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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 25, 2011 Major News Stories (

February 25, 2011 Major News Stories
February 25, 2011 Major News Stories

New Zealand quake toll climbs past 100—officials

CHRISTCHURCH—The death toll from the Christchurch earthquake climbed past 100 and hundreds more remained missing, officials said Friday.

"At the moment we have 102 confirmed fatalities... the missing persons number that we have is 228," New Zealand's Civil Defense Minister John Carter told reporters.

Police later put the figure at 103, saying it would rise as more bodies were pulled from the debris of buildings destroyed in Tuesday's 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

"There have been no rescues overnight, the body count continues to rise, it now sits at 103," Superintendent Russell Gibson told TVNZ.

Armed men hostage 34 OFWs in Libya: report

MANILA, Philippines – Armed robbers have reportedly taken hostage 34 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Libya.

“Hindi kami mapakali kasi hindi namin alam kung anong totoong sitwasyon nila. Sana naman ang gubyerno maging sinsero sa kanilang trabaho para maiwasan ang anumang pwedeng mangyari sa mga kababayan natin na nandoon," said Romeo Deloeg.

Deloeg said his son Genesis called them on Tuesday informing them that he and 33 OFWs have been taken by armed men identified with anti-government protesters.

From Tripoli, the OFWs were taken to a compound in Aj Badiya. Genesis said co-worker Renato Viduya was among those taken hostage.

“Nagaalala po ako sa paglakad niya kasi may metal sa hita niya,” said Viduya’s sister, Vicky.

On Monday, armed men stormed the company but Deloeg’s family only learned about the incident the following day when they talked to Genesis.

“Pinasabog daw yung camp site nila tapos ni-ransack yata lahat ng equipment ng company,” Mr. Deloeg said.

Genesis works as a laboratory engineer at Al Nahr, a company that makes water pipes and is based in Tripoli.

Deloeg last sent a text message to his family Thursday morning to inform them of their plan to escape and cross the border.

PNoy defends actions for OFWs in Libya

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday spoke about government's efforts to evacuate Filipinos from Libya amid criticisms from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families that it was acting too slowly.  

“We have sent 6 members of the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) to assist the embassy there plus 5 from DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment). So we have sent 11 additional personnel to assist our citizens in Libya,” Aquino said in a press conference in Malacañang.

Aquino said the government is also negotiating with 2 airlines to evacuate Filipinos who want to leave Libya.

“We are negotiating with both PAL (Philippine Airlines) and a Middle Eastern airlines, I think it’s the Qatar Airways, to lease their planes to be able to bring back to the country those of our citizens who would want to come back here,” he said.

The president said the cost involved in leasing a plane is roughly P13-million per flight. The flight can accommodate between 200 to 300 passengers.

Standby fund ready

As for funding, Aquino said there is a standby fund for mandatory evacuation, which is accessible to the embassy and DOLE, amounting to P100 million.

“There are substantial funds that can still be released if there is a need to physically evacuate all of our citizens,” he added.

He explained that it is important to be very cautious when moving people around so as not to increase their danger.

“The problem with the actual evacuation, as you all know, there has been a lot of killings already in Libya, the question of safety of moving our people from wherever, to their destination also has to take in mind whether it increases their risks,” he said.

“The best that we can do at this point in time is first, instead of picking each and everyone from their individual places of employment or residences, have them in more manageable groups, so that when the opportunity arises when we can bring them to another country, be it by boat or by plane or over land routes, then we would be able to do so with the least amount of risk possible,” he explained.

Primary exit points

The government is working with both Tunisia and Egypt as the primary exit points of Filipinos fleeing Libya.

“Now if it’s possible, we are also talking to a shipping company na ang cost ay medyo quite exorbitant, about a million euros, kung sakaling kakailanganin to bring them to Malta, which is another nearby area. It really depends on where they are grouping together ano ba yung closest to exit Libya and get away from the violence that is happening there,” the president said.

On Tuesday, the DFA said it had raised its alert level in Libya to 3, which calls for voluntary repatriation of Filipinos.

“We are prioritizing dapat yung mga taong hindi kabilang sa mga kumpanyang may kanya-kanyang evacuation plans. Sinisigurado po natin na lahat ma-account, lahat maaabisuhan,” Aquino said.

Aside from government efforts, Aquino said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also assisting Filipinos and other migrant workers in Libya.

“They are also drawing up plans and actualizing these plans to safeguard all of these migrants who are working in Libya. We are participating in their efforts. We are also asking their assistance to assist our citizens,” said Aquino.

When asked if Manila was planning to sever ties with Libya, the president said it “would not be the time to break relations with them”.

“Baka naman pag-initan ang mga kababayan natin doon. First duty of our government is to protect our citizens,” he stressed.

DFA team arrives in Tripoli to assist Filipino evacuees in Libya

MANILA, Philippines—A six-man team from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila is expected to arrive in Tripoli on Thursday to augment the personnel complement of the Embassy and assist the Filipinos who are availing themselves of the voluntary repatriation program implemented by the Embassy and the DFA.

A news release from the DFA said the team is led by Executive Director Ricardo Endaya of the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA).

A team from the Embassy in Cairo, led by Consul General Renato Duenas, Jr., is already in place at the Egyptian border, and has set up a command post to receive and provide assistance to Filipinos who will be exiting Libya from Benghazi, Al Baida and environs.

It has made contact with a Filipino worker Judith Tuvera, an engineer who crossed from Tobruk in Libya to Alexandria with her employer. It is also coordinating with 24 other Filipino workers planning to cross from Tobruk to Alexandria on Thursday, the DFA said.

Another team led by DFA-OUMWA principal assistant Melvin Almonguera will arrive in the Tunisian border at 5 p.m. (Manila time) to also set up a command post to assist Filipinos who will be exiting from Tripoli and environs. The Tunisian government has approved landing rights for aircraft chartered to fly out Filipinos, who will be given visas upon arrival.

Together with the Filipino community coordinators, the teams from the DFA and the Embassy will move the Filipinos to safe relocation sites in Tripoli, Benghazi and Al Baida. The Embassy has activated relocation sites in Tripoli and Benghazi for the Filipinos—the Philippine School and the St. Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli and the two Philippine schools in Benghazi.

The repatriates from Tripoli will proceed to Tunis in Tunisia while those from Benghazi and Al Baida will exit to Alexandria in Egypt by land. From there, they will catch flights to Manila.

The DFA has officially requested the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for assistance in arranging commercial flights and ensuring that OFWs are included in any IOM-sponsored evacuation of migrant workers from Libya.

The DFA has released an initial amount of US$150,000 to the Embassy, while DOLE has committed P25 million to assist in the repatriation efforts. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will release P100 million for the same purpose.

The DFA has activated a 24-hour hotline number (834-4580) for families of Filipinos based in Libya.

Philippines asks NZ to keep looking for survivors

by Agence France-Presse

MANILA, February 24, 2011 (AFP) - The Philippines on Thursday appealed to New Zealand rescuers to keep searching for survivors of this week's killer quake, saying 14 Filipinos were feared buried under the rubble.

Del Rosario sworn in as acting DFA chief


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Businessman Albert del Rosario was sworn in as acting secretary of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

Authorities ‘arrest’ new suspect

A NEW suspect in the abduction and killing of six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique is reportedly in police custody.

Sources at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7, though, refused to confirm this.

Missing woman tied to Ellah Joy slay case?

by By Liv G. Campo and Niña G. Sumacot

CEBU, Philippines - A woman whom the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-7 reportedly placed under surveillance because of her possible involvement in the kidnapping and murder of six-year-old Ellah Joy Pique has been reported missing since Wednesday.

Felisa Sasan, 26, resident of sitio Seaside, North Poblacion, Naga City, was last seen by her neighbors Wednesday afternoon at the Balili Beach in Barangay Tinaan. Sasan’s parents, Nerissa and Feliciano, accused the CIDG operatives of picking up their daughter.

“Ingun sa mga tawo taga-CIDG man kuno ni-pick up niya didto sa Balili Beach,” Nerissa said.

The CIDG however denied picking up Sasan. Although, a CIDG operative who requested anonymity told The FREEMAN that Sasan was indeed subject of their surveillance.

“Mga three days na namo na siya gisigihan lang sa gud og obserba. Nya ang amo unta tong plano sa CIDG na diha na mi mu-take og full blown action kung ma-dismiss na ang kaso ni Berger ug Esdrelon,” the operative said.

The Cebu Provincial Police Office earlier filed a complaint for kidnapping with homicide against Norwegian national Sven Erik Berger and Cebuana fiancée Karen Castro Esdrelon before the prosecutor’s office.

Berger and Esdrelon were tagged by CPPO as suspects in the kidnap-slay of Pique on February 8 in Barangay Calajo-an, Minglanilla.

The source said they were surprised to learn yesterday that Sasan has been picked up.

“Nya nakahibaw na lang mi nga naa’y mi-enter, ambot kinsa nga unit nya gi-da among ngan sa CIDG,” he said.

He admitted having an asset near Sasan’s residence who gave them feedbacks from time to time about the whereabouts of the woman or any remarkable observations on her.

The police officer said the woman might have been abducted to be killed later by a cohort behind Pique’s case or might have been arrested by other unit who opted to keep it from the media.

Sasan’s parents and her brother Marcelino went to the CIDG headquarters yesterday afternoon to check on her. However, Police Officer 2 Eriberto Dacalos told them that Sasan is not under their custody.

“Way rason nga taguon na namo siya kung naa man gani na siya diri,” Dacalos said.

Dacalos said they had no operation on Wednesday afternoon, the day that Sasan was allegedly picked up by CIDG operatives. He instead advised the couple to report the matter to the National Bureau of Investigation.

The couple and their son went to the NBI-7 headquarters but were likewise told that their daughter was not with them.

A source told The FREEMAN that it was the members of the newly formed task force in which CIDG is a member who picked up Sasan.

According to the source, Sasan was turned over to CIDG’s custody for the taking of the affidavit after she reportedly made some revelations significant to the investigation in the murder of Pique. The head of the task force and deputy regional director for operations Sr. Supt. Louie Oppus, in an interview over dyLA, denied having Sasan in custody.  

Sasan works as an attendant of a KTV Bar in Naga City. Her boss is reportedly a foreigner.

Sasan’s mother however denied that her daughter has a foreigner employer.

3 names being floated to replace CPPO director

by cebuweb

POLICE Regional Office 7 Director Ager Ontog said there are many eligible candidates to replace Senior Supt. Erson Digal as Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) Director.

Yesterday, he mentioned three names in an interview with reporters after the launching of the Provincial Task Force Against Illegal Fishing in the northern town of San Remigio.

They are Senior Supt. Mariano Natuel, PRO 7 community relations head; Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador; and Supt. Ernesto Agas.

Police arrest 4 persons, including foreigner

POLICE arrested four persons and confiscated 54 boxes containing Nubain ampules in a buy-bust in Barangay Capitol Site, Cebu City yesterday afternoon.

They got a total of 5,400 ampules that is estimated to be worth P1.8 million, said Supt. Pablo Labra II, deputy director of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO).

Suspects Joselito Garcia, 43, Ruel Garcia, 30, Randy Torres, 28, and Andrew Jessup, 43, an Australian-American, were caught by personnel of the City Anti Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group (CAIDSOTG) and Investigation and Detective Management Branch (IDMB), jointly led by Labra and Chief Insp. George Ylanan.

Labra said the police have been conducting surveillance operations on the suspects before the arrest at 12 p.m. in Sitio Sto. Niño.

Ylanan said a poseur buyer approached Torres and told the latter he wanted to buy two boxes of the regulated drug. Each box contains 100 ampules.

Torres received P13,000 in marked bills from the buyer. Together, they went to Botica Sugbuanon and Torres gave P12,000 to Joselito, Ylanan said. Torres kept P1,000 as his commission.

Big catch

Afterwards, they walked 200 meters toward Joselito’s rented house along B. Rodriguez St.

Ylanan said after Ruel and Jessup gave two boxes to the poseur buyer, the police arrested them. Torres tried to escape but the police caught up with him.

"Killer" of actress' niece falls

by By Ryan Christopher J. Sorote/WAB

CEBU, Philippines - The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-8 arrested Wednesday the man who was accused of killing his wife, who was reportedly a niece of famous actress Angel Locsin after almost three months of being in hiding.

Fernando Sansan, 44, was arrested around 8:30 p.m. by the elements of the CIDG-8 in Barangay, Maasin City, Southern Leyte while sleeping on the side of the road.   The suspect allegedly resisted arrest that resulted to injury of one of the arresting officers.

But after a few minutes of struggle, the police officers were able to immobilize and handcuff him. He was then brought to the CIDG regional office for detention.  

The arresting officers also noticed Fernando’s odd behavior, which they said could be the effect of illegal drug use. During interrogation, he admitted using illegal drugs and was under the influence of drugs when captured.

In an interview, SPO3 Romeo Garrido of CIDG-8 told The FREEMAN that they learned of the presence of Fernando in the island after he bragged killing his wife while very drunk.

A concerned citizen reported Fernando’s strange statement to the police. Acting on the tip, CIDG-8 conducted surveillance and confirmed Fernando’s identify as a wanted person facing a parricide case in Carcar, Cebu.

The CIDG-8 personnel coordinated with the police in Carcar and was able to secure a copy of the warrant of arrest issued by Judge Wilfredo Navarro of the Regional Trial Court Branch 19 against Fernando.   The airing of the incident over ABS-CBN made it instrumental for CIDG-8 capture of the Fernando.

Fernando was charged for killing his wife, Rachelle Sansan, 28, in their house at past 10 p.m of November 4, 2010 in Barangay Perrelos, Carcar, Cebu.

Rachelle reportedly ran away from home because she was a battered wife.

On the day of the killing, she just went home allegedly to get some money, but Fernando was there waiting for her and beat her mercilessly that resulted to her death.

After the incident, the victim’s family reportedly received death threats from Fernando through text messages.

Lamp explosion burns 3 infants

by By Garry B. Lao

Cebu City north district Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar (right) checks on the situation of Baby Boy Villarico, who suffered third-degree burns during the incident. With her is the mother of the infant. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CEBU, Philippines - Three infants suffered burn injuries when a lamp at the pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) accidentally exploded Sunday morning.

It was only yesterday morning that the hospital authorities transferred the three infants, one of whom was seriously injured, to Chong Hua Hospital upon the instruction of Mayor Michael Rama, who visited the victims yesterday.

The three victims were placed at the ICU for sepsis neonatorum.

CCMC director Eduardo Sedoripa said that there are about 20 infants placed at the pediatric ICU for treatment.

But at around 2:30 to 3:00 a.m. last Sunday, a goose neck lamp exploded accidentally, seriously injuring 19-day-old Baby Boy Villarico, who suffered third-degree burns around his body.

Two other infants also suffered burn injuries but are now out of danger. Baby Boy Ibañez has 13 percent of his body injured while Baby Girl Maglasang only sustained injury to her left hand.

“The incident last Sunday seems that the bulb exploded was the reason behind the incident. It was purely an accident,” said Sedoripa, who assumed as the hospital’s officer-in-charge last January 3.

According to Sedoripa, Baby boy Villarico has been closely monitored because of his serious injuries.

A woman who just gave birth at the pediatric ward told The FREEMAN that the incident broke out when everybody was resting.

“Nagkaguliyang ug nagkagubot gyud ang ospital. Kalit ra man kaayo ang hitabo kay naa man mibuto unya miaso gyud dayon,” she said.

Sedoripa said they did not immediately transfer the babies to the private hospital since CCMC has doctors who immediately attended to the babies.

He downplayed reports that they wanted to cover up the incident by not reporting it immediately to the mayor.

“We informed the mayor about the incident and we are doing our best to help the victims. But it does not mean right now that we transfer them to Chong Hua, wala na’y capability ang atong mga doctors,” he said.

Sedoripa suspected that the lamp at the ward was overused, saying that it has been used for almost a day when it should only be used for a maximum of 13 hours.

The accident prompted south district Rep. Tomas Osmeña to renew his calls to close down the city-run hospital.

When he was still the mayor, Osmeña had announced his plan to shut down or sell the CCMC, claiming that he was fed up with criticisms over poor performance of its personnel.

Osmeña said the incident was no longer an isolated case.

He recalled an incident in which their driver died at the hospital due to what he claimed as negligence of its personnel.

The congressman said critics accused him of being anti-poor for wanting to close down the hospital.

“It’s not an isolated case. I’ve been accused that I’m not caring for the poor. Now, you will see more things here. Remember, my driver died at CCMC,” Osmeña said.

Rama said the city will shoulder all expenses of the victims. He asked CCMC officials to submit to him details of their investigation into the incident.

Visiting the victims at the hospital, City Councilor Margot Osmeña and north district Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar said they were sad over the incident.

“We visited along with Councilor Alvin Dizon the babies immediately after we found out about the incident,” Margot said.

She said they already requested Sedoripa to furnish them a report on the incident.

The City Council also wants to know why the parents of the babies were asked to sign a waiver.

“After the report, we will decide what to do,” Margot said.

Del Mar, for her part, said her office is willing to extend financial and medical assistance to the victims.

Tom snubs Charter Day rites to spite the mayor

by By Garry B. Lao and Rene U. Borromeo/BRP

Cebu Rep. Tomas Osmeña yesterday skipped the 74th Charter Day celebrations as a show of displeasure over the way his successor, Mayor Michael Rama, is handling the affairs of the city.

COA: CPA bought fire equipment without bidding

by By Rene U. Borromeo/WAB

CEBU, Philippines - The Commission on Audit has uncovered irregularity in the transaction of the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) when the port officials purchased some fire equipment without conducting the required competitive public bidding.

The questionable transaction involved the purchase of P1.1 million-worth of fire alarm systems, smoke detectors and automatic suppression system, split the requisitions and purchase orders to make it appear that the transactions are aboveboard.

Ex-AFP comptroller sold P25-M condo to in-law

MANILA, Philippines - The brother-in-law of former military comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot purchased several properties beginning 1999, but these were unaccounted in his income tax returns.

Ligot faced a Senate probe anew on Thursday and tried to avoid questions with regard to his transactions and that of his brother-in-law, Edgardo Yambao.

Ligot and his wife, Erlinda, supposedly acquired several properties in the United States and in the Philippines. The Senate is trying to account all of these purchases, including deposits in banks amounting to more than P700 million.

In today’s hearing, Senator Franklin Drilon tried to source answers from Ligot with regard to a P25 million unit in Essensa East Forbes Condominium in Taguig.

The former military comptroller denied having owned the 290-square meter property, stressing only that he would incriminate himself in a pending forfeiture case before the Sandiganbayan.

Drilon later produced a deed of sale, signed by the Ligot couple, and sold in 2003 to Yambao.

Ombudsman: My conscience is clear

by By Ira Pedrasa,

MANILA, Philippines - Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez lambasted the House of Representatives for allegedly browbeating the impeachment proceedings against her.

Ombudsman’s lawyer: Too early to answer impeach rap

MANILA, Philippines—The lawyer of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez said Thursday it would be premature for her to respond to an impeachment complaint pending in the House justice committee while she is still appealing her case to the Supreme Court.

Congressman Singson gets 18 months for drug trafficking

(UPDATE 3) Representative Ronald Singson was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in a Hong Kong prison after he pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking and avoided a maximum life penalty by convincing a judge the drugs were for his personal use.

$1: 43.790

$1: 43.790 {P43.57}

Euro 1: 59.9704

Zero-tariff on wheat failed to lower bread prices - millers

The executive director of a flour millers' group on Thursday asked the government to reinstate the 3-percent tariff on imported wheat, after the President Benigno Aquino's zero-tariff order in January supposedly failed to lower bread prices.

Guv not upset with AdCon loss

by cebuweb

GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia didn't feel bad that Cebu did not get the nod of the organizers to host the 22nd Advertising Congress.

She congratulated Camarines Sur and said, “We should feel good for CamSur contrary to the pronouncement of some (of those) amongst our midst.”

The governor was referring to former mayor Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district), who said Cebu’s failure to win the bid is “embarrassing” and an insult to Cebu.

Lawmakers defend supposed add'l 'pork' from road user's tax

Lawmakers on Thursday defended the supposed additional "pork barrel" they will get after approving a measure allocating their respective districts P20 million to P30 million from the road user's tax.

Gadhafi digs in as Arab states brace for new protests

BENGHAZI—Eastern Libya was in full revolt on Thursday as an insurrection against strongman Moammar Gadhafi intensified, and a string of Arab states braced for a fresh wave of anti-regime protests.

Frightened foreigners flee Libya 'hell'

LONDON, England - Foreigners told Thursday of hellish scenes in Tripoli as they fled the chaos engulfing Libya, with countries worldwide urgently trying to get their nationals out.

Thousands of foreigners packed Tripoli's airport hoping to escape the widening crisis, with those who managed to leave describing anarchic scenes, with food and water supplies running low.

Governments sent planes and ships in a bid to rescue their citizens from the mounting lawlessness as Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi pursues a bloody bid to cling to power.

"Libya is descending into hell," said Helena Sheehan, who made it to London Gatwick Airport on the first specially-chartered British rescue flight.

"The airport is like nothing I've ever seen in my whole life," the 66-year-old said. "It's absolute chaos. There's just thousands and thousands of people trying to get out."

Fellow passenger Jan McKeogh added: "It's usually a very, very safe area but there were absolute maniacs over there."

Italy, the nearest major European country, warned of a looming "catastrophic humanitarian crisis" as migrants flee north Africa.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni saying they faced a potential "invasion of 1.5 million people" that would bring Italy "to its knees."

The logistical challenges were especially acute for Asian countries with more than 150,000 low-paid workers trapped -- including some 60,000 Bangladeshis and 30,000 Filipinos.

China ramped up a massive air, sea and land operation to evacuate more than 30,000 of its citizens, with over 4,000 transferred to the Greek island of Crete on Thursday.

Thailand, which has more than 23,000 workers in Libya, said it was making preparations to get its citizens to Malta, but warned it may be safer for them to stay in their compounds than to travel to a port.

India said a 1,000-capacity passenger ship had arrived on the Libyan coast to begin evacuating some of its 18,000 nationals to Egypt, adding that the operation had been hampered by poor communications.

Migrante International, a support group for Philippines workers abroad, said Filipinos had been left to fend for themselves, as Vice President Jejomar Binay planned to fly to the region to review emergency plans.

An official at the Vietnamese embassy said it was trying to get its 10,000 nationals out, but warned that they were short of food and water.

A South Korean warship was on its way, while Seoul has chartered a plane to fly some of the estimated 1,400 South Koreans still in Libya to Cairo.

Hundreds of US nationals and other foreigners have boarded a US-chartered ferry in Tripoli but high seas delayed their departure for Malta.

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.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "incredibly sorry" for the delays in getting British nationals home, as the first two charter planes made it out.

The government said it was looking at all options to rescue people stuck inland in desert camps, refusing to rule out military means.

Turkey evacuated upwards of 6,000 of its nationals over three days by air, sea and land, but thousands were still waiting to leave with an estimated 25,000 Turks based in Libya.

More than 300 Russian railroad and oil workers and their families returned to Moscow aboard three planes.

"They burned down a police station next to our house. There is a lot of gunfire at night -- rounds of machine-gun fire. We spent sleepless nights," one woman told Russian state television on arrival.

Brazil and Canada were among other countries striving to get their nationals out by ship or plane.

On land, the regional head of the Red Crescent told AFP that around 5,000 Tunisians had fled home over the border, with 830 Chinese waiting to cross.

Monj Slim said the organisation was ready with medical aid and food for people coming across.

Bahrain protesters show no sign of retreat

by by Ali Khalil, Agence France-Presse

MANAMA, Bahrain - Bahrain protesters showed no sign of retreat Thursday as an anti-government uprising entered its 11th day and opposition groups said the state had not yet met their pre-conditions for dialogue.

Donaire open to reconciling with dad

by By Bev Llorente, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Newly crowned WBC and WBO bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire Jr. said he is ready to patch things up with his dad, Nonito Sr., who was his former trainer.

Azkals still fine tuning rhythm: coach


MANILA, Philippines – German coach Hans Michael Weiss said the Philippine Azkals will still have to fine tune some aspects of their game to ensure that they can handle the Mongolians even in their cold home turf.

ABS-CBN to air Azkals-Mongolia 2nd match


MANILA, Philippines – ABS-CBN Sports has confirmed that it will air the second leg of the Challenge Cup home-and-away series between the Philippine Azkals and Mongolia on March 15.

Pinoys advance to Last 32 of World 8-Ball

MANILA, Philippines – Former world champion Ronato “The Volcano” Alcano and 3 other Filipino billiard players marched into the Round of 32 of the World 8-Ball Pool Championship 2011 at the Fujairah Exhibition Center in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates on Thursday.

Alcano is joined by snooker ace Joven Alba, Japan Open champ Antonio "Nickoy" Lining, and unheralded Oliver Medinilla.

Senator Revilla opposition party’s ‘living amulet’

MANILA, Philippines—Just what it needs to perk up the party anew into the political arena, Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) now has an “amulet” when it elected as its president popular action star and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

Cops file raps vs Katrina Paula, 3 others linked to carjack gang

Police authorities have filed criminal complaints against actress Katrina Paula and three other individuals for their alleged involvement in carjacking activities of a criminal syndicate led allegedly by the Dominguez brothers.

INTERACTIVE: What unrests in Mideast, N.Africa mean to Pinoys

MANILA, Philippines - If other parts of the world under autocratic rule are demanding change through protests in the streets or on Internet social networks, should Filipinos be concerned?

In an interactive map below, we present a visual treat that would help our audience appreciate if Filipinos should be concerned.

In a nutshell, the shock waves from the ouster of presidents in Tunisia and Egypt that continue to roll across North Africa and the Middle East expose the Philippines' vulnerability on the following fronts:

Jobs and security of OFWs

Middle East is a popular destination of millions of Filipino workers who leave the country to seek better paying jobs. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia alone hosts an estimated 1.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFW), but the oil-rich country is not one of those currently experiencing political unrests. It is, however, surrounded by nations whose leaders have fallen (as in the case of Egypt) or snubbing street and online calls for political change.

The map shows how many Filipinos are staying in these countries facing a geopolitical challenge.

But the challenge to the Philippine government is to keep its citizens in those countries safe. A deteriorating security situation in these host countries and the possibility that similar sentiments snowball to other neighbors are beyond the control of the Philippine government, but the magnitude -- and cost -- of repatriation efforts depend on them.


Filipinos in the Middle East send the third highest remittance funds among all destinations of millions working abroad.

In 2010, remittances from the Middle East reached $2.96 billion. Of this, 87% came from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed.

The map shows how the remittances from Middle East countries in turmoil compare. Money sent home from North African countries where there are current uprisings are also a few clicks away.

The map provides a visual perspective of whether we should be concerned if remittances from these countries stop coming due to these unrests. After all, these remittance flows account for 10% of our GDP growth.

Oil supply

The map shows how reliant we are to these countries that have some of the world's largest known oil reserves.  

While the Philippines has, over the years, reduced its reliance on imported crude oil to less than half of our total energy sources, energy officials are still closely monitoring possible supply issues. After all, we still import about 50 million barrels of crude oil a year. These mostly fuel transport-related industries that move people and goods around.

Also, oil supply threats usually translate to price hikes, which still hit us as oil importers. Already, oil prices have been creeping up, and has breached the $100 per barrel recently, sparking fears of a similar crisis such as the recent 2008 experience. Oil price hikes are usually accompanied by an increase in food prices, among others.

To visualize all these, follow these instructions:

Select one of the indicators at the top-left corner of the map. Hover your mouse over the countries to see the corresponding data for the selected indicator. You may also click on the bar graph at the top-right corner and select the country or countries whose data you want to highlight. You may zoom in or out of the map by using your mouse, or by the zoom bar at the lower right corner (above the X button).

EDSA and the economy: 25 years after

by By Sonny Africa, IBON research head

IBON Features-- The anniversary of the first People Power is a time to reflect on how the nation is 25 years later. The 1986 People Power uprising after all was driven by a desire for political and economic democracy. Politically, Filipinos were emboldened to oppose the Marcos dictatorship upon years of determined struggle by Filipino activists. Economically, people saw that a handful of cronies and foreign elite were prospering amid high unemployment and widespread poverty.

However outside of appearances, there has been scant progress towards this democracy over 25 long years.

Economically, twenty-five years would have been long enough for the economy to take-off. The 1986 People Power uprising created a moment of national unity and international credibility that could have been the starting point of real economic progress.

Sweeping genuine agrarian reform should have been done immediately while the landed families were on the defensive against a surging mass movement. This would have unleashed the country’s agricultural potential, raised rural incomes and broken the back of peasant poverty. An industrialization program should have begun that preserved what domestic manufacturing existed and that phased the steady development of key and strategic industries. Foreign debts of the Marcos administration should have been cancelled and the resources freed up poured into domestic education, health, housing and infrastructure.

Even just 10 to 15 years of progressive and nationalist policies since 1986 would have been enough to start building solid domestic economic foundations. Instead, 25 years of five post-Marcos administrations embraced and implemented free market policies of neoliberal globalization – trade and investment liberalization, privatization and deregulation. Economic growth, foreign investments and exports were treated as ends in themselves rather than the mere means to development that they are. Profits and commerce were hyped while the State’s responsibility to deliver real social and economic development was disparaged.

The 7.2% annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 and the average 4.5% growth during the previous Arroyo administration from 2001-2009 are considerably faster than the average 3.9% growth in the period 1986-1991 under the first Aquino administration. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has markedly increased from US$2.0 billion in 1986 (equivalent to 6.7% of GDP) to US$23.6 billion in 2009 (14.5% of GDP). The value of exports rose from being equivalent to 16.2% of GDP in 1986 to average 46.1% of GDP over the decade 2000-2009.

Yet there has also been rising joblessness, persistently severe inequality and growing numbers of poor amid economic decline. The unemployment rate which averaged 10.6% in the pre-People Power uprising six-year crisis period 1981-1986 has even risen to average 11% in the period 2005-2010, according to IBON’s estimates; this increase has only been camouflaged by a convenient redefinition of official unemployment in 2005. The 2.6 million unemployed Filipinos in 1986 increased to 4.4 million in 2010.

Inequality remains persistently severe. In 1985 the top 20% of families cornered 52.1% of total family income leaving the bottom 80% to divide the remaining 47.9% between them. This has barely changed over the last 25 years and in 2009 the top 20% of families still claimed 51.9% of total family income (with the bottom 80% dividing the remaining 48.1%). Also in 2009, the net worth of just the 25 richest Filipinos of US$21.4 billion (Php1,021 billion at the prevailing exchange rate) was equivalent to the combined annual income of the country's poorest 11.1 million families or some 55.4 million Filipinos (computed with an average family size of five) of Php1,029 billion.

The number of poor is a bit more difficult to compare because of at least two changes in the methodology for estimating poverty in the country. The government officially counted 26.7 million poor Filipinos in 1985 rising to 30.9 million in 2000. A subsequent revision statistically reduced the 2000 estimate to 25.5 million with this rising, according to the same methodology, to 28.5 million in 2009. Yet another revision statistically reduced the official 2009 estimate to 23.1 million. In any case, in 2009 some six out of ten Filipinos were trying to survive on incomes of PhP82 or even much less per day for all their food and non-food expenses.

The explosion of optimism for change in 1986 was followed by decades of missed opportunities. There was likewise a burst of optimism in 2010 following the end of the nine-year Arroyo administration. Indeed the economic lessons are there to be learned and the next decades need not be more of the same.  For now the optimism comes from the rising number of Filipinos wielding People Power not just in moments of revolt but also in daily and organized struggles for real social change.

NTC wants digital TV service launched in key cities by 2012

MANILA, Philippines - The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) targets by next year the implementation of digital television service, starting with select key cities in the country.

The regulator wants the shift to be implemented it in phases, the same way Japan did, said NTC deputy commissioner Carlo Jose Martinez.

“We plan to follow Japan’s model. They started with Tokyo then Osaka and then followed by other major cities. The TWG (technical working group) has yet to identify which cities will start the digital TV shift but maybe we could start with Manila, Cebu, Davao, among others,” he said.

The Philippines is going to adapt Japan’s Integrated Services Digital Broadcast (ISDB) technology as the standard for digital TV. The TWG is currently working on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) broadcast service in the country.

“The IRR will be finished in 60 to 90 days. We may implement digital TV this year or next year but we are not yet going to switch off analog TV yet. We will introduce digital TV [service] in major cities first,” said Martinez.

This means that broadcasting firms can still transmit analog TV service while digital TV is being implemented in other areas. The NTC official said as soon as compliance rate has reached 85% then the government will consider terminating all analog TV broadcast transmissions.

Martinez could not provide the timetable for the analog TV broadcast termination but said it won’t be soon—or not in 2015 which is the year previously identified by the NTC administration.

“Japan was able to shut off its analog [broadcasts] after nine to 10 years upon introduction of digital TV. So it would probably be the same here. The consumers will be our basis as to when the shutdown will take effect,” added the NTC official.

When DTT technology is enforced in the country there is a need to switch off all analog TV handsets. The switchoff would render all non-digital TV sets obsolete unless connected to a set-top box, which could cost $10 each.

Depending on the demand, Japan is willing to manufacture set-top boxes here so these could be sold at cheaper prices. At the same time, this could provide job opportunities to Filipinos.

The TWG is composed of members from the broadcast industry and stakeholders such as the government, suppliers and consumers.

Japan’s ISDB-T platform is expected to provide more business opportunities because the bandwidth that will be assigned for digital TV can also be used to service mobile phones. The technology is also capable of sending emergency warning broadcasts to households.


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