Canada, Philippines ink defense procurement deal

Updated 10 November 2012
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Canada, Philippines ink defense procurement deal

MANILA: Canada and the Philippines signed a deal Saturday to help Manila buy military equipment to defend its territory, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Philippine President Benigno Aquino said.
The Philippine defense department and state-run Canadian Commercial Corp. signed the agreement as Harper met Aquino at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the two leaders announced at a joint news conference.
The deal was inked amid a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over islands and waters in the South China Sea.
“This memorandum of understanding will enable the Philippines to acquire the equipment and expertise it needs to fulfil the country’s defense and security agenda,” Harper said.
Under the deal, Filipino purchases of equipment and expertise from Canada’s $12.6 billion ($12.6 billion) defense industry are guaranteed by the Ottawa government, according to a Canadian government statement.
“This will help us in our efforts to build our defense and security capabilities,” Aquino said, declining to elaborate.
“I cannot go into specifics lest they be observed by less friendly individuals,” he added.
Faced with communist and Islamist insurgencies and an increasingly assertive China, Aquino noted that the military had just two transport aircraft, no fighter jets and just 132 mainly World War II-era ships.
“The fundamental issue is that we have a lot of outmoded equipment,” he said.
The Canadian Commercial Corp. serves as a go-between between Canadian suppliers and foreign governments to transact defense and security contracts.
The Philippines has been in the market for patrol vessels to protect its waters, including areas that overlap with territory claimed by China.
Manila’s military treaty ally the United States is set this year to deliver a second refurbished Hamilton-class cutter, previously used by the US Coast Guard, to the Philippine Navy.
Last month the Philippine Coast Guard announced it would buy five patrol boats from France for about 90 million euros ($116 million), partly to guard disputed areas in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and China began a stand-off in April over the Scarborough Shoal, a group of islets in the Sea which the Philippines says are well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
China claims the shoal as well as nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries.


UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

Updated 25 April 2018
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UN says Nicaragua protest killings may be 'unlawful'

  • Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
  • Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.

MANAGUA: The United Nations said Tuesday that many deaths in nearly a week of anti-government protests violently repressed by police in Nicaragua may have been "unlawful" and called for an investigation.
The scrutiny from the Swiss-based UN human rights office adds to international alarm at Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega's ordered crackdown against a wave of anti-government demonstrations and clashes.
The European Union, United States and the Vatican have all urged talks to restore calm, while the US embassy in Managua ordered family members of staff out of the country after Ortega deployed the army to the streets and looting broke out.
A toll compiled from the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and Ortega's wife and vice president, Rosario Murillo, puts the number of deaths since last Wednesday at 27. Most were protesters, among which university students and youths figure prominently.
"We are particularly concerned that a number of these deaths may amount to unlawful killings," Liz Throssell of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights told reporters in Geneva.
"It is essential that all allegations of excessive use of force by police and other security forces are effectively investigated to ensure those responsible are held to account," Throssell said.
The UN office said at least 25 people, including a police officer, had been killed.
The protests were sparked Wednesday by pension reforms aimed at keeping Nicaragua's burdened Social Security Institute afloat by cutting benefits and increasing contributions.
But they rapidly spread and intensified as other grievances over Ortega's rule surged to the fore.
On Monday, tens of thousands of people -- employees, students, pensioners and ordinary citizens -- marched peacefully in the capital Managua and other cities demanding an end to the forceful security crackdown on protests.
Some groups called for "dictator" Ortega and his wife to step down, yelling "Out! Out!"
Ortega, a 72-year-old former Sandinista guerrilla leader who has ruled Nicaragua for 22 of the past 39 years, has been taken aback by the demonstrations against him, the biggest in his last 11-year stretch in power.
He has canceled the pension reforms and called for dialogue, and Murillo has suggested arrested protesters could be released.
But his security forces have not been pulled back, and -- though Managua appeared relatively calm early Tuesday -- widespread anti-government sentiment persisted.
Even Nicaragua's business sector, whose support had shored up Ortega over the past decade, has abandoned him over the violence.
A pro-government rally was being organized for Thursday to show that the president still enjoyed backing from part of the population.
Mass street protests are rare in Nicaragua, where the army maintains a very tight grip on public order.
But dissatisfaction has been bubbling over in recent months.
Frustrations have been voiced over corruption, the distant and autocratic style of Ortega and Murillo, limited options to change the country's politics in elections, and the president's control over the Congress, the courts and the electoral authority.
In rural areas, anger also stemmed from a stalled plan by Ortega to have a Chinese company carve a $50 billion canal across Nicaragua to rival Panama's lucrative Pacific-to-Atlantic shipping canal.
If the project went ahead, it would displace thousands of rural dwellers and indigenous communities, while dealing a negative impact on the environment.
"People are demanding democracy, freedom, free elections, a transparent government, the separation of powers, rule of law. The people want freedom," former Nicaraguan foreign minister Norman Caldera told AFP.
"If the government doesn't yield, it's going to be very difficult to stop this (the protests)," he said, asserting that the "big majority" of the population was showing its frustration with Ortega.
"The repressive apparatus is not able to halt protests on this scale," Caldera said.
Though Ortega has held out the promise of talks with opponents, the lack of any identifiable leader in the protest movement could make dialogue there difficult.
Under his watch, Nicaragua has avoided the rampant crime seen in northern Central American countries where gangs are rife.
It has also put in solid economic growth, yet it remains one of the poorest nations in Latin America.
The sudden upsurge in the streets puts Ortega at a crossroads: to tough it out, or to bow to the demands for democracy that have become too loud to ignore.