The latest news stories from the major news organizations in Cebu and Manila in the Philippines, the US and other countries.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 17, 2009 Major News Stories

DepEd: More H1N1 personnel for schools

The increasing number of students having Influenza A(H1N1) in Central Visayas has pressured the Department of Education to look into designating more personnel to take care of the health concerns of the over 4,000 basic education schools in the region.

Pinoy seafarer with A(H1N1) dies in HK

Malaysia requires flu scans for RP

Malaysia is now requiring passengers from the Philippines and two other countries to be scanned twice as the number of Filipinos afflicted with the Influenza A(H1N1) virus abroad continues to swell, according to the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Race for A (H1N1) vaccines begins

In London the Health Protection Agency said 29 people with the A(H1N1) virus in Britain had so far died, a sharp increase in the death toll, which earlier this week stood at 17.

It also estimated there were 55,000 new cases last week in Britain, the worst hit country by the pandemic in Europe.

Earlier this month, Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the country could face more than 100,000 cases of the A(H1N1) virus a day by the end of August.

France announced it had ordered 94 million influenza A (H1N1) vaccine doses, stepping up its efforts to contain what the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned is now an unstoppable pandemic.

Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the vaccines -- a one-billion-euro order -- would be delivered between October and January.

Portugal too announced an order for six million doses of vaccine, costing 45 million euros (64 million dollars) to be deliver by January at the latest.

"We will be in a position to vaccinate for free all the groups considered to be at risk," said Health Minister Ana Jorge.

Neither country has reported a death from influenza A (H1N1).

In Argentina, which has recorded 137 confirmed deaths -- second only to the US toll -- Health Minister Juan Manzur expressed fears that South American countries would not be able to get their share of the vaccines.

Speaking after hosting six-nation talks on the issue, he said: "We have information that much of the production is already reserved."

Of the other countries present at the talks, Chile has 33 deaths, Uruguay 15, Paraguay six, Brazil four, and Bolivia two.

Ministers at the meeting also expressed alarm that the virus had picked up in the southern hemisphere's winter.

The WHO has reported about 430 deaths worldwide.

Australia meanwhile warned Thursday it could face 6,000 influenza A (H1N1) deaths this year. But Health Minister Nicola Roxon stressed: "That's really the worst-case scenario that is being projected at the moment."

It was on the assumption that there would be a lack of vaccines and anti-viral drugs, she said.

Australia is the Asia-Pacific nation worst-hit by the pandemic, with 11,194 infections -- or nearly 12 percent of the global total of 94,500 confirmed by the World Health Organization.

It is planning a mass vaccination scheme in October.

WHO chief Margaret Chan warned on Wednesday that a vaccine to combat the surging pandemic would not be readily available for months.

In Canada, which has seen 25 influenza A (H1N1) deaths, according to WHO figures, hundreds of youngsters contracted the virus at three summer camps in the eastern province of Ontario, local health authorities said.

But none of the cases was serious enough to require hospitalisation, local health official Charles Gardner told broadcaster NBC.

Elsewhere officials were closely monitoring sports and entertainment events after South Korea scrapped several gatherings when more than a dozen Indonesians attending a choir contest there tested positive for the virus.

In rugby-mad New Zealand, officials urged fans to stay away from the Tri-Nations rugby Test against Australia if they had influenza A (H1N1) symptoms.

"If you have symptoms, don't go -- you might feel well enough, but be considerate to everyone else," deputy public health director Fran McGrath told the New Zealand Herald.

Duque: Competition among firms still weak

Drug firms give price cut proposals

Multinational drug companies have started giving their proposals for voluntary price reduction as they had promised President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during a meeting last July 8.

Dr. Robert So, program manager of the Department of Health's National Drug Program, said they have received 10 proposals on Wednesday and they expect to get more in the coming days until the 10-day deadline on July 18.

Members of the DOH's National Drug Program, which oversees all DOH initiatives to make essential medicines more affordable and accessible, listened to the presentation of representatives of some drug companies throughout Wednesday.

So said other companies have sent word that they will formally submit their proposals but without any presentation.

"We're being transparent. We listened to them, no commitments. (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque and (Trade) Secretary (Peter) Favila know about this," he said.

So said some of the drug companies have offered to cut the price of other medicines not included in the list of 21 essential medicines that the DOH had recommended to the President for an across the board 50 per cent price reduction.

He said they would present the proposals in a tabulated form vis-à-vis the DOH's own recommendation for a maximum retail price (MRP) on certain identified essential medicines.

So said they would also consult with civil society advocates of cheaper medicines and get their feedback on the proposals before the DOH makes its recommendation to the President.

Multinational drug companies met with Arroyo, Duque and Favila last July 8 to appeal against the imposition of a price ceiling as provided under the Cheaper Medicines Law of 2008.

Executives instead offered to submit their own voluntary price reduction proposal by July 18.

The 21 medicines under the DOH''s recommended MRP list are: amlopidine, telmisartan, irbesartan, which are anti-hypertensive drugs; clopidogrel, an anti-thrombotic drug; the anti-cholesterol drug atorvastatin; the anti-diabetic drug gliclazide; piperacillin + tazobactam, ciprofloxacin, azithromycin, metronidazole and co-amoxiclave which are antibiotic drugs; and bleomycin, carboplatin, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, cytarabine, doxorubicin, etoposide, mercaptopurine, methotrexate sodium and mesna which are anti-cancer drugs.

Roxas to blame for cheap meds row

Senator Manuel Roxas has only himself to blame for the lack of ceilings on retail prices of the most commonly used medicines, according to an incumbent and a former lawmaker who were involved in crafting the House of Representatives' version of the cheaper medicines law.

The two, Iloilo Representative Ferjenel Biron and former Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico, also said Roxas' best course of action, if he really wanted to bring down the prices of drugs, would be to stop his publicity-seeking hearings and to amend the law.

Biron, a medical doctor, said it was Roxas who had insisted that the cheaper medicines law should allow the President to issue an executive order designating what should be regulated or not.

Roxas made the demand in the bicameral conference committee, where he also shot down the provision in the House version of the bill that mandated the creation of a drug price regulatory board, Biron said.

The House lawmakers agreed because they were worried that the law might not be passed, Biron added. But he also noted that the President could not be forced to do anything.

"We gave in to Senator Mar. Now, he is complaining, when he was the one who wanted to give the power to the President. The sad thing is, you cannot compel the President to regulate these medicines as recommended by the [health] secretary," he said at the Serye forum in Quezon City.

Roxas has accused the President of colluding with the drug companies to circumvent the law after she allowed them to submit their own proposed lower prices for commonly used medicines, in exchange for not signing the executive order that would dictate the mandatory retail price.

Biron also said that even if the President signed the executive order, it would not help the people that much because it would cover only 22 medicines.

Suplico also said Roxas' committee hearings on cheaper medicines were nothing more than a campaign to beef up his political stock in preparation for his 2010 bid for the presidency.

"You have nothing to blame except yourself. You were the one who killed the idea of a cheaper medicines act," Suplico said, speaking in the same forum.

He also said Roxas had pushed for parallel importation, which he said would only benefit the multinational firms.

In shooting down the House proposal of a drug price regulatory board, Biron said Roxas was worried that this board could be open to corruption.

But Biron said Roxas' fears were unfounded because the board would have to follow a specific process of listing the actual costs of the drug manufacturing process as well as computing a reasonable profit margin for the companies, so that it could set the maximum retail price.

He said that even if the drug companies slashed their prices by 50 percent, this would not be low enough because they could actually set it even lower.

Also, more than 22 medicines could be subjected to price regulation, he added.

Biron also said Roxas' time would be better spent by stopping the hearings and amending the cheaper medicines law instead.

"The only remedy is to go back to the law. Amend the law and reinstate automatic mandatory price regulation," he said.

Energy chief faces neglect of duty rap

A lawyer on Thursday accused Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes of "neglect of duty" before the Office of the Ombudsman for failing to publish a "periodic schedule" of the oil industry's "present and future inventory" of petroleum products.

Oil holds above $61 on positive US news

Oil prices hovered above $61 a barrel Thursday in Asia after a more positive economic outlook from the US central bank buoyed investor confidence.

Teachers' pay hike to start this month

Over 36,000 teachers in Central Visayas will receive increased basic salary effective this month as the Department of Education succeeded in pushing for the implementation of the National Budget Circular No. 521.

POEA suspends 2 recruitment firms

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has suspended two recruitment companies deploying workers to Libya after they were found guilty of contract substitution.  The POEA, in a statement, said Aquagem International and Sharikat Al Saedi International were suspended after 45 of their overseas Filipino worker clients complained of breach of contract.

"The POEA suspended two recruitment agencies following investigation indicating that the OFWs they deployed to Libya suffered contract substitution," said the department.

The Philippine government also placed the employers of the OFWs, Cifex World, under the POEA watchlist.

According to POEA investigation, the recruiters did not follow the POEA-verified contract signed by the OFWs in Manila.

When the workers arrived in Libya, representatives of the recruitment agencies forced the workers to sign another contract providing for a lower salary and different working conditions.

11 Afghan-bound OFWs offloaded at NAIA

Eleven Filipino workers bound for war-torn Afghanistan were offloaded from a plane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) during an operation of the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (TFAIR) early this week, Vice President Noli de Castro said on Thursday.

Another warrant for arrest of Legacy owner

Another arrest warrant was served by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Wednesday on ailing Legacy Group owner Celso de los Angeles in his room at St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City where he is confined as a cancer patient.

Tom: CCMC to send to Gwen patients

PATIENTS from Cebu Province who are not in an emergency situation will not be served at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC). They will instead be sent to the governor's office.

Mayor's sole b-day word: alive

A BIG party with at least 1,000 guests will mark Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña's and his wife Margot's birthdays next week, with boxing champion Manny Pacquiao as their special guest.

Baquerfo takes over, thefts in town hall

TUDELA Mayor Rogelio Baquerfo yesterday set foot in his office at the town hall after a year and 23 days of political struggle with rival Demetrio Granada.

Nothing irregular in P50M projects of Soc

THERE is nothing irregular or illegal in the P50 million worth of projects Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez signed without the approval of the City Council, Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu Province, 1st district) said yesterday.

Group threatens to sue 32 mayors

A GROUP of environmental lawyers have threatened to sue the mayors of 32 Cebu municipalities for failing to comply with provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act by continuing to operate an open dumping site.

Court: Reinvestigate Dumpit murder case

THE murder case filed against policeman Adonis Dumpit for allegedly killing a teenager he suspected of robbery will not move for another month and a half, during which he will continue to remain free.

FVR: Stepping down mandatory

Former President Fidel Ramos said stepping down from power was "mandatory," taking an apparent swipe at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

6 Palace hopefuls seal commitment to polls

Six potential presidential candidates sealed their commitment to the holding of presidential elections and their opposition against efforts to rewrite the Constitution to extend the term of incumbent officials by signing a covenant on Thursday night.

Comelec: Bloggers can cover 2010 polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will invite bloggers to cover the 2010 elections, from the preparations up to the proclamation of winners, a spokesman for the poll body said Thursday.

SC orders poll recount in Pampanga

The Supreme Court has paved the way for the recount of votes in the 2007 gubernatorial elections in Pampanga province after the high tribunal dismissed the petition of Governor Ed Panlilio to stop the Commission on Elections from enforcing the recount.

Kidnapped fishermen rescued in Basilan

Government security forces rescued two fishermen who were recently kidnapped in Zamboanga del Sur, following a brief firefight with alleged Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels in Basilan.

Schools to hold vigils for 3 seized teachers

Set them free without any conditions. Education Secretary Jesli A. Lapus and the 500,000-plus teaching and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education have jointly called for the immediate release of the three kidnapped public school teachers from Zamboanga Sibugay.

Arroyo to fly to Cotabato City from Egypt

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is flying straight to Mindanao on Friday following a quick visit to Egypt where she represented the Association of Southeast Nations at the two-day 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

They should be thankful I helped

Instead of investigating her, Philippine security officials should be thankful that she helped secure the freedom of Red Cross workers abducted by the Abu Sayyaf, Sulu Vice Governor Nur-Ana "Lady Ann" Sahidulla said Thursday in response to calls to have her probed over the just-concluded hostage crisis in the province.

No amnesty for Abu Sayyaf, says Palace

Malacañang on Thursday declared that the government would not grant amnesty to the Abu Sayyaf, saying leniency could not be granted to "brutal criminals.''

Young Muslims need better options

Military officers fighting Islamist extremists said Thursday the Philippines needed a "paradigm shift", warning the threat would fester unless marginalized young Muslims were given more chances to get ahead in life.

Bombings not a barrier to talks—Razon

A spate of deadly bombings in the southern Philippines blamed on Muslim insurgents will not be an impediment to resuming peace talks, the government's chief negotiator said Thursday.

Glo: P10M for peace task force in Mindanao

Peace talks with CPP to resume August

Peace talks aimed at ending the 40-year Maoist armed rebellion in the Philippines are to resume in Norway next month after a four-year hiatus, the government's chief negotiator said Thursday.

Inmate linked to death squad sues CHR

An inmate linked to summary executions of crime suspects here has sued a top Commission on Human Rights official, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and top police officers for allegedly coercing him into confessing his participation in the killings.

DILG chief back, denies 'political demise'

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said on Thursday he was "taken aback" by "rumors of my political demise" when he took a two-week leave of absence to go to the United States.

DoJ chief to PCGG: No clearance, no travel

Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera has instructed the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to clear with her any further foreign travel on official business of its officials and employees.

SRA chief posts bail on graft rap

Sugar Regulatory Administrator Rafael Coscolluela said that the charges filed against him before the Sandiganbayan appeared to be "an orchestrated campaign to embarrass him in public."

Cory Aquino"s condition "still stable"

President Corazon Aquino"s health remains stable, her former spokesperson said Thursday, following rumors that the democracy icon had already passed away.

Strong quake hits off Papua New Guinea

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea's remote New Ireland area Thursday, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

Technical problem behind Iran plane crash

Mayweather on Marquez, then Pacquiao

Comebacking Floyd Mayweather Jr. said he wants to focus on his upcoming bout with Juan Manuel Marquez first before thinking about fighting Filipino pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.

Hatton hospitalized due to cramps

British boxer Ricky Hatton has been admitted to hospital here suffering from stomach cramps and vomiting, according to press reports on Thursday.

NBA champion Lakers pull offer to Odom

The NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers have withdrawn an offer to free agent Lamar Odom after the 10th-year forward did not respond to the proposal, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Video shows Jackson's head catching fire

A US entertainment magazine has released never-before-seen footage of Michael Jackson's hair catching fire while filming a commercial in 1984, an accident it said led to an addiction to painkillers.

Madonna 'devastated' after stage collapse

Hayden's mom told to file affidavit

The Quezon City prosecutors' office has directed Irene Kho, mother of cosmetic surgeon Hayden Kho, to submit her rejoinder affidavit within a week's time after actress Katrina Halili filed her reply affidavit this week.

Lolit: 'Angels and Demons' diverts issue

Walang takot na hinarap ni Lolit Solis ang isyu na isa umano sya sa mga utak sa pagpaplano para malinis ang imahe ni Hayden sa publiko. Ito'y matapos ilabas ng kampo ni Katrina Halili ang isang audio tape na nagdedetalye sa nasabing plano.

Oldest woman to give birth dies in Spain

A Spanish woman who became the world's oldest person to give birth in 2006 when she had twin boys at the age of 67 using in vitro fertilization has died, newspapers reported Wednesday.

Partial solar eclipse to be seen July 22

Top 20 time-management tips to live by

Ted Turner  - "Sports is like a war without the killing."

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