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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dec. 31, 2010 Major News Stories

Dec. 31, 2010 Major News Stories
Dec. 31, 2010 Major News Stories

8 Catmon folk sick, 1 dies due to diarrhea

by cebuweb

EIGHT persons in Catmon in northern Cebu are suffering from diarrhea. One of them, a 69-year-old woman, died last Wednesday, according to the the Department of Health (DOH).

Rennan Cimafranca, regional epidemiologist at DOH 7, said the eight patients have been admitted at the Juan B. Dosado Memorial in nearby Sogod town.

The woman, said Ci-mafranca, was brought to the Sogod hospital last Dec. 28 but died the following day due to acute gastroenteritis with severe dehydration.

The team, which included Cimafranca and Health Emergency Management Staff coordinator Dr. Expedito Medalla, suspects that the source of contamination is the water system in the area.

Cimafranca identified the affected area as Ba-rangay Makaat, Catmon but the team is still conducting further investigation on the cause of the illness.


The group took water samples that will be tested for coliform levels, which is the standard procedure for water potability. Also, rectal swabs were collected from five

patients to identify the bacteria that caused the illness.

Catmon is the third town in Cebu Province hit by water-borne illness this year.

Earlier this month, the DOH 7 declared a typhoid outbreak in Barangays Poblacion and Sta. Filomena in the southwestern town of Alegria, following reports of 16 cases.

Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi, which is transmitted through ingestion of feces and urine of infected people. Symptoms include high fever, malaise or weakness, headache, constipation or diarrhea, rose-colored spots on the chest and an enlarged spleen and liver.

There were more than 600 confirmed typhoid cases recorded since the first week of November until last week.

The outbreak was traced to Alegria’s decades-old pipes. Municipal officials are trying to address the problem through chlorination at the water sources while studies are being conducted on an appropriate water system.

The declaration was lifted early this week after health authorities noted a decrease in cases and the installation of four water chlorinators.

In Danao City, DOH 7 recorded 300 cases of diarrhea caused by Vibrio cholera el tor bacteria that was transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water.

Six fatalities have been reported due to diarrhea in Danao.

Cebu mayor orders P3M worth of pyrotechnics trashed

by Victor

CEBU CITY -- Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama has finally ordered the police to destroy the P3 million worth of pyrotechnics twenty-three days after they were seized at a mall outlet.

Chief Insp. Romeo Santander, chief of the City Intelligence Branch (CIB) of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), said they intend to pour water on the pyrotechnics at 4 p.m. Friday.

Aquino: Keep children away from firecrackers

Expressing concern over the increasing number of children ten years and below who are injured by firecrackers, President Benigno Aquino III asked parents on Thursday to keep their children away from explosive noisemakers and those who use them.

Fires in Bulacao, Pardo leave families homeless this New Year

by cebuweb

A MAN suffered an electric shock while desperately trying to save his neighbor’s house from a fire in Sitio Holy Child in Barangay Bulacao, Talisay City yesterday afternoon.

Ramonito Dubio reportedly tried to put out the blaze by climbing a post, carrying a bucket of water. However, his neck touched a live wire, causing him to fall on the rooftop.

The fire broke out at 3:40 p.m., destroying nine houses made of light materials. The nine houses were totally burned while two others were damaged, City Fire Marshal Felipe Canillas said.

Fire investigators placed the damage at P350,000.

Canillas said the fire did not spread to the neighborhood since three fire trucks and a penetrator truck promptly made it to the fire scene.

The firemen were able to control it in seven minutes.

Investigators, however, have yet to determine the cause of the blaze.

Also yesterday, another fire nearly gutted a house situated across a public elementary school in Barangay Pardo, Cebu City.

Faulty electrical wiring was blamed for the fire that damaged the two-story house of Atillano Angana on A. Gabuya St. in Poblacion, Pardo at 11 a.m.

Angana’s house is located across the Pardo Elementary School.

Thanks to early detection on the part of homeowners and neighbors, the fire was quickly put out, said SFO1 Nilo Daculan.

Only an extension of the house, which was made of light materials, was destroyed by the fire, said Daculan.

Daculan said the fire may have been caused by substandard electrical wiring and an overloaded power connection.

No need to seal soldiers’ firearms, says AFP

Soldiers need not seal their service firearms to prevent cases of indiscriminate firing in welcoming the new year, military spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta, Jr. said Thursday.

Rainy season is here, says Pagasa

The rainy season has arrived six months early. Filipinos should brace themselves for a wet first quarter as the Philippines will start to feel the brunt of the La Niña weather phenomenon, the government's weather agency said.

Employers told to follow holiday pay rules

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Thursday reminded employers to strictly adhere to holiday pay rules for their workers on New Year's Day.

New year rush LTFRB to grant special permits to buses, PUJs

by By Rene U. Borromeo and Gregg M. Rubio/WAB

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said it is willing to grant special permits to buses and other public utility vehicles to allow them to travel outside of their regular routes to respond to the needs of passengers who would go home to their provinces to celebrate New Year.

LTFRB approves P40 taxi flagdown rate


MANILA, Philippines – The Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has approved the petition of taxi owners to increase the flagdown rate from P30 to P40.

Transportation and Communication Undersecretary Dante Velasco said the LTFRB reviewed the petition and found it fair and reasonable since the last time an increase was granted was in 2004.

The LTFRB approved the petition on December 23.

Aside from the flagdown rate, succeeding charges to were also increased. This means that for every 300 meters, taxi passengers will now have to pay P3.50 from the previous P2.50.

Velasco said the taxi fare increase will take effect 15 days after the publication of the adjustment in major dailies.

DepEd to start universal kindergarten program in 2011

The Department of Education will implement a universal public kindergarten program in 2011 to prepare children about to enter primary school, Education Secretary Armin Luisto said Thursday.

Luistro said that the DepEd will use the additional budget granted to DepEd for priority projects like the universal public kindergarten.

Luistro said that the public kindergarten program is part of the department’s Education For All campaign in a bid to meet the country’s Millennium Development Goal on education.

“For the first quarter of 2011, we will focus on providing for universal kindergarten facilities for five-year olds. I am confident that we will be able to do that especially with the help of many committed stakeholders," Luistro said.

Also a part of the long-term program to improve the quality of Philippine education is the 12-year basic education system, which adds two more years in basic education to ensure that students are ready for higher education.

“A good headstart will give our young learners the boost to embrace learning and finish schooling,” Luisto said.

He said that the DepEd will get a P207 billion budget for 2011, a 19 percent increase from last year’s P175 billion. President Benigno Aquino III signed the 2011 budget on Monday.

“This represents the biggest increase in years in our annual budget at close to 19 percent compared with last year's,” said Luistro.

Meanwhile, the education department encourages parents to pre-register their children in the public kindergarten program this January to avoid the enrolment rush in May and June.

To Gwen and old MCIAA board COA: Reimburse P.5M paid to Roa

by By Rene U. Borromeo

The Commission on Audit has ordered Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and seven other members of the Board of Directors of Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority to reimburse the P500,000 that they have granted as severance pay to former tourism regional director Patria Aurora Roa last July 7.

Capitol’s move on MCWD denied

by cebuweb

DUE to a technicality, Judge Gilbert Moises yesterday denied the motion the Cebu Provincial Government filed to stop Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama from appointing new members of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) board.

Moises, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 18, rebuffed Capitol’s motion seeking a permanent mandatory and prohibitory injunction for failing to comply with Rule 58, Section 12 of the Rules of Court, which requires the petitioner to sign the pleading under oath.

Capitol to turn former camp to comm’l district

by cebuweb

A COMMERCIAL district is what the Capitol has planned for Camp Lapu-Lapu, a Province-owned property occupied by the military, an official said yesterday.

The development will start in the first quarter of 2011, after the guidelines recommended by the Technical Working Group are signed by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and the Department of National Defense, said lawyer Rory Jon Sepulveda, consultant on information and revenue generation of the Provincial Government.

Two witnesses tag Ramirez in slay

by By Ria Mae Y. Booc

At least two witnesses have tagged Medellin Mayor Ricardo Ramirez in the shooting to death of a municipal employee Monday evening.

Digal refused to identify the witnesses as well as to give details on their testimonies. But, a source told The FREEMAN that the testimony of one of the witnesses was based on the dying declaration of the victim Edelberto Abao.

According to the source, before the victim died at the Severo Verallo Memorial Hospital in Bogo he was able to tell the witness that Ramirez shot him.

Digal said they also have received several information that really point to Ramirez as the culprit.

Medellin police chief relieved, while Digal tags mayor as ‘principal suspect’

by cebuweb

CEBU’s provincial police chief relieved Medellin Police Chief Bonifacio Arriesgado yesterday for failing to report a municipal employee’s death to the police headquarters.

“Medellin is a small town,” Senior Supt. Erson Digal of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) said in Cebuano. “If there is any incident, the police would know about it right away.”

Gov’t hospitals seek DOH nod on license renewals

by cebuweb

TWENTY-nine government hospitals in Cebu have applied for renewal of their licenses to operate from the Department of Health regional office.

Out of the 29 hospitals, 15 are classified as level one while 11 facilities have level two status, including the Eversley Childs Sanitarium that has two licenses as a general and specialized hospital.

Only two facilities are given level four classification: the Cebu City Medical Center and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

Ophelia Quijano, DOH 7 Licensing Officer III, told Sun.Star Cebu that hospitals are classified as levels one and two, regardless of bed occupancy.

"It depends on the service capability of the hospital," she said.


Hospitals classified as levels three and four have different departments, resident doctors and consultants.

"These hospitals handle more specialized, complicated cases. The level four hospitals are teaching-training hospitals like Vicente Sotto and CCMC," said Quijano.

Health authorities also noted that two hospitals have yet to complete requirements for them to secure licenses to operate. These hospitals are the Jesus M. Paras Memorial Hospital in Carcar City and the Juan B. Dosado Memorial Hospital in Sogod town.

DOH 7 Director Susana Madarieta said the hospital in Carcar City has a license to operate but this is just intended for a primary hospital.

"Ni-upgrade sila; naa pa gamay na deficiencies (They want to upgrade but there are a few deficiencies)," she told Sun.Star Cebu in a phone interview.

Based on the 2010 DOH 7 annual report on hospitals and other health facilities that are both licensed and unlicensed, the Carcar City hospital's license to operate has not been renewed yet.

Madarieta said she does not know which requirements have yet to be complied with by the Carcar hospital, but she suspects these may be related to manpower or equipment.

She added that the hospital in Sogod also lacks requirements.

The report shows that the Juan B. Dosado Memorial Hospital is classified as level two but its service capability is noted as level one.

Madarieta welcomes the move of the Cebu Provincial Government to increase the budget for health facilities in Cebu.

"This is a chance for the hospitals to improve its facilities," she said.

"The hospitals can be accredited by Philhealth. This can also be a way for them to increase their revenues," she added.

Capitol has increased the budget of 16 district hospitals for next year. Of the 16, the facilities in Balamban and Carcar got the highest raise.

Sibonga officials fail to submit monthly report on car use: COA

by cebuweb

SIBONGA town officials failed to submit a monthly report of their travels using government-owned vehicles and also did not account for the town’s use of gasoline, oil and lubricants, state auditors said.

In its 2009 report, the Commission on Audit (COA) also reminded the Municipal Government to conduct an inventory of its properties, plants and equipment amounting to P59.08 million, and to have its motor vehicles registered with the Land Transportation Office and marked with “For Official Use Only.”

City recalls guns from ex-chieftains

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/BRP

The General Services Office of the Cebu City government has started recalling the handguns issued to defeated barangay captains so that the new officials may have them.

Cabarrubias sponsored most resolutions in second half of 2010

by By Garry B. Lao/BRP

Cebu City Councilor Roberto Cabarrubias is the top performer in terms of sponsored resolutions while the council’s two ex-officio representatives ranked lowest for the period of July to December 2010.

Cabarrubias had 315 sponsored resolutions while formers ABC president Eugenio Faelnar and former Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president Rengelle Pelayo only had 13 and 15, respectively.

Cabarrubias is followed by Edgardo Labella with 194, Jose Daluz with 156, Sisinio Andales with 141, Alvin Dizon with 124, Noel Wenceslao with 109 and Ma. Nida Cabrera with 103.

Most of the proposed resolutions of Cabarrubias are on programs of works and estimates and infrastructure in the different barangays while Faelnar had the lowest since most of his resolutions covered only barangay affairs.

Aside from Faelnar and Pelayo, Councilor Ritchie Osmeña has 30 proposed resolutions, Raul Alcoseba with 50, Ronald Cuenco with 51, Rodrigo Abellanosa with 58, Augustus Pe with 74, Lea Japson with 77, Margot Osmeña with 82, Eduardo Rama with 85 and Alvin Arcilla with 91.

As to the most ordinances approved, Councilors Wenceslao and Dizon topped the list with four while Daluz is second with three. Councilors Margot Osmeña, Labella and Ritchie Osmeña ranked third with two ordinances filed.

Records also show that there were 1,768 filed resolutions while 17 ordinances proposed filed. Of these resolutions and ordinance, 204 were referred to different departments and agencies while 93 were referred to different committees.

The city council is composed of 18 councilors including the two ex-officio representatives —the presidents of the Association of Barangay Councils and the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation.

SC spokesman: Separation of powers should be explained to PNoy


MANILA, Philippines - A Supreme Court (SC) spokesman said Thursday that President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III should be given a lecture on the separation of powers and constitutional mandate of branches of government as Malacañang continue to attack the judiciary for declaring the Truth Commission unconstitutional.

Lauro Vizconde firm in belief Webb et al massacred his family

by By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

MANILA, Philippines - The camp of Lauro Vizconde believes there is enough time left to appeal his case before the Supreme Court (SC) before the 10-year prescriptive period ends in June 2011.

P25-M released for pay upgrade of govt prosecutors

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Budget and Management has finally authorized the release of some P25.2 million to pay for the salaries and other compensation differential of government prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice.

Lawmakers now required to account for ‘pork barrel’

Beginning 2011, lawmakers are required to post details about their pork barrel spending on government Web sites to allow the people to keep tabs on how and where their money is spent.

Some provisions of the P1.645-trillion national budget require the disclosure of fund releases, bid documents, the result of bids and progress of project implementation, among others, via publication on the government’s official Web sites, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said.

"For sure, the lawmakers will have to post these in the DBM [Department of Budget and Management] website,'' he said in a text message.

Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives, called this "mandatory posting.''

"One specific provision on transparency and accountability requires the posting of all releases, the name of contractors and contracts, price of contracts, status of projects,'' he said in an interview last week.

The idea is to make lawmakers transparent and accountable.

For instance, lawmakers will have to list down who among their constituents are getting scholarships, which hospital in their districts is receiving medical equipment, and so on, and take the extra step to upload these on the Internet.

"They're a little stringent. But nobody is complaining,'' said a lawmaker, who chairs a key committee but asked not to be identified by name. "But we're surprised by the marked difference.''

President Benigno Aquino III has set the tone for his administration's campaign for reforms by pushing for transparency in the bureaucracy.

Every year each senator is allotted P200 million, and a congressman P70 million in pork barrel, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), for their pet projects.

While the amounts are lodged with the departments and are spent for projects identified by the lawmakers, they're known to be a major source of kickbacks.

In the P1.6-trillion budget signed by Mr. Aquino last Monday, some 24 senators and at least 283 congressmen are entitled to pork barrel.

Per Abaya's recollection, posting was "partially'' implemented in the House of Representatives under the Arroyo administration, but there was no "100 percent compliance.''

This time, lawmakers don't have much choice but to comply, Abaya said.

"I doubt if those averse to posting will have their way considering the environment of transparency and accountability we're operating in. If you try to insist on your old ways, it will stick out like a sore thumb,'' he said.

Abaya said he was still thinking of ways lawmakers could upload specifics about their PDAF in the House Web site,, apart from the DBM site.

"I still have to think through how that could be implemented,'' he said.

Updating the Web site would be a good start.

If you visit the site, there's a segment that tackles PDAF. Titled, "Where does the Pork Go?'' it lists the names of lawmakers with their corresponding pork barrel and ranks which items [public works, financial assistance, livelihood, education etc.] had the highest funding. The only problem was: the data were as old as 2008.

Aquino abolishes 9 govt agencies

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has formally ordered the abolition of nine government agencies under the Office of the President (OP), three of which were formed by his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The government will also be able to save P304 million from the abolition of these offices, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. had earlier said.


Among those abolished were three agencies formed during the Arroyo administration: the Office of the Presidential Adviser on New Government Centers, the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle Area Program Management Office, and the Luzon Urban Beltway Super Region Program Management Office.


Aquino also ordered the abolition of the following government offices, which were deemed to have “unnecessarily duplicated" the functions of other agencies:


Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG), whose functions are already being performed by the Bureau of Customs


Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), whose functions are said to be “redundant" with the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA)


Office of the Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change, said to be “redundant" due to the creation of the Climate Change Commission (CCC) last year


Bicol River Basin Watershed Management Project (BRBWMP) and the Minerals Development Council, functions of which may be managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources


Office of External Affairs, the tasks of which may be managed by the Department of Interior and Local Government


Aquino signed last month EO 13, which transferred the functions of the PAGC to the Office of the Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs (ODESLA).


According to the executive order, the nine agencies have until December 2011 to completely “wind up" their operations.


Government workers who will be affected by the abolition may avail of separation and other benefits provided under existing laws, the order also said.

PNoy gets thumbs up from bishops for 1st 6 months

Despite clashing with him over reproductive health issues, Catholic bishops gave President Benigno Aquino III high marks for his first six months in office.

Faeldon to still spend New Year's Day behind bars


MANILA, Philippines – Marines Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, the remaining Magdalo group leader still in detention, failed again on Thursday to gain temporary liberty before the year ends.

Philippine rebels make millions through extortion: military

by Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines - Communist insurgents in the Philippines have raised millions of dollars through extortion of businesses every year and now rely on the crime as their main source of funds, the military said Thursday.

Sison defends ‘revolutionary taxes’

The founding leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) stood firm that the rebel group will continue collecting revolutionary taxes from big businesses in the country, an issue that government negotiators intend to raise when peace negotiations resume in February.

Army soldier killed in NCotabato grenade blast


MANILA, Philippines - An Army soldier was killed and another one was wounded after motorcycle-riding men lobbed a grenade at a military post in Kabacan, North Cotabato, Wednesday night.

PNP vows to get ex-solon, other suspects in Congress blast

Prodded by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Philippine National Police has vowed to step up efforts to finally get former Basilan Representative Gerry Salapuddin and the other suspects in the 2007 explosion at the Batasang Pambansa complex that killed six people.

Exclusive: Row continues on alleged house of Rizal's mom

Habang ginugunita sa buong bansa ang ika-114 na anibersaryo ng kamatayan ni Dr. Jose Rizal, patuloy ang unti-unting paggiba ng tahanan ng ina ni Rizal sa bayan ng Biñan, Laguna. Galit ang mga cultural activists. Para kasi sa kanila, isa itong paglalapastangan sa kasaysayan.

PNoy won't send 116 witnesses to Hong Kong


MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Thursday said there is no need to send 116 witnesses to Hong Kong to testify on the August 23 Manila hostage crisis.

Nurses to flood rural health centers in 2011—Aquino

President Benigno Aquino III announced Thursday that nurses will flood rural health centers in 2011, according to a report on Radyo Inquirer Thursday.

Quoting the President, the report said that there was an urgent need to deploy nurses in the villages because of the lack of health units there that could deliver health services.

At the same time, the report said that the President lauded the additional budget that the Department of Budget and Management approved for the Department of Health since this could beef up its social services component.

DOLE: Pinoy seafarers, caregivers top choice in Malta

Filipino seafarers, caregivers and service industry workers are the top choices of employers in Malta, the Labor department said Thursday.

$1: 43.840

$1: 43.840 (P43.86)

Euro 1: 58.0335

30 percent poverty reduction aim of cities’ league

The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) targets to help lower poverty incidence by 30 percent across 122 cities in the country in three to six years.

SSS to collect P16.5-B loan payments in 2011


MANILA, Philippines - The Social Security System (SSS) expects to collect P16.5 billion in loan payments next year, including over P2 billion in overdue amortizations under an amnesty program for employers that will start on January 3, a top official of the pension fund said.

Pagcor posts P13-B revenues

In just five months, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) posted unaudited revenues of over P13 billion this year, owing it to cost-cutting measures and efficient use of resources by the new management.

PNoy optimistic Philippine economy will boom in 2011

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is optimistic the economy will "take off" in 2011.

US calls for democratic Myanmar

by Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON - The United States called Thursday on Myanmar to free prisoners and engage in dialogue to promote democracy, as the military-led country prepared to mark its independence on January 4.

Vatican issues laws vowing financial transparency

by By Philip Pullella, Reuters

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican, whose bank is being investigated over money laundering rules, established laws on Thursday to bring it in line with international standards on transparency, prevention of terrorism, counterfeiting and fraud.

Former Israeli president convicted of rape

JERUSALEM - Former President Moshe Katsav was convicted Thursday of raping an employee when he was a Cabinet minister, the most serious criminal charges ever brought against a high-ranking official in Israel and a case that shocked the nation.

Advocacy group: 57 reporters killed in 2010

PARIS - A total of 57 journalists worldwide were killed this year, media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said, adding that fewer reporters are being killed in war zones while more are targeted by criminals or traffickers.

Barcelona to erect monument to gays and lesbians

MADRID - The Spanish city of Barcelona will erect a monument to gays, lesbians and transgendered people who have been persecuted and repressed "throughout history", it announced Thursday.

Pacquiao is fans’ top pick for Ring Mag’s 'Fighter of the Year'


MANILA, Philippines – Manny Pacquiao is the top choice to become Ring Magazine’s 2010 “Fighter of the Year” based on the publication’s fan poll.

Barbosa shares top honors in ASEAN Open Chess


MANILA, Philippines - Filipino M Oliver Barbosa defeated Singaporean FM Timothy Chan to finish in a two-way tie for first place with eventual champion GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili of Georgia at the conclusion of the 1st ASEAN Chess Championships on Thursday in Singapore.

Garnett hurt in Celtics loss

by Agence France-Presse

DETROIT - The Boston Celtics lost more than just an NBA game to the Detroit Pistons 104-92 Wednesday as star forward Kevin Garnett left in the first quarter with a leg injury and did not return.

PNoy vows to exercise more in New Year

by Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said Thursday he plans to begin a regular exercise schedule as his New Year resolution -- providing he can find the energy.

Plastic bags outlawed in Italy from January 1

ROME - Italy is set to ban plastic bags from shops and supermarkets across the country on January 1 as shoppers eager for the New Year's sales prepare to swap to biodegradable, fabric or paper bags.

Italians are among the top consumers of plastic bags in Europe, using more than 300 per person a year, or around a quarter of the 100 billion plastic bags imported from China, Thailand and Malaysia that are used annually across Europe.

"This marks a key step forward in the fight against pollution and it makes us all more responsible in terms of recycling," said Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo.

Prestigiacomo said the government was launching a public awareness campaign to promote the use of bags made out of natural and recyclable materials "that don't just have to be practicable and good for the environment but also fashionable."

Environmental groups have welcomed the ban, which will come into effect on Saturday despite industry opposition.



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