Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Philippines: President Duterte “Out To Get” Catholic Nun — But Villagers Liken Her To Fr. Damien of the Lepers

April 21, 2018

Image result for sister pat, philippines, photos

 / 05:16 AM April 21, 2018

For the arrest and detention early this week of Australian missionary Sister Patricia Fox, President Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque offered some sort of appeasement. He said apologies were perhaps “in order” because the nun was released quickly by the Bureau of Immigration, which could also commit a mistake. As he put it: “Siguro apologies are in order kasi madalian naman siyang pinalabas din ng BI. Siguro nagkakamali rin naman ang BI.”

Roque was trying to fudge the facts. Fox was not immediately released by immigration officials. After her surprise arrest on Monday at her home in Quezon City for allegedly engaging in political activities against the government, she was taken to the BI head office in Intramuros, Manila, and detained for at least 22 hours. She was released only on Tuesday after the bureau established that her papers were in order—she is, in fact, a properly documented foreigner with a valid missionary visa, as she has maintained all along.

Fox is 71 years old, and has lived in the Philippines for 27 years. A member of the Notre Dame de Sion congregation, she has devoted her life to ministering to the poorest, most marginalized Filipinos, and has been in and out of the country without incident—until now. “How many Filipinos have spent that many years of their lives, as Sister Pat has, working with the last, the least and the lost of this woebegone country?” wrote Inquirer columnist Ma. Ceres Doyo. But, “for heeding the biblical imperative to walk with those who have been largely forgotten, she is suspected to be an enemy of the state.”

What could have gotten Fox into such a tangle with the government that all of a sudden she is now a person of interest facing deportation for being an “undesirable alien”? Apparently, she has been spotted joining rallies protesting human rights abuses against political prisoners and farmers, and speaking up on their behalf. The fact that her activities caught the eye of the authorities is perhaps not surprising in itself; what is surprising is how high up the case of this hitherto obscure missionary reached—all the way to the presidential sanctum in Malacañang. For Mr. Duterte would eventually reveal that it was he who had ordered the arrest and investigation of Fox, supposedly for “disorderly conduct” in joining political demonstrations and daring to criticize his administration. The nun had a foul mouth, according to the President. The statement in the vernacular is profoundly more startling: “Walang hiya ang bunganga ng madre na yan.”

The arrest and detention of Fox appear to be of a piece with the intensifying crackdown on critics of the administration, but, in this case, it has united members of the Catholic Church and other religious denominations in protesting Malacañang’s heavy hand. The Ecumenical Bishops Forum denounced the “absurd action” against the missionary, and highlighted the disturbing trend of church workers coming under “systematic state-sponsored attack,” such as Catholic priest Marcelito Paez getting killed after facilitating the release of a political prisoner, and Iglesia Filipina Independiente bishop and peace advocate Carlo Morales being arrested and detained for nearly a year.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo not only detailed Fox’s ordeal at the Bureau of Immigration (she suffers from “several ailments, what with her thin and frail stature,” he said) but also issued a grim warning: “The grip is getting tighter; getting hard on people who manifest dissent against the abuses of the government… The victim can even be a woman, an elderly, and a religious. Before, they were the poor, the young, and the gullible. Let us be wary. This government cannot take dissent. It uses the machineries of the state—and even the law—to bring down people, whoever and whatever their condition may be.”

Notwithstanding Roque’s attempt at an “apology,” Fox’s arrest was no mistake; it was meant, unmistakably, to be a warning.

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In a phone conversation with people in the Philippines who are served by Sister Pat, one man said she reminded him of “Fr. Damien of the lepers in Hawaii.”

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Father Damien


Image result for duterte with rifle, photo, april 2018

President Rodrigo Duterte — Big Game Hunter


Oil hits 4-year high ahead of Opec-Russia supply meeting

April 19, 2018

Energy stocks and crude-linked currencies rally as investors eye longer production curbs

Image may contain: sky, cloud, twilight, outdoor and nature

Production cuts by Opec and Russia have helped crude prices rally © Bloomberg

Michael Hunter and Adam Samson in London and Peter Wells in New York

Oil prices touched four-year highs on Thursday, lifting energy-related companies to the top of global stock indices buoyed by expectations that Opec would extend supply curbs.

The prospect of a longer-term ascent became a talking point among investors in anticipation of a deal on Friday between Opec and Russia to increase the duration of their agreement to limit global oil supply to 1.8m barrels a day.

They are increasingly expected to maintain the cuts into 2019, with Saudi Arabia giving little indication it is keen to reduce the cuts, even as prices hit further heights.

Brent crude rose as much as 1.3 per cent on Thursday to $74.72, taking the international marker’s year-to-date gain to almost 8 per cent. At the time the production curbs were approved in January 2017, Brent was trading at about $55 a barrel.

Production cuts by Opec and Russia have helped crude prices rally, with the latest leg higher coming as geopolitical risks to crude supplies rise, from Venezuela’s economic spiral downwards to the risk of the US reimposing sanctions on Iran.

“We are rapidly transitioning from a market drowning in oil to a new reality of undersupply and low storage levels,” said Richard Robinson, manager of the Ashburton Global Energy fund.

“At the same time, the market is facing heightened risk to current supply — as a result of the lack of spend and increasing political volatility in oil-producing nations — such as Venezuela, Angola and Iran. The seed is being sown for a structurally higher oil price, combined with heightened probability of risk premium,” he added.

This week’s meeting in Jeddah between Opec’s ministerial committee and the Russia-led producing countries outside the cartel comes as the outlook for demand improves.

Fears about the impact on global growth of the US-China trade dispute eased as the two countries held back from a further escalation this week, while confirmation of high-level talks between Washington and North Korea also brightened the geopolitical backdrop.

In the US, the rebound for crude has brought investors back to resource stocks in April, after a moribund showing for the sector for the rest of 2018. The energy component of the S&P 500 was up 9 per cent over the month to date, outperforming a rise of about 2.6 per cent for the wider S&P 600.

The trading pattern was also helped by a drop of 1.1m barrels in US inventories, according to data released on Wednesday.

Oil-linked currencies also stood out, making notable gains over the month to date on global markets. The Australian and Canadian dollars gained by about 2 per cent against their US equivalent. Norway’s krone was up 0.6 per cent over the same period against the euro.


Philippine President says he ordered the Bureau of Immigration to detain, investigate Australian nun, advocate for the poor

April 18, 2018


President Duterte said that he ordered the detention of Patricia Fox, 71, for her supposed vocal criticism of the government.

The STAR/Miguel De Guzman


( – April 18, 2018 – 6:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday blasted an Australian nun for her supposed vocal criticism of the government and said that he was the one who ordered the Bureau of Immigration to detain her.

Particia Fox, 71, an Australian nun who has been advocating land reform and rights of farmers in the Philippines, was detained from Monday to Tuesday for her supposed violations of an immigration order banning the involvement of foreign nationals in the partisan activities and political assemblies.

Duterte said that the only reason Fox was released was she was not caught in the act of berating the government.

Bureau of Immigration lawyers, in a two-page note with recommendation to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente prior to her release, said that “while Fox was alleged to have taken part in protest actions by farmers in the past, she was not doing so at the time when BI operatives served her the mission order.

The Philippine leader made the statement after Fox, in a television interview, said that the military might be behind her detention at the office of the Bureau of Immigration.

“It was not the military who arrested the Catholic nun. It was upon my orders implemented by the Bureau of Immigration, and I take full responsibility, legal or otherwise, for this incident,” Duterte said during his remarks at the turnover ceremony at the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo.

“I ordered her investigated… not arrested, for a disorderly conduct,” the president said.

According to a Law professor who agreed to give input on condition of anonymity, as a general rule, arrests can only be made if a judge has issued a warrant after a criminal case has been filed or if a crime is committed in the presence of law enforcement. In which case, an inquest proceeding must be held immediately to determine if charges should be filed.

The Immigration commissioner, who is under the authority of the president, has a unique power to issue warrants against a foreigner who violates immigration law, the professor said.

Sister Patricia Fox was released Tuesday afternoon, nearly a day after she was arrested by the Bureau of Immigration for her reported violation of the country’s law banning political assembly.

‘Foreigners have no rights to criticize us’

The president said that he was used to being criticized as he has been a politician for several decades and would not mind being attacked by a Filipino.

“You are entitled really to criticize. Freedom of expression is unlimited, and it goes for everybody,” the president said.

“You don’t have the right to criticize us. You can come here to enjoy all the sights,” he said of foreigners.

Duterte’s tirade came just hours after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a television interview that an apology might be in order following the detention of Fox, which he said could have been a mistake.

Fox was not the only foreigner who recently had problems with Immigration officials.

Over the weekend, Giacomo Filibeck, an official of the Party of European Socialists, was denied entry in Cebu.

He had been put on an immigration blacklist for being in a delegation of European legislators and activists that criticized the government for its bloody crackdown on illegal drugs in late 2017.

Filibeck was invited to the country by Akbayan and was supposed to attend its congress in Cebu.

‘Criticize Australia, Church instead’

Duterte also told Fox to criticize the Australian government’s handling of its refugee crisis.

“You, nun, why don’t you criticize your own government, the way you handle the refugees, hungry and dying, and you throw them back to the open sea,” the president said.

The Australian government maintains a hardline policy on immigration and pays offshore centers in nearby nations such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru to prevent asylum seekers to make their way to the mainland by boat.

Duterte also said that Fox should also help the Catholic Church address the problems it faced such as “adulterous priests,” malpractices and homosexuality.

He also said that the Philippines could survive without money from foreign governments as he stressed that he would not allow these nations to impose their values on the country.

“Eat your money. You can have your money. We will survive. The Philippines is not a grazing land,” he said.



China’ Belt and Road: Extensive Capacity But Few Paying Customers — What can go wrong for countries involved in President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road”

April 18, 2018

Image result for ship in Hambantota port, photos

Times of India

NEW DELHI: Each year roughly 60,000 ships vital to the global economy sail through the Indian Ocean past a Chinese-operated port on the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Almost none of them stop to unload cargo.

The eight-year-old Hambantota port — with almost no container traffic and trampled fences that elephants traverse with ease — has become a prime example of what can go wrong for countries involved in President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure initiative. Sri Lanka borrowed heavily to build the port, couldn’t repay the loans, and then gave China a 99-year lease for debt relief.

The experience has fueled fears that Xi’s plans to finance more than $500 billion in projects could see China take control of strategic infrastructure that also has military uses. But the massive state-owned Chinese conglomerate that took over the port in December wants to prove the skeptics wrong.

China Merchants Group — whose 2017 revenues of $93 billion dwarf Sri Lanka’s gross domestic product — is aiming to use its experience stretching from China to Europe to make the port profitable. During a rare look inside the grounds late last month, executive Tissa Wickramasinghe told Bloomberg News it had already nearly doubled the number of ships visiting the port.

“We are hell bent on making it work,” said Wickramasinghe, chief operating officer of Hambantota International Port Group, a joint venture led by China Merchants. “Whether the port should have been built, why it was built — those are, to me, irrelevant now.”

Still, the port has a long way to go before it worries competitors in Singapore, Malaysia and the Middle East. Even with more traffic, Hambantota is only handling about one ship a day — not enough to even register on China Merchants’ own data showing cargo handling volumes for February. It didn’t make a United Nations’ list of the world’s top 40 container terminals.

Major shipping lines now route cargo through Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, and see little reason to divert operations south. Maersk Line, the world’s largest container carrier, is waiting for Hambantota’s operator to offer a “firm value proposition” for clients, according to Steve Felder, the company’s managing director in South Asia.

“It’s too early to tell whether Hambantota will be of interest to us,” Felder said. “Much will be dependent on connectivity within the mainline network, extent of domestic cargo, cost and productivity.”

The port’s weak performance has fueled impressions that it simply serves China’s broader strategic interests to secure crucial trade routes and international supply chains. It would take billions of dollars of investment to generate meaningful traffic, according to Rahul Kapoor, a Singapore-based shipping analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.

“Hambantota is a great example of the Chinese quest for global maritime dominance,” Kapoor said. “For the foreseeable future, it remains a strategic push over commercial viability.”

From its earliest days, the port has spurred debate. Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa spearheaded the project, taking Chinese loans to shower goodies on his home district of Hambantota — including a new international airport that still has just one daily scheduled flight.

The current administration led by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Bloomberg News the $1.1 billion debt-to-equity swap with China Merchants helped ease “the Chinese part of the debt burden.” Still the decision remains unpopular with many Sri Lankans. Ironically that’s boosted the political fortunes of Rajapaksa, who lost a 2015 election in part due to concerns he was too cozy with China.

On a recent afternoon at the port, vehicle traffic was nearly non-existent. A large monitor lizard meandered across the main road. A port executive shot a video with his iPhone of a Singaporean ship unloading cement into a smaller vessel, complaining that the process was taking too long.

Yet for Hambantota, it was busy: Two other ships were also docked — a cruise ship whose passengers were on a jungle safari and a vessel full of vehicles.

“Today’s a good day,” said Wickramasinghe, the COO.

To boost revenue, he plans to lure vehicle trans-shipments, refueling and oil storage services away from Singapore, the U.A.E. Port of Fujairah and Malaysia’s Port Klang. The company could spend around $500 million on cranes to handle containers, and is speaking with “most of the oil majors” for oil bunkering and storage, he said.

Plans are also afoot to build a logistics and industrial zone next to the port. The 11.5 square-kilometer (4.4 square-mile) area — more than three times the size of New York’s Central Park — is now mostly jungle. Farmers nearby worry they could lose their ancestral land to proposed industrial zones.

“All the profits are going back to China,” said Dharmasena Hettiarchchi, a 52-year-old farmer.

The abundance of space allows Japanese and Europeans automakers to store vehicles for trans-shipments to South Africa and the Middle East, Wickramasinghe said. China Merchants plans to more than double the number of vehicle trans-shipments to 250,000 this year, he said, with 10 percent annual growth expected the next few years. Singapore now handles 1 million vehicle trans-shipments annually.

“China Merchants doesn’t go and dump money if it’s not commercially viable,” Wickramasinghe said. “It’s definitely not political or military.”

China this week dismissed speculation that the Belt and Road Initiative had a military dimension, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying saying it was “open and transparent.” Hambantota was mutually beneficial and would aid Sri Lanka’s economy, she said.

“For others who speculate, I believe they have no reason to do so,” Hua said.

Still, Sri Lanka relocated its southern naval command to Hambantota in part to ease Indian and Japanese worries, state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said in an interview.

“We’ve been speaking with them, and also with the Chinese,” he said. “We’ve made it very clear that it can’t be a military port.”

Wickramasinghe said it was normal for China Merchants to have a 99-year lease, citing a similar deal with the Port of Newcastle in Australia. Not everyone is convinced.

“The current Sri Lankan government has said that it will not permit military use of the facility, but that could change,” said Amit Bhandari, an analyst at Mumbai-based Gateway House. “Ninety-nine years is a long time after all.”


What the US-China Struggle for Regional Dominance Means for Southeast Asia

April 18, 2018

This week China will undertake live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Straits.  This provocative action comes on the heels of simultaneous major U.S. and Chinese naval exercises in the South China Sea.  While the situation is not as dire as it may seem, competition between the United States and China for dominance in the region is indeed intensifying.  Faced with this burgeoning soft and thinly veiled hard power struggle for their political hearts and minds, Southeast Asian countries are doing what they can and must to maintain their relative independence and security in this roiling political cauldron. Indeed, neither China nor the United States should be under any illusions that any particular Southeast Asian country is supporting them in general or in a particular policy or action because it believes in their vision of the ideal world order.

Some are so far skillfully negotiating this political tight rope and benefiting from both sides’ largesse in the process.  Indeed, most Southeast Asian countries are not blatantly choosing sides but are instead demonstrating that the matter of political choice between the two is not “either-or”  but a continuum. According to Max Fisher and Audrey Carlsen, writing in the New York Times, there are three groups at various stages in this ever evolving continuum — “counteracting” China, “shifting toward” China, and “playing both sides”.

Let’s look at some individual countries’ situations and current positions regarding this U.S.-China struggle.

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Singapore does seem more ideologically aligned with the United States and even provides temporary basing for U.S. Navy warships and aircraft collecting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance regarding China. But Singapore also seems to be hedging if not waffling. Perhaps Singapore’s current role as both ASEAN interlocutor with China and ASEAN chair has resulted in it taking a more neutral position between the two. For example, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong seemed cool when asked recently about the U.S. proposed Quad — a potential security arrangement between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States — saying, “We do not want to end up with rival blocs forming.”U.S. “strategic partner” Singapore and U.S. ally the Philippines are thought by some (though not the NYT feature) to be in the U.S. camp of “counteracting” China. But this is misleading.

The Philippines is an example of a country clearly “playing both sides” — and so far successfully so. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s abrupt pivot from staunch U.S. military ally to a more independent and neutral stance between the United States and China has startled those analysts and policy makers that assumed Manila was firmly in the U.S. camp. So far the Philippines has benefited from its better relationship with China while maintaining its military relationship — if a less robust one — with the United States.

Other Southeast Asian state — like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and perhaps nominal U.S. ally Thailand — appear to be moving toward China, preferring China’s economic incentives over the benefits of U.S. military “protection.”

Brunei may also be shifting its position. Although a claimant to part of the disputed area of the South China Sea, it has been relatively silent regarding both the disputes and the U.S.-China struggle for influence.  Brunei and China apparently have overlapping claims in the South China Sea and Brunei may be using its claim as leverage to keep badly needed Chinese investment flowing. But this is a two-way street. Beijing may try to use its economic ties with Brunei to help prevent a consensus within ASEAN regarding decisions or statements on the South China Sea.

Indonesia has sharp differences with China regarding the area of the South China Sea north and east of the Indonesia-owned Natuna Islands, where their claims may overlap. The Trump administration is trying to take advantage of this to reinvigorate U.S.-Indonesia military relations. But nonaligned Indonesia and the United States have very different world perspectives. They differ sharply regarding U.S. policies and actions in the Middle East — especially the recent move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. While the United States sees ASEAN as a useful bulwark against China, Indonesia’s current interest in leading ASEAN and in regionalism itself seem to have faded in favor of domestic concerns. Foremost among these are development projects in which China’s investment and aid can be critical.  Plus, U.S.-Indonesian military ties have a troubled past. In the late 1990s they were suspended due to alleged human rights abuses by the Indonesian military. More important, many Indonesians in high places remain suspicious of U.S. motives and worried about the potential regional destabilizing effect of the US-China competition.  Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has suggested that “if regional countries can manage the South China Sea on their own, there is no need to involve others.”

Vietnam also has sharp differences with China regarding the South China Sea. Vietnam has a policy of “diversification and multilateralization “of relations with the major powers, and the United States has tried to take advantage of this as well as Vietnam’s concerns with China. But Vietnam is steadfastly nonaligned. Indeed, its long-standing policy is the “three nos” – no participation in military alliances, no foreign military bases on Vietnamese territory, and no reliance on one country to fight against another. Meanwhile it continues to have strong economic relations with China and seems to have reached an unsteady modus vivendi with China regarding the South China Sea disputes. While Vietnam’s position may seem to be anti-China, pro-U.S. , this should not be taken for granted.

One thing is fairly certain — China –U.S. balancing will become increasingly important and difficult for Southeast Asian countries. It will also undermine ASEAN unity and weaken its “centrality” and influence in security matters in the region — both collectively and for its individual members. ASEAN’s divisions on South China Sea issues currently advantage China.

This unfolding political drama could well turn out very badly for Southeast Asian nations that are unable or unwilling to successfully hedge and waffle. Indeed, there is a yawning chasm filled with adverse implications beneath this political tight rope if a country should lose its balance and fall to one side or the other. But for clever, self-confident, and bold leaders, this dilemma presents an opportunity that could prove a boon to those skillful enough to safely navigate these treacherous political waters.

Mark J. Valencia is Adjunct Senior Scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China

Donald Trump ends his brief flirtation with TPP — Flip-flop on Twitter

April 18, 2018

US president’s second U-turn on Pacific trade adds to pressure on Japan’s Shinzo Abe

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Flip-flop: Shinzo Abe (left) will not be happy with Donald Trump’s rejection onTwitter of the Japanese prime minister’s invitation to the US to rejoin the TPP. The two leaders met with their wives in Florida on Tuesday © Reuters

Shawn Donnan in Washington

Donald Trump brought a quick end to his latest flirtation with rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, turning to Twitter late on Tuesday after a dinner with Japan’s Shinzo Abe to reject Tokyo’s invitation for him to rejoin.

“While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” he tweeted. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S.”

The president’s social media announcement came at the end of the first day of a two-day summit with Mr Abe at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida. Earlier, the two leaders exchanged pleasantries during an appearance in front of reporters. They are expected to play golf on Wednesday and continue talks on issues including North Korea and trade.

Mr Trump pulled the US out of the TPP on his first full working day in office last January after campaigning against it during his 2016 run to the presidency.

But he last week raised the possibility of rejoining for the second time this year during a meeting with politicians from agricultural states that have been pushing him to avoid starting a trade war with China and to consider re-entering the TPP. Earlier this year he also raised the idea of joining the TPP during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Mr Trump has already given Mr Abe an important victory at the summit by saying he will raise the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang. But Mr Trump’s decision to rule out the TPP, ahead of the second day of talks on trade, is bad news for the Japanese prime minister.

Japan is reluctant to enter bilateral trade talks, suspecting Washington will demand greater concessions than Tokyo gave in the TPP, with little on offer in return. Mr Abe, who prizes his relationship with the president, had hoped to channel Mr Trump’s demands on trade into talks about a return to the TPP. A blunt demand to start bilateral talks instead would place him in a difficult position.

The manoeuvres on the TPP have come as Mr Trump is embroiled in an increasingly tense trade stand-off with China, which was never included in the TPP. US officials have been working on a $100bn list of further tariffs designed to increase the pressure on Beijing. The US and China have each already announced $50bn lists for imports they would target for tariffs.

The 11 remaining members of the TPP led by Japan earlier this year signed the deal into existence. They suspended intellectual property and other contentious provisions sought by the Obama administration when it negotiated the pact when they did so. They have also, however, signalled that they would be open to the US rejoining.

But several TPP members, including Japan, have also indicated in recent days that they would not be open to a major renegotiation of the pact, something the US president had said he would seek.

Why Mr Trump mentioned South Korea is unclear. It is not a member of the TPP, though it has long been seen as a likely candidate to join what many in Washington still see as an important strategic bloc that the Obama administration had viewed as an economic bulwark against a rising China.

Mr Trump has argued since taking office that the US is better served by bilateral trade agreements. But he has yet to launch any such negotiations and Japan is among the countries that have so far resisted his administration’s approaches.

Japan also was pointedly not included in a list of US allies excluded from steel and aluminium tariffs that Mr Trump imposed last month even though the president said he was open to doing so for countries like Japan with which the US has security agreements.

Additional reporting by Robin Harding in Tokyo


Trump Slams TPP Again Ahead of Trade Talks With Japan’s Abe

April 18, 2018

President Donald Trump again soured on the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership ahead of planned trade talks on Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

 Image result for Conex boxes, photos, shipping, port

“While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” Trump wrote. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad WTO is to U.S.,” he said referring to the World Trade Organization.

Last week, Trump directed U.S. officials to explore returning to the TPP. While his comments were welcomed by members of the trade bloc, ministers from countries including Japan, Australia and Malaysia said they opposed renegotiation of the deal to accommodate the U.S. should it decide to rejoin at a later date.

Abe has been a strong proponent of the TPP. Before leaving for the talks in Florida, he told reporters in Tokyo that Japan and the U.S. should “take the lead on growing the economy of the Indo-Pacific through free and fair trade and investment.”

Pacific Trade Deal Is a Big Deal, With U.S. or Not: QuickTake

The yen declined against all of its Group-of-10 peers on early signs the Trump-Abe meetings won’t see new trade demands from the U.S.

As for South Korea: While the nation isn’t in the TPP, it may look to become a member should the U.S. decide to recommit, Bloomberg Law reported Tuesday, citing a trade ministry official, who was not authorized to be cited.

Philippines: If Duterte has nothing to hide, why the crackdown on foreign activists? Arrest of Australian activist Nun, 71, raises eyebrows in Manila

April 17, 2018


Sister Patricia Fox was released Tuesday afternoon, nearly a day after she was arrested by the Bureau of Immigration for her reported violation of the country’s law banning political assembly.

Twitter/Rep. Carlos Zarate

By Gaea Katreena Cabico ( – April 17, 2018 – 3:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Critics of the government slammed the detention of two foreigners who were nabbed by immigration officials, saying it raises questions about what the government is trying to conceal.

The Liberal Party stressed that the incidents involving rights and land reform advocate Patricia “Sister Pat” Fox and Party of European Socialists official Giacomo Filibeck debunk the claim of the current government that it has nothing to hide.

“The emerging trend on crackdown against foreign activists in the country is alarming as exhibited by the harassment and casual arrests of the two human right advocates who were not even in protest activities or rallies when taken into custody,” LP, the erstwhile ruling party said.

Karapatan also stressed that the illegal arrest of Fox and other cases of threats and harassment against delegates of fact-finding missions in the Philippines are clear signs that President Rodrigo Duterte is “guilty as hell” of rights violations.

“If indeed Duterte is as innocent as his sycophants say, there would be no reason for blocking any form of independent inquiries into the cases of extrajudicial killings and other rights violations against peasants and other poor sectors in the Philippines,” Karapatan said.

READImmigration releases ‘partisan’ Australian nun a day after apprehension

Fox was released Tuesday afternoon, nearly a day after she was arrested by the Bureau of Immigration for her reported violation of the country’s law banning political assembly.

Groups condemned her arrest and detention, saying it lacks due process and respect for her rights as a church person.

The arrest of the 71-year old Australian lay missionary came only a day after BI deported Filibeck. He was denied entry to the country Sunday for being part of the seven-member delegation in October 2017 who denounced the spate of extrajudicial killings.

READEuropean socialists’ party condemns Philippines’ deportation of official




Australian nun, 71, faces deportation from the Philippines for ‘illegal political activities’

An Australian nun arrested in the Philippines for engaging in “illegal political activities” has been released pending further investigation after authorities became aware she held a valid missionary visa.

Key points:

  • Sister Fox says she was arrested by six immigration officials
  • The Australian nun has been working in the Philippines for 27 years
  • MPs are calling for her release

Her detention came a day after Giacomo Filibeck, a Socialist Party official from the European Union who had criticised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal anti-drugs crackdown, was deported.

Sister Patricia Fox, 71, was reportedly taken from her house and brought to the immigration bureau in Manila, said Renato Reyes, secretary-general of the leftist Bayan (Nation) movement.

She had taken part in a human rights fact-finding mission in the country’s south, according to Mr Reyes, who also said the immigration department informed her about deportation proceedings against her.

“We condemn her unjust detention and the deportation proceedings initiated against her,” Mr Reyes said.

“She is no criminal or undesirable alien.

“She has long been in the Philippines helping the poorest of the poor.”

Sister Fox is the superior of the Notre Dame de Sion in the Philippines, a congregation of Catholic nuns.

In a statement, the Philippines Bureau of Immigration said the department’s legal division had recommended releasing Sister Fox, and that her missionary visa was valid until September 9 this year.

The bureau said she was detained “due to reports that she violated the conditions of her stay by engaging in political activities and anti-government demonstrations.”

“While Fox was alleged to have taken part in protest actions by farmers in the past, she was not doing so at the time when [Bureau of Immigration] operatives served her the mission order yesterday,” the statement said.

“Fox should undergo preliminary investigation to determine if deportation charges should be filed against her before the bureau’s board of commissioners.”

An advocate for human rights

Sister Fox had been involved with human rights missions on the southern island of Mindanao, where Mr Duterte has declared martial law.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said she had been working in the Philippines for 27 years.

In a series of tweets, CBCP quoted Sister Fox as saying she was arrested by six immigration officials at a mission house in Quezon City at about 2:15pm on Monday (local time).

The CBCP said she was detained at the Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Immigration in Intramuros.

Sister Fox’s attorney Jobert Pahilga said the fiscal in charge of the inquest recommended Sister Fox be released once she was able to produce her passport, which she had given to a travel agency arranging her trip back to Australia next month, according to CBCP.

The immigration bureau confirmed Sister Fox’s arrest but declined to issue any statement until after the investigation is complete. Sister Fox was unavailable for comment.

Leftist MPs have vowed to hold a congressional inquiry into the deportation of foreign human rights advocates.

“The immigration department is barking at the wrong tree on this one,” the MPs said in a statement calling for her immediate release.

“Helping the poor is not a crime and joining peace activities to advocate peasant welfare and human rights is not against the law.”


Google still searching for Australian headquarters as deal falls through — Ambitious plan to create Sydney’s Silicon Valley

April 17, 2018

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By Alexandra Smith & Lisa Visentin

The state government has rejected a plan to create a Silicon Valley-style technology hub on the old rail yards near Redfern, leaving tech giant Google once again searching for Australian headquarters.

The hub, which would have created as many as 19,000 jobs, would have been Google’s new base but cabinet’s infrastructure committee last week rejected the proposal because it did not meet a “uniqueness test”.

Redfern Google HQ plans rejected by state government

Redfern Google HQ plans rejected by state government

Google is still searching for its Australian headquarters after the NSW government rejected plans for a tech hub in Redfern.

Developer Mirvac submitted a plan through the government’s unsolicited proposal process to redevelop the site next to Carriageworks at Eveleigh into a tech hub with Google as the anchor tenant, the Herald revealed last month.

However, the proposal failed at the first hurdle after the government stated its preference for the land, which is owned by Transport for NSW, to be developed through a competitive open process.

Despite the decision of the cabinet committee, a senior government source said some ministers were “working to salvage the deal” amid concerns that Google could abandon Sydney.

Responding to the decision on Tuesday, Mirvac said its proposal was “in line with various government objectives including the Greater Sydney Commission, UrbanGrowth and JobsforNSW strategies”.

The state government has rejected a plan to create a Silicon Valley-style technology hub near Redfern.
The state government has rejected a plan to create a Silicon Valley-style technology hub near Redfern.


As part of its plan, Mirvac proposed to transform the site into a multi-use precinct, which included commercial, arts and culture, retail and residential space as well as “significant public domain works”.

“The proposal also included substantial infrastructure works with an upgrade of Redfern Station and mixed use integrated station development, as well as a new land bridge linking Australian Technology Park and North Eveleigh,” a Mirvac spokeswoman said.

The hub would have been Google’s new base but cabinet’s infrastructure committee has rejected the proposal.
The hub would have been Google’s new base but cabinet’s infrastructure committee has rejected the proposal.

Photo: Ben Rushton

“Mirvac remains firmly committed to working closely with the government to realise the vision of a world-class arts and innovative precinct with housing diversity, public spaces and sustainable outcomes.”

The government’s decision comes exactly one year after Google walked away from plans with the state’s developer Urban Growth to convert the White Bay power station in Rozelle into its Australian headquarters.

The move was a major blow to the government’s aim to convert that area into a technology hub, as well as a source of embarrassment after Google cited the area’s poor transport links as its reasons for abandoning the site.

When asked about its ongoing search for an Australian headquarters, a Google spokesman said: “We are assessing a number of options.”

Under the government’s rules, unsolicited proposals must pass a uniqueness test to progress to the next stage and be able to prove that the development cannot be readily delivered by competitors.

As well as uniqueness, a proposal must also demonstrate “value for money and strategic fit with government objectives”.

Mirvac was formally informed on Friday by the Department of Premier and Cabinet that the government had decided it would not proceed with the proposal.

The decision means that Mirvac and Google will have to compete against other potential bidders in a bid to make the Redfern tech headquarters a reality.

Mirvac was advised the competitive process would begin in the coming months.

Transport for NSW owns about 12 hectares of land in the Redfern area which includes the Carriageworks site and part of the rail corridor.

In 2015, Mirvac won the tender to buy the neighbouring Australian Technology Park from the state government with a $263 million offer.

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney bushfire deemed ‘highly suspicious’ as threat eases

April 16, 2018

A large bushfire that has threatened homes in Sydney is likely to have been deliberately lit, Australian authorities say.

BBC News

Helicopters water bomb a bush fire at Alfords Point and Menai. Picture by Damian Shaw

Helicopters water bomb a bush fire at Alfords Point and Menai. Picture by Damian ShawSource:News Corp Australia

A large bushfire that has threatened homes in Sydney is likely to have been deliberately lit, Australian authorities say.

The blaze, which began on Saturday, has burnt through 2,500 hectares of land in the city’s southern suburbs.

Some residents had been warned of immediate danger to their lives, but firefighters say the threat has eased.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) described the blaze as “highly suspicious”.

“How dare anyone – if they are deliberately involved in lighting fires – endanger our firefighters and also [put] all these communities in harm’s way,” said Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

The bushfire forced some locals to evacuate their homes on the weekend, while others were told it was too dangerous to leave.

Recent weather in south-eastern Australia has been unseasonably hot, with strong winds fanning bushfires.

Firefighters use helicopters to dump water on the blazeImage copyrightEPA
Image captionFirefighters use helicopters to dump water on the blaze

Authorities said wind speeds were not as severe on Monday, making it easier to battle the blaze.

Mr Fitzsimmons said flames travelled “right up to the back fences” of houses, but no properties had been lost.

“While the threat has eased, it is still a fairly vigilant fire ground and we want people to remain vigilant,” he said.

“There is a lot of work still to be done today and maybe into tonight before we can call the fire contained.”

Police have declared the fire a crime scene.

Mr Fitzsimmons said it was possible that winds could strengthen again and elevate the fire danger.

On the weekend, residents hosed down their houses and lawns to prevent embers sparking new blazes ahead of the advancing fire front.

The fire seen from a football match in Barden Ridge, one of the affected suburbsImage copyrightDYLAN LONG
Image captionSmoke seen from a football field in the suburb of Barden Ridge

Major roads separating bushland and residences were cut off in some areas, and fire services used helicopters to dump water over key points.

Pictures on social media showed firefighters and residents taking care of local wildlife affected by the blaze.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has praised the emergency response.

“It is unseasonably hot and that’s a matter of obviously great concern, but we have to deal with the worst that Mother Nature can throw at us and the worse Australians are presented with by nature, the better it brings out the Australian spirit,” he said.

See also:

Southwestern Sydney residents warned to take shelter as bushfire upgraded to emergency