Bush aide visits rebel stronghold
One of U.S.President George W. Bush's closest aides visited a Philippine rebel stronghold on Thursday and lauded U.S. efforts in countering Islamic militants there.
Karen Hughes, the State Department's undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, told reporters on the island of Jolo that U.S. operations in the southern Philippines should be a model for other parts of the world.
"I think it's a wonderful example of the way we should be conducting our operations around the world as we seek to help people have a better life and we also seek together to track down the terrorists who tried to disrupt that peaceful development," she said.
U.S. special forces are providing intelligence and training to Philippine troops combating the Abu Sayyaf, the country's deadliest Islamic militant group. They are also helping build roads and schools on Jolo, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
SAN FERNANDO, Philippines
Philippine authorities have been holding a Malaysian tugboat and its seven Indonesian and five Malaysian crewmen for over three weeks for alleged oil smuggling, officials said Thursday.
The tugboat MT Sungai Julan 1 was caught illegally unloading oil at the Poro Point special economic zone in San Fernando town, 230 kilometers northwest of Manila, said regional customs chief Edward Baltazar.
Baltazar said he issued an order for the tugboat's seizure and detention after security personnel caught the boat's crewmen in the act of siphoning oil from the tugboat to a tanker truck parked along the pier on January1.
Since then, the vessel has been detained at the port and its 12 crewmen prevented from leaving the craft.
Documents submitted to the port authority said the tugboat - which was towing a barge loaded with logs from Malaysia to China - would dock at Poro Point only to get provisions, but the crewmen apparently tried to smuggle the oil in collusion with at least two Philippine customs personnel, he said.
Differing on Myanmar
Vietnam and the Philippines on Friday differed on how firmly to coax Myanmar toward democracy, reflecting potential problems ahead on what constitutes interference into the internal affairs of other members of their 10-nation free trade zone.
Southeast Asian countries have long voiced support for a joint charter. But the proposed addition of possible sanctions or expulsion from ASEAN was likely to be a hard one to accept, particularly for the ruling military junta in Myanmar, also called Burma.
"We are increasingly vocal about wanting Burma to speed up its roadmap to democracy and to release Ang San Suu Kyi," said Arroyo, referring to the pro-democracy leader under house arrest in her home country.