Irish ‘Chieftain’ Varadkar visits Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma

The Taoiseach, ‘chieftain’ or ‘leader’ in the Irish language, was treated to a display of native American music and dancing, complete with war whoops. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Irish ‘Chieftain’ Varadkar visits Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma

LONDON: Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has visited the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma to thank them for a gift sent 171 years ago.
The Choctaws in 1847 collected $170 and sent the money to Dublin.
The money, worth an estimated $4,400 today, was used to help feed the Irish during the potato famine.
This was despite the Choctaws having undergone their own hardship 16 years earlier when they were forced to move west of the Mississippi by the government of Andrew Jackson in a journey that became known as the “Trail of Tears.”
Leo Varadkar said that the gift is a sacred memory and bond.
The Taoiseach, “chieftain” or “leader” in the Irish language, was treated to a display of native American music and dancing, complete with war whoops.
Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw and the Taoiseach then exchanged traditional gifts – a hurley was presented by the Taoiseach, while Chief Batton gave a Choctaw stickball in return.
While the event marked the connections of the past, it was also about looking to the future. The Taoiseach announced details of a new scholarship specifically for third-level Choctaw students to study in Ireland.


Philippines may become region’s ‘defense industry hub’

Updated 12 min 24 sec ago
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Philippines may become region’s ‘defense industry hub’

  • Israel wants to manufacture UAVs in the Philippines
  • Russia and South Korea looking for arms and defense manufacturing facilities

MANILA: The Philippines may become the region’s defense industry hub after several countries expressed an interest in basing their arms and defense manufacturing facilities in the country.

Among the facilities are firearms and force protection plants, as well as ones for aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson, Arsenio Andolong, cited at least three countries — Israel, Russia and South Korea — as among those with a keen interest to undertake such projects.

However no agreement has been signed yet and proposals are still in the exploratory stage, Andolong said.

There are plans, however, to create a zone processing defense material at the 370-hectare Government Arsenal (GA) in Limay, Bataan. It will be called the Government Arsenal Defense Industrial Economic Zone (GADIEZ), which will accommodate foreign defense firms that want to establish their manufacturing plants in the Philippines.

With Israel, negotiations have been ongoing. “It all began when we purchased our latest acquisitions from them, the force protection equipment during the time of (then Defense Secretary Voltaire) Gazmin,” Andolong said.

“They became more aggressive when we started doing market research for the many things that we wanted. In one of our meetings the plan to put up an export processing zone for war materiel was discussed and that’s when they expressed interest,” he said.

But Israel now changed its focus; they now want to enter into partnership with Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation.

An agreement has yet to be signed however between the Philippine government and an Israeli firm for its entry through aircraft repair.

“I think eventually it will lead to setting up a UAV manufacturing facility,” a highly placed source said.

Russia, meanwhile, is more likely to have a firearms factory in Bataan province, in central Lozun region.

That is despite the ceremonial signing of a Letter of Intent (LoI) of Silver Shadow Advanced Security Systems (SASS) and Rayo Illuminar Corporation (RIC) to “explore opportunities in the manufacturing and refurbishment of small arms and ammunition,” during Duterte’s recent visit to Israel. The project is estimated to be worth $50 million.

Russia, according to Andolong, has been sending representatives to the country to discuss their offer for a joint production facility to produce Russian assault rifles, or AK47s.

“The Russians verbally communicated that they would like to go into a partnership with the GA to manufacture AK47 rifles in the Philippines. But at this time it’s still a verbal proposal. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has required them to submit a feasibility study.”

A proposal by a South Korean firm that also wanted to set up a firearms factory in the Philippines was put on hold after they gave terms and conditions that were not acceptable — such as “there will be capitalization from the government.”

“So everything is still fluid but Russia is in the running because they are offering many nice goodies,” the DND spokesperson said. “Like the submarines, for example; they said if the Philippines can’t afford to purchase then they can give a soft loan to finance it. And they also mentioned about packages they can use to start up the business.”

Andolong said that the reason that these countries chose the Philippines to set up their facilities was mainly because “they want to create a hub here in the Southeast since they don’t have a presence here yet.”

“It may also be “because of our location. Aside from that we are I think the first Southeast Asian country who offered this,” he said.

“The Philippines is close to many potential markets of Russia and Israel, because these two countries, their main exports really are armaments and they have no footprint in this region,” he said.