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PIA WURTZBACH GRACES MISS UNIVERSE GOVERNOR's BALL
[RELATED: Will Philippines' Maxine Medina get a translator for Miss Universe pageant?]


JANUARY 17 -Gov. Chavit Singson with Ms. Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach during the Governor's Ball at SMX/ Inquirer Photo by Jilson Seckler Tiu
Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach made her first official appearance as the reigning Miss Universe for the pageant’s current edition rolling out in the country at the “Governor’s Ball” on Monday night at the SMX Convention Hall in Pasay City. The benefit dinner, which cited Pass it Forward as the beneficiary, was also the first official event where the candidates were all gathered together. In groups, they had initially toured Boracay in Aklan, and Vigan City in Ilocos Sur, over the weekend. “It feels like it’s already the coronation night,” Wurtzbach told the guests. “It all started with just an idea, holding the Miss Universe pageant here. And now it’s finally here. I would like to thank everyone who made this possible.”  READ MORE...RELATED, Will Maxine Medina get a translator for Miss Universe pageant?...

ALSO: Redford avoids politics as Sundance opens on eve of Trump festivities [(Redford said the festival would not take a stance on current U.S. politics, but rather would support independent filmmakers who want to explore the issue.)
[RELATED: At the Eleventh Hour, Trump Finds Entertainers for Inauguration Concert ]


JANUARY 20 -(Reuters/Jim Urquhart/Files) /mb.com.ph
Actor and filmmaker Robert Redford opened the Sundance Independent Film Festival on Thursday by steering clear of politics and instead criticizing the news industry. “The news media world has shrunk into more of a sound bite world. Everything’s so clipped and short, it gives you no time to digest, no time to contemplate. It’s already moving onto the next event,” Redford said at Sundance’s opening news conference. Documentaries, on the other hand, are filling the gap Redford said, highlighting their growing role at the industry’s biggest indie film festival. READ MORE...RELATED, At the Eleventh Hour, Trump Finds Entertainers for Inauguration Concert ...

ALSO: China - Japan's Abe sows discord, raises regional tension
[RELATED: Japan And China Are Competing To Win Over The Philippines - Forbes]


JANUARY 17 -MANILA, Philippines — Beijing called out Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following reports that he has been bringing up the South China Sea issue during his visits to the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the South China Sea situation has improved due to joint efforts of China and relevant Southeast Asian countries. Related Stories G7 leaders agree on sending strong message on South China Sea Japan backs Phl arbitration case "However, the Japanese leader is still going to extremes to sow discord and play up regional tension," Hua said in a press briefing. "Such practice harbors ulterior motives and such mentality is extremely unhealthy," Hua added. READ MORE...RELATED, Japan And China Are Competing To Win Over The Philippines....

ALSO: Chinese official reaffirms Phl-China ties with Rody
[RELATED: Yasay - Note verbale sent to China after intel verification of weapons installation]


JANUARY 19 -President Duterte meets with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin at the Music Room at Malacañang. File photo
Chinese Foreign Vice Minister Liu Zhenmin’s visit to President Duterte at Malacañang last Tuesday was merely to reaffirm bilateral commitments, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday. Abella said the note verbale issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs against the presence of China’s weapons systems in the disputed South China Sea did not crop up during the visit of the top Chinese official. “It’s simply coincidental,” Abella told reporters when asked if the President discussed the matter or if Liu defended Beijing’s construction in the disputed waters, which has worried some Philippine officials. READ MORE...RELATED, Yasay: Note verbale sent to China after intel verification...

ALSO: Special, not emergency powers OK’d for traffic
[RELATED:MMDA ‘in dire need’ of traffic enforcers]


JANUARY 19 -The special powers will be wielded for three years by the secretary of transportation. The secretary or Duterte may designate a “traffic czar.” File photo
Instead of emergency powers for President Duterte, the House transportation committee approved yesterday a measure that would give the administration “special powers” to solve the perennial traffic problem in Metro Manila and other urban areas. The special powers will be wielded for three years by the secretary of transportation. The secretary or Duterte may designate a “traffic czar.” Voting unanimously, the panel members gave their nod to House Bill 4334, the Traffic Crisis Act of 2016, after deliberating on amendments to the original version of the bill. The measure was approved with 12 amendments. “House Bill 4334 is hereby approved. This will be called special powers, not emergency powers,” committee chairman and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, who authored the bill, said. READ MORE...RELATED, MMDA ‘in dire need’ of traffic enforcers...

ALSO: SolGen -Calida backs amendments to martial law provisions
[RELATED: Duterte’s call for constitutional amendments downplayed, hit]


JANUARY 18 -Under the 1987 Constitution, the president may declare martial law in case of an invasion or rebellion "when the public safety requires it." File photo
Solicitor General Jose Calida agrees with President Rodrigo Duterte that the 1987 Constitution’s provisions on Martial Law need amendment to allow the president to act promptly during emergency situations. Calida said the constitution, which subjects a Martial Law declaration to a review by Congress -- and, in case of a petition, the Supreme Court -- was a reaction to the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who placed the country under military rule in 1972. “The 1987 Constitution is a reflex action because of the Marcos experience. So it was not a normal situation when they drafted the Constitution,” Calida, the government's top lawyer, said. READ MORE...RELATED, Duterte’s call for constitutional amendments downplayed, hit...


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Pia Wurtzbach graces Miss Universe Governor’s Ball


Gov. Chavit Singson with Ms. Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach during the Governor's Ball at SMX/ Inquirer Photo by Jilson Seckler Tiu

MANILA,
JANUARY 23, 2016 (INQUIRER) By: Armin P. Adina - @inquirerdotnet, January 17, 2017 - Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach made her first official appearance as the reigning Miss Universe for the pageant’s current edition rolling out in the country at the “Governor’s Ball” on Monday night at the SMX Convention Hall in Pasay City.

The benefit dinner, which cited Pass it Forward as the beneficiary, was also the first official event where the candidates were all gathered together. In groups, they had initially toured Boracay in Aklan, and Vigan City in Ilocos Sur, over the weekend.

“It feels like it’s already the coronation night,” Wurtzbach told the guests. “It all started with just an idea, holding the Miss Universe pageant here. And now it’s finally here. I would like to thank everyone who made this possible.”

READ MORE...

Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart echoed her sentiments. “This is a dream not just for me but for the entire organization,” she said.

“The Philippines has the greatest fans. The country and its people are close to my heart,” she added.

With “Pass It Forward” cited as the beneficiary nonprofit organization, the dinner fetched as high as P250,000 for a table of eight guests accompanied by two Miss Universe contestants. Other tables, for 10 guests, were made available for a “lower” price of P180,000, but did not include any contestant. Two other price points, P100,000 and 80,000, were made available for guests, which enjoyed a set meal prepared by Via Mare.

The event also showcased the best Filipino performers—two-time world hip-hop champions Philippine All-Stars, and the internationally renowned Philippine Madrigal Singers.

Kapamilya Singers Jed Madela and Jona were joined by belters Radha and Frenchie Dy in providing entertainment for the guests. JE

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RELATED FROM SUNSTAR.COM.PH

Will Maxine Medina get a translator for Miss Universe pageant? Thursday, January 19, 2017 By GLAIZA JARLOC Ads by Kiosked


Miss Universe–Philippines Maxine Medina walks the runway during the swimsuit fashion show at J Park Island Resort and Waterpark in Cebu City. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/Miss Universe Organization via WME IMG Collection)

 "I WILL request if I have to." This was the response of Maxine Medina on the issue of getting an interpreter in case she makes it to the Top 5 of the Miss Universe pageant. The 26-year-old believes there's nothing wrong if she uses the option to have an interpreter if she thinks it will help her chances in the competition. "Napakaganda ng Tagalog.

There's this one time Pia (Wurtzbach) and I were talking and all the candidates were like, 'Oh, it's so nice to hear you talking in Tagalog'. So, walang masama kung magta-translate tayo. I'm here also to win," she said. Medina is on the spotlight after she received negative comments over her poor command of the English language.

Mark Arthur Abalos, her training specialist from John Robert Powers, recently came to her defense and said the beauty queen has been training since April to improve her communication skills. Abalos said it is normal to commit grammatical errors especially when English is not one's first language.

Meanwhile, Gloria Diaz, the first Filipina to bring home the Miss Universe crown, encouraged Medina to get an interpreter if the latter feels more comfortable asserting herself in Tagalog. Diaz, who won the title in 1969, said it doesn't make her less of a beauty queen if she will use her mother tongue in the final question and answer portion. "[G]et an interpreter if she feels that she can better express her thoughts using our vernacular language.

She is a Filipina and I don't think it will make her less of a beauty queen if she will decide to use our language on the Grand Coronation," she was quoted saying at the Governor's Ball held last January 16 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

 Miss Universe 1999 first runner-up Miriam Quiambao also agreed with Diaz's sentiment. She said that it is important that Medina is comfortable with the language she will use and if an interpreter helps to win the title, then the latter can do so.

"She might want to consider mag-Tagalog na lang siya. Gumamit na lang tayo ng interpreter, kung dun siya magiging kumportable," Quiambao said. The former beauty queen added that she appreciates Medina’s efforts to improve her communications skills. "What I appreciate about her is she is sure of her answers and she is confident when she tells them." Medina and 85 other ladies will compete for the Miss Universe crown on January 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. (SunStar Philippines)


MANILA BULLETIN

Redford avoids politics as Sundance opens on eve of Trump festivities 7 SHARES Share it! By: Reuters Published January 20, 2017, 3:58 PM


Robert Redford (Reuters/Jim Urquhart/Files) /mb.com.ph

Actor and filmmaker Robert Redford opened the Sundance Independent Film Festival on Thursday by steering clear of politics and instead criticizing the news industry.

“The news media world has shrunk into more of a sound bite world. Everything’s so clipped and short, it gives you no time to digest, no time to contemplate. It’s already moving onto the next event,” Redford said at Sundance’s opening news conference.

Documentaries, on the other hand, are filling the gap Redford said, highlighting their growing role at the industry’s biggest indie film festival.

READ MORE...

“I felt like documentaries are having a more important role than ever because it becomes long-form journalism. It has a chance to really tell the story so the public can really digest it and see how they feel.”

The 80-year-old Oscar-winning filmmaker faced numerous questions about Republican U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office on Friday.

Much of Hollywood opposed Trump in the 2016 elections and instead raised millions of dollars for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Redford did reflect on one of his most notable roles, as Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward in the 1976 Watergate thriller “All the President’s Men,” saying he learned the value of investigative journalism.

“Dig in and dig deep – those two things affected my filmmaking attitude,” he said.

A leading Hollywood man in the 1970s and 1980s, Redford created the annual Sundance gathering in Park City, Utah to showcase independent film and talent outside of the big studios.

This year, the festival has a slew of documentaries exploring topics mined from recent headlines, as well as a showcase of climate change films.

Redford said the festival would not take a stance on current U.S. politics, but rather would support independent filmmakers who want to explore the issue.

“Presidents come and go, the pendulum swings back and forth. It always has and probably always will, so we don’t occupy ourselves with politics. We try to stay away from politics, and we try to stay focused on what stories are being told by artists,” Redford said.

However, Trump’s inauguration will not go unmarked at Sundance.

Talk show host Chelsea Handler will lead a Women’s March on Saturday down Park City’s Main Street, timed to Washington’s women’s rally aimed at bringing attention to civil and human rights issues.

---------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE VANITY FAIR

At the Eleventh Hour, Trump Finds Entertainers for Inauguration Concert Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down, and more are heading to D.C. by YOHANA DESTA JANUARY 13, 2017 1:56 PM


From left to right: By Alberto E. Rodriguez, Theo Wargo, Michael Loccisano, all from Getty Images.

A mere seven days before __Donald Trump takes the oath of office, several entertainers have finally been secured for an inauguration concert on January 19, the inaugural committee announced on Friday.

The list includes country singer Toby Keith—famous for his irate 2002 anthem “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” ; actor Jon Voight; country singer Lee Greenwood; and rock band 3 Doors Down. (You know, the “Kryptonite” guys.) Titled the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration,” the concert will take place at the Lincoln Memorial.

“President-elect Trump has made it clear that this inaugural is of, by, and for the American people.

The 58th Inaugural will celebrate American history and heritage, while setting the course to a brighter and bolder future for all Americans," Tom Barrack, the committee chairman, said in a press release. “Above all, it will serve as tribute to one of our greatest attributes, the peaceful transition of partisan power.”

Singer Jennifer Holliday was also announced as part of the line-up, but her publicist Bill Carpenter tells the Wrap that her participation is not yet confirmed: “Jennifer has been asked to perform but she hasn’t officially agreed to do so yet. I‘ll let you know later this afternoon for sure if she‘ll be performing.” (She has since said she won’t be performing.)

The Piano Guys and the Frontmen of Country are also slated to perform at the concert, which will be open to the public.

 There will also be another music event, dubbed “Voices of the People,” which will include performances from the D.C. Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, the Republican Hindu Coalition, Montgomery Area High School Marching Band, and other similar acts.

The news comes on the heels of several developments involving the inauguration, which Barrack recently announced would have a “soft sensuality” and a “poetic cadence.”

The inauguration has also been dogged by high-profile rejections, with singers like Céline Dion, Elton John, Andrea Bocelli, and Garth Brooks all saying no to Trump. Instead, teen opera singer Jackie Evancho will perform, as well as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Rockettes.

By comparison, President Barack Obama‘s two inaugurations were star-studded events, including performances by Beyoncé, Aretha Franklin, Kelly Clarkson, and more. In 2009, the Obamas also held an inaugural concert at the Lincoln memorial, with performances by Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Mary J. Blige, and more.

There will, however, be plenty of big names in D.C. next week—at events designed to oppose the inauguration.

On January 19, Busboys and Poets will host a Peace Ball at the National Museum of African American History and Culture , a nonpartisan event that aims to “celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past 4 years and the vow to continue to be the change we want to see in the world.” Guests will include Solange, Angela Davis, Esperanza Spalding and more.

In addition, stars like Katy Perry, Amy Schumer, Cher, and more will participate in the Women's March on Washington, which will take place the day after Trump's swearing-in.

Trump‘s inaugural committee has swatted down criticisms about the lack of A-listers at the inauguration, reiterating that the inauguration is about the people, not celebrities. Besides, they will already have “the greatest celebrity in the world,” Barrack previously said. He was referring, of course, to the president-elect himself.

Correction: The Peace Ball will take place on Jan. 19, not Jan. 21, and will be hosted by Busboys and Poets.


PHILSTAR

China: Japan's Abe sows discord, raises regional tension 20 SHARES 0 0 0 Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - January 17, 2017 - 12:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing called out Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following reports that he has been bringing up the South China Sea issue during his visits to the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the South China Sea situation has improved due to joint efforts of China and relevant Southeast Asian countries.

Related Stories G7 leaders agree on sending strong message on South China Sea Japan backs Phl arbitration case "However, the Japanese leader is still going to extremes to sow discord and play up regional tension," Hua said in a press briefing.

"Such practice harbors ulterior motives and such mentality is extremely unhealthy," Hua added.

READ MORE...

In his official visit to the Philippines last week, Abe and President Rodrigo Duterte affirmed the need to uphold the rule of law in resolving regional conflicts.

Both the Philippines and Japan are involved in maritime disputes with China, which is claiming the South China and an island in the East China Sea occupied by Tokyo.

"The issue of the South China Sea is linked directly to regional peace and stability and is a concern to the entire international community," Abe said.

Abe also reportedly offered missiles to the Philippines but was rejected by Duterte.

"We also notice and appreciate that President Duterte has been committed to an independent foreign policy and developing friendly and cooperative relations with other countries based on equality and mutual respect since taking office," the Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.

Abe was in Australia last Saturday for talks with the nation's leader on trade and regional security issues amid China's growing military might in Asia.

The Japanese leader and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull said they had signed an upgraded defense agreement after talks in Sydney on trade and regional security issues. The countries would enhance their coordination on activity in the disputed South China Sea and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

In Indonesia, Abe and President Joko Widodo "exchanged views on the development of the regional situation, including the South China Sea issue that has been a concern for the entire international community that will directly affect the peace and stability of the region."

Japan has also committed to provide Vietnam new patrol vessels to boost trade and security engagements in the region amid China's rising dominance.

Abe and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for the upholding of international law in resolving disputes in the South China Sea.

With the four-nation tour, Tokyo wants to send a message that its respect for a rules-based international system, in contrast to China's more aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, where it has vast territorial claims, makes it the best partner for Southeast Asian countries. — with reports from Associated Press

------------------------------------------

RELATED FROM FORBES ONLINE

Japan And China Are Competing To Win Over The Philippines Ralph Jennings , CONTRIBUTOR I cover under-reported stories from Taiwan and Asia.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) attend a joint press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on October 26, 2016. (EUGENE HOSHIKO/AFP/Getty Images)

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is pushing away former colonizer and military benefactor the United States in favor of America’s geopolitical rival China. But the man in office about half a year still likes Japan and Japan likes him. The relationship is especially crucial for Japan, a U.S. ally that has given Southeast Asia aid and investment for decades to out-run China. China is using similar means to exert its own control over the region.

China distrusts Japan. It's convinced, for one thing, that Tokyo will start another war a la 1940s. As each seeks to put Southeast Asia in its back pocket for geopolitical as well as economic gain, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first head of state anywhere to visit the Philippines under Duterte. He's there Thursday and Friday.

“It could be a factor of trying to balance the recent improvement in ties with China -- that could be one of the things that might be on (Japan's) mind,” says Rahul Bajoria, regional economist with Barclays in Singapore.

The rough-hewn Philippine president in office since June has visited Beijing, where he landed $24 billion in aid pledges and set aside a Philippine dispute with China over sovereignty to the sea between them. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, China has built infrastructure projects that help the host develop while giving China a foothold in the host’s natural resources such as minerals or sell to its markets. It can also lean on the governments of small, developing countries such as Cambodia for political favors. Beijing's year-old Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Belt-and-Road initiative begun in 2013 show a resolve to keep doing that. Maybe the Philippines is next.

Japan does it too. Unlike China, however, Japan doesn't normally try to control the resources or political trends in countries where it sends money. Japan wants its beneficiaries to keep doors open for its investors and accept its help in building up a military defense against China.

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In fast-growing Vietnam, to give a major example, Japan was the top source of development aid from 2010 to 2015, including $1.8 billion for projects in 2014 alone. The money went to construction of a new terminal in the Hanoi international airport, a wide highway in northern Vietnam and the first subway line in Ho Chi Minh City. Not so coincidentally, Japanese investors such as signature automakers operate Vietnam factories. Japan also pledged military aid to Vietnam, which is no friend of China, in 2015.

Duterte also visited Abe in Tokyo in October. He won $1.8 billion in business deals for the Philippines plus a verbal pledge from Japanese conglomerate Marubeni to invest $17.2 billion in water, power and infrastructure, the Philippine president’s office said. Japan was the Philippines’ top foreign investment source in 2015 with a more than 28% share of total FDI, according to government figures.

If Duterte keeps up his anti-U.S. pressure after Donald Trump becomes president Jan. 20, threatening military cooperation deals with the country it colonized for about five decades, Japan would carry the banner of pro-Western influence in the Philippines for years to come.

“With the Philippine president laying out the red carpet for the Chinese...the Japanese PM probably thinks he should show face in Manila, as a reminder that there's plenty of Japanese investments in the Philippines too,” says Song Seng Wun, an economist in the private banking unit of with CIMB in Singapore.


PHILSTAR

Chinese official reaffirms Phl-China ties with Rody By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 19, 2017 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


President Duterte meets with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin at the Music Room at Malacañang. File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Chinese Foreign Vice Minister Liu Zhenmin’s visit to President Duterte at Malacañang last Tuesday was merely to reaffirm bilateral commitments, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

Abella said the note verbale issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs against the presence of China’s weapons systems in the disputed South China Sea did not crop up during the visit of the top Chinese official.

“It’s simply coincidental,” Abella told reporters when asked if the President discussed the matter or if Liu defended Beijing’s construction in the disputed waters, which has worried some Philippine officials.

READ MORE...

Abella said Liu’s visit was a continuing effort to boost confidence-building measures between Beijing and Manila – which Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on during Duterte’s China state visit last October.

“Let me just read to you the visit proceeds on the agreement made between the President and President Xi Jinping during the former’s state visit to China on the 21st of October 2016, wherein both sides affirm the importance of existing Philippine-China bilateral dialogue mechanisms in enhancing, understanding, broadening cooperation and striving for a stronger relationship,” Abella said.

“It was simply a resumption. It says the resumption of these bilateral dialogue mechanisms suspended during the previous administration is a significant development that allows for the building of confidence through regular dialogue along official lines,” Abella stressed.

“In other words, this is the first meeting in three years. So it’s part of a regular process,” he added.

At the same time, the Palace echoed the statement of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana of concern on the presence of weapons systems in the Spratlys.

Quoting the statement of Lorenzana issued last Tuesday, Abella said “the actions of China in militarizing those disputed features are troubling.”

“Despite warming relations between our countries, we will be remiss in our duty to protect the national interest if we do not protest, question and seek clarification from China on the presence of weapons in the Spratlys, especially so that some of those reclaimed islands are within Philippine exclusive economic zones according to UNCLOS and affirmed by the PCA ruling on the 12th of July, 2016,” he said, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands.

AFP: No more tension at West Philippine Sea

The Chinese Navy in the West Philippine Sea no longer harasses the Philippine Navy and even Filipino fishermen, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said yesterday.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the country’s soldiers continue to watch over and “guard areas that are ours.”

“Our watch is in accordance with our Constitution because we have a mandate to protect our sovereignty and territory. That stays and has not changed,” Padilla said in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday.

Padilla also revealed that tension in the disputed waters has eased in the past months, with Chinese authorities no longer harassing Filipinos.

“If you notice, encounters in the area are no longer that aggressive because we have had talks to lower the level of tension,” he said.

Padilla said the Chinese Navy no longer blocks the re-supply operations to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungion Shoal.

“Tension has somewhat eased there and no blocking has so far been done by the other side,” he said in Filipino. He noted, though, the continuing Chinese presence in the area. – With Michael Punongbayan, Edith Regalado

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Yasay: Note verbale sent to China after intel verification By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated January 17, 2017 - 11:39am 3 24 googleplus0 0


FILE - In this July 26, 2016, file photo, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, stands with Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay Jr. after they pose for a photo during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Vientiane, Laos. AP/Sakchai Lalit

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' top diplomat on Tuesday revealed that the country sent a note verbale to Beijing after verifying that it has installed weapons in the disputed South China Sea.

Last month, Washington-based CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reported that China appears to have built anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its man-made islands in the disputed waters.

The Philippines filed a low-key diplomatic protest with China following this report.

READ: Satellite photos show China weapons in South China Sea

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said that the Philippines issued the note verbale as a matter of course or as part of policy.

"When I got the report about this installation we had our people, especially the intelligence community, verify all of these things and when the verification came in we, as a matter of course, sent a note verbale to China," Yasay said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

Yasay refused to reveal the details of the note verbale, explaining that it is a confidential correspondence between the two countries.

'Threat to national interest'

The Foreign Affairs chief added that the Philippine government saw a threat to national interest following the China's actions in the South China Sea.

"We saw a threat to our national interest so these are normal things that we do generally. It is a communication where we ask for verification from China and also make sure that we are not taking this sitting down but it's not unusual," Yasay said.

The note verbale was issued less than a month before Yasay confirmed it earlier this week.

"The beauty about note verbale is that you open channels of communication without fanfare so immediately after that you know our people get to talk to their counterparts and this is the way how you try to address the situation," the Foreign Affairs secretary said.

Yasay stressed that the Philippines will continue to protect its sovereignty rights over the South China Sea despite the efforts of President Rodrigo Duterte to renew ties with China.

"When you want to renew ties with another country, it does not mean that you're compromising or eroding our rights on certain matters in this particular matter our sovereignty rights over the exclusive economic zone that under UNCLOS is ours," Yasay said.

The Philippines, however, will set aside the Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision on the South China Sea dispute until China is ready to negotiate under this framework.

Manila recognizes the arbitral tribunal's ruling as a firm legal foundation of its claims in the contested waters.

"We have always made clear that when we are able and ready to engage China in bilateral talks with respect to the disputed territory in the South China Sea we will move forward on the basis of the arbitral tribunal's ruling. That is the framework which we will be moving forward," the Foreign Affairs chief said.

RELATED:

Duterte says he'll set aside sea feud ruling against China

|Yasay reiterates: Duterte will not deviate from tribunal ruling on South China Sea


PHILSTAR

Special, not emergency powers OK’d for traffic By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 19, 2017 - 12:00am 0 3 googleplus0 1


The special powers will be wielded for three years by the secretary of transportation. The secretary or Duterte may designate a “traffic czar.” File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Instead of emergency powers for President Duterte, the House transportation committee approved yesterday a measure that would give the administration “special powers” to solve the perennial traffic problem in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

The special powers will be wielded for three years by the secretary of transportation. The secretary or Duterte may designate a “traffic czar.”

Voting unanimously, the panel members gave their nod to House Bill 4334, the Traffic Crisis Act of 2016, after deliberating on amendments to the original version of the bill. The measure was approved with 12 amendments.

“House Bill 4334 is hereby approved. This will be called special powers, not emergency powers,” committee chairman and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, who authored the bill, said.

READ MORE...

Sarmiento filed the bill as the government’s “urgent and comprehensive” response to the traffic problem plaguing Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City.

The measure is expected to be sent to the House appropriations committee for funding in next year’s national budget.

Sarmiento said the measure provides for the creation of a single traffic authority headed by a traffic czar, who will either be appointed by President Duterte or Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Under the measure, Tugade would be holding the special powers for three years as traffic chief.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) chief should formulate a management plan within 90 days that would harmonize all existing traffic regulations and oversee the implementation of public transport operations, traffic enforcement as well as traffic education programs.

The DOTr secretary would also have jurisdiction over traffic in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City.

Once enacted into law, Sarmiento said the Traffic Crisis Act would not lead to the abolition of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, which would still be tapped to coordinate with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and other transportation agencies and local government units.

------------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

MMDA ‘in dire need’ of traffic enforcers

By: Ed Margareth Barahan - @inquirerdotnet
INQUIRER.net / 04:39 PM January 19, 2017
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Thursday said that it is in dire need of field personnel, particularly traffic enforcers, and has begun tapping its enforcement support units to do some of the field work.

“We are in dire need of field personnel to be deployed in all of the major roads in Metro Manila. We are spreading ourselves thin, so to speak, just to cope with the requirements to fully man and supervise traffic on the streets,” MMDA General Manager Thomas Orbos said in a statement.

He said that he has started to review and select people from the agency’s support units who could be dispatched on the roads to direct traffic flow and strictly implement road measures and schemes.

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MMDA has a total of only 2,368 enforcers spread in all major roads and thoroughfares in Metro Manila deployed in three shifts. Orbos said that the agency also needs traffic enforcers because there are more than a thousand main intersections, while there are only 424 major roads with traffic signals.

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The agency earlier said it will be deploying more field personnel upon the opening of zipper lane or counterflow lane on Main Avenue, Cubao in Quezon City up to EDSA-Ortigas Flyover across Guadix-MRT Ortigas station from 9:30 a.m. up to 11:30 a.m. starting Monday next week.

MMDA officials also met with fire volunteer groups’ personnel and may possibly tap them as “force multipliers” to help assist the enforcement of rules and management of traffic. IDL/rga

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PHILSTAR

Calida backs amendments to martial law provisions By Alexis Romero (philstar.com) | Updated January 19, 2017 - 6:53pm 2 18 googleplus0 0


Under the 1987 Constitution, the president may declare martial law in case of an invasion or rebellion "when the public safety requires it." File photo

MANILA, Philippines -- Solicitor General Jose Calida agrees with President Rodrigo Duterte that the 1987 Constitution’s provisions on Martial Law need amendment to allow the president to act promptly during emergency situations.

Calida said the constitution, which subjects a Martial Law declaration to a review by Congress -- and, in case of a petition, the Supreme Court -- was a reaction to the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos, who placed the country under military rule in 1972.

“The 1987 Constitution is a reflex action because of the Marcos experience. So it was not a normal situation when they drafted the Constitution,” Calida, the government's top lawyer, said.

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“Probably now, there is no need for those. We need to make it work. Because if some constitutional provisions do not work under an emergency situation, then we have a problem,” Calida told reporters in Malacañang on Thursday.

“If it becomes worse, if there are already foreign elements trying to destabilize our country, to assassinate him, to assassinate government officials. In those extreme circumstances, somebody has to act,” he added.

The lack of a declaration of martial law does not stop security forces from carrying out their jobs.

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president may declare martial law in case of an invasion or rebellion "when the public safety requires it."

The chief executive may place the country or parts of it under martial law for not more than 60 days. The president is required to submit a report to Congress within two days of the proclamation of martial law.

Congress will then decide whether to revoke the martial law declaration. The president can also ask Congress to vote to extend the declaration "if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it."

The Supreme Court can also review the martial law proclamation if a citizen questions its basis. The high court shall come up with a decision on the petition within 30 days from the filing.

The same restrictions apply to the declaration of a suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus compels the government to produce someone it has detained before the court and justify the detention.

“Because it is an emergency situation, there should be haste, we do not have the luxury of time for 60 days to validate whether or not there is really an emergency, somebody has to act fast on it,” Calida said.

“Well, we are talking here of emergency aren’t we? We are talking here of the possible destruction of our youth and our country. Now, you dilly-dally for 60 days? You are unmindful of the emergency if you do that,” he added.

The Constitution does not require a waiting time of 60 days before a declaration of martial law takes effect.

Calida said he could not speak for lawmakers who would be convened as a constituent assembly to introduce amendments to the constitution.

He believes though that there should be safeguards to ensure that the martial law powers would not be abused.

“The medicine must be sufficient to cure the disease. If there is already an extreme disease, you cannot have the luxury of time in waiting for many actions to be done in a period of time for so long,” the solicitor general said.

Calida also he is also in favor of bringing back some provisions of the 1935 charter, which he described as a “simple constitution.”

"There are good provisions in the 1935 Constitution. It was a simple constitution. Unlike now, everything seems to be legislated inside the Constitution,” he said.

Duterte: If Congress, SC disagree, who will decide?

Duterte has expressed qualms over the Martial Law provisions of the 1987 Constitution, saying it encourages a president to be a despot.

He said a president may choose to interpret the law on his own if the findings of Congress and the Supreme Court on the Martial Law declaration contradict each other.

“If the Supreme Court says it has no basis… but Congress says go ahead because national security is at stake the two would clash. Now, who decides? It will be me,” he said in a speech in Cabanatuan City last Wednesday.

“It will encourage me to become a despot because you can now interpret a law itself,” he added.

The Supreme Court has, in many cases, overturned decisions made by the other branches of government.

Duterte’s recent statements about Martial Law have stoked fears that he would use the drug problem and security threats in Mindanao to place the country under military rule.

While the president has said that there is no compelling reason to declare martial law, he said he would do so if the drug menace becomes “very virulent.”

The president reiterated that he has no plans to place the country under military rule in a speech delivered before police officials yesterday.

“I’ll do everything to preserve my country, huwag na yang (not through) martial Law, Martial Law...I will do everything. I will not allow my country to go to the dogs. I’ll do everything to preserve the Filipino people. That is my job,” Duterte said.

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RELATED EARLIER FROM PHILSTAR

Duterte’s call for constitutional amendments downplayed, hit By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 24, 2016 - 12:00am 0 24 googleplus0 0


Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said yesterday there was no cause for alarm over President Duterte’s call for constitutional amendments that would allow him to declare martial law without getting the permission of Congress and the Supreme Court. Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said yesterday there was no cause for alarm over President Duterte’s call for constitutional amendments that would allow him to declare martial law without getting the permission of Congress and the Supreme Court.

ROBREDO FEARS TA HREAT

But Vice President Leni Robredo said a threat to return to martial law was “the worst Christmas gift” to Filipinos while opposition lawmakers warned the nation against Duterte’s dictatorial tendencies.

“Let’s not get too emotional about this. This is just about constitution writing where we study what reforms or amendments that can be done and this will have to go through a thorough process, and may or may not be approved,” Pimentel said.

He said there was no malice in Duterte’s statements, which he described as “policy proposals.”

According to Pimentel, other countries have such a system where the head of government can declare martial law without having to go through the legislature or the judiciary.

“This is actually a default setup in many countries and we have the same system before but because of our experiences in the past, we now have the setup that involves Congress and the SC,” Pimentel said.

Appalling

Robredo said Duterte’s move to “challenge the democratic safeguards of the very Constitution he swore to uphold…is appalling.”

The Vice President also said Duterte’s statement that the current constitutional safeguards were a “reckless reaction” to the Marcos regime was an insult to the great suffering and hardship that Filipinos endured during martial law.

“Let us remain vigilant against any move that will curtail our freedoms,” the Vice President said.

“This is not a battle we will take sitting down. As Filipinos we have demonstrated our courage to stand up and make our voices heard for the sake of protecting our freedom and fighting for the truth,” she said.

POE WARNS

Sen. Grace Poe warned that allowing the President’s declaration of martial law without the oversight of Congress or the SC as to its validity “is the wrong reason to amend the Constitution.”

“We all agree that poverty is one of the root causes of rebellion for which martial law powers are primarily meant. To address such cause, what we need is to open up our economy to more investments and to strengthen our public institutions for the purpose of uplifting the lives of poor Filipinos,” Poe said.

She also said if the government was really winning the war against illegal drugs and making significant peace inroads with Moro and communist rebels, then there would be no “need for unbridled martial law powers.”

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III admitted Duterte’s proposal would be hard to sell in Congress.

‘Tyrant’

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV urged the people not to continue tolerating Duterte’s dictatorial tendencies as one day Filipinos might wake up finding themselves oppressed.

“We have a tyrant in our midst. The longer we deny that reality, the more powerful and oppressive he becomes. Snap out of it, people!” Trillanes said.

Sen. Leila de Lima, a vocal critic of Duterte, said the President need not worry about changing the Constitution for implementing martial law “because as of present, the President neither recognizes nor follows the Constitution anymore.”

She said Duterte was already encouraging a policy of summary execution in violation of the Constitution.

“I don’t think violating the Constitution in order to declare and implement martial law will still be a problem under a regime that has singularly destroyed the rule of law and disposed of government accountability in this country,” De Lima said.

“Basically, as things stand now, since he executes and kills citizens at will, as he himself admitted, Duterte can pretty much do anything he wants at will, most of all implement martial law without observing the constitutional niceties of congressional and judicial oversight,” she said.

Rep. Gary Alejano of party-list group Magdalo also said Duterte was a “virtual dictator for over two decades in Davao City, where thousands died under questionable circumstances in the hands of the Davao death squad.”

He said the President would like to have the same power on a national level. “He has a dictatorial tendency. That explains why he keeps on floating the issue of martial law,” he said.

Alejano, a former Marine officer, pointed out that the provisions of the Constitution subjecting a martial law declaration to congressional and judicial review were aimed at preventing the rise of another dictator like the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

It is part of the system of check-and-balance enshrined in the Charter, he stressed.

Rep. Tomasito Villarin of Akbayan said Duterte’s statements “show an utter disrespect for our Constitution and the values of democracy.” – With Helen Flores, Jess Diaz


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