Friday, March 15, 2013

Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000

Several agencies aim formally joining forces soon to better monitor compliance of election candidates, political parties and party lists with Republic Acts 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) and 3571 which prohibits cutting, destroying or injuring plants along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises and other public areas nationwide.

The environment and interior departments, Commission on Elections, National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and other agencies decided pursuing the matter through the 'Basura-Free Elections 2013' campaign to help make this year's mid-term polls environment-friendly.

"Volume of garbage increases during the election period due to proliferation of campaign paraphernalia so this and indiscriminate posting of candidates' posters on trees must be addressed," said NSWMC Secretariat Deputy Exec. Dir. Eligio Ildefonso.

This week, the agencies commenced finalizing the joint memorandum circular for 'Basura-Free Elections 2013.'

Such agencies plan signing the circular at the campaign's launching in Metro Manila.

Ildefonso said the target launching date is March 20 before local campaigning starts.

The draft circular as of March 8 lists election candidates' and political parties' responsibilities in mounting respective environment-friendly poll bids.

Among such responsibilities are adherence to litter-free campaigning, minimal use of non-reusable and disposable materials as well as observance of proper waste segregation, reuse, recycling, reduction and disposal.

Poll hopefuls must also clean up areas where they held election-related activities, coordinate with local waste collectors for proper disposal of garbage generated and adhere to RA 3571, notes the draft circular.

The draft document further provides that "any local official, political party or candidate to the May 2013 elections who willfully or through negligence fails to observe provisions of this Joint Memorandum Circular shall be subject to sanctions provided under the Local Government Code, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and other applicable laws."

Jimmy Alapag and Jared Dillinger Tax Scandal

The Bureau of Internal Revenue(BIR) Thursday filed before the Department of Justice tax evasion cases amounting to at least P31.23 million against popular basketball players Jim Olmedo Alapag and Jared Ryan Dillinger and a bookkeeper from Malolos City, Bulacan.

Alapag and Dillinger both play professionally for Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters of Smart Communications.

Investigation showed that Alapag earned close to P4 million from PLDT in 2007.

His earnings from Smart amounted to P8.77 million in 2012 and the BIR placed his total income as a professional basketball player at P32.28 million.

According to the BIR, Alapag failed to file his income tax returns for taxable years 2007 to 2010 and he also failed to file his value added tax returns from 2007 to 2012.

The BIR computed Alapag's tax deficiency at P17.86 million for the same taxable period, inclusive of surcharges and interests.

On the other hand, Dillinger earned P694,000 from PLDT in 2008.

His earnings from Smart amounted to P6.48 million in 2012 and the BIR's investigation showed his income as a basketball player has totalled P22.19 million.

Dillinger did not file his ITRs from 2008 to 2011 and he also did not file his percentage tax return for 2008.

The BIR said he also failed to file his VAT returns from 2009 to 2012.

It computed Dillinger's tax deficiency at P13.37 million, inclusive of surcharges and interests.

The BIR also filed tax evasion cases against Annalyn D. Forbes, a bookkeeper based in Malolos City, for unlawful pursuit of business and making it appear she filed the tax returns of her clients.

The cases against Forbes stemmed when the BIR's system flagged two of her clients who were then informed by the BIR they have both failed to pay and file their taxes.

Forbes' clients, Jam Cris Trading Machine Surplus in Malolos City and Circle A Grocer in Hagonoy, Bulacan presented their records to the BIR together with their filed tax returns and machine validated receipts of their tax payments.

Upon verification, the supposed tax returns filed by Forbes were not among the list of tax returns received by the Land Bank of the Philippines and were not among the transactions included in the tax payments forms batch control sheet reports submitted by Land Bank to the concerned BIR Revenue District Office.

Philippine Companies That Don't Pay SSS

The Social Security System (SSS) filed charges against more than 1,400 delinquent companies last year for various violations, the most common of which is their failure to remit the monthly SSS contributions of their employees.

SSS Officer-in-Charge Edgar Solilapsi said 1,165 employers were sued in 2012 for non-remittance of contributions totaling P376.33 million, including P193 million in penalties. Under the law, employers are charged a monthly penalty of three percent for overdue contributions.

"We continue to exhaust all legal means available to compel employers to fulfill their obligations under the law. As a result of our campaign against erring employers all over the country, the SSS sued a total of 1,418 companies in 2012, up by 16 percent from our 1,227 total in 2011," he said.

Among those charged last year were 253 employers that failed to report their workers for SSS coverage and those that refused to present their employment records to SSS account officers, who are assigned to check companies' adherence to the Social Security Law.

Under the law, delinquent employers face jail terms of 6 to 12 years and fines ranging from P5,000 to P20,000. Those who deduct SSS contributions and loan payments from workers' salaries without remitting these to the SSS are also liable for estafa or swindling under the Revised Penal Code.

"Apart from possible imprisonment and stiff fines, erring employers must also fully settle their delinquency. This includes the penalties that continue to add to their overdue SSS obligation every month until full payment," Solilapsi said. "The longer they delay, the more they pay."

The agency collected P303.88 million last year from employers that settled their delinquent accounts after the SSS initiated legal actions against them, such as issuance of demand letters and filing of cases in court and before the Social Security Commission, which is empowered to hear and settle SSS-related disputes.

"To protect themselves against negligent employers, we urge member-employees to keep their pay slips, company IDs and other employment documents. They should also register at the SSS website at so they can personally monitor their remitted SSS payments," Solilapsi said.

A total of 638 companies, or nearly half of the 1,418 employers charged in 2012, were based in the National Capital Region. The SSS also sued last year 335 private firms in Luzon; 192 employers in Visayas; and 253 companies in Mindanao for violations of the SS Law.

Philippines Buys South Korea's F/A-50 Golden Eagle

A ranking Defense official announced that reviews are being conducted for the South Korea's F/A-50 "Golden Eagle."

Fernando Manalo, DND undersecretary for finance, munitions, installation and materiel, said discussions and reviews are now ongoing for the South Korean aircraft.

Earlier, a DND observer stated that the Philippines is now on track to operate again supersonic jet aircraft as the "term of reference" (TOR) of reference for the F/A-50 is now in the works.

"Procurement for the F/A-50 will be on a government-to-government basis," Defense sources said.

They said the go-ahead for the TOR only came recently.

The order came from the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB), an attached agency of the Dept. of Budget and Management.

The observers declined to comment on when the TOR will be completed but stressed it will be done within the year.

The Philippines is in the market for 12 supersonic trainer aircraft which can double as interim fighter and attack planes for the PAF.

It has allocated P18 billion for this program.

The GPPB earlier gave the DND the "green-light" to start pre-negotiations with the South Korean government for 12 F/A 50 aircraft last January.

The plane is manufactured by the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).

The F/A-50 is also known as the TA-50.

The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating.

The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters, and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters, five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

The F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI.

Philippine Lenten Season and Summer Vacation

Criminal elements may take advantage of people converging in places such as beach and other tourist destinations, as PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima ordered a nationwide security plan to ensure safe and secure travel of motorists and commuters this coming Lenten Season and Summer Vacation.

Purisima said aside from May 2013 polls, various occasions such as Holy Week, town fiestas, Flores de Mayo and other related activities that will start on the last week of March until the end of May this year.

These are expected to generate numerous commuters and tourists who will travel to their respective provinces and tourist destinations.

Police said these may cause peace and order concerns including traffic congestions, accidents and other crimes.

In line with this, Acting Director for Operations, Police Chief Superintendent Alex Paul Monteagudo issued a memorandum to all Regional Directors of Police Regional Offices (RD, PROs) and Directors of PNP Operational Units (Aviation Security Group, Maritime Group, Highway Patrol Group, Civil Security Group, Communication and Electronics Service, and Health Service to implement the PNP LOI 13/2011 (SANG-INGAT-CHARLIE) attuned to Summer Vacation 2013.

He also said the PNP will establish of Police Assistance Desks/Centers (PADs/Cs) and deploy Road Safety Marshalls in convergence points particularly in bus terminals, airports, seaports, train stations, recreational areas including highways, main thoroughfares and crime prone areas to ensure maximum police presence.

"PNP personnel who are deployed at convergence points and Police Assistance Desks are assigned to assist the general public. However, the mandatory police operations against criminal elements and dissident terrorists should not be overlooked" said Monteagudo.

Rollback of Philippine Fuel Price

At least four oil companies announced on Friday to implement rollback on their petroleum products for the fourth consecutive weeks.

In separate advisories, big oil players Petron Corporation, Pilipinas Shell, Chevron Philippines (formerly Caltex) and small oil player Eastern Petroleum Philippines announcing price cuts of P0.45 per liter for Unleaded, Premium and Kerosene, and on diesel by P0.40 per liter which would take effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The oil companies also said that there were no price adjustments for regular gasoline.

The price rollback is due to reflect movements in the international oil market.

Other oil companies have yet to announce their respective movement on their products.

Supporters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III Sued

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima Friday confirmed charges will be filed in court either today or Monday against 38 supporters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and alleged members of the Royal Security Forces who were intercepted by the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard in the waters off Tawi-Tawi province.

According to De Lima, the 38 individuals were placed under inquest proceedings which ended at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Charges for violation of Commission on Elections gun ban and Article 118 of the Revised Penal Code, or inciting to war, will be filed against the 38 individuals.

The suspects will temporarily stay in a naval facility in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi until further orders from the court.

The case will be filed before the Bongao Regional Trial Court in Tawi-Tawi.

German Expat Got Dengue, Needs Blood

Hello, this Call For Help is being sent out the American Expat Community and certain others.

Alf Lammel, age 36 - Dengue Victim - is quite ill and hospitalized at Davao Doc Hospital and needs B- Blood.  B- blood is apparently extremely rare in the Philippines, racially. Not sure if O- or O+ would work.

Davao Doc's main number is 221-2101 if you want to get more information on blood donation.  Usually, it is taken by the Philippine Red Cross next door to the Marco Polo Hotel on Roxas near Ateneo University. Alf's local number extension is, I believe, 104.

A native of Germany, Alf lives in the Amelia Apartments, Topaz Street, Marfori Heights and has lived in the Philippines for more than two years.  His partner is Michelle. They have no children.

You may coordinate with Michelle at Her cell no. is 09177176562.

It would be good if you could donate, know someone who could, or have contacts in the German Expat Community and could forward this call for assistance to them. Let's all try to help.

J. Stacey Baird
U.S. Embassy Area Warden Volunteer
Spring Village, Ma-a
Davao City

Ongoing expansion of Guimaras Provincial Hospital

The ongoing expansion of the Guimaras Provincial Hospital (GPH) is slated to be completed anytime this second quarter of the year, according to Dr. Bobby Yoro, chief of hospital.

The new building that is being funded by the provincial government of Guimaras and the Department of Health (DOH) has a 28-bed capacity for private rooms, he said.

The construction was in response to the clamor of patients who would like to avail of private rooms but could not because the existing facility only has six private rooms. He added that it would also be inconvenient for them if they still have to travel to Iloilo just to avail of the private facility.

The hospital that has a current capacity of a Level II secondary hospital offers major departments and services namely medicine, surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology.

However, he admitted that the services are on a limited scale because the hospital lacks resident and part-time physicians. He also cited that they could not hire plantilla personnel due to lack of resources.

With the expansion, they are now trying to improve the amenities of hospital rooms and acquire a backup generator so their services won't be affected in case of brownouts.

He added that any income that will be generated from the private rooms will be used to subsidize their service patients.

The GPH was one of the awardees in today's recognition of hospitals and centers with exemplary performance in newborn screening (NBS).

Chief nurse Emma Ebreo said that they have achieved around 95 to 98 percent accomplishment last year, higher compared with their past performance. Those who were not able to avail of NBS were neonatal cases.

High-value crops farmers in Compostela Valley province

Forty-one million worth of rehabilitation assistance will be provided to high-value crops farmers in Compostela Valley province by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

This amount will immediately provide assistance to farmers and their families who were greatly affected by last year's Typhoon Pablo.

It is also part of the commitment of Agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala through the agency's Task Force Alayon (cooperation) and High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP).

According to DA regional director for Davao Region Remelyn Recoter, most of the affected farmers in the province were those tending high-value crops such as cacao, banana, coffee, and rubber.

"We have to immediately provide them assistance so they can recover from such huge losses," Recoter said.

We also need to fast track our rehabilitation efforts to ensure that there will be no shortage in production," she added.

During last week's Bulawan Festival, the DA turned over the funding support to the provincial government.

A tripartite memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the DA, provincial government and private sector was also forged to fast track various agri-interventions.

Under the cacao rehabilitation program, the DA turned over a total of P13.125 million funds to the provincial government for both agencies including the Kennemer Foods Inc., a private company to establish 1,500 hectares of cacao plantations.

Cacao farmers covered by the program can avail themselves of free seedlings, fertilizers, and technical trainings.

Tail-end of a cold front affecting extreme Northern Luzon

Light rains will be experienced Thursday in some parts of the country including Metro Manila, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

PAGASA attributed the rain in some areas due to the tail-end of a cold front affecting extreme Northern Luzon.

The tail-end of a cold front is the front boundary of two air masses, which produces clouds and rain.

In its advisory, PAGASA said Batanes and Calayan Group of Islands will experience cloudy skies with light rains while Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) will be partly cloudy with brief rains.

The rest of the country will have partly cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail over extreme Northern Luzon and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough.

Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate blowing from the east to northeast with slight to moderate seas.

PAGASA also said strong to gale-force winds associated with the surge northeasterly windflow may affect the northern seaboards of northern Luzon.

Anonymous Philippines Attacks President's Website

The official website of President Benigno Aquino III will resume anytime today after it was hacked early Thursday morning.

"We expect to resume public display of the President's website in a few hours after needed protection measures have been put in place," said Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Sonny Coloma in a statement.

At around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, Coloma said they have detected a breach "when an errant sentence critical of the government on the Sabah issue was found to have been inserted in one of the news items within the website."

"No further intrusions were made as the internal security protocols were activated," he said.

In a fake news item posted by local hacktivist groups "Anonymous Philippines," they criticized the government for the alleged mishandling of the defunct Sulu Sultanate's claim over Sabah.

Bacarra, Ilocos Norte Vice Mayor Pacifico Velasco on the technical malversation case

The Supreme Court has ordered the Sandiganbayan to proceed with the indictment of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte Vice Mayor Pacifico Velasco on the technical malversation case filed against him.

In a ruling, the SC's Second Division dismissed for lack of merit the petition for certiorari filed by Velasco alleging grave abuse or discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan for issuing the June 9, 2005 resolution denying his motion for reinvestigation and the subsequent Aug. 15, 2005 resolution denying his motion for reconsideration in a graft case filed against him.

Then Bacarra Mayor Philip Corpus Velasco filed an affidavit-complaint against the vice mayor for using public funds in the amount of P670,000 in the purchase of a road grader that was subsequently appropriated by the latter as his personal property.

In his counter-affidavit, Vice Mayor Velasco branded the filing of the complaint as politically motivated.

Velasco admitted requesting for a cash advance from the municipality for the purpose of acquiring the road grader, which was subsequently utilized by the municipality to repair and maintain roads.

When the expected funds from the national government were not released, he was faced with the problem of liquidating said cash advance.

Thus, he said he was forced to mortgage the road grader just so he could reimburse the municipality in the sum of P670,000.

He justified the need for replacement of spare parts and/or necessary repairs to be paid out of municipal funds because the municipal government was using the road grader from October 1998 up to the end of his term in June 2001.

The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon issued on Dec. 11, 2002 a resolution dismissing the complaint for lack of probable cause.

Then Acting Mayor Nicomedes Dela Cruz filed an MR on Oct. 15, 2003.

The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon denied the MR in an order dated Feb. 13, 2004.

However, Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices Orlando Casimiro directed the Office of Legal Affairs to review the case.

The Office of Legal Affairs recommended on July 8, 2004 that Velasco be indicted for technical malversation.

It found while the Sangguniang Bayan authorized the purchase of a road grader, no sum was appropriated for its purchase.

The source of the funding of the P670,000 cash advance came from the municipality's funds for personal services, which were originally appropriated for salaries of municipal employees.

When the case reached the Sandiganbayan and Velasco's pleas were dismissed, he sought redress before the SC alleging he was denied the right to file an MR.

In the ruling written by Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and concurred in by Associate Justices Arturo D. Brion and Mariano C. del Castillo, the SC said "it is incorrect for petitioner to insist that he was denied the right to file [an MR] of the Order of the Special Prosecutor."

"Records prove that it was Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio who deputized the Deputy Ombudsman for MOLEO to act on the case with finality," it said.

"Pursuant to this authority, the Deputy Ombudsman for MOLEO approved the Memorandum-Resolution dated 8 July 2004 indicting petitioner. Thus, this Memorandum-Resolution proceeds from the authority of the Special Prosecutor and is virtually his own memorandum. So when petitioner filed an Omnibus Motion for Reconsideration, he was effectively appealing a Memorandum issued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor," it added.

"The filing of another [MR] constitutes a prohibited pleading," the SC ruling said.

"After the preliminary investigation compliant with due process, the Ombudsman, guided by the evidence presented during the preliminary investigation formulates and designates the offense. The Ombudsman did so in this case. The formulation of the offense depends on the evidence presented, not on the conclusionary designation in the complaint," it said.

Malaysia Steals Sabah from the Philippines

The Defence Ministry is now responsible for overseeing East Sabah's 1,400 km coastline which was previously under the purview of the Prime Minister's Department.

Its minister, Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Sabah's waters, monitored by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, would be the responsibility of his ministry and the Malaysian Royal Navy following the new directive.

"I received this command last Friday in a letter given to me from Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the minister reponsible for the MMEA.

"MMEA's command in Sabah has been handed over to me (Defense Ministry), it is no longer under the JPM," he told reporters after a courtesy call from Singapore Armed Forces Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong at the Defense Ministry, here Thursday.

Ahmad Zahid said the move was necessary for coordinated operations between the navy and MMEA.

"I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his trust and will take this responsibility to defend and carry out surveillance on the coastline and waters of East Sabah," he said.

He said it was a meaningful move as the Defense Ministry would help the MMEA in terms of additional assets and other necessities which would be further discussed with Muhyiddin and MMEA director-general Datuk Mohd Amdan Kurish.

In reply to a question on the arrests made in Sabah, Ahmad Zahid said:

"We have an amicable relationship with the Philippines in terms of defense. Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire T Gazmin has contacted me by phone and said he has mobilized the navy and coastal guards."

He said the arrests made were on potential intruders from the Sulu island or those from Malaysian waters entering their area.

On the courtesy call, Ahmad Zahid said it was a farewell visit from Kian Hong who will be leaving the Singapore Armed Forces to serve the public sector.

Philippine Economy Growing and Stable in 2013

The administration coalition Team PNoy Thursday welcomed the positive prediction of economists on the country's highly-probable stellar performance this year.

Team PNoy spokesman Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada said the Aquino administration continues to make concrete plans and actions to further expand the elevated momentum of the country's economic performance this year.

"Aside from setting the government free from corruption, the President strictly monitors the economic expansion of the country to surpass the historic 6.6 rate we gained last year," Tañada said.

In a panel briefing at the Euromoney Conference Philippines Investment Forum early this week, Matt Hildebrandt, J.P. Morgan Bank chief Philippine economist and head of Asia sovereign credit strategy, said the Philippines could become the better—if not the best—stories in the next 12 months.

"However, you'll find that institutional reforms are most important, among those are spending in education and health which makes the labor force more productive," explained Hildebrandt.

In a Malalos campaign rally Wednesday night, Team PNoy team manager Senator Franklin Drilon asked the voters to support the economic programs of President Benigno Aquino III by giving Team PNoy 12-0 win in the senatorial race in May 13.

"The last two years is not enough to the turn the country around but choosing our Team PNoy candidates is crucial is achieving the economic gains achieved by President Aquino specially the 6.6 economic growth," Drilon told the record high 20,000 crowd.

Team PNoy senatorial candidate Sonny Angara said the next Senate should pass legislations that would complement President Aquino's efforts to usher in an era of inclusive growth and across-the-board prosperity.

Angara said that he has a ready body of draft laws built on agro-manufacturing, modernized agrarian reform, education-focused infrastructure spending and school modernization that he would push at the Senate if elected .

President Aquino, in addressing the Euromoney Philippine Investment Forum 2013 early this week, said the Philippines was peaking toward the regime of "inclusive growth," adding that investments in agriculture, tourism and infrastructure would help hasten the realization of all-around growth.

The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 prepared by the National Economic and Development Authority defines inclusive growth as "growth that is rapid enough to matter, given the country's large population, geographical differences, and social complexity."

It is sustained growth that creates jobs, draws the majority into the economic and social mainstream, and continuously reduces mass poverty.

According to Angara, economic disparities and poverty can only be addressed by enhancing the strengths and resources of communities and "building growth from below."

"Growth cannot be a trickle-down thing . We have to build it from ground up," said Angara .

Angara said that agro-manufacturing, a modernized agrarian reform program, fisheries and silviculture should be included in the ramped-up investment program of government to address the underdevelopment in the rural areas.

He said the government should also train LGU leaders to enhance the public management and leadership and invest heavily in skills and livelihood trainings

Angara, a Harvard-trained lawyer, had authored and co-authored some 50 bills that Congress had passed into laws.

His serious work in the area of legislation has been recognized by many private and public organizations and award-giving institutions .

He said the coalition's platform is paramount to achieving economic stability and resolving the needs on education, health and social programs.

Philippines congratulates Xi Jinping of China

The Philippines congratulated Xi Jinping on his assumption as President of the People's Republic of China.

"The Philippines extends its sincere congratulations as Mr. Xi Jinping assumes the presidency of the People's Republic of China by means of the 18th National Congress and his election as General Secretary of the CPC (Communist Party of China) Central Committee and Chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a statement Thursday.

Lacierda said China viewed the assumption of Xi Jinping "as an auspicious moment as they work towards their prosperity and stability."

"This is a sentiment shared by all peoples of good will, who look forward to opportunities for positive engagement fortified by trust, good will, and cooperation, for the mutual benefit of all peoples in our region and around the world," he said.

Lacierda said the Philippines "will seek all opportunities to help build a climate of mutual trust and cooperation to enhance stability in our region so that the positive economic momentum of our respective nations may be sustained."

Xi Jinping was named President of China Thursday after a vote at the nation's parliamentary meeting in Beijing, four months after he took charge of the ruling Communist Party.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines CBCP Welcomes New Pope

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has welcomed the election of Pope Francis I.

CBCP president Archbishop Jose Palma said they are happy the conclave has chosen the successor of Pope Benedict XVI, who retired on Feb 28.

"We are very happy that we have a new Pope. Just like everyone, we accept the surprise that he is not a European," he said.

With this, the Cebu prelate urged the faithful to follow and commit to the new Holy Father.

"Like all Christians, we are invited to give our full trust in him because he was one chosen by the Holy Spirit through the voting cardinals. Let us give our allegiance and be united with in whatever programs he wants to push," he added.

Palma also revealed that he was praying for Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who was reported to be one of the 'favorites' for the highest position in the Roman Catholic Church.

"I was praying for him (Tagle) but we cannot dictate upon the Holy Spirit; anyway he is still young," he said.

For his part, former CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo also applauded the selection of the new head of the Holy See.

"I feel that Pope Francis I was chosen both by the Cardinals and the Holy Spirit in just two days of conclave and even outside the number of papabile," he said.

At the same time, Lagdameo hopes that the name chosen by the newly elected Pope will inspire him in leading his ministry.

"Our new Pope Francis I has chosen St. Francis Xavier to be his patron in the papal ministry of New Evangelization, starting in this Year of Faith. Two other Francis may inspire Pope Francis I: St Francis of Assisi, a man of social action among the poor, and St. Francis de Sales, an educator of deep faith and gentle approach to religious divisions. Long live Pope Francis I," the Jaro prelate said.

Meanwhile, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said all the masses in the archdiocese on Thursday have been offered to the new pontiff.

"Let all masses today (Thursday) in the Archdiocese of Lipa be a thanksgiving for the new pope, Francis I, and a special prayer for the Holy Mother Church called to be missionary and to be church with the poor," he said.