Pandemic pushed millions more into poverty in the Philippines — government

Pandemic pushed millions more into poverty in the Philippines — government
The number of people living in poverty in 2021 rose to a total of almost 20 million or 18.1 percent of the population from 16.7 percent in 2018. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Pandemic pushed millions more into poverty in the Philippines — government

Pandemic pushed millions more into poverty in the Philippines — government
  • Recently inaugurated President Ferdinand Marcos Jr aims to slash the poverty rate to 9 percent by the end of his single six-year term in 2028

MANILA: About 2.3 million people in the Philippines were pushed into poverty between 2018 and 2021, largely due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the statistics agency said on Monday.
The number of people living in poverty in 2021 rose to a total of almost 20 million or 18.1 percent of the population from 16.7 percent in 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said, overshooting the government’s target of 15.5 percent-17.5 percent.
Recently inaugurated President Ferdinand Marcos Jr aims to slash the poverty rate to 9 percent by the end of his single six-year term in 2028 — a target that remains achievable despite soaring inflation, according to Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
He said the government’s strategy will focus on fully reopening the economy, investing in human capital and social protection, and transforming production sectors to generate more and quality jobs and competitive products.
“We can reduce poverty incidence by 5 percentage points at midterm, and another 4 percentage points by 2028,” Balisacan told a media briefing.
The PSA — which defines poverty as including those Filipinos whose per capita income cannot sufficiently meet individual basic food and non-food needs — releases these statistics every three years.
Balisacan said that before the pandemic, in 2018, the country had achieved its goal of lifting 6 million Filipinos out of poverty, four years ahead of a 2022 target.
But COVID-19 restrictions in 2020 and a long-running issue of poor households having limited access to regular and productive jobs had plunged many Filipinos back into difficulty, he said.


Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia

Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia
Updated 6 sec ago

Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia

Indian workers rescued from job scams in Southeast Asia
  • Some fraudulent IT companies appear to be engaged in digital scamming and forged cryptocurrencies
  • The Indian workers were held captive and forced to commit cyber fraud
NEW DELHI: India’s government on Friday said it has rescued about 130 Indian workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia after they were lured by agents for fake job opportunities in the information technology sector in Thailand.
Arindam Bagchi, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said some fraudulent IT companies appear to be engaged in digital scamming and forged cryptocurrencies. The Indian workers were held captive and forced to commit cyber fraud, he told reporters.
The companies appear to be operating through agents in Dubai, Bangkok and some Indian cities and were recruiting Indian workers through social media advertisements for fake highly lucrative jobs in Thailand, he said.
Many of the workers were taken illegally across the border into an area of Myanmar that is difficult to access because of the local security situation, Bagchi said.
He said nearly 50 workers have been brought back to India from Myanmar, while some others were still in Myanmar police custody for questioning because they illegally entered the country without visas.
He said 80 other Indian workers have been rescued from Cambodia and Laos.
Last month, M.K. Stalin, the top elected official of India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that 300 Indians, including around 50 Tamils from the state, were being held captive in Myanmar.
Citizens of other countries in the region have suffered in similar scams.
On Thursday, 21 Malaysians rescued from human traffickers in Cambodia and Laos returned home. Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the government has now rescued 273 people out of 401 reported missing in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. Most have returned except for 60 still in immigration detention centers in those countries who are waiting to be processed, he said.
A UN envoy has said the scam networks, which often have links to transnational organized crime, are set up in countries with weak law enforcement, attracting educated young workers with promises of high earnings. The workers are then subject to isolation and the threat of violence unless they succeed in cheating victims reached by phone into transferring payments into overseas bank accounts.

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia
Updated 2 min 55 sec ago

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia

UN rights body agrees to appoint expert to scrutinize Russia
  • The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the proposal, presented last week by all European Union member countries except Hungary
  • The original proposal expressed concerns about “mass forced shutdowns" of independent media, NGOs and opposition groups in Russia
GENEVA: The UN’s top human rights body voted Friday to appoint an independent expert to step up scrutiny of Russia’s rights record at home as arbitrary arrests, a crackdown on dissenting voices and limits on free speech worsen during the war in Ukraine.
The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the proposal, presented last week by all European Union member countries except Hungary, on a 17-6 vote, with 24 abstentions. Shortly before the vote in Geneva, Russian human rights group Memorial was named a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
The original proposal expressed concerns about “mass forced shutdowns” of independent media, non-governmental organizations and opposition groups in Russia.
The Human Rights Council majority agreed to name a “special rapporteur” to keep tabs on rights violations in Russia, in part by relying on help from Russian groups and activists who are both still in the country and abroad.
It’s the first time the council has authorized a special rapporteur to look into human rights issues in any of the five countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
Russian ambassador Gennady Gatilov called the draft proposal a “despicable document” that was intended “to find yet another way of exerting leverage for bringing pressure to bear on Russia.”
“This scheme by the EU and its allies is yet another attempt to punish our country for pursuing an independent foreign and domestic policy, and to entrench for the long-term the topic of Russia on the agenda of the HRC so as to unleash a stream of false allegations and accusations directed at us,” Gatilov said.
Western countries provided most of the votes in favor, joined by Paraguay, Marshall Islands and Ukraine. Diplomats from Bolivia, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Kazakhstan and Venezuela voted against the proposal.
The number of abstentions in part reflected hesitations about authorizing a special rapporteur for a country that opposed the initiative: It’s unlikely that Russia will let the special rapporteur to visit the country.
The council previously appointed a Commission of Inquiry — the UN-backed body’s highest form of scrutiny — that is looking into rights abuses related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Russian government has taken a number of steps to limit domestic dissent over the war, including passing a law that criminalizes spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.
British ambassador Simon Manley said “repression at home, aggression abroad” by Russian authorities had increased since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February.
“The truth is that (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin uses repressive legislation to restrict freedom of speech and assembly. He crushes dissent through arbitrary detention and violence and has created a climate of fear and intimidation in order to deter civil society and activists from speaking out against the authorities,” Manley said.
Russia was a member of the Human Rights Council until earlier this year, when it suspended its participation as the UN General Assembly was set to strip the country of its membership due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Friday was the last day of the council’s fall session. A day earlier, member countries rejected a proposal, first floated by the United States and several other Western countries, to hold a debate over alleged human rights abuses in China’s Western Xinjiang region.

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’
Updated 07 October 2022

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’

Japan recognizes ‘right of Palestine to establish an independent state’
  • Hayashi stated that Japan recognizes “the right of Palestine to establish an independent state”
  • Japan has continued to provide substantial aid assistance to the Palestinian state

TOKYO: Japan Foreign Minister HAYASHI Yoshimasa on Friday said Japan “will continue to comprehensively examine whether Palestinian state recognition will contribute to the progress of the peace process.”

In reply to a question from Arab News Japan, Hayashi stated that Japan recognizes “the right of Palestine to establish an independent state” and Japan supports the two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The state of Palestine has “the right to self-determination,” Hayashi said, adding: “We support the Palestinians’ efforts to establish an independent state from the political and economic perspective.”

Meanwhile, Arab News Japan learned that when former Palestinian Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah, former Prime Minister of Palestine met with Japanese Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio last week, he asked for Japan to recognize Palestine as a state.

Japan has continued to provide substantial aid assistance to the Palestinian state.

This article was originally published on Arab News Japan. 


Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
Updated 07 October 2022

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers

Fans mourn victims of Indonesian stadium stampede at Friday prayers
MALANG: Indonesians gathered for Friday prayers mourned 131 people killed in a soccer stampede six days ago, amid calls for a prompt investigation into one of the world’s most deadly stadium disasters to enable its victims to rest in peace.
Most of those killed after the match in the town of Malang, in East Java province, died of asphyxiation, caught in a panicked crush as they tried to flee after police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse a rowdy crowd.
At Al Fatih Mosque near Malang an Islamic preacher led a tearful recital of tahlilan, or special prayers for the dead.
“Many of the supporters demand the case be immediately resolved so the souls of those who died can rest in peace,” said 53-year-old soccer fan Widodo after joining the prayer.
Widodo, who like many Indonesians uses one name, had been at Saturday’s match but left early fearing things could turn bad.
Police have named six suspects in an investigation into the stampede, including match organizers and three officers who were present.
The deadly incident has fueled accusations of heavy-handed policing in the soccer-mad Southeast Asian nation, with the use of tear gas inside the stadium — prohibited by world soccer body FIFA — widely criticized.
Messages and posters have been plastered on the stadium’s doors and walls, some demanding an end to “police brutality,” and Amnesty International Indonesia said on Friday that the tragedy “shows what can happen when excessive use of force by security forces is allowed to go on with impunity.”

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize
Updated 07 October 2022

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

Human rights champions in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine win Nobel Peace Prize

OSLA: Jailed Belarusian activist Ales Byalyatski, Russian organization Memorial and Ukrainian group Center for Civil Liberties won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, highlighting the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia and Ukraine,” said Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen.
She called on Belarus to release Byalyatski from prison.
The prize will be seen by many as a condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is celebrating his 70th birthday on Friday, and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, making it one of the most politically contentious in decades.
The award was not an anti-Putin prize, however, Reiss-Andersen said.
“We always give the prize for something and to something and not against someone,” she told reporters.
Belarusian security police in July last year raided offices and homes of lawyers and human rights activists, detaining Byalyatski and others in a new crackdown on opponents of Lukashenko.
Authorities had moved to shut down non-state media outlets and human right groups after mass protests the previous August against a presidential election the opposition said was rigged.
“The (Nobel) Committee is sending a message that political freedoms, human rights and active civil society are part of peace,” Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told Reuters.
The prize will boost morale for Byalyatski and strengthen the hand of the Center for Civil Liberties, an independent Ukrainian human rights organization, which is also focused on fighting corruption, he said.
“Although Memorial has been closed in Russia, it lives on as an idea that it’s right to criticize power and that facts and history matter,” Smith added.
The award is recognition for the whole Belarusian people in standing up to Lukashenko, opposition spokesman Franak Viacorka said.
He told Reuters that Byalyatski was jailed in inhuman conditions and he hoped the prize, shared with Russian and Ukrainian human rights organizations, would lead to his release.
“That’s a huge sign of recognition for the Belarusian people, because the Belarusian people deserves it for their bravery in countering the tyranny of Lukashenko .... they deserve all the prizes in the world,” said Viacorka, chief of staff to exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya who is a close friend of Byalyatski.
The Nobel Peace Prize, worth 10 million Swedish crowns, or about $900,000, will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.
“The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation.
“They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.”