Author Archive

Psych tests for DHs: stupid, absurd, says MIGRANTE

June 10, 2008

The government’s plan to make all United Arab Emirates ‘ (UAE) bound domestic workers undergo a rigid psychological test drew heavy flak from the largest overseas Filipino workers’ alliance, MIGRANTE International.

Philippine authorities in the UAE led by Philippine Consul General to Dubai Benito Valeriano was recently quoted in the Khaleej Times that they are actually pushing for the measure to determine whether an “applicant cannot withstand work and has the tendency to break down emotionally and psychologically.”

MIGRANTE chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said this measure is “stupid and only reveals how our

embassy officials are utterly detached from the harsh realities faced daily by our migrant workers on the


“Veleriano and his clueless ilk should wake up to the reality that domestic workers snap and are

driven to the brink of insanity because they are subjected to the most degrading and inhuman treatment,

such as physical and mental abuse, rape, non-payment of wages and torture,” she said. “They also face

the reality that Philippine embassy officials will not lift a finger to help them. Now, who will not be driven to insanity under these circumstances?”

Regalado added that the planned psych test is “another scheme of the government to exact more

funds from the OFWs in the form of examination fees.”

“ Not content with the billions of remittances that are saving the economy, government continues to churn

up measures that are bleeding migrant Filipinos dry,” Regalado stated.

“If Valeriano truly believes in alleviating the lot of our bagong bayanis (modern heroes), for starters, he should instead propose measures that would scrap the exorbitant fees and charges it imposes on OFWs,” Regalado pointed out “OFWs are already burdened by numerous charges and fees imposed by the government.”(DavaoToday)


‘Exodus’ calls for end to militarization in countryside

June 10, 2008

Concerned organizations and individuals form an alliance called Exodus for Justice and Peace to call for a stop of the militarization in the countryside and for the return of hundreds of Lumads displaced from their communities. The alliance also seeks justice for the death of tribal chieftain Dominador Diarog, peasant leader Celso Pojas and other victims of human rights violations. ( photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Lawyer Beverly Musni, one of the convenors of EXODUS for Justice and Peace, talks about the displacement of lumads in Mindanao during the time of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo. She estimates about a million people displaced in different parts of Mindanao from 2001- 2008. ( photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Exodus’s members sign a statement of unity calling attention to the daily needs of victims, including health and medical services, psychosocial therapy sessions for women and children, legal services, moral support, among others. ( photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Real solutions to the global food crisis

June 10, 2008

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation held a summit in Rome this week to focus global attention and action on the food price crisis that is currently hitting the world’s poorest people.

The World Development Movement highlighted the role of unfair trade rules and the rush to biofuels as key contributors to this emergency and called on the EU and US to stop their drive to open developing country markets to their agricultural produce, thereby undermining local farm production.

Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement said:

“The food crisis is hitting poor people hard. This week the FAO’s attention must focus on the root causes of the crisis and long term solutions. A good start would be for the EU and US to stop relying on World Bank funding schemes for agriculture and biotechnology fixes. Instead the EU and US must halt their drive to open poor countries’ markets to their subsidised agricultural goods, which destroys local food production and so creates dependency on foreign imports. The price of these imports is sky-rocketing and as such is a clear contributor to the current global emergency.”

Watch a video here from Antonio Tujan, international director of the IBON Foundation in the Philippines, talking to WDM director Benedict Southworth about how donor aid and trade policies have contributed to the rice crisis in his country.

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The World Development Movement is part of a coalition of over 230 civil society organisations from around the world that have urgently written to the leaders of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. In the letter, we argue that the Doha round of trade talks, as currently proposed, will intensify rather than alleviate the food crisis by making developing countries more dependent on food imports, the prices of which are now sky rocketing. (IBON)

Editorial Cartoon: Reviving Devil

June 9, 2008

Pag mga mahihirap, pinapabayaang mamatay.  Pag pahirap, pinipilit na mabuhay.  Grrr…

College editors to spearhead first-day-of- school ‘Pubs Baha’

June 9, 2008

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) today announced that it would greet school opening with its traditional ‘Pubs Baha’.

‘Pubs Baha’ is a customary protest activity for CEGP’s member publications. It is characterized by a ‘downpour distribution (baha)’ of old and new issues of a campus publication to students by editors and staff, especially if the publication is experiencing campus press freedom violations.

CEGP National President Vijae Alquisola announced that their member publications will simultaneously distribute their respective campus papers tomorrow, June 10, the first day of classes, in different colleges and universities.

“For this year’s school opening, we are giving ‘Pubs Baha’ a twist. Our message is for students to meet the school year aware and vigilant of past and present issues that have hounded them as published in our publications, ” said CEGP national president Vijae Alquisola.

Alquisola said that among the most pressing issues that students should address head on are the yearly education and tuition woes, press freedom violations, the economic crisis, corruption in government and human rights violations.

Campus publications expected to participate are the University of the PhilippinesPhilippine Collegian, UP Manila’s Manila Collegian, Ateneo’s Matanglawin, Polytechnic University of the Philippines‘ The Catalyst, the EARIST Technozette, University of Makati’s The Makati Collegian, Philippine Normal University’s Torch and the Arellano Herald.

The ‘Pubs Baha’ will be the CEGP’s main participation in the Youth Action Day planned by different youth and student organizations for tomorrow’s school opening.

Simultaneous protest actions are expected to commence at lunchtime tomorrow in Taft Avenue, the University Belt and Katipunan consortia of schools with the theme, ‘Balik-Eskwela, Balik-Sigla ang Protesta.’

“We are enjoining our fellow editors and writers to participate and launch their own ‘Pubs Baha’ as a symbolic action of the campus press’ collective vigilance,” Alquisola said.

He announced that they are set to release a pooled editorial calling for ‘renewed youth vigilance and action for truth, accountability and social change’ to be published by CEGP’s 700 member publications nationwide in the first weeks of classes. ###

Hanjin guards blamed for death of fisherman

June 9, 2008

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 06:24pm (Mla time) 06/08/2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines–A woman is blaming the guards of the Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Phil. Inc. for the death of her husband from cerebral hemorrhage on June 5 after the guards allegedly harassed him and nine other fishermen on Rendondo Bay in Subic, Zambales.

Julieta Ebale, 45, said she wanted the Korean firm Hanjin and its three Filipino guards punished for the death of her husband, Anastacio, 39.

“We were in the waters of Nagyantoc, pulling our nets when three Hanjin guards came on a speedboat and shouted expletives at us. One of the 10 fishermen, Leo Banela, tried to reason by saying we have the right to fish in the area. One of the guards shouted, ‘Pu#@* mo,’ pulled out his firearm, which looked like an Armalite rifle, and threatened to shoot us,” Ebale told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.

At that point, she said, her husband collapsed.

“We tried to give him first aid to no avail,” she said.

This happened between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Thursday, she said.

The death certificate showed “cerebral hemorrhage” as the cause of Anastacio’s death. “His blood pressure rose,” Ebale said, citing the information given her by a doctor.

She said her husband must have been “very shocked” because Hanjin guards beat him up when he went fishing in the same area on May 1.

Tirso Rosal, security consultant of Hanjin, said the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, which has jurisdiction over the Redondo bay area, approved a 200-meter no-fishing zone from the coast of the shipyard.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza confirmed the fishing ban in the zone where the company has been anchoring its newly built ships.

Hanjin president Jeong Sup Shim expressed “regret” for the death of Anastacio and offered condolences to his family.

“We are conducting our own investigation on the matter and [we] will cooperate fully with SBMA’s official investigation. The HHIC condemns all forms of inhumane treatment and will not tolerate any abuses from any of its employees or contractors,” Jeong said in a statement.

Jeong said Hanjin would “take full responsibility should it be established that its employees were responsible for [Anastacio’s death] and will turn over these employees to the proper authorities.”

Arreza said he asked Hanjin to “turn over for immediate investigation all Hanjin security personnel involved in the incident.”

“Appropriate charges will be filed against them should the investigation prove the allegations to be true,” Arreza told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“SBMA will continue to ensure that the rights of these fishermen [are] protected and upheld,” he said.

Ebale said those involved in the June 5 incident wore no nameplates.

“But I can identify them by their [facial and other features],” she said.

She said one wore a military uniform while the two others wore life vests over their green shirts. The vests were marked with the word “safety” in orange letters, Ebale said.

“We were far from the no-fishing zone,” she said.

Anastacio’s death left her as the sole breadwinner in the family. She has two children, aged 11 and 12.

Peasant leader killed in front of family in Negros–police

June 9, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 09:13pm (Mla time) 06/08/2008

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines–A peasant leader was executed in the presence of his wife and 11-year-old son in Manapla, Negros Occidental, the police said on Sunday.

PO3 Ron Somondong of the Manapla police identified the victim as Armando Dolorosa, 45, vice president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers chapter at Hacienda Marian, Barangay (village) San Pablo in Manapla.

Three unidentified persons, armed with high-powered firearms and wearing bonnets, summarily executed Dolorosa at his house at Hacienda Marian at around 7:30 p.m. on Friday (June 6), according to his wife Janetta.

Janetta said her husband died of 23 gunshot wounds in different parts of the body.

She said her family believed that her husband’s killing was related to the implementation of the agrarian reform program in Negros Occidental.

Somondong said the victim might have known the killers, one of them he was heard to have called “Tol,” as he even welcomed them to his house.

Janetta, in a separate interview, recalled that a burst of gunfire followed after her husband invited the perpetrators to enter their house.

She said she saw her husband’s assailants run away but they immediately returned and pumped more bullets into the body of her husband, to make sure he was dead.

Policemen recovered 12 empty shells of M-16 and .30 rifles from the crime scene, Somondong said.

Janetta told police investigators her husband and 36 other agrarian reform beneficiaries were given Certificates of Land Ownership Awards by the Department of Agrarian Reform 2007 over a portion of land in Hacienda Marian.

Janetta said that since then, Dolorosa had been receiving death threats from persons whom she described as “planters.”

She, however, hinted that one of the gunmen whom her husband called “Tol” was a family friend.

Dolorosa recalled that the animosity started between her husband and “Tol” after agrarian reform beneficiaries in the hacienda got their CLOAs. “Tol” was not one of the beneficiaries, she said.

Armando was the third local NFSW leader who was killed in Manapla since 2003, police records show.(PDI)


My Take:

This only shows that the government’s seemingly approval of these type of crime (as seen thru its inaction), invites more perpetrators to sow terror in the countryside.

Dahil walang hinuhuli at napapagpanagot, pati ang mga simpleng alitan ay nagiging dahilan na rin para magpatayan.

Kasalanan ito ng gobyerno.

‘Success’ in occupying 1,600 ha of Luisita–farm workers

June 9, 2008

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines–Farmers who lost their jobs following a joint labor and agrarian strike at the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac in 2004 have been growing food and cash crops on a 1,600-hectare area there despite the non-implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program at the estate.

A “success story” is how Danilo Ramos, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Movement of Farmers in the Philippines), called this move by some 5,000 farmers.

They tilled portions of the Cojuangco family-owned sugar estate when the Supreme Court stopped the Department of Agrarian Reform in 2007 from implementing CARP there. The same farmers asked the Court in 1989 to void the stock distribution scheme through which they only got shares of stock, not actual land ownership.

“CARP’s bankruptcy and built-in institutional denial of land rights failed to stop Hacienda Luisita workers from struggling and asserting their rights to land. Now, despite all odds and political obstacles, the farm workers are reaping the fruits of their hard labor and collective resistance,” Ramos said in a statement.

In the same statement, Rene Galang, president of the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and chair of United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU), confirmed the occupation and cultivation of lands by displaced farm workers.

Galang said rice and vegetables were grown on the land owned by the family of former president Corazon Aquino.

“We are encouraging more farmers to join and form themselves into cooperation units to cover other hectares for their livelihood,” Galang said.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the son of the former president, on Sunday did not reply to a query if the family or the Hacienda Luisita Inc. allowed the farm workers to use the land.

There have been no known instances though when HLI tried to stop or evict tillers.

The Department of Agrarian Reform offices in Tarlac City, Concepcion and La Paz towns were known to have provided agricultural production support for farmers until the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order against the agency in 2007.

Luisita farmers also joined the march opposing the extension of the 20-year-old CARP, pushing instead for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 authored by the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran.

“Proponents of the bogus CARP failed to explain the real score behind thousands of cases of land reform reversals compounded by confiscation of land titles, thousands of cases of land use conversions, land grabbing and the unexplained P143 billion spent for CARP, which all happened in the 20 years of [the program’s implementation],” said Fernando Hicap, chair of the fisherfolk alliance Pamalakaya.


Leapfrogging basic education quality into global standards

June 9, 2008

By Fernando del Mundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:30:00 06/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—He has a reputation as a crisis manager, one who thinks out of the box to solve problems.

No less is required of Jesli Lapus as he confronts a task that requires the perseverance of Sisyphus ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain.

Since he was named secretary of the Department of Education in August 2006, Lapus has done more than his five predecessors under the 7-year-old administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

To accomplish his mission at DepEd, Lapus has used every bit of the experience he has amassed as an accountant, banker, congressman, Cabinet member in two previous administrations and UN diplomat.

“We’re seeing a lot of convergence of support because when I came in I went to town,” he says, catching his breath, wiping sweat dripping down his red shirt with letters in white saying “Brigada Eskwela.”

Lapus, 58, had just returned from two launchings of the Brigada project, which mobilizes communities, non-government organizations and business groups to clean schools in preparation for the opening of classes.

“I told the businessmen this is where you have the highest return on investment. We have to show that in deed, not just lip service.”

He gave the Philippine Daily Inquirer a 12-page summary report of what the DepEd had accomplished over the past decade, including record achievements in the one year and eight months he had been its secretary.

Lapus says that in the last year, the business community alone had donated a record P4 billion to the government’s “adopt a school program.”

He has wangled from Congress, where he was once deputy chair of the powerful appropriations commission, the highest budgetary outlay for DepEd in the last two years, reaching P149 billion this year.

Fair share

“We’re getting a fair share of what is available,” says Lapus. “What’s available is defined as the limits of government in revenue generation.”

As a representative of Tarlac province in Congress, where he served for nine years, Lapus spearheaded fiscal reforms that had resulted in budget savings, a credit upgrade, low interests and strengthening of the peso.

In the last two years, he has built 20,102 classrooms, appointed 5,890 head teachers and principals. Before 2006, about 58 percent, or 26,644, of the nation’s public schools were “headless,” Lapus says.

He also added 7,237 teachers in 2006 and 16,334 in 2007, bringing the total to over 471,000 attending to the needs of 17 million students in public schools.

Assistance to private high schools hosting students subsidized by the government went up to P625,083.

Beneficiaries of the DepEd’s feeding program soared by over 300 percent in 2006, costing the government P2.7 billion last year. Hunger and malnutrition are keeping children out of school.

Upward curve

There has been a slight upward learning curve, still depressing but nevertheless welcome in a regime of steady decay in the past decades.

National achievement test results for Grade 6 and fourth year high school students have increased slightly, although way below passing standards, but Lapus is upbeat that with all the combined initiatives of the DepEd and the private sector more improvements will be forthcoming.

Lapus has initiated innovations in the procurement of textbooks and other supplies, earning commendation from the World Bank. He has also lowered the cost of textbooks and “unbundled” the bidding process, so that contracts are separate for content, publishing and delivery.

All of his activities are directed at achieving objectives laid out in the basic education sector reform agenda or BESRA. The idea is to “leapfrog the quality of basic education into global standards” by tightening system governance and enhancing “school-based management.”

“I’m just passing by this department,” Lapus says. “What I try to do is to institutionalize internal controls.”

But with a burgeoning population, four babies born every minute that translate into one classroom every 10 minutes, education is a mind-boggling catch-as-catch-can task.(PDI)

Rice dole in schools a burden to parents

June 9, 2008

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:59:00 06/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The government’s food-for-school program has become more of a burden than a relief to parents and teachers because of poor distribution, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a report, the COA said students, parents and school officials had to spend personal money to transport rice doles from National Food Authority (NFA) drop-off points to their schools and that much of the staple they received was of “poor quality.”

In the 24 schools in Northern Mindanao (Region 10) alone, students had to shell out P30 each while parents and teachers P500 to P1,000 each to cover various expenses in transporting sacks of rice from NFA delivery points to their schools last year, the COA said.

In the Ilocos (Region 1), 825 parents of schoolchildren entitled to receive the rice doles were found to have spent a total of P83,240 just to haul the supplies from the depots.

The Department of Education first launched the program during school year 2004-05 in a bid to arrest the rising incidence of malnutrition among public elementary students and improve school attendance.

Under the program, each elementary student is provided a kilo of rice each day for five days. Sometimes, school officials prefer to distribute five kilos of rice on a Friday or the last school day of the week to save time.

In its 2007 report on the DepEd, the COA said P36.9 million worth of rice (or 1,808,127.39 kilos) was delivered by the NFA to selected drops instead of the designated storage areas of 456 school-beneficiaries nationwide.

It noted that this was contrary to the agreement between the NFA and DepEd, which stated that the food agency must ensure that the rice allocations were delivered directly to the schools. In cases where rice was delivered to drop-off centers, the NFA will shoulder the expenses for the final stretch to the school recipients, the agreement stated.

Losses to pests, thieves

But a survey conducted by the COA revealed that in most instances, the rice subsidies were instead delivered to drop-off points “selected at will” by the NFA delivery personnel on grounds of poor roads and long distances.

“Noncompliance with the DepEd guidelines … resulted in unnecessary expenses and waste of time and effort by concerned school personnel and parent-pupil beneficiaries,” the COA said.

It further noted that the lack of adequate storage rooms in target schools in at least eight regions, including Metro Manila, exposed the rice doles to pests and thieves.

A total of 101 sacks and 23 kilos of rice were spoiled by pests while 62 sacks and 25 kilos of the staple were lost to robbers.

Rat-infested warehouses

Some of the rice allocations were found kept in rat-infested and dirty, dilapidated school bodegas and in storerooms with heavy-duty padlocks.

Thieves carted away 435 kilos of rice from Julian V. Antonio Elementary School in Bolo, Masbate City, last year. Four elementary schools in the Division of Capiz reported that 290 kilos of NFA rice worth P5,800 were stolen.

Robbery incidents were also reported in schools in Bohol, Eastern Samar, Dipolog City and Mutia town in Zamboanga del Norte, among others. The COA described the loss as minimal.

Not iron-fortified

The government spent double for the program last school year from P1.3 billion covering school years 2004 to 2006 to P3.4 billion, it noted.

The COA also found the NFA to have distributed some P4.5 million worth of rice (238,625 kilos) that was not “iron-fortified” and was “poorly sealed” in six regions last year.

These areas were identified as Albay and Catanduanes in Bicol (Region 5); Antique and Capiz in Western Visayas (Region 6); Leyte and Eastern Samar in Eastern Visayas (Region 8); Zamboanga Sibugay in Western Mindanao (Region 9); Davao del Norte in Southern Mindanao (Region 11) and all the division offices in Caraga (Region 13).

Under the provisions of the program, one sack of 50-kg iron-fortified rice should be repacked into one-kilogram bags to facilitate distribution. But if the rice variety was not available, the NFA could give out well-milled rice as a substitute.

“Most deliveries by the NFA were well-milled rice instead of the iron-fortified rice required under the program guidelines,” the COA said, “weakening the attainment of the program’s objective of improving the nutritional status of the pupil-beneficiaries.”

Insects, weevils and other pests, staple wires and a foul smell were detected in the rice distributed in Eastern Visayas. Schools there had been asked to return the staple.(PDI)

Growth seen to fall within gov’t range

June 9, 2008

MANILA, Philippines–The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Philippine central bank, expects growth of the economy to range within the government’s revised forecast of between 5.7 and 6.5 percent, even after the regulator raised key interest rates to temper the sharp rise of consumer prices.

“I don’t think monetary action will [affect] economic growth,” BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo told reporters on Friday. “Demand is broadly buoyant, therefore the economy can absorb measured tightening.”

The quarter-percentage monetary tightening announced last Thursday was meant to mop up excess liquidity. Too much cash in the system could push inflation over the 4.5-percent ceiling the government had set for next year.

The BSP has conceded that this year’s inflation target of 5 percent will be breached. The regulator sees consumer prices rising by 7 to 9 percent year-on-year this year, and by 4 to 6 percent next year.

Still, Guinigundo said, he remained upbeat that the domestic economy would perform “better than what we’re seeing today.”

The domestic economy expanded by only 5.2 percent in the first quarter, below market expectations.

“Overseas Filipino remittances will continue to support consumption expenditure,” Guinigundo said.

“BPOs [business process outsourcing] and mining will also continue to support the economy. I’m still bullish about the economy’s ability to outperform expectations.”

He added that the trade-off between growth and inflation would only be temporary and, over the long term, price stability would be supportive of economic expansion.

The BSP expects inflation to peak in the third quarter.

But while the recent wage increase in the country fell within the central bank’s expectations, Guinigundo said he hoped that further increases in the future would be moderate.

“We need to avoid triggering a wage spiral,” he said. “We should show some moderation in terms of wage demands and transport. We’re not saying don’t ask for wage increases, but there should be some moderation.”

On the part of the BSP, he said, policy-making would “ensure that inflation expectations don’t cause undue reaction in terms of the market’s pricing behavior.”

He added that the government’s additional spending on infrastructure, as well as other non-monetary measures, should boost farm output and, in turn, help stabilize food supply.

“DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] is implementing measures to ensure that there’s no hoarding, no predatory pricing in the markets,” Guinigundo said.

“We are in a very difficult time. But there are already good signs … the prospects now look better.”

On the domestic front, the La Niña phenomenon, which is said to spawn severe typhoons, already appears to be losing steam, he said.

“By the second half of 2008, we should be back to normal cycle,” he added.


Double-digit inflation looms in June, says BPI

June 9, 2008

MANILA, Philippines–Bank of the Philippine Islands sees inflation in June to break into the double-digit level for the first time since 1999.

This development would likely prompt the central bank to raise key interest rates by another quarter-percentage point during its next policy meeting in July.

In a commentary dated June 5 written by bank economists Emilio Neri Jr. and Michael de Castro, BPI projected a 10.2-percent year-on-year rise in consumer prices in June–assuming that crude oil would stay below $125 per barrel and that rice prices would be steady.

“Meanwhile, core inflation is expected to rise faster in June as the effect of the wage and fare rate hikes … start to kick in,” the report said. “This should force the monetary authorities to hike [key rates] by another 25 basis points during the [July 14] Monetary Board meeting.”

Core inflation refers to the increase in average prices of consumer goods excluding volatile items like food and energy.

Last week, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ policy-making Monetary Board raised its overnight borrowing rate by 25 basis points to 5.25 percent, the first monetary tightening seen in three years.

On the other hand, the bank said that for the remaining part of 2008 through mid-2009, the BSP could hike the current 5.25-percent overnight RRP (reverse repurchase agreement) rate by another 50 basis points, “on the assumption that the headline inflation would no longer be anchored on a peso appreciation.”

Last year, the peso rose nearly 19 percent against the US dollar to become Asia’s best performing currency. The local currency has lost 6.6 percent so far this year, closing at 44.135:$1 on Friday.

The central bank’s quarter-percentage interest rate hike last week, was just what the doctor had ordered, BPI said.

“It was necessary for monetary authorities to step in to avoid demand-pull forces from snowballing as it could temper speculative activity,” the report said.

The bank agreed with the BSP’s assessment that supply constraints were the dominant source of inflationary pressures and a bigger move was not necessary.

“Nevertheless some form of policy tightening was necessary,” the report said. “It helped preserve the monetary authorities’ credibility. The move clearly demonstrated the MB’s determination to fulfill its key mandate of targeting inflation even if it means foregoing some areas of growth.

“Inaction would have been “unacceptable.”

Doris C. Dumlao

Darkness set to mark EPIRA’s 7th anniversary

June 9, 2008

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:33:00 06/08/2008

MANILA, Philippines–It will be lights out on Monday night in several communities in Manila and Quezon City as various cause-oriented and consumer groups stage a protest to mark the seventh year of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which they said failed to lower power rates.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said the brownout, popularized during the campaign against the Purchase Power Agreement in 2002, would be held “anytime between” 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

By shutting off the lights, the groups are expressing their demand to scrap the value-added tax on power rates and the “unjust” fees like the systems loss charge and the repeal of the EPIRA, according to Reyes.

EPIRA was the first major piece of legislation passed under the then newly installed administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002. A special session of Congress was called to ensure its passage, Reyes recalled.

The law pushed for the privatization and deregulation of the power sector in a bid to bring down power rates. However, consumer groups pointed out that EPIRA did the exact opposite.

Recently, the government granted electricity consumers who used up 100-kilowatt hours or less for the billing period ending in May 2008 a one-time cash subsidy of P500.(PDI)

RP faces ‘perfect economic storm’ — analysts

June 9, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine economy faces a “perfect economic storm” of inflation at 9-year highs as food and oil prices soar, rising interest rates and slowing growth, according to analysts.

They said inflation was unlikely to ebb soon after hitting an annual rate of 9.6 percent in May, leading the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to hike borrowing costs last Thursday for the first time since 2005.

“Throw in rising unemployment and you have the recipe for a perfect economic storm,” former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.

Official data showed food prices rose 14 percent in May as rice, the national staple, rocketed 31.7 percent and corn 27.1 percent. Gasoline, kerosene and diesel prices have also surged. Inflation in 2007 was just 2.8 percent.

“If inflation pressures persist into next year and it feeds into further price increases, or leads to an economic slowdown and job losses, then we may start to see unrest,” warned political risk consultant Roberto Herrera-Lim.

Gov’t subsidies

“It is when you combine the two—job losses and inflation—then things become troublesome,” Lim, the Southeast Asian analyst for New York-based firm Eurasia Group, said in an interview published on the ABS-CBN television website.

The government has already announced measures to ease the pain on the country’s poor, such as a one-off P500 subsidy to help pay electricity bills. It has also announced a quarterly fuel subsidy for the public transport sector and loans to help convert buses and taxis to alternative fuels.

Farmers are to be given fertilizer subsidies and poor students scholarships, with the government going to the international debt market to raise $750 million to help pay for it all the subsidy programs.

But at the same time economic growth is slowing, falling to an annual rate of 5.2 percent for the first quarter compared with 7.2 percent for all of 2007.

“Giving away cash grants for food and electricity consumption, subsidies for farmers and the transport sector and borrowing from abroad to pay for them show desperation,” Diokno said. “It doesn’t help the situation in the long run.”

Rommel Macapagal, chair of Westlink Global Equities, said the government’s handouts were short-term solutions. “The problem is that it can do very little about rising fuel and food costs on its own because it is a worldwide problem.”

Double-digit inflation

Other experts warned inflation could rise into double digits, potentially heralding still higher interest rates.

Cayetano Paderanga, an economist at the University of the Philippines, said it was too late to stop inflation hitting double-digits.

“The inflation rate will still go up before it goes down and there is a very good chance that it will breach 10 percent,” he told the Inquirer, adding it would then be increasingly difficult to control.

“Ten percent is an important threshold. Beyond this level, the psychology of the people changes and it becomes more difficult to control their expectations of price increases,” Paderanga said.

It could create a situation like “stagflation,” he said, where economic growth slows but inflation stays high, posing a severe test for policymakers.

Agence France-Presse(PDI)

‘No classroom shortage? Lapus should tell us another’

June 9, 2008

THE militant Kabataang Pinoy yesterday belied the claims of Education Secretary Jesli Lapus that there would be no classroom shortage despite the projected increase in students for this school year.

“While the Department of Education displays a business-as-usual-attitude for the school opening on June 10 we expect that back-to-school problems will be worse than ever,” Kabataang Pinoy president Dion Carlo Cerrafon said.

This year’s students reached 21 million from 20 million last year.

Cerrafon cited what he called the dismal state of classrooms and facilities and the severe shortage of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools.

Lapus has assured no classroom shortage saying 10,472 classrooms are under construction.

He also said they aim to reach classroom-student ratio of 1:45 this school year from the previous 1:50.

But Cerrafon said based on the data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) the class size in the Philippines still pales in comparison to Malaysia (1:31.7), Thailand (1:22.9), Japan (1:28.6).

He said in India the ratio is 1:40 despite its one billion plus population.

The Unesco data showed the Philippines has an average high school class size of 56.1, higher than Malaysia’s 34, Thailand’s 41.5, Japan’s 33.9 and India’s 39.

The data also show that teacher-pupil ratio for the primary level in the Philippines (1:35) far exceeds that of Thailand (1:18), Malaysia (1:17), Indonesia (1:20), Japan (1:19), and China (1:18).

Cerrafon said previous studies made by the DepEd also show that 80 percent of public schools have no running water, 60 percent have no toilets, 40 percent have no ceilings and 50 percent have no electricity.

Cerrafon said government mis-prioritization and poor education spending, aggravated by rampant graft and corruption, are to be blamed for a worsening crisis in education.

The 2008 budget for education is P149 billion from last year’s P132 billion.


Franklin Sunga, DepEd under-secretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs, said collection of fees in public schools will not start until July.

Sunga said contributions for Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP), Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP), Red Cross, Anti-TB fund, for the campus publication and the Parents Teachers Community Association (PTCA) may only be authorized or collected on the second month of the school year onwards.

“The collection of the fees will be on a specific day next month and it is the organization itself which will collect the amount and not the teachers,” he said.

Sunga reiterated that these rules apply to Grade 5 up to fourth year high school students, adding that all collections from Grades 1 to 4 are banned.

Under the rules, he said the BSP and GSP will take charge of their contributions.

He said teachers are not allowed to collect fees for anti-tuberculosis programs, identification cards and the school paper.

The DepEd Order also requires that PTCAs can only collect fees once they have presented to their members and to the school administration a report on the utilization of the previous school year’s collection.

The school publication fee shall not be more than P60 per elementary school pupil and P90 per secondary school student, it said.

But most importantly, Sunga said these contributions should all be voluntary.


The PNP alerted its 125,000 personnel to implement a security and public safety plan dubbed “Oplan Balik Paaralan” in time for tomorrow’s school opening.

“On June 10, as early as 4 a.m., we will start the deployment of policemen in the vicinity of schools with the support of barangay tanods, security guards, and local government officials,” Director Leopoldo Bataoil, chief of the directorate for police community relations, said.

Bataoil said that policemen were instructed to watch out for petty crimes such as snatching, robbery-holdup.

Chief Supt. Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, said PNP chief Avelino Razon gave regional police directors the discretionary authority to raise alert levels as they see it fit to effectively implement Oplan Balik Paaralan.

The Traffic Enforcement Group (TEG) of NCRPO will spearhead traffic management operations particularly in the University Belt area in coordination with the Metro Manila Development Authority. – Ashzel Hachero, Jocelyn Montemayor and Raymond Africa

Pakistan: US responsible for environment of terror

June 9, 2008


TRACING the roots of terrorism, Pakistan officials say the United States planted the seeds of what are now the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“You reap what you sow,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations, said in a recent briefing with Filipino journalists at the Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

In assessing the global war on terrorism led by the United States with Pakistan as one of its key allies, Abbas said one has to go back to the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Abbas recalled that when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the United States decided to convert the struggle for democracy into a holy war to mobilize and motivate Afghan freedom fighters.(Malaya)

“A policy was decided in the United Sates. The literature for this holy jihad was not printed here. It was printed in the United Sates,” Abbas said.

He said Americans brought Pakistan clerics to the United Sates to lecture and recruit more Muslims for the “Hijad International.”

In his book “In the Line of Fire,” Pakistan Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf has an expanded version of the beginnings of the global war that started just across his country’s borders.

He gave credit not only to United States but also to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan itself. “We helped create the mujahideen, fired them with religious zeal in seminaries, armed them, paid them, fed them and sent them to jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.”

One of those recruited and trained in Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan were Filipino Muslims who included Abdulrajak Janjalani, who later founded the Abu Sayyaf terror group in Mindanao.

Abbas said after the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan, the Americans “left these people high and dry, with nothing to bank on except the weapons and drugs left in the area.”

He said the environment was of total chaos, an ideal breeding ground for terrorism.

Pakistan officials and this reporter met during a visit sponsored by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute which stressed the importance of looking at the origins of the international menace in the light of criticisms from US officials that Pakistan is not doing enough to destroy Al Qaeda, whose leaders have found sanctuary among the Talibans.

Many of the Talibans have slipped into the volatile North Western Frontier Province on the border with Afghanistan.

“We totally reject this contention of the West that Pakistan is not doing enough. What’s enough?” Abbas asked, citing the more than a thousand Pakistan troops killed and thousands more wounded.

As to the nearly $11 billion aid that the Bush administration has extended to Pakistan since the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy, Abbas asked: “What is the price tag for our casualties, the permanent disability of persons? How do you calculate it? Who’s going to pay for our wounded and the families of the dead? It’s not the United States that is going to pay for that.”

Abbas said the post 9/11 US-led war against terror which has put Pakistan in the frontline has broken Al Qaeda as a network.

“I’m absolutely sure of that,” he said. “They are on the run.”

But as to the question if group is completely finished, the general, whose elegant prose makes his military talk less intimidating, hardly thinks so.

Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden, who surfaces every now and then to deliver a message, and his No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiria, are believed to be protected by tribal groups in the Afghan-Pakistan border where the Talibans hold sway.

Abbas said Al Qaeda today has foreign linkages but the network does not have a unified system of operation under a central command. It operates like a franchise with splinter groups all over the world following the concept of Al Qaeda. Some regional groups are just using the name of Al Qaeda to lend legitimacy to their group.

As to the links of Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines with Al Qaeda, as claimed by President Arroyo immediately after 9/11 in her bid to get increased military assistance from the United States, Abbas, who visited the Philippines and made a trip to Mindanao in 2004, said as far as they know, that was only true during the 1979 mujahideen war against the Soviets.

“In the present war, we don’t have information and knowledge that there has been any cooperation or linkage between the MILF or MNLF and Al Qaeda and Taliban,” he said.

The Pakistani government has embarked on winning the hearts and minds of the impoverished population on the 2,560 kilometer Afghan-Pakistani border. Smuggling of all kinds of goods, including drugs, is rampant. The territory teems with all kinds of weapons, including mortars, artillery and missiles.

A Filipino in Lahore shared his experience when he and a friend once dared visit the rugged mountainous area near the border, a modern day “Wild West.”

He said their car was stopped by a turbaned tribesman who was firing his rifle in the air. He said that having read about rampant kidnappings in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he was almost sure that they would suffer the fate of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and eventually executed.

When they got out of the car, the tribesman made an offer. The “tourists” could try their hand at gunnery. Ten rupees for every round fired from a rifle, 100 rupees for every round from a machine gun and for a more substantial payment, they could shoot off a missile.

Pakistan is complementing its military operations in the area with infrastructure building and social services. If there is anything Pakistanis have learned from collaboration with the Americans in the mujahideen war, it is that military operations do not stop after the bombs have pulverized the target.

“If only they (Americans) had reconstructed what was destroyed,” Abbas mused.

“The kind of terror you sowed there you would reap,” he said.

Here are 10 jobs employers find hard to fill

June 9, 2008

THE Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has found at least 10 job positions that local firms consider hard-to-fill, based on a middle of the decade survey of employers.

DOLE said the Integrated Survey of Establishments was conducted by its Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) among 7,630 companies during 2006. Its results were made public recently by the BLES. Only 5,607 establishments responded.

DOLE, in a statement, said the companies were asked what jobs “have presented employers the greatest recruitment difficulties.”

The survey identified the top hard-to-fill occupations, unfilled for more than a year in non-agricultural establishments with 20 or more workers, as follows: air traffic controllers; aircraft pilots; navigators and flight engineers; personnel and human resource development officers; geologists and geophysicists; pharmacists; industrial robot controllers; decorators and commercial designers; bacteriologists, pharmacologists, pathologists and related workers; technical and vocational instructors/trainors; safety, health, and quality inspectors (vehicles, processes and products); architects, photographers and image and sound recording equipment operators; and science and mathematics teaching professionals.

It also said it was hard to find accountants and auditors, computer professionals, commercial and technical sales representatives, mechanical engineers, and professional nurses.

The survey noted that nearly one in every four establishments experienced difficulties in recruiting qualified applicants in the past three years.

To address the problem, majority (51.6 percent) of the responding 5,067 establishments suggested improvement of the quality of education (21.9 percent), skills training (12.8 percent), and strengthening jobs fairs, public employment services offices (PESOs) and labor market information (6.7 percent).

The firms also recommended the regulation of overseas deployment in selected categories (5.7 percent), review of labor laws (2.6 percent), and sound macro-economic management (1.9 percent).(Malaya)

Groups set last-ditch effort for CARP extension

June 9, 2008

THE Reform CARP Movement promised to flood the tent city outside the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City with at least a thousand farmers and peasants pushing for the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beginning today, and also tomorrow, the CARP law’s expiration date.

At the same time, other farmers calling the 20-year-old CARP a failure and said they would have nothing to do with its extension.

The Reform CARP Movement counts as members Task Force Mapalad, Pambansang Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan, Task Force Baha-Talibayog and other farmers who have been picketing DAR since May to press for CARP extension.

The groups said the proposed five-year extension would give DAR the time to distribute its backlog of 1.1 million hectares consisting of private agricultural lands 60 hectares or more to about half a million farmers nationwide. “More than 3 million hectares were distributed during 20 years of CARP. Most of these lands are still in the hands of farmer-beneficiaries whose lives have certainly improved compared to those who remained mere tenants or farm workers,” the group said in a joint statement.

But Hacienda Luisita farm workers under the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, United Luisita Workers Union and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said CARP cannot take credit for the fact that thousands of farm workers and their families in Luisita now have more than 1,600 hectares for cultivation. They instead blamed government policies for encouraging land use conversion, land-grabbing, ejectment, crop conversion and other schemes that dispossess tillers, as well as high farm inputs and lack of agricultural support services that have led to the decreased rice production in the country.

“This is the reason why we are against any special session in Congress for CARP extension, they should let the anti-farmer program die a natural death,” the second groups said in a statement.

The Luisita farm workers accused government and the Aquino-Cojuangco clan of working together despite apparent political differences to reverse farm workers’ gains, adding that soldiers remain deployed for psy-war tactics in the 10 barrios straddled by the hacienda.

Last month, the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas in a study of stakeholders composed of farmers, indigenous peoples, urban poor and fisherfolks nationwide, said the stakeholders gave government a 70 to 75 percent rating in its implementation of major asset reform laws such as CARP, the Indigenous People’s Rights, Fisheries Code and various socialized housing program. Governance weakness, red tape and weak inter-agency coordination were blamed for the poor performance. – Randy Nobleza(MALAYA)

Editrial Cartoon: Conserving Power

June 8, 2008

Pinilipit na ang tao, pilipit pa ang dahilan.

Campus press reports 279 cases of campus press freedom violations

June 8, 2008

CEGP calls halt to censorship, harassment

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) today reported that it has documented a total of 297 cases of violations against campus press freedom, mostly involving tuition-related issues.

Of these, 61 are cases of adviser/moderator intervention, 64 of censorship and 41 of harassment. Other complaints concerned with publication fee collection, the non-release of publication fee funds and illegal closure of publications are also included in the report.

The 279 cases of violations from 53 respondent campus publications nationwide were gathered in a caucus held during the CEGP National Convention last May.

CEGP National President Vijae Alquisola said that violations against campus press freedom sprung mostly from tuition-related issues and students’ assertion of their right to education and other democratic rights in campus.

“Campus editors and writers are easy victims of campus repression, censorship and harassment because of their orientation to uphold the interests of students,” Alquisola said.

Alquisola earlier demanded a halt to censorship, harassment and campus press repression in light of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’ s announcement of a tuition hike freeze.

Alquisola said that one of the gravest cases of harassment reported to them is that of false theft charges filed against Tandem editor-in-chief Ma. Criselda Diocena. Tandem is the official campus publication of the University of Northern Philippines, and a member publication of the CEGP.

The UNP-Vigan administration filed false charges of theft against Diocena who it accuses of stealing a computer CPU (central processing unit).

Diocena has denied the charges and has cried harassment by school administrators because of her hard stance against the university’s proposed tuition increases. UNP increased tuition last year eliciting widespread protests from students.

Diocena was unable to get a clearance to take her final exams this summer and, as a result, is unable to enroll for the incoming school year. The case has also resulted in the UNP administration’ s illegal closure of the publication.

In a press conference held this morning, Diocena said that she is mulling over filing counter charges of grave slander and harassment against the UNP administration. She had already filed a complaint to the Commission on Higher Education last year but the agency is yet to address her case.

Alquisola said that they are also set to present Diocena’s case and other complaints to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Technical and Higher Education (CTHE) hearing on June 11.

Gov’t looking at possibility of rehabilitating BNPP – Reyes

June 8, 2008

Reviving its nuclear program remains as one of the options being considered by the government amid rising crude prices, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said yesterday.

Reyes said that with oil prices reaching more than $ 138 a barrel, the government is looking at the possibility of rehabilitating the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

“I have taken the position that we have to revisit the nuclear option because we don’t want a situation where there will be power shortage. We are encouraging the development of alternative sources of energy, alternative ways of generating power,” Reyes said at the weekly news forum at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City.

The BNPP, whose construction began in 1976 and was completed in 1984 at a cost of $ 2.3 billion, was the response of the Marcos administration to the energy crisis of the late 1970s.

Then President Ferdinand Marcos saw nuclear power as the best way forward in terms of meeting the country’s future needs and reducing reliance on imported oil.

The 630-megawatt power plant cost the Filipino taxpayer a total of $ 460 million on a debt of $ 1.06 billion though it never produced a single watt of electricity.

In 1986, President Corazon Aquino mothballed the BNPP because of safety defects and sued its builder for overpricing and allegations of bribery.

In 2007, there were reports that the country made its final payment on the plant in April last year. Reyes said only three months ago, officials of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) arrived in the country to evaluate the feasibility of commissioning the BNPP.

He said the tentative position of IAEA officials was that the country can rehabilitate the plant at a cost of 0 million for it to generate 630 megawatts of power.

Reyes said the rehabilitation may be expensive but the government is looking at what the plant can do the country in the long run.

“There’s no option that you will take that has no cost. If you’re looking at an option that has no cost, that option doesn’t exist,” he said.

He said before the rehabilitation, a complete feasibility study must be done and this will last for two years. The rehabilitation itself will take five years, he added.

The energy chief also said that rehabilitating BNPP would be faster than building a new plant, which may take one and a half decades.

“If you build a new plant, it would take 15 years to build it. Just looking for a site, the place where you locate the plant that will take a long time. You have to locate it in a place not vulnerable to earthquake and typhoons,” Reyes said. (Edmer F. Panesa)

“Take note of this, BNPP had survived earthquakes and typhoons,” he pointed out.

Besides nuclear power, Reyes said the government is looking at renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and geothermal, as well as alternative sources of fuel.

“We can’t have a situation where we do away with oil and coal. We will have blackouts then or we will have shortage in power supply,” he explained.

Without power, Reyes warned that investors would not come in and those who are already here will go away.(MB)


My Take:

This is bullshit!

With the kind of government we have? We are not safe.  Yung mga advance countries na nga at mga disiplinadong tao pa na nagpapatakbo ng plantang nukleyar e nadaleng naaksidente, tayo pa kaya?

Baka sa pagpapatayo pa lang e panay mahinang klaseng materyal ang gawin dahil sa kikbak, komisyon at bukol.

tayo ang kawawa dito.  tutulan natin ito!

Kalibo bishop opposes new plans for casino in Boracay

June 8, 2008

Kalibo, Aklan Bishop Jose Romeo Lazo has come out against revived plans to establish a casino on the world famous island resort of Boracay.

“Let me be clear. I have opposed and will continue to oppose casino gambling. I will not cooperate with any effort to establish casino gaming in Boracay,” Lazo said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

The Kalibo prelate was reacting to the reported construction of a casino inside the posh Fairways and Bluewater Resort at the northern end of the 1,000- hectare island resort.

Lazo said he is worried a casino, with unlimited jackpots, would be a greater harm to his flock. Besides, he said, the tourism industry on the island has long been standing even without a casino.

“Boracay is a natural treasure of Aklanons and the Filipino people. We are for a family-oriented and wholesome island resort and we therefore want a drug-free and gambling- free Boracay,” he said.

He urged his parishioners and religious organizations “to unite, pray, reflect and act to express your stand and sentiments against gambling in Boracay.”

Last month, Lazo sent a letter of protest to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the planned casino but he has not receive any reply.

“Because Pagcor is under the authority of the President, the ace is still in Arroyo’s hands. I hope she will come out with a favorable response,” said Lazo.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) first pushed the plan of a casino complex in 2003 but President Arroyo ordered it shelved following a public protest. (Leslie Ann G. Aquino)


Gov’t appeals: Conserve fuel, power

June 8, 2008

Local prices up anew; record $ 139 in global market; 14th increase announced, with no end in sight


Malacañang appealed to the people yesterday to conserve gasoline and electricity amid another round of oil price increases during the weekend and prospects of more price increases in the coming weeks.

Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said the government can do nothing to stop the oil price increases, as the Philippines merely imports oil and is vulnerable to the market forces that drive oil prices up.

“The best thing that we can do is to conserve not only electricity but also gasoline,” Fajardo said in an interview with government network Radyo ng Bayan.

“Kung kinakailangan — at sabi nga, mas healthy — maglakad, mag-bike, mag-carpool tayo. Maraming means na maaari ding gawin ng publiko, hindi lamang ng pamahalaan,” she said.

She said the government can only give out subsidies on fuel for public utility vehicles and for households who consume very little electricity, to mitigate the effects of high oil and food prices on the poor.

Fajardo said the government is taking the lead in conserving energy. President Arroyo had earlier ordered all government offices to turn off their air conditioning units by 4 p.m. every day and to replace their incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient flourescent lights to conserve electricity.

Fajardo said the government is also drafting a P2 subsidy for public utility vehicles from the P18-billion revenues from the Expanded Value-Added Tax collections of the national government.

Local oil companies

raise prices for 14th

time this year

The local oil companies implemented twin increase in their prices over the weekend, raising gasoline and diesel pump prices by P1.50 per liter and liquefied petroleum dgas (LPG) by P1 per kilogram.

The adjusted prices took effect at 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Saturday. The price hikes were initiated by small oil player Flying V and immediately followed by all the other companies — Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, Chevron Philippines which carries the Caltex brand, Unioil, and Petron Corporation.

Further increases in pump prices are expected in the coming weeks as the companies continued to collect on previously computed increases. In the world market, global prices hit a new all-time high record of $ 139 per barrel in last Friday’s trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange – which will be reflected in future local price increases.

The price increases in the Philippine oil market are already the 14th price adjustment this year and there is no end in sight yet.

Unoil said its new round of adjustment was “due to the continued increase in the prices of petroleum products in the world market and to partially recover its losses.”

Rafael Ledesma of Petron’s public affairs office advised media that for its fuels, “we are still reflecting the increase in Dubai crude by more than $ 16 per barrel in May,” which hit an average of $ 119.50 per barrel.

The contract price for LPG climbed substantially this month by $ 55 per metric ton from last month’s $ 852.50 to $ 907.50 per metric ton.

The oil companies are now getting cautious about giving forecasts or estimates on how pump prices would behave in the coming weeks or months, after Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes directed to stop doing so.

After shaving off $ 8 per barrel from the price last week, world oil prices rallied anew this week by about $ 16 per barrel because of what market observes as a “buying rush” hinged on the intensifying tension between Israel and Iran that have been fueling speculations of potential supply worries.

Some market analysts are forecasting that oil prices may go to as high as $ 150 per barrel by July 4 because of a projected increase in the demand of the United States for its coming travel holidays.

Market speculations are seen exerting pressure on global oil prices; and these are compounded by worries over the weakening value of the American dollar and the declining oil stockpile of the US.

Rising demand on oil is reportedly triggered by China and other developing economies; and coupled by the influx of oil buyers which are hedging against inflation when the US dollar falls.

Analysts have noted that “supplies have been affected by low capacity expansion and declining yields (in oil-producing countries), while demand has surged largely due to growth in emerging markets.” (Myrna M. Velasco)

Global oil price

hits record $ 139

a barrel on Friday


NEW YORK (Reuters) — Oil jumped nearly 9 percent to a record $ 139 a barrel on Friday, extending a two-day rally to more than $ 16 as the slumping US dollar and mounting tensions between Israel and Iran attracted a stampede of buyers.

Oil prices could top $ 150 by July 4, one of the busiest US travel holidays, as strong demand in Asia triggers a slowdown in shipments of crude to the United States, investment bank Morgan Stanley said.

“We are calling for a short-term spike in oil prices,” the bank said in a research note.

US crude settled up $ 10.75 at $ 138.54 a barrel before touching an all-time high of $ 139.12 in its biggest gain in dollar terms on record, adding to a rise of $ 5.49 on Thursday.

London Brent crude settled $ 10.15 higher at $ 137.69, off the record 8.12 hit earlier.

“It’s eye-popping. It’s absolutely stunning,” said Chris Feltin, analyst at Tristone CapitaL Inc in Calgary.

Oil has risen 44 percent this year, threatening economic growth in major consumer countries including the United States, whose economy already is hobbled by a housing crisis.

Analysts have said the dramatic rally in oil prices is due to rising demand in China and other developing economies as well as an influx of cash from investors seeking a hedge against the weaker dollar and inflation.

The greenback extended weakness against other currencies Friday on data showing the US economy lost jobs for the fifth straight month and the unemployment rate shot up to its highest in more than three years.

The drop in the dollar added to losses from Thursday when European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said a number of policymakers wanted higher interest rates, possibly as soon as next month. USD/]

“Obviously there’s a lot of concern on the economic impacts of a weakening US dollar. That seems to be driving some of the momentum here today,” said Feltin.

Further support came from remarks by Israel’s transport minister that an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites looked “unavoidable.” It was the most explicit threat yet against Tehran from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government.

Worries of a potential disruption of the OPEC member’s crude supply have helped support prices over the past year.

“We’ve had a huge historic rally on little fundamental input, other than the weakness of the dollar and the news this morning out of Israel that seems to have pushed some geopolitical risk premium back in the market,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois.

Morgan Stanley forecast the diversion of Middle East oil shipments away from the United States to Asian markets could push US crude to $ 150 a barrel by the US July 4th holiday.

“Middle East oil exports are stable, but Asia is taking an unprecedented share,” Morgan Stanley said in a report, adding US inventories have dropped by 35 million barrels since March.

“Robust Asian non-OECD demand growth, coupled with a stagnant global oil supply backdrop, appears to be pricing out Atlantic basin consumers while at the same time driving Atlantic inventories to critically low levels.”

The report added to a string of upward price forecast revisions by analysts, with Goldman Sachs in May predicting prices could tip $ 200 a barrel within the next two years.

A six-year rally in oil has sent prices up six-fold as demand from emerging economies such as China and India strain supplies.

High prices have started to eat away at global growth however, with some consumers such as the United States and the United Kingdom showing signs of lowering consumption.

Some Asian governments — including India — have decided to cut fuel subsidies, stirring concern rising prices could cut further into demand.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), an adviser to 27 industrialized countries, said it may cut its 2008 demand growth projection further after having already more than halved it to 1.03 million barrels per day (bpd).(MB)


My Take:

Funny.  The gvernment who displays unequaled love for corrupt generals and public officials is now calling for us to tighten the belt.

Instead of scrapping the oil dereulation la, instead of looking for cheaper source of oil (such as venezuela), instead of prosecuting the big-time oil smuggler and the cartels, they want us to tighten our belts!

Ni hindi nga nila magawang ibigay ang P125 minimum wage hike across the board eh.  bwisit!

WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: A radical solution. By Gail Ilagan/MindaNews

June 8, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 June) — The progressive economic crunch has forced many quality schools to adopt an open admission policy for their own survival. There are two ways to go from there: one, the school also lowers its standards to maximize cohort survival of an increasingly heterogeneous mix of students; or two, teachers have to adjust teaching strategies to bring the competencies of less prepared students up to a level that would allow them to deal with college material.

It’s safe to say that we would all prefer the second option. It would be very unfair for the school to knowingly accept ill-prepared students, only to process them through the revolving door. That’s like we take your money, you take your chances. The call to education is more than just taking someone’s money and helping him spend it. We must believe that there are still teachers out there who still get their kicks from seeing the lesson sinking in, and never mind if their own stomachs are growling from hunger because, oh you know why. We’re not whining. Nope.

We – you included – are not in denial anymore. The concern for the decline in the academic competencies of our young has been mainstreamed for some years now. Schools at all levels all over the country are in various stages of implementing interventions to address the concern. Much effort and resources have been devoted both by the government and the school systems to prioritize proactive measures. There must be a few that work – mostly in that rare small classroom where the teacher:student ratio is higher, but on the whole, we seem to just blunder on for lack of inspiration.

That’s good, too. At least, for the moment. Blundering on is not a very cost-effective way to solve problems, but we do get to understand more about the problem by learning from our mistakes.

The good thing is that we are not in denial anymore. We have gone beyond finding people and causes to blame for the dismal performance of our students in global tests of competencies and have buckled down to really try and understand the problem. Maybe soon, we would be able to hit on the right formula and redirect the trial-and-error measures for optimal gains.

Oh, okay. We – you included – have to find the solution soon. The figures on math performance are screaming red alert. It seems like we tried just about everything.

For example, despite the adoption of a highly recommended textbook for teaching mathematics that had to be imported from the US, a high standard high school in the region was flummoxed to find four years later that their students’ performance in math was progressively declining by two points every year. At that rate, half of the class was projected to fail fourth year math.

So maybe the book was not the solution. After all, it was a “Look west/white man, save me” kneejerk solution. Considering the US’ problem with the math performance of its students in tests of global competency, the school’s administrators should have had reason to find the recommendation of the American textbook suspect in the first place.

Still, a book is a book is a book. That book had all the required basic concepts and more, but it proved little help in arresting – much less reversing – the decline in math performance of the students.

Don’t blame the teachers either. These are among the best trained, highly qualified, tech-savvy instructors who have had a lot of input on using multi-media to impart concepts and procedures. And they use all these newfangled teaching complements with a very enthusiastic hand, too. Their classes are in awe of the computer effects and all.

But – and it’s a very big but- the kids still can’t compute without a calculator. Don’t wonder why. All that these multi-media demonstrations do is to subliminally suggest to the student that the solution will emerge at the push of a button, complete with the sound of magic for effect, lest you miss it. We just assume that learning is fun under these circumstances. It’s fun, alright. But little learning takes place. You see, student and serious go together. The best learners care enough to be serious about it.

For math, at least, there is no substitute for the paper-and-pencil and board work techniques which we have so readily abandoned for more creative teaching strategies. But don’t take my word for it. Study upon study show that multi-media techniques are no more effective than the tried-and-true method of teaching math. The fixation for this newfangled crap is just to dignify how we have all been suckered by the aggressive marketing and glossy advertisements. Schools acquire them and use them as a selling point. Parents demand state-of-the-art technology for their children because it has been equated with quality education. It assures them that they’re getting their money’s worth.

But really? It’s hard to see that when the math competency is still on retrograde.

Please pause. Take the blinkers off. Has the human mind changed in the way it processes abstract information? Why fix something that ain’t broke? Skimming the surface, the way audio-visual information does, is not the way to lay a solid, deep-below-the-surface-that-no-one-can-take-away foundation to the student’s education. That’s how the young end up broken.

The multi-media generation is likely to get to college with a lousy understanding of mathematical concepts and an erroneous grasp of the rules. They just don’t know when these rules are applicable. You see, people weaned on the pushbutton don’t learn to make judicious decisions. But don’t take my word for it. Study after study on this generation shows that computational errors are most frequent for interpretation and application of concepts underlying set notations, real number systems, algebraic expressions, special products, factoring, and rational expressions.

Prof. Gina Lapaza-Montalan of the ADDU Math Department shared during the general faculty meeting last 2 June 2008 that an incoming freshman told her he was not taught radicals in high school. “But when I drew a square root, he recognized it was a square root. It was not a radical for him, though,” she said.

Probing further, Gina found that the student was fixated with the “square root, square root,” such that even when she gave him a cube root or a fourth root, he still thought of it as a square root. Very strange indeed.

Anyway, that student would be among the incoming freshmen at the Ateneo who would be having daily class sessions for college algebra. Students like him constitute more than half of the incoming freshmen. The ADDU hopes that with intensive practice and instruction, these students would be able to bridge gaps in basic education enough to pass college algebra at the ADDU. Give it the old college try, or else don’t let the revolving door hit you on your way out.

The 5-unit algebra class, by the way, is Ateneo’s response to the lack of good news from the employment of the bridging program. In the previous years, freshman applicants who failed the math subtest of the entrance exam were advised to take a 4-week refresher course before their entry to college. However, records show that while their performance improved, it did not improve enough for a significant number to survive college algebra.

So, we’re trying another way. Or, if you must, you can say that we at the Ateneo soldier on, as most schools are probably doing these days, too. Oh, well – it’s a lot better than sitting down and pointing fingers, don’t you think? Let’s hope that Gina and her teachers have a lot of paper, pencils, and chalk, as well as a well-developed ear to really hear what students have to say when gently asked “Why did you do it that way?”

Maybe then they would be able to adjust teaching strategies to elicit from the poor students that “a-ha! moment” complete with internally-driven sounds of magic, more glorious than any preprogrammed computer effect. (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to
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“Send at the risk of a reply,” she says)

KMP: Blame the cartels, not the farmers

June 8, 2008

DAVAO CITY (KMP-SMR/04 June) — “To blame the farmers over the soaring price of rice in Mindanao is an insult to injury for it is the farmer’s sector that suffers most from this worsening rice crisis. Instead of blaming the poor farmers, it should expose the rice cartels, the hoarders which are in government or protected by high-ranking government officials,” decried Pedro Arnado, vice-chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region.
He added, “The DA should be ashamed for its obvious bias against the sector that it should serve, for passing on the blame to the people when it should in fact hang itself for its inutility to solve the rice crisis, just like its big boss in Malacanang.”

Arnado pointed out that farmers in Mindanao, as in the rest of the country are victims of the abusive buying prices set by big traders, stressing that most farmers do not own the land they till, are victims of usury and of wanton neglect due to the lack of government subsidy to farmers.

He also dismissed as “ludricrous” Paras’s justification that “tech-savvy” farmers who are able to access the internet can actually base their prices with imported rice.

“The DA is completely out of touch with the reality farmers live in. He must realize that majority of the Filipino farmers, if not all, are in far – flung areas with no access to even the most basic social services, much more to the internet. He is merely confusing us in order to cover-up the real issue that rice cartels are the powers-that- be in the agriculture business and they are well protected by this corrupt government,” Arnado said.

KMP said the DA and the Malacanang has played a deaf ear to the farmer’s calls to stop rice importation, to increase the National Food Authority’s procurement of locally produced rice, to stop the agri-business plantations such as banana and jathropa and other extractive industries that has encroached on agricultural lands.

The farmer’s group, which members around 200 local farmer-organizations in the region, said there was no genuine effort from the side of the government to solve the rice crisis.

Arnado said the poor’s limited access to NFA rice, the absence of a price ceiling and the aggravating food security of the people is proof that the government has done nothing but to save face and “deceive” the people through band-aid solutions.

Arnado challenged the DA saying that instead of blaming the poor, it should rally beside the Filipino people in calling for genuine and long term solutions to the rice crisis embodied in the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, or House Bill 3059 that is pushing for free land distribution to farmers.

June 4, 2008

Pedro Arnado
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – SMR

Evacuees reiterate call for local gov’t; church to broker MOA with military for pull-out

June 8, 2008

DAVAO CITY (Nabokasa/6 June) — Lumad and farmers who evacuated to Davao in search for safer grounds are appealing to the local government of Compostela Valley Province as well as church leaders to support their demands for a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the military so that they may finally be able to back home.

“We appeal to the local government and other agencies to heed our demands for peace. We’ve been here for 21 days, knocking on doors of the NCIP, the church, and the local government. We’ve also picketed the military command in the region but our calls for peace are unheard. We want to go home but only if there is an assurance that abuses won’t happen again,” Rey Guimboloy, the chairperson of the NABOKASA, the local Ata-Matigsalug organization in Compostela said.

Aside from safe passage, the evacuees demand a complete military pull-out from their communities, a stop to the human rights violations such the use of civilians as military guide and the use of civilian places such as homes, schools and places of worship for military purposes.

The evacuees also challenged the regional offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to perform their duties.

“What now is the response of the NCIP to the petition and human right cases we filed at its office? The only clear answer they told is that they do not have funds to help us. But more than that, what have they done?” Jimmy Saipan, a farmer from Brgy. Ngan also in Compostela town which has also been affected by the spate of military operations from April to May this year.

In some reports the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has already looked into the alleged series of abuses against Allan Autan who is one of the evacuees now staying at the Bankerohan Gym.

The report said that this may be “the first documented case of human rights abuses to be presented to Pope Benedict XVI.”

Reverend Jurie Jaime, a UCCP pastor and convener of the recently-formed Exodus for Justice and Peace supported the demands of the evacuees.

He said “The evacuees are yearning to go back home, especially since the children don’t want to miss school. But they want a strong agreement that they can hold on to.”

He added, “Our peace building efforts only go as far as the victims pursue peace. Here we see people who are fighting for justice and peace. They need the support of the civil libertarians and rights defenders especially the church and the real public servants in the local government.”

The Exodus for Justice and Peace was formally launched on May 27 in response to the series of forcible evacuations that happened in the Davao region since the start of the year.

Its head conveners are members of the major religious organizations and civil libertarian groups in Davao City , namely, Sr. Luz Mallo, ma, and Sr. Irene Kaharian of the Missionaries of the Assumption, Bishop Delfin Callao of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Bishop Constante Claro of the UCCP – Southern Mindanao Jurisdiction Bro. Noelvic H.. Deloria, sc, Bro. Jose Godofredo G. Sapigao, sc and other church workers.

June 6, 2008.

Rey Guimboloy
Chairperson, NABOKASA
(Ata-Matigsalug lumad organization)

Bukidnon clergy: all eyes on BOR decision on CMU’s Lao

June 8, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – The Bukidnon clergy, led by Bishop Honesto Pacana, has remained steadfast in its position against Central Mindanao University President Mardonio Lao, who defended himself last week amid calls for his ouster due to tenure and land-related issues.

Fr. Jonathan Tianero, speaking on behalf of Pacana, said the bishop won’t fire back at Lao because “he knows where he stands” even if Lao accused the prelate of helping an investigation for his ouster.

Instead, Tianero said, they are looking forward to the upcoming CMU Board of Regents meeting, where they expect Lao to be stripped of his post and a search committee for his successor would be formed.

He said the BOR, headed by Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Romulo Neri, is expected to meet tomorrow, June 6.

Tianero said they are optimistic about a BOR decision against Lao since the CHED’s legal opinion on the extension of Lao’s “services” as CMU president was “void and illegal.”

In a press conference on May 30 in CMU, Lao told members of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas – Bukidnon chapter that it was Pacana who reported him to Malacañang.

Tianero said Lao even allegedly accused the bishop of railroading the investigation conducted by the Presidential Management Staff, following a trail of letters for a probe coming from Pacana and Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr.

The bishop’s letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Tianero said, was based on documented complaints not just from the priests but also from the students, faculty, farmers and lumads.

“There is nothing personal in it. He only did it to help the people who sought the aid of the Church,” Tianero said.

Tianero said the process could take a long time involving more people.

Lao said last week he would await a decision from the Court of Appeals on a motion for reconsideration the university filed over the land dispute involving Presidential Proclamation 310 delineating at least 670 hectares of CMU lands to lumads.

CMU has taken a legal course to evade the order, invoking its rights to the titled lands.

“We will give in if there’s a decision on that but until there is none, we won’t allow them (lumads) in,” Lao said earlier.

Tianero claimed the BOR under Neri may treat the issue of land dispute and Lao’s tenure as two separate issues. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

SouthCot Lumads score delays in issuance of titles

June 8, 2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – Tribal leaders in this city and nearby Polomolok and Tupi towns in South Cotabato deplored the long-delayed processing of their ancestral land titles that even worsened with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ (NCIP) suspension of delineation activities in the area earlier this year.

Marcis Sanmento, a leader of B’laan land claimants here, said their claims are currently facing uncertainty due to the suspension of the land surveys and the delineation activities in the area based on NCIP Resolution No. 212, which was approved last March 14.

“We really don’t know what to do now. We have been fighting for our land titles for many years now and we cannot afford to face another delay,” Sanmento said in the vernacular.

Sanmento’s clan is claiming at least 4,328 hectares of their ancestral lands covering Barangays and Sinawal here for the last 20 years.

He said their clan first applied for their ancestral land title in 1987 and they already spent around P6 million for its processing before the NCIP suspended its delineation activities last March.

According to NCIP’s Resolution 212, the decision to suspend its delineation activities was due to the “recent killings and assassination plots on NCIP officials in the Province of South Cotabato.”

It said the killings and the alleged assassination plots have sown fear and terror among NCIP employees in the provincial office and the community service centers.

“Said tragic situation prompted the commission to suspend the delineation activities in the area to give ample time for the NCIP investigating team and law enforcement agencies to gather vital information and evidence in the resolution thereof,” the NCIP said.

The resolution said the suspension of delineation activities covers all ancestral land claims in the towns of Polomolok and Tupi in South Cotabato and General Santos City area.

The resolution was signed by NCIP Chairman Eugenio Insigne and Commissioners Rizalino Segundo, Noel Felongco, Rolando Rivera, Miguel Imbing Sia Apostol and Jannette Serrano-Reisland.

Since January, at least two NCIP officials in South Cotabato have been gunned down by still unknown suspects.

NCIP’s ancestral domain coordinator Tommy Dawang was killed by motorcycle-riding suspects in Polomolok town last January 20 while newly-appointed NCIP-South Cotabato provincial director Engr. Rafaelito Handoc was shot dead in Koronadal City last March 5.

Gina Malumpong, who represents another B’laan clan claiming a portion of Sitio Cabuay in Barangay Sinawal here, said they understand the predicament of the NCIP employees but stressed that the suspension order will not solve them.

“Further delaying these processes will leave us with no other legal option. I hope they will listen to us and eventually reconsider their decision,” she said.

Sanmento and Malumpong were among the more than 50 tribal leaders and elders representing 25 claimant organizations and clans in Region XII and Maguindanao province who converged here Tuesday for the two-day First Regional Coalition Forum on Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domain.

The forum was aimed at strengthening the advocacy campaigns for the IPs ancestral domain claims and building a coalition process “for a unified approach to secure ancestral domain claims and ensure future food security of the IPs.”

It is supported by the Tri-People Concern for Peace, Progress and Development of Mindanao Inc., HESED Foundation, Partners for First People Foundation, Inc., Rural Development Institute-PhilNet Sultan Kudarat, Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, League of Indigenous Peoples for Ancestral Domain (LIPAD) in Mindanao and the Federation of Ancestral Domain Claim Organization in Southern Mindanao.

On Tuesday, forum delegates adopted a resolution urging the NCIP to lift the suspension of the delineation activities on the ancestral lands in the area.

Ben Dalimbang, newly elected LIPAD chair, said copies of the resolution will be submitted to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House of Representatives, Senate and local government units in the area. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)

Despite surplus, Bukidnon not spared from high rice prices

June 8, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – Despite a 5,000 metric ton surplus in rice production, Bukidnon has not been spared from soaring rice prices, the Provincial Agriculture Office said.

“We have no control of the commodity flow,” Engr. Alson Quimba, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) told radio station DXDB Wednesday.

Quimba said the province has a surplus of at least 5,000 metric tons with a 92-percent sufficiency level projected up to the end of June but added this wasn’t a guarantee against high prices.

Rice prices here increased to P46 to P48 this week from last week’s P36 and P38. The same trend is also observed in other provinces in Mindanao.

Quimba said the government is trying to cushion the impact to farmers through subsidies. The provincial government, he said, has allotted at least P40 million to be made available to rice farmers for production. But how the fund would be distributed, he said, is still under study.

Quimba said the provincial government has organized a price coordinating body that could look into possible price violations.

He stressed the importance of defining the distinction between “stocking” and “hoarding” to monitor rice supply and demand.

Quimba also said the situation calls for farming using organic methods and inputs, noting that commercial fertilizers are so costly, ranging from P1,600 to P3,200 per bag.

Aragasi Pasandalan, provincial manager of the National Food Authority (NFA), told Central Mindanao Newswatch on June 3 that they were preparing to put up a 24-hour checkpoint in Malaybalay City to monitor the flow of grains and other commodities in the province.

Earlier, Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Emmanuel Paras had accused farmers of “speculation” or holding on to their harvests in anticipation of higher farmgate prices. But farmers’ groups hit Paras, stressing the government should pursue rice cartels and hoarders.

Pasandalan said one of the factors that severely caused the soaring rice prices is low supply. He cited that by this time, only smaller parts of rice fields are yet to be harvested.

Ermedio Abang, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial officer, backed the idea, saying supply of rice is low especially that traders from outside Bukidnon buy the product at a higher price.

In Valencia City, Engr. Gerson Salvan, city agriculture officer, said in another DXDB interview that there is no rice cartel or hoarding in Bukidnon’s rice-rich area dubbed as the “City of Golden Harvest.”

Based on joint DTI and NFA monitoring, Abang said, they found no hoarders in Valencia City.

But Salvan admitted the prices of rice in the city have soared even if they have at least 10,000 hectares of irrigated land.

He said farmers are selling palay at a higher price because of the increasing cost of farm inputs. He said traders, too, want to sell rice outside the province because buyers in those areas are willing to buy at a higher price.

The city government, he said, has realigned at least P4 million for farmers’ subsidy in reaction to the problem.

He admitted that allotting for farmers’ subsidy was not prioritized this year even if there were infrastructure projects that help the farmers.

Salvan said the city council has eyed passing an ordinance putting up the city’s food security fund of at least P15 million per year.

He said they would also request for more NFA rice retailers or outlets in the city. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Bukidnon school exec asks PTCA to refund collections

June 8, 2008

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / June 6) – The chief Education official here has ordered the Parents-Teachers Community Associations in some schools to refund what they collected from parents during enrolment.

Dr. Gloria Benigno, Department of Education Bukidnon chief, told reporters here Friday that she would order a refund of the payments collected “in order to stick to the department order” and identified the PTCA in the erring schools which collected from parents before students were admitted for enrolment.

She said there were five schools which admitted that they allowed the PTCA to collect fees and contributions despite an order prohibiting collection of all types. She clarified that the DepEd in the province had implemented DepEd Order 19 issued by Education Sec. Jesli Lapus on March 19 which
removed all kinds of collections this school year.

Lapuz ordered no collections from school children enrolling in pre-school to Grade VI in the first month of classes, which covers even payments for BSP, GSP, Red Cross, Anti-TB and PTCA. Except for Grade VI and VI, no collection is allowed “at anytime during the school year”.

Benigno clarified it was the PTCA, not the teachers who did it, based on interviews she did with school principals.

Florante Corpuz, DepEd Bukidnon deputy superintendent, told reporters that there were no guidelines though that were passed on how to deal with erring schools for now.

“It’s up for our Secretary (Lapus) to deal with them,” he said.

Benigno said she reported the schools to the national office, which required schools divisions this week to report on the compliance of the order.

Corpuz said collections of voluntary contributions from PTCA would be allowed only in July, but only for higher school levels, for fifth and sixth grades. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)


June 8, 2008

Edwin G. Espejo
Saturday, 07 June 2008 20:00
var sburl3903 = window.location.href; var sbtitle3903 = document.title;var sbtitle3903=encodeURIComponent(“PACQUIAO WATCH: On the cusp”); var sburl3903=decodeURI(“;task=view&amp;id=4485&#8221;); sburl3903=sburl3903.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl3903=encodeURIComponent(sburl3903);GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 June) –World Boxing Council (WBC) super featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao is on the verge of breaking history and may well be on his way to becoming the world’s Number One pound for pound king following the announced retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Only WBC lightweight king David Diaz stands in the way of this historical feat that Manny is about to conquer.

No other Filipino boxer, and Asian for that matter, has won world lineal crowns in boxing in four different weight categories.

Manny, incidentally, holds the record of being the first Filipino and Asian boxer to annex three world boxing titles in three different categories. In the same manner, no other Filipino has ever crashed into the elite top ten pound for pound boxers – not in anyone’s list since it became a popular barometer of one’s boxing prowess.

Pacquiao now occupies No. 2 in most of boxing aficionado’s who’s who list.

It is paramount therefore for Manny to register a decisive and spectacular win against heavy underdog Diaz to achieve that unprecedented accomplishment.

But is Diaz really an easy picking for Manny?

Diaz holds a respectable record of 37 wins, 17 of them coming via knockout victories. He has one draw and his only loss was in 2005 against Kendall Halt and in came via an eight round TKO defeat.

Diaz is a slugger and will be a bigger boxer when he climbs the ring against Pacquiao.

Pacquiao will be fighting at 135 pounds officially for the first time in his career.
Manny has been lackluster in his recent fights with only a knockout win over Jorge Solis since 2007.

He, too, was arguably fighting smaller opponents, having outgrown his erstwhile natural fighting weight at 130 pounds.

No doubt, Manny still carries the punch that has sent 37 of his opponents to dreamland.

But against a natural lightweight, will his punch still deliver that thundering impact?

Diaz was handpicked by his promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, without doubt.
From both financial and match-up point of view, the Diaz fight is tailor-made for Pacquiao. Team Pacquiao believes Diaz is the easiest fight there is in the new division Manny hopes to invade in his soon to end career.

At 30 and going 31, Manny has just a handful of fights left before some young upstarts get the good measure of him. He has been in so many brutal fights that preserving his legacy and reputation as one of the feared boxers to come out this side of the globe will become a priority for him and well-meaning friends.

Diaz is a plodding slugger with defense so lacking he will be easy prey to Manny’s sharp and accurate punches.

But Manny has the propensity to relax and toy against opponents he thinks not in his class.

Manny better be wary against the southpaw Diaz who has also fought heavy handed opponents.

If not, Manny will have wasted his chances of establishing himself as the best Filipino boxer to ever don the mitts.

And who knows, the opportunity of earning more megabucks might just go down the drain. (Edwin G. Espejo is former editor in chief of SunStar General Santos)indaNews)

Conal Holdings to build coal-fired plant in Maasim

June 8, 2008

Saturday, 07 June 2008 20:30
var sburl9396 = window.location.href; var sbtitle9396 = document.title;var sbtitle9396=encodeURIComponent(“Conal Holdings to build coal-fired plant in Maasim”); var sburl9396=decodeURI(“;task=view&amp;id=4489&#8221;); sburl9396=sburl9396.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl9396=encodeURIComponent(sburl9396);MAASIM, Sarangani (MindaNews/07 June) —  The Alcantara-controlled Conal Holdings Corporation will build its 200-megawatt, $450-million  coal-fired plant in this limestone-rich town that is also a favorite scuba diving spot.

Coal is one of the oldest sources of fossil fuel and when burned, produces energy but it also emits toxic gasses, such as carbon monoxide, when unchecked.

In a press statement, Gregorio S. Gonzales, Kamanga Power Plant general manager, said the company will use limestone to capture sulfur in the carbon that will fuel the plant. Sulfur, when mixed with limestone, will produce excellent material as additive to cement.

“With Maasim as a rich source of limestone, it is not remote that investors may build a cement plant in Maasim. Limestone is a major component of cement manufacturing,” Mr. Gonzales said.

The Alcantara Group is also a known player in the cement industry through the Alsons Cement Corp., majority of which was acquired by Holcim Philippines, Inc, said to be the country’s leading cement manufacturer.

Gonzales’s statement was not clear if he was referring to Holcim as among the cement investors who may come to Maasim.

Sarangani Gov. Rene Miguel A. Dominguez, whose mother is an Alcantara, earlier said the provincial government expects the coal-fired power plant to pull in the entry of other industrial investors.

The governor said they are hoping they can emulate the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority in the area with the coal-fired power plant as the magnet.

But Fr. Romeo Catedral, social action director of the Diocese of Marbel, earlier said the priest assigned in Maasim is rallying the Catholic faithful against the coal-fired power plant project citing environmental and human health concerns.

“The information and education campaign (on the evils of the coal-fired power plant) is continuing especially at the level of the Basic Christian Communities,” Catedral said.

While conceding that the issues raised by the opposition are for real if the power plant is not built and maintained properly,

Gonzales said the company will employ technologies in accordance with Philippine laws, as he allayed fears the plant would be harmful to the people and their environment.

Nitrogen oxide emissions, for example, will be at a maximum of 150 milligram per normal cubic meter (mg/Nm3), a target which is way below the 1,000 mg/Nm3 set by Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act, he said.

Sulfur oxide emissions will also be set at 150 mg/Nm3 which is significantly below the 700 mg/Nm3 standard also set by the same law, he added.

The same is true with its carbon monoxide emissions (at 200 mg/Nm3 as opposed to the ceiling of 500 mg/Nm3). Particulate matters will be at 50 mg/Nm3, also below the 150 mg/Nm3 provided by RA 8749,  he said.

Gonzales, a mechanical engineer, said mercury emission in gaseous form will be strictly monitored not to exceed 0.02 mg/Nm3, also way below the 5mg/Nm3 volume set by the Clean Air Act of 1999.

The company is open to dialogues with groups opposing its venture, he said.

“We will always open our doors to everybody and anybody who have reservations and those who are opposed to the project. We have nothing to hide. And we will welcome suggestions on how to help protect the environment,” he said.

The Kamanga Power Plant project aims to initially generate 200 MW of electricity by 2011 with two incremental expansions of 350 MW over a period of 15 years.

Construction of the first phase will take three years and would employ at least 1,000 laborers and 300 regular workers during the operation stage, the statement said.

Mindanao has an existing generating capacity of 1,850.4 MW beginning 2008 but the dependable capacity is only 1,520 MW. Peak demand starting this year is projected to hit 1,440 MW.

Industry  regulations require the Mindanao Grid to maintain a reserve capacity of at least 23.4% of their generating capacity.

Peak demand for power supply by 2015 is expected to hit 1,750 MW but only the Sibulan 70MW Hydro Power Plant Project in Sta. Cruz, Davao is under construction.

“We expect power supply to become tighter and tighter over the next three years, edging towards a shortage 2012 onwards. This is the main objective of the Kamanga Power Plant project, to fill the gap between supply and demand,” Gonzales said.  (MindaNews)

Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put”

June 8, 2008

Gus Miclat*/Special to MindaNews
Saturday, 07 June 2008 20:32
var sburl4310 = window.location.href; var sbtitle4310 = document.title;var sbtitle4310=encodeURIComponent(“Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put””); var sburl4310=decodeURI(“;task=view&amp;id=4490&#8221;); sburl4310=sburl4310.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl4310=encodeURIComponent(sburl4310);MANILA (MindaNews/07 June) — “Malaysia should stay put,” former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in response to an appeal by the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) for him to assist in the peace talks in Mindanao.

Ibrahim’s comments on the reported pullout of the Malaysian contingent in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao was on MPW’s specific request for him to “help us (MPW) convince your government to please continue to stay on as the leader of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao and to be in general patient with our peace process.”

In an exclusive interview, Ibrahim said the quest and accompaniment for peace must be paramount even if there may have been compelling reasons for Kuala Lumpur to think about pulling out as the peace negotiation has continued to drag and some initial agreements on the framework of the talks had been reneged upon.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers,  the broadest coalition of civil society peace networks in the island, sent their letter to Ibrahim saying it was awed by what he represented and epitomized “not only in your beloved Malaysia but also in this region and the Muslim world in general.”

“We understand that it may be very disappointing for Malaysia to facilitate and broker the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front without seeing any huge strides, but the IMT has definitely contributed to the relative silence of the guns in Mindanao. Trust and harmony among the combatants and more so among the general population could also be attributed to their presence.  Leaving the IMT, or even a hint of downsizing your presence has released a deep anxiety among our people. And we know that anxiety can lead to hostilities,” the MPW said.

The Malaysian IMT contingent is set to end its mission in August. Its tour of duty can be extended according to the Terms of Reference but only upon the request of both the Philippine government and the MILF. The Philippine government has sought more Libyan presence at the IMT.

Both panels have yet to meet after its last exploratory talks in November 2007.

Earlier, in September 2006, the talks ended in an impasse which was finally broken 13 months later, in October 2007.

In December 2007, when both panels were supposed to finalize the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, the MILF peace panel refused to meet with its counterpart after receiving a government draft that the MILF claimed, veered away from the two sides’ consensus points.

Ibrahim arrived in Manila last Thursday to address a colloquium on Islam, Politics and the Prospects for Peace sponsored by the De La Salle Graduate School and the Asian Institute for Democracy.  Deposed President Joseph Estrada tendered a dinner in his honor, with former President Corazon Aquino among the guests.

Ibrahim could become Malaysia’s next Prime Minister as the People’s  Justice Party he founded and led by his wife chalked up a hefty number of seats in the recent parliament elections and is reportedly on the verge of forming a government along with defectors from the ruling  Barisan coalition which he also once led along with his mentor, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

Mahathir sacked him after Ibrahim questioned certain policies related to fiscal reforms prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and sent him to jail on sodomy and other graft charges which the courts dismissed after six years in detention. Mahatir meanwhile retired from his post and resigned from the ruling party after a row with his successor and incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mahathir’s choice to replace Ibrahim then and eventually anointed him his successor as well.

Ibrahim’s three-party alliance won an unprecedented 82 seats in the March 8, 2008 elections, shaking the ruling national front’s grip on power for the last 40 years.  They only need another 30 seats more to form a government. Malaysia’s parliament has 222 seats. Ibrahim thinks he can form the government by September but wants the transition to be peaceful and democratic. September is symbolical, as September 16, 1963 was when the Malaysia Federation was formed.

Ibrahim said that if his party takes over the government, the dynamics will entirely be different, thus, the approach and role of the Malaysian government in the Mindanao peace process will also be one that is more pro-active and inclusive.

He said he would have loved to meet with and listen to leaders of the MPW and civil society in general and offer anything to help achieve peace not only in Mindanao, but apologized that his visit to the country was brief. He promised to do so in the next opportunity. The MPW has meanwhile invited him to come to Mindanao.

Ibrahim also met last Friday with former President Fidel Ramos, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Senate President Manny Villar, administration senator Edgardo Angara and other officials from both the current and past administrations and the opposition.

Ibrahim was in the country last September to keynote the second assembly of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA).  The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Davao-based regional advocacy and solidarity organization and Mindanao Peaceweavers’ lead secretariat, organized and hosted the assembly. (*Gus Miclat is the Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue).

Sketches: Hillary

June 7, 2008

Kahit antok na, naka-isa pah.. (hikab)

GMA Network probes sexual harassment complaint

June 7, 2008

MANILA, Philippines–If it was just a “pleasant, casual gesture” by a top executive of a GMA television network subsidiary, then why was the 23-year-old object of his attentions so outraged that she quit her job and sought to have him barred from any other employment in the network or any of its subsidiaries?

In fact, the victim, whose name is being withheld, said that far from a “pleasant, casual gesture,” what she experienced were caresses on her thigh and rear, invitations to join the executive in his room and an unwelcome kiss during a team-building seminar in a San Mateo, Rizal resort.

Last Thursday, a fact-finding committee formed by GMA began hearing the complaint of sexual harassment that the victim filed last April 15 against Scenarios Inc. executive vice-president Jose Antonio K. Veloso; stage and sets manager Ernesto Balleser, the victim’s direct superior; and Arnel Hiloma, the head of the administrative department of Scenarios.

After the complaint was filed, Veloso reportedly resigned as executive vice president of Scenarios. The victim fears, however, that he might be rehired in a different position in other GMA subsidiary companies.

The victim’s lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, questioned the composition of the fact-finding committee.

“The management should not be selecting the members of the committee … It seems they want to hide this incident from the other employees,” she said.

The selection of the committee members should be done by election among the employees and rank-and-file personnel and the supervisors should be the ones to choose their representatives to the committee, not the management, Ursua said.

First case

Asked how the fact-finding committee would resolve the case and if witnesses to the sexual harassment incident would be called before the body, the GMA officials said that they would resolve the case based on affidavits that were submitted.

“Maybe this is the first time that a sexual harassment complaint lodged with the management reached this stage because they do not seem to know how to handle the case,” Ursua said.

The victim said she knows she faces an uphill battle but is pursuing the case because “I do not want this to happen to anybody else. This should not happen to anyone else.”

“He [Veloso] is a serious threat to the welfare and well-being of every female employee of the company and beyond. No female is safe from his abuses. Given his pattern of abusive conduct against females, he deserves to be dismissed from the company and barred from any employment within the GMA Network Inc. and any of its subsidiaries,” she said.

She asked that Balleser and Hiloma be included in the investigation for possible complicity in the offense.

“Given their tolerance of, if not active cooperation in, the commission of Mr. Veloso’s acts, they have contributed to a company culture of disrespect for women and continuing sexual harassment,” she said.

Their word against mine

She said that 90 percent of Scenarios employees, particularly in the stage and sets department, were women, a fact that she finds odd as the job requires lifting heavy objects.

“I know I will be going up against the top management. It is their word against mine …But it is time for him [Veloso] to stop. I have the chance to complain. I will pursue this and see this through,” the victim said.

Veloso could not be reached for comment. He did not respond to several text messages sent to his cellular phone.

Lawyer Dick Perez, vice president for legal affairs of GMA Network Inc., said the company was serious about looking into the sexual harassment complaint.

“This is a big matter for us. We are now investigating the case. We are serious,” he said.

He said the allegedly questionable composition of the fact-finding committee was a matter of perception.

“They [the complainant’s side] are going to submit their position and that would be unfair to us if they say we are not taking this seriously…We will resolve this,” the lawyer said.

Perez said that since Veloso has already resigned, “we cannot investigate him because he is no longer under our jurisdiction.” He said Veloso ceased to be connected with GMA and its subsidiary in April when he resigned.

He explained that the investigation was administrative and geared toward disciplining possibly errant employees.

What happened

In her affidavit-complaint, the victim said the sexual harassment occurred at a company team-building seminar at the 9 Waves Resort in San Mateo, Rizal from March 28 and March 29, attended by the management and staff, including Veloso, Balleser and Hiloma.

“From the time we got there until around lunchtime, our executive vice president, Jose Antonio K. Veloso (JAKV) kept approaching me and making small talk, which I did not find peculiar at [the] time,” she said.

Toward the late afternoon, she and some of her officemates went to the resort’s recreation room to play billiards and table tennis. They found Veloso already there playing billiards with one of their officemates.

“It was during this time that he started being a bit touchy [with] me but I did not think much of it since he was like that with women even in our office,” the victim said.

At 10 p.m. on March 28, the victim received a text message from her immediate superior, Balleser, asking for a flash drive that contained the files of an office project. When she went into one of the cottages to get the flash drive, she noted that the company officials had set up a table in front of the cottage and were sitting around it having drinks.

When she emerged from the cottage, she was invited to sit at the table between Balleser and Veloso, purportedly to discuss the project, which she took to be an “implied order.” As soon as she sat down, she was informed that the company would subsidize her tuition for a computer crash course.

However, she noticed that Veloso’s thigh kept brushing against hers, which she promptly moved to avoid. Veloso then allegedly placed his hand on her lap. She moved back her chair and started to rise, excusing herself, but the company officials told her to stay to discuss the project.

“I was afraid of what would happen if I refused. I panicked and I could not think straight. All that I was fully conscious of was that everyone sitting at the table was my superior and every request was an implied order,” the victim said in the affidavit.

Veloso resumed placing his hand on her lap and even held her hand. She said Balleser and Hiloma saw what was happening but did not react even after she looked pleadingly at Balleser for him to help her.

She pulled her hand away from Veloso’s grip, but he placed her hand on his lap, interlocking their fingers and then pinning her hand under his.

‘Inside panties’

“When I started resisting subtly, he [Veloso] suddenly placed his hand on the small of my back and slipped it inside my panties. I grabbed his arm and tried to pull it out. He pulled out his hand and placed it again on my lap. He began humming near my ear, adding to my fear and panic. I froze on the spot,” she said.

She did not manage to get away until midnight when another female employee joined the group. But when the victim passed him, Veloso approached her and whispered, “See me later?”

She went back to her cottage and discussed what happened with her officemates. From their discussions, she felt she had to go back to rescue the other girl.

When Veloso saw her, he asked her to help transfer some unopened beer cans from another table to their table. As she turned to return to their table, Veloso grabbed her by the nape and kissed her on the lips.

‘Sir, no’

“I immediately struggled and bowed my head to get out of his grip. I shook my head and said firmly, ‘Sir, no.’ He tried again, but I kept resisting him. I pushed him back with my left forearm,” until he finally let go.

She said the female employee she was attempting to rescue later told her that she was treated the same way but was too afraid to say or do anything.

She later received a text message from Veloso saying, “Are you all right?” to which she did not respond.

‘Pleasant, casual gesture’

Balleser and Hiloma, in a written response to the sexual harassment complaint, dismissed what they witnessed as “a pleasant, casual gesture.”

In an April 21 letter to Perez, they denied “having any knowledge, full awareness or preconceived notion of such indecent acts that allegedly transpired on the night of March 28, 2008 wherein Ms _____ claimed to have been sexually violated.”

In separate counteraffidavits, Balleser and Hiloma said that at the team-building seminar they saw Veloso and the victim “holding hands comfortably which was in plain view of everybody while talking and smiling” and did not see any malice, ignoring this as “a pleasant casual gesture.”

They also claimed not to have seen any form of resistance or defiance “that could possibly draw our attention to and/or alarm us of any unwelcome sexual transgression, as claimed by Ms ______.”


My take:

1. I believe that what the complainant has narrated is true.

2. I believe that the Inquirer management censored this story by putting that kind of headline (which I think is not being described by the story’s lead).

3. Yang mga rapist na yan ang dapat na pinapatay ng mga hitman ng militar, hindi ang mga aktibista.

Editorial Cartoon: Parinig

June 7, 2008

Para sa mga binulag.

Reyes, Lagdameo grace Villasiga mini hydropower launching

June 7, 2008


SAN JOSE, Antique – The launching of the Villa Siga Mini-hydro project was graced by Department of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

The Villa Siga project is the first ever hydropower plant in Panay Island. It is located in Brgy. Igsoro, Bugasong town.

National Power Corp. (Napocor) President Cyril Del Callar also graced the event.
It was held at the Antique Electric Cooperative (Anteco) compound. Local officials led by Cong. Exequiel Javier, Gov. Salvacion Perez and Vice Gov. Rhodora Cadiao attended the grand launching.

Reyes signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with Elizaldy Co, chief executive officer of Sun West Water and Electric Co. (Suweco), and municipal mayors of Bugasong, Laua-an, and Barbaza where the project will be constructed.

Javier, Perez and Anteco General Manager Ludovico Lim witnessed the signing.

Villa Siga mini-hydro project is one of the four projects to be undertaken by Suweco. It aims to produce eight megawatt (MW) of power to supplement the 12 MW demand of Antique.

Other projects are located in Brgy. San Ramon, Barbaza and Brgy. Guiamon, Laua-an. Suweco experts said the projects are expected to generate 30,000,000 kilowatt per hour of electricity annually and construction cost is P1.1 billion. The project will be finished after two years.

The mini-hydro power plant will replace 50,200 barrels of fuel normally used in oil fired power plant. This will result to a projected annual foreign exchange savings of P292 million ($6.8 million).

The hydro project will lessen carbon dioxide (CO2) emission by 17,100 tons a year.
Suweco was also granted a license to construct and operate a mini-hydro facility in Antique with an eight MW generating capacity. The generated electricity will be sold directly to Anteco, the sole electricity provider in the province.

Reyes said the mini-hydro project will help stabilize the power crisis in Panay. He also cited other renewable energy projects – Timbahan hydropower project in Madalag, Aklan and the hydroelectric project in Libacao, also in Aklan.

Meanwhile, Lagdameo said Antique is leading the way for the advocacy on renewable energy. Lagdameo, president of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is a vocal critic of the proposed coal-fired power plant in Iloilo.
Lagdameo said there is no real shortage of electricity in Panay. In the contrary, he claimed there is power surplus in the island until 2010 but there would be a gradual decrease of energy starting 2011.

He said power shortage is not true. He blamed the problem on mismanagement and leadership crisis.

Javier, chairman of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee said he would do his share in Congress by passing legislation exempting electric cooperatives from income tax, putting a cap on Value Added Tax (VAT) payers, and removing VAT from system’s loss and subsidies to lifeline consumers.

Lagdameo said the operation of the mini-hydro power plant will help solve the expected power crisis. He reiterated his strong opposition to coal powered plant saying it will bring hazard not only to the environment but also to the people.

“Clean coal is a misnomer. It kills more people every year compared to drunken rivers and murderers,” Lagdameo said./PN


June 7, 2008

US expert sees Boracay’s potential for wind and tidal power


BORACAY Island – The US based Global Coral Reef Alliance (GCRA) has seen Boracay Island’s potential for a wind and tidal power.

This is according to its report ‘Boracay Environmental Restoration, Water Quality, and Sustainable Energy: Current Situation and Future Prospects.’

In the 22-page report dated August 20, 2007, Dr. Thomas Goreau, GCRA president, electrical power in this resort island is expensive and unreliable because it uses bunker oil fuel.

“Boracay has vast, clean and untapped energy at hand in the form of tidal currents that sweep through the channel between Boracay and Panay. Wherever currents are more than 2 meters per second, significant amounts of energy can be made,” Goreau said.

He cited a technology called Gorlov Vertical Axis Helical Turbine (GHT). GHT is highly efficient and stable and turns in the same direction no matter which way the current flows and does not have to be oriented in the flow, unlike a propeller type of turbine.

“A single one meter diameter turbine produces a Kilowatt of power in a 2 meter per second current, 8 kilowatts in a 4 meter per second current, and 64 kilowatts in an 8 meter per second current. Arrays of GHTs mounted from moored barges in the Boracay-Panay Channel could probably provide most of Boracay’s energy needs in an environmentally clean and cost competitive manner,” he added.

Goreau said the technology is feasible for Boracay.

“In addition, Boracay has good wind energy resources that could be tapped on top of the hills. The Philippines’ top designer and builder of wind turbines, Gene Antiquena, who lives in Iloilo, built a wind turbine in Negros last year to power reef restoration projects,” he said.

In 2006, Goreau built a GHT in Negros Occidental with a team of Filipino students in Sagay City to power coral reef reforestation projects.

The GRCA have been invited on 2007 by the Boracay Foundation Incorporated (BFI) to study on how to sustain the coral reefs in this resort island. The group also calculated the effects of climate change to coral reefs./PN

Even Negros Occidental gov puzzled by fertilizer subsidy

June 7, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008


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Negros Occidental Gov. Isidro Zayco is himself at a loss on the guidelines of the fertilizer subsidies to farmers to help boost rice production and help push down the price of the staple in the province.

Local government units will reportedly identify the small farmers who can avail themselves of the rice subsidy.

The puzzle, according to Zayco, is that Negros Occidental is due to receive a total of P80 million in IRA differentials. But he does not know how the amount will be released.

“Earlier we were told that if we want to get the whole amount at once, it would be less 30 percent or only P56 million. But we would get the entire amount if we agree to avail ourselves of yearly releases over seven years,” Zayco explained.

In short, the Negros executive wants to clarify the source of funds for the LGUs for the rice subsidy program.

The question is, where will the 30 percent deduction of the lump sum go to?

That’s one thing which top government officials must answer. The Department of Agriculture, under the LGU fertilizer program, sets aside P500 from the DA and P1,000 from the LGU for the farmers.

These will be in terms of P250 coupons for each bag of fertilizer the farmers buy, he said.

Lucille Gaveolna said the LGUs will identify the prospective recipients. Some 11,500 small farmers in the province have availed themselves of subsidized fertilized seeds from the DA.

The fertilizer coupons will be released for the wet cropping season from May to October this year.

The LGU counterpart fund, according to Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, is from the P12.5-billion IRA differentials from 2001 to 2004 which the President had ordered released.

Cops have their hands full

The police force of Negros Occidental has its hands full trying to unravel the torching of three delivery trucks of Tanduay Distillery Inc. at the Barcelona Port in Barangay Old Poblacion, Escalante City last Wednesday night.

Initial reports said 30 suspected New People’s Army rebels burned the delivery trucks because of the distillery’s failure to pay revolutionary taxes to the insurgents.

While the police seemed sure that the arsonists were NPA rebels, Col. Honorato de los Reyes, 303rd Infantry Brigade chief, wondered why some of the suspects wore bonnets. This is not the usual trademark of rebels, especially CPP-NPA members.

That threw a monkey’s wrench into the torching incident. If they were not NPA rebels, then the whole thing is a police matter.

Usually rebels do not wear bonnets when they are committing atrocities, Reyes pointed out.

The delivery trucks were reportedly en route to Cebu to transport Tanduay products when they were torched at the port owned by the Barcelona family. Among the owners of the small port is Escalante Vice Mayor May-May Barcelona, although it is managed by a brother.

The raiders, according to the police, mostly came on foot, while others were on board a pumpboat.

Escalante police chief Leonardo Angcon said some of the armed suspects withdrew from the scene on board a pumpboat.

Earlier, suspected rebels also torched two Tanduay delivery trucks in upland areas of Vallehermoso and Guihulngan in Negros Oriental. Two months ago, rebels also burned two transloading stations of the Victorias Milling Co. and Lopez Sugar Corp. in Toboso town, just adjacent to Escalante City.

Again the reason for that was the refusal of both firms to pay revolutionary taxes.

De los Reyes admitted the presence of legal fronts of the CPP-NPA in the coastal areas of Escalante.

The sequence of events tends to confirm suspicions that the group of 30 well-armed raiders must have been NPA members.

The question, however, is whether insurgents or not, the latest incident poses a challenge to both the police and the military to run the armed groups to the ground.

Escalante and its environs in northern Negros Occidental have been rocked by a series of violent incidents that seems to convince people in these areas that the NPA is still around and not yet contained by the military and the police. That presents a climate of uncertainty among the civilian population of the towns of Toboso and Calatrava and Escalante City as well as the upland areas of Sagay City.

But there is another side to the story. The Negros police has been tasked to be on the lookout for the two suspected killers of Ajuy, Iloilo Vice Mayor Ramon Rojas.

A P200,000 reward has been put up by the family and friends of Rojas for the arrest of the suspects who were last reported to have fled to northern Negros. The two guns-for-hire have been identified as Edgar Cordero and Dennis Cartagena.

Rojas was jogging with barangay chairman Ferdinand Nacional when he was gunned down. Nacional survived the ambush.

Iloilo police chief Ricardo de la Paz, who heads Task Force Rojas, was, prior to his new post, the police chief of San Carlos City.

Regional police chief Isagani Cuevas said police are still validating if the killing of Rojas was related to the intense political rivalry in Ajuy.

ADDENDUM: The provincial government, according to Gov. Zayco, is distributing rice to 57,513 day-care children throughout Negros Occidental under the food-for-school hunger mitigation program. Social welfare officer Liane Garcia said 402,591 kilograms of rice are to be given out to children in 25 towns and cities of the province. Kabankalan City tops the list with 51,051 kgs of rice for 7,293 children in day-care centers daily.

NPAs free Davao cop

June 7, 2008

By Edith Regalado
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


DAVAO CITY – Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels released a rookie policeman Thursday night, two days after they seized him and his superior in Boston, Davao Oriental.

The guerrillas, belonging to the Front Committee 20 of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command, however, killed the superior of freed PO1 Ruel Balmores, Inspector Jonnel Belenson, police chief of Boston town, for resisting their attempt to take them hostage last Tuesday.

Belenson and Balmores were reportedly on their way to the adjacent town of Baganga on board a motorcycle to testify in an illegal drug case when the rebels accosted them.

Superintendent Jimmy Manabat, Davao Oriental police director, confirmed Balmores’ release in Boston town, saying he is now in the custody of the provincial police.

Manabat said Balmores was brought from Boston to the provincial police headquarters in the capital, Mati City, by GMA-7 reporter John Paul Seniel and his cameraman.

Manabat said Balmores still has to undergo debriefing after his ordeal in the hands of the NPA rebels.

Seniel said Balmores seemed to be in good health when the rebels handed him over to them.

Seniel was reportedly accompanied by a priest and an official of the Association of Barangay Councils of neighboring Cateel town when Balmores was released to them.

Manabat denied reports that at least P300,000 was paid for Balmores’ release.

“We do not pay money in exchange for the release of our policemen,” Manabat said.

Seniel himself told The STAR that no one among those who accompanied him in fetching Balmores would confirm the reported payoff.(PStar)

Villar declares 2010 presidential bid

June 7, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008


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DAGUPAN CITY – Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. declared here his “99 percent” preparations for the presidential elections in 2010.

According to Villar, president of the Nacionalista Party (NP), their slate is already complete with personalities from the ruling Lakas party complementing their senatorial lineup.

Without mentioning names, Villar said some Lakas stalwarts have applied with the NP seeking to run for the Senate in the 2010 elections.

Villar said the remaining one percent of his political plans for 2010 is reserved in case of a no-election scenario.

“The one percent is reserved on the possibility that no election occurs. What if it does not push through? What if there is no election?” he asked in jest.

Villar assured the public the elections will definitely push through but “you can never tell, someone might enjoy (extending the term of office).”

Villar stressed the NP have long prepared for the 2010 elections but it would be premature to disclose the possible bets.

“Because you can’t say yet who are with you. It’s still too early. For example, you already formed the ticket but there’s always the possibility that it has to be recast,” he said.

According to Villar, they have already 20 candidates in their list.

But Villar said he has not yet chosen who will be his running mate.

He said the door is still open for possible alliances with other political parties regarding the senatorial slate “but not for the (position of) president.” – Eva Visperas(PStar)

Media watchdog condemns Philippine editor’s libel verdict

June 7, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008


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An international media watchdog slammed the prison sentence of a Philippine newspaper editor found guilty of libeling the president’s former lawyer, saying Friday that the case against her was undemocratic.

The Makati Regional Trial court on Thursday sentenced Niñez Cacho Olivarez, editor and publisher of The Daily Tribune, to two years in prison and ordered her to pay damages to Arthur Villaraza and his law firm for an article alleging he tried to extort money from a building company.

The June 2003 article written by Olivarez was based on a purported recording of Villaraza – formerly President Arroyo’s lawyer – and a German company that won a bid for a new airport terminal.

The law firm argued that the story was baseless and maligned its reputation. Judge Winlove Dumayas found the article “defamatory” and “attended with malice.”

Olivarez called the ruling “an injustice.” Her lawyer, Alexis Mina, said they would appeal, and the court allowed Olivarez to post bail.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Olivarez’s conviction and expressed hope it would be overturned.

Bob Dietz, Asia coordinator for the group, said in a statement that “it is high time for a democratic country like the Philippines to remove the threat of imprisonment for journalists by decriminalizing libel.”

He noted that Olivarez is a well-known critic of Arroyo administration, which has also filed sedition charges against her and two columnists that are still pending.

The Tribune has frequently reported on alleged government corruption. In February 2006, police raided the newspaper’s offices when Arroyo declared a state of emergency to quell a coup plot.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said earlier that the ruling highlighted “the urgency of decriminalizing and improving our antiquated libel law.”

Media groups say politicians in the Philippines often abuse the 106-year-old libel law to silence critics. Under the law, violators can be fined or sentenced to up to six years in prison. – AP(PStar)

No rains in first half of June – Pagasa

June 7, 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008


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Filipino students could expect rain-free days during the opening of classes next week, the weather bureau said yesterday.

In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the Ilocos region, Central Luzon, southern Tagalog including Metro Manila, and western Visayas might experience a “monsoon break” the first half of this month due to a high pressure area.

“Warm and hot weather condition was experienced during the last week of May, a manifestation of the monsoon break, which is a normal feature during the season,” Pagasa said.

“This was due to the ridge of high pressure area whose axis extended from Luzon to Mindanao. Monsoon break may extend up to the first half of June.”

High-pressure area is associated with plenty of sunlight or good weather.

Nathaniel Cruz, Pagasa weather branch chief, said breaks in the rain events that usually last for several days to weeks might occur during the southwest monsoon season due to the strengthening of the ridge of North Pacific high pressure area.

Last May 15, the weather bureau officially declared the onset of the rainy season in the western section of the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Pagasa said some parts of the country would experience normal rainfall starting this month as the La Niña weather phenomenon continues to weaken.

“Recent climate in the equatorial tropical Pacific is generally neutral as shown by the considerable weakening of the La Niña indicators, although cooler than normal sea surface temperatures still exist in some areas. Overall, the tropical Pacific is warming gradually and the return to neutral conditions can finally be expected this June,” Pagasa said in a statement.

Last month above normal rainfall was experienced in most parts of the Visayas and northern Luzon, particularly the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales, where torrential rains and strong winds brought destruction to property, agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure reaching P180 million, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

The rest of the country, meanwhile, received near normal to below normal rainfall in May, the weather bureau said.

Pagasa said weather systems that are likely to affect the country this month are the southwest monsoon, inter-tropical convergence zone and two typhoons.

Above normal rainfall conditions are expected over the Visayas, Bicol region, western Mindanao and some areas of central and southern Luzon, including Metro Manila, Pagasa said.

The rest of Luzon will likely experience “near normal” rainfall with patches of “below normal” in the northeastern part, Pagasa said. Near normal rainfall are expected in some areas of central and northern Mindanao and below normal will likely occur in the eastern and southern part.

Predicted ranges of temperature for this months are 23 to 35 degrees Celsius in Luzon and 16 to 24 degrees Celsius in its mountainous areas; 24 to 33 degrees Celsius in the Visayas; 22 to 33 degrees Celsius in Mindanao and 19 to 30 degrees Celsius over its mountainous areas.

About 20 typhoons are expected to enter the Philippines this year. So far, five typhoons have entered the Philippine area of responsibility this year. – Helen Flores(PStar)


My Take: Pustahan tayo. Uulan yan, Uulan!

AFP chief urges soldiers to invest in stock market

June 7, 2008

By James Mananghaya
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


In a bid to increase soldiers’ income, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano said he would encourage troops to invest in the stock market.

In an interview, Yano said he welcomes the move of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to conduct free seminars on stock trading for soldiers to help them come up with alternative sources of income for their families.

“It’s a big help. As you know we soldiers are not that economically well off, so with this assistance to teach us the stock market, hopefully our soldiers – officers and enlisted personnel – can make good investments,” he said.

The AFP top brass said he also wants to attend the seminars to learn how he could have additional source of income, especially after his retirement.

PSE president Francisco Lim earlier said they hope that the seminar would enlighten soldiers on how to keep their savings and have another source of income for their families.

“We all know of course that there are risks involved in investing in the stock market but our aim in holding these seminars is to enlighten the soldiers about alternative investment areas where they can keep their savings and where they can earn potential extra income. Our market education department people are ready to touch base with the AFP in finalizing the schedule and details of these free seminars,” Lim said.

Yano said the free seminars on stock market investment could initially be conducted at the general headquarters and subsequently at the Army, Navy and Air Force headquarters.

An officer with a rank of lieutenant earns a gross pay of P21,000 a month, with P3,000 as allowance.

An ordinary private has a gross monthly income of P13,000, which increases by 10 percent every five years in the service.(PStar)


My Take: Another scam, this is.  Wala na silang ibang magatasan, pati sarili nilang tao pagnanakawan.  Hay… maybe its true, corruption will prevnt this government to win the war against the insurgents.

UN World Food Program recommends review of gov’t initiatives for poor

June 7, 2008

By  Katherine Adraneda
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) yesterday recommended a review of programs to assist the so-called poorest of the poor by the Philippine government in the wake of continuing increases in food prices.

UNWFP-Philippines country director and representative Valerie Guarnieri noted the “centralized” distribution of subsidized sales of the P18.25 National Food Authority (NFA) rice in Metro Manila even as food prices increase across the country, affecting mostly the poor in the provinces.

In an interview during her visit to the NFA warehouse on Visayas Avenue, Quezon City where the queue of people buying NFA rice appeared to be getting longer by the hour, Guarnieri stressed that the government must ensure that its food programs reach the widest portion of the poor like those in Mindanao, considered the “most vulnerable” region in the country.

She emphasized that the Philippine government must look into whether or not the subsidized sale of NFA rice is being implemented properly and effectively, and if it is really reaching the “poorest of the poor.”

“We meet regularly with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority regarding the high prices situation,” Guarnieri told reporters.

“Making rice for sale at an affordable price seems to make sense but the subsidized sale (of NFA rice) appears to be only focused in Manila… there seems to be no significant way to expand the program outside Manila.”

“I have not seen this in Mindanao, which is the most hunger-prone area as many communities there are affected by conflicts,” she added.

“And the high prices of food today makes Mindanao more vulnerable.”

UNWFP currently conducts its work in the Mindanao region, notably in conflict areas where massive displacement of communities has led to widespread hunger.

UNWFP was also invited by the Philippine government to Mindanao to assist in the peace process, Guarnieri said.

At the same time, Guarnieri stressed that aside from reviewing the implementation of the subsidized sale of cheap NFA rice, the Philippine government should also evaluate other programs aimed at reducing hunger and poverty, which were implemented by the government even before the rice crisis occured.

Guarnieri was referring to government programs like the food-for-school project and conditional cash transfer scheme, among others, which could be expanded to reach more identified “poor areas” nationwide.

She noted that the two areas most affected by high prices are the urban centers, which are dependent exclusively on the market; and poor districts in the country.

“The government could look into ways on how to increase the income of families, for example. Or expand its food-for-school (program) in order to feed more,” she enumerated.

“It is not enough for (the government to just) announce what it intends to do,” she also said. “We suggest that the government look carefully at the implementation of its activities.”

During her visit to the NFA warehouse, Guarnieri spoke with some first-timers in the line, who claimed they are now compelled to buy the cheap rice because of the fresh round of increases in the price of commodities last week.

The UNWFP observed that people lining up at NFA warehouses to buy cheap rice consist not only of the poor but also the middle-class.

At this point, the UNWFP official recommended that the government begin to formulate a program of action to help other levels of society which are also likely to be affected by the seemingly unflagging increase in food prices.

“The government should look into the possibility of addressing the needs of the next level because they are likely to also suffer because of the continuing high prices (of food)… The government has to have some kind of a gradation support to be able to assist different levels,” Guarnieri said.

Three-pronged approach

Guarnieri said that the UNWFP has offered “three prongs of intervention” to the government, aimed at ensuring adequate food at affordable price to the people.

She said the subsidized sale of NFA rice is a “valid step” that governments around the world adopt in the immediate term, but emphasized that the government should not stop finding ways to permanently address the issue.

The UNWFP official said that in the medium-term, the government must look into ways to increase agricultural productivity, including measures to improve irrigation as well as investment in seed varieties.

In the long-term, Guarnieri said that the government should closely look into policies that were already put in place to ensure the free flow of food in and out of the country.

She noted that the government could assess the import tariffs it imposes on food commodities as well as the role of the NFA in the nation’s food security.

She assured the government that the UNWFP is ready to help in every stage towards the achievement of food security for its people.

“It (the system involved in the subsidized sale of NFA rice) doesn’t seem ideal, but it doesn’t seem bad as well,” Guarnieri said.

She stressed that no matter what programs or actions the government decides to take, “it has to make sure that the poorest of the poor are not left out or excluded.”(PStar)


My Take: This story strengthened my belief that this “program” is actually politically-motivated, a desperate attempt to deodorize Malacañan-personalities in preparation for the fast-coming presidential elections.

Ombudsman approves filing of charges vs Jocjoc

June 7, 2008

By Edu Punay
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has approved the filing of charges of graft and corruption and illegal use of public funds against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante and other Department of Agriculture (DA) officials tagged in the P728-million fertilizer scam.

Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni said Gutierrez has created a panel to conduct a preliminary investigation on Bolante and the other suspects.

“We will start the preliminary investigation on this case (fertilizer scam) very soon,” he said. “We are just finalizing the initial report from the (Field Investigation Office).”

Jalandoni said the Office of the Ombudsman has found ample grounds to pursue investigation on allegations against Bolante and other DA officials supposedly involved in alleged anomalies in the fertilizer project.

The preliminary investigation would determine probable cause on whether the complaint would be sent to the Sandiganbayan for trial, he added.

Violation of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code refer to giving undue injury to any party, including the government, caused by giving any private party any unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions, Jalandoni said.

Also recommended for indictment were Agriculture Undersecretary Belinda Gonzales and Assistant Secretaries Jose Felix Montes, Edmund Sana and Ibarra Poliquit.

The case arose from alleged anomalies in the distribution of the government’s P728-million fertilizer fund through the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program before the national elections in 2004.

The project was also supposedly overpriced by at least P127 million.

Bolante fled to the US in 2005 at the height of a Senate investigation into the fertilizer scam.

However, his asylum bid was denied twice by a Chicago Immigration Court in a ruling dated Feb. 9, 2007 and a Board of Immigration Appeals decision, dated June 25, 2007.

Bolante prosecution doubted

The President of the Anti-Graft League of the Philippines doubted yesterday the prosecution of Bolante because of his close ties to Malacañang.

Crispin Reyes, Anti-Graft League president, said the case would test the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman to pursue the recommendation of its field investigation to charge Bolante in court.

“The Ombudsman is faced with the dilemma, it’s a choice (between) her survival or the rule of law,” he said.

Reyes warned that any inaction of the Ombudsman on the case of Bolante would add to the unresolved anomalies and scandals in government.

“More suffering and abuses will trigger social unrest, even a revolution,” he said. – With Perseus Echeminada(PStar)

GSIS hits back at MBC

June 7, 2008

By  Michael Punongbayan
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) called on the Makati Business Club (MBC) yesterday to stop “parroting” the Lopez line that the government is out to take control of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Estrella Elamparo, GSIS chief legal counsel and spokeswoman, said the MBC should be objective and impartial in looking at allegations of mismanagement in the Lopez-controlled power firm.

“In fact, the MBC should be speaking against the excesses being committed by the Lopezes in Meralco,” she said.

“These excesses, like charging consumers Meralco’s own electric consumption and P30 billion of its income tax from 1994 to 2002, are what’s driving up the cost of power.”

Elamparo said while Meralco shareholders are not getting returns from their investment, other Lopez companies dealing with Meralco had been posting record-setting incomes.

“A case in point is the Lopez-owned IPP Sta. Rita, which Meralco paid P13 billion in a 12-month period from 2000 to 2001 for delivering just over P3-billion worth of electricity,” she said.

“The MBC should not be seen by the public as coddling the Lopezes, under which Meralco did not declare dividends for its shareholders from 1990 to 1997.”

Elamparo said the GSIS and other government financial institutions, which hold shareholdings of about 33 percent in Meralco, are campaigning to bring back good corporate governance and transparency to bring down power rates.

One reason why foreign investors think twice before putting money in the Philippines is that it has the second most expensive electricity rate in Asia, next only to Japan.

“The MBC knows fully well that their members’ cost of production increases due to the high cost of electricity, reducing the competitiveness of their products in the world market,” she said.

Elamparo said while consumers pay for power that Sta. Rita did not provide, the Lopez IPP was able to more than double its P8-billion capitalization in less than two years.

“Likewise, the global downward trend in stocks is also contributing to the downswing in the value of Meralco shares,” she said.

Elamparo said the GSIS is not out to take over Meralco, but only wants to have a professional team to run the company.

“Meralco will become attractive anew to investors when it is freed from the stranglehold of the Lopezes,” she said.

“This is because Meralco will be better managed and will be fully accountable based on international good corporate practices.”

Salonga defends Lopezes

Former Senate president Jovito Salonga defended yesterday the Lopezes from allegations that they were responsible for Meralco’s high electricity rates.

In a statement, Salonga said as legal adviser of President Diosdado Macapagal, he helped draft the congratulatory letter to Eugenio Lopez Sr. after his group acquired Meralco from its American owners, General Public Utilities in 1962.

“They are a family of nationalistic entrepreneurs, best known for their investments in public service companies such as power, telecommunications and tollways,” he said.

“But because these businesses are heavily regulated, the Lopezes are vulnerable to public scrutiny, and even severe criticism, from time to time. They have also been victims of repression.

“As a consumer of electricity myself, I would like to see lower electricity rates despite the global phenomenon of skyrocketing oil prices. This will be good for the economy. How to reduce it remains to be the bone of contention.”

Salonga said Meralco, being a publicly listed company, is regularly subjected to internal and external audits.

“I also understand the Lopez family is philanthropic and is very much into corporate social responsibility,” he said.

“It gives back to society part of what it earns from its public businesses, for example, in education, arts and culture, the environment, poor communities, disaster victims and even abused children.

“In light of these, I find it difficult to fathom the accusations leveled against Meralco and the Lopez family given the low credibility of some of its critics.”

Salonga said it was unfair for Meralco to receive the brunt of the blame for high electricity rates when the state-owned National Power Corp. had also been inefficient.

“I await government’s response to questions regarding Napocor’s buying practices and production inefficiency that, in sum, result in higher generation charges than Meralco’s independent power producers,” he said.

“Also, I want to hear from the government about the steps it has taken to address the issue concerning royalties and taxes it imposes on indigenous sources of energy like natural gas that renders such unnecessarily expensive.

“I believe Meralco is in no position to misrepresent its actuations because its books and operations are open to scrutiny.

“I understand that it is not only regulated by the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) but also by the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), COA (Commission on Audit), SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) and the PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange).” –With Iris Gonzales, Aurea Calica(PStar)

GMA signs Cheaper Medicine Law

June 7, 2008

By Marvin Sy
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


The long wait is over.

Filipinos can now expect more low-cost medicine in the market with the signing into law of the Universally Accessible, Cheaper and Quality Medicine Act of 2008.

The signing ceremony for Republic Act 9052 was held yesterday at the Laguna Provincial Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Laguna with the principal authors of the bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate joining President Arroyo.

Mrs. Arroyo said the existing generics law is an important piece of legislation that aims to bring down the cost of medicine in the country but it is “incomplete.”

“Now with the cheaper and quality medicine law, we have completed, I believe, our legislative reforms in bringing
affordable medicine to the people,” the President said.

RA 9052 allows the conduct of parallel importation of patented medicine from other countries where the prices are significantly lower than the prevailing price in the Philippines.

The government, through the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), has been conducting parallel importation of medicine from countries such as Pakistan and India, selling these at state-run pharmacies aimed at the poor communities.

However, the PITC has faced strong resistance from the multinational pharmaceutical firms.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II, principal author of the bill in the Senate, said the PITC can now continue with its parallel importation with the signing of the new law.

Roxas said the PITC can now include more brands and types of medicine in its list of imports and it can also import higher volumes.

Apart from the PITC, Roxas said that even private groups or organizations can now import medicine directly from other countries provided that they register themselves with the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD).

Under the law, the BFAD plays an important role as it is the agency tasked to ensure that all of the imported medicine is of high quality.

The law strengthens the BFAD by allowing it to retain its revenues for the upgrading of its facilities, equipment and human resources.

Roxas explained that by directly importing the medicine, the private entities would be able to save more since they no longer have to go through any middlemen.

The new law also provides for the use of the “early working principle” which allows local generic medicine manufacturers to test, produce and register their generic versions of patented drugs so that these could be sold immediately upon the expiration of the patents.

In order to prevent the owners of patented drugs from extending the term of their patents by declaring newly discovered uses for the components of their medicine, the law now prohibits the grant of new patents using this provision.

The law also allows the government to use patented drugs when the interest of the public is at stake.

Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Health, the President has the power to impose price ceilings on various drugs, including those that are used for chronic illnesses, for the prevention of diseases and those in the Philippine National Drug Formulary Essential Drug list.

Drug outlets or pharmacies are now required to carry a variety of brands, including those brought in through parallel importation, in order to provide consumers with more choices.

The Generics Act was amended so that all generic drugs would now carry a label that has the statement of the BFAD about the therapeutic efficacy of the drug.

The Pharmacy Law was also amended to allow supermarkets, convenience stores and other retail establishments to sell over-the-counter medicine.

A congressional oversight committee would be created to monitor the implementation of the new law.

The Department of Health has been tasked to formulate the implementing rules and regulations for the new law within 120 days of its signing.

“We will not allow anything, not even a comma in the IRR, that would dilute the efficacy of this law. We will continue the fight, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the law in order to ensure that our people would have access to quality affordable medicine,” Roxas said.

“This new law will bring about competition. The prices of medicine will go down because of the increase in competition in the country,” Roxas said.

Healthier Philippines

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday gave assurances of a “healthier” Philippines as more Filipinos could now afford treatment for both common and potentially fatal diseases.

Duque said the DOH is set to launch very affordable treatment packs for common diseases and put 15,000 Botika ng Barangay (BnB) nationwide by 2010.

“DOH would make available treatment packs for common diseases at maximum prices of P100 for a one- to two-week treatment course,” Duque said.

The health chief explained that the country spends a total of P200 billion for health, half of which is spent on drugs and medicine.

“Since the cost of medicine in the country has been consistently and continuously prohibitive, the poor have limited access to these essential goods, bringing a perpetual cycle of impoverishment, deaths and diseases,” he pointed out.

“This law breathes new hope and life to all of us and gives a chance to the government to prove that health comes first before business interests,” Duque said.

Even labor unions are getting ready to import and sell medicine directly to workers with the new law.

Leaders of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Federation of Free Workers, Alliance of Progressive Labor and others met with the representative of the PITC and Roxas recently to discuss how their groups could distribute medicine to their members and ensure that they would benefit from the lowering of prices of medicine.

TUCP secretary-general and former senator Ernesto Herrera said they had been waiting for this kind of measure for the sake of the laborers.

He expressed appreciation for the preparatory meetings with the PITC so that they could start immediately the importation of cheap medicine.

Herrera said laborers need maintenance medicine that are costly at present.

‘Fight not yet over’

The principal sponsor of the Cheaper Medicine Bill in the House, meantime, said the fight for low-cost drugs is not yet over.

“Proper implementation is the key to the measure’s promise of bringing down the prices of medicine,” said Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, trade and commerce committee chairman.

“The next battleground for the law is in the drafting of its implementing rules and regulations (IRRs), where interest groups are expected to lobby for an interpretation of the provisions that will serve them,” Alvarez said.

“But the law cannot be tweaked or twisted because a House-Senate oversight committee that the law created will be looking over the shoulders of the agencies that will issue the IRRs,” he said.

An inter-agency panel composed of the DOH, Department of Trade and Industry, Intellectual Property Office, and BFAD will issue the implementing rules.

Alvarez said in addition to the rules, administrative measures are needed, including the strengthening of BFAD’s technical and manpower capabilities so it can properly evaluate pharmaceutical preparations. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Aurea Calica, Jess Diaz(PStar)

Congress won’t give GMA ‘crisis’ powers

June 7, 2008

By Aurea Calica and Delon Porcalla
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


Congress is not keen on granting emergency powers to President Arroyo to address the emerging food and energy crisis.

Senate President Manuel Villar said Mrs. Arroyo would be able to address the situation without special powers granted by Congress.

Villar said the Chief Executive is inherently equipped with enough powers to ensure the public’s welfare in the face of the upward spiral of prices of basic commodities.

“The President is armed with sufficient powers to help alleviate the lives of the poor, while we in the Senate are willing to cooperate with the executive,” Villar said.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said the government could weather the impending food and energy crisis even without the President using her powers to address the situation.

“Our government is in full control and we have good economic fundamentals in place. We will weather the economic storm. Think positive,” Nograles said.

The two leaders of Congress were reacting to Malacañang’s announcement that Mrs. Arroyo has signed an executive order laying the groundwork for exercising her emergency powers under the Constitution in the event of a food and energy crisis in the country.

Mrs. Arroyo signed on June 2 Executive Order 728 which would enable her to exercise emergency powers under the National Food and Emergency Council (NFEC).

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, the President’s economic adviser, justified the executive order by saying Mrs. Arroyo might be forced to take preemptive measures to prevent a full-blown crisis.

Salceda maintained the President is entitled under the Constitution to make the “preemptive strike.”

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye and Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo, in separate statements, defended the President’s move to create the NFEC.

“The President is quick to recognize the impending problems and as such has the foresight to create the Council to deal with the situation,” Fajardo said. “Action and governance and not politics are the reason for the Council’s creation.”

Bunye said the NFEC would make a five-year projection on the prices of food commodities and energy sources.

While the provision on emergency powers was inserted into EO 728, Bunye explained the matter has “to be deliberated upon depending on the situation at a particular time, recommendation will be made to the President and to Congress.”

“The Council (NFEC) shall advice the President and Congress if emergency powers are required. We will have to await advice of the Council,” Bunye said.

While the Constitution mandates the President to seek the concurrence of Congress in exercising emergency powers in relation to national security, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol explained the Constitution is silent when it comes to emergency powers of the President on economic matters.

Salceda, on the other hand, urged Mrs. Arroyo to implement stronger steps to prevent a full-blown food and oil crisis.

Salceda, howeve,r said he would prefer to give his recommendations first to the President before publicly disclosing it.

When asked to describe a possible scenario in which the President would exercise her emergency powers, Salceda said the government could take over rice warehouses and power firms.

He said government could control the distribution of rice and fuel and later compensate the private sector.

“The problem is we haven’t seen this before so it’s hard to speculate,” Salceda said.

Wrong signal

Villar, however, said Malacañang should take the initiative to talk to Congress on what measures are needed without resorting to emergency powers.

He said granting emergency powers to the President in times like this “is not good for a democracy.”

Senators Manuel Roxas II, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Miguel Zubiri said the use of emergency powers would send the wrong signal to the international community.

Roxas said Mrs. Arroyo has over P1.2-trillion budget and the power to implement laws like the Price Control Act in case of calamities.

Roxas said the situation would not call for a takeover of certain public utilities, which forms part of emergency powers.

Cayetano, for her part, said Mrs. Arroyo “has all the powers at her disposal to investigate and prosecute unscrupulous traders, dismantle food cartels and shield consumers from overpricing and other forms of abuse.”

“The rice crisis caught this administration flat-footed, not because it lacked emergency powers but due to its failure to implement a long-term rice sufficiency program,” she pointed out.

Cayetano cited the failure of the Energy Regulatory Commission to curb abusive practices of power generators and distributors as one of the reasons why the country has one of the highest electricity rates in Asia.

Santiago, on the other hand, said the economic crisis is a global problem.

“(This crisis) is out of our hands, it is being caused by the higher price of oil and by the international food shortage,” Santiago said.

“There is nothing we can do. We are not an isolated island where all of these things are just happening to us,” she said.

Santiago though agreed President Arroyo may exercise her emergency powers which is allowed under the Constitution.

“She (the President) should adhere strictly to the conditions of the Constitution and the Senate will be the first to protest if she does it prematurely,” Santiago said.

Zubiri, for his part, said granting emergency powers to the President is not justified under the present situation, unlike in other countries where there is massive breakdown of law and order as manifested in food riots.

Zubiri said it would send a wrong signal to the international community even as the government still has other options available to control the situation.

Other options

Congressmen led by Nograles called on Malacañang to discuss other options available, short of exercising emergency powers, to prevent the impending food and energy crunch.

“The President won’t need emergency powers as long as we all work together to defeat any possibility that the situation will escalate into a crisis situation,” Nograles emphasized, saying that various subsidy programs of the government that are being carried out will keep the economy afloat.

“(These programs are) positive actions that would cushion the impact of the global economic situation,” he said.

Nograles said subsidies the government has been extending to the poorest of the poor should be expanded to include the middle class and lower middle class, since they constitute the biggest bulk of diligent taxpayers.

“We also have to protect the middle class and the lower middle class. The country’s survival is largely dependent on their contributions to our economy,” he said.

Nograles proposed the government’s P2-billion power subsidy for residential users with a monthly consumption of 100 kilowatt-hours should be expanded to P6.5 billion to cover middle and lower middle class power users with 500 kWh consumption per month.

Opposition Rep. Roilo Golez, for his part, expressed support for President Arroyo’s exercise of emergency powers.

He said the President must declare in two separate issuances that the nation is facing a food crisis and an energy supply and pricing problem.

“The period of emergency must be limited, at most six months, to enable government to acquire necessary equipment, materials and supplies, and complete the bids and awards process,” he said.

His third condition: the administration and implementation of the emergency program must be handled by “capable hands.”

Golez, a former Navy officer and national security adviser to Mrs. Arroyo, questioned the capability of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes to carry out such program.

“There is bipartisan doubt (in Congress) on whether the incumbent energy secretary is capable to run his department in normal times, more so during an emergency. He appears to be part of the problem,” he said.

Former President Joseph Estrada, meanwhile, said the emergency powers being cooked by Malacañang for Mrs. Arroyo is merely a “band-aid” solution to the food and oil crises.

Estrada said the Arroyo administration must do away with stopgap solutions to the country’s problems.

“The people are now hungry. What they wanted is that the people are hungry and fearful as well. An emergency power for the president is just a band-aid solution. What this administration should do is to improve rice production,” Estrada said. –With Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano(PStar)

4 bank rob witnesses seek police protection

June 7, 2008

By Ed Amoroso
Saturday, June 7, 2008


Page: 1


CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna – Police have taken in their custody four witnesses in the RCBC bank robbery and massacre in Cabuyao, Laguna last May 16 after they expressed fear for their lives, Senior Superintendent Felipe Rojas, Laguna provincial director, said yesterday.

Rojas said the witnesses sought police protection after they received death threats from unknown persons.

Three of the witnesses were placed in the custody of the Laguna police, and the fourth, under the RCBC Task Force, Rojas said.

He said they have requested the Department of Justice to place the four witnesses under the government’s witness protection program, “but until now, we are still waiting for the result.”

One of the witnesses recounted seeing two armed men on board an unlicensed motorcycle roaming around his neighborhood in Barangay Turbina, Calamba City.

“I’m not interested in the P2-million reward if my family will be in danger. I just want to have a peaceful life,” the witness told The STAR.

“Sometimes I’m thinking of not testifying once the court hearing starts because my life is in danger,” he said.

Meanwhile, despite the claim of neighbors of former soldier Ricardo Gomolon that he was not involved in the RCBC robbery, the Philippine National Police is not likely to exclude him from the case.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome said Gomolon can use the statements of his neighbors in defending himself from the robbery with multiple homicide charges filed against him with the Laguna prosecutor’s office.

“We will consider (the statements of Gomolon’s neighbors); these will form part of the investigation. The defense of Gomolon will also be considered,” he said.

Bartolome, however, denied allegations that police have made shortcuts in their investigation and arrested innocent individuals to satisfy public clamor for the arrest of the perpetrators of the bloody bank heist.

“We don’t resort to shortcuts in solving crimes… evidence, testimonies will be properly considered,” he said. “The police would rather have one guilty person out on the street than have an innocent person put in jail.”

“Our investigators have their own way of determining who will be included in the charges… If ever there are some personalities who vouched for Gomolon, he can use it in his defense,” he added.

More than five friends and neighbors of Gomolon have reportedly claimed to have seen him on the morning of May 16, when the robbery took place.

Police said Gomolon was riding on a bicycle when a police asset saw him with a gun – a caliber .38 revolver – bulging from his waist. Responding lawmen promptly arrested him.

But Gomolon’s friends claimed that the former soldier was nabbed in his home without a warrant of arrest. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe(PStar)