On the Phil-US negotiations on increased rotational presence

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin at the presser on negotiations for increased rotational presence of US troops in the country.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the “increased rotational presence” was a policy agreed on two years ago. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said “high-value and high impact exercises” will serve as the “modality” for the increased presence of US troops in the country.

Negotiations began yesterday, August 14, between the Philippine and US governments regarding “increased rotational presence” of US troops in the Philippines. Exactly what that means is something that has yet to be 1) made clear and 2) negotiated, if one goes by what members of the Philippine panel said in their press conference last Monday, Aug. 12.

This much was clear: the “increased rotational presence” was a policy agreed on about two years ago; high-value and high impact exercises will serve as a “modality” for this increased rotational presence; and an agreement is needed to “institutionalize” this policy.

This is a transcript of the press conference last Monday. I will post later (when I figure out how) an audio record of the presser itself, so readers can check if there errors or inaccuracies in the transcript (there were some words I couldn’t hear clearly, especially towards the end).

The panel members are: Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino; Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Jose Quilop; Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta; and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III. Continue reading

The Al-Barka Basilan Incident

“Tayo nag-initiate, ng encounter. Tayo nalagasan ng ganoon karami. Automatic ang tanong, pinaghandaan natin ang operation, bakit ganito ang resulta?…ang pagkakamali, nasa tao. Pero ang paulit-ulit na pagkakamali, kasalanan na iyon. Hindi natin pwedeng pabayaan na magkaroon ng pagkakataon na maging paulit-ulit ito. Kung may mali, depekto sa sistema, ayusin na natin ito. Kung sa training, kung saanman. Hanapin kung saan ang sanhi bakit nagkaroon ng disaster. Ayusin ang mga problema.”

That was President Aquino III speaking, during a press conference he gave on Monday afternoon, where he reiterated that there will be no “all-out-war” against the MILF.

He had earlier refused to answer what lessons were learned about the Basilan encounter, simply saying there is “an ongoing investigation” that “will decide lives, careers and perhaps even criminal liabilities of (the) people involved.”

What was he talking about?

The initial findings – THE INVESTIGATION IS STILL GOING ON – as reported in the command conference with the President and the AFP’s top brass last Friday, was that the soldiers who died shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. They died because they were sent there unprepared and without planning, so much so that they were practically sent there to die. But that’s me talking, generalizing.

Here are the findings, according to a printed report shown to me: Continue reading

MILF briefing for FOCAP


This is an incomplete transcript of the press conference which MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim held before the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (FOCAP). Continue reading

RP cases of Influenza A(H1N1) reach 111

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III: Yesterday we celebrated the 111th Independence Day. Today we're declaring 111 A(H1N1) cases.

This is the first press conference I have attended in which Health Secretary Francisco Duque III did not say that there was no community transmission yet of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus.
When asked, pointblank, if there is now a community transmission of the virus in the Philippines, Duque they were still investigating. He hoped to know by Monday. Continue reading

The first anti-Con Ass rally

Protesters raise their fists, a symbol of defiance, as the singing of Bayan Ko ends the rally.

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression or of the press,or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” – Article 3, section 4 of the 1987 Constitution.

On June 10, 2009, Filipinos — mostly from Metro Manila; the other provinces had their own rallies — came by the thousands to once again “petition the government for redress of grievances.”

The approval of House Resolution 1109 brought them together, but the grievances are mostly old, issues and crimes that have remained unaddressed.
One example is that of Remmie May, 5, who lost her father when she was two. The family blames the military and the Arroyo government.
Remmie May, 5, lost her father when she was two. She also lost her home: fearing for their safety, the family had to relocate.
Continue reading

RP now has 10 confirmed cases of A(H1N1)

There are now ten confirmed cases of Influenza A(H1N1), according to the health department. Six of the cases attended the wedding in Zambales that was also attended by the Taiwanese woman who later tested positive for the virus. Continue reading

What can be done to prevent the spread of A(H1N1)?

WHO graph shows the number of cases is rising

First, the good news: the number of people dying from A(H1N1) is less than one percent. The not-so-good news is that one third of the deaths were young and healthy people. The bad news? Some cases MIGHT BE asymptomatic: there MIGHT be people who didn’t get sick at all, but who MIGHT have passed on the new flu virus — A(H1N1) — to others. The silver lining is that that would further lower the mortality rate, which as of now stands at less than one percent.

In a briefing last Friday (May 22, 2009), the World Health Organization (WHO) said there might be asymptomatic cases, or people who have the virus but have no symptoms, such as fever or cough. They could pass on the virus without even knowing that they had it.
This means contact tracing and thermal screening — measures which helped control SARS — might not be as effective.

How, then, to prevent the spread of this new flu virus? The most basic is handwashing, says Julie Hall, WHO expert on emerging infectious diseases.
The virus spreads through droplets, Hall says, as when one sneezes or coughs. It does not survive long after it leaves the body and falls to the ground. The problem is when one sneezes or coughs into one’s hand, and then touches another, or when the droplets fall on another person’s hand, and that hand then touches that other person’s eyes or mouth. Observe personal hygiene, and respiratory etiquette, as the health department has been saying over and over again. When you cough or sneeze, do it in a handkerchief. Wash your hands as often as possible.

In situations such as in Mexico, where the virus was spreading rapidly, closure of schools and public places might help because it would lessen the chances of passing on the virus.

***EMPHASIS ON THE “MIGHT.” The WHO says that “based on early data from Mexico it seems likely that some people will be infected but not show any symptoms. It is currently unknown if people who are infected but do not show any symptoms can infect other people or not.”
Continue reading