Philippines says to keep US ties but will not be subservient

MANILA: The United States remains the “closest friend” of the Philippines but Manila wants to break away from a “mindset of dependency and subservience” and forge closer ties with other nations, the Philippine foreign minister said on Saturday (Oct 22).

The comments by Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separation” from Washington, though he went on to strike a more conciliatory tone on Friday.

Yasay said in a Facebook posting that Duterte had “unmistakably” stated that severing ties with Washington was not in the nation’s interest.

However, he wrote that separation “implies breaking away from the debilitating mindset of dependency and subservience – economically and militarily – that have perpetuated our ‘little brown brother’ image to America, which has stunted our growth and advancement.”

He said Duterte had told Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders during a visit to Beijing that “if they are not willing to lend their support… the Filipinos will chart their destiny alone, despite great odds.”

Yasay’s posting is the latest sign of an administration once again scrambling to put out fires after Duterte’s stunning declarations, which if delivered upon could upset the geopolitical balance in a region where China and the United States are vying aggressively for influence.

On Friday, Duterte’s economic managers were quick to clarify the Philippines was not cutting economies and trade ties with the United States.

Prior to Duterte taking office in late June, China was a bitter rival of the Philippines, and Manila was one of Washington’s most dependable Asian allies.

Duterte’s efforts to engage China, months after a tribunal in the Hague ruled that Beijing did not have historic rights to the South China Sea in a case brought by the previous administration in Manila, marks a reversal in foreign policy since the 71-year-old former mayor took office on June 30.

“It is not severance of ties. When you say severance of ties, you cut diplomatic relations. I cannot do that,” Duterte told reporters at a midnight news conference in his southern home city of Davao after he arrived from his four-day trip to Beijing.

Duterte’s abrupt pivot from Washington to Beijing is unlikely to be universally popular at home, however. On Tuesday, an opinion poll showed Filipinos still trust the United States far more than China.

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Rent not expected to rise with JTC taking over industrial properties: Koh Poh Koon

SINGAPORE: Businesses affected by the planned transfer of Housing & Development Board (HDB) industrial land and properties to JTC are not likely to face higher rents due to the consolidation, Minister of State for National Development Koh Poh Koon said on Friday (Oct 21). 

Dr Koh said HDB and JTC’s rental polices had been “actually quite aligned over the years”, and that he did not expect any changes to these policies as a result of the transfer of the properties to JTC, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2018. 

He also reiterated that JTC would honour the existing lease agreements for HDB’s tenants under the same terms. 

The transfer, which will affect about 10,700 industrial units and 540 industrial land leases, was announced by Trade and Industry Minister (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang on Wednesday. 

With the consolidation, small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) will only need to approach a single agency for their land and space needs instead of dealing with both organisations for tenancy and land lease matters, Mr Lim had said. 


Channel NewsAsia understands that the tenants’ leases with HDB are currently limited to three years. Dr Koh said JTC is always open to exploring more flexible lease terms, extending to five years or slightly longer depending on the circumstances.

“The point is that for industrialists who need to put heavy capital investment, this is where it will help them…we can look at the kind of lease term that will make sense for them financially,” he said. 

Dr Koh also said consolidating all public sector industrial land and properties under JTC would give businesses more opportunities to grow, as tenants previously had a “limited scope and limited selection of industrial space” under HDB. 

Under JTC, businesses – especially SMEs – would have a larger selection of facilities managed by the lead agency for industrial infrastructure, Dr Koh said. 

The operations director of one of the companies affected, Mr Johnson Tay from Sin Mui Heng Food Industries, said he supported the consolidation as his business had been operating close to maximum capacity, and HDB had not been able to provide a solution. He also welcomed the possibility of longer leases, which he said would allow the business to plan for the longer term. 

However, Mr Tay said that despite the assurance that rents would not be raised, there were other concerns among SMEs like his company.

“JTC used to take care of the ‘big boys’. Hopefully they will have resources to take care of us.” 

Most of HDB’s tenants are micro-SMEs with average annual sales of less than S$ 1 million, and about half of these businesses deal with engineering and consumer products.


Industry groups Channel NewsAsia spoke to were positive about the possible impact of the transfer of HDB industrial land and properties to JTC. 

Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association president Thomas Pek said he did not expect a big impact on companies, but the move was a good one as it would make it easier for business owners to approach a single agency for concerns. 

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) president Thomas Chua also said the group was “glad” that JTC had started to engage affected businesses. 

“Such communication channels are important to facilitate the whole consolidation process and to address the concerns of the affected SMEs,” Mr Chua said. 

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Kuznetsova wins in Moscow to claim last WTA Finals berth

SINGAPORE: Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova raced to a 6-2 6-1 victory over Australian Daria Gavrilova to defend her Kremlin Cup title in Moscow on Saturday (Oct 22) and secure a place at the season-ending WTA Finals.

Kuznetsova was broken in her first service game to fall 2-0 behind but the 31-year-old broke back immediately to claim the first of 10 straight games as she roared to victory in 73 minutes against the world number 37.

The Russian had to win to qualify for Singapore and her victory represents heartbreak for Briton Johanna Konta, who held the final spot for the Singapore event but will now drop down to first alternate after even taking part in a glitzy draw ceremony on Friday.

Kuznetsova, a twice grand slam champion, must now rush to Singapore for her first round robin match in the White Group against defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Monday.

Czech Karolina Pliskova and Spanish French Open champion Garbine Muguruza are the other two players in the group.

Action starts in the Red Group on Sunday when Romania’s Simona Halep faces American Madison Keys before German world number one Angelique Kerber takes on Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova.

The top two players from each pool advance to the semi-finals.

Kuznetsova will be making her sixth appearance at the year-ending tournament and will be looking to advance from the round robin stage for a first time.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on qualifying for the WTA Finals, Konta picked up the tour’s Most Improved Player Award on Friday in recognition of her climb from 147th in the world in mid-2015 to number 10 in the latest rankings.

The 25-year-old Briton also claimed her maiden WTA Tour title at the Stanford Classic in June.

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Magnitude 5.3 quake shakes eastern Japan, no tsunami warning

TOKYO: An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.3 shook eastern Japan on Thursday but there were no immediate reports of damage and a tsunami warning was not issued.

The epicentre of the earthquake, which occurred at 11:50 a.m. (0250 GMT), was in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher)

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SGX posts 16% drop in Q1 profit

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Exchange (SGX) posted a net profit of S$ 83 million in its fiscal first quarter for 2017, a 16 per cent drop compared to a year ago, it announced on Wednesday (Oct 19).

The bourse’s total revenue for the quarter was S$ 191 million, down 13 per cent from a year earlier, while its operating profit was S$ 97 million, 17 per cent lower than the previous year. Earnings per share for the quarter was 7.8 cents, down 16 per cent from a year ago, although the interim dividend per share remains unchanged at five cents.

SGX said its first quarter performance reflected lower levels of market activity compared to the more volatile market last year.

Nonetheless, SGX chief executive officer Loh Boon Chye said the stock exchange operator remained “committed to our long-term investment and diversification strategy while maintaining cost discipline”.

He also said that the bourse’s acquisition of the Baltic Exchange was progressing and expect to complete the transaction by end-November 2016. SGX announced separately that a court hearing has been fixed for Nov 7 to sanction the acquisition.

Looking ahead, Mr Loh said there may be relatively subdued trading volumes amid slow global economic growth, political uncertainties and implications of Brexit on the European economy.

“We will continue to be disciplined about costs while investing to grow our business and be more competitive,” he said.

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Singapore urges ASEAN to stand firm against decriminalising drugs for medical use

SINGAPORE: The war against drugs in ASEAN was given a boost on Thursday morning (Oct 20) with the launch of a 10-year plan to combat drug abuse, as well as a message for the region to stand firm against legalising drugs.  

The ASEAN Work Plan on Securing Communities Against Illicit Drugs was officially adopted at the opening of the fifth ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters, held in Singapore.  

At the start of the two-day conference, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean highlighted the dangers of approving the use of certain drugs for medical reasons.  

Mr Teo said some counties have tried to “normalise and decriminalise drugs”. “We must guard against this as the consequences are serious,” he added.  

He also cited a recent report of how a children’s hospital in Colorado, United States, had seen a doubling of marijuana poisoning cases among children, two years after marijuana was legalised. Mr Teo urged fellow ASEAN countries to prepare for this global debate and push for a zero-tolerance approach and prevent harm from drug abuse.  

“As the global debate on drug matters intensifies, what we say as a region will matter,” he said.

Mr Teo also spelt out three areas where ASEAN can work on, to realise a drug-free ASEAN. They included boosting efforts to educate and protect the young from drugs, strengthening laws against drugs and syndicates as well as getting ASEAN to work more closely with one another.  

According to Mr Teo, one of the challenges that must be tackled by the region is the growing trend of buying drugs online. He cited the 2015 Global Drug Survey, which found one in 10 drug users had bought drugs online at least once – twice the number, as compared to those surveyed in 2013. 

Another concern is the presence of the Golden Triangle – lined by Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. The Golden Triangle is one of the world’s busiest illegal drug-producing areas, occupying 22 per cent of the world’s land used for opium poppy cultivation, Mr Teo said.  

The 10-year work plan against drugs will be reviewed in 2020 and 2024, to ensure plans are up to date with the evolving nature of the drug problem. Singapore is also set to take visiting ASEAN officials on a trip on Friday to a local drug rehabilitation centre.

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Philippine leader open to war games with China, Russia

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to joint military exercises with China and Russia, and reiterated he will no longer allow war games with the United States.

Duterte made the remarks in an interview broadcast on Monday (Oct 17) with Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television ahead of a four-day visit to Beijing, which begins on Tuesday and is aimed at improving ties that soured over competing claims in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Asked if he would consider joint military exercises with China or Russia, Duterte said: “Yes, I will. I have given enough time for the Americans to play with the Filipino soldiers.”

Duterte also repeated he would no longer allow joint exercises with the United States, the Philippines’ main defence ally and supplier of military hardware.

“This will be the last. It has been programmed. I do not want my soldiers to be humiliated,” Duterte said, in reference to one set of war games in the Philippines that ended last week.

Duterte has sought to dramatically reshape his nation’s foreign relations since taking office on Jun 30, by pivoting towards China and Russia while moving away from the United States.

He has been angered by US criticism of his war on crime, which has claimed more than 3,700 lives, and praised China and Russia for showing him “respect”.

But Duterte, signalling his shift is for pragmatic reasons, has also repeatedly ridiculed the United States for what he sees as its weakening economic and military influence around the world.

Duterte is bringing an entourage of hundreds of businessmen with him to Beijing, and Philippine media have said deals worth billions of dollars are expected to be announced during the trip.

Asked if he would seek to buy military equipment from China during his visit, Duterte told Phoenix Television: “Yes, but not really in (large) numbers.”

Duterte said he would also need small, fast attack boats from China to fight “terrorism”. “If China does not help us in this endeavour, we will have a hard time fighting terrorism,” he said without elaborating.

Bilateral relations worsened under Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino, who tried to challenge China’s expansionism in the South China Sea. To counter China, Aquino allowed a much greater American military presence in the Philippines.

He also filed a legal case at a UN-backed tribunal, which ruled in July that China’s claims to most of the sea had no legal basis. China refused to accept the ruling. Duterte has said he does not want to use the verdict to pressure China.

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Infrastructure investment a new vector for globalisation: World Bank

SINGAPORE: Infrastructure investment has the potential to be a new vector for growth and globalisation, as well as provide new revenue streams, said World Bank Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer Joaquim Levy at the World Bank-Singapore Infrastructure Finance Summit on Monday (Oct 17).

Mr Levy said infrastructure investment is a valuable source of long-term income streams that can help to address the global challenges of an ageing population and lower levels of private investment. While there is no shortage of capital waiting to be invested, he said, more can be done to mitigate risks.

“There are many ways of doing that,” he said. “Sometimes changing the environment where the project is developed; sometimes enhancing the project, reducing the risk through financial mechanisms. And at the government level, to have an adequate regulatory system reduces the risk of the projects itself. Another role is of providing guarantees when there’s still some risk.”


According to a 2016 report by McKinsey and Company, Asia needs more than US$ 1 trillion of infrastructure a year. While observers noted that there is no shortage of capital waiting to be invested, the World Bank said more needs to be done to mitigate risks.

“To have an adequate regulatory system reduces the risk of the projects itself,” said Mr Levy. “Another role is that providing guarantees when there’s still some risk. And in this case, I think multilateral institutions like ours can really help by providing some financial mechanisms, as well as intermediating and helping governments to develop new regulations.”

Speaking at the summit, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam highlighted the importance of keeping an eye on the costs of infrastructure projects.

“Large infrastructure projects have seen costs overrun by 20 per cent to 45 per cent on average – clearly not desirable for the public purse and a waste of resources,” he said. “So we have to take off our macroeconomic hats and put on our microeconomic hats, and assess every project for its payoffs, economic and social.”

Mr Tharman added that public-private partnerships can help avoid cost escalations, “with the private sector being concerned about sustainable returns and the public sector prioritising projects based on a rigorous assessment of needs”.

He also noted the potential to make better use of technology to spot problems when projects are being designed, which can reduce costs overall.

“Building information modelling systems (BIM systems) has a lot of scope for use in infrastructure projects,” he said. “Upfront ex ante use of technologies to be able to map our projects, spot problems, can reduce costs very significantly further down the road.”

Mr Tharman said that multilateral institutions, too, can help keep a close eye on costs, given their expertise and resources.

In its last financial year, the World Bank committed almost US$ 23 billion of finance in Asia, while Asian Development Bank approved a record US$ 27 billion for projects. Meanwhile, the newly formed US$ 100 billion capital Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) intends to invest US$ 1.2 billion this year.

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Temperatures could reach 35°C in next fortnight: Met Service

SINGAPORE: Warm weather conditions are expected in Singapore in the next fortnight, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) on Monday (Oct 17). In a media advisory, it said the maximum daily temperature on most days is forecast to be around 33°C or 34°C, and on a few days could reach a high of around 35°C.

MSS said that during the second fortnight of October, short-duration thundery showers can be expected on four to six days, mostly in the late morning and early afternoon. In addition, widespread thundery showers with occasional gusty winds are forecast on two or three days between the pre-dawn hours and morning.

It noted that the prevailing southwest monsoon is expected to weaken towards the end of October as the region enters the inter-monsoon period. It noted that warmer conditions are common during the inter-monsoon season, when there is strong solar heating and the winds are generally light.

MSS also said that Singapore saw a few warm days in the first two weeks of October. The highest daily maximum temperature recorded at the Changi climate station was 34.6°C on Oct 11. As of Oct 16, the mean monthly temperature for October was 28.8°C, 1.2°C warmer than the long-term mean for October.

During the first fortnight of October, rainfall was below average in the northwestern half of Singapore, and above average in the southeastern half of the island. The highest rainfall of 139.2mm was recorded around the Tanjong Katong area. Rainfall was lowest in the western part of the island around the Choa Chu Kang area, where 65.8mm was recorded, said MSS. 

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Regent to stand in as grieving Thailand awaits new king

BANGKOK: The head of Thailand’s royal advisory council will stand in as regent while the country grieves over the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and awaits for his son to formally succeed him, the government said.

Mourners lit candles and recited prayers before dawn on Saturday outside Bangkok’s riverside Grand Palace, where the remains of the king will lie for months before a traditional royal cremation.

The world’s longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol died on Thursday in a Bangkok hospital, at the age of 88.

The government has said Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn wants to grieve with the people and leave the formal succession until later, when parliament will invite him to ascend the throne.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said in an interview broadcast on state television late on Friday that there was no uncertainty about the succession but, in the interim, the head of the powerful Privy Council would have to step in as regent.

“There must be a regent for the time being in order not to create a gap,” Wissanu said. “Even though there is no problem, because we have a clear answer, the head of the privy council must be regent temporarily.”

“This situation will not be used for long,” he added, without mentioning by name Privy Council head 96-year-old Prem Tinsulanonda, a former army chief and prime minister.


Prince Vajiralongkorn does not enjoy the same adoration his father earned over a lifetime on the throne. He has married and divorced three times, and has spent much of his life outside Thailand, often in Germany.

The king’s remains were taken in a convoy on Friday through Bangkok’s ancient quarter to the Grand Palace, winding past thousands of Thais dressed in black, many of them holding aloft portraits of a monarch who was worshipped as a father figure.

Buddhist monks chanted prayers beside his coffin on Saturday as Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn came to pay her respects.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the palace during the morning and some who had arrived before dawn lit candles.

    “I didn’t ever want to hear this news although it couldn’t be avoided. All we can do now is hope that he will rest in peace,” said Sakhon Sondee from the eastern province of Surin.

The king had been in poor health the past several years and his death plunged the Southeast Asian nation of 67 million people into grief.

Most Thais have known no other monarch and King Bhumibol’s picture is hung in almost every house, school and office.

People in the capital and in towns across the country dressed in black. The government has decreed that no festivities be held for a period of 30 days, the first month of one year of official mourning, but shopping malls were open on Saturday.


The Nation newspaper said government guidelines for the media stipulated that TV programmes and advertising “must not contain improper scenes such as entertaining, dancing or violent acts”, and presenters must dress in white or black.

It said information related to the king’s passing must be approved by authorised bodies, while criticism or analysis would not be allowed.

Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws, which have been applied rigorously since a military government took power in a 2014 coup, have left little room for public discussion about the succession.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called in a statement on Thailand’s military government to lift the censorship order on broadcasters

“While CPJ sympathises with the Thai people over the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, we lament that the government has resorted to crude censorship at this sensitive time,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia programme coordinator.

The king stepped in to calm crises on several occasions during his reign and many Thais worry about a future without him. The military has for decades invoked its duty to defend the monarchy to justify its intervention in politics.

Military government leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said after the king’s death that security was his top priority and he ordered extra troops deployed around the country.

Thailand has endured bomb attacks and economic worries recently while rivalry simmers between the military-led establishment and populist political forces after a decade of turmoil including two coups and deadly protests.

The junta has promised an election next year and pushed through a constitution to ensure its oversight of civilian governments. It looks firmly in control for a royal transition.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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