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US urges ASEAN to press for return to democracy in Myanmar

US urges ASEAN to press for return to democracy in Myanmar

MANILA, Philippines — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked his Southeast Asian counterparts Wednesday to press for an end to violence in Myanmar, its return to democracy and the release of all political prisoners in a video conference attended by the military-led nation’s top diplomat.In the meeting with foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Blinken also underscored the U.S. rejection of China’s “unlawful” territorial claims in the South China Sea and stressed that Washington stands with nations at odds with Beijing in the sea disputes.Blinken’s meeting with the 10-nation bloc also addressed the coronavirus pandemic, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, as surging infections fill hospitals and morgues and further devastate Southeast Asian states’ once-bustling economies.Blinken “called on ASEAN to take joint action to urge the end of violence, the restoration of Burma’s democratic transition and the release of all those unjustly detained,” Price said in a statement, using the former name for Myanmar.The U.S. and European nations have been the most vocal opponents of the military takeover that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February. Suu Kyi was arrested and detained with top members of her National League for Democracy party, including President Win Myint.Last week, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the rights situation in Myanmar has changed from a political crisis to a “multi-dimensional human rights catastrophe,” adding that nearly 900 people have been killed and 200,000 forced to flee their homes because of military raids. The World Food Program has estimated that more than 6 million people are in severe need of food aid, she said.Blinken urged ASEAN to take immediate action “to hold the Burmese regime accountable” to a consensus forged in April by the bloc’s heads of state with Myanmar’s military leader. The five-point document called for an immediate end to violence and the start of a dialogue among contending parties with a special ASEAN envoy mediating in the talks.Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. pressed for the restoration of the political conditions before the Feb. 1 military takeover, but lamented that “So far, nothing’s happened.”Although highly contentious issues were raised, the two-hour meeting was “very civil,” a Southeast Asian diplomat told The Associated Press. The diplomat was involved in the meeting but spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to publicly discuss what went on.It was not immediately clear if Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister responded to Blinken’s concerns or to the previous ASEAN demands.ASEAN member states have recommended to Myanmar officials the names of possible ASEAN envoys from Thailand and Indonesia but there has been no response. Two ASEAN representatives who traveled to Myanmar last month asked to meet Suu Kyi and other detainees but were rebuffed, the Southeast Asian diplomat said.The South China Sea territorial disputes involve four ASEAN states. Ahead of his meeting with ASEAN on Wednesday, Blinken accused China of continuing “to coerce and intimidate Southeast Asian coastal states, threatening freedom of navigation in this critical global throughway,” and upheld a Trump-era rejection of nearly all of China’s maritime claims in the region.China deplored Blinken’s remarks, saying he was sowing discord among Asian countries and stoking disputes.“The U.S. always poses as a defender of international law and keeps making an issue of the South China Sea, but it has not joined the UNCLOS,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing, referring to the 1982 U.N. treaty that governs the use of the world’s seas and oceans.An international arbitration tribunal, acting on a complaint filed by the Philippines, in 2016 declared most of China’s sweeping territorial claims invalid. Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.Blinken’s meeting with his ASEAN counterparts was to have taken place in May but he was unable to secure an online connection as he took a flight for an emergency trip to Israel. The bloc’s foreign ministers, who waited for nearly an hour, decided to cancel the meeting. The State Department later apologized.Founded in 1967 in the Cold War era, ASEAN is a diverse collective of democracies and authoritarian states that has become a battleground for regional influence between the U.S. and China. Its members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.———Associated Press journalist Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report.

US expert: Images show Chinese ship waste endangering reefs

US expert: Images show Chinese ship waste endangering reefs

A U.S.-based expert says swarms of Chinese vessels have dumped human waste and wastewater for years in a disputed area of the South China Sea where they anchorBy JIM GOMEZ Associated PressJuly 12, 2021, 12:15 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMANILA, Philippines — Swarms of Chinese vessels have dumped human waste and wastewater for years in a disputed area of the South China Sea, causing algae blooms that have damaged coral reefs and threatened fish in an unfolding catastrophe, a U.S.-based expert said Monday.Satellite images over the last five years show how human waste, sewage and wastewater have accumulated and caused algae in a cluster of reefs in the Spratlys region where hundreds of Chinese fishing ships have anchored in batches, said Liz Derr, who heads Simularity Inc., a software company creating artificial intelligence technologies for satellite imagery analysis.At least 236 ships were spotted in the atoll, internationally known as Union Banks, on June 17 alone, she said at a Philippine online news forum on China’s actions in the South China Sea, which Beijing has claimed virtually in its entirety.“When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” Derr said. “The hundreds of ships that are anchored in the Spratlys are dumping raw sewage onto the reefs they are occupying.”Chinese officials did not immediately react to Derr’s assessment of the environmental damage, but have said in the past that they have taken steps to protect the fisheries stock and the environment in the South China Sea. Aside from the Chinese, Vietnamese forces have also occupied some coral outcrops in Union Banks, which is also claimed by the Philippines, although it has no presence in the vast atoll.Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Menez in Manila said the findings would have to be assessed and validated by Philippine authorities before a decision on whether to lodge a protest against China could be made.“This is a catastrophe of epic proportions and we are close to the point of no return,” Derr said.She warned that schools of fish, including migratory tuna, breed in the reefs that are being damaged and could cause fish stocks to considerably decline in an offshore area that is a key regional food source.Separately, China’s military said it chased a U.S. warship out of another disputed area of the South China Sea on Monday after Washington warned an attack on the Philippines might activate a mutual defense treaty.Beijing affirmed its claims to portions of the sea that also are claimed by Southeast Asia governments. It rejected the Biden administration’s declaration of support Sunday for an 2016 international tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines that threw out most of them.China is increasingly assertive about pressing its territorial claims, which are fueling tension with neighbors including Japan, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.China’s People’s Liberation Army said it sent ships and planes after the U.S.S. Benfold entered waters claimed by Beijing around the Paracel Islands.In March, Philippine authorities spotted more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels at Whitsun Reef, in the northeastern periphery of Union Banks, and demanded that China withdraw them from the area. China ignored the demand for weeks, while continuing to assert the reef is its own territory.The Philippines argued that Whitsun Reef lies well within an internationally recognized stretch of waters where it has exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil, gas and other sea resources. It cited the international tribunal’s 2016 ruling that invalidated China’s vast claims to the waterway on historical grounds and unanimously upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights to the so-called exclusive economic zone.A few hundred protesters held a noisy rally Monday in front of the Chinese Consulate in Manila to mark the fifth anniversary of the ruling, which China ignored and continues to defy. The protesters lashed out at President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured closer ties with Beijing, for refusing to aggressively demand that China comply with the landmark ruling.———Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

Philippine military's worst air disaster kills 50, wounds 49

Philippine military's worst air disaster kills 50, wounds 49

Philippine troops found the last five dead from the crash of a transport aircraft in the south, raising the death toll to 50 in the military’s worst air disasterBy JIM GOMEZ Associated PressJuly 5, 2021, 10:08 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMANILA, Philippines — Philippine troops found the last five dead from the crash of a transport aircraft in the south, raising the death toll to 50 in the military’s worst air disaster, officials said Monday.The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was carrying 96 mostly combat troops when it overshot the runway while landing Sunday at the Jolo airport in Sulu province, military officials said. It slammed into a coconut grove beyond the airport and burst into flames in a disaster witnessed by horrified soldiers and villagers.Troops, police and firefighters rescued 49 military personnel, including a few who jumped off the aircraft before it exploded and was gutted by fire. Seven people on the ground were hit by aircraft parts and debris and three of them died, the military said.The plane was one of two refurbished U.S. Air Force aircraft handed over to the Philippines, Washington’s oldest treaty ally in Asia, as part of military assistance this year.The aircraft earlier had carried two-star Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., his wife and three children from Manila to southern Cagayan de Oro city, where he became the new military regional commander on Monday.Brawner was stunned to learn the plane he’d just flown on had crashed. “We’re very thankful that we were spared, but extremely sad that so many lost their lives,” Brawner told The Associated Press.Those who boarded the C-130 in Cagayan de Oro for the flight to Sulu were army troops, many of them newly trained recruits, to be deployed in the battle against Abu Sayyaf militants in the south.“They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” Sulu military commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales said. Government forces have been battling Abu Sayyaf militants in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu for decades.A video taken by troops showed the aircraft landing in clear weather and then vanishing beyond the airport. “It vanished, it vanished,” one soldier exclaims. Dark gray smoke later billowed from the crash site in a wooded area as the troops yelled “It fell, it fell!” in horror.It was not immediately clear what caused the crash and investigators were looking for the C-130’s cockpit voice and flight data recorders. At least one other C-130 was grounded while investigators determine the cause of the crash, military officials said, adding that smaller aircraft would be used for routine missions including the transport of COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies across the archipelago.Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan said it was unlikely that the aircraft took hostile fire. Military chief of staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told reporters Sunday that “the plane missed the runway and it was trying to regain power but failed and crashed.”An air force official told the AP that the Jolo runway is shorter than most others in the country, making it more difficult for pilots to adjust if an aircraft misses the landing spot. The official, who has flown military aircraft to and from Jolo several times, spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly.President Rodrigo Duterte expanded the military presence in Sulu to a full division in late 2018, deploying hundreds of additional troops, air force aircraft and other combat equipment after vowing to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf. The small but brutal group has been listed by the U.S. and the Philippines as a terrorist organization because of ransom kidnappings, bombings and beheadings.Before Sunday, the Philippine air force’s deadliest disaster was a crash in a rice field north of Manila in 1971 that killed 40 military personnel, military historian Jose Custodio said.A recently delivered S-701 Blackhawk helicopter crashed more than a week ago near Clark freeport, a former U.S. air base, killing all six air force personnel on board.The government has struggled for years to modernize its military, one of Asia’s least equipped, as it deals with decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies and territorial rifts with China and other claimant countries in the South China Sea.

Philippine military plane crashes, 17 dead, 40 rescued

Philippine military plane crashes, 17 dead, 40 rescued

The Philippine defense secretary says at least 29 people have been killed and 50 rescued in the crash of a Philippine air force C-130 aircraft carrying troops in a southern provinceBy JIM GOMEZ Associated PressJuly 4, 2021, 10:37 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMANILA, Philippines — A Philippine air force C-130 aircraft carrying troops crashed in a southern province while trying to land Sunday, killing at least 29 military personnel while at least 50 were rescued from the burning wreckage, officials said.Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said rescue and recovery efforts were ongoing. The aircraft had 92 people on board, including three pilots and five crew and the rest were army personnel, military officials said. The pilots survived but were seriously injured and at least four villagers on the ground were injured, officials said.The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was one of two ex-U.S. Air Force aircraft handed over to the Philippines as part of military assistance this year. It crashed while landing shortly before noon Sunday in Bangkal village in the mountainous town of Patikul in Sulu province, military chief of staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said.Military officials said at least 50 people on board were brought to a hospital and troops were trying to search for the rest.“Per eyewitnesses, a number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash,” a military statement said.Initial pictures released by the military showed the tail section of the cargo plane. The other parts of the plane were burned or scattered in pieces in a clearing surrounded by coconut trees. Soldiers and other rescuers with stretchers were seen dashing to and from the smoke-shrouded crash site.The plane was transporting troops, many of them new soldiers who had just undergone basic training, from the southern Cagayan de Oro city for deployment in Sulu, officials said. Government forces have been battling Abu Sayyaf militants in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu for decades.It was not immediately clear what caused the crash. Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan said it was unlikely that the aircraft took hostile fire and cited witnesses as saying that it appeared to have overshot the runway then crashed in the periphery of the airport, injuring at least four villagers on the ground.“It’s very unfortunate,” Sobejana told reporters. “The plane missed the runway and it was trying to regain power but failed and crashed.”An air force official told The Associated Press that the Jolo runway is shorter than most others in the country, making it more difficult for pilots to adjust if an aircraft misses the landing spot. The official, who has flown military aircraft to and from Jolo several times, spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly.Initial pictures showed that the weather was apparently fine in Sulu although other parts of the Philippines were experiencing rains due to an approaching tropical depression. The airport in Sulu’s main town of Jolo is located a few kilometers (miles) from a mountainous area where troops have battled Abu Sayyaf militants. Some militants have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group.The U.S. and the Philippines have separately blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings. It has been considerably weakened by years of government offensives but remains a threat.President Rodrigo Duterte expanded the military presence in Sulu into a full division in late 2018, deploying hundreds of additional troops, air force aircraft and other combat equipment after vowing to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf and allied foreign and local gunmen.Government forces at the time were running after Muslim armed groups a year after quelling the five-month siege of southern Marawi city by hundreds of militants linked to the Islamic State group. More than 1,000 people, mostly militants and long-elusive Abu Sayyaf commanders, were killed in months of intense air and ground assaults.Sunday’s crash comes as the limited number of military aircraft has been further strained, as the air force helped transport medical supplies, vaccines and protective equipment to far-flung island provinces amid spikes in COVID-19 infections.The Philippine government has struggled for years to modernize its military, one of Asia’s least equipped, as it dealt with decades-long Muslim and communist insurgencies and territorial rifts with China and other claimant countries in the South China Sea.

Philippine volcano belches dark plume, villagers evacuated

Philippine volcano belches dark plume, villagers evacuated

A small volcano near the Philippine capital has belched a dark plume of steam and ash into the sky in a brief explosionBy JIM GOMEZ Associated PressJuly 2, 2021, 12:41 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMANILA, Philippines — A small volcano near the Philippine capital belched a dark plume of steam and ash into the sky in a brief explosion Thursday, prompting officials to start evacuating thousands of villagers from high-risk areas.Government experts said magmatic materials came into contact with water in the main crater of Taal Volcano in Batangas province, setting off the steam-driven blast with no accompanying volcanic earthquake. They said it’s unclear if the volcanic unrest could lead to a full-blown eruption.“It’s just one explosive event; it’s too early to tell,” Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said at a news conference. Three smaller steam-driven emissions occurred Thursday night, he said.The agency raised the alarm at 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal, one of the world’s smallest volcanoes, to the third of a five-step warning system, meaning “magma is near or at the surface, and activity could lead to hazardous eruption in weeks.”Alert level 5 means a life-threatening eruption that could endanger communities is occurring.Mark Timbal, a spokesman for the government’s disaster-response agency, said officials started to evacuate residents from five high-risk villages. Up to 14,000 residents may have to be moved temporarily away from the restive volcano, he said.Officials reminded people to stay away from a small island in a scenic lake where Taal is located and is considered a permanent danger zone along with a number of nearby lakeside villages.The ABS-CBN network broadcast videos of some residents with their belongings in cars and motorcycles forming a line at a gasoline station. Residents said they did not feel any tremors but reported a volcanic sulfur smell.Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said evacuation camps, trucks, food packs and face masks were ready in case the volcanic unrest escalated and more people needed to be moved to safety. There were concerns that crowding in evacuation camps might spread the coronavirus in a region that has seen a spike in cases in recent months.Taal erupted in January 2020, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and sending clouds of ash to Manila, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the north, where the main airport was temporarily shut down.The Philippines lies along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. A long-dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, blew its top north of Manila in 1991 in one of the biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing hundreds of people.

Duterte open to running for VP, lashes out at ally Pacquiao

Duterte open to running for VP, lashes out at ally Pacquiao

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he may consider running for vice president next year when his term ends “if there is a space for me” although opponents have described such a prospect as “a joke of the worst kind.”By JIM GOMEZ Associated PressJune 29, 2021, 4:04 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he may consider running for vice president next year when his term ends “if there is a space for me,” although opponents have described such a prospect as “a joke of the worst kind.”Duterte’s televised remarks Monday night were the strongest sign that he is considering calls by ruling PDP-Laban party allies for him to run for the vice president post to continue his government programs.The tough-talking leader also publicly lashed out for the first time at Filipino boxing star Manny Pacquiao, a Philippine senator and a longtime ally, for saying that corruption has worsened under Duterte.Philippine presidents are barred by the 1987 constitution for running for re-election after their single, six-year term. At least two former presidents, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, have made successful runs for lower public offices after serving as president but not the vice president post.Vice president is separately elected from the president under Philippine law. Those who serve in the post could potentially be propelled to the top role if the president dies or is incapacitated for any reason.“It’s not at all a bad idea and if there is a space for me there, maybe,” Duterte, 76, said of the prospects of him running for vice president. “But if there’s no space for me, everybody is crowding up wanting to be one, vice president, let them be at this time because I’m finished.”Leaders of Duterte’s PDP-Laban party will meet on July 16-17 to firm up its ticket of candidates for next year’s May 9 presidential, vice presidential and general elections. Aspirants have up to Oct. 8 to file their candidacies.In a preliminary meeting late last month, Duterte’s party mates approved calls for him to run for vice president next year and pick his presidential running mate. Duterte initially said he wanted to retire after his presidency and was “resisting” the call, although he did not categorically reject it.A new opposition coalition, 1Sambayan, expressed shock over the prospects of a Duterte vice presidential run.“The alleged VP run of the president not only makes a mockery of the constitution but a joke of the worst kind. It is laughable,” coalition leader Howard Calleja said after the ruling party announced its backing for a Duterte vice presidential candidacy.Duterte has gained notoriety for his bloody crackdown on illegal drugs, which has left thousands of mostly petty suspects dead, and vulgar rhetoric, but his popularity ratings have remained high.The International Criminal Court’s outgoing chief prosecutor said this month that a preliminary examination found reason to believe crimes against humanity had been committed during Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown. The prosecutor sought authorization to open a formal investigation and the court’s judges had 120 days to decide.In his Monday-night remarks, Duterte also berated Pacquiao, the PDP-Laban president who is reportedly considering joining the presidential race, for saying that corruption is twice more rampant under Duterte than the previous administration. He threatened to campaign against Pacquiao if the popular boxer fails to provide details.“You didn’t tell me anything all these years, you’re all praises and praises for me and now you’ll say corrupt,” Duterte said. If Pacquiao failed to elaborate, Duterte said it was a sign he was “playing politics”

Philippine democracy scion, ex-leader Benigno Aquino dies

Philippine democracy scion, ex-leader Benigno Aquino dies

MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, the son of pro-democracy icons who helped topple dictator Ferdinand Marcos and a defender of good governance who took China’s sweeping territorial claims to an international court, has died. He was 61.Aquino’s family told a news conference that he died in his sleep early Thursday due to “renal failure secondary to diabetes.” A former Cabinet official, Rogelio Singson, said Aquino had been undergoing dialysis and was preparing for a kidney transplant.“Mission accomplished Noy, be happy now with Dad and Mom,” said Pinky Aquino-Abellada, a sister of the late president, using his nickname and struggling to hold back her tears.Condolences poured in from politicians, the Catholic Church and others, including President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and Sen. Imee Marcos, a daughter of the late dictator. Philippine flags were lowered at half-staff on government buildings.“We are saddened by President Aquino’s passing and will always be thankful for our partnership,” U.S. Embassy Charge d’ Affaires John Law said in a statement.“For beyond politics and much public acrimony, I knew Noynoy as a kind and simple soul. He will be deeply missed,” Marcos said in a statement, using Aquino’s nickname.Aquino, who served as president from 2010 to 2016, was the heir of a family that has been regarded as a bulwark against authoritarianism in the Philippines.His father, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., was assassinated in 1983 while under military custody at the Manila international airport, which now bears his name. His mother, Corazon Aquino, led the 1986 “people power” revolt that ousted Marcos. The army-backed uprising became a harbinger of popular revolts against authoritarian regimes worldwide.A scion of a wealthy land-owning political clan in the northern Philippines, Aquino, who was fondly called Noynoy or Pnoy by many Filipinos, built an image of an incorruptible politician who battled poverty and frowned over excesses by the country’s elites, including powerful politicians. One of his first orders that lingered throughout his presidency was to ban the use of sirens in vehicles that carried VIPs through Manila’s notorious traffic jams.Aquino, whose family went into exile in the U.S. during Marcos’s rule, had turbulent ties with China as president. After China seized a disputed shoal in 2012 following a tense standoff in the South China Sea, Aquino authorized the filing of a complaint before an international arbitration tribunal that questioned the validity of China’s sweeping claims in the strategic waterway Beijing claims virtually the entire South China Sea on historical grounds.“We will not be pushed around because we are a tiny state compared with theirs,” Aquino told The Associated Press in June 2011. “We think we have very solid grounds to say ‘do not intrude into our territory.’”The Philippines largely won. But China refused to join in the arbitration and dismissed as a sham the tribunal’s 2016 ruling, which invalidated Beijing’s claims based on a 1982 U.N. maritime treaty. Aquino’s legal challenge and the eventual ruling plunged the relations between Beijing and Manila to an all-time low.Born in 1960 as the third of five children, Aquino never married and had no children. An economics graduate, he pursued business opportunities before entering politics.During his mother’s tumultuous presidency, after democracy was restored, Aquino was wounded by gunfire during a failed 1987 coup attempt by rebel soldiers who attempted to lay siege on the heavily guarded Malacanang presidential palace. Three of his security escorts were killed. A bullet had remained embedded in Aquino’s neck.He won a seat in the House of Representatives in 1998, where he served until 2007, then successfully ran for the Senate. Aquino announced his presidential campaign in September 2009, saying he was answering the call of the people to continue his mother’s legacy. She had died just weeks earlier of colon cancer.His won with a battle cry “without the corrupt, there won’t be poor people.” He called ordinary Filipinos his “boss” and offered himself as their servant. Friends said he often carried a copy of the Philippine Constitution in his pocket, a reflection of his steadfast belief that no one is above the law.His victory was also seen as a protest vote due to exasperation with the corruption scandals of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She was detained for nearly five years before the Supreme Court cleared her of the charges. Arroyo later served as House speaker under Duterte.Public expectations of Aquino were high. While he moved against corruption — detaining Arroyo and three powerful senators — and initiated anti-poverty programs, the deep-seated inequalities and weak institutions in the Southeast Asian nation wracked by decades-old communist and Muslim insurgencies remained too daunting.Under Aquino, the government expanded a program that provides cash dole-outs to the poorest in exchange for commitments by parents to send children to school. Big business, meanwhile, benefited from government partnership deals that allowed them to finance major infrastructure projects such as highways and airports for long-term gain.One of Aquino’s major successes was the signing of a 2014 peace deal with the largest Muslim separatist rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It eased decades of fighting in the country’s south, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation.Opponents pounded on missteps, including a Manila bus hostage crisis that ended with the shooting deaths of eight Chinese tourists from Hong Kong by a disgruntled police officer, and delays in recovery efforts in the disastrous aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.Aquino came under heavy criticism in 2015 for his absence in a ceremony at a Manila air base for the arrival of the remains of police commandos who were killed by Muslim insurgents during a covert raid that killed one of Asia’s most-wanted terror suspects. Aquino proceeded with a scheduled inauguration of a car manufacturing plant, triggering criticism that he lacked empathy.Aquino retained high approval ratings when his single, six-year term ended in 2016. The rise of the populist Duterte, whose deadly crackdown on illegal drugs has killed thousands of mostly petty drug suspects, was a reality check on the extent of public dissatisfaction and perceived failures during Aquino’s reformist rule.Aquino campaigned against Duterte, warning he could be a looming dictator and could set back the democracy and economic momentum achieved in his own term.Time magazine named Aquino as one of 100 most influential people in the world in 2013, praising him for stabilizing a sputtering economy and for bravely confronting China over the South China Sea disputes.After leaving office, Aquino stayed away from politics and the public eye.He is survived by four sisters. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced by the family.———Associated Press journalists Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

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