The Balikatan or shoulder-to-shoulder joint military exercises between the US and Philippine military starts on Monday, April 16, and will last for nearly two weeks, involving some 6,800 Filipino and US soldiers. The exercises have been a regular activity but this year's come amid the Philippines' continuing standoff with China in the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal). Both the US and Philippine governments have allayed fears that these exercises are meant to provoke China, pointing out that these will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster response drills. Critical Filipino groups have staged street protests against the Balikatan.
Read more on Rappler here, here and here.
April 16, Monday, was long awaited by critics of Beijing's currency policy. Last weekend, Chinese leaders announced a shift towards adopting more market-oriented reforms for the yuan instead of keeping it artificially low. Cheap yuan, coupled with low-cost labor, have fueled a flow of cheap exports that has led to major trade deficits between China and some trading partners. The government said that, starting Monday, the yuan will be allowed to fluctuate by up to 1%. It may seem a small step but China has always been firm that it would loosen the grip on the currency on its own terms, and while it is also shielding the manufacturing sector, a key economic driver, from shocks due to excessive currency fluctuations.
Read analysis from Reuters, and different insights from BBC and Bloomberg.
Finance and politics
If tradition would still be followed, the World Bank board would just have a ceremonial meeting on Monday, April 16, to name its new leader. The United States' nominee for the top post in World Bank used to be a shoo-in, but not this time. The developing countries that are at the receiving end of the anti-poverty financing schemes of the multilateral agency funded mostly by the United States are supporting an "opposition" candidate, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the 57-year-old finance minister of Nigeria. She is up against Jim Yong Kim. US President Barack Obama previously endorsed the 52-year-old Korean-American who has the World Health Organization and drugs for HIV/AIDS patients in developing countries under his belth. He is currently president of Dartmouth College, an Ivy League university. The Philippines is moving away from the pack and is supporting US's nominee.
Read the two candidates' profile on Rappler.
Read story on Philippines' support for the US nominee on Rappler.
Today, April 16, is the deadline for filing of income tax returns and payment of the corresponding taxes. Those who fail to file ITRs by April 16 will face 25% surcharge, 20% interest rate, according to Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares. Since April traditionally brings the highest monthly collection for the BIR, the agency hopes to book tax collections of P122.8 billion this month out of the 2012 full year target of P647.335 billion from taxes on income and profits.
Read more on Rappler and watch on ABS-CBN.
The trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the boy-next-door-turned-mass-murderer starts on Monday, April 16. During the trial, which is expected to last about 10 weeks, the extremist Breivik may take the opportunity to justify why he carried out one of Norway's worst peacetime atrocity. He is also expected to tell the court that he regrets that the Oslo bombs and the summer camp shootings in July 2011 only killed 77.
Read more on the Guardian.
Watch the report of Telegraph.
US President Barack Obama expressed disgust over the alleged claims that his Secret Service officials who accompanied him at the Summit of the Americas in Columbia brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena and had a dispute over payment with one of the women. He said on Monday, April 16, that he expected no less than a "rigorous" probe into the sex scandal, warning he would be "angry" if the allegations were true. This mess threatens to overshadow that trip and the goodwill Obama was looking to gain from it.
Read more on Rappler and Business Insider.
Church vs capitalism
Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon is wielding the power of the church in the environmentalists and other interest groups' battle against mall giant SM. On Sunday, April 15, Cenzon said he is withholding the every-Sunday masses catering to mall-going Catholics, as well as blessing of business establishments at the Baguio mall, as part of his support for the protest moves against the mall management. SM plans to transfer several trees from an area it will build a parking lot on. This Church-versus-SM is reminiscent of similar battles against mining corporations and other extractive industry firms in remote parts of the country.
Read more on Rappler and ABS-CBN.
So what if North Korea's rocket launch last week lasted no more than two minutes after takeoff? On Sunday, April 15, new leader Kim Jong Un spoke in front of a massive crowd and watched a grand military parade where North Korea unveiled a new missile, which is larger and potentially a dud meant to be part of the show for the 100th year of the country's founder, Kim's grandfather. In his first televised speech, Kim Jong Un praised the "military first" doctrine his family has instilled and vowed that threats to the country are "forever over."
Read more on Rappler here and here.
After ABS-CBN exclusively aired an edited version of the 2012 Binibining Pilipinas on Sunday, April 15, Interaksyon, the online arm of TV5, announced that it will air the Miss World Philippines Pageant live from the Manila Hotel in late June. The two beauty pageants used to be under one charity foundation, the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc., which recently lost the Miss World franchise.
Read more on Rappler and Interaksyon.
Elections in East Timor begins on Monday, April 16, as it prepares to bid the United Nations peacekeeping forces goodbye. Nobel Prize-winning incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta failed to make the cut in the first round last March, which was one of the series of landmark events for this young democracy. Voters will be choosing between two heroes of the 24-year war against Indonesian occupation.
Read more on Rappler and BBC.
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