will be utilized by over 120 students,” Moore was quoted as saying in the statement.

“We are proud to assist this community working hand-in-hand with our Filipino counterparts,” he added.

Under the VFA, US and Philippine troops participate in war and disaster response drills and assist in humanitarian projects like erecting multi-purpose buildings or helping repair schools.

The deal, which came into force in 1999, was terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte last week. The notice of termination will take effect after 180 days.

The US Embassy said that in the last four years, its Navy engineers, known as Seabees, have completed 24 humanitarian projects across the Philippines.  

These projects include single- and double-room classrooms, water catchment systems, multipurpose school huts, and multipurpose communal buildings.

Joint construction operations such as these between the Philippine Navy Seabees, U.S. Navy Seabees, Philippine Marines, and local Barangays serve to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine partnership.

“I think working with U.S. troops will make our alliance stronger and continue to increase our bonds for years to come,” said Apprentice Fireman Construction Electrician Joel Nioda from Zamboanga City.

“This will help unify and grow our bilateral relationship,” he added.

Since October 2016, the U.S. Navy Seabees construction projects for Philippine communities are valued at more than PHP100,000,000 ($1.9 Million).

Iran’s arrest warrant for Trump is a ‘propaganda stunt’ —U.S. official

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook said on Monday (June 29) that an Iranian arrest warrant for President Donald Trump and 35 others over the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani was a “propaganda stunt”.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr announced the warrants, asking Interpol for help, according to the Fars news agency.

Hook speaking in Saudi Arabia alongside Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir, said: “This is a political nature. This has nothing to do with national security, international peace, or promoting stability. It is a propaganda stunt that no-one takes seriously.”

The United States and Interpol both dismissed the idea of acting on such a warrant.

The United States killed Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, with a drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3. Washington accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

Alqasimehr said the warrants had been issued on charges of murder and terrorist action. He said Iran had asked Interpol to issue a “red notice” seeking the arrest of Trump and the other individuals the Islamic Republic accuses of taking part in the killing of Soleimani. (Reuters)

(Production: Mohammed Benmansour, Matthew Stock, Aiden Nulty)

Number of Californians with COVID-19 keeps rising; governor declares budget emergency

UNTV News   •   June 26, 2020

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday (June 25) declared a budget emergency in the most populous U.S. state, blaming expenses and the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Declaring a budget emergency allows the state to tap into its rainy day fund. California anticipates a $54.3-billion budget deficit due to costs and a drop in revenue linked to the pandemic.

The state’s budget crunch lies in the shadow of coronavirus cases that continue to mount.

Nearly 5,350 people tested positive for the coronavirus in California the past 24 hours, Newsom said. The increase was smaller than Wednesday’s (June 24) record of 7,149 new cases. But the number of Californians becoming very ill continued to rise, using about 34% of the available intensive care beds in the state, up from 29% on Wednesday.

A total of 4,240 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday in the state, using about 9% of total available beds, Newsom said.

The surging cases have prompted the state to put 11 counties, representing about half of California’s population, on a watch list of places that might be required to roll back recent efforts to reopen their economies. (Reuters)

(Production: Jane Ross)

U.S. sees second-largest rise in new coronavirus cases since crisis began

UNTV News   •   June 25, 2020

The United States has recorded the second-largest increase in coronavirus cases since the health crisis began, with a rise of 35,588 new infections on Tuesday (June 23) as a dozen states see infections surge, according to a Reuters tally.

Florida saw a record increase on Wednesday (June 24) of over 5,500 new cases. On Tuesday, Arizona, California, Mississippi and Nevada had record rises. Texas set a record on Monday (June 22).

While the United States appeared to have curbed the outbreak in May, leading many states to lift restrictions on social and economic activity, the virus is moving into rural areas and other places that it had not initially penetrated deeply. The surge in cases on Tuesday was the highest since a record of 36,426 new infections on April 24.

The virus is also renewing its surge in states that opened up early to ease the devastating effect of the restrictions on local economies.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday acknowledged “hot spot spikes” were emerging as people return to work and gather in social settings but told reporters “that nobody is talking … about going into another economic lockdown.”

She said that the White House coronavirus task force planned to meet later on Wednesday.

Overall cases rose 25% last week, with 10 states reporting a greater than 50% rise in new infections, according to a Reuters analysis.

While some of the increased numbers of cases can be attributed to more testing, the numbers do not correlate.

The average number of tests has risen 7.6% over the last seven days, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project, while the average number of new cases rose 30%.

The percentage of positive tests is also rising.

At least four states are averaging double-digit rates of positive tests for the virus, such as Arizona at 20%. By contrast, New York, formerly the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, has been reporting positive test rates of around 1%.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his daily briefing on Wednesday that he and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have been discussing the possibility of quarantining people coming to the city from U.S. hot spots where infections are spiking.

He said he would have more to say about that soon.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing documents it had obtained, that European Union nations were considering a ban on travelers from the United States, along with Russia and Brazil, as they reopen to tourists. (Reuters)

(Production: Deborah Gembara)

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