Sunday, 31 May 2009

PIA Dispatch - Friday, May 29, 2009

PGMA: Gov’t remains focused on jobs creation and helping displaced workers 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 29 (PNA) -- More and more business firms have started rehiring their laid-off workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported, but President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said here she remains focused on jobs creation and helping workers displaced by the global economic downturn. 

The President, who inaugurated here Friday Phase II of the Zamboanga Port Expansion Project, said the government’s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) is their leading jobs creation scheme. 

The umbrella program of several employment projects handled by different agencies, CLEEP is funded by the 1.5 percent savings from the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses of all government agencies. 

In a regional media interview here, the President said CLEEP starts by first identifying retrenched workers who are given priority attention under the CLEEP. 

The priority beneficiaries are either given emergency jobs, jobs referrals, skills-retraining or livelihood assistance packages. 

A DOLE report said an estimated 60,000 Filipino workers have been laid off nationwide due to the economic slump but close to 15,000 of them have already been rehired by their employers. 

“We are doing everything we can to support our workers during these challenging times and our initiatives range from investments to help create new jobs, livelihood assistance to affected workers, and retraining programs that will help them find new employment, among others,” the President said. 

Earlier, the President said government initiatives for workers include “assistance for the recovery of fees and unpaid salaries, facilitation of money claims by affected workers, referrals or redeployment of workers to other markets, livelihood packages from OWWA, and TESDA skills training scholarships.” 

She urged jobless workers to visit the nearest DOLE and other government offices and inquire about the CLEEP projects they can participate in. 

DOH: new A/H1N1 cases not cause for alarm

The rising number of Influenza A (H1N1 should not be a cause for alarm, the Department of Health said Friday.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said DOH is anticipating the cases to rise as it is happening in many other countries.

As far the rise in the numbers of cases worldwide, Duque attributed it to the relative ease of transmission of the virus and unrestricted flow of international travelers.

“Right now, what we’re seeing from the behavior of the virus is that most of the cases aremild and are self-limiting. The case fatality rate of H1N1, in fact is less than 1%. Dengue is even more fatal in the country where we now have 57 deaths as of April this year,“ Duque said, “the most important thing is that we still do not have any severe case or any death.”

He said the there is no indication of a sustained community transmission in the Philippines.

Right now there a total of 14 laboratory confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) cases in the country.

Two of the newly confirmed cases travelled from the United States, a 19 year old female and a 7 year old girl. The other two cases were contacts of the Taiwanese nationals, a 42 year old female and a 20 year old male. 

The four cases, all Filipinos, have started on Oseltamivir and have mild respiratory symptoms.

All are Filipinos.

DOH has been receiving more reports of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the designated referral hospitals with the increased awareness of the public on H1N1 and the intensive tracing of contacts being done by the Department.

Duque disclosed, however, that DOH may be shifting its control strategy from hospitalization of all cases of H1N1 to outpatient and home management of mild cases including CUOs.

Meanwhile, high-risk exposure groups showing flu-like symptoms should seek consultation in appropriate healthcare facilities. 

“Based on the global statistics that we have, people with pre-existing conditions such as
asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hypertension, heart disease,
diabetes, morbid obesity, immunodeficiencies, as well as pregnant women and young
children are at higher risk for developing complications of H1N1. As how we treat and
manage ordinary flu, these high-risk patients should not hesitate to go to their doctor once they have the symptoms,” Duque said.

The DOH continues to advocate for preventive public health measures which are the best weapons against H1N1 or any other virus, according to Duque.

“Proper hand washing, appropriate cough manners and good hygienic practices will be your best defense. Boosting your immune system and taking care of your health will also protect you against the virus,” Duque explained.

Duque reiterated that if you have traveled to an Influenza A(H1N1) affected country or have been exposed to a confirmed case of Influenza A(H1N1) and have fever, cough, sore throat or other flu-like symptoms, please consult a health facility immediately. You can also call the DOH Hotline (02) 711-1001 or 711-1002.

For other individuals with symptoms of influenza but have no preexisting conditions, the
DOH advises them to stay home, take supportive treatment, drink plenty of liquids and get adequate bed rest. 

If symptoms worsen or persist, immediately consult a doctor.

Duque disclosed that there are 27 new Cases Under Observation (CUO). 

Since May 1, 2009, the DOH has monitored 211 CUOs. 

Of these, 14 are confirmed cases, 25 still have pending laboratory results, and 172 have been discarded since results are negative for A(H1N1).

Globally, the World Health Organization has reported a total of 13, 398 cases with 95 deaths in 48 countries as of May 27. 

No new update has been posted by WHO.

RP employment upbeat despite global crisis 

MANILA, May 29 - The country's employment prospects remain upbeat while sectors affected by global economic crunch are slowly picking up, an official of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Friday said. 

The good news is, said Bureau of Local Employment Criselda Sy, the daily displacement rate has dropped significantly to 26 percent as of this month. 

"Workers of sectors affected by the crisis are returning to regular work hours while the displaced employees, some of them have found employment," she said during a forum in Manila. 

Electronics sector was the most hurt by the crisis, but is now recovering. 

She added that in Laguna Ecozone, 36 percent of those whose work hours were affected by company cost cutting have returned to regular work hours. 

Japanese firm Fujitsu Ltd. which laid off 2,000 workers in March due to global recession has informed DoLE that it will hire 200 workers. 

Employment of seafarers also looks bright for Filipinos, Philippine Overseas Employment Administrator deputy administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said. 

The DoLE's Kalayaan jobfair will have participants from seafarers sector to recruit workers, he said. Even more, the fair will offer 170,000 slots for jobseekers particularly in call center, services and other sectors. 

"Even with gloomy global economy, on the whole, jobs are generated in the country," Sy said. (PNA)

Palace says RP not headed for recession  

A growth, no matter small, is still growth.

Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Anthony Golez said the 0.4 percent growth for the first quarter of 2009 reported by the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) is still good news considering a lot of countries are now in recession. 

“No matter how modest, the Philippine economy is still growing. And if we include the GNP which includes remittances of Filipino workers abroad, our GDP will grow even more,” Golez said. 

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has foreseen the economic slowdown much earlier and adopted steps to avert its impact on the country through such steps as pump priming, job generation and increased infrastructure spending.

Golez said the President adopted safety nets or programs to cushion the impact of the global crisis on the poor as well as frontloaded the bidding of infrastructure projects before the second semester so that when the time comes for their implementation, the funds would already be in place.

He pointed out that during a previous Cabinet meeting, the President ordered the fast-tracking of the bidding for all projects before the second semester. 

Golez assured that the government has enough funds for its projects under the newly-approved General Appropriations Act.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, May 28, 2009

PGMA: Lakas – Kampi merger shows proof of the upcoming polls

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared today that the merger of Lakas-Kampi- CMD is a strong assurance to doubting Thomases of the “administration’s resolve and determination to push through with the national and local elections in 2010.”

“Cynics and detractors love to paint grim scenarios about the cancellation of the 2010 elections. Let this merger of Lakas and Kampi be tangible proof of the administration’s readiness, nay determination, to help ensure the elections will push through,” the President said.

In her speech during the joint meeting of the Lakas-CMD national directorate and Kampi national council at the Manila Hotel this morning, the President said the emergence of Lakas-Kampi- CMD as “one party is our finest weapon and best guarantee for success in the 2010 elections. “ 

With their merger, Lakas-Kampi is “moving as one, fighting as one as the instrument and vehicle for electing the best, the most qualified and the worthiest leaders of our country.”

She challenged the party members to strive for victory not just for the party but also for the entire nation and democracy. “Let us achieve victory in the context and manner of clean and credible elections worthy of Filipinos’ democratic traditions. After all, electoral reforms, especially automation are priority items in our administration’s 10-point agenda,” she stressed.

“Let us win not because we are powerful. Let us win because we are united. And ours is a program of performance and unity for the good of our people,” the President said.

At the launch of the merged party which was attended by hundreds of city mayors, congressmen and governors from the two political parties, the President walked from table to table shaking hands and exchanging brief notes with those in attendance.

In her well-applauded speech, the President repeated the phrase, “I need you all with me” to underline her message that the Lakas-Kampi- CMD unification should not just be for the purpose of winning the 2010 elections but providing quality service to the people.

She congratulated and thanked the National Consolidation and Unification Committee, headed by Political Affairs Secretary Gabriel Claudio, “for making this day happen.”

“Doubting Thomases and there were many, said the merger between the two biggest political parties would not come to pass. The road to this merger has neither been short nor easy. But we had made a great leap of faith and statesmanship today. Some of you with a certain degree of trepidation, tolerance and sacrifice… for your willingness to rise above boundaries to do what is right not only for the administration’s political cause but also for the nation maraming salamat,” the President said.

She described the merger of the two administration political parties as an ingredient to political harmony not only within the administration coalition but throughout the country.

“The call for national harmony and political civility must emanate from those who constitute the political majority and it must take root first in our backyard. Indeed our merged party is great enough to provide a critical mass and a veritable momentum towards national unity and solidarity,” the President said.

Hailing the Lakas-Kampi- CMD merger as both appropriate and timely, the President pointed out that the next 13 months will be the biggest push of our incumbent administration to clip poverty and unemployment and address the perennial concerns over infrastructure, health, education, services and other forms of needs in all our communities.

“I need you all with me on this so we can give our nation a legacy of lasting opportunities and foundations for peace, economic upliftment and the promotion of human dignity. With your help, government has been adequately able to protect our countrymen and women from the worst effects of the global financial downturn that has brought 2/3 of the world to its knees,” she said.

“As one party now, we shall, God willing drive the last fearsome effects of this global crisis away from our shores,” the President said.

She said that “to build a sustainable national economy in the face of the global economic crisis, I need you with me.”

“To work to create a consensus among political parties to ensure that a proper balance exists within national economic interests and our obligation as members of the economy of all mankind. I need you with me strong and united that is why here, at least in our homes, there is no other way forward but to be one, act as one and win as one,” the President said.

She said “rarely we will be unanimous in our thinking and opinions but I would hope that all of us will be disciplined enough to support the party stand.”

She asked the party members to strive to make the alliance between the local government units and the Armed Forces of the Philippines a major campaign plank especially in the local elections. She also asked the administration candidates to “take this up as a key governance thrust and to openly support and pledge to push peace and development and oppose collaborators of those who seek to use violence to overthrow government and to impose their obsolete ideology on the people.”

“In 2010, let us have none of our LGUs flirting with the enemies of the state. And let us show those who continue to do so as undermining their communities and their Republic. I am confident that with you working with me now” we can further strengthen our partnership in pursuit of our people’s welfare, she said.

She said her government has found it easier and more productive long drawn projects and services in areas where governors or mayors are not at odds with their congressmen or their governors. The merged party will have a mechanism for reconciliation or if necessary the adjudication of disputes at the local levels, she added.

She thanked the participants for the five resolutions they passed and then thanked them for “keeping faith in me as chair our merged parties.”

Palace assures local Influenza A/H1N1 infections under control 

There is nothing worry about the new A/H1N1 infections, ranking palace officials said Thursday

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita assured that the prevention and surveillance systems are in place to contain the spread of the new virus. 

Ermita said the new cases are not enough reason to postpone the opening of class on Monday.

For his part, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez said the situation in the Philippines in far from the situation in Mexico where community level outbreaks took place. 

The Department of Health reported four more A/H1N1 cases raising the number of infections to 10. 

The new cases, a 24-year-old mother, her one-year-old daughter; a 47-year-old male and a 13-year-old male, are the people who attended a wedding in Zambales, the same occasion where the infected Taiwanese nationals were also present. 

“Three are Filipinos, and one is a foreign national. All are taking Oseltamivir and only have mild acute respiratory illness,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in a statement. 

On how the Taiwanese nationals caught A/H1N1 remains a mystery to health authorities.  

DOH is waiting for the results of laboratory tests of some 50 people who also attended the Zambales wedding.

Palace cites 0.4 % RP economy growth rate in Q1 

MANILA, May 28 (PNA) – Malacañang on Thursday cited the expansion of the Philippine economy by 0.4 percent in the first quarter of the year. 

”A growth is still a growth as we have heard and seen the report but we should try to reflect the gross national product (GNP) which includes the number of remittances by the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) which contributes greatly to the Philippine economy,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Dr. Anthony Golez in an interview with reporters at the New Executive Building (NEB) in San Miguel, Manila. 

Golez, however said, this is not yet a time to celebrate because it’s common knowledge that the global economic situation will improve by the second half of the year. 

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will continue to focus, among others, in job generation. 

Malacañang officials as well as Golez were reacting to earlier reports that the Philippine economy expanded by 0.4 percent in the first quarter of the year from 3.9 percent in the same period last year. 

It was the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) which released the report. 

Romulo Virola, secretary-general of NSCB attributed the growth in the economy to the positive contributions of construction, agriculture, transportation, communication and storage, mining and quarrying, and private Services. 

On the expenditure side, Virola said little growth drivers were construction, import of non factor services, personal consumption expenditure (PCE), export of non factor services, and government consumption expenditure. 

For the first three months of the year, Virola said the total OFW compensation amounted to P302.16 billion, up by 38.5 percent from P218.11 billion in the same period last year. 

During the period, the total OFW deployment rose 44.7 percent to 367,931 from 254,123 from January to March last year. 

The NSCB official said the economy also boosted by the disbursement of government funds for infrastructure projects, which rebounded to 3.8 percent from negative 0.3 percent recorded last year. 

He added that private construction rebounded from negative 4.1 percent the previous year to 9.9 percent while infrastructure investments by the government managed to improve public construction to a lower negative 4.4 percent from negative 10.9 percent. 

Virola said agriculture, fishery and forestry sector contracted by 1 percent in the first quarter after expanding by 0.9 in the last quarter with the declines of other crops, corn and sugarcane. 

Industry registered its lowest growth for the last twenty years as it sank by 6.6 percent from 0.1 percent gain in the last quarter. 

The substantial weakening of the manufacturing sector contributed immensely to the contraction of industry. Services sector posted no growth for the first quarter of 2009 compared to 0.2 percent recorded the previous quarter, as trade declined while other sub sectors slowed down. 

Virola, however, said a big challenge to the economic managers during the remaining month of the second quarter is the fact that the economy is now teetering into recession as seasonally adjusted GDP sank by 2.3 percent, the lowest for the past 20 years.  

Lim signs Manila City Ordinance 7177 into law; Councilor Isip-Garcia to bring fight before SC

MANILA, May 28 (PNA) - Mayor Alfredo S. Lim signed into law on Thursday Manila City Ordinance 7177, paving the way for the country's three big oil companies to continue to operate oil depots in Pandacan. 

“There is no perfect world. Everything must be a compromise.. . However, I firmly believe that we need not borrow from the future, especially if what we are going to borrow is fear,” Lim said after signing the new ordinance passed by the City Council more than a week ago. 

He said his approval of the new city ordinance was one of the most difficult and painful things he had faced since he assumed office as local chief executive. 

This developed as 6th District Councilor Ma. Lourdes Isip-Garcia said they would bring their fight to the Supreme Court (SC) and would file an amendatory ordinance on next Tuesday’s City Council session. 

“Exactly 10 days ago, the City Council thrust onto my shoulder the difficult decision of approving or vetoing its proposed unnumbered Ordinance (7177), which amends Ordinance 8119 by creating a Medium Industrial Zone (1-2) and Heavy Industrial Zone (1-3). Thus, 7177 provides the continued stay of the highly contested oil depot of the ‘big three,’ namely Petron, Chevron, and Shell,” Lim said. 

“I have remained steadfast in my principle that nobody is above the law and that the safety, security and well-being of the people are of paramount consideration in making a judgment call,” the mayor told Manila residents and pro- and anti-oil depot individuals at the City Hall Quadrangle. 

Lim’s action was guided by recommendations made by a panel he created to study the pros and cons as well as the opinions stated by various quarters both for and against the continued operation of big industries in Pandacan, including the three biggest oil companies. 

Before approving the ordinance, Lim held dialogues with the affected industries and different government agencies, among them the Departments of Energy, Labor and Employment, Trade and Industry, and Defense as well as with the Church, Pandacan residents and various chambers of commerce. 

Two days before the deadline for him to decide was to lapse, Lim was invited by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to join them at the Pandacan terminals’ site, where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo held a meeting with her Cabinet members. 

There, Lim sat with at least nine of the Cabinet secretaries, who unanimously dismissed the apprehensions being raised on the continued operation of the oil depots. 

The mayor, who, during one of the dialogues with the oil companies raised the question of threats to lives in case of terrorist attacks, conflagration or oil spill, felt that all such fears being raised were quelled when no less than the President herself went to the site of the oil depots and brought her official family with her. 

Lim, in coming out with the decision, said that among the notable facts that he took into consideration is the adverse effect to the city’s economy and social programs of moving out the industries in Pandacan. 

Lim termed his approval of the ordinance as "a judgment call," adding that the principle that guided him in doing so was to meet with all the stakeholders and after which he formed a committee that studied all the aspects of the situation. 

"I also conducted an ocular inspection of the sites and, most of all, I asked the guidance of God to let Him show me the way. So, in making this decision, I assure you that the best interest of the people is what I had in mind,” he said. 

Lim pointed out that he had to look at the issues concerning the Pandacan controversy in a holistic manner and he has seen them in terms of the interconnectedness of the environment, people and human activities. 

“In other words, my decision is to strike a balance between the right of the people to a balance and healthy environment vis-à-vis the right to livelihood and sustainable development,” he said. 

The mayor cited the huge taxes that are being collected from the operation of these industries help sustain the city government in providing free education in daycare centers as well as the more than a hundred public elementary and high schools and even the City College of Manila and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila which offer free tertiary education. 

He also mentioned the medical supplies, medicines and equipment in the city’s public hospitals and 50 health centers that are also funded out of the taxes being collected. 

These are just some of the things that will have to be sacrificed if the big industries in Manila would go, Lim said. 

On top of these, he said that there are at least 10,000 workers presently employed in several of the Pandacan industries alone and who will be displaced should the oil depots be relocated. 

He also took note of pronouncements made by representatives from the oil companies that once they are forced to relocate, the expenses to be entailed will compel them to raise the prices of their products by at least P2 or P3 and that at least 12,000 tankers carrying flammable products will have to ply the streets of Metro Manila and Northern Luzon on a daily basis. 

It was also noted that no major incidents, such as the fears being raised, have ever happened in Pandacan and that in fact, during fires in nearby residential areas, the firefighters from the depots are the first to respond. 

Lim said that while special focus is being given on the so-called Big 3 players, there are actually a total of 145 huge industries operating in Pandacan and that vetoing Ordinance 7177 would displace all of them as well as all the Manila residents in their employ. 

According to Lim, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno was right in saying that had then Mayor Lito Atienza only enforced Ordinance 8027 which was passed by councilors allied with him when he was still the mayor in 2001, the impact against the residents would have been cushioned. Ordinance 8027 originally gave the oil depots six months to relocate. 

During that time, he said, there was still no worldwide economic recession. 

However, instead of enforcing the ordinance, Atienza entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Energy department in 2002 and the oil depots were allowed to stay for another six months. 

An administration measure was then passed by the City Council in January 2003 which led to the granting of special business permits to the three oil companies. 

An action was then filed before the Supreme Court seeking to compel Atienza to enforce Ordinance 8027 but he maintained such ordinance had been superseded by the MOU. 

In March 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that Atienza should enforce the ordinance, but still, Atienza failed to comply. 

In conclusion, Mayor Lim said the people should not be ruled by fear, especially because speculations and apprehensions may not even happen. 

“In the end, this issue (we now have decided) on is not only the economy or environment alone but about people trying to live peacefully, securely and as economically prosperous as possible,” he concluded. 

Meanwhile, Councilor Isip-Garcia said they are bringing the case to the SC in an effort to protect the city and its residents from danger brought by the ordinance. 

“We will go to SC to question the validity of Ordinance 7177. The ordinance has infirmities and violative of national laws such as Clean Air Act and Clean Water act. We will go to the Ombudsman to file case against the proponents of Ordinance 7177, Mayor Lim, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and the majority councilors for knowingly causing undue injuries to Manilans, for exposing them to extreme pollutive industries,” Isip-Garcia said. 

President congratulates Director Mendoza 

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has extended her heartfelt congratulations to Brillante Mendoza for having won the best Director Award at the 62nd Cannes Film Festivals for his movie “Kinatay.”

“Being the first Filipino to have won such an award obviously makes Director Mendoza one of the best filmmakers of our time,” the President said.

“Director Mendoza’s winning movie depicts social realities and serves as an eye-opener for moral recovery and social transformation which my Administration has been pursuing even early on my Presidency,” she said.

The President stressed that Director Mendoza’s extraordinary feat brings pride to every Filipino and will be an inspiration to our filmmakers to strive harder for global recognition.

“His accomplishment and those of our other artists in the various disciplines who have been raking in honors for the country attest to the our people’s wealth of talents that enable us to withstand and overcome the challenges of our times,” the President added.

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PGMA awards Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles to 601 Aeta families 

BARANGAY NABUCLOD, Floridablanca, Pampanga – Six hundred one Aeta families in this remote village in Pampanga now have a land to call their own after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday awarded to them Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles at the Sitio Centro 

The President distributed CADTs to 454 Aeta families in Floridablanca, Pampanga and 147 Aeta families in Hermosa, Bataan covering a total of 11,800 hectares.

The CADT for Floridablanca, which covers an area of 7,440 hectares, will benefit 454 families or 1,423 individuals, while the CADT for Sitio Pastolan, Tipo, Hermosa, Bataan that covers an area of 4,356 hectares will benefit 147 families or about 759 individuals.

Receiving the CADTs for Bgy. Nabuclod were Aeta leaders Parham Santos, Roger Apang and Romeo Bacani while the CADTs for Hermosa, Bataan were received by Bonifacio Florentino.

Santos , Apang, Bacani and Florentino were unanimous in expressing their thanks to the President for awarding the CADTs to the Aeta people, saying the lives and livelihood of the next generation of Aetas are now secure.

The President had directed the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) to undertake the delineation and titling of the ancestral domain nationwide and the provision of socio-economic programs to uplift the living standards of the indigenous peoples in the country, including the Aetas who were displaced by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. 

As a result of the volcanic eruption, the Aetas in Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales were forced to abandon their ancestral lands, while others resorted to begging to survive. 

But with support of government programs such as the food for work, funding assistance for livelihood projects and marketing assistance for their agricultural produce, the number of mendicant-Aeta families in Metro Manila went from 369 in 2001 to zero in 2004. 

PGMA fulfills IP’s long cherished dream 

MABALACAT, Pampanga -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo awarded certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) to some 798 Aeta and Dumagat families involving 3,526 individuals during her visit here. 

The Aetas and Dumagats are among the country’s indigenous people (IPs).

The President awarded the CADTs covering 5,648 hectares to the Dumagats of Dibut, Aurora Province , and 10,323 hectares to Aetas of Bamban, Tarlac, and Mabalacat, Pampanga.

“Now you can start developing your land. No one will disrupt you now. If anyone wants to invest in your land, then they have to pay rental,” the President said in the Pampango dialect.

“It’s a dream come true. We waited for four Presidents to award us the CADTs but only you Madam President made that come true,” Anita Manalad, an IP widow told the President.

National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Commissioner Felecito Mansagnay said all the CADTs awarded by the President today are “all clean titles.”

“It’s a must, an instruction from the President,” he explained.

The awarding of CADTs, a symbol of land security for the IPs, is a commitment of the President even when she was still a senator when she co-authored the Ancestral Domain Bill.

The Senate Bill led to the enactment of R.A. No. 8371, otherwise known as the “Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.” 

The law addressed the aspirations of the IPs and the Indigenous Cultural Communities through the recognition, protection and promotion of the Rights to Ancestral Domains and Lands, Self-governance and Empowerment, Social Justice, Human Rights and Cultural Integrity. 

When she became President, Mrs. Arroyo signed Executive Order 1, series of 2001 which institutionalized her meaningful legacy for the indigenous people.

The ancestral domain in Bamban and Mabalacat is within the Clark Freeport Zone.

For more than a decade, there was a conflict between the Aetas and the Clark Development Authority, making the land unproductive.

The Aetas started their struggle when former President Ferdinand Marcos established the Sacobia Development Authority in their area without consulting them. They continued their advocacy when their land was transferred to the CDC.

The NCIP said several mechanisms were instituted to settle the controversy, but all in vain until President Arroyo ordered Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to settle the issue.

A Joint Memorandum of Agreement was signed on December 6.2007 between the CDC and the Aetas.

The document provides for the respect of the ancestral domain rights of IPs and the mandate of the CDC, with sharing of benefits at 80-20 in favor of CDC and priority employment to IPs for locators within their ancestral domain.

Capital, consumer goods buoy up month-on-month import growth

For the first time since July 2008, merchandise imports grew by 6.9 percent on a month-on-month basis from February this year with both capital and consumer goods leading the way, indicating that a rebound in trade is starting to take shape. 

In a report to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Ralph Recto said that compared to the previous month, the value of inward shipments of capital goods and consumer goods increased significantly by 20.7 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively.

Import payments of capital goods were buoyed by land transport equipment (56.5 percent), telecommunication equipment and electrical machineries (38.2 percent), office and electronic data processing (EDP) machines (21.9 percent), and power generating and specialized machines (3.9 percent). 

Meanwhile, the increase in imports of telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery from the previous month, coupled with the decline in materials/accessori es for the manufacture of electronic equipment made the former the country's top import commodity. 

The month-on-month increase in consumer goods was broadly supported by both durable and non-durable goods which improved by 7.2 percent and 25.5 percent, respectively, while imports of miscellaneous durable manufactures (70.7 percent), fish and fish preparation (77.9 percent), beverages and tobacco (49.7 percent), other food and live animals (33.3 percent), rice (32.7 percent), and articles of apparel and accessories (28.2 percent) posted remarkable month-on-month growth rates.

In a memorandum to President Arroyo, Recto, however, added that “despite the positive performance in March, the negative effects of the global financial crisis continued to wear down the local appetite for foreign goods” as the country’s merchandise imports fell by 36.2 percent year-on-year.

“But the country’s imports statistics compared reasonably well with that of our Asian neighbors. Japan ’s imports for March year-on-year dropped by 36.6 percent while imports in Korea and Thailand fell by 36 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively,” Recto said. 

Cumulatively, payments for imported goods reached only $9.6 billion in the first quarter of 2009, a 34.3-percent decline from the same period last year. 

The trade deficit, on the other hand, reached $1.7 billion for the first three months of the year, about $394 million less than what was accounted for in the same period last year.

On the downside, major commodity groups continued to post negative growth rates for at least five straight months led by the double-digit declines in capital goods (-34.9 percent), raw materials and intermediate goods (-29.9 percent), and mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (-60.1 percent). 

Raw materials and intermediate goods and mineral fuels and lubricants continued to contract, registering 0.3 percent and 3.5 percent decline vis-à-vis February 2009.

The United States remains the biggest source of imports in March this year with a 12.2-percent share, followed by Japan with 11.5-percent share. Other major sources of imports were People’s Republic of China (9.1 percent), Singapore (8.0 percent) and Taiwan (7.4 percent). 

RP’s gains despite global recession

The Philippines has continued to reap in more gains though the world economy has come into a recession.

Job generations in the country’s growing business process outsourcing (BPO) and tourism industries have provided Filipinos more employment opportunities. Record shows that the number of employees in the BPO industry has ballooned to 400,000 workers in February 2009 from 101,000 in 2004, while 1.22 new jobs are continuously being created with every additional tourist arrival in the country as shown in a study conducted by McKinsey & Co. for the department of tourism (DOT). The influx of tourists has soared to more than 6 million in the central Philippines alone since 2004.

Backing these opportunities in employment are the efforts of the Arroyo government that help fuel the nation’s economic momentum and weather the ill-effects of the global financial crunch.  

With President Arroyo’s support to wider access to communications and information services through broadband services in cities and growth areas, the BPO industry has boomed from almost nothing in 2001 with only about 4,000 workers.

For the tourism industry, the national government has already developed 13 airports, seven roads and 19 Roll-On, Roll-Off (RoRo) ports in the central Philippines to boost its tourism potential destinations. To further develop the Philippine tourism, President Arroyo has signed into law the Tourism Act of 2009 or RA 9593 on May 12, 2009, declaring tourism as an engine of investment, employment, growth, and national government. 

With these gains in the BPO and tourism industries, alongside the increase in investments in infrastructure, the putting up of small-and-medium enterprises, and the implementation of necessary economic measures by the Arroyo administration, the Philippine economy has remained resilient and robust amid the challenges brought about by the plunging of world markets.

In fact, Filipinos are feeling these gains, attesting them to be real benefits and not just mere statistics.  

In a statement, Ms. Mic Cruz, Convergys’ cyber agent, has thanked President Arroyo for her support to the BPO industry. On one hand, Ms. Yolanda Marasigan, Viewsite Restaurant Tagaytay owner, says “kinakailangan naming mag-expand ng isa pang branch ng Viewsite para ma-accommodate ang mga turista sa Tagaytay”.

With the stable peso, lower inflation rate, more investments, improving export sector, strong OFW remittances, analysts are crediting President Arroyo saying, “the tough but highly criticized economic measures that the administration had adopted are probably the reasons why this country is able to weather the global financial crisis much better than many of its neighbors.” So said Babe Romualdez of the Philippine Star.

For his part, Prof. Emilio Antonio of the University of Asia and the Pacific remarked that “Mrs. Arroyo should be credited for the Philippines’ improved income and spending balance and manageable inflation rate. The reforms attributable to the Arroyo administration are probably the roots of the economy’s strong points.”

DOH: nothing to worry about the four new cases of A/H1N1

The Department of Health is doubling its efforts to trace down persons who may have been in contact with Influenza A/(H1N1)confirmed cases. 

On Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque announced that DOH confirmed four new A/H1N1 cases raising the confirmed numbers to six.  

The new cases are two females, aged 1 year old and 26 years old, and 2 males, aged 13 years old and 55 years old. 

The 13 year old boy has fully recovered while the rest are still coughing. 

The infected children had history of traveling to Hongkong and the United States which are known affected countries while the adults made contacts with the mother and daughter who tested positive upon their return to Taiwan. 

DOH is expecting more confirmed cases in the coming weeks due to its intensive contact tracing and heightened awareness among the public. 

Since there is continuous international travel and the number of affected countries continues to increase, the DOH has in place the pandemic preparedness and response plan and expanded its referral hospitals to all DOH Regional Hospitals and Medical Centers. 

Duque urged anyone who have traveled to an affected country or have been exposed to a confirmed case of Influenza A(H1N1) and have fever, cough, sore throat or other flu-like symptoms, to consult a health facility immediately.  

The DOH Hotline is (02) 711-1001 or 711-1002. People in the Visayas may use the DOH Hotline (032) 418-7636 and (032) 255-1591 while those in Mindanao may use the DOH Hotline (082) 227-2731.  

OSG: audit of oil firms by government agencies is ultra vires

Government agencies tasked by a Manila Trial Court to examine the books of giant oil firms would violate law and exceed their mandates, the Office of the Solicitor General said Wednesday.

Citing provisions in the 1987 Constitution, the Administrative code and other relevant laws, Solicitor General Agnes Devenadera explained that “the examination or audit of the books of oil firms is beyond the authorities conferred to the Commission on Audit (COA), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) and to demand compliance would be deemed ultra vires (improper) and unjust.” 

OSG initially made its opposition known in a motion for reconsideration it filed this month at same court. 

Last April, Manila RTC Branch 26 Judge Silvino Pampilo Jr. ordered COA, BIR and BOC to form a panel that will look into the books of Pilipinas Shell, Chevron and Petron which were accused of price manipulation, cartelization and other violations in the Oil Deregulation Law.

The companies denied all allegations. 

Pampilo’s order covers the “opening and examination of the cash receipts, cash disbursement books, purchase orders on the petroleum products, delivery receipts, sales invoices and other related documents on the purchases of the petroleum products” from January 2003 to December 2003.

In the case of COA, Devenadera said its mandate is limited to the auditing of the government or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations in accordance with Section 2 (1) of Article IX (D) of the 1987 Constitution.

The examination in the court order, Devenadera said, is not in any way connected with the assessment and collection of taxes, fees and charges due to the government neither to the enforcement of all forfeitures, penalties, and fines, such examination is beyond the limits of the BIR’s mandate. 

As for the BoC, an examination of the books of the oil companies, as importers, are provided and outlined in the Tariff and Customs Code, as amended by the Republic Act 9135. 

If the court would compel the COA, BIR, and BoC to pursue the audit, Devenadera said that such action make the results of the audit legally non-binding.

Atienza to lead nat’l Flag Day in Cavite

DENR Sec. Joselito Atienza will lead this year’s national Flag Day celebration at the Imus Heritage Park , Cavite as chairman of the Flag Advocacy Committee Chairman. Last year, President Arroyo designated Sec. Atienza as Flag czar. The Flag Day nationwide celebration this May 28 is in commemoration of Battle of Alapan in Imus, Cavite in consonance with RA 8491 the Flag and Philippine Heraldic Code.

Earlier last May 25, 2009, Sec. Atienza also led the kick off rites at the QC Quadrangle and was assisted in the Flag Raising Ceremony by QC Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, NHI Exec. Director Ludovico Badoy, DOLE Usec. Arthur Sodusta, Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista, Cong. Nanette Castelo Daza, Cong. Mary Anne Susano, Dep. Commissioner Emilio Gonzales III, other Q.C. national officials and about 6,000 government employees. 

According to Sec. Atienza, the “Pilipinas Kong Mahal” flag theme puts stress on “pagbibigay respeto at pagmamahal sa ating bansa.” “Pilipinas Kong Mahal” the Flag Advocacy message is a good reminder for all in the midst of materialism and new technologies, now more than ever we need to enhance good citizenship practices by putting up our flags at home, giving value to the beauty of our natural resources, showing care for a clean and green environment and other practices, Atienza elaborated. “This year’s theme echoes President Arroyo’s resolve to foster unity among Filipinos under a national symbol telling of an extraordinary country blessed by God,” Atienza said.

Meanwhile, this year’s June 12 national chairman DOLE Sec. Marianito Roque said the launching activity and today’s National Flag Day coincides with the Battle of Alapan and starts the 111th Independence Day celebration set for June 12, 13 and 14, 2009. This year’s activities will be geared towards jobs generation, provision of training and livelihood opportunities here and abroad to cope with the global crisis apart from the historical and cultural events. This is in keeping with this year’s theme “Kagitingan, Kagalingan at Kasipagan, Tungo sa Tunay na Kalayaan” per AO 259 signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo organizing the NOC for this year’s June 12 celebration.

Further, Sec. Roque said, respect and pride in the Philippine Flag are the core messages of Flag Day activities where under all NGAs, LGUs, schools, universities, embassies/consular offices abroad including private establishments are encouraged to display the Philippine Flag in appropriate ceremonies.

In the recent NOC meeting, Sec. Roque reported that memorandum circulars have been issued by the DepEd to pursue its continuous campaign to educate the public esp. in elementary schools, high schools both private and public to educate them on the proper use and display of the Philippine National Flag. Further, the DILG has issued a directive to LGUs of government, mayors, punong barangays to display the flag, streamers in all government buildings, schools, universities, hospitals, public restaurants, hotels, malls and banks, including the ringing of church bells, fog horns to signal the flag raising. Also, the PIA as member of the Flag Advocacy Committee has urged government media networks and its bureaus to provide the necessary media support to increase public awareness of good citizenship and respect for our flag and the coming June 12 events.

On the other hand, NHI Executive Director Ludovico Badoy, chair of the Technical Working Group said that after the launch, the commemoration of the Battle of Alapan event shall be re-enacted as the main event of the Wagayway Festival today in Imus, Cavite led by Gov. Erineo Maliksi, Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi, Secretary Atienza as Guest of Honor, NOC member-agencies and LGUs. 

National Flag Day

Republic Act No. 8491 prescribed the period from May 28 to June 12 of every year as Flag Days. During this period, all offices, agencies and instrumentalities of government, business establishments, institutions of learning, and private homes are enjoined to display the Philippine national flag. Republic Act No. 8491 is a reminder to every Filipino that the Philippine national flag is the singular symbol of the country defining the unity of the various towns, provinces, regions, and ethno-linguistic and sectoral groups of the nation. It advocates national unity, love of country, and nationhood.

According to historical books, the Philippine national flag was a brainchild of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Our veneration of our national flag is many times more meaningful if we know the distinctive meanings embedded in each element in it.

The colors symbolize certain values: the red field means that Filipino valor is second to none. The white field means that Filipinos are capable of governing themselves. The sky blue field signifies the loftiness of the Filipino struggle for freedom.

The equilateral triangle represents the Katipunan ideals of Liberty, Equality, and the Brotherhood of Men.

The three stars represent the three major geographical subdivisions of the Philippine archipelago, namely Luzon , Visayas, and Mindanao . The points in each star represent all the islands that make up these major geographic subdivisions.

The eight rays of the sun represent the eight provinces declared by the colonial government to be in a state of war (an estado de Guerra) during the revolution.

Our national flag is further distinguished from all other national flags. When the red field is up and the blue field is below, it signifies that the country is at war.

Let us respect our national flag. It not only represents our national identity but is the flag that was colored by the blood of our forefathers and enshrined by their sacrifices.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Palace pleased over the release of abducted teachers in Basilan 

Malacañang on Tuesday expressed happiness over the release of three teachers who were kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan. 

Based on a Philippine News Agency report, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo conveyed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s gratitude to all those who participated and worked hard for the freedom of Freirez Quizon, Raphael Mayonado and Janet delos Reyes.

Through the efforts by Senior Supt. Manuel Barcena and former mayor Hajarun Jamiri, the teachers were released in Sitio Birahin, Barangay Candiis, Ajul town. 

Last January 23, the teachers were on their way home from school in Barangay Landang Gua on Sacol Island when the abduction took place. 

Meanwhile, authorities are still working for the recovery of Sri Lankan volunteer Umar Jaleel and microfinance collector Leah Patriz who were also kidnapped by suspected bandits in the province.

Travel advisories vs RP are baseless says DOH

There are no compelling reasons for foreigners to skip the Philippines, the Department of Health said Tuesday. 

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III was surprised over the travel advisories issued by Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom which he said have no bases. 

As far as A/H1N1 is concerned, Duque said the Philippines has lower number of cases than other countries.

“Why will they do that when they have more cases (of AH1N1) than us? It defies logic,” said Duque who promised to take up the matter with the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

Although the Philippines has two confirmed cases of A/H1N1, the DOH reported that the patients have recovered. 

“They are asymptomatic. They are not manifesting any fever, headache, body weakness, cough, nor runny nose—none of the influenza-like symptoms,” Duque assured. 

He said all those who have been in contact with the two patients have been identified. 

In the case of those who came in contact with the mother and daughter who both exhibited flu symptoms after returning to Taiwan, at least eight of them have been traced and advised by DOH to go on self quarantine. 

The Taiwanese mother and daughter have attended a wedding Zambales last May 17.

Duque said three of those identified have been tested negative for A/H1N1.  

As part of the country’s over-all preparation for A/H1N1, Duque said they have identified referral centers for suspected AH1N1 cases such as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Hospital in Cebu City, and the Davao Medical Center.

He said DOH is now reinforcing the abilities of state hospitals all over the country in dealing the new virus.

DepEd assures schools will open next Monday 

The country’s A/H1N1 cases will not cause the Department of Education to postpone the opening of classes on June 1.

Apart from the absence of other compelling reasons, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said preventive measures have been in place in 43,000 schools nationwide for some time now. 

“The Anti-Influenza campaign in schools has been issued since May 14. Principals, doctors and nurses were given specific guidelines on their roles in this campaign,” said Lapus who said DepEd will take the cue from the Department of Health as far as suspension of classes due to A/H1N1.

“Those who have gone abroad must impose on themselves self-quarantine,” said Lapus  

What’s more important, Lapus said, is that school authorities will act immediately when suspected infections would occur. 

Last Monday, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo instructed DepEd and the Department of Health to ensure that school administrators, teachers and students will get their hands on the guidelines on the prevention and control of A/H1N1 in schools. 

Citing the guidelines, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said “closing schools would be an option to be considered particularly if students and faculty at a given time reaches levels of which schools could not function.”  
“If big numbers of students are not coming to schools or big numbers of faculty members not coming to schools, (due to confirmed A/H1N1 infections) then there is no point. We might as well close it,” Duque explained.

Simultaneous or series absences, clustering of reported flu-like symptoms and manifestation of severe or unusual illness are among the indicators that schools should look for when dealing with cases of possible A/H1N1 infections. 

On another vein, Duque said, closing schools (where there are A/H1N1 infections) has merits because it’s one way of containing the virus. 

But as Lapus have said earlier, there are no reasons for delaying the opening of classes.

BSP sees inflation to ease to 3.3 percent in May 

Manila, May 26 (PNA) –Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas sees inflation to slow down between 3.3 percent and 4.2 percent in May from 4.8 percent in April due to lower electricity rates and stronger peso. 

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., in a text message to reporters Tuesday, said the two factors “bodes well for the inflation outlook.” 

The central bank said inflation outlook and expectations in the country remained positive and would continued improve due to decelerating rate of price increases nationwide. 

Inflation peaked in August 2008, reaching 12.5 percent due to the uncertainties in the global economy that resulted to high prices of oil and food products. 

The high inflation prompted the central bank to tighten its policy rates in line with its inflation-targeting framework. 

Inflation started to ease at 11.9 percent in September last year. 

BSP started cutting its policy rates since last December, reaching 150 basis points off to date. 

Its overnight borrowing or reverse repurchase (RRP) facility rate is now at 4.5 percent while its overnight lending or repurchase (RP) facility rate is 6.5 percent. 

The Monetary Board, the central bank's policy making body, is expected to implement another cut during its scheduled rate-setting meet on Thursday. 

Tetangco, however, said that “even as we continue to witness well-anchored inflation expectations, we will monitor developments in global demand to see if any of the recent positive releases will finally move global economies to recovery.” 

“We will be watchful of the impact of such on inflation going forward to ensure that our policy stance remains appropriate,” he also said. (PNA) 

Recto says petroleum products still mahal; dares oil firms anew to show books

The chief of the National Economic and Development Authority once again dared oil firms to justify their prices by opening their books to scrutiny. 

“We have shown our computations; it’s their turn to show theirs,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto on Tuesday. 

Since petroleum products are still overpriced as high as Php 8 per liter; Recto thinks that “oil companies are not transparent in their pricing,”

Furthermore, he said the prices are still based in Metro Manila pricing and the average of prices of petroleum products nationwide has not been properly recorded. 

“Now all the formula that I have seen, based on what the papers have reported, based on our methodology in NEDA, based on the certain articles written, the difference is one peso from our Php 32 – 33 (per liter). I think we’re closer to the truth. If the average price in Manila is Php 40, then you can do the math,” Recto said, “what’s taken me by surprise is that in Cebu it is much, much higher. That’s why the governor was complaining. It is higher in Cebu than it is in Metro Manila. It is not even considered in our computations.”  

Recto said the oil firms should allow their books be seen by the Commission on Audit, the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue as ordered by a Manila court to settle the issue of price manipulations and other allegations of Oil Deregulation Law violations.  

Another way of determining oil prices, Recto said, is through examining the oil firms’ sales receipts.  

Despite the absence of a common formula in pricing petroleum products between NEDA and the Department of Energy, Recto said technical staffs from both departments are continuously working together to resolve the issue. 

NEDA and DOE are scheduling a meeting with major oil players this coming Friday. 

Inputs of Cabinet members on Pandacan depot issue enlightening—Mayor Lim

The inputs of the members of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Cabinet on the fate of the Pandacan oil depot were enlightening to him, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said today. 

“I would like to thank President Arroyo, the Executive Secretary and Cabinet members for sharing with us their opinions,” Lim said in a press briefing after the Pandacan depot stakeholders’ meeting this morning held at the Petron office in Pandacan, Manila.

Lim said he will consider the inputs of Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, among other Cabinet members, in making his decision on whether to approve or veto the controversial Manila City Council Resolution No. 7177 on the 36-hectare property.

“I have to study the matter in order to arrive at a proper solution until Thursday (May 28),” Lim said.

Lim said Reyes was worried over a possible disruption of oil supplies and a possible increase in oil prices by P2 to P3.

Roque expressed apprehension over the possible displacement of workers in case the oil companies---Shell, Petron and Caltex -- have to relocate.

According to Lim, Favila expressed fears over the international implications of relocating the oil depots, saying it will send a wrong signal to investors.

Lim also said that the oil companies have made firm assurances that they do not intend to stay in Pandacan forever even if relocating would be very expensive. 

As to security concerns, Lim said the “Big 3” also assured him that there is no danger of a conflagration in the area as the depots have built-in mechanisms that will immediately contain any fire outbreak. 

Lim said the oil companies also asserted that their products are non-pollutants.

In a related development, Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said the President will only give her opinion on the Pandacan depot issue once she gets the feedback on the on-going dialogues with stakeholders.

Monday, 25 May 2009

PIA Dispatch - Monday, May 25, 2009

Government hands over Tiwi-Makban plants to Aboitiz

Private sector is getting more engaged in renewable energy.

Yesterday, the Department of Energy turned over the Tiwi – Makban plants to the Aboitiz Power Renewables in Makati. 

The hand-over was witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The Tiwi Geothermal Power Plant in Tiwi, Albay (Bicol region) is situated approximately 559 kilometers southeast of Manila and north of the Mayon Volcano.

The MakBan (which stands for Makiling and Banahaw) plant is located 70 kilometers southeast of Manila in the provinces of Laguna and Batangas and is situated in two non-active volcanoes—Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw.

The Aboitiz firm bought both plants for US$446.9-M with 40 percent down payment. 

Aboitiz will also pay the lease rentals on the properties worth Php 492 million. 

DOE said using renewable energy will reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and in turn save government money.

PGMA teaches schoolchildren ways to deal with A/H1N1 

Authorities are preparing public schools to prevent A/H1N1 infections.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, along with Secretaries Francisco Duque and Jesli Lapuz demonstrated on Monday proper hand-washing while singing the standard birthday song at the Geronimo Santiago Elementary School in Manila.

Mayor Alfredo Lim and Congressman Benny Abante were also present in the occasion which was attended by more than 300 children. 

The demonstration is aimed at helping students understand how hand-washing and other personal preventive measures could help avoid catching A/H1N1.

Copies of the guidelines on the personal preventive measures were turned over to school administrators. 

The President stressed the importance of keeping hands clean. 

“Kasi ito ang number one na pam-proteksyon sa sarili laban sa mga sakit gaya ng flu ay malinis na kamay (having clean hands is the number one protection against infectious diseases such as flu),” said the President.

The six steps in hand-washing are the following: (1) Wet hands and apply soap; (2) begin scrubbing the left and right palms making sure to soap the nails and fingers; (3) scrub the sides of each finger; (4) scrub the back of each finger; (5) scrub the sides of each thumb; and (6) wash off soap with water.

The President and the children sang the birthday song twice to ensure that enough time was given in cleaning both hands. 

Earlier, Duque urged students to make the personal preventive measures a habit to help prevent the spread of the new flu. 
Aside from the right hand-washing, Duque said proper coughing and sneezing manners must be observed. 

“Kinakailangan gumamit ng panyo, ng tissue paper. Kinakailangan itapon ang inyong nagamit na tissue paper sa mga basurahan. Kinakailangan paramihan ang mga basurahan sa mga eskwelahan. Kinakailangan bawat eskwelahan magkaroon ng magandang hugasan at daluyang ng tubig (We have to use handkerchiefs, tissue papers. We have dispose the used tissue papers at trash bins. We have to add more trash bins in schools. Schools must also have good washing areas and source of running water).” Duque said. 

Meanwhile, the DOH is watching over 10 persons for possible A/H1N1 infection. 

One of the patients is from the Visayas and another from Ilocos; the rest of the cases are from the Mega Manila. 

As for the 10 year old child and the 50 year old woman who tested positive for A/H1N1, the DOH said both are now in good conditions and no longer demonstrating symptoms of the flu. 

However, the child and the woman remain under observation and will be discharged as soon as they tested negative of the virus.

For his part, Lapus assured that public schools across the nation will open as scheduled. 

He said the department put up help desks and action centers to assist students during the opening.

PGMA tells Lim to study oil depot issue very carefully 

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Monday asked Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim to study carefully the pros and cons of the controversial Resolution No. 7177 of the Manila City Council before signing or vetoing it.

The city council’s resolution calls for the re-zoning of the 36-hectare property in Pandacan, Manila to allow industrial companies, including the oil depots, to keep on operating as it will create zones in Manila for medium and heavy industries. 

Some quarters are contesting the re-zoning of the property, saying such action would be a direct contravention of a Supreme Court ruling on the Pandacan oil terminal issue.

Mayor Lim was with the President at the Geronimo Santiago Elementary School during the launch this morning of the Department of Health’s (DOH) campaign to prevent the spread of influenza A(H1N1) among school children in view of the opening of classes on June 1.

Aside from Lim, also present were Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz, Presidential Management Staff Secretary Hermogenes Esperon and several national and local government officials.

In an ambush interview, Lim told Palace reporters that the President urged him to study the various ramifications of the issue and to get all the views of all the concerned sectors on the matter.

The Manila mayor must act on the resolution, one way or the other, on or before May 28, 2009.

“I told her (President Arroyo) that relocating these industries—the oil depots of Shell, Petron and Chevron and the other multinational locators in the 36-hectare property being mentioned in the City Council Resolution—will result in a lot of displacements, particularly of those currently employed by these companies,” Lim told reporters.

“She told me to look very seriously into how this will affect the business community and the impact on our investment policies, particularly on foreign investments,” Lim said.

“The President said I should study the impact of my decision not just on the local community—meaning on Manila—but also on the entire country.

“I told her I have been holding dialogues with the different stakeholders, including the oil companies, so that I will get all the views from all affected sectors.

“I’ll make my decision on Thursday,” Lim said, adding that “the problem is completely in my hands.”

Coast guard relieves officers over sunken boat in Batangas 

The Philippine Coast Guard relieved officers in connection with a motorized boat that sank and left 12 persons dead over the weekend in Batangas.

Relieved are Petty Officer 3 Nolasco Ramirez, Petty Officer 3 James Lauriales, Petty Isabelo Nemapiles, Petty Officer 2 Leonardo Loniago and FN1 Julius Panopio.  

These officers were members of the PCG boarding team stationed in Sta. Clara in Batangas Port.

PCG Commandant Admiral Wilfredo D. Tamayo said they are in the process of validating information they have gathered regarding the sinking of M/B Commando 6 last May 23 as well possible maritime rules violations. 
Coming from Batangas port, the Commando 6 was on its way to Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro when it sank.  

The captain of the M/B Commando 6 remains missing as of this writing. 

Tamayo said the boat can ferry 47 persons including the crew.

But apart from the 12 fatalities, coastguard was able to fetch 50 survivors from M/B Commando 6, making 62 persons were on-board at the time of the incident.