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The Philippine armed forces says it needs at least six more frigates to effectively patrol its waters [AP]
|The Philippines has said it wants to acquire two more navy ships from the US to boost its maritime protection amid military threats from China, according to the country’s military chief.
“Within the last year, we realised that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory,” armed forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista told the Philippines’ ANC television on Wednesday.
The new acquisitions fall under the $40m in military assistance pledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the country in December 2013.
But Bautista said the country needs about six more frigates to effectively guard its coastline.
“In fact, we are bidding now for two frigates, hopefully we will be able to acquire them in (a) couple of years,” he said.
The Philippines is a long-time US military ally and has already received two refurbished ships in the past two years.
These boats now patrol the South China Sea where, in 2012, the flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first US acquisition, confronted Chinese ships on Scarborough Shoal, a small outcrop just off the coast of the country’s main island of Luzon.
The Chinese eventually gained control of the outcrop after Manila backed down. And the Filipino government sought UN arbitration to settle the dispute, a move which China rejected.
The Philippines has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
Bautista said the Gregorio del Pilar, as well as another frigate that arrived last year, have been deployed to protect the country’s waters.
“There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak,” he said, but declined to say where they were in the disputed waters.
China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea, including waters near the cost of its neighbours.
And it recently declared an “air defence identification zone” over the East China Sea, where it is engaged in a dispute with Japan.
Kerry has warned China against imposing a similar air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.
Last week China also announced a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to obtain permits for activities in most of the South China Sea, triggering outrage in Manila.
Telephone lines appeared down as it was difficult to get through to the landfall site 650 kilometres southeast of Manila where Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the southern tip of Samar island before barrelling on to Leyte Island.
Two people were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was killed by a fallen tree and another was struck by lightning, official reports said.
Nearly 720,000 people evacuated
Close to 720,000 people had been evacuated from towns and villages in the typhoon’s path across the central Philippines, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Among them were thousands of residents of Bohol who had been camped in tents and other makeshift shelters after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the island province last month.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said 31,000 people were evacuated in his landslide-prone mountainous province before the super typhoon struck, knocking out power, setting off small landslides that blocked roads in rural areas, uprooting trees and ripping roofs off houses around his residence.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
“When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mercado told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that his town mayors have not called in to report any major damage.
“I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around,” he said. “My worst fear is there will be many massive loss of lives and property.”
Television images from Tacloban city on Leyte Island showed a street under knee-deep floodwater carrying debris that had been blown down by the fierce winds. Tin roofing sheets ripped from buildings were flying above the street.
Visibility was so poor that only the silhouette of a local reporter could be seen through the driving rain.
‘Catastrophic damage’ feared
Weather officials said that Haiyan had sustained winds at 235 kilometres per hour, with gusts of 275 km/h when it made landfall. That makes it the strongest typhoon this year, said Aldczar Aurelio of the government’s weather bureau.
Gener Quitlong, another weather forecaster, said the typhoon was not losing much of its strength because there is no large land mass to slow it down since the region is comprised of islands with no tall mountains.
The typhoon — the 24th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year — is forecast to blow toward the South China Sea on Saturday, heading toward Vietnam.
Jeff Masters, a former hurricane meteorologist who is meteorology director at the private firm Weather Underground, said the storm had been poised to be the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded at landfall. He warned of “catastrophic damage.”
But he said the Philippines might get a small break because the storm is so fast moving that flooding from heavy rains — usually the cause of most deaths from typhoons in the Philippines — may not be as bad.
As it approached the Philippines, the storm was one of the strongest on record.
The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said shortly before the typhoon made landfall that its maximum sustained winds were 314 km/h, with gusts up to 379 km/h. Those measurements are different than local weather data because the U.S. Navy centre measures the average wind speed for 1 minute while local forecasters measure average for 10 minutes.
Hurricane Camille, a 1969 storm, had wind speeds that reached 305 km/h at landfall in the United States, Masters said.
Officials in Cebu province have shut down electric service to the northern part of the province to avoid electrocutions in case power pylons are toppled, said assistant regional civil defence chief Flor Gaviola.
President Benigno Aquino III assured the public of war-like preparations, with three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes on standby, along with 20 navy ships.
With files from The Associated Press
Thousands of people were removed from villages in the central Philippines on Thursday before one of the year’s strongest typhoons strikes the region, including a province devastated by an earthquake last month.
Typhoon Haiyan has sustained winds of 215 kilometres per hour and ferocious gusts of 250 km/h and could strengthen over the Pacific Ocean before slamming the eastern province of Samar early Friday, government forecasters said.
The U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said it was the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year, although Cyclone Phailin, which hit eastern India on Oct. 12, packed winds of up to 222 km/h and stronger gusts.
Facing another possible disaster, President Benigno Aquino III warned people to leave high-risk areas, including 100 coastal communities where forecasters said the storm surge could reach up to seven metres. He urged seafarers to stay away from choppy seas.
Aquino urged people to stay calm and avoid panic-buying of basic goods and assured the public of war-like preparations: Three C-130 air force cargo planes and 32 military helicopters and planes were on standby, along with 20 navy ships.
“No typhoon can bring Filipinos to their knees if we’ll be united,” he said in a nationally televised address.
Governors and mayors were supervising the evacuation of landslide- and flood-prone communities in several provinces where the typhoon is expected to pass, said Eduardo del Rosario, head of the government’s main disaster-response agency.
Even in southern Misamis Oriental province located farther from the typhoon’s expected track, more than 12,000 people abandoned their homes in six coastal towns and a mountain municipality that have been hit by past landslides, said Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Emano, who also suspended school classes.
Aquino ordered officials to aim for zero casualties, a goal often not met in an archipelago lashed by about 20 storms each year, most of them deadly and destructive. Haiyan is the 24th such storm to hit the Philippines this year.
Edgardo Chatto, the governor of Bohol island province in the central Philippines, where an earthquake in October killed more than 200 people, said that soldiers, police and rescue units were helping displaced residents, including thousands still in small tents, move to shelters.
Rescue helicopters on standby
Bohol is not forecast to get a direct hit but is expected to be battered by strong wind and rain, government forecaster Jori Loiz said.
Army troops were helping transport food packs and other relief goods in hard-to-reach communities and rescue helicopters are on stand-by, the military said.
“My worst fear is that the eye of this typhoon will hit us. I hope we will be spared,” Chatto told The Associated Press by telephone.
Haiyan was forecast to barrel through the country’s central region Friday and Saturday before it blows toward the South China Sea over the weekend, heading toward Vietnam.
It was not expected to directly hit the densely populated capital of Manila farther north, but residents in the flood-prone city were jittery, with one suburb suspending classes and authorities ordering giant tarpaulin billboard ads to be removed along the main highway.
|At least 93 people have been killed and more than 100 others injured by falling buildings islands popular with tourists in the central Philippines after an earthquake measuring 7.2 hit the region, according to radio reports.
Tuesday’s earthquake was centred 56km deep below Carmen town on Bohol Island, about 400km southeast of the capital, Manila, and was felt across the region. The Philippine seismology agency reported at least 110 aftershocks.
Local radio stations also reported fatalities in nearby Cebu province, across a strait from Bohol.
Tuesday is a national holiday and that may have reduced casualties because schools and offices are closed….
- Philippines death toll rises after 7.2-magnitude quake (theguardian.com)
- Philippines earthquake leaves at least 20 dead (cbsnews.com)
- 20 dead, power down as 7.2 quake hits Bohol (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Philippines swamped after days of torrential rain (theguardian.com)
- Floods leave six dead in Philippines (bigpondnews.com)
- Heavy rains spawned by Typhoon Usagi kill 36 in Vietnam, Cambodia (globalnation.inquirer.net)
- Dozens dead in Philippines rains (aljazeera.com)
- Flash Flood – Philippines, Central Luzon, Olongapo City (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- Heavy rains pummel the Philippines (bigpondnews.com)
- Floods Drench Manila (thejakartaglobe.com)
- Heavy rain pummels flooded Philippines (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- US in contact with both Taiwan, Philippines on shooting incident (wantchinatimes.com)
- Navy to have more frigates patrolling in waters south of Taiwan (wantchinatimes.com)
- Philippine leader urges calm over Taiwan shooting (dailystar.com.lb)
- PH leader urges calm over Taiwan shooting (rappler.com)