Philippines steps up military cooperation with Russia

Philippines steps up military cooperation with Russia
Philippine Marines from the Special Warfare Group . (File/Reuters)
Updated 05 April 2019

Philippines steps up military cooperation with Russia

Philippines steps up military cooperation with Russia

MANILA: The Philippines has stepped up its military relations with Russia as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “friend to all, enemy to no one” approach to foreign policy.

And Manila has also been buying in Israeli defense technology and equipment to help combat the scourge of terrorism in the country.

Defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong told Arab News on Friday that recent moves to strengthen international defense and security cooperation with non-traditional allies did not mean that the Philippines would be dumping its main long-term partner the US.

However, on Monday three Russian warships are due to dock in Manila for a four-day friendly visit in the latest round of joint military cooperation activities.

Moscow is keen to help with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ defense modernization program, and only last week Russian ambassador to the Philippines, Igor Khovaev, warned against existing allies imposing sanctions on Manila for any future arms agreements it might reach with Russia.

Andolong stressed his country would not be turning its back on “big brother” America, but said: “Before, we didn’t even dream of talking to the Russians. Now we are engaging with them along with other nations that are not our traditional allies.

“We realized that Russia is a major strategic player in geopolitics. It will do no harm if we are on good terms with them. With the dynamics of global security, someday, somewhere down the road, we may require their (Russia’s) assistance. It’s always good to be in constant touch.” He added that the same applied to his country’s relations with China.

Noting that the Philippines already had long-standing ties with Israel, Andolong said that “for the first time, we are already actively acquiring technology and equipment from them (the Israelis) and learning best practices when it comes to countering terrorism.”

The spokesman added: “I think it’s good for our defense establishment to take stock of how the global community is growing in terms of defense. By opening (our doors), we are able to develop a better understanding of our friends overseas.”

Prior to Duterte’s presidency, the Philippines had never cooperated with Russia. “The most we ever did was exchange personnel. Now we are sending, or we have sent, troops to participate in certain events in Russia, and we are already engaging with their Ministry of Defense on a regular basis.”

In November last year, a plan mapping out joint military activities between the Philippines and Russia was finalized in Moscow. It includes high-level exchanges, port visits of navy vessels, conferences, staff and security consultations, reciprocal visits of delegations and observers for military training exercises, and education and training exchanges.

The Philippines’ warship BRP Tarlac made a historic trip to the Pacific port city of Vladivostok last year and Russian Navy vessels now make regular visits to the Philippines. The latest will be on Monday when three Russian warships are scheduled to arrive in Manila for a four-day friendly visit. Their visit coincides with the annual US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises taking place in various parts of Luzon island.

“Admittedly, it raises eyebrows on both sides,” said Andolong. “However, it’s consistent with (the president’s) ‘friends to all and enemy to no one’ policy. It’s a friendly port call, I see no issue. They’re not going to engage in any military operations.”

Russia has expressed interest in participating in the Philippine military’s modernization program, which includes a helicopter project and planned submarine acquisition.

Admiral Valdimir Korolyov, chief of the Russian Navy, visited the Philippines last month to meet defense officials, and in 2017 Duterte received a donation of assault rifles, ammunition, military trucks and steel helmets from Russia.

Last week ambassador Khovaev said Russia attached great importance to its relations with the Philippines in the field of security and defense as both countries faced common enemies, particularly terrorism.

“It’s in our national interest to help the Philippines increase their defense and security capabilities in the legitimate struggle against terrorism... We are ready to share our experience. We fully support your struggle against terrorism, against drug trafficking, piracy at sea, and so many other evils,” the envoy said.

On promoting military relations between Moscow and Manila, Khovaev said all options were open, including the supply of sophisticated arms and equipment, and the transfer of technologies to help the Philippines develop its defense industry.

Khovaev stressed that it was not in Russia’s interests to damage the Philippines’ traditional relationships with other countries. “In our view, diversification means keeping old traditional allies and partners, and getting new ones. That’s why any attempt to influence our bilateral relationships by using sanctions or any other methods and ways is, for us, absolutely unacceptable.

“Nobody has a right to teach us how we should live, how we should develop our relationship, our cooperation. That is why sanctions imposed by your traditional allies on Russia must not have any impact on Russian-Philippines cooperation,” said Khovaev.

International security expert Stephen Cutler, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent, said he did not see a problem with the growing military cooperation between the two countries.

“I don’t think that the United States ought to (impose sanctions on the Philippines), in the same way that the United States doesn’t impose sanctions on Malaysia, Indonesia, India just because they have Russian stuff. Compete with them and make a good deal,” he said.

But Cutler suggested Manila should be careful with its Russian dealings. “Don’t deal with the Russians to spite the United States. Do it because it makes sense, from your supply chain and your strategic national security goals and objectives.”

He said when dealing with any country, the Philippines should be “eyes open, mind open” and put its own interests first.

Albert Del Rosario, former Philippines secretary of foreign affairs, said: “On the supply of arms and equipment, of great significance is the element of interoperability which should be as much as possible closely factored with one’s treaty ally.”


More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
Updated 5 min 41 sec ago

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study

More risks to pregnant women, their newborns from COVID-19 than known before — study
  • An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications
  • The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries

Pregnant women infected with COVID-19 and their newborn children face higher risks of complications than was previously known, a study by British scientists showed on Friday.
An infection of the new coronavirus in such newborns is associated with a three-fold risk of severe medical complications, according to a study conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford. 
While pregnant women are at higher risk of complications such as premature birth, high blood pressure with organ failure risk, need for intensive care and possible death.
“Women with COVID-19 during pregnancy were over 50% more likely to experience pregnancy complications compared to pregnant women unaffected by COVID-19,” said Aris Papageorghiou, co-lead of the trial and a professor of fetal medicine at Oxford University.
The study was conducted in more than 2,100 pregnant women across 18 countries, where each woman affected by COVID-19 was compared to two non-infected women giving birth at the same time in the same hospital.
Findings from the study, published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, also showed a delivery by caesarean section may be associated with an increased risk of virus infection in newborns.
However, breastfeeding does not seem to heighten risks of babies contracting COVID-19 from their mothers, scientists said.


UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
Updated 23 April 2021

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab

UK study finds significant drop in COVID-19 infections after one jab
  • Infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine
  • More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

LONDON: COVID-19 infections in adults of all ages fell by 65% after a first dose of AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine in UK research, which scientists said showed the real-world impact of the nation’s immunization campaign against the pandemic.
Crucially, the research was conducted at a time when a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus, called B1.1.7, was dominant in Britain, but still found vaccination was just as effective in elderly people and those with underlying health conditions as it was in the young and healthy.
“These real-world findings are extremely promising,” health minister James Bethell said in a statement as the data were published. He said they showed Britain’s COVID-19 vaccination program — one of the world’s fastest — was having a “significant impact.”
The data come from two studies that are part of the COVID-19 Infection Survey — a collaboration between Oxford University, the government’s health department, and the Office of National Statistics. Both studies were published online as preprints on Friday and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The researchers analyzed more than 1.6 million test results from nose and throat swabs taken from 373,402 study participants between Dec. 1, 2020 and April 3, 2021.
They found that 21 days after a single dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — with no second dose — rates of all new COVID-19 infections had dropped by 65%.
This included a drop in symptomatic infections by 74% and a drop in infections with no reported symptoms by 57%.
Reductions in overall infections and in symptomatic infections, were even greater after a second dose — 70% and 90% respectively — the study found, and were similar to effects in people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection.
The second study looked at levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see how they changed after one dose of either vaccine, and after two Pfizer doses.
Results showed that antibody responses to a single dose of either vaccine were slightly lower in older people, but high across all ages after two Pfizer doses.
More than 33 million people in Britain have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 10 million having had two doses, official data showed on Wednesday.


Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 April 2021

Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison

Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was sentenced to life in a US prison on April 22 2021 for attempting to blow up himself and others in Times Square subway station, New York. (File/AFP)
  • Akayed Ullah, 31, claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh
  • Ullah will serve a minimum of 35 years behind bars

NEW YORK: A Bangladeshi man convicted of setting off a pipe bomb during rush hour in New York City’s busiest subway station, Times Square, was sentenced on Thursday to life plus 30 years in prison.
Akayed Ullah, 31, of Brooklyn, had claimed he wanted to kill only himself and was not acting on behalf of Daesh when he detonated his homemade bomb on Dec. 11, 2017.
No one died and four people were injured in the explosion, which led to the temporary closure of the station and the adjacent Port Authority Bus Terminal during the morning rush. Ullah was burned in what prosecutors called a “lone wolf” attack.
US Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan, who imposed the sentence, told Ullah he had committed a “truly barbaric and heinous crime” without regard for the humanity of those in his way.
“They were just people on the way to work, or school,” Sullivan said. “People who maybe had finished the night shift. ... To you, these people were expendable.”
Ullah, who is married and has a 3-year-old son, had faced a mandatory minimum 35-year term.
He told Sullivan he did not condone violence, and apologized to New York City, law enforcement and the United States.
“What I did on December 11, it was wrong,” Ullah said. “I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m deeply sorry.”
Prosecutors said Ullah was angry with then-President Donald Trump and with US foreign policy in the Middle East, and that Daesh propaganda inspired him to kill, maim and terrorize as many commuters as possible.
“Akayed Ullah’s message of hatred clearly backfired,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
At the time of the attack, Ullah had a green card, allowing him to live in the United States.
He lived with his mother, sister and two brothers in Brooklyn, while his wife and then-infant son lived in Bangladesh.
Ullah’s lawyer Amy Gallicchio, a federal public defender, called him a “deeply troubled soul” who had been attracted on the Internet to the “distorted and radical messages” of extremism.
“He is not an evil man,” Gallicchio said, a sentiment the judge also expressed. “He is not a monster.”
But federal prosecutor Rebekah Donaleski questioned why Ullah chose Times Square to set off the bomb if suicide was his goal.
The bomb materials had come from a nearby construction site where Ullah worked as an electrician.
“It is important to send a message that when you attack New York City, there will be no leniency,” Donaleski said.
Ullah was convicted in November 2018. Sullivan presided over Ullah’s case when he was a federal district judge.


Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
Updated 23 April 2021

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“

Thousands gather to wish Chad’s slain president “a deserved rest“
  • French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral
  • Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors

N’DJAMENA: Thousands of people gathered at the main square in Chad’s capital N’Djamena on Friday to pay their respects to the late President Idriss Deby, who was killed while leading his troops against a rebel offensive on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Guinean President Alpha Conde and several other African leaders were expected to attend the funeral, despite rebel warnings they should not attend for security reasons.
Deby ruled Chad for more than 30 years and was one of Africa’s wiliest political survivors, holding on to power despite rebellions that reached as far as his palace gates.
Although criticized by human rights groups for his repressive rule, he established himself as a key military ally of Western powers in the international fight against Islamist militants.
“He liberated our country from dictatorship and gave us the opportunity to participate fully in democracy,” said Emmanuel Gaba, a young resident of the capital.
His death was announced by the army on Tuesday, a day after election officials said he had won a sixth term in office. Most of the opposition boycotted the vote.
“He protected us for so long that today we have come to wish him eternal rest. A deserved rest,” said Hassan Adoum, who attended the ceremony.
On Thursday a car with mounted speakers drove around N’Djamena telling residents not to panic if they hear cannon fire as Deby would receive a 21-gun salute.


German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
Updated 23 April 2021

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high

German COVID cases not rising as rapidly, still too high
  • The number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59
BERLIN: The number of new coronavirus cases does not appear to be rising as rapidly, the vice president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday, but warned that case numbers remained too high.
Lars Schaade told a weekly news conference that the number of new infections was rising in particular among those aged between 30 and 59 and said the virus was “not harmless” even for younger and healthier people.