Philippine leader asks officials to ignore corruption probe

Philippine leader asks officials to ignore corruption probe

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In this photo taken from video shown at United Nations headquarters, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, president of the Philippines, remotely addresses the 76th session of the U.N. General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, Tuesday Sept. 21, 2021. (UN Web TV via … more >

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By Jim Gomez

Associated Press

Friday, October 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippine president says he will prohibit Cabinet officials from attending an ongoing Senate inquiry on suspected irregularities in massive government purchases of medical supplies in a brewing constitutional crisis.

President Rodrigo Duterte told Cabinet members in a televised meeting Thursday night that he‘ll issue a written order barring them and other officials, including three secretaries dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, from attending the inquiry.

The tough-talking president accused critical senators of using the televised hearings to gain political mileage ahead of next year’s national, local and congressional elections.

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He said Sen. Richard Gordon, who leads the inquiry, has failed to produce any evidence of corruption in government purchases of protective masks and face shields after several hearings and had berated invited guests like a “despot.”

“That power to compel people to be there does not include abuse, does not include despotic ways, does not include making a very reckless but deliberate statement which is an affront to the constitution when you say, `I will conduct the investigation until kingdom come,’” Duterte said.

If Cabinet officials ignore Senate summons and are ordered arrested for contempt, Duterte said he would order the police and the military to refrain from helping the Senate sergeant-at-arms enforce the arrests.

“I’m the commander-in-chief anyway of all uniformed personnel of government. I am ordering the police and the military and everybody to stay out of this trouble. Do not get involved, don’t follow, because we have a crisis already,” Duterte said.

Gordon’s committee has been investigating what he and other senators said were the overpricing and other possible irregularities in purchases of masks and other medical supplies from a Philippine company, the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

Registered in 2019 with a capital of 625,000 pesos ($12,500), the company managed to secure multi-billion-peso (multi-million-dollar) government contracts to supply the gear as the Duterte administration scrambled to deal with coronavirus surges last year.

A Chinese businessman, who Duterte once appointed as an economic adviser, has been linked to Pharmally as a financier of the medical supplies the company purchased from China and eventually supplied to the Philippine government, Gordon and other senators said, citing testimony from a company official.

Duterte and Pharmally officials have denied allegations the supplies were overpriced. Duterte has also said he authorized health officials to skip the required bidding to deal with the pandemic.

Duterte has shot back by publicly accusing Gordon of misusing funds as chairman of the local Red Cross, an allegation the senator dismissed. Gordon criticized Duterte for defending government and company officials who have been linked to the irregularities and said the Senate investigation wound not be deterred by the president’s threats.

China tells U.N. it will no longer finance coal power plants around the world

China tells U.N. it will no longer finance coal power plants around the world

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In this image to taken from video provided by UN Web TV, China’s President Xi Jinping remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message, Tuesday Sept. 21, 2021, at UN headquarters. (UN Web … more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to the United Nations on Tuesday that China will no longer build coal power plants in other countries, making a broader appeal for multilateral cooperation amid rising tensions with Washington.

The announcement, contained int a pre-recorded speech by Mr. Xi to the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, amounts to a policy reversal by China and appears to indicate that Beijing has yielded to months of pressure from the Biden administration to step up its efforts to battle climate change.

The Chinese leader more broadly struck a conciliatory note, largely sidestepping policy questions and recent events that have raised tensions with Washington.”One country’s success does not have to mean another country’s failure,” he said at one point. “The world is big enough to accommodate common development and progress of all countries.”

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Mr. Xi had previously vowed to eventually wean China off its own domestic use of coal for electricity generation. But Beijing in recent years has pushed ahead with billions of dollars worth of financially lucrative coal power plant construction projects in developing nations around the world.

The British-based monitor CarbonBrief has reported that China opened three-quarters of the world’s newly funded coal plants in 2020 and accounted for more than 80% of newly announced coal power projects, according to Agence France-Presse.

In April, Li Gao, head of the climate change office at China‘s Ministry of Ecology and Environment told reporters: “We cannot simply say that we’ll stop supporting coal-fired electricity plants in developing countries.”

Mr. Xi reversed couse in his U.N. speech Tuesday. “China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low carbon energy and will not build new coal fired power projects abroad.”

His remarks come weeks after former Secretary of State John Kerry, now the Biden administration’s special climate envoy, engaged in reportedly tense talks with Chinese officials during a visit to China.

Chinese officials have said they’ll strive start cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve so-called carbon neutrality by 2060 — vows Mr. Xi, himself, reiterated in his remarks Tuesday. However, Mr. Kerry is reported to have pushed for bigger commitments during the recent visit to China.

A New York Times report on the visit said U.S.-China tensions on other fronts had spilled into Mr. Kerry’s climate meetings with Chinese officials, and that Chinese officials had warned the former secretary of state that political ill will could undermine cooperation going forward.

During a subsequent conference call with reporters, the paper reported, Mr. Kerry said he had told his Chinese counterparts: “‘Hey look, climate is not ideological. It’s not partisan, it’s not a geostrategic weapon or tool, and it’s certainly not day-to-day politics. It’s a global, not bilateral, challenge.’”