Philippines denies reports of secret plot to invade Malaysian territory

Philippines denies reports of secret plot to invade Malaysian territory
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Friday that reports of an invasion were “fake news.” (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 December 2021

Philippines denies reports of secret plot to invade Malaysian territory

Philippines denies reports of secret plot to invade Malaysian territory

MANILA: Philippine authorities on Friday denied international media reports claiming that hundreds of militiamen supported by officials from the southern Philippines were planning to invade the Malaysian state of Sabah.
Located on the northeastern tip of Borneo island, Sabah has been the subject of a 60-year-long territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia.
International media reported on Thursday that a “secret meeting” attended by 19 mayors in the Sulu archipelago in the southwestern Philippines, some 400 kilometers from Sabah, planned to recruit 600 men to stage the invasion.
The news prompted Royal Malaysia Police Chief Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani to issue a statement saying they would take immediate action to “face any possibility or threat of intrusion,” and that the state’s security was “under control.”
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Friday that reports of an invasion were “fake news.”
Lt. Jerrica Angela Manongdo, spokesperson for the Philippine military in Sulu, said the media reports had “no basis.”
“We immediately looked into the matter when we learned of the news report. Based on the information we have gathered there is no such thing,” she told Arab News. “We don’t know what the motive behind (the reports) are.”
Manongdo added that local officials in Sulu had indeed held a meeting earlier this month, but only to discuss ways to strengthen the archipelago’s maritime borders and disaster response.
“Local chief executives (are) in charge of recruitment of fishermen or seafarer volunteers (to) conduct maritime patrols in collaboration with the military in Sulu to help improve border control against terrorists and any other lawless elements,” she said.
While Malaysia controls Sabah, the Philippines has laid claims over the state on the basis that the region, which was once ruled by the Sultanate of Sulu, was only leased — not ceded — to British colonial rulers before Malaysia’s independence.
In 2013, around 200 armed men from the Philippines who claimed to have been sent by members of the Sulu royal clan arrived by boat at Lahad Datu port in Sabah, triggering a deadly weeks-long battle with Malaysian security forces in which 71 people died, most of them Philippine militiamen.


WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally

WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally
Updated 10 sec ago

WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally

WHO expects more cases of monkeypox to emerge globally
  • 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states
  • 23 new confirmed cases reported in Spain were linked to a sex den, authorities said

LONDON : The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found.
As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the UN agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations in coming days for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox.
“Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic,” the agency added.
Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild, and is endemic in parts of west and central Africa. It is spread by close contact, so it can be relatively easily contained through such measures as self-isolation and hygiene.


ALSO READ: 

• EXPLAINER: Why monkeypox cases are rising in Europe

 

 


“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist, told Reuters.
Heymann said an international committee of experts met via video conference to look at what needed to be studied about the outbreak and communicated to the public, including whether there is any asymptomatic spread, who are at most risk, and the various routes of transmission.
He said the meeting was convened “because of the urgency of the situation.” The committee is not the group that would suggest declaring a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest form of alert, which applies to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. For example, parents caring for sick children are at risk, as are health workers, which is why some countries have started inoculating teams treating monkeypox patients using vaccines for smallpox, a related virus.
Many of the current cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.

On Friday, health authorities in Spain reported  23 new confirmed cases mainly in the Madrid region where the regional government closed a sauna linked to the majority of infections.
The total tally in Spain has now reached 30, while 23 confirmed cases have now been identified in neighbouring Portugal, where nine new cases were detected on Friday.
Madrid authorities have been working on tracing the cases mainly from a single outbreak in a sauna, regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero told reporters on Friday. The word sauna is used in Spain to describe establishments popular with gay men looking for sex rather than just a bathhouse.
Early genomic sequencing of a handful of the cases in Europe has suggested a similarity with the strain that spread in a limited fashion in Britain, Israel and Singapore in 2018.
Heymann said it was “biologically plausible” the virus had been circulating outside of the countries where it is endemic, but had not led to major outbreaks as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions.
He stressed that the monkeypox outbreak did not resemble the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not transmit as easily. Those who suspect they may have been exposed or who show symptoms including bumpy rash and fever, should avoid close contact with others, he said.
“There are vaccines available, but the most important message is, you can protect yourself,” he added. 

 


After divisive presidential campaign, Marcos faces challenge of uniting Philippines

Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (AFP)
Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2022

After divisive presidential campaign, Marcos faces challenge of uniting Philippines

Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (AFP)
  • ‘Candidate for change’ has promised unity to voters weary of years of political polarization and pandemic hardship
  • With initial count largely complete, Marcos has more than 31 million votes, more than double that of his closest rival

MANILA: Days after clinching a landslide victory in one of the most divisive presidential elections in the history of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos now faces the challenge of fulfilling his campaign promise to unite the country.

Marcos, the son and namesake of the late dictator, is set to take over from President Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s leader for the next six years.   

While the election results are still unofficial, over 98 percent of an initial count has been completed, with Marcos having more than 31 million votes, more than double that of his closest rival, the outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo.   

Just stabilize the economy, curb inflation and do not kill us.

Jarrah Brillantes, Community development worker

Other contestants included boxing legend Manny Pacquaio, who is now a senator; Isko Moreno, a former actor and current Manila mayor; and Panfilo Lacson, a senator and former police chief.

Marcos’ running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of the incumbent president, is also leading in the vice-presidential race with more than triple the votes of Senator Francis Pangilinan, who ran in support of Robredo. They are expected to take office on June 30.

During his election campaign, Marcos, who is widely known by his childhood nickname “Bongbong,” has portrayed himself as the candidate for change, promising unity to voters weary of years of political polarization and pandemic hardship.

“He promised unity. I hope he can do that,” Eccleo Gregorio, a taxi driver in Manila who voted for Marcos, told Arab News. “I also expect him to give Filipinos a better life by bringing down the prices of commodities, gasoline, electricity, and making sure to raise workers’ wages.”

Allan Bergonia, a reporter, expects Marcos’ incoming administration to “show us the real change.”

“As they promised, together, we Filipinos will rise again,” Bergonia said, adding that the victory proved that Filipinos wanted a return to “the old style of Marcos system of government.”

In the months leading up to the election, an online campaign portrayed the Marcos regime as a “golden age” in the country’s history.

Yet for other Filipinos, Marcos’ family name remains a painful reminder of two decades of widespread corruption and human rights abuses committed by his father, who was ousted in a popular uprising 36 years ago.

Jarrah Brillantes, a community development worker, told Arab News that she believed Robredo could solve the country’s woes, not the president-elect of whom she had few expectations.

“Just stabilize the economy, curb inflation and do not kill us,” she said.

Angie, a writer who gave only her first name, said that she was uncertain about what the future would offer under a new Marcos regime.

“I am hoping and praying that the new leadership will be able to bring about their promised peace and unity by digging deep and working hard across political colors to overcome pandemic challenges for the sake of all Filipinos,” she said.

With Marcos promising voters that he will continue Duterte’s policies, Jude, a supporter who works for the current administration, said that he expected the future leader to “sustain the projects and programs” launched by his predecessor.

“The majority of Filipinos have spoken, which should be respected,” he said, requesting that his last name not be revealed. “They want a genuine government, pro-poor, pro-people, that can sustain and further improve what the present administration has implemented.”

Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said that he will reserve his comments until the final count is made public.

But he said that if Marcos takes office, a rapid return of his father’s loyalists is likely.

“The immediate thing that will happen is there will be redeployment of political forces,” Casiple told Arab News.

“But if he does reach out to his political opponents, which is very doubtful, then he might be able to achieve his unifying battle cry … All political forces would have to adjust their strategies vis-a-vis the new Marcos regime.”

 


Australia’s new leader overcame crash, party coup rumblings

Australia’s new leader overcame crash, party coup rumblings
Updated 33 min 59 sec ago

Australia’s new leader overcame crash, party coup rumblings

Australia’s new leader overcame crash, party coup rumblings
  • At the time, his Labour Party trailed behind the conservative government in opinion polls, struggling to cut through during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Albanese, nicknamed “Albo,” was elected to parliament in 1996, and in his first speech thanked his mother, Maryanne Ellery, for raising him in tough circumstances

SYDNEY: Anthony Albanese, Australia’s newly elected prime minister, was rushed to hospital last year after a four-wheel-drive slammed into his car.
“I thought that was it,” he told a local radio station.
At the time, his Labour Party trailed behind the conservative government in opinion polls, struggling to cut through during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But the near-death experience changed his life, Albanese told media.
In its wake, the opposition leader, 59, recovered on all fronts: overcoming serious injury, shrugging off rumblings of a party leadership coup and shedding 18 kilograms (40 pounds) — an image revamp that raised some eyebrows.
His suits went from baggy to tailored, his bookish wire-framed glasses switched for “Mad Men“-style black full-rims.
Vitally, though, he was able to pull ahead of the country’s ruling conservative coalition in the polls and carry his party to victory.
Albanese, nicknamed “Albo,” was elected to parliament in 1996, and in his first speech thanked his mother, Maryanne Ellery, for raising him in tough circumstances.
The pair lived in public housing in Sydney during Albanese’s childhood and his single mother often struggled to make ends meet.
“It says a lot about this country,” he said on the eve of his election, voice cracking with emotion. “That someone from those beginnings... can stand before you today, hoping to be elected prime minister of this country tomorrow.”
The aspiring politician joined the left-wing Labour Party in high school and later became deeply involved in student politics at the University of Sydney.
He was the first person in his family to go to university and has said his working-class roots shaped his worldview.
Albanese says his mother, a Catholic, decided to take his father’s name.
“I was raised being told that he had died. That’s a tough decision. It says something about the pressure that was placed on women,” he said.
His only child, Nathan, was born in 2000, inspiring Albanese to meet his own father with only a photo to help track him down.
The pair was able to reconcile in his father’s Italian hometown, Barletta, before Carlo Albanese died in 2014.
“The last conversation we had was that he was glad that we had found each other,” the politician told ABC.
In the 26 years since Albanese was first elected to parliament, Labor has only held government for five years — during the tumultuous terms of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.
Albanese first became a minister after Rudd’s 2007 election victory and rose through the Labor ranks, finally taking over the opposition leadership after the party’s crushing loss in 2019.
The Labor leader stumbled at times on the campaign trail, including forgetting the country’s unemployment and main lending rates.
“Everyone will make a mistake in their life. The question is whether you learn from it. This government keep repeating the same mistakes,” he said.


UNHCR chief arrives in Bangladesh to meet Rohingya refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi attends a news conference at the U.N. in Geneva.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi attends a news conference at the U.N. in Geneva.
Updated 21 May 2022

UNHCR chief arrives in Bangladesh to meet Rohingya refugees

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi attends a news conference at the U.N. in Geneva.
  • Filippo Grandi will meet with the Rohingyas ‘to discuss their needs, challenges and hopes for the future’
  • Repatriation of the Rohingyas is the highest priority, activists said

DHAKA: UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi arrived in Bangladesh on Saturday to meet Rohingya refugees amid expectations that the visit will help to restart talks over their repatriation.

Bangladesh is host to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled violence and persecution in neighboring Myanmar, the majority of whom have been living in congested camps at Cox’s Bazar, a fishing port in the country’s southeast.

To ease pressure on the overcrowded border camps, officials want to eventually transfer 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char — an island settlement in the Bay of Bengal several hours’ journey away from the mainland — and have moved about 30,000 Rohingyas since the end of 2020.

Though Bangladesh and Myanmar promised in April 2018 to proceed with safe, voluntary, and dignified repatriations of the Rohingyas, the commitment has yet to become a reality.

Back in Bangladesh on a comprehensive visit including exchanges with the government, partners and civil society, as well as field missions to Rohingya refugee sites.

Filippo Grandi, UNHCR chief

Grandi, whose last visit to the South Asian country was in 2019, will meet with Rohingya refugees “to discuss their needs, challenges and hopes for the future,” the UNHCR said in a statement. He will also “highlight the need for sustained international support” during his meetings in Bangladesh.

“Back in Bangladesh on a comprehensive visit including exchanges with the government, partners and civil society, as well as field missions to Rohingya refugee sites,” Grandi said in a tweet.

His visit is expected to reorient focus on repatriation of Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar, discussions of which have been stalled further since Myanmar’s military took power in a coup in February 2021. Though talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar finally resumed in late January, they have yet to come to an agreement.

“At the moment repatriation for the Rohingyas is our highest priority,” Nur Khan, a prominent human rights activist in Bangladesh, said.

“We need to resume the repatriation discussion soon and the UNHCR may play a vital role here to bring all the stakeholders to the table as soon as possible.”

Bimal Chandra Sarkar, executive director of local NGO Mukti, said financial expenses to address the refugees’ needs are becoming a concern for humanitarian workers.

“Repatriation of the Rohingyas is the most burning issue for us,” Sarkar, whose organization also works in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.

“Bangladesh is suffering a lot for allowing these Rohingyas to live here on humanitarian grounds.”


Switzerland reports first monkeypox case

Switzerland reports first monkeypox case
Updated 21 May 2022

Switzerland reports first monkeypox case

Switzerland reports first monkeypox case
  • Bern's health authority said the patient had been treated as a walk-in case and was now isolating at home
  • Health officials became aware of the case on Friday, and it was confirmed as monkeypox the following day

GENEVA: Swiss health officials on Saturday reported the country’s first case of monkeypox in a person living in the canton of Bern but who was exposed while abroad.
Bern’s health authority said the patient had been treated as a walk-in case and was now isolating at home. Everyone who had come into contact with him had been informed, it added in a statement.
“As far as we know, the person concerned was exposed to the virus abroad,” the statement added.
Health officials became aware of the case on Friday, and it was confirmed as monkeypox the following day.
Switzerland thus joins several western countries, including Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden the United Kingdom and the United States in reporting cases, raising fears the virus may be spreading.
Symptoms of the rare disease include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets from a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding or towels.
Monkeypox usually clears up after two to four weeks, according to the World Health Organization.
The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe Hans Kluge warned on Friday that cases could accelerate in the coming months, as the virus spread across Europe.
Most initial cases of the disease have been among men who have sex with men and sought treatment at sexual health clinics, Kluge said, adding “this suggests that transmission may have been ongoing for some time.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is investigating the fact that many cases reported were people identifying as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men.