Military exercise scheduled
The government will stage a regular military exercise near a disputed island this month amid a renewed territorial claim by Japan, the defense ministry said yesterday. The island is called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima by Japan. The twice-yearly defensive drill will be held in the middle of this month, a ministry spokesman said. Yonhap news agency said the drill grouping the navy, army, air force and coast guard would involve some 10 warships plus F-15K fighter jets and other weaponry. The scenario is to repel a foreign ship in waters near Dokdo, it quoted a military source as saying.
Warships, choppers sought
The government plans to spend about 15 billion pesos (US$358.6 million) in acquiring two warships from Italy and 10 helicopters from Eurocopter SAS as part of its military upgrade, defense officials said in a forum yesterday in Manila. The plan also includes possible purchase of 12 fighter jets from South Korea, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said. The two ships will cost about 11.7 billion pesos and may be delivered by November, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in the same forum. Discussions are ongoing for 10 helicopters worth about 3.2 billion pesos, Manalo said. The government wants Congress to approve a five-year plan that will set aside 75 billion pesos annually for defense upgrade, Manalo said.
Aquino backs contraceptives
President Benigno Aquino III has the support of Congress on a bill that would give free contraceptives to the poor, his spokesman Ricky Carandang said in Manila yesterday. The House of Representatives will vote on Tuesday whether to continue or terminate debates on the so-called responsible parenthood bill. Catholic bishops are scheduled to hold a demonstration tomorrow against the bill.
Mother pleads for mercy
The mother of an Australian woman facing the death penalty for trafficking drugs in Malaysia begged for her daughter to be sent home alive yesterday, protesting that she was innocent. Emma Louise L’Aiguille, 34, was charged in a Kuala Lumpur court this week with trafficking methamphetamines after she was arrested allegedly in possession of 1kg of the drug two weeks ago. “I felt shocked and numb when I was told,” Innes told News Ltd newspapers of learning that her daughter faced death by hanging if convicted. “I don’t want her to be [hanged], and the thought of that just terrifies me.” L’Aiguille is alleged to have been driving the car the drugs were found in, and her lawyers said there had been three male passengers from Nigeria inside.
Mother of blogger kills self
The government yesterday said it was investigating the self-immolation of the mother of a blogger facing trial for propaganda against the state — after the US voiced “deep concern” over the death. Dang Thi Kim Lieng set herself on fire on Monday and “died on the way to hospital,” foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said, confirming earlier information given by people close to the family. “The case is now under investigation,” he added. Lieng is the mother of Ta Phong Tan, a 43-year-old Catholic former policewoman who used her blog to denounce corruption and injustice in the legal system. Tan was arrested on Sept. 5 last year and has been held in detention since.