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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February 25, 2010 Major News Stories

Oil prices ease on sagging US consumer confidence

NEW YORK—Oil prices fell sharply Tuesday on a drop in consumer confidence in the United States, the world's largest energy consumer, dampened hopes for a strong economic recovery.

New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery, slid $1.45 to $78.86 a barrel on the first trading day of the April contract.

Nuclear power plant in Bataan eyed

MANILA, Philippines - Two big nuclear power producers have expressed interest to put up a new nuclear power facility in the Philippines, National Power Corp. (Napocor) president Froilan Tampinco said.

3,310 teachers needed in Census 2010

The National Statistics Office announces of its "dire need" for 3,310 personnel of the Department of Education to assist in the conduct of a census on population and housing beginning May 17 until June 14.

OFWs warned vs taking domestic jobs in China, Mongolia

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday warned Filipinos planning to work abroad against accepting job offers for domestic helpers in China and Mongolia.

The DFA said in a statement that it would be unlawful to work as a domestic helper in both countries.

Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Francisco L. Benedicto said in a dispatch to the DFA that China's and Mongolia's border control and immigration authorities were stepping up their campaign to apprehend illegal workers and immigrants.

"Filipinos who are promised jobs as domestic helpers in China and Mongolia are always in danger of being arrested because foreign nationals are not allowed to work as domestic helpers in China and Mongolia," Benedicto said.

"The embassy has been informed by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Public Security Bureau that domestic service employment in China is closed to foreigners."

Benedicto said that illegal recruiters continued to victimize foreign job seekers, which resulted in the increasing number of foreigners coming and staying in China and Mongolia with inappropriate visa or working permit.

"Because they don't have proper visa or work permit, foreign job seekers, including our kababayans, who have been victimized by unscrupulous recruiters tend to overstay, hoping to find jobs in China and Mongolia," the ambassador said.

Foreigners who overstay or who did not have proper visas face hefty fines of up to 5,000 yuan (P33,000), detention and deportation from China.

In Mongolia, foreigners who overstay are fined up to $30 per day.

Benedicto suggested that prospective overseas Filipino workers take steps to avoid exploitation by asking their recruiters to issue official receipts, timely turnover of passports with appropriate work visas, draft employment contracts and contact details of employers.

Damage from El Niño may have reached P7B

Damage from the El Niño-induced drought has reached P3.7 billion as of Feb. 17, but the number could go as high as P7 billion to date.

IRRI pushes drought-resistant rice strain

Sa harap ng nakaambang epekto ng El Niño sa supply ng bigas, isinusulong ngayon ng International Rice Research Institute ang isang uri ng palay na nangangailangan lang ng konting tubig at kayang mabuhay kahit tagtuyot.

DoTC suspends new shipping policies to avert strike

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) suspended on Wednesday the implementation of new policies by Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) administrator Ma. Elena Bautista to avert a shipping holiday by some ferry and vessel operators.

This was the outcome of the meeting held between protesting shipping company owners and President Macapagal-Arroyo on board the Supercat 2 Wednesday afternoon.

The shipping companies belonging to the Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators (VAFCSO), had threatened to stage a maritime holiday on March 1 to pressure Bautista to withdraw memorandum circulars which they had been opposing.

The operators have protested against Marina's indemnity and protection policy which, they said, was not applicable to the Philippine setting; the increase of fines and penalties against the shipping companies even for minor violations; and the US Coast Guard standard life jacket requirement, which they said was not applicable to the Philippine domestic shipping, among others.

The VAFCSO asked for the suspension of the memorandum circulars and the ouster of Bautista from her post as Marina administrator.

The group claimed that Bautista issued the memorandum circulars without consulting them.

Bautista, who was at the meeting with Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, said a technical working group would be created to consult with the affected shipping companies.

She also expressed hope that with the suspension of the memorandum circulars, the planned maritime holiday would not push through.

However, Jose Emery "Joy" Roble, president and chief executive officer of Roble Shipping and a member of the VAFCSO board, said their group was not fully satisfied because their meeting with the President was brief.

Roble said they would have wanted President Macapagal-Arroyo to decide on their call for Bautista to resign or be removed from office.

He said their group was scheduled to meet Wednesday night to discuss if they would push through with the maritime holiday.

Roble stressed they still wanted Bautista out of Marina and replaced with a professional administrator knowledgeable of the shipping industry.

The VAFCSO has 27 members including Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Cokaliong Shipping Lines, George and Peter Lines, Roble Shipping Lines, Lite Shipping, Jadestar Shipping and FJP Lines, whose vessels ply routes in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Japanese couple found dead in Cebu resort

An elderly Japanese couple was found dead inside a resort hotel on Mactan Island on Wednesday in an apparent suicide.

Takao Ouchi, 70, a former television commercial director, and wife Yukiko Ouchi, 84, a former television scriptwriter, in Japan, were found dead inside Room 401 of the Blue Reef Resort in Marigondon, Lapu-apu City, at around 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

Takao's body was found hanging inside the comfort room by a curtain's cord. His wife's lifeless body was on the bed, said Insp. Christian Torres, chief of the station 4 of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office.

Torres said police noticed a cord line on her neck, and police initially theorized that she hanged first before Takao transferred her body to the bed and then hanged himself.

Torres said suicide was an initial finding based on information so far gathered that no one was seen visiting the couple and that there were no signs of struggle inside the room.

An alleged suicide note was found, but it was written in Japanese.

Torres said the Japanese couple had been living in Cebu for almost a decade and their Filipina friend was the first to arrive at the hotel upon recieving news of the alleged suicide.

Torres said the Filipina friend identified as Marilou Inofenia claimed that the couple previously talked about committing suicide. The Japanese woman, who was reportedly suffering from an illness, had tried to commit suicide twice.

Torres said Inofenia also told investigators that the couple had planned to die together after the wife's failed suicide attempts.

Inofenia revealed that the couple wanted to have a last honeymoon before endingtheir lives, said Torres.

The couple checked in at the resort on Monday noon and were supposed to check out on Wednesday noon. When they failed to check out, the resort personnel opened up the door and found the bodies, Torres said.

The couple had been staying in an apartment in Cebu city for about nine years. They were retirees from Japan and relied on their pensions. They had no children, according to information the police gathered from Inofenia.

Torres said Inofenia told police that the couple wanted to be buried in Cebu as they had no one in Japan who would claim their remains.

Torres said Inofenia claimed to have received a call from Takao at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to say goodbye in Japanese.

"The male Japanese told her (Inofenia) sayonara," Torres said, quoting Inofenia.

Torres said Inofenia asked Takao where his wife was and the latter told her that "mama," his term of endearment for his wife, was already resting.

Torres said Takao reportedly called up Inofenia because he wanted to hear the voice of a friend.

Torres believed that was around the time of the couple's deaths.

2 die as Air Force plane crashes during training flight

(UPDATE) Two Air Force personnel died when an OV-10 bomber on a practice flight crashed Wednesday afternoon in Crow Valley, Tarlac.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, the aircraft, used for air support for ground troops, was conducting an "aerial gunnery training" exercise when it crashed at around 2:55 p.m.

"It's too early to say what caused the crash. The Philippine Air Force will conduct an investigation," Brawner told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Brawner declined to name the two Air Force personnel pending notification of their immediate families.

He added that the training was part of the coming joint military exercise dubbed "Teac Piston." He could not categorically say if the exercise was conducted jointly with the US military.

"This comes to mind the need to modernize our armed forces," Brawner commented.

GMA, Tomas laud SRP

FOR making Cebu City the "great city" that it is, President Arroyo lauded city officials and local businessmen for the success the City has achieved, which she credited largely to the South Road Properties (SRP).

During last night's 73rd Charter Day celebration, where outstanding individuals and institutions were also honored, she told city officials that she is glad to see her administration's investments here are paying off.

"We have also invested in Cebu City... but I think that our best partnership was our partnership on the SRP... I'm so happy to see that what has happened there has given so much progress to the City of Cebu, so much progress that you all deserve," Arroyo said.

"Indeed, Cebu City continues to be the queen city of the Cebu and I congratulate not only the city officials but also the business community because you have made such a successful economy here in Cebu City," she continued.

As the number one emerging business process outsourcing destination in the world, Cebu City is an important city not only in the Philippines but also in the international economy, the President said.

Arroyo attended the Charter Day awarding ceremony to receive the Order of Rajah Humabon from city officials, the highest honor or award the City Government could bestow on any individual.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña cited Arroyo's three important contributions to the City—taking her oath of office here, setting up the Malacañang sa Sugbo in Cebu City and deciding to hold the Asean summit here.

Arroyo said she did these things to return the love and support that Cebuanos gave her and her family from the time she was senator, vice president and as president.

"We should never forget the honor that President Arroyo has done for us, it will probably never happen again. I think it is only fitting and proper that we give her the honor of giving her the highest award that we can bestow upon her," the mayor said.

Some 1,500 city and barangay officials and employees witnessed the awarding at the Cebu City Sports Center last night.

As proof of the SRP's success, Osmeña received from Filinvest Land Inc. (FLI) a P269.5-million check representing its second payment for the SRP lot it bought last year.

An additional P70 million will be paid next month because FLI will accelerate development in other areas of the lots covered by the joint venture agreement with the City, subject to the approval of the City Council, City Administrator Francisco Fernandez said.

The mayor said the City is capable of sustaining the P100-million scholarship fund for all public high school graduates in the coming years.

"The issue has been made whether the City can afford to sustain supporting college students every year. Let me just demonstrate to you that we have the capability to sustain this, not only P10,000 for each student, maybe even P20,000 to P30,000," Osmeña said, before calling FLI vice president Tristan Las Marias for the turnover of the check.

Osmeña thanked the City Treasurer's Office, the city and barangay officials for cooperating in maximizing the City's revenues.

"I am also asking forgiveness from all those who have been victims of my strictness, but my priority is always the future of Cebu City, which will never be compromises," he added.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City government paid tribute to Cebuanos who had "remarkable" contributions to the growth of the city.

"They have proven their worth and the true sense of service and the sense of patriotism," said Vice Mayor Michael Rama in his speech.

Awarded with certificates of appreciation were James Gochiulim for his 30-year service as fire marshal of Filipino-Chinese Volunteers Fire Brigade, Sr. Supt. Patrocinio Comendador, Cebu Muslim Community leaders and Ma. Victoria Yulo.

Outstanding Individual Awards were given to Dr. Felix Vicuña Jr. for conducting free medical missions, Msgr. Rodolfo Villanueva for his literary works and musical arrangements, Ambassador Francisco Benedicto for being a top diplomat in Singapore, Korea and China and Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier for promoting economic development and tourism.

The Cebu Market Vendors Development Cooperative was awarded as an Outstanding Institution for its success in promoting the principles of a cooperative.

Former City councilor Hilario Davide III was given the Outstanding Executive and Legislative award while the late councilor Rogelio Osmeña was given a Posthumous
Award for enacting laws and safety in the city's transportation system.

The Mayor's Special Award was given to the Alpha Kappa Rho for coming to the mainstream society and becoming productive citizens.

The same award was also given to the Bagong Aliyansang Makabayan, which was represented by Nacionalista Party senatoriable Satur Ocampo, for not disrupting the peace and order during the Asean Summit, the Parish Security Group, the 51st Marine Reserve Batallion, San Nicolas Police Station for being the top police station in the whole country, the City's Barangay Intelligence Network and the Cebu Investments Promotions Center represented by Joel Mari Yu.

Other awardees were Miss Cebu 2009 Kris Tiffany Janson, Punta Princesa chief barangay Tanod Rene dela Cerna for risking his life to protect his people, Lt. Tito
Ranara, PN, for winning the most outstanding reserve battalion in the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, Luz Barangay Captain Nida Cabrera, Dr. Myrilene Mendoza and Sen. Sergio Osmeña III for giving assistance to schools.

The mayor also awarded Sen. Mar Roxas "for being instrumental to saving the economy and for being responsible in bringing business process outsourcing company in Cebu City.

In yesterday morning's ceremony, Osmeña thanked all those who contributed to the growth of the City, particularly those whose names may never be known yet whose efforts helped move the city forward.

"Behind the Don Vicente Ramas, behind the Serging Osmeñas, there are many people who make things possible…. Salute to all the people who contributed to the growth of this City," he said.

He honored barangay tanods who were shot in the line of duty.

"It's people like these who go out of their way to make City strong," the mayor said in emphasizing the dedication of its residents that made Cebu City a success.

During the flag-raising ceremony at the City Hall yesterday morning, Vice Mayor Michael Rama also said that genuine desire to serve means more service and less politics.

He said that the Ramas like him who are into public service, in upholding the legacy of Don Vicente, will strive hard to be worthy.

He said they will render honest service and not use their position to enrich themselves.

"Madato apan magduko maglakaw kay ang inyong gikaon sa panimalay dili man gikan sa singot," he said.

In Daanbantayan, Court stops Corro takeover as mayor

The Regional Trial Court yesterday stopped the possible takeover by Augusto Corro and Jose de Leon as mayor and vice mayor of Daanbantayan, respectively, by holding in abeyance the writ of execution declaring the two as winners in the 2007 elections.

Cabinet execs who won't resign face electioneering raps

If appointed candidates do not want to see their political ambitions "jeopardized," they should resign immediately before the Commission on Elections slap election offense charges against those who continue their hold to power, chairman Jose Melo said.

Budget chief quits, other Cabinet execs to follow

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya on Wednesday became the first Cabinet official to resign following a Supreme Court decision banning appointed officials to run in the May 10 elections.

Melo to quit Comelec if automation fails

Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Jose Melo said Wednesday that he would quit his post if the May automated polls becomes a failure.

More equipment for automated polls

The Commission on Elections has approved the purchase of more satellite transmission equipment and one more printing press to guarantee that the preparatory goals for automated elections in May are met, poll chair Jose Melo said Wednesday.

Comelec adds printer at NPO to speed up ballot printing

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Wednesday they will be renting an additional printing press to fast-track the printing of ballots for the May automated elections.

Chairman Jose Melo said they made the move to ``make up for the slight delay in printing."

The fifth printer would arrive "very soon" at the National Printing Office, which has printed last week the 1.7 million special paper ballots to be used in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"We need to be sure all ballots will be printed," said Melo.

Comelec only has until April 25 to print over 48 million ballots that would be distributed in over 1,600 municipalities nationwide. The ballot for non-ARMM areas measures 8.5 inches by 25 inches, slightly shorter than the ARMM ballots with Arabic translations for voting instructions.

Melo added that Comelec is also preparing for the conduct of manual poll in at least 30 percent of the country or those areas where transmission technologies cannot be used.

Meanwhile, Gene Gregorio, spokesman of Smartmatic-Total Information Management downplayed the delays in the printing of ballots saying the "fifth printer is rented only to ease the load of printing" not because they are "not within the deadline."

Proclaim winners first before manual audit--Comelec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Wednesday maintained that the random manual audit of results in the May automated polls would be done only after the proclamation of winners.

Nearly half of Pinoys trust Comelec, but unsure of Smartmatic

Nearly half of Filipinos trust the Commission on Elections (Comelec) while almost the same are not sure whether to trust poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM, Pulse Asia said Wednesday based on its latest survey on voter preferences and other metrics.

Police, soldiers commemorate people power with unity walk

Over a thousand police and military personnel marched from EDSA-Boni Serrano in Mandaluyong to the People Power Monument in Quezon City to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the People Power, which toppled former strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Battle of the stars to mark NP, LP commemoration of people power

A gathering of big stars in the music industry organized by Senator Manny Villar's camp will match the Liberal Party's commemoration of the 24th anniversary of the first people power revolt on Thursday.

Noontime show host Willie Revillame and popular singer-actress Sarah Geronimo will be among the celebrities to join the "Rockatropa" concert, which will be held at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

The concert, which will start at 7: 00 p.m. is free for everyone, said a statement from Villar's office.

Other performers in the concert include Andrew E, Randy Santiago, "Kembot Girls" of Revillame's noontime show "Wowowee", and local bands like Parokya ni Edgar, Sandwich, Kamikazee, Bamboo and Juan de la Cruz Band.

The event will coincide with the LP's commemoration of the people power revolution set at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City where several personalities in the music industry are also expected to join.

Among those who have confirmed their attendance were Ogie Alcasid, Christian Bautista, Erik Santos, and Sponge Cola.

LP's standard-bearer, Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. will lead the commemoration. He will be joined by his running mate, Senator Mar Roxas, and their full senatorial ticket.

Liberals question NP-NPC coalition

by By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak
MANILA, Philippines--The Liberal Party (LP) questions the validity of the coalition formed between the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) for the purposes of applying for accreditation as the dominant minority party in the May elections.

Villar, Aquino most trusted presidential bets—survey

(UPDATE) Senator Manuel "Manny" Villar emerged as the most trusted candidate for president, with arch rival and colleague Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III coming in second, according to a recent survey.

Of the 1,800 respondents surveyed by Pulse Asia from January 22 to 26, 70 percent think that Villar was trustworthy while 64 percent went for Aquino III. The survey had a ± 2 percent margin of error.

Former president Joseph Estrada ranked third, with a 33-percent trust rating while administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro got 32 percent for fourth place, the survey said.

Senator Richard Gordon is in fifth, with 26 percent; evangelist Eddie Villanueva, 15 percent; and Senator Maria Ana Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, 14 percent, it said.

Olongapo City Councilor JC De los Reyes and environmentalist Nicanor Perlas got four percent each, it said.

In the survey, respondents were asked (in Filipino): "We would like to ask you about your trust of some people in our society. With the use of this rating board, can you tell us how small or high is your trust of [name of personality]. Can you tell us whether you trust them completely, the most, most likely, not as much, hardly, no."

In the vice presidential race, Senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II emerged on top with 73 percent, with Loren Legarda coming in second at 63 percent.

Forty-four percent of the respondents said they trusted Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, while 20 percent trusted actor and administration vice presidential candidate Edu Manzano.

In the same survey, 47 percent also expressed trust in the Commission on Elections while 43 percent trusted the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Among the political developments at the time of the survey were:

• The Haiti earthquake;
• The impending retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno and questions on whether President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can appoint his replacement or leave it to his successor;
• The Senate committee report seeking to unseat Senator Manuel Villar over the C-5 extension road project;
• The Comelec decision paving the way for the candidacy of Arroyo for Congress and Estrada;
• The reinstatement of few presidential and senatorial candidates and inclusion of several partylist groups in the final list;
• Questions on the uncertainty of election automation; and
• The continuing investigation into the Maguindanao massacre.

52% won't vote for Arroyo-backed presidential bet—Pulse Asia

Five out of 10 (52 percent) Filipinos will certainly not vote for the presidential candidate endorsed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Pulse Asia said in its latest survey Wednesday.

Similar sentiment was expressed by 40 percent of Filipinos on the candidate endorsed by former President Fidel Ramos.

On the other hand, less than one in 10 Filipinos (4 percent to 5 percent) said they will vote the presidential bet endorsed by either Arroyo or Ramos.

This were the answers of respondents to the survey when asked "'Kung sakali na ang isang kandidato sa pagka-presidente ay suportahan ni (Arroyo/ Ramos), siguradong iboboto ninyo, malamang na iboboto ninyo, malamang na hindi ninyo iboboto, siguradong hindi ninyo iboboto ang kandidatong inindorso ni (Arroyo/ Ramos).

Pulse Asia conducted the survey among 1,800 respondents using face-to-face interviews from January 22 to 26. The survey had a + - 2 percent margin of error.

In the same survey, Arroyo got her highest distrust rating since March 2001 of 68 percent.

Arroyo is backing the candidacy of Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro.

Giving the survey results a positive spin, Presidential Political Adviser and Lakas-Kampi official Prospero Pichay said the survey could in fact be "very good" for Teodoro.

"It's very good for Gibo, that means he already has the vote of 48 percent. The 52 percent would be a toss among the other presidential candidates, so this is very good," Pichay said in a phone interview when asked about the implication of the results to Teodoro's bid.

Teodoro has remained in fourth place in various surveys behind Senators Benigno Aquino III, Manuel Villar, and former president Joseph Estrada.

While many sectors are impressed with his skills and track record, they have expressed wary because of his ties with Arroyo.

But Pichay said people should give Teodoro a chance to show what he can do for the country.

Pichay also said that the remaining months of the campaign will "all boil down to campaign ads, especially television ads."

"It's delivering the right message to the people, it will be the key," he said.

Arroyo's trust, approval ratings continue to dip

Distrust continues to be the prevalent sentiment of Filipinos toward President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is entering the last four months of her presidency.

Nearly seven out of 10 Filipinos or 68 percent distrust the President, while only about 11 percent say they trust her, according to the latest results of the Pulse Asia survey. 

Twenty percent cannot say if they trust or distrust Arroyo, the survey added.

The current overall distrust rating of Arroyo, almost the same she got in the December 2009 survey (67 percent), is her highest distrust rating since March 2001, said Dr. Ana Maria Tabunda, Pulse Asia's chief research fellow.

The survey, conducted from January 22 to 26 using face-to-face interviews, had 1,800 respondents who are 18 years old and above. It had a plus or minus 2 percent margin of error. 

Western Visayas, Metro Manila, Regions 9, 12, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao gave Arroyo the highest distrust rating, while Central Visayas gave her the highest trust rating.

Some of the key political developments when the survey was conducted were the impending retirement of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno and whether Arroyo should appoint his replacement or leave it to her successor; the Haiti quake; the report of the Senate committee of the whole seeking to unseat Senator Manuel Villar over the C-5 road extension project;

The decision of the Commission on Elections paving the way for the candidacies of Arroyo for representative in her Pampanga district and former president Joseph Estrada for president; the continuing investigation into the Maguindanao massacre; and the questions on the certainty of the automation of the May elections.

Arroyo's sister backs Erap for president again

by By Purple S. Romero, Newsbreak
PAMPANGA, Philippines - This vote-rich province may be a stronghold of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but former President Joseph Estrada has one Macapagal in his stead -  Arroyo's half-sister, former Pampanga Vice-Governor Cielo Macapagal-Salgado.

Energy chief running for Congress

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes is reportedly running for congressman under the partylist system. Two officials of partylist 1-UTAK have confirmed that Reyes is their number one nominee.

Special fund for kin of Maguindanao massacre victims eyed

(UPDATE)—The Department of Justice (DOJ) is considering allocating funds for relatives of victims of the Maguindanao massacre following reports that the Ampatuan clan is "buying off" relatives by making generous "out of court settlements."

PNP's No. 2 man Barias retires Friday

Police deputy director general Geary Barias, the number two man in the Philippine National Police, is set to retire from office on Friday, prompting a revamp in the PNP hierarchy.

Barias, a member of the Philippine Military Class 1975, is currently assigned as the deputy chief for administration.

He will be replaced by deputy director general for operation Jefferson Soriano, who in turn will be replaced by deputy director general Edgardo Acuna, the current chief of the directorial staff.

Barias served as Metro Manila police commander and his term was marked by at least three major: the Glorietta 2 explosion, the Batasang Pambansa blast, and the Manila Peninsula standoff.

Spain, Philippines sign agreement on Spanish language

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MADRID—Spain will help the Philippines reintroduce Spanish language instruction at public schools in the southeastern Asian country under an agreement signed Tuesday between the two nations.

The study of the language is currently voluntary at public high schools in the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, but the government plans to make its availability widespread from 2012.

Under the agreement signed Tuesday, Madrid will help train Spanish language teachers in the Philippines, help develop the curriculum and provide electronic teaching aids as well as technical advice, the Spanish foreign ministry said.

It was signed by the Philippines' Education Secretary Jesli Lapus and the Spanish education ministry's director for international relations, Jose Manuel Martinez Sierra in Barcelona, it added in a statement.

In 1987 the Philippines abolished Spanish as one of its official languages as well as a requirement that college students had to learn it.

The language, one of the world's most spoken, has since largely vanished from everyday use in the country of just under 100 million people, with English and the local languages now commonly used.

Unlike in Madrid's colonies in Latin America, the Spanish language was never as widespread in the Philippines, mainly because of the small number of Spanish settlers in the archipelago.

English was introduced to the country when it passed from Spanish to American control after the Spanish-American war of 1898.

High number of AIDS cases in RP just "tip of the iceberg" - DOH

The more than 4,000 confirmed HIV-AIDS infections in the country are just "the tip of the iceberg," the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday as it expressed alarm over the continuously increasing number of cases.

Ex-US veep Al Gore to visit Manila in April

NOBEL Peace Prize Laureate and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is set to visit Manila in April to present his climate protection advocacy.

Philip Morris acquiring Fortune Tobacco

Cigarette maker Philip Morris is acquiring majority control of rival Fortune Tobacco, according to 3 separate ABS-CBN sources. The merger would result in a company with virtual monopoly over cigarettes. Fortune Tobacco holds about 60% of the local cigarette market, while Philip Morris holds a 30% share.

More than 70 feared dead in Indonesian landslide

JAKARTA, Indonesia—Rescuers said Wednesday that hopes were fading for more than 70 people missing after a landslide struck south of the capital Jakarta, killing at least seven people.

General strike shuts down Greece

ATHENS—Greece ground to a halt on Wednesday as unions staged a one-day general strike and thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest austerity measures designed to tame a public debt crisis.

Former US VP Cheney suffers 'mild' heart attack

WASHINGTON—Former US Vice President Dick Cheney was hospitalized after suffering a "mild heart attack," his aide said Tuesday, in the fifth such scare for the 69-year-old Republican hawkish politician.

Z Gorres undergoes throat operation

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Retired boxer ZC Oliveros "The Dream" Gorres underwent a throat operation Wednesday night at Cebu Doctor's Hospital.

San Miguel bags third place in KFC PBA Cup

Inspired by a vintage performance from Danny Ildefonso, San Miguel salvaged third place with a 95-88 decision over Barangay Ginebra Wednesday night in the KFC PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

Giants take Game 1 of PBA Philippine Cup finals

San Miguel Beer bags 3rd place MANILA, Philippines - Purefoods Tender Juicy made key plays in the closing minutes to pull off an 81-77 win in Game 1 of the best-of-7 championship series of the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Warrant of arrest vs. Maui out

THE People of the Philippines want Maui Taylor; and quite literally. The Viva "hot babe" is the subject of a warrant of arrest that Bogo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Douglas Marigomen issued last week.

'Miss You Like Crazy' surpasses opening day record

Tumabo sa unang araw pa lang ng showing ang "Miss You Like Crazy" nina Bea Alonzo at John Lloyd Cruz! Tinuldukan naman ni Anne Curtis, ang intrigang may karelasyon syang negosyante.

FILSCAP denies missing P9 million funds

A group engaged in the collection of royalties for the public performance rights of its members on Wednesday denied irregularities in the disbursement of some P9 million in its funds.

Bongbong denies rumored affair with Sarah Geronimo

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA, Philippines - A visibly irked Ilocos Norte Rep. and senatorial candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday vehemently denied his alleged relationship with Pop Star Princess Sarah Geronimo.

Karylle, Zsa Zsa Padilla set to do their first film

MANILA, Philippines – Singer-actress Karylle and mom Zsa Zsa Padilla are doing a movie together. Karylle announced that the  film, scheduled to be screened on Mother's Day, will be their first movie project.

Anne Curtis buys 3-bedroom condo unit

MANILA, Philippines- Actress-host Anne Curtis has just bought a 3-bedroom condominium unit in Makati as a birthday present to herself.

Ai Ai delas Alas dream: To work with Sharon, Aga

MANILA, Philippines - Comedy Queen Ai Ai delas Alas has disclosed that she wants to do a sitcom with Megastar Sharon Cuneta, her co-star in comedy film "Best Friends Forever."

World first: Ovarian transplant helps woman be mum twice over

In what doctors described Wednesday as a world first, a Danish woman has given birth to two children after her fertility was restored using ovarian tissue that was removed, frozen, thawed and then reimplanted after cancer treatment.

Are non-smokers smarter than smokers?

by Reuters
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Cigarette smokers have lower IQs than non-smokers, and the more a person smokes, the lower their IQ, according to a study of over 20,000 Israeli military recruits.

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach  - "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

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