Quest for Peace

peace.jpgQUEST FOR PEACE. US Ambassador Kristie Kenney and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad emerge from a close-door meeting in Camp Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabunsuan Tuesday at which they discussed ways to resume stalled peace talks between the secessionist group and the government. PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/EDWIN FERNANDEZ / INQUIRER MINDANAO BUREAU

Glorieta Map

glorieta.jpg

OTHER GOV’T DEALS WITH CHINA ALSO MARRED BY BAD LOANS AND CORRUPTION

Aside from the controversial US$330 million ZTE broadband deal, other Chinese loans to the Philippines are similarly marred by corruption and onerous loan agreements.

In January 2007, China agreed to fund a number of infrastructure development projects of the Arroyo administration that cost more than US$1.1 billion (P49.5 billion at P45.50:$1). Four more major infrastructure projects worth at least US$1.7 billion are under negotiation. (See Table) The loan package includes the continuation of the controversial Northrail Project.

In the loan agreement of the Northrail Project, China has the sole authority to determine the payment schedule; the right to impose immediate payments even before the project begins; and it places China’s laws as the governing laws for the agreement and that the Philippine government irrevocably and unconditionally waives its immunity from any suit or judgment arising from the contract.

The loan package also includes US$1 billion in funding for the Laiban Dam Project, which, similar to the Northrail, threatens to displace thousands of indigenous peoples and upland settlers.

According to IBON, the deals signed with China should be opposed, not only because they worsen the country’s indebtedness, but also because they perpetuate the flawed neoliberal framework of economic development that has aggravated the country’s permanent crisis of maldevelopment and widespread poverty.

Table. China-funded infrastructure development projects (in million US dollars)

Approved under the package of Jan.15, 2007 agreements

Project

Agency

Cost

Brief description

Northrail Project Phase I, Section 2

NLRC

673.67

Extension of Northrail from Malolos to Clark covering 48 km.

Main Line South Railway Project Phase 1

PNR

314.80

Rehabilitation and upgrading of the 77.4-km. section of railroad line from Calamba to Lucena City

Non-Intrusive Container Inspection System Project Phase 2

BOC

115.00

Purchase, installation, and operation of 20 mobile X-ray machines

Sub-total

1,103.47

Projects in the pipeline

Laiban Dam Project

MWSS

1,000.00

Construction of a concrete dam, intake structures, hydropower plants, & other structures

Metro Manila Skyway Stages 2 & 3

NDC

633.54

Construction of an elevated expressway to link South Luzon expressway & the North Luzon expressway

Angat Water Utilization & Aqueduct Improvement Project Phase 2

MWSS

63.58

Construction of an 11.5-km. new aqueduct to secure existing raw water supply in Metro Manila

Laoag International Airport Expansion Project

DOTC

Upgrading & modernization of the airport’s various facilities

Sub-total

1,697.12

GRAND TOTAL

2,800.59

Compiled by IBON based on information and data from the Development Information Staff, NEDA


Direct hires for overseas work should be cleared by DoLE

By Jerome Aning
Inquirer
Last updated 06:56pm (Mla time) 09/06/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign employers who want to hire Filipino workers without using the services of local recruitment agencies must obtain approval from the Department of Labor and Employment, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration governing board has ruled.

 

In a board resolution, the POEA board repealed a section of the rules covering the recruitment of land-based overseas workers, which allowed the registration with the POEA of “name hires” as an exemption from the ban on direct hiring.

 

“Name hires” refer to workers who obtain employment on their own without the participation of recruitment agencies.

 

Registration with the POEA gives overseas workers such benefits as insurance and health care, education and training, family welfare services as well as protection and assistance in their place of work.

 

The Labor Code prohibits an employer from hiring Filipino workers for overseas employment, except through the boards (the POEA) or entities authorized by the secretary of labor.

 

As an exemption, however, the POEA was allowed to process the employment contracts of overseas Filipino workers who were directly hired by members of the diplomatic corps and international organizations.

 

Foreign employers who are accredited with private recruitment agencies are not allowed to directly hire Filipino workers, according to POEA administrator Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz.

 

The new measure will cover directly hired OFWs like nurses.

 

Baldoz said the POEA would issue guidelines for the implementation of the resolution.

People Power Cardinal

sin.jpgTRIBUTE IN BRONZE: A 13.5-foot statue of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin is now the focal point of the public plaza in his native New Washington, Aklan. Standing in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Church, the bronze statue by Castrillo’s nephews will be unveiled on Aug. 31, the 79th birthday of the “People Power” cardinal.

Arroyo: Fast-track regional heart, kidney, lung centers

‘Little St. Luke’s institutes,’ she calls them

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
Last updated 04:32pm (Mla time) 08/06/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Department of Health to hasten the construction of heart, kidney, and lung centers in key cities nationwide and “to increase government equity and thereby expand coverage and expedite implementation.”

 

These centers will be built using Japanese and Philippine government funds, with the money from the Philippines to be sourced from savings, Arroyo said at the 21st anniversary of the St. Luke’s Heart Institute in Quezon City Monday.

 

Arroyo said from these centers she wanted to send a message that the “better fiscal health of the country results to health care closer to your home.”

 

At the same time, Arroyo said these centers should be like “little St. Luke’s institutes.”

 

The President’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, underwent a successful heart surgery at St. Luke’s and Arroyo has repeatedly expressed her gratitude to its doctors and staff.

 

“We want to fast track the creation of regional heart, kidney, and lung centers in key cities, especially for those patients who cannot visit or travel to Manila, not only because they can’t afford it maybe but also because their health condition, their medical condition would not allow them,” she said.

 

“For instance, patients in the provinces with a torn aorta will be more exposed to risk from the high altitude if they try to fly to Manila, therefore, we need little St. Luke’s institutes in the different main regional centers,” Arroyo added.

 

The regional heart, lung, and kidney centers will be piloted initially in the Vicente Sotto Hospital in Cebu, Davao Medical Center in Davao, Northern Mindanao Regional Center in Cagayan de Oro, and Bicol Regional Center in Legaspi, she said.

 

Arroyo said the DoH was also studying the introduction of outpatient health screening packages for cardiovascular and related diseases.

 

“The program will empower more Filipinos to consult and take their tests at world class facilities like the Heart Institute even if they don’t have to be hospitalized at the end of the test,” she said.

 

With the economy reaching a “new level of maturity and stability,” Arroyo said her administration would continue to pour in investments in health care.

 

She said that there were now about four million holders of PhilHealth cards. At least 10,000 botica ng barangay (village pharmacies) are now operational to offer half-priced medicines. She also urged Congress anew to pass the bill on cheaper medicines and more benefits for senior citizens.

Gov’t population census starts nationwide

Gov’t population census starts nationwide
By Chris Ligan
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 04:51pm (Mla time) 08/01/2007

Cebu, Philippines – Personnel from the National Statistics Office will start knocking on doors on Wednesday to collect data on the Philippine population.

 

The census aims to provide the government with information on the country’s citizenry, which would help it form long-term plans.

 

In Central Visayas, 2,679 enumerators will be fielded throughout the region’s four provinces. These enumerators will visit each household not just to determine the number of people living in it, but also collect data on each citizen’s properties and occupation.

 

The last nationwide census was conducted in 2000.

 

Lilia Tandoc, regional director of the National Statistics Office in Central Visayas (NSO-7), said the public is encouraged to cooperate with the enumerators so that correct information may be relayed to the government as a basis for future projects and programs.

 

Noel Rafols, Public Information Officer of NSO-7 said that a census is not just used for government statistics, but may also be used by businesses and industries, as well as academic and research institutions.

 

Tandoc assured that information collected from residents would not be used against them as stated under Commonwealth Act 591, which protects the respondents of a census.

 

However, those who refuse to cooperate in the census or those who knowingly provide wrong information could be fined P600 or imprisoned for not more than three months, or both.

 

Tandoc said that in Cebu Province, the population is expected to have risen from 2.38 million in 2000 to 3.95 million this year or a rise of about 1.57 million.

 

Bohol Province, Tandoc said, is projected have an increase of around 100,000 from 1.1 million in 2000 to 1.2 million this year.

 

Negros Oriental’s population will have risen from 1.13 million to 1.26 million, while Siquijor would go up from 21,150 to 89,000.

 

Regionwide, the population increase should be around 1.8 million, from the 5.7 million from 2000 to a present population of around 7.5 million.

 

Rosita Lagunda, a statistician with NSO’s central office who is in Cebu to help with the Central Visayas census, said this year’s census was originally scheduled for 2005, but was postponed due to budget constraints.

 

“Hopefully, we could have another census by 2010, depending on the budget,” Lagunda said.

 

She said 40,000 enumerators would be deployed throughout the country.

 

The 2000 census pegged the population of the Philippines at 76,504,077.

 

Lagunda said the country’s population is expected to be at least 86 million today.

 

According to the NSO officials, the government uses census information as a basis for creating programs, the creation of district, the upgrading of local government units, and for proper distribution of resources.

 

Business and industries, on the other hand, use census information to know where to establish certain kinds of enterprises, and to identify a number of potential employees in an area.

 

Academic and research institutions also use the census as a basis for studies.

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.

South quiet after Philippines suspends offensive


Agence France-Presse
Last updated 11:38am (Mla time) 07/29/2007

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — Tensions remained high in the troubled southern part of the country on Sunday, despite the military suspending operations against Muslim separatists accused of killing 14 marines.

 

A 2,000-member task force assigned to hunt down suspects linked to the killing stayed in place on Basilan island after the government halted the operations until after an investigation into the July 10 attack.

 

Fourteen marines were killed, 10 of whom were beheaded, as they searched for the kidnappers of Italian Roman Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi, since freed unharmed.

 

Colonel Ramiro Alivio, commander of a military brigade deployed in Basilan, said “intelligence operations and security patrols” were continuing but that there have been no large-scale movement of forces by either side and no armed contact has been recorded as of Sunday.

 

The 12,000-member Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been observing a three-year ceasefire while in peace talks with Manila, has said its forces killed the soldiers because they had strayed into its territory.

 

The Muslim separatists have denied mutilating the bodies and rejected a military demand to turn over those behind the attack.

 

In a statement Sunday, the MILF appealed for help to “calm down the already tense situation,” although it added that “massive deployment of troops without prior coordination is a violation of the (government-)-MILF ceasefire agreement.”

 

The military activity has forced nearly 6,000 Basilan residents to flee their homes, the civil defense office in Manila said.

 

A joint government-MILF investigating team was due in Basilan shortly to determine who was responsible for the beheadings.

 

A lower court in Basilan has meanwhile issued arrest warrants against 130 people, mostly MILF guerrillas, suspected of killing the marines.

 

The offensive against the MILF was delayed until Tuesday following a warning by Japan and Canada that they would halt their aid programs in the south if the fighting escalated.

NBI raid nets P500,000 in porn materials

NBI raid nets P500,000 in porn materials
By Tina Santos
Inquirer
Last updated 07:44pm (Mla time) 07/28/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation seized P500,000 worth of pornographic materials in a raid Friday on a printing press in Malabon City which allegedly supplied pornographic DVD labels to several markets in Metro Manila.

 

Agents of NBI National Capital Region seized three sacks of pornographic labels and five computer sets as they swooped down on JMNS Printing Corp. at 92 M.H. Del Pilar corner Roque Streets, Tugatog, Malabon City.

 

Among the video discs confiscated were pornographic Japanese animated cartoons, sex scandals, and foreign adult movies.

 

Special Investigator Rolando Bisarra said the printing press, owned by one Jose Chui, who managed to elude arrest, was the main supplier of pirated DVD vendors in Quiapo, Manila; Greenhills, San Juan; and Caloocan City.

 

The NBI said the same establishment was raided by the Philippine National Police in June.