March 28th, 2012
04:29 AM ET

Hong Kong court overturns ruling allowing maids to seek residency

The Hong Kong Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a historic ruling that would have allowed overseas maids to seek permanent resident status in the affluent Chinese territory.

The decision is a setback for the rights of tens of thousands of maids from countries like the Philippines and Indonesia who often spend years working in the homes of Chinese and foreigners living in Hong Kong.

One Filipino maid, Evangeline Banao Vallejos, who has been working in Hong Kong since 1986, mounted a legal challenge to a government ordinance that excluded domestic helpers from outside Hong Kong from obtaining permanent residency.

She and her lawyers argued that denying maids the possibility of seeking permanent status was unconstitutional under Hong Kong's Basic Law, which sets out the core rights of those living in the city.

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Filed under: China • Hong Kong • Indonesia • Philippines
Military mobilizes as death toll climbs in the Philippines
Residents carrying their belongings cross a damaged road, part of a national highway in the village of Tuway, Philippines on Tuesday.
February 7th, 2012
05:33 AM ET

Military mobilizes as death toll climbs in the Philippines

The death toll climbed to 48 on Tuesday from a strong earthquake that rocked the Visayas region of the Philippines, state media reported.

Another 92 people were reported missing as the nation's military scrambled 1,000 government troops to deal with the disaster, according to the Philippines News Agency.

"We have dispatched two ... choppers from Western Mindanao Command to help in the relief operations," military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said.

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Philippines issues local tsunami alert after quake hits between islands
Residents scamper to safety after a 6.8 earthquake hit Cebu City on Monday.
February 6th, 2012
12:57 AM ET

Philippines issues local tsunami alert after quake hits between islands

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Monday off the third-largest island in the Philippines, prompting the country to issue a tsunami alert for the coastlines near the epicenter.

The quake struck about 11:49 a.m. (10:49 p.m. Sunday ET) about 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the coastal city of Dumaguete on the Philippine island of Negros, the USGS said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a level 2 tsunami alert for areas along the Tanon Strait between Negros and the neighboring island of Cebu.

That's a notch below the highest tsunami alert of level 3, which requires evacuation of the affected areas, a spokeswoman for the institute said.

She said the institute was advising people to watch out for unusual waves and to stay away from the shoreline.

No tsunami warning was issued for the wider Pacific region and there was no tsunami threat to Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

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Filed under: Earthquake • Natural Disasters • Philippines • Tsunami • Weather • World
January 9th, 2012
12:03 AM ET

Security stepped up at Philippines procession after terror threats

Authorities in the Philippines say they have stepped up security measures for a huge religious procession taking place in Manila on Monday after receiving information suggesting it may be the target of a terrorist attack.

"We have serious threats from trustworthy and credible information sources that the Feast of the Black Nazarene will be attacked," Cesar Garcia, a presidential national security adviser, said Monday. "We are told that almost nine suspected terrorists from Mindanao, southern Philippines, are already in the capital and can carry out the attack."

The Feast of the Black Nazarene is an annual Catholic festival in the Philippines during which millions of devotees join a procession centered around a wooden statue of Jesus Christ.

President Benigno Aquino said Sunday that he had ordered law enforcement agencies, including the military, to ramp up security efforts around the procession, according to the official Philippines News Agency (PNA).

"I call on our fellow citizens to exercise the maximum vigilance and discipline leading up to, and during, the procession," the news agency cited Aquino as saying.

Mindanao is a predominantly Muslim autonomous region, which was set up in the 1990s to quell armed uprisings by people seeking an independent Muslim homeland in the Philippines, a predominantly Christian country.

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December 27th, 2011
04:14 AM ET

More rain forecast for storm-battered Phillipines

The Philippine government said Tuesday that fresh rain in Visayas and Mindanao could set off flash floods and landslides, bringing the potential for more misery in places already struggling to recover from a deadly tropical storm.

Eastern Luzon will experience cloudy skies with scattered rain, while the rest of the island will have mostly cloudy skies with light rain, the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) predicted.

On Tuesday, the national government offered a new death toll - 1,453 - then revised it again based on a count by Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. The lower count means the death toll from the storm that lashed the southern Philippines more than a week remained unchanged from Monday: 1,249.

The bodies of people swept out to sea by flash floods from the storm have washed up on nearby beaches and islands, Maj. Reynaldo Balido, the military assistant for operations at the Office of Civil Defense, said Monday.

The authorities have enlisted the help of local fishermen to help the continuing search and rescue efforts for the scores of people who remain missing, Balido said by telephone from the island of Mindanao, the scene of the worst devastation. He added that the fishermen volunteered, since many of them had lost friends and relatives in the disaster.

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Filed under: Flooding • Philippines • Weather • World
December 26th, 2011
12:50 AM ET

Casualties from storm in Philippines continue to mount

The death toll from the tropical storm that lashed the southern Philippines just over a week ago has risen further, the government said Monday, as hundreds of thousands of people continue to receive assistance from evacuation centers in the stricken region.

The number of dead has increased to 1,171 from 1,100 over the weekend, the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement posted on its website. And the number of people injured as a result of the storm has more than doubled to 4,594 from 1,979 at the weekend, the council said, putting more pressure on already stretched relief agencies.

The United Nations said last week that the storm has created "huge" humanitarian needs on the island of Mindanao, the scene of the worst devastation. It has made an appeal to raise $28 million to deal with the immediate problems in the area, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced in and around the port cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

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December 18th, 2011
03:03 AM ET

Death toll from Philippine storm reaches 548; hundreds missing

Devastation from a tropical storm that deluged the southern Philippines mounted on Sunday, with the death toll rising to 548, military officials said.

About 370 people are missing, the Philippine Red Cross said, after entire villages were swept away. The agency offered a different death toll than the military - 532 - but it was not clear why.

The stench of death permeated the air as aid workers scrambled to help survivors.

The vast majority of the dead were found in the port cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, according to military and disaster officials. Water-logged bodies from washed-away villages floated at the shoreline, on the northwestern coast of Mindanao island.

Five people were killed in a landslide, but virtually all others died in flash flooding after Tropical Storm Washi, which is called Sendong locally.

Survivors in the hardest-hit areas now contend with no electricity and a lack of clean drinking water. One woman in Cagayan de Oro collected murky brown floodwater in a bucket, just meters away from where a destroyed vehicle was submerged.

Flash flooding overnight Friday - following 10 hours of rain - fueled the devastation. As much as 20 centimeters (8 inches) of rain fell within 24 hours in some areas.

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Filed under: Flooding • Philippines • Weather • World • World Update
December 12th, 2011
02:34 AM ET

Kidnapped 14-year-old Filipino-American is free

A 14-year-old Filipino-American boy abducted in July by suspected Islamic militants in the Philippines is free, officials said.

Kevin Lunsmann was reunited with his mother, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said Monday, without offering additional details.

"It was a tough time. It was a tough five months," Kevin's father, Heiko, told CNN affiliate WSET, from the family home in Lynchburg, Virginia. "I'm just so happy."

Heiko Lunsmann said the boy had plotted his escape for a while, and eventually seized the opportunity some time late last week while his guards slept.

He "was spotted alone" Saturday about six miles southwest of Lamitan City on the island of Basilan, a stronghold of the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf, the official Philippines News Agency said.

Army officials turned him over to American forces in the southern Mindanao region, the Philippine government said in a statement to CNN affiliate TV 5.

The Philippine Inquirer quoted the Lamitan city mayor, Roderick Furigay, as saying Kevin walked for two days, surviving on candies his captors presumably gave him and on coconuts that he retrieved by climbing trees.

"In this holiday season nothing makes me happier than knowing that an innocent victim is returned to his family in time for holiday celebrations," Harry Thomas, the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, said in a weekend statement.

"If ever we are to be inspired by the human spirit, we should take comfort in the courage, commitment and love that the Lunsmann family exhibited during this trying ordeal," Thomas added.

Fourteen gunmen snatched Kevin, his mother, Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, and his 19-year-old cousin, Romnick Jakaria, in July while they vacationed on the island of Tictabon, authorities said. The abductors forced them to board awaiting boats, which then sped off in the direction of Basilan.

Kevin's mother was released by her captors in October. Jakaria was released last month, according to the news agency.

Basilan serves as a base for Abu Sayyaf, which wants to establish a separate state for the Philippines' minority Muslim population. The U.S. State Department considers the group a terrorist organization and says it is linked to al Qaeda. The Philippines government has been fighting to contain the militants.

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October 26th, 2011
02:12 PM ET

1 dead, 5 hurt in Philippine blast

[Updated at 2:12 p.m. ET] One person was killed and at least five others wounded in a bomb blast late Wednesday while two more improvised explosives were detonated in a village near the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, officials said.

Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo, chief of the local police force, said two bombs planted at a lottery outlet and at another site about 100 meters away were discovered. Police were in the process of detonating two of the bombs when the third device went off hitting a roadside eatery in the village of Sangali at around 9:15 p.m., about 30 kilometers east of downtown Zamboanga.

De Ocampo said the three improvised explosives were planted almost 100 meters apart from each other. He said the fatality, a civilian, was killed when he tinkered with the third improvised bomb as policemen were detonating the two other explosives.

"The civilian was killed on the spot by the powerful blast," he said.

Police had initially said two people had died in the blast but later revised the total to one dead.

[Posted at 12:37 a.m. ET] Two people were killed and at least five others wounded in a bomb blast late Wednesday in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, officials said.

Two more improvised explosives were detonated nearby, officials said.

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October 19th, 2011
07:30 AM ET

More than 700 dead as flooding hits southeast Asian countries

At least 745 people have died in flooding in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines since July, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said.

Thailand has been hit the hardest, with 315 people killed in that time frame, officials said.

Monsoon rains across Thailand have affected millions of people in 61 of its provinces, the country's Flood Relief Operation Command reported.

Cambodia, meanwhile, reported 247 dead since July.

– CNN's Kocha Olarn contributed to this report.

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Gotta Watch: Flash mobs
Inmates in the Philippines pay tribute to Michael Jackson by recreating the "Thriller" dance.
September 29th, 2011
12:10 PM ET

Gotta Watch: Flash mobs

They are a spectacle of choreographed, spontaneous dancing involving masses of people. Flash mobs take precision and planning to pull off, but when successful, they are a sight to be seen. Inspired by a recent flash mob wedding proposal that puts lots of other proposals to shame, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite flash mob dance routines.

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Filed under: Dance • Gotta Watch • Music • Philippines • Uncategorized
September 28th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

New tropical storm menaces Philippines after deadly typhoon

On the heels of a typhoon that left at least 21 people dead in the Philippines and 33 others missing, another tropical storm brewing in the Pacific is expected to hit the area within 24 hours, according to the state weather bureau.

Typhoon Nesat - referred to in the Philippines as Pedring - displaced thousands but was expected to move offshore Wednesday afternoon, the state-run Philippines News Agency reported.

A baby boy was among the 21 dead after Typhoon Nesat slammed into the Philippines on Tuesday, authorities said. Twenty-five other people were injured, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

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On the Radar: Philippine typhoon, Washington Monument, Australia military
Resident rescue a pig from a flooded Manila street on Tuesday.
September 27th, 2011
06:01 AM ET

On the Radar: Philippine typhoon, Washington Monument, Australia military

Three things you need to know today.

Philippine typhoon: As many eight people were dead and almost 2 million without power as Typhoon Nesat slammed into the Philippines with torrential rains and winds up to 87 mph.

Among the dead were a grandmother and her three grandchildren killed when a wall of their home collapsed on them, the Philippine Star reported. They were among eight killed across the country, according to a report on Inquirer.net.

In metro Manila, 1.9 million of Manila Electric Co. were without power, according to a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The typhoon, known in the Philippines as Pedring, made landfall about 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Manila about 5 a.m. Tuesday (5 p.m. Monday ET), according to the Philippine national weather agency. The storm was dumping up to 25 millimeters (1 inch) of rain per hour as it moved across the country.

Nesat was expected to cross the archipelago and head toward southeastern China.

Washington Monument: Architect/engineers will rappel down the sides of the Washington Monument on Tuesday, looking for damage caused by the August earthquake in Virginia.

The National Park Service announced Monday that experts have completed an interior assessment of the monument and found it to be structurally sound.

To get a closer look at the outside of the structure, architect/engineer/rappellers from the firm of Wiss, Janney and Elstner, the architectural firm hired by the National Park Service, will scale the outside of the structure to get a closer look.

Their "difficult-access team will install climbing ropes and safety lines on all four sides of the monument, then clip on to those lines and exit the monument from the windows at the observation level," Vogel said. Weather permitting, they will climb up the pyramidion and then descend the length of the monument looking for exterior damage.

Women in combat: Women in the Australian armed forces will be able to serve in front-line combat roles, the government said Tuesday.

The new plan will be phased in over a five-year period.

Australia's decision makes it one of only a few countries in the developed world with no restrictions for women in combat. Canada and Israel are among the other nations that allow so.

The United States prevents women in serving in certain combat roles.

21-foot monster crocodile caught
Villagers gather by the 21-foot-long crocodile after it was captured on Saturday.
September 6th, 2011
01:01 PM ET

21-foot monster crocodile caught

Wildlife authorities in the Philippines say they have captured a 21-foot-long, 2,370-pound saltwater crocodile, thought to be the largest creature of its kind now in captivity.

The croc was captured in Agusan del Sur marsh on the southern Philippine island of Mindinao, according to a report on GMA News. Hunters had been trying to capture it for 21 days, the report said. It was finally captured on Saturday by a team of about 30 men who used meat to bait it and an eight millimeter metal cable to snare it, according to an Agence-France Presse report on ABS.CBN News.

Edwin Cox Elorde, mayor of the remote town of  Bunawan near where the croc was caught, said the reptile will become the star of a nature park there, according to the AFP report.

The previous largest crocodile in captivity is an 18-footer in Australia, according to Guinness World Records.

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Filed under: Animals • Philippines
Report: Genetic breakthrough could increase value of rice by 25%
A farmer checks on rice plants at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines last year.
July 19th, 2011
09:46 AM ET

Report: Genetic breakthrough could increase value of rice by 25%

Scientists say they are close to identifying the genes responsible for the chalkiness of rice, knowledge that could lead to increasing yields of the staple crop, the International Rice Research Institute reports.

Developing chalk-free varieties of rice could increase the grain's value by 25%, according to the report.

Chalk is the white portion of the grain. During the milling process, rice with high chalkiness breaks apart more easily, reducing the amount that makes it to market.

The chalkiness of rice is a product of genetics and environment, with a few low-chalk varieties now available.

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July 11th, 2011
05:13 PM ET

Earthquake strikes Philippines

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck the Philippines early Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quake's epicenter was reported to be in Negros, about 360 miles south-southeast from Manila. The quake happened at 4:47 a.m. local time Tuesday (4:47 p.m. ET Monday), according to the USGS.

The earthquake had a depth of nearly 12 miles, the USGS said. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

 

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On the Radar: Pacific typhoon; art race in California; NHL playoffs
Typhoon Songda moves away from the Philippines on Friday.
May 27th, 2011
06:38 AM ET

On the Radar: Pacific typhoon; art race in California; NHL playoffs

Three stories to watch into the weekend.

Pacific typhoon: Typhoon Songda was weakening Friday over the western Pacific but was still expected to be a Category 3 storm when it passes near the Japanese island of Okinawa on Saturday.

The Pacific Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, forecasts Songda's maximum sustained winds to be 120 mph with gusts up to 150 mph as it approaches Okinawa, home to tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel, on Saturday. The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast Songda to be a very strong storm as it approaches Okinawa.

Significant weakening was predicted, however, as the typhoon passes southeast of Japan's main islands on Sunday.

U.S. military officials on Okinawa have banned troops from consuming alcohol during the storm, saying alcohol use in such conditions puts troops and their mission in danger.

Officials in the Philippines said Songda, also known as Chedeng, killed two people there, according to the Philippine Information Agency.

Art triathlon: Scores of artists, pilots and engineers will bring their one-of-a-kind kinetic machines to race for the glory at the 43rd annual Kinetic Grand Championship.

Billed as "The Triathlon of the Art World," the event pits human-powered art sculptures on wheels against one another in a three-day race across California's northern coast.

Pilots guiding "kinetic sculptures" ranging from gigantic tricycles to hulking metallic lobsters will traverse road, water and sand on their way from the city of Arcata to Ferndale.

NHL playoffs: The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning play Game 7 of their Eastern Conference finals Friday night in Boston.

Tampa Bay won Game 6 Wednesday at home to tie the series at three games apiece.

"Boston is 1-0 in home playoff Game 7s this year, while Tampa Bay is 1-0 on the road. Something's gotta give," writes SI.com's Adrian Dater.

Friday night's winner will take on the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup.
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Filed under: Art • California • Hockey • Japan • NHL • Philippines • Tropical weather • Weather
Super typhoon churns through Pacific, threatens Okinawa
Super Typhoon Songda, or Chedeng, is shown off the Philippines in this Thursday satellite image.
May 26th, 2011
12:12 PM ET

Super typhoon churns through Pacific, threatens Okinawa

Super Typhoon Songda ripped across the western Pacific on Thursday, dropping heavy rain on the Philippines and threatening Okinawa and the Japanese main islands with rain and damaging winds into the weekend.

Songda was a Category 5 storm late Thursday, with maximum sustained winds of 161 mph and gusts of 195 mph, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The storm was producing wave heights of 38 feet in the Pacific, forecasters said.

The forecast track for Songda put it over Okinawa on Saturday night as a Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 109 mph and gusts up 132 mph.

Okinawa is home to several U.S. military installations, including Kadena Air Base, home to nearly 18,000 Americans, and Camp Courtney, home of the III Marine Expeditionary Force and its 16,000 Marines, according to U.S. Forces Japan.

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Manny Pacquiao laces up gloves in country's fight over birth control
Manny Pacquiao, right, easily defeated Shane Mosely this month, but can he repeat in the Filipino birth control bout?
May 20th, 2011
04:05 PM ET

Manny Pacquiao laces up gloves in country's fight over birth control

Manny Pacquaio's latest fight could be much tougher than pounding on “Sugar” Shane Mosley for 12 rounds.

Fresh off his trouncing of the American welterweight contender, Pacquiao, 32 who also serves as a Sarangani representative in the Filipino Congress has entered the ring again to denounce a reproductive health bill that he and his fellow lawmakers are considering.

The bill has several controversial provisions, such as the requirement that women experiencing problems after abortions, which would still be banned, must be treated humanely and compassionately.

Pacquiao and President Benigno Aquino III, a backer of the bill, agree abortion should be outlawed, The Manila Times reported. Where they part ways is on the issue of contraception, according to Filipino media.

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Filed under: Boxing • Celebrity • Christian • Philippines • Politics • Religion • World
Philippine nuclear plant to become tourist attraction
The Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was completed in 1984 but never brought online.
May 11th, 2011
01:41 PM ET

Philippine nuclear plant to become tourist attraction

Philippine tourism officials are turning an unused nuclear power plant into a tourist attraction, the Philippine Star reports.

The $2.3 billion Bataan Nuclear Power plant was completed in 1984 but was never put into use.

The plant was built during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, but when Corazon Aquino became president in 1986, she refused to open it, saying its location near earthquake faults and an active volcano made it unsafe, according to an Agence-France Presse report.

Tourists will now get a look inside the plant and its intact reactor to see "how nuclear energy throughout the world menacingly threatens the quality of life of the people if handled incorrectly,” Department of Tourism regional director Ronald Tiotuico told the Philippine Star.

“Hopefully, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant would serve to warn the global community of the fallout disaster that struck people in the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima,” the Star quoted him as saying.

It won't be an all-nuclear tour, however. The plant will be a stop on a tour that includes historical sites and beach resorts, the Star reported.

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Filed under: Energy • Nuclear • Philippines • Travel
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