Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, right, shakes hands with US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim. (Arab News photo)
Updated 28 September 2017

Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

Philippines must solve Marawi crisis to prevent further uprisings, says defense secretary

MANILA: 127 days into the ongoing Marawi crisis, the Philippine authorities have yet to establish how Daesh-inspired Maute fighters and foreign jihadists laid siege to the country's only Islamic city; the capital of Lanao del Sur province on Mindanao island.

“We have not yet discovered how (the foreign fighters) got in,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday in a joint press conference with the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, to mark the end of a bilateral multi-agency counterterrorism drill called Tempest Wind. “A lot of them (have come) from Malaysia, Indonesia, from Jolo, Sulu, Basilan and other places in Mindanao.”

Aside from members of the Maute group, Lorenzana said around 25 foreign jihadists are believed to have entered Marawi, and over half of them had been killed so far.

The defense chief added, “We are going to intensify our intelligence efforts. We are trying to upgrade technical capabilities with the help of the US and other countries.

“I think we have no choice but to really solve this problem because if we do not, then it will crop up again in places other than Marawi,” he continued.

Kim agreed, saying, “It's obvious that we face a real threat.” The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he said, are now doing everything possible to contain the situation.

He stressed that the US and the Philippines would continue to strengthen their alliance in the fight against terrorism, saying “counterterrorism requires cooperation,” and pointed out that Tempest Wind — which took place as the Philippines faces its biggest internal security crisis in years — was just the latest example of the two countries’ close ties.

“It was a challenging drill for both sides, intended to test and improve the ability of our nations to plan, coordinate, and conduct counterterrorism operations,” the ambassador said.

The drill included a scenario involving a real commercial airliner filled with over 150 actors who played hostages to create a realistic environment in which to test bilateral interagency decision-making and tactical response.

“What we learned through this exercise will help us focus future bilateral training to enhance our crisis-response capabilities,” said Kim. “Counterterrorism continues to be a shared priority for our two nations, and of course important to the entire region.”


Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries

Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries
Updated 21 January 2021

Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries

Pfizer cuts vaccine deliveries by as much as half to some EU countries

BUCHAREST/PRAGUE/SOFIA: Pfizer has slashed in half the volume of COVID-19 vaccines it will deliver to some EU countries this week, government officials said on Thursday, as frustration over the US drugmaker’s unexpected cut in supplies grows.
Romania will get 50% of its planned volume this week and supplies will only improve gradually, with deliveries not returning to normal until the end of March, Deputy Health Minister Andrei Baciu told Reuters.
It was a similar situation in Poland which on Monday received 176,000 doses, a drop of around 50% from what was expected, authorities said.
The Czech government was bracing for the disruption to last weeks, slowing its vaccination campaign just as the second dose of vaccinations get under way.
“We have to expect that there will be a reduction in the number of open vaccination appointments in the following three weeks,” Health Minister Jan Blatny told reporters on Thursday, with Pfizer deliveries falling by about 15% this week and as much as 30% for the following two weeks.
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have declined to comment on the cuts beyond their statement last week, which announced cuts to deliveries as they ramp up manufacturing in Europe.
Some countries reckon they can handle it. Norway has an emergency stockpile and will continue administering doses as planned, the government’s public health body said.
The US drugmaker has told Bulgaria and Poland it will replace missing doses, top officials said.
But Denmark’s Serum Institute said its 50% loss of shots this week would lead to a 10% shortfall for the first quarter.
With governments across the region still reeling from the surprise cuts, officials say the reductions are undermining their efforts to inoculate their citizens and tame the pandemic which has killed more than 2 million people.
On Wednesday, Italy threatened legal action against Pfizer.
In Hungary, where the authorities gave the go ahead for the use of Britain’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines ahead of the EU drug regulator, a senior official called on Brussels to try and ensure deliveries from Pfizer and other vaccine makers would stick to schedule.
“We would be happy if the (European) Commission could take steps as soon as possible to ensure that Pfizer and other manufacturers would change deliveries,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said.
The problem has spread to countries outside the trading bloc too — Canada is facing delays as is Switzerland, where the mountain canton of Grisons got only 1,000 shots from Pfizer this week, far short of the 3,000 it had been anticipating.