Crocodiles latest danger for Australian flood towns

Waves crash against pumps at a flooded gas station in Queensland, Australia March 9, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. (Kieran Volpe via Reuters)
Updated 11 March 2018

Crocodiles latest danger for Australian flood towns

MELBOURNE: Receding floodwaters in the northern Australian state of Queensland have revealed a new danger - crocodiles.
The unwelcome visitors have made their way into the town of Ingham towards the country's north-east tip, according to several residents' photos posted on social media, after four days of torrential rain broke river banks, covered pastureland and cut off towns.
Toby Millyard, crocodile researcher at Australia Zoo in Queensland, said the reptiles were known to use flood waters in the region to travel to different areas and search for food.
"Some crocodiles love it when it rains and they use the water's currents to travel; they're very smart animals," Millyard said in a phone interview. "But they're very easy to stay away from. As long as you're not in the water or standing by the edge, then you should be fine."
On Sunday morning, a group of school students and teachers stranded by floods were rescued from a isolated campsite south of the town of Tully, a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) spokesman said.
Queensland state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told media on Sunday that it would take several weeks to determine the full extent of the damage, especially on banana and sugar cane crops.
The Queensland state government has declared the area a "disaster" zone, while the Insurance Council of Australia has declared it a "catastrophe", which means that insurance claims will be fast-tracked. (Reporting by Alana Schetzer in MELBOURNE; Editing by Michael Perry)


Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government

This handout photo taken on June 2, 2018, shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gesturing as he gives his departure speech at the Manila International airport. (AFP)
Updated 13 min 29 sec ago

Philippine activists welcome EU call for probe into rights abuses under Duterte government

  • European lawmakers urge Filipino authorities to drop charges against acclaimed journalist, opposition senator

MANILA: Philippine human rights groups on Friday welcomed a European Parliament resolution denouncing extrajudicial killings and abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

The document, adopted on Thursday, called for an “independent international investigation” into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since 2016, when Duterte took office.

It urged EU member states to support the resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Philippine human rights alliance Karapatan described the resolution as a “welcome step toward reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The group also called on the international community to continue to stand with human rights defenders in the Philippines and the Filipino people “who suffer in this worsening crisis of political repression and state violence under this increasingly tyrannical regime.”

The European Parliament condemned extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, which according to official figures has led to around 6,000 suspected drug offenders being killed by security forces. Rights groups, however, suggest the death toll may be much higher.

European lawmakers also urged Philippine authorities to renew the broadcast license of the country’s TV giant ABS-CBN and for charges to be dropped against acclaimed journalist and CEO of the Rappler news website, Maria Ressa, and detained opposition Senator Leila de Lima.

In addition, the European Parliament expressed “serious concern” over the new Anti-Terrorism Act enacted in July, which criminalizes acts that incite terrorism “by means of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners, or other representations.”

It also granted the president power to create an anti-terrorism council that could tag individuals and groups as terrorists, allow authorities to make detentions without charge, and wiretapping.

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said she hoped the EU resolution would “enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines.”

She added: “The sham drug war has continued to kill the poor with impunity while human rights defenders face vilification, violence, and death for their work in exposing these human rights violations even in the middle of a pandemic (COVID-19).

“Domestic mechanisms have been ineffective and there has been outright failure in bringing the perpetrators of these gruesome crimes to justice. These attacks cannot continue, and the European Parliament’s resolution is a strong statement from the international community that there would be consequences for these abuses.”

EU lawmakers also called on the European Commission to suspend the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+), which provides tariff perks for Filipino goods, if there was no “substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities.”

In response to the resolution, Filipino Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said: “We are able to explain objectively the Philippines side on issues that are raised and we don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn,” adding that the scheme was helping the country address poverty.

The president’s office, Malacanang Palace, said in a statement that the government was in talks with the UN on a framework to support national efforts to “uphold the human rights-based approach in governance.”