Philippines downplays US spy plane request

Updated 04 July 2012
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Philippines downplays US spy plane request

MANILA: The Philippines yesterday said the deployment of US spy planes, suggested by President Benigno Aquino, was just one option to monitor the country’s territory, as China appealed for stability in the region.
“If they happen at all, they are surveillance flights, they are not meant to be provocative. There’s no offensive capability here,” said the president’s spokesman Ricky Carandang. China’s foreign ministry, in an embassy statement quoting spokesman Liu Weimin, called on all parties to maintain “peace and stability” in the South China Sea.
“We have noticed the reports,” the ministry spokesman was quoted as saying. “It is the hope of the Chinese side that peace and stability can be maintained... and parties concerned do things conducive to regional peace and stability,” the statement said. It did not specify the Philippines or the United States or mention the almost-three month long dispute between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
The Scarborough Shoal dispute began after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen near the shoal on April 10.
Both countries have been pressing their respective claims to the area with the poorly-equipped Philippines seeking the support of its main defense ally, the United States.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the western coast of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.


Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

Updated 10 min 3 sec ago
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Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

JAKARTA: An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around $170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.
“The defendant is found guilty of conspiring to commit corruption and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 500 million rupiah,” Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges, told the Jakarta court. The fine is equivalent to $36,000.
Novanto would be barred from holding public office for five years after serving his sentence and have to repay $7.3 million he was accused of plundering, added the judge, who goes by one name.
In a session that ran for more than three hours, judges read out dozens of case notes, including descriptions of where the former speaker held meetings to divvy up cash made from a mark-up on a contract for the identity card.
Novanto showed little emotion as the judge read the verdict.
After a quick consultation with his legal team, he told the court he would take some time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.
Novanto is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal $173 million, or almost 40 percent of the entire budget for a government contract for the national identity card.
Prosecutors, who had questioned 80 witnesses in the case, had sought a jail term of at least 16 years for the former speaker.
Novanto, who had been implicated in five graft scandals since the 1990s but never convicted, was detained by investigators last November after repeatedly missing summonses for questioning over the case, saying he needed heart surgery.
Indonesians have to contend with high levels of graft in many areas of their lives and the country placed 96th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index last year, on par with Colombia and Thailand.