Julie McCarthy

As the United States' strategic rivalry with China intensifies, one part of the world, Southeast Asia — where the U.S. has ceded much influence over the past two decades to China — is witnessing renewed U.S. interest under President Biden.

Biden administration officials have made repeated trips to the region in the past year and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, is looking with both hope and trepidation as Washington deepens competition with China over technology, investment, infrastructure and security.

Updated December 21, 2021 at 1:29 PM ET

Authorities in the Philippine islands raked by Super Typhoon Rai late last week warn that residents are growing increasingly desperate without food and water, and urge that declarations of "calamity" be ordered in the worst hit areas.

In a televised briefing Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a declaration putting six regions under a "state of calamity," which activates a freeze on prices, among other measures.

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Updated December 12, 2021 at 6:03 PM ET

The Philippines' Supreme Court largely upheld an anti-terrorism law this week that spawned rancorous challenges, in a ruling that could have far-reaching impacts in the Southeast Asian country. But the court struck down one measure, representing a partial win for petitioners who feared its sweeping definition of terrorism.

The Philippine government, beset by charges of incompetence and corruption in its handling of the pandemic, has mounted a vaccination campaign that any of its Southeast Asian neighbors might envy. Over the course of just three days this week the country vaccinated 7.6 million people ages 12 and above. 34.53% of the country is now fully vaccinated.

Oxygen tank at her side, Isabelita Vinuya, 88, struggles as she sits up in her bed, too weak to stand and too listless to talk about the cause that animated her life the past 25 years. She organized the "Malaya Lolas," women who endured the Japanese Imperial Army's system of sexual slavery during its occupation of the Philippines in World War II. NPR's radio and digital account of the survivors' stories — and their decades-long struggle to win reparations from Japan — was honored with the Edward R.

He once scavenged through garbage heaps to help feed his family in one of Manila's most distressed slums. But today, Isko Moreno has launched himself on a bid to rule the Philippines.

Moreno, the Manila City mayor and former actor, announced Wednesday he's running to succeed President Rodrigo Duterte, whose term ends in June 2022.

Moreno's entry into the race has sparked attention because of his relative meteoric rise and his potential to upset a growing field of contenders who are vying for the highest office.

The International Criminal Court has authorized a formal investigation into the controversial anti-drug war of the Philippines that has drawn international outrage.

By official count, at least 6,000 Filipinos, mostly poor drug peddlers and addicts, have been killed in the anti-drug police operations. But rights groups estimate the number of victims could be four times that.

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National elections in the Philippines are not until May of next year, but the family of the president, Rodrigo Duterte, has already shaken up the race. NPR's Julie McCarthy explains how

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has derided the United States, and courted China, through much of his time in office, putting one of America's oldest alliances in Asia on the back foot. But now, nearing the end of his single six-year term, the mercurial leader appears to be looking more favorably toward the Americans.

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In Southeast Asia, the coronavirus is gathering pace, with dangerous new outbreaks in Malaysia and Vietnam. Both these countries had managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic in 2020.

In Malaysia, the surge in cases follows exponential growth that began in early April. Cases have risen by more than 60% in the past 14 days.

Friday alone saw more than 8,200 confirmed new cases of infection, pushing the country's tally to more than 603,100, a five-fold increase since the start of the year.

Eighty-year-old Nardo Samson, a retired policeman, lay dying in the back of a makeshift ambulance. It was nearly Easter. A surge in coronavirus cases triggered yet another lockdown in the capital Manila, where a confusing patchwork of quarantines to contain the virus persists.

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