PM-elect Ardern focuses on final touches in New Zealand coalition deal

New Zealand Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern said she has offered the role of deputy prime minister to New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters. (Reuters)
Updated 20 October 2017

PM-elect Ardern focuses on final touches in New Zealand coalition deal

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern said she would spend Friday ironing out issues and ministerial posts with coalition partner New Zealand First, a day after becoming the Pacific nation’s youngest leader in recent times.
The previous night’s highly anticipated announcement by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that he would support 37-year-old Ardern’s Labour Party had ended a decade of center-right National rule and spelt big changes for the country’s economy.
The New Zealand dollar — the world’s 11th-most traded currency — fell to five-month lows as investors grappled with heightened uncertainty and a more protectionist agenda.
“When you are a hands off government, when you simply allow markets to decide the fate of your people, then that does not serve a country or it’s people well,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington.
“You will see a proactive government by Labour.”
Labour has released the names of the people who would be in the cabinet, saying it would announce their portfolios next week.
The include Grant Robertson, Labour’s spokesman for finance, and David Parker, spokesman for trade.
Ardern said on Thursday she had offered the role of deputy prime minister to Peters, who on Thursday gave his backing to Labour after inconclusive Sept.23 elections, and he was considering it.
On Thursday evening, Labour said it would also stick to its promises to change the central bank’s mandate and seek to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deals.
Concerns about a more protectionist agenda weighed on the currency and stock markets on Friday.
The New Zealand dollar fell to five month-lows of $0.6971 against the US dollar, after posting its biggest daily fall in more than a year on Thursday.
“The sentiment has now shifted toward more protectionist measures,” said Christina Leung, economist at New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
“Generally, financial markets don’t like change, there is uncertainty over what this all means ... in the meantime that is reducing demand for New Zealand assets, and that’s why we are seeing the decline in the New Zealand dollar.”
The stock market was down 1.1 percent at the Friday open, but later recouped losses to stand in positive territory.
Ardern told radio earlier that most of the party’s flagship policies, including a ban on some foreign ownership of housing, had survived the negotiations with Peters in recent weeks.
“With New Zealand First we’ve got a few more details to iron out,” Ardern said. “Our plan remains, with a few minor changes ... we’re finalizing in the next 24 hours the detail.”
The election thrust the country into political limbo for almost a month with neither major party winning enough seats to form a majority and giving New Zealand First the balance of power.
New Zealand First and Labour also needed support from the progressive Green Party, which said it would strike a “confidence and supply” agreement, meaning it was officially outside government but would hold ministerial posts and vote on key pieces of legislation like the budget.
Ardern said the parties would release their agreements early next week and an announcement on ministerial posts would come later in the week.


Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

Updated 29 May 2020

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

  • Intelligence, immigration officials investigating illegal facilities that catered mostly to foreigners

MANILA: The Philippines has intensified its crackdown on uncertified medical facilities offering treatment to people, particularly foreigners, with COVID-19 symptoms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to help the Philippine National Police (PNP) track down foreign nationals behind the illegal clinics.
“It seems that clandestine medical clinics catering mostly to foreign nationals have sprouted and have been operating without proper authority,” Guevarra told reporters.
He said the facilities could have compromised the health of those who had undergone treatment.
“I’ll therefore ask the NBI and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them, and if warranted, to file the appropriate charges against them,” he added.
Guevarra issued the order following a raid on Tuesday on an illegal clinic catering to Chinese patients in Makati City. Arrested in the operation were Chinese nationals Dr. David Lai, 49, and Liao Bruce, 41.
The clinic was reportedly operating without a permit, while the arrested did not have a license to practice medicine in the country.
Seized from the site were swab sticks, vials, syringes and boxes of medicine with Chinese labels — believed to be unregistered with the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, law enforcers also swooped on a makeshift hospital for Chinese patients in the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga province.
The raid came after police received information that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” in a Fontana villa.
Arrested during the raid were Chinese nationals Liu Wei, who reportedly supervised the facility, and Hu Shiling, allegedly a pharmacist. Both were released on the same day without charge.
Immigration officials on Thursday said the duo had been placed on their watch list to prevent them from leaving the country while an investigation is underway.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said intelligence operatives will trace four of the patients, and are looking into the case of the Chinese nationals arrested in Makati.
“I’ve instructed our intelligence division to investigate if these alleged Chinese doctors are legally staying in the country,” he said.
“Should we find they violated our immigration laws, they’ll be charged with deportation cases before our law and investigation division,” he added.
“Even if no criminal charges were filed against them, they can be charged for immigration law violations if we can establish that they violated the conditions of their stay in the country.”
If criminal charges are filed, however, the BI will only deport them after their cases have been resolved or they have served their sentences, if convicted.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the “immediate deportation and blacklisting” of the Chinese nationals because of their “blatant disregard of our laws.”
She added that while the Philippines is working hard to protect its people from the virus, “these criminals freely roam and pose a danger to public health.”