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NICKELODEON TO BUILD UNDERWATER PARK IN PALAWAN
[RELATED: Nickelodeon attraction in Palawan ‘land-based,’ developer clarifies]


JANUARY 10 -A Coral World Ocean Park attraction in the Caribbean waters off St Thomas. (Photo: Coral World Ocean Park website) American children's television network Nickelodeon has announced it will build an underwater resort and theme park in Palawan, known as the Philippines' last ecological frontier, alarming environmentalists. The firm behind SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer said the park in Palawan would be part of a 400-hectare undersea development showcasing the area's marine life that would give fans a chance to "interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love." Palawan was chosen for the development because it "is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world today," Ron Johnson, an executive vice president with Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, said in a statement emailed to AFP on Tuesday. Viacom's initial statement announcing the project on Monday said the resort would open in 2020 and feature restaurants and lounges six meters below sea level. READ MORE...RELATED, Nickelodeon attraction in Palawan ‘land-based,’ developer clarifies...

ALSO: Nickelodeon's underwater theme park plan causes uproar[RELATED BLOG COMMENTARY:Duterte and the United States in 2017]


JANUARY 11 -Coron in Palawan province is known for its pristine beaches and coral reefs How will Rodrigo Duterte's strong words for the U.S. affect the Philippine economy?Environmentalists and their political allies are trying to scuttle Nickelodeon's plan to build an underwater theme park among picturesque islands in the Philippines. The attraction is part of a 400-hectare (988-acre) development planned in Palawan, an archipelago rich in pristine beaches and coral reefs. Environment Secretary Gina Lopez announced Wednesday on Twitter that she opposes the controversial project and "won't allow" construction to go ahead.READ MORE...RELATED, Duterte and the United States in 2017...

ALSO: Trump’s Tillerson rejects condemning Rody’s drug warRELATED: TRIBUNE EDITORIAL - Trump may prove tricky]


JANUARY 13 -Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, stated repeatedly at a hearing Wednesday that he would need more information about various foreign affairs issues before he gives his opinion on what stances he would take as America’s top diplomat. Tillerson was grilled during the first day of nomination hearings on wide-ranging topics of interest to American foreign policy from Russia to China to the Philippines.  On the issue of human rights violations in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, Tillerson cited the need for more credible information and has refused to call out President Duterte’s alleged human rights violations over his war on drugsthat has resulted in a spiraling number of vigilante killings.  Like Trump who has never served in the government, Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile was nominated to lead the State Department. During his confirmation hearing presided over by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio cross-examined his policy regarding Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, including the status of human rights in the Philippines. READ MORE...RELATED, TRIBUNE EDITORIAL Trump may prove tricky...

ALSO: U.N. hails Duterte’s RH order
[RELATED: President Duterte signs executive order for full RH program implementation]


JANUARY 14 -FAMILY PLANNING President Duterte’s ExecutiveOrder No. 12 seeks to ensure women’s free access to contraceptives like those shown by an organization promoting family planning in this Dec. 18, 2012, photo. —JOAN BONDOC
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s intervention to provide free contraceptives to poor women as a “new momentum” in the provision of family planning services in the Philippines. But Executive Order No. 12, signed by Mr. Duterte on Monday, faces hurdles, with conservatives and religious leaders preparing possible challenges. In a statement issued late on Thursday, the UNFPA said Mr. Duterte’s order was a “major push” for the government’s family planning program, which has been hindered by opposition from the Catholic Church and prolife organizations. READ MORE...RELATED, President Duterte signs executive order for full RH program implementation...

ALSO: Rody gov’t open to better ties with US under Trump
[RELATED: Trump's State Sec pick slammed by HR for reluctant view on Duterte government]


JANUARY 15 -“The way I see it – based on the President’s actuations in the past – he gives respect, especially when we are also accorded respect,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. File photo
 The Philippines is expected to have better relations with the United States under the administration of incoming president Donald Trump, despite President Duterte’s verbal attacks against the superpower and long-time Philippine ally. “The way I see it – based on the President’s actuations in the past – he gives respect, especially when we are also accorded respect,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. “The President is very keen that the Philippines is respected and its sovereignty, independence is respected,” he said. “So we can expect that, given the fact that president-elect Trump seems to understand where President Duterte is coming from, I believe we will have better relationship,” he added. READ MORE...RELATED, Trump's state pick slammed for reluctant view on Duterte government...


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Nickelodeon to build underwater theme park in Palawan


A Coral World Ocean Park attraction in the Caribbean waters off St Thomas. (Photo: Coral World Ocean Park website)

MANILA, JANUARY 16, 2016 (ABS-CBN) Agence France-Presse Posted at Jan 10 2017 07:56 PM - American children's television network Nickelodeon has announced it will build an underwater resort and theme park in Palawan, known as the Philippines' last ecological frontier, alarming environmentalists.

The firm behind SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer said the park in Palawan would be part of a 400-hectare undersea development showcasing the area's marine life that would give fans a chance to "interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love."

Palawan was chosen for the development because it "is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world today," Ron Johnson, an executive vice president with Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, said in a statement emailed to AFP on Tuesday.

Viacom's initial statement announcing the project on Monday said the resort would open in 2020 and feature restaurants and lounges six meters below sea level.

READ MORE...

The development would "advocate ocean protection," the statement said.

But environmental group Greenpeace said it would destroy the area's world-famous marine ecosystem.


The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, a government body, said the project had yet to be approved.

"It's sad and alarming because a theme park that big will not promote environmental protection by building those structures," Vince Cinches of Greenpeace Southeast Asia told AFP. "Why build a viewing deck when you have the whole paradise to enjoy?"

Conservation groups call Palawan "the last frontier" because of its pristine coastlines and forests, which are among the oldest and most diverse in Southeast Asia.

Palawan is home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, a subterranean river and the Tubbataha coral reefs.
Palawan-based environmental activist Grizelda Mayo-Anda also expressed concern.

"I am wary because we have had problems already with resorts built in mangrove areas," Mayo-Anda, executive director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, told AFP.

"I'm really concerned because sometimes, with all due respect to the local government unit, we get captivated by new projects and we do not judiciously study the impact."

Viacom's Philippine partner, Coral World Park, insisted the resort would not hurt the environment.

"We are taking very, very careful measures to ensure that the biodiversity is kept intact," Coral World Park chairman Paul Monozca told AFP.

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, a government body, said the project had yet to be approved.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Nickelodeon attraction in Palawan ‘land-based,’ developer clarifies Resort and attraction, not theme park, to be built in Coron—firm By: Yuji Vincent Gonzales - Reporter / @YGonzalesINQ INQUIRER.net / 04:26 PM January 12, 2017


SPECTACULAR sight in what the locals call “the big lagoon”

After drawing flak from environmentalists, the developer of the planned Nickelodeon attraction in Palawan has clarified that a resort and not a theme park as previously reported will be built in Coron.

In a statement emailed to INQUIRER.net by Nickelodeon owner Viacom International Media Networks on Thursday, developer Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. (CWP) said the Agence France-Presse report titled “Nickelodeon to build underwater theme Park in Palawan” did not “clearly reflect the full details” of their original announcement.

CWP marketing and communications director Susan Lee said reports that a full 400-hectare structure would be developed under water were “inaccurate,” noting that only 100 hectares have been allocated for the Nickelodeon facility and 30 hectares for the attraction itself.

READ: Nickelodeon to build Philippine underwater theme park

“There will be no theme park development in Palawan… There has never been any form of communication from our side mentioning a theme park. Our plans are to build a resort and attraction, of which we are designing as an undersea attraction with an ocean conservation focus – this is reflected in the press release with Viacom International Media Networks,” Lee said in a statement.

“The only infrastructure in the water is floating and all developments are on land. The “undersea themed” Coral World Park is land based but is designed to meet the international standards required as a global destination especially environment related standards advocating conservation tourism, renewable energy and category 5 proof architecture,” it added.

Quoting Viacom’s initial statement, the AFP report said the resort scheduled for a 2020 opening would feature restaurants and lounges six meters or 20 feet below sea level. The “undersea development,” it said, would give fans a chance to “interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love.” Nickelodeon is the children’s network behind cartoons Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer.

Following backlash on social media and the launch of a petition calling for a junking of the plan, CWP clarified that the facility will be built on private property and will be subjected to “all necessary approvals from the government before construction starts.” The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development earlier said the project has yet to be approved.

READ: Gov’t, Nickelodeon urged to stop planned underwater park in Palawan

“The Coral World Park owns eight global brands for the Philippines and all partners advocate ocean protection. This project is five years in the making and coordinated with the relevant officials of the Philippine government… We take the petitions seriously but sad to say, information has been misunderstood. We hope these points clarify all matters concerning this development,” the statement continued.

“Within the parameters by our founders, we have our own strict adherence to the environment. We aim to create a large scale reef conservation program which is sustainable, together with sanctuaries for key species in the area – these are part of our blue-print besides the job creation opportunities. We aim to work with as many advocates as possible to create a world class destination for tourism with an undersea theme,” it added.

Palawan, dubbed as the Philippines’ last frontier, is home to two heritage sites—the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and the Tubbataha Reefs. It is world-famous for its coastlines and forests, which are among the region’s most diverse.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said she would not allow the construction of the construction if it would damage the environment, particularly the corals. JE

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RELATED FROM BLOG SFR.ORG ASIA (BLOG COMMENTARY)

Duterte and the United States in 2017 by Joshua Kurlantzick January 6, 2017


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks on during an awarding ceremony for outstanding Filipinos and organizations overseas, at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on December 19, 2016. (Ezra Acayan/Reuters)


Over the past year, new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signaled that he wants to dramatically shift Manila’s relationships with the United States, Russia, and China. Duterte also has taken a wrecking ball to many norms of Philippine democracy, overseeing a war on drugs that has led to a spike in extrajudicial killings, pushing his vice president out of Cabinet meetings, and reportedly threatening reporters and civil society activists who criticize him.

He also vows to upend and radically reform Philippine politics and the Philippine economy, taking measures to reduce high economic inequality and, possibly, to shift the country to a more federalized system.

Duterte’s administration has set back U.S.-Philippine relations, putting them on a rocky course; for the most part of 2016, U.S. officials in Washington and Manila seemed unsure of how to respond to the fiery populist, who has retained high approval ratings among Filipinos. (However, Duterte’s decision to allow former dictator Ferdinand Marcos a burial in a heroes’ ceremony may have dented Duterte’s popularity, although it is too soon to really tell.)

In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, some U.S. officials believe relations between Manila and Washington will warm up again, in part because the next U.S. administration may be less critical of Duterte’s drug war and other alleged abuses. (Duterte’s administration has claimed that the U.S. president-elected endorsed Duterte’s drug war, but the evidence of this claim remains sketchy.) However, thus far there has been no clear, on the ground evidence of a positive shift in U.S.-Philippines ties.

In a new podcast discussion with War on the Rocks, I analyze the future of the U.S.-Philippines relationship under Duterte. In addition, I discuss my forthcoming book, A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA, about the secret war in Laos in the 1960s, and how it helped transform the Central Intelligence Agency into a paramilitary organization.


CNN WORLD

Nickelodeon's underwater theme park plan causes uproar by Sherisse Pham @Sherisse January 11, 2017: 7:11 AM ET


Coron in Palawan province is known for its pristine beaches and coral reefs

How will Rodrigo Duterte's strong words for the U.S. affect the Philippine economy?

Environmentalists and their political allies are trying to scuttle Nickelodeon's plan to build an underwater theme park among picturesque islands in the Philippines.

The attraction is part of a 400-hectare (988-acre) development planned in Palawan, an archipelago rich in pristine beaches and coral reefs.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez announced Wednesday on Twitter that she opposes the controversial project and "won't allow" construction to go ahead.

READ MORE...

As criticism of the plans escalated, the firm partnering with Nickelodeon on the project tried to play down the "undersea" nature of the development.

"The only infrastructure in the water is floating and all developments are on land," Coral World Park said in a statement.

That contrasts with the announcement it made Monday with Nickelodeon's parent company, Viacom (VIA), trumpeting the "world's first undersea attraction to be built in Asia" and a resort featuring "underwater restaurants and lounges."

Related: This industry is freaking out over the Philippine president's anti-U.S. rhetoric

Viacom claims the project will advocate ocean protection. And Coral World Park touts its development as a coral reef conservation program.

But environmental groups are crying foul.

"It's quite despicable for them to put up a theme park in paradise," said Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "The project will basically destroy the marine ecosystem."



Palawan -- which is made up of one main island and smaller groups of islands around it -- is a UNESCO designated biosphere reserve and home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site marine park.

Related: Is the Philippines' outspoken president scaring away investors?

The company behind SpongeBob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer said its attraction would be located amidst a cluster of white sand islands. Visitors would get to the islands by speed boat, and then drink and dine in underwater lounges and restaurants located 20 feet below sea level.

Building artificial structures underwater will undeniably damage and disrupt Palawan's marine ecosystems, said
Save Philippine Seas executive director Anna Oposa. More than 100,000 people have signed a Save Philippine Seas petition opposing the plan.

"Whatever kind of safeguards you put in place, you will disrupt marine life," said Oposa. "If [Coral World Park] were really serious about protecting the sea, they would invest that $150 million in marine protected areas and livelihoods in the community."

In the press release Monday, Viacom touted the new underwater attraction's earnings potential, saying it would provide "a significant business opportunity for our partners across multiple platforms."

A Viacom spokeswoman said Wednesday that design details for the attraction have not been finalized.


TRIBUNE

Trump’s Tillerson rejects condemning Rody’s drug war Written by Tribune Wires Friday, 13 January 2017 00:00 f



Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, stated repeatedly at a hearing Wednesday that he would need more information about various foreign affairs issues before he gives his opinion on what stances he would take as America’s top diplomat.

Tillerson was grilled during the first day of nomination hearings on wide-ranging topics of interest to American foreign policy from Russia to China to the Philippines.

On the issue of human rights violations in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte, Tillerson cited the need for more credible information and has refused to call out President Duterte’s alleged human rights violations over his war on drugsthat has resulted in a spiraling number of vigilante killings.

Like Trump who has never served in the government, Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobile was nominated to lead the State Department.

During his confirmation hearing presided over by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio cross-examined his policy regarding Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia, including the status of human rights in the Philippines.

READ MORE...

Prodding him to state views on President Duterte’s controversial campaign against illegal drugs and the killings it has resulted, Tillerson insisted that he needs solid evidence first before he issues any assessment on this subject.
He said he wants to understand “in greater detail” the issue being raised since in comparison the senator has an access to information he does not have.

Referring to a Los Angeles Times article where President Duterte was quoted, Senator Rubio pointed out that Tillerson already has ready access to information.

Los Angeles Times took note of the scope and brutality of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign which have killed about 6,200 suspected drug dealers and users.

Sticking to his position, Tillerson refused to denounce the Philippine president saying he would not “rely solely on media reports.”

In the hearing, the incoming US top diplomat said “America and the Philippines have a longstanding friendship, it’s important that we keep that in perspective in engaging with the Philippines.”

He added that with our friendship and alliance, Washington has to ensure that Manila will stay an ally.

Tillerson also declined to condemn other human rights abuses around the globe without having more information, and said he didn’t know enough to determine if China was one of “the world’s worst human-rights violators.”
‘Extremely concerning’

Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang stressed that “Tillerson’s commitment to human rights in the US and abroad is in serious question.”

While Huang recognized her position that the US foreign policy must include the prioritization of human rights, she upbraided Tillerson’s unwillingness to acknowledge “human rights abuses by known and long-recognized violators.”

“It is extremely concerning that a nominee for Secretary of State would claim that governments in countries like Syria and the Philippines with clear patterns of documented violations are not considered human rights abusers,” she lashed out.

The international human rights group observed that his rhetoric suggests that the State Department under his lead would not pressure human rights violators even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Expressing apprehensions on the appointment, Huang said that “if confirmed, Rex Tillerson will hold a position that affects the human rights of millions of people both inside and outside the United States.”

At the same time, Sarah Margon, Washington Director of Hman Rights Watch said:“Rex Tillerson’s reluctance to acknowledge human rights abuses by Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines raises serious questions about whether he can effectively serve as Secretary of State.

Numerous independent observers, UN investigators, media, and humanitarian and human rights groups have published extensive and detailed reporting about the ...Philippines government’s abusive ‘war on drugs’ which has resulted in the killings of more than 6,200 suspected drug users in the last six months.

Tillerson’s claims that he cannot pass judgment on these counties’ abuses until he has access to US intelligence briefings ignores the US government’s own previous findings and suggests that Tillerson is either ill-informed or apathetic to human rights issues worldwide.”

Tillerson also hit out at China, warning that the Asian power pursues its “own goals” and has not sufficiently helped rein in a nuclear-armed North Korea.

“It has not been a reliable partner in using its full influence to curb North Korea,” he added.

Beijing, Pyongyang’s closest ally, is seen as critical to containing the pariah state’s nuclear weapons program.
Tillerson, however, said disagreements with Beijing on some issues should not preclude “productive partnership” on other matters.

‘Vast experience’

The Senate’s Democratic minority spent hours digging into Tillerson’s record.

Sen. Ben Cardin warned that operating an oil firm was far different than safeguarding American interests worldwide, and he questioned Tillerson’s capacity to handle global crises, particularly with Russia.

“It cannot be business as usual,” Cardin insisted.

Until he stepped down from ExxonMobil on New Year’s Eve, Tillerson was also director of Exxon Neftegas, an affiliate that operates the Sakhalin-1 field in Russia’s Far East.

The US parent firm was chasing greater investments in Russia, including Arctic fields, and Tillerson was a familiar and popular figure in Moscow, awarded an Order of Friendship medal by Putin in 2013.

Tillerson was a staunch opponent of US and international sanctions against Russia for its aggressive behavior in Ukraine, where it annexed the Crimea region.

Some Republicans have raised concerns about Tillerson.

Republican Senator Rubio asked him if he believed Putin is a “war criminal” for the Russian military’s attacks on Aleppo, Syria, and if Saudi Arabia was a human rights violator. Tillerson said he needed more information before making such determinations.

China hit

Tillerson also hit out at China , warning that the Asian power pursues its own goals and has not sufficienty helped rein in a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Tillerson on his confirmation hearing expressed that China’s construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters are “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea”.

In his statement, Tillerson said they will have to send China “a clear signal” that the island-building must be stopped and that their access to the constructed islands will not be allowed.

“They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s,” Tillerson stressed.

As read by the aforementioned policy paper, China has clearly stated that they resolutely opposes certain countries’ provocations of regional disputes.

“I will not repeat China’s position on the issue of the South China Sea as it is quite clear. What I want to say is that since the second half of last year, countries that have disputes with China over the South China Sea have come around to an agreement with us that these disputes should be peacefully resolved through consultation and negotiation with parties directly concerned, and that efforts should be made by China and Asean countries to safeguard peace and stability of the region,” Chinese Foreign ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing.

Hoping for other parties outside the region to respect the current status in the region, Lu expressed that “this hard-won situation is worth cherishing.”

RP to ‘wait and see’ on Trumps’s SCS barring China’s participation in feud.

As a response to the positive note made by new White House officials, Malacañang said it welcomes Tillerson’s remarks but will still wait and see what such statements bear out when it comes to actual policy implementations.

“The remarks of Mr. Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflect his personal beliefs and should be respected. The reasonable response is to wait and see what the new administration’s policy pronouncements will be,” Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement yesterday.

Andanar, however, refused to comment further saying that it might distract the Philippines’ relationship with China when it comes to the sea row.

“What is important is for both sides to remain committed to peace and stability in this part of the world and to refrain from any and all acts that would jeopardize freedom of navigation and overflights along this vital sea lane,” he pointed out.

Japanese Foreign Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura in a press briefing yesterday in Malacañang, pointed out that their (Japanese ) government likes Mr. Duterte’s way of dealing with China over the South China Sea.

Peace, stability possible, but territorial claims remain

China expressed commitment to promoting peace and stability in South China Sea but no moves to internationalize or judicialize the issue may prove effective said its policy paper yesterday.

Released through Chinese Embassy, China reaffirmed its position that its claims in the strategic waters will never change.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands) and their adjacent waters,” it stressed.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr. took note that the Philippines will not raise the discussion of a Hague-based arbitral award that nullified China’s claims in the disputed waters.

Yasay assured that discussions on the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea are on going.

Bridging the long hiatus of finally formulating a Code of Conduct, Yasay said the completion of this more binding edict would be possible by mid-2017.

Since various working groups are still on the stage of discussion, no details have been announced yet on the COC’s possible enforcement capabilities.

“China and the Asean countries stay in close communication and dialogue on the South China Sea issue,” the policy paper guaranteed. Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, Ted Tuvera and AFP

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RELATED FROM THE TRIBUNE (EDITORIAL)

Trump may prove tricky Written by Tribune Editorial Saturday, 14 January 2017 00:00

A one liner in Donald Trump’s first press briefing spells out what could be bad news for Rody as the United States President-elect put China on notice for building what he called a massive fortress in the South China Sea which was a clear indication of the direction of the Trump administration policy.

Trump’s domestic-centric concerns were seen to result in the United States staying clear of its usual role as a global police but in a preview of his policies, his administration would likely have a more confrontational policy in dealing with foreign governments.

He did not spare Russia either in the hacking issue despite suggestions that the new president has been cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On the controversy regarding the hacking that occurred prior to the November elections, Trump made a categorical reference to Russia but added that other countries are doing the same.

On the controversial wall to keep in Mexican illegal immigrants, Trump insisted that he will make the Mexican government pay for it, as he promised during the campaign, but he now said the Mexicans will reimburse the cost for building it.

“We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year-and-a-half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait. I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We’re going to start building. Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment — probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen,” he said.

China, Trump said, “has taken total advantage of us economically, total advantage of us in the South China Sea by building their massive fortress, total.”

He issued a strong warning “that all countries will respect us far more, far more than they do under past administrations,” apparently referring to the policies of his administration.

Trump following up his words with action will mean bad news for Rody who is seeking a neutral position for the country on the maritime strife.

The previous administration of Noynoy, in contrast, had totally sold out to the Americans.

Rody repaired the relations with the country’s neighbor China but the US under Trump may push aggressively in containing the Asian giant likely through pursuing the Asian pivot policy.

Trump is expected to invoke its military agreements with the Philippines in its containment that would likely create friction with Rody.

Also, the Trump’s emerging domestic policy to keep American businesses within its border is a bad omen.

He revealed a plan to impose a border tax on companies that choose to relocate their operations which likely would impact on the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) business, 70 percent of which are provided by American companies.

“You’d have millions more workers right now in the United States, 96 million really wanting a job and they can’t get,” Trump said in rationalizing his proposed tax.

The BPO earns for the economy about $23 billion a year which is second to overseas Filipino workers’ remittances of over $26 billion for last year.

Rody’s ace, however, was the good start in his relations with Trump after getting some sort of assurance that the new US President has no interest in the way he undertakes his war on drugs.

Still, from what he had indicated during his first meeting with the press, it appears that Donald may prove to be another problem for Rody, or it may well be the opposite. Rody may prove to be a problem for The Donald.


INQUIRER

UN hails Duterte’s RH order By: Julie M. Aurelio - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:10 AM January 14, 2017


FAMILY PLANNING President Duterte’s ExecutiveOrder No. 12 seeks to ensure women’s free access to contraceptives like those shown by an organization promoting family planning in this Dec. 18, 2012, photo. —JOAN BONDOC

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on Friday hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s intervention to provide free contraceptives to poor women as a “new momentum” in the provision of family planning services in the Philippines.

But Executive Order No. 12, signed by Mr. Duterte on Monday, faces hurdles, with conservatives and religious leaders preparing possible challenges.

In a statement issued late on Thursday, the UNFPA said Mr. Duterte’s order was a “major push” for the government’s family planning program, which has been hindered by opposition from the Catholic Church and prolife organizations.

READ MORE...

Critically important


Klaus Beck Country Representative, UNFPA Philippines

“The full and immediate implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law is critically important for the government to deliver on its family planning program,” said Klaus Beck, UNFPA country representative.

Beck said Mr. Duterte’s order would “lend new momentum to the implementation of the law as it demonstrates the highest level of support to the measure.”

Mr. Duterte issued the order on Monday, directing government agencies to ensure free access to contraceptives for 6 million women who could not obtain them because of poverty.

Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Wednesday that the intensified drive to make contraceptives available and ensure “zero unmet need for family planning” was important to reduce poverty.

Pernia said the government’s target was to cut the poverty rate from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent or 13 percent by the end of Mr. Duterte’s term in 2022.

According to EO 12, out of the 6 million women with unmet needs for modern family planning, 2 million have been identified as poor.

The 2 million women should have access to contraceptives by 2018, and all the rest thereafter, the order said.

EO 12 also directed government agencies to locate couples with unmet family planning needs, mobilize agencies up to the village level and partner with civil society in intensifying the drive.

Mr. Duterte’s directive did not mention a Supreme Court order issued in June 2015 restraining the Department of Health (DOH) from distributing a contraceptive implant that opponents of the RH law considered abortifacient.

The Supreme Court also directed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to put on hold the renewal of licenses for other contraceptives, directing the agency to call public hearings as part of the licensing process.

The government has appealed the ruling.

“The government cannot continue to tolerate this delay in judgment because time is of the essence as far as the implementation of the [RH] law is concerned,” Pernia said on Wednesday.

He said 11 Filipino women die each day from complications of pregnancy and delivery and the law would reduce maternal deaths and teen pregnancies in addition to enabling families to have the number of children they want.

Full support

In its statement on Thursday, the UNFPA expressed concern that the Supreme Court order might hinder full implementation of the RH law, but said it would support the government and its civil society partners in the provision of reproductive health services.

“[The] UNFPA has been working with local governments in ensuring that access to quality reproductive health services, including family planning, will be available, especially for the poorest and disadvantaged communities who need these services most,” it said.

Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the DOH’s Commission on Population, on Wednesday said if the contraceptives were made available to the 6 million women with unmet family planning needs, contraceptive prevalence rate would increase to 65 percent, from the current 40 percent.

Population growth

The Philippines’ population, now at 104 million, is growing at a rate of around 1.7 percent yearly, but the growth may be lowered to 1.4 percent if the family planning campaign is fully implemented, Perez said.

About 25 percent of the population live in poverty. Millions of poor women have no access to contraceptives partly because the government’s family planning program runs on a shoestring budget of P500 million.

This could change, however, as EO 12 directs government agencies to put in funds for the family planning program in their 2018 and 2019 budgets, Perez said.

That would enable the government’s family planning budget to increase four-fold to the ideal level of P2 billion, he said.

CONSERVATIVES VIEW

Conservatives view Mr. Duterte’s intervention as a circumvention of the 2015 Supreme Court order.

“Here comes President Duterte issuing an executive order circumventing the intention of the hold order,” Rep. Lito Atienza said on Thursday.

Atienza is the representative in the House of the prolife party-list group Buhay.

He said his group would study EO 12 “word for word, phrase by phrase,” and “if illegal, we will question it” in the Supreme Court.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said it remained opposed to contraception despite the poverty-reduction intent of Mr. Duterte’s order.

The bishops criticized what they described as Mr. Duterte’s “antilife” measures, calling on people to join a “grand procession” next month to make a stand.

“When society opens its doors to welcome artificial contraception, abortion, divorce, legalized same-sex union, it opens the minds of people to a particular mindset that problems can only be resolved through termination of relationships, terminations of persons,” the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on the Laity said. —WITH REPORTS FROM THE WIRES

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RELATED FROM  THE INQUIRER

President Duterte signs executive order for full RH program implementation January 12, 2017 Facebook Google + Tweet Email



MANILA, Jan. 12 - President Rodrigo Duterte signed an Executive Order aimed at ensuring that the government meet the needs of Filipino families for appropriate family planning support.

The full title of Executive Order No. 12 is “Attaining and Sustaining Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning Through the Strict Implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.”

In a press briefing in Malacañan on Wednesday, January 11, National Economic and Development Authority director general Ernesto Pernia said the signing of the EO would allow women of reproductive age to achieve their desired family size and number of children rather than having more children than they want or they can afford and provide for adequately.

He said this is exactly the essence of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law Act (RPRH Law), the implementation of which was hindered by a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court (SC).

With the issuance of the EO, Pernia said they hope that the Supreme Court will act expeditiously in lifting the TRO.


NEDA CHIEF PERNIA

Pernia said that while pro-life groups oppose the use of contraceptives, the government thinks differently, adding that the law is pro-life, pro-women, and pro-economic development.

“So the link between family planning or the implementation of the RPRH law is critical --- the link between family planning and economic development, socio-economic development is quite intimate,” he said.

The government targets to reduce poverty from 21.6 percent as of 2015, to 14 or even 13 percent by the end of the Duterte administration, Pernia said.

Pernia also said that while the TRO is still in effect, the issuance of the EO is beneficial because it allows local governments to get around with the TRO by letting NGOs implement the RPRH Law since the private sector is not covered by the SC ruling.

For his part, Commission on Population (POPCOM) executive director Dr. Juan Antonio Perez said the President is calling on the three major agencies: DOH, DILG and POPCOM to assist local governments in implementing the RPRH Law by mapping out and identifying women who have a need for family planning.

“So there is a plan to, in the next six months for local governments to go out in the field, to do house-to-house visits, identify those in need of family planning, working with all these agencies,” Perez said.

Perez added that President Duterte wants agencies to support at least the two million women in the poorest sector for them to get family planning services and to reach at least six million women by the end of the administration. (PND)


PHILSTAR

Rody gov’t open to better ties with US under Trump By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 15, 2017 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


“The way I see it – based on the President’s actuations in the past – he gives respect, especially when we are also accorded respect,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is expected to have better relations with the United States under the administration of incoming president Donald Trump, despite President Duterte’s verbal attacks against the superpower and long-time Philippine ally.

“The way I see it – based on the President’s actuations in the past – he gives respect, especially when we are also accorded respect,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

“The President is very keen that the Philippines is respected and its sovereignty, independence is respected,” he said.

“So we can expect that, given the fact that president-elect Trump seems to understand where President Duterte is coming from, I believe we will have better relationship,” he added.

READ MORE...

Abella’s statements – aired over government radio dzRB – came in the wake of reports, quoting the US State Department, as saying that it has not verified human rights abuses committed in the country in connection with Duterte’s war on drugs.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that while Washington is very concerned about “credible reports” of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, “we have not made a determination yet that this indeed is what’s happening.”

Abella’s statement also followed Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.’s declaring his agreement with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pronouncements that there should be mutuality of interest between the Philippines and Japan to make sure the US would remain an influential force in the region.

“I think it’s based on a mutual respect and I think there’s a mutual respect between – presently up to this point – between president-elect Trump and President Duterte,” Abella said.

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson declined to pass judgment on Duterte, saying he did not have enough information to determine if Duterte and his government committed human rights abuses in their war against narcotics.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio had pressed Tillerson to condemn Duterte, citing reports of over 6,000 people killed in the conduct of Duterte’s war on drugs.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Trump's state pick slammed for reluctant view on Duterte government 18 SHARES 10 0 0 Camille Diola (philstar.com) - January 13, 2017 - 7:03pm MANILA,


Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Philippines — Leading human rights organizations raised concern over the testimony of Rex Tillerson, US President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of State.

In separate statements, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called Tillerson ill-informed and showing a lack of commitment in addressing human rights violations before he assumes his post as top American diplomat.

"After a day of questioning, Tillerson's commitment to human rights in the US and abroad is in serious question," Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang said in a statement.

Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, meawhile said Tillerson's answers to senators' queries at his nomination hearing suggest that he is "apathetic to human rights issues worldwide."

At the hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Tillerson refused to acknowledge that governments of Syria, the Philippines, Russia and Saudi Arabia have committed serious human rights violations.

Tillerson, a former oil executive set to replace State Secretary John Kerry, instead insisted that he needs to read classified about the abuses attributed to the countries' leaders before passing judgment.

HRW noted "extensive and detailed reporting" for US's top officials to make a clear position on Russia's and Saudi Arabia's human rights records, war crimes in Syria and the Philippines's so-called drug war under President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Numerous independent observers, UN investigators, media, and humanitarian and human rights groups have published extensive and detailed reporting about... the Philippines government's abusive 'war on drugs' which has resulted in the killings of more than 6,200 suspected drug users in the last six months," Margon said in the statement.

Amnesty also said the governments have "clear patterns of documented violations."

"(Tillerson's) rhetoric suggests that under his leadership the State Department would not pressure human rights violators even in the face of overwhelming evidence," Huang said.

Duterte and his top officials have repeatedly denied that killings in the campaign against narcotics are extrajudicial in nature and invited international observers to investigate the killings first. Critics say, however, that officials' rhetoric alone has encouraged violence in law enforcement operations and efforts. — Video report from Efigenio Toledo IV

WATCH VIDEO:
US senator grills Rex Tillerson on EJKs in Philippines RepostLike Philstar.com by Philstar.comFollow 83 397 views About Share Add to US Sen. Chris Murphy, asks Donald Trump's pick for State secretary about the extrajudicial killing in the Philippines. Rex Tillerson faced a Senate panel in Washington for his nomination hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2016. Video courtesy of the US Senate; Editing by Philstar.com / Efigenio Toledo IV

 
US senator grills Rex Tillerson on EJKs in... by philstarnews

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