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Malaysia upholds death sentences for nine Filipinos over 2013 incursion

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian court on Monday upheld death sentences handed down to nine men from the Philippines in connection with an 2013 incursion into the Malaysian part of Borneo island by Philippine fighters seeking to stake an ancient claim.

The incursion by the fighters from the southern Philippines into Malaysia's Sabah state sparked a month-long crisis and at least 27 people were killed when Malaysian troops backed by fighter jets eventually subdued the militants.

The conflict disrupted operations in Sabah’s huge palm oil industry and at the time, raised concern that prolonged trouble could dampen investor interest in energy and infrastructure projects in the state.

The nine were among fighters captured.

A five-member Federal Court panel unanimously ruled that the death sentences were the most appropriate, upholding a decision by a lower court to increase the penalty from life sentences, according to the state news agency Bernama.

The court also upheld a lower court's decision to release 14 other men who had been held in connection with the fighting in the sleepy Lahad Datu district.

The fighters were from a group that has demanded recognition, and an increased payment from Malaysia, for their claim to be the rightful owners of Sabah, which an ancient sultanate leased to British colonialists in the 19th century.

Malaysia dismissed their demands and the Philippine government repeatedly told the group to put down their weapons and go home.

The fighters declared loyalty to the self-proclaimed Sultan of the southern Philippine region of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram, in the Philippines. — Reuters


Nene Pimentel's appeal to the public, speak out now

Former senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. has asked the public to voice out their opinion as the government seems to fast-track the implementation of a federal form of government.

"Mga kababayan ko, ang direct appeal ko sa inyo, huwag kayong maghintay na hindi na kayo makapagsalita," he said in an interview on "Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie" on Monday evening.

"Magsalita kayo ngayon," he added.

Pimentel, known as the father of federalism and the father of the Local Government Code, said the Local Government Code has not been implemented properly and it has not undergone a formal review.

"Nung naipasa natin yung Local Government Code, for the first time ang mga ka-barangayan, munisipyo, syudad, probinsya nagkaroon ng more or less na parang bagang concrete na kapangyarihan to address the concerns of the people. But only on three major departments, agriculture, health and social welfare," he said.

However, Pimentel pointed out that when Supertyphoon Yolanda struck Samar and Leyte the relief operations were still handled by Dinky Soliman, then secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"A department whose personnel functions and funds had already been devolved to local government," he said.

Pimentel explained that the Local Government Code was a "logical successor towards the process of federalism."

In the process, the Code should have been reviewed every five years, so the needs of the local government can be addressed.

When asked if the Code was reviewed, Pimentel said, "as a Code i don't think that it ever was (reviewed). The Local Government Code was not implemented properly."

He said he did not ask for a review of the Code because he was still working on the implementation of the Code.

On the proposed transitory period to a federal form of government that would last up to 10 years, Pimentel said, "Totally unacceptable, I would like to say."

"Kayo pong, lahat kayo na nasa poder ngayon who are elected officials nandidiyan kayo kasi gusto ng taumbayan nandun kayo. Huwag ninyong isa tabi yung proceso where the people would exercise their sovereignty to place you in power, just so you can stay in power forever," he said.

He underscored that the government should conduct public hearings nationwide as part of efforts to educate the public about federalism. — BAP, GMA News


8 areas still positive for paralytic shellfish poison —BFAR

Shellfish collected from eight areas still tested positive for paralytic shellfish poison, said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Monday.

However, Maqueda and Villareal Bays in Western Samar are now free from the toxic red tides.

According to a BFAR bulletin dated January 15, all types of shellfish and alamang in the following areas are unsafe for human consumption as they contain “beyond the regulatory limit” of paralytic shellfish poison.

Irong-Irong Bay in Western Samar
Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar
Coastal waters of Leyte
Carigara Bay in Leyte
Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur
Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City in Palawan
Coastal waters of Mandaon in Masbate
Coastal waters of Bataan (Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal)
The BFAR warned against harvesting, selling, buying and eating shellfish from these areas.

Fish, squids, shrimps and crabs gathered from these waters can be consumed as long as they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs like gills and intestines are removed prior to cooking, said the bulletin.

"Paralytic shellfish poisoning is the most common shellfish poisoning syndrome in the Philippines. It is caused by red tides, or the high concentration of algae in bodies of water, giving it a discoloration that can also appear “yellow, brown, green, blue or milky, depending on the organisms involved,” according to a fact sheet from the Marine Biotoxins Laboratory of the BFAR.

The toxin can cause tingling of the lips and tongue, which could spread to the face, neck, fingertips and toes usually within 30 minutes, followed by headache, dizziness, and nausea.

“In severe cases, muscular paralysis and respiratory difficulty may occur within five to 12 hours. Fatalities from respiratory paralysis have been reported,” the fact sheet added. —ALG, GMA News


Carpio: PHL dumb to grant China request to do research in Benham Rise

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday said it would be "dumb" if the Philippine government would allow the request of China to explore the resource-rich Philippine Rise.

"China has squatted on the West Philippine Sea and refuses to leave despite the ruling of the UNCLOS tribunal. Now, China requests to be allowed to survey the Philippine Sea on the east side of the Philippines. The Philippines would be dumb to grant China's request," Carpio said in a 24 Oras report by Raffy Tima.

Magdalo partylist Representative Gary Alejano last week said that he had recieved information that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had granted the request of a Chinese entity to do research in waters off eastern Luzon.

The Philippine Rise, formerly known as the Benham Rise, is located east of Luzon and is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf.

In 2012, the United Nations gave the country exclusive sovereign rights over the rise, believed to be rich in minerals and gas.

Chinese vessels were spotted surveying the said area in 2017, prompting the Philippine government to send Beijing a note verbale, seeking clarification as regards the presence of its ships in the resource-rich area.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Carpio should respect the executive branch once a decision was already made.

"Sana respetuhin natin 'yung separation of powers kapag meron ng kasong nakahain sa kanya," Roque said.

DFA secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had said "Philippine law says research can be done as along as there is a Filipino on board."

"So there's nothing suspicious about approval or disapproval of scientific research whether they're Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Singaporeans. If they comply we will approve, if they do not comply we will not approve," Cayetano said.

It is the DFA which usually grants applications to conduct research in the area, with coordination from technical agencies depending on the type of research. —Anna Felicia Bajo/NB, GMA News


MRT-3 train offloads 180 passengers after electrical glitch

The Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) offloaded almost 200 passengers on Sunday morning as one of its trains suffered an electrical glitch.
An MRT-3 report showed that the train offloaded its 180 commuters after it experienced an “electrical failure” around 9:15 a.m. at the northbound section of GMA-Kamuning Station.
The service disruption was caused by “worn out electrical sub-components,” the report said.
Affected passengers rode in a different train four minutes after. /je



LG to partner with PT&T for 3rd telco slot

MANILA, Philippines — Malacanang has reported that South Korea’s LG Corp. is interested in striking a joint venture with Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T) in a bid to enter the Philippine telecommunications industry.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar made the revelation even as China Telecom gears to be the third player in the country, as earlier announced by President Duterte.

Citing his own sources, Andanar said LG is the Korean company that wants to partner with PT&T.

“It will become a very exciting telco industry for the Philippines this 2018,” he told DZBB Radio Friday night.

During a Cabinet meeting last Monday, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) reported to the President the players who want to enter the telecoms industry.

Following Duterte’s latest pronouncements on China Telecom, the Korean firm expressed interest in challenging the duopoly of Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.

China Telecom, however, has not found a local partner with an existing franchise to comply with the country’s constitutional provision limiting foreign ownership to 40 percent.

As far as the administration is concerned, Andanar said the offer is also open to other countries which want to compete with Smart and Globe.

“Whoever has the best offer in the bidding wins. It’s not a monopoly when it comes to a third player. We really want the best,” he added.



Solon urges SC to declare unconstitutional Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)


A progressive solon is urging the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), as it is being used to justify Beijing’s supposed aggressive stance in Benham Rise.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate made the call as the Chinese government is “now very zealous” in taking over the country’s natural gas deposits.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should rethink its decision to allow Chinese oceanographers to conduct studies in Philippine waters because it is one of the methods they used before under the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) that China entered with the then Arroyo administration,” Zarate said in a statement.

He observed that China is “apparently doing in Benham Rise the same modus operandi that it used in 2005 that jeopardize our claims in the Recto Reed Bank.”

Zarate noted that through the JMSU, China was able to discover and confirm the enormous reserves of natural gas in Recto Reed Bank, where one field already holds about 2.7-3.4 trillion cubic feet of the valuable resource.

“We now also urge the Supreme Court to rule and declare such a disadvantageous and onerous exploration agreement as JMSU as unconstitutional and a nullity,” he said.

In 2008, Bayan Muna filed a petition asking Supreme Court to void the Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) in the West Philippine Sea among the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC), China National Offshore Oil Corp. and the Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp.

Former President Arroyo, the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary of the Department of Energy, the PNOC Exploration Corp. and the PNOC were named respondents in the case.

“With the JMSU, the Arroyo administration effectively sold out the country to the Chinese, who were granted an unbridled access in our maritime territory, especially the gathering of valuable data on natural gas deposits in our territories like the Recto Reed Bank. The Philippines has no more control and supervision over the exploration of our petroleum and other mineral oils under the JMSU Tripartite Agreement; this should not happen again,” Zarate said.

He said the SC should immediately look into and resolve the questions hovering around the JMSU in the face of possible bilateral and multilateral talks between the Philippines, China and other claimant-parties in the West Philippine Sea and even in Benham Rise.

“While we are for the peaceful resolution of our maritime dispute with China, we must, however, be wary of these joint exploration agreements because of our bad experience with the JMSU, where our country was placed in a very disadvantageous position, as what happened during Arroyo’s time and is bound to happen again in the case of Benham Rise,” the progressive solon said.

“Any future joint exploration with China must protect the interest of the Filipino people and should contribute to the country’s economic development. It must also recognize our territorial integrity and sovereignty. There must be no repeat of the highly unequal JMSU,” Zarate said.


4 killed in Tacloban wall collapse

DANGER ZONE. A view of the collapse area. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Four people died after a wall collapsed on Saturday, January 13, due to continuous heavy rain in Tacloban City.

The wall, measuring 3.6 meters (12 feet) high and 40 meters long, was the property wall of a certain Jason Co.

One of the 4 casualties has been identified as Delia Carson, 64, whose body was retrieved early Sunday, January 14, according to Barangay Chairman Regina Belarmino of Barangay 43B Quarry, Tacloban.

Chief Insp Rex Cantilep, chief of police community relations of the Tacloban City police, told Rappler that retrieval operation are still ongoing to recover the bodies of Shery Jane Amancio, Alex Amancio, and their daughter Zaide Hernandez, believed to have been trapped inside their house.

Police, military, and city rescue teams are having a hard time retrieving the dead bodies in the area because of the continuous heavy rains in the city.

City disaster management officer Brando Bernadas told Rappler that 17 families near the area of the incident have been forced to evacuate.

As of now, the displaced families are now temporarily housed at the barangay hall and at the Eastern Visayas State University, Belarmino said. She is also appealing to other residents in their barangay to go to safer areas. –

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