A top US commander yesterday warned that ending a security pact with the Philippines would hurt counterterrorism efforts in the country’s restive south, putting him at odds with US President Donald Trump.
US Navy Admiral Philip Davidson — commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command — said that he hoped Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to scrap a deal allowing US forces to be based in the Philippines would be rethought.
Manila has given “180 day notice, so we have some time for diplomatic efforts,” Davidson said at an event in Sydney. “I hope we can get to a successful outcome.”
Trump has said that he would be “fine” with the end of the visiting forces agreement, as it would save the US “a lot of money.”
However, Davidson said that the move would hamper military operations in Duterte’s home island of Mindanao — where separatist and Muslim extremist violence has killed about 100,000 people.
“Our ability to help the Philippines in their counterviolent-extremist fight in the south, our ability to train and operate within the Philippines and with Philippines armed forces would be challenged without that visiting forces agreement,” Davidson said.
Although a landmark peace deal with the largest of the rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was sealed last year, the most brutal extremist factions were not included.
Those groups include the Islamic State group-aligned Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom gang that has been behind some of the nation’s deadliest attacks.
In late December last year, at least 17 people — including soldiers — were injured in a dual hand grenade and improvised explosive device attack on the island.
The rotating deployment of US troops in the Philippines — coupled with a long-standing mutual defense pact and regular military exercises — is also seen as a bulwark against rising Chinese influence in the region.
Davidson praised the efforts of Indonesia in fending off Chinese poaching in its waters and called for further cooperation between Pacific nations.
“I’m optimistic that the region is not only waking up to that aggressive behavior, but, more importantly, beginning to take a stand against,” he said.
He warned Australia to be aware of the threat of a Chinese base in the Pacific, which would help project Beijing’s influence well beyond its territorial waters.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable