Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tubbataha Reef, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Authorities target preventing more damage to Tubbataha Reef, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, where American navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground last week.

"We're focusing on that ship's removal from the area to avoid further damage there," said Sec. Ramon Paje from Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources which is part of the multi-agency group looking into the incident.

He also said the group is discussing removal of oil from the ship.

"Among our concerns is how to extract that oil as soon as possible to prevent it from leaking into the sea," he said.

Tubbataha Reef lies in marine biodiversity-rich Coral Triangle.

"It's part of the area experts identified as center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world," Paje said.

World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines already expressed concern about "immense hazards" which this organization said the stranded USS Guardian is posing to Tubbataha's underwater ecosystem.

WWF reported the vessel's holds "have taken in water" and "hundreds of meters of once-pristine reef have already been flattened."

Republic Act 10067 established 97,030-hectare Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park as a protected area.

PAs are identified portions of land and water set aside by reason of respective unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation, RA 10067 noted.

Under RA 10067, Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board is in charge of TRNP's management and administration.

RA 10067 penalizes acts like unauthorized entry in TRNP, non-payment of conservation fees, obstruction to law enforcement officers and destruction of resources there.

"Damages to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to payment of administrative fines set by TPAMB based on current valuation standards and to payment of the cost of restoration," RA 10067 also notes.

RA 10067's Sec. 31 on common penal provisions states that in case the vessel used in violation of this law is foreign-owned, the fine shall be thrice the maximum amount imposed for the offense committed.

Philippine Air Lines flight

President Benigno S. Aquino III left for Switzerland on board a chartered Philippine Air Lines flight Wednesday night to join world business leaders in the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.

The President was joined by a 63-member delegation led by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, National Economic and Development Authority head Arsenio Balisacan, and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.

They boarded their flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 a little past 11 p.m.

In his departure speech, the President said his attendance to the WEF will provide an opportunity to showcase before international business leaders the accomplishments of his administration in implementing widespread and meaningful reforms in governance.

"Isang pagkakataon ito upang mailatag natin sa harap ng mga pinuno sa Europa at iba pang bansa ang malawakan at makabuluhang reporma na lumalaganap sa ating bayan," the President said.

"Bibigyang-mukha natin ang magagandang balitang nasasagap nila mula sa mga banyagang telebisyon at pahayagan, at ipapaliwanag kung paano natin napapa-arangkada ang ekonomiya bunsod ng tuwid na pamamahala," he added.

He said he would particularly highlight the gains achieved by the Philippine economy that was able to post a 7.1 percent growth rate during the third quarter of 2012, the second highest in the region, the strengthening of the peso, the lowering of interest rates, and the surging Philippine Stock Exchange index.

He said because of the improved conditions in the country, he would exhaust every moment to invite potential investors to put up their businesses in the Philippines and take advantage of the industry and brilliance of the Filipino.

"Napapanahon nga po ang pagtungo natin sa Switzerland. Sa nararanasan pong paghina ng ekonomiya sa ilang bahagi ng Europa, sasamantalahin natin ang bawat sandali upang hikayatin silang mamuhunan sa Pilipinas, at tumaya sa angking sipag, husay at pagkamalikhain ng Pilipino. Gayundin, buong-sigasig nating ipapakilala ang ating bansa bilang napakaganda at kaaya-ayang lugar, na talaga namang babalik-balikan ng mga turista," the President said.

Holiday Inn Resort Independent Union Scandal

The threat by the 151-strong Holiday Inn Resort Independent Union to paralyze the operations of Holiday Inn Clark Philippines has been averted following successful efforts by the Regional Conciliation-Mediation Branch No. 3 to resolve a brewing dispute between the union and the hotel management, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz bared yesterday.

"The dispute, which arose out of a deadlock in negotiations over wage increases, was amicably settled through conciliation-mediation on 17 January 2013. The parties agreed to a monthly wage increase of P800 for employees who have been with the company for 10 years and above, P700 for employees with 6 to 9 years of service, P600 for employees with 3-5 years of service, and P500 for employees with 1 to 2 years of service," Baldoz disclosed.

"In addition, the company also agreed to grant the lump sum amount of P3,500 to employees with 10 or more years of service, and P2,000 to employees who have been with the company for less than 10 years," she added.

The settlement package, worth over P2 million, will benefit some 147 covered workers.

"What was significant with the settlement agreement was the willingness of the parties to establish a labor-management council, underscoring their recognition of workplace peace and harmony as a requisite to productivity, competitiveness, and continued business viability," Baldoz further said.

A report of the Regional Conciliation Mediation Branch No. 3 said the parties will meet in February 2013 with RCMB 3 representatives to prepare for the setting up of their LMC.

The Holiday Inn Resort Independent Union filed a notice of strike shortly before Christmas, or on 20 December 2012, after the parties failed to agree on the amount of the monthly wage increase for the third year of their CBA. The strike became imminent after conciliation meetings on 26 December 2012 and 4 January 2013 failed. On the third conciliation meeting on 11 January, the union submitted the results of its strike balloting, which showed majority supports to declare a strike.

Aware of the fast-approaching last day of the cooling off period, Conciliator-Mediator Teresita Cancio, officer-on-case, called another meeting on 14 January, during which the parties agreed on the amount of monthly wage increases, but not on the lump sum amount.

Ms. Cancio scheduled another meeting on 17 January, where the parties finally signed a compromise agreement to settle the dispute. v"The settlement of the dispute not only averted a possible strike; it also assured continued stability and harmony in the company and preserved the jobs of the union members," said Baldoz.

Mother of Philippine Sports

Tita Cory remembered as mother of Philippine sports
By Eddie G. Alinea
MANILA, Jan. 24 (PNA) -- Today marks the 80th birth anniversary of the late former President Corazon C. Aquino, or "Tita Cory" to the admiring nation, who happens to be the most-loved Chief Executive among Filipino athletes and sports leaders being acknowledged as the "Mother of Philippine Sports."

In 1990, President Cory signed Republic Act 6847, otherwise known as the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Law, and presided over what is now known as the "Manila Miracle of '91," or the successful Philippines campaign in the 16th Southeast Asian Games which she officially opened at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

Indeed, besides restoring democracy, athletes and sportsmen owe it to her that the respect the Filipinos once enjoyed in the international sporting scene, has been relived both in terms of the performance of the Filipino campaigners as well as in organizing and hosting the event.

Like the creation of the PSC, the "Manila Miracle of '91," came as President Cory's greatest legacy in the field of sports.

For a little over six months after she signed the landmark RA 6847 into law on July 24, 1990, the gritty Filipino athletes stood tall against their finest rivals representing the powerhouse contingents in the region, from being considered as favorite whipping boys only two years before.

For in that memorable year, known also as the "Golden Year," the Filipino athletes, led by swimmer Eric Buhain and sprinter Lydia de Vega-Mercado, came up with one of their stirring performances that left the Philippines only a gold medal shy from toppling perennial overall champion Indonesia.

The local campaigners ended up harvesting a total 91 gold medals, to the then defending overall champions Indonesians' 92.

Although years after that historic moment, unofficial reports had it that the SEA federation stripped one Indonesian weightlifter of the gold medal she won that could have made the 1991 hosts as co-champion.

The local contingent's feat was a big jump from the 26-gold haul their predecessors brought home in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur where the Philippines dropped to a dismal fifth overall.

That "Manila Miracle of 91" finish came sweeter for it, once again, showed the Filipinos' capability to rise from one adversity to another to win and to honor a commitment.

And Tita Cory, the plain and simple housewife to take the helm of government following the peaceful EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, was at the forefront of all these.

It was a display of national courage from no less than the President, who insisted on the hosting the event despite an economic downtrend brought about by several natural and man-made calamities that struck the whole nation the past two years before the scheduled conclave among the best of the 10-nation federation.

A killer quake hit most part of Luzon on July 1990 and Mt. Pinatubo erupted in June of 1991 before flash floods in Leyte killed thousands two months before the Games were to commence.

It looked like the Games were doomed. Things appeared bleak, indeed. Pushing through with it was a big uncertainty as the Manila SEA Games Organizing Committee (MANSOC) was operating like headless chicken flapping around.

The drained and so-called "President's Men" called for the cancellation of the Games and channel its funds for relief and rehabilitation but the President stood pat and declared the Games must go on.

Infrastructure requirements, unfinished two weeks before the Games' inaugurals, were completed. Equipment came on the eve of competitions.

As in the first time the country hosted the biennial competition among the region's finest athletes in 1981, the Filipinos met the deadline in scrambling fashion, dressed up the premier City of Manila, and flashed the world renowned smile and hospitality to meet their guests.

And to complete the "miracle," the Filipino athletes who hardly enjoyed their home ground advantage due to late completion of venues and lack of equipment, responded to the call. Egged on by their countrymen, they put on their strongest show ever since joining the SEA Games rank in 1977.

Yes, the Filipino was everywhere, striking gold medals on all fronts, winning in their favored events and beating their rivals in sports they were not supposed to be strong contenders.