US gives Philippine air force first drones

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, third from left, and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, third from right, are briefed on the features of the ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles during its turnover Tuesday at Villamor Air Base in suburban Pasay city southeast of Manila. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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US gives Philippine air force first drones

MANILA: The US gave the Philippine air force its first surveillance drone system on Tuesday, as the two nations step up cooperation in the battle against jihadist militants.
Washington has been boosting its backing for Philippine counter-terror efforts since supporters of the Daesh group seized parts of the southern city of Marawi last year, sparking a deadly five-month battle.
The unmanned aerial vehicle system, which includes six drones and is worth $13.2 million (€10.7 million), is the latest US military assistance to Philippine troops.
"Assets like the ScanEagle will significantly improve the (Philippine military's) ability to detect terrorist activities, piracy activities, territory encroachment," US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim told reporters, referring to the drones.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the system, equipped with cameras and aircraft that can fly for 24 hours, would support operations against militants in the south.
The southern region of Mindanao is home to several pro-Daesh groups, including those who attacked Marawi in May last year in fighting that claimed more than 1,100 lives and reduced large parts of the city to rubble.
These new drones are to be used for reconnaissance missions in defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Lorenzana said.
"With a number of security issues confronting our country today, there is a need to upgrade our nation's armed forces," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte had sought to loosen the Philippines' 70-year alliance with the US in favor of closer ties with China and Russia.
His anger was partly driven by American criticism of his drug war, which has seen police kill thousands of people and prompted an International Criminal Court preliminary examination.
Although relations have improved under US President Donald Trump, who has praised Duterte for his drug war, the Philippine leader has increasingly turned to Beijing and Moscow to boost one of Asia's weakest armed forces.
Duterte last month cancelled a deal to buy helicopters from Canada after Ottawa ordered a review over human rights concerns.
"Do not buy anymore from Canada and the US because there is always a condition attached," Duterte said at the time.
A US embassy spokeswoman said Washington "is committed to the rule of law and respect for human rights, and we urge other governments to do the same."
The surveillance system is aimed at bolstering counter-terrorism operations and disaster relief, she added.


UK High Court rules against gender-neutral passports

Passengers wait at Heathrow Airport in London. (AP)
Updated 15 min 33 sec ago
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UK High Court rules against gender-neutral passports

  • The Home Office had said that to introduce a third category would require a change in primary legislation
  • The government would need to consider the impact that such a change would have on the personal safety and wellbeing of the individual

LONDON: A campaigner has lost a legal bid to force the British government to introduce gender-neutral passports.
Christie Elan-Cane had argued at the High Court that the current policy requiring applicants to choose from the categories of male and female is “inherently discriminatory.”
Elan-Cane wanted passports to have an “X” category, for those who regard themselves as neither fully male nor female.
But Justice Jeremy Baker at the High Court refused on Friday to rule that the current passport policy was unlawful.
At a hearing earlier this year, Elan-Cane had argued that the policy contravenes the right to respect for private life, and the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Home Office had said that to introduce a third category would require a change in primary legislation.
Before such legislation could be introduced, it said, the government would need to consider the impact that such a change would have on the personal safety and wellbeing of the individual, as well as wider issues including public protection, and combating identity theft and fraud.