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Two people dead, 293 missing in sunken ferry

SEOUL/JINDO, South Korea, April 16 (Yonhap) -- A passenger ship carrying 459 people, mostly high school students, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving at least two people, including one student, dead and 294 others missing. More than seven hours after the accident, fears have grown that many of those unaccounted for could be trapped inside the sunken ship and died, though massive rescue and search efforts are still under way.

Muslim rebels to Philippine military: exercise caution to uphold peace deal

MANILA (Reuters) - A leader of the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group urged the military to take precautions on Tuesday after a clash in which 20 people were killed, exposing the fragile nature of a landmark peace accord signed only two weeks earlier. Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed the peace accord, demanded an investigation into the incident last week on the southern island of Basilan.

CORRECTED: Philippines unveils new plan to fight persistent poverty

The Philippines Monday announced plans to spend more on infrastructure and introduce other reforms to try to lift millions out of poverty. The revised Philippine Development Plan sets more ambitious economic targets to address persistent concerns that poor Filipinos are not enjoying the benefits of the country's recent dramatic economic growth. Among the new targets is the lowering of the poverty incidence from 25.2 percent of the population in 2012 to 18.0 to 20.0 percent by 2016, economic officials said.

Philippines unveils new plan to fight persistent poverty

The Philippines Monday announced plans to spend more on infrastructure and introduce other reforms to try to lift millions out of poverty. The revised Philippine Development Plan sets more ambitious economic targets to address persistent concerns that poor Filipinos are not enjoying the benefits of the country's recent dramatic economic growth. Among the new targets is the lowering of the poverty incidence from 25.2 percent of the population in 2012 to 16.6 percent by 2016, economic officials said.

Philippine leader receives draft law for Muslim self-rule

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday formally received a draft law representing a crucial step towards the creation of an autonomous area for the country's Muslim minority, following a historic peace deal. Aquino received the Bangsamoro Basic Law from a special transition committee headed by representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), once the main Muslim rebel group in the majority-Catholic Philippines, his aides said.

Philippine leader receives draft law for Muslim self-rule

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday formally received a draft law representing a crucial step towards the creation of an autonomous area for the country's Muslim minority, following a historic peace deal. Aquino received the Bangsamoro Basic Law from a special transition committee headed by representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), once the main Muslim rebel group in the majority-Catholic Philippines, his aides said.

5 dead, 29 wounded in Philippine gunbattle with Abu Sayyaf extremists

Three Muslim rebels and two soldiers were killed Friday in a day-long gunbattle between troops and Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists blamed for beheadings and kidnappings in the southern Philippines, the military said. The fighting began as part of an operation to capture Abu Sayyaf commander Puruji Indama, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said in a brief statement, and sporadic gunfire continued into the night. "As of this time, 29 WIA (soldiers wounded in action) and two KIA (soldiers killed in action). Enemy, three killed," Zagala said.

Washington, Manila inch closer to enhanced defense pact

Washington and Manila inched closer Friday to a new defense agreement that will grant the U.S. military greater access to Philippine military bases amid China's increasing aggressiveness in the South China Sea. Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, chair of the Philippine negotiating panel, said in a statement issued at the end of the eighth round of negotiations that both sides found "consensus on key points of a draft agreement."

United States upgrades Philippine civil aviation rating

MANILA (Reuters) - The U.S. aviation regulator has upgraded the civil aviation status of the Philippines to let its airlines operate new direct flights to the United States, Manila's transport minister said on Thursday. The upgrade to category 1 status by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) follows a downgrade to category 2 in 2008 because the Philippines lacked oversight laws for air carriers and fell short of international safety standards.

Aquino says Philippines will fight to defend its interests

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday that Filipinos will fight for what is right and just for the country's national interests. Speaking at the commemoration rites of the Day of Valor in Bataan Province to honor the World War II fighters, Aquino said, "Even back then, it was clear to all Filipinos: small though we may be, if we know that we are on the side of what is right and just, we will fight."
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