Philippines wages high-tech war on terror ‘bad guys’

From left, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Philippines' Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen share a moment before a ministerial roundtable at the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore on June 3. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 June 2018

Philippines wages high-tech war on terror ‘bad guys’

  • Philippines defense department is boosting its high-tech capabilities to fight terrorism.
  • Facial-recognition technology and bigger drones are among sophisticated tech systems targeting extremists.

MANILA: The Philippines is turning to high-tech defense systems including facial-recognition software and bigger drones to combat terrorism.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has revealed government plans to boost the country’s technological capabilities as part of counterterrorism efforts.

“We are looking at facial-recognition software so that we can easily track down the bad guys,” Lorenzana said in an interview on Tuesday.

The Philippines army has bought ScanEagle drones from the US for use in low-altitude surveillance. US forces stationed in Mindanao are also using small drones with powerful signaling capabilities, he said.

“When our order for bigger drones arrives, it will improve our intelligence capabilities,” he said.

Lorenzana said extremists were also using sophisticated technologies to spread propaganda and gain an advantage in clashes with government forces.

The defense chief said that during the five-month battle in Marawi last year, militants had used drones, which were shot down by Philippine troops.

Terrorists were using technology for recruitment, to plan their movements and to send money.

“During the Marawi siege, my people recommended that we shut down the Internet there because the Mautes inside were sending pictures and messages outside,” he said, referring to the Daesh-inspired group that staged the attack.

Lorenzana agreed that intelligence capabilities “are only as good as the people who manage them and who interpret the data.

“We still need human intelligence, people who go down and see things on the ground with their own eyes and feel what’s happening on the ground so they can report to headquarters,” he said.

The interview with Lorenzana took place in Singapore on the sidelines of the 17th Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s leading defense summit.

International security consultant Stephen Cutler praised the Philippine defense department’s plan to upgrade its tech capabilities.

Facial-recognition systems were being used in other countries and were highly effective, he said.

“Say they get pictures of these (militants) with Daesh flags. Even if they’re wearing a bandana across their nose and lower face, facial recognition could theoretically allow us (to identify them). If those guys have already been arrested, we could run a still photo of that camp in the picture (or video) and figure out who’s in the camp.”

Cutler was chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation operations in the Philippines for five years before retiring after a 22-year career in FBI.

He warned that the government had to establish trust among people that its technology was not being abused.

“That would demand strong adherence to data privacy law. It will demand proven ethical behavior on the part of the government.

“This is an argument that has gone on in every nation around the world that is using this (technology),” he said.


Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

Updated 01 April 2020

Coronavirus worst crisis since Second World War, UN boss says as deaths surge

  • Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown
  • Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science

WASHINGTON: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continued to worsen Wednesday despite unprecedented lockdowns, as the head of the United Nations sounded the alarm on what he said was humanity’s worst crisis since World War II.
The warning came as Donald Trump told Americans to brace for a “very painful” few weeks after the United States registered its deadliest 24 hours of the crisis.
Around half of the planet’s population is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to halt the spread of a disease that has now infected more than 850,000 people.
Well over 40,000 are known to have died, half of them in Italy and Spain, but the death toll continues to rise with new records being logged daily in the US.
“This is going to be a very painful — a very, very painful — two weeks,” Trump said, describing the pandemic as “a plague.”
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”
America’s outbreak has mushroomed rapidly. There are now around 190,000 known cases — a figure that has doubled in just five days.
On Tuesday, a record 865 people died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, taking the national toll so far to more than 4,000.
Members of Trump’s coronavirus task force said the country should be ready for between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the coming months.
“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.
America’s under-pressure health system is being supplemented by field hospitals sprouting up all over New York, including a tented camp in Central Park, a hospital ship and converted convention centers.
But even with the extended capacity, doctors say they are still having to make painful choices.
“If you get a surge of patients coming in, and you only have a limited number of ventilators, you can’t necessarily ventilate patients,” Shamit Patel of the Beth Israel hospital said. “And then you have to start picking and choosing.”
The extraordinary economic and political upheaval spurred by the virus presents a real danger to the relative peace the world has seen over the last few decades, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday.
The “disease ... represents a threat to everybody in the world and... an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”
“The combination of the two facts and the risk that it contributes to enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict are things that make us believe that this is the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War,” he said.
In virtual talks Tuesday, finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s 20 major economies pledged to address the debt burden of low-income countries and deliver aid to emerging markets.
Last week G20 leaders said they were injecting $5 trillion into the global economy to head off a feared deep recession.
In the European Union, however, battle lines have been drawn over the terms of a rescue plan.
Worst-hit Italy and Spain are leading a push for a shared debt instrument — dubbed “coronabonds.”
But talk of shared debt is a red line for Germany and other northern countries, threatening to divide the bloc.
Deaths shot up again across Europe. While there are hopeful signs that the spread of infections is slowing in hardest-hit Italy and Spain, which both reported more than 800 new deaths Tuesday.
France recorded a one-day record of 499 dead while Britain reported 381 coronavirus deaths, including that of a previously healthy 13-year-old.
That came after a 12-year-old Belgian girl succumbed to an illness that is serious chiefly for older, frailer people with pre-existing health conditions.
Lockdowns remain at the forefront of official disease-stopping arsenals — a strategy increasingly borne-out by science.
Researchers said China’s decision to shutter Wuhan, ground zero for the global COVID-19 pandemic, may have prevented three-quarters of a million new cases by delaying the spread of the virus.
“Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan” by mid-February, said Oxford University’s Christopher Dye.