Friday, May 4, 2007

1 of 4 seamen around the globe is a Filipino

One of four seafarers around the globe today is a Filipino, putting the Philippines in the big league of the world's maritime industry, according to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano G. Salonga.

Salonga, who has been considered as one of the pillars in the Philippine maritime industry, noted statistics showing that remittances of Filipino seamen into the country have reached US$3.5 billion, helping stabilize the country's economy for the last 25 years.

"Last year alone, these remittances comprised 3.5% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is no mean feat considering that we only have 300,000 seamen of 82 million population," Salonga explained.

Speaking before this year's graduates of Bachelor of Science in Maritime Transportation and Marine Engineering at the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA), Salonga challenged the SBMA to rally the maritime sector towards competitiveness and productivity.

"What is now happening in the Subic Bay, especially given the huge personality of Hanjin and the modern container port, should convince everyone that the Philippines has now become a great maritime nation and power," Salonga said.

Based on records, he said, the principal avenues of transportation in the Philippines are the inter-island sea lanes, connecting the more than 300,000 ports and harbors [in the world] where 90 percent of commercial goods are being ferried.

Salonga said, "When you sail under foreign flags, work with sense of pride and obligation as Filipinos serve in a global context, not only for your loved ones but for the entire profession and the industry, so that the stamp excellence of Filipino mariners will remain our reputation."

The SBMA has urged the Global Maritime and Transportation School of the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, to study the possibility of putting up a similar school in San Narciso, Zambales.

If the school materializes, it would be the first of its kind in Asia, which could provide opportunities for PMMA graduates to hone further their maritime skills.

The Philippine maritime industry is expected to contribute about US$2-3 billion to the country's annual export earnings starting next year with its unprecedented growth in terms of productivity and job generation, Salonga earlier said.

Salonga cited the entry of South Korea's Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) (KSE:003480) with its US$1 billion shipbuilding facilities inside the Subic Bay Freeport and which is scheduled to produce 12 ships by June next year.

"Hanjin is not only the Philippines' biggest single foreign direct investments of 2006 but its entry can also be regarded as the single most dramatic development in our country's growth as the Asias new maritime powerhouse," he said.

As of March, Hanjin has already generated 6,900 direct and indirect jobs compared to just about 2,400 workers during the early stage of its construction in September last year.

It is projected to create as high as 30,000 jobs in a span of three years.

"That is why, we at the SBMA continue to push the development of the freeport zone not only as a tourist destination and logistics hub but also as a maritime industrial base," Salonga said.

He added that enormous maritime resources with highly knowledgeable and skilled human resources are needed to create wealth in maritime industry.

In addition to shipbuilding and ship repair, Salonga said, the country also has vast potential in the area of regional transshipment hub for Asia-Pacific operations.

"Singapore and Hong Kong with their lesser ports, earn US$20 billion a year from transshipments alone. Given our many well-endowed natural harbors like Subic Bay, the Philippines can do well or even better," Salonga said.

He noted that the Subic Port development project is about 92 percent complete.

"The time has come for us in the maritime sector to help shape the future of our country and the Filipinos by pushing the maritime industry to live up to its role as the new major contributor to Philippine growth and progress," he stressed. – GMANews.TV

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Filipino students at VA Tech cope with tragedy

By Marconi Calindas

( - Had it been an ordinary week, students at Virginia Tech would be sitting down now to take their final exams. However, with the campus still reeling from the rampage on April 16 that left 33 people dead, the task of studying for exams seems overwhelming. Most students have decided not to take the tests, choosing instead to accept the grades they had before the tragedy.

Saipan Tribune had the chance to get in touch with the Filipino Students Association president, Romeo Capuno, to find out how the group is coping in the wake of the tragedy. Capuno, a graduate student in Environmental Engineering, said there are over 100 Filipino-American students at the college right now. He said only about 10 are Filipinos taking graduate studies.

ST: Where were you during the incident?

My schedule varies from day to day. I may work very early in morning or late at night because I am dealing with microorganisms. Luckily that day, I was in my apartment getting ready to go to the university when I got an e-mail from the University Relations about the first shooting. I seldom use my car to go to my office or lab since it is only 5 minutes away from my place.

ST: Did you by chance meet Cho Seung Hui in any activities at school?

I don't know Cho but who knows if our paths have crossed within my two-year stay here.

ST: How are you doing in the wake of the tragedy?

I am getting involved in a lot of student activities inside the campus to make myself busy. Work has been slow for me last week but I am going back to my usual pace this week.

ST: What activities did your group participate in to remember the 32 victims?

There have been lots of activities to remember the victims. There have been memorial services for the 32 victims-as a whole and individually. There were memorial stones placed on the field and close to the Administration building.

ST: What did the Filipino community do when you learned about the incident?

During the incident and upon learning that at least 22 people have died, we immediately accounted for the Filipinos. We checked through our cell phones.

ST: How's the school now after two weeks?

Classes resumed Monday, April 23. The University gave three options for students regarding classes and grades. Classes ended May 2 but students were given considerations.

ST: Is everything back to normal?

It is really hard to tell if everything has normalized. But I know we're getting there.

ST: Is there anything that could be learned from this tragedy?

There are lots of things I got from this incident. One of the important things I got from this is to show your loved ones how much you love them as often as you can. A simple hug, a simple kiss and simple words may be enough. It depends on how you want to let them feel you love them. A brother of a fatality in the Virginia Tech incident told me that he was on campus the day before the massacre because his sister will perform in the International Street Fair. He left before the performance. That was the last time he saw her alive. He said he did not even get a chance to say goodbye. In incidents like this, we can never turn back time and show our unspoken and unexpressed love to them. While we still have the time, let us show them how much we love them. I would like to let my parents and sisters know how much I love them.

ST: Since that incident, have any of you experienced discrimination for being Asian?

Fortunately, there are no Filipinos here that look Korean. But even if there is one, the university issued a memorandum against discrimination of any kind to Koreans.

Capuno graduated with a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos. He moved to Virginia Tech in May 2005. He said he chose VA Tech because of an interesting research being funded by NASA on water recovery in space stations.

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Iraq: 4 Filipino employees of the US embassy killed in an attack

BAGHDAD - Four Filipino employees of the American embassy were killed Wednesday in the explosion of a rocket in the strengthened green Zone of Baghdad, announced Thursday the embassy in an official statement.

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Husband Arroyo Drops Libel Cases Against Philippine Journalists

(International Herald Tribune, The Associated Press)

MANILA, Philippines: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's husband announced Thursday he is dropping libel suits against more than 40 journalists, explaining that he wants peace and reconciliation after surviving high-risk heart surgery.

The cases — filed over the last three years by Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo against reporters, newspaper columnists, editors and publishers — had alarmed media watchdogs in one of Asia's liveliest democracies.

The suits stemmed mostly from stories alleging corruption and claiming Arroyo helped his wife rig the closely contested 2004 presidential election.

Despite condemnations by foreign and local media watchdogs, the president's husband continued to pursue journalists with lawsuits, then adopted a reconciliatory tone following the surgery that confined him to a hospital for about three weeks last month.

Arroyo, an attorney from a prominent family, has no official powers but is regarded as an influential back-room operator and is a vocal backer of his wife against political rivals.

He was discharged from a suburban Manila hospital Sunday, looking pale and considerably thinner. His daughter held his hand as he walked from the hospital to a van.

"I have instructed my attorneys to withdraw all the libel suits pending before the courts," Arroyo said in a statement read by the presidential press secretary.

"Seeking redress for all the grievances that the libel suits sought to address now pales in comparison to taking on a genuine chance to make peace," he said.

He said he would try to reconcile "with those who will accept my offer of a handshake."

Arroyo thanked his wife, who cut short a trip to China to be at his bedside, and his "harshest critics" for showing compassion.

He called his wife "the constant light in my life" and added "a lesser person would not have been able to take care of me and still take on the duties of a president."

Some journalists said they wanted the court, not Arroyo, to eventually clear them of the lawsuits.

"We would like them to be resolved in court. ... We believe we can get an acquittal," said Marites Vitug, editor in chief of Newsbreak, an online magazine sued by Arroyo's husband for libel.

Rowena Paraan, secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, doubted the sincerity of Arroyo's husband, whose announcement coincided with the celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

"It's a perfect way out for him, given all the bad press that the libel cases have generated," Paraan said. "Sincerity? We'll see that in their next moves."

Last December, 36 Filipino journalists filed a class-action suit against Arroyo, alleging that he stifled press freedom.

More than 600 Filipino reporters and foreign journalists have also signed a petition calling for the decriminalization of libel and criticizing "the propensity of public officials and figures like Mr. Arroyo of using our outdated laws to muzzle a critical press."

Under a 105-year-old law, people can be fined or sentenced to prison for libel.

Press freedom groups have also protested a series of killings of journalists in the Philippines, which has been listed among the world's most dangerous countries for media.

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