Thursday, January 10, 2013

Economy of Nueva Ecija Booming

Backed up with both government and private initiatives in 2012, the local economy in the province will continue to flourish, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial office said.

DTI Director Brigida Pili said the strong performance of the local economy in 2012 will remain and is seen to go on this year mainly due to government's effective fiscal management policies which created a stronger than expected investors' interest.

"The local economy in 2012 has shown resiliency and strength amid the challenges brought by weather disturbances," Pili said.

The DTI said the local enterprises generated more than USD300,000 revenues which was 150 percent higher than the USD200,000 target set by the agency for 2012.

Pili said the 2012 economic sales came from virtual market matching which amounted to USD.283 million and participation to international trade fair that totaled USD.0176 million.

Nueva Ecija's SMEs, she said, has generated total investment of P2,277,987,800 as against its goal of P2,258,000,000 in 2012.

The figure came from business name registration of P1,014,552,800; financing facilitation, P8,100,000; investment facilitation, P1,200,000,000 and assistance to SMEs, P55,355.

The domestic sales posted P106,033,950 which was higher than the P106,000,000 target for 2012, she added.

Likewise, the year 2013 is expected to be a more fruitful year in terms of agriculture and tourism.

Penaranda mayor Ferdinand Abesamis said the opening of San Josef Irrigation System in the middle of 2012 has provided unprecedented irrigation benefits to at least 105 hectares of agricultural land which was expected to dramatically improve production.

"The P10-million new irrigation system enhanced the farmer's productivity and we expect our agriculture industry to improve this year," Abesamis said.

Aside from agriculture, other sector that seen to boost the local economy is the tourism.

Abesamis noted the town's Abudang Festival (Feast of Sto. Niño) that was launched in January last year attracted many tourists.

Shabu Smuggler Arrested in NAIA Manila Airport

An incoming Filipino passenger was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Centennial Terminal for carrying nearly a dozen kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu worth what officials said was P35 million.

The airline passenger, identified as Roendo Bastatas Ariata, was intercepted on his arrival at 8:12 p.m. Tuesday on board Philippine Airlines Flight PR 307 from Hongkong.

Customs officer Kristian Cordis noticed the 38-year-old native of Monkayo, Davao was sweating when the passenger approached the customs desk, prompting the NAIA officer to ask Ariata to open his luggage.

"The passenger didn't respond to the request. So I brought the bag to the desk and I noticed that the bag was heavy for its size," Cordis said.

When he opened the bag, Cordis found seven boxes of formulated milk and also noticed a "crunchy sound."

Cordis then brought Ariata to the Bureau of Customs office at the NAIA for further questioning and inspection of his luggage.

Upon inspection, the customs personnel discovered that each of the seven boxes contained 1.053 kilograms of shabu or a total of 11.220 kg worth P35 million, officials said.

An initial investigation showed the suspected drug courier traveled frequently between Hongkong and Macau.

Money Behind Shooting in Atimonan, Quezon?

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas Wednesday announced the relief of all members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who were involved in the deadly shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon last Sunday that led to the death of 13 men, including three PNP men and two Air Force soldiers.

The relief order came after the initial results of a PNP fact-finding mission showed that the policemen who were involved in the setting up of a checkpoint where the alleged encounter took place violated operational procedures.

"The role of the PNP in this matter is purely as a fact-finding body and to determine the administrative liabilities of those who were involved," Roxas said. "The criminal investigation will be handled by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and we will give them our full support."

Among those ordered relieved were Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, Quezon provincial police director; Chief Inspector Grant Gollod, chief of police of Atimonan town, and an intelligence unit of about 15 men under Supt. Hansel Marantan, who was wounded in the incident.

The fact-finding investigation is led by Chief Supt. Federico Castro, deputy chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The relieved officers have been recalled to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame where they will be held in restricted custody, while the non-commissioned officers will be restricted within Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna.

During a press conference in Camp Crame Wednesday afternoon, Roxas said the fact-finding group established that out of the 13 men who were killed in the incident, eight were positive for gunpowder burns but said these are not conclusive that they indeed fired guns during the Sunday incident.

The DILG secretary also said that of the 14 guns recovered from the cars of the slain men, 13 were licensed, but only seven are covered by permits to carry.

"Hindi biro ang insidenteng ito. Mayroon kang 13 kalalakihan na puro armado. Hindi naman siguro sila manonood lang ng sine," Roxas said. "Aalamin natin ang buong katotohanan dito at tinitiyak kong hindi magkakaroon ng whitewash at takipan."

For his part, PNP Director General Alan Purisima said the policemen involved in the incident, particularly those who set up the checkpoint, violated basic procedures such as the failure to put distinct signs in the main checkpoint and the lack of a marked police vehicle in the vicinity.

According to Purisima, only one uniformed policeman, the chief of police of Atimonan, was manning the checkpoint, while the rest, including the intelligence team under Marantan, were all in civilian clothes in violation of checkpoint guidelines.

Roxas also disclosed that the first SUV where five of the slain men were riding sustained no less than 186 bullet holes, while the second SUV had around 50 bullet holes.

However, Roxas declined to speculate on the motives or the cause of the alleged firefight, saying that it will be up to the NBI to decide who were at fault and who would be criminally charged, if warranted.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is also conducting a separate investigation amid claims that the encounter was a rubout.

New Philippine Government Officials

President Benigno S. Aquino III administered the oath of office of newly appointed Philippine ambassadors and other government officials in ceremonies at Malacanang Palace on Wednesday.

Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Kenya Lamberto V. Monsanto and Philippine Permanent Representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ambassador Elizabeth P. Buensuceso took their oath of office at the Malacanang's Heroes Hall.

Ambassador Celia Anna M. Feria was also sworn in as Chief of the Presidential Protocol which is under the Office of the President.

Other officials who also took their oath of office were Ramon Allan V. Oca as Undersecretary of the Department of Energy, Jose I. Lorena as Undersecretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Maria Edita Z. Tan as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Finance, Luis A. Mamitag Jr. as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Javier R. Jimenez as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Rommel R. Abesamis as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Rolando T. Canizal as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Tourism and Amador S. Pabustan as Assistant Secretary of the Dangerous Drugs Board.

The President also swore in Antonieta F. Ibe as Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Erlina T. Agus as Commissioner of the 2nd Division, National Labor Relations Commission of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Jose G. Gutierrez as Commissioner of the 7th Division of the National Labor Relations Commission of the DOLE, Jose Ramon G. Albert as Executive Director V of the National Statistical Coordination Board, Robert D. Villanueva as Deputy Administrator of the Office for Transportation Security, Department of Transportation and Communications, Henry R. T. Abella and Katrina Manahan as Directors IV; Atty. Nancy D. Quimpo, Immanuel Cedrik L. Forbes and Rafael Victor L. Ignacio as Directors III, all of the Presidential Management Staff. 

Philippine Stock Market Most Profitable in Asia

The benchmark stock market index climbed to a new record high on Wednesday, surging by 42.28 points to finish at 6,091.18 from previous day's 6,048.90.

Analysts believe that the market has further room to rally fueled by strong local demand and rosier economic outlook.

"Too much liquidity and economic prospects are driving the buying spree of investors," said Justino Calaycay Jr., equities trader at Accord Capital Equities Corp.

Jonathan Ravales, chief strategist at BDO Securities, said the record-low interest rates on treasury bills allow listed companies to expand their businesses.

"This encourages people to invest in the stock market," he said in an interview.

Ravales said foreign funds also continue to flow in the market.

In Wednesday's trading, the broader all-shares index increased by 0.57 percent or 21.64 points to 3,835.29.

Indexes of all sectors index were up, led by mining and oil that rose by 291.97 points to 20,904.72 followed by the property sector that increased by 21.39 points to 2,387.49.

Financial index was also up by 12.23 points to 1,588.76; the industrial sector by 67.62 points to 9,216.22; and the holding firms by 31.25 points to 5,439.96.

The volume of trade during the day reached 2.28 billion shares worth P8.54 billion. Advancers led gainers at 109 to 73, while 32 remained unchanged.

The day's most active were Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, BDO Unibank Inc., Ayala Corporation and Megaworld Corporation.

Top gainers were Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp., Federal Resources Investment Group, Inc., Mabuhay Holdings Corp., Unioil Resources and Holdings Company, Inc. and Bogo Medellin Milling Company, Inc.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Investigates Quezon Shootout

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to ferret out the truth behind the January 6 shootout between government forces and alleged criminals at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon province.

The Chief Executive said he wants the NBI to conduct a full and exhaustive investigation of said incident that claimed the lives of 13 persons.

"Siyempre, unang-unang reaction, labing-tatlong namatay, medyo maraming namatay, tapos may presumption of regularity, initially; may nasugatan on the side of the people who are manning the checkpoint. On the surface, parang may proof na may encounter," the President said in an interview after administering the oath of office to new Philippine ambassadors and government officials in Malacanang Palace on Wednesday.

The President said he is interested in the details of the case amid allegations of a police rubout.

"However, I asked for a lot of the details at doon sa details medyo napag-isip na ako doon sa salaysay na ibinigay, at brining-up (bring up) ko ito kay Director General Alan Purisima and kay Secretary (Mar) Roxas also to look into what seemingly was not normative or normal behavior," the President said.

He stressed that he opted to first wait for the official results of the NBI probe rather than discuss the details of the development of the investigation.

"Sorry, I'm a bit hesitant to talk about the details---there is an ongoing investigation. I don't want to prejudge and perhaps, give the impression that I'm leading the investigators to a certain conclusion," President Aquino stressed.

"Pero, I think, suffice to say, yesterday, in two of the broadsheets, nakita natin 'yung pictures; the pictures themselves speak a lot. 'Yung talagang literally---what is the phrase? 'A picture says a thousand words.' So may I invite you to look at yesterday's pictures on the front page and the inside pages, medyo 'yung idea nung checkpoint and the signages, etcetera, inconsistent between the photographs on the front page and inside (pages)," the President noted.

The President said he wanted the NBI to dig deeper into the new information presented by witnesses.

"Subsequently, may mga iba pang impormasyon na dumating na parang inconsistent with the purported story. Gusto nating malaman ang katotohanan at maparusahan kung sino man ang mga may sala," he said.

Idolatry in Black Nazarene Not Biblical

Hundreds of thousands of devotees of Manila's Black Nazarene breezed through the capital under cloudy skies in an impressive display of faith and religious commitment to a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ many believe has astounding powers.

The procession Wednesday, which started off at the Quirino Grandstand after sunrise and wound up at the minor basilica of the Black Nazarene before nightfall, took on a festive mood.

Vendors enjoyed brisk sales while barefoot men and women crowded the 3-km procession route.

Thousands, clad in dark maroon, watched the statue and jostled for position in hopes they would be able to touch the life-size, black icon as it was carried on a carriage through the historic area of the capital, with 3,000 police in strategic areas to maintain security and order.

Many of the buses and jeepneys, which ply the route taken Wednesday by the participants, had hit other streets to ferry their passengers to their respective destinations in the capital or the outlying areas.

Many of the streets which were temporarily closed for the occasion were reopened by mid-afternoon.

Many of the establishments along the procession route closed shop for the day.

Police said half a million people joined the parade as it began at the Luneta and concluded in Quiapo church where, earlier in the day, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle celebrated a Mass.

During the procession, people – men and women, including senior citizens, joined the frenzied rush to try to touch the icon which forced the carriage to appear like it was being tossed in a sea of humanity, many of them without shoes or slippers as a sign of penance.

The life-size wooden statue was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, and its dark color is believed to have been caused by it being slightly burnt in a fire aboard the Spanish galleon on which it was being transported.

While the Catholic Church celebrates the demonstration of faith and devotion, not all Filipino Catholics, who make up more than 88 per cent of the country's 98 million population, display what some call the fanaticism of some devotees heard shouting every now and then "Viva El Señor" as they tried to get the lifetime chance to touch the statue or the rope attached to it.

The day-long procession is the highlight of the feast of the Black Nazarene, which followed an overnight vigil and Mass at the Quirino Grandstand.

Police had warned devotees against flashing their gadgets like mobile phones as well as jewelry and other valuables.

There were reports of victims of pickpocketing inside the Quiapo church, but otherwise the procession was, according to police, generally peaceful.

Some fainted among the thick walls of participants and were immediately attended to by paramedics.

Meanwhile, the number of individuals injured in the procession reached 260, the Manila Police Department-Tactical Operation Center reported.

These persons were treated by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Philippine National Red Cross medical teams which followed closely the participants.

Vendors had a festive zone along the procession route, which cut through the heart of Manila, passed by the old Congress edifice, Manila's City Hall, and the old Metropolitan Theater by a provincial bus terminal and the Manila Central Post Office through the Quezon Bridge before the image re-entered the basilica.

Majority of the devotees sustained bruises and cuts sustained when they were shuffling for positions during the procession.

Police also reported the arrest at Plaza Miranda of two pickpockets, including a woman, who masqueraded as devotees.

Supt. Ricardo Layug of the Quiapo Police Station said the procession was generally peaceful when compared to that of last year when petty crimes were perpetrated.

He earlier appealed to devotees to leave their children home and discouraged drunken devotees to stay away from the procession route.

The Black Nazarene image during the procession is just a replica of the original which is being kept by the authorities.

Meanwhile, the Metro Manila Development Authority said it has collected 20 truckloads of garbage since Tuesday night.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said 120 tons of garbage – mostly plastic bottles -- had been collected at the Quirino Grandstand.

The MMDA deployed 1,250 personnel including rescue personnel, traffic enforcers and street sweepers along the route.

Tolentino said 200 rescue personnel were also on standby at McArthur Bridge in Sta. Cruz.

"Ang rescue plan is: nandito yung MMDA rescue team namin with rescue boats. Nariyan din ang Coast guard, ilang rubber boat ng Philippine Navy at dalawang pump boat na malalaki.

Gun-owner Philippine President Hesitates Total Gun Ban

President Benigno S. Aquino III said he doesn't favor imposing a total gun ban in the country.

He suggested instead the government must go after criminals and private armed groups to prevent gun violence in the country.

In an interview Wednesday in Malacanang, the President said a total gun ban sounds nice but it won't reduce gun-related violence because outlaws will not surrender their weapons and will only make law abiding citizens defenseless.

"It sounds nice, total gun ban, but the total does not happen because the outlaw will not surrender guns. So we will not stop in our pursuit of these people who are outside of the law and get them before the bars of justice," the President said, referring to criminals and private armed groups.

The government, through the security forces, is dedicated to go after private armed groups in the country, the President said.

He noted that the government made notable successes in driving private armed groups away from areas where they operate and that does not mean that it is stopping, adding that the police and the military will be more active in preparations for the upcoming midterm elections this summer.

The President said he was alarmed by the proliferation of these armed groups, prompting him to instruct the Philippine National Police, the Dept. of Justice, and the National Bureau of Investigation to coordinate efforts in dismantling these groups.

According to the President, the Constitution prohibits the creation of private armed groups.

Among his concerns include the rising number of local officials or former local government officials or people being attacked, killed or injured especially as the country gears towards this year's election.

The President said that so far the authorities have arrested 64 individuals, killed nine, and detained 50 persons.

The police also cited a total of 123 members of private armed groups. A total of 249 firearms were also recovered, he stressed.

He said that there was an ongoing campaign to make this year's election orderly and peaceful.

While the police and the military crack down on private armed groups, the President said the government will remain committed to fighting graft and corruption that also threatens peace and security.

"Talagang seryoso tayo doon sa ating anti-corruption efforts so baka 'yung iba nag-iisip kung wala silang perang pambili at pang-corrupt ng mga kung sinuman ay baka daanin sa dahas," he said.

"So gusto natin itong unintended consequences of the anti-corruption effort not to happen. So tuloy-tuloy 'yung kampanya and this is nationwide."

Ban All Private Guns in the Philippines

Calling the proposal for a total gun ban a "knee jerk reaction", President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said he would prefer a new law increasing the penalties against gun violators.

"Magandang headline -- total gun ban, pero may knee-jerk reaction eh. Hindi ko ugaling mambola. Maghanap tayo ng paraan na talagang maso-solve 'yung isyu at hindi nagpapa-cute lang," the President said in an interview with Palace reporters at the sidelines of the oath taking ceremony of newly appointed officials.

"Sang-ayon tayo (kung) may mga mungkahi na taasan ang mga penalty, okay 'yon," he noted.

By definition, Aquino said, "lahat itong gumagawa ng krimen -- outlaw. So a law that seeks to reform the outlaws will not work, so you need 'yung law that will sanction them further and to prove as the deterrence."

"So I think a lot of us will agree with the basic premise na 'yung outlaw will be one of the first or the first groups that will say, 'thank you na madidisarmahan 'yung law abiding citizen dahil mas madali na silang mabiktima,'" he noted.

The President, a known gun enthusiast, also took exception to calls for him to refrain from practicing target shooting to prove his seriousness in addressing the problem of loose firearms in the country.

"I think I lead by example by conforming to the law. You will acknowledge that I was a victim of a violence in this aspect in 1987 and both by Church and the law recognizes my right to self defense. Self defense is a skill and it's a skill that has to be practiced to have any value," he stressed.

Instead of imposing total gun ban, President Aquino said laws penalizing gun owners who violate the privilege should be strictly enforced and dismantling of private armed groups should be pursued vigorously.

"Total gun ban, it sounds nice, but the total does not happen because the outlaw will not. So we will not stop in our pursuit to (apprehend) these people who are outside of the law and get them before the bars of justice," he said.