South East of the Philippines Mayon Volcano increased in volcanic earthquakes; Officials maintain Alert level 3

Mayon Volcano

Luke 21:11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.

Important Takeaways:

  • PHIVOLCS: Mayon volcanic earthquakes up, lava flows ‘bulked up’
  • Slow effusion of lava from Mayon Volcano’s crater continued to feed and bulk up established lava flows amid an increase in volcanic earthquakes, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said Wednesday.
  • “Respectively, these lava flows have maintained distal lengths of approximately 2.8 kilometers, 2.4 kilometers and 600 meters from the crater,” it said.
  • PHIVOLCS also recorded 304 volcanic earthquakes and 137 rockfall events over the past 24 hours. The number of volcanic earthquakes was higher compared to the 267 recorded the previous day.
  • Three pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) and 30 ashing events that lasted 20 to 40 seconds were also recorded.
  • “The combined seismic energy release of these, however, has not increased beyond the trend of effusive activity,” PHIVOLCS said.
  • “Alert Level 3 is maintained over Mayon Volcano, which means that it is currently in a relatively high level of unrest as magma is at the crater and hazardous eruption within weeks or even days is possible,” PHIVOLCS said.

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Philippine volcano shows signs of calming, but danger remains

By Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – A Philippine volcano that has been spewing ash for days appeared to be calming down on Thursday, but seismologists said the danger of an eruption remained high and authorities warned evacuees not to return to their homes.

Some residents took advantage of what they perceived as a lull in the activity of Taal, one of country’s most active and deadliest volcanoes, to return home even though a 14 kms (nine mile) exclusion zone remained in place.

“We are analyzing what this seeming calm of the volcano means,” Maria Antonia Bornas, chief science research specialist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), told reporters.

The lake inside Taal has dried up, Bornas said, which was to be expected since it began spewing lava fountains a day after it shot giant clouds of ash miles into the air on Sunday.

Phivolcs said volcanic activity had “generally waned to weak emission of steam-laden plumes”. Even so, it had recorded more than 100 tremors since Wednesday, meaning magma was still rising.

More than 53,000 residents have abandoned their homes around Taal to take shelter in evacuation centers, but thousands more are refusing to leave or have already drifted back to check on their animals and possessions.

Power has been restored in some areas in nearby Tagaytay city where business owners were cleaning away the ash and preparing to start trading again.

Although Taal is one of the world’s smallest active volcanoes at only 311 meters (1,020 feet) high, it can be deadly. One eruption killed more than 1,300 people in 1911.

Taal has erupted more than 30 times in the past five centuries, with the most recent in 1977. The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.

(Additional reporting by Jay Ereno in Cavite; Editing by Stephen Coates)

North Korea threat is ‘critical, imminent,’ Japan tells U.S., South Korea

People watch a television broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing a missile that flew over Japan's northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean, in Seoul, South Korea, September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Phil Stewart

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Philippines (Reuters) – The threat from North Korea has grown to a “critical and imminent level” and the United States, Japan and South Korea must address the matter, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told his U.S. and South Korean counterparts in talks on Monday.

Onodera’s remarks underscored the deep concern in Tokyo after North Korean weapons tests, including test firing missiles over Japan, as Pyongyang seeks to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States.

His comments broke from more measured language on Monday by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-Moo, as the three men met on the sidelines of a gathering of Asian defense chiefs in the Philippines.

“(The) threat posed by North Korea has grown to the unprecedented, critical and imminent level. Therefore, we have to take calibrated and different responses to meet with that level of threat,” he said, speaking through a translator, at the start of talks in the Philippines.

South Korea’s Song also acknowledged that “North Korea’s provocative behavior is becoming worse and worse,” in public remarks before reporters were escorted out of the meeting room.

Mattis renewed sharp criticism of North Korea’s tests, saying they “threaten regional and global security.”

Mattis, who kicked off a week-long trip to the region on Monday, has been eager to emphasize diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully as escalating tension between Washington and Pyongyang stoked fears of ‘armed confrontation.’

Asked about his conversation with Onodera after the two met earlier in the day, before joining South Korea’s Song, Mattis said they discussed “maintaining stability and peace in support of the diplomats.”

Meanwhile, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he is willing to travel to North Korea on behalf of the Trump administration to help diffuse the situation, the New York Times reported.

Mattis has been more cautious in his public remarks than U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been locked in a war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, threatening to destroy North Korea if necessary to defend the United States and its allies.

Kim has blasted Trump as “mentally deranged.”



Mattis is at the start of a week-long trip to Asia and will attend meetings hosted by defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Philippines.

ASEAN defense ministers, in a joint statement, expressed “grave concern” over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and urged the reclusive country to meet its international obligations and resume communications.

They underscored the “need to maintain peace and stability in the region” and called “for the exercise of self-restraint and the resumption of dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the Korean peninsula.”

Mattis’ trip, which will include a stop in Thailand, comes before Trump’s first visit to Asia next month, including a stop in China.

Trump has been pressuring China to do more to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear program. China is North Korea’s neighbor and biggest trading partner.

Mattis, while in the Philippines, said he will commend the military for defeating insurgents in Marawi City on the islandof Mindanao.

The Philippines said on Monday it has ended five months of military operations in Marawi after a fierce and unfamiliar urban war that marked the country’s biggest security crisis in years.

Some experts see the Marawi insurgency as a prelude to a more ambitious bid by Islamic State loyalists to exploit Mindanao’s poverty and use its jungles and mountains as a base to train, recruit and launch attacks in the region.

“It was a tough fight,” Mattis told reporters on his flight to the Philippines, adding he thought the Philippines’ military had sent “a very necessary message to the terrorists.”

On Thursday, Mattis will lead the U.S. delegation inThailand for the cremation rites for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.


(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jeffrey Benkoe)


Duterte says once threw man from helicopter, would do it again

File photo - Then-local mayor of Davao city Rodrigo Duterte (R), aboard a helicopter, arrives at the provincial capitol in Tagum city, Davao del Norte, southern Philippines for the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting,

MANILA, Dec 29 (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened corrupt government officials with the prospect of being thrown out of a helicopter mid-air, warning he has done it himself before and had no qualms about doing it again.

The fiery-tempered former prosecutor said he once hurled a Chinese man suspected of rape and murder out of a helicopter.

“If you are corrupt, I will fetch you using a helicopter to Manila and I will throw you out. I have done this before, why
would I not do it again?” Duterte said during a speech to victims of a typhoon on Tuesday, a clip of which is posted on a video feed of the president’s office.

Duterte’s latest threat comes just a few weeks after he admitted killing people during his 22 years as a mayor of Davao
City, sometimes riding a motorcycle looking for “encounters to kill”.

He said those killings were part of legitimate police operations, including a hostage incident. Some senators have warned Duterte he risks impeachment over his comments.

Duterte also said six people arrested last week during a seizure of more than half a tonne of methamphetamine, known locally as “shabu”, in the capital were fortunate he was out of town.

“They were lucky I was not in Manila that time. If I had known there were that much shabu inside a house, I would
definitely kill you,” he said.

“Let’s not make any drama, I will personally gun you down if nobody else will do it.”

It was not immediately clear when or where the helicopter incident Duterte spoke of took place. His spokesman, Ernesto Abella, suggested it may not have actually happened.

“Let’s just say, ‘urban legend’,” Abella told reporters, without elaborating.

The United Nations’ top human rights envoy has called for an investigation into Duterte’s claims of killing people, to which Duterte last week responded by calling him “stupid”, an “idiot” and a “son of a bitch” who should go back to school.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)

U.S. voices concern over extra-judicial killings in Philippines

Relatives of slain people attend a Senate hearing investigating drug-related killings at the Senate headquarters in Manila

By Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines has recorded about 1,800 drug-related killings since President Rodrigo Duterte took office seven weeks ago and launched a war on narcotics, far higher than previously believed, according to police figures.

Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa told a Senate committee on Monday that 712 drug traffickers and users had been killed in police operations since July 1.

Police were also investigating 1,067 other drug-related killings, Dela Rosa said, without giving details. The comments came a day after Duterte lashed out at the United Nations for criticizing the wave of deaths.

As recently as Sunday, the number of suspected drug traffickers killed in Duterte’s war on drugs had been put at about 900 by Philippine officials. But this number included people who died since Duterte won the May 9 presidential election.

Duterte said in a bizarre and strongly worded late-night news conference on Sunday the Philippines might leave the United Nations and invite China and others to form a new global forum, accusing it of failing to fulfill its mandate. [L3N1B202G]

However, his foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, said on Monday the Philippines would remain a U.N. member and described the president’s comments as expressions of “profound disappointment and frustration”.

“We are committed to the U.N. despite our numerous frustrations and disappointments with the international agency,” Yasay told a news conference.

Last week, two U.N. human rights experts urged Manila to stop the extra-judicial executions and killings.

Yasay said Duterte has promised to uphold human rights in the fight against drugs and has ordered the police to investigate and prosecute offenders. He criticized the U.N. rapporteurs for “jumping to an arbitrary conclusion that we have violated human rights of people”.

“It is highly irresponsible on their part to solely rely on such allegations based on information from unnamed sources without proper substantiation,” he said of the United Nations.

Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of the president, started a two-day congressional inquiry into the killings on Monday, questioning top police and anti-narcotics officials to explain the “unprecedented” rise in killings.

“I am disturbed that we have killings left and right as breakfast every morning,” she said.

“My concern does not only revolve around the growing tally of killings reported by the police. What is particularly worrisome is that the campaign against drugs seems to be an excuse for some law enforcers and other elements like vigilantes to commit murder with impunity,” De Lima said.

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

As Duterte takes over in Philippines, police killings stir fear

A member of the Philippine National Police stands guard as he detains people as part of the "Rid the Streets Of Drinkers and Youth" operation on a main road i

By Manuel Mogato and John Chalmers

MANILA (Reuters) – Two things catch the eye in the office of Joselito Esquivel, a police colonel enforcing a national crackdown on drugs in the Philippines’ most crime-ridden district: a pair of boxing gloves in a display cabinet and an M4 assault rifle lying beside him.

“It’s all-out war,” the Quezon City officer says of a spike in killings of suspected drug dealers by police across the country since last month’s election of Rodrigo Duterte, a tough-talking city mayor, as the country’s president. “Duterte has already given the impetus for this massive operation.”

Duterte has vowed to wipe out drug crime within six months but, according to Chito Gascon, head of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the aggressive rhetoric behind his promises has already instilled a sense of impunity among the police.

“Basically, you have Mr. Duterte saying: ‘It’s okay, I’ve got your back’,” said Gascon.

On average, at least one person has been shot dead by police or anonymous vigilantes every day since the May 9 election that swept Duterte to power, an escalation from the first four months of the year when the rate was about two a week.

Handwritten warning signs have been left on some corpses.

Duterte, who will be inaugurated on Thursday for a six-year term, has cheered the police on: after a druglord was killed in a northern province recently, he traveled there to congratulate them and hand over a reward worth about $6,000.

Critics, including leaders of the influential Roman Catholic church and human rights advocates, fear a spiral of violence could lie ahead for the Philippines if vigilantism and summary executions become an accepted norm after Duterte takes office.

“My concern is that instead of law and order, what we will see is lawlessness and fear,” said Gascon. “What will result is an increase in the body-bag count.”

On Monday, Duterte branded as “stupid” human rights groups and lawmakers who have complained about his draconian plans to crush crime and re-introduce the death penalty.

“When you kill someone, rape, you should die,” he told his last public meeting as mayor of Davao City, where death squads have killed hundreds of drug-pushers, petty criminals and even street children since 1998, according to rights groups.

Duterte denies any involvement in the vigilante killings.

A political outsider whose coarse defiance of the traditional ruling class has drawn comparisons with Donald Trump, Duterte has even figured in commentaries on Britain’s vote to leave the European Union as an example of a global trend towards populism triumphing over the establishment.


Duterte’s pick to be the country’s police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, concedes that some recent killings may have been carried out by officers involved in the drugs business who were covering their tracks so that the new president does not go after them.

“That could be true,” he told Reuters. “Some police officers are shifting from drug protectors to drug punishers.”

But dela Rosa added that so much work towards wiping out drug crime has been accomplished recently that his job will be easy when he takes over at the end of this week.

Railing against critics, he said most of the victims in the recent wave of killings were shot by police in self-defense.

“I have no problem how many people die in legitimate police operations, the police have a right to defend themselves,” he said. “We are police officers, we are not hard killers.”

Only two of the roughly 60 recent killings took place in Quezon City, a crowded and gritty part of sprawling Metro Manila that has the country’s highest crime rate. Most were in areas outside the capital that are less intensively policed.

Esquivel, the officer in Quezon City, said his force has also adopted a softer tack by inviting drug peddlers and addicts to surrender and go into rehabilitation. Just last week, over 1,000 gave themselves up there, he said.

Despite that gentler approach, police in the Philippines are open about their readiness to use guns.

Outside Esquivel’s headquarters there is a police firing range and a banner cheerily announces a monthly “shoot fest”, a contest for officers where sometimes winners receive a gun.

According to data from the University of Sydney, the number of guns in the Philippines is a small fraction of the total in the United States, but Filipinos seem much more inclined to use them.

Gun deaths per 100,000 people in the United States was at 10.54 in 2014, but the Philippines’ rate of 7.2 in 2008, the last year for which figures were available, was not far behind.


Duterte has predicted that if the tide of drug addiction in the Philippines is not pushed back, it will become a narco-state.

In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia, and according to a U.S. State Department report, 2.1 percent of Flipinos aged 16 to 64 use the drug, which is known locally as “shabu”.

There appears to be support in the Philippines for Duterte’s uncompromising line on criminals.

When a suspected rapist was killed in custody recently, the CHR raised concerns, but they were lost amid an outpouring of sympathy for the police on social and mainstream media.

Still, many people across the country are feeling anxious.

“There is a sense of fear because what was done to the hardened drug couriers, users and manufacturers could be done to you,” said Winston Boston, a 49-year-old financial adviser in Manila. “Anyone could just be accosted.”

(Additional reporting by; Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

China slams Philippines definition of South China Sea ‘reef’

Still image from a United States Navy video purportedly shows Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Fiery Cross

BEIJING (Reuters) – As Asia’s biggest security summit is set to convene, China on Friday accused the Philippines of seeking to negate its sovereignty in the South China Sea by describing Taiping Island as a reef and not an island in Manila’s territorial court case.

Tensions in the South China Sea are set to dominate the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) starting Friday, exposing a deepening rivalry between the United States and China ahead of a landmark legal ruling over the disputed area in the Hague.

Beijing refuses to recognize the case lodged by the Philippines with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague over territorial claims in the South China Sea and says such disputes should be resolved through bilateral talks.

Manila is challenging the legality of China’s claim there, in part by arguing that no land mass in the Spratly archipelago, including Itu Aba, known as Taiping Island in Chinese, can legally be considered a life-sustaining island.

That would mean it cannot hold rights to a 200 nautical mile (370 km) exclusive economic zone.

“The Philippines’ attempt to define Taiping Island as a ‘reef’ exposes that the goal of its arbitration case is to try to negate China’s sovereignty and related rights over the Spratly Islands,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

“This is a violation of international law and completely unacceptable,” Hua said in a statement posted to the ministry’s website.

Chinese fishermen had historically lived on Itu Aba year-round, and fished, dug wells, cultivated plants and constructed buildings, all evidence that it was an island capable of sustaining human life and economic activity, Hua said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the waters.

Self-ruled Taiwan controls Itu Aba, which some analysts believe has the strongest claim to island status and an economic zone. Late last year it finished a $100 million port upgrade on Itu Aba, which has an airstrip, a hospital and fresh water.

China, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan, has appeared unruffled by Taiwan’s upgrading work on Itu Aba. Military strategists say that is because it could fall into China’s hands should it ever take over Taiwan.

Taiwan in May called on the international court not to make a ruling on the legal status of Itu Aba in the South China Sea case if the judges don’t visit first to see for themselves it can sustain life.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)