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Saturday, April 30, 2005

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TRANSCO sells P29-million assets in Subic ecozone

The National Transmission Corp. (TRANSCO) has signed the sale of subtransmission assets worth P29.4 million to the Subic Enerzone Corp., the first sale contract TRANSCO signed with an economic zone in Subic Bay, Olongapo, The Manila Times learned Friday.

TRANSCO said this development brings the total amount of TRANSCO’s divested subtransmission assets to more than P500 million.

Alan T. Ortiz, president and chief executive of TRANSCO, said the Subic Enerzone will pay the full amount upon approval of the contract by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

Subic Enerzone, which represents the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, purchased 7.24 circuit-kilometers of TRANSCO’s subtransmission lines comprising the Olongapo-SBMA Line 1 and 2, Olongapo-SBMA Line 3 and Subic-SBMA Line 4.

The purchase includes the disconnection switches at the Kalaklan Metering Point in Olongapo City.

Ortiz expressed optimism that TRANSCO will be able to close more deals with other electric distributors in the coming months as it intensifies efforts to completely divest ownership of its subtransmission lines

Friday, April 29, 2005

Punongbayan dies in chopper crash

AT least nine people, including the former head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismo-logy (Phivolcs), were killed when their helicopter crashed on a mountain in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija yesterday morning.

Among those killed was former Phivolcs head Raymundo Punongbayan, who was Philippine National Red Cross governor at the time of his death. He was with four Phivolcs staffers, two pilots, and two crewmembers, when their UH-1H helicopter crashed on Mt.Namat in Gabaldon town, said Phivolcs director Renato Solidum.

Malacañang expressed deep sadness for the death of Punongbayan and the eight other victims of the helicopter crash. "With his tragic death we lost an exemplary public servant," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said. Bunye said Malacañang consoles with the family of Punongbayan as well as the other passengers who perished in the accident.

The other fatalities were Dr.Norman Tungol, Phivolcs chief geologist; Dr. Jessie Daligdig, a scientist from the Department of Science and Technology assigned to Phivolcs; and Phivolcs staffmembers Dingdong Javier and Orlando Abengoza. The PAF personnel who died in the crash were 1Lt.Reynaldo Gerrodias, pilot; 1Lt.Jason Salazar, co-pilot; and crewmembers Staff Sgt.Edgar Ramolete and Staff Sgt.Wilbert Tacatac. Sen. Richard Gordon was to have joined the aerial survey but missed the flight because of the hectic bicameral committee work on the pending value-added tax bill.

Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. said that the group flew to the area to check reports that a barangay in Dingalan, Aurora was being threatened by a landslide with a cluster of boulders seen "clinging dangerously on the edge of a hill, thus, posing danger to a community downhill." "They flew over the area to assess whether there is a need to relocate the residents," Cruz said in a briefing.

Initial investigation showed that the Philippine Air Force Vietnam war vintage chopper took off from Villamor Air Base at 6:58 a.m. and landed at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija at around 7:40 a.m. It left for Dingalan at 8:47 a.m. to conduct an ocular inspection of Mt. Namat.

The chopper was returning from its mission when it crashlanded at about 10:47 a.m., according to the Air Transportation Office. The Air Force has yet to determine the cause of the crash. Meanwhile the Philippine Army's Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija sent a team led by Col. Ricardo Garcia to the crash site. PAF spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said most of the victims were burned beyond recognition.

The air force had sent to Mt. Namat three UH1H helicopters with a team of rescuers and crash investigators.

Task Force Subic seizes 4 sports cars worth at least P2 M

Four sports cars worth at least R2 million were seized here yesterday by operatives of Task Force Subic headed by Gen. (ret,) Jose Calimlim.


Calimlim, together with Port of Subic Customs District Collector Marietta Zamoranos and personnel of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority-Intelligence and Investigation Office (SBMA-IIO), Law Enforcement Department (LED) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC), opened a container van which was declared as containing spare parts worth $350.

However, the shipment turned out to contain four luxury vehicles placed on top each other and covered with spare parts and automobile seats.

There were two BMW model cars, a Toyota Celica and a Mitsubishi Mirage. All four vehicles were estimated to have a total value of at least R2 million.

Calimlim said that the shipment was consigned to a a registered business locator inside Subic Freeport.

He said, however, that the locator has abandoned the shipment.

Charges of technical smuggling will be filed against the consignee of the seized shipment despite his action of abandoning the shipment.

"We are trying to show to these people that smuggling is not tolerated in Subic. So far, we have seized 30 vehicles and have filed cases against eight locators here and 22 other people," Calimlim said.

The vehicles were turned over to the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for custody. These will be included in a public auction and the sales proceeds will be turned over to the national coffers

JUSTICE FOR THE FALLEN

Privilege Speech
By Sen. Richard J. Gordon
26 April 2005



Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, it is good to see that we are all still here today, because at the rate that lives are being taken in this country, it seems that survival is just a matter of luck.

Leticia Ramos, an officer in the strategic planning and policy section of the DFA, went out of her house at 5:30 am to sweep their front yard. Three men pounced on her, tied and gagged her and proceeded inside the house where they strangled her sister DFA ssistant Secretary and a good friend of mine Alicia Ramos, right in her own bedroom.

Yesterday morning, a doctor at the prime of his life, Dr. Nicolo Echiverri, a relative of Mayor Enrico Echiverri of Caloocan City and the son-in-law of Arsenio Abalos, brother of Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos was shot dead by armed men while driving his car in Mandaluyong City. The killers reportedly walked away after peppering his car with gunfire, making sure that he would not survive, before forcibly taking a tricycle away from the scene of the
crime. Police recovered 15 shells of .45-caliber pistols at the site where Echiverri slumped after he was shot.


On September 11, 2004, Alisa Macawaris, a 26-year old young lady was on her way to work at 5:30 in the afternoon, when she was attacked by two holduppers in Quezon City who tried to grab her bag. The young lady fought back, so the two malefactors shot at her. She was taken to East Avenue Medical Center where she bravely but unsuccessfully tried to fight for her life. Witnesses say that the two men who shot her quickly escaped after the incident in a white Kolby taxi.

On March 13, 2004, Father William Tadeña, a priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and a human rights defender was shot dead by two unidentified armed men who were riding on a motorcycle at the IFI church in Brgy. Guevarra, La Paz, Tarlac. He was in a jeep with his three companions at the time of the incident. Two of them, Carlos Barsolaso and Charlie Gabriel, were wounded during the shooting. Father Tadeña was a vocal supporter of the striking workers in Hacienda Luisita.

As the early as the 1960s at the height of the dreaded Octopus Gang, a certain Judge Valdez was kneeling at the communion rail of a church in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, when an assassin approached him from behind and calmly put a bullet in his head in full view of the priest and churchgoers and then calmly walked out of the church.

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues. I rise before you today on a matter of personal and collective privilege, to deliver a wake-up call. The season for killing has gone on too long, the killings have to stop. We must take a bite out of crime.

As the incidents that I have recounted will show, murderers in this country have no respect for anything, not age, not gender, not status, and not even for men of the cloth. It is proudly enshrined in Section 5 of Article II of the Philippine Constitution in our Declaration of Principles and State Policies that, and I quote:

"Sec. 5. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy."

Our people are getting murdered on their way to work, in church, in their cars, and in their own bedrooms. Lives are taken in this country everyday, and we read about these murders in the front pages of the newspapers everyday. Our people are attacked in their own homes, in their own communities, and their murders remain unsolved.

Mr. President, when this representation delivered his maiden privilege speech on August 9, 2004, I spoke against the indiscriminate murders of journalists and judges and called for an investigation of the efforts of our national police to catch these murderers. More importantly, this representation called for an examination of the capability of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation in terms of training and equipment to effectively carry out their duty to protect the citizenry. The Committee on Public Order chaired by our colleague, Senator Villar, conducted hearings where the PNP reported their efforts. Several days later, the front pages of the papers announced that his murderers have been captured. The wife of Judge Rosales, Nena Rosales, is with us here today in the gallery, and I found out when I spoke to her last night, that only the driver of the getaway vehicle had been caught, the shooter and the mastermind remain at large.

Mr. President, this is entirely unacceptable. Totally and entirely unacceptable. Do we not live in a republic, Mr. President? Do we not live in a democracy, Mr. President? Do we not have a government, Mr. President?

Even before we can even talk about the thousand and one exposés that we freely deliver here on this floor, should we not demand that our government fulfill the most fundamental of tasks of any government - the maintenance of peace and law and order?

No one, Mr. President, is safe.

We talk about how passing the Value Added Tax would improve our standing in the eyes of the global financial community. But what would the effect be if, for once and for all, we can truly bring criminals to justice?


Elected Officials

Zamboanga Mayor Cesar Climaco was murdered by a lone gunman on Nov. 14, 1984, with a single .45 caliber shot to the back of the head, case unsolved.

In the middle of his term in Congress, Representative Espinosa was killed. His brother Tito Espinosa took the vacant seat in the 1992 elections. On February 28, 1995, a few weeks before the start of the campaign period, Tito himself was killed on his way to a celebration of the passage of an electoral reform bill, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Antique Governor Evelio Javier was gunned down on February 11, 1986. Naujan Vice-Mayor Jovy Magsino of Oriental Mindoro and her companion Lema Furto were also gunned down by motorcycle riding men on February 13, 2004, case unsolved, mastermind unknown. Tarangan Mayor Francisco Montero of Samar was shot and killed by two motorcycle riding men in Catbalogan City on April 3, 2004, as he was coming out of a hardware store case unsolved, mastermind unknown. Montero was elected vice mayor of Tarangan, but he was later appointed as mayor after the incumbent mayor, Anieto Olase, was gunned down on February 28 inside a cockpit, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Former three-time Mayor Conrado Rodrigo of San Nicolas, Pangasinan was shot dead by three motorcycle-riding men on May 27, 2004 as he walked home from a meeting, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

On March 3, 2005, a young councilor from Tarlac, Abelardo Ladera was gunned down, case unsolved, mastermind unknown; and on April 13, 2005, former Congressman Henry Lanot was shot dead while having lunch in Jade Palace Restaurant in Pasig, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judges and Lawyers

Our judges and lawyers have also been targeted by lawless elements in an attempt to undermine our judicial system.

Judge Milnar Lammawin of the Kalinga Regional Trial Court was shot at pointblank range by two gunmen riding a pick-up while he was buying bread from a bakeshop in Tabuk at about 6 p.m. August 9, 2004, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Voltaire Rosales of the Regional Trial Court of Tanauan, Batangas, was ambushed and gunned down 30 meters away from the Hall of Justice in Tanauan on June 10, 2004, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Paterno G. Tiamson, Executive Judge of RTC in Binangonan, Rizal, was stabbed to death on February 21, 2004, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Pinera A. Biden of the Municipal Circuit of Kabugao, Apayao was lso shot and killed on May 17, 2003, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Oscar Gaby M. Uson of the Tayug Regional Trial Court of Pangasinan on September 27, 2002, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Eugenio R. Valles, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 3, Nabunturan, Compostela Valley, was shot to death on April 24, 2002, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Ariston L. Rubio, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 17, Batac, Ilocos Norte, was shot to death on October 31, 2001, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Hassan T. Ibnohajil, Presiding Judge of RTC Branch 45, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, was killed on February 5, 2001, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Judge Celso F. Flores Sr. of the Borongan Regional Trial Court of Eastern Samar was also felled by gunshots on November 1, 1999, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Public Attorney's Office (PAO) lawyer, Atty. Teresita Vidamo, was killed on February 9, 2005 as she was about to board her car in front of her home Las Piñas City. She was felled by multiple gunshot wounds, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Atty. Reuel Dalguntas, and his nephew Garry Hopilena, were ambushed by motorcycle-riding gunmen at Panacan Bridge in Davao City at around 10 a.m. on February 5 while on their way to the downtown area. Dalguntas died while undergoing treatment at the San Pedro Hospital while Hopilena, who was driving the vehicle, died on the spot, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Atty. Felidito Dacut, a human rights lawyer and Bayan Muna coordinator, also succumbed to a single fatal gunshot on his upper body on March 14 of this year fired by two still unidentified perpetrators aboard a motorcycle. At the time of his death, Atty. Dacut was a pro-bono/pro-people human rights lawyer handling various human rights, agrarian and labor cases. The case is still open as investigation is underway to gather relevant data on this incident, another case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Civil Society Workers

Members of civil society have also been targeted by these murderers.

Ben Concepcion, the Secretary General of the peasant group Aguman da reng Maglalautang Capampangan and coordinator of the Anakpawis political party was assassinated in Angeles City on March 17 of this year. The gunmen stormed Concepcion's house and drilled four gunshots into his body, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Marcing Beltran, a retired Army sergeant who joined and later became the provincial vice chairman of the party-list group Anakpawis, was also assassinated on 8 December 2004. He was shot dead by unidentified armed men in front of his house, four days before he was to testify before a congressional investigation into the strike dispersal that resulted in the death of seven and injury to hundreds of others, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Edwin Bargamento, auditor of the Philippine National Federation of Sugar Workers, was attacked by motorcycle-riding gunmen on his way home in the town of Manapla on Negros island. Mr Bargamento, 46, had just taken part in a street protest by the union in support of its bid for wage increases for sugar mill and plantation workers, case unsolved, mastermind unknown.

Media Practitioners

Our media practitioners have suffered the brunt of these assassinations. So many of our journalists have been assassinated that The International Federation of Journalists described the Philippines as the second to Iraq as the most deadly place in the world for journalists after 13 were murdered in 2004. To date, 86 have been killed in the country since 1986.

The most recent incidents involved Romy Sanchez, a radio broadcaster and Bayan Ilocos Secretary General who was assassinated on March 9, of this year, case unsolved, mastermind unknown. Another journalist, Marlene Garcia Esperat was killed on March 23, 2005 in front of her children in her home in Tacurong on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, case unsolved, mastermind unknown. So far four people have been arrested in connection with the murder but as yet no one has been charged with having been the mastermind.

Gene Boyd Lumawag, photo editor for MindaNews newspaper, was shot dead on a street in downtown Jolo on 12 November, 2004. He was returning to his hotel room after taking photos of the sunset at the nearby marina pier. The gunman fired one bullet killing Lumawag, 26, before leaving the scene. Days later, a task force was created specifically for the investigation into the slaying of Lumawag. The report of one eyewitness lead investigators to file a complaint on 17 November for two suspects, brothers Omar and Iting Sailani. MindaNews colleagues say Lumawag, 26, may have been in Jolo working on a corruption story with a journalist from Mindanao Island who was not present at Lumawag's attack and was safely refuged in a church shortly after. No motive has been established behind the killing of Lumawag though the Sailani brothers are reportedly on the most wanted list of Abu Sayyaf. Since the task force filed the complaint, no formal charges have been brought against Lumawag's suspected killers.

Mr. President, elected politicians represent the will of the people to choose their leaders. Journalists represent the freedom of our people to speak the truth. Judges represent our belief in the rule of law. Government officials represent the hope of our people in a better society. Religious leaders represent our belief that within all of us exists the spark of the divine. Students represent the
hope of their parents and future generations. And activists and opposition leaders represent the freedom to embrace different opinions from the powers that be. All these symbolize the fundamental values of our nation. Yet if even the leaders of our country, the symbols of our democracy, are freely shot and killed,
what nation do we truly have?

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, I speak the names of the fallen, so that their names may be recorded and remembered within the halls of the Senate, that they may be remembered as people with families, doing their jobs, serving their country, instead of statistics to be resigned to the dustbin of history.

They are not faceless people, their families left behind grieve. They are not statistics. They are people, like you and I, with families, friends, memories, loves, passions, faith and hopes. In their deaths, we as a people die as well.

Our nation must be filled with rage at these murders but instead we suffer from a systemic case of neuristhinia, a neurosis that is identified with extreme lassitude and the inability to do anything but the most trivial things. It is about time for us to reflect on the implications of our apathy and helplessness in the face of these wanton murders on our character as a nation, and its consequences for our people, especially our children.

First, our citizens have become inured to crime. To be newsworthy, the crime must happen to a prominent figure. Yet every single day, there are crimes committed everyday against ordinary citizens that never quite make it to the news, because the commission of a crime is no longer newsworthy. Everyday cellular phones are stolen, bags and jewelry snatched, women are raped and ordinary people are murdered, and these crimes are treated as ordinary events that are a given in everyday life.

Second, unsolved crimes will foster a culture of vigilantism that give rise to vendettas and killer squads, who take the law into their own hands, because they believe that the law cannot bring them justice. We as a people came together in a social contract, giving up to the government our natural right to defend ourselves, in the expectation that government will protect us. That social contract is in tatters Mr. President. And we have none to blame but ourselves if
our people increasingly take justice into their own hands, if we remain impassive and try to divert attention to other things so as not to face reality. There was the case of Sonny Parsons in Marikina. His home was attacked by robbers twice, and on their second attack, because the police were unable to catch the first batch of robbers who invaded his home, he took his gun and came after the second batch of robbers, and had a shoot-out with them in the
streets. We cannot simply ban the gun. If people feel that the law cannot protect them, they will pack one and use it to protect themselves. What about going to the root of the problem? What about catching these criminals? What about running after the masterminds instead of the little fish?


Third, unsolved crimes make us cower in fear, and make the criminals invincible. Though our law enforcement agencies continuously try to apprehend these criminals, there is little public knowledge of their efforts, and even of their successes. As such, there is no public retribution against these criminals. Our people are bombarded every day with news of murders of local officials, judges, lawyers, media practitioners, civil society workers, policemen and ordinary citizens, but they have no information about what is being done to put a stop to it. When Ninoy Aquino was shot at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, his death inspired a revolution. But almost two decades after his death, despite the fact that his wife became president, his brother and sister were senators, and yet the crime remains unsolved. The assassins got away with killing Ninoy Aquino, no wonder they kill Juan and Juana de la Cruz everyday.

The last and worst consequence of these wanton crimes is that it is shaping a mindset for a generation of Filipinos where murder is a normal, everyday occurrence. Our children see murder in the news everyday, depicted as just another event with about as much significance as a press conference.

Urie Bronfenbrenner, one of the foremost theorists on human development proposed the Ecological System Theory to explain the development of children which focuses primarily on the social contexts in which children live and the people who influence their development. Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Theory consists of five environmental systems that range from close interpersonal interactions to broad-based influences of culture. Bronfenbrenner calls the five systems the microsystem, mesosytem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. The most encompassing of these systems is the chronosystem, which consists of the socio-historical conditions of a child's development. If we take a long, hard look at the socio-historical conditions to which our children are exposed today, what they see are crimes; crimes that go unpunished. If we are to raise a generation of law-abiding citizens, we must create an environment where it is absolutely clear that there is no room for lawlessness in our society. Otherwise, we will produce a generation of Filipinos who believe that the law is negotiable, or worse negligible.



Taking a Bite Out of Crime

It is easy enough to blame law enforcement agencies for their inability to catch lawbreakers, but the real responsibility to keep our nation and our communities safe, lie with all of us. Taking a bite out of crime will require every Filipino to wake-up from the slumber of helplessness and reclaim his or her community from criminals. Our national apathy has empowered criminals, and made sitting ducks of us all.

If we are to reclaim our nation from lawlessness, if we are to bring back respect for the law, our government must show political will, our law enforcers must exhibit dogged determination, and our people must become involved in combating the lawless elements in our country.

Paraphrasing a German cleric, "When Hitler took the Christians, I didn't complain, when Hitler took the Jews, I didn't complain, when Hitler knocked on my door, I could no longer complain."

Stopping crime must begin with the citizens. Communities must organize neighborhood watches, to enable every citizen to become a part of the conscious fight against crime. Let us make our people responsible for their own communities. As a democracy, when cases go to court, judges need evidence to convict these criminals. If we are to put these criminals away, let us find in ourselves the courage to stand up and testify when we witness crime, because we could be the next victims and the Senate must make the laws to make this happen.

Let the Senate call a summit against crime to indicate that it is a priority concern for us, and formulate policies that can be applied throughout the country by harnessing the expertise of people within and outside of our country, and their experience in the battle against crime.

Let us institutionalize the color-coding of jeeps and taxis for easier monitoring to ensure that our public transportation system is safe for our people and will not be used in the commission of crimes, like carnapped taxis that are used to hold-up passengers or as get away vehicles. We implemented this successfully in Olongapo. Criminals no longer use it because they can easily get the tricycles and jeeps

Let us implement the National ID Card System to facilitate the identification and apprehension of lawless elements in the country.

Let us take our law enforcement agencies to task, and demand results. Leticia Ramos was able to get away from her home to report the attack to the precinct, but by the time police arrived, it was too late. Crimes happen everyday within meters of police precincts. There are no deadlines for solving crimes. Let us re-examine the performance of our law enforcement agencies and our systems for fighting crime and fix whatever is wrong with it, instead of merely resigning ourselves to the fact that it doesn't work.

Finally, let us aim to provide a speedy administration of justice to assure our people that the law is able to protect them and to show criminals that the law will quickly subdue them. We have had a speedy trial law for seven years, and on paper are supposed to have had a continuous trial system for fifteen. Yet the lawyers among us know fully well that in reality we can examine a witness today, and opposing counsel will only conduct his cross-examination in a month
or two. Examining one witness alone will take at least six months. How much more if the case is complicated, and numerous pieces of evidence are involved? Our courts are barely able to make a dent into their backlog - in 2003, at the start of the year, there were 816,684 cases in inventory. At year's end, there were 811,274 cases left.


And yet if we truly wanted justice, if we truly demanded justice, trials can be quick, and the sword of justice can fall swiftly. During the last IPU Assembly here in Manila, a Belgian delegate, Mr. George Brion, was held-up by a tricycle driver named Victorio Mallari. Mr. Brion rode the tricycle to visit Baclaran Church. Upon receiving the report about this crime, which could have tarnished the reputation of the country among the IPU delegates, had it gone unsolved, this representation immediately acted to ensure that the perpetrator would be caught. Through the efforts of the Pasay Police, Mallari was caught on April 6, within 24 hours of the crime, which was committed on April 5. A case was filed against him the following day, and he was convicted by April 8 in the court room of Judge Pedro B. Corales of Pasay, just three days after his crime. In fact, Mr. Brion was able to testify and identify Mr. Mallari as the man who held him up. I strongly believe that the knowledge that his attacker was put to justice even before he left the country has made a strong positive impression on this Belgian delegate about the efficiency of our justice system to counteract whatever apprehensions he has after his negative experience.

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues, today I call for justice for the fallen. Let us not allow the deaths of our fallen countrymen; legislators, judges, civil society workers, media practitioners and ordinary citizens to be for naught. Let us foster and nurture a deep and sustained sense of outrage against those who would spit at the face of the law. Let us honor our fallen countrymen by taking active steps to apprehend the perpetrators of these crimes, if not prevent the crimes altogether. I have already made this appeal once before this august house, but the continued spate of killings reflects the need to reiterate that appeal.

I was reading the editorial in the Inquirer this morning, and it talked about Don Quixote. On the surface, one might call Don Quixote crazy indeed, in fact his name has been used as an adjective to mean lofty and impractical. To a nation inured to crime, the idea of putting a stop to it, might seem "Quixotic", but think, long hard, Mr. President, worthy colleagues, just how sane is it to simply resign ourselves to the idea that crime is inevitable? What kind of nation have we become that we already find the idea of protecting our people from criminals, "Quixotic"?

This is the Senate, my dear friends, the forum in which we create laws to establish order in our nation, to provide for the needs of our people; jobs, schools for our children, hospitals, to uphold their right to life, liberty and property. We argue about taxes, we rage against corruption, we debate passionately on the merits of the dates for elections. Let us not be silent about murder, because as we can see, silence can be deadly for our people.

We may be a poor country, but the worse kind of poverty is the poverty of the spirit, and the day that we lose the spirit to rage against those who would take the very lives of our people, is the day that we fail our people.

Thank you, Mr. President.




"What this country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men."
Senator Richard Gordon

Zambales police nab two RHB members

By Malou Dungog, MT Central Luzon Bureau

SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: The police arrested two suspected members of the Rebolusyu­naryong Hukbong Bayan during a pursuit operation at Barangay Tubo-tubo Sur here early Wednesday morning.

Sr. Supt. Edgardo Ladao, Zambales provincial police chief, said the policemen led by Chief Inspector Dario Menor, head of the 314th Provincial Mobile Group, identified the suspects as Chiqui Ann Pangan, alias “Rosen,” and Richie Corpuz, alias “Butch.” They were arrested at a house owned by a certain Joel Merced, alias “Jojo,” and Fabien Merced.

Ladao said some townsfolk saw a female carrying weapons at about 3 a.m. and reported the incident to the police.

The policemen pursued Pangan who tried to elude arrest. Pangan proceeded to the house of Merced leading the police to her other companion. Recovered from the suspects were one .45-caliber pistol with 3 magazines and 14 live ammunitions, a 9mm pistol with 3 magazines and 34 live ammunitions, a laptop, subversive documents and other personal belongings

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pagtatalaga ng Simbahan ng Parokya ni San Columban

"Ang pagtatayo ng gusaling-dalanginan ay larawan ng pagbubuo ng pamayanang sumasampalataya kay Kristo. Bago magkatipon ang mga tao, sila ay katulad ng mga kahoy at bato na galing sa iba't ibang lugar. Kung paano ang mga tao ay inihahanda sa Binyag ng Guro ng Pananampalataya, ang mga kahoy at bato ay pinuputol at hinuhubog ng mga karpintero at mason. Hindi mabubuo ang gusali kung hindi pagsasamahin ang mga kahoy at bato sa isang plano. Gayundin naman, hindi mabubuo ang Simbahan kung hindi magkakaisa sa pananampalataya at pag-ibig and mga bininyagan." - San Agustin

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THE RISEN CHRIST AND HIS GIFT OF THE EUCHARIST

This design scheme is inspired by the year long celebration of the Eucharistic year - a milestone in the life of the community of St. Columban Parish. The desire to give new form and "face" to their church structure is a movement towards the deepening of their faith in the Triune god, and intensification of their liturgical life.

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Most Rev. Florentino G. Labarias, the Bishop of Iba, Zambales was the celebrant during the Dedication and Blessing of the St. Columban Church.

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Diocesan Clergy AWREZ and the people of God joined the Eucharistic Celebration.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Official says ‘harassed’ Taiwan Traders pulling out Investments


IBA, Zambales- An aeronautical engineer who is now a provincial board member said that the province had lost foreign investments when two Taiwanese nationals decide to withdraw all their investments from Zambales.

This came after the Taiwanese investors where accused of culturing the Pacific White Shrimp which is technically known as P. Vannemie.

Samuel Ablola, a board member of this province, said the Taiwanese investors were accused of culturing the pacific white shrimps from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

He related that in the afternoon of last March 17, he received a phone call from a Taiwanese lady, requesting his help because her husband has been arrested by a raiding team in barangay Dirita, this town. She told him the men who arrested her husband did not show any warrant of arrest and that he was forcibly brought to a fishpond in barangay San Agustin, this town, and some seven kilometers from where he picked up.

Ablola said he went to where the raiding team brought the Taiwanese and white there, he asked if the raiding team has a warrant of arrest or search warrantor any court order, but no one of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents answered. They could also not produce any document that would show that the raid is legal, he said.

The NBI agents only told him that the two were engaged in illegal activities but did not say what the illegal activities.

He said that the raiding team forcibly took the two Taiwanese and brought them to Manila and detained them for almost two days. They were freed only after the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office interceded.

“Being a public official, I inquired about the legality of the operation and even asked them if they have informed the local officials of their mission in the province,” he said.
Ablola belied claims he is the protector of the illegal activities, saying he merely inquired about the legality of the operation. He said he is also a government official who is duty bound to respect the rule of law. I have never done any illegal activity,” Ablola said. (Jerry T. Uy)

Lapu-Lapu statue unveiled today


Senator Richard Gordon and officials of the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Korean Embassy will unveil at 7:30 a.m. the monument of Lapu-Lapu, the Filipino chieftain who scored the first victory in Asia against foreign colonizers 484 years ago today.

The imposing statue stands at the Agrifina Circle near Taft and Burgos Avenues between the old Department of Finance building and the DoT building in Manila. It is in the direct line of perspective from the statue of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park, also in Manila.

Gordon, former DoT secretary, will deliver the keynote address, while DoT Undersecretary Oscar P. Palabyab will give the welcome address and a briefing on the project.

Minister Shin Gil-Soe, consul general of the Korean Embassy, will deliver a message and response. The Korean Freedom League and the Poongsan Microtech Philippines Inc. donated the statue to the Filipino people through the efforts of then Tourism Secretary Gordon.

Gordon said the donation by the Korean people of the Lapu-Lapu statue can be symbolically compared to the donation of the Statue of Liberty in New York City to the United States by the people of France.

As chieftain of the island of Mactan off Cebu in the Visayas, Lapu-Lapu led Filipino warriors in the famous Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521 that led to the death of the Spanish explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, who discovered the Philippines.

PINADALING PAGPAPATITULO: Tuloy-Tuloy Na!

Tuloy-tuloy ang pag-usad ng programang pinasimulan ni Mayor Bong Gondon ukol sa malawakang pagpapatitulo ng mga lupa dito sa lungsod ng Olongapo sa pagdating ng magandang balita mula sa Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR).

Ayon kay Jimmy Mendoza, head ng task force on Mass land Titling, nakakuha na ng pormal na pagsang-ayon mula kay Sec Mike Defensor ng DENR ukol sa bagong pagpoproseso ng mga aplikason sa pagpapatitolo. Maari na ring magpasukat at mag-pasurvey na mga lupa at otorisado na rin ang Regional Office ng DENR na mag-apruba ng mga ito.

Maalala na inilungsad ang programang Mass Land Titling ng pamahalaang Olongapo sa huling bahagi ng nakalipas na taon. Samantalang tuloy-tuloy ang pagpo-proseso ng mga Lot Certificates, ipinahinto naman ng DENR ang pagsasagawa ng mga lot surveys at inspections. Kung kayat ilang panahon ring naantala ang programa.

Makaraang lumiham ang ating Punong Lungsod Bong Gordon kay Sec. Defensor, sa wakas ay tumugon ito upang magkaroon ng klaripikasyon na ang mga lupa sa Olongapo ay maaari ng iproseso upang ipatitulo. Dagdag pa rito, pumayag ito sa kahilingan ng punong lungsod na gawing abot-kaya ang pagpapatitulo sa pamamagitan ng exemption sa DENR Administrative Order No.20 na siyang nagpapataas ng appraisal at bayarin sa pagsasaayos ng mga titulo.

Sa pagkakaroon ng ganitong mga proseso hinihikayat ang lahat ng mamamayan na samantalahin ang pagkakataon ito upang ayusin ang titulo ng kanilang mga lupa dahil maaaring sa hinaharap ay bumalik ang dating mataas na halaga ng pagpapatitulo.

Mahalaga ang titulo upang magkaroon ng absolutong katibayan ng pag-mamay-ari ng lupa, dagdag pa na mapatataas nito ang halaga ng inyong lupa.

GMA signs EO imposing additional P.5-M specific duty on used imported cars


By Aurea Calica


As the Court of Appeals lifted the ban on the importation of used vehicles, President Arroyo has issued an executive order imposing an additional P500,000 specific duty on second-hand cars citing the need to mitigate the impact of such trading on air quality and road safety.

Executive Order No. 418, signed by the President on April 4 or a few days before Congress resumed session on April 11, modifies the tariff nomenclature and rates of import duty on used motor vehicles under Section 104 of the Tariff and Customs Code of 1978.

"It is the policy of the state to maintain a balance between development and environmental protection and hence between motorization and air quality management (and) to protect the public against unreasonable risks to injury associated with consumer products," the EO read.

According to the EO, Article II:1 (b) of the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs an Trade allows the unilateral imposition of other duties and charges on tariff allows the unilateral not previously the subject of concession and that motor vehicles are not covered by Philippine Schedule of Concessions and, therefore, do not have tariff bindings.

Based on the EO, Section 401 of the Tariff and Customs Code of 1978 as amended empowers the President to increase, reduce or remove existing rates of import duty as well as to modify the form of duty and the tariff nomenclature under Section 104 of the Code.

Except for trucks, buses and special purpose vehicles, other second-hand cars will be subject to additional specific duty of P500,000 in addition to the regular rates of import dues under the Tariff and Customs Code of 1978.

Under the EO, the following motor vehicles shall be considered used and shall be subject to the duties: Those that have been sold, registered and operated in the roads/highways of any foreign state or country; all imported vehicles with a mileage of more than 200 kilometers regardless of year model.

Upon the effectively of the EO, the articles specifically listed and which are entered and withdrawn from warehouses in the Philippines, shall be levied the rates of import and specific duties prescribed, the EO read.

The surcharge will be on top of existing taxes, such as the 30 percent most favored nation rate, the excise tax of two to 60 percent depending on the sticker price and the 10-percent value added tax imposed on the landed cost.

Besides environmental concerns, imported used vehicles dampen sales of local assemblers. An earlier study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed that local assemblers lost 20,000 units in potential sales due to the surge in used imports.

Imports of used cars are protesting the issuance of this EO saying this is prejudicial to their business.

Aside from EO 418, the President also signed on April 4, EO No. 419 temporarily increasing the rates of import duty of high engine displacement completely built up vehicles under Section 104 of the Tariff and Customs Cofe of 1978.

In February, the CA declared unconstitutional and illegal an executive order of the President banning the importation and entry of used motor vehicles in the country, including freeports.

In a 31-page decision penned by Justice Perlita Tria Tirona, the CA’s fourth division denied the government’s petition seeking to overturn a ruling of Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 72 Judge Eiodoro Ubiadas allowing the importation of used motor vehicles.

The CA said the March 10, 2004 decision of Biadas would stand since there was no law granting the President the authority to prohibit such trade.

"We rule that Executive Order No. 156 has no constitutional and statutory basis and is, therefore, invalid," the CA said.

The President, through then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, issued the EO banning the importation of used motor vehicles on Dec. 12, 2002 to spur the growth of the local motor vehicle industry and improve the economy as a whole.

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Contraband seized

The police intercepted on Monday a van carrying an undetermined amount of imported goods allegedly brought from a duty-free shop at the Clark Special Economic Zone, according to the Angeles City police.

Chief Insp. Lorenzo Detran, chief of the Angeles City Police Station 4, said the Isuzu Forward van with plate number XJS 325 was driven by Alvin Guzman Valdez, 31, of 3794 Dapdap Street, Maria Consolacion Subdivision Phase 2 in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Policemen intercepted the van at around 1 p.m. at the corner of Teodoro Street and Manuel Roxas (Mitchell) Highway, a few meters away from the Clark zone.

Based on the documents seized from the suspect, the truck is owned by Subic Acropolis, Inc. located at 711 Waterfront Road, and the Subic Freeport.

Mary Pimentel, Liberty Duty-Free Store supervisor, told the police that the cargo was cleared and appropriate taxes and duties had already been paid but the suspect failed to show documents during police investigation.

Before Pimentel arrived at the police station, investigators learned from Valdez that the imported goods were loaded into the van at the Liberty Duty-Free shop.

SPO4 Rodrigo Rodriguez, Station 4 intelligence officer, quickly brought the van to Compac 42 on MacArthur Highway for verification.

Valdez said the imported goods and furniture, which included beds and other pieces, were intended for delivery to Home Essentials store on the Olongapo-Gapan Highway in the City of San Fernando.

Antonio R. Ng, Clark Development Corp. president and chief executive officer, earlier said that local businessmen should be required to show permits-to-bring out before goods are brought outside the Clark zone.

In an earlier dialogue, Ng said various types of imported goods from the Clark zone freely move out and are being sold in supermarkets and retail stores in the city and other towns and municipalities in Luzon

Blasting alarms SBMA locator

SUBIC Bay Freeport – The Coastal Petroleum Inc. has Expressed alarm over the Rampant dynamite blasting at the Maritan Hill for the Subic port development Project.

According to Engr. Val Palad, of the Subic development project, there is no need to secure a permit for the trial dynamite blasting.

But if there is a complaint against the blasting, the consultant should recommend Other courses of action, he said Before blast testing, Consolidated Explosive Group Corp. said it notified the Coastal management.

Conex violated an Environment and Compliance Certificate provision-“During operation, the Maritan Hill should install noise barriers to minimize excessive noise.

Johnny R. Reblando

Thursday, April 21, 2005

KNIGHTSBRIDGE Chairman visited Olongapo

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Sir Edward Artis, Chairman of Knightsbridge International visited the city this afternoon and paid a visit to the officials of Olongapo City, in the same occasion, the city presented a resolution adopting Artis a "Son of Olongapo City"

Artis was honored with such award because of his philanthropic work which benefited the City of Olongapo. Among the donations given by Artis are numerous hospital (both medical and dental) equipments, medicines and arranged free medical treatment (major cases) on children.

Calimlim acts vs P1-B Tax scam in Subic

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT- In an effort to curb oil smuggling in the country, Gen. Jose Calimlim, Chief of the Anti-Smuggling Task Force of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Subic Customs Collector Marietta Zamoranos recently joined hands with the Philippine Coastal Corp. in auditing imported oil here.

Customs insiders said oil smuggling there hits P1 billion a year excise taxes. “Whatever they do, they can’t hide documents that tell the truth on oil smuggling,” a high placed source Kabayan said. The source added that the efforts of Calimlim and Zamoranos could only temporarily seal off the main valve of the pumping station of the Subic Bay Distribution Inc. (SBDI) and Subic Bay Fuel Co. Inc. (SBFCI).

In their move, Calimlim and Zamoranos were assisted by Atty. Joy Alvarado, chief of staff of SBMA administrator Alfredo C. Antonio. Witnessing the sealing off was senior accounting and finance controller Jin Sukanya Tindanuwat of PTT Coastal petroleum, one of the biggest companies in Thailand and part owner of the SBFCI, which supplies the bulk of the Subic Bay Freeport’s fuel requirements.

“The inventory and audit will result in a database which will ensure that the government will be collecting the proper taxes,” Calimlim said during the operation.

He said that Task Force Subic received reports of alleged technical smuggling of fuel and other oil products, particularly through the misdeclaration of high- octane gasoline as diesel, or aviation gas as plain petroleum, to avoid paying higher taxes on premium fuels.

He added that the seals would only be removed during inventory of fuel stocks or when a transaction would occur but would be put in place again after the delivery through the pipeline.

Zamoranos said that Customs collection from business in the Freeport zone averages P300 million yearly “ and almost 50 percent, usually never less than P100 million, comes from taxes and duties on petroleum products.” She added that the documentation on oil shipments and deliveries before was haphazard or inaccurate and there was no check-and-balance. Sukanya said PTT has welcomed the move, stating that a regular inventory and audit would protect the reputation of the firm. She further said that as the biggest company in Thailand, PTT wants to protect its name.

The system was approved by the agencies formed by Task Force Subic and PTT-SBDI-SBFCI, to enhance the monitoring of fuel distribution through the pipeline, and make sure that the fuel deliveries would be taxed accordingly.

The BOC speculated that the government would earn around P100 million to P300 million per month on tax charges on the petroleum products.

The Subic-Clark Pipeline has a capacity of 22,000 barrels, with a power to pump 800 barrels an hour.

Zambales exec made his own budget woes

By Malou Dungog, MT Central Luzon Bureau

IBA, Zambales: Contrary to his claim that he was being persecuted by provincial government officials, Vice Governor Ramon Lacbain of this province has no budget for his office simply because he failed to submit a budget proposal to the provincial council.

Gov. Vicente Magsaysay said Lacbain did not submit a budget proposal for his office when the budget of the province for the year 2005 was being deliberated upon although he was the presiding officer of the Sanggunian Panlalawigan.

Instead of submitting his budget proposal, Magsaysay said Lacbain opted to solicit funds from the private sector and national government agencies to finance his projects in the province.

“Lacbain appears to want us to give him a budget without the approval of Sangguniang Panla­lawigan, but that is forbidden. If I still need to seek the approval of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan even as governor, what more the vice governor?” Magsaysay said.

Upon unanimous accord, the Sangguniang Panglalawigan directed Lacbain to submit his operational budget proposal for 2005 for review, deliberation and approval by the members of the provincial board. However, the vice governor has not complied with the directive.

Resolution 2005-76 of the Sangguniang Panglalawigan, which the council passed during its regular session on March 14, directed Lacbain to submit his budget proposal for a supplemental budget

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

P60M worth of smuggled phone cards seized

The anti-smuggling task force here Tuesday seized 200,000 pieces of Smart Buddy prepaid call and text cards worth P60 million.

The items, which were misdeclared as raw polyvinyl chloride, a chemical used in making tiles and plastics, were contained in 26 boxes. The items were flown in from Hong Kong by shipper Evannet Ltd. through international courier Federal Express (FedEx) last week.

Retired Gen. Jose Calimlim, task force chief, said the smuggled shipment was discovered after Bureau of Customs examiner Rico Reyes Jr. noticed a discrepancy in the declaration last week.

Marietta Zamoranos, Subic customs collector, immediately issued a warrant of seizure and detention of the items. She identified the consignee as Lora-Multi Resources, a trading company based in Makati City.

The boxes were declared to contain 470 kilograms of raw polyvinyl chloride but were found out to have prepaid cards costing P300 each.

"The declared customs value of the polyvinyl chloride was US$4,573 or about P260,282. This means the importer would have been assessed only P70,380 in customs duties and taxes," Calimlim said.

He said his team and representatives of Smart Communications Inc. would verify the authenticity of the cards.

Calimlim cited the cooperation shown by officials of FedEx to foil several smuggling attempts here.

In January, the task force also confiscated assorted pieces of jewelry, worth P15 million, which a suspected smuggling syndicate tried to bring into the country from Hong Kong through FedEx.

The pieces of jewelry, which weighed 22 kgs, were misdeclared as computer parts and discovered while task force officials conducted a random check of FedEx shipments.

Monday, April 18, 2005

With zero budget, Zambales vice gov appeals for funds

The nine-month-old rift between Zambales Gov. Vicente Magsaysay and Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain is now apparently taking its toll on their constituents.

With zero budget allocation this year for his office, Lacbain appealed yesterday to the private sector and the national government to help him raise funds to enable him to continue supporting indigent scholars and his other projects.

Lacbain said he helped set up the Zambales War Against Poverty Foundation Inc. (ZWAP) to raise funds for short-term vocational and technical courses for indigents at the Paaralang Tersaryo ng Pilipinas in San Marcelino town.

The executive committee of the League of Vice Governors of the Philippines (LVGP), headed by Bohol Vice Gov. Julius Caesar Herrera, earlier asked President Arroyo to investigate the allegedly anomalous budget allocations of the Zambales provincial government this year.

The league also brought the issue to the attention of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP). There has been no action on its appeals though.

"Without funding for my office, my only recourse is to raise funds through the foundation so I can still perform my public service mandate," Lacbain said.

"Through the foundation, I can still push through not only with my scholarship plans for indigents, but also with my dental-medical missions, livelihood trainings and other programs to help the poor," he added.

Lacbain accused Magsaysay of unduly intervening in the provincial budget allocations for 2005, totally scrapping the budget for the vice governor’s office and transferring a large chunk earmarked for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to the governor’s office.

Last year, the office of the vice governor, who presides over the provincial board, had a budget of P3.3 million.

Lacbain said his rift with Magsaysay started last year when they differed on whom to support as the next chairman of the Subic Bay Development Authority (BCDA) since then chairman Felicito Payumo’s term was set to expire.

He said Magsaysay also resented his opposition to plans to reorganize the provincial government by laying off 165 casual employees.

Lacbain said the lack of budget has "crippled" his office, adding that 59 percent or about P17 million of the provincial board’s usual budget allocation is now under the control of Magsaysay whose office now has about P95 million.

"Even the usual allocation of P1.52 million for the travel and training expenses of the provincial board members is now under the governor’s office so Magsaysay now signs the vouchers and checks every time they travel, contrary to the provisions of the Local Government Code which assigns such authority to the vice governor as the board’s presiding officer," he said.

"Despite the lack of funds for my office, I am committed to mobilize funds from the national government and the private sector through the ZWAP Foundation. I am appealing to successful and financially capable Zambaleños to help me," he said.

Lacbain has filed criminal and administrative charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against provincial board secretary Kathyrine Fan whom he accused of anomalously obeying Magsaysay’s order to sidestep him in preparing the 2005 budget which the board approved in his absence last Sept. 20.

New landing system in Subic

The Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) will expect a boost in the influx of flights both local and foreign following the installation of a new Instrument Landing System (ILS) to enhance the standards of the air navigation facility here and ensure aircraft and passenger safety. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Alfredo Antonio said that the Subic airport is now more "aircraft-friendly" since a new ILS system was installed at Runway 25 and after the existing ILS at Runway 07 was repositioned. The upgrade was made possible under a facilities lease operating agreement between the SBMA and Federal Express (FedEx), the international cargo giant that has made Subic its hub for international courier service operations. "Subic now has a friendlier sky today, that’s the net effect of the recent upgrade. And we’re banking on this to bring us more business because we know that passengers, as well as airline companies, put a premium on their safety," Antonio said.
According to SBIA manager Marcelo Santos, the new system has been "flight checked" by the Air Transportation Office ATO and will be fully operational as soon as the ATO certification had been released. Santos also clarified that the new ILS installed in Subic is a global air navigation electronic facility, a type designed for precision approach and landing. Installed by Airways New Zealand, which provides air control services worldwide, the new ILS is said to provide "the highest level of system integrity and availability." Santos added that airlines flight crews are very familiar with and highly skilled in flying ILS approaches without additional special training or endorsements because airline fleets are universally fitted with standard ILS equipment

Sunday, April 17, 2005

YMCA OFFICERS INDUCTED

Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) of Olongapo City had their 31st Induction and Installation of Officers and new members this afternoon at YMCA Youth Development Center Family Pavillon.

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Dr. Emmanuel Cleto, Hon. Ramon Lacbain II, Dr. Naomie Arzadon and Dr. Celia Darum serves as inducting officers.

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2005 Officers were led by President German Ebue and Vice President Alberto Baviera
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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Senator Opposes VAT On Domestic Airlines

Senator Gordon deplored the provision in the Senate’s version of the expanded value-added tax measure to subject domestic airlines to 10% VAT in lieu of the two percent franchise tax of which they are presently charged because it would hamper the flourishing local tourism industry.

“VAT on domestic airlines will hurt the tourism industry,” pronounced Gordon as he explained that the taxes will be handed over to the tourists whom the country is trying to attract. He emphasized that the government has an ongoing campaign to promote domestic tourism because of its being one of the fastest and biggest revenue generator for the country.

Gordon said he would move for reconsideration of the decision to include the phrase “common carriers by air and sea relative to their transport of passengers, goods or cargoes from one airport or place in the Philippines to another airport or place in the Philippines” within the services to be assessed a value added tax under the Senate Bill.

The former Tourism Secretary said that the resulting increase in domestic air and shipping fares brought about by the imposition of the VAT would be a deterrent to potential tourists. This increase in domestic fares, coupled with the influx of budget airlines peddling bargain basement rates for international flights, could derail the slow but steady emergence of our fledgling local airline industry.

“Malaysia and Singapore offer budget tour packages which are fast becoming a trend because of their amazingly low rates which are cheaper than some of our domestic tour packages. As a result, local tourists would rather go to our neighboring countries than in Davao or Cebu. Subjecting domestic airlines to VAT will crumble our tourism industry,” said Gordon.

According to Gordon, schemes adopted by local governments to promote domestic tourism have been reaping success. He cited the Donsol case as an example where the local poverty incidence dramatically raised from 76% to 17% in just a little more than two years and which accelerated from being a fifth into a fourth class municipality. Gordon attributed these developments from the booming tourism industry of the small coastal town which is the home of the world famous whale sharks, locally known as butanding. He said commercial and chartered planes to and from Donsol has made the large influx of tourists in the town possible.

“A thriving tourism industry equates to an increase in the demands for services and products which translate to more job opportunities and more revenue for the government. We should extend support to these tourism-related industries,” asserted Gordon.

Furthermore, the senator added that the increased fares resulting from the imposition of VAT to this sector would also increase commercial costs for the transport of goods throughout the country.

“We intend to raise more revenue for the government but we should seek for measures that will inflict lesser pain for the public. While some industries should be subjected for VAT, we should also look into those which should be spared,” Gordon said.

BCL Regional Assembly

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The Barangay Councilors League of the Philippines Region III held a four-day Regional Assembly from April 12 to 14, 2005 at Subic Bay International Hotel, Subic Bay. Delegates from Olongapo City was led by their president, Brgy Councilor Cesar Santiago of Gordon Heights.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Used car importers oppose P500,000 specific tax


By Marianne V. Go
The Philippine Star 04/15/2005

Subic Freeport investors engaged in the importation of second-hand vehicles cried foul yesterday and called unfair Malacañang’s issuance of an Executive Order (EO) imposing a P500,000 specific duty on imported second-hand vehicles.

Motor Vehicle Importers Association (MVIA) president Peter Geroue said the imposition of "unjustifiable" high taxes on imported used vehicles provides undue protection to local automotive assemblers.

Geroue added that the new EO is a violation of the Customs Tariff and Code.

Under the Customs and Tariff Code, Geroue argued, higher taxes are imposed on brand new automobiles and not on second hand vehicles.

"This is certainly unfair and biased, favoring car assemblers who pay lower taxes than us," Geroue said.

Geroue pointed out that it is "improbable and irrational" for the government to impose much higher taxes on used vehicles, while accepting low tax assessment for brand new vehicles.

The group is questioning the validity of the EO citing the adverse effects to the automotive rebuilding industry that employs 6,000 direct-hire workers and contributing almost a billion peso annually to government from customs duties and taxes.

"We were falsely tagged as smugglers, but in reality the government is earning much of its revenues from the industry which has been gaining popular public support particularly from those who could not afford to buy brand new vehicles," Geroue said.

Geroue added that the EO violates substantive legal due process because of the recent Court of Appeals decision on the petition filed by MVIA which gave favorable interpretation on the existence of the second-hand vehicle trading inside the Freeport zone.

Geroue cited Republic Act 7227 or the Bases Conversion law which states that, "the Subic Special Economic Zone shall be operated and managed as a separate customs territory ensuring free flow or movement of goods and capital within, into and exported out of the zone."

Geroue insisted that used vehicles are not contraband, as alluded by its detractors, and can be imported within the free port zone and can be disposed of even outside the zone as long as the proper taxes and customs duties are paid.

The MVIA pointed out that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), in close coordination with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), has accredited two vehicles testing centers inside the free port zone.

"All imported vehicles are subjected to rigid testing to meet the high quality standards on ‘roadworthiness and safety’ prior to its registration and issuance of vehicle plates," Geroue pointed out.

Thousands of skilled workers engaged in automotive rebuilding in Subic are in danger of losing their jobs as a result of the government’s hard stance and lack of sympathy for the imported second-hand vehicle trading business.

Workers such auto mechanics, electricians, car painters and alike appealed to the government to look for an alternative solution to prevent the dislocation of their families.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Palace imposes surcharge on imported used vehicles

PRESIDENT Arroyo has signed an executive order imposing a P500,000 surcharge on used vehicles. The order was signed shortly before Congress resumed its regular session.

Elizabeth Lee, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi), told reporters Wednesday that the new order would provide more protection to local auto assemblers.

Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina said the President made the announcement during a Philippine Economic Zone Authority event recently.

Both Lee and Lina, however, declined to elaborate on the provisions of the signed order.

The original Board of Investments proposal showed that the P500,000 surcharge should be paid for each used vehicle brought into the Philippines.

The surcharge would be on top of existing taxes, such as the 30 percent most favored nation (MFN) rate, the excise tax (2 percent to 60 percent depending on the sticker price), and the 10-percent value-added tax imposed on the landed cost.

The board cited other countries that have imposed similar measures against the entry of used vehicles.

In Australia, for example, a surcharge of A$12,000 ($9,342) is levied on all imported used vehicles for environmental reasons.

The Japanese government likewise requires buyers to pay a certain amount that would be used for the disposition of the vehicle once it reaches the end of its useful life.

Should the buyer, however, manage to dispose of it on his own, the amount would be returned.

In pushing for a similar measure, the BOI said imported used cars post serious environmental repercussions since they would end up as scrap in the near future.

The agency said there are no provisions under the law that would require importers of these used cars to manage the disposal of these products after their lifespan.

Besides environmental concerns, imported used vehicles dampen sales of local assemblers.

An earlier study made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) showed that local assemblers lost 20,000 units in potential sales due to the surge in used imports.

Registration of new vehicles vis-à-vis that of used cars have been falling, according to data from the Land Transportation Office.

A ban has already been issued on secondhand vehicles under Executive Order 156 but the Court of Appeals nullified the directive, thereby allowing importers to continue their operations.

The Office of the Solicitor General has already filed a motion for reconsideration.

CALLS FOR ‘SOBRIETY’ ON US DIPLOMAT’S REMARKS

Senator Richard Gordon today called for ‘sobriety’ in reacting to the statement of US Charge d’Affaires Joseph Mussomeli that Mindanao was “at risk of becoming like an Afghanistan situation.”

According to Gordon, “We Filipinos should not panic just because Mussomeli made such a remark in an interview with a television reporter. His statement does not mean that Mindanao is in flames. Big deal. Just because he is a US diplomat, a big personality, does not make his declarations gospel truth.”

However, Gordon said, “Let’s be sober about the case and focus on doing something about it, He added, “Let’s quell the fire before it gets bigger,’ referring to the Muslim insurgency, Abu Sayaff banditry, New People’s Army rebellion and other threats to law and order in Mindanao.

Mussomeli went to the Department of Foreign Affairs office on Roxas Boulevard yesterday and received a note verbale protesting his remarks made before Australian television. Mussomeli refused to apologize for his remarks. Later, the US embassy website released the transcript of Mussomeli’s remarks made to SBS-TV Australia on April 6.

Answering a question from a TV reporter, Mussomeli had replied: “I think the real danger here, and the danger that has been here since the mid-90s, is that we’re not focused enough on the threat here. It’s not the sort of threat that should be worried about coming here on a day-to-day basis. The threat is more long-term: that Mindanao is such a lawless – certain portions of Mindanao – are so lawless, so porous the borders that you run the risk of it becoming like an Afghanistan situation.”

During a media forum today, Gordon explained that Mussomeli stirred the controversy by making a public remark on internal Philippine affairs to a foreign television station while acting as officer-in-charge of the American embassy. Some quarters believe that coming from a diplomat, the remarks violated international norms of diplomatic conduct.

Gordon observed that Mussomeli failed to mention the substantial progress the Arroyo administration has made in restoring peace and order in Mindanao, in negotiating a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and in fighting the tentacles of international terrorism in the South. “He (Mussomeli) should have balanced his statement with a mention of government successes in confronting the problem, like a seasoned diplomat should have done,” said Gordon

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

SUMMER BEACH FESTIVAL GINANAP SA BARRETTO

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Isang malaking Summer Beach Festival ang ginanap sa Blue Rock (On the Beach) Barretto, Olongapo City. Ito ang ikatlong sunod na taon kung saan ay dinumog ng mga Olongapenos, bisita at bakasyonista ang lugar dahil sa magandang dagat na pangunahing atraksyon nito bukod pa sa masasarap na pagkain at inumin.

Ito ay bahagi pa rin nh inihandang mahabang aktibidad ng Olongapo City Tourism Office sa utos ni Olongapo City Mayor James ‘Bong’ Gordon, Jr. at ng Barrio Barretto Community Development Program.

Umabot sa limang daang (500) mga bisita ang nakisaya sa Summer Beach Festival, lalo na ngayong panahon ng ‘summer’ na nag-hahanap ang mga bakasyonista, local o foreigner man, ng maganang lugar na kanilang mapupuntahan.

Samantala, dumalo si Olongapo City Mayor James ‘Bong’ Gordon, Jr. bilang Special Guest sa Summer Beach Festival.

BAGONG BUHAY NA MANGINGISDA, HUMARAP KAY MAYOR GORDON

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NAKIPAGKITA SA CITY HALL KAY MAYOR JAMES “BONG” GORDON, JR. ANG APAT NA MANGINGISDANG 19 NA ARAW NAGPALUTANG-LUTANG SA CHINA SEA MATAPOS MAWALAN NG GASOLINA NAG KANILANG BANGKANG PANGISDA.

PUNO NG KASAYAHAN AT PASASALAMAT SA DIYOS ANG APAT NA SINA PEDRO ISIDRO, 23, ROMAND MERCADO, 25, JIMMY FRANCES, 37, AT ZALDY PAPATANI, 49, PAWANG TUBONG CEBU SUBALIT NAKABASE SA CASTILLEJOS, ZAMBALES.

SA TULONG NG US NAVY NA KUMILOS MATAPOS LAIPTAN NI SENADOR RICHARD J. GORDON, PHILIPPINE NAVY, RED CROSS AT IBA PA, NATAGPUAN ANG MGA MANGINGISDA SAKAY PA RIN NG KANILANG BANGKA 170 KILOMETRO ANG LAYO SA PINAKAMALAPIT NA PAMPANG.

“ITO AY HALIMBAWA NG NAGAGAWA NG PANALANGIN”, AYON KAY MAYOR GORDON PATUGKOL SA PAGKAKALIGTAS NG APAT NA MANGINGISDA.
NANATILING BUHAY NAG APAT SA LOOB NG 19 NA ARAW SA PAMAMAGITAN NG PAGKAIN NG HILAW NA NAHULING PUSIT AT PAG-INOM NG TUBIG NG RADIATOR NG MOTOR NG BANGKA

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

TAX INFO DRIVE

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Bureau of Internal Revenue Regional District Office Number 19 of Subic Bay Freeport and Olongapo City conducted the whole day today a massive information campaign for taxpayers to settle their obligations promptly and correctly as this would help in building a Strong Republic. Deadline for filing taxes is April 15, 2005.

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Shown in pictures are Boy Scouts from James L. Gordon Council assisting in the information drive, persuading businesses to file their income tax return early to avoid the rush and penalties. The Scouts were given the task to post stickers especially on establishments' cash registers to remind both the business establishment and the consuming public the importance of issuing and demanding receipts for purchases made. More than one hundred scouts from different districts of Olongapo City participated in the endeavor.

New mammal discovered in Zambales

A new species of one of the most unusual Philippine mammals has been discovered at the top of Mt. Tapulao, also called High Peak, in Zambales.

The new mammal is a species of Rhynchomys, also called tweezer-beak. These small mammals belong to a very distinctive group of rodents that live only on Luzon Island. Two species were discovered before - one in the Central Cordillera and another in Mt. Isarog in Bicol. They have a very long snout with tiny teeth, which they use to grab earthworms and weigh only about 140 grams. They live in the high-elevation mossy forest, which is the only type of habitat where they live.

The new species was found during a biodiversity survey of small mammals in it. Tapulao conducted by biologists Danilo Balete and Joel Sarmiento from Laksambuhay Conservation of Los Banos, with collaboration from Josefa Veluz of the National Museum of the Philippines, Philip Camara of the SAMBALI Foundation, and Lawrence Heaney from the Field Museum of Natural History of Chicago. The specie will be scientifically described and named next year.

According to Danilo Balete, leader of the expedition, finding the tweezer-beaks "was a great surprise, since other tweezer-beaks live only in very high mountains." Moreover, Mt. Tapulao has not been thoroughly surveyed for biodiversity "and was incorrectly believed to have very few interesting mammals. Instead, they found at least nine species of small mammals, including several Apomys (forest mice), Chrotomys (striped earth-mice), shrews, and the tweezer-beak, plus some very interesting bats.

The survey also documented some of these unusual mammals at lower elevations, down to 600 meters, in both mature and regenerating forest. Mt. Tapulao supports the headwaters of many of the major rivers in Zambales and Pampanga, and is viewed by the local communities as a crucial watershed. According to Camara, "protecting both the mature and regenerating forest would serve the needs of the people for a steady, reliable supply of clean water, and help provide protection against floods and droughts."

A portion of Mt. Tapulao has been considered a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS) legislation, but discussion has not included either the peak or the regenerating forest in the foothill areas.

Monday, April 11, 2005

RP FISHERMEN RESCUE

After weeks of searching, the efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) together with the US Pacific Command, who were called upon to assist by Senator Richard Gordon, paid off when the four Filipino fishermen reported missing since 21 March 2005 were finally found and rescued.

Senator Gordon today commended the PCG for exerting all efforts to locate and save the fishermen and thanked the US government for providing support which led to the successful rescue.

“We thank the US Pacific Command (US PACOM) for aiding the Philippine Navy by immediately responding to our request for assistance. It demonstrates the long standing friendship & cooperation between the Philippines and the US Government,” Gordon said.

He also acknowledged the media, particularly DZRH, for bringing the incident to his attention on which he acted on immediately. “The media is a partner of the government in public service, not just in combating crime and corruption but also in emergency situations like this,” emphasized Gordon.

On 06 April, DZRH relayed information to Gordon about the lost fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal. They were aboard F/BCA Maria Emelyn 2 which was separated from its mother boat, FB Guamenia. Emelyn was adrift and sailed at two to three knots for about 12 hours until it lost fuel. Though the Dekada Communications Group was able to establish contact with the fishermen through radio, the PCG was unable to locate them.

Gordon immediately called up the Joseph Mussomeli, Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy, to request for possible assistance and coordinated with the US PACOM in Hawaii to ask for a rescue aircraft to be used for the search and rescue operations.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The US PACOM sent a P3 Orion plane which didn’t stop the search for three days until they have spotted the fishermen yesterday at 60 nautical miles north northeast of Spratly Island. The rescue aircraft dropped smoke near the vessel to confirm its identity upon which the captain responded positively. The P3 Orion discovered a Chinese vessel about two hours away from Emelyn and attempted to vector it and requested to facilitate rescue. However, its captain refused to extend assistance due to territorial concerns. Gordon requested the US PACOM to send another rescue aircraft which flew from Kadena. At the same time, the Philippine Navy sent off to Spratly Island to pick up the fishermen. At around 7am today, the Philippine Navy confirmed the success of the rescue.

“We are happy for the success of the rescue mission but at the same time alarmed with the realization on how much our coast guard is lacking in terms of equipment and training capability that we even have to ask help from other countries for the rescue of our people. This is something we now have to focus on,” said Gordon.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

ARAW NG KAGITINGAN

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Vice President Noli De Castro was the guest of honor in this year's Araw Ng Kagitingan celebrations.

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Soldiers then and now.

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Olongapo delegation to this year's Araw Ng Kagitingan celebrations at Mt. Samat, Bataan was led by City Councilor Edwin J. Piano and Scout Executive Board members

Winners at Bataan

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Olongapo lad Abigael Fabrigas, graduate of Regional Science High School and presently studying at University of the Philippines, Diliman won this year's Araw Ng Kagitingan oratorical contest. The theme of this year's celebration is "Mabuhay ang mga Beterano. Kahanga hanga ang inyong kagitingan."

Friday, April 08, 2005

IPU Drafting Committee Oks RP Proposal for Disaster Training & Reaction Hubs

The drafting committee for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly Agenda has adopted the Philippines’ proposal for the establishment of disaster training and logistics center in strategic areas in the region and has included it in its final draft resolution which will be presented to all the participants for adoption as an emergency item during the Closing session of the Assembly today.

The Resolution called upon Member Parliaments to create strategically located Regional Disaster Training, Logistics and Reaction Centers to train local field disaster response teams, share international technical know-how, expertise, and technology. It also urged international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations to collaborate with the proposed disaster centers without preventing bilateral support and assistance provided by individual countries or organizations to affected nations.

The committee, chaired by Algerian Djoudi Djelloul, integrated eight proposals of the same topic submitted by Sri Lanka, Algeria, Japan, Chile, Hungary, Turkey, Indonesia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Senator Richard Gordon represented the Philippines as member of the drafting committee. Incidentally, he is the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross and is an active member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

“It is important not just to provide assistance to victims but more importantly to be able to predict, prepare for, plan, and cope with and mitigate the effects of the damages of the disasters,” Gordon said.

The final draft resolution also incorporated the Philippines’ proposal to acknowledge man-made disasters as an equally important concern with a direct threat to human beings and should be addressed along with natural catastrophes.

According to Gordon, victims of man-made adversities such as terrorist threats and abuse of women and children are of equal impact to victims of typhoons, earthquake and other natural calamities.

During the committee discussions, the Philippines and Australia, represented by Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, also suggested considerations to issues of profiteering in disaster-afflicted countries and urged the parliament members to push for strong measures against any form of corruption.

Other members of the committee, particularly Indonesia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Denmark made strong points on the need to call upon all countries to actively support disaster prevention measures and humanitarian aid implemented by various governments and international organizations.

The said Resolution also included the Philippines’ stance inviting the IPU Member Parliaments to follow up on the recommendations discussed and reaffirm their commitment to provide steadfast support for its people especially during times of crisis to preserve the sanctity of life, alleviate human suffering, and uplift the dignity of all human being.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

IPU delegates

Internationsl Parliamentary Union (IPU) delegates Senator Joan Fraser and Michael Falure of Montreal, Canada visited Olongapo City yesterday.
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Photo above (in Mayor Bong Gordon's office), the mayor having an informal talk with the visitor and later, was given a souvenier (Color Coded Jeepney) from Olongapo. Photo below: Members of the City Council warmly welcoming the dignitary.
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JOGGING INSPECTION

Mayor Gordon was joined this morning by Anne Gordon and Gordon Heights Brgy Captain Damian Delos Santos in a jogging inspection that started in Diwa Street, Waterdam road and went all the way to Long Road or the upper portion of Gordon Heights.

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Mayor Bong Gordon pointing to an excavation made by Subic Water but was left unfinished. The mayor instructed the engineering dept and the barangay officials to make necessary representation to Subic Water and ensure immediate repair of the damaged part of the road.

USS BLUE RIDGE

Crew of U.S. Naval Ship Blue Ridge went to Olongapo City last week-end to help in repair and repainting of school buildings in Olongapo City. Mayor Gordon, school officials and students of East Tapinac Elementary School warmly welcomed the good samaritans who provided food, materials and manpower to complete the project.
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Ban on right-hand drive cars stays–BoC


By William B. Depasupil, Reporter

CUSTOMS Commissioner Alberto Lina on Wednesday stood firm on his decision to ban the importation of right-hand drive vehicles amid pressure from importers to rescind the order.

Lina said the full force of the law will “meet” importers and brokers trying to sneak said vehicles into the country. The vehicles have been blamed for many accidents.

“My paramount concern as customs chief includes the lives and safety of motorists and not only raising revenues,” he said.

Lina earlier banned the importation of all types of right-hand drive vehicles and raised the fine on violators.

The maximum fine on importers and brokers who violate the ban was raised from P10,000 to P50,000. They also face a jail sentence of up to a year.

Lina said the ban is part of the customs bureau’s efforts to check the smuggling of luxury cars.

He acknowledged that importing right-hand drive vehicles is cheaper compared to the widely used left-hand drive cars.

Importers usually misdeclare luxury cars as right-hand drive vehicles to avoid paying steep duties and taxes.

A report from the Land Transportation Office said 3 out of ten car accidents in the past five years involved right-hand drive vehicles.

Besides imposing harsher penalties, the customs bureau has required importers to secure letters of credit from accredited banks before their shipments are released.

“This will give us ample information to determine if an importer is legitimate or fictitious,” Lina explained.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Airline launches daily Malaysia-Clark flights

CLARK ZONE, Pampanga — Air Asia made history yesterday by launching its daily service between Malaysia and Clark zone with the first ever low airline fare.


Air Asia’s Boeing 737-300s landed at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here from Kuala Lumpur with 123 passengers who paid 99.99 Malaysian ringgit (MR) or roughly R1,449 one-way fare each.

The first group of passengers from Kuala Lumpur was given a rousing welcome at the DMIA terminal by Clark Development Corp. (CDC) executives led by Executive Vice President Victor Jose Luciano and Air Asia officials led by Antonio Fernandez.

Air Asia will continue its twice daily flights between DMIA and Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur.

Fernandez had earlier announced that the low air fare rates of Air Asia will stay permanently and "not just a promotional scheme."

He said that "there is a tremendous potential for growth in the airline industry to be unlocked with the low fares" introduced by Air Asia

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Arroyo leads groundbreaking rites for subic-clark-tarlac expressway project

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga — President Arroyo yesterday led the groundbreaking for the R27.4-billion, 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project, citing that the infrastructure will spur the development of Clark and Subic economic zones.

"I believe this is the future of Clark and Subic economic zones," Arroyo said at the United Parcel Service (UPS) Intra-Asia Hub at its 3rd anniversary celebration.

Arroyo said that the new highway will benefit Filipinos in terms of generation of jobs and opportunities for government better services.

At the groundbreaking ceremonies, Arroyo was accompanied by Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) Chairman General Narciso Abaya, Presidential Adviser for Clark and Subic Francisco Licuanan, Clark Development Corporation (CDC) President Antonio Ng, CDC Chairman Rizalino Navarro, and Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

Arroyo also said that the expansion of the UPS Intra-Asia Hub in Clark will enhance the development of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) as the future international airport in the country.

She also said that low budget airline carriers will start daily flights at the DMIA starting this month.Arroyo said that Clark and Subic would be the logistic and competitive hub in Southeast Asia where UPS hasexpanded its cargo hub operations as far as Osaka, Japan.

David Abney, president of UPS International, said that the firm is the largest cargo service hub in Asia, adding that UPS will conduct 24 weekly flights at the DMIA to service Asia and Japan.Abney said that UPS is committed to providing world-class service to the Asian region.BCDA Chairman Abaya also said that the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project will start this month and is expected to be completed in the 3rd quarter of 2007.Abaya said that the project will cost about R27.4 billion, including the taxes and the payment for the right of way and civil works

Monday, April 04, 2005

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US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone and Sen. Richard Gordon,
together with their staffers, are all smiles after their
underwater experience in Donsol, Sorsogon

Loboc Children’s Choir jams with the Pundaquit Virtuosi

Spanning Bohol to Zambales
with voices and violins

By Rome Jorge

I could say their voices and their violins made for a heavenly experience, but aside the triteness of these words, they don’t quite describe the experience. The Loboc Children’s Choir together with the Pundaquit Virtuosi blew us away. You didn’t have to be a Beethoven groupie or a choirboy fan to dig it. They made music with virtuosity that transcended musical preferences. An irresistible vibe to the ear and compelling wave on the heart, they rocked our world with the gentlest touch.

Amid a mango orchard and within a brick mansion these trees nestle, voices from Bohol and violins from Zambales led all who had an ear a little closer to heaven. Man, it was great.

The fruit farm belongs to Coke Bolipata, world-renowned violin soloist and much-beloved community arts advocate. The brick mansion is his theater/gallery/artist residency known as Center for the Arts in San Antonio (Casa) San Miguel Foundation, where the sons and daughters of peasants and fisher folk learn to play violins, as well as where some of the most gorgeous paintings of Elmer Borlongan (Bolipata’s brother-in-law) hang.

The Pundaquit Virtuosi are the finest among the center’s violin students. The Loboc Children’s Choir is the finest voices from Bohol’s historical town of Luboc, a place so steeped in musical traditions that every house is home to a musician.

The music of voices and violins

The Loboc Children’s Choir from Bohol together with the Pundaquit Virtuosi of Zambales opened the 12th Season of the Pundaquit Festival with a performance at the CASA San Miguel on the evening of Palm Sunday on March 20. They had a wide-ranging repertoire, encompassing classical, kundiman and pop music: “Kalesa,” “Kay Ganda Ng Ating Musica,” “Presto” from Beethoven String Quartet (Op. 59, #3), Ernest Bloch’s “Concerto Grosso,” “Sa Kabukiran,” and Ilokano and Visayan medley, and a mediation from Thais, among many others.

An exhibit opening featuring local artist Zaniel Mariano at Casa San Miguel’s Corpus Hall Foyer also coincided with the performance.

I never thought a rocker would ever find himself howling with applause—in a concert with the most cultured of culturati—for a song from the Sound of Music movie soundtrack, but great performances do strange things to a man.

The flawless precision, the rich tones and the heartfelt vibrancy of the Loboc Children’s Choir and the Pundaquit Virtuosi compelled hearts to sync with their every stroke and with their every breath. As an added treat, Bolipata performed one number. The audience screamed for more.

From Bohol to Zambales

Both the Loboc Children’s Choir of Bohol and the Pundaquit Virtuosi of Zambales represent an emerging trend in our culture—world-class community-based artistry outside Manila. Both are grassroots efforts that take culture from elitist strongholds and give them back to the people. But while the Loboc Children’s Choir represents a heritage spanning centuries, Casa San Miguel represents innovation and logistical support.

“We complement each other,” states Lutgardo Labad, the choir’s tour manager. Bolipata concurs, “I am very interested in working more with Luboc.”

Founded in 1980, the Loboc Children’s Choir is composed of 30 schoolchildren between nine and thirteen years old, who all attend the Loboc Central Elementary School. However, from an ordinary school choir, established to give color to school and community events, this harmony of voices has blossomed into one of the most outstanding choirs in the Philippines today. The Loboc Children’s Choir became the National Champion in the Children’s Choirs category during the National Music Competitions for Young Artists in 2001, and the First Prize winner in 1993 and 1995.

In 1996 in a concert dubbed, On Angels’ Wings: From Bohol to the World, the choir toured key cities in the United States. It has performed with the World Youth Orchestra during its concerts in Bohol and Cebu in 1999, and with the University of Santo Tomas Symphony Orchestra.

In 2000 the choir represented the country in the International Children’s Culture and Arts Festival in Tianjin, China, and held concerts in Beijing and Hong Kong.

The Loboc Children’s Choir is not only heard in concert halls or auditoriums, but also in prisons, hospitals, orphanages and homes for the aged, where its music of hope, love and joy also find its meaning. It continues to take active part in school, town and provincial activities.

The Pundaquit Virtuosi is a unique children’s ensemble composed of the most advanced students in the Cuerdas String Program of Casa San Miguel Foundation. In 1996 it opened its workshop modules designed to identify and develop potential talents within the local community in music, theater and the visual arts, working with children coming from different backgrounds including the marginalized sectors of farmers and fisher folk.

The foundation believes in culture as a means of providing rural families a measure of self-esteem, using values from the craft toward a positive attitude in work, family and community.

Today Casa San Miguel trains over 100 gifted children form the community whose ages range from 7 to 16 years old. They spend weekends at Casa San Miguel honing their talents. They have won prizes in the National Music Competition for Young Artists and some have been chosen to represent Promil for the promotion of its Gifted Child Campaign.

The Pundaquit Virtuosi are a regular feature at the Pundaquit Festival in Zambales, sharing their talents with the community by performing in plazas, schools, and later this year in hospitals and orphanages


 

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