Rappler Newscast | March 27, 2013
Today on Rappler.
- For the first time ever, the Philippines gets an investment grade rating.
- Officials say the US ship that crashed into the Tubbataha reef will be out as early as April 1.
- North Korea cuts its military hotline to South Korea.
Story 1: A FIRST: INVESTMENT GRADE RATING FOR PH
The Philippines wins its first ever investment grade debt rating from global credit rating firm Fitch.
Fitch upgrades the country’s credit rating to BBB- from BB+.
It marks the first time the Philippines joins the list of A-lister countries considered safe for investments.
An investment grade means the Philippines, as a borrowing country, can pay its debt.
This lowers its borrowing costs and generates savings, which can be spent on social services.
In a statement Wednesday, Fitch adds a stable outlook and cites a robust economy and improved fiscal management.
Fitch says, “The Philippine economy has been resilient, expanding 6.6% in 2012 amid a weak global economic backdrop.”
The agency also cites improvements in fiscal management during the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda says the upgraded status does not only mean lower interest rates on the country’s debt.
EDWIN LACIERDA, PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON: This is an institutional affirmation of our good governance agenda: Sound fiscal management and integrity-based leadership has led to a resurgent economy in the face of uncertainties in the global arena. Truly, what was once known as the perennial laggard of Asia is taking off, and is accelerating towards its goal of an equitably progressive society.
Lacierda also says the passing of the VAT reform law was the Arroyo administration’s only contribution to the upgraded rating.
Other international credit rating firms -- Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investors Service -- still rate the country one notch below investment grade.
Story 2: KIRAM KIN KILLED IN SABAH
A relative of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III is allegedly killed by Malaysian authorities in Sabah.
Princess Jacel Kiram says the sultan’s uncle, Ustadz Jamjam Sali, was accosted and killed in Lahad Datu on Sunday.
Kiram says, “Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram called us yesterday afternoon to inform us about the incident."
It’s unclear how Sali was killed or if he was armed during the incident.
Sulu sultan spokesperson Abraham Idjirani also confirms the news, adding in Filipino, “They should leave the Sultan's relatives who didn't join the Sulu Sultanate Royal Army.”
Idjirani quotes Agbimuddin saying Malaysian authorities arrested at least 20 of the sultan's relatives.
He adds, they will form a legal team of volunteer lawyers to help Filipino detainees in Sabah.
Story 3: USS GUARDIAN OUT OF TUBBATAHA BY APRIL 1
The minesweeper that crashed into the Tubbataha reef may be removed as early as April 1 after the crew begins dismantling the hull Tuesday.
In a statement, the US Pacific Fleet says salvage personnel started cutting the hull of the USS Guardian after the bow section was successfully lifted and transferred to a barge.
Salvage operations officer in charge Captain Mark Matthews says, "Preparing the ship for this sectioning has been extremely challenging."
Park superintendent Angelique Songco and Gregg Yan from the World Wide Fund for Nature say this means the vessel may be gone from the reef as early as April 1.
Yan says the Tubbataha management office is forming a team of experts that will conduct coral damage assessment as soon as the ship is pulled out.
The US Pacific Fleet says no fuel leaked since the USS Guardian ran aground on January 17.
Story 4: US SUPREME COURT CAUTIOUS ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
The US Supreme Court treads cautiously as it considers same-sex marriage, with justices appearing hesitant to deliver a historic verdict on the issue.
The Supreme Court will take months to issue a ruling but several justices indicate they will be in no hurry to reach a verdict that could extend the right to same-sex marriage to the entire country.
Justice Anthony Kennedy expresses his reluctance for the Court to step into --quote "uncharted waters" on a case involving Californian law.
Kennedy says, "We have five years of information to weigh against 2,000 years of history or more."
But he also expresses sympathy for an estimated 40,000 children living in California with same-sex couples.
He says, "They want their parents to have full recognition and full status."
Kennedy’s remarks are closely watched as he is often the swing vote on the nine-member bench.
Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative, also speaks of a "lack of data" on same-sex marriage since it was first legalized in The Netherlands in 2001.
Liberal justices argue it is discriminatory to define marriage solely by whether a couple can bear children.
Story 5: NORTH KOREA SETS TOP LEADERSHIP MEET
North Korea announces plans for a top leadership meeting at the height of tense relations with South Korea.
The Korean Central News Agency says the North’s top leaders will meet sometime in the next few days to discuss an unspecified “important issue.”
News of the meeting comes a day after North Korea's military put its rocket units on combat ready status, threatening to strike the continental United States, Hawaii and Guam, as well as South Korea.
The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea hits South Korea's new president, Park Geun-Hye.
The statement accuses Park of slander and provocation.
The committee says, "If she keeps to the road of confrontation... she will meet a miserable ruin."
Last week, the US and South Korean militaries signed a new pact providing for joint military response to provocative action by North Korea.
Story 6: NORTH KOREA CUTS MILITARY HOTLINE WITH SOUTH
North Korea says it’s cutting a military hotline to South Korea, suspending all direct inter-government and military contact.
The Korean Central News Agency quotes a military official saying, "From now, the North-South military communications will be cut off."
Severing the military hotline could affect operations at the Seoul-funded Kaesong industrial complex in the North.
The hotline was used to organize movement of people and vehicles.
Several weeks ago North Korea also cut a Red Cross hotline used for government-to-government communications in the absence of diplomatic relations.
Story 7: THE wRap: YOUR WORLD IN ONE READ
At number 3, Pope Francis will continue to stay at the Vatican guesthouse "until further notice" instead of moving into the official papal residence.
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi says the new pope will remain in the 120-room guesthouse among other members of the clergy.
Pope Francis has been taking his meals in the common dining room of the guesthouse and celebrating mass with Vatican employees in its main chapel.
At number 6, Freak blizzards and freezing weather over the first few days of spring hit Europe and parts of the United States, triggering fatal cases of hypothermia, power outages and transport chaos.
In Poland, five people died from exposure as temperatures plunge to minus 24 degrees Celsius.
Bad weather also kills at least two people on the British mainland where media calls the unseasonably icy month "Miserable March."
A huge snow storm also wreaks havoc in the US, stretching from St. Louis, Missouri in the mid-west to Washington D.C. on Monday, grounding hundreds of flights.
And at number 10, A few weeks after allowing tourists in North Korea to use 3G connectivity to browse the Internet on phones, the country once again revoked that privilege.
Koryo Tours announces "3G access is no longer available for tourists to the DPRK."
Tourists can still buy SIM cards to make international calls but Internet access will not be available.
Story 8: LOLONG DIED OF CRUELTY
Six weeks ago, the world's largest crocodile in captivity - Lolong - was found dead inside its pen in a wildlife sanctuary in Agusan del Sur.
The reason? Lolong died because of cruelty.
Carlos Santamaria reports.
In September 2011, a 6.14 meter long crocodile was caught in Agusan del Sur.
Nicknamed Lolong, it was the world's largest crocodile in captivity.
Thousands flock to the small town of Bunawan to see Lolong, trapped in a pen with a tiny pond.
Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau officials warned the local government the conditions under which Lolong was being kept were downright cruel.
A year and a half later Lolong dies from multiple organ failure caused by the stress of his enclosure.
DR. MUNDITA LIM, DIRECTOR, PAWB: The enclosure was not big enough for him, the pond not big or deep enough for him to swim around.
Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde was told Lolong needed more space, but for 18 months he failed to build a bigger pen for the crocodile.
Elorde also ignored his promise to set the reptile free.
DR. MUNDITA LIM, DIRECTOR, PAWB: We still had that option open to eventually release Lolong back into his natural habitat because there were reports that there was still a remaining are in Agusan Marsh that could be established as a sanctuary just for crocodiles.
Lolong's necropsy results show the crocodile had lost most of its claws and upper teeth from scratching against the concrete floor of the pond that was too small for it to swim in.
It also suffered muscular atrophy and was crushed by its own weight from spending too much time out of the water.
The caretakers were emptying the pond so tourists willing to pay extra would see Lolong out of the water.
A crocodile expert says Lolong should never have been enclosed in a pen.
DR. ANGEL ALCALA, FORMER DENR SECRETARY: At this present time, considering the number of these animals in the wild, they should not anymore be captured, removed from their natural habitat and placed in an enclosure...You will be putting to much stress and shortening their life.
Republic Act 9147 says that wildlife should be managed by the PAWB, but the government agency lacks resources to make local officials comply with their instructions.
DR. ANGEL ALCALA, FORMER DENR SECRETARY: The DENR and its offices have allowed local government units to do something along the lines of taking care of wildlife, but i think there are no specific protocols in the case of specific, unique animals like Lolong. I think this is needed because an animal like Lolong, a natural treasure, should have been under the care of the relevant government agency, and that is the DENR.
Authorities say they have learned their lesson.
They promise next time, they will require strict enforcement of their guidelines so the next Lolong will live not just fifty, but a hundred years.
Carlos Santamaria, Rappler, Manila
Newscast production staff
|EXECUTIVE PRODUCER / WRITER||Lilibeth Frondoso|
|ASSOCIATE PRODUCER / PUBLISHER||Rodneil Quiteles|
|HEAD WRITER / PROMPTER||Katerina Francisco|
|MASTER EDITOR / PLAYBACK||Vicente Roxas|
|TECHNICAL DIRECTOR / CAMERAMAN||Charlie Salazar|