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

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 11, 2011 Major News Stories

January 11, 2011 Major News Stories
January 11, 2011 Major News Stories

Cebu implements 15-day gun ban for Sinulog fiesta

by dr_tangarorang

CEBU CITY -- For a peaceful Sinulog, the police declared a full alert and a 15-day gun ban in Cebu that started on Monday.

All permits to carry firearms outside one’s residence are suspended, as approved by Philippine National Police Director General Raul Bacalzo last Friday.

PNP now on red alert for Sinulog

by By Ria Mae Y. Booc/BRP

The Philippine National Police declared a red alert status effective yesterday until January 17 while the Cebu Provincial Police Office will field 100 personnel to help secure the Sinulog grand parade.

Sound systems to be banned near Fuente

by By Karen P. Ceniza and Junalyn S. Rufin

Establishments surrounding the Fuente Osmeña Circle will not be allowed to have their own blaring sound systems during the grand mardi gras this Sunday, Jan. 16.

Possibility of rain during festival only 10 to 20 percent, says Pag-asa

by cebuweb

THE state weather bureau foresees good weather during the Sinulog grand parade this Sunday, with the possibility of rains hovering only between 10 and 20 percent.

“On Sunday, there will be improved weather condition. There is less probability of raining,” said Alfredo Quiblat, senior weather specialist at the Mactan, Cebu Station of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

But the forecast, he said, may still change, adding the weather agency can make a more accurate forecast by Friday.

Septic tank victims set to join Sinulog

by cebuweb

MARVIN and Melvin Nacua were planning to join the Sinulog, their aunt Ofelia Laoc said yesterday.

Their father, Mario, had promised to help the Sandiego dance troupe during its performance in the Sinulog grand parade on Sunday.

Province to give P.5M to Cebu pop festival

by By Gregg M. Rubio/BRP

The Province of Cebu will extend P500,000 in financial assistance to the 31st Cebu Popular Music Festival on January 14, 2011.

Cebu prepares for Palma's arrival

by By Ryan Christopher J. Sorote and Gregg M. Rubio/JPM

With only days before the Archdiocese of Cebu will have a new Archbishop, preparations for the arrival and installation of Most Rev. Jose Palma, D.D. is in its last phase.

According to Margarita Mathew of the welcome committee, they have finalized the plans for the arrival of Palma tomorrow at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

Palma’s estimated arrival is at 3 p.m. He will be welcomed by representatives from the Church headed by the Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, the Auxiliary Bishops of Cebu, local executives and themilitary headed by CentCom Commander Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva.

The organizers are expecting heavy traffic with Palma’s convoy from the airport to the Archbishop’s Palace at D. Jakosalem Street. He will be led to the St. Joseph’s Chapel at the Archbishop’s Palace for a short liturgy to be headed by Vidal.

This ceremony is the traditional acceptance of a candidate before the installation, an act expressing fidelity to the church.

Palma will then join guests for banquet at the Sacred Heart Center.

Arriving with Palma will be his personal envoy consisting of all the Archdiocese of Palo clergy and 134 lay guests where he served as Archbishop for almost five years since 2006.

More than 100 priests and lay guests comprise the delegation from the Archdiocese of Jaro in Ilo-ilo, where he was born on March 19, 1950, the feast of Saint Joseph.

There will also be 32 priests and 35 guests from the Diocese of Calbayog where he first served.

Aside from Palma’s guests, almost 500 members of the clergy of the Archdiocese of Cebu will also attend.

Some 70 to 80 bishops have confirmed attendance for the installation of Palma but organizers are expecting more.

On Palma’s installation on Thursday, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral is expected to be full of people for the three-hour ceremony that will start at 9:00 a.m. The Cathedral has a seating capacity of 1,800 people.

Cebu archbishop: ‘I am not the boss, just one of the servants’

by cebuweb

THE Archdiocese of Cebu may be divided into dioceses soon to provide more prompt church services to people from far-flung areas, said incoming Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

“I will float the idea,” Palma told Sun.Star Cebu on Sunday. “Sooner or later, it will happen, especially if there are recommendations from Rome.”

"Cebu City, church swap lots"

by cebuweb

IN HIS last official act as Cebu Archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Cebu City Government for an exchange of properties.

But the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cebu (RCAC) will be giving up a property of greater value to what it is getting from the City.

Country club case closed: SC

by cebuweb

THE Supreme Court (SC) ruling that denied a family’s claim on a 36-hectare parcel of land that forms part of the Cebu Country Club’s golf course in Banilad, Cebu City is final.

In a notice signed by Clerk of Court Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal, the SC has barred further pleadings or motions on the issue and directed that an entry of judgment be reflected in the records.

The late Francisco Alonso, represented by heirs Mercedes, Tomas and Asuncion Alonso, claimed ownership of Lot 727-D-2, which forms part of the Banilad Friar Lands Estate.

Couple sues Capitol over T-shirts

by cebuweb

A GARMENT manufacturer in Cebu City has lodged a civil suit against Cebu Province before the Regional Trial Court for refusing to accept the remaining contracted shirts for barangay health and day care workers in 2009.

Petitioner Pedro Ugsimar II and his wife Michell, who own Fiber Soft Enterprise, filed the case last Jan. 6 for breach of contract, specific performance, collection of sum of money and damages.

In their complaint, the Ugsimars said they won the bidding to supply 9,015 T-shirts to barangay health and day care workers in the Province.

The total bid price was P1,755,671.25. The Province later issued a notice of award, dated Dec.14, 2009, to Fiber Soft.

When it received the purchase order on Dec. 17, 2009, Fiber Soft began manufacturing the shirts. In the purchase order, it was stated that the shirts should be delivered on or before Dec. 22, 2009.

Penalty

A penalty of one-tenth of one percent per day would also be imposed if the shirts were not delivered in full.

Between Dec. 23, 2009 and Jan. 6, 2010, Fiber Soft delivered to Capitol 6,087 shirts, which the Province accepted. When the firm delivered the remaining P2,928 shirts, Capitol refused to accept these.

Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre, who also heads the bids and awards committee, wrote Fiber Soft that Capitol would only accept shirts delivered on or before Dec. 22, 2009.

The Ugsimars said this caught them by surprise since Salubre allegedly led them to believe a “few days of delay” in the delivery would be “alright.”

The couple wants the Province to pay them P1.755 million, less the penalty for late delivery. The money, they said, is needed for the kidney transplant of Pedro.

The couple also asked the court to compel the Capitol to accept the remaining 2,928 shirts and pay them P1.727 million, including interest.

Rama warns Tom on words vs. City

by cebuweb

CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama yesterday warned Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) about issuing statements that concern the City Government.

This followed after the congressman said he suspects that the administration of Rama is protecting the village chiefs who are said to be involved in the alleged anomalous barangay infrastructure projects in the south district for political or financial considerations.

The mayor said it has never entered into his mind to protect personalities who are involved in graft and corruption.

Guanzon's remarks offend Oliva

by By Jessica Ann R. Pareja/FPL

Cebu City Treasurer Ofelia Oliva took offense on the remarks of Capitol Site Barangay Captain Manuel Guanzon accusing her of negligence for failure to prepare the Community Tax Certificates forms for the barangays.

‘Bry. chief cheated on papers’

by cebuweb

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas found evidence that the village chief of Kamputhaw, Cebu City used government-bought fuel to run his private vehicle in 2002, but dropped the case of malversation lodged against him because the unit was used for official trips.

Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol, nevertheless, ordered the filing of a falsification case against reelected Barangay Captain Lorenzo Basamot because the paperwork used to obtain the fuel, valued at P24,314.75, was issued for another vehicle.

6 workers say they were sacked for not supporting Durano bets

by cebuweb

SIX employees of the Danao City Government complained to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that they were dismissed from the service by Mayor Ramon “Boy” Durano Jr. allegedly because they did not heed his order to support his candidates in the Oct. 25 barangay and Sang-guniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

The complainants—market aide Lucilina Cabanero, job-order employee Ronito Capua and traffic aides Renato Montes Jr., Reynaldo Bacalla, Christopher Paul Francisco and Belito Camaongay—submitted sworn affidavits to Danao City Assistant Prosecutor Raymund Gultiano.

Leaner budget for Danao for 2011

by By Jose P. Sollano/JMO

The Danao City Council approved last Friday P351.344 million for the town's budget for 2011, an amount lower by P4 million than what was proposed by Mayor Ramon Durano Jr.

Bike rams into service vehicle of PB member

by cebuweb

A 21-YEAR-OLD man was injured after his motorcycle hit the service vehicle of Provincial Board (PB) Member Alex Binghay in Barangay Gaas, Balamban Tuesday last week.

Jelmar Nable Ripdos landed in the hospital after his motorcycle hit the vehicle’s door on the driver’s side.

SPO3 Arvie Banate, an investigator of Balamban Police Station, said in a phone interview Binghay’s Toyota Hilux (SHT-468) driven by Mark Alfredo Pinili Lanit was travelling on the right lane towards Cebu City.

Bread prices to go up Jan. 17

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Saddled by the incessant increase in flour prices, the baking industry is set to implement a higher price for its products starting January 17.

Philippine Baking Association (PhilBaking) President Walter Co said the subsidized Pinoy Tasty will go up to P38 from P36 a pack.

He said P1 will be added to the price of commercial loaf bread, and P0.50 for a pack of pan de sal containing 10 pieces.

Co also complained of the increase in prices of sugar, lard and other inputs.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration has already promised a drop in prices, but this is not enough to temper the adjustment in flour prices, he said.

Using as benchmark levels in the international market, a sack of flour is now about P50, he added.

The Department of Trade and Industry has given its go signal to the increase in prices last week.

Co said members have already submitted to the DTI receipts that would prove the need for such.

Free enrolment for kindergarten kids

by By Rene U. Borromeo/WAB

Department of Education (DepEd)-7 director Ricaredo Borgonia is asking the parents to avail of the government’s free education program for their five-year-old children by enrolling them in kindergarten classes ahead of the regular enrollment in June.

Public schools need more kindergarten teachers

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) is seeking ways to meet the demand for more kindergarten teachers in public schools for school year 2011-2012.

The DepEd, in a press statement on Monday, said it expects more than 2.4 million 5-year-old children to enrol in public schools in the coming school year.

Public schools currently have around 1.5 million kindergarten pupils while another 435,574 are in private schools.

“The move to reach 100% participation in five-year olds numbering to more than 2.4 million in June requires that the ideal number of kindergarten teachers be filled,” the department said.

The DepEd needs an additional P5.7B annual funding for salaries of around 27,000 more kindergarten teachers.

"With the number of kindergarten teachers needed, we are in serious business of exploring various means to address this requirement as we start our universal kindergarten program in June," said DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said.

He acknowledged the public education sector’s needs, which haunt the Philippine basic education system

One of these is the limited number of permanent teaching positions available prompting the department to find alternative means to fill the gaps, according to the DepEd.

"We understand the concern of those who will be hired under contract of service.  The bill on universal kindergarten will allow DepEd to allocate funds for permanent positions that is why we are working closely with our legislators to ensure teachers will get the compensation they deserve," Luistro explained.

"The department is looking at several options to help maximize the benefits we can possibly extend to kindergarten teachers. The current P3,000 allowance is per four-hour shift and we are exploring ways to provide them up to at least P12,000.00 in monthly compensation," he added.

Some lawmakers are now trying to help the DepEd meet its requirements for kindergarten teachers, according to Luistro.

"We are very thankful for this and we know that with their continued support, we hope to have the bill enacted to law soon," he said. "While it is true that the current planned solution is a 'band aid' solution, it also serves as an assurance to teachers that they will not be under contract of service for too long.”

Arab man charged for large scale illegal recruitment

by By Mylene P. Manto and Niña G. Sumacot/FPL

An Arab man who claimed to be a judge from the United Arab Emirates was charged for large scale illegal recruitment and estafa before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office following his arrest Saturday.

At least five people complained against Adnan Sayed Anwar Ali Alkazim, 47, temporary resident of Tancor I Condominium in Barangay Mabolo after they were promised a job abroad in exchange for money.

The complainants Patrick Henri George, Vanzen Gregory George, Sharon Abego, Christopher George and Duffi Songa alleged that the suspect offered them work abroad.

The complainants said the suspect befriended to them on November 15, 2010 while they were having dinner in a restaurant. Alkazim introduced himself as a judge from the United Arab Emirates and a licensed recruiter.

According to the complainants, Alkazim claimed to have connections in the government making it easy for him to deploy workers abroad. Dreaming of having a stable work abroad, the complainants went to Alkazim’s house on November 17 to submit the requirements for travel abroad.

The complainants said they submitted their passports and paid P160,000 to start the processing of their papers. On top of it the suspect demanded additional P43,000, P50,000 and P48,000, respectively.

On December 6, 2010, Patrick and Abego flew to Manila upon the advised of the suspect because they were allegedly scheduled to leave abroad on the 14th of the same month.

But, the victims found out that there were no plane tickets for them in Manila much less jobs waiting for them abroad. The complainants said they tried to contact Alkazim but he was no longer available.

POEA officials charged with human trafficking, corruption

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and 3 recruitment agencies were charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday for alleged human trafficking and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The complainant, who asked ABS-CBN News to temporarily withhold his name for security reasons, is an employee of one of the agencies.

The complainant claims to have personal knowledge of the alleged violations of respondents Atty. Alejandro A. Padaen, Director IV for Adjudication; Atty. Jesus Gabriel C. Domingo, Director II for Legal Research, Docket, and Enforcement Branch; Atty. Marieta S. Labong dela Cruz, Attorney V, of the Docket and Enforcement Division; Ernesto B. Vistro, Administrative Aide VI (Sheriff); Nascel Gabito, Web Administrator, and the following recruitment agency officers:

  1. Edgardo D. Wisco of Worldview International Services Corporation of Malate, Manila;
  2. Marichu G. Elagha of Future Careers Recruitment Agency, Inc. of Ermita, Manila; and
  3. Amelita V. Villarosa of Shanlene Manpower and Recruitment Services of Malate, Manila.

The complaint alleged that "a total of 100 overseas Filipino workers [OFWs] were deployed in the year 2010 by the three (3) named agencies whose licenses were already cancelled by the POEA but whose penalty were not implemented by the respondents, head and officials of the POEA Adjudication Office and the Docket and Enforcement Branch, who are charged with the execution and release of orders issued against erring agencies and principals, within 15 days and, in fact, transmitted at least 30 days after signing by the POEA Administrator because the respondents intentionally, and for very long periods, conspired in the non-implementation of said orders to facilitate more deployment by agencies no longer authorized to deploy because of recruitment violations."

The complaint listed the names of OFWs deployed in the said period by these agencies, copies of cancellation orders signed by the POEA administrator, and proof of release of the orders from the Office of the Administrator to respondents. Proof of late implementation by the respondents were also attached as evidence.

"There was human trafficking because OFWs were actually transported and recruited for overseas employment with the clear intent of exploiting them through forced labor and involuntary servitude as evidence by previous complaints against the same private respondents," the complaint read.

"These OFWs were subjected to exploitation, forced labor, some of them to prostitution, they were not paid, not fed," said Assistant City Prosecutor Raymond Jonathan Lledo, National Task Force chairman of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

The complaint further alleged that "as a result of the wilful failure to execute the signed orders, actual exploitation and repatriation cases were docketed in the POEA Repatriation Unit." It also named 3 OFWs who are subject of repatriation, including information of their respective cases.

The complaint said fraud was involved in the deployment of the OFWs, as the licenses of the said agencies should have already been cancelled following proven offenses and the existence of signed cancellation orders.

However, "the subject agencies were advertised by the POEA as in good standing," it said.

"We at IACAT will be conducting an in-depth investigation of this problem because we believe this is only the tip of the iceberg; we would also like to uncover past offenses which serve as hindrances to our anti-human trafficking efforts," Lledo said.

The complainant also asked that respondents be imposed preventive suspensions "to prevent the commission of any further acts complained of" and to be able to secure original documents pertinent to the case.

Appointment of new POEA chief stirs mixed reactions

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has welcomed the appointment of the new Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief despite saying that the new head has "no background on overseas employment."

DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said lawyer Carlos Cao Jr. is a welcome addition to the department as it strives to fulfill President Benigno Aquino III’s agenda for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their families.

 

“The DOLE and its family of agencies welcome Cao as he is equipped with extensive experience in human resource management, industrial relations, and corporate planning and administration, which would be relevant and useful to POEA and the DOLE," Baldoz said.

 

Baldoz noted that Cao is from the private sector and is expected to infuse fresh ideas to the country’s overseas employment program, and to plans and projects for OFWs.

 

DOLE undersecretary for employment and manpower development Danilo Cruz, however, noted in the same statement that Cao is an “outsider," even as the DOLE official lauded Cao’s “notable track record as a private sector practitioner."

 

“He may not have any background on overseas employment, but his experience will definitely provide the DOLE with new ideas," Cruz said.

 

According to Cruz, Cao’s “vast experience" in human resource management was a major factor in the DOLE’s decision to endorse his appointment to Malacañang.

 

Differing opinions

 

In a separate interview, however, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said recruiters were “disappointed" with Cao’s appointment. He said they would have preferred someone with previous or current positions at the DOLE or the POEA.

 

“We are hoping for the Aquino administration to appoint someone with experience in overseas recruitment," Geslani told GMANews.TV.

 

“He will go on a learning curve again, and it will take him some time to learn the ins and outs of the POEA," he added.

 

Geslani said one challenge Cao will have to take on as soon as he assumes the position is the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 10022, an amendatory law to RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act.

 

Geslani explained that Section 3 of RA 10022 mandates that OFW destination countries be certified as having sufficient laws and programs for the protection of migrant workers, prior to the deployment of OFWs there.

 

“We have long been asking the POEA to release the list (of certified countries), so that we’ll know where to send OFWs, but they have not yet released it," said Geslani.

 

For his part, Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said while they welcome the appointment of a new POEA chief, they will be vigilant about how Cao will respond to issues besetting migrant workers.

 

Wine-welcome namin ‘yung pag-appoint ng bagong admin, pero magiging mapagbantay kami, halimbawa, kasi ang problema namin sa POEA, ‘yung mabagal na pagtugon sa reklamo ng mga OFW," Martinez told GMANews.TV in a separate interview.

 

(We welcome the appointment of a new POEA administrator, but we will remain vigilant, because one problem we have with the POEA is that it is too slow in responding to the complaints of OFWs.)

 

Martinez also said that while Cao’s being an “outsider" may be a disadvantage, one advantage is his “clean record," and that he is expected not to have ties with “abusive recruitment agencies".

 

For Martinez, a big problem that Cao has to immediately address is the rampant practice of contract substitution when OFWs workers are already at their work sites.

 

“‘Pag may contract substitution, nagsasara ‘yung mga recruitment agency dito. Paano ngayon hahabulin ang mga ito ng POEA?" he said.

 

(In cases of contract substitution, local recruitment agencies choose to just cease operations. How then does the POEA plan to go after them?)

 

Cao background

 

According to the DOLE, Cao, 55, graduated at the top of his class at the San Jose Elementary School in San Luis, Pampanga in 1967, and at the Baliuag Colleges High School Department in 1971. He finished journalism and law at the University of the Philippines in 1978 and 1984, respectively.

 

Prior to his appointment, Cao was practicing law at El Elyon & Cao Law Office, with expertise in labor relations and corporate law. He was also an assistant vice president at Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC), in charge of human resource management and corporate planning.

 

“He was responsible for the implementation of labor-management cooperation programs that won for MMPC the National Sikap-Gawa Award for having the most outstanding LMC program in 1996," the DOLE said.

 

“He was also instrumental in the formulation of the company's business planning processes, productivity improvements, and global HR road mapping," the department added.

 

His previous stint with the government included holding various positions at the Court of Appeals, Rural Waterworks Development Corp., Ministry of Trade, Public Estates Authority, Ministry of Human Settlements, UP College of Mass Communication and the National Irrigation Administration.

Senate to probe OJT nurses’ alleged exploitation

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate will investigate the alleged exploitation of nurses who are undergoing on-the-job training (OJT) in hospitals, a lawmaker said Monday.

Members of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography will hold a hearing Tuesday to tackle the issue, Senator Pia Cayetano said in a press statement.

Cayetano, who chairs the committee, said members of the Senate committees on finance, labor, employment, and human resources development will also take part in the discussion.

She earlier filed Senate Resolution No.166, which seeks to look into reports of registered nurses and nursing graduates on OJT who are made to pay for their training, work experience, and certification, instead of being hired as regular hospital staff.

"It is unfortunate that some of our nurses who are seeking employment overseas are forced to enter into such onerous arrangements in order to comply with the two-year work experience requirement for overseas employment," Cayetano said.  

"In their desire to get hired abroad, some nurses are constrained to work in hospitals as OJTs even without pay or for salaries below the minimum wage," she added

The senator said some OJT nurses are reportedly made to pay between P5,000 to P7,000 for their certification in the course of their “training period” or “work experience” with a hospital, which may last from 6 weeks to 8 months.  

"These reported money-making schemes contribute to the problem of local unemployment and underemployment among our nurses and, if found true, is very demeaning to the nursing profession. We also need to see how these questionable practices are dealt with under the existing regulations of the Department of Health (DOH), which is tasked to oversee the operations of hospitals in the country."

Officials invited to attend the joint hearing are Health Secretary Enrique Ona; Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz;  Dr. Teresita Barcelo, president of the Philippine Nurses Association; Alvin Cloyd Dakis, president of the Association of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates; Dr. Ruben Flores, president of the Philippine Hospitals Association; Dr. Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines; Carmelita Divinagracia, president of the Association of Deans of Philippine Colleges of Nursing; and Dr. Leah Paquiz of the Nurse Advocates for Rights and Socio-Economic Political Responsibility (Ang NARS).

The joint hearing will also take up Senate Resolution No. 304 introduced by Sen. Loren Legarda, which seeks to formulate a comprehensive policy to protect nurses, as well as various bills seeking to establish a Philippine National Health Research System.

Two-tier wage system readied for Labor Day

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - A two-tiered wage system may be President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s offer to workers come Labor Day.

May 1 may be a few months from now, but the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) is already preparing to fine-tune the system.

In a press release, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the NWPC has adopted a second resolution that recommends the mandatory regional floor wage and an additional productivity pay for workers.

Baldoz explained the floor wage shall be the lowest wage in the region to protect the most vulnerable workers.

The productivity or performance-based pay scheme, on the other hand, shall be used to adjust the wages of workers receiving above the floor wage. This shall be implemented on a voluntary basis.

“We are glad that this reform initiative of the DOLE is moving assuredly for this will lead to improvement in labor productivity in our workplaces,” Baldoz said.

NWPC said the system is a product of a series of sectoral and regional tripartite consultations.

A tripartite delegation was even sent to Singapore to study its flexible wage system.

For this year, the NWPC will:

- convene a technical workshop on the determination of the floor wage;

- present the reform to the executive committee of the National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council;

- conduct information campaign; and,

- conduct capacity building programs for the regions to ensure smooth implementation.

Aquino to decide priority legislative measures

by By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Cabinet members were able to identify more than 25 proposed legislative measures that will undergo the President's evaluation to determine which will be put in the Palace's legislative agenda for the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), a Palace official said.

PCGG suggests its abolition to PNoy

by By Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) is set to give a 100-day report to President Benigno Aquino III that will propose the commission’s abolition.

SC junks petition vs amnesty program for mutineers

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - For “not being in the proper forum,” the Supreme Court junked a petition seeking to quash the Aquino administration’s amnesty program for soldiers, police and their supporters involved in 3 failed uprisings.

Faeldon: No regrets for rebelling vs Arroyo

by By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Magdalo leader Captain Nicanor Faeldon on Monday said he is dismayed at the plea bargain agreement that allowed former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia to go free on bail in exchange for returning some P135 million in assets that he allegedly stole.

No air-tight case against ex-AFP comptroller—gov’t prosecutor

The Office of the Special Prosecutor said Monday that it lacked evidence to convict former Armed Forces comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia of plunder so that it opted for a plea-bargain agreement with the retired military executive.

Communists all set to meet gov’t reps to talk peace—Sison

The leadership of the communist insurgents is all set to face the representatives of the government for the new round of peace negotiation to end the more than four-decade-old rebellion in the country, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines declared Monday.

The government and the NDFP are scheduled to resume formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway, in February. The peace negotiations will be preceded with informal meetings on January 14-19.

MILF wants Moro political detainees freed

The secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked the Aquino administration to release all Moro political detainees arrested during the lull in the peace negotiations, saying it could spur the confidence of the people and restart the 14-year off-and-on peace process.

Lawmaker wants constitutional convention by May

by by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - A member of the House of Representatives is set to file a bill calling for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention (con-con) in May 2011 to revise the 1987 Constitution.

Cha-cha not priority of Aquino administration—Palace

Malacañang on Monday said that pushing for Charter change (Cha-cha) was "not a priority" of the six-month-old Aquino administration.

Aquino disinterest in seeking office in 2016 good for Charter change—Speaker

(UPDATE) House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said President Benigno Aquino III’s declaration not to seek any office in 2016 would further boost the people's trust in him to undertake sweeping reforms, including the polarizing Charter change debate.

674 cops compose first batch to undergo values retraining

(UPDATE) A total of 674 policemen will form the first batch of policemen across the country that will undergo retraining in various regional training facilities, a police spokesman said Monday.

South Korea, Philippines seek stronger ties

by Agence France-Presse

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan and Philippine counterpart Alberto Romulo held talks Monday on promoting cooperation in industry, trade and consular affairs, officials said.

Ressa to write new book on terrorism in Asia

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Maria Ressa, former head of News and Current Affairs of ABS-CBN Corp., has accepted an offer from a Singapore-based think tank to write a new book on the threat of terrorism in Asia.

US embassy sorry for banning Cordillera natives in loincloth

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The US embassy has apologized to Cordillera ethnic people who were driven away from a forum in Metro Manila last year that featured former US President Bill Clinton.

Norwegian ship rescues 4 Pinoy fishermen

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – Four Filipino fishermen have been rescued by a Norwegian cargo ship after they were cast adrift in the ocean for 4 days.

The fishermen, who are from Agutaya in Balabac, Palawan, were identified as Rolando Mandiuya, Abdulsa Diohane, Marcelo Sacro, and Tomelben Canohang, according to the Coast Guard.

Authorities confiscate ‘Yamashita gold bar’ from tourist at NAIA

Airport authorities on Sunday stopped two Chinese nationals bound for Hong Kong and confiscated from them what appeared to be a gold bar, which bore a mark indicating it was part of the fabled Yamashita treasure.

Peso falls anew as US economy improves, dollar becomes attractive

The peso fell further into the 44-to-a-dollar territory and dropped by 16 centavos in the first trading day of the week, as somewhat improving US macro-economic fundamentals made the dollar more attractive.

$1: 44.310

$1: 44.310 (P44.15)

Euro 1: 56.9666

BOC-Cebu says P9.3 B target collection too high

by By Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon/WAB

Cebu Customs District Collector Ronnie Silvestre will seek for a reconsideration of the assigned P9.3 billion target collection for them this year, saying its too high considering the continued effort of the government to reduce customs tariffs of dutiable goods and importation.

'Rice imports to start in Q1'

by Reuters

MANILA, Philippines - The government wants to begin importing rice within the first quarter of 2011 and could buy the grain from Vietnam, Thailand and even Cambodia, the head of the state grains agency said on Monday.

Two dead, over 3,000 displaced in Malaysia floods

by Agence France-Presse

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Two teenagers have been killed and about 3,100 people displaced as seasonal floods hit northern Malaysia, police said Monday.

Deaths as flash floods hit swamped Australia

BRISBANE—Flash floods ripped through northeast Australia Monday, killing at least two people as they swept cars and pedestrians into rapids so strong they felled trees and caused landslides.

Clinton says sanctions complicate Iran nuclear goals

by by Lachlan Carmichael, Agence France-Presse

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said here Monday that international sanctions have made it "much more difficult" for Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

SEA Games athletes to start training next week

There will be no more excuses for athletes not to reach their peak form when they compete in the Southeast Asian Games in late 2011.

Guiao leaves Express, joins Elasto Painters

Multi-titled Philippine Basketball Association coach Yeng Guiao won't be returning to coach the Air21 Express after all. Instead, he will bring his rich coaching experience to the up-and-coming Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

James' 44 help Heat extend road streak (AP)

LeBron James' crunch-time performance left even teammate Dwyane Wade in awe. James had a season-high 44 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, Wade added 34 points and eight rebounds, and the Miami Heat beat the Portland Trail Blazers 107-100 in overtime Sunday night for their 13th straight road victory.

Kobe, Lakers rip Knicks in testy affair (AP)

Even before Ron Artest sent Amare Stoudemire plummeting to the Staples Center hardwood with a clothesline flagrant foul, the New York Knicks realized their longtime rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers had acquired a pugnacious edge. When the high-flying Knicks also couldn't make shots, they didn't even stand a puncher's chance against the champs.

Spurs beat Wolves for 15th straight time (AP)

Though it wasn't pretty on the court, the San Antonio Spurs thought it was beautiful in the standings. "Wins are always good," coach Gregg Popovich said. "There has never been a bad win." Manu Ginobili scored 14 of his 21 points in the second quarter, and the Spurs beat Minnesota 94-91 on Sunday night for their 15th straight victory over the Timberwolves.

Filipino group 'Bamboo' disbands: report

by abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Bad news to all Bamboo fans out there. The Filipino band, which is composed of Bamboo Mañalac (vocals), Ira Cruz (guitars), Nathan Azarcon (bass), Vic Mercado (drums), has officially disbanded. This was announced by DJ KC Montero on Twitter on Monday.

NASA spots tiny planet outside solar system

WASHINGTON—The smallest-ever planet outside our solar system has been spotted by NASA's Kepler space telescope -- a rocky planet similar in size to the Earth, the US space agency said on Monday.

The planet, named Kepler-10b, is about 1.4 times the size of Earth and spins around its star more than once a day, an orbit much too close for life to survive, NASA said in a statement.

"Since it orbits once every 0.84 days, Kepler-10b is more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our sun and not in the habitable zone," NASA said.

According to Douglas Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA, the discovery is promising even though it appears that no life could exist there.

"The discovery of Kepler 10-b is a significant milestone in the search for planets similar to our own," said Hudgins.

"Although this planet is not in the habitable zone, the exciting find showcases the kinds of discoveries made possible by the mission and the promise of many more to come," he said.

The new planet has a mass 4.6 times that of the Earth, and an average density of 8.8 grams per cubic centimeter, similar to an iron dumbbell, NASA said.

The findings are described in the Astrophysical Journal.

Kepler is NASA's first mission in search of Earth-like planets orbiting suns similar to ours.

It launched in 2009, equipped with the largest camera ever sent into space – a 95-megapixel array of charge-coupled devices – and is expected to continue sending information back to Earth until at least November 2012.

The space telescope is searching for planets as small as Earth, including those orbiting stars in a warm, habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface of the planet.

Hunger again rising

Yearend SWS survey estimates 3.4M families affectedHUNGER HAS GONE UP among Filipino families after declining for most of last year even as the number of households that consider themselves mahirap or poor basically stayed the same, a new Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found.

A Nov. 27-30 SWS poll, the results of which were made exclusive to BusinessWorld, had 18.1% of the respondents -- or an estimated 3.4 million families -- claiming to have gone hungry in the last three months because they lacked anything to eat.

This was up from the 2010 low of 15.9% (3.0 million families) recorded last September and -- given the 21.2% in March and 21.1% in June -- was slightly below the 19.1% average for the year.

It was also four points over the 12-year average of 13.7%, the SWS noted, but still far from the record high of 24% hit in December 2009. The record low is 7.4%, hit in March 2004.

Some 9.2 million families or 49% of the respondents, meanwhile, considered themselves poor, barely changed from September’s 48%. Over a third -- 36% or an estimated 6.7 million households -- considered themselves food-poor, down from 38% previously.

Government officials blamed higher food prices in the last quarter of 2010 and noted the need to deliver on promises to reduce poverty.

The rise in overall hunger, the SWS said, was due to a two-point increase in moderate hunger -- experiencing it "only once" or "a few times" in the last three months -- to 15% or an estimated 2.8 million families. Those not stating their frequency of hunger are included in this category.

Severe hunger -- experiencing it "often" or "always" -- remained at 3.1% or 588,000 families.

Overall hunger rose in all areas except in the Visayas where it stayed at 15.3%. It increased by nearly four points in the Balance of Luzon to 18.3%, almost two points in Mindanao to 18% and a point in Metro Manila to 21.7%.

Moderate hunger was up in all geographical areas: to 16% from 13.3% in Mindanao, 14.7% from 12.3% in the Balance of Luzon, to 17.7% from 15.7% in Metro Manila and to 12.7% from 11.7% in the Visayas.

Severe hunger rose by over a point to 3.7% in the rest of Luzon but fell by an identical amount in Mindanao (2.0%) and the Visayas (2.7%). It fell by nearly a point in Metro Manila to 4.0%.

The latest moderate and severe hunger scores are higher than their 12-year averages in all areas, the SWS said.

Self-rated poverty, meanwhile, declined by nine points in Mindanao to 44%, by eight points in Visayas to 53% and by five points in Metro Manila to 44%. It, however, rose by 11 points in the Balance of Luzon to 51%.

 

 

Self-rated poverty fell by a point in urban areas to 42% and was unchanged at 55% in rural areas.

Self-rated food poverty, meanwhile, dropped 13 points in Metro Manila to 28%, by 11 points in the Visayas to 39% and by two points in Mindanao to 34%. It increased by six points to 38% in the rest of Luzon.

The self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget poor households say they need in order not to consider themselves poor in general, stayed sluggish despite considerable inflation -- an indication of belt-tightening, the SWS said.

As of November 2010 the median poverty thresholds for poor households were P15,000 in Metro Manila, P9,000 in the rest of Luzon, P8,000 in the Visayas and P5,000 in Mindanao.

The median food-poverty threshold, meanwhile, hit a new high of P9,000 in Metro Manila, breaking the previous P8,000 record. It was at P4,000 for both the rest of Luzon and the Visayas, and at P3,000 in Mindanao.

In Metro Manila, the SWS said the median poverty threshold of P15,000 was barely above the P10,000 in 2000 even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI)had risen by over 60%. The P15,000 is equivalent to only P9,096 in terms of 2000 purchasing power and is a throwback to living standards 15 years ago, the SWS added.

It said households had tightened their budgets by P1,490, the difference between the Nov. 2010 median poverty threshold of P15,000 and the P16,490 equivalent -- using the CPI of 164.9 -- of the 2010 threshold.

Metro Manila’s median food poverty threshold of P9,000, meanwhile, is equivalent to only P5,729 in terms of 2000 purchasing power, the SWS said. Subtracting the first figure from the CPI-adjusted equivalent -- P9,426 -- of Dec. 2000’s P6,000 yields a belt-tightening of P426, the SWS said.

Sought for comment, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon J. Soliman the rise in hunger to fourth quarter price hikes and the impact of an October typhoon that hit northern Luzon.

An improvement, however, should be seen this year, she added, as "the programs of the government have a cumulative effect."

Sec. Ricky A. Carandang of the Presidential Communication Development and Strategic Planning Office, for his part, said: "The fact that there was some increase makes it all the more urgent for us to get our social programs in place. We’re hoping that some of that will be felt this year."

For the survey, the SWS interviewed 1,200 adults nationwide. The error margins used were 3% for national and 6% for area percentages.

 


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