US Marines and Armed Forces of the Philippines launch inaugural Kamandag.
US, Philippine Marines launch ‘Kamandag’ drills
SPYBITS - Amb. Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - October 4, 2017 - 4:00pm

Some 900 Marines and sailors with the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and their counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines will participate in new joint exercises dubbed as Kamandag – the acronym for “Kaagapay ng mga Mandirigma ng Dagat” or Cooperation of Warriors of the Sea – at multiple locations in Luzon. According to the US Embassy, the goal of Kamandag is to increase counter terrorism capabilities through bilateral military exchanges between AFP and US troops.

Formally launched last Monday with Philippine Marine Corps Commandant Brig. Gen. Alvin Parreño leading the ceremonies (shown in photo), the joint drills which will run until Oct. 11 will see participants practicing combat lifesaving procedures, shipboard mass casualty response, live fire training, urban operations, movement ashore, as well as humanitarian and disaster  response. 

Leading up to the commencement of the joint exercises, members of the AFP and US forces also completed humanitarian and civic assistance projects in schools in Casiguran, Aurora much earlier.

Aside from reinforcing the decades-long alliance between the US and the Philippines, Kamandag is also intended to improve bilateral responsiveness to crises in the Asia-Pacific region and increase the overall readiness of troops from both countries.

Carmakers scramble to attract Saudi women drivers

Women are rejoicing over the decision of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to lift the ban on female drivers. The royal decreee, which will take effect in June 2018, is just one of the many reforms being implemented by the charismatic prince in a bid to bring his country and its people forward into the modern world.

Several decades ago, women in Saudi Arabia faced ridicule and criticism, with some even losing their jobs and getting imprisoned for daring to get behind the wheel. This early, there are already plans to put up driving schools for women that will be manned by female trainers and staff.

This new development is certainly welcome, especially for car manufacturers who lost no time in coming out with tweets and advertisements congratulating women and encouraging them to get into the driver’s seat. Ford, Nissan and Volkswagen are seeing a potential huge market to explore considering the 14.8 million female population of Saudi Arabia. Carmakers are also scrambling to develop new models with Saudi women (and their kids) in mind, with European brands also looking to get a big share the market that Toyota and Hyundai have been dominating at 32 percent and 24 percent, respectively.

Observers said lifting the ban would also boost the Saudi economy as it would allow women to have more participation in the work force. According to a 2017 labor survey by the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, some 1.3 million foreigners or about 60 percent of foreign workers were hired as drivers by male relatives to get the women to or from work, and other destinations. However, revenues from foreign drivers alone, estimated at $4 billion, are remitted outside of Saudi Arabia. 

But while women are cheering this latest development, the males are jeering, saying this could encourage disobedience, not to mention the fact that many of them will also lose jobs as female dependence on males will be lessened as far as transportation is concerned.

Potential price hike on noche buena items worry consumers

Several manufacturers of traditional noche buena items such as ham and queso de bola are seeking approval from the Department of Trade and Industry for a price hike from five to eight percent, pointing to the peso devaluation against the dollar as a reason since this could impact the materials that are imported.

This news is certainly worrisome for consumers since no Christmas feast will really be complete without the popular items on the table. Aside from the hamon and queso, food items like fruit cocktail and pasta are also among the most in demand and saleable come Christmas season – and many are worried they might not be able to afford the noche buena items. 

According to the Philippine Association of Meat Processors, the bird flu outbreak in Central Luzon has also triggered an increase on local and imported pork, with processed meat such as luncheon meat and sausages as some of the canned products that may require price hikes. The DTI, however, has issued assurances that supply and prices for traditional Christmas food items will be stable during the Christmas holidays until the end of the year, adding that aside from ham and queso de bola, they are also monitoring the prices of mayonnaise, pasta, sandwich spreads, among others – to make sure Filipinos will not lose the holiday cheer.  

* * *

As you all know, I will soon be leaving for Washington, D.C. to formally serve as ambassador to the United States, and so this will be my last column for Spy Bits. This seems to be the perfect time to take up the post especially now that relations between the US and the Philippines are on an upward trajectory following the successful meeting between Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and US State Secretary Rex Tillerson.

We welcome this opportunity not only to be able to continue the good work that has been started by many of our predecessors, but also to serve our country and contribute in strengthening relations with our longtime ally, the United States.

There’s really not a good word in English to say goodbye; the best is in French. Au revoir – we’ll see you again!  

* * *


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with