Asia Today: Duterte threatens martial law, more ship cases

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to declare martial law after accusing communist rebels of killing two soldiers who were escorting food and cash deliveries during a coronavirus quarantine

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte angrily threatened to declare martial law after accusing communist rebels of killing two soldiers who were escorting food and cash deliveries during a coronavirus quarantine.

Duterte also approved during a meeting with his Cabinet extending the lockdown in metropolitan Manila and several provinces and cities up to May 15, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Friday. A lockdown in the main northern Luzon region of more than 50 million people was set to expire on April 30.

“I’m warning everybody and putting the armed forces and the police on notice that I might declare martial law. There will be no turning back,” Duterte said in a televised speech beamed nationwide. “I have two more years. I will try to finish all of you, including you the legal (fronts), you should go and hide.”

Duterte renewed his accusations against the New People’s Army guerrillas, who he said have extorted money from big companies and stolen firearms of slain soldiers in an insurgency that has lasted more than a half century. The rebels have denied his accusations and said they were helping villagers cope with the pandemic.

Roque specified cities and provinces where lockdowns, which the government calls “community quarantines,” can be eased and allow the regulated reopening of some essential businesses and public areas. Officials have warned of a severe impact on the economy if massive lockdowns last for months and financial aid depletes government revenues.

The Philippines has reported nearly 7,000 cases and 462 deaths from COVID-19. It’s among the highest in Southeast Asia but many believe the toll is higher given limited coronavirus testing, especially in provincial and rural regions.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— MORE CRUISE SHIP CASES: An Italian cruise ship docked in Nagasaki, Japan, now has 91 crew infected after 43 more cases were confirmed, local officials said Friday. The outbreak on the Costa Atlantica surfaced Tuesday with one sick crew member and all 623 are being tested. The ship has been docked since January for repairs and maintenance by Mitsubishi Heavy Industry. Officials suspect the sick crew members contracted the virus while in town or when the ship switched crew. Japan’s health minister says the central government and Italy were to discuss repatriating healthy crew members, as well as an earliest possible departure of two other Italian cruise ships also docked in Nagasaki.

— MASKS FOR VETERANS: South Korea says it will send 1 million masks to foreign veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War while its own virus caseload slows. South Korea since early March banned mask exports and rationed the national supply. But Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said supply has stabilized enough for rationing to be eased and the country can send masks overseas without disrupting domestic supply. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported six more cases but no new deaths, bringing national totals to 10,703 and 240 fatalities.


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