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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

July 31, 2009 Major News Stories

Bakers see lower bread prices

Prices of loaf bread may go down by P1-P2 a loaf if flour prices fall to between P700 and P750 per 25-kilogram bag, according to the Philippine Baking Industry Group Inc.

Philbaking president Walter Co said local flour, which almost all big bakers used to make their breads, was priced at P780-P800 a bag.

"Wheat prices are still on the downturn for July, with prices now at around $200 per metric ton. It reached its highest price in March at around $300 per MT, which also prompted us to increase our prices. But now local flour is selling for P780-P800. We hope flour millers can still lower their prices so we can also pass the savings on to consumers," he said.

If the price of local flour would drop to P750 a bag, he said loaf bread prices could be cut by P1 a loaf, he said. If a bag of flour starts selling for only P700 a bag, a P2-a-loaf price cut could be implemented, according to Co.

He related that the Christmas season, which was only a few months away, could usher in a new round of flour price increases, as this was the usual trend.

"But I hope this won't be the case this year since the flour millers said they have a three-month buffer. We'll constantly be in touch with the (Department of Trade and Industry) to monitor this," he said.

Pan de sal fans also have a reason to celebrate as community bakers have now started selling budget-sized pan de sal, or those that weigh between 20 and 25 grams, for P1.50 apiece.

Philbaking immediate past president Simplicio Umali Jr. said that under the "Pan de Sal ng Bayan" program, a joint undertaking between local bakers and the DTI, budget-sized pan de sal would be sold for only P1.50, from P2 apiece originally.

He said the small bakeries could afford to cut their prices because they used cheaper imported flour in making their bread products.

Australian flour, for example, sold for around P775 a bag, he said. Turkish flour was even cheaper at only P660-P680 per 25-kilogram bag.

"The small bakeries usually use Turkish flour, which is why they can cut their pan de sal prices. We encourage importers to bring in imported flour so we can offer cheaper breads to consumers," he said in a separate interview.

Big bread makers, however, could only go with either locally milled flour or Australian-made flour because of quality considerations, he said.

"If used in making loaf breads, Turkish flour turns the bread a bit dark," he explained.

To be able to reduce selling prices, he said, Philbaking members have been looking at using more imported flour, particularly the Australian variety, in their bread production.

But this would have to done with caution, Co said, as it was more difficult for big bakers to adjust their production processes and inputs than the small community bakeries.

"The smaller bakeries can adjust more easily since they deal with only one or two sacks of flour at a time. But for us, with almost everything automated, it's more difficult to adjust. Also, we always have to watch the quality of our products. We have to be consistent in our quality," he said. "There's also the issue of the tariff on imported flour, which is now at 7 percent. Local flour, on the other hand, has a tariff of zero."

Imported flour also had to hurdle the Fortification Law, which required flour to have a certain amount of vitamins and iodine in it.

"Vitamins and minerals oxidize during transit. The flour we import may have the right amount of vitamins and minerals at source, but they lose some of these on the way, giving us problems with the Fortification Law. This makes it difficult for us to rely on imported flour," he said.

NFA to import 75,000 MT of rice via 3 firms

Energy chief sees P10 drop in LPG price

Prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are expected to drop next month by P10 per 11-kilogram cylinder, according to Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes.

RTC may order arrest of BIR, BOC heads

Prepaid electricity metering guidelines out

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has officially issued the rules governing the prepaid metering scheme for electricity, allowing distribution utilities to begin offering the service to their customers.

The prepaid scheme is expected to help residential customers manage their consumption of electricity.

With the issuance of rules, distribution utilities could file their applications with the ERC to offer paid retail electric service (PRES) to their residential customers, the commission said.

The PRES is an electric service that uses a prepaid metering system designed to allow a residential customer to purchase credit or load and then use electricity until such time his load is exhausted.

It is also is expected not only to benefit consumers but also the distribution utilities, because the service will allow for "operational efficiency."

Customers will have the option to apply for a prepaid retail electric service on a voluntary basis, subject to the availability of a distribution utility's prepaid electric service infrastructure.

"Budget-conscious residential consumers can now control their electricity consumption better. A consumer may opt to buy electric energy credit in reasonable small increments and then use electricity until the said credit is exhausted. This is similar to the load purchased by cell phone users," ERC chairperson Zenaida G. Cruz-Ducut said in a statement.

The electricity rates will be the same as those charged under the existing post paid scheme, unless the distribution utility applies for and the ERC approves a different tariff for prepaid meters, Ducut said.

To further protect the consumers, Ducut said the distribution utility has been mandated to keep a record for each prepaid customer necessary to produce a summary of purchases of electric energy credits for at least the preceding two years.

The summary report should be provided by the distribution utility within five days from the receipt of the customer's request, she added.

According to the ERC, the distribution utilities should also provide reasonable means from which the residential electricity consumers would have easy access to the purchase of the electric energy credit for 24 hours daily to ensure continuous electricity service.

It added that the "cost of the metering system is to be shouldered by the DU (distribution utility), thus, no meter deposit will be collected from the consumer."

Distribution utilities are also required to source prepaid meters that are certified and compliant to the standards of International Electromechanical Commission (IEC) or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Prepaid meters should be further subjected to ERC testing and certification.

As required under the rules, the prepaid electricity meter system must have the capabilities to: load the purchased energy, display real time information on how the load is being consumed, and give warning that the load is close to zero thereby providing a sufficient buffer before electricity is completely disconnected.

Services won't be disrupted: Veco

THE Visayan Electric Company Inc. (Veco) assured that its services will not be disrupted, even if the workers' union votes for a strike.

2 HS students from Medellin have A(H1N1)

TWO high school students from a private school in the northern Cebu town of Medellin tested positive of Influenza A (H1N1), health officials said yesterday morning.

Tom makes fun of 'Gwen College'

STUDENTS of a proposed college named after Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia may have to attend underwater classes with the Capitol's purchase of allegedly submerged land, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said yesterday.

Osmeña made fun of the proposal for a Cebu Government World-class Education Novelty College or Cebu Gwen College in Naga and the purchase of the 25-hectare Balili Property also in Naga.

"I'm just putting two and two together. They will build in Naga that Gwen College and they bought a submerged property in Naga so maybe the school will be underwater.

Cuenco wants to be ambassador

REP. Antonio Cuenco (Cebu City, south district) wants to become an ambassador when his term ends next year and there is a "very slim" chance he would decide to run for city mayor.

More job hunters looking overseas

More people from the Visayas are looking for jobs abroad, this is according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency comparing figures this year to 2008.

Celestica agency employees demand same termination pay as regular workers

Some 50 agency workers of Celestica, the big electronics firm at the Mactan Export Processing Zone I that is due to shut down on August 31, today held a protest to demand termination pay similar to what will be received by regular employees.

65th case filed against Sulpicio Lines

The wife of a passenger of the ill-fated M/V Princess of the Stars has sued Sulpicio Lines, Inc. with P4.202 million worth of damages, bringing to 65 the number of cases against the shipping company in relation to the June 21 sinking.

Arroyo meets with key US officials, solons

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde reported that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has wrapped up several meetings with key American lawmakers and government officials at her Capitol Suite at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC on Thursday morning (late Thursday in Manila).

Pelosi welcomes Arroyo to Capitol Hill

Discuss debt with Obama, Arroyo urged

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to discuss with US President Barack Obama a proposal for a debt-for-millennium development goals (MDG) swap to reduce the country's debt.

Obama must press Glo on vigilante slays

United States President Barack Obama must make it clear to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that Washington wants those behind vigilante-style killings in the south placed behind bars, an official of a human rights watchdog group said.

Ask Obama to fund climate change fight

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should urge US President Barrack Obama and other world leaders to provide $140 billion in funding to help developing nations contend with climate change, the environmental activist group Greenpeace said Thursday.

Talks could touch on Arroyo legacy

The talks between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and US President Barack Obama have no fixed agenda and could touch on Ms Arroyo's "legacy" when she leaves office next year, an official of the US Department of State said on Wednesday.

The Arroyo-Obama meeting is scheduled to last for 45 minutes, said the official, who spoke "on background" as a "senior State Department official" without being directly identified.

In a briefing for the Philippine media at the State Department in Washington D.C. four hours before Ms Arroyo's scheduled arrival, the US official said it was up to both leaders to decide what to discuss in their meeting at the Oval Office on Thursday.

"This is an opportunity to highlight the importance and the value of this relationship," the official said.

"This is one of our most enduring relationships in the world, this is a great opportunity for the President and the people of (other) countries to be reminded of the breadth and depth and importance of the relationship.''

"It's a working visit but it doesn't mean it wouldn't be pleasant. They have a lot to talk about – climate change, the economy, trade, progress in Burma (Myanmar), and promoting non-proliferation particularly with regard to North Korea. But there is no formal agenda. They will decide what to talk about," the official said.

"It's also an opportunity to talk about the legacy that President Arroyo will leave with one more year in office," the official added.

Talk of 'deteriorating rule,' Obama told

US President Barack Obama should tell President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about the "deteriorating rule of law" in her country and stress to her that "his administration was committed to constitutional government in Manila," according to the editorial posted on the website of a US-based newspaper.

The US "should not look the other way again" the way it did under Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos who "consolidated power at the expense of Philippine democracy," the Washington Times said ahead of the meeting between Obama and Arroyo.

"President Obama is welcoming Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the White House today. This gives Mr. Obama the opportunity to tell Mrs. Arroyo that the United States is concerned about the deteriorating rule of law in the archipelago and that his administration is committed to constitutional government in Manila," said the Washington Times editorial dated July 30, the second one on Arroyo's visit.

In an earlier editorial posted on July 26, the Washington Times claimed that Arroyo was merely using Obama as a "political cover" for her troubled administration.

In its latest editorial posted on July 30, the Washington Times described the Philippines' democratic institutions as "shaky," based, the newspaper said, on attempts by Arroyo's allies in Congress to push for constitutional change that would "create a parliament in which she could serve as prime minister and thus stay in power indefinitely as the nation's chief executive."

The Washington Times bolstered its claim by citing a June 11 poll by the Manila-based Social Weather Stations, which reported that just 31 percent of Filipinos believed that Arroyo would step down when her term would expire in 2010.

It also interviewed Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas, a leading candidate to become Philippine president next year if elections were held, who explained that parliamentary change threatened his country's democratic institutions because the governing system would be altered to suit one person's political ambition.

"There is no question that President Arroyo is behind efforts to pervert the law and attempts to prolong her hold on the office," Roxas claimed. "Her two sons and a brother-in-law in the Congress have been leading the effort to dump the constitution so she may remain in power."

The two sons are Juan Miguel "Mikey" and Diosdado "Dato" Arroyo while the brother-in-law is Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo – all congressmen in their respective provinces.

Roxas, who served in the Cabinet during Arroyo's first term and the grandson of the first president of the independent Philippines, lived in exile in the United States during the Marcos dictatorship.

In those years, he came to admire the stability of America even in times of crisis. "The real success of America is in the devotion to the rule of law and the individual American's respect for the law of rules," he said. "Whether you were the president like Richard Nixon or one of the wealthiest like Bernie Madoff, if you break the rules eventually you will fall."

He emphasized the importance of the law limiting the time Philippine presidents can stay in office.

The term limit was enshrined in the Constitution to prevent too much power from accumulating in the hands of one person over a long period of time, Roxas said.

After 20 years of Marcos rule – during which martial law was declared, Congress was padlocked and civil liberties were suspended – Filipinos decided six years provided enough time for a president to enact an agenda without becoming too entrenched in power.

By the time Arroyo's term expires next year, she will have been in office 10 years. During this time, extrajudicial killings have run rampant, the Washington Times editorial said.

(Elaine Pearson, a human rights advocate, explains how in a separate article on the Washington Times).

Arroyo came to power during a military-backed revolt that ousted President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

In deference to the six-year term limit, Mrs. Arroyo originally vowed not to run for president after serving the remaining four years of Mr. Estrada's term. She broke that promise. In 2004, she won a scandal-plagued election in which she was recorded telling the national election commissioner how large her margin of victory should be.

"The United States looked the other way when Marcos consolidated power at the expense of Philippine democracy. This was deemed expedient at the time because of the need to maintain an anti-communist ally in Manila during the Cold War. In today's meeting with President Arroyo, President Obama should make clear that America won't look the other way again," the editorial said.

MILF eyes bigger US role in peace talks

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Mindanao stood to benefit from the meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and United States President Barack Obama as it expressed hope that Washington would play a bigger role in the peace process.

Go to US, FG dares Estrada, Lacson

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's husband has posed a challenge to former President Joseph Estrada and Senator Panfilo Lacson: Set foot on US soil, as he has done.

Dumlao to tag Lacson in Dacer case

Former police colonel Glen Dumlao will affirm his handwritten affidavit linking Senator Panfilo Lacson to the 2000 Dacer-Corbito murders, one of his lawyers said.

Arraignment of twin slays deferred

The arraignment of a key witness in the double murder allegedly involving former president Joseph Estrada and Senator Panfilo Lacson has been deferred by a lower court on the request of the witness' lawyer.

Jetlagged Arroyo parties with FilAm group

A travel weary President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo frolicked in the company of nearly 500 Filipino-American supporters, mostly her "kabalen" (provincemates), at a hotel dinner party here ahead of her meeting with United States President Barack Obama.

Zubiri: Solons with Arroyo bootlickers

Lawmakers who joined President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on her trip to the United States to meet with President Barack Obama are "bootlickers," Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said.

Palace slammed for returning JBC shortlist

A watchdog group criticized Malacañang for returning the shortlist of nominees to the Supreme Court to the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) to add more names to the list.

SC junks anti-Charter change plea

The Supreme Court has denied with finality two petitions that sought to nullify a resolution at the House of Representatives that sought to convene lawmakers into a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution.

NPC: No alliance with Lakas-Kampi

The Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) of business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco is not eyeing a coalition with the ruling administration party Lakas-Kampi-CMD (Christian Muslim Democrat) for the May 2010 elections, a party stalwart said on Thursday.

Zubiri files contempt raps vs Pimentel

PNP assessment on poll 'hotspots'

The Philippine National Police has stepped up its intelligence operations in assessing and determining hotspots in the 2010 election, Director General Jesus Verzosa said.

De Lima: So what if I'm Joma's kin?

Former aides continue prayers for Aquino

Keeping steadfast in their faith, the former staff of ailing ex-President Corazon Aquino continued offering fervent prayers for her on the fourth day of novena masses in Makati City on Thursday.

40-hour prayer vigil for Cory

OFW remittances to exceed P17B in '09

Despite the global financial crisis, remittances from overseas Filipino workers may surpass $17 billion mark this year, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said.

Fishkill hits Apo Island

The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the residents of Apo Island, a popular diving spot in Dauin, have intensified efforts to secure the fishing ground of the island following a fish kill in the area late last week.

Face me at 147 for title, Cotto tells Manny

Lapid hopes to meet Obama in Washington

Senator Lito Lapid is a man on a mission on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's trip to the White House.

Conjoined twins doing fine says docs

Custody deal for Jackson's children

A custody deal has been struck for Michael Jackson's children that would see their grandmother retain permanent custody and the biological mother of the two eldest keep parental rights, US media reported Thursday.

Michael Jackson 'exhilarated by death'

'National Artist snub' of Dolphy assailed

NBI to summon Belo on botched butt job

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will summon celebrity cosmetic surgeon Vicki Belo and other representatives of the Belo Medical Group (BMG) to answer the allegations of a female patient that her butt augmentation surgery almost killed her.

Madonna's 'eternal' Guy love

World's oldest man laid to rest in Britain

Hundreds of people paid their last respects Thursday at the funeral of Henry Allingham, the world's oldest man and a veteran of World War I, who died earlier this month aged 113.

Mayon gas emission above normal

For the first two days' use of the fly spectrometer (flyspec), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has confirmed an increasing trend of sulfur dioxide emission by Mayon Volcano, an indication that magma is rising towards the crater.

9 pres'l bets join texting-based primaries

Print media for ads not going away soon

The print medium will continue to be the medium of choice—both for publications and advertising -- for years to come, as industry trends show that the Internet and mobile phone media have not yet taken most of the print's domain.

'Internet catching up with traditional media'

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