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Powerful heirs in our Asian neighbors take centerstage in today’s news, as media reports on Crown Prince Naruhito possibly assuming Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne in January 2019, while prosecutors in South Korea question Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong as suspect in the bribery probe involving President Park Geun-Hye’s close associate.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte wins with his executive order that ensures all Filipinos are given access to a whole range of contraceptions. He loses, however, in his plan to increase the social security contributions of working Filipinos to fund the increase in retirees’ pension – it turns out that’s illegal.
The developer of a proposed Spongebob-themed resort in Palawan takes back its announcement that it will have restaurants 20 feet underwater. Amid an online petition by environmentalists to stop the project, the firm now says all the developments it plans are on land.
Here are the big stories you shouldn’t miss:
Seven in 10 Filipinos disagree that martial law is necessary to solve the pressing national problems, a December 2016 Pulse Asia survey shows. The polling firm’s president notes that disagreement with the need to impose martial law increased by 10 percentage points from September. The respondents were asked to express their agreement or disagreement to this statement: “Candidly speaking, it may be necessary now to have martial law to resolve the many crises of the nation.” Pulse Asia says opposition to a martial law declaration is the “prevailing opinion” in all geographical areas, age groups, and socioeconomic classes.
While hosting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit this year, the Philippines rejected the prospect of raising Manila’s legal victory against Beijing during the regional meeting. “We are not going to raise this issue…because there is really no useful benefit,” according to Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. He says the ruling by an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration against China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is “a final and binding decision to the parties,” and Manila has used it “as the firm legal basis for us to pursue our claims and move forward when we are able to engage China in negotiating for the implementation of that ruling.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive ensuring zero unmet needs for family planning in the country. Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial says this means “implementing the full coverage of all Filipinos to have access to the type and the commodities, contraception that they need to actually realize the family size and the spacing of the children that they want.” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia also says EO 12 allows local governments to find ways “around the TRO (temporary restraining order)” of the Supreme Court on implants. “This EO will pressure the Supreme Court to stop dillydallying on this TRO. A year and a half is too long to wait,” he says.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon questions the planned increase in the monthly contributions of more than 20 million Social Security Service members. This came after SSS chairman Amado Valdez said that starting May, there would be a corresponding increase of 1.5% in monthly premiums to counter the P1,000 pension hike approved by President Rodrigo Duterte for at least 2 million pensioners. Drilon says Republic Act 8282 or the Social Security Law of 1997 prohibits SSS to recommend increase in benefits that would require an increase in contribution. The senator explains that the SSS can only implement an increase in benefits, subject to the approval of the President, “if such increase is based on the actuarial soundness of the reserve fund” and as “such shall not require any increase in the rate contribution.”
The group planning a Nickelodeon attraction in Palawan – the Philippines last environmental frontier – backtracks on an earlier announcement that had environmentalists launching an online petition to stop it. In its January 9 announcement, Coral World Park Undersea Resorts said the facility “will also feature one-of-its-kind resort dining experience with CWP’s trademark underwater restaurants and lounges, which will be located about 20 feet below sea level with vivid views of the world beneath the ocean.” On January 11, it issued a statement, saying, “The only infrastructure in the water is floating and all developments are on land. The ‘undersea themed’ Coral World Park is land-based.”
Japan is planning for Emperor Akihito to retire and be replaced by his eldest son on January 1, 2019, reports say, as the country works on a legal framework for its first abdication in 200 years. Akihito, 83, expressed a desire in August to abdicate after nearly 3 decades on the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing his advancing age and weakening health. Major national newspapers – the Yomiuri, Asahi, Mainichi, and Nikkei – cited unnamed sources as saying Crown Prince Naruhito, 56, would succeed his father on New Year’s Day 2019.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong was grilled by South Korean prosecutors Thursday after becoming a suspect in a widening probe into the corruption and influence-peddling scandal engulfing impeached South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, prosecutors say. The affair centers on Park’s secret confidante Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of using her ties to Park to coerce top firms into “donating” tens of millions of dollars to two non-profit foundations which Choi then used as her personal ATMs. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics and the son of the Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-Hee, is also accused of committing perjury during a parliamentary hearing last month into the affair, Yonhap news agency reports.