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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

February 24, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 24, 2011 Major News Stories
February 24, 2011 Major News Stories



DOLE: Jobs abound in creative industries

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday said creative industries present employment opportunities for qualified Filipino workers.

DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz employment opportunities are expected to flourish in the creative industry in the next 10 years.

"The creative industries are among the emerging industries which Project JobsFit has identified to generate jobs," Baldoz said in an article posted on the DOLE website.

She cited opportunities in the emerging creative industries are "in-demand but hard-to-fill," such as:

3D modelers;

3D artists;

3D animators;

Flash animators;

systems analysts and designers (mostly computer and digital skills-based opportunities);

broadcast engineers;

video editors, and

and visual artists/designers.

To fill up the positions in these industries, Baldoz encouraged the youth to acquire the proper qualifications and skills.

She also urged investors and established companies in the country to train and upgrade would-be workers and personnel on computer-based, digital, and related capabilities.

"Our Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is ready to assist both industries and workers on their training development needs," she said.

Bureau of Local Employment Director Maria Criselda Sy said creative industries comprise one of several emerging industries in the country that are projected to drive employment growth faster than the gross domestic product (GDP) in the long term, based on the results of Project JobsFit.

Sy said the other employment drivers include:

power and utilities

renewable energy

diversified/strategic farming and fishing.

Earlier, Project JobsFit identified employment generators that have the potential for absorbing the most number of the Philippine workforce in the long term to 2016 and beyond. These are:


cyber services;

health and wellness;


restaurant and tourism;



banking and finance;


ownership dwellings and real estate;

transport and logistics;

wholesale and retail trade, and

overseas employment.

Sy said that in power and utilities, the hard-to-fill, but in-demand occupations include those for:

electrical control operators;

equipment operators;

electrical technicians;

mechanical technicians;


power production plant operators;

electrical engineering technicians;

mechanical engineering technicians, and

electrical mechanics and fitters.

In the renewable energy sector, similar opportunities are projected to grow within the decade for:


electrical engineers;


mechanical engineers;

quality control engineers;

electrical engineers;

other engineers, and

related professionals.

Finally, in the diversified/strategic farming and fishing industry, the numerous occupations up to 2016 and beyond include those for fishermen, aqua‐culturists, horticulturists, farmers (root crops, fruit & vegetable, upland and lowland), and others.

For the other industries, similarly numerous in-demand but hard-to-fill occupations are contained in the Project JobsFit report prepared by a multi-agency team led by Sy in consultation with various regions, stakeholders, agencies, and the captains of Philippine industry in 2010.

Regarding pique case Norwegian envoy to meet De Lima

by By Ria Mae Y. Booc, Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Niña G. Sumacot and Mylen P. Manto/BRP

CEBU, Philippines - Norwegian ambassador to the Philippines, Knut Solem, will meet Justice Secretary Leila De Lima today to discuss the delayed resolution of the case against Sven Erik Berger and Karen Esdrelon.

The couple’s lawyer Salvador Solima said the ambassador is confused on how justice is done in the Philippines and why the case has not yet been resolved.

The couple has been detained in the Cebu Provincial Police Office for 12 days now but still charges of complex crime of kidnapping with homicide that were filed against them has not yet been resolved by the Prosecutors Office that said they still have to evaluate the report submitted by the National Bureau of Investigation.

The two are being held responsible for the abduction and killing of six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique last Feb. 8. She was found dead a day later. But the NBI said the couple was in Cebu City during the time Ellah Joy was snatched from her school in Calajoan, Minglanilla.

“Ang pagka-detain sa duha gikasagmuyo sa mga tawo sa Norway kay they were already proven innocent pero hangtod ‘ron wa pa sila kagawas,” Solima said.

The case could have been decided by the Prosecutor’s Office right after their counter-affidavit was sent as part of the procedure, the lawyer said.

Solima also withdrew their application for bail saying they are optimistic that the complaint will eventually be dismissed by the Prosecutors Office. The hearing for the bail application was supposed to be heard yesterday.

“I am confident that the complaint will be dismissed and I am 100 percent sure that this will not be elevated to court,” he said.

But Roque Amante Jr., the lawyer of Ellah Joy’s father Renante Pique, said he is confident that the prosecutor will rule in their favor.

“The counter-affidavit of Berger is of course self-serving evidence which under the rules on evidence is not admissible, or must be taken with caution,” Amante also said when asked to comment on the case.

He added all certifications attached to the counter-affidavits filed by the respondents through Solima were not under oath.

Amante explained that in rules of evidence the certification which was not under oath cannot be admitted unless its authenticity and due execution are met. He added this process can be done in court and not in the prosecutor’s office and can be tested if they are not hearsay.

Amante claimed the abduction was positively identified by three minor witnesses who had no reason to falsely testify.

Meanwhile, the designated spokesman of the newly-organized task force for Ellah Joy’s case said they have new developments in their investigation that does not necessarily lead to Esdrelon Berger.

Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador said they created the task force just a few days ago to assist the Cebu Provincial Police Office which remains the head of the investigating task force.

Right now, with the resignation tendered by CPPO director Erson Digal, Comendador said Supt. Teofilo Siclot, Deputy Provincial Director for Operations, will currently lead CPPO as far as the investigation is concerned.

Digal handed over his resignation letter to Police Regional Office-7 director Chief Supt. Ager Ontog and Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia last Tuesday after Garcia said she lost trust in Digal over the way he handled the investigation into Pique’s death.

PNP officials mum on Garcia’s choice

TWO police officials met with Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia yesterday, but neither confirmed they are in the list of possible replacements to Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director Erson Digal, who resigned early this week.

Senior Supt. Louie Oppus, deputy regional director for operations of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, told news reporters he will be honored if chosen to head the CPPO. But he declined to comment further.

Senior Supt. Mariano Natuel, PRO 7 community relations head, avoided reporters and hurriedly left the governor's office.

Oppus said their meeting with Garcia was about a German national, who is a suspect in a cyber-sex case.

The German national was caught in Talisay City last Feb. 3.

Oppus said German Consul Franz Seidenschwarz had asked the help of the governor because the German Federal Police wanted to know if the man is the same person who is facing similar charges in Germany.

NBI arrest

He said he had also informed the governor that it was not the police but the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that caught the suspect. As such, the PRO 7 cannot provide more information on the case but the NBI will be the one to assist the German Consulate.

Garcia said PRO 7 Director Ager Ontog Jr. still has to submit a list of officials who may replace Digal.

The governor will choose from the list. She did not reveal her preferred candidate for the CPPO post, but said she wants someone who is competent and circumspect.

She said the new CPPO director should “conduct himself properly as a police officer and not a media celebrity."


She said she dislikes those who are too noisy and often appear in the news. She also expressed dislike for police officials who go to bars and drink with commentators, whether on-duty or off-duty.

Digal resigned from his post as CPPO director after being told by Garcia that he has “lost” her “trust and confidence.”

The governor got irked that Digal allegedly withheld information about the investigation on the Ellah Joy Pique case from her.

Garcia said Ontog had told her that the PRO 7 still is awaiting approval of Digal’s resignation.

In the meantime, Digal’s deputy, Teofilo Siclot, will take over the CPPO.

Capitol spokesperson Rory Jon Sepulveda said they are not preempting the investigation on the Ella Joy Pique case.

He said Capitol is pursuing the truth, which is why the governor submitted the results of the NBI investigation to the Provincial Prosecutor's Office.

Explain absence, court asks Ecleo lawyer, or return to jail

by cebuweb

EMBATTLED Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. (Dinagat Islands) may face another legal predicament for failing to attend the trial of his criminal case in a Cebu City trial court.

Judge Soliver Peras yesterday issued a show-cause order against Ecleo, the supreme master of the Dinagat Island-based Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Asso-ciation (PBMA).

Peras, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10, directed Ecleo to explain why his P1 million bail should not be cancelled for failing to appear in court yesterday for his parricide case.

Mother says sorry to Joavan

by cebuweb

THE mother of car painter Casimiro Briones yesterday apologized to Joavan Fernandez, fearing for her son’s safety.

Erlinda Briones asked for forgiveness in her son’s behalf for fear that the adopted son of Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez would harm Casimiro.

CH to hold city-wide dredging of creeks, rivers

THE Cebu City Government will be conducting a city-wide dredging of creeks and rivers, not just the Mahiga Creek.

Using the P80.8 million of the P100 million it tapped from the City’s calamity fund, the City’s dredging project will be extended in seven other creek and river catchments.

These include the Kinalumsan River catchment, the Estero-Parian catchment, Lahug River catchment, Basak San Nicolas creek catchment, Tagunol River catchment, Cogon Pardo creek catchment and the Bulacao River catchment.

In his news conference yesterday, Mayor Michael Rama reiterated the need to dredge the rivers and creeks in the city.

“We are talking now of dredging the whole city because that is what we have to think.

That is what we have to confront. If we have flashfloods in the city, it will create more damage. If the political will is not present, we will end up answering cases of gross neglect of duty and that will bring us more trouble,” he said.

In a meeting with the barangay captains yesterday, the Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) Chief Engineer Kenneth Enriquez scheduled to start the dredging project next month.

In March, they will start identifying the families who are living within the three-meter easement from the creeks and rivers.

This will be conducted by the concerned barangays, the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP), and the City’s Management Information and Computer Services.

By April, the Squatters Prevention, Elimination and Encroachment Division will start issuing notices of eviction.

The removal of illegal structures will start by May and will end by June so the dredging proper can start by July.

As to providing relocation sites to the affected families, Rama said it has still to be discussed. He said, however, he prefers them to return to their provinces.

Last month, a heavy downpour flooded parts of Cebu City and Metro Cebu, prompting officials to declare a state of calamity.

City dads question purchase of uniforms without bidding

THE Cebu City Council yesterday questioned the executive department’s purchase of P18 million worth of uniforms for City Hall employees.

Councilor Sisinio Anda-les said he received complaints that the purchase of employees’ uniforms did not go through proper procedures, such as bidding.

The councilor also asked why the suppliers of the uniforms are not from Cebu City.

“Naa man unta tay local suppliers. Kana sila nag-bayad gud na og buhis sa Syudad sa Sugbu, so why not them? (There are suppliers in Cebu City and they even pay taxes to City Hall),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Andales raised the matter during the City Coun-cil’s caucus yesterday.

On the motion of Councilor Edgardo Labella, the City Council invited Human Resource Development officer Mary Ann Suson to appear in next week’s session to shed light on the matter.

Labella said councilors have many questions about the way the uniforms were bought.

Sought for comment, Mayor Michael Rama said he will ask Suson and City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete to look into the matter.

But he said it has always been the practice of City Hall to buy the uniforms of its employees without bidding.

Poblete, for his part, said there was no need for a bidding because City Hall was not the one that bought the uniforms.

“It’s not the government’s procurement. The disbursement is charged to the personal account of the employee,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

“It’s the employee who buys the uniform pero gi-facilitate lang namo ang procurement ana kay di unya mapareha ang ilang uniform (We merely facilitated the purchase to make sure they have the same uniforms),” he added.

Suson said the suppliers were chosen by the employees.

Last Jan. 3, Suson said three suppliers showed samples of the uniforms. Two of the suppliers are from Manila and only one is based in Cebu.

“The employees voted for four designs that happened to be from the Manila suppliers,” she said.

Still, Suson said she is willing to appear before the City Council next week.

Charter’s father serves as ‘model of governance’

HE is God’s gift to the Cebuanos.

This was how former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. described Don Vicente Rama, father of the Cebu City Charter.

Davide, guest lecturer in the 9th Don Vicente Rama Memorial Lecture held yesterday, said Rama—who was also called Nyor Inting—was more than an ordinary mortal.

The lecture is one of the highlights of the 74th Cebu City Charter Day celebration.

“He was a man of vision that, with his valor and vigilance, conquered all for the glory of righteousness and rectitude…and has genuine love and service all for the greater glory of God. Nyor Inting is indeed God’s gift to the Cebuanos,” he said.

In his 30-minute talk, Davide also described Rama as an exemplary public servant. He said Rama promoted good governance and rendered selfless service to others.

Public trust

“He lived up to the character that public office is a public trust and that must be emulated by all government officials and employees,” he said.

In the 1930s, Rama was known for his insistent vigilance as a watchdog of public coffers. He was credited for uncovering a scandal in the Philippine National Bank Cebu.

As a journalist, Davide said, Rama was a model of integrity, prudence, good faith and respect for individuals.

“Nyor Inting has upheld the nobility of the pen,” he said.


He urged the media to emulate Rama, uphold the ethics of the profession, work hard for the truth and justice, and never allow themselves to become mouthpieces of politicians.

Rama was a staff member of El Precursor and editor of Kauswagan. He also became a writer, editor and publisher of Nueva Fuerza or Bag-ong Kusog, where he wrote about irregularities in government. His great-grandson Michael is currently mayor of Cebu City.

At the end of his talk, Davide challenged the organizers of the Charter Day celebration to publish a compilation of previous lectures about Rama, to remember the man.

Rama will also be honored today, during the culmination of the City Government’s celebration of the Charter Day.

Panganiban traffic trial approved

THE Cebu City Council has authorized the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) to conduct an experiment to convert Panganiban St. as a one-way street.

Councilors Richard Osmeña and Augustus Pe Jr. sponsored the resolution in answer to the request of Citom acting department head and lawyer Rafael Yap for a 30-day experimental period.

Yap has yet to receive communication from the council as it was only passed yesterday, but he said he will follow it up.

The Citom has a study to serve as basis for the experiment in Panganiban St., particularly the portion between N. Bacalso Ave. and Sanciangko St.

“The volume of vehicular traffic passing along the area is considered heavy with various public utility jeepney (PUJ) routes designated to pass along the area on both directions,” the study read.


Citom conducted a survey, which revealed that the bulk of the traffic is from Sanciangko going towards N. Bacalso Ave.

About 8,343 vehicles or 68 percent are from Sanciangko during the eight-hour survey while only 3,879 are going to Sanciangko.

About 2,950 of the vehicles going to N. Bacalso are PUJs, the largest volume among all the types of vehicles.

From N. Bacalso, though, majority of the vehicles are private vehicles or 1,168 of them compared to 1,020 jeepneys.


The Citom is looking at two options, a one-way flow from N. Bacalso or the other way around.

There are more advantages to the one-way flow from N. Bacalso because as Citom stated,

there will be continuous one-way traffic flow to Magallanes and the volume of vehicles will be greatly reduced.

The disadvantage is the added volume to the diversion road.

As to the one-way flow from Sanciangko St., Citom said the advantage is that only a few PUJ routes will be affected.

Citom prefers the second option because it will affect less vehicular traffic.

COA asked to audit United Nations remittances to PH

MANILA, Philippines – The committees on appropriations and national defense asked the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit of all United Nations remittances to the government for peacekeeping troops sent to other countries.

At the same time, defense committee chairman Rodolfo Biazon also asked the audit agency to look into the alleged double charging of aircraft repair to the UN fund and to another special fund.

COA assistant commissioner Lourdes Castillo acceded to the request, and added that the detailed audit could be conducted now because the UN has provided records of the remittances. In previous years, she said the COA was not able to study these documents because it had been unable to get these from the Armed Forces during its audit investigations.

"I commit to the conduct of audit of accounts now that we have the documents. In fact, we've started gathering data from available resources we have and now have concrete basis on what was done with PKO [peacekeeping operation] funds," she said at the joint hearing of the two committees.

Villar agrees to step down

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar has decided to resign once Malacañang decides on his replacement.

In a letter to President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III dated February 22, Villar said he is “stepping aside effective upon the appointment of my replacement” not only because of attacks against his person but already against the institution.

“In my almost 23 years in the COA, this period is one of the bleakest that this Office has ever seen. Not because it has failed in meeting its mandate of safekeeping the coffers of the government but because of the perception that it has failed to do so,” he said.

The controversy stemmed from allegations of widespread corruption in the military. The role of COA has been put to question following claims from witnesses that some of its officials have been bribed to cover up the corruption there.

Nonetheless, Villar stressed the “issue with regard to my term of office is entirely separate from the ongoing probe on the military.”

Some quarters are saying he has been overstaying in the COA.

Villar became commissioner in 2004. As any constitutional body, its officers have 7 years in the position.

Before he could finish his term, however, he was appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as chairman in 2008. His papers, however, state that his term of office would expire on February 2, 2011.

Malacañang later admitted its impasse, clarifying that his term as chairman is actually until 2015.

Nonetheless, his term has already been questioned even up to the Supreme Court.

Villar noted he has asked the current administration’s position on the matter, but the latter has not commented so far.

In previous press conferences, Palace officials said Villar should already step down.

Villar noted he could not simply leave as this would “create a vacuum which would surely be abhorrent in any organization, more so a Constitutional body.”

He explained a single commissioner would remain if the next most senior commissioner would be appointed to finish his term. As a collegial body, COA needs at least 2 members to perform its functions.

“What pained me, my family and co-workers is that some media practitioners and even politicians have alleged that I am simply clinging to the office and to power without any legal basis,” he said.

In a text message to reporters, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said: “We appreciate the decision of Reynaldo Villar to step aside from the position of Chairman of the Commission of Audit as soon as his replacement is appointed…His decision to step aside is a welcome demonstration of his affection and institutional loyalty to the COA and the country. We wish him a comfortable and happy retirement.”

Minority to question OICs in ARMM


MANILA, Philippines - House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said he and his allies are considering questioning before the Supreme Court a possible move from the government to appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as part of plans to postpone elections there.

SolGen files motion to reverse CA's pro-Lacson ruling

by By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has filed a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the Court of Appeals on Wednesday in an effort to convince the appellate court's Special 16th division to reverse its ruling which dismissed murder complaints against Senator Panfilo Lacson in connection with the November 2000 Dacer-Corbito murders.

Pinoys in Libya ask to be evacuated

MANILA, Philippines – Many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Libya have appealed that they be evacuated as  the security situation in the country deteriorates.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Gilbert Castañeda said a representative of the Philippine Embassy must fetch them before they can leave the area, as a sign of respect to tribal leaders in the territory.

“Kailangan namin ng representative ng Philippine Embassy para maayos kaming makaalis dito sa kumpanya. Kasi kailangan with respect to the tribal leader dito,” said Castañeda.

Castañeda is one of the 200 Filipinos working at the Al Nahar company in Marsa El Brega.

“With due respect naman po sa mga tumulong sa amin, mga napakabait na Libyano, nagbigay ng support sa amin ng pagkain, tubig, kuryente. Ngayon, some of the Filipinos talaga dito ay gusto nang umuwi,” he added.

Castañeda said land travel going to Tripoli and Benghazi at this point is too risky. He added that they are only left with one exit point, which is sea travel via Malta.

“Siyempre ho, hindi po namin alam kung sino ang mga anti- and pro-. Kasi po very risky sa labas. ngayon, kung nandito lang po kami sa loob, ano po ang laban namin if ever magkaroon ng hindi maganda,” asked Castañeda.

Meanwhile, Norlita Pamor also appealed for help for her husband Jared who works as an engineer in Libya.

“Gabi-gabi po talaga nagiisip ako kasi hindi talaga sila safe doon. Nanawagan sila na ipaabot ko daw sa media na kung may darating ba daw talagang plane, kasi sinabi daw na may darating na plane pero wala pa,” she said.

Meanwhile, a quick reaction team of the Department of Foreign Affairs is expected to arrive in Tripoli on Wednesday to assist Filipinos there.

Air Force readies C-130 for OFWs in Libya

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Air Force on Wednesday said its lone C-130 transport plane has been placed on standby in case it would be needed for the evacuation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in strife-torn Libya.

“The Philippine Air Force has committed to provide our beloved C-130 as one of the contingency plan [actions] to fly, if required by competent authorities,” announced Armed Forces’ spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta in a briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.

The military transport, which can carry 100 passengers, can immediately be dispatched to Libya should the government require it for the repatriation of Filipinos, said Mabanta.

“The Philippine Air Force is ready to provide C-130. Remember that the C-130 has been used extensively in the past [repatriation]. It [violence] has not escalated so we will just have to wait for competent authorities to provide us authorization to fly our C-130,” said Mabanta.

The military spokesman said that an order for the transport plane’s deployment would come from President Benigno Aquino III: “The DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] will be recommending to be approved by the commander-in-chief.”

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said President Aquino has ordered the DFA and other relevant government agencies to pool their resources for the evacuation plan.

He added that the DFA was given strict instructions to use air, sea and land routes out of Libya during the evacuation.

Conejos reported that the Department of Labor and Employment has started meeting with airline officials in preparation for the massive evacuation.

He said they have already talked to Qatar Airways and the Philippine Airlines. He added that the DFA has asked the International Organization for Migration for help in the possible evacuation of the OFWs.

"We are going to deploy them and the instruction is to be ready to employ these modalities in the events the occasion calls for it," Conejos said.

DFA still headless despite MidEast crisis

MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) remains headless as the situation in Libya and parts of the Middle East worsens.

There's still no official turnover rights at the DFA between outgoing DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo and his successor.

A ranking source at the DFA said former Ambassador to the US Albert del Rosario will be the next DFA secretary but the announcement has not been made because they are waiting for the "paper to come down."

DFA Spokesman Ed Malaya said Romulo and Del Rosario were at the Diamond Hotel on Wednesday morning but no turnover took place.

Romulo has been on an indefinite leave of absence since February 18.

He designated DFA undersecretary for policy, Erlinda Basilio, as Officer in Charge (OIC).

Campaign on to free Filipinos overstaying in Saudi jails

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia—A Filipino migrant rights group has urged the government to work for the release of 48 Filipinos still languishing in Saudi jails despite having served their prison terms.

Head of Senate justice body demands explanation on deportation of 14 Taiwanese

MANILA, Philippines—The chairman of the Senate committee on justice demanded an explanation from government officials involved in the deportation of 14 Taiwanese nationals to China, a move strongly condemned by the Taiwanese government.

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero particularly ordered the officials of the Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation to submit to his office a comprehensive report on the events and proceedings surrounding the deportation of the 14 Taiwanese last February 2.

They were arrested along with 10 Chinese nationals by Philippine authorities and the Interpol in December last year for allegedly operating an international fraud syndicate that had swindled mainlanders from China of some $20 million.

“As chairman of the justice committee, I am requiring these agencies to explain why Taiwan has lividly raised those three issues surrounding the deportation snafu. I will summon them to an inquiry at the Senate," Escudero said in a statement on Wednesday.

Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou cited three grave mistakes that the Philippines had committed in handling the deportation issue.

First, it allegedly violated international law and time-honored international practices when it deported the Taiwanese nationals to China instead of repatriating them to their home country.

Second, Ma asserted that the Taiwanese legally entered the country with valid passports, contrary to the claim of concerned authorities that they were undocumented.

And third, Ma claimed that the deportation of the 14 was a complete disregard of the Philippine government’s own law on the writ of habeas corpus obtained by the suspects’ lawyer from the Philippine Court of Appeals.

Escudero said he would like to closely look into this matter not to get involved with the decade-long rift between China and Taiwan, but to ensure the employment status and future of the Filipino workers there.

“There are more than 100,00 Filipino workers whose livelihood depends on employment in Taiwan. We must address the issue because I worry for our workers who are already there as well as the lost opportunity for our people who already incurred expenses and were expecting employment in Taiwan," he said.

While the issue of foreign policy should be within the realm of the chief executive and the executive branch, the senator was hopeful that the country could still exhaust all means available “to repair our cultural and economic ties with Taiwan as this affects the lives of many Filipino families.”

Taiwan foreign minister: No need to argue with PHL

Days after repeatedly demanding an apology from Manila for the deportation of 14 Taiwanese to the People’s Republic of China last Feb. 2, Taipei appeared to soften its stand Wednesday, with a top official pushing for flexibility in approaching the problem.

Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) quoted Taiwanese foreign minister Timothy Chin-tien Yang as saying there is no need for Taiwan to argue with the Philippines to obtain an apology.

"I can't remember the last time in my diplomatic career that I've seen one country officially 'apologize' to another... and apology takes many forms," Yang said, according to a report posted on the CNA website Wednesday night.

"The people of Taiwan should be rational in their reaction to the unfortunate incident ... Taiwan and the Philippines have a wide range of ties and exchanges and the relations are too important to be sacrificed to a disagreement over one word," he added.

In past days, Taiwan repeatedly demanded a formal apology from the Philippine government since Manila's deportation of 14 fraud suspects to China despite their being Taiwanese nationals.

Taipei showed its displeasure as well by threatening adverse results on Filipino workers bound for Taiwan if not already working there.

To make amends, President Benigno Aquino III sent former Senator Manuel Roxas II as unofficial envoy to Taiwan, where he met with top officials, including Yang and President Ma Ying-Jeou, but refused to offer an apology as it was not part of his trip’s “mandate."

Contents of ‘fact sheet’

Arising from their 12-hour talks, the consensus reached by Roxas and Taiwanese officials were reportedly documented in a "fact sheet," which contained details of the steps the Aquino administration may take in lieu of a formal apology.

The possible actions supposedly include a commitment by Manila that any Philippine officials found to have mishandled the deportation case would be held accountable and possibly reprimanded.

"In the event that officials are found to have been involved in wrong doing, the Philippine authorities will act accordingly, including the possibility of punitive action, which for the Taiwan side would signify a kind of apology," the fact sheet reportedly stated.

According to the same CNA news reports, Yang quoted Roxas as remarking that the Philippine sanctions awaited by Taipei – which may apply to officials of the Department of Justice or its attached agencies that handled the deportation – will be "more serious than an apology to some degree."

"We're giving the Philippines time to carry out its investigations before making our next move," a CNA report quoted Yang as saying. He also reportedly revealed that the Philippine government's judicial and administrative arms are currently investigating the incident.

The fact sheet, reportedly distributed to Taiwanese media by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to various news sites in Taiwan, contained other "substantial measures" to mend the strained relations between the two countries.

The existence of such a “fact sheet" appears to have escaped the attention of local media when Roxas shared the results of his Taiwan trip during Wednesday's press conference at Malacañang.

During the media briefing at the Palace, however, Roxas mentioned Manila's interest in opening negotiations with Taipei towards an "economic partnership agreement" - a point which Taiwanese media reported as also contained in the "fact sheet." (See: PHL, Taiwan receptive to mutual assistance deals)

US-China dispute

Still arguing for flexibility in approaching the Philippines-Taiwan row, Yang cited a dispute between the United States and China in 2001, which arose from a mid-air collision of two of their aircraft.

He said the U.S. only told China that it was "sorry" but it never issued a formal apology.

In the Taiwan-Philippines case, the dispute sprang from an issue of judicial jurisdiction, not sovereignty, he noted.

Heat from legislature

Meanwhile, the CNA report said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has been taking the heat in Taiwan's legislature, as some lawmakers criticized the ministry as being soft in its negotiations with the Philippines.

John Chiang, a legislator belonging to the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party, and a former foreign minister as well, criticized the MOFA for arranging a meeting between Roxas and President Ma even if Roxas already said in advance that an apology was "not in his mandate."

The MOFA had said that whether Roxas would be allowed to meet with Ma would depend on the message he was bringing to Taiwan.

For its part, the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus criticized Ma's foreign policy and urged the Taiwan government to freeze imports of Filipino workers.

But KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung said that both sides should focus on developing bilateral relations in areas such as the mutual legal assistance agreement and Economic Partnership Agreement mentioned in the consensus.

HK court: Drug rap vs Rep. Singson won't be for commercial trafficking

Beleaguered Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson admitted Wednesday he is getting more nervous with Hong Kong's Wan Chai District Court set to hand down its decision on his drug trafficking case in less than 24 hours, even as the court ruled there is not enough evidence to prove that the Filipino lawmaker engaged in commercial trafficking.

$1: 43.570

$1: 43.570 (P43.68)

Euro 1: 59.5366

Sen. Recto projects peso at less than P35:$1 this yr

The peso will strengthen to less than P35:$1 this year once the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas raises its key policy rates from record lows to tame inflation, Sen. Ralph Recto said Wednesday.

Remittances fr countries in turmoil account for only 2%


Remittances from countries that are experiencing political turmoil account for only 2% of the total money sent home yearly by overseas Filipino workers, but the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is still on its toes.

Oil prices top $110

by Agence France-Presse

LONDON, England - Oil prices topped $110 on Wednesday for the first time since early September 2008 after news that a Libyan fighter pilot had disobeyed orders to bomb opposition stronghold of Benghazi, analysts said.

Libya turmoil triggers evacuation scramble

Governments around the world struggled Wednesday to evacuate nationals from violence-hit Libya, with Asian countries facing a "mammoth" task of rescuing more than 150,000 low-paid workers.

Fears of a full-scale civil war in the North African country prompted countries from Canada to China scramble to charter ferries and planes to secure their citizens' safety despite poor communication links and growing violence.

The logistical challenges were especially acute for Asian countries with tens of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

The majority of Asian expatriates are low-paid contract workers, with 60,000 Bangladeshis, 30,000 Filipinos, 23,000 Thais and 18,000 Indians among those living under the tottering regime of Moamer Kadhafi.

"This is going to be quite a mammoth operation," India's foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters.

Of the 18,000 Indians in Libya, about 3,000 are reported to be in the violence-hit city of Benghazi working in automobile companies and hospitals.

China arranged to evacuate half its 30,000 citizens on four ferries chartered from Greece which were expected to reach Libya by Wednesday night.

China's State Council also decided to deploy chartered civil aircraft, nearby cargo ships and even Chinese fishing vessels "carrying needed living and medical supplies", the foreign ministry said.

Hanoi said it was monitoring conditions for 10,000 Vietnamese, while Nepalese officials were looking at overland routes to Egypt for about 3,000 citizens.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay was to fly to the Middle East Friday to review emergency plans for Filipinos in the region.

Manila has said it will buy plane tickets for its citizens who wish to flee Libya.

Migrante International, a support group for overseas Filipino workers, said Filipinos had been abandoned in workers' camps in Libya to fend for themselves.

The Thai embassy in Tripoli has contacted employers and advised Thais to be ready for evacuation, possibly using other countries' ships to ferry them to Malta, the labour ministry in Bangkok said.

"We plan to use ships to evacuate Thai workers from Libya, but as of now nothing could be done as the situation is extremely dangerous," said ministry spokesman Sutham Nateetong.

Sri Lanka said it had contacted the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) seeking help for at least 1,200 citizens.

Malta was the planned destination of a US-chartered ferry that was due to start picking up American citizens from a port in Tripoli.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed that the safety of US nationals in Libya was "our highest priority".

Britain was sending charter flights along with food and water to help rescue stranded nationals as London rejected criticism from oil workers stuck in desert camps who claimed it had reacted too slowly.

Oil worker James Coyle told BBC radio he was one of 90 Britons trapped in a desert camp among 300 people, including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Germans, Austrians and Romanians.

"We've asked the British government to come here for days now and they've just ignored us," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain was doing its best to ensure the safe return of its citizens, while renewing his condemnation of the crackdown on the Libyan uprising.

"The situation remains greatly concerning and... we are doing everything we can to protect British nationals and to assist them in leaving that country," Cameron said in Doha.

"There will be planes and also the use of ferries and other means to get people out of Libya."

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Ottawa was negotiating landing rights in order to fly more than 300 Canadians from Tripoli to European destinations starting Thursday.

Canada was also working with allies France, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand to secure seats on other flights.

The EU's executive arm said it would provide "extra evacuation capacity", including by sea to help bring out an estimated 10,000 stranded Europeans.

Ttwo planes carrying around 500 French nationals arrived in Paris early Wednesday. Returnees spoke of thousands of foreigners awaiting evacuation from Tripoli's packed airport.

A Russian aircraft landed in Moscow with 118 nationals -- the first of more than 500 Russian railroad and oil workers from Libya.

Russia's emergency ministry said it planned to send a total of four planes to Tripoli and a rescue raft to the port of Ras Lanuf, home to an oil refinery.

Bulgaria used two planes to evacuate more than 200 people, including a sizeable number of Croats, Serbs and Macedonians along with 111 Bulgarians.

Donaire now ESPN’s No. 1 bantamweight


MANILA, Philippines – Not only did Nonito Donaire rule The Ring magazine’s bantamweight rankings, he was also picked by ESPN as its No. 1 bantamweight fighter.

Donaire eyes Anselmo Moreno as next foe

Handang makipag-ayos si Nonito Donaire sa kanyang nakatampuhang ama. Balak din niyang sungkitin ang WBA bantamweight title mula kay Anselmo Moreno ng Panama.

Pacman to trim shaggy hair before Mosley match

Balik-Pilipinas na ang Pinoy boxing superstar na si Manny Pacquiao. Sisimulan na ni Pacman ang ensayo sa darating na Linggo para sa laban nila ni “Sugar” Shane Mosley.

Pacquiao: Verified Twitter account not mine

Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has come forward to explain that the verified Twitter account bearing his name is not his, and he has no idea who created it. Meanwhile, Twitter authorities have yet to issue a clarification on the matter.

Azkals to acclimatize in Japan before Mongolia match


MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Football Federation President Mariano Araneta Jr. is arranging for the Azkals to train for a week in Fukushima, north of Tokyo, before proceeding to Ulan Bator for the Philippines' match against Mongolia.

Alaska 5 off to fiery start, blasts Tigers

by By Joey Villar, The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Alaska Milk got off to a strong start and sustained a searing pace throughout as it clobbered a hapless Powerade side, 106-82, in the PBA Commissioners Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome last night.

Lady Gaga tweets Maria Aragon's 'Ellen' guesting


MANILA, Philippines – After Maria Aragon’s appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” international artist Lady Gaga expressed her gratitude to Winnipeg’s rising celebrity for giving her latest song “a life.”

Phil, Angel go out on a 'friendly date'- report


MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-British striker Phil Younghusband and actress Angel Locsin finally proceeded with their plan to go target shooting in Taguig over the weekend, celebrity show “Showbiz News Ngayon (SNN)" reported Tuesday night.

Sarah hurt over Rayver-Cristine


MANILA, Philippines – Popstar princess Sarah Geronimo admitted she went through a lot of pain when she and her rumored former boyfriend Rayver Cruz went separate ways.

South Korea tightens checks on foreign marriages

SEOUL, South Korea - South Koreans seeking foreign brides will in future undergo stricter screening and must take a special education course in an attempt to curb abuses, the justice ministry said Wednesday.

Calls for reform intensified last year, when a mentally disturbed man fatally stabbed his 20-year-old Vietnamese bride eight days after she arrived to live with him.

The government has intensified monitoring of matchmaking agencies and expanded counselling for foreign wives.

From next month, prospective husbands will have to present a financial statement and verify their marital status, especially whether they had invited overseas brides more than twice in the past five years.

Would-be grooms will have to take courses on international marriage.

"Although the matter of marriage lies in the personal arena, false and speedy international marriages are intertwined with social problems," ministry official Son Hong-Ki told Yonhap news agency.

"The specific legal guidelines on international marriages will help create healthy multicultural families."

South Korea, once a racially homogeneous society, is seeing more and more international marriages -- especially by farmers as single Korean women move to the cities.

One out of every 10 marriages in 2009, or 33,300 out of 309,759, were international marriages, mostly between Korean men and women from China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

WB says Philippine poor do not feel economic gains

MANILA, Philippines – Benefits of the country's economic growth over the years have failed to trickle down to over a third of the population who are poor, the World Bank said in a report released Wednesday.

The Philippine economy grew 7.3% in 2010, the highest in 34 years, aided by the recovery of exports and manufacturing, accommodative monetary and fiscal policies as well as election spending.

However, in its quarterly report entitled "Robust growth, Stubborn poverty", the World Bank said: "For all the macroeconomic resiliency and strength that the Philippine economy manifested in recent years, growth continues to bypass many of the poor."

The multilateral lender noted that implementation of government policies on social protection will be critical in addressing poverty in the next few years, with growth expected to continue.

Economic expansion is forecast to slow down to 5% in 2011, and 5.4% in 2012, in the absence of the government stimulus program and election spending.

But the World Bank said growth could be higher if the investment climate improves.

Trickle-down effect

Latest official poverty data confirmed a disconcerting lack of poverty reduction response to economic growth in the Philippines, the World Bank said.

From 2003 to 2009, an additional 3.3 million Filipinos became poor, pushing the total to 23.1 million. This increase nudged poverty incidence from 24.9% of the population in 2003 to 26.4% in 2006 and 26.5% in 2009.

From 2003 to 2006 and to 2009, average real gross domestic product (GDP) growth reached 5.4% and 4.3%, respectively.

"As these growth rates imply a significant increase in real GDP per capita, it transpires that the distribution of the gains from growth have eluded the bottom fourth of the Filipino population."

However, the World Bank cited a bright spot amid the disappointing poverty numbers: income distribution among the poor improved between 2006 and 2009 as the poverty gap declined.

The lender attributed this to the rapid expansion of the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

The CCT program operates in 80 provinces, covering 1 million households by end of 2010. For 2011, the program is budgeted to cover 2.3 million poor households, or about 60% of poor households compared with 26% of poor households last year.

"The recent scale-up in the 2011 budget bodes well for the fight against poverty," the World Bank said.

Economic growth drivers

Strong private investments and favorable consumer and business sentiments will help buoy economic growth this year.

The World Bank's 5% growth forecast is below the 7% to 8% target of the Philippine government for 2011.

“Strong private investment in the fourth quarter of 2010 and bullish business confidence are encouraging signs that the economy can attract investments needed to boost potential growth and generate more jobs," World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman said.

Exports are expected to remain strong on the back of a robust electronics industry.

On the supply side, the services sector will remain the main driver, followed by industrial production. Barring any major calamity, the agricultural sector would also contribute strongly to growth.

For 2012, GDP growth is expected to expand by 5.4% as investment accelerates, thanks partly to the implementation of the priority infrastructure programs of the Aquino administration under the Private-Public Partnership or PPP scheme.

Rising oil, food prices

The only factors that could weigh down on growth, however, are rising international oil and food prices.

"These shocks, the report said, could slow the economy down and raise inflation," the World Bank said.

Global oil prices have reached 2-year highs on political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. However, government authorities said this would have no immediate impact on local fuel prices as supply remains assured.

On food prices, the World Bank said: "Food prices are expected to rise moderately."

DepEd steps up foreign-language program

MANILA, Philippines—Soon, public high-school graduates would be greeting their teachers a hearty “good morning”—in six languages.

The Department of Education (DepEd) is stepping up its foreign-language program in the coming school year, adding two widely spoken Asian languages to a list that already includes Spanish, French, Japanese and German.

Arabic and Mandarin, both emerging business languages, will be introduced to select classes in public high schools, DepEd said Wednesday.

This is in addition to basic classes in Spanish, Japanese and French, which all debuted in DepEd schools in school year 2009-2010, and German classes that started in the current school year.

“Studies have shown that facility in just one foreign language is now perceived as a disadvantage in a global market that is culturally and linguistically diverse,” said Lolita Andrada, DepEd Bureau of Secondary Education chief.

DepEd's foreign language classes are taught in 3rd and 4th year high school classes with speech laboratories and where students are already proficient in English. English has long been traditionally taught in Philippine schools.

“We believe the last two years of high school is the most appropriate time to learn a second foreign language because that is the time they are most ready,” Andrada said.

Per DepEd count, some 54 high schools already run Spanish classes with the help of Instituto Cervantes. Japanese is in 13 high schools with assistance from the Japan Foundation Manila.

Alliance Francais helped bring basic French to 12 high schools while the Goethe Institute sponsored the introduction of German classes to nine high schools.

DepEd introduced the program amid a noted declining English proficiency among Philippine students.

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