Filipino police tighten southern border amid virus variant fears

Philippines’ police and the Maritime Group have been asked to coordinate with local government units to seal the borders from illegal entrants. (Reuters/File)
Philippines’ police and the Maritime Group have been asked to coordinate with local government units to seal the borders from illegal entrants. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 20 July 2021

Filipino police tighten southern border amid virus variant fears

Philippines’ police and the Maritime Group have been asked to coordinate with local government units to seal the borders from illegal entrants. (Reuters/File)
  • Action urged to prevent spike in COVID-19 cases from Indonesia and Malaysia

MANILA: Philippine police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Monday ordered officers to intensify intelligence monitoring and patrols along the borders of the Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA) provinces to guard against the delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“I visited our police personnel in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi to know about the security situation there and check on their welfare amid the continuing threat posed by COVID-19, especially with the delta variant, which is now a serious problem in Indonesia,” Eleazar said in a statement.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief added that Sunday’s visit reviewed security measures for preventing the illegal entry of nonresidents, particularly from neighboring countries experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections largely driven by the delta variant.
The Philippines shares its borders with Indonesia and Malaysia in Mindanao, with the porous border in the south reportedly being used for smuggling activities, including “those who want to easily get in and out of the Philippines.”
It is also used as a port of entry and exit by travelers on illegal ferries to parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Eleazar said local policemen in BASULTA exhibited “high morale” as they continue to play a vital role in ensuring safety from both terrorism and the virus.
“Aside from our local forces, I also gave instructions to our regional commanders, particularly the Maritime Group, to beef up border control against those coming from Indonesia and Malaysia,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Action needed to prevent spike in COVID-19 cases from Indonesia and Malaysia, police chief says.

On Wednesday last week, the Philippine government added Indonesia to its list of countries with strict travel restrictions as it continues to experience a record-high number of COVID-19 cases, which health experts attributed to the delta variant.
Eleazar also directed the PNP Administrative Support for COVID-19 Task Force (ASCOTF) to prepare for a “worst-case scenario” after health officials reported 35 delta variant cases from across the country on Friday.
On Monday, the Department of Health (DoH) reported 5,651 new COVID-19 cases in the country, bringing the total to 1,513,396, while the death toll stood at 26,786. There are 47,561 active cases.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated more than 4,708,073 individuals, while 10,388,188 have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the DoH data.
Local police forces and the Maritime Group have also been asked to coordinate with local government units, the coast guard and the military for tighter measures to seal the southern border from illegal entrants.
Meanwhile, Eleazar said a directive had been issued for PNP Lt. Gen. Joselito Vera Cruz, the deputy chief for Administration and concurrent ASCOTF commander, to provide medical equipment and supplies to police officers deployed to the frontlines.
“I have also ordered Police Lt. Gen. Bong Dickson, our Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield commander, to intensify coordination with local government units in the enforcement of health protocols in our communities,” he added, reiterating the need for the public to observe health protocols strictly.


Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
Updated 13 sec ago

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders

Japan condemns Sudan military leaders
  • Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials

TOKYO: Japan strongly condemned the Sudanese security and armed forces’ actions of detaining prime minister Hamdok and other senior government officials and opening fire on the anti-military demonstrators, leaving many casualties.

“The government of Japan is deeply concerned about Sudan’s situation and condemns dissolving the Transitional Government by the arms forces,” an official statement by the foreign ministry said. “Such actions undermine the transition to civilian rule based on the Constitutional Declaration.”

Japan called for an immediate, safe, and unconditional release of Prime Minister Hamdok and other detained senior government officials.

“Japan closely cooperates with the international community and calls for the restoration of transition to civilian rule in Sudan,” the statement said.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
Updated 26 sec ago

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases

Poland reports over 8,000 daily COVID-19 cases
  • Since the pandemic began, Poland has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths

Poland reported 8,361 daily COVID-19 cases and 133 deaths on Wednesday, the health ministry said.
Since the pandemic began Poland, a country of around 38 million, has reported 2,990,509 cases and 76,672 deaths.


India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
Updated 8 min 55 sec ago

India’s top court probes spying charges against government

India’s top court probes spying charges against government
  • India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Wednesday established a committee of experts to look into accusations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government used Israeli military-grade spyware to monitor political opponents, journalists and activists.
The Supreme Court order came in response to petitions filed by a group of Indian journalists, rights activists and opposition politicians following an investigation by a global media consortium in July. The committee, headed by a retired judge, is expected to give its findings by year-end.
India’s opposition has been demanding an investigation into how the Israeli spyware, known as Pegasus, was used in India.
Modi’s government has “unequivocally” denied all allegations regarding illegal surveillance. India’s information technology minister Ashwani Vaishnaw in Parliament dismissed the allegations in July, calling them “highly sensational,” “over the top” and “an attempt to malign the Indian democracy.”
But the government in an affidavit did not tell the court whether it used the Israeli equipment for spying, citing security reasons.
On Wednesday, the court said the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising security concerns.
“Violation of the right to privacy, freedom of speech, as alleged in pleas, needs to be examined,” the Press Trust of India cited Chief Justice N.V. Ramanna as saying.
Based on leaked targeting data, the findings by a global media consortium provided evidence that the spyware from the Israel-based NSO Group, the world’s most infamous hacker-for-hire company, was allegedly used to infiltrate devices belonging to a range of targets, including journalists, activists and political opponents in 50 countries.
The company said in July it only sells to “vetted government agencies” for use against terrorists and major criminals and that it has no visibility into its customers’ data.
Critics call those claims dishonest and have provided evidence that NSO directly manages the high-tech spying. They say the repeated abuse of Pegasus spyware highlights the nearly complete lack of regulation of the private global surveillance industry.
Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras. In the case of journalists, that allows hackers to spy on reporters’ communications with sources.
Rights groups say the findings bolster accusations that not only autocratic regimes but also democratic governments, including India, have used the spyware for political ends.


Hiroshima nuclear bomb survivor and campaigner dies at 96

Hiroshima nuclear bomb survivor and campaigner dies at 96
Updated 27 October 2021

Hiroshima nuclear bomb survivor and campaigner dies at 96

Hiroshima nuclear bomb survivor and campaigner dies at 96
  • Sunao Tsuboi was on his way to engineering school in 1945 when the first nuclear bomb attack was launched by the US

TOKYO: Hiroshima A-bomb survivor Sunao Tsuboi, who became a prominent campaigner for nuclear disarmament and met Barack Obama on his historic visit to the city, has died aged 96, his advocacy group said Wednesday.
Tsuboi was on his way to engineering school in 1945 when the first nuclear bomb attack was launched by the United States, turning the bustling metropolis into an inferno.
“I suffered burns all over my body,” he said in 2016. “Naked, I tried to run away for about three hours on August 6 but finally could no longer walk.”
Then aged 20, he picked up a small rock and wrote on the ground “Tsuboi dies here,” before losing consciousness and waking up several weeks later.
He later developed cancer and other diseases but became a prominent advocate for atomic bomb survivors and a lifelong campaigner for a nuclear-free world.
“I can tolerate hardships for the sake of human happiness. I may die tomorrow but I’m optimistic. I will never give up. We want zero nuclear weapons,” he said.
Tsuboi was among a handful of Hiroshima survivors who met then US president Obama when he visited the city in 2016.
He smiled broadly as he shook Obama’s hand, with the two men conversing for upwards of a minute. “I was able to convey my thoughts,” a satisfied Tsuboi said afterwards.
Tsuboi “passed away on Saturday due to anaemia,” an official from Nihon Hidankyo — a group that represents survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of which Tsuboi was a key leader — said.
There are 127,755 survivors of both attacks still alive and their average age is 84, according to the health ministry.
Around 140,000 people died in the bombing of Hiroshima, a toll that includes those who survived the explosion but died soon after from radiation exposure.
Three days later the US dropped a plutonium bomb on the port city of Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people and leading to the end of World War II.


US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’

US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’
Updated 27 October 2021

US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’

US envoy: Iran nuclear deal effort is at ‘critical phase’
  • Iran has said for more than a month that it would ‘soon’ return to indirect talks in Vienna with the US on resuming compliance with the accord

WASHINGTON: Efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are at a “critical phase” and Tehran’s reasons for avoiding talks are wearing thin, a US official has said while raising the possibility of further diplomacy even if the deal cannot be resuscitated.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told reporters Washington was increasingly worried Tehran would keep delaying a return to talks, but said it had other tools to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and would use them if need be.

“We’re in a critical phase of the efforts to see whether we can revive the JCPOA,” Malley said, referring to the deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “We’ve had a hiatus of many months and the official reasons given by Iran for why we’re in this hiatus are wearing very thin.”

While saying that the window for both the US and Iran to resume compliance with the agreement would eventually close, Malley said the US would still be willing to engage in diplomacy with Iran even as it weighed other options to prevent Tehran from getting the bomb.

He also hinted at the economic benefits that might flow from Iran’s return to the agreement, under which Tehran took steps to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from US, EU and UN economic sanctions.

While saying the window for returning to the JCPOA will not be open forever because eventually Iran’s nuclear advances will have overtaken it, Malley said Washington would continue to look for diplomatic arrangements with Tehran.

“You can’t revive a dead corpse,” he said, stressing that the US had not reached that point yet. “We will continue to pursue diplomacy, even as we pursue other steps if we face a world in which we need to do that.”

Malley refused to describe those other steps. Since talks in Vienna on reviving the deal adjourned in June, Washington has increasingly spoken of pursuing other options, a phrase that hints at the possibility, however remote, of military action.

The envoy, who spent last week consulting US partners in the Gulf and in Europe, emphasized that all sides had “a strong preference for diplomacy, for an effort to revive the JCPOA and, were that to happen, to find ways to engage Iran economically.”