Philippine Floods: Benigno Visits Hard-Hit Areas

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Philippine Floods: Benigno Visits Hard-Hit Areas

Plus, Thai police have increased their efforts to crack down on illegal street racing. Thursday ASEAN links.

On Wednesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III began a visit to areas hardest hit by recent flooding. Severe rain has been hammering the country since Sunday, with more than one million people in the northern city of Luzon affected.

“The President was accompanied by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman in the distribution of relief packs to the affected residents temporarily staying at the Dela Paz Elementary School, which has been converted into an evacuation center,” reported PhilStar.

Aquino promised that government aid would continue as long as displaced residents were forced to remain in disaster shelters.

On the Southeast Asian mainland, Thai police have ramped up efforts to curtail illegal street-racing by placing electronic monitoring bracelets on offenders. The electronic tagging campaign, which allows police to track criminals who are under house arrest using GPS technology, will begin in November.

Thai prisons are notoriously crowded, making home detention an appealing option. If the program is successful with young daredevils on motorcycles, electronic monitoring may be considered for other non-violent offenders.

“The tags would be ready for use by mid-November by the Juvenile Observation and Protection Department,” said The Bangkok Post. “They would be fitted to apprehended motorcycle street racers, youths who continually break traffic laws. If it proves successful, the scheme could be extended to another 6,000 prisoners held by the Corrections Department next year.”

In other news, Thailand and other ASEAN nations will expand job opportunities for tourism-industry professionals. In all, 32 new job types – which include bartenders, house-keepers, and chefs – will become available to residents of ASEAN member countries.

“The inter-state job opportunity aims to reduce costs as well as increase the competitiveness in the bloc's tourism industry. The new job opportunities are expected to attract workers to the area's most famous tourist destinations including Bangkok, Phuket, Bali and Singapore,” said The Nation.

Even with the region’s burgeoning tourism industry, two leading U.S. business groups have recently expressed doubt that American firms are skeptical that the ASEAN bloc will meet a 2015 deadline to establish a single market – known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).

“In a survey of 475 senior US business executives from the region – jointly conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore and the US Chamber of Commerce – 52 per cent said they ‘do not think that the AEC's goals will be realised by 2015,’” said Asia One.

Regardless, respondents said that U.S. companies are still optimistic about overall business prospects. Indonesia topped the list for business expansion potential, followed by Vietnam and Thailand.

J.T. Quigley is assistant editor of The Diplomat.