Palace officials unanimous not to ban TikTok in PH

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles find no enough reasons and solid cases to ban TikTok in the Philippines, similar to what India did.

Roque clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte did not and has not made any order to shutdown on any single website in the country, much to the controversial TikTok app.

“Wala pong ganun. Sa mga nagsasabi na si Presidente nanunupil ng malayang pananalita, wala pong kahit isang website na pina-ban ang Presidente,” he said.

Roque, who is a TikToker like Nograles, added that he sees no reason to ban the popular video-sharing platform.

“Wala naman tayong natatanggap na solid evidence or basis for the banning of TikTok. So, unless we are presented with solid evidence or basis for the banning of that app, then it will remain status quo,” Nograles said in an online forum.

India banned Tiktok in June over national security and privacy concerns while US President Donald Trump recently said he would follow suit. Australia also said it’s been monitoring the app.

China happy about Duterte’s ban on military in West Philippine Sea drills

President Rodrigo Duterte’s inclination toward China became stronger as it orders the Philippine Navy to cease from joining maritime drills in the West Philippine Sea, a move that favors Beijing’s claims in the region.

“We appreciate President Duterte’s remarks and stand ready to properly resolve maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the entire region,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin in a report by China Global Television Network.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that president has a standing order for the Philippine military to stay out of naval exercises with other navies in the West Philippine Sea except if these were within 12 miles from Philippine shores.


Duterte scolds frontliners after heeding ‘timeout’ appeal

President Rodrigo Duterte approved Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III’s recommendation to place Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Bulacan back to modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) as the number COVID-19 cases breach the 100,000th mark at the onset of August.

Duterte’s approval came after the medical community urged the government to reimpose stricter quarantine for a timeout.

Despite heeding the request and expressing sympathy, the president berated the health workers for trying to “demean” the government. “There is no need for you and for the guys, 1,000 of you, telling us what to do publicly. You could have just written us a letter. Lahat naman ng sinasabi ninyo sinusunod namin,” said Duterte.

“Do not try to demean government. You are not actually criticizing. You demean my government, your own government,” he added.

‘No raid happened in Kadamay Bulacan’ — PNP

Philippine National Police (PNP) Central Luzon Director Brig. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia clarified that the confiscation of copies of the alternative news magazine Pinoy Weekly in Bulacan was not a raid.

“There was no raid. [The materials] were voluntarily surrendered to the police,” Sermonia said in a separate press briefing at Camp Olivas, the regional police headquarters in Pampanga province.

Lea Maralit, Kadamay chapter president in Pandi, asked for police assistance regarding the materials.

Sermonia said Maralit feared that they would be used during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte. The police chief said that Kadamay supports the government’s fight against insurgency.

PNP Chief Police Gen. Archie Gamboa stood by his men’s claim that the “subversive” materials they took were surrendered contrary to what was being passed around that police raided the Kadamay office in Bulacan.


Aussie warships meet Chinese navy in West Philippine Sea

Five Australian warships encountered China’s navy ships in the West Philippine Sea amid the heightened tensions in the region.

Australia’s HMAS Canberra, Hobart, Stuart, Arunta, and Sirius “transited the disputed waters independently” from July 14-18 near the Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratlys). The warships were bound for Hawaii to join a military exercise led by the United States (US) known as Rimpac.

The Australian government has played down the encounter, saying that “all interactions with foreign warships throughout the deployment were conducted in a safe and professional manner”.

PAF, AFP grieve deaths of personnel in Isabela helicopter crash

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) lost its four personnel who were undergoing training in a helicopter crash in Cauayan City, Isabela.

A total of five individuals were aboard the helicopter conducting flight training when it crashed shortly after takeoff.

The casualties include two pilots, one officer, and one of two aircrews from PAF’s Tactical Operations Group 2. The other aircrew who survived is undergoing treatment for injuries.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the chopper was “conducting proficiency training for night flying when the accident happened.”

Arevalo identified the fatalities in the accident as Major Christopher Cesar A. Urbano (pilot-in-command), Capt. Fiorelio D. Bernardo (co-pilot), 1st Lt. Mike Tuesday T. Tabigne and Staff Sgt. John Christopher R Taguiam.

Their remains were flown via PAF transport plane C295 and brought to Clark Air Base in Pampanga where they were welcomed with full military honors.

The lone survivor identified as Airman 1st Class Gerry Aviles Jr., is undergoing treatment at the Isabela United Doctors Medical Center and was reportedly in critical condition. Aviles will be scheduled to be transferred  at the V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City.

An investigation team has been sent to the crash site to determine the cause of the accident, the PAF said.

PH installs surveillance radars to monitor incursions in West Philippine Sea

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that the government has set up surveillance radars in the West Philippine Sea to monitor incursions and other activities, including the harassment from foreign vessels crossing the disputed waters.

Lorenzana announced this during the pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) Forum, revealing the acquisition and installation of surveillance devices in different parts of the West Philippine Sea. The secretary did not specify the location of these devices.

Chinese vessels are frequently sighted in the area and have been accused of harassing Filipino vessels for years.

Since 2013, China has been building structures in the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands. The maritime dispute includes reefs, banks, and other features in the West Philippine Sea.

“Addressing recurrent incursions and harassments by military and civilian Chinese vessels, the Philippines has taken diplomatic actions against China for activities against our national sovereignty. This is on top of our enhanced surveillance, enforcement, security, and development capabilities in the area,” said Lorenzana.

PH, Japan, US, and Australia conduct maritime drills in West Philippine Sea

The Philippine Navy together with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) conducted a simulation operation in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen cooperation.

JMSDF’s Facebook page reported that the Philippine Navy’s Beechcraft C-90 aircraft conducted communication exercises with the Japanese Navy’s JS Teruzuki (DD-116) destroyer. The one-day operation was held near Palawan, the country’s closest island province to the Spratly Islands.

The Japanese destroyer left afterward to hold maritime drills with American and Australian counterparts for a two-day trilateral exercise, conducting “integrated maritime operations in an all-domain war-fighting environment.”

“The high-end interoperability we enjoy with the JSMDF and ADF provides us the unique ability to meet at-sea and immediately operate at an advanced level. This highlights the enduring nature of our alliances with Japan and Australia,” said Capt. Russ Caldwell, commanding officer of the USS Antietam.

A guided-missile cruiser, the USS Antietam can carry two Sikorsky or Seahawk helicopters and be used for anti-submarine warfare.

Earlier this month, the US government vowed that it will protect ASEAN countries over their maritime disputes with China.

P37-million worth of illegal wildlife confiscated since ECQ started bound for China

While the Philippines is under community quarantine, another group of illegal wildlife traffickers was caught by the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade or Task Force POGI of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Tondo, Manila.

Authorities recovered 42 various species of threatened and endangered turtles with an estimated value of ₱550,000 from Eumir Rommel Raganit and Bruce Kenneth Tan who are now facing charges for violating the Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.

The latest catch adds to the total of P37-million worth of illegal wildlife confiscated since March this year.

Of this multibillion-dollar industry, according to US-based think tank Wilson Center, China is the biggest market, with “Chinese demand for wildlife products… driving a global trade in endangered species.”

As China’s economy grew in the 1980s, so did the demand for wild and exotic animals; the illicit trade now has well-established trade routes in Southeast Asia, making the crime difficult to curtail without networking among governments, the Analytical Centre of Excellence on Trafficking (ACET) said in a separate report last year.

Despite government efforts, wildlife trade and trafficking in the country continued to prevail because the penalties provided in RA 9147 seemed “too light” to deter wildlife crime. The DENR has been seeking for the amendment of the wildlife law because of the minor impact it has on traffickers.

Another POGO-linked crime in Pampanga: PNP-AKG rescues kidnapped Chinese national

Operatives of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) successfully rescued a Chinese national working in a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) hub in Clark, Pampanga.

Xie Zhiqiang was found by the PNP-AKG team in a resort in Clark Freeport Zone after a complaint was made by his live-in partner, according to PNP-AKG Director Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo.

After Xie was transported to Pampanga by his abductors, Xie informed his partner that he was detained and forced to work at the firm.

While held in captivity, the perpetrators demanded P140,000 cash in exchange for Xie’s release, which led the victim’s partner to seek help from the police.

Authorities said the kidnappers were not found during the rescue operation. Police will conduct further investigation to track down the people behind the crime.