Independent research group IBON Foundation expressed dismay over Arroyo’s statement urging the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to conclude a regional free trade agreement with Japan .

As it is, different sectors have registered their opposition to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which Malacañang signed last year and which will take effect after ratification by the Senate.


Under the agreement, the Philippine government excluded only two commodities from tariff reduction while Japan protected 239 of its commodities, proving how JPEPA is grossly unequal.


IBON research head Sonny Africa added that the Philippines is set to sacrifice billions of pesos in lost revenues if the Senate ratifies the said agreement. If tariffs would be reduced to zero on trade with Japan under the JPEPA, the Philippines stands to lose some P10.7 billion (US$ 214.1 million) annually.


Meanwhile, Japan would forego smaller lost tariff revenues of P 7 billion (US$ 139 billion). IBON based its computations on trade levels with Japan in 2005 and the distribution of imports in the various tariff brackets.


JPEPA also threatens the country’s future revenues as the agreement may lay the basis for legal challenges if succeeding governments would eventually decide to take back previously granted tax and duty exemptions.


With JPEPA’s strict “expropriation and compensation” clause, it is possible that if the government imposes added taxes in the future, Japanese firms can invoke the JPEPA to demand compensation for these taxes on the ground that these were not in place when the investors first came in, and so did not factor in when they drew up their business plans, revenue streams and profit estimates.


Aside from being a drain on the country’s revenue generation, the JPEPA also represents a brazen impingement on the sovereign right of the Philippines to tax economic activity within its jurisdiction, Africa said.

A regional free trade agreement with Japan will profit Japanese corporations the most, especially since the ASEAN is Japan ’s third largest trading partner. By urging the region to sign a similar pact as JPEPA clearly shows whose interests Pres. Arroyo has in mind, said Africa


80 houses demolished in Lahug

80 houses demolished in Lahug

Cebu Daily News
Last updated 03:46pm (Mla time) 07/30/2007

Cebu City, Philippines – At least 80 illegal structures encroaching on the six-meter road in Sitio (district) Kamagong, Barangay (village) Lahug, Cebu City were demolished by the Special Prevention, Encroachment and Elimination Division (SPEED) last week.


Federico Mercado, chief of SPEED-Cebu City, said some house owners tried to resist but later agreed to the demolition after they were told that only portions of their houses would be affected.


Mercado said most of the houses encroached on at least two meters of the six-meter road.


For fear that the demolition would be done haphazardly, the owners themselves volunteered to destroy parts of their homes.


The city government did not give compensation to the affected families. /Correspondent Chris A. Ligan

Cebu Province’s founding day celebration starts

Cebu Daily News
Last updated 03:45pm (Mla time) 07/30/2007

Cebu, Philippines – Monday is the start of the week-long activities in celebration of the 438th founding anniversary of Cebu Province on August 6.


Mayors will join Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the Capitol employees in the flag raising ceremonies on the Capitol grounds on Monday morning. This would be followed by the raising of the colors of the province’s 45 towns and seven component cities.


Opening of the agro-fair at the back of the Capitol building would then follow.


The portrait of former governors Sotero Cabahug and Buenaventura Gutierrez would also be unveiled on Monday in honor for their roles in the construction of the Capitol building.


The provincial government has also sponsored a nightly concert inside the Capitol compound as part of the celebration.


On Friday, the anniversary itself, the anniversary, the provincial employees from the six departments will compete in folk dance contest.


Roger Serna of the Provincial Information Office said that the employees would perform the original dances in Cebu including Sampaguita, Pandanggo sa Baso, Meligoy de Cebu, Mananagat, Sortedo Cebuano and Itik-itik Sibonga. /Reporter Nilda Gallo

Marian miracle site becomes tourist spot

More pilgrims troop to Sibonga

By Nilda Gallo
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 03:46pm (Mla time) 07/30/2007

Cebu, Philippines – Almost 10 years after the statue of Mary reportedly shed tears in Barangay (village) Simala, Sibonga, Catholic devotees continue flocking to the site for pilgrimage.


Brother Martin Mary, one of the Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration running the Mama Mary’s Sanctuary, said that every 13th day of the month, around 10,000 pilgrims visit the site where the statue of Mary reportedly shed tears in 1998.


Martin said he based his estimates on the number of hosts the monks prepared each month for the Eucharist.


Just a 15-minute ride from Poblacion, Sibonga, the Mama Mary’s Sanctuary is one of the destinations featured on the first day of the Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbo, a province-led tour to the province’s heritage sites.


Tita Soza of the Provincial Tourism said the sanctuary has been included among the featured spots because of participants’ demand.


The monks, however, are very strict on the tourists’ outfits. They bar those wearing sexy dresses, including spaghetti-strapped blouses and fitting jeans, from entering the church.


Notices are also posted on the way to the church telling visitors that smoking and loud noises are also not allowed.


The Marian monks conduct a procession everyday, carrying sacks full of written prayers and intentions from the pilgrims.


“It’s one way of offering a sacrifice,” Brother Martin said.


The processions are done inside the monastery at night when the pilgrims have already left the place.


The Marian Sanctuary is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily but Masses are held only on Saturdays, Sundays and every 13th day of the month.


Martin said the monks have to pray for Mary’s “intercession” everyday for all the petitions coursed through them to be heard.


He said the monks would place the written intentions below their knees as they kneel and hold hands in prayer.


The monks have displayed inside a glass cabinet, hundreds of letters thanking the miraculous statue for successful healing, medical operations and for passing difficult examinations.


Martin said the monks are going to send those letters to the Vatican for use by the Catholic Church Commission on Investigation to study the “phenomena” of the Virgin Mary.


Martin said those “phenomena” will only be called “miracles” when affirmed by the Vatican.


He said hundreds of pilgrims have already made their testimonies for a number of miracles that reportedly happened to them.


In 1998, the Virgin reportedly “helped” stop the spread of a killer epidemic that struck Sibonga.


With the continued influx of pilgrims, the congregation has been able to put up a church building.


But the church is unfinished yet. Its altar is still being built and there is no ceiling yet, Martin said.


He said the completion would depend upon the donations that would come.


The monks are also helping 146 poor children go to school, he said.

Controversial priests, others to be reshuffled

Controversial priests, others to be reshuffled
By Bernadette Parco
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 03:46pm (Mla time) 07/30/2007

Cebu, Philippines – Two Priests linked to controversies are among those scheduled to be transferred to other parish assignments within the year.


Monsignor Constantino Diotay, who had been embroiled in controversies concerning accounting and disbursement of church funds, and Father Benedicto Ejares, who was accused by public high school students of lascivious conduct, will have new posts soon.


However, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said the transfer was not because of the problems or complaints the priests were facing, but because their terms of office were over.


“Everybody who (has stayed for) more than six years (in their parishes) will be moved,” he told reporters on Wednesday.


Last year, the Kalihukang Katoliko Karon initiated a petition seeking the transfer of Diotay and Fr. Domingo Tapic to another parish after accusing them of implementing “moneymaking” schemes.


Diotay is the parish priest of the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish priest in Pardo, Cebu City.


Cardinal Vidal said an investigation by the archdiocese showed that the properties allegedly purchased by Diotay were “all in the names of his relatives.”


Vidal denied parish funds were used to buy the properties.


“He has money, on his own. He is living frugally,” the prelate said.


Vidal said Diotay had been staying at the Sto. Tomas parish for eight years and is due for a transfer.


He also said that Diotay, who is more than 70 years old, would be retiring from active priesthood soon.


The retirement age for priests is 65, but permission to retire is only given by their bishops.


Another priest, Ejares, may also be given a new parish assignment. Ejares was accused by public high school students of lascivious conduct, while hearing their confessions during a Life in the Spirit Seminar in November 2006.


Ejares recently surfaced to answer the charges against him, saying that he was just making the students feel at ease.


He has since been placed on floating status and given no assignment.


“Maybe when he would be given a new assignment (during the reshuffling of parish priests). But up to now he still has no assignment,” Vidal said.


Vidal said the suspension of Ejares’ priestly faculties was still in place.


Ejares may perform “governance and administration duties” until his floating status is lifted. He may not celebrate Mass nor hear confessions “until everything is resolved,” Vidal said.

Cardinal happy Tom and Gwen ‘silent’

By Bernadette Parco
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 03:21pm (Mla time) 07/26/2007

CEBU, Philippines—Silence is bliss.


Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal said he was happy that the word war between Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña has abated.


“You see, at least they are silent now…,” Vidal told reporters yesterday after saying Mass at the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. James the Great in the northern town of Compostela.


He said the two leaders might have listened to his advice after all.


Garcia and Osmeña have been feuding since February in what initially started as a disagreement over a failed land swap deal that escalated into a fight over territory and who has more political clout in Cebu.


Last month, the 76-year-old prelate told the two leaders to “stop, be silent for a short time and maybe cool off.”


Vidal also said that he was worried that the people’s right to receive basic services was not being met because the officials were focused on their very public feud.


Cardinal Vidal yesterday hinted that a dialog could be in the offing.


“I think they (Garcia and Osmeña) have already exhausted what they are going to say (against each other). So perhaps, after some time, we will be able to talk to them,” the prelate said.


Vidal, however, did not give details on the possible dialog.


Hopefully, he said, the end of the public quarrel as evidenced by the days of quiet on both sides would become permanent.


“Whatever work that (Garcia and Osmeña would) be (doing), they should be always at peace with one another so that they can serve us. The Lord came not to be served but to serve. See? They should also be like that,” said Vidal.


The prelate stressed he was not disappointed when Garcia and Osmeña failed to show up at the Mass for Accountability and Good Governance he officiated last July 14.


The Mass was attended among others by Representatives Raul del Mar(Cebu City north district) and Nerissa Soon-Ruiz(6th district); Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes and Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna; and Borbon Mayor Bernard Sepulveda.


“They may have their reasons,” he said, even as he noted that only a few officials took the time to attend the Mass.

Santiago de Compostela Cebu’s new pilgrim site

By Bernadette Parco
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 03:21pm (Mla time) 07/26/2007

CEBU, Philippines—Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal yesterday declared St. James the Apostle parish church in Compostela town as Cebu’s own ‘Santiago de Compostela,’ th e newest archdiocesan shrine for pilgrims to visit.


In a decree of conferment he issued on July 24, Vidal named the shrine “Santiago de Compostela,” in reference to the famous pilgrimage Cathedral in Galicia, Spain.


“They don’t have to go outside the Philippines or outside Cebu anymore because there is already a shrine here,” Vidal said.


“They (the faithful) can avail of the services (of the shrine) by going on pilgrimages.


While going on pilgrimages they have the opportunity to hear Mass and receive the sacraments and prayers in honor of the saint,” Vidal told Cebu Daily News.


Vidal said people who will visit the new shrine on specific days will be granted a “plenary indulgence,” which means, their sins will be forgiven after receiving the sacrament of penance and offering a prayers.


Pilgrims will attain this if they visit the shrine any day within July 25, 2007 and July 25, 2008.


Or any day of the year when July 25 falls on a Sunday.


He also said that the pilgrim can also partake of “spiritual benefits” if he visits the shrine any day as long as he walks in a procession at least a kilometer stretch to the shrine. If the pilgrim is sick, he may visit the shrine on a vehicle.


Vidal said that aside from the spiritual benefits, people can also take advantage of economic opportunities, like selling candles.


“There is no limit to the number of shrines (in a diocese) but not every (parish) can be a shrine,” said Vidal.


He explained that only those parishes which meet the “special requirements” can be declared an Archdiocesan shrine. One of these requirements, is the age of the Church, which should date back to “antiquity.”


Another requirement is if people usually go there to pray and if the priest is willing to look after the “spiritual” well-being of pilgrims expected to visit the shrine.


“If they have these requirements then they can apply at the Commission on Worship, which will study the application.


If they qualify, everything will be documented and they give it to me,” he said.


“Afterwards, I ask my Council of Consultors for approval,” he added.


Vidal had earlier declared other Cebu parishes as archdiocesan shrines including one in Bogo town, Punta Princesa in Cebu City, Maguikay in Mandaue City and Tuburan town.


Cebu has three national shrines; namely, the Basilica del Sto. Niño, the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City and the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Virgin of the Rule in Lapu-Lapu City.