Philippines writes off $1 billion in farmer debt to boost food production

Philippines writes off $1 billion in farmer debt to boost food production
About 4.8 million hectares of plots were distributed to almost three million landless Filipino farmers under a lot passed in 1988. (AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2023
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Philippines writes off $1 billion in farmer debt to boost food production

Philippines writes off $1 billion in farmer debt to boost food production
  • New Agrarian Emancipation Act waives all property-related debt owed by farmers who had been given land on 30-year payment terms under a 1988 land reform program, but had been unable to pay

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday wrote off $1.04 billion in land-related debt owed by more than half a million farmers, a move aimed at boosting food production.
The “New Agrarian Emancipation Act” he signed into law waived all property-related debt owed by farmers who had been given land on 30-year payment terms under a 1988 land reform program, but had been unable to pay.
“We know these farmers do not have the means to pay this huge debt. So putting it under the government’s tab is the right thing to do,” Marcos said at a signing ceremony at the presidential palace.
The writing off of the loans, which were issued by government banks, meant “we are doing everything in order to feed our people,” he added.
Under a law passed in 1988, about 4.8 million hectares (11.9 million acres) of plots were distributed to almost three million landless farmers.
The total was equivalent to 16 percent of the country’s land area.
Congress passed the new legislation because nearly 1.2 million hectares of redistributed farmland had gone unpaid for, with the farm sector’s contribution to the country’s economic output shrinking.
The write-off will benefit more than 610,000 land reform beneficiaries but will cost the government $1.04 billion (57.65 billion pesos), Marcos said.
The government will spend another 206 million pesos to compensate landowners whose properties were transferred to tenants, he added.
“We need to revitalize the agriculture sector,” said Marcos, who is also the agriculture minister.
After his election last year, the archipelago nation was wracked with shortages and soaring prices of farm commodities, including onions and sugar, while imports of rice, a food staple, also surged.


About 20 bodies found after fire at South Korea battery plant, Yonhap reports

About 20 bodies found after fire at South Korea battery plant, Yonhap reports
Updated 11 sec ago
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About 20 bodies found after fire at South Korea battery plant, Yonhap reports

About 20 bodies found after fire at South Korea battery plant, Yonhap reports
  • Fire occurred at around 10:30 a.m. in Hwaseong, south of the capital Seoul
SEOUL: About 20 bodies were found after a fire broke out at a battery plant in South Korea on Monday, Yonhap news agency reported.
The fire occurred at around 10:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) at a lithium battery factory in Hwaseong, south of the capital Seoul, according to the interior ministry.

Philippines to continue South China Sea resupply missions, defense secretary says

Philippines to continue South China Sea resupply missions, defense secretary says
Updated 14 min 58 sec ago
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Philippines to continue South China Sea resupply missions, defense secretary says

Philippines to continue South China Sea resupply missions, defense secretary says
  • Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro: ‘It was not a misunderstanding or an accident’
  • Chinese coast guard vessels deliberately disrupted a resupply mission last week

MANILA: The Philippines will continue with resupply missions to troops on an atoll in a disputed part of the South China Sea despite Chinese coast guard vessels deliberately disrupting a mission last week, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on Monday.
“It was not a misunderstanding or an accident,” Teodoro told a press conference at the presidential palace.
“We are not downplaying the incident. It was an aggressive and illegal use of force.”
A Philippine sailor suffered serious injury after what its military described as “intentional-high speed ramming” by the Chinese Coast Guard, aiming to disrupt a resupply mission for troops stationed on the Second Thomas Shoal on June 17.
China’s foreign ministry has disputed the Philippines’ statements, with a spokesperson saying last Thursday that the necessary measures taken by the coast guard were lawful, professional and beyond reproach.
President Ferdinand Marcos said on Sunday that the Philippines was not in the business of instigating wars and would always aim to settle disputes peacefully.


Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler

Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler
Updated 21 min 36 sec ago
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Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler

Texas woman charged for trying to drown Palestinian girl toddler
  • Elizabeth Wolf, 42, reportedly racially abused mother
  • Woman allegedly also attacked girl’s brother, aged 6

LONDON: A woman in Texas has been charged with attempted murder and injury to a child after allegedly trying to drown a 3-year-old Palestinian-Muslim child in a pool and attacking her older brother, CNN reported on Sunday.

The Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged law enforcement to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

On May 19, police officers responded to an alert of a disturbance at an apartment complex pool involving 42-year-old Elizabeth Wolf and the victim’s mother.

The police stated that according to witnesses “a woman who was very intoxicated had tried to drown a child and argued with the child’s mother.”

The victim’s mother told the police Wolf had asked where she was from and if the two children playing in the pool were hers.

The mother was clearly Muslim, wearing a hijab, or Islamic headscarf, and modest swimwear, according to the council.

Wolf also stated that the mother was not an American and made other racist remarks, according to the police.

“When the mother answered her, she stated that Wolf tried to grab her 6-year-old son but he pulled away from her grasp, which caused a scratch on his finger. The mother began helping her son when Wolf grabbed her 3-year-old daughter and forced her underwater,” the news release said.

The mother was able to get her daughter out of the water, but she “had been yelling for help and coughing up water.”

Both children received medical clearance from a local health facility.

“We are American citizens, originally from Palestine, and I don’t know where to go to feel safe with my kids,” the council quoted the mother as saying.

“My country is facing a war, and we are facing that hate here. My daughter is traumatized; whenever I open the apartment door, she runs away and hides, telling me she is afraid the lady will come and immerse her head in the water again.”

The Euless Police Department confirmed that Wolf was released on bail.

“The bond for the Attempted Capital Murder charge was $25,000. The bond for the Injury to a Child charge was $15,000,” captain Brenda Alvarado told CNN.

“We ask for a hate-crime probe, a higher bail bond, and an open conversation with officials to address this alarming increase in Islamophobia, anti-Arab, and anti-Palestinian sentiment,” Shaimaa Zayan, the council’s Austin operations manager, said.

Texas Rep. Salman Bhojani said he was “shocked and appalled by this alleged racist, Islamophobic occurrence that took place in my town.”

He added: “Hate has no place in Euless, District 92, or anywhere in our great state. I want to thank Euless PD for quickly apprehending the alleged provocateur, and I extend my service to the affected family.”


India’s Modi to lay out third-term plans as parliament meets

India’s Modi to lay out third-term plans as parliament meets
Updated 27 min 46 sec ago
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India’s Modi to lay out third-term plans as parliament meets

India’s Modi to lay out third-term plans as parliament meets
  • Indian parliament opens after election setback forced Modi into coalition government 
  • Modi has kept key posts unchanged in this government, cabinet remains dominated by BJP party

New Delhi: Indian lawmakers begin taking their oaths Monday as parliament opens after an election setback forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi into a coalition government for the first time in a decade.

Expected in the first session, which will run until July 3, is a preview of Modi’s plans for his third term and the likely formal appointment of Rahul Gandhi as leader of the opposition — a post vacant since 2014.

Modi’s first two terms in office followed landslide wins for his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), allowing his government to drive laws through parliament with only cursory debate.
But now analysts expect the 73-year-old Modi to moderate his Hindu-nationalist agenda to assuage his coalition partners, focusing more on infrastructure, social welfare and economic reforms.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Kiren Rijiju on Monday called for a “peaceful and productive” session, but Indian media said they expected lively debate with a far stronger opposition.
“All set to spar,” one headline in the Hindustan Times read Monday.

“Resurgent opposition set to push government,” the Indian Express front page added.

Rahul Gandhi, 54, defied analyst expectations to help his Congress party nearly double its parliamentary numbers, its best result since Modi was swept to power a decade ago.

Gandhi is the scion of a dynasty that dominated Indian politics for decades and is the son, grandson and great-grandson of former prime ministers, beginning with independence leader Jawaharlal Nehru.

Parliamentary regulations require the opposition leader to come from a party that commands at least 10 percent of the lawmakers in the 543-seat lower house.

The post has been vacant for 10 years because two dismal election results for Congress — once India’s dominant party — left it short of that threshold.

The parliamentary session will start with newly elected lawmakers taking their oaths over the first two days.

Many will be watching if two lawmakers elected from behind bars, bitter opponents of Modi, will be allowed to join.

One is Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh, a firebrand preacher arrested last year after a month-long police manhunt in Punjab state.

The second is Sheikh Abdul Rashid, a former state legislator in Indian-administered Kashmir.

It is unclear if either will be granted bail to attend the ceremony in person.

Modi’s decade as premier has seen him cultivate an image as an aggressive champion of the country’s majority Hindu faith, worrying minorities including the country’s 200-million-plus Muslim community.

But his BJP won only 240 seats in this year’s poll, 32 short of a majority in the lower house — its worst showing in a decade.

It has left the BJP reliant on a motley assortment of minor parties to govern.

Modi has kept key posts unchanged in this government and the cabinet remains dominated by the BJP.

That includes BJP loyalists Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and S. Jaishankar — the defense, interior, transport, finance and foreign ministers, respectively, staying on in their jobs.

But out of his 71-member government, 11 posts went to coalition allies who extracted them in exchange for their support — including five in the top 30 cabinet posts.

Many will also be eying the election of the speaker, a powerful post overseeing the running of the lower house, with lawmakers slated to vote on Wednesday.

Coalition allies covet the post, but others suggest Modi will put forward a candidate from his BJP.
 


Putin thanks Kim for hospitality on visit to Pyongyang

Putin thanks Kim for hospitality on visit to Pyongyang
Updated 54 min 12 sec ago
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Putin thanks Kim for hospitality on visit to Pyongyang

Putin thanks Kim for hospitality on visit to Pyongyang

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday thanked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for his hospitality during the visit to Pyongyang last week which Putin said brought bilateral ties to an unprecedented level, the Kremlin said.
Putin has also sent a similar message of gratitude to the leadership of Vietnam where he also paid a visit last week, the Kremlin said.