Today News
A+ A A-
AFP and Tribune Wires

Miami, United States—The death toll from the collapse of a pedestrian bridge has risen to at least six, Miami police said Friday as crews searched under the huge concrete slabs which fell onto a busy highway.
The operation has shifted from rescue to body recovery, with engineers fearing the support structures at either end of the bridge could also come down, Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta told reporters.
“The entire bridge is in jeopardy,” he said.
The walkway, which connects Florida International University to a student housing area, went up less than a week ago but was not yet operational.
Ten people were taken to hospital, Zabaleta said, with emergency crews working all through the night at the scene.
Video footage on CNN shows the concrete structure suddenly crashing onto the road below. At least eight cars were trapped when the 950-ton bridge suddenly gave way on Thursday, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Division Chief Paul Estopinan said earlier. 

Police detective Juan Carlos Llera said when the bridge came down, it “sounded like an explosion. A huge bang.”
“It looks like a disaster area. It looks literally like a bomb went off,” Llera told AFP.
Loose cables
The bridge was suspended from cables which had come loose and while they were being tightened, the whole thing collapsed, Florida Senator Marco Rubio wrote on Twitter.
The bridge had only been installed on Saturday, ahead of its planned opening in 2019.
Isabella Carrasco, who arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, told CNN some cars were completely crushed and that there was “a lot of debris everywhere.”
She saw one woman get out of a car that was “just nicked” and rescue personnel performing life-saving CPR on another person in the road.
Another shaken driver, Lynnell Collins, told CNN he was about to make a right turn when “the whole thing really just came down.”
“I got out of my car and me and a few other people were sprinting over there. We started helping people whose cars were at least half crushed and whoever was easily saved.”
He said he saw two trucks that were completely crushed.
Quickly erected
The university had only recently been celebrating the construction of the bridge across a busy and dangerous section of highway that students said had been the scene of accidents.
It had been erected using an accelerated modular building method that enabled it to go up in the space of a day.
“We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge,” said FIGG Engineering Group, one of the partners involved in the walkway’s construction.
“We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why,” the firm said in a statement.
“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before.”
“Continuing to monitor the heartbreaking bridge collapse at FIU - so tragic,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Many brave First Responders rushed in to save lives. Thank you for your courage. Praying this evening for all who are affected,” he said.
Bridge collapses in the United States are infrequent despite rising risks associated with aging infrastructure. 

Indonesia wants Australia as full Asean member

Saturday, 17 March 2018 00:00 Published in Nation

SYDNEY, Australia — Indonesian President Joko Widodo wants Australia to become a full member of Asean, signaling Friday he is keen on Canberra playing a bigger regional role in defense, trade and security matters.
His comments come with Australia hosting a special summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) leaders in Sydney, as China increasingly flexes its muscle and the threat of violent extremism grows.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Widodo told the Sydney Morning Herald, referring to Australia joining Asean — the first time an Indonesian president has endorsed the concept.
“Because our region will be better, (for) stability, economic stability, and also political stability. Sure, it will be better.”
Australia has been a dialog partner of Asean, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, since 1974.
They began biennial leaders’ summits in 2016, with the first in Vientiane.
In a report last month, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute argued that Canberra should aim for Asean membership by 2024 — its 50th anniversary of being a partner — and use the Sydney summit as a launch pad.
“As the geo-strategic and geo-economic pressures build in Asia, Asean, as a middle-power grouping, needs the extra middle-power heft offered by Australia and New Zealand,” it said.
“The Sydney summit is the moment to launch the long conversation about Australia joining Asean.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was “very warmed” by Widodo’s comments, but stressed “ Asean matters are matters for Asean.”
“We have the greatest respect for Asean, the way it reaches its own conclusions,” he said ahead of a bilateral meeting with Cambodian leader Hun Sen.
“We are a dialog partner with Asean and we respect that centrality of Asean and its significance and fundamental importance, central importance, in our region.”
Speaking at a press conference alongside Turnbull, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was keen to “deepen ties between Australia and Southeast Asia more broadly.”
“Australia believes its future lies in Asia, took steps to become Asean’s first dialog partner in 1974, and Singapore has taken steps to help keep the region open,” said Lee, the 2018 Asean host.
“As Asean chair, Singapore will continue to encourage Australia’s engagement with Asean, and we will discuss taking the partnership forward.”
Widodo, who will reportedly have a private dinner with Turnbull at his harborside home on Saturday, singled out close co-operation with Canberra on counter-terrorism.
He said he regularly spoke on the phone with Turnbull to resolve issues such as the threat posed by Islamic extremists who last year seized the Philippines’ city of Marawi.
“We have good co-operation on Marawi, not only with Australia but also with Malaysia, with the Philippines, with Brunei,” he said.
“You know that no country is invulnerable from terrorism or extremism.”
Countering the threat of violent extremism and ways to choke terrorist financing are key themes of the Sydney summit.
The warming of ties between Indonesia and Australia follows a period of rocky relations due to Jakarta’s execution of Australian drug smugglers and Canberra’s policy of turning migrant boats back to Indonesia. 

Philippine poor pay the price for divorce ban

Friday, 16 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

For well-off people like politician Pantaleon Alvarez, getting out of a bad marriage in the Philippines is pricey but feasible — but for the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens it is nearly impossible.
That’s because heavily Catholic Philippines and the Vatican are the last two places on Earth where divorce is outlawed.
For the nation’s 100 million people, the only exit from a union gone wrong is an embarrassing — and labyrinthine — process that often amounts to a luxury.
But lawmakers, including Alvarez, have launched a new legislative effort to legalize divorce which activists believe could transform the lives of impoverished women trapped in toxic marriages.
The bill has been propelled forward by Alvarez, who is speaker in the lower House of Representatives and an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In an interview with AFP, he said ending his first marriage cost him a million pesos ($19,200), which is more than triple what an average family in the Philippines makes in a year.
Like thousands of Filipinos, he did it through a civil procedure called annulment, whereby a judge declares a marriage invalid, generally because the spouses had a “psychological incapacity”. 

It requires applicants to undergo a mental exam, testify in court and sometimes even claim they or their spouse entered the union with a disorder like narcissism.
The process can take anywhere from one to 10 years to wind through the creakingly slow and overburdened Philippine court system, costing at least $4,800.
Since 1999 lawmakers have regularly filed a bill to legalize divorce, only to see it languish in committee limbo — until now.
For the first time ever, House of Representatives lawmakers are poised to approve the bill after backing it in preliminary votes. It would then head to the Senate where it faces opposition from conservative members.
However, the bill enjoys rare bipartisan support, a sign Alvarez says of the urgency of addressing broken marriages.
“It’s a badge of stupidity because we are the only nation that does not see the problem,” Alvarez, 60, told AFP.
The legislation would allow divorce and exempt poor people from legal fees, listing domestic violence, attempts to engage a spouse in prostitution and irreconcilable differences among the grounds for splitting up.
‘Not the will of God’
Not surprisingly, the country’s powerful Catholic Church, which counts about 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, has fiercely opposed the bill.
“It (divorce)is not according to the scriptures, to the will of God and it does not help,” Manila bishop Broderick Pabillo told AFP.
The church fought a pitched but ultimately unsuccessful battle in 2012 to halt a law providing free contraceptives to poor couples and teaching sex education in schools.
It has also backed an existing ban on abortion and gay marriage.
Surveys show a majority of Filipinos have supported legalizing divorce since 2014.
At the same time the number filing for annulments has grown steadily in the past decade, hitting over 10,000 in 2017, according to government statistics.
“Filipinos have become more open. They’ve been exposed to norms from other countries,” said Jean Franco, political science assistant professor at the University of the Philippines.
But with Catholic clergy lobbying and protesting against the bill, its final passage is uncertain.
The country’s outspoken leader Duterte, whose own marriage was annulled, has yet to wade into the debate.
Although he spoke in favor of upholding the ban during his 23 years as mayor of the southern city of Davao, he is mercurial on social issues.
A longtime critic of the church, Duterte voiced support for gay marriage in 2015, only to backtrack after securing the presidency in 2016, before endorsing it yet again last December.
He also has plenty on his plate, with international war crimes prosecutors launching a preliminary probe into his deadly war on drugs, which has also aroused the ire of the church.
‘Strangling, screaming’
Campaigners say the bill could offer a lifeline to women trapped in violent marriages.
“Divorce is a woman’s issue, especially for poor women who are being abused because it could provide them an out legally,” Elizabeth Angsioco, national chairwoman of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, told AFP.
For women like Melody Alan who says she has endured 14 years of abuse from an unfaithful, alcoholic husband, the ban cannot be overturned soon enough.
“He strangled me, pushed me against a wall. I was crying and screaming. I couldn’t breathe,” Alan, secretary-general of the Divorce Advocates of the Philippines, told AFP.
Alan, 44, said her husband agreed to accept an annulment if she paid for it — something she could in “no way” afford while raising four kids.
In 2010 she separated from her husband, who now has two children with another woman, but they remain legally married.
“I will file for divorce to get freedom (to say) that this is who I am now,” she said. “I can start anew.” 






Life Style




Unit 102, 1020 Bel-Air apartment, Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila Copyright 2000-2017 All rights reserved, The Daily Tribune Publishing Inc.