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Thrilla in Manila: Duterte vs Pacquiao

Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking president of the Philippines, pulls no punches with his political opponents. But this time he's picking on a popular rival who speaks softly yet can actually throw a jab or two himself: boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao. Less than 10 months out from next year's presidential election, a recent public feud between the two could usher in an epic slugfest for the top job.

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What We're Watching: Duterte's threat, West Africa's single currency, Raisi's hard line

Philippines' choice — jab or jail: As more countries get their hands on COVID vaccines, many are coming up with interesting schemes to convince skeptics to get the shot. But if you're in the Philippines, tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte has the ultimate tough-love "incentive": he says he'll throw you in prison if you refuse your shot. A government spokesperson immediately sought to clarify Duterte's threatening comment, reassuring Filipinos that turning down a jab is not — yet — a criminal offense. This comes as the country's vaccination drive remains very slow, having fully inoculated only 2 percent of its population, in part due to high levels of vaccine hesitancy. Many Filipinos are turning down the Chinese shots provided by Duterte's pal President Xi Jinping because they perceive them as less effective and less trustworthy than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are scarce in the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Philippines continues to suffer one of Southeast Asia's worst COVID outbreaks.

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What We're Watching: Africa desperate for vaccines, US-EU truce on airplanes, ICC probes Duterte

Africa is running out of vaccines: Africa has received fewer vaccines than any other continent, and the results are now showing. Faced with a third wave of infection, many African countries say that cases are soaring and that vaccine deliveries from the WHO-managed COVAX facility remain sluggish, in large part because of shortages from Indian drug manufacturers. South Africa, Namibia, and Uganda say that their healthcare systems are inundated with COVID cases; ICU beds are scarce, and COVID patients are dying while waiting for hospital beds. To date, just 0.6 percent of Africa's 1.3 billion people are fully vaccinated, and new variants are spreading, making containment across the continent even harder. (Cases in the South African province of Gauteng, home to the hubs of Johannesburg and Pretoria, where South Africa's more transmissible COVID strain has run rampant, have doubled over the past week, and doctors are bracing for a surge in deaths.) Meanwhile, the G7 countries agreed this week to send 1 billion COVID doses to poor countries, but experts warn that these may not arrive in Africa before most states' supplies run dry.

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What We're Watching: French and Brits fight over fish, Nigeria's insecurity, Duterte cozies up to China

Paris-London face-off at sea: France and the UK are at loggerheads in the high seas this week over post-Brexit fishing access in Jersey, an island off the English Channel. Furious at regulations that they say makes it harder to fish in these lucrative waters, dozens of French fishing boats amassed near the Channel Island, threatening to block access to the port. In response, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson deployed two naval vessels — a move critics say was an unnecessary escalation, and an attempt by the PM to flex his muscles and bolster the Tory vote ahead of Thursday's regional election. France, for its part, sent its own naval ship and threatened to cut off Jersey's electricity supply, 90 percent of which comes from French underwater cables. Fishing rights was one of the final sticking points of Brexit trade negotiations, an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when the UK joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. Though an UK-EU Brexit agreement was finally reached in December 2020, it's clear that there are still thorny issues that need to be resolved.

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China makes a big move in the South China Sea

The Philippines on Monday demanded China withdraw a massive fishing fleet — presumably commanded by the Chinese navy — from waters that Manila has exclusive economic rights over in the South China Sea. Beijing, unsurprisingly, denied any involvement. But there's more to the latest milestone in China's increasingly aggressive strategy to assert its claims in one of the world's most disputed waterways.

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What We’re Watching: Facebook refriends Australia, Biden on Afghan fence, Philippine labor for COVID jabs

Facebook "refriends" Australia: Last week, Facebook abruptly blocked news from appearing on Australian users' feeds after Canberra proposed a law requiring Big Tech companies pay news outlets for sharing their content. Facebook came under fire globally for banning news sharing in Australia, including crucial public health announcements on COVID. Now, five days later, Facebook has reversed course to suddenly lift the news ban. "Facebook has re-friended Australia," Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said after speaking with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So, what changed? The two sides say they have reached a compromise, though some details remain murky. The Australian government will make several amendments to the Big Tech bill — including one that will allow Facebook to circumvent the new code and avoid hefty fines — if the social media platform shows a "significant contribution" to Australia's local journalism scene. In theory, this would require Facebook to prove it has cut enough deals with Aussie media companies to pay them for content — but what constitutes "enough" remains unclear. Frydenberg said Australia has been a "proxy battle" for the rest of the globe on Big Tech regulation. Indeed, Europe and the US have been fastidiously taking notes.

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Manila clears way for quick use of vaccine

December 03, 2020 5:00 AM

MANILA • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order yesterday granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to clear Covid-19 drugs and vaccines for emergency use.

What We’re Watching: Duterte’s meltdown, Bulgaria blocks North Macedonia, Middle East prepares for Biden

Duterte's typhoon troubles: As the Philippines struggles with the aftermath of Typhoon Vamco, which killed almost 70 people and submerged parts of the main island of Luzon, tough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte defended himself from accusations of poor disaster management by lashing out at Vice President Leni Robredo on live TV. The president, unleashing a barrage of sexist remarks at the Veep, falsely claimed that his political rival Robredo — the Philippines elects the VP separately from the president — had criticized him for being absent at the height of the storm, when Duterte was (virtually) attending a regional meeting of Southeast Asian leaders. Robredo, for her part, called the president a misogynist, and said she's not competing with him after Duterte threatened to be her "nightmare" if she ran in the next presidential election. We're watching to see if the typhoon disaster — or Duterte's meltdown about it — will make a dent in his popular support, which remains strong despite growing discontent over his handling of this latest crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

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