Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Spat threatens China’s plans to build world’s largest telescope

 

 

Now, a panel of international experts has reviewed the designs and come out squarely in favor of the simpler proposal, according to a copy of the review obtained by Science. But the conclusion has not ended what one Chinese astronomer calls "an epic battle" between the high-ranking engineers accustomed to top-down control over projects and the nascent grassroots movement.

At issue is a project that emerged in 2015, when the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) set up a Center for Astronomical Mega-Science that polled senior astronomers on their priorities. Top was a desire to boost China's participation in the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), which is being developed by an international consortium. (Construction on Hawaii's Mauna Kea has been delayed by legal claims raised by Native Hawaiians.) Second was a giant telescope of the country's own.

For now, China's largest optical telescope is the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), a 4-meter survey telescope completed in 2008 in Hebei province near Beijing. China's astronomers rallied around the idea of leapfrogging to a 12-meter telescope that, if completed quickly before other giants like the TMT, would for some years be the largest telescope on Earth. In early 2016, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), responsible for funding large domestic projects, gave the megascience center approval to develop plans for what is now being called the Large Optical/Infrared Telescope (LOT), to be sited in western China. To secure NDRC funding for construction—an estimated 1.5 billion renminbi ($220 million)—the plans must be approved by the end of 2018.

Xiangqun Cui was ready. An optics specialist, Cui heads a group at CAS's Nanjing Institute of Astronomical Optics & Technology (NIAOT) that had developed LAMOST and was already working on a 12-meter telescope design.

In most large telescopes, a large primary mirror captures light and reflects it off one or two secondary mirrors to the telescope's instruments. The daring NIAOT design calls for four mirrors—one primary and three secondary. The fourth mirror allows for exquisite control of the streams of photons so that they fall almost perpendicular to the instrument's focal plane, ensuring "very good image quality," Cui says. She adds that, because the TMT and other telescopes would eventually surpass the LOT's sensitivity, the NIAOT design needed to provide a wide field of view that would enable the telescope to act as a spotter for the bigger scopes. "This is a new century, we need new optical systems," Cui says.

In an unusual step, the megascience center set up meetings, working groups, and a science advisory committee to solicit input from the wider astronomical community—"a first for Chinese astronomy," says Johannes Andersen, an astronomer at the University of Copenhagen. Astronomers who took part expressed concerns with the NIAOT design. "I found many scientific and engineering issues," says Donglin Ma, an optics scientist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), in Wuhan, China.

One concern centers on the four-mirror design. Many astronomers fear the additional mirror will degrade sensitivity, or the ability to see faint objects, because photons are lost with each reflection. Cui counters that a new mirror coating developed in the United States promises 98% reflectivity. "There will be no problem" with the additional mirror, she says.

A second point of contention is how quickly the scope can shift from a wide-field survey mode to one that would focus on transient phenomena, such as gamma ray bursts and supernovae. With the complexity of the NIAOT design, astronomers worry the shift would be slow.

Finally, the astronomers want proven technology that will work reliably from the start. They note that LAMOST has fallen short of its primary goal: observing faint galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Cui says the issue is not with the telescope, but with increasing dust and humidity at the site, which now gets only 120 clear nights a year, down from more than 200 when LAMOST was being planned.

After reviewing the NIAOT design, Ma formed a group that began developing a rival design with just two secondary mirrors. The HUST team has received advice from outsiders like Jerry Nelson of the Lick Observatory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, an applied physicist who led the design of the 10-meter Keck telescopes in Hawaii and was the TMT project scientist. "We will be involved as consultants for the telescope and instruments to the extent we are asked," says Nelson, who passed away last week. But Cui, a senior scientist and CAS academician, refused to back down.

To resolve the impasse, the megascience center had an international panel weigh the two alternatives. The nine-member panel, led by Andersen, met in Beijing on 19 and 20 April. Their report, which has been circulated among key personnel but not publicly released, firmly sides with advocates of a simpler design. It calls the mirror coating proposed by the NIAOT team "not yet proven technology" and says that atmospheric turbulence would prevent the image quality in the NIAOT design from living up to hopes. It also says that the telescope would have a hard time switching quickly between surveys and targeting transient objects.

The panel report concludes that the NIAOT optical system "cannot compete" with more standard designs like the HUST approach, "in terms of meeting scientific objectives, providing operational flexibility and keeping within a limited budget." With the panel's recommendation in hand, the megascience center board decided on 19 May to proceed with the HUST design.

Cui is now reportedly lobbying CAS for a second review. But some astronomers are confident CAS will leave the matter in the hands of the megascience team. "We think the debate is over," says Suijian Xue, a vice director of CAS's National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing. He says that getting everyone to work on optimizing the three-mirror system is "the only way to unite the entire community." He also hopes that the bottom-up process the megascience center followed will set a precedent that will help future science projects avoid clashes.

 

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PH economy seen facing risk of overheating

By: Ben O. de Vera - Reporter / @bendeveraINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer 

 


Singapore’s biggest bank has warned that amid robust growth, the Philippine economy is at risk of overheating.

In a report last week, DBS Ltd. said it expected the Philippines’ macro fundamentals “to remain strong, with infrastructure at the forefront of growth.”

“While growth is unlikely to surprise on the upside, progress from tax reform, infrastructure spending and a potential delay in interest rate hikes should keep sentiment positive in the market,” DBS said.


Also, DBS said that “with all eyes now set on the Philippines and how it is progressing under the Duterte administration, it is timely to look at potential growth pockets and bright spots that investors can delve into given the country’s infrastructure-driven economy.”

According to DBS, the plan to ramp up infrastructure spending will augur well for economic growth in the long-term.

Earlier qualms about political risks “should be less of a focus now as economic reforms have been rolled out,” DBS added.

However, DBS warned that “the Philippine economy is displaying early signs of overheating.”

“GDP [gross domestic product] growth has been running at close to 7 percent year-on-year for the past year. Headline CPI [consumer price index] inflation has been above 3 percent year-on-year since February, up from sub-2-percent levels a year ago. Investment growth is very strong; gross fixed capital formation expanded by more than 20 percent year-on-year in 2016,” DBS noted.

“Hence, there is a case for the [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas] to tighten monetary policy in the coming months. The BSP has, however, refrained from lifting the policy rate. Philippine peso-market interest rates have responded by drifting higher over the past year, in contrast to flat to lower rates in many other Asian economies,” according to DBS.

“Clearly, Philippine government bonds have underperformed their Asian peers over the past few months. The carry environment has, so far, helped to contain the upside in Philippine government yields. Even so, there is a need to guard against complacency. Philippine government yields can become more volatile when monetary policy starts to address overheating risks,” the bank said.

 

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Geraint Thomas: My Giro what ifs and bouncing back for the Tour de France

By /Cycling News

 

Three weeks after crashing out of the Giro d’Italia, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) returns to racing at the Route du Sud this week as he gears up for the Tour de France, where he could be Team Sky’s second card to play on GC. In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews, Thomas reveals how team principal Dave Brailsford had to make the call to pull the Welshman from the Giro, how Richie Porte will push Team Sky to the limit in July, and how he’s keeping his options open for 2019 - and that if he leaves Team Sky it won’t be for the money.

Thomas headed into May’s Giro d’Italia as a legitimate podium candidate after an impressive spring but, on stage 9, he and teammate Mikel Landa were taken down by a poorly parked police motorbike. Although Thomas finished the stage and bounced back with a strong ride in the individual time trial on stage 10, he was forced to pull out on medical advice at the end of stage 12.

It was a bitterly disappointing moment for the former track specialist, who, after several years of riding in the services of others, had earned the right to lead a team at a Grand Tour.

"It was Dave [Brailsford] who made the final call, and it was the night before I eventually pulled out," Thomas told Cyclingnews. “My knee was sore, and the pain was only getting worse and coming earlier in the stages. If it was my shoulder that was worse, then it would have been fine but the fact you’re pedalling, it’s not going to help the knee get better. Dave was chatting to me in the evening of stage 11, and he was going to leave it up to me, but you never want to leave a race, even when in the back of your mind it’s the right thing to do.

“I just told the guys to make the call for me, and that was pretty much it. We had a chat before dinner and then after we ate Dave came and told me that I was going back to Manchester to get checked out and make sure that everything was okay before the Tour.”

 

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Even though the pain was holding Thomas back there was still hope that he could continue, recover and perhaps even rally in the final week. However, hearing the words ‘we’re sending you home’ hit Thomas like a tonne of bricks. After months of sacrifice, all hope had evaporated and the dream – for this year at least – was over.

“It wasn’t nice,” he says trying to play down the decision but with his emotions clearly still raw.

“When you say ‘you’re leaving’ out loud it hits home more than if it was just in your head. When you say it out loud, it’s hard to take, especially as that was my chance in a Grand Tour. I never really got going and it was hard to take.”

Thomas packed his bags that evening and said his farewells to his remaining teammates. The following morning Team Sky issued their press release on the subject and Thomas flew directly to Manchester for a medical check-up. Luckily, there was no serious damage to the shoulder or knee but the following weeks were an emotional battle. Thomas didn’t touch the bike for a week and tuned out of anything to do with the Giro - a difficult task considering just how entertaining the race became, and also because Thomas could have been a telling factor in the final outcome. He is similar to Tom Dumoulin in method and style, matched Thibaut Pinot in warm-up races, and, with Nairo Quintana far from is best, the race was wide open.

“I avoided all the results and didn’t watch any of it on the telly. The only time I saw any of it was when I went to my mum and dad’s and my dad turned it on and that was my cue to leave,” he says with a laugh.

“There were just so many what ifs. You can go crazy if you think about that too much. Once it was over it got a bit easier. I just had to focus on the next thing. It was still tough and even now you feel yourself drifting back in your mind as to what happened but you can’t let yourself do that.”

Back on the bike

Although Team Sky were quick to announce that Thomas would recalibrate and aim for the Tour de France – it was part of the release issued on his Giro withdrawal – it was a sentiment that needed more than just words. Physically, Thomas was still in decent shape but mentally he needed a break and, once back on the bike, he had to ease his way back into training.

"It was quite hard as the Giro was meant to be the big hit of the year and I was reaching peak form for that. To come down from there and then try and carry that form into the Tour has been quite hard but hopefully I can still go there in decent shape and still do a good job," he said.

"All the injuries from the crash are okay now. I’ve still got to do some physio on the shoulder but it doesn’t affect me on the bike now. It’s all about trying to feel good again and that’s taken a bit of time but I started to feel a bit better last weekend.

"Initially it was harder mentally than physically, but once I got back on my bike the Tour gave me that focus. If I hadn’t had the Tour as the focus I think that I would have struggled a lot more. If it was the Vuelta, or something, I think that I would have been three kilos heavier now and half riding my bike and half plodding along. It’s been good in that sense but at the same time it had been going well since the start of March and it’s hard mentally to try and get back up to that level but we’ll see.

“Then it was just a few steady rides and then last week I started doing more steady efforts. At the start I felt terrible. It felt like I was back in January but I think it was a mental thing because I expected to start off where I left off. I felt a lot better last weekend and I’m now I’m just looking forward to four days of good racing. Then it’s only two weeks until the Tour.”

After a few steady rides Thomas began to ramp up his workload and last week he headed to the mountains with Wout Poels for a training camp. The pair linked up with Chris Froome and several other riders, with Team Sky’s Tour de France squad starting to take shape three weeks from the Grand Départ.

Backing Froome and fending off Porte

Thomas’ Tour de France role has not yet been entirely clarified but, assuming he comes through the Route du Sud, then he should line up as Team Sky’s and Chris Froome’s last man in the mountains come July. It’s a role that Thomas has occupied in the past and one that he has revelled in, with two top-15 rides in the last two editions of the race. Given his Giro disappointment there is the hint that Thomas will be given greater freedom at the Tour and, although the phrase ‘Plan B’ has not yet been used by the team’s management, it’s a genuine possibility for the Welshman.

“We’ll see when we get there. I think, tactically, that having two guys close will help in the first week. It gives you cards to play and a lot of teams have two cards to play now with Orica, Astana, and Movistar. If it’s like the Dauphiné, just chaos, then it could help having someone up the road, but I’ll have to see how I am once we get into the race. I’m confident. I don’t know if I’ll be pinging like I was going into the Giro but it will be nice if I am. I just want three weeks without having any bad luck. The Giro form was the best I ever had.”

That said, Froome heads to the Tour as Sky’s numero uno having won the race three times in the last four years. Although his form at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné – and throughout 2017 – has not reached its previous heights, he will start the race as the man to beat.

Former teammate, Richie Porte, is arguably Froome’s greatest pre-race threat having dropped Froome several times at the Dauphiné and taken second overall.

“I’ve always said from the start of the year that Richie is the main threat. I don’t know about favourite tags. That’s for you guys to label but I’m confident that Froome is going to be at his best for sure. Porte will be up there, Astana look strong, and Contador is going to improve. Then you’ve got Movistar and it’s going to be an exciting race. Even if Chris is as good as he’s been in the past I think a few more people will have grown in confidence after the Dauphiné but I’m sure he’s going to be up there and as good as ever.”

And while the Tour de France remains the main focus, Thomas has long-term decisions to make, too. He is out of contract at the end of the season but has the option of another year on Team Sky. He confirmed that he is likely to re-sign along with Chris Froome and Ian Stannard. Although 2019 is a long way off, the Welshman has started thinking that far ahead.

“I’ve a contract option for one more year. I’ve not signed anything yet but I’m sure I’ll stay for that year. I’m getting good chances and it’s working. Post that, I’ll be up for seeing what’s around. I won’t go to any old team and it’s not about the money. It has to be a good fit and a team that can support me. I’ll take that on next year. A lot can change in sport so we’ll see.”

2019 is a long way off and, for now, all Thomas wants is three weeks of racing without any bad luck. After what happened at the Giro that’s probably the least he deserves.

Video link: https://youtu.be/0YGxUzStMYE

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No longer NBA champions, Cavaliers are now chasing Warriors

By: Associated Press 

 

James spectacular again, but his efforts not enough for CavsNews

CLEVELAND — Once he congratulated Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, LeBron James left the floor following Game 5 and found Kyrie Irving waiting for him.

Cleveland’s two stars embraced, and as they headed toward the locker room and Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played inside thundering Oakland’s Oracle Arena, James delivered a message to his teammate and the world.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ll be back.”


They were fabulous and flawed defending NBA champs, their deficiencies in depth and defense exposed by a superior team in the Finals.

One year after their historic comeback, James and the Cavaliers couldn’t catch the Golden State Warriors.

Unable to defend their title despite the league’s highest payroll, rampaging through the Eastern Conference playoffs and James’ brilliance against the free-wheeling Warriors for five games, the Cavs are no longer the team to beat. They’re still championship caliber, but a step or two behind a glittering Golden State team that went 81-18 in Durant’s first season and built for the long haul.

At 32, and playing as well as ever in 14 seasons, James has a possible dynasty blocking his path.

“I need to sit down and figure this thing out,” said James, who averaged 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in his seventh consecutive Finals. “They’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down. … From my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

The Cavaliers aren’t constructed for the same longevity.

James is under contract for one more season, and there’s no guarantee the three-time champion and five-time Finals loser will sign a long-term deal in 2018 with Cleveland despite his deep devotion to Northeast Ohio. Last week, James said he didn’t know how many years he has left. It’s possible that his outside business interests, which include a desire to one day own an NBA team, could push him into retirement.

That’s down the road. A more pressing concern for the team is the status of general manager David Griffin, whose contract expires on June 30.

Aided by having James to build around and owner Dan Gilbert’s willingness to spend, Griffin has assembled and overseen a roster that has made three straight Finals and is positioned to stay atop the East.

Griffin has been with the club since 2010, taking over as GM when Chris Grant was fired in 2014. He’s the one who persuaded Irving to sign a long-term deal with Cleveland before it was known that James was coming back and Griffin pulled off the trade for Kevin Love. He acquired veterans J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in 2015, fired coach David Blatt and promoted Tyronn Lue midway through the ’16 season and added Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut this year.

Gilbert and Griffin are expected to meet again this week. Griffin has been linked to past openings in Orlando, Atlanta and Milwaukee, but his preference is to stay with Cleveland as he and his wife, Meredith, have immersed themselves in the community.

Once the front office situation is settled, the next priorities are addressing Cleveland’s weaknesses: defense, an aging bench and backup point guard.

The Cavaliers couldn’t stop the Warriors during critical stretches in the Finals, and there were warning signs long before Durant got free for dunks, Curry drained wide-open 3-pointers or Golden State averaged 121.6 points.

Cleveland’s defense was suspect all season, ranking among the worst in statistical efficiency. The Cavs often outscored their mistakes, but the lack of a rim protector (Bogut was injured in his first minute on the floor) and a defensive commitment proved costly. Both areas must be fixed.

Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson and Deron Williams contributed during the regular season and earlier rounds against Indiana, Toronto and Boston, but with the exception of Jefferson, the seasoned vets were overmatched against the younger, quicker Warriors. Cleveland needs an infusion of young blood to fix a second unit that struggled from the opener.

Then there’s Love, who went just 2 of 8 in Game 5 and had 1-of-9 and 4-of-13 shooting performances earlier in the Finals. The All-Star forward has been the subject of trade rumblings in the past and his name is certain to surface this summer as contending teams look for that missing piece to close the gap on Golden State.

For James, second place is no consolation, not when success is measured by championship rings. There was no shame in falling for the second time in three years to the Warriors, a 73-win team that needed Durant to dethrone James.

His new challenge is to get back on top.

“Teams and franchises are going to be trying to figure out ways that they can put personnel together, the right group of guys together to be able to hopefully compete against this team,” he said. “They’re assembled as good as you can assemble, and I played against some really, really good teams that was assembled perfectly, and they’re right up there.”

 

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Philippines stays on top in Group F

By EDRI K. AZNAR/SunStar

 

Photo: Tough one. After a tough loss to China, the Philippine men’s football team regrouped and won over Tajikistan

 

DESPITE missing some key players, the Philippines still remained at the top of Group F in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifiers with a 4-3 win over home team Tajikistan last Tuesday night at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Azkals lost some key offensive players in Hikaru Minegishi and Jeffrey Christiaens due to injuries but the team didn’t lack any firepower in taking an early 3-0 lead. Skipper Phil Younghusband scored the opening goal in the 28th minute after curling in a free kick that went past Tajik goalie Abduaziz Mahkamov. Prolific striker Javier Patiño hit back-to-back goals, one in the 41st and the other in the 48th minute, to give the Philippines a comfortable 3-0 lead early in the second half. Tajikistan finally got their offense going after Parvizjon Umarboev converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute against Azkals goalkeeper Patrick Deyto, who filled in the shoes for star goalie Neil Etheridge. Dilshod Vasiev scored the second goal just four minutes later. Defender Daisuke Sato, however, scored the dagger in the 79th minute with a strike outside the box. Manuchehr Dzhalilov answered with a consolation goal in the 90th minute for Tajikistan but it was too late for the hosts. “We congratulate our national team for their second win in the Asian Cup Qualifiers. This was a perfect response after last week’s loss in a friendly with China PR. The win increased our chances for a place in the 2019 Asian Cup,” PFF general-secretary Atty. Ed Gastanes said in an statement. The Philippines takes the solo lead of Group F with six points after the win and a scoreless draw between Yemen and Nepal. Yemen sits at second place with four points. Nepal is third with 1 point and is just ahead of Tajikistan on goal difference. The Azkals will face Yemen next in a home match on Sept. 5 in Bacolod.

 

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Great escape for Beermen

By: Musong R. Castillo - Reporter / @MusongINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer

 

With one flick of the wrist and the ball kissing off the glass, Marcio Lassiter came up with the most unbelievable shot to cap a mind-boggling end to Game 3 on Wednesday night that put San Miguel Beer right back where the Beermen were in pre-series predictions with Star—at the top.

Lassiter hit the marginal triple with 1.6 seconds left that gave the Beermen a 111-110 win over the Hotshots for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five Final Four series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup for the perfect ending to the high quality of basketball played at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was the kind of win that will give the Beermen all the morale boost and confidence they need—and the sort of a setback that could be enough to deflate the Hotshots—when Game 4 is played Friday night at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
“One point (win)? It doesn’t matter. We’re one win away from another Finals,” San Miguel coach Leo Austria blurted out minutes later, aware that the Grand Slam run is still on track with two chances to nail a championship berth.
“I hope that we take care of business (in the next game),” he said in Filipino.

In the other Final Four series, the TNT KaTropa Texters take the first of three shots to nail a title series berth versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings at 7 p.m. on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.

 

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Indonesia, Malaysia, PH unite vs militants

by AP/Reuters

Jakarta, Indonesia – Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, with assistance from Singapore, will begin joint air surveillance over the Sulu Sea next week using reconnaissance planes and drones, while enhancing joint naval patrols in the wake of the Marawi City siege by Islamic State (IS)-linked militants.

Indonesia’s military chief, Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, said that he and Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu would meet next week with their counterparts from Malaysia and the Philippines on Indonesia’s Tarakan Island in northern Borneo, just across the border from Sabah, Malaysia. He said they’ll discuss increasing security and signing an agreement to step up joint patrols.

The conflict in the city of Marawi has raised fears that the Islamic State group’s violent ideology is gaining a foothold in the Philippines’ restive south, where Muslim separatists have fought for greater autonomy for decades.

Nurmantyo said Indonesia needs to be aware of the movement of IS-aligned Maute militants in the Philippines who assaulted Marawi three weeks ago because Indonesia already has sleeping cells that most likely have been long embedded in the country. He said IS-affiliated cells exist in all of Indonesia’s provinces except Papua.

Marawi is located about 500 kilometers north of Sangihe Island in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province.

“It’s easy to jump from Marawi to Indonesia,” Nurmantyo said.

REGIONAL SECURITY

Maj. Gen. Ganip Warsito, the regional military chief overseeing the closest areas to neighboring Philippines said Indonesia army, navy and air force have deployed extra troops to boost security in the region.

“So far, we have not found any indication of Islamic militants infiltrating from the Philippines to our territory,” Warsito said. “We have conducted intelligence, territorial and combat operations to anticipate it.”

The navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines planned joint patrols last year after a spate of kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf, a well established militant group that has declared support for Islamic State. But there are plenty of gaps to fill.

“We don’t have communications via radio at this point. We conduct patrols in our own territory. We have not discussed exchanging personnel,” said First Admiral Ferial Fachroni, commander of Indonesia’s Tarakan naval base in North Kalimantan.

He told Reuters joint operations would begin this month. Situated on Borneo’s northeast coast, Tarakan is the nearest Indonesian naval base to kidnappers’ hunting grounds in the Celebes and Sulu Seas.

Keeping tabs on hundreds of merchant ships, fishing boats and ferries plying routes between the islands, deciding when and who to stop and search will be a tall order even for three navies working together.

The archipelagos’ heavily forested coves and inlets provide excellent cover for any fast vessel looking to escape closer scrutiny.

“The Sulu Sea area has always had sporadic incidents like kidnappings of tourists before, but starting last year and this year, it has really gone up,” Noel Chung, the Kuala Lumpur-based Asia head of the International Maritime Bureau, said.

“They started off with tugboats and went on to merchant ships, so they’re targeting big ships out at sea. It’s different from years ago when the attacks were more localized.”

Chung saw comparisons with the Gulf of Aden, where Somali pirates operate, but the difference is that the Sulu Sea is not a major trading route so the international community is disinclined to invest in providing security.

Experts say the number of vessels needed to police the seas and costs incurred would be prohibitive.

Maj. Gen. Ganip Warsito, the regional military chief overseeing the closest areas to neighboring Philippines said Indonesia army, navy and air force have deployed extra troops to boost security in the region.

“So far, we have not found any indication of Islamic militants infiltrating from the Philippines to our territory,” Warsito said. “We have conducted intelligence, territorial and combat operations to anticipate it.”

‘WEAK LINK’

Despite the long history of militancy and banditry in the area, it has taken the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia a long time to pool resources.

Largely dormant territorial disputes, mutual mistrust, and limited capabilities have all played a part retarding closer cooperation.

But seeing the black flags of Islamic State raised in Mindanao could have shocked the region’s governments into moving from cooperation to actual collaboration.

“There are still some lingering trust issues but now there is also an understanding of the consequences if they don’t develop this collaboration,” said Singapore-based security analyst Rohan Gunaratna.

Beyond enhancing air and sea patrols, the countries’ security agencies need to coordinate better and act faster on shared intelligence.

A Malaysian government official said that while information was shared on militant suspects, there was some frustration over a perceived lack of follow up in the Philippines.

“One of the challenges is tracking militants once they’re in the southern Philippines. Only the Philippine army can confront them on land,” the Malaysian official said, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Philippine officials said security agencies are “doing everything” to address the surge in militancy in Muslim-majority areas of the mostly Catholic country.

“This is a holistic effort, not only in the military but in the government,” armed forces chief General Eduardo Ano told reporters last week.

Describing the Philippines as a “weak link”, regional terrorism expert Sidney Jones criticized a lack of cooperation between its police, military and intelligence agency.

“More so than other Southeast Asian countries, the security agencies are completely silo-ized,” Jones said.

“The fact that the Philippines has been dealing with insurgencies for so long meant that it’s somewhat blinded to this new phenomenon of pro-IS groups,” she added.

UNITE AGAINST TERRORISM

As the three countries join forces, Malacañang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday asked the public to unite against terrorism, stressing it is no longer a simple matter, but is already a fight between good and evil.

They issued the call after the Islamic State (ISIS) called on its members to conduct more attacks in various countries, including the Philippines.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, during the Mindanao Hour press briefing Wednesday morning, acknowledged the ISIS’s new call for its members as he asked the Filipinos not let what happened in Marawi happened to the rest of the country.

“Yes, there has been a call made by this group and that is scary that’s why we’re asking everyone to be united,” he said.

“Let us not allow what happen to Marawi to happen anywhere else. We really need to stay alert,” he added.

The AFP official also called out on all Filipinos to condemn the Marawi attack as it is no longer a simple matter.

“This is no longer a simple matter. It is already a fight between good and evil and you must all realize that by now,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, during the same press briefing, echoed the words of Padilla and asked the public to set aside petty politics as the country’s sovereignty is now being threatened.

“The Philippines needs to make a united stand and we must understand that it is no longer intramurals within ourselves but we need to be united against a common [enemy],” Abella said.

The ISIS-inspired Maute Group, together with elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group, has taken Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, under siege since May 23.

This prompted President Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law and to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the entire island for 60 days.

Since then at least 80 Maute snipers have been killed, said Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief.

NO MORE DEADLINES

Padilla said that the AFP will not be setting anymore deadlines on when Marawi City can be truly liberated from terrorists.

According Padilla, one of the reasons behind the prolonged liberation of the city is due to the civilians that the military still has to save as they conduct their clearing operations.

“It will entail time. We ask for patience but we are already there. We are just being careful that we might endanger innocent lives,” he added.

JOIN ROTC

Padilla also encouraged the youth to take up Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) to get a full understanding of what is happening in Marawi City.

He issued the call after netizens were asking on social media what is taking the government troops so long that Marawi City is not yet freed from the terrorists that has taken it under siege.

“If you really want to help the country, join ROTC so you can fully understand what is happening and for you to develop love for your country,” he said.

“What we are doing right now is not that simple. Our youth wants fast and instant result because that is where their adrenaline kicks in. But we’re talking about lives here,” Padilla added.

President Duterte has expressed his desire to make ROTC mandatory for college students so discipline and love for the country can be instilled in the youth. (With reports from Argyll B. Geducos and Francis T. Wakefield)

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P360-M shabu seized in Las Piñas raid

By Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star)

 Screen grab from ABS-CBN shows policemen inspecting shabu found in a warehouse in Las Piñas City on Tuesday.

 

 

MANILA, Philippines - Anti-narcotics operatives confiscated around 72 kilos of shabu, with an estimated street value of P360 million, during a raid on a warehouse in Las Piñas City on Tuesday night.

The operation led by the Philippine National Police Drug Enforcement Group (PNP-DEG) at a three-story warehouse along Tiongquiao street, Martinville Subdivision in Barangay Manuyo yielded 72 packs of shabu weighing one kilo each.

Teams from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Southern Police District, Highway Patrol Group Task Force Limbas and Las Piñas police joined the raid.

Authorities said the drugs were covered with aluminum foil and concealed in styrofoam boxes filled with dried fish.

The subject of the search warrant, known only as Mr. Lee, was not around during the raid.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, who went to the scene along with other police officials, said they would coordinate with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to determine if the drugs were smuggled through the ports.

Dela Rosa said they would ask the BOC to conduct strict inspections at seaports and airports to prevent the entry of illegal drugs.

He said drug traffickers use ports not only in Metro Manila but in other parts of the country.

Dela Rosa raised the possibility that the drugs could have originated from the ports of Zamboanga and Cebu.

DEG director Senior Superintendent Graciano Mijares said the Las Piñas raid was an offshoot of two operations conducted recently by police in Parañaque, which resulted in the arrest of Taiwanese Chen Teho Chan and the seizure of P280 million worth of shabu.

“Members of the drug ring have been using the warehouse in repacking shabu,” Mijares said.

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10 dead in road mishap

By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) 

 

The van was on its way to Kapalong, Davao del Norte from Monkayo, Compostela Valley when it collided with the truck while overtaking another vehicle in Barangay Mahayag at around 5 a.m. The driver of the van, Joey Alcazaren, was among those who died at the scene. File

 

 

MANILA, Philippines - Ten people died while eleven others were critically injured when a passenger van collided with a truck along the Agusan-Davao Highway in Bunawan, Davao City yesterday.

The van was on its way to Kapalong, Davao del Norte from Monkayo, Compostela Valley when it collided with the truck while overtaking another vehicle in Barangay Mahayag at around 5 a.m. The driver of the van, Joey Alcazaren, was among those who died at the scene.

The van had 18 passengers while the cargo truck had two.

Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte expressed his condolences for the families of the victims even as he reminded traffic enforcers to implement the ordinance on speed limits.

Issued in 2013, the city ordinance sets a 30 to 40 kilometer-per-hour speed in city roads and 60 kph along national roads.

Duterte said there was an increase in the number of vehicular accidents because “authorities faltered again in their duties and obligations.”

He reminded officials of the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and other concerned agencies to discipline drivers of public utility vehicles entering the city. He said he received reports that some traffic enforcers have been accepting bribes.

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BIR exec shot dead in Quezon City

By Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star)

 

Image from CCTV footage provided by police shows the assailant aiming his gun at Alberto Enriquez (inset).

 


MANILA, Philippines - An official of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) was killed in an ambush by two men on a motorcycle in Quezon City yesterday morning.

Alberto Enriquez, 49, chief of the BIR Revenue District 28 tax assessment section, was shot dead shortly after he got out of his car, which was parked in front of Ambianza apartelle beside the BIR office along West Avenue in Barangay Fil-Am at around 7:20 a.m.

Enriquez died at the scene from a gunshot to the face, police said.

Probers said Enriquez regularly parked his Hyundai Sta. Fe (ZLN-827) in front of the apartelle before going to work.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage showed that the assailants waited for around three minutes before the victim got out of his car.

The gunman was caught on CCTV footage getting off the motorcycle and firing at Enriquez before fleeing toward EDSA.

Probers said they recovered a 9mm casing at the scene.

Chief Superintendent Guillermo Eleazar, Quezon City Police District director, said they were looking into the possibility that the killing of Enriquez was work-related.

Enriquez had reviewed the assessment of revenue officers of the BIR district and seldom transacted with taxpayers, according to Dennis Floreza, head of the BIR Region 7 investigation division.

Floreza added the victim had a good record in the BIR, where he had worked since 1989.

BIR Assistant Commissioner and spokesperson Marissa Cabreros said the case is being investigated.

Enriquez is the second BIR official killed in Quezon City in less than a year.

BIR Region 8 director Jonas Amora was shot dead at the corner of Topside Road and Katipunan Avenue in November 2016.

Eleazar said they have yet to determine if the twin killings were related.

Police arrested Alan Manalo, the primary suspect in the killing of Amora. He is being held by police on charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms.

Robbery ruled out

Authorities ruled out robbery as a motive for the killing as an estimated P57,000 in cash was left untouched in Enriquez’s car.

The QCPD formed a special investigation task group to probe the murder.

Police found that Enriquez’s marriage was recently annulled, with his family living abroad.

Killing condemned

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III denounced the killing of Enriquez and called on law enforcement agencies to arrest the perpetrators of the crime.

“We condemn the killing and call on the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation to arrest those responsible for the murder,” Dominguez said. “We condole with his family.” – With Mary Grace Padin, Catherine Talavera

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