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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 2, 2010 Major News Stories

DTI: No price hike for Noche Buena goods

Wala nang pagtaas sa presyo ng mga pagkaing pang-Noche Buena hanggang sa katapusan ng taon. Tiniyak ito ng Department of Trade and Industry base sa pangako ng mga manufacturer. Pero tuloy naman ang pagtataas ng presyo ng tinapay.

Consumers warned of holiday price hikes

CHRISTMAS may not be so merry for consumers as the Trade department has dropped a scheme to temper sugar costs, bakers said bread would become more expensive and a Cabinet official all but endorsed higher cooking gas prices.

"We will suspend the suggested retail price (SRP) for sugar until December 31 so there won't be a shortage in the market," Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo told reporters yesterday following a National Price Coordinating Council meeting.

He said this was aimed at ensuring that retailers would not worry about sanctions. Sugar's prevailing market price had hit P64/kilo as of the end of last month, well over the SRP of P52/kilo.

Mr. Domingo similarly noted that last Tuesday's increase in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) prices -- P33 to P638-P700 per 11-kilo tank -- did not reflect world market rates so that fresh hikes could be expected.

"The full increase hasn't been implemented. A small hike is expected," he said.

With two major inputs expected to become pricier, the Philippine Baking Industry Group (Philbaking) said it would have to hike loaf and pan de sal prices again by mid-month.

"There will be some adjustments due to the increased cost of sugar, liquefied petroleum gas and shortening," Philbaking President Walter Co told reporters.

As such, loaf prices will increase by another P1-P1.50 while a 10-piece pack of pan de sal will cost 50 centavos more, Mr. Co said.

This would follow price hikes last month by several bread firms including industry leader Gardenia Bakeries Philippines, Inc. Loaf prices were increased to P49-P55.50 from P48-P54.50 while pan de sal packs also became pricier, with some costing P35.50 instead of P35.

Other officials, meanwhile, said price hikes were unlikely for other commodities like pork, chicken, fish, vegetables, dairy products and processed meat with suppliers promising ample supply.

"There are no plans for increases until the end of the year ... for milk and processed meat" Trade Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya said.

Chicken, pork, fish and vegetables, added Agriculture Salvador S. Salacup, are also forecast to have "stable" prices.

Mr. Domingo said the Trade department would continue monitoring prices and could re-implement the sugar SRP starting next year.

"In January, we will see if sugar prices have come down and then we will reestablish the SRP," Mr. Domingo said.

To address the supply gab that has put pressure on prices, he went on to recommend that import schedules be revised.

"We have to change the timing of our importation," Mr. Domingo, said noting that cheaper contracts are to be had in February to April.

"We will definitely need to import next year. We will meet with the Sugar Regulatory Administration and the sugar industry for a long-term solution [to high sugar prices]," he added.

The Trade chief said the government had waited for the milling season to end this year before bringing in 250,000 tons of sugar.

The importation was unable to arrest the rise in refined sugar prices, with the commodity now retailing 45.5% higher in Metro Manila wet markets from a year earlier, according to Agriculture department data.

A sugar industry group, however, opposed plans for early importation as could prematurely depress local prices.

The milling season usually ends in June and only then can the supply gap be truly determined, Philippine Sugar Millers Association Executive Director Archimedes B. Amarra said.

"I agree we have to import but we don't know how many tons yet," Mr. Amarra said.

Milling has begun and supply entering the market should lower prices soon, he claimed.

LPG strikes yearend hike at P37

THE price of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) under Shellane increased by P37 per 11-kg. tank, from P740 to P777, since midnight of Dec. 1.

Clarissa Estencia of Jet Sales Corp., a dealer of Shellane LPG, said the increase is nationwide as determined by Shell Corp., a multi-national oil company that owns it.

However, Beverly Navaja of Evergas Trade Sales, which sells Gasul brand LPG of Petron Corp., said they kept the price at P727 per 11-kg. tank since Nov. 9.

Auto LPG prices up, too; new hike set next week

Aside from consumers having to grapple with a P3/kilo price hike for liquefied petroleum gas, taxi operators started December on a sour note as well, as dealers imposed a price hike on Auto LPG.
LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) party list Rep. Arnel Ty said early Wednesday Autogas will now cost around P29.40 per liter.

"Yan ang masamang balita, kasama po sila. Ang kanilang per liter ngayon, kung hindi ako nagkakamali, nasa P29.40 per liter," Ty said in an interview on dzBB radio. 

(That is the bad news. Taxi drivers will also be affected by price hikes in LPG products. Autogas will now cost about P29.40 per liter.)

While he did not say how much Autogas cost before Wednesday's price hike, figures from the Department of Energy showed Auto LPG prices were as low as P18.50/liter (Regasco Gas Corp., last adjusted June 8).

On the other hand, the Department of Energy (DOE) figures showed the most expensive Auto LPG was at P31 per liter (Flying V, last adjusted Aug. 10). 

Many taxi operators have had their units converted to use LPG fuel, which is cheaper and cleaner.

Ty said the price adjustment was due to the rising trend in world prices of LPG fuel.

"Pataas ang trend sa international market price, yan ang trend ngayon (The trend in the international market price of LPG is still going up)," he said.

Another hike in December 

Meanwhile, Ty said a second price hike for this month is likely to take place next week.

On Wednesday, LPGMA members had imposed a P3/kilo hike on LPG products, jacking up prices of 11-kg LPG tanks to between P603 and P613.

A second price hike of P2/kilo is due next week, he said.

"The advice we got from our suppliers was that the next price hike will be next week, P2 per kilo. There will be no more price hikes for the month after that. But at the end of the month we will check prices to see if there is a need to adjust prices in January," he said in Filipino.

But Ty said these prices are still lower than that of the major oil players, which act as the LPGMA members' suppliers.

He said LPG prices of the bigger firms stand at about P680 per 11-kg tank.

"Kami sa kanila bumibili mas mataas sila, di namin maintindihan at di nila pinapaliwanag (We get our supplies from them. We do not understand it and they do not explain it)," he said.

Bicameral body moves ruling on Energy chief to last session

THE COMMISSION on Appointments (CA) yesterday deferred the confirmation of Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras over energy-related issues raised by members of the bicameral body.

Tighter watch on poultry smuggling urged amid bird flu

by By Caroline J. Howard, ANC
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines enjoys the status of being bird-flu free, but local authorities are not taking their chances.

50 OFWs can't yet go to South Korea: Cimatu

by By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Special envoy Roy Cimatu said on Wednesday that the South Korea travel deferment of 50 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will stay until December 7, even if the situation in Seoul remains normal. 

1 in 4 Pinoys with HIV is an OFW --labor group

A total of 1,501 overseas Filipino workers have tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), constituting about 26 percent of the 5,729 cases reported in the National AIDS Registry of the Department of Health as of the end of October this year, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) revealed.

Nothing to fear about blood bank safety–DoH

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday assured potential blood recipients that the blood bank remains clean and safe from HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

More diarrhea cases reported in Cebu

CEBU CITY -- About 50 new patients were brought to the Danao City District Hospital on Wednesday, bringing to 263 the total number of diarrhea cases reported in the city since November 1.

Danao City Health Officer Arturo Allego pointed out, though, that some patients have been discharged. He also said that aside from three confirmed fatalities, no new deaths have been reported.

Disease betrays lack of safe water

Assistant City Epidemiologist Dorinda Macasu-col said most of these households, which compose three percent of Cebu City's total households, are in the mountain barangays, where residents get their water from deep wells and communal water tanks.

Second notice of strike against VECO looming

The Visayan Electric Company Employees Union is contemplating to file another notice of strike amidst the alleged defiance of the management to the order of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for the payroll reinstatement of the union president.

It's Ralota vs. Sanchez for ABC president in Cebu City

Now it's down to two. The battle for the presidency of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) of Cebu City will be between T. Padilla barangay captain Michael Ralota and Busay captain Eliodoro "Yody" Sanchez.

This as Capitol Site barangay captain Manuel Guanzon, who had expressed interest on the position decided to run for vice president instead after learning that Cebu City South District Rep. Tomas Osmeña endorsed Ralota for the post.

In yesterday's meeting between Ralota and Guanzon, the latter decided to give way to Ralota as being agreed on the straw balloting conducted by Osmeña.

Before the straw ballot, they agreed to honor whatever would come out of it and support, who would be picked.

Ralota reportedly edged Guanzon by a slim margin in the straw ballot, but Osmeña did not say exactly how the votes went.

Ralota and Sanchez filed their certificate of candidacy yesterday morning before the Nomination and Credential Committee at the Association of Barangay Councils Office. The deadline for filing will be today.

"Modagan lang ko kay lain man pud nga modaog si Kapitan Ralota nga wala'y kontra. Nindot man gyud ang election kung naay kontra," Sanchez said.

Ralota, for his part, said he has a good chance of winning considering that he has already the support of the majority of the barangay captains.

But Ralota said he will have to wait for the outcome of ABC elections on December 7.

"Mapilde o modaog magpabilin man gihapon tang kapitan. Amigo ra man gi-hapon mi ni Yody," Ralota said.

Basak-Pardo captain David Tumulak will be running for vice-president while Apas barangay captain Ramil Ayuman will be running for auditor. 

Others, who filed their certificate of candidacy as board members were Jessielou Cadungog of Tejero, Rodulfo Estela of Mambaling, Doming Lopez of Tinago, Roger Ruizo of San Roque and Lorenzo Basamot of Camputhaw.

ABC Executive Secretary Tessa Paradiang-Cang said that other barangay captains will be filing their COC today.

Meanwhile, Ralota said the 14 barangay captains, who have not paid their annual dues, can still participate in the elections next week.

Barangays are required to give 2 percent of their internal revenue allotment (IRA) share to the ABC as annual dues.

Ralota, the incumbent vice president of the ABC, said that the board of directors of ABC, has decided to allow the captains to vote provided that they will make a promisory note that they will settle their obligations with the ABC.

The 14 barangays who have not paid yet their ABC dues are Agsungot, Cambinocot, Cogon-Pardo, Kamputhaw, Kinasangan, Labangon, Lahug, Pahina San-Nicolas, Pasil, Quiot, Sambag II, San Nicolas Proper, Sapangdaku, and Sirao.

Cris wants ombud to probe PJ

BUSINESSMAN Crisologo Saavedra yesterday asked Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to investigate Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu Province, 3rd district) for accusing Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Santiago of violating the office's rules of procedure.

Capitol still lacks Naga permits for Balili

CAPITOL is still securing local permits from Naga City for the landfill in the Balili property.

Capitol spokesperson and revenue generation consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda said it's a challenge to meet their target to operate in January next year.

If they fail to achieve the target, he said they have already set-up contingency plans such as selling the ash to cement companies. But he reiterated that no specific companies have been named yet.

He said, however, they are not yet sure if the coal ash from Kepco can already be used.

CH to buy fire extinguishers

To ensure an efficient incident response program, the Cebu City Government is buying 6,000 fire extinguishers as recommended by the City Disaster Coordinating Council.

Lapu-Lapu has new police chief

The new chief of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Station, Senior Supt. Anthony Obenza, formally assumed office yesterday afternoon in a simple turnover ceremony at the city session hall.

461 new police recruits take oath

At least 461 new police recruits took their oath yesterday morning at the Police Regional Office-7 at the Camp Sergio Osmeña.

Son of radio commentator shot dead

A 43-year-old son of a radio commentator, while on a pedicab in sitio San Rafael, barangay Tangke, Talisay City, was shot dead yesterday morning by a still unidentified man.

Neilman Aton, a resident of 77 Bliss, Labangon, Cebu City, who drives a taxi for a living, succumbed to six gunshot wounds.

Aton is son of Mike Aton, a member of Sugboanong Komentarista nga Nagpakabana (SUKNA).

PO1 Rosauro Pasumala, one of the investigators, said Aton was on his way to the garage of Spider Taxi in barangay Tangke when an unidentified man came from nowhere and sprayed a barrage of bullets on him.

The gunman ran to a nearby bridge where he disappeared.

Police as of yesterday afternoon was still clueless as to the motive of the crime, but Superintendent Henry Biñas, chief of the Talisay City Police Station, said they are looking at the angle that the victim might have a conflict with his assailant.

As of yesterday, investigation of the incident was still on going.

Aton's body is set to be autopsied to find out what caliber was used in the shooting.

Pasumala said that based on initial investigation, Aton rarely went to his house in Labangon.

Meanwhile, his older brother SPO4 Jack Aton of the Mabolo Police Station said the victim was already living in Talisay City hence he wasn't usually seen in their house in Cebu Ctiy.

Lifestyle check urged on agent

A SPECIAL investigator of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was named in a complaint for ill-gotten wealth and graft, filed yesterday at the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

Modesta Maglasang, in her complaint, alleged that Arnel Pura of the NBI 7 has acquired P25 million worth of properties, "manifestly out of proportion" to his salary from the NBI.

Colon Rerouting Implemented

Due to the yearly night market in Colon starting yesterday, the Cebu City Traffic Operation Management has implemented a traffic rerouting.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. up to 2:00 a.m. the portion of Colon Street from D. Jakosalem up to the intersection of Osmeña will be closed for vehicle traffic.

As a result passenger jeepneys with route nos. 01B, 01C and 01K will be turning left to P. Del Rosario St., right turn to Junquera St., left turn to Colon St., left turn to Mabini St., to their usual route, then to their point of destination.

Passenger jeepneys with route nos. 01F, 02E, 10C, and 12B traversing along Colon St. shall right turn to D. Jakosalem St., left turn to Sanciangko St., to their usual route then to their respective point of destination.

Public vehicles with route nos. 08E, 08G, 09A, 09H, 10D, and 11D passing Colon St., shall right turn to Leon Kilat St., right turn to Magallanes St., and to their usual route, then to their point of destination.

PUJs with route no. 12C shall turn left to Borromeo St., left turn to Sanciangko St., then back to their point of origin.

Passenger jeep with route nos. 09J, and 10M in going to the reclamation area shall turn right to Leon Kilat St., left turn to Magallanes St., right turn to Manalili St., left turn to Lincoln St., right turn to F. Gonzales St., left turn to M.C. Briones St., left turn to M.J. Cuenco Ave., to their usual route, then to their point of destination.

Passenger jeep with route no. 10F shall make a right turn to Sanciangko St., right turn to Panganiban St., then to their point of origin.

Those vehicles with route nos. 11A, 08F, and 12F, shall make a left turn to Sanciangko St.,left turn to Panganiban St., right turn to Colon St., to their usual route, then to their point of origin.

13C PUJs shall right turn to Zamora St., right turn to Jakosalem St., left turn to Sanciangko St., to their usual route, then to their respective point of destination.

Motorists, drivers, and other road users are advised to follow the traffic signs installed on the rerouting area.

The situation will continue every night until the Colon Night Market is over.

Aquino risks impeachment over RH bill: lawmaker

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - After the threat of excommunication now comes the threat of impeachment.

CBCP exec question results of survey on RH bill

An official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines cast doubt Wednesday on the Pulse Asia survey showing that nearly seven out of 10 Filipinos support the Reproductive Health Bill pending before Congress.

Pope lauds PHL bishops' efforts vs contraception, corruption

Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged Filipino bishops to sustain their fight against corruption and attempts to promote contraception in the Philippines even as he praised them for their efforts on these matters.

GSIS says pension disbursements totaled P18.78B

The Government Service Insurance System disbursed nearly P18.78 billion pension benefits in January-October, up by 11 percent from P16.87 billion in the same period last year.
GSIS said it paid P16.38 billion to old-age pensioners and P2.4 billion to survivorship pensioners.

The state-run pension fund attributed the increase in disbursements to the growing number of GSIS pensioners on top of the implementation of the 1.5-percent increase in pension benefits.

Since January this year, the 1.5-percent increase in pension benefits has been in effect but applying only to those who started contributing to GSIS since 2005.

The pension fund for government employees, which has close to 280,000 active pensioners, has disbursed an average of P1.7-billion pension benefits on a monthly basis.

"Pensioners of this state-run firm remain the highest earning retirees in the country today," the GSIS said.

Apart from their monthly pension, pensioners are also entitled to cash gifts at the end of the year.

The GSIS said its domestic pensioners could withdraw their monthly pension, cash gifts, and even the proceeds of their pension loan from any Megalink, Bancnet, or Expressnet automated teller machines (ATMs) nationwide.

Pensioners living abroad, however, could also withdraw the same benefits and loan proceeds from any ATM abroad with a VISA Plus Network at the currency of the country they are in.

In the past, domestic and foreign pensioners had to make personal appearances to withdraw their pension benefits.

For pensioners outside the country, both old-age and survivorship pensioners can already renew their active status through SKYPE or through the 262 GSIS Wireless Automated Processing System (G-W@PS) kiosks all over the country.

By the first semester of 2011, the GSIS will deploy additional 500 kiosks in all division offices of the Education Department, provincial capitols, city halls, clusters of municipalities, and government agencies across the country.

GSIS president and general manager Robert G. Vergara said they are studying ways to make it more convenient for pensioners to renew their status. 

"Our vision is to harness technology so that, eventually, all our pensioners need not come to the GSIS office for renewal of their active status. They can just do it in the comfort of their own homes through technology-enabled means," he added. 

He reaffirmed the mandate of the pension fund to provide retirement benefits to GSIS stakeholders especially those pensioners who have rendered years of public service.

2011 'anti-growth' budget slammed in Senate

Opposition senators took to the floor on Wednesday to deliver the traditional "turno en contra (opposition's turn)" on the proposed 2011 national budget, which Senator Joker Arroyo described as a "stagnation budget."

DSWD to spend P4B to give away P21B to the poor

The Department of Social Welfare and Development is spending P4 billion to hire 4,000 workers next year to implement its controversial P21-billion conditional cash transfer program, it was learned at the Senate deliberations on the budget for the agency Tuesday.

Senate passes P1.64 trillion budget

(UPDATE 3) After holding marathon sessions, the Senate has approved on third and final reading the proposed P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011.

Late US solon who helped bare Marcos corruption conferred Legion of Honor

President Benigno Aquino III has decided to confer the Philippine Legion Honor with the rank of Chief Commander on the late former New York Representative Stephen Solarz, Malacañang announced on Wednesday afternoon.

Arroyo allies undaunted by 'Cablegate'

by By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Allies of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were unperturbed by the alleged leak of some 1,700 cable communication from the US embassy in Manila.

Alleged coup plotter joins Aquino gov't

MANILA, Philippines - Former Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda, one of the leaders of a failed coup against the Arroyo government in February 2006, has taken a job as head of a special government task force that protects the environment.

Danny Lim to RAM: Unite vs anti-Aquino 'interest groups'

Former Scout Ranger chief Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim has called on the members of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) to unite against "interest groups" that he said are out to shame the Aquino administration.

House panels OK amnesty grant; Senate concurrence seen

TWO HOUSE panels yesterday endorsed a new resolution concurring to the amended amnesty proclamation of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, confident that the plenary session will approve the same next week.

Maguindanao governor cries in court

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadato cried when his younger brother testified and identified photos of the victims including his wife Genalyn.

A day after massacre, meeting held to plan cover-up, says witness

On November 24, 2009, or a day after the Maguindanao massacre, relatives and supporters of the Ampatuan clan had a meeting to discuss the schemes to cover up the crime, a barangay (village) official in Maguindanao said.

De Leons insist Tony Boy Lejano is innocent

 Puno naman ng pag-asa ang angkan ng mga De Leon sa show biz na mapapalaya na ang kaanak nilang si Tony Boy Lejano, isa sa nahatulan sa Vizconde Massacre. Umuwi pa ang dating aktres na si Pinky De Leon mula US para makasama sa Pasko ang anak na nasa Bilibid.

Lacson's intel background helps him hide: DOJ

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Panfilo Lacson background as the former Philippine National Police chief has proven useful in his attempt to evade arrest, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima noted Wednesday.

Robredo on Lacson reward: 'Money can be put to better use'

If he had his way, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo would rather "put to better use" the proposed P2 million reward money for the capture of Senator Panfilo Lacson's arrest.

Lacson will surrender if arrest warrant dropped, his lawyer says

Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson will not surrender even if the Aquino administration puts a P2 million bounty for his arrest, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Problem of rights violations 'structural'—CHR chief

Human Rights Commissioner Etta Rosales defended the Aquino administration's rights record, saying that the problem is "structural."

Bong, Miriam want increases in SUC budgets

by By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines - Amid protests led by students and faculty members on Wednesday, senators called on their colleagues to increase the allocation for state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the 2011 budget.

Malacañang rushes search for new Comelec chair

 Isang miyembro ng Gabinete at 2 pang batikang election lawyers ang kasama sa inisyal na pinagpipilian ni Pangulong Aquino para maging susunod na Comelec chairman.  May kanya-kanya namang manok ang mga election watchdog para sa 2 pang mababakanteng puwesto sa Comelec sa Pebrero.

Comelec told to collect materials for Roxas poll protest

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), has ordered the Commission on Elections to collect election paraphernalia like ballot boxes and documents relevant to the election protest of defeated vice presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II.

HK to hold inquest over bus hijack

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong will hold a public inquest into the Manila bus hijacking crisis which left eight Hong Kong tourists dead in August, a spokeswoman for the coroner's court said yesterday.

The inquest is scheduled to last 25 days starting from Feb. 14, she told AFP, less than a month after Hong Kong police concluded their probe into the poorly handled fiasco which dented relations between Manila and Hong Kong.

Officials in the southern Chinese territory have criticized Philippine authorities' handling of the hijacking by lone gunman Rolando D. Mendoza, and a subsequent decision to spare officials involved from tough punishments.

The coroner's court investigates the circumstances behind a person's death but does not make recommendations concerning liability and has little power to compel witnesses from outside Hong Kong to testify.

"One of my questions will never be answered -- why did Mendoza turn cold-blooded?" hostage survivor Li Yick-biu told the South China Morning Post.

"The coroner can find out the cause of death, but the answer to this we'll never know," he added.

A Philippine consulate spokesman could not be immediately reached.

Hong Kong police sent four delegations to Manila to gather evidence, including from the bus where the victims died and to conduct ballistic tests and interviews with eyewitnesses.

The hostage-taking on Aug. 23 saw sacked police officer Mendoza seize a busload of Hong Kong tourists in Manila in a desperate bid to win his job back and be cleared of extortion charges.

Eight of the tourists and the hostage taker were killed and seven tourists wounded when police commandos launched a rescue attempt in a drama played out live on television.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong should course through the government any request for witnesses for its public inquest, a Palace official said yesterday.

"If they will send a request [for witnesses] it should go through normal government to government process," Deputy Spokesman Abigail D. Valte said in an interview at Malacañang.

"We have already provided the information from the reports that came from us. I'm not aware if there's a request from Hong Kong or the people in charge of the inquest to send witnesses," Ms. Valte said.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III, after reviewing the report of the committee that probed the incident led by Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima, ordered the filing of appropriate charges against eight people including police and government officials.

Peso moves up on news of China's manufacturing expansion

The peso inched up on Wednesday to move back to the 43-to-a-dollar territory, as news of an expanding manufacturing sector of China lifted sentiment on major Asian currencies.

$1: 43.780

$1: 43.780 (P44.00)

Euro 1: 57.3368

Philippines to overtake India as world's call center capital

MANILA, Philippines - A study by the Everest Research Institute showed the Philippines would soon overtake India as the call center capital of the world.

Aboitiz Oks sale of shipping unit to Negros Navigation

MANILA, Philippines - The Aboitiz group is selling its entire stake in shipping and logistics firm Aboitiz Transport Systems Corp. (ATS) to rival Negros Navigation Co. Inc. (Nenaco).

For $105 Million: Aboitiz sells off shipping companies

After a failed buyout agreement with the KGLI-NM Holdings Inc., two years ago, the Aboitiz Group has decided to finally get-out from the shipping business, following the company's announcement to sell its entire stake on Aboitiz Transport System Corporation (ATS) to Negros Navigation Co. Inc., (Nenaco).

East Timor leader pushes for ASEAN membership

by Agence France-Presse
SINGAPORE - East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said Wednesday it would be symbolic if his fledgling country gained ASEAN membership next year when former occupier Indonesia takes over as chair of the regional bloc.

Malaysia testing dengue vaccine as deaths surge

Malaysian health authorities announced on Wednesday that they were testing a dengue vaccine in a bid to combat the disease which has seen death rate jumped more than 60 percent this year.

Complacency fuels new AIDS surge in West: UN

by Agence France-Presse
UNITED NATIONS - Complacency among young people is causing a new surge of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and European nations like Britain and Germany, a top UN expert said ahead of World AIDS Day on Wednesday.

Donaire plans to take risks vs Ukrainian foe

MANILA, Philippines – Now that his fight has been shoved as the main event of the "In Harm's Way" fight card, Filipino-American boxer Nonito "The Filipino Flash" Donaire will make sure that spectators will have fun watching his bout against former world champion Wladimir Sidorenko of Ukraine on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Bolts zap Barako Bull, 73-70

The Meralco Bolts held Barako Bull without a field goal in the last four minutes, squeezing out a 73-70 win to secure a playoff for a quarterfinals berth in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City tonight.

Prisaa opens today

THE Southwestern University (SWU) Lady Cobras are ready to defend their crown as the Private School Athletic Association (Prisaa) regional volleyball champions as the event opens today at the Aznar Coliseum.

Today's opening will be led by president Fr. Vic Uy and the different point persons of the different provinces and the more than 600 athletes competing in the weekend.

"We will have a modest opening ceremony followed by a solidarity meeting of all officials," said SWU athletic director Ryan Aznar.

Lakers' skid at 3 with loss at Memphis (AP)

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) of Spain shoots under pressure by his brother Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) of Spain and forward Lamar Odom (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010 in Memphis, Tenn.

The Lakers had "Get back on track" written on the board in their dressing room. Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies wouldn't let tha happen against them. Conley scored 10 of his season-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Los Angeles Lakers 98-96 on Tuesday night, sending the defending champs to their third straight loss.

Rondo's 23 and 12 lift Celtics over Cavs (AP)

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) shoots next to Cleveland Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison (4) in the first quarter quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, in Cleveland. Rondo scored a team-high 23 points in the Celtics' 106-87 win.

Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics weren't even in the showers when an announcement stirred the few Cavaliers fans who stayed until the bitter end. "On Thursday night, the Cavs will host the Miami Heat," the loudspeakers blared. Boooooooooo. Your turn, LeBron. Rondo scored a season-high 23 points with 12 assists and the Celtics shook off some rust from a long holiday weekend.

Duncan has triple-double, Spurs now 15-2 (AP)

San Antonio Spurs ' Tony Parker , left, goes up for a shot past Golden State Warriors ' Stephen Curry during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, in Oakland, Calif.

Tim Duncan has lobbied Spurs coach Gregg Popovich numerous times to play point guard in the past. Each time he's been denied. Don't expect Popovich to have a change of mind any time soon, even after San Antonio's All-Star forward matched his career-high for assists while recording his first triple double in nearly two years.

Knicks pull away after Nets' Harris hurt (AP)

New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni reacts in the second quarter of the Knicks' NBA basketball game against the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.

The New York Knicks tried to say that 19 games is too early for celebration. For this franchise, though, it's awfully late in the season to still have a winning record. Amare Stoudemire scored 35 points and the Knicks broke open a close game right after New Jersey lost point guard Devin Harris to injury, beating the Nets 111-100 on Tuesday night.

Sixers hand Blazers fourth straight loss (AP)

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan reacts to a turnover by his team in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers , Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010, in Philadelphia.

Once again, the Philadelphia 76ers finished well, while the Portland Trail Blazers did not. Elton Brand scored 18 points while Jrue Holiday and Andres Nocioni added 11 each to help the Sixers past the Trail Blazers 88-79 on Tuesday night. The Sixers have won consecutive games for the first time since March 24-26, 2010.

Magic bench keys 90-79 win over Pistons (AP)

Orlando Magic 's Vince Carter , left, goes in for a shot as he is guarded by Detroit Pistons ' Richard Hamilton (32) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.

A little time has passed. Some of the players have changed. None of it ever seems to matter, because the Detroit Pistons always give the Orlando Magic a hard time. "Always," Magic forward Rashard Lewis said. Only now the end result is different. On a night Dwight Howard was contained offensively, it took a strong push from two reserves to help the Magic pull away for a 90-79 victory.

Despite flu, Granger's 37 spark Pacers (AP)

Indiana Pacers forward Solomon Jones , center, goes up for the shot between Sacramento Kings ' Francisco Garcia , left and Jason Thompson during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.

Slumped over in his chair, staring aimlessly at the locker room floor Tuesday night, Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers had little energy thanks to a nagging case of the flu. Despite the illness, Granger still was the dominant player against the Sacramento Kings. The talented small forward scored a season-high 37 points for the Pacers, who used a strong third quarter to pull away from the Kings.

KC hosts peace video conference

by by Jewel Reyes, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Actress KC Concepcion, a World Food Programme ambassador against hunger, hosted a peace technology video conferencing at the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) on Tuesday.

No honeymoon for Regine, Ogie

by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA, Philippines - Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez divulged on Wednesday that she and husband-to-be Ogie Alcasid won't have a honeymoon after their December 22 Christian wedding at Punta Fuego beach resort in Batangas.

Charice sings 'Jingle Bell Rock' at X'mas in Rockefeller

MANILA, Philippines – Charice delivered a rocking performance during the star-studded NBC's 13th annual "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" special at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Finger length predicts prostate cancer risk: study

by Agence France-Presse
PARIS - Men whose index fingers are longer than their ring, or fourth, fingers run a significantly lower risk of prostate cancer, according to a study published Wednesday in the British Journal of Cancer.

Tiny blood vessels show pollution, heart disease link

by Agence France-Presse
WASHINGTON - By photographing tiny blood vessels in a person's eyes, researchers have found a way to link exposure to air pollution with a higher risk of heart disease, a study published Tuesday said.

How to deal with young picky eaters

by By Karen Flores,
MANILA, Philippines - Contrary to popular belief, kids are not born to like hotdogs and skip vegetables. Rather, children's picky eating habits are made, and the usual suspects are the parents themselves, according to nutritionist Mary Jude Icasiano.

'Can't talk now Dad, I'm ovulating': study

by Agence France-Presse
PARIS- Women instinctively shun their fathers when they are most fertile, even as they seek out the companionship of their mothers, a new study has shown.

Pagasa: One or two more tropical cyclones to enter PHL this month

Pagasa weather branch chief Robert Sawi said based on climatological data, the track of tropical cyclones during this period are likely across Southern Luzon and Visayas area.

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