Monday, 31 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Friday, August 28, 2009

PGMA intensifies zero Basura campaign in Baguio

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo intensified the zero Basura campaign here by ordering all government agencies to allocate space within their areas of jurisdiction for the establishment of material recovery facilities (MRF) in the city.

The President issued the directive to heads of all concerned agencies Friday afternoon during the climate change and waste disposal management briefing at the Mansion House.

The drive is part of the government’s efforts to resolve the garbage problem in the city.

In her brief remarks, the President assured Baguio City Mayor Reinaldo Bautista that upon her instruction, all government agencies based in the city will conduct an immediate inventory to pinpoint the exact location for the MRFs.

“If your problem is your space (for MRF), we can have an inventory of all national government properties located in different barangays and we will locate your MRF there,” the President said.
The President then offered a parcel of lot at the Mansion House for the construction of an MRF for Barangay Luwalhati here.

She also mentioned the spacious property of Camp John Hay, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, among others.

The President also committed P13 million as the national government’s share for the establishment of MRF in 128 barangays in the city. Of the P21.5 million total budget for the 116 MRF in Baguio City, the city government will only share P8 million.

Since December last year, the President has declared that every Friday is climate change day for the Office of the President. She has devoted her time to visiting different regions, cities and municipalities in the country to discuss environmental issues and look into possible solution at the local level.

The practice is in accordance with Executive Order that created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change, which she chairs. Under the task force are 17 task groups, particularly the DENR which in-charge of solid waste management.

Climate change is the direct effect of global warming. It refers to any long-term change in the patterns of average weather of a specific region or the Earth as a whole.

PGMA to meet African leaders in Libya in talks on Somalian piracy, Mindanao

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will have the voice of the Philippine government heard by peoples of the African continent when she attends a Special Summit of the African Union (AU) scheduled over the weekend in Tripoli, Libya, it was learned today.

The President was invited by Libya, through its de facto Head of State Col. Muammar Qaddafi, who is the current chair of the influential African Union, which meets August 30 and 31.

Members of the AU are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which will meet in Manila this coming December.

The special meet this weekend is a follow-up to the 13th Summit held in July in Sirte city, near the capital of Tripoli.

President Arroyo will also join Libyans on September 1 in celebrating the 40th year of Tripoli's El-Fateh Revolution which brought Qadaffi to power. Libya has been a major supporter of the Philippines on the Mindanao peace talks.

AU delegates will participate in three workshops on specific peace and security issues, an Executive Council meeting, and an assembly of Heads of State and Government which President Arroyo is slated to join, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In a separate outline of the agenda, the AU said the two-day Special Summit “is also expected to provide a clear roadmap for Somalia's piracy problem."

Delegates will discuss ways of addressing peace security issues in the African continent, including Somalia's civil strife and the corollary problem of high seas piracy committed by Somali pirates. Filipino seafarers have been among the victims of Somali pirates.

The DFA said the Libya meeting will provide President Arroyo "an opportunity to invite African states to attend the first Special NAM Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development scheduled in Manila from December 1 to 3 this year.

Reportedly, the root cause of high seas piracy is "the abhorrent illegal fishing by foreign fleets committed in Somalia's 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Delegates will determine how to safeguard and protect Somali waters without outside interference, Au said.

In Tripoli, President Arroyo would meet with the delegations from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea in connection with the Philippine bid for Observer-State status in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

The status of Observer would allow the Philippine Government more pro-active participation in deliberations at Summits, plenaries and other-level meetings of the OIC, and input its position on the Mindanao peace talks on the same level as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), already a long-time Observer-organization in the OIC.

Also in the agenda is the situation in Sudan's Darfur and the Great Lakes region, according to a statement from the pan-African body.

The AU said a review of the various conflict crisis situations in Africa will be presented and the body "will look at ways and means of ensuring the effective implementation of the decisions adopted by the AU policy organs on these issues.”

Also to be considered are "the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization, with specific reference to the roles that could be played by member states and the regional mechanisms.

PGMA, FG cleared on merits of the case – Fajardo

Malacanang was pleased on the decision of the Ombudsman clearing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo of graft in connection with the botched US$ 329-million National Broadband Network-ZTE deal.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said during an interview today at the Feast of Saint Agustin in Lubao, Pampanga, the Palace also expected some sectors to give color to the Ombudsman's ruling.

Fajardo said that although President Arroyo had immunity from suit, the Ombudsman based its decision on the merit of case.

”We would like to believe that it was because of these evidence and also because of the merit of the case as the basis for clearing Mrs. Arroyo and her husband First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. Both parties were given equal opportunity to present their evidence in court,” Fajardo said.

In the 144-age decision, approved by Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimino, the Ombudsman investigating panel dismissed the complaints against First Gentleman Arroyo, several government officials and executives of the Chinese firm Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) Corp. for lack of probable cause.

”The panel has not been presented with convincing and solid evidence directly or indirectly linking respondent Jose Miguel Arroyo in the project,” the Ombudsman decision said.

The anti-graft body also absolved Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr., Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza, DOTC Undersecretaries Lorenzo Formoso and Elmer Soneja, and ZTE officials Yu Yong, George Zhuying, Fan Yan and Hou Weigui from liability.

But the Ombudsman recommended the filing of graft charges against former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos and former Socio-Economic Planning Director General and now Social Security System (SSS) head Romulo Neri.

Abalos was ordered charged with violation of the anti-graft law for taking interest and intervening in a contract “completely alien to his duties,” as shown by his bribe offer of P200 million to Neri and million of pesos offer to Joey de Venecia, namesake son of the former House Speaker and a losing bidder in the NBN project. Also cited was his instruction to Rodolfo Lozada Jr., Neri’s consultant in the deal, to protect their “130”—obviously a hefty commission.

”It is without a scintilla of doubt that the actions of respondent Benjamin Abalos, a former chairman of the Commission on Elections, are highly suspect, reprehensible and should in no manner or measure be countenanced by those in public service,” the resolution said.

“The most glaring of all, a question that Abalos continues to keep mum about, are the reasons for his inordinate and extensive interest in a project that is completely alien to his duties and functions as chairman of the Commission on Elections,” it added.

It also said that Abalos’ presence in a conference in China with ZTE officials “speaks volumes into Abalos’ conduct as a peddler of undue patronage.”

On the other hand, the ruling said Neri, should be charged with conferring with Abalos on the project, although the latter was not supposed to have any role in it, and for meeting with ZTE officials when the NBN project was under assessment.

As the then chief of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Neri should have been more prudent in his actions since the agency was then evaluating the NBN deal, the Ombudsman ruling said.

The complainant in the Ombudsman were Akbayan Partylist Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and NBN-ZTE star witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr.

President Arroyo signed the contract on April 20, 2007 in Hainan, China but scrapped it on September 22, 2007 after allegations of bribery erupted.

Former Comelec chairman Abalos resigned on October 2007 amid allegations that he offered millions of pesos in bribes for the passage of the NBN contract with the ZTE Corp.

BIR rate wins, CTA finds Gloria Kintanar guilty

“Her success in selling health products is proving to be dangerous to her financial health.”

The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) found accused Gloria V. Kintanar guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 (NIRC), as amended, on two counts.

The decision of the CTA is another breakthrough for the BIR’s fight against tax evasion under its banner program Run After Tax Evaders (RATE).

The case against Kintanar stemmed from her failure to file her Income Tax Returns (ITRs) for taxable years 2000-2001.Together with her husband Benjamin G. Kintanar, Jr., she was charged for tax evasion in June 2005 with the Department of Justice by the BIR RATE team after it was discovered that she was actually receiving huge amounts of commissions for distributing or selling Forever Living Products, Inc. (FLPPI) health products but failed to report the same income in the ITRs she was obligated under the NIRC file.

The CTA did not give credence to the defense given by Kintanar saying that the ITRs he presented in court were of doubtful authenticity and materially flawed with irregularities. It is said that accused Kintanar presented fabricated and flawed ITRs purporting to be received by a revenue district of which she is not a resident. The Court likewise noted the evident lack of concern on the part of the Kintanars appear to be voluntary and considered as intentional disregard of their tax responsibilities.

In Criminal Case No.O-033, the CTA sentenced Kintanar to suffer an indeterminate penalty of one (1) year, as minimum, to two (2) years, as maximum and ordered her to pay a fine in the amount of Php 10,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case she has no property with which to meet the said fine.

She was likewise ordered to pay as civil liability deficiency income tax for taxable year 2000 the amount of Php3,156,470.22, inclusive of penalties, surcharges and interests plus 20% delinquency interest per annum full payment.

Likewise, in Criminal Case No. O-034, the CTA sentenced Kintanar to suffer an indeterminate penalty of one (1) year, as minimum , to two (2) years as maximum and ordered herto pay a fine in the amount of Php 10,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case she has no property with which to meet the said fine.

She was likewise ordered to pay as civil liability deficiency income tax for taxable year 2001 the amount of Php3,147,518.77, inclusive of penalties, surcharges and interests plus 20% delinquency interest per annum full payment.

For the BIR RATE team’s success in the Kintanar case at the CTA, BIR Commissioner Sixto S. Esquivas IV praised Deputy Commissioner Gregorio V. Cabantac and BIR lawyers Claro Ortiz and Emerita Francia for a job well-done and promised to back the latter’s team in going after tax dodgers.

Commissioner Esquivas added, “With the recent victory in the Kintanar case at the CTA, we will be even more vigilant and aggressive in enforcing our tax laws. We will recognize compliant taxpayers but we will punish those who do not mend their ways. Tax evasion is a crime and it must be punished without fear or favor.”

PSALM appoints administrators for Sual and Pagbilao IPPs

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) today (28 August 2009) successfully conducted the second round of bidding for the appointment of independent power producer administrators (IPPAs) to manage the contracted capacities of the National Power Corporation in the coal-fired Sual and Pagbilao power plants.

San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC) and Therma Luzon Inc. were declared the two highest bidders in the rebid of the selection of IPPAs, which has been described as the first of its kind in Asia and, probably, the world.

SMEC, the energy investment arm of food and beverage conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, made it two in a row as it offered USD1.072 billion (USD1,072,000,000.00) for the management and control of National Power’s 1,000-megawatt (MW) contracted capacity of the Sual coal-fired power plant. Last Wednesday (26 August 2009), SMEC successfully concluded negotiations with PSALM for the sale of the 620-MW Limay Combined-Cycle Power Plant as the government accepted its USD13.5-million (USD13,502,000.00) offer for the Bataan-based power asset.

Therma Luzon, an affiliate of the Aboitiz group, was declared the highest bidder for the 700-MW contracted capacity of the Pagbilao coal-fired power plant with an offer of USD691 million (USD691,009,003.00).

Both bids exceeded the reserve price set by the PSALM Board.

As soon as it has verified the accuracy, authenticity, and completeness of the bid documents that the two companies have submitted, PSALM will issue a Notice of Award to SMEC and Therma, formally declaring them as the winning IPP administrators for the contracted capacities of the Sual and Pagbilao power facilities.

Both SMEC and Therma Luzon participated in the first bidding for the Sual and Pagbilao IPPAs held last 26 June 2009. While the technical bids of the two companies met the government’s requirements for both capacities, their financial offers came up short of the floor price.

With the successful appointment of the Sual and Pagbilao IPPAs, PSALM will enter Phase II of its IPPA selection process, which will involve the IPP contracts of the hydropower plants.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, August 27, 2009

PGMA urges public to support breastfeeding in RP

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today enjoined Filipinos to support the breastfeeding movement, citing the benefits of mothers’ milk to the health and well-being of infants in the country.

The President said mothers’ milk “is the best source of nutrition for infants and the most economical way to nourish Filipino babies.”

Breastfeeding is part of the global strategy on infant and young child feeding of the Millennium Development Goals to which the Philippines adheres.

Breastfeeding has been cited as one of the two factors that bring down infant mortality rates in the country. The other factor is vaccination coverage.

The Department of Health cited breastfeeding as a strategy to save more than 16,000 children’s lives annually.

Because of her commitment to deliver the most basic health and nutrition services to the most vulnerable sectors of the country, particularly mothers and children, the President extended her support to government agencies, non-government organizations, and private individuals who were staunch supporters of breastfeeding during the celebration of World Breastfeeding Awareness Month at Heroes Hall in Malacañang.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, one of the allies of breastfeeding in the Philippines, formally opened the Synchronized Breastfeeding Worldwide during the program which is now on its third year.

He also encouraged teachers to breastfeed to create a strong message among school children that women can work and breastfeed at the same time.

RP on its way to achieve ’09 growth target -– economic managers

Economic managers are positive that the government will be able to achieve its 0.8-1.8 growth target this year as the second quarter figure surpassed expectations after it reached 1.5 percent.
The government reported today the domestic economy’s output, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), which is higher than the –0.1 to 0.9 percent forecast of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The latest growth figure is, however, lower than year- ago’s actual growth of 4.2 percent.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, in a statement, said the growth in the second quarter this year is “indeed (a) welcome news and attests to the resilience of the Philippine economy.’

“The combination of fiscal and monetary stimulus programs enabled us to achieve growth amidst an extremely challenging economic environment,” he said.

The finance chief said they “remain focused on attaining our goal of sustaining economic growth this year by ensuring that the government has the resources to fund its programs and projects.”

“We need the continued support of our citizenry to be able to achieve this,” he added.

Also, Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said the second quarter output “confirms that the Philippines is one of few countries across the globe that has escaped recession.”

He noted that “the positive second quarter growth shows that our fiscal stimulus program is indeed working.”

He was referring to the P330 billion economic resiliency program (ERP) of the government implemented to thwart the impact of the global downturn in hurting growth of the domestic economy.

He stressed that they “will work even harder with various implementing agencies for the smooth implementation of quick gestating projects to support economic growth in the second half.”

“With early signs of recovery in the world’s major economies, we are now more confident that our 2009 GDP growth projection of 0.8 to 1.8 percent is within reach,” he added.

Relatively, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said resiliency of the country’s agriculture sector also proved itself in the second quarter this year “despite the changing vagaries of the weather brought upon by climate change.”

Yap said this transpired due to “focused spending in infrastructure.’

“Economic and fiscal reforms implemented prior to the crisis are bearing fruits, making growth in production and increases in rural incomes possible,” he said.

Yap added that they will continue to implement the Fertilizer, Irrigation and other rural infrastructure, Extension work, Loans, Dryers and other post-harvest facilities, and Seeds (FIELDS) program “to ensure continued growth for the sector and the economy in the remaining quarters of the year.”

The said DA program is the government’s measure to increase rice production in the country.

Also, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila said the country “remains as one (of) the few Asian economies that continues to evade recession.”

He attributed this “respectable performance” to the “sound macroeconomic management under very trying times.”

“With this positive news, we are confident that the target GDP growth of a least 0.8 percent is within reach,” he added.

NEDA and the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) said drivers of growth from May to June this year are the construction and mining and quarrying sectors.

The agencies said remittances from Overseas Filipinos (OFs) also helped boost the growth.

Relatively, gross national product (GNP), or the total value of all final goods and services produced in a nation in a given time, also went up to 4.4 percent in the same period from 3.1 percent in the previous quarter but lower than year-ago’s 5.3 percent.

PGMA receives Credentials of UK, Austria envoys

Envoys from the United Kingdom and the Republic of Austria called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning at Malacañang to formally submit their Letters of Credentials.

Both Ambassadors were separately accorded military honors prior to the event at the Malacañang’s Reception Hall.

First to arrive was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom to the Philippines His Excellency Stephen Lillie. He was accompanied by his wife Madame Denise Lillie, Charge D’Affaires and Deputy Head of Mission Colin Crorkin, and First Secretary Joanne Finnamore-Crorkin.

Next was Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria to the Philippines His Excellency Wilhelm Donko. He was accompanied by his wife Madame Yan Donko, Third Secretary and Vice Consul Froilan Brandi and Commercial Counsellor Walter Holfe.

Both Ambassador vowed to work towards strengthening and improving the economic, political and cultural ties between their countries and the Philippines.

The President was joined by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis and Assistant Secretary Victoria Bataclan.

RP avoids recession; economy grows 1.5% in Q2

The Philippine economy in the second quarter expanded by 1.5 percent boosted by the government's stimulus package, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).
In a briefing, Romulo A. Virola, NSCB secretary general said the modest economic growth benefited from the reinvigorated construction and mining and quarrying sectors and the big push by government services.

The economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), in the second quarter last grew 4.23 percent.

The first quarter GDP was revised to 0.59 percent from the earlier 0.4 percent growth.

The economy's growth was supported by services, 3.1 percent and agriculture, 0.3 percent.

The industry sector was still in contraction with 0.3 percent mainly due to manufacturing.

Virola said the seasonally adjusted estimate of the GDP grew by 2.4 percent "effectively avoiding the recession" that had threatened when the economy declined quarter on quarter by a revised 2.1 percent in the first quarter.

The gross national product, which includes net factor income from abroad (NFIA), also rose by three percent in the second quarter.

From January to June, the economy grew one percent from 4 percent last year.
Augusto Santos, acting socioeconomic planning secretary, said the 1.5 percent GDP growth is above the official forecast of negative 0.1 percent to 0.9 percent growth.

"The development occurred amidst signals that the global economic recovery was underway, with some industrialized countries already existing their recessions, like France and Germany," he said.

Santos said the Philippines remains as one of the few economies enjoying positive GDP growth rates in the second quarter.

The economy of China grew 7.1 percent; Vietnam, 4.5 percent; and Indonesia, 4 percent. The rest still contracted like Taiwan, -7.5 percent; Japan, -6.4 percent; Thailand, -4.9 percent; Malaysia, -3.9 percent; Hong Kong, -3.8 percent; Singapore, -3.5 percent and South Korea, -2.5 percent.

He added that despite earlier setbacks this year, employment growth was broad-based as employment grew strongly by 4.3 percent.

Santos said employment generation reached 1.5 million, and the unemployment rate improved to 7.5 percent from eight percent a year ago.

"Government and private sector hiring programs, flexible working arrangements, and the frontloading of infrastructure projects under the Economic Resiliency Plan, all helped cushion the economy's growth and unemployment from the global recession," he said.

Dennis Arroyo, head of the NEDA's National Planning and Policy Staff, said the 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent GDP growth target is "easy to breach."

"To breach the 1.8 percent, you have to grow 2.6 percent in the next semester, which seems easy," Arroyo said.

Santos said the key growth drivers for 2009 are trade, business process outsourcing, construction, mining and quarrying, private and government services.

"Positive prospects are seen in new markets for agricultural products, in medical tourism, in election spending during the next quarters, in the green industries, in renewable energy and in the growing profit opportunities from measures concerning climate change adaption and mitigation," Santos added.

Good benefits derived from VFA highlight LOCVFA hearing

The good benefits that the country has obtained ten years after the implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States have been highlighted during the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA hearing held on Thursday at the Senate building in Pasay City.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita cited the broadened RP-US security cooperation not only in defense issues but on the emerging global challenges such as terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters, piracy and transnational crimes.

”Terrorism remains an imminent threat to our peace and security. Our defense cooperation with the US, including the training exercises we undertake as facilitated by the VFA, assists us greatly in this respect,” Ermita told the panel.

Ermita also noted the support of the RP-US partnership in promoting the human rights and in broader objective of achieving lasting peace and development in Mindanao.

”Many obtained advanced training on human rights and humanitarian law concepts and practices, thanks to US programs, such as the Gobal Peacekeeping Operations Initiative,” he said.

”We can say that our partnership with the US is making a difference in winning the hearts and minds of people and drawing them away from the empty promises of those who would use terrorism and lawlessness to destroy and promote their evil ends,” he added.

For his part, VFA Commission (VFACOM) undersecretary Edilberto Adan revealed that since the implementation of the VFA in 1999, the Philippine military has received a total of US$ 249.99 million for the acquisition of firepower, engineering, mobility and communication equipment.

”If the VFA will be abrogated, it would mean a loss of US$ 30 to 40 million in military assistance from the US every year,” Adan said.

Adan also said that since 2001, there were 25,078 Filipinos and 27,186 Americans who participated in the exercises that were conducted in various parts of the country.

”For the past ten years, US assistance to the Philippines in terms of military capability upgrade, support to AFP operations, and civic and humanitarian missions highlight the importance of US-Philippine relations in addressing common security concerns. The VFA continues to serve the national interest,” Adan said.

Contrary to reports, Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary Agnes Devanadera said there was only one reported incident of violation when US soldier Daniel Smith has been convicted for raping a Filipino. Smith was eventually acquitted.

LOCVFA chairperson Sen. Miriam Santiago said she plans to recommend to the Senate the abrogation of the RP-US VFA, although she admitted the upper chamber of congress has no power to terminate any treaty.

”Our only power is to concur with the ratification of a treaty, but we can pass a “Sense of the Senate” resolution and I hope we should be heard as the Constitution provides share power for both the Senate and the President for it,” Santiago explained.

Controversial Navy Lt. Sr. Grade Nancy Gadian testified in the hearing but admitted that she has no personal knowledge that the US troops have been engaged in combat against Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.

”Nancy Gadian was not testifying from her own personal knowledge but even if you call her testimony hearsay, it is still part of the vital information the Senate needs to know in order that we can act properly on the issue,” Santiago said.

The LOCVFA is co-chaired by Rep. Antonio Cuenco, House committee on foreign affairs, who said he is in favor of the renegotiation of the VFA.

Senator Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, also attended the public hearing along with former Senate president Jovito Salonga.

San Miguel bags Limay power plant

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation today (26 August 2009) successfully conducted the negotiated sale of the 620-megawatt (MW) Limay Combined Cycle Power Plant, with San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC) having exceeded the government’s reserve price for the plant.

SMEC offered USD13.5 million (USD13,502,000.00) for the Bataan-based plant.

PSALM will declare SMEC, the energy investment arm of food and beverage conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, as the winning bidder as soon as the accuracy, authenticity, and completeness of all the submitted bid documents are checked and verified by the PSALM Board.

The successful negotiated sale was the fourth attempt of PSALM to privatize the Limay plant. The power facility remained unsold after public bidding in July 2008 and January 2009 and negotiations held in March 2009, primarily due to lack of interest from investors.

Commissioned in 1993, the Limay power plant comprises two 310-MW modules, Blocks A and B, which consist of three 70-MW gas turbines and a 100-MW steam turbine, respectively. Located in Limay, Bataan in Central Luzon, or approximately 145 kilometers west of Manila, the plant is designed to meet the base-load demand of the Luzon grid.

Although it has breached the 70% targeted privatization level for generating assets in the Luzon and Visayas grids ― one of the preconditions to the declaration of open access and retail competition (OARC) ― with the sale of the 600-MW Batangas (or Calaca) Coal-Fired Thermal Power Plant last July, PSALM continues to earnestly pursue the government’s power asset sale program, which is its primary mandate as specified in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

PSALM also hopes to accelerate fulfilling the remaining precondition to the OARC declaration — the sale of at least 70% of the total contracted capacities of the National Power Corporation in the Luzon and Visayas grids to independent power producer administrators — starting with the rebidding of the 1,000-MW contracted capacity of the Sual power plant in Pangasinan, and the 700-MW contracted capacity of the Pagbilao plant in Quezon Province on Friday, 28 August 2009.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

PGMA orders DOTC to implement necessary preventive measures

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday, expressed anger the deaths caused by bus accidents, the latest of which was the accident on Sunday in Lucena.

In a statement read for her by Press Secretary Cerge Remonde in a press briefing here, the President also issued marching orders to Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza to implement immediately necessary preventive measures.

“A lot of accidents caused by buses have happened this week, including that of a mother and child and the incident that took place in Lucena, claiming lives. I would like to express my very serious concern about these incidents. I am very angry because of unnecessary loss of lives,” the President said.

The President added that it is really sad to lose lives, especially of loved ones on these kind of accidents that could have been prevented.

At the same time, the President called on all stakeholders to a dialogue to discuss preventive measures. The Press Secretary also said the President will visit the victims of the Lucena bus accident after the 33rd full cabinet meeting here.

An update from the Lucena police said that another passenger who was critically injured in the head-on collision of two buses in Lucena past midnight Sunday died Monday evening, raising to nine the death toll in the bloody accident.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, a Lucena-bound Lucena Lines bus collided with Manila-bound A. Bragais Liner along the diversion road of the Maharlika Highway in the village of Domoit in Quezon province.

Eight bus passengers died on the spot and 41 others were injured.

A week ago, a bus ran over a mother and child along Edsa, resulting to the death of the child while the mother was seriously injured.

Sarangani folks welcome PGMA's visit

Residents of Alabel,Saranggani lauded efforts by President Gloria Arroyo to resolve a recurring problem of inundation in Mindanao that has affected thousands of residents and destroyed millions of pesos worth of crops and properties.

The President arrived here Tuesday to preside a cabinet meeting along with local and regional officials.

Speaking in the vernacular, jeepney driver Renato Paz said with the President herself coming over to look into the problem of flooding, speaks about the seriousness of the problem.

“Its nice to have her around and see for herself our situation,” remarked Luviminda Gellos, a resident of Malapatan, Sarangani.

Only last month in Kiamba, Sarangani, surging floodwaters swept away and drowned a four-year old boy from the grip of his mother who was also clutching an infant as they fled their home.

Four other siblings drowned in nearby Malapatan town due to flashflood.
In the agenda of the cabinet meeting are measures to mitigate inundation and prevention of further destruction of forests.

Also expected to be taken up are proposals for the rehabilitation of rivers and waterways to include those along Liguasan Marsh and the clearing of silts at the Rio Grande de Mindanao in Cotabato City.

An estimated P9-billion is needed to rehabilitate Liguasan Marsh which deterioration in its vegetation was among the factors blamed for the recurring flooding in the region.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, chairperson of the Task Force on the Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development (TFMRBRD, earlier warned of “far-reaching negative social, economic and political effects," if the problem is not immediately addressed.

The task force has recommended the need by experts to identify the critical areas of siltation along the river that needs to be dredged, from the river delta in Cotabato City up to Liguasan Marsh.

The task force has also earlier cited the need for new equipment to deepen and declog major waterways.

Efforts to resolve the perennial flooding in the region, particularly along Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato provinces, have been hampered by old and dilapidated equipment.

Specifically, the bishop said a new dredger is needed to avoid overflowing and inundation from Rio Grande de Mindanao which traverses the provinces of Cotabato and Maguindanao and empties through its delta in Cotabato City, which usually take the brunt of inundation during heavy rains.

A dredger being used to extract silt at the delta of Rio Grande de Mindanao is more than 30 years old and could only work for four hours at any given time.

Last month Cotabato City was again submerged in flood waters, sending schools to stop classes and severely affecting the city’s economy.

Last year, some 20,000 people were displaced when the Rio Grande overflowed and inundated its banks along Cotabato City.

PGMA goes to London to speak at forum of 'The Economist' media group

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has accepted an invitation to speak at a forum in London organized by the London-based newsmagazine, “The Economist,” in mid-September, it was confirmed today.

This is a private invitation by the media outfit — a leader in financial and business reporting in the industry - and is not a State Visit to the United Kingdom, sources clarified. The date of her appearance is on or before September 19, sources added.

It s not known what topic the President of the Philippines has been assigned to speak on, the sources said, but “most possibly it will be on emerging markets,” the sources said.

The invitation clearly indicates that the President is acknowledged for how she steered the Philippine economy out of the global financial crisis. It will be recalled that her Finance Secretary, Gary Teves, was given a special award early this year as “Financial Man of the Year.“
The Economist is a media leader in the field of economics and financial reporting.

While in London, it is only natural that the President might want to meet the Filipino community in the United Kingdom as well as have private talks with businessmen and key politicians. These are now being arranged, sources said.

The President may decide to proceed to Saudi Arabia for another visit, the sources said.

Better growth for RP in Q2 ‘09- Moody

Moody’s Investors Service projects a better performance from Philippines economy in the second quarter this year noting the same trend in other countries in the region.

In its Asia Spotlight report today, Moody’s, on the other hand, said the figure will be lower than the 0.4 percent output registered by the domestic economy in the first quarter this year.

Moody’s forecasts a 0.1 percent year-on-year output for the Philippines from April to June this year, within the -0.1 to 0.9 percent projection of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“But this drop stems from a strong result for the second quarter of 2008,” it said.
The report added that “output is expected to have risen compared with the previous quarter.”

Philippines registered a 4.6 percent output, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), in the second quarter of 2008. The GDP in the first quarter this year is lower than the 3.9 percent in the first three months last year.

Moody’s economist Alaistair Chan, the report said, almost all member-economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “have emerged from recession” as shown by the reports of each country respectively.

The report said Thailand registered a 9.5 percent year-on-year growth for the second quarter this year from 6.2 percent in the previous quarter; Singapore by 20.7 percent from -11.5 percent in the first quarter; and Indonesia by four percent from 4.4 percent in the previous three months.

Although Indonesia posted lower growth, Moody’s said that in general “output was lower than in the same period a year earlier but higher than in the first quarter—spectacularly so in some countries.”

Figures for the Malaysia and Philippines are yet to be released. For the Philippines the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) are set to report the 2009 second quarter output of the domestic economy on August 27, 2009.

Economic managers see a better performance for the economy in the second quarter this year due to the continued resiliency of the remittance from Overseas Filipinos (OFs) and the expected pick-up of infrastructure projects among others.

Moody’s noted that rebound of the economies in the region was first seen in the industrial production.

It said that “after reaching a bottom around January, production growth has rebounded in an almost perfect V shape.”

“Fiscal and monetary stimulus measures have played a large part, but one big factor in some economies has been inventory restocking,” it said.

It added that “the scale of the inventory reduction among ASEAN producers will boost growth in subsequent quarters, especially in Thailand, where inventories continued to fall in the second quarter.”

However, it stressed that “the pace of improvement is already slowing” now that “producers have a clearer idea of final demand and are producing at a level that does not induce large changes in inventories.”

“If this moderation continues, it will suggest that the rebound in GDP growth in the second quarter is unlikely to be repeated in coming quarters,” it added.

Release of 14 NDF consultants legally 'doable'--Bello

MANILA, Aug. 25 —A Malacanang official on Tuesday said that the demand of the National Democratic Front (NDF) for the release of 14 peace panel consultants is legally ‘doable’.

Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a radio interview, said the only thing needed to settle was the mechanics of the release of the NDF consultants so that they could take part in the peace process of the GRP-NDF.

”That is not a problem, legally it can be done. It is a question of discussing and agreeing on the terms of reference of the release of the NDF consultants,” Bello, a lawyer and a former Justice Secretary, said.

But Bello did not elaborate on what steps should be done and what would be needed to arrange the release of the NDF consultants.

Earlier, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Avelino Razon Jr. had alluded that the new demand might be a sign that the NDF was not serious in pursuing peace negotiations.

"The NDF must "speak clearly" on whether it is still interested in the peace negotiations. The government remains open to pursuing the peace negotiations. We invite the NDF to speak clearly on whether or not they are returning to the peace table," Razon said in an interview over the weekend.

The NDF has set a meeting with the government on Sept. 5, results of which would make or break its decision on whether or not to continue talking peace with President Gloria Arroyo’s government, or wait for the next administration.

But Bello said the Arroyo administration considered peace as one of the most important goals, saying it was a “condition sine qua non" to progress.

He also said that NDF consultant and Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison’s new conditions for the resumption of talks dismayed him.

Bello reminded Sison that when the government and the NDF signed a joint declaration in The Hague, both agreed that "the peace negotiations should be conducted without any preconditions."

”Let us talk without such conditions, we will talk until we reach a consensus on how to achieve lasting peace for our country," Bello said.

RP won 102 medals in 5th International Mathematics contest

A total of 102 medals were bagged by Filipino students including 16 golds in the 5th International Mathematics contest which was held at Global Indian International School in Singapore from Aug 20- 24.

According to Dr. Simon Chua, head of the delegation and president of the Mathematics Trainers Guild-Philippines (MTG), all of the 104 participants won a medal except for two who received merit certificates. RP won 16 gold medals, 27 silvers and 59 bronze medals for a total of 102 medals. The country also placed second overall in the competition behind China, which fielded 228 contestants and bagged 32 golds.

Chua also said that this is the best performance of the students in the said competition. The country only won 75 medals last year.

Monday, 24 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Monday, August 24, 2009

New PGMA bridge relinks Botolan to Subic, Olongapo

BOTOLAN, Zambales, Aug. 24 - Residents here warmly cheered President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the opening of a new bridge relinking this town and other Zambales municipalities to Subic and Olongapo City.

Travel to the northern part of the province had to be made through Pangasinan after typhoon "Kiko" wrought havoc last August 6.

The President cut the ceremonial ribbon formally opening the 60-meter steel bridge in Barangay Carael shortly after arriving here at 11 a.m. The bridge was constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in two weeks.

Assisting the President were DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Botolan Mayor Rogelio Yap, Zambales Governor Amor Deloso, Vice Governor Annie Gordon, and former Governor Vic Magsaysay.

During the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) meeting here last August 10, the Chief Executive directed the DPWH to immediately put up the bridge after typhoon "Kiko" brought water and lahar flows cascading down Mt. Pinatubo, breaching a kilometer stretch of the Bucao dike.

The resulting strong water and lahar flows from the dike created a 100-meter wide river which eroded and made impassable a portion of the national highway in Barangay Carael that isolated most parts of Zambales.

The DSWD reported that the typhoon has affected a total of 4,783 families in 10 barangays of Botolan, aside from totally damaging 284 houses and partially damaging 337 others.

After the rites, the President distributed relief goods to 1,290 families still housed in six evacuation centers at the Technology Learning and Resource Center (TLRC) resettlement area in Barangay Taugtog.

Cheering the President at the TLRC building in Barangay Taugtog were more than 4,000 evacuees, residents, and local officials.

The evacuees received rice, noodles, canned goods, milk, water, sugar, coffee, water jugs, used clothing, candles and toothbrushes

'Pangulong Gloria' scholars in Pampanga express deep gratitude to PGMA

MAGALANG, Pampanga, Aug. 24 -- Bright prospects for the future now await William Vitanzos and Marlon Gozum who took advantage of the scholarship program being offered by the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Through the Pangulong Gloria Scholarship (PGS) program, Vitanzos and Gozum acquired more knowledge and skills that would serve as their jumping board for more profitable jobs.

With this free scholarship program being offered by the government, they, together with other 90 beneficiaries, thanked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who took time to visit this municipality.

“We are very much grateful with all your support, Madam President. Through PGS program, we are now confident that we would get better jobs,” Vitanzos said, who took up bartending course under TESDA-accredited school in the province.

Vitanzos formerly worked as head bartender and, at the same time taught, Japanese language course at Clark Freeport before he availed of the PGS program.

“It is my desire to gain more knowledge and skills, that’s why I availed of this program,” he said as he interacted with the President at the Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC) here.

Vitanzos was also a former overseas worker who worked in Japan for ten years. He said he was forced to return to the country due to recession.

“This is indeed a good project by TESDA, especially for the youth who instead of doing nothing can study for free,” he said.

Gozum also expressed his deep gratitude to the President for giving him an opportunity to continue his study through ladderized educational system.

At present, he is in a first year college level at the PAC, taking up Bachelor of Science in Agriculture major in Animal Husbandry.

“This is indeed a big help for me and my family. I can now finish my schooling,” he told the President.

“Congratulations to all of you,” the Chief Executive told the PGS scholars.

Aside from PAC, the PGS scholars are studying in the various TESDA accredited vocational-technical schools scattered in the province.

Among the short courses being offered by TESDA include bartending, building wiring, call center agent course, carpentry, commercial cooking, computer hardware servicing, consumer electronics servicing, food and beverage services, health care services, household housekeeping, medical transcription, massage therapy, masonry, pipefitting, plumbing, welding, automotive servicing, driving, haircutting, small engine servicing, among others.

After graduation, the graduates undergo assessment tests prior to the award of certification, an important requirement for employment or for further training.

The PGS program is TESDA’s response to President Arroyo’s directives on government-business-labor initiatives to combat the effects of the global economic downturn. It is also TESDA’s platform to link job training directly to job recruiters, displaced workers and overseas Filipino workers.

The training package includes the training cost, institutional incentive package, training allowance and assessment fees.

Filipino, Malaysian businessmen eye P20-M resort investment in Tawi-Tawi

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Aug. 24 - A conglomerate of Filipino and Malaysian businessmen is pouring in an initial investment of P20 million to open up a resort in the town of Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, south of this city.

Nurben Project Engineer Hadji Benjamin Hamid said the resort’s structures will be a combination of native and western designs, although it would be patterned after resorts in Sipadan, Malaysia.

Hamid said that initially they are building 65 cottages with complete amenities for guests of the resort which will be built at Pastagan Beach in Bongao town.

Hamid, who is a member of the Tawi-Tawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., said the amenities include a hook and line fishing place for the resort guests.

He said the cottages will be for family and single accommodation.

He disclosed that a group of Tawi-Tawi businessmen have forged a tie-up with a business group from Lahad Datu, Malaysia for the realization of the project.

The business tie-up also includes the tourism aspect to market the resort not only in the country but also abroad, Hamid said.

He said the resort, the construction of which will start early next year, will cater to both domestic and foreign tourists who would travel to this southern frontier.

Hamid’s group expects a boom in Tawi-Tawi’s tourism industry once giant airline firms will open a route from and to Tawi-Tawi.

The Tawi-Tawi stakeholders foresee an increase in economic activity as well as tourism following the recent upgrading and expansion of the Sanga-Sanga Airport.

The Sanga-Sanga Airport runway has been upgraded and extended from 1,608 meters to 1,920 meters, and widened from 18 to 30 meters.

The upgrading and expansion of the Sanga-Sanga Airport could pave the way for the entry of the giant airline firms that operate bigger planes.

Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali disclosed that representatives from the Cebu-Pacific Air recently visited and conferred with him about the firm’s plan to open a route from and to the province.

Philippine Airlines’ Flight Technical Division Manager Selino Jalalon inspected last week the facilities at Sanga-Sanga Airport to determine if it is already within the aviation standards.

Jalalon is submitting a report as well as photographs he has taken to the PAL’s management for evaluation upon his return to Manila to determine what type of aircraft the company will use in opening up a route to Tawi-Tawi.

“We need this (big airport) kind of facility for our economy and tourism industry to move forward,” Hamid said.

Tawi-Tawi comprises 11 towns and has more than 300 islands and islets within its political jurisdiction and has pristine beaches, which are ideal spots for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Comelec asks Congress to revise election law on substitution of candidates

MANILA, Aug. 24 - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is asking Congress to revise the election law on the substitution of candidates in any position.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said they are hoping that Congress will consider their proposal favorably in relation to the automated May 2010 elections.

“Ang aming proposal is that no substitution except in case of death or disqualification. The present system is that a vote for the substituted will be a vote for the substitute,” he said.

The Omnibus Election law states that the substitute’s name should be hand-written, but Melo fears that by writing the name on the ballot, the machine might not read it since the 2010 polls will be automated.

“Dahil ang law ngayon e isulat daw ‘yung name nung substitute, we fear that the machine will not read any writing there,” he explained.

Melo said they plan to submit the proposal before Congress go on recess in October, adding that they have already talked about it with Senator Richard Gordon and Makati City Rep. Teddy Locsin.

Under the present law, substitution can be made even during the election day, Melo said as he cited the case of then Senator Gaudencio Antonino who died a day before the elections when his plane crashed. He was substituted by his wife, Magnolia.

“Until the election day, puedeng mag-substitute, gaya noong case ni Senator Gaudencio Antonino. His wife, Mrs. Antonino immediately filed her certificate of candidacy as a substitute but under the name of Mrs. Gaudencio Antonino..., so a vote for Gaudencio is a vote for her,” he explained.

Gov't gears up for commercial exportation of yellow corn

MANILA, Aug. 24 - Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap has announced that the government, for the first time in history, is gearing up for the commercial exportation of yellow corn.

The National Food Authority (NFA) has gotten in touch with its counterparts in Vietnam who have committed to prioritize buying Philippine corn.

"The government is ready to export 50,000 to 150,000 metric tons of corn. This will come from Isabela, Pangasinan, Mindoro, Bukidnon, among other provinces," NFA Administrator Jessup Navarro said.

Corn production for the second semester is expected to spike up from 656,723 MT to 802,964 MT in Region 2, while Northern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are expected to post significant increases as well.

With the increased of yellow corn production in the country, Yap sees this as a good opportunity for the country to export corn.

This new development in the corn sub-sector seeks to help farmers, mostly in corn producing provinces, such as Isabela and Pangasinan, to earn more despite the looming price drop-off foreseen in the local corn industry due to surplus in production.

“We have consulted with the local corn farmers, and we have reached in agreeable terms,” Yap said.

Upon the proposal of Yap, the government and the farmers have agreed on a new buying price of corn pegged at P10.00 per kilo instead of the prevailing market price of P6.50-P7.00 and the cost of production of corn at 7.81 per kg.
“This will enable the government to buy more grain as well as provide income to the farmers,” he said.

“As per our arrangement, the farmers have agreed to sell their produce at P10.00 per kilo. Para maiwasan din ang pagkalugi ng mga magmamais,” he added.

NFA has reached the total buying of corn to 600,000 metric tons because of the P10 buying price. Yap said more corn produce will be bought by the NFA from the local corn farmers at P10 per kilo.

“With this, the NFA has to work round-the-clock by extending working hours and implementing a seven-day operation and to do double-shifts daily,” Yap said.

Earlier, Yap has ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase corn procurement by as much as 200 percent as part of the government’s strategy to counter the effects of the looming price-crash of the grain and support the Filipino corn farmers.

Yap, who presented strategy measures as early as May 19 to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during a Cabinet meeting held at General Santos City, instructed NFA Administrator Jessup Navarro to increase corn grain buying target from 100,000 metric tons to 300,000 MT as an affirmation of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) commitment to the farmers.

“We have funds for this and we will continue to support our farmers,” Yap said. He further instructed the NFA to look for other innovative ways to expand the support to the country's corn farmers.

DOH did its job in Manila Bay cleanup

The Department of Health (DOH) today belied allegations that the agency is not complying with the Supreme Court (SC) decision concerning the Manila Bay cleanup.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that on May 5 this year, the DOH reported to the Department of Environment & Natural Resources that it has issued a memorandum (dated February 2, 2009) to all directors of the DOH-Centers for Health Development nationwide regarding the requirement of the SC decision.

“I directed them to undertake necessary actions to ensure the strict compliance of all septic and sludge companies as require by the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines,” Duque said.

The health chief also said that a meeting with Sanitation Officers/Heads of all local government units (LGUs) and septic tank desludging operators in Metro Manila was conducted on March 31, 2009 to orient them on the DOH rules and regulations governing the collection, handling, transport, treatment, and disposal of domestic sludge and septage.

“During the meeting, we requested the LGUs present to monitor the operators to make sure that the instructions have been followed to the letter,” Duque stressed.

Duque said that under the SC decision, the DOH is directed to determine if all licensed septic tank and sludge companies have the proper facilities for the treatment and disposal of fecal sludge coming from septic tanks.

Duque also reported that septic tanks of Metro Manila residences are being cleaned by the Maynilad Water Services, Inc. (MWSI) and the Manila Water Company, Inc. (MWCI) on a regular basis with the collected sludge from the septic tanks treated and disposed in their treatment facilities.

“All regional health offices, in coordination with local government units, are monitoring private desludging operators and require them to secure the Environmental Sanitation Clearance from the DOH,” Duque assured.

The DOH urges the public to tap only legitimate septic tank desludging operators, such as MWSI and MWCI, to service their septic tanks.

Monday, 17 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Monday, August 17, 2009

'Cash transfer program' coverage increases to one million families per month

SULTAN NAGA DIMAPORO, Lanao Del Norte, Aug. 17 - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced today (Aug. 17) that the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps will increase the number of its target beneficiaries from 700,000 to one million poor families per month.

The President made the announcement here, where she personally handed cash assistance to family-beneficiaries in the area. So far, 28,929 households from 317 barangays in 15 municipalities of the province are getting regular support under the program.

Also known as the Conditional Cash Transfer Program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program “works to address the structural inequities in society and promotes the human capital development of the poor, thus working to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”

The government had originally targeted 300,000 poor families at the start of the program, later raised to 700,000, and expanded to one million families today.
While pleased with the way the program has progressed, President Arroyo said the government could do more.

“There are too many poor families,” the President said. “I am working to extend the benefits of the program to as many as 20 percent of the country’s 4.6 million poor families,” she added.

“That may seem overly ambitious, but during my recent visit to Brazil, I learned that a similar program there has universal coverage,” the President said. “Alleviating poverty throughout the Philippines is my goal and we will use all available resources. . . for that important mission,” she emphasized.

An additional P5-Billion has been earmarked for the expanded 4Ps coverage.

On fears raised that the program would only serve to promote a dole-out mentality, the president said the immediate purpose is to save the children of the recipient families from the debilitating effects of grinding poverty.

“That alone is a worthy goal,” she said. “But there is more to this program. We want to give our people a fighting chance to improve their lot, on their own steam.”

The cash component of the program is P500 per month per family for health and nutrition needs, and an additional P300 per child in school, for a maximum of three (3) children per family.

According to the President a follow-up study of the program’s recipients has yielded very encouraging results.

“The parents who receive support under the program, especially pregnant women, are now regularly visiting clinics and health centers,” she said. “Their children also have higher school attendance records. These are some of the goals of this program.”

The 4Ps Conditional Cash Transfer Program is scheduled to run for only five (5) years, but to ensure long term sustainability of the program from one administration to the next, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has introduced a bill that would institutionalize it.

The Senate bill and its counterpart legislation in the House of Representatives, President Arroyo said, seek to improve maternal health and reduce child mortality, eliminate extreme hunger and achieve universal primary education.

June ’09 remittance posts record high inflows of US$ 1.5B; totals US$ 8.5B in H1 of '09

MANILA, Aug. 17 – The record-high of nearly US$ 1.5 billion Overseas Filipino (OF) remittances in June 2009 alone is a testimony of earlier projections that inflows would remain resilient this year amid the global downturn.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Monday said remittances grew 3.3 percent in June this year to US$ 1.49 billion from the US$ 1.45 billion in June 2008.

This brought the inflows in the first six months this year to US$ 8.5 billion, or a jump of 2.9 percent compared to the US$ 8.24 billion in end-June last year.

Bulk of these came from the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, UK, Japan, Singapore, UAE, Italy, and Germany.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said inflows from land-based and sea-based workers both registered higher inflows of 2.5 percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.

“The continued growth of remittance flows since January this year, accompanied by emerging signs of improving global economic conditions, have affirmed the positive outlook for steady remittance for 2009,” he stressed.

Tetangco traced the continued strong inflows to both the high demand for highly-skilled and professional Filipino workers and the wide array of services and products being offered by domestic banks and their counterparts abroad.

He said deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is expected to remain robust in the coming months due to, among others, the employment arrangements of the Philippine government with its counterpart in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia, and South Korea.

Apart from the possible recruitment of around 4,000 Filipino medical workers in Libya, the BSP chief said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Tripoli is checking out employment possibilities for Filipinos in non-traditional markets like Algeria, Chad, Malta, and Morroco, particularly in the hotel, oil, gas and technical services sectors.

The central bank also said that more OFWs are expected to be deployed in Taiwan, among others, due to the Special Hiring Program for Taiwan (SHPT).

Military optimistic in finishing off the ASG by year end

MANILA, August 17 – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino on Monday expressed optimism that government security forces can defeat the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group in Basilan province within the year.

Dolorfino said that intensified military operations, in close coordination with local government officials in Basilan, government security forces will be able to finally finish the Abu Sayyaf menace.

”We can wipe out the Abu Sayyaf by the year end by intensifying our military operations,” said Dolorfino during a broadcast interview.

”We are seeking the cooperation of the mayors of the area to cooperate with the military operations. As far as we know, there are 80 members of Abu Sayyaf in Basilan,” Dolorfino also said.

Last Wednesday, day-long clashes erupted between government security forces and Abu Sayyaf bandits in Tipo-tipo town resulting in the killing of 23 soldiers, including two young lieutenants, and at least 31 combined Abu Sayyaf and lawless members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The presence of MILF rebels in the area during the encounter has prompted the AFP to file formal complaint before the coordinating committee on cessation of hostilities (CCCH) which is monitoring the ceasefire between the government and the secessionist group.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared suspension of offensive military operations against the MILF to pave the way for the smooth resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF.

The MILF, on the other hand, reciprocated the move by declaring its own suspension of military action against the AFP.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu, however, explained that the military fired upon the MILF troops during pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

The AFP had said that the MILF leadership was aware of the military operations in Tipo-tipo and should have not have its fighters in the area which is known to be a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

”In our own investigation, military reinforcements fired MILF troops while running after the Abu Sayyaf…there is really a need for an independent investigation by the GRP and MILF panels,” said Kabalu.

Despite the Tipo-tipo incident, both the AFP and the MILF have expressed optimism that such will not derail the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the MILF.

Almost all drugstores/pharmacies in Metro Manila complied with price cut on drugs – DOH

MANILA, Aug. 17 – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday said that 90 percent of drugstores and pharmacies in Metro Manila have complied with the 50 percent price cut that took effect August 15 on 49 brand names of essential drugs.

“The compliance rate was based on the rounds we have conducted since August 15 until today. Some drugstores and pharmacies have complied the day after the start of implementation. It is nice to see that almost all of them have posters for the public to view the list of the drugs and new prices of essential drugs,” Duque said.

He said said the compliance of Mercury Drug Store and Watson's Drug Store have pulled up the compliance rates as they have about a thousand outlets nationwide.

Duque said that he got positive responses from consumers whom he interviewed during the rounds. He said most of them we’re gladdened by the new prices saying that they can now purchase the drugs even with a tight budget.

“There’s this lady I interviewed who said that she only has a budget for five tablets of the antibiotic Ciprobay. But when she learned that its price dropped to 50 percent, she told me that she is very pleased that she can now buy the complete prescription of Ciprobay for his sick father,” Duque said.

As shown on the Voluntary Reduction Price List, Ciprobay 500mg tablet manufactured by Bayer costs P88.83 before, but now it costs only P41.91.

Another consumer – Teofila Francisco, 64, who is a patron of Telmisartan, a drug she always buy for her hypertension – said that she was relieved by the new price of Boehringer (Micardis) by GSK which was priced P89.00 before and now costs only P44.50.

“With the affordable prices of medicines especially for maintenance medication and antibiotics, patients can now complete their antibiotic courses and become more compliant with their daily maintenance medicines,” Duque said.

Although the DOH said almost all drugstores and pharmacies have complied with the new prices, Duque said there have been reports of stores that did not pull down the prices of drugs under the new list.

He said one customer showed that a drugstore defied the presidential order to slash retail prices of essential medicines based on a receipt shown he submitted to the DOH.

Duque asked consumers to keep receipts of their medicine purchases to help identify drugstores that are not complying with the Cheaper Medicines Act.

The DOH chief said he will call for an investigation on the erring drugstore before they will file charges for violation of the Consumer’s Act with punishment fines and possible revocation of license to operate.

The DOH has setup compliant desks with hotline 807-0751 or 8078275 in Metro Manila. Duque said for those in the provinces, consumers can view the hotlines as indicated on the list posted on drugstores and pharmacies.

Executive Order 821 signed last month by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, mandated a 50-percent cut on the prices of five medicines considered essential and currently sold at exorbitant prices in the Philippines.

The medicines with cheaper prices include anti-hypertensives, anti-thrombotic,anti-diabetic/antihypoglycemic, and antibiotic/antibacterial.

Big drugstores and hospital pharmacies were given the August 15 deadlines to comply with the price cut while small drugstores and medium-scale drugstores with manual inventory systems were given up to September 15 to comply.

This August, start taking care of your eyes – DOH

The Department of Health (DOH) today reminded the public to take care of their eyes as approximately 314 million people worldwide are estimated to live with low vision and blindness, according to the 2002 World Health Organization data.

“We have coordinated a nationwide eye screening and cataract surgery with selected government and private hospitals, so I urge the public to have their eyes checked up to prevent blindness later in life”, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

The global figure translates to 3.4 million Filipinos who are visually impaired, according to the 3rd National Blindness Survey done in 2002. Of these, 3.2 million have visual impairment in one or both eyes while 461,121 are blind in both eyes.

“According to the same survey, blindness was most common among the elderly and the poor who have no access to health facilities”, Duque said, adding that as one grows older, one gets more prone to have an error of refraction, or glaucoma, or cataract, or blindness due to diabetes, hypertension.

Based on the same survey, the top three causes of visual impairment are cataract, error of refraction, and glaucoma. Cataract is the number one cause of reversible blindness in the country, with prevalence highest among the poor and underserved. Errors of refraction can usually be corrected with eyeglasses.

Experts said that glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually lead to loss of vision, often without warning. This disease is hardly preventable when blindness has set in. What is important is early detection; however, this can only be done with high technology equipment. This makes the number of glaucoma cases under-estimated.

The reminder was made as part of the national observance of this month as Sight-Saving Month whose theme is, “Excellence and Equity in Eye Care: A Human Right”.

“Quality and affordable eye care must be made accessible to all Filipinos of all social strata. This is a basic right that should be accorded to everyone, without discrimination as to age, sex, gender, religion, race, or social standing”, declared Duque adding that the challenge now is how to bring affordable and excellent eye care to all areas of the country.

This year, the DOH and its partner agencies and organizations under the National Committee for Sight Preservation, aims to put up local Committees for Sight Preservation in the different regions and provinces of the country. Under their local chief executives (LCEs), these committees will coordinate the delivery of eye care services at the local level, such as eye screening and cataract surgery programs for the indigent constituents ofthe community.

A local Committee for Sight Preservation will be composed of ophthalmologists,optometrists, local health care personnel, representatives of civic organizations and non-government organizations, and volunteers from the community.

Duque also advocated to the non-government organizations to help the LCEs by providing human resources or logistics for cataract surgeries and providing eyeglasses. He also challenged the PhilHealth to look into providing coverage to specialists who work in hazardous or hard-to-reach areas.“The end goal is that eye care services will be integrated in the local health services system”, Duque concluded.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, August 13, 2009

PGMA orders DPWH to expedite Caramoan coastal road project

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Aug. 13 (PNA) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Thursday to expedite the completion of the Presentacion-Caramoan coastal road here.

The Chief Executive, who was scheduled to visit Caramoan, deferred the road inspection due to inclement weather. She instead proceeded to her scheduled visit to this city to inaugurate the re-opening of the tolling facilities of Legaspi Oil Company in Barangay Arimbay.

Upon landing at the Legazpi Airport, the President was briefed by DPWH Undersecretary Rafael Yabut on the status of the Presentacion-Caramoan costal road project.

President Arroyo directed Yabut to expedite the completion of the project, particularly the Caramoan road leading to San Vicente roll-on-roll-off (RoRo) port that will connect the mainland of Caramoan peninsula to Catanduanes.

According to the President, she will inspect the Caramoan road project in September this year to oversee the development of her priority project in the province.

The Presentacion-Caramoan road is expected to link the nine barangays in between the two towns.

The proposed road project is anticipated to open new income opportunities and spur the socio-economic development by providing people the means to transport livestock and agricultural products to commercial centers.

It is also designed to serve as an access to the RoRo ferry port in Caramoan going to the island province of Catanduanes.

PGMA set to sign Magna Carta of women tomorrow

MANILA, Aug. 13 - Women can look forward to equality in family relationship and on the worksite once President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs the Magna Carta of Women tomorrow.

The Magna Carta of Women, Republic Act 9710, prohibits discrimination against women and recognizes, promotes, and protects their rights.

Scheduled to be held at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang at 10 a.m., the signing ceremony will be preceded by a program that includes acknowledgement of those who worked for the passage of the law and an audio-visual presentation.

Implementation of the law by all government agencies (national, local and Philippine embassies and consulates abroad) will be overseen by the Philippine Commission on Women (formerly the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women), under the Office of the President.

The PCW, will be the primary policy-making and coordinating body for women and gender equality concerns. It will ensure that government agencies mentioned are effectively implementing the law.

The law also applies to women working abroad through the designation of a gender focal point in the consular section of the Philippine embassies or consulates, who shall be trained on gender and development in handling gender concerns of women migrant workers, especially those in distress.

Other agencies like the Departments of Labor and Employment and Social Welfare and Development are also mandated to cooperate in strengthening the Philippine foreign posts’ programs for the delivery of services to women migrant workers, consistent with the one country team approach in foreign service.

All government offices, including local governments and government owned and controlled corporations, are responsible in implementing the provisions of the Magna Carta that falls within their mandate, particularly those that guarantee rights of women requiring specific action from the State.

Thousands flock to ‘Serbisyo sa Mendiola’ for jobs, livelihood training and free services

MANILA, August 13 (PNA) - An endless stream of job applicants and people looking for livelihood opportunities flocked to the “Serbisyo sa Mendiola” trade and job fair at the Mendiola parking lot on Thursday.

The “Serbisyo sa Mendiola” is part of the continuing effort of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to help improve the people’s economic status and uplift their financial condition by bringing the needed services to the people.

Coordinated by the Presidential Action Center (PACE) and the Office of External Affairs (OEA), the fair pooled together the different line agencies of the national government that have direct importance in the delivery of basic social services, as well as several big private companies and manning agencies to bring jobs, basic services and livelihood opportunities to the people living in the vicinity of Malacañang.

Among the services offered by government agencies at the fair were free livelihood training seminars from the Technology Resource Center (TRC), free haircut and massage from the Technical Education and Skills Development (TESDA), free overseas call to overseas Filipino workers from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), cheap medicines from the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC), cheap basic commodities from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and subsidized rice from the National Food Authority (NFA).

The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) gave away free vegetable seeds, seedlings of fruit bearing trees and educational pamphlets.

For their part, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) offered free legal services.

Even the Presidential Security Group (PSG) had its own booth which served as a first aid station that offered free blood pressure checkups.

Meanwhile, hopeful applicants seeking local and overseas employment who lined up at the various booths put up by private companies were very pleased with the mobile centers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the National Statistics Office (NSO).

Those still without their birth certificates and NBI clearances literally took only a few steps to get their needed documents. NBI clearances were processed and released in only five minutes while birth certificates would be received by the applicants through mail.

Overall, the “Serbisyo sa Mendiola” was a huge success.

Mrs. Restina Magno, a 68-year-old widow and grandmother of 10 from nearby Concepcion Aguila St., was among the scores of old women who availed of the free haircut offered by TESDA.

"It had been almost two years now since I have been to a parlor to have my hair styled because extra money is hard to come by. Now I feel rejuvenated and I have the government to thank for this free gift," Aling Restin, as she is fondly called, said.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Jorge Bagobo from Bicutan, Taguig City, a former overseas Filipino in the Middle East, said he just happened to pass by Mendiola and saw the fair.

He applied at one of the participating manning agencies as a hotel and restaurant staff.

"After applying and getting a schedule for a preliminary interview, I suddenly remembered that my birth and NBI certificates were both expired. That was when I saw the NSO and NBI mobile centers just across the job fair booths," he said happily.

It just took him additional 15 minutes to have the two documents processed.
Even students from nearby colleges along Mendiola, especially the graduating ones, availed of the services offered by NSO.

Like everybody else who went to the event, all of them came out satisfied and very grateful to the government for bringing the services closer to them.

Moreover, just like the People's Government Mobile Action (PGMA) caravans, which had national government agencies reaching out to the different provinces of the country to offer their services for almost three years now, ‘Serbisyo sa Mendiola’ succeeded in bringing needed social services closer to the people and showing them where their taxes are being spent.

AFP deploys combat troops, war planes, helicopters as fierce gunbattle rages in Basilan

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Aug. 13 – The Armed Forces Of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMincom) based in Zamboanga Peninsula on Thursday deployed more combat troops in Basilan province as fierce gunbattle still rages where 20 Abu Sayyaf bandits were already reported killed and unaccounted number of others were critically wounded.

A flash report reaching this frontier city of Northern Mindanao also stated that at least 22 government soldiers were also killed in clashes which began at dawn Wednesday in Silangkom, and Baguindan areas in Tipo-tipo town, both in Basilan province. .

Identities of the dead soldiers were withheld by the WestMincom pending notification of their next of kin.

Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of WestMincom ordered Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commanding general of the 1st Marine brigade the deployment of more combat troops and war earth-moving equipments in the battle front.

The WestMincom chief also ordered the Philippine Air Force (PAF) strike wing and helicopter wing commanders the deployment of war planes and attack helicopters to extend air cover to the ground troops.

The Naval Forces of the WestMincom also directed set up blocking positions along the coastal areas in Basilan.

Initial reports indicated that the Abu Sayyaf bandits were reportedly led by Puruji Indama.

More than four battalions of Marine soldiers are now deployed in Basilan province, particularly in Tipo-tipo, according to a WestMincom tactical officer who requested anonymity.

The initial engagement occurred when Marine soldiers launched their offensive position in Silangkom area, he said.

As this developed, sporadic gun fighting is still raging in the mountainous jungle areas in Silangkom and Baguindan.

In her recent State of the Nation Address, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the wiping out of Abu Sayyaf bandits to pave way for the full economic development in that southern tip province of Zamboanga Peninsula.

DOH gets satisfaction ratings for looking after the public’s health - SWS survey

The Department of Health (DOH) today expressed its gratitude to the public for conveying their confidence in the government’s capability of looking after their health in the light of the most recent survey results that showed positive satisfaction ratings.

The Social Weather Stations (SWS) latest survey revealed that the government got a +40 satisfaction rating (the highest net rating among the 13 issues surveyed) on “the issue of protecting the public from the outbreak of diseases” and a +14 rating for “ensuring that medicines are available”.

“We are very happy that all our efforts did not go to waste. Our government, under the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and its health workers are selflessly and relentlessly working to give the public better health services and we are very thankful to the public for appreciating all these endeavors,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

The health chief said that during the height of the A (H1N1) outbreak earlier this year and even with the year-round continuous threat of dengue, health workers have never tired of serving the public and have always had their best interest in mind.

“The battle against A (H1N1) is not easy. I am not saying that the fight has already been won and that we have squashed the novel virus. But due to the diligent work of our people at DOH and our front liners in the field and in the hospitals, we were able to stall the increase in the number of cases and treat those afflicted accordingly,” Duque explained.

Duque said that to maximize the impact of the agency’s information drive against this disease, the DOH did not just rely on traditional means such as lectures and other community-organized meetings but also tried using mass media as a channel to expand its reach.

“We have infomercials to augment our health promotion efforts. We have print advertisements in leading newspapers, we have television commercials, and we have radio plugs that can reach the farthest areas. We even partnered with Smart to use SMS text in disseminating vital information on A (H1N1). We really did not leave any stone unturned just to make the information get to the public and it is paying off because it raised their awareness,” Duque stressed.

The health chief said that the 4-S Kontra Dengue campaign launched in 2006 had been given the same media treatments and made the public more aware of its prevention and control. “The government’s efforts in ensuring medicines are affordable to the public is not an easy feat also.
The fight for cheaper medicines was a long and tedious battle with the multinationals for years and now that a law has finally been signed to make the costs of essential medicines half by 50%, its time for the public to reap,” Duque said.

Duque said that as the head of the DOH he has an accountability of informing the public about these developments.“We need to make the most out of our resources and have to resort to all information channels that will best deliver it: the media. It’s a very good tool and is cost-effective if we compare it to the expenses that may possibly incur when thousands of the public get sick,” Duque said.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, August 12, 2009

PGMA inaugurates Atherton bridge in QC

MANILA, Aug. 12 - Residents of Fairview, Lagro, Novaliches and as far away as Bulacan can now get to and from Quezon City and neighboring cities with relative ease following the inauguration by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the recently completed Atherton bridge connecting barangays North and East Fairview Wednesday morning.

In her short remarks during the event, President Arroyo cited the invaluable contribution of three organizations in helping realize the completion of Atherton Bridge -- the QC government led by Mayor Sonny Belmonte, the office of QC Rep. Annie Rosa Susano and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Bayani Fernando.

Residents of both barangays were effusive in giving their utmost gratitude for the President's “Tulay ng Pangulo” bridge program which they said would boost economic development and ease traffic congestion in the area.

Manolo Lumentigar, a 47-year old resident of Bgy. East Fairview personally thanked the President for the program that provided him and his family a source of income after he was hired as a carpenter for that particular project.

Built at a cost of P62-million, the Atherton Bridge is a 10-bay, double-lane superstructure made out of steel and concrete. It was completed earlier this year.

Philippine Army prepares to declare Aklan as insurgency-free before end of 2009

ILOILO CITY, Aug. 12 – The Philippine Army is now gearing to hand over the responsibility on internal security in Aklan to the concerned local government unit (LGU) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in line with its proposed declaration of the province as insurgency-free before end of 2009.

Col. Gerardo T. Layug, Brigade Commander of the 301st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Dingle, Iloilo said in a press conference Wednesday that Major Gen. Vicente Porto, commanding general of the 3ID is “exploring the possibility of handing over the responsibility of Aklan to the local peace and order council and the PNP by end of 2009.”

He cited that there have been great changes in the insurgency situation in Aklan compared with other provinces in Panay.

He attributed the successful campaign to the support coming from the LGU of Aklan and the PNP.

“We will not totally abandon Aklan, our presence will still be there; we will maintain our holding forces in the area,” he assured.

Aklan and the northern portion of Antique were once covered by the Northern Front Committee but Layug disclosed that based on the information that they gathered from rebels availing of the Social Integration Program (SIP), the group was already neutralized two years ago.

There were smaller affectations though in the hinterland portions of the town of Libacao, which is situated almost at the boundary of Tapaz, Capiz.

The first province to be declared as insurgency free on Dec. 1, 2008 was Guimaras. At present, the internal security is being handled by the LGU and the PNP.

PGMA orders creation of Local Anti-Hunger Task Force

MANILA, Aug. 12 — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued on Wednesday Executive Order No. 825 creating the Local Anti-Hunger Task Force.

During his weekly media briefing today at the New Executive Building in Malacanang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the President ordered the creation of the Local Anti-Hunger Task Force in line with her commitment to eradicate all forms of deprivation, including that related to hunger, by pursuing the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The latest quarterly survey on hunger conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in the first quarter of 2009 showed that hunger incidence in the country declined dramatically from 23.7 percent (estimated 4.3 million families) in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 15.5 percent (estimated 2.9 million families out of 86 million Filipino population).

According to Ermita, the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program (AHMP) is the landmark program of the Arroyo government to address hunger both on the aspect of supply, or the unavailability or insufficiency of food to eat, and on the aspect of demand, or the lack of money to buy food.

The AHMP is implemented by national government agencies based on the hunger-mitigation program framework, in cooperation with local government units.

Ermita said the National Anti-Hunger Task Force was created through EO 616 on April 3, 2007. It is composed of 29 national government agencies and faith-based organizations which implement one or more AHMP component programs and headed by the Secretary of Health to ensure the hunger-mitigation measures of the government.

Ermita explained that President Arroyo ordered the creation of the Local Anti-Hunger Task Force from the regional and provincial levels as counterpart of the National Anti-Hunger Task Force.

The regional/provincial anti-hunger task force shall be created in provinces covered by the AHMP to facilitate coordination, complementation and convergence of services and resources, and to widen the reach of the program among the poor and hungry households in the identified priority areas in the country.

Comelec set to hear petition to nullify Lakas-Kampi merger on Thursday

MANILA, Aug. 12 - An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) revealed on Wednesday that the merger of President Arroyo’s parties -– the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) -– could have been approved if former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. interfered after filing a motion for nullification of the union.

Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, the presiding officer of the Second Division of the Comelec, said the case was already submitted for resolution.

“Yes (it was approved already)… kasi walang opposition noon. The way we looked at it, it was an ordinary petition for accreditation. They just have to prove na they exist throughout the Philippines. E ang dami naman nila (members) e,” he said.

In June, President Macapagal Arroyo announced the official merger of the two parties, and to be known as Lakas-Kampi CMD. The petition for accreditation was filed in July.

De Venecia, Lakas’ former president last month filed the nullification petition of the highly-publicized merger of the two parties of the administration bloc.

He said that the merger was done against the Constitution of the political party as there was no national assembly called for the purpose of ratifying the merger proposal.

Ferrer explained that despite the first case already being resolved, they decided to consolidate the cases since they are inter-related by nature.

“So that the resolution (on the case) will be consolidated… we also have to give a chance to de Venecia to prove his opposition,” the poll official said.

On Thursday, the Second Division is set to hold its first hearing on the Lakas-Kampi merger petition.

The Comelec is looking to resolve the case before the end of the month.

Invitation to the Signing of Letter of Cooperation between ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and Partnership in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA)
Thursday, 13 August 2009, 1 pm, Tagaytay Highlands Club,
Cavite City

PEMSEA and ACB agreed to trade information with each other to promote regional cooperation in biodiversity conservation.

PEMSEA, headed by Former Energy Secretary Raphael P. M. Lotilla, aims to protect life-support systems and enable the sustainable use and management of coastal and marine resources through regional cooperation and partnerships.

ACB is an intergovernmental regional centre of excellence established through the agreement between governments of ASEAN Member States, for policy formulation, capacity development, awareness raising and links with the international donor community for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.