The tiny Philippine island on the frontline of the US-China battle for supremacy

Years ago, Fuga Island was set to host a Chinese ‘smart city’. Now it may become home to American troops as the US seeks to protect Taiwan and the region

The azure waters are inviting and its long stretches of clear white sand are spotless. But hardly anyone is swimming or sunbathing. Fuga Island is not a holiday destination.

The residents of the remote community of just over 2,000 on the northern tip of the Philippines are farmers and fishermen – growing palay and corn; raising native chicken, pigs and goats; and catching their bounty from the sea.

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Philippine officials believe they have located leaking oil tanker

Officials believe MT Princess Empress, which sank last week, is 400 metres below surface off island of Mindoro

Officials in the Philippines believe they have located a leaking oil tanker that sank last week and has since coated nearby shorelines in thick sludge, threatening areas of rich marine biodiversity.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it “may have detected the possible site where the vessel is actually located”, adding that the site was about 1,200ft (400 metres) below the surface.

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Schools and firms across Philippines shut as jeepney drivers start strike

Drivers say cost of upgrading colourful vehicles, a crucial part of transport system, completely unaffordable

A week-long strike by drivers of Philippine jeepneys began on Monday, prompting schools and universities across major cities to suspend in-person classes, while businesses have also been urged to work from home.

The local authorities in Manila, Quezon City, Marikina, Muntinlupa and Pasig City in the national capital region told schools to switch to distance learning classes due to disruption caused by the strike. The local government of Quezon City, the most populous city in the Philippines, also called on businesses to work online.

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Philippines oil tanker spill prompts fears for protected marine areas

Authorities scramble to contain leak from sunken tanker that was carrying about 800,000 litres of oil

Authorities in the Philippines are scrambling to contain an oil leak from a sunken tanker that could threaten the rich biodiversity of more than 20 marine protected areas.

The MT Princess Empress, which was carrying a cargo of about 800,000 litres of industrial oil, sank on Tuesday off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro province, after it experienced problems with its engine and began to drift due to rough seas. A passing cargo ship rescued the 20 crew onboard.

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Drugs, jacuzzis and a horse: the anarchic Philippines prison where anything can be bought

After raids at the New Bilibid prison identified thousands of contraband goods, the management of the country’s prisons is in the spotlight

When officials last raided the Philippines’ biggest prison, their discoveries ranged from deadly to bizarre. Tens of thousands of contraband goods were identified in New Bilibid prison, including lethal weapons, alcohol, drugs and gambling material. A menagerie of horses, game fowls and pythons were also found living in the prison complex.

In the Philippines, prisons have long had a reputation for corruption but the sweep in New Bilibid in Manila late last year put the country’s prisons back in the spotlight. Last month, four Japanese men were arrested for allegedly orchestrating a string of scams and robberies in their home country from inside a Philippine immigration detention centre. A subsequent inspection of the facility found phones, laptops, routers and cash.

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‘They were shot in the head’: morgue gives up truth of Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war

Crusading pathologist Raquel Fortun finds evidence of multiple murder at the direction of ‘a madman’ in the exhumed remains of young Filipinos

It was in an old university stockroom, with wooden tables salvaged from a junkyard, that Raquel Fortun began to investigate the merciless crackdown launched under the former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.

Fortun, one of only two forensic pathologists in the country, has now spent more than 18 months examining the exhumed remains of dozens of victims of the so-called “war on drugs”, revealing serious irregularities in how their postmortems were performed – including multiple death certificates that wrongly attributed fatalities to natural causes.

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Search for wreckage atop volcano after plane with two Australians goes missing in Philippines

The Cessna 340 with former Santos employees Simon Chipperfield and Karthi Santhanam lost contact on Saturday

Two Australian men are feared dead after a plane lost contact in the Philippines with four people on board, as crews work to verify if a wreckage spotted near the crater of a restive volcano is the missing plane.

The plane, which was bound for the capital Manila, lost contact with air traffic control on Saturday, three minutes after it departed Bicol international airport in Albay province, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said in a statement.

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Philippines president summons Chinese ambassador over laser incident

The Philippines accused a Chinese coastguard ship of directing a ‘military-grade laser light’ at one of its vessels, temporarily blinding a crew member

Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos has summoned the Chinese ambassador to express serious concern over the “increasing frequency and intensity of actions” by China against Philippine vessels.

The meeting came a day after the Philippines accused a Chinese coastguard ship of directing a “military-grade laser light” at one of its vessels, temporarily blinding a crew member and disrupting a mission in the South China Sea.

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Chinese ship accused of using ‘military-grade laser’ against Philippine vessel

Philippines coastguard says crew member temporarily blinded and mission disrupted in South China Sea

The Philippines has accused a Chinese coastguard ship of directing a “military-grade laser light” at one of its vessels, temporarily blinding a crew member and disrupting a mission in the South China Sea.

The Chinese ship shone a green laser light twice towards the boat as it sought to deliberately block a resupply mission, the Philippine coastguard said. It also accused the Chinese vessel of making “dangerous manoeuvres by approaching about 150 yards from the vessel’s starboard quarter”.

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US seals crucial military deal with the Philippines close to China ‘flashpoints’

Deal expands Washington’s access to military bases close to Taiwan and the South China Sea

The Philippines has granted the United States expanded access to its military bases, greatly enhancing Washington’s presence in the region at a time of growing concern about Chinese aggression.

Washington would be given access to four additional military bases in “strategic areas of the country”, without specifying the locations, the Philippines’ Department of National Defence said on Thursday in a statement.

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Onion smuggling rackets thrive as staple becomes a luxury in Philippines

Millions of dollars’ worth of onions seized by authorities as inflation crisis sees the cost of other basics soar

Their price soared so rapidly, some likened them to gold. Restaurants stripped them from their menus, officials warned travellers not to import them without special permission and millions of pesos’ worth have reportedly been seized in raids.

Between 500m and 600m pesos ($9m – $11m) worth of onions were impounded by officials last year, according to local media. The vegetable accounted for 30% of smuggled farm products.

Bags have been found in warehouse raids, and hidden among shipments of clothing. Last month, authorities uncovered 17m pesos’ worth of yellow onions inside containers labelled as holding blouses, slippers, and various household items. A few days before that, 20m pesos’ worth of onions, weighing 50,000kg, were found hidden among pastries and bread products.

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Maria Ressa: Nobel-winning Philippine editor keeps a ‘go bag’ in case of arrest

After beating tax-evasion charges, Rappler news chief says that cases against her have left her ‘living on quicksand’

Nobel laureate Maria Ressa says she keeps a prison “go bag” with bundles of cash for bail and runs simulations of police raids with her staff as she fights for press freedom in the Philippines.

The Rappler editor won acquittal on four tax-evasion charges on Wednesday but said she was prepared for the worst from the three further outstanding cases that could see her sent to jail or her online news organisation shuttered.

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‘Truth wins’: Maria Ressa, Philippine Nobel prize winner, acquitted of tax evasion charges

Founder of news outlet Rappler says charges were politically motivated and that this was a win ‘for every Filipino who has ever been unjustly accused’

Maria Ressa, a veteran journalist and Nobel laureate widely considered the “face of the free press in the Philippines”, has been acquitted of tax evasion charges, in a case she has described as part of a pattern of harassment.

Speaking to the press after the verdict, an emotional Ressa said the charges against her and her news outlet, Rappler, had been an abuse of power, politically motivated, and designed to stop journalists from doing their jobs.

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Overjoyed Maria Ressa says ‘justice wins’ as she is cleared of tax evasion – video

Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa and her news site Rappler were acquitted by a court of tax evasion charges. 'This acquittal ... is not just for Rappler, it is for every Filipino who has ever been unjustly accused,' Ressa told reporters in emotional comments outside the tax appeals court. The tax evasion case became the basis for the authorities to revoke the news site's license. Ressa, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside a Russian journalist in 2021, maintained that the charges were politically motivated as the news site she ran earned a reputation for its tough scrutiny of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly war on drugs

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Power, corruption and fury: the killing of Percy Lapid

Mystery surrounds the alleged involvement of top officials in the murder of the high-profile Philippine journalist

It was just past 8pm on 3 October and the veteran broadcaster Percy Mabasa was on his way to record his nightly radio show. Every weekday evening, tens of thousands of Filipinos, many living abroad, would tune in to listen to his news commentary and sharp humour.

But on this evening, as Mabasa drove up to the entrance of his gated community where his studio is located in Las Piñas, Metro Manila, a motorbike began to trail him. Footage taken by a camera on the back of his car, and since released by police, shows two figures on the bike pulling up alongside him. Then gunshots can be heard. There’s a bang as Mabasa’s car slams into the vehicle in front. The motorbike turns and drives away. Mabasa was killed instantly.

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