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

Monday, February 22, 2010

February 23, 2010 Major News Stories

Seaoil to increase product prices by P1 per liter

Starting Tuesday midnight, independent oil company Seaoil will increase gasoline, diesel, and kerosene prices, eight days after it cut product costs.

Energy execs assure stable power supply in Visayas starting March

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes on Monday announced that the power situation in the Visayas would stabilize starting March 4 until 2014.

Reyes who presided over a meeting here of energy industry stakeholders in the Visayas said the almost daily rotational brownouts would stop in the next few days and assured that there would be enough power in the region during the May 10 elections.

"The Cebu-Negros-Panay grid will not experience any brownouts, any shortage in supply, starting March 4 up to 2014 because of the entry of many power plants," Reyes told reporters at the sidelines of the meeting.

The officials of the Department of Energy (DOE) and attached agencies, power producers and distributors, local government units and business groups attended the meeting.

Reyes said the meeting of energy stakeholders was "fruitful and frank" and all sectors committed to help in addressing the problem.

"We should not worry anymore. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, that will be the situation," Reyes said.

The power supply of the Visayas grid, which depends the bulk of its power supply from Leyte, has been reduced early this month by 220 MW because of the shutting down of the 120-MW Mahanagdong geothermal plant in Leyte, 50-MW Cebu Thermal Power Plant 1 (CTPP1) and the 50-MW gas land-based gas turbines of Salcon Power in Naga, Cebu.

Reyes who has led similar meetings in Luzon and Mindanao said he would submit a comprehensive report to the President after a stakeholders' meeting in Cebu on Tuesday.

Asked if there was basis for suggestions that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assume emergency powers to address the power shortage, Reyes said: "In so far as the Visayas grid, there is no need for emergency powers."

Engineer Rey Maleza, supervisor of the Energy Industry Management Division of the DOE- Visayas Field Office, said the power situation has improved since Friday last week after Unit 2 of the Mahanagdong geothermal plant in Leyte with a capacity of 60 MW has resumed operations.

The CTPP and Unit 1 of the Mahanagdong plant are expected to be online by the end of the month.

The Visayas grid would be producing a surplus of 60-70 MW starting March which would be further boosted by the same volume coming from the surplus of the Luzon grid, Maleza said.

The Visayas grid has an average peak demand of 1,200 MW, higher than the 1,039-MW total capacity of the power plants in the region.

Maleza cited the need for a required reserve of 12.5 percent of the peak demand to serve as a buffer for shortages resulting from the shutdown of any of the plants.

In a statement of commitment issued after the meeting, the stakeholders assured their full cooperation in ensuring adequate and reliable supply of electricity in the Visayas.

Among the measures and projects that will be implemented is the commissioning of the Cebu EDC Unit 2 plant (82 MW) by May 2010 and the Unit 3 by December 2010.

The 100-MW Unit 1 of the Kepco-SPC plant is also targeted to be commissioned by October 2010 and also the Panay EDC power plants Unit 1 (82 MW) by October 2010 and Unit 2 (82 MW) by December 2010.

The SPC Island Corp. also said that it would continue to operate its 70-MW plant in Dingle, Iloilo and disclosed the possible generation of another 12 MW.

The Trans Asia Renewable Energy Corp. will pursue its 54-MW San Lorenzo Wind Farm Phase 1(8 MW) by June 2011 and Phase 2 (46 MW) by June 2012 and the 40-MW Sibunag/Nueva Valencia Wind Farm by 2015.

The Asea One Power Corp. also plans to complete a 17.5-MW plant by first quarter of 2011 and an additional 17.5 MW by the second quarter of 2012.

But Reyes admitted that the power shortage in Mindanao would take longer to resolve especially because of the drought. "We have a more difficult situation in Mindanao. We have to have additional generating capacity," he said.

He also could not say when the power situation for the whole country will stabilize. "We look at it by (power) grid and since we have no national grid, Mindanao will have to be addressed separately," Reyes said.

He said the Mindanao power situation was expected to stabilize only when the rainy season comes because the drought has affected the hydroelectric power plants in the region.

Hydroelectric power accounts for 53 percent of the power requirements of Mindanao but power generation from these plants have been reduced by half because of low water levels in the dams.

"When rains come expectedly by July and the water levels increase, the problem in Mindanao will be largely addressed," Reyes said.

El Niño, lack of govt support blamed for Mindanao energy crisis

El Niño and the lack of government support were among the reasons cited for the looming power crisis in Mindanao, experts told the Philippines" joint congressional power commission (JCPC) on Monday.

DSWD readies cash, programs for drought victims

While rainmakers are having trouble finding clouds to induce rain over northern Luzon, cash and food-for-work programs are being readied to help 1.3 million poor families cope with the dry spell, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Crops worth P3B to be lost from El Niño, NDCC chief says

The Philippines is expected to lose at least P3 billion worth of crops such as rice and corn from the El Niño phenomenon, Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council chairman Norberto Gonzales said on Monday.

NFA-7 hit for 'irregular' processing of import bids

MANILA, Philippines - A group of traders is protesting to the National Food Authority (NFA) central office and to the Visayas Ombudsman citing alleged anomalies in the processing of a Private Sector Financed (PSF) tax-free rice importation for 2010.

The traders accused NFA Central Visayas or Region 7 for allegedly a defective and irregular processing of the rice importation.

NFA-7 on Monday accepted 24 letters of intent from rice traders in Visayas and Mindanao for the importation of 75,000 metric tons of rice for Cebu.

Some traders said, however, that the process of giving of priority numbers for the submission of LOIs was anomalous.

The NFA Central Office last February 19 caused the publication in a broadsheet of general circulation in the country of an invitation to participate in the PSF importation. It aimed to inform the public and interested parties on the opportunity to import well-milled white rice without having to pay taxes.

The guidelines of the NFA Central Office said that that LOIs must be submitted on the first office hour of February 22 until February 26.

On the same day, however, NFA-7 posted on its bulletin board and on its Web site additional guidelines. NFA-7 said that a "first come first serve" basis on the submission of LOIs would be applied. The announcement from regional office also indicated that priority numbers shall be given out as early as February 19 after office hours until Monday at 7:59 a.m..


Learning from previous PSF importations, trader Lea Echeveria said she lined up as early as 4 p.m. last Sunday.

She said she got priority number 12 but was surprised when she learned that the woman behind her was given priority number 4.

Echeveria said that she and the other traders later saw that 9 people were already listed at the PSF logbook of the security guard at the lobby of the NFA regional office.

The traders then protested that NFA-7's additional rules should have been published also on the same publication with the guidelines of the NFA Central Office which was signed by NFA administrator Jessup Navarro.

NFA-7 Regional Director Danilo Bonabon admitted that the Central Office did not know the additional rules they imposed. He said, however, that they did not amend any rules of the central office but only took the initiative to come up with the guidelines on issuing priority numbers to make the process as orderly as possible.

Camilo Cortezano, another trader and who is from Luzon, said that on Sunday midnight, there were rice traders who went inside the premises of NFA-7 but never came out.

He said he later discovered that some of the names listed in the PSF logbook were also listed in the logbook of the staff house of NFA-7.

He said that while the rest of them waited outside the gate of NFA-7, since they were not allowed to come inside, there were other traders who slept in the NFA staff house and were the first ones inside the lobby Monday.

"No comment yet"

Bonabon, meanwhile, said that he cannot comment on the allegations but said he will look into it.

He said that the NFA staff house is open to the public and anyone is allowed to stay inside. He said that some of their guests who know someone from NFA oftentimes have rooms reserved.

Bonabon said that he will address the letter of protest of the rice traders once he will have a copy of it on his table.

Atty. Haide Acuña, lawyer of the protesting rice traders, said that they will first exhaust administrative actions at the Department of Agriculture office before proceeding to file criminal and civil actions.

She added that the PSF is supposed to reduce the price of imported rice for the Visayas and Mindanao.

Acuña said that their protest can hopefully bring into the surface an alleged mafia inside the NFA - a group of traders who bids for the import quota but will later re-sell their quota for a much higher price. She said that once these imported rice reach the market, the consumers will be paying a higher per kilo price.

With PSF, the private sector are allowed to import rice without paying tax. The rice trader will only pay a P100 per sack service fee to the NFA but if the traders will deliver the rice not later than August 10, 2010, NFA will reimburse P75 per bag of rice.

When Acuña computed the volume of rice to be imported by the first 9 traders who were allegedly chosen already by NFA, it already reached 80,000 metric tons. This means that all 9 traders who offered 5,000 MT - 10,000 MT already reached the quota set at 75,000 MT.

Bonabon said that the first 9 are already the qualified bidders or importers for the PSF 75,000 MT for Cebu. The traders who got priority numbers 10 and higher will only be given a chance to participate in the importation if there will be someone with priority numbers 1-9 who would back out.

TUCP insists OFWs should be exempted from stamp tax

MANILA, Philippines - A labor group has scored the Department of Finance (DOF) for asking President Arroyo to veto a provision in the proposed new Migrant Workers Act that exempts overseas Filipino workers' remittances from the documentary stamp tax (DST).

OFWs warned against South Korean jobs through religious visas

Applicants for overseas work have been warned against promises of employment in South Korea through the issuance of a religious visa.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration issued the warning in an advisory dated February 19 following a complaint against supposed Korean nationals who offered jobs but disappeared after collecting over P7 million from Filipino applicants. 

In the advisory posted on the agency's Website, POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili said they are currently investigating a complaint letter filed by victim Lorie Humaynon against two people identified as Cho Chang Kuy and Oh Gyuk Su.

The complaint alleged that Cho, who introduced himself as a pastor of the Kor World International Ministries supposedly located here in the Philippines, and Oh, who claimed to be the owner of the KI-S factory in Seoul in Korea, promised Humaynon and 33 other applicants employment in the factory.

Based on the complaint, Oh came to Manila to brief applicants on the work to expect in Korea.

Cho meanwhile allegedly collected a total of P7.5 million from 34 applicants in exchange for the religious visa, but later disappeared with their money and without leaving any contact information.

Manalili said that the POEA has requested the Human Resource Development Service of Korea, which is in charge of the Employment Permit System (EPS) program, to provide information on KI-S and to know if it is participating in the EPS.

As of 2008, the POEA has recorded over 12,000 overseas Filipino workers in the republic, considered one of the world's most developed countries.

OWWA releases list for college scholars

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has released the list of 150 students across the Philippines who qualified for its Education for Development Scholarship Program (EDSP) for school year 2010-2011.

The EDSP is a scholarship grant offered to graduating high school students who intend to enroll in any four or five-year baccalaureate courses and who are qualified beneficiaries or dependents of OWWA members.

The scholarship comes in the form of a financial assistance amounting to P60,000 per school year. 

OWWA will pay the school directly for the students' tuition and will release the remaining amount upon the scholars' submission of grades for the semester.

Scholars are allowed to choose their desired program or course offered by any college or university accredited by the Commission on Higher Education.

The scholarship shall also continue until completion of the course regardless of the status of membership of the overseas Filipino worker member, provided that the terms of the scholarship agreement are complied with by the student.

For a student to be eligible for the grant, he or she must be a child of a married OWWA member, or a brother or sister of an unmarried OWWA member; 21 years old or below; a Filipino citizen; in good health with good moral character; and must have an average grade of at least 80 percent and belong to the upper 20 percent of the graduating high school class. 

The complete list of the EDSP passers can be found here. 

New law lets Coast Guard stop ships from sailing

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed a new law giving the Philippine Coast Guard increased law enforcement powers, including the authority to detain and prevent from sailing substandard passenger and cargo vessels plying the country's waters.

Dumpit still faces murder

The murder case against SPO3 Adonis Dumpit stays as the Regional Trial Court refused to admit the amended information downgrading the case to homicide for lack of factual and legal basis.

Mayor hits back at Capitol for calling his papers bogus

Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday hit back at the provincial government for calling as "a mere scrap of paper" the evidence the city has obtained which reportedly proves that the national government, and not the province, owns the lot formerly occupied by the Department of Agriculture.

House Speaker nograles clarifies: Martinez not yet a House member

House Speaker Prospero Nograles yesterday clarified that former Bogo City Mayor Celestino "Tining" Martinez III did not take his oath as member of the House of Representatives replacing Cebu fourth district Rep. Benhur Salimbangon.

Daanbantayan folk "barricade" town hall

housands of supporters of Daanbantayan Mayor Sun Shimura and his mother, Vice Mayor Ma. Luisa Loot yesterday converged at the municipal building to prevent a possible take over, as a representative from the Commission on Elections First Division formally served a copy of its recent resolution on the two officials.

Tomas not participating in Guadalupe plebiscite

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña will not participate in the plebiscite to split sitios Banawa and Englis from Barangay Guadalupe on March 13 because he is torn between his sympathy for those who want to keep Guadalupe intact and those who want to gain their independence.

Dubious medicines

IF ELECTED congressman, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña will not actively pursue the creation of a third district yet, but will prioritize the crackdown on dubious medicines and herbal supplements like those sold by his rival Jonathan Guardo.

Bets who are appointed execs resigned—high court

(UPDATE 2) Reversing its December 1, 2009 decision, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that appointed officials, including members of the judiciary and the poll body, who have filed their certificate of candidacy for the May 10 elections are "deemed resigned."

Comelec: All ballots with security marks

(UPDATE) The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said all ballots it ordered printed, including the 1.7 million for use in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), have the necessary security markings and are fit for use in the May elections.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal made the statement in a radio interview, in reaction to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoting Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Father Joe Dizon of Kontra Daya, and other sources which said that the ballots for ARMM did not have the government-mandated markings of the National Printing Office (NPO).

ARMM consists of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Larrazabal said the 1.7 million ballots that were printed have the UV ink and bar codes. These security features are the ones that the machines would check to verify the authenticity of the ballots, he said in a radio interview.

"Their point of comparison is manual elections—that when there is doubt about the authenticity of the ballot, the NPO will go there and check and say if their security marking is there. But now, we have to realize that the machine itself will determine if a ballot is fake, because if it is, it won't be accepted by the machine," Larrazabal said in the radio interview.

In a separate interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said, "Actually, under the contract we have five security layers for all ballots, even without the additional NPO markings. These five primary security features include the paper, UV ink from Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM, regular barcode, Comelec security markings and unique precinct-based numbers."

Jimenez said the five layers of security in the ballots would enable the poll machine to determine if a ballot is a fake and reject it.

"The machines are unique per precinct and would only read the ballots with the barcodes assigned to that precinct," said the Comelec spokesman.

Larrazabal explained that there was a proposal to put a two-D (two dimensional) bar code in each ballot as an "additional marking" of the NPO.

The additional 2D barcode was recommended by NPO to Comelec days before the start of the ballot printing, Jimenez further explained, so the poll agency decided to go ahead with the printing since the adoption of the 2D barcode "would delay the printing by several days to weeks."

"The problem is you have to include the software of the printer. It's very time consuming to include that…meaning to say that when you print out the ballots it will breed a lot of problems," Larrazabal said.

"The precinct count optical scan machines are configured to scan for the UV ink and the barcode to determine the authenticity of the ballots. Even without the 2D markings, the machines can determine the fake ballots and reject them," he added.

Larrazabal said those who were quoted in the story may not have "fully understood the security features and the way the election will be done."

In any case, the commissioner said, all printed ballots will be open to the scrutiny of political parties to verify their authenticity. 

In a separate phone interview, Larrazabal said that all printed ballots "will be verified and we will invite all political parties before they are sealed and transported." 

The official added that representatives of political parties and watchdog groups may also be present during printing to check.

Meanwhile, Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM agreed to print the additional UV ink of NPO on non-ARMM ballots as a sixth layer of ballot security, said Larrazabal.

NPO suggested the inclusion of the 2D barcode for resolving protests on issuance of fake ballots to voters, as with the manual polls wherein the printer is asked to determine the authenticity of the ballots.

Comelec to pay P50 M in royalties for ballot security markings

The Philippines will pay a P50-million royalty fee for using the design and software of ultraviolet marking technology to be implanted on its ballots.

Remaining 13,500 poll machines to arrive this week — Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said that they are expecting the delivery of the remaining 13,000 poll machines, which would be used for the May automated elections, said Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

The arrival of the remaining units would complete the delivery of 82,200 poll machines in the country.

"All poll machines are shipped to the country and should be here by February 26," Larrazabal told reporters.

Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) spokesman Gene Gregorio told that 79 percent of the total machines or 64,620 units were delivered to Comelec last month and are undergoing laboratory testing for operational and security compliance at the poll body's warehouse in Laguna.

Gregorio added about 4,000 PCOS-OMR units, which arrived at the Bureau of Customs February 21, would be released anytime this week for delivery to Comelec's warehouse.

Aside from the poll machines, Smartmatic-TIM has delivered servers and generators to Comelec as agreed in the contract.

Under the automation contract, Smartmatic-TIM would be fined P7.1 million pesos for every day of delay in the delivery of automation paraphernalia.

ARMM ballots to be used despite lack of security features — NPO exec

The 1.8 million ballots that were printed without the security markings of the National Printing Office (NPO) would still be used in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the May 10 elections, the head of the NPO said Monday.

Aquino to hold rally on 24th EDSA I revolt anniversary

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's group is planning a major rally Thursday to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the EDSA revolution that toppled the dictatorship of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Edsa 1 proved to be 'a failure'—Marcos Jr.

As more Filipinos live in poverty and are deprived of the promised reforms, Edsa 1 has proven to be "a failure," said Ilocos Norte Representative Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., whose father and family were ousted during the bloodless uprising.

"Umangat ba ang kabuhayan ng mamamayang Pilipino? Nasaan ang pagbabago? Bigo ang Edsa 1. Lumala lamang ang kahirapan at hindi nagawang linisin sa katiwalian ang burukrasya ng pamahalaan (Have the lives of the Filipinos improved? Where are the reforms? Edsa 1 is a failure. Poverty has worsened and corruption in the bureaucracy was not eradicated)," Marcos said in a statement. 

Aquino sees plot to "affect" poll results

Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Monday said that his camp is poised to uncover a plan that could "affect" the outcome of the May presidential elections.

Noynoy wants 20-point buffer to beat cheating

MANILA, Philippines - Survey frontrunner Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said he wants to lead by 20 to 30 percentage points in order to be safe from alleged attempts to cheat the presidential elections.

Disclosing campaign donors will put them in danger, Aquino says

Liberal Party standard-bearer, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, on Monday turned down the challenge of his closest rival, Senator Manuel Villar, to disclose his campaign donors, saying this will put his supporters in peril.

DoJ chief to abide by SC final ruling, says she needs to campaign, too

Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said she will abide by the Supreme Court decision on appointed officials seeking electoral posts only when it becomes final and executory.

Negros Or. vice governor denies kidnapping rap

Fearing the adage that a lie repeated often enough eventually becomes the truth, Negros Oriental Vice Governor Jose Baldado is fighting to clear his name which he said has been maliciously dragged into an alleged abduction in his hometown of Manjuyod.

"This is totally unfounded and incredible," Baldado, a candidate for governor of the Nacionalista Party, told the Inquirer on Sunday.

He made the denial after a 14-year-old high school student who claimed to have been kidnapped in Manjuyod in northern Negros Oriental Monday last week, named Baldado as being among those who threatened to kill him.

The boy, whose identity is being withheld in compliance with guidelines on reporting about minors, is a resident of Barangay (village) 9 Candabong of Manjuyod town, some 65 kilometers north of here.

The boy and his father have sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation in Dumaguete in preparing the case against Baldado and two others.

The boy alleged that he was snatched by two men on a motorcycle as he was walking to the Manjuyod National High School early Monday morning.

He identified one of the two men as Romeo Sablada, who he said grabbed his right arm and blindfolded him.

The teenager alleged that he was brought to the house of the vice governor, where Baldado himself told him to tell his father to patch up an ongoing case or he would be kidnapped again and killed in three days.

He was released one hour later.

Baldado said he was not in Manjuyod at the time of the alleged abduction but in Dumaguete, doing his regular walking exercise. "Many people can attest to this," Baldado said.

He said his political opponents were among the people who have been assisting the boy.

"I'm sure that this case will not prosper but this has been calculated to discredit my name, especially as elections are nearing," he said.

Some reports of surveys have surfaced in Dumaguete showing Baldado as leading in the gubernatorial race against incumbent Governor Emilio Macias II but the validity of these surveys could not be confirmed.

Philippines raises bombing alert in capital

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine security forces went on high alert in the capital on Monday, bracing for potential bomb attacks from an al Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group to avenge the death of a senior rebel leader, an Army spokesman said.

Spare civilians from retaliation, Abu Sayyaf told

A Catholic bishop in Sulu province has expressed alarm over the possible backlash of the killing of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad to civilians.

NBI: 4,000 firearms still in the hands of Ampatuan followers

Government agents on Monday said there are at least 3,000 to 4,000 loose firearms believed to be still in the possession of supporters of the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao province.

Tricycle driver's son is top PMA grad

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines – A son of a tricycle driver from Dumaguete City will lead the 226 graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) this year, academy officials announced on Monday.

Cadet First Class Erano Belen will receive the Presidential Saber from President Macapagal-Arroyo on March 1 as the top graduate of the PMA Masidlak Class of 2010.

Cadet First Class Froilan Pinay-an of Ifugao placed second while Cadet First Class Nolito Ebal of Misamis Oriental placed third.

Completing the top 10 PMA graduates this year are: Cadets First Class Jhonson Gonzales of Camarines Sur; Jacob George Kho of Baguio City; Joel Perante of Tacloban City; Erwin Villanueva of Cavite; Alfie Agarao of Iloilo; Karen Padayao of Ormoc City; and Ric Ivan Joven of South Cotabato.

New appeals court chief sworn in

Court of Appeals Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. has been sworn in as the new presiding justice of the appellate court.

West African gang preying on OFWs smashed

A Western African drug syndicated has been dismantled with the arrest of four of its members, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a news release Monday.

Retired generals detained in Turkey coup plot

ANKARA—Turkish police Monday detained more than 40 people, including former air force and navy chiefs, in connection with an alleged military plot against the Islamist-rooted government, officials and media reports said.

NATO air strike, Afghan suicide attack kill 41

KABUL—A NATO air strike killed up to 27 Afghan civilians, including women and a child, sparking fresh anger from Kabul on Monday against US-led forces pressing a major offensive to defeat the Taliban.

Fit Pacman: Pacquiao passes pre-fight exams

Filipino ring icon Manny Pacquiao underwent the required routine pre-fight physical examinations over the weekend and was declared fit to duke it out with Joshua Clottey on March 13 in Texas.

Clottey aims to slow down speedy Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – Joshua Clottey of Ghana seems to be unthreatened by his match-up against the only 7-division world champion and pound-for-pound king, Manny Pacquiao, on March 13 at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Kris Aquino out of hospital--friend

Actress and TV host Kris Aquino was discharged Monday from Makati Medical Center after almost three days of confinement for a head injury suffered in a fall, according to a source close to Aquino.

John Lloyd Cruz, Bea Alonzo happy to remain friends

by by Bernie Franco,
MANILA, Philippines - Parehong sinabi nina John Lloyd "Lloydie" Cruz at Bea Alonzo sa "The Buzz" noong Linggo na wala silang pagsisisi kung wala mang namuong pagtitinginan sa kanila sa 8 taon nilang pagiging love team.

Phoemela Baranda breaks up with Ira Cruz

MANILA, Philippines - TV Patrol Star Patroller Phoemela Baranda on Sunday finally confirmed that she and long-time boyfriend, Ira Cruz, the guitarist of rock band "Bamboo," had called it quits.

Melai: No boob job for me

MANILA, Philippines – Melisa "Melai" Cantiveros is not keen on having her boobs done. In her radio dzMM interview Sunday, Cantiveros shot down suggestions for her to undergo cosmetic enhancement surgeries.

In ancient wall, Israeli scholar sees proof for Bible

JERUSALEM - An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era.

If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C.

That's a key point of dispute among scholars, because it would match the Bible's account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.

While some Holy Land archaeologists support that version of history — including the archaeologist behind the dig, Eilat Mazar — others posit that David's monarchy was largely mythical and that there was no strong government to speak of in that era.

Speaking to reporters at the site Monday, Mazar, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, called her find "the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel."

"It means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction," she said.

Based on what she believes to be the age of the fortifications and their location, she suggested it was built by Solomon, David's son, and mentioned in the Book of Kings.

The fortifications, including a monumental gatehouse and a 77-yard (70-meter) long section of an ancient wall, are located just outside the present-day walls of Jerusalem's Old City, next to the holy compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. According to the Old Testament, it was Solomon who built the first Jewish Temple on the site.

That temple was destroyed by Babylonians, rebuilt, renovated by King Herod 2,000 years ago and then destroyed again by Roman legions in 70 A.D. The compound now houses two important Islamic buildings, the golden-capped Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Archaeologists have excavated the fortifications in the past, first in the 1860s and most recently in the 1980s. But Mazar claimed her dig was the first complete excavation and the first to turn up strong evidence for the wall's age: a large number of pottery shards, which archaeologists often use to figure out the age of findings.

Aren Maeir, an archaeology professor at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains "tenuous."

While some see the biblical account of the kingdom of David and Solomon as accurate and others reject it entirely, Maeir said the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.

"There's a kernel of historicity in the story of the kingdom of David," he said.

Boozing Jesus image outrages India's Christians

Christians in India's northeast are outraged after a picture showing Jesus Christ holding a beer can and a cigarette was discovered in primary school textbooks.

Japan to seek nationwide smoking ban

TOKYO—Japan, which is one of the world's biggest consumers of cigarettes, plans to call for a nationwide ban on lighting up in bars, restaurants and other public places, officials said Monday.

China's President Hu signs up for microblogging

BEIJING—China's President Hu Jintao has set up a microblogging account that has drawn thousands of followers as of Monday, in a country where social networking sites remain tightly controlled.

Indonesia rounds up students in cybercafés

JAKARTA—Indonesian police raided Internet cafes Monday and rounded up dozens of students who were skipping school to play computer games or chat with their friends online.

UN: China, India adding to e-waste timebomb

NUSA DUA—Mountains of discarded computers and mobile phones could soon pose serious threats to public health and the environment in developing countries without swift action, the UN said Monday.

Stephen Leacock  - "I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so."

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