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

Monday, February 1, 2010

February 2, 2010 Major News Stories

Power shortfall in Visayas as much as 220 megawatts

The Visayas Grid yesterday experienced a shortfall in power during peak hours due to zero contingency reserve and generation deficiency.

Belinda Canlas, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines corporate communications officer-Visayas, said that the grid experienced a deficit of up to 220 megawatts during weekday peak hours with the shutdown of the three power plants in the grid.

These are the 50 MW Cebu Thermal 1 Plant, the 50 MW gas turbines of Salcon Power and the 120 MW Mahanagdong geothermal power plant in Leyte.

Canlas said that the first two plants are under preventive maintenance shutdown to make way for maintenance works or repairs, which will improve power facilities and services.

She said that Unit 2 of Mahanagdong is expected to be back online on February 8 while the Unit 1 is expected to be back on the grid on February 16.

Cebu Thermal 1 Plant, on the other hand, will be available starting February 23 yet.

Canlas further said that to reduce the impact of power interruptions to the customers, the Luzon Grid started augmenting its supply between to the Visayas Grid to between 70 to 100 MW yesterday morning.

At 2 p.m. yesterday, it was as high as 150 MW.

Ethel Natera, spokesperson of the Visayan Electric Company (VECO), said that power situation is break-even due to availability of Luzon's supply to the Visayas grid during the day.

However, Natera said at around 6 p.m., power shortage was experienced affecting parts of Mandaue City and downtown Cebu City.

Gwen: No Cause For Alarm

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday said the 200 MW shortfall in power supply for the Visayas should not be a caused for alarm.

She assured the business sector that immediate measures were undertaken to address the problem.

Garcia told reporters that the 10-day temporary power situation caused by the Mahalagdong preventive maintenance shutdown, as well as some problems encountered by other power plants should not raise alarms bells unnecessarily.

"I remind everybody this is a temporary situation that we are facing, as we have reminded everyone time and again. We are doing something about the power situation." Garcia said.

She said that two power plants are being constructed promises to supply a total of 446 MW.

"To allay fears of others I am calling for a meeting tomorrow, of all concerned players, in order to address a temporary solution to a temporary situation."

Last week, officials of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) announced the 200 MW power shortage and explained it needed 10 days to conduct preventive maintenance on the Mahanagdong geothermal power plant starting last January 30.

Garcia said that they should not even try and ring their hands in despair and frustration and believe that this would scare away investors from Cebu.

"This kind of attitude is like we are banging our own head with our own hammer," Garcia said.

Garcia added that they already are looking at a more effective implementation of the interruptible load agreement.

She urged the business sector, which has voiced their concern about the shortage to do their share of solving the problem.

According to Garcia, several members of the business chambers have their own power generating capacity and can sign up to join the interruptible load agreement.

"Para kadtong mga ordinary nga konsumidor nga waly kapasidad dili maoy mag-antos," said Garcia.

Praise For Cemex

Several officials have praised Cemex for the additional 10 MW it provides VECO from its power plant.

Though this may not be much, it helps alleviate the lack of power.

Cemex, a cement manufacturing company based in Naga City, formally opened its substation yesterday.

Darwin Mariano, Cemex' public affairs director, said that the new CEMEX-VECO substation, a diesel-powered plant, has already started dispatching 10MW of its excess supply to Cebu since December last year.

 The move, he said, is to "help alleviate" the province's power shortages.

City Officials Also Act

Acting Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama is scheduled to separately meet today with the officials of VECO and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Rama wants to be apprised of the power situation and decided to also meet Comelec to get some ideas about addressing power problems during the May 10 elections.

Rama said that one way to minimize the shortage of power is for the power consumers to minimize the unnecessary use of their appliances.

One of the solutions about the power shortage is the scheduled operation of one of the power plants owned by the Cebu Energy Development Corp. in barangay Sangi, Toledo City in the middle of this month.

Cost of Bataan nuke plant rehab set at $1-B

MANILA, Philippines - Rehabilitating the moth-balled Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) will cost $1 billion, according to an estimate provided by Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) to National Power Corp. (Napocor).

LPG price cut by almost P6 per 11-kg cylinder

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) retailers have slashed prices by 50 centavos per kilogram effective Monday due to a decline in the international contract price of LPG this month.

Petron to slash diesel, kerosene prices Monday noon

Major oil player Petron Corporation announced that it would implement price cuts on its diesel and kerosene products on Monday noon.

Bread prices to increase next week due to high sugar prices

MANILA, Philippines - Bakeshops will increase prices next week due to the continued rise in sugar prices.

Rice stocks enough for 75 days

The country's milled rice stocks stood at 2.63 million metric tons (MT) as of January, enough for 75 days and 2.3 percent higher than a year earlier, latest data showed.

After 3 weeks in hiding: Dumpit gives up to clear officials

From being one of the top acknowledged pursuers of criminal elements, SPO1 Adonis Dumpit became a fugitive himself when a warrant for his arrest could not be served.

LTO after syndicate behind fake licenses

Transportation officials in Central Visayas are presently conducting an investigation to unmask the syndicate engaged in the issuance of fake drivers' licenses in Cebu City.

Tining fails to take oath and deliver speech again

For the third time, former Bogo Mayor Celestino "Tining" Martinez III failed to take his oath of office at the House of Representatives yesterday and Rep. Benhur Salimbangon has continued to attend the session.

Sanchez to pursue case vs Garcia for usurpation

Despite the renewal of the contracts of his seven casual employees, Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez Jr. said he is not completely abandoning the possibility of filing criminal complaints against Governor Gwendolyn Garcia because of alleged usurpation of authority.

Senate approves early voting bill

A bill allowing early voting in national and local elections has been unanimously approved on third and final reading in the Senate.

Comelec, Smartmatic sign pact on 77,000 ballot boxes

The Commission on Elections and the Smartmatic firm signed a P243-million contract for the delivery of 77,000 ballot boxes between March and April.

BoC to look into alleged entry of jammers

Bureau of Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said the agency would look into the Commission of Election's concerns over electronic signal jamming devices that officials say have entered the country and can be used to sabotage the 2010 automated polls.

NTC eyes banning electronic jamming devices

The National Telecommunications Commission is considering a ban on the importation of electronic signal jamming devices that officials say can be used to sabotage the 2010 automated polls.

100 soldiers serve as politicians' bodyguards

MANILA, Philippines - The military on Monday said it has deployed some 100 soldiers to serve as bodyguards to candidates in the coming presidential and local elections.

Stick to bodyguard rule, Comelec told

The Philippine National Police on Monday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to stand firm on Resolution 8714 which imposes a nationwide gun ban and limits to only two the number of bodyguards a candidate may have during the election period.

Villar continues to eat Noynoy's lead in survey

Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III maintained his lead over other presidential candidates in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, but his closest rival, Sen. Manuel Villar Jr., has cut the difference to only 7 percentage points.

Aquino's lead went down from 44 percent in late December to only 42 percent, according to the SWS survey commissioned by BusinessWorld

The same poll, conducted January 21 to 24 and covered 2,100 respondents, showed Villar's ratings rise from 33 percent in December to 35 percent despite the C-5 road controversy hounding him. 

Aquino's camp, however, was unfazed by the latest survey.

"We're not worried. Senator Noy's numbers are stable and within the margin of error. Senator Villar's increase is due to massive ad placements on TV and radio," said Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, spokesman of Liberal Party (LP), Aquino's political group.

"We are encouraged by the deep commitment of support from more than 40 percent of the voter base despite the relentless assault of multibillion peso campaigns," said Aquino's spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a text message.

Tañada noted that the survey was conducted before the Senate report on Villar's alleged use of his influence to benefit financially from the C-5 road construction came out.

BusinessWorld and information from the Liberal Party showed former President Joseph Estrada - whose bid for re-election was recently allowed by the Commission on Elections - on third place a 13-percent rating, two percentage points down from the last survey.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard bearer Gilberto Teodoro maintained his spot in the fourth place with 4 percent, although his rating decreased by 1 percentage point. He was followed by Senator Richard Gordon and Jesus is Lord leader Bro. Eddie Villanueva, who each got 2 percent.

According to BusinessWorld, Senator Jamby Madrigal got 0.4 percent, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan standard bearer Vetellano Acosta got 0.3 percent, Ang Kapatiran's JC Delos Reyes got 0.2 percent, and environmentalist Nicanor Perlas got 0.1 percent.

Two percent said they were still undecided, said BusinessWorld.

For the vice presidential race, Aquino's running-mate, Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II widened his lead over his closest rival, Senator Loren Legarda. Roxas garnered a 49-percent rating, 6 percentage points up from another SWS survey that covered December 5-10. 

Legarda's rating, meanwhile, went down from 32 percent in the same period to 28 percent. Legarda is the running-mate of Villar.

Estrada's running-mate, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, got a 16-percent rating, which was up by 6 percentage points from December 5-10. He was followed by Gordon's runningmate, former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Bayani Fernando, and Teodoro's running-mate, former Optical Media Board head Edu Manzano, who both got 2 percent.

Monsod: C-5 road extension unnecessary, wasteful

MANILA, Philippines - UP economist Prof. Winnie Monsod believes the controversial C-5 road extension was an "unnecessary" and "wasteful" project where Senate President Manuel Villar benefited tremendously.

Noynoy's, Gibo's backtracking on RH bill won't assure Church support

by By Dennis Carcamo

Presidential aspirants Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Gilberto Teodoro withdrawing their support of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill will not necessarily mean that they would get the backing of the Church, a former leader of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) disclosed today.

Enrile confirms Lacson out of the country

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile confirmed on Monday that Lacson was out of the country but could not say his exact whereabouts.

Government offers Muslim rebels 'enhanced autonomy'

The Philippines has offered southern Muslim separatists "enhanced autonomy" in the hope of sealing a peace accord to end 40 years of rebellion, the government's chief negotiator said Monday.

Senate ratifies Freedom of Information bill

The Senate has finally ratified a bill that would give the people the right to information and promote the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions.

Honasan is Senate's biggest spender; Trillanes ranks fourth

Despite his detention, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV is one of the biggest spenders in the Senate along with Senators Gregorio Honasan, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., according to a report by the Commission on Audit published Monday.

Ex-Ombudsman nominates special prosecutor to SC

Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, has nominated the Ombudsman's Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio to the post of Chief Justice, a member of the Judicial and Bar Council said on Monday.

More HIV/AIDS cases linked to Internet boom

The Department of Health (DOH) has said Internet social networking sites have provided a venue for young people to find partners in risky sex that usually leads to cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country.

3 kilos of high-grade cocaine found in Samar shore

Government agents over the weekend recovered three bricks of sealed high-grade cocaine at the shoreline of Salcedo town in Eastern Samar.

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said the cocaine blocks, weighing more than three kilos, were part of the large illegal drug shipment dumped in Samar waters by a foreign-owned vessel last December 26.

The shipment came from South America and was being brought to Hong Kong, Devanadera said at a press briefing Monday.

"The Philippines is not the original or intended end-user of that shipment. It was originally bound for Hong Kong but apparently, natunugan ng grupo (the group learned) that they are under surveillance," she said. 

Authorities recovered about 200 kilos of cocaine from the area last December following tips from fishermen.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), an agency under the Justice Department, however, has received reports that that some bricks of cocaine were being hoarded by some fishermen. 

Devanadera warned them of possible criminal liabilities should they be caught in possession of the illegal drug. 

"Hindi ibig sabihin na napulot lang ninyo ay wala na kayong liability. You would also be punished. You have criminal liability pag nahulihan kayo, hindi kayo makakalabas ng kulungan," she said. 

(Claims that you just got hold of the illegal drug from somewhere will not absolve you. You will still have criminal liability which can send you to jail.)

Possession of illegal drugs in the Philippines is a non-bailable offense and carries with it life imprisonment under Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Labor group slams plan to 'divert' SSS funds

MANILA, Philippines - Labor activists launched a protest action Monday in front of the main office of the Social Security System against an alleged plan of Romulo Neri, administrator of the government-run pension system, to reportedly divert P12.5 billion of SSS funds.

Philippine Airlines union files strike notice

A union representing Philippine Airlines (PAL) ground staff said Monday it had notified the government of its intention to call a strike in a dispute over the outsourcing of the airline's services.

Former Legacy bank president arrested for unsound banking practices

The former president of a closed Legacy-related bank was arrested last week in connection with a case of unsafe and unsound banking practices filed by the country's state deposit insurer. Romualdo Lugtu, former president of the closed Central Rural Bank and former director and vice president for loans and credit of the closed Banco Paranaque, was arrested by the Makati police on Thursday. In 2006, Lugtu and 2 other bank officers were charged by the PDIC for creating fictitious loans worth P12 billion.

DFA to process 4,000 passports a day in new edifice

Passport applicants can expect prompt and fast service after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had its new consular building blessed and readied for opening last week.

Iraqi police: Female suicide bomber kills 41

BAGHDAD - A female suicide bomber walking among Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad detonated an explosives belt on Monday, killing at least 41 people and wounding more than 100, officials said.

Ransom paid to Somali pirates for Greek cargo

MOGADISHU—A ransom was air-dropped Monday onto a Greek-owned cargo ship captured by Somali pirates in November but the vessel was not immediately freed, pirates told AFP.

US boxing scribes: Pacquiao decade's best fighter

by By Dino Maragay

The period from 2000 to 2009 saw Manny Pacquiao's rise from virtual anonymity to boxing immortality, piling up victories over quality opponents and establishing an unprecedented seven world titles in as many weight classes.

Mayweather blames Pacquiao for fight's collapse

MANILA, Philippines – Undefeated fighter Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has found a new opponent in fellow American Shane Mosley, but he still has a mouthful to say about Manny Pacquiao, whom he was supposed to fight in March until negotiations crumbled.

Erik Morales returns to boxing in March

MANILA, Philippines – Manny Pacquiao's erstwhile rival, Erik "El Terrible" Morales of Mexico, announced that he will return to boxing in hopes of becoming a 4-division champion.

'Bata' Reyes bags 5th Master of the Table crown

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino pool maestro Efren "Bata" Reyes continued to bring in the big bucks as he won this year's Master of the Table Crown in the 12th Annual Derby City Classic in the United States.

Nadal on the slide, Murray on the up

PARIS - Former world number one Rafael Nadal has slipped two places to fourth in the latest ATP world rankings published on Monday.

Malacañang honors Rhap Salazar

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo is set to give recognition to young crooner Rhap Salazar after winning at the 2009 World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in the United States. Salazar has been named Junior Grand Champion Solo Vocalist of the World and Junior Grand Champion Performer of the World.

Lotto pot seen to reach P108M

The jackpot prize for the 6/49 Super Lotto will most likely reach P108 million in time for Tuesday night's draw, according to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Print still losing ground to TV, radio

MANILA, Philippines - Print continues to lose out to television and radio with advertisers spending even more money on broadcast campaigns in the last 3 months of 2009, a Nielsen study showed.

Overall media spending totalled P52.2 billion in October to December, up 14% from the P45.9 billion recorded in the same period in 2008.

Some three-fourths of the amount, or P38.9 billion, went to television, an increase of 16% from the comparable period last year. Radio, meanwhile, gained 12% to P10.1 billion.

Print, however, saw its share shrink by 3% to P3.1 billion.

Eric V. Barrera, director for client services of Nielsen Media Research, toldBusinessWorld in a telephone interview that advertisers were slowly shifting content to a medium deemed as "more mass-based".

"Filipinos are highly into basic goods so there is a more mass-based advertising. This is not new but the continuing decline of print shows the slow shift of content of advertisers to mass mediums," Mr. Barrera said.

He added that advertisers may be "following media habits of Filipinos who are more into audiovisuals."

TV cornered 75% of advertisers' media spending, up from 73% a year earlier. Radio saw its share rise one point to 19%, while print went the other way with a percentage point fall to 6%.

Advertisers agreed with the assessment of Nielsen.

"Most advertisers opted for surest way to gain awareness which is TV. Radio showed increase because it's a cost-efficient medium and reaches people who are more mobile. Consumers also spend less on print. Free media like TV and radio consumed more," said Mitos Borromeo, chairman of the Media Specialists Association of the Philippines.

Margot B. Torres, president of the Philippine Association of National Advertisers, said "TV has national reach and is more efficient. Radio also has wide reach whether stations via satellite or local stations, but print is mainly in Metro Manila."

But print, said Nielsen's Mr. Barrera, is "not dying."

Mr. Borromeo said: "Print over the last two years have seen national advertising spending decline with consumer goods and telecommunication companies putting up less double digit placements, but there is still support coming from other companies who are targeting upper classes. This is also good for magazines since its target market is the middle and upper class."

The top advertiser during the period was Unilever Philippines, Inc. which spent P5.36 billion, a 15% increase. It was followed by Procter & Gamble Philippines, Inc., whose spending increased 42% to P4.39 billion, and Nestle Philippines, Inc. which kept its outlay at P3 billion.

One of the highest advertisers in the last quarter of 2009 was presidential aspirant Sen. Manuel B. Villar, who was the only individual, at 14th place, in a list of the top 20 advertisers. Mr. Villar spent P543 million from October to December 2009, a 551% increase from last year.

Mr. Villar's camp could not be contacted for comment.

With the official campaign period for the May 10 elections set to start next week, both Ms. Torres and Mr. Borromeo said ad spending would likely increase.

"[We will see] advertising spending increase this year because advertisers will continue to advertise and political candidates will as well," Ms. Torres said.

Joan Crawford  - "I, Joan Crawford, I believe in the dollar. Everything I earn, I spend."

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