The Philippine president says he won’t give US access to more local military bases

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (2nd L), with Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo (L) and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro (3rd L), meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (2nd R) at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on April 12, 2024. (AFP)
Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (2nd L), with Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo (L) and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro (3rd L), meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (2nd R) at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on April 12, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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The Philippine president says he won’t give US access to more local military bases

The Philippine president says he won’t give US access to more local military bases
  • “The Philippines has no plans to create any more bases or give access to any more bases,” Marcos said, without elaborating in response to a question during a forum with Manila-based foreign correspondents

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine president said Monday his administration has no plan to give the United States access to more Philippine military bases and stressed that the American military’s presence in several camps and sites so far was sparked by China’s aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in 2022, allowed American forces and weapons access to four additional Philippine military bases, bringing to nine the number of sites where US troops can rotate indefinitely under a 2014 agreement.
The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of security alliances in the region to better counter China, a move that dovetails with Philippine efforts to shore up its external defense, especially in the South China Sea.
Marcos’ decision last year alarmed China because two of the new sites were located just across from Taiwan and southern China. Beijing accused the Philippines of providing American forces with staging grounds, which could be used to undermine its security.
“The Philippines has no plans to create any more bases or give access to any more bases,” Marcos said, without elaborating in response to a question during a forum with Manila-based foreign correspondents.
Asked if he was concerned that allowing the US military access to Philippine bases had provoked Chinese actions in the South China Sea, Marcos said the presence of US troops was in response to China’s moves.
“These are reactions to what has happened in the South China Sea, to the aggressive actions that we have had to deal with,” he said, mentioning Chinese coast guard vessels using water cannons and lasers to deter Philippine ships from the area Beijing claims as its own.
He also mentioned collisions, blocking of Filipino fishermen and sea barriers to block ships from Scarborough Shoal, which lies in the Philippine economic zone.
Under Marcos, the Philippines has adopted a strategy of publicizing the incidents by allowing journalists to board its patrol ships to witness China’s assertive actions.
“It is crucial that the media … continue to expose these actions that not only threaten the peace and stability of the region but also undermine the rules-based order that has underpinned global development and prosperity over the previous century,” Marcos said.
China has blamed the Philippines for sparking the confrontations by intruding into what it says were Chinese territorial waters and reneging on an alleged agreement to pull away an old Philippine navy ship, which now serves as Manila’s territorial outpost in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.
Marcos said he was not aware of any such deal, and added that he considers the deal rescinded — if it ever existed.
Last week, President Joe Biden renewed Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to defend Pacific allies in a summit with Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House. He reiterated that the US is obligated to defend the Philippines if its forces, aircraft or ships come under an armed attack.
Asked when the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Philippines could be invoked amid territorial hostilities between China and the Philippines, Marcos cited Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as saying that could happen “if any Filipino serviceman is killed on an attack from any foreign power.”

 


UN sees tripling of children killed in conflict in one year

Updated 19 sec ago
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UN sees tripling of children killed in conflict in one year

UN sees tripling of children killed in conflict in one year
Warring parties were increasingly “pushing beyond boundaries of what is acceptable — and legal,” UN rights chief Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
“Children shot at. Hospitals bombed. Heavy artillery launched on entire communities. All along with hateful, divisive, and dehumanizing rhetoric“

GENEVA: Global conflicts killed three times as many children and twice as many women in 2023 than in the previous year, as overall civilian fatalities swelled 72 percent, the UN said Tuesday.
Warring parties were increasingly “pushing beyond boundaries of what is acceptable — and legal,” United Nations rights chief Volker Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
They are showing “utter contempt for the other, trampling human rights at their core,” he said. “Killings and injuries of civilians have become a daily occurrence. Destruction of vital infrastructure a daily occurrence.”
“Children shot at. Hospitals bombed. Heavy artillery launched on entire communities. All along with hateful, divisive, and dehumanizing rhetoric.”
The UN rights chief said his office had gathered data indicating that last year, “the number of civilian deaths in armed conflict soared by 72 percent.”
“Horrifyingly, the data indicates that the proportion of women killed in 2023 doubled and that of children tripled, compared to the year prior,” he said.
In the Gaza Strip, Turk said he was “appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law by parties to the conflict” and “unconscionable death and suffering.”
Since the war erupted after Hamas’s unprecedented attack inside Israel on October 7, he said “more than 120,000 people in Gaza, overwhelmingly women and children, have been killed or injured ... as a result of the intensive Israeli offensives.”
“Since Israel escalated its operations into Rafah in early May, almost one million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced yet again, while aid delivery and humanitarian access deteriorated further,” he said.
Turk also pointed to a range of other conflicts, including in Ukraine, the Democratic republic of Congo and Syria.
And in Sudan, in the grips of a more than year-long civil war, he warned the country “is being destroyed in front of our eyes by two warring parties and affiliated groups ... (who have) flagrantly cast aside the rights of their own people.”
Such devastation comes as funding to help the growing numbers of people in need is dwindling.
“As of the end of May 2024, the gap between humanitarian funding requirements and available resources stands at $40.8 billion,” Turk said.
“Appeals are funded at an average of 16.1 percent only,” he said.
“Contrast this with the almost $2.5 trillion in global military expenditure in 2023, a 6.8 percent increase in real terms from 2022,” Turk said, stressing that “this was the steepest year-on-year increase since 2009.”
“In addition to inflicting unbearable human suffering, war comes with a hefty price tag,” he said.

French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer

French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer
Updated 12 min 25 sec ago
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French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer

French court rules against Israeli ban from arms expo: lawyer
  • The decision by Coges Events to ban 74 Israeli exhibitors from Eurosatory was “discriminatory“

PARIS: A French court on Tuesday ordered organizers of a defense trade show to suspend a ban on Israeli firms, the lawyer for the Franco-Israeli chamber of commerce told AFP.
The Paris Commerce Tribunal said the decision by Coges Events to ban 74 Israeli exhibitors from Eurosatory was “discriminatory,” said the lawyer, Patrick Klugman.


Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza

Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza
Updated 19 min ago
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Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza

Indonesian hospital resumes limited operations in north Gaza
  • Indonesia Hospital was one of the first targets hit by Israeli attacks last year
  • Facility is still unable to perform major surgeries due to lack of equipment

JAKARTA: The Indonesia Hospital in Gaza has resumed limited operations, the nongovernmental organization that funded it said on Tuesday, months after the facility was severely damaged by a deadly Israeli siege and attacks.

The hospital in northern Gaza, a four-story building located near the Jabalia refugee camp, was built from donations organized by the Jakarta-based Medical Emergency Rescue Committee. 

It was one of the first targets hit by Israeli air raids in October and one of the last to remain operational until late last year. But Israeli bombardments forced staff and thousands of people seeking shelter on the hospital’s premises to move to Gaza’s south. 

“Praise be to God, the hospital has resumed operations under limited capacity,” MER-C Chairman Dr. Sarbini Murad told Arab News. 

“The Indonesia Hospital is relying on solar energy, but even solar is limited. Most of the medical equipment is damaged. The staff are making the most of what’s available because the most important thing is that the hospital can function to help the isolated residents of northern Gaza.” 

According to Murad, the medical facility began to resume some services last month and is now able to take in patients, although doctors still cannot perform major surgeries. 

“If a permanent ceasefire is implemented, hopefully (MER-C) can go there and begin repairing the hospital,” Murad said, adding that the facility may be the only one providing medical aid in north Gaza. 

For months, Palestinians in northern Gaza have been isolated from the rest of the besieged enclave and hit hardest by hunger as Israeli forces denied aid convoys entry to the area. 

In early November, the Israeli military said that Gaza-based militant group Hamas was using the Indonesia Hospital “to hide an underground command and control center.” 

The claim was immediately refuted by MER-C, which said that it was a “precondition to attack” the medical facility.

A few weeks later, Israeli tanks and snipers indeed laid siege to the hospital, severely damaging the building and destroying its equipment, as they turned it into a new base for their attacks.


Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan

Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan
Updated 18 June 2024
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Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan

Afghans spend Eid in poverty after fleeing Pakistan
  • Pakistan forcibly deported thousands of Afghans last year who were allegedly living in country without legal documents
  • War-ravaged Afghanistan deals with refugees returning as it reels from humanitarian, climate and economic crises

MOYE MUBARAK, Afghanistan: Seven months since fleeing Pakistan out of fear of deportation, Jan Mohammad marked the Eid Al-Adha holiday on Monday struggling to feed his family, still living in a tent in Afghanistan in the border province of Nangarhar.

“We are spending Eid as if we were in prison,” the 30-year-old father of six told AFP.

“We have absolutely no money. We are still grateful to Allah that we are alive but sometimes we regret that as well. We can’t do anything. This year, and this Eid, we became fully bankrupt.”

He and his family crossed from Pakistan at the end of last year, not long after a deadline set by Islamabad for Afghans without legal right to stay in the country to leave.

Hundreds of thousands Afghans have hurriedly packed up their belongings to start fresh in their homeland, a place many of them had never seen before, in the months since the November 1, 2023 deadline.

But months later, many have still not found their feet.

Mohammad and his family were living in a tent encampment in the Moye Mubarak area of Nangarhar with other recently returned Afghan families.

He worked as a trainer at a sports club in Pakistan but is now jobless, unable to provide sufficient food for his family, let alone take part in Eid Al-Adha traditions of buying new clothes or a sheep for the ritual sacrifice or gathering with extended family and friends.

“My children don’t have proper food to eat or clothes to wear (for Eid), or shoes, while the children in the nearby villages have good clothes and shoes. My children want the same things. It is very difficult but we are helpless,” Mohammad said.

“It breaks my heart, I sit in a corner at home and cry.”

In a nearby tent, Sang Bibi is also holding on by a thread. Where other families were buying new clothes for Eid, she and her six children can rarely wash and beg for hand-me-downs to wear.

“We even beg for the clothes of dead,” the 60-year-old widow, the sole breadwinner for her family, told AFP.

“We have been in a terrible situation these past two Eids,” she said, referring to Eid Al-Fitr, which fell at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in April this year.

The influx of returnees into Afghanistan from both Pakistan and Iran came as the war-ravaged country grapples with economic, climate and humanitarian crises.

UN refugee agency UNHCR said last year that Afghans make up the third-largest group of displaced people globally, with around eight million Afghans living across 103 countries as of 2023.

The Taliban government, which took power almost three years ago, provided some support for the returnees, but struggled to cope with the surge.

“We want the government to help us by providing shelter,” said Sana Gul, who has lived in a tent with her husband and their two daughters since coming from Pakistan.

In the days ahead of Eid, markets were bustling with shoppers buying sweets and food for the holiday, with many families sharing meat with poorer relations during the holiday.

But having spent years, if not their whole lives, abroad, fleeing Afghanistan’s successive conflicts, many returnees have few networks to support them.

“We don’t even have bread to eat,” said Gul’s husband Safar.


Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’

Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’
Updated 18 June 2024
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Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’

Philippines says navy officer severely injured in China Coast Guard ‘ramming’
  • Manila's national task force on the West Philippine Sea later said the Chinese vessels had "engaged in dangerous manoeuvres, including ramming and towing"
  • This month, Manila accused Chinese boats of illegally seizing food and medicine airdropped to the Philippine outpost in the area

Manila: The Philippines said Tuesday one of its navy personnel was severely injured after the China Coast Guard rammed a Philippine vessel near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
"A Philippine Navy personnel sustained severe injury after the CCG's (China Coast Guard's) intentional high-speed ramming during the rotation and resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre (LS57) on June 17," a military statement said.
The shoal, which hosts a tiny Philippine garrison stationed on a deliberately beached old warship, has been a focus of escalating confrontations between Chinese and Philippine ships in recent months as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to the disputed area.
Shortly after the incident, the Chinese coast guard reported that a Philippine resupply ship in the area had "ignored many solemn warnings from the Chinese side".
It "approached the... Chinese vessel in an unprofessional way, resulting in a collision", Beijing said, accusing the ship of having "illegally broken into the sea near Ren'ai Reef".
"The Chinese Coast Guard took control measures against the Philippine ship in accordance with the law," it added.
But the Philippine armed forces called China's version of events "misleading", decrying "the illegal presence and actions of Chinese vessels within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone".
Manila's national task force on the West Philippine Sea later said the Chinese vessels had "engaged in dangerous manoeuvres, including ramming and towing".
"Their actions put at risk the lives of our personnel and damaged our boats," it said.
In an update, the Philippine military on Tuesday made its first casualty report from the incident, adding that the injured navy personnel "has been safely evacuated and received prompt medical treatment".
It gave no details on the sailor's injury and also did not comment on news reports that a sailor had lost a finger and that Chinese personnel also boarded a Philippine vessel and seized several guns and inflatable boats.
The Second Thomas Shoal lies about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometres from China's nearest major landmass, Hainan island.
Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and an international ruling that its stance has no legal basis.
It deploys coast guard and other boats to patrol the waters and has turned several reefs into militarised artificial islands.
It has in recent months stepped up moves against Philippine vessels in the area around Second Thomas Shoal.
This month, Manila accused Chinese boats of illegally seizing food and medicine airdropped to the Philippine outpost in the area.
It was the first time supplies had been seized, the military said.
Chinese personnel on the boats later dumped the items in the water, Philippine Navy spokesman for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said.
It was not clear if they belonged to the Chinese coast guard or navy, the military said.
China in response insisted the Sierra Madre was illegally grounded on the reef and urged the Philippines to "stop making trouble".