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10 dead in Bulacan plane crash

Sunday, 18 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

Ten persons were confirmed dead when a small plane crashed into a residential area in Plaridel, Bulacan province, yesterday morning, police and aviation officials said.
The Piper-23 Apache twin-engine aircraft crashed shortly after taking off in Plaridel town, killing all five aboard as well as three children, a mother and a grandmother from the family in the house, said Plaridel police chief Supt. Julio Lizardo.
The crash ignited a fire in a house that was hit by the aircraft, he added.
Lizardo also said two other persons on the ground were injured by burning debris.
“We had to dig through the rubble to find the bodies,” he stressed, explaining why the toll rose from an initial figure of seven dead.
Witnesses said the plane hit a tree and electric post before slamming into the house.
Officials declined to say what may have caused the crash of the Piper PA-23 Apache, operated by local charter company Lite Air Express.
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio said the aircraft was bound for northern Laoag city.
All the aircraft operated by the transport and courier company were grounded while investigators tried to determine the cause of the crash, he added. 

Razak warns of IS threat resurgence

Sunday, 18 March 2018 00:00 Published in Headlines

The Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar could spark the resurgence of the Islamic State (IS) which will pose a serious security threat for the region, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
Hundreds of thousands of the Muslim-minority Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state after authorities launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago that the United Nations (UN) has called “ethnic cleansing.”
Myanmar has vehemently denied the allegations, insisting it was responding to attacks by Rohingya militants in late August.
Razak raised fears that so many desperate and displaced people could fall prey to extremist groups like the IS.
With Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi sitting just metres away at a special Australia-Asean summit in Sydney, Najib said it was no longer a domestic issue.
“Because of the suffering of Rohingya people and that of displacement around the region, the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter,” he said.
“In addition, the problem should not be looked at through the humanitarian prism only because it has the potential of developing into a serious security threat to the region.
He pointed to pro-IS militants seizing Marawi City last year as a warning of what can happen.
“We must draw lessons from Marawi and be extremely concerned that at least 10 militant groups in the Mindanao region (of the Philippines) have declared their affiliation to Daesh,” he said.

Daesh is an alternative name given to IS.
“Rakhine with thousands of despairing ... people who see no hope in the future will be a fertile ground for radicalisation and recruitment by Daesh and affiliated groups,” he said.
The UN last Friday launched an appeal for nearly $1 billion to care for Rohingya refugees, who have mostly fled to Bangladesh.
Najib said Malaysia was ready to assist in finding “a just and durable solution”, while urging Southeast Asian nations to work closely to deter any extremist threats.
“We must be vigilant and increase our collaboration, because the collapse of Daesh territories in Iraq and Syria has forced it to go underground and re-emerge elsewhere, especially in crisis zones where it can grow and operate,” he added.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with Australia a dialog partner since 1974.
All leaders are attending the summit in Sydney except President Duterte, who cited more pressing developments at home.
Aussie warns on encrypted apps
Use of encrypted messaging apps to plan terrorist attacks is the greatest threat facing intelligence agencies in modern times, Australia warned as Southeast Asian leaders vowed closer cooperation to counter extremism.
An Asean-Australia special summit in Sydney heard that use of the “dark web” was a spiralling problem and countries in the region must work together to keep on top of it.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the meeting “the use of encrypted messaging apps by terrorists and criminals is potentially the most significant degradation of intelligence capability in modern times”.
He said the only way to deal with the problem, and the increasing use of the internet by groups like Islamic State to radicalise and recruit new members, was together.
“We have to be constantly alert, constantly working with our neighbours in the region,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, pointing to the increasingly trans-national nature of terrorism.
“Sharing of intelligence is critically important. As we all know, what may appear to be a not especially important, not especially consequential piece of intelligence, may be the piece that connects the jigsaw for somebody else’s investigation.
“Trust, sharing, collaboration, it is absolutely critical.”
Asean leaders signed a memorandum of understanding after a day of counter-terrorism talks, agreeing to work together to develop “best practice counter-terrorism legislation”.
They also agreed to regional dialogues and workshops covering electronic evidence, financial intelligence, and ways to tackle online radicalisation.
Canberra is already helping Southeast Asian states choke terrorist financing and counter violent extremism.
The problem has been exacerbated by jihadists now being forced out of Syria and Iraq with the Islamic State caliphate mostly crushed, and into other countries.
The issue was driven home last year when pro-IS militants seized Marawi, with Australia aiding Manila to win it back.
Razak praised Australia’s initiative to strengthen cooperation, and said countering online extremist propaganda was especially critical.
“This is our new main battleground, to win the hearts and minds of our youth through social media, so that they do not easily succumb to the warped, perverse and evil ideology of Daesh,” he said,.
Najib added that “the more we work together on these issues the more successful we will be”.
“The more united we are, the more effective we will be in combatting this terrible and inhumane scourge. None of us is safe from it but together we will be safer,” he added.
Australia has suffered six terror attacks in recent years and disrupted 14 more, including a plot to bring down a plane departing Sydney.
In response, Canberra has consolidated key functions such as national security, immigration, counter-terrorism, cyber-security, and border protection under a newly-created Home Affairs department, headed by Dutton.
He said that to address the issue of apps which allow extremists to operate clandestinely, Canberra planned to introduce legislation to strengthen agencies’ ability to adapt to encryption.
This will include making companies that provide communications services and devices obliged to assist when asked, while also making the use of surveillance devices and computer network exploitation by authorities easier.
Turnbull said regional security would be at the heart of the key ASEAN leaders’ summit on Sunday.
“That’s why we’re here, to fulfil our most important duty, to keep our people safe. We’re stronger when we work together. Our people are saver when we combine our efforts and cooperate,” he said.
Anti-terror deal inked
During the assembly, the Asean and Australia sealed a historic agreement seeking to bolster regional security, with the joint signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a Cooperation to Counter International Terrorism on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.
Leading the Philippine government delegation was Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who represented Mr. Duterte for the two-day leaders’ dialog.
The MOU is aimed at strengthening the cooperation between the two parties in combating terrorism, counter-terrorism financing, and in the fight against violent extremism.
In a joint statement, the leaders stressed that the crafting of the MOU demonstrates their “joint resolve to stand together” against those who seek to divide communities.
The document intensifies Australia’s annual engagement with the bloc and enshrines practical measures to deepen dialogue across governments and security and law enforcement institutions.
The MOU is supported by programs on technical and regulatory assistance to develop best practices in aid of counter-terrorism legislation, and regional dialogues and workshops on topics, such as electronic evidence, financial intelligence, and countering online radicalization.
“Asean nations have a strong record of working together to confront violent extremism and defeat terrorist organizations,” the joint statement read.
“In recent years the threat posed by returning foreign fighters and ISIL-linked extremists has grown. It makes today’s cooperation all the more important,” it added.
The MOU signing adds to the numerous peace and security cooperation between the two parties, which ranges from cyber and maritime cooperation, in their fight against people trafficking.


BEIJING — China’s rubber-stamp parliament unanimously handed President Xi Jinping a second term Saturday and elevated his right-hand man to the vice presidency, giving him a strong ally to consolidate power and handle US trade threats.
Xi’s reappointment by the Communist Party-controlled legislature was a foregone conclusion, but all eyes had been on whether his former anti-corruption enforcer, Wang Qishan, would become his deputy.
The National People’s Congress has widely expanded Xi’s already considerable authority during its annual session, adding his name to the constitution and lifting the two five-year term limit for the presidency and vice presidency.
Xi received a standing ovation after winning all 2,970 votes for the presidency and Central Military Commission chairman. In 2013, Xi had received 2,952 votes, with one against and three abstentions, a 99.86 percent share.
Only one delegate voted against Wang’s appointment, with 2,969 in favor.
Xi and Wang shook hands as the legislators heaped on applause. As part of the package of constitutional amendments, Xi and Wang for the first time took the oath of office by pledging allegiance to the constitution. Xi put his left hand on a red-covered book containing the charter, and raised his right fist to take his vow.

“I pledge loyalty to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China” Xi recited, vowing to “strenuously struggle to build a rich, strong, democratic and civilized” country.
Elevating Wang allows Xi to keep a formidable ally by his side, as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong cements his authority and sets his sights on a possible lifelong tenure — a move that has drawn criticism online.
Wang, 69, stepped down from the Communist Party’s ruling council in October under informal retirement rules.
But he has kept a prominent profile, sitting at the same table as the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee during the public sessions of the National People’s Congress while receiving fervent applause from the delegates as he voted.
Wang’s appointment shows that “he’s a really important political adviser,” said Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London.
“He’s a very capable politician, so it makes sense he would still be around,” Brown told AFP, noting that “it also shows we’re in an unconventional time in Chinese politics.”
Wang was at the frontline of Xi’s anti-corruption crusade, heading the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which has punished 1.5 million officials in the past five years, from low-level cadres to regional leaders and generals. He stepped down last year.
Known internationally in his previous role as China’s pointman on trade, Wang could help Xi deal with increasingly tense relations with the United States amid fears of a looming trade war, analysts say.
Xi’s real power stems from his title as general secretary of the Communist Party, but analysts say Wang could provide extra heft to his presidency, even though the vice president has largely been a ceremonial post in the past.
Xi is keeping Wang by his side because of his “talent and ability,” according to Hua Po, an independent Chinese political commentator.
“Choosing Wang as vice president is certainly to consolidate his power,” Hua told AFP.
“Xi is already a very powerful man. The problem is that he has too few people who are loyal and competent for his use, so he has to retain Wang and give himself more time to cultivate more talented people.”
Wang replaces Li Yuanchao, a relatively low-profile politician who has represented Xi on trips abroad.
In his former position as vice premier, Wang periodically traveled to the United States, where then-president Barack Obama once gave the Chinese delegation a signed basketball.
An “amazing” economist, he could now form a “dream team” with another member of the party leadership, Wang Yang, to deal with concerns that US President Donald Trump policies will trigger a trade war, Brown said.
“Maybe they’ll be able to come up with a solution for this massive brewing storm with America about imbalances and tariffs.”
China’s capital was engulfed in a rare flurry of swirling snow on Saturday, sending delegates of the congress scurrying from the Great Hall of the People after the vote.
Legislators beamed when talking about Xi — a stark contrast from the criticism that Chinese people expressed online when term limits were lifted last week, prompting censors into action.
“Our Chairman Xi is too great, truly he is too great,” said Du Meishuang, a Chinese opera singer and delegate from Chairman Mao’s home province of Hunan.
“I hope he will rule for life, truly, this is the common people’s heartfelt wish.”
She said the single vote against his deputy Wang was not a problem: “His age is quite advanced, maybe that was the reason.”
“All Chinese are looking forward” to Xi continuing on, said Zhang Fanhua, a delegate from Anhui, as he hurried into the falling snow.
“This is a great happiness for the country and the nation.” 



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