Owners present pets to Philippines priest for blessing

A pet dog dressed as a crowned Miss Universe is photographed at a pet fashion show celebrating World Animals Day in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, October 6, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

MANILA (Reuters) – Elaborately dressed cats and dogs and even a palm-sized sugar glider were among the animals blessed outside a Philippine mall on Sunday in celebration of the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and World Animal day.

Pet owners raised their furry friends as a priest sprinkled holy water on the menagerie.

“They are like humans to us, so we need to have them blessed and make sure they do not get sick, and continue being with me,” said Filipino dog owner Ram de Castro, while carrying his pet dressed in Miss Universe-inspired red evening gown.

More than 100 pets were brought in for this year’s religious and blessing ceremony.

Anna Padrilao, a cat owner, said it was only right that her pet gets blessed because he is also a creation of God.

“Animals should be treasured the same way as humans”, she said.

World Animal Day, a day of action recognized worldwide for animal rights and welfare, is celebrated on Oct. 4, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Reporting by Peter Blaza; Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Alison Williams

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Philippines’ Duterte pestered again as gecko stalls speech

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte just keeps getting bugged during his public speeches.

A noisy gecko was the latest wildlife contributor to an address by Duterte, interrupting the leader on Thursday evening just as he launched another tirade at human rights groups critical of his bloody war on drugs.

The reptile’s persistence caused laugher in the crowd of mostly soldiers, causing Duterte stop mid-sentence, turn to his left and pause for a while to see what the off-camera commotion was.

“You brought a gecko here?” he asked an official sitting behind him, drawing laughs.

Geckos are common across Southeast Asia. The small lizard-like reptiles are known for their ability to produce various loud sounds, from barks to chirps, to communicate or when threatened.

While activists accuse Duterte of cowing his opponents into silence, reptiles and insects have no qualms about pestering him during his often hours-long, televised addresses.

A big cockroach reut.rs/2Od6b4s crawled up his shoulder and down his shirt during a speech in May when he was lambasting an opposition party ahead of a national election. He joked the cockroach was its supporter.

Two months later, a fly kept buzzing around him and landing on his forehead, just as he was berating his rivals in the Catholic clergy. He said in jest that the fly was acting on their orders.

Reporting by Martin Petty; editing by Jane Wardell

Reuters: Oddly Enough

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U.S. military scales down aid efforts in Philippines

People walk past body bags in Tacloban November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

People walk past body bags in Tacloban November 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

(Reuters) – The U.S. military has began scaling back its emergency relief operations in the Philippines as work shifts to recovery and rehabilitation in typhoon-hit areas, a U.S. aid agency official said on Saturday.

Typhoon Haiyan, the most powerful storm to make landfall this year, struck the central Philippines on November 8, killing more than 5,200 people, displacing 4.4 million and destroying an estimated 12 billion pesos ($ 274 million) worth of crops and infrastructure.

The U.S. Navy has pulled out its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, but still has ten C-130 aircraft delivering relief supplies. Last week, the United States had 50 ships and aircraft in the disaster zone.

Jeremy Konyndyk, director for Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said the U.S. military had started to reduce its presence to allow civilian aid agencies to step up efforts.

“What we have seen, particularly over the past week, is now civilian and private-sector commercial capacity has started coming back up again and that is taking the burden off of the military actors,” Konyndyk told Reuters in an interview.

“You don’t want the military playing that role in the long run, they are an interim bridging capacity there, but in the long run, that really needs to be civilian role.”

Konyndyk said there had been significant progress in meeting people’s basic needs as more roads and ports opened in the worst-hit Leyte and Samar islands.

“Food has been distributed to 3 million people, shelter kits have been delivered to tens of thousands of families. I think the situation with immediate humanitarian needs is becoming stabilized.”

Aid delivery was gathering pace as access to affected areas improved, the U.N. humanitarian office said it its latest report. However, major issues remained including the distribution of food and access to clean water and shelter material.

Konyndyk said the next step was for USAID and other international aid agencies to refocus their efforts on long-term recovery and reconstruction, giving priority to shelter and livelihoods for farmers and fishermen.

The United States has increased its typhoon aid to nearly $ 52 million, but latest estimates from the United Nations showed the disaster rehabilitation plan would cost $ 348 million. Only 38 percent of the plan is funded.

The United Nations is working to finish a blueprint for a Haiyan Action Plan reconstruction strategy by December 9. The World Bank has increased to almost $ 1 billion its aid to support relief and reconstruction.

President Benigno Aquino is separately seeking extra budget from Congress to finance relief and rehabilitation efforts.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

Reuters: Oddly Enough