Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, May 31, 2008

SBMA executives face another issue over Subic golf course

The evicted operators of the Subic Bay Golf Course (SBGC) early this week accused officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) of conniving with some Korean investors to evict them from the prime golf fairways in the country to make way for At the congressional inquiry conducted by the House oversight committee, Jack Ho of the Universal International Group (UIG), operator of the SBGC, through his counsel, lawyer Wilfred Pangan, said the only reason they see why they were evicted is that the SBMA wants the operation of the golf course transferred to a Korean investor.

According the Pangan, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza was even seen in Hong Kong together with the Korean who was reportedly interested in the SBGC.

During the hearing, members of the committee ganged up on the SBMA officials for the eviction of UIG, which has invested a billion pesos in the golf course in the former United States Naval Base, without undergoing the necessary legal process.

This after the counsel for SBMA admitted before the congressional inquiry yesterday that they forcibly evicted the UIG of Taiwan owned by the Ho family, as lessor of a golf course from the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, without any court order, after the latter incurred millions of pesos in arrears from non-payment of rental.

Lawyer Ramon Agregado also admitted the eviction was made even without the SBMA exerting any legal effort to collect by filing a collection case against the UIG for its debt totaling P47 million.

Aggravating the situation is the fact that the UIG had been able to solicit a writ of preliminary injunction for the court to bar the SBMA from issuing a cease and desist order against the beleaguered locator.

House oversight committee chairman, Makati City Rep. Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin and Zambales province Rep. Mitos Magsaysay both said that “unlawful and uncalled for” acts of SBMA officials toward Taiwanese investors may drive away potential investors in the future.

The committee initiated the inquiry after Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong filed House Resolution 223, which seeks to immediately investigate the alleged ejection of the UIG from the Subic golf course.

According to Ong, the SBMA officials showed arrogance, abuse and violation of human rights when it did not allow the company to settle its unpaid obligations and immediately took over the golf course.

Locsin also lambasted the SBMA officials for asking the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) to deport the Ho Family for being “undesirable aliens.”

“It is really a cheap shot to deport foreign investors just to take him away from the court in order not to meet them face to face. That is not the proper way to deal with the investors,” he said.
Agregado said they sent a notice to the BID regarding the expiration of the Subic special working visas issued to the Taiwanese investors.

Locsin then asked the SBMA to withdraw the deportation request against the Ho Family because it is unlawful and unfair.

He also took a dig at SBMA chairman Feliciano Salonga, who arrogantly told the lawmakers to “do their homework instead of articulating inflammatory speeches against the SBMA officials.”
“Yes Mr. Chairman, but I would like to remind you that you have been dealing low blows and cheap shots against the UIG for requesting to deport the Hos just as so they won’t be able to confront you in court for your actions against them,” Locsin told Salonga.

In 1992, upon the invitation of then President Fidel Ramos, the UIG invested a total of P1 billion for the 50-year leasehold right over the Binictican golf course with an appropriated area of 105 hectares.

But in 1997, following the Asian financial crisis, the SBMA took over the business operations due to failure of the UIG to fulfill its development commitments.

In January 2001, the UIG entered into a compromise agreement with the SBMA, under then Chairman Felicito Payumo, where the UIG was allowed to regain possession of the golf course with reduction of the lease area, rental and modification of UIG’s development commitments, to which lessor, according to its counsel, lawyer Wilfred Pangan, has willfully complied through the issuance of post-dated cheques.

But in December 2006, the SBMA, under Salonga, again demanded for the UIG to resolve its current rental obligations, which it claimed has ballooned to P47 million, giving the lessor 10 days to settle its account, otherwise face eviction.

But UIG argued it could not meet the deadline imposed by SBMA and sought court intervention through a writ of preliminary injunction which the court granted.

Aside from contesting that their total obligations to SBMA only amounts to “only” P11 million, UIG counsel Pangan added that the SBMA refused to accept their payment in the form of post-dated cheques.

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SBMA cries foul over ‘drug transshipment hub’ tag

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines - The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) lashed out at the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) after the latter tagged the Freeport as a "transshipment hub for illegal drugs."

In a statement, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza described the PDEA statement as an "exaggeration," considering that this was the first time that any type of illegal drugs was seized inside the Freeport.

"Such a sweeping statement is also grossly unfair to our law enforcers, particularly the SBMA patrol who was instrumental in alerting the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG)," Arreza said.

Records showed that not a single shipment was seized during the last 15 years in Subic, despite the fact that PDEA had an office here operating inside the Freeport.

SBMA is tasked to develop the former military bases into a commercial zone while the PDEA is the anti-drug enforcement arm of the government.

On Wednesday, PASG operatives seized a total of 710 kilos of high grade shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) reportedly worth up to P4.2 billion.

A certain Anthony "Anton' Ang, a Chinese national residing in Olongapo City and general manager of Hua Long International Inc., was identified as the main suspect behind the drug shipment.

Ang remains at large. - JOHN BAYARONG, GMANews.TV

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Shabu in Subic could have street value of P14B

SUBIC BAY Freeport: The total haul of illegal drugs seized by elements of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Presidential Anti Smuggling Group-Task Force Subic (PASG-TFS) Tuesday morning could have amounted to some P14 billion if it had reached the market.

This was revealed by a source from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

With an earlier estimate of P4.2 billion, the market value of the much high-grade shabu would have tripled once distributed by drug dealers, said the source.

A Subic custom boarding officer identified as Romulo Labrusca is now under investigation since he was the one who cleared FB Shun Fa Xing, the alleged vessel that brought the shabu shipment to Subic.

Documents obtained by The Manila Times indicated that the said vessel was cleared and noted with no dangerous cargo on board and both Jou Jonq Rong, the ship captain, and Labrusca, signed it.

The vessel, according to the document, left Vietnam on May 23 and arrived in Subic on May 24 after which the first eight boxes were unloaded at the Ship Repair Facility as witnessed by an SBMA law enforcement officer.

It was not until Tuesday afternoon that SBMA and representatives of PASG-TFS opened the boxes that contained shabu. On Wednesday after a joint press conference by SBMA and PASG-TFS another hi-ace van was confiscated and revealed another six boxes, while another two boxes were found floating near the Ship Repair Facility port.

PASG-TFS chief Antonio Villar Jr. said the illegal drug was packed in 70 boxes, allegedly owned by a certain Anthony Ang, a Chinese based in Olongapo City and connected to Wa Lung, a freeport locator, who has since been suspended.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said that Subic Bay Freeport is not a transshipment point of illegal drugs, in reaction to a statement of PDEA Director Dionisio Santiago in an earlier interview.

This is an isolated case, as there has been no other incidents like this before, Arreza said. -- Anthony Bayarong - Manila Times

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Doctors question medical benefits of circumcision

OLONGAPO, Philippines : Circumcision is an age-old rite of passage for young boys in the Philippines, but a group of surgeons question the medical benefits of going through such a tradition.

Nelia Tabiolo, mother of a 10-year-old boy, had to drag his son to a makeshift operating room in Olongapo where a free circumcision clinic is being held. This is the second time her son has tried to run away from the procedure.

"I want (my son) Jonathan to be circumcised because I want him to become a man and have good health," said Tabiolo.

Situations like this have led a group of doctors to question the basis of routine circumcision in the country.

"You are subjecting or mutilating boys when they undergo circumcision. This is a traumatic and painful experience for everyone who eventually undergoes circumcision. If you weigh the benefits, risks and costs of doing routine circumcision, it is not very rational," said Dr Jeffy Guerra, Chief Resident, Surgery Department, Manila Hospital.

Since 2002, surgeons at the government hospital have stopped offering routine circumcision and have campaigned against it.

Anti-circumcision advocates believe that young boys should not be forced into circumcision because of cultural tradition and peer pressure. They believe it is important for parents to understand both the benefits and risks of routine circumcision before allowing their children to be circumcised.

According to surgeons, recent studies show that the medical benefits of routine circumcision is not compelling enough.

"The incidence of penile cancer worldwide is less than 2% and to do the procedure for such a low incidence would be an overkill," said Dr Guerra.

Doctors admit that changing Filipinos' long-held beliefs towards circumcision is difficult, but for anthropologist Dr Michael Tan, it is high time that Filipino families re-think these rituals.

"With time, we will have to redefine the contours of being a man, that a man is not just your foreskin but much more. (It's about) a sense of character, of being of strong character," said Dr Tan. - By Channel NewsAsia's Philippines Correspondent Christine Ong

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Gordon, Pia Cayetano defend TV ads

Senator Richard Gordon on Friday defended his appearance on a TV advertisement, saying that the campaign of the commercial soap Safeguard, called “Laban sa Limang Banta,” was a legitimate advocacy of public health, hygiene and safety.

Gordon said he had been with the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) for over 30 years, from the time when he enlisted as a volunteer at the age of 17.

He also used to be a brand manager of Procter and Gamble, the company behind Safeguard.

“The intent and core message of the Safeguard advertising campaign was to teach the general public the benefits of proper hand washing and its importance in preventing the spread of communicable diseases,” Gordon said.

Senator Pia Cayetano, who appeared on the commercial of the product, Downey Fabric Softener, said there was nothing wrong about any person coming out in public for various causes.

“I personally lent my name to a good cause, which is saving water. And so, unless there is a specific allegation as to why there would be a specific concern, say conflict of interest, that can be dealt with on a case-to-case basis,” she said.

Other product endorsers in the Senate are Senators Francis Pangilinan (Lucky Me Instant Noodles), Senator Francis Escudero (Circulan drug), Loren Legarda (Lucida DS whitening supplement), Panfilo Lacson (Facial Care). Cynthia D. Balana - Inquirer

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Subic Foundation gives P.5-M to scholarship program

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- -- The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) last year set up a scholarship foundation providing educational opportunities to poor but deserving and bright students in local communities here.

Recently, SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga turned over P556,250 from the SBMA Scholarship Foundation to help fund the program of Castillejos, Zambales, one of the municipalities near the Subic Bay Freeport.

Castillejos became the second local government unit in the province to benefit from the fund after the town council requested assistance for its scholarship program.

Wilma Billman, mayor of Castillejos, who received the check from Salonga, said the assistance was very timely because parents now find it hard to enroll their children due to recent increases in tuition fees and prices of school supplies.

We will be using this assistance to upgrade and expand our scholarship program, which we have initiated a couple of years ago, so that we can send more children to school, a thankful Billman told Salonga.

On behalf of the people of Castillejos, I thank the SBMA Scholarship Foundation and hope that this is just the beginning of their assistance to us, Billman said.

Salonga pointed out that the foundation is actually funded by voluntary donations from business locators and private individuals in the Subic Bay Freeport.

The foundation was established last year precisely to provide support to scholarship programs in communities adjoining Subic Freeport.

We set up this foundation because the SBMA believes that education is the real hope for the country, Salonga also told Billman.

The SBMA official likewise said that the foundation would be providing more assistance to communities as Subic projects increasing economic growth in the coming years.

As investments and trade grow in Subic, there will be more resources that we could dedicate to education, he said.

Aside from Castillejos, the SBMA Scholarship Foundation has already provided assistance to the local government of San Felipe, Zambales, Salonga said.

The foundation has also identified students from Subic town and the indigenous communities in the Freeport zone, who could benefit from similar scholarship programs.

Salonga stressed that the SBMA continues to share with neighboring communities part of the revenue generated from taxes paid by investors inside the Freeport.

This is part of our commitment to local communities, and part of the SBMA mandate to help develop the Subic Bay area and promote the well-being of local residents, Salonga added. Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX

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Ways to curb smuggling at Subic free port bared

CUSTOMS Commissioner Napoleon Morales urged Subic Bay Free port authorities to adopt a systematic boarding of all fishing vessels as well as place these on high alert status to prevent their use for smuggling.

This developed shortly after operatives of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group and free port authorities intercepted in Subic this week some 710 kg of high-grade methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) with a street value of P5 billion.

In a report to Morales, Subic district collector Marietta Zamoranos said the shabu came from Shun Fa Xing, a Vietnam-registered fishing vessel, that docked at the free port at 8 a.m. of May 25.

She added there was no notice of arrival of the vessel and the Customs Immigration Quarantine team did not inspect the vessel.

They said the vessel departed on May 27 without an exit clearance from the Bureau of Customs and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

“I think that I will need to meet with [SBMA] administrator Armand Arreza to devise measures to tighten security and prevent a repeat of such incidents,” Morales said. Joel E. Zurbano - Manila Standard Today

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SBMA: Subic as ‘illegal drugs transshipment point’ an exaggeration

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT - The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has strongly denied a statement by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that the Subic Freeport has become a transshipment point for illegal drugs from several countries in Asia.

"That is a sweeping statement," stressed SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza in a media statement released on Friday.

"To say that Subic has become a transshipment hub just because of one shipment is an exaggeration. It is also grossly unfair, particularly to the SBMA patrol who was instrumental in breaking the case," he added.

Arreza’s statement came in the wake of a statement by the country’s top drug enforcement official that Subic is being used by international drug syndicates to transship illegal drugs.

PDEA director Dionisio Santiago was quoted in media reports as saying that the confiscation by law enforcers here on Wednesday of 770 kilograms of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, "proved that Subic is being used as a transshipment point."

"In the 15 years that the Subic Bay Freeport had existed, this was the first time this happened," Arreza pointed out. "This is certainly an isolated case," he said.

Arreza also said that the fact that it was an SBMA patrol who first caught on the attempt to smuggle the drugs "only proves the diligence of SBMA law enforcers in preventing illegal activities" in Subic.

"PDEA should not blame law enforcers in Subic if narcotics agents find it difficult to operate here," Arreza also said in reaction to Santiago’s claim that team work among law enforcement agencies "is not solid."

Arreza said that as a free port, Subic is primarily under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG), which has recently taken over the operational control of Task Force Subic (TFS), the anti-smuggling unit here.

"But the SBMA is willing to cooperate with any agency, as we closely work together with the PASG," he added.

Arreza also stressed that Subic has "one of the highest levels of security found in any economic zone in the country." This has proven to be a great deterrent to criminal syndicates wanting to exploit the free port status of Subic, he added.

Arreza said SBMA law enforcers discovered the smuggling try when they chanced upon the suspicious offloading on Sunday night of eight boxes from F/B Shun Fa Xing, a Taiwanese fishing boat docked at Subic’s Riviera Pier.

Anthony Ang, a Chinese national living in Olongapo City who allegedly tried to bring the boxes out of Subic’s SRF compound, purportedly initially declared that the boxes contained "sensitive computer parts."

But Ang, who co-owns the Subic import-export firm Hualong International, Inc., reportedly went missing with his family after failing to provide documents for the cargo on Monday, prompting PASG-TFS and SBMA-LED to open the boxes on Tuesday.

The eight boxes turned out to allegedly each contain five packets of crystalline substances that chemists from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) analyzed and confirmed to be "high-grade" shabu, weighing more or less 90 kilos.

Subsequent operations led to the discovery of more shabu allegedly at the Hualong warehouse, as well as another vehicle parked near the building. On Wednesday afternoon, joint PASG-SBMA operatives said they had already seized a total of 770 kilos of the illegal drug.

Meanwhile, PASG chief Antonio Villar Jr. said he has ordered manhunt operations against Ang.

PASG has also coordinated with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) for the issuance of a hold-departure order against the suspect, Villar said. - Jess Malabanan - ABS CBN NEWS

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Friday, May 30, 2008

U.S. Navy Waiting for Junta's Permission to Deliver Burma Aid

The United States is prepared to step up deliveries of relief supplies to Burma from Navy ships off the coast of the cyclone-ravaged nation but cannot wait much longer for permission from Burma's military rulers, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said today.

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, who heads the U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters at the Pentagon that sailors and Marines aboard the USS Essex and three other Navy ships in the Bay of Bengal are "desperate to provide help" but are growing increasingly frustrated by the Burmese junta's refusal to accept aid from U.S. and other foreign naval vessels.

Keating said the ships could remain in position for only a matter of days before they must move on to other missions if they are not allowed to help. He said that he had not heard of a reported proposal to have Burmese vessels come out to the Essex to receive relief supplies, but that "certainly we'd consider that." If the Burmese were to propose such a solution, he said, "I would think we'd look favorably on that."

However, a senior Philippine relief official and political leader, Sen. Richard J. Gordon, said he would be "very surprised if that happened." Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, headed that nation's delegation to an international pledging conference held Sunday in Rangoon.

Burmese authorities made clear at the conference that they did not want foreign military personnel providing aid, particularly those from Western countries, Gordon said in a telephone interview from Manila.

"They won't let the military in," he said. "They were very emphatic about that."

But Burmese authorities have allowed at least 70 relief flights into Rangoon by U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes in the past two weeks, Keating told Pentagon reporters today.

"We're moving five C-130 loads a day," and the flights are continuing, the Pacific Command chief said. So far, U.S. aircraft have flown in 1.4 million pounds of supplies, including material carried on behalf of nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies, Keating said.

He said distribution of the supplies is being handled to some degree by private aid groups and to a larger extent by the Burmese military.

"Do I know where they're going? I do not," Keating said. But he added, "We have reasonable confidence, but not 100 percent confidence," that the relief supplies are going to the civilians who most need them. He said he has "no information" that the Burmese military is hoarding high-value gear such as mosquito netting and plastic sheeting needed for shelter.

"There's a certain amount of faith that it's getting downrange" to destitute Burmese in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta region, Keating said. Civilian relief workers who have been to the delta "say some of it is getting there," he said.

Tropical Cyclone Nargis hammered the low-lying delta area on May 2 and 3 with 120 mph sustained winds, torrential rains and a 12-foot storm surge. The disaster left more than 134,000 people dead or missing, and foreign relief officials have warned that thousands more could die of disease or famine unless the Burmese government opens its doors to more help.

When Keating and other U.S. officials flew into Rangoon on May 11 with the first American planeload of supplies, he said, he informed Burmese authorities that the United States was capable of moving 250,000 pounds of supplies a day by helicopter to the disaster zone.

"I assured our Burmese colleagues that we would do this without fingerprint," he said. That is, the operation would be "entirely self-sufficient," there would be no need for fuel, food, lodging or other provisions, and U.S. personnel could come in at first light and leave the country in the evening if necessary, he said. He also invited the Burmese to put military or civilian officials on U.S. planes or helicopters and to observe operations aboard the Essex, a 40,500-ton amphibious assault ship that can carry as many as 36 helicopters.

Keating said he assured the Burmese that "we had no military intentions" in Burma and that once the relief operation was completed, "we will leave [and] you will not know we were here." Burmese officials said they understood but could not give approval and had to take the proposals to higher authorities. Since then, however, there has been no indication of any intention by the ruling junta to allow in greater quantities of U.S. relief.

"All it would take is a yes, and significant material would be going ashore in an hour," Keating said. He said there is still a need for relief supplies, including food, water and shelter, and that the United States could help to a much greater extent if asked.

"We believe there is still a mission for us," he said.

In contrast, Keating said, China has been responsive to U.S. offers of help in the wake of the earthquake that struck Sichuan province two weeks ago, leaving more than 88,000 people dead or missing. Chinese authorities have been much more open about the disaster and more receptive to foreign help than in the past, he said.

The admiral said there has been a "night-and-day difference" between the Burmese and Chinese governments' attitudes toward foreign relief efforts. By William Branigin - Washington Post Staff Writer

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PDEA tags Subic as hub for illegal drugs

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has tagged Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales province as a transhipment point of illegal drugs from several countries in Asia.

“At least we proved that Subic is being used as a transhipment point,” PDEA Director Dionisio Santiago said, referring to the confiscation of 770 kilos of shabu in the freeport zone this week.

He said aside from methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as shabu, the former American naval base is also being used as transhipment point for the rave drug "Ecstasy."

The PDEA chief said long before the big haul, the anti-narcotics agency had been receiving reports that Subic is being used by international drug syndicates as a transhipment point.

He said PDEA was not able to penetrate the drug shipments in Subic because “team work among law enforcement agencies is not solid.”

Meanwhile, administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority admitted that the 770-kilo shabu haul is big. He, however, said Santiago is just speculating.

Arezza said the only thing certain in the drug shipment’s seizure is that SBMA law enforcers “are working properly” because they were the ones who discovered the illegal cargo.

Who's who

The SBMA administrator also clarified conflicting reports about the shabu haul.

He said the first shipment of shabu was discovered by SBMA security people on Sunday.

He said 90 kilos of shabu were seized while being unloaded from a “cigarette boat” into a van.

“The company involved is engaged in cigarette repacking. They tranship [the cigarettes] to Vietnam, Taiwan and China,” he said.

At least 600 kilos shabu were seized in a follow-up operation on Wednesday at the Hualong International Trading of a Chinese national named Anthony Ang.

The rest of the contraband was discovered by officials of the SBMA and Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group floating on the river near the warehouse.

Authorities estimate the haul at P4.8 billion.

Shifting back to exportation

Santiago said the Subic haul proves PDEA’s theory that international drug syndicates have started shifting back to exportation.

“Law enforcement agencies had successful operation [on shabu laboratories inside the country]. They are not returning to exportation,” he said.

He added that aside from China, international drug syndicates in Korea had also started entering the drug exportation business.

Santiago said the PDEA is working with its international counterparts to stop the transhipments of shabu from the country.

He said PDEA is still monitoring a few remaining foreign drug traffickers in the country that are engaged in shabu laboratory operations.

“Definitely we know their movements,” Santiago said. ABS CBN NEWS

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Subic Rape Case in Court of Appeals

Group urges CA to resist pressure from pro-US parties on Subic rape case

The advocacy group Task Force Subic Rape on Thursday urged Court of Appeals justices to “resist pressure from parties” allegedly seeking to please the US as it comes out with a decision on the rape charges filed against US serviceman Cpl. Daniel Smith.

In a two-page letter to CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr, TFSR executive director Yuen Abana asked the court to uphold independence and integrity of the court.

TFSR also said that the Philippine-American relations should not be one of the subservience by the Philippines to the US.

“We should not avoid convicting a true rapist for fear that it will break the ties that bind the two countries. We hope this country makes history by resisting pressure from parties that seek to be forever pleasing to the eye of the world’s biggest power,” the group said.

Smith, who was a participant in the 2005 Balikatan exercises, was found guilty by Makati RTC Judge Benjamin Pozon for raping “Nicole” on November 1, 2005 inside the Subic Bay Freeport.

In April 2007, the CA 15th Division upheld the legality of Smith’s transfer from the custody of the Makati jail to a detention cell of the US embassy on December 29, 2006, a move which the TFSR branded as “evident American arm-twisting.”

Smith was transferred to the custody of the US embassy pursuant to the December 22 agreement signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney allowing that Smith be detained at the JUSMAG building inside the US embassy. - GMANews.TV

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‘Stand pat on Nicole rape case’

Members of an organization keeping watch over the infamous Subic rape case involving a US Marine and a 22-year-old Filipina known only as “Nicole” staged a picket Thursday in front of the Court of Appeals.

Members of the Task Force Subic Rape are asking justices not to yield to pressure to acquit Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, whom a lower court found guilty of raping “Nicole” in 2005.

“We got information that a justice is preparing the decision to reverse Judge Benjamin T. Pozon’s verdict,” said Yuen Abana of the Partido ng Manggawa, which is part of the Task Force Subic Rape. “We are not entirely surprised because we saw how the US exerted pressure on the GMA [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] government just to have Smith turned over to them after the guilty verdict.”

Smith is detained at the US Embassy in Manila, awaiting the outcome of his appeal.

Lea Patricia Francisco of the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity based in San Francisco, California, another group allied with the task force, also wrote to Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. to tell him that justice must not be denied to “Nicole.”

The letter was handed over by members of the task force to Vasquez on Thursday.

“After a year-long trial, Smith was convicted of rape and sentenced to serve 40 years in the Philippines on December 4, 2006,” according to Francisco’s letter. “A year and a half later, Smith faces possible acquittal. Today, we stand together in solidarity with Nicole and the Task Force Subic Rape to urge against Smith’s acquittal.”

During the picket before the appellate court’s office in Manila, the members of the task force appealed for justices of the court to have a “sense of fairness and independence.”

They said that some appellate court justices may have enough courage to convict a member of the US Marines, one of the most powerful armed forces in the world.

History of non-conviction

The task force revealed that to date, not one member of the US military was convicted for violating the rights of Filipinos.

Based on claims by the task force, 3,211 different cases were filed against Americans in Subic and Clark from 1980 to 1987, but not one case prospered in court. The US used to have bases in Subic and Clark until the Senate, after the EDSA People Power I uprising, threw out a treaty to extend the stay of the bases there. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo also helped eject the American bases.

Japan and South Korea have penalized and sanctioned American soldiers who committed crimes against their people.

“Japan had its first conviction of a US soldier in 1948 and it has convicted some other US soldiers for the same crime over time. [South] Korea has convicted 84 US soldiers for rape,” said Lotlot Requizo, a member of the task force. Manila Times

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Benguet Corp. disputes Zambales mayor’s claims

Benguet Corp. (BC) disputed yesterday a report that it is engaged in illegal mining in Sta. Cruz, Zambales.

The company accused Sta. Cruz Mayor Luisito Marty of distortion of facts when he made it appear that the legitimate mining companies in his town are the ones guilty of environmental destruction.

In a statement, the company also said that Marty even twisted the pronouncements of President Arroyo, who visited his town last week to inspect typhoon damages, when she expressed concern about the effects of illegal mining and warned local officials against coddling illegal miners responsible for the siltation which turned portion of the municipal waters red.

The BC’s statement also said:

"Other large-scale mining companies such as DMCI, Rusina, Filipinas, and Eramen have long complained to the DENR of rampant illegal mining in Sta. Cruz.

"Aside from having no environmental clearance, these illegtal mining operators are violating the laws through over extraction of minerals, unregulated mining practices and evasion of taxes.

"One illegal mining operator in particular, A3 UNA Mining Co., has victimized all of the legitimate mining companies by encroaching on and illegally mining in their respective MPSA areas. Despite the complaints of residents and largescale mining companies, A3 UNA was able to operate in the town because of the tolerance and protection of the mayor.

"On Jan. 21, 2008, the DENR ordered the seizure of A3 UNA’s ore stockpile of some 20,000 tons at Balitok pier. This same stockpile was the cause of leaching of the nickel ore to the sea at the height of typhoon "Cosme" due to unstable construction of the pier and stockpile area.

"BC alleged that the harassment of the mayor started when it refused to give in to his illegal demands. Not only did the mayor threatened that the company will not be allowed to operate in Sta. Cruz, but he instigated the filing of trumped-up charges against BC for environmental destruction.

"The complaint was duly investigated by a combined team of MGB, DENR line agencies (PENRO, CENRO and EMB), and the Provincial Task Force on March 31, 2008. The MGB consolidated reports dated April 2, 2008 on the result of the investigation, which was received by the company on May 27, 2008, basically clears BC of the charges and found the complaint to be baseless.

"In fact, there was even findings in the report that it was A3 UNA which is to blame for illegal cutting of trees and other environmental damages.

"Unlike the illegal miners, BC and other large scale mining companies operate within the regulatory ambit of the DENR." Manila Bulletin

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Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, Jr. during the Flag Raising Ceremony held Monday recognized the achievement of Gordon College as the Top 1 Performing School of the Midwifery Licensure Exam conducted by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

“Natutuwa akong mas maraming kabataan ngayon ang pinahahalagan ang edukasyon. Saludo ako sa mga guro at tagapamahala ng Gordon College sa kalidad ng pagtuturo na kanilang binibigay sa mga estudyante. Masaya ako na patuloy nagbubunga ang inyong mga hirap at pagod,” Mayor Gordon stated.

It can be recalled that Gordon College also excelled on previous PRC exams on the fields of Nursing and Engineering.

The Midwifery Licensure Exam took place last April 29 & 30, 2008 in the University of the East (UE) and Manuel Luis Quezon University (MLQU).

The administrators of Gordon College confirmed that from a total of twenty-nine (29) examinees twenty-six (26) passed the exam giving the college a rating of 90%.

According to PRC, 3,158 aspiring midwives took the Midwifery Licensure exam from all over the country wherein 1,657 passed for an actual rating of 52%.

Gordon College received a Certificate as the Top 1 Performing School of the country for the Midwifery Licensure Exam during the Oath-taking Ceremony of the 2008 Registered Midwives held last May 28 in Manila Hotel.

Below is the complete list of the New Registered Midwives of Gordon College for 2008 published in the internet and newspapers last May 05 of this year:


by: PAO/melai

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City Social Welfare Development Office (CSWDO) formally launched the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Program of Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, Jr. during the Flag Raising Ceremony held at Rizal Triangle Multi Purpose Covered Court.

The program started with a solemn prayer by Rev. Pastor Fernando Allanague which was followed by a short message by Gene Eclarino, Head of CSWDO.

Mayor Gordon is encouraging both City and Brgy. Officials to take part and cooperate in the implementation of ECCD’s activities.

It can be recalled that the fund allocated for the ECCD for three years was approved through Mayor Gordon’s initiative.

“Mahalagang mahubog nang mabuti ang mga bata mula sa pinaka kritikal na bahagi ng kanilang paglaki na nagsisimula sa pagkabuo nito sa sinapupunan ng ina hanggang sa anim (6) na taong gulang na ito,” said Mayor Gordon, who is also head of the Local Council for the Welfare of Children.

Jenin Santiago, a five (5) year-old Johnson Day Care student of East Bajac-Bajac rendered a song entitled ‘Bright Child, Karapatan Nasa Iyo Isigaw sa Buong Mundo’ which according to Eclarino, is an original composition of Jean Español, a Day Care Worker of Johnson Day Care Center who won the 2007 Regional Children’s Congress Song Competitions.

The ECCD encompasses the full range of health, nutrition, early education and other social services that provide for the holistic needs of young children from conception to age six.

“There are homed-based and center-based programs of the ECCD consisting of Day Care Center, Health Center, Parent Education and Home Visitation.

Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Program target areas are Brgy. Sta. Rita, Gordon Heights, and Brgy. New Kalaklan due to their gigantic population.

ECCD LAUNCHING: Together with Mayor Bong Gordon is five (5) year old Jenin Santiago of Johnson’s Daycare Center who sang ‘’Bright Child, Karapatan Nasa Iyo Isigaw sa Buong Mundo’’ during the launching of Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Program held May 26, 2008 at Rizal Triangle Multi-Purpose Center. PAO

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Food Handling Seminar

Si Mayor Bong Gordon habang nagbibigay ng mensahe sa mga stall owners’ sa Food Court, Pag-asa Market kaugnay sa dalawang (2) araw na ‘’Food Handling Seminar’’ nitong ika-29 at 30 ng Mayo 2008 sa Conference Hall, Annex Building ng City Hall.

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Isinagawa ang Olongapo Amateur Boxing Tournament noong ika-5 ng Mayo 2008 sa Brgy. New Cabalan Covered Court kamakailan bilang bahagi ng ‘Programang Paboksing sa Barangay’ ni Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, Jr.

“Layunin ng programa na ilayo ang mga kabataan ng Olongapo sa mga masasamang bisyo at matutuhan nila ang kahalagan ng palakasan o sports para ma-develop ang ‘sportsmanship’ at magandang pagsasamahan ng kabataan,” ang pagdidiin ni Mayor Gordon, isa sa mga tumunghay sa mga nagtunggali.

Kasama ni Mayor Gordon ang Olongapo City Sports at Tournament Coordinator, Angelito B. Layug at Brgy. New Cabalan Captain Audie Sundiam na dumalo sa naturang kompetisyon.

Alas singko ng hapon nagsimula ang apat (4) na oras na laban ng sampung (10) pares na magkakatunggaling nagmula sa mga ng Brgy. Gordon Heights, Sta. Rita, Brgy. New Cabalan at Brgy. Pag-asa sa espesyal na partisipasyon ng G- GYM, isang pribadong gym sa Olongapo.

Ang mga boksingero ay may edad na labindalawa (12) hanggang limampu’t anim (56) na taong gulang na pinagpares-pares ayon sa edad at timbang.

Narito ang listahan ng mga nanalong boksingero sa kani-kanilang kategoriya:

1. Leonardo Guevarra- Gordon Heights- Kiddie Weight
2. Rodel Nobe- Sta. Rita- JR. Pin Weight
3. Alvin Estrella- Gordon Heights- Pin Weight
4. Noel Guevarra- Gordon Heights- Cadet Fly Weight
5. Raffy Espartero- G GYM- JR. Fly Weight
6. Alejo Corpuz- New Cabalan- Bantam Weight
7. Arjun Sornel- PAGASA- Bantam Weight
8. Eddie Sanchez- PAGASA- Bantam Weight
9. Ramon Poblete-Kalalake- Feather Weight
10. Rey Flores- New Cabalan-Feather Weight


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Sa naisin ng Pamahalaang Lokal ng Olongapo sa pangunguna ni Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr. na higit na mapangalagaan ang kapakanan ng mga may kapansanan, nagpasa ng resolusyon ang Sangguniang Panlungsod kaugnay sa matibay na implementasyon at pagkilala sa Republic Act 9224.

Sa mosyon ni Councilor Elena C. Dabu na sinang-ayunan ng lahat ng miembro ng konseho ay inaprubahan ang Resolusyon No. 56 (series of 2008) na may titulong, ‘’A Resolution Fully Supporting the Implementation and Recognition of the Identification Card for Persons with Disabilities Pursuant to RA 9224-An Act Amending RA 7277 Otherwise Known as the ‘’Magna Carta for Persons with Disability as Amended and for Other Purposes.’’

Batay sa resolusyon na matibay na sumusuporta sa RA 9442, makakatanggap ng Identification Cards (ID) na magagamit upang maka-avail ang mga PWDs ng discounts sa ilang produkto at serbisyo na naaayon naman sa batas.

Para sa mga PWDs ng lungsod, ang pamamahagi ng ID ay pamamahalaan ng City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO).

Samantala, matibay rin na ipinatutupad ng batas ang dalawampung por-sientong (20%) diskwentrong prebilihiyo na makabili ng gamot sa mga accredited drugstores, dental at medical services kabilang na ang sa laboratory fees sa lahat ng hospitals and medical facilities, pamasahe sa pampublikong sasakyan 0 transportation fares sa buong bansa para sa mga may kapansanan o persons with disability (PWD).

Kabilang rin dito ang pagbibigay diskwento sa mga hotels, restaurants at ilan pang recreation centers. Samantala, ipinagbabawal naman ng batas ang pagbanggit ng mga nakakasakit, malalaswa at nakaka-enkandalong salita na maaaring makasakit o magpababa sa tingin ng mga PWDs.

Para sa karagdagang impormasyon kaugnay sa PWD Identification Cards at karapatan pa ng mga PWDs, maaaring makipag-ugnayan sa CSWDO, 2nd Floor, City Hall Annex. Pao/rem

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Matagumpay na natapos kamakailan ang unang taon ng Barangay Sports Olympic Festival na nilahukan ng ibat-ibang barangay sa Olongapo. Sa inisyatibo ni Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr. na higit na ma-involved ang mga kabataan ng lungsod sa sports at ilayo ang mga ito sa bawal na gamot ay limang (5) araw na nagtagisan ng lakas ng pangangatawan at isipan ang mga kabataang Olongapeno.

Layon rin ng Olympic Festival na higit pang pa-igtingin ang local sports sa lungsod. “Barangay Olympics is also intended to discover potential athletes who may represent the city in national or even international sports competitions,” pahayag ni Mayor Gordon.

Pinangunahan ni City Councilor at Task Force Sports Chair Rodel Cerezo ang kabuuan ng palaro. Humakot naman ang Barangay Sta Rita ng dalawampung (20) medalya kung saan nakuha nito ang unang pwesto.

Kabilang sa mga sport activities na pinaglabanan sa Barangay Olympics ay ang basketball, volleyball, badminton, lawn tennis, swimming, taekwondo, table tennis, archery, chess, sepak takraw, gymnastics, athletics, football/softball, muay thai, karatedo, boxing, arnis, at power lifting and body building.

Isinagawa ang sports events nitong ika-11 hanggang 16 ng Mayo 2008 sa Rizal Triangle Multi-Purpose Center at East Tapinac Oval Truck.

BARANGAY SPORTS OLYMPICS FESTIVAL: Ini-abot ni Mayor Bong Gordon ang medals at Plaque of Recognition sa isa sa mga awardee ng Barangay Sports Olympics Festival. Isinagawa ang awarding nitong ika-16 ng Mayo 2008 sa Rizal Triangle Multi-Purpose Center. Kasamang nag-abot ni Mayor Gordon sina City Councilors Rodel Cerezo at Ellen Dabu. Pao/rem

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Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, Jr. announced during the Flag Raising Ceremony held last May 26, 2008 at Rizal Triangle Multi-Purpose Covered Court that Cebu Pacific is still in search for flight attendants.

“Mainam na subukan ng mga Olongapeño ang mga opurtunidad tulad ng pagiging Flight Attendant na pang-internasyonal ang direksiyon. Ito ay patunay lamang na kaya nating makipagsabayan pagdating sa mga pang-International na aspekto,” Mayor Gordon said.

“Maaaring sumadya sa (Public Employment Services Office) PESO ang mga interesadong aplikante para magpasa ng resume,” Mayor Gordon added.

Evelyn Delos Santos, PESO Manager emphasized the following requirements/qualifications of flight attendants as needed by Cebu Pacific:

1. Female/18-25 yrs. Old
2. At least 5’3” in height
3. With weight proportional to height
4. With clear complexion, good eyesight and good set of teeth
5. At least College Level or a graduate of any four year course
6. Proficient in Filipino and English
7. Willing to be based in Manila, Cebu, or Davao

It can be recalled that a lot of applicants participated during the first screening held last May 23, 2008 at the Olongapo City Convention Center (OCCC) according to de los Santos.

“Ang naturang screening ay bahagi ng ating programa para makapagbigay ng dekalidad na recommended employees sa mga establisiyementong pang-International tulad ng Cebu Pacific,” Mayor Gordon emphasized.

Rey L. Totoy, recruitment supervisor of Cebu Pacific along with other Cebu Pacific HRD Staff led the screening for qualified applicants.

Mayor Gordon said at present, Cebu Pacific is challenging Olongapeños who dream of being flight attendants to apply. Those interested may go to the Public Employment Services Office (PESO) located at the ground floor of Olongapo City Hall or for more details visit the company’s website at www.cebupacificair.com. PAO/melai

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Hanjin’s first Subic-made ship underwent sea trials

The first ocean-going vessel built entirely in Subic Bay underwent sea trials Tuesday (eight months after the keel was laid in Hanjin's Drydock #5) before being delivered to Greece in June. “Other shipbuilders would have taken at least 18 months after cutting the steel, to launch the same size of ship,” as per SBMA Chaiman Salonga.

Pyeong Jong Yu, Hanjin’s Outside Business Department manager, said the South Korean shipbuilder has fully completed the ship, a 41,000-ton cargo carrier M/V Argolikos, which has been ordered by the Greek shipping company Dioryx Marine Corp.

The shipbuilder is proud that the first vessel built within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone has undergone sea trials. The ship has already received certifications, including an Attestation Certificate from Bureau Veritas (Ship Surveyors), a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate, a complete crew list, and a Certificate of Competency of the Korean crew issued by the Busan Regional Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office.

The ship has a gross weight of 41,000 tons, is 258.9 meters long, 32 meters wide and 19 meters high. Its optimal speed is 24.5 knots.

Five more units are expected to be delivered to Dioryx in the next few years.

Another six ships with individual capacities to carry 4,300 twenty-foot metal containers intended for the NSC Schiffartsgeselhaft of Germany are currently being built in Hanjin local shipyard.

The ship is temporarily identified as PN-001 but will be formally named by President Arroyo in June after sea trials are done. After the naming ceremony, the ship will officially be delivered to Dioryx Maritime Corporation in Greece.

The PN-001 will be the first of the 16 container vessels of similar specifications to be built by Hanjin in Subic. The 16 ships ordered from Hanjin would cost a total of close to $1 billion, with the price of each ship costing $60 million. Undoubtedly a significant contribution to the Philippine economy and a boost to local work force.

Hanjin, which is one of the biggest shipbuilders in the world today, has an investment of about $1.8 billion for its shipyard project in Subic. About 14,000 workers benefited both directly and indirectly from the project.

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P4.2-billion shabu shipment foiled in Subic

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT ZONE, Philippines — Authorities here on Wednesday seized a major shipment of high-grade metamphetamine hydrochloride, locally known as shabu, one of the biggest hauls so far reported by the government.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Armand Arreza and Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group head Undersecretary Antonio Villar present to the media the illegal drugs seized inside the free port zone.

The foiled shipment was estimated at 720 kilograms with a street value of P4.2 billion.

The operation was conducted by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG).

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the drugs were smuggled by a Chinese national identified as Anthony Ang of Hualong International Trading, a free port-registered company engaged in importing and transshipping imported cigarettes.

PASG chief Undersecretary Antonio Villar said that based on documents, the drugs came from Vietnam and were bound to Taiwan via cargo ship F/B Shun Fa Xing.

Investigators are looking into Ang’s operation as part of an international drug syndicate that uses Subic as a distribution center of illegal drugs in Asia-Pacific.

Initial reports indicated that SBMA guards patrolling the seaport compound on Sunday spotted a red Mitsubishi Outlander with license plate RAE- 615 inside the Riviera Pier, and was seen later on parked near a cargo ship.

Several ship crew members were seen loading several boxes into the van which initially appeared as undocumented goods and were intended to be smuggled out of the seaport compound.

Confronted at the sentry point, Ang refused to have the boxes opened and vowed to produce importation documents which he declared as "sensitive" computer parts.

The SBMA then sought the assistance of PASG which later discovered that the 10 boxes contained 80 kilograms of tightly packed high-grade shabu.

Follow-up operations conducted Wednesday resulted in the seizure of more illegal drugs concealed inside the warehouse of Hualong at the Taiwanese Industrial Park, a short distance from the port facilities.

Raiders seized another 600 kilograms from the warehouse, while the remaining 40 kilograms were recovered in a river near the perimeter fence of the industrial park.

Ang is now the subject of manhunt. — Rey Garcia, BusinessWorld

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

P264-M worth of shabu seized in Subic

At least 88 kilograms of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were found in several computer boxes loaded in a car shipped to the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales, Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group chief Antonio Villar Jr. told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday.

Villar estimated the street value of the contraband at P264 million or P3 million per kilo.

The contraband, loaded in a Mitsubishi Outlander, arrived at 8 p.m. on Monday from Vietnam through a vessel that docked at the Subic Ship Repair Facility.

It was only at past 4 p.m. on Tuesday that operatives of the PASG and Task Force Subic, the anti-smuggling arm of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, were allowed to open the car.

The car owner, identified as Anton Ang, fled, said Villar.

Ang, a Chinese-Filipino, was also identified as the general manager of the Hua Long International Inc.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza described Hua Long as a locator at the Freeport and has been doing business there in the past three years. The firm imports cigarettes from China and uses the freeport as its transshipment point.

“Most probably the contraband was loaded in one of the vessels [used by the company] and [then transferred] into the car,” said Arreza.

Villar said PASG was verifying reports that the shipment could be part of an extension of the operations of the 14-K, a Hong Kong-based illegal drug syndicate.

He said this was the first time that an imported cargo containing shabu was found at the freeport. By Tonette Orejas - Central Luzon Desk

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No June 10 opening for 17 Zambales schools

At least 17 public schools damaged by Tropical storm "Cosme" in the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales are expected to open its doors for students later than the expected school opening of June 10.

This was revealed Tuesday by Education Secretary Jesli Lapus who said that these schools are still being repaired after they were heavily damaged by Typhoon Cosme a week ago.

On May 26, the death toll of "Cosme" was pegged at 58 while the damage to property - including damage to schools at P432.577 million - breached the P4-billion mark, data from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said.

In that report, the NDCC counted 58 dead and 29 injured, with most of the fatalities from Pangasinan and La Union provinces in Ilocos.

According to the NDCC report, Pangasinan had 45 fatalities while La Union had eight. In Zambales, four people were also killed, while a lone fatality was recorded in Benguet .

Damage to property was estimated at P4.058 billion, including P3.629 billion to agriculture, P429.356 million to infrastructure, and P432.577 million to school buildings.

At least 43,365 houses were destroyed while 118,830 were damaged, NDCC said.

Some 259,618 families or 1,392,102 persons in 1,477 villages in 73 towns and seven cities in five provinces in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Western Visayas and Cordillera were affected.

The NDCC said assistance extended so far has reached P116.843 million. - GMANews.TV

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Painful rebuilding after ‘Cosme’

STA. CRUZ, Zambales – Six days after tropical storm “Cosme” unleashed heavy rains and violent winds over the northernmost town of Sta. Cruz in Zambales, Gloria Dabay was past the frustration of being left with ruins.

The mother of four in Barangay Lucapon South was certain of what she and her family needed on the heels of the disaster, which officials regard as the worst to have hit the town after Mt. Pinatubo’s eruptions in 1991.

Holding a bag of relief goods given when President Macapagal-Arroyo visited Sta. Cruz on May 16, Dabay said in Filipino: “This is not enough. What we want are galvanized iron sheets and rice.”

A neighbor, Carmen Bonador, cut in, almost shouting amid the din of Ilocano songs filling the Tongson Plaza: “We’re rebuilding our houses but we have nothing to eat.”


At this point, too, it was clear to Sotico Ebuen what he wanted to do. After winds blew off the roof of his house and unearthed 10 mango trees in Barangay Bayto, Ebuen, 59, has been scouting for a job, preferably as a farm laborer, hoping to get paid P140 a day. Problem is, large landowners were not keen on planting during the wet season.

For Wilfredo Ancheta, the alternatives were clear almost a week after waves “as big as a mountain” hit Barangay Lipay at 4 p.m. on Saturday. “I would do carpentry work in the meantime. I’m sure it would take some time to be able to go back to the sea and fish. The boat’s engine is damaged. I hope there would be available loans for that,” he said.

In Sta. Cruz alone, Cosme affected 10, 954 families whose houses were either destroyed or damaged, and displaced 8,000 farmers and fishermen.

The help that came that day were P500,000 worth of GI sheets from the Bataan government and P1 million worth of plywood and GI sheets from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development gave P5,000 shelter assistance to 100 families and P1,000 “cash-for-work” certificates for those tapped to clear the plaza of debris.

Relief goods were given to less than 2,000 families.

Ms Arroyo ordered Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. to raise P500,000 worth of GI sheets, but these would have to be divided between Sta. Cruz town and the provinces of Pangasinan, La Union and other provinces in the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley.

Rehabilitation would strain public resources. The Department of Public Works and Highways initially estimated that P500 million was needed to repair public infrastructures. The Department of Education requires more than P400 million to fix school buildings and other facilities.

Amid the demands by families for houses and alternative sources of income, Mayor Luisito Marty stressed the value of self-reliance. “National government agencies are helping out here, but we cannot rely totally on them. I tell our folks here that we need to help each other,” he said.

Two problems have emerged and it may slow down the emergency phase, if not the rehabilitation stage, said Fr. Noel Montes, the Sta. Cruz parish priest.

The ugly side of politics—divisiveness—has sharpened.

“This is sad to say but the mayor and the town council have not overcome their differences. This is the time to unite and consolidate. After the President’s visit, they seemed not to be visible enough now,” Montes said.

He added that the poorest of the poor had to be prioritized. On Saturday, the parish pastoral council met, mobilizing chapters in the villages to assess who needed help most.

Montes said the information system must be improved so emergency assistance from government or nongovernment organizations would be monitored and incoming help directed to those who had not yet been reached.

Iba Bishop Florentino Lavarias has asked the Catholic Church’s National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa) to help the victims. Nassa has tapped the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for assistance.

Electricity, an important lifeline, has not been restored.

Montes said the disaster response had not yet shifted to rehabilitation. “That needs planning. We have not been informed. In the rebuilding efforts, various sectors should be involved,” he said.

Volunteers from the Army and the SBMA, which had cleared the national highways and some villages of debris, have already pulled out, leaving the residents to continue their work.

Politics in disaster

Gov. Amor Deloso is frustrated about the “intramurals” amid the disaster.

“I directed relief operations in [the villages of] Malibago and Gama in coordination with the DSWD, but I was stopped by Mayor Marty … Pag hindi maka-Marty, hindi binibigyan ng relief (If you’re not a Marty supporter, you won’t receive relief goods). Many feel they are being left out,” Deloso said.

But the mayor said such reports were not true. “What I only asked is for groups to coordinate their help with us. That should be the process so that we are able to monitor which villages are getting help or not,” he said. By Tonette Orejas - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, together with Vice Mayor Cynthia Cajudo led the welcoming of the US Navy and Marine officials and soldiers of the USNS Stockham ship who visited the City of Olongapo last May 23, 2008.

Through the initiative of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), Navy Captain Bradley Smith and Ship Doctor Mark Duncan along with more than twenty (20) US Navy and Marines gathered at FMA Hall.

In the inspirational message of Mayor Gordon, he told the American soldiers of the city’s numerous awards on peace and order and good governance.

The US Navy and Marines happily mingled and played with the young beneficiaries of OCARE, Social Development Center (SDC) and the children of the residents of Center for Women wherein the former gave toys, school supplies and sports equipment as part of their community service for the City of Olongapo.

Earlier, the US Servicemen painted the buildings of Tapinac Elementary School last May 19, 2008 as one of the school’s preparations before the opening of classes in June 2008.

USNS STOCKHAM: Mayor Bong Gordon (middle) with Navy Captain Bradley Smith (left of Mayor Gordon) and Ship Doctor Mark Duncan (right of Mayor Gordon) together with USNS Stockham Navy & Marines and young beneficiaries of toys, school supplies and sports equipment. The turn-over was held May 23, 2008 at FMA Hall, City Hall. PAO/rem

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Korean developers to set up P1-B resort hotel in Subic

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines Two South Korean companies will put up a P1-billion resort hotel here targeting South Korean, American and Japanese tourists.

South Korea’s MGfnd Subic, Inc. and Subic Rexmier C&D Co., Ltd. signed the investment deal Monday, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza said in a statement.

"This is a welcome development considering that we expect more tourists coming in after the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) turned the economic zones in Central Luzon into one super destination for tourists," he said.

The proposed Rexmier Resort and Hotel will be built in a 2.5-hectare lot along Perimeter Road at the Subic Bay Gateway Park. It will cater to the growing market of Korean tourists, as well as tour groups from the United States and Japan.

MGfnd Chairman Chang Young Ryu said Subic has a strong Korean business community especially with the presence of Hanjin shipbuilding facility.

The resort-hotel will include 170 condominium-hotel units and a 43-room hotel complemented by facilities such as a 25-meter swimming pool, health and wellness spa, a restaurant bar, gift shops and an indoor golf driving range.

Rexmier President Nam Young Woo said the decision to set up the project in Subic was based on research on the Korean and Philippine tourism markets.

Among the international banking institutions that have committed to provide financial support for the projects include NH Investment and Securities, Industrial Bank, Suhyup Bank, Dae Young Savings Bank and Prime Savings Bank.

The SBMA said Rexmier Resort and Hotel would be among several property development projects slated for implementation at the Subic Bay Freeport starting this year, giving rise to a construction boom in the next few years.

Last month, several other property developers signed investment contracts with the SBMA to build condominiums, hotels, restaurants and other leisure projects.

These included Subic Daesung Corp., which committed to invest $15 million on mixed-used commercial buildings, and power distributor Subic Enerzone Corp., which pledged $10.4 million for a hotel and condominium project.

The SBMA Investor Services Department also said several construction and property management firms have come in in anticipation of the projected building boom.

Among them are Hanil E&C Subic, Inc., which put up $11 million for the design, planning and construction of medium- and high-rise commercial buildings, and 7-Tower Properties and Management Consultants, which committed $125,000 for another real estate management business. - Rey Garcia, BusinessWorld

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Monday, May 26, 2008










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Magsaysay chide JDV over ‘threat’ to testify in Senate ZTE probe

Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos" Magsaysay said De Venecia's move to announce his intention to testify appears as if he was trying to strike a deal with the government

Several lawmakers on Monday criticized former House Speaker and Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia over pronouncements that he intends to testify before the Senate panel investigating the controversial national broadband network deal with ZTE Corp.

Some of De Venecia's colleagues at the House of Representatives said the former Speaker lacks credibility to back up whatever testimony he will be giving the Senate, while others called De Venecia's pronouncement a "bluff."

Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra, son of the late Speaker Ramon Mitra with whom De Venecia had a tiff with in 1992, said De Venecia will only appear to be sour-graping from his ouster as House Speaker.

"JDV does not have any credibility anymore. Everything he says will just come out as sour-graping. Why didn’t he speak up when he was still Speaker?" Mitra said.

For his part, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr called De Venecia's "threat" to testify before the Senate a "bluff," saying he will similarly fail in delivering the "knockout punch" which his son and namesake failed to deliver when he testified on the controversial deal.

"If the son who was in the midst of it failed to give the knockout punch, how can the father who was far away from it succeed this time? JDV is giving too much credit for himself. If he thinks he can bring down the government, then he is now believing in his own propaganda. His record in arousing the people is, however, dismal," Barzaga said.

"He can’t get the people to elect him President (in 1998), so what gives him the confidence that with him leading the charge they will help him unseat the current one?" the lawmaker asked

Another colleague at the Lower House, Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin who was among the few lawmakers who voted to keep De Venecia in the speakership battle last February 4 said the issue would still boil down to vested interests.

Garin also questioned De Venecia's intentions in coming out only now, saying the issue has been on the table for a long time.

The lawmaker noted that it is glaring that De Venecia's son Joey lost the NBN contract.

"His affiliation as a father of a bidder would question his credibility. Testifying on the accusations against the present administration, I cannot really see and say that he (JDV) is very credible," Garin said.

"We have questions in mind. What he is up to? Why only now? And third, up to what extent is his involvement? Because a credible witness will come out as somebody who would really like to clear the issue and not somebody who has business vested interest on it," Garin said.

Meanwhile, Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella, welcomed De Venecia’s threat, saying: "If he wants to commit hara-kiri, then he should go for it. He will be the first to go down although on second thought, he’s already down."

Puentevella said "vengeance" for his ouster as House Speaker is likely De Venecia's motive.
"Hell hath no fury than a powerful man scorned. It is not truth that is motivating him but most probably vengeance. It is of public knowledge that he has some scores to settle," Puentevella said.

For Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos" Magsaysay, De Venecia's move to announce his intention appears as if he was trying to strike a deal with the government.

“By so much drumbeating, this has led many to wonder that by firing warning shots, what JDV really wants is to cut a deal with Malacañang. By threatening war, maybe he wants a ceasefire, for himself and for his son," Magsaysay said.

“I wish the former Speaker will stop coming out with teasers. He is only making the situation worse because he will comment but refuse to divulge. If there is indeed anything to divulge," she added. - GMANews.TV

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Sunday, May 25, 2008


The City of Olongapo will celebrate its Liberation Day on Tuesday, May 27 in commemoration of the patriotism and heroism of Olongapeños who fought the Japanese invaders in World War II. The venue of the celebration scheduled at nine o’clock in the morning will be Rizal Triangle where the Veterans Marker stands.

Veterans Federation of the Philippines- Sons and Daughters Association, Inc. led by Vice Mayor Cynthia Cajudo is the lead organization in organizing the celebration.

This year’s program theme is “Kapayapaan Susi sa Maunlad Na Bayan”.

The said celebration will be graced by the sons and daughters of both living and deceased veterans.

“I am glad that we still pursue the commemoration of the heros of Olongapo. I believe that as citizens of Olongapo we could be heroes in our own little ways,” Mayor James “Bong” Gordon said in connection with the celebration.

Former Olongapo Mayor and now Senator Richard Gordon is expected to grace and deliver a message during the occasion.

Meanwhile, as part of the Liberation Day celebration, the City Government, through the initiative of Mayor Gordon is going to conduct a Medical-Dental Mission on May 31, 2008 at James Gordon Integrated School, New Kababae.

The said Medical-Dental Mission aims to benefit residents of Brgy. New Banicain, New Kababae, New Ilalim and West Tapinac. by PAO/melai

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Zambales municipalities sign e-governance 'covenant'

The participating municipalities include Masinloc, Botolan, San Antonio, and San Marcelino in Zambales. The covenant was signed last week at the Subic Exhibition and Convention Center in Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales

Thirty-one municipalities have signed a covenant indicating their commitment to help each other implement e-governance, a representative of a Canadian International Development Agency-funded project said.

As a result of the "E-governance for Municipal Development (eGov4MD)" project, municipal officials have agreed to share skills and resources in the development of e-governance systems.

They have also agreed to pool finances to build a community of technical professionals who will assist local government units in implementing e-governance projects.

Robert Sagun, eGovernance project officer of the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) Philippine Branch, said that an agreement will be signed next month to deploy an electronic real property tax system to these 31 municipalities.

The participating municipalities include Binalonan, Calasiao and Rosales in Pangasinan; Aliaga and Talavera in Nueva Ecija; Capas and Paniqui in Tarlac; Minalin, Lubao, Masantol, San Simon, Magalang, and Guagua in Pampanga; Masinloc, Botolan, San Antonio, and San Marcelino in Zambales; Orion and Dinalupihan in Bataan; San Mateo in Rizal; Imus, Carmona, Gen. Mariano, and Gen. Trias in Cavite; Tiaong, Pagbilao, Mauban, Lucban, Atimonan, Catanauan, and Calauag in Quezon.

The municipalities have also agreed to support the activities of eGov4MD, Inc., a newly established non-profit association of municipal staff engaged in e-governance.

The covenant was part of a flagship program of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Mayors Development Center, the CESO, the National Computer Center, and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology.

The covenant was signed last week at the Subic Exhibition and Convention Center in Subic Freeport Zone, Zambales. By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

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PASG clears horse trader

THE Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) has cleared seven horses imported by Engr. Felizardo Jun Sevilla from Australia, which nearly died of dehydration after the animals were held by the authorities recently for hours at Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

PASG deputy director Edmund Arugay apologized to Sevilla, of Quezon City, for the inconvenience and public embarrassment he experienced after the authorities seized the horses, which was consigned under the engineer’s name, Tonight gathered.

Earlier, the Bureau of Customs, through Napoleon Morales, said the shipping documents of Sevilla is in order, pointing out that the U.S.$800 declared value per horse corresponding to the value of the horses jived with those posted on the Internet at the Magic Millions Sales Pty of Australia.

“I did not cause the smuggling of the said horses from Australia to the Philippines,” Sevilla declared.

The former Philracom commissioner deplored that the horses almost died of dehydration after being held for 13 hours in Subic.

Sevilla said he was constrained to dispatch a veterinarian to Subic to care for the animals and have them dextrosed later at their stables to keep them alive and well. “May buhay din ang mga kabayo, at napabayaan sa loob ng Subic,” he stressed.

Stressing that he is a registered horse owner and a bona fide member of the Metropolitan Association of Race Horse Owners (Marho), Sevilla -- a former commissioner of the Philippine Racing Commission -- said it is impossible to slip into the country such thoroughbred horses from Australia. Each horse is assigned an individual computer chip and passbooks which served as their passports.

The passbook contains vital information about the horses including their lineage, even their birth date and birth place.

Besides, Sevilla explained that the sale results of horses could easily be viewed on the Internet, citing as an example the website of the Magic Millions Sales.

Sevilla tossed the blame to kinks in his importation to a local broker, Sir J Express, Inc. which he assigned to attend to the importation of the horses from Australia to the Philippines. He belied any knowledge of transactions made by the broker for the shipment and release of the horses from Australia.

The trader said that he engaged the services of Johnny Tionloc and his son Mark John of the same firm to take care of the processing of their papers, payment of appropriate taxes with the BoC, including the release from the BOC, and to their delivery to his stables.

Sevilla said that he paid the Tionlocs the sum of P258,000 inclusive of the taxes and duties due him for the imported horses as shown in the voucher he showed the authorities.

The horses arrived in Subic last May 19 on board a Federal Express cargo plane at the Subic International Airport until PASG elements apprehended them on suspicion that they had been undervalued to evade higher taxes.

Sevilla bared that he was earlier invited personally by David Chester , managing director of Magic Millions Sales, to take part in the said auction sale of race horses last March 31 to April 2.

Also, he strongly denied any links with the Disconnect Trading as well as with a certain Noah Corpuz, who was earlier reported to be his partner , and trying to facilitate the bribery attempt on some officers at Subic Freeport. By: Efren Montano - Journal online

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City Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, Jr. called the attention of the City’s seventeen (17) Barangay Chairmen on the need to continue cleaning the rivers and canals in their respective areas to prevent possible flooding during the rainy season.

“The cleaning of clogged canals and drainages must be regularly conducted in cooperation with the Environmental Sanitation and Management Office (ESMO),” Mayor Gordon stated.

Mayor Gordon tasked ESMO through its head Dante Ramos to coordinate with the different barangays for the declogging of canals and drainages.

“We have started cleaning the rivers and riverbanks of Barangays West Bajac-Bajac, Mabayuan, Kalaklan, 14th Street, Pag-asa and other areas. Gordon Heights, Sta. Rita, Old Cabalan and others with rivers or canals will follow,”said Engr. Wenceslao Paule of ESMO.

“We are using the manual approach in cleaning these rivers using ten (10) boats, two (2) of which are motorized,” Paule added.

Mayor Gordon is encouraging the city residents to coordinate with their barangay officials regarding problems on clogged canals and drainages so that such matters can be given quick and proper attention.

To report matters regarding cleanliness/sanitation, residents may go to the Environmental Sanitation and Management Office (ESMO) on the 3rd floor of Olongapo City Hall or call telephone number 223-4538. by PAO/melai

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Ipinatutupad na sa Lungsod ng Olongapo ang Ordinance No. 09 (Series of 2008) na may titulong ‘’An Ordinance Prescribing the New Rates of Garbage Collection Fees Imposed by the Environmental Sanitation and Management Office (ESMO)’’ simula noon pang ika-15 ng Abril ng taong it0.

Matatandaan na inaprubahan ng Sangguniang Panlungsod ang ordinansa noong Pebrero 2008.

Ito ay bahagi ng programa ng Administrasyon ni Mayor James “Bong” Gordon, Jr. upang mapanatili ang kalinisan at kaayusan ng Olongapo.

Naniniwala ang Punong Lungsod na ang kalinisan at kaayusan ay magbubunga ng malulusog na mamamayan ng Olongapo. Kinakailangan lamang aniya ng pagtutulungan at kooperasyon buhat sa mga mamamayan at lokal na gobyerno para makamit ito.

Ibinase ang ordinansang ito sa Integrated Solid Waste Management System na sinimulan ni dating Mayor na ngayon ay Senator Richard Gordon.

Ang naturang ordinansa ay nabuo pagkatapos ng maingat at masusing konsultasyon at pagtatanong sa mga mamamayan ng Olongapo. Kasama dito ang mga ordinaryong nagbabayad ng buwis, businessmen, civic ang non-government organizations at mga lider ng barangay.

Pangunahing sponsors ng ordinansa ay sina Olongapo City Councilors Aquilino Y. Cortez at Angelino W. Baloy. by PAO/melai

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Activists paint 'Quit Coal' on vessel delivering shipment to power plant

The government currently has at least nine coal-fired plants lined up for construction or expansion in the country:including the 300 MW expansion in Masinloc, Zambales, 300 MW in Olongapo, Zambales

PAGBILAO, Quezon - Greenpeace activists aboard Rainbow Warrior, anchored alongside Pagbilao coal plant, painted the words ‘Quit Coal’ on the hull of a 223 meter vessel Sam John Spirit standing by to unload yet another shipment of thousands of tons of coal at Pagbilao power plant in the Philippines.

The Rainbow Warrior is in the Philippines on its “Quit Coal-Save the Climate" tour of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

In a statement, the group said its ship has anchored alongside the said coal-fired power plant since Thursday to expose how coal causes climate change and to send a message that the Philippines should stop building and expanding harmful coal-fired power plants. The Pagbilao coal plant is one of nine currently in the government’s pipeline for either expansion or construction.

The Greenpeace ship’s anchorage was in no way impeding the unloading of coal currently ongoing at the plant’s wharf, or preventing the plant’s generating operations. The plant itself currently has enough stockpile to run uninterrupted for around a month. The activists painted a third coal shipment, Sam John Spirit, at anchor some four kilometers from the wharf. Greenpeace is sending a message that coal expansion should stop because of coal’s huge environmental costs.

“Enough is enough, there should be no more construction or expansion of coal fired power plants in the Philippines. We cannot allow our short-sighted government to burn our future. Pagbilao coal plant alone dumps as much as five million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. The more coal we burn, the lesser our chances are of effectively combating the climate change catastrophe," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaign Manager Beau Baconguis onboad the Rainbow Warrior.

There are currently eight coal-fired power plants in the Philippines, with a total capacity of 4,177 MW, or about 26.1% of the country's installed capacity. Together, the coal plants already account for as much as 36% of the emissions from the energy sector.

However, the government currently has at least nine coal-fired plants lined up for construction or expansion in the country: the 300 MW expansion in Pagbilao, Quezon, 100 MW in Concepcion, Iloilo, 165 MW in Iloilo City, 200 MW each in Naga and Toledo Cities in Cebu, 300 MW expansion in Masinloc, Zambales, 300 MW in Olongapo, Zambales, 150 MW in Sultan Kudarat, and 200 MW in Saranggani.

“Clearly the national government is not serious about addressing climate change. You can’t stop a problem by abetting the cause," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Climate and Energy Campaigner Jasper Inventor. “If the government wants to do right, the first thing on their list would be to quit coal and ensure there will be no more new coal construction and expansion. The government must then start phasing out of this dirty and dangerous power source while increasingly tapping clean, safe, renewable energy. Renewable energy sources are abundant in our country, the only thing we need more of is the political will to deploy them."

The energy sector is responsible for some two-thirds of world’s climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions. Coal-fired power plants are the biggest offenders. Coal is the dirtiest, most carbon intensive of all fossil fuels. Coal emits 29% more carbon per unit of energy than oil and 80% more than gas. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, representing a major portion of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, coal accounts for almost 60% of carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector.

Environment ministers from G8 countries are scheduled to meet today with climate change on top of their agenda. Greenpeace is also calling on G8 countries to take real action against climate change, and deliver an Energy Revolution that makes coal the fuel of last resort.

The ship’s first port of call was Legazpi City, Albay, where the Governor of Albay declared the province a “no-coal zone" during a press conference onboard the vessel.

The Rainbow Warrior is in the Philippines to spearhead the Greenpeace “Quit Coal Tour" in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The tour aims to promote solutions to stop climate change—an energy revolution away from the use of climate-damaging coal, and a massive shift to renewable energy. - GMANews.TV

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Gonzales rules Subic Open

SUBIC: GM-elect Jayson Gonzales is back where he always wanted to be on top.

Gonzales emerged as the overall champion in the first Subic Open International Chess Championship with a dramatic, final-round win over surprise package Rolando Andador before a big crowd at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center Friday.

The 34-year-old mainstay of Philippine Army exploited a shattering blunder by Andador in the endgame and got rid of an impending draw to capture the overall title and the top prize of $5,000. Manila Times

The win by Gonzales came in 40 moves of the Slav, or only three moves after Andador made the fatal king push on the 37th move that forced him to give up a rook for a bishop to escape a mate in one.

Gonzales, who rarely settles for a draw, actually offered to split the point on the 34th move with the position almost even. But Andador, who was way ahead in time, shunned the offer and desperately went for a win.

Then came the blunder.

It was also a big turnaround for Gonzales, who finished dead-last in the recent “Battle of GMs” tournament held in Manila early this month.

“I’m very, very happy to win the title. It was a dream come true,” said Gonzales, who also became the first Filipino to win an international title at home since former Rep. Prospero Pichay was elected National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president.

Before Gonzales’ unexpected triumph, foreign players dominated all six other international tournaments hosted by Pichay since 2006.

“Malaki talaga ang pasasalamat ko kay Congressman Pichay dahil sa patuloy niyang suporta hindi lamang sa akin kundi sa lahat ng mga players,” added Gonzales, who is still several ELO ratings short before being formally awarded his GM title.

Pichay personally awarded the trophies and cash prizes to Gonzales and the other top finishers, assisted by NCFP Secretary-General and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham Bambol Tolentino, tournament director Willie Abalos, chief arbiter Peter Long of Malaysia and NCFP officials Atty. Edmundo Legaspi and Red Dumuk.

Gonzales, who earned his third and last GM norm during the Asean Masters in Tarakan, Indonesia early this year, said he deliberately skipped the recent Philippine Open to take a much-needed rest following his lackluster showing in the “Battle of GMs.” He also bought a brand new laptop and continued his chess studies during the period.

The perseverance and hard work, obviously, paid off during the Subic Open.

Overall, Gonzales finished with seven points out of a possible nine in this prestigious tournament supported by the Department of Tourism and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Top seed GM Yuriy Kuzubov of Ukraine and Dubai Open champion GM Wesley So settled for a quick, friendly draw after only 10 moves of the Sicilian to finish in a four-way tie for second to fifth places with Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre and comebacking GM Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor with 6.5 points.

Torre outlasted IM Zaw Htun Wynn of Myanmar while Villamayor overpowered former national junior champion Oliver Barbosa.

So, at 14 the world’s youngest GM, finished second overall due to higher tiebreak score.

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NPA, two ex-workers tagged in Victory bus torching

Two former employees of Victory Liner and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) are at the center of a police investigation of a recent attack on the bus firm’s garage in Quezon City.

Superintendent Franklin Moises Mabanag, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit of the Quezon City Police District, said the two dismissed employees filed their cases only last February and March and could have the motive for last Wednesday’s attack.

However, a senior police officer involved in the investigation said they are looking into the possibility that communist rebels infiltrated the bus firm’s labor union and could have supported the attack.

He said dismissed employees are holding pickets at the Victory Liner terminal in Tarlac, a reported stronghold of NPA guerrillas.

He said it is a given that most, if not all, left-leaning labor groups give money to the NPA in exchange for protecting their members.

The senior police officer said that even if dismissed workers are linked to the attack, they could not have done it by themselves. He noted that 10 armed men, in two vehicles, barged into the Victory Liner garage before midnight Wednesday and disarmed the lone security guard on duty.

Four of the suspects ordered the guard and several bus personnel to remove their personal possessions from the buses, and the rest of the armed men set the vehicles on fire using two pails of paint thinner.

According to Mabanag, the labor cases filed by the two former workers earlier this year are preceded only by a case that was filed way back in 2006.

"So we’re now asking the NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) to provide us a copy of the said case for us to know the complaints of these two (former) employees," Mabanag told The STAR in an interview.

These two cases are among the eight pending labor cases filed against the management, which Mabanag earlier said was the "closest link" to the attack. He does not believe the assault could be the handiwork of communist rebels.

While refusing to divulge the identities of the two former employees, Mabanag said they are residents of Malabon and are natives of Iba and Botolan towns in Zambales.

Coincidentally, a similar attack was recorded in Zambales in early 2000 involving another Victory Liner bus.

Citing information from Zambales provincial police director Senior Superintendent Roland Felix, a bus bound for Botolan was blocked by armed men, who ordered the passengers to get off the bus before setting the vehicle on fire.

"So we’re looking into these previous cases, because if these former employees really have grievances against the company, the percentage (of them getting back at the management) is high... They’re angry and that is manifested in these actions," Mabanag noted.

"But the company doesn’t seem to be bothered by it because they always say the affected buses are covered by insurance claims," he added.

Mabanag also dismissed insinuations that Wednesday night’s attack could only be aimed at collecting insurance claims for the firm’s old buses.

He said if that were the case, the attackers should have focused only on old buses and not tried to damage the other buses parked in the garage.

Mabanag noted that during the attack last Wednesday, the attackers poured paint thinner leading to the newer buses, thinking these would also be totally burned after an old bus was set on fire.

Authorities, however, soon arrived and put out the fire a few minutes later. By JAIME LAUDE and REINIR PADUA - The Philippine Star

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PGMA releases P500M for ‘Cosme’ victims

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday ordered the release of P500 million for emergency shelter assistance to victims of typhoon Cosme following an aerial inspection in Lingayen, Pangasinan and in Sta. Cruz, Zambales to personally see the damage wrought to the calamity-affected areas.

Arroyo also led the distribution of about 5,000 sacks of rice, P263,000 worth of reconstructions materials from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority including 200 pieces corrugated GI sheets, and 200 pieces of plywood in Zambales.

The President ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to use the P500 million mostly for the purchase of additional corrugated GI sheets. SunStar

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is briefed Friday by Sta. Cruz Mayor Luisito Marty about the heavy damaged wrought by typhoon Cosme to his town with 4,000 houses destroyed, century trees rooted out and schoolhouses and government building almost wiped out. (OPS photo)

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'Cosme' death toll now 53

THE death toll from tropical storm Cosme has risen to 53, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said.

NDCC deputy administrator Anthony Golez Jr. also said as of Friday night, the number of persons affected by the storm has so far gone up to 252,000.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

"As of 6 p.m. Friday, 53 were dead while 29 were injured. There was also heavy damage to houses," Golez said on government-run dzRB radio.

NDCC records showed that 252,000 families were affected in 1,459 villages in 73 towns and seven cities in five provinces in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Western Visayas and Cordillera.

Golez said Zambales and Pangasinan remain the worst-hit areas. He added a total of 31,000 houses were destroyed while 84,000 houses were damaged.

Meanwhile, Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr. is dismayed with the nonchalant reaction of some Cabinet secretaries to the devastation suffered by the province brought about by the typhoon.

He lamented that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does not know the exact extent of the damage in the province as the Cabinet secretaries were not giving her correct information.

"We hope that the Cabinet secretaries do their homework and give more accurate reports to the President," he said.

Arroyo presided the NDCC meeting held here Friday morning. Among those present were NDCC chairman and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr., Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz, and Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.

The governor said Lapuz reported to the President that there were 14 classrooms totally damaged province-wide, when in fact the partial number has already reached 615.

He said the Department of Health (DOH) also reported that it already spent more than P490,000 worth of medicines and medical supplies for Pangasinan, but the province only received 586 pieces of Aquatablet water disinfectant that costs about P10 each.

Espino also doubted if the relief goods were really distributed properly to the typhoon victims. The Department of Social Welfare and Development earlier said that it has given P947,000 worth of relief goods here.

"We will see. The people should know if their government is really helping them," he said. (JMR/LCMY/Sunnex)

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This is a joint private blog of volunteers from Subic Bay. It is being maintained primarily to collate articles that may be of importance to decision making related to the future of Subic Bay and as a source of reference material to construct the history of Subic Bay.

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