Wednesday, February 27, 2013

China Steals Fish and Island from Philippines

The Dept. of Foreign Affairs Tuesday protested China's routine fishery patrols in the disputed South China Sea as part of it would include areas within the Philippines' territorial waters.

China's Fishery Bureau last week announced that patrols in the resource-rich waters where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims will be a "top priority" in 2013 and 2014.

The patrols, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency, aim to safeguard the "legitimate interests of Chinese fishermen."

China's announcement came a week after it rejected Manila's initiative to let a United Nations arbitration body hear the Philippines' complaint over what it calls Beijing's "excessive" claim to waters where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

China said Manila's case was legally infirm and carried unacceptable allegations.

"The Philippines strongly objects to the Chinese patrol of Philippine maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea. Such activities would not validate the nine-dash line and are contrary to China's obligation under international law including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," Hernandez told a press briefing.

China's nine-dash line is a U-shaped map that covers nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.

"We again call in China to respect our territorial sovereignty and exclusive economic zone," he said.

The Philippines, he asserted, "exercises sovereignty and sovereign rights over the waters and features in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea."

Scandal of Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co

Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and his wife Priscilla Tuesday appeared at the Dept. of Justice to attend the hearing of the Aman Futures pyramiding scam.

The Co couple were being linked in the P12-billion pyramiding scam allegedly committed by the Aman Futures Group Philippines, Inc. that allegedly duped 15,000 victims in Visayas and Mindanao.

The couple personally submitted and executed their respective counter-affidavit in the syndicated estafa charges filed against them by the alleged victims of Aman Futures namely, Samsodin Ala, Fabian Tapayan Jr. and Norolhaya Taha.

In their separate counter-affidavit, the Co couple asked the DOJ to dismiss the syndicated estafa charges filed against them.

In his 22-page counter-affidavit, Mayor Co argued the complaint filed against him and his wife has no legal basis.

He maintained they are also victims of Aman Futures and they did not receive money from any of the investor for Aman Futures.

He was also convinced the complaint filed against him was "politically motivated."

In her 14-page counter-affidavit, Priscilla Co argued she and her husband were never involved in Aman Futures.

She also argued they did not personally know one of the complainants, Tapayan and they did not also transact with anyone in the complainants in behalf of Aman Futures.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Republic Act 10366 Approved

President Benigno S. Aquino III signed last week Republic Act 10366, "An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Establish Precincts Assigned to Accessible Polling Places Exclusively for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens," the Palace announced Saturday.

The law, that addresses the concerns of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and senior citizen advocates, was signed by the President February 15, deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

"Ang batas na ito will now require the registration, a record of Persons with Disabilities and senior citizens sa Comelec para malaman kung ano ang mga disability, kung may kailangang assistance para sa kanilang pagboto dahil kahit naman PWD at senior citizen sila, kailangang matulungan natin sila especially when it comes to voting," Valte said.

The new law also mandates the establishment of separate polling precints intended only for PWDs and senior citizens, she said. These voting centers must have assistive devices and personnel that will assist PWDs and senior citizens.

"Dapat ang ating balota merong reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities and senior citizens," she said. "Siyempre kasama din dito 'yung assistance in the accomplishment of the ballots."

The PWDs and senior citizens will be assisted in filling the ballot by their relatives, either relative by consanguinity or affinity, within the fourth civil degree, or by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).

The law also requires a sensitivity training program by the Comelec for those who will perform electoral duties including field officers, members of the BEI and accredited citizens' arms to familiarize themselves with the needs of PWDs and senior citizens.

Peace process with the communist

President Benigno S. Aquino III expressed his strong resolve to move the peace process with the communist rebels following a meeting with Norwegian facilitators in Malacanang Friday.

The President received the members of the Royal Norwegian government as well as the team of facilitators in a courtesy call at the Palace, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Saturday in a radio interview over government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

"The President spoke about his resolve to move the peace process forward. Alam naman natin na medyo naaantala ng kaunti ang peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front)," Valte said.

"Maganda naman ang pagtanggap ng mga facilitators at positive ang kanilang response. The facilitators expressed that they felt that now is a good time to move the peace process forward," she added.

Government peace panel chair Alexander Padilla said in a forum this week that the public must "guard and support" the peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Despite the challenges in the peace talks with the communists, Padilla said the government remains optimistic that a final negotiated political settlement will be completed and implemented during the term of President Aquino.

One of the contentious issues is the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as the insurgents insist for the release of political prisoners who they claim work as "consultants."

JASIG allows negotiators or consultants to freely discuss and move without the threat of being arrested.

It remains the biggest challenge in the talks, Padilla said.

The NDF claims that these political prisoners arrested by government security forces are covered by the JASIG.

27th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power

Malacanang is inviting the Filipino public to join the 27th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Monday in EDSA in Quezon City considering its significance to the nation's history.

"Nananawagan tayo at iniimbitahan natin ang ating mga mamamayan na dumalo, lumahok at makiisa sa pagdiriwang natin ng ika-dalawampu't-pitong anibersaryo ng EDSA People Power Revolution na may temang, "Pilipinas Natin, Abot Tanaw Na," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Hermino Coloma Jr. said in an interview Saturday over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

Monday's event is important because it will raise awareness on the historic event that happened several decades ago when the Filipino people fought and ousted a tyrannical regime, Coloma said.

The celebration will have greater significance especially to young Filipinos who didn't see and experience the people's bloodless fight against the Marcos dictatorship.

Filipinos launched a civil disobedience movement to boycott institutions connected to the Marcoses following a failed snap election in February 1986, Coloma explained. The move culminated to the EDSA People Power revolt in that year.

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the anniversary celebration at the People Power Monument in EDSA. The President will join the flag-raising ceremony and after that he will sign the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

The landmark legislation is the state's official recognition of the atrocities committed by the Marcos administration against its own people.

Part of Monday's event is opening the Malacanang grounds to young people for story-telling and sports events to impart Filipino values to the country's youth.

"Bubuksan ang pintuan ng Malacanang Palace doon sa area ng Kalayaan Hall, para maranasan naman ng ating mga mamamayan, lalung-lalo na ng mga kabataan kung paano 'yung nasa loob mismo ng Malacanang Palace," Coloma said.

"Ito ay lalahukan ng mga youth leaders at ang karamihan sa mga dadalo doon at pupunta sa open house ay mga kabataan. Kaya rin naman idineklarang walang pasok para himukin natin ang marami sa mga kabataang nag-aaral pa na kunin din 'yung pagkakataon na magpunta sa Malacanang at sa Kalayaan grounds."

Join the World Summit on Information

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said he is leaving for Paris, France to join the World Summit on Information this Sunday.

"Actually, magkatono itong tema ng EDSA at 'yung dadaluhan natin sapagkat 'yung United Nations sa pamamagitan ng UNESCO o United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, ten years ago, naglunsad ng tinatawag na Knowledge Society," Coloma said in a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan Saturday.

"Kaya ang idaraos sa Paris sa darating na Linggo, kasabay nung ating EDSA celebration ay 'yung World Summit on the Information Society Plus Ten. Ibig sabihin, ten years after," he added.

The concept of UNESCO's Knowledge Society is anchored on a free society having free-flowing knowledge and information, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in addition to other freedoms to raise people's awareness.

The event in Paris is related to the 27th anniversary celebration of the EDSA People Power Revolution because it deals with rights and freedom that Filipinos fought for a few decades ago, Coloma said.

"Ganoon din naman 'yung pinagdiriwang natin sa EDSA, kung maaalala natin, noong panahon ng Martial Law, ay nabalam ang paggamit ng kalayaan sa pamamahayag, 'yung kalayaan ng pagtitipon-tipon, 'yung freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression ay hindi naramdaman at hindi naganap sapagkat tinitigil ito ng batas-militar," Coloma explained.

"At noon namang nagtagumpay ang EDSA People Power Revolution, muling naging laganap ang paggamit ng mga kalayaang ito, kaya nga't sa buong rehiyon ng Asya, masasabi natin at maipagmamalaki natin na sa Pilipinas, pinakamasigla, pinakamalusog, pinakalaganap ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag," he added.

Coloma said he will highlight the country's EDSA revolt anniversary when he joins the World Summit on the Information Society in France this weekend.

He said he will report to the members of the United Nations the progress of the Philippine's push for media and information literacy, which is the country's task in UNESCO.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in Crising

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported on Saturday that P11.24 million in agriculture was destroyed in the wake of Tropical Depression Crising.

NDRRM said the damage to agriculture was estimated at P11,241,800 including P10,087,300 in rice; P444,500 in corn; and P710,000 in vegetables in Asuncion town in Davao del Norte province.

The death toll remained at four, with two still missing, the NDRRMC added.

The disaster agency said Crising has affected 51,458 families or 261,570 people in 189 villages in Region 4-B (Mimaropa) Region 8 (Eastern Visayas, Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), Region 11 (Davao Region), Region 12 (SOCCSKARGEN), Caraga region and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Northeast monsoon continues to affect Luzon

Aside from passing light rains, many parts of the country can expect good weather conditions as the northeast monsoon continues to affect Luzon, the state weather bureua said on Saturday.

In its advisory, the Philippine Armosphetic Geophysical and Astronomical Sevices Administration (PAGASA) said thatthe regions of Caraga, Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms.

The regions of Cordillera, Bicol, Cagayan Valley and the provinces of Aurora and Quezon will have cloudy skies with light rains while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail throughout the archipelago and the coastal waters will be moderate to rough.

PAGASA also issued a strong to gale force wind associated with the northeast monsoon is expected to affect the seaboards of Luzon.

Deputized by the municipal government

A multi-sectoral team of enforcers deputized by the municipal government here is now guarding all strategic points in this biodiversity-rich far-flung town to ensure that its forests and other ecological properties are sealed from illegal activities.

Town Mayor Alejandro Gamos over the week said here that he tapped the cooperation of various agencies--among them the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Philippine Coconut Authority--in manning the multi-sectoral checkpoints set for the purpose. The Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and Philippine Coast Guard are the law enforcing agencies involved in the measure while all barangay authorities, the local media and volunteers from non-government organizations are also embedded into the undertaking, Gamos said.

All entry and exit points of illegal loggers, timber poachers, wood charcoal makers, coco lumber smugglers and wild animal hunters are now sealed with these checkpoints, making it impossible for them to further destroy the town's upland ecological resources, he added.

Coastal areas have also been placed under tight guarding against illegal fishers, mangrove cutters and any other persons involved in activities that are destructive to the local marine resources, the mayor said.

"We are doing this to protect and preserve the richness of our natural environment for the benefit of the generations next to us. Ours is a locality gifted with ecological beauty and resources that we need to take good care of. The checkpoints and coast watch function 24/7," Gamos stressed.

"Barangay residents have also been made to understand what we are doing and they, too, are staying alert against any form of illegal activities that may transpire under their noses," he added.

All members of the multi-sectoral checkpoints have specific roles in the measure and practically, every citizen of each community is supporting it that is why, Gamos said, "tiyak, wala nang lulusutan itong mga gumagawa ng labag sa batas para sa kapakanan ng kalikasan dito sa amin (surely, those lawbreakers will no longer be able to do their operations, thus, nature's interest will be protected here)."

Gilbert Gonzales, DENR regional executive director, lauded the move of the Sta. Magdalena LGU and asked his men to cooperate closely and assist the town's local officials.

Sta. Magdalena, a fourth class municipality located about 72 kilometers southeast of Sorsogon City--the provincial capital, or roughly 120 kilometers from Legazpi City, Bicol's regional government center, is generally rugged and mountainous with a peak reaching as high as 1,100 feet above sea level.

A big river coming from the hinterlands in the western boundary of the municipality flows out to the Pacific Ocean.

Its wilderness that plays home to exciting flora and fauna also boasts of beautiful waterfalls, the Ubo and Paloktok Falls.

The territorial jurisdiction of the municipality is composed of some 4,706.4 hectares of land mass.

The local government unit is politically subdivided into 14 barangays, dispersed geographically in the lowlands of poblacion composed of four barangays, and upland, with 10 barangays.

It has 13 coastal barangays lined along clean and fine white sand beaches that are considered undiscovered by the tourism world, according to Gamos.

Eastern Metropolitan Bus Corporation Labor Dispute

The union and management of the Eastern Metropolitan Bus Corporation was lauded by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for settling their labor dispute under preventive mediation case following two conciliation conferences.

Labor and Employment secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis- Baldoz said the settlement was to the best interest of the workers and the company that now continue operation in peace and harmony.

"I commend the Samahang Manggagawa ng EMBC and the management of the bus company for their mutual effort to resolve their dispute," Baldoz said.

The bus company, represented by Ernesto De Jesus and Francisco De Jesus, Jr., provides tourist and shuttle services to companies and schools in Metro Manila. Located at 182 P. Oliveros St., Antipolo City, EMBC currently employs 50 employees.

On the other hand, Samahang Manggagawa ng EMBC is an affiliate of the Metro East Labor Federation and the Buklurang Manggagawa Pilipino (BMP). It represents 24 union members covering almost half of the 50 worker-employees of the Eastern Metropolitan Bus Corporation.

It can be recalled that the union filed a preventive mediation case for alleged bargaining in bad faith, discrimination, harassment, CBA benefits, uniform, medical check-up, union leave, union dues, and summary of deduction.

Recognizing the dispute, the NCMB immediately scheduled two mediation-conciliation conferences before the parties reached a settlement last Feb. 3.

19th ASEAN Economic Ministers ( AEM) Retreat

The 19th ASEAN Economic Ministers ( AEM) Retreat and related meetings will be held on March 6-9 in Vietnam's capital Hanoi, according to an announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.

At the AEM Retreat, economic ministers from 10 ASEAN member countries will work together to map out directions for 2013 in order to boost regional economic integration towards building the ASEAN Community by 2015.

The 19th AEM Retreat will be held at the same time with the 3rd ASEAN-EU Business Summit (AEBS) with the participation of high- ranking leaders of Vietnam, Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Brunei, EU Trade Commissioner and ASEAN Secretary General.

During the AEBS, a protocol on amendment of a number of ASEAN economic agreements on trade will be signed.

In addition, the 3rd AEBS will also discuss the establishment of a public-private dialogue forum and issues related to business activities as well as the regulations and the potential for cooperation between the two economic regions.

History of Philippine News Agency

By Severino C. Samonte

MANILA, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- The Philippines News Agency marks in appropriate ceremonies its 40th anniversary March 1, with old hands nostalgic as they trace the birth of what eventually became among Third World news agencies.

Only a little over five months earlier, then President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law throughout this Southeast Asian archipelago, closing down media outlets in a legendary swoop that transformed the media scenario in the country.

Launched on March 1, 1973 as the national government's official news agency, some media analysts say PNA can be aptly called a "martial law baby" that replaced the country's first and only privately-owned and operated news-gathering agency: the Philippine News Service.

Media veterans say PNS was organized in 1950 by the publishers of the then Manila-based major national newspapers -- the Manila Times, the Manila Chronicle, Manila Bulletin, Philippines Herald, Evening News, Bagong Buhay, and Fookien Times.

Its main function then was to supply daily news and photos from the provinces to these newspapers as well as to those in the countryside.

Radio and television stations also used the PNS stories for a fixed monthly fee.

Foreign news agencies, like the New York-based Associated Press and United Press International, London-headquartered Reuters, and Paris-based Agence France-Presse, and a few private entities were also allowed to subscribe.

When President Marcos declared the emergency under Proclamation No. 1081 on Sept. 21, 1972, the then 22-year-old PNS was forced to cease its 24-hour daily operations.

Its major clients -– newspapers, radio and TV stations -– were padlocked and guarded by government troops.

About four months after the imposition of martial law and shortly after Marcos allowed a handful of newspapers and broadcast outfits to reopen, a group of former newspaper editors asked then Dept. of Public Information Secretary Francisco S. Tatad to explore the possibility of opening a government news agency by acquiring the World War II-vintage teletype machines and other equipment of PNS.

At the same time, look for the feasibility of taking over PNS' newsroom at the second floor of the four-level National Press Club Bldg. on Magallanes Drive in Intramuros, Manila.

The persistence of such group of editors to once again set up an even more dynamic wire news agency bore fruit when the PNS was allowed to reopen but under a new name -– Philippines News Agency as the government's official news outfit.

Negotiations for the acquisition of the PNS equipment were done by a group of former newspapermen from Tatad's office at Malacanang, including then Bureau of National and Foreign Information Director Lorenzo J. Cruz.

The amount paid by the government for the old PNS teletype machines, typewriters, mimeographing machines and a photo dark room plus few cameras was used to pay the salaries of the PNS staff in Manila from September to December 1972.

Jose L. Pavia, former executive editor of the defunct Philippines Herald, was appointed as the first general manager of the infant news agency.

He headed its initial 11-member staff, with Renato B. Tiangco, also formerly of the Herald and a foreign news agency wireman, as managing editor, and this writer, a holdover from the PNS, as national news editor.

AS a government agency, PNA was created under a Special Department Order issued by Tatad.

It was placed under the BNFI, its first mother bureau that provided its fund.

When Tatad turned on the switch to launch the PNA in the afternoon of March 1, 1973 in Malacanang, he said: "The Philippines News Agency will be operated in the best tradition of the world's professional news agencies."

During the martial law years, the PNA, with the so-called "Big Four" news agencies -– Reuters, AFP, AP and UPI -– covered the entire archipelago, bringing news around the Philippines to the outside world as much as possible.

For a while, PNA even entered into a news exchange agreement with some of these foreign news agencies.

A year after its birth, PNA inaugurated its first domestic bureau in Cebu City, opening a new era for the media in the country's second largest, most cosmopolitan city.

Seven tabloid-sized newspapers there began to carry current national and foreign news through the PNA wires, a radical departure from their former purely local coverage.

This placed them in a position to compete for circulation in the Visayas and Mindanao with the major national dailies published in Manila.

The year 1974 also saw the opening of similar PNA bureaus in Iloilo, Baguio, Davao, San Fernando, Pampanga; Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, and Dagupan.

These were followed by Lucena City, Legazpi, Cotabato, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Dumaguete, Iligan, Laoag, Tuguegarao, San Fernando, La Union; Jolo, Sulu; and Los Banos, Laguna.

The peak number of domestic bureaus stood at 23 in 1975, with the opening of additional bureaus in Cabanatuan City, General Santos City and Tagbilaran City.

However, this number of bureaus was reduced drastically as a result of cost-cutting measures in later years.

During its so-called "golden period" -– from 1974 to 1985 -– PNA also served as training ground for aspiring young journalists.

After the February 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, with the opening of some new newspapers, PNA-trained reporters tried their hands at newspapering and in the broadcast field.

Many of today's editors in several national newspapers had once cut their journalistic teeth at the PNA newsroom.

Until 1986, the PNA, through the former Office of Media Affairs headed by Minister Gregorio S. Cendana, had overseas bureaus in San Francisco, California; Sacramento, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Chicago, Toronto (Canada), Sydney (Australia) and Jeddah.

These were closed down after the EDSA Revolution.

During the government reorganization in 1987, the BNFI was abolished and replaced with two bureaus -– the present-day News and Information Bureau and the Bureau of Communications Services.

At present, PNA remains an NIB division under the direct supervision of Assistant Secretary Elizardo de Layola of the Presidential communications Operations Office.

He is assisted by NIB Director III Danilo S, Jamora.

Bomb Explodes in Baguio City

Three people were hurt as a blast of still unknown origin marred Baguio City's "Panabenga" Festival Sunday morning.

Despite this, Cordillera regional police head Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, in a radio interview, reassured tourists that the incident is isolated and will not affect the festivities.

"Three people were slightly injured in the blast, and we are investigating it now," Magalong added.

The explosion rocked the office of the "Anti Crime Volunteer" group.

The three injured were identified as as Jenard Palomique, Joseph Espadz, and security guard Gilbert Salvador.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines

Along with attracting many people in this year's Panagbenga festival, tourists will be pleased to know trips to Baguio will soon be more accessible.

President of Tourism Congress of the Philippines Marceline Clemente announced during a speech Saturday there has been a clamor from both local and foreign tourists for Baguio to have an airport that can make it faster and easier for tourists to reach Baguio.

"We are working on a good airport and adding a franchise of tourist buses and public transport," Clemente said.

Clemente added this was necessary with the continued increase in the number of tourists going to Baguio with an estimated 1.7 million in this year's Panagbenga festival.

"With the assistance of congressmen and other local leaders, we are continually bringing this request to our national government," she added.

City Mayor Mauricio Domogan himself explained the private sector has expressed a persistent demand for the improvement of the inactive Loakan airport in Baguio.

"Even if former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo decided to keep it open for emergency purposes, there has not been any registered flight there," Domogan explained.

"The Loakan airport (runway) is only 1.7 km, it cannot accommodate big airplanes," he said, explaining the importance of its upgrade being put to action.

According to Baguio Flower Festival Foundation Incorporated, although Loakan airport does not meet the Federal Aviation Standards at present, it is hopeful there will soon be noticeable development.

"We are happy that PNoy (Pres. Benigno S. Aquino) is continuing it," Domogan said. "This is a big thing for the people of the North."

Aside from improving the airport, Clemente also mentioned an extension of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), estimated to be finished in a year's time, will be added to cut the travel time from Manila to Baguio to three to four hours instead of the usual five to six.

Flying V Oil Price

Another independent oil player, Flying V, will roll back its petroleum prices by 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

In an advisory Saturday evening, Flying V will reduce the prices of its premium and unleaded gasoline by P0.40/L and diesel by P0.50/L, effective 12:01 a.m Sunday.

Earlier, SeaOil, another independent oil player rolled back prices of its petroleum stocks effective 12.01 a.m. Saturday.

The rollback, according to the advisory, aims to "reflect price movements in the international petroleum market."

There was as yet no word of a price movement from other oil companies.

Last Tuesday oil companies implemented price hike by more than a peso higher per liter.

The movement is the third for the month of February.

Light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms

The northeast monsoon continues to bring light rains in Luzon particularly Cagayan Valley and Aurora, the state weather bureau said Sunday.

In its advisory, Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) also said Mindanao will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms.

Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have sunny to partly cloudy skies with possible light rains in the afternoon or evening.

Metro Manila's temperature will range from 23-30 degrees Celsius Sunday.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail throughout the country and its coastal waters will be moderate to rough.

PAGASA also issued a gale warning as strong gale force winds associated with northeast monsoon are expected to affect the seaboards of Luzon.

Annual Panagbenga Festival

An estimated 1.7 million people witnessed the annual street dance parade, part of the annual Panagbenga Festival 2013 Saturday.

The annual colorful Street Mob Flash dance parade showcases different dancing groups in flower-inspired costumes while dancing in the street to different tunes played by their respective drum and lyre bands.

The theme for this year is "A Blooming Odyssey".

The two-hour 6-km parade highlighted by rhythmic dance steps from different ethnic, cultural groups and students started at 8 a.m. from Panagbenga Park and ended up at Athletic Bowl.

Dept. of Tourism officials and organizers, City of Pines Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara, Phil. Chamber of Commerce delegates from Toronto led parade participants.

They were followed by PMA bands and different delegates from the sister cities like Taebaek, Gongju, Vaughan, Vallejo, Kalinga, Apayao, and Bontoc.

Students from different schools in Baguio and nearby communities such as Aguinaldo Elem. School, Mabini Elem. School, Baguio Central School, Lucban Elem. School, Fort del Pilar Elem. School, Southern Luzon University, Elpidio Quirino Elem. School, Dona Aurora Elem. School, Quezon Hill Elem. School, San Vicente Elem. School, Josefa Carino Elem. Sch., Pinsao Nat'l. High Sch., St. Louis University and others.

Most of these students wore costumes made of colorful flower designs while dancing to the beat of songs like 'kendeng-kendeng' and the currently popular 'Pusong Bato' and other popular dance beats.

Other performing artists like Litangfan Cultural Group from Mt. Province, Tanghalang Teatro Pino, The Kabayan Youth Cultural Dance Troupe, Bampkabia Cultural Dance, Cordillera Cultural Performing Group and others also joined the parade that drew massive crowds from different parts of the country and foreigners from other countries to witness the annual event.

People snapped pictures of participating children, students and other ethnic groups in native costumes while carrying some big baskets with big carrots, cabbage and other vegetables.

Another crowd drawer were the 'higantes' wearing flower-embroidered costumes and a big image of 'Anito' borne by students.

The drums and other musical instruments played by the drum and lyre bands dotted by colorful flowers.

The 130 students from Quezon Hill Elem. School wore costumes made from recycled used brooms, plastic bags, plastic bottles as their colorful costumes and head dress decked with flowers.

Meldie Diente, 35, a Technical Assistant staff from a company in Metro Manila said she and nine of her officemates travelled all the way from Manila to Baguio justto witness the event.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jesus Verzosa Sued for Graft and Corruption

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has given the "go signal" for the filing of graft charges against retired Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa and seven others before the Sandiganbayan for the anomalous purchase of 75 defective police rubber boats in 2008.

In a 34-page order signed Feb. 12, 2013, Morales denied the motions for reconsideration and upheld the earlier resolution signed Sept. 26, 2012 finding probable cause to indict:

Verzosa, Deputy Director Generals Jefferson Soriano and Benjamin Belarmino, Jr.; Directors Luizo Ticman, Ronald Roderos and Romeo Hilomen; Chief Supts. Herold Ubalde and Villamor Bumanglag for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

All respondents, except Roderos, filed separate motions for reconsideration.

The order said the arguments presented by the respondents in their motions "are a mere rehash of their initial arguments set forth in their counter-affidavits which we already considered, weighed and resolved before we rendered the resolution sought to be considered."

The case arose from the complaint and supplemental complaint dated Nov. 15, 2011 and Feb. 17, 2012, respectively, filed by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.

Records showed the PNP entered into four separate supply contracts all dated Dec. 18, 2009 with the following:

-- Enviroaire for the supply of 93 units of outboard motors with a total contract price of P44,175,000;

-- Enviroaire for the supply of 10 units of police rubber boats (PRBs) with a total contract price of P11,650,000;

-- Geneve for the supply of 41 units of PRB with a total contract price of P47,765,000; and

-- Bay Industrial for the supply of 10 units of PRB with a total contract price of P11,650,000.

Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) in Manila

President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed Monday the members of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) as he expressed hope that their activities in the Philippines will give them additional knowledge and experience for the benefit of their respective countries.

"I am sure that you, as members of the Asian Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions, understand just how important this kind of transparency is: every single peso—every yen, ringgit, or baht—must be accounted for, as we are spending this money on behalf of our people," the President said in his speech before the ASOSAI members Malacanang.

"And since we are all in public service, each and every expenditure must have a corresponding value—a value that redounds to the benefit of our people," he said.

The President noted that over the next few days, he expects the participants to have ample opportunity to talk about both their success stories and the challenges they have encountered.

The President also cited the unity of the organization in its desire to foster integrity in governance.

During his speech, the President underscored the importance of treading the "straight path" that his administration champions adding that by doing the right thing the government could immediately uplift the condition of the people and attain inclusive growth.

"This path is one we cannot tread alone: for the nation to move forward as a whole, everyone must do their part, from those of us in government to the private sector," he stressed.

The Commission on Audit (COA) helped the administration correct excesses in the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which gave exorbitant bonuses and allowances.

The discovery of the anomaly allowed the government to make important changes in the way that these corporations were run to ensure integrity, accountability, and transparency in government agencies.

Crising Slams Mindanao

Nineteen provinces in Mindanao were put under Signal No. 1 as tropical depression Crising further strengthened and continued to threaten Mindanao Tuesday morning.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) latest weather forecast said the following provinces were placed under Signal No. 1 (45-60 kph winds):Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Samal Island, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, southern part of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay.

It advised residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals to be alert against possible flash floods and landslides.

Estimated rainfall amount within the 300-km diameter of the tropical depression is from five to 15 millimeters per hour, which is classified as "moderate to heavy."

Weather Forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said as of 4 a.m. Tuesday, Crising was spotted some 310 km east of General Santos City (6.1°N, 128.2°E) with maximum sustained winds of 45 kph near the center and is forecast to move west northwest at 22 kph.

With this speed, Aurelio said Crising is expected to make a landfall by Tuesday afternoon in the southern tip of Davao Oriental then by evening in Davao del Sur, and on Wednesday morning, it will make a landfall in Zamboanga Peninsula.

Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) Scandal

A senator blaming Gov. Joey Salceda for what ails Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) is floating a dud insinuation, according to a lawyer here who once headed Aleco's board of directors (BOD).

Recently, over dzMM Radio/TV, Sen. Serge Osmeña blamed Salceda for what ails Aleco as he announced that the Senate has approved an amendment to PD269, to authorize the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to replace the erring directors or governing boards of electric cooperatives, in lieu of the existing practice of "self-regulation."

"Obviously, Osmeña is unaware of Congress' failure to oversee the electrification program in the country. When it passed RA9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act, or Epira) in 2001, the electric cooperatives owed the government (through NEA) P18.1 billion in loans," said lawyer Oliver Olaybal, who once led the fight for the survival of the presently cash-strapped cooperative as head of its elected board members.

Instead of allowing the subscribers to bail out their cooperatives through stock issuance, it (Congress) decided to let the government assume the liability through Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM), he added.

Hence, the government lost P18.1 billion in taxpayers' money through erroneous legislation, Olaybal recalled.

The new "amendment" to PD269 that Osmeña announced, according to him, is redundant, because PD1645 has already authorized NEA since 1979 to replace the governing boards of electric cooperatives, including the designation of acting managers and project supervisors, he added. "And, this has worked against the interest of electric cooperatives like Aleco because outgoing NEA managers and supervisors do not render exit reports or accounting reports," the lawyer said.

Due to this, he added, Aleco's financial position deteriorated and operating deficits escalated, for lack of accountability by NEA.

Alternative source of income of OFWs

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who left their agricultural lands behind when they decided to pursue "greener pastures" abroad to come back home after finishing their contracts and pursue agriculture and related enterprises as alternative source of income to overseas or local wage employment.

"Returning OFWs, OFWs who had been displaced, or OFWs who had become victims of abuse should not be afraid to come home to the Philippines, particularly if they have idle farmlands. Their lands are a source of income security," said Baldoz.

"You should not be worried. You can develop your farms through organic farming, or start your own agribusiness and expand it with the assistance of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs through loan from the P2-billion national reintegration loan fund," Baldoz said.

Baldoz issued the challenge after Philippine Labor Attache to Hong Kong Manuel Roldan reported about the recent visit of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

According to Roldan, Secretary Alcala met with the Filipino community in Hong Kong and attended a seminar on organic farming and chicken-and-rabbit-raising conducted by one Dr. Rey Itchon of the Spread Organic in the Philippines (SOAP) for Hong Kong OFWs.

The seminar, attended by 100 OFWs, is part of the regular agricultural livelihood training conducted every Sunday at the Filipino Workers Resource Center.

Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mining

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the $ 5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mining Inc. (SMI) in Southern Mindanao.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, however, said the grant of ECC to SMI was "subject to certain conditions," and failure to comply may result in the cancellation of the ECC.

Paje said an environmental permit was issued to SMI upon the recommendation of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), an agency attached to the DENR which reviewed the ECC application.

According to Paje, the ECC covers the project located in Tampakan, South Cotabato; Malungon, Sarangani; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

"The EMB has reviewed the requirements of the application for the project and has recommended the issuance of the ECC subject to the implementation of certain conditions presented in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in order to protect and mitigate possible adverse impacts of the project on the community health, welfare and the environment," Paje pointed out.

The environment chief directed the EMB to strictly monitor SMI's compliance with the conditions stipulated in the ECC to ensure that environmental considerations are incorporated in all phases and aspects of the Tampakan project.

"SMI should make public the feasibility of the project, ensure that the area does not cover those where mining is prohibited, and ensure social acceptability through consultation with stakeholders," Paje said.

He also clarified that SMI could only proceed with the implementation of the project after submitting all other necessary government permits and clearances to the EMB, particularly those involving indigenous peoples, the agriculture and agrarian reform departments, and local government units.

Under the ECC, SMI is directed to conform to the provisions involving toxic and solid wastes of several laws on clean air and water and mining. SMI must observe appropriate practices on vegetative restoration, engineering structure, land use, and soil and water management, as well as ensuring proper stockpiling and disposal of generated waste materials and erosion control, the ECC stated.

The mining company is also instructed to protect headwaters, implement an efficient water management system to ensure sustainable use of water, and provide the community with alternative sources of potable water supply, if needed.

Citing provisions of the Philippine Mining Act, the DENR directed the SMI to set up a Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) and submit an Environmental Protection and Enhancement Program (EPEP) that would integrate a final mine rehabilitation and decommissioning plan for when the project is terminated or completed. This includes the setting up of contingent and trust funds that would address future concerns for mine rehabilitation, wastes and tailings, and final decommissioning.

Classes in Davao Suspended, Storm Crising Raging

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio ordered the suspension of classes from pre-school to high school on Tuesday due to bad weather brought about by tropical depression "Crising."

She also placed all rescue units run by the Emergency Response Center Central 911 and the barangay rescue groups on heightened alert due to the possible swelling of Davao River and other tributaries in the city and landslide on the highland areas.

"Per Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Heavy Rainfall Yellow Advisory No. 1 issued at 8:53 p.m. Monday, Davao City is expected to experience moderate to heavy rainfall due to the weather system, so classes will be suspended from pre-school to high school on February 19, 2013," Duterte-Carpio said.

She said the suspension of classes for college and post-graduate levels and work in private sector will be left to the discretion of school administrators and employers, respectively.

Genelito Atillo, spokesperson of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao Region affirmed the suspension of classes in pre-school and high school in all areas under tropical storm signal No. 1 in Davao Region namely Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley.

Commander Jose Luspo, chief of the Sta. Ana Wharf Detachment of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ordered the suspension of sea travel from Davao City to Kaputian, Island Garden City of Samal and Talikud Island which are also placed under tropical storm signal No. 1.

He said travelling towards these destinations takes one-hour and will surely expose people to rough sea.

Luspo said the ferry service and the sea travel between Kilometer 11 Sasa, Davao City and Villa Rica, Island Garden City of Samal will continue in order not to totally isolate the access of residents to the main land.

China Steals Island from Japan

Chinese government ships were in waters around disputed East China Sea islands Monday, Japan's coastguard said, as a senior Japanese diplomat prepared for meetings in Beijing aimed at mending frayed ties.

Three state-run Maritime Surveillance vessels were clocked in seas off the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, and claims as its own, around 00.00 GMT, the coastguard said.

Kyodo News Agency reported that Japan had made a formal protest to China about what it believes is an incursion into its sovereign waters.

It was the latest in a series of incidents at sea that have also included confrontations between warships, with Japan claiming Chinese vessels locked their weapons-targeting radar onto a ship and a helicopter.

Beijing has denied the charge, which rang alarm bells for commentators already warning of the growing possibility of a military exchange that could have disastrous consequences for the region.

The row between Asia's two largest economies blistered in September when Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain, in what it said was a mere administrative change of ownership.

Months of angry exchanges followed, with the diplomatic temperature rising all the time.

But North Korea's nuclear test last week somewhat dampened the rhetoric, with the international community keen for China to come onboard a broad move to pressure its sometimes-irksome ally.

The Japanese foreign ministry is planning to dispatch Shinsuke Sugiyama, in charge of Asian and Oceanian affairs, on Tuesday for talks with Wu Dawei, China's special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, local media said.

Typhoon Crising Sparks Flight Cancellation

A total of 23 flights have been cancelled due to bad weather as tropical depression "Crising" accelerated on Tuesday and the weather bureau put 19 provinces in Mindanao under storm signal No. 1.

According to the media advisory of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), flag carrier Philippine Airlines cancelled two round-trip flights PR 173-174 and PR 175-176 from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Tagbilaran.

Cebu Pacific Airlines, the country's premier budget airlines, also cancelled five round-trip flights and a flight 5J 382 from Cagayan de Oro to Manila.

The Cebu Pacific's cancelled round-trip flights 5Js 771-772 from Manila to Pagadian; 5Js 617-618 Manila-Tagbilaran; 5Js 625-626 Manila-Dumaguete; and, 5Js 383-384 and 395-396 Manila-Cagayan.

Air Phil Express also aborted its own round-trip flights 2P 959-960 from Manila to Cotabato; 2Ps 545-546 Manila-Dumaguete; and 2Ps 939-940 from Manila to Ozamis.

Economic Growth of Mindanao

Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan is optimistic on economic growth of Mindanao by saying it may still surpass other local economies in the country if the island's economic potentials are fully maximized.

"Mindanao has the capacity to surpass local economies of Luzon if the region can harness its potentials to the fullest," said Balisacan, Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in a news conference Sunday in Davao City.

He cited the case of Caraga region which was the fastest growing region with an accelerated growth rate of 9.6 percent in 2011. It surpassed two other growing economies in the country with Central Visayas having 7.9 percent and Central Luzon with 7.5 perecent growth in the same period.

Caraga region, located in the northeastern Mindanao is composed of the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat Islands, and the six cities of Bayugan, Bislig, Butuan, Cabadbaran, Surigao and Tandag.

During the first Mindanao Development Forum (MDF) held in Davao City recently where Balisacan was the guest of honor, he said that among Mindanao's strong potentials rest in the agri-industry sector, particularly in the export of rubber, pineapple, banana, coffee and organic agriculture products, which command high demand in the global market.

In the same forum, Mindanao Development Authority chair Secretary Luwalhati Antonino presented the Mindanao Development Report where she said Mindanao had recorded 94% self sufficiency on staple food with rice domestic output of 66.91 percent, while other staples, which include corn and other root crops posting at 27.13 percent.

Growth rate in the export of coconut-based products was also recorded at 39.11 percent, while bananas registered a growth rate of 42.22 percent.

Other agricultural products such as pineapples and tuna marked steady increases at 55.33 percent and 3.46 percent, respectively.

Also in 2011, Mindanao's foreign trade had expanded by 69.5 percent which translated to increased export earnings by 74.48 percent. The US remains as the region's top export market cornering 33.31 percent of Mindanao's total exports, followed by China with 17.56 percent; the Netherlands 17.46 percent and Japan 17.23 percent.

Balisacan said Mindanao's resources remain awesome and must be tapped to its maximum.

"Mindanao has so much economic potential that could spur higher growth for our country and contribute immensely in the attainment of the inclusive development agenda," he said.

To achieve this, Mindanao must identify new players in the region in order to increase and spread growth more equitably.

Filipinos' voting preference

Two local incumbents believe Filipinos' voting preference is changing with political party affiliation becoming less of a consideration when choosing who to elect.

"People are now increasingly looking at what individual candidates can do to serve the public well once elected," Bulacan Vice-Gov. and former actor Daniel Fernando said during State-run PTV 4's 'Hatol ng Bayan' program for the 2013 mid-term polls.

The ball game was different in previous decades when voters generally backed political parties and not individual candidates, he recalled.

Manila Vice-Mayor Francisco 'Isko Moreno' Domagoso had the same observations, noting increasing election of both pro- and anti-administration candidates proves Filipino voters are already looking beyond party affiliation of those seeking public office.

Such change is particularly noticeable in polls following the Catholic Church-backed 1986 people's revolution that ended the 20-year administration of then President Ferdinand Marcos, he said.

He noted poll dominance of the anti-Marcos political bloc then waned in decades following that revolution.

Domagoso cited the youth as helping drive changing voting patterns in the country.

"The youth sector is increasingly becoming involved in shaping our nation's destiny," he said.

He noted advances in communication technology and rise of social media are facilitating the youth's activities in helping voters make informed poll choices.

Fernando and Domagoso earlier cited governance track record and platform as essential in a candidate's electoral bid.

They acknowledged the pressure to have both is particularly more for show business personalities eyeing public posts.

"People are skeptical when they learn a candidate is from show business - we must exert extra effort in proving our capability to serve in government," said Fernando, star of Regal Film's 1985 hit erotic film 'Scorpio Nights.'

Domagoso said showbiz personalities are generally famous that, in terms of name recall, they have an advantage over candidates who are not from the entertainment industry.

"It's important to be known but fame has its disadvantage as people tend to keep an eye on us more, however," he said.

Software Used in Philippine Election

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr on Monday reiterated the software that will be used in the May 13 polls are genuine.

Brillantes belied the accusations of automated election critics CENPEG and AES Watch that the precinct optical count scan (PCOS) software is pirated.

"Contrary to this lie, the Republic of the Philippines is the legal and true owner of the PCOS machines including the software installed therein," Brillantes said.

The poll chief said the purchase of the PCOS was made last March 30, 2012, while the cancellation of Smartmatic's contract by Dominion happened on May 23, 2012.

"Under the law, contractual obligations that have accrued prior to cancellation bind all parties, in this case both Dominion and Smartmatic," he said.

"In other words, we became the legal owners of the machines and software even before cancellation and we remain as such even after. This is a basic rule on contracts that our non-lawyer critics don't care to understand or which their lawyers did not explain to them," he added.

Brillantes hit at the critics and said that the "continued assertion of falsehood aims nothing but to sow public mistrust and sabotage the upcoming elections."

Socioeconomic Report (SER): 2010-2012 of NEDA

The first two years of the Aquino administration saw a healthier and stronger financial sector, and the government will be more aggressive in expanding access by Filipinos to these services in succeeding years, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Citing the Socioeconomic Report (SER): 2010-2012 recently released by NEDA, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said that the financial sector has done very well in terms of attaining its targets as set out in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP): 2011-2016.

"In fact, some of the major targets that were planned to be attained in 2016 had already been achieved before the end of 2012. For example, the number of bank offices per city or municipality now averages at six, and we still see it expanding. The amount of microfinance services, already at P7.6 billion, is above the 2016 target," said Balisacan.

The Cabinet official, who is also NEDA Director-General, said that the government will now focus on aggressively expanding people's access to financial services.

"According to the SER, only about 41 out of 100,000 Filipinos own a deposit account, and this is still far from the target of 750 by 2016. To further expand client reach in the countryside, market participants and regulators alike have to innovate and foster strategic partnerships," he said.

Despite the global economic slowdown, Balisacan noted that the Philippine banking system continues to be on its growth trajectory because of sustained implementation of financial sector reforms and banks' prudent risk-taking activities.

"The SER details the situation of the country's banking sector, with stronger bank balance sheets, higher core earnings, leaner bank structure, and wider service network. Strong asset growth was also noted in our cooperatives," said Balisacan. National Economic and Development Authority NEDA sa Pasig, 12 Saint Josemariá Escrivá Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1605 P.O. Box 419, Greenhills ● Tels. 631-0945 to 64 MEDIA RELEASE

Friday, February 15, 2013

Train Accident in South Africa

At least 29 people including 27 passengers were injured Thursday in a collision between two trains in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, the second of the kind in the country in one week.

The accident occurred at 1:45 p.m. local time at the East London railway station, where a train moved onto the wrong track to collide with another occupying that platform, according to Metrorail.

This was a "light collision" in its "own yard," Metrorail's regional manager Richard Walker said.

The collision left 29 people injured, two of them staff members, he said.

The victims suffered slight injuries and were sent to local hospitals for treatment, Walker said, adding that an investigation has been launched to determine the cause of the accident.

2014-2020 budget of European Union

European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Thursday warned against an EU with a deficit as the Union's top leaders are locked in sensitive negotiations over the 27-member bloc's 2014-2020 budget scheme.

The seven-year budget could be set at roughly 960 billion euros (1.3 billion U.S. dollars), while actual payments would fall short by around 50 billion euros to accommodate the Britain's scream for spending cuts, Schulz said in a press conference here on Thursday night.

The difference between commitments and payments would lead to a deficit for the EU, the European Parliament President complained, adding that the EU's current budget already had a 16-billion-euro deficit.

"If we carry on this methodology and set the commitments far higher than the payments, we are going to end up as an EU with a deficit," he said.

Schulz also called on EU leaders to take the budget summit as the start of the process instead of an ending point, stressing that the European Parliament would carefully follow the case.

This week's summit is the second time for EU leaders to focus on budget bargaining, since the first budget summit last November achieved little largely due to sharp conflicts of national interests.

Germany and the Britain are clearly in favor of spending cuts, in sharp contrast to outcries mainly from France and Italy. The final deal also has to obtain the consent of the European Parliament according to the EU law.

Priority projects in the barangays

Implementation of priority projects in the barangays here will now be stricter after guidelines were set from a series of direct consultation with the people.
According to Loyda Bagayao of the Tabuk Municipal Planning and Development Office, selection of projects was based on the overall economic impact and its pass-on benefits from the specific local government unit to its environment and the sustainability of project in relation to the resources of the beneficiary barangay.

One high impact project from each of the 43 barangays was determined by the people themselves during the consultation for funding assistance under the equal sharing program of Tabuk LGU allotted yearly as municipal counterpart.

"However, projects that need huge funding are endorsed to higher LGUs, agencies, and foreign financial institutions," Bagayao said.
She said most of the identified projects are infrastructure explaining that barangays desire to put in place first physical improvements and establish permanent access like farm to market roads.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Curious Case of Atty. Solomon Lumba

By Perfecto Raymundo

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio insisted a violation has been committed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the appointment of her staff and remains to be void despite the resignation of Atty. Solomon Lumba from the University of the Philippines.

This was the response of Carpio to Sereno on Lumba's resignation from UP which could have cured the defect and irregularity in his appointment as Chief Justice Staff Head 2.

Carpio sent his second letter to Sereno saying despite Lumba's resignation from UP, his assumption in the Office of the Chief Justice on Nov. 5, 2012 remains "void and ineffective."

In a one-page letter issued by Carpio to Sereno dated Feb. 1, 2013, he said he reiterates the withdrawal of his signature to the Sept. 24, 2012 appointment papers of Lumba because it is still considered illegal.

Carpio said while he is pleased with the move of Sereno to correct herself, the resignation of Lumba does not affect the irregularity committed on his appointment.

"I am pleased to learn that, to clear the constitutional impediment, Atty. Solomon Lumba will now give up his position in the UP Law Faculty to join the Supreme Court as your Chief Justice Staff Head 2. However, I have to reiterate the withdrawal of my signature to the 24 September 2012 appointment paper of Atty. Lumba because that appointment remains void and ineffective," he said.

Carpio said it is legally impossible for Lumba to assume on Nov. 5, 2012 as Sereno's staff because he discovered Lumba is still active at UP Law Faculty up to Jan. 31, 2013.

"Under that appointment, Atty. Lumba was supposed to have assumed office as Chief Justice Staff Head 2 effective 5 November 2012. This is a legal impossibility because at that time, and even up to ....31, January 2013, Atty. Lumba was still holding another public office in the UP Law Faculty," he said.

Carpio insisted "no one can be appointed to two government positions at the same time, unless authorized by law or required by the primary functions of his office."

With this, he said Lumba must have a new appointment and cannot claim the Nov. 5, 2012 assumption with the SC because it is void.

"Thus, Atty. Lumba must be issued a new appointment as Chief Justice Staff Head 2 effective upon his resignation from the UP Law Faculty," he said.

Carpio issued a two-page letter to Sereno on Jan. 31, 2013 where he alleged in his letter the appointment of Lumba as Chief Justice Staff Head 2 as illegal and unconstitutional.

He informed Sereno he is withdrawing his signature after he discovered the violations committed by Sereno in the appointment of Lumba who is currently employed in the UP and now doing a "moonlighting" at the Office of the Chief Justice.

Carpio said he has no intention of violating the law and does not want to be a part of any irregularity.

Vilma Santos Wants You to Vote Team Pnoy

By Jelly Musico

Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos and husband Sen. Ralph Recto appealed Wednesday to voters of Batangas to support the 12 senatorial candidates in the forthcoming May 13 mid-term elections.

The couple made this appeal in front of the yellow-clad 2,000 crowd who attended the Batangas campaign sortie of the Team PNoy at the Batangas provincial capitol compound here.

"Let's support our senatorial candidates under the Team PNoy," the actress-turned politician told the crowd.

The Batangas campaign sortie was attended by Bam Aquino, Jun Magsaysay, Riza Hontiveros, Jamby Madrigal, Grace Poe, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar and Loren Legarda.

Re-electionist senators Francis 'Chiz' Escudero attended a press conference but did not attend the campaign rally along with fellow re-electionist senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV and Koko Pimentel.

During the press conference, Team PNoy campaign manager Sen. Franklin Drilon expressed optimism that the slight reduction the President Benigno Aquino III's rating will have no effect on the Team PNoy's senatorial candidates.

"I don't think it will affect our candidates' chances because the rating of the President remains high. We're not concerned," Drilon said.

The Team PNoy candidates assured the Batangas electorate to push for legislation that would create more jobs.

Aside from the investment of her family-run real estate properties, Villar promised to provide more livelihood projects for the province of Batangas.

"Like what I did in Las Pinas, I would like also to pursue projects that would create more jobs specially in the agriculture sector," Villar said.

Angara, son of outgoing Sen. Edgardo Angara, said he would focus on giving more scholarships in the province while Poe promised to create measures to raise standard of education in the country.

Legarda urged the local leaders to implement laws she sponsored in the Senate including measure on the creation of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Philippine Stock Market Posts All-time High Investment Record

By Leslie D. Venzon

Philippine stocks snapped the two-day slump, surging to a new all-time high past the 6,500 level on Wednesday, as investors cheered good economic prospects and the Philippines getting closer to achieving investment grade status.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) advanced 68.06 points to 6,527.99 from Tuesday's 6,459.93.

The broader All Shares index rose 28.64 points to 4,094.18.

Government economic managers on Wednesday expressed optimism that the country has a good chance of attaining investment grade status owing to an impressive economic growth backed by the administration's firm commitment to good governance.

An economic growth target of 6 to 7 percent this year is also "very doable", according to the country's planning agency.

"The (economic) prospects coming from the government helped push the market higher. (These are) signalling the growth momentum is still on the upbeat," said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at Banco de Oro.

PSE president and chief executive officer Hans B. Sicat said that the local stock market closed today on a high note along with other Asian markets.

"Expectations of stronger economic growth have continued to spur investor interest in the equities market. We are optimistic that such growth will continue to rebound to corporate earnings and sustain the market's hike to new levels," he said.

All counters were in positive territory, led mainly by property rising 2.36 percent to 2,649.68; and financials increasing 1.46 percent to 1,718.36.

The sub-indices of services, industrial, holding firms and mining and oil advanced moderately 0.74 percent to 0.31 percent.

Total volume of trade reached 2.2 billion shares worth P8.28 billion.

The market was healthy with advancing issues dominating the declining ones, 112 to 52, while 50 stocks were unchanged.

Source Code of Comelec PCOS Machine Election

By Janice Cave

Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. announced Wednesday the poll body may use the automated election system for the May 13 polls despite the absence of a source code or human readable instructions.

This, after the Technical Evaluation Committee has given its go signal for Comelec to use the AES.

"TEC certified that the AES can operate properly, securely and accurately be used in the coming May 2013 elections," Brillantes said.

"The TEC recommendation came after SLI certified that the AES is operationally suitable for use and affirmed its conformance with RA9369 [Automated Election Law]," Brillantes added.

SLI Global Solutions, an international certification entity, holds the source code which might not be released to the poll body without the consent of Dominion which has a legal battle with technology provider Smartmatic.

Smartmatic is the supplier of the Precinct Optical Count Scan for the 2013 polls.

With the TEC report, Brillantes said there is no need to worry about the source code.

Meanwhile, Brillantes also lauded the Commission on Audit for issuing new rules that will penalize government officials who will use government projects for propaganda purposes.

In a resolution, COA said officials can no longer put pictures of themselves and their names on government projects.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Global Grounding of Boeing Dreamliners

All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) announced Thursday it would cancel 681 flights in March due to the global grounding of Boeing Dreamliners.

ANA said 461 domestic flights and 220 international flights in March will be canceled, affecting some 25,500 people.

ANA, one of the biggest Dreamliner customers, currently has 55 Dreamliners on order, 13 of which have been delivered.

A Boeing 787 operated by All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport last Wednesday, marking the latest defect exposed after a series of accidents of the Boeing's newest jet.

Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI)’s P200-million passenger terminal building

The new state-of-the -art passenger terminal that will be opened this end-April, will surely boost business development in Tondo to new heights.

Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI)'s P200- million passenger terminal building (PTB) with 1,960 passenger capacity is now more than 80 percent complete.

"In conjunction with the Philippine Ports Authority and 2Go Inc, we're providing this area in Tondo with a facility that is modern and has a touch of class. We're providing a passenger terminal on a grand level," MNHPI chief executive officer Richard Barclay said.

The development in the area is seen to bring stabilization of employment, opportunities for people to improve their business as well as improve their productivity.

"With these investments, there is now an opportunity for vessels to plan with their customers and other shippers. For passengers, they will feel more secure," he said

North Harbor will have a soft opening in mid-March, in time for the Holy week and will be fully operational by end-April.

"It (passenger terminal) would be the number one terminal, in terms of facilities and development in the Philippines, air or sea," he added.

From 2005 to 2010, passenger traffic went down by about 50 percent. Since the consolidation of 2G0 Inc and MNHPI started operating the port, a slight growth in passenger count has been recorded.

The arrival area is spacious and air-conditioned. The comfort rooms will be well maintained. Baggage will be x-rayed to ensure security and safety of passengers. There is a clinic, dining and concessions along the area, where greeters and well-wishers can seat back and enjoy and probably, to say goodbye or welcome people nicely.

He noted that with this new facility, "saying goodbye to a loved-one can be done and that makes passengers to feel a lot better now."

Philippine government’s response to criminality

Malacanang gave an assurance Wednesday the government is responding well to the spate of crimes happening in the metropolis.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, President spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Dept. of the Interior and Local Government is on top of the situation with regard to government's response to criminality.

"The DILG is on top of it. Secretary Manuel Roxas is on top of it. He knows the situation. He gets daily reports on the criminal activities or apprehensions done by the PNP. So I'm certain that Secretary Mar Roxas is talking to PNP chief Alan Purisima with respect to these matters," Lacierda told reporters when asked about the attacks happening in Metro Manila.

He said National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Director Leonardo Espina is following up the SM Megamall robbery.

"There are things being done right now to determine and identify and to apprehend these lawless elements," he said.

Asked if the Palace is alarmed by these criminal activities, Lacierda said: "We are looking at the overall picture. It just so happened that there's a number of highlighted crimes reported. So we're looking at the overall picture of the criminal activity in Metro Manila."

Philippine Investment Summit 2013

Citing the economic growth as phenomenal, world renowned economist Dr. Nouriel Roubini said the country deserves a two-notch upgrade and projected it has the potential to grow 7 percent or more.

"The country's growth should not get lost to the international credit rating agencies," Roubini said during the holding of the Philippine Investment Summit 2013 held at the Makati Shangri –La on Wednesday.

"With the good macroeconomic conditions, expect that more investments portfolio are coming in," Roudini said adding that the stronger growth in several sectors like manufacturing, real estate and the outsourcing industry could further fuel economic growth.

Roudini also cited that the significant increase on the consumer consumption and the growing investment in residential property was an important factor in economic growth along with the improvement in the mining sector.

He, however, called "for more liberalization in foreign investment explaining that it is a greater source of investment, mining (particularly)."

"This is not just about money but also transfer of technology," he explained adding that there should, however, be a careful concern on the environment.

Meanwhile, for more foreign investments to pour in, Roudini said that "the government should ensure the sanctity of contract, ease prohibitions on doing business and eliminate if not eradicate corruption," he stressed.

Bill Amending Anti-Money Laundering Law

As the Senate proceeded to amend the bill amending the Anti-Money Laundering Law, eight senators, including Sen. Manny Villar, whose family is engaged in real estate business, voted Wednesday night to exclude real estate brokers from list of possible money launderers.

With an 8-3 vote, the senators voted in favor of Sen. Ralph Recto's amendment to delete the provision stated in paragraph 5 of Section 1 of the proposed Senate Bill 3123 or an act further strengthening the AMLA or Republic Act No. 9160.

"May I move to delete line 9 or paragraph 5 which states: real estate brokers," Recto moved.

Recto also moved to delete the provision 'buying and selling of real estate' but eventually agreed to a suggestion to just amend it to "buying and selling of real estate worth at least P25 million property."

In response, Villar took the podium and said: "I just would like to state for the record that our family is engaged in the real estate business."

In 2001, the AMLA was enacted into law to protect and preserve the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts and to ensure that the Philippines shall not be used as a money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity.

Due to the global threat of terrorism, the Financial Action Task Force has asked the Philippines to pass amendments to the AMLA to avoid being blacklisted by other countries.

Last year, the Senate has passed two amendment bills to the law that President Benigno Aquino III signed into law.

The first was SB No. 3009 that allows Anti-Money Laundering Council to examine bank accounts and investments based on an ex parte application and allow courts other than the Court of Appeals to issue freeze orders.

On the other hand, SB 3127 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act seeks to allow authorities to freeze terrorist funds and inquire into bank accounts even without a court order.

The SB 3123 aims to expand the list of entities required to report financial transactions to the AMLC to include casinos, dealers, pre-need companies, real estate agents, and trust and company providers, among others.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile proposed to delete casinos, including internet casinos from the coverage but the bill's sponsor Sen. Teofisto Guingona III objected and instead allowed Enrile to amend the provision.

Advantage of the free trade agreements

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has conducted an information drive to entice local exporters and manufacturers to take advantage of the free trade agreements (FTAs) the country has forged with several countries.

DTI Undersecretary for Industry and Trade Policy Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said that through the Department's Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA) outreach program, the DTI conducted a total of 116 DBFTA information sessions attended by 11,169 participants representing 5,833 companies. The total number of DBFTA sessions exceeded by 16 percent the 100-session goal the DTI set for 2012.

Currently, the Philippines has FTAs with the ASEAN, Japan, Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. These agreements give manufacturers of Philippine goods ready access and preferential tariff rates into their markets.

Cristobal said the sessions provided both rural- and urban-based manufacturers and entrepreneurs guidelines and requirements to help them export produce world-standard goods, guide them in finding buyers for their products, and the benefits they can derive from the FTAs.

According to program manager Director Senen Perlada of the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP), the Trade department also conducted 48 focus group discussions (FGDs) with different product sectors including food, home-style, jewelry, cosmetics, motor vehicles, appliances, and chemicals. It also invited the services sector to these FGDs to help the education, tourism, health and wellness, information and communications technology, professional services and logistics industries to prepare for a more open regional market with the coming of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Perlada said among the DTI's other activities promoting the DBFTA program included the 12 information sessions on particular FTAs. A department team also participated in the first Philippine, Australia, New Zealand Business Forum. Individual sessions focused on the Asean FTA, the Asean-China FTA, the Asean-Korea FTA, the Asean-India FTA, and the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement as well as the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

Five information sessions were conducted in partner economies including DBFTA sessions with 17 Japanese importers in Osaka, Japan as part of the Food Outbound Business Mission to that country. In 2013, the DTI is looking at organizing a separate DBFTA session with Japanese customs brokers since they facilitate the shipment of Japanese traders.

Because the academic community plays a strategic role in furthering the goals of the DTI's DBFTA program, the DTI conducted 12 information sessions with academic institutions located in different areas of the country and signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with nine of them to expand the department's capacity for future FTA advocacy campaign.

The nine academic institutions are the Mountain Province State University, the Columban College in Zambales, Ateneo de Davao, Xavier University and Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City, La Salle University in Ozamiz, Mindanao State University in General Santos, Silliman University, and the University of the Philippines in the Visayas.

Qualified dependents on tax deduction

The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to lift the limit on the number of qualified dependents that a taxpayer may claim on tax deduction.

Authored and sponsored by Sen Ralph Recto, the Senate Bill 2855, or the Family Care Act of 2013, seeks to amend Section 35, paragraph B of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, which limits the number of dependents to only four at P25,000 per person.

While the cap on the number of dependents was established in 1973 to promote family planning, Recto said the tax code discriminates against large families.

He cited a study by the Commission on Population which showed that "only women in the lowest and second lowest wealth quartile have four or more children", adding these groups are not even income tax payers.

"The committee's rational for removing the limitation on the number of qualified dependents for the tax purpose is that we believe, and we find support from economists, that setting a limitation on the number of dependents has no bearing on the decision of couples to beget children," Recto said.

The bill proposes to include as dependents legitimated children who are "born outside of wedlock of parents and, under certain conditions, may be legitimated."

At the same time, the measure proposes to expand the coverage of qualified dependents to include parents or both parents who are dependent on the taxpayer for support and are living with him or her.

The coverage, Recto explained, also includes a parent or parents, regardless of income, who are incapable of self-support because of mental or physical disability.

"We also propose to allow a taxpayer who acts as legal guardian of a person with mental or physical handicap, regardless of age and incapable of self-support, to claim the additional exemption for the said dependents," Recto said.

Transaxial Highway in Cebu

A P4-B transaxial highway that will unite the entire province of Cebu will be constructed by next year under a five-year plan program.

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez disclosed that the transaxial highway also dubbed as the 'unity highway' aims to connect the municipality of Santander in the South to the town of Daan Bantayan in the North.

The unity highway will be a major project of the Provincial Government that is expected to fast track the economic growth of Cebu and reverse migration from urban to rural.

Sanchez said it is costly for the province to maintain the entire 600-km. coastal road with the problem of road right-of-way while any plan for road expansion is not feasible as the existing roads are narrow and already congested due to increasing population.

The vice-governor bared the highway will merely connect the existing roads citing the present roads from Santander to Argao in the south, Balamban (northwest) to Pinamungahan (southwest) and Tuburan to Compostela in the northern part. The construction of the transaxial highway will not be that costly as an alignment will just be done to connect these existing roads and come up with the unity highway, Sanchez said.

The transaxial highway will be a four-lane major thoroughfare that is also considered as a speed highway with no intersection and will save a lot of travel time, Sanchez added.

Construction of the major highway is likewise a holistic approach to entice the people to go back to the countryside as rural development is boosted, Sanchez further added.

Building good roads will be a major come-on for the industries to invest in the province especially in the countrysides while there are two Malaysian companies that have already expressed interest in constructing the transaxial highway, according to Sanchez.

Libel Law in Philippines

Anti-Cybercrime Law advocates Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional all five libel provisions under the Revised Penal Code.

In a 52-page amended petition filed by a group of journalists together with lawyers Harry Roque, Romel Bagares and Gilbert Andres, they asked the SC to nullify Articles 353, 354, 355, 361 and 362 of the RPC.

Article 353 defines libel while Articles 354 and 355 enumerate the requirements for publicity and other ways to commit libel aside from writing.

Articles 361 and 362 are about the proof of truth for someone accused of libel and making libelous remarks.

The petitioners told the SC the five libel provisions should be nullified when it rules on the legality of online libel under Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

They said the United Nations Human Rights Committee involving libel case against their co-petitioner Alexander Adonis held that criminal libel in the RPC is incompatible with freedom of expression.

"Articles 353, 354, 355, 361 and 362 of the Revised Penal Code are unconstitutional as these stifle freedom of expression and any prosecution for libel under the Revised Penal Code or under RA 10175 which incorporates the said articles by reference or by implication is a continuing violation of Philippine State obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as the United Nations Human Rights Committee has so held in its view on Adonis v. Republic of the Philippines where the Committee stated that criminal libel in the Revised Penal Code is incompatible with freedom of expression," the petitioners said.

"Further, the UNHRC view expressed that the Philippines is 'also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations occurring in the future," they added.

The petitioners filed the amended petition after the issue on the legality of ordinary libel came out during the SC's oral arguments last Jan. 15.

They argued the SC already issued several rulings that declared libel as unconstitutional.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio himself said the RPC provision must now be unconstitutional and contradicts the SC's free speech rules.

Carpio said when the framers adopted libel in the 1935 Constitution, "they do not have in mind freedom of expression."

However, the SC in recent rulings adopted the US case New York Times v. Sullivan "and basically, for public officers, there must be actual malice. Second, that truth is a defense for public officers and you can always have fair comment on acts of public officers."

Carpio said Article 354 of the RPC said malice is presumed and punishable even if the libelous statement is true.

"We have several cases adopting Sullivan. Even if it is malicious but true, then we reverse conviction," he said.

The petitioners said the five provisions of the RPC while only require "malice" for libel conviction, there are stringent requirements for libel defense.

Donut Gang in Manila

Alert security guards detailed at Robinsons Magnolia in Aurora Boulevard, Quezon City have repelled the assault of suspected "Donut Gang" members Wednesday afternoon.

Reports said the suspects were stealing away vehicle tires at the parking lot of the mall when duty guards spotted them.

At this point, the robbers fired at the security guards, prompting the latter to retaliate.

The suspects hurriedly boarded a green-colored Mitsubishi Adventure (XMX-544) and quickly escaped.

The vehicle was eventually recovered at N. Domingo and Valencia streets in Quezon City.

Revised Typhoon Bopha/Pablo Response Action Plan for Recovery

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and its partners from the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the United Nations launched their appeal on Tuesday in Davao City for additional US million from donors to help communities devastated by typhoon "Pablo."

The group's launching of their appeal here was the second as they first launched it in Manila last January 25 hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

OCHA communications officer Eva Modrig, in an interview after the launch, said the additional funding would be used to implement 46 projects in 12 humanitarian sectors in "Pablo" devastated areas in Southern Mindanao specifically Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces badly hit by the typhoon.

"This forms part of the Revised Typhoon Bopha/Pablo Response Action Plan for Recovery," she said.

Modrig said there was a need to raise the funds that would be used in the next six months due to enormous destruction of typhoon "Pablo" to affected communities and thousands of affected families in terms of permanent shelters, food security, agriculture, access to water, sanitation and hygiene services and recovery and re-establishment of livelihoods for affected communities.

The revised action plan actually needs an additional funding of US million. However, the group already raised 36 percent of the amount.

Thus, the group now is appealing for the US million funding gap, Modrig said.

Groups who donated to raise the 36 percent of the US-million additional funding came from UN agencies at 30 percent and non-governmental organizations at 70 percent. While separate donors came from other nations like United States (US), Australia, Japan, European Union (EU), Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland.

Aman Scam Mastermind Has Liver Cancer

The founder of Aman Futures, Manuel Amalilio, has been sentenced to two years in prison in Malaysia, according to Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya.

A report from Malaysia's The Star on Tuesday also said Amalilio, who is known in Malaysia as Mohammad Kamal Sa'ad, pleaded guilty to charges of holding a fake Philippine passport.
Prosecuting officer Insp. Azwal Azman said Amalilio was found to be in possession of the Philippine passport as he was about to leave the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) on January 25.

Investigation by Malaysian police showed that Amalilio had fraudulently obtained the passport.

A MyKad identity card with his name was also found in his possession.
The violation provides a fine of up to RM10, 000 or jail terms of up to five years or both.

The report said Amalilio was charged at a hospital in Malaysia, where he is being treated for a liver ailment.

The Medical City in Clark

The Medical City-Clark (TMC-Clark) has started the construction of its US$ 1.5-billion hospital care complex inside this Freeport.

During the cornerstone-laying ceremony here on Tuesday, TMC president and CEO Dr. Alfredo R.A. Bengzon said TMC-Clark is the first component of a larger health care complex at the Global Gateways Logistics City (GGLC), a 177-hectare master-planned logistics and business center which will house new infrastructures amounting to over US$ 1.5 billion.

Bengzon said the construction of the 150-bed world class tertiary hospital complex is scheduled to be completed by August 2014.

"TMC-Clark will have a full complement of top quality diagnostic and treatment services, drawing from the strengths of institutional centers of excellence. It will also be the official medical facility and trauma/burn center of Clark International Airport," he said.

Bengzon also said that since the hospital is situated next to an international airport, TMC-Clark seeks to serve the global market. The hospital supports TMC's strategy to expand its presence by developing a national network.

He also said that TMC network is currently composed of two other hospitals and 20 outpatient clinics located across Metro Manila and selected provinces.

"Now I am filled with pride because finally The Medical City in Clark affirms and advances leadership position to build up the largest operating network," he said.

With the addition of the Clark site to TMC's growing network of health facilities, he said TMC strengthens its serious bid for prominence in national and international healthcare.