Joe Biden to meet Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at White House on May 1

Joe Biden to meet Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at White House on May 1
President Joe Biden will reaffirm the US’s ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, a White House statement said. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 April 2023

Joe Biden to meet Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at White House on May 1

Joe Biden to meet Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at White House on May 1
  • The treaty allies have enjoyed warmer ties since Marcos Jr. took office last June
  • White House: Biden and Marcos will discuss economic and defense cooperation

WASHINGTON/MANILA: US President Joe Biden will meet his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the White House on May 1 to discuss economic cooperation and the Indo-Pacific region, Manila and Washington said on Friday.
The treaty allies have enjoyed warmer ties since Marcos took office last June, reversing his predecessor’s anti-US stance.
Next month’s bilateral talks will be the latest in a series of high-level meetings the Philippines has conducted with leaders of the United States and China, both of which are jostling for strategic advantage in the region.
Biden and Marcos will discuss economic and defense cooperation, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“During the visit, President Biden will reaffirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, and the leaders will discuss efforts to strengthen the longstanding US-Philippines alliance,” the statement said.
In what will be his second trip to the United States in less than a year, the presidential palace said on Friday that Marcos will travel to Washington from April 30 to May 4 to meet Biden and key cabinet officials.
“It will substantively progress efforts to further deepen...political ties, to bring about lasting socio-economic partnerships, as well as to enhance defense and security cooperation,” the palace said.
Marcos will seek closer partnership in agriculture, energy, climate change, digital transformation, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supply chains, and infrastructure, it added.
More than 17,000 Philippine and US soldiers are currently conducting their largest ever joint military drills in the Southeast Asian country, drawing criticism from China.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang will meet his local counterpart and Marcos on Saturday, just weeks after the Philippines gave the United States
access
to four additional military bases.
In March, the Philippines hosted a meeting between Manila and Beijing’s diplomats to discuss the South China Sea, a key trade corridor that’s also a source of tensions between the two countries.


Five Greek police officers in custody pending trial for assisting illegal migrant crossings

Five Greek police officers in custody pending trial for assisting illegal migrant crossings
Updated 03 June 2023

Five Greek police officers in custody pending trial for assisting illegal migrant crossings

Five Greek police officers in custody pending trial for assisting illegal migrant crossings
  • The five officers had been testifying before an examining magistrate since Saturday morning at the border town of Orestiada
  • Agents from the internal affairs division of the Greek police had been monitoring the five officers since October 2022

THESSALONIKI, Greece: Five police officers accused of cooperating with human traffickers to facilitate the entry of at least 100 migrants into Greece are being held in custody pending trial.
The five officers had been testifying before an examining magistrate since Saturday morning at the border town of Orestiada, in northeastern Greece.
Agents from the internal affairs division of the Greek police had been monitoring the five officers, who serve in a special border guard unit, since October 2022. They also listened into their phone conversations, whose transcripts run into over 2,000 pages. The officers had aroused suspicion by volunteering to patrol at certain times, together.
Authorities say the offices facilitated at least 12 border crossings, collaborating with four traffickers of undetermined nationality who operated from Turkiye.
Authorities allege that the accused officers took a cut from the money the traffickers received from the migrants to take them across the border. When the officers were arrested last Monday in the border town of Didymoteicho, police confiscated some 26,000 euros ($28,000) in cash, and nearly 60 mobile phones.
Almost all the land border between Greece and Turkiye is formed by the Evros River, called Meric in Turkiye. The Evros is a key crossing point into Greece for people seeking a better life in the European Union. Greece has built a high fence along much of the border to prevent migrants crossing, and is planning to further extend it.


Death toll climbs in Senegal after two days of violent protests

Death toll climbs in Senegal after two days of violent protests
Updated 03 June 2023

Death toll climbs in Senegal after two days of violent protests

Death toll climbs in Senegal after two days of violent protests
  • The flow of migrants from Tunisia has intensified since President Kais Saied made a fiery speech on Feb. 21 claiming illegal immigration was a demographic threat to Tunisia

DAKAR: The death toll from anti-government protests in Senegal has risen to 15, police said on Saturday, as authorities in the capital Dakar began to clear up debris and secure looted shops after two days of unrest.
Most of Dakar appeared quiet on Saturday, but tensions remained high after violent protests in several cities killed six people on Friday, taking the total number killed this week to 15, a police spokesperson said by phone.
The toll has now surpassed the number killed in multi-day protests in 2021, when supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko first took to the streets over a rape trial they say is politically motivated.
Sonko denies any wrongdoing.

FASTFACT

Mobs smashed windows and looted at least two gas station shops in Dakar’s Ouakam and Ngor districts.

Sonko’s sentencing on Thursday, which could prevent him from running in the February presidential election, sparked the latest turmoil as protesters heeded his call to stand up to the authorities.
Mobs smashed windows and looted at least two gas station shops in Dakar’s Ouakam and Ngor districts, while a supermarket in densely populated Grand Yoff was torched and ransacked. Rubble littered the roads that were scarred black by fires.
“The police could not do anything, there were too many of them. The police had to leave after several attempts to control the crowd with tear-gas grenades,” said resident Khadija by the supermarket whose interior was gutted and strewn with broken shelves, mud and trash.
The government has enlisted the army to back up the many riot police still stationed around the city. Over a dozen soldiers guarded the trashed gas station in Ouakam on Saturday, as some shop owners tentatively opened their doors, although streets were unusually empty.
Abdou Ndiaye, the owner of a nearby corner shop said he had closed early the two previous days and opened late on Saturday, fearful of the unrest that he said was the worst he’d seen in his 15 years of business.
“We are so scared because you don’t know when the crowds will come, and when they come they take ... your goods, they are thieves,” he said in a storeroom stacked with sacks of food and household items.
“There are people who demonstrate but there are others who do whatever they want.”
The unrest is the latest in a string of opposition protests in Senegal, long considered one of West Africa’s most stable democracies, sparked by Sonko’s court case as well as concerns that President Macky Sall will try to bypass the two-term limit and run again in February elections.
Sall has neither confirmed nor denied this.

 


Greek police find €3.2 million of cocaine in banana containers

Greek police find €3.2 million of cocaine in banana containers
Updated 03 June 2023

Greek police find €3.2 million of cocaine in banana containers

Greek police find €3.2 million of cocaine in banana containers
  • Police seized two suspect containers at the port of Piraeus
  • The drugs are estimated to be worth about €3.2 million, police said

ATHENS: Police in northern Greece have seized dozens of packages of cocaine stashed in containers laden with bananas that had been shipped from Latin America, they said on Saturday.
Police seized two suspect containers at the port of Piraeus and, after taking them to the port of Thessaloniki, found 100 “bricks” of concealed cocaine, weighing 161 kilos.
The drugs, which would have been distributed across Greece and other European countries, are estimated to be worth about €3.2 million, police said.
The consignment was found as part of an investigation Greece launched last month with North Macedonia authorities and the US anti-drug agency, following the seizure of about 100 kilos of cocaine also hidden in banana containers at a warehouse in Thessaloniki. Some 14 people have been arrested in that case.


Nearly 300 killed in one of India’s worst rail disasters in history

Nearly 300 killed in one of India’s worst rail disasters in history
Updated 03 June 2023

Nearly 300 killed in one of India’s worst rail disasters in history

Nearly 300 killed in one of India’s worst rail disasters in history
  • Two trains carrying thousands of passengers collided with a freight train
  • Odisha observes day of mourning after the disaster of ‘unimaginable scale’

NEW DELHI: Nearly 300 people have died and hundreds of others were injured in eastern India when three trains collided in one of the worst rail disasters in the country’s history, authorities said on Saturday.
The accident took place in the Balasore district of Odisha state on Friday when the Coromandel Shalimar Express from Kolkata to Chennai derailed after hitting a parked freight train. Another train, the Howrah Superfast Express, traveling in the opposite from Yesvantpur to Howrah, then hit the overturned carriages.
The Coromandel Shalimar Express had 2,000 people on board and the Howrah Superfast Express at least 1,000, according to their passenger manifests.

FASTFACT

The state government of Odisha sent 200 ambulances and hundreds of first responders to the scene as it mobilized dozens of doctors to attend to the injured, saying that the accident was a ‘disaster of unimaginable scale.’

The state government of Odisha sent 200 ambulances and hundreds of first responders to the scene as it mobilized dozens of doctors to attend to the injured, saying that the accident was a “disaster of unimaginable scale.”
The South Eastern Railway, which has jurisdiction over the area, confirmed on Saturday afternoon that at least 261 people were killed in the crash.
“Another 650 injured passengers are being treated at various hospitals in Odisha,” SER spokesperson Aditya Chowdhury told reporters.
Rescuers who continued to dig through debris to find survivors feared that the toll might still increase.
Dr. Sudhanshu Sarangi, director-general of the Odisha Fire Service, said the aftermath of the accident was “extremely distressing” and many of the rescued were critically injured.
“So many dead bodies, the smell, the rigor mortis, it’s terrible. We won’t be able to sleep for a few nights. It’s a terrible tragedy,” he told Arab News.
A day of mourning was observed in Odisha on Saturday as top officials, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, arrived in the crash site.
The accident has caused disruptions in the movement of hundreds of trains from eastern India to the rest of the country.
India has the largest network of railway tracks in the world with over 13 million people traveling 70,000 km of track in over 14,000 trains every day.
Each year, several hundred accidents are recorded on the country’s railways, but the one in Odisha was the worst since August 1999, when two trains collided near Kolkata, killing at least 285 people.
In August 1995, at least 350 people are killed when two trains collided 200 km from Delhi.
The country’s worst train disaster took place in June 1981, when seven of the nine coaches of an overcrowded train fell into a river during a cyclone in the eastern state of Bihar.

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Philippines gains halal cred for efforts at Muslim-friendly travel

Philippines gains halal cred for efforts at Muslim-friendly travel
Updated 03 June 2023

Philippines gains halal cred for efforts at Muslim-friendly travel

Philippines gains halal cred for efforts at Muslim-friendly travel
  • Boosting arrivals from the Middle East is among the Philippine government’s priority goals for 2023
  • Philippines becomes Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year at Halal in Travel Global Summit

MANILA: The Philippines is focused on positioning itself as a Muslim-friendly destination, its tourism authorities said on Saturday, after winning an award at this year’s Halal in Travel Global Summit.
Muslim travelers are one of the fastest-growing tourist groups and attracting them is crucial for the Philippines as following the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a slowdown from Europe and China, which traditionally have been the main sources of visitors.
As the Muslim travel market is forecast to reach a value of $225 billion by 2028, the Philippine government announced last year that boosting foreign arrivals from the Middle East and Muslim-majority countries was among its priority goals.
The efforts were recognized with the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award during the Halal in Travel Global Summit — a key industry event — held in Singapore from May 30 through June 1 to honor places, groups, businesses, and people who have had a significant influence on the travel market for Muslims this year.
“This award is an affirmation of our collaborative efforts toward positioning the Philippines as a preferred destination for Muslim travelers, and strategically developing our halal tourism portfolio across our regions,” the Philippine Department of Tourism said in a statement quoting Secretary Cristina Frasco.
“This global recognition also opens up enormous opportunities for our country to introduce our rich and diverse culture and heritage evident in our Muslim communities, and our immensely beautiful destinations, including Mindanao,” Frasco said, referring to regions inhabited by the country’s Muslim minority.
In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, Muslims constitute roughly 5 percent of the country’s population of 110 million. Most of them live on the island of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the country’s south, which are known as scenic locations with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.
While many Muslim travelers look for restaurants serving food that is halal, or permissible under Islamic law, the Philippine Department of Tourism has employed “a wide range of services and amenities” designed to cater to them.
Tourism Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar, who accepted the Emerging Muslim-friendly Destination of the Year award, said: “We hope to continue the great stride on tourism promotion and economic boost in our country for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are arriving in the Philippines,” she said, adding that Muslim visitors were welcome to explore the archipelago nation’s hospitality and more than 7,000 islands.