This Week in the Philippines! News and Happenings that Can Effect Expat Life – October 13, 2016

Here are three more incidents taken from the local headlines that involve expatriate life in the Philippines.  

Note that the “This Week in the Philippines” Livecast returns tomorrow morning (Friday) at 9 AM local time (that’s October 13th 9PM Eastern Standard Time).

Three South Koreans Shot Dead in the Philippines

Three South Korean nationals were murdered this week in Pampanga, a continuation of the nearly 10 Koreans killed in the Philippine’s every year since 2013.  The bodies of the two men and one woman – all over age 40 – were found with gunshot wounds to the head.  The woman’s wrists were tied and one of the male victim’s legs were bound.  The South Korean consulate is reported to be working with Philippine investigators but no suspects or motive have been identified. 

Australian National Released from Philippine Prison

Good news for Damian Berg, an Australian national who was recently released from prison after charges of drug distribution were dismissed by a Philippines court.  Now back in Adelaide, he is able to provide a first-hand account of what it’s like to be a victim of the Philippines violent war on drugs.

“In a spit second, my life was gone,” Berg reports, “I was taken from my pregnant girlfriend, I lost my job.”


Arrested on June 20, 2016 in an alleged buy-bust operation, Berg states that he was arrested, locked up and put on trial for a crime he didn’t commit.   A few weeks before his arrest, President Duterte had been elected to office and avowed to violently deal with the insidious drug problems facing the Philippine people. 

The Australian – who worked as a manager for the massive Philippine engineering company First Balfour – was allegedly arrested selling 50 tablets of MDMA to Jeremy Eaton, a Canadian national.  The buy-bust operation and arrest allegedly occurred in Makati City.

Recovered CCTV footage, however, showed that Berg was not arrested on the street but at the Red Planet Hotel.  As police forced their way into his small hotel room with drawn handguns, the Australian thought it was some kind of robbery.   

Following his arrest, Berg’s bewildered self was dragged in front of the press and then locked up in a police holding cell for a month with over a dozen other prisoners.  He was then transferred to the “horrible” (his words) Makati prison – a high security prison with a decidedly nasty reputation.

Luckily – in this case – the wheels of Philippine justice turned swiftly and Berg was acquitted on the trafficking charges on September 15th – nearly 90 days after his arrest.  The court noted that evidence “belied the claim of the prosecution and destroyed the integrity of their testimonies.”

Berg notes, “I have thought about this every night, especially when I was incarcerated.  I still don’t know what happened.”

All things considered, the Australian was very lucky to have gotten out as quickly as he did.  No details of intervention from either the Philippine government or Australian embassy was provided, but considering the quagmire of the justice system, we can only assume that someone, somewhere expedited the proceedings.

Mr. Berg is now back in Australia with his partner Marvie awaiting the birth of their first child – a son.



Massive Filipino Business Delegation Trip to Beijing

President Rodrigo Duterte is putting aside years of hostility with China next week when he and nearly 250 Philippines business owners visit Beijing to seek new partnerships in trade, business and investment.  Filipino business leaders are seeking to network with Chinese business peers in order to create new relationships in a variety of governmental and private sectors including general construction, tourism, agricultural, power production, transportation and low-cost manufacturing. 

The business delegation was agreed upon last month and could indicate a significant transformation in the relationship between the two nations, which has been characterized by hostile words and actions over territorial claims in the South China Sea.  An international tribunal ruling in the Hauge on July 12th  of this year specified that Chinese incursions into the area was a breach of Philippine national boundaries.  China subsequently stated that it would ignore the international tribunal’s declaration. 

Despite this, President Duterte has aggressively sought dialogue and relations with China, stating that it was important for the Philippines to reduce its dependence on the United States.  The President has also stated that he would be seeking closer ties with Russia as well.

The Philippines Finance Minister stated this past week that President Duterte would request billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure investments from China.  China is also reported to be lifting a ban on some Philippine agricultural exports as an indication of goodwill towards the Philippines president. 

Francis Chua – a chairman within the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated, “We do have a very popular president and the president decided that he wanted to have a better relationship with China.  We are neighbors.  This is actually what the president is thinking – instead of fighting, why don’t we all just be friends?”

Language from Beijing’s ambassador to the Philippines was a bit more flowery:  “The clouds are fading away.  The sun is rising over the horizon and will shine beautifully on the new chapter of bilateral relations.”


  1. Glad to hear the Australian was released. I’m sure it wasa very unpleasant experience for him.

    I enjoy reading these stories. Thanks for sharing.

    1. What was the cause of him getting arrested? Was it a case of mistaken identity, or did he make an enemy that did this to get even? What could an expat do to lower his chances of this happening?

  2. I’d love to know how he got accelerated service. But then, if it became common knowledge the advantage would diminish. 🙂

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