Flights resume at Heathrow following drone sighting

Heathrow Airport had suspended all departures following a drone sighting. (Getty Images)
Updated 08 January 2019

Flights resume at Heathrow following drone sighting

  • Drone had earlier been sighted at Heathrow Airport
  • Departures were suspended, while planes continued to land

LONDON: London’s Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest hub, suspended all departing flights for around an hour Tuesday following a drone sighting, just three weeks after a similar incident at Gatwick caused havoc.
A spokeswoman told AFP at 1835 GMT that flights at the airport, which handles 213,668 passengers a day, had resumed following the interruption.
The Metropolitan Police said they were called at around 1705 GMT and alerted to “reports of a sighting of a drone in the vicinity of Heathrow airport.”
A statement on the airport’s Twitter account earlier said: “We are responding to a drone sighting at Heathrow and are working closely with the Met Police to prevent any threat to operational safety.
“As a precautionary measure, we have stopped departures while we investigate. We apologize to passengers for any inconvenience this may cause,” it said.
Arriving planes, however, continued to land at Heathrow.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said “the military are preparing to deploy the equipment used at Gatwick at Heathrow quickly should it prove necessary.”
Some 81 airlines serving 204 destinations operate out of Heathrow, located west of London.
Between December 19 and 21 drone sightings at Gatwick, Britain’s second biggest hub, caused travel misery for tens of thousands of people after flights were suspended.
That disruption came at a particularly busy time in the run-up to Christmas. It raised questions about the security of airports as well as the competence of police in charge after a couple were arrested and released without charge.
The British army had to be deployed to the airport on December 20 after it grounded all flights.
Gatwick has since said it has invested in anti-drone technology, while Heathrow said that it would do so.
In response to the chaos at Gatwick, Grayling on Monday told parliament that drone exclusion zones around British airports were being extended and operators would have to register.
Police will also be allowed to fine users up to £100 ($128) for failing to comply when instructed to land a drone, or not showing registration to operate a drone.
Grayling said the disruption at Gatwick between December 19 and 21 was “deliberate, irresponsible and calculated, as well as illegal.”
The exclusion zone around airports is currently one kilometer (half a mile) and this will be extended to five kilometers.
From November 30 this year, operators of drones weighing between 250g and 20kg will also have to register and take an online pilot competency test.


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 18 September 2020

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.”