Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Hanjin Subic shipyard gets 1st order

The operation of Hanjin Shipping Company Limited (HJS) in Subic Bay Freeport has started to receive initial orders of four 4,300 ton container ships worth 0 million for delivery to France’s CMA CGM by end of 2007.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator Armand Arreza said the company has a very aggressive schedule to meet the pre-paid orders of boats.

"Starting May, the company is going to hire 600 welders a month," Arreza said.

To be able to cope with the huge manpower requirement of highly-skilled welders, SBMA is tapping between P50-million to P100 million out of the P1 billion training facility available from TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) for the training of welders.

Hanjin, South Korea’s fifth largest shipbuilder, is investing billion for a shipbuilding project in Subic. Hanjin is occupying 249 hectares for a shipyard for the first phase and another 100 hectares for the second phase in the Redondo peninsula.

Arreza also said that Olongapo has signed an agreement last February to provide the relocation site of the informal settlers that would be displaced due to Hanjin’s sprawling project.

But since the area was not yet ready, a temporary site was made available last week.

Hanjin is also donating a schoolbuilding consisting of 10 classrooms rooms for grade school and 6 for high school. The schoolbuilding would be available before the opening of classes in June.

Also, Arreza said that 300 families affected have been compensated. Each family was also assured of one employment in Hanjin.

The deal was facilitated when South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun followed up Hanjin’s request for the construction of a road along the proposed site when he went to Manila in December for a threeday state visit.

"They (Hanjin) will form part of the SBMA’s contributions to the realization of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s ten-point economic agenda," Arreza said.

The shipyard in the Philippines is part of efforts by Hanjin Heavy to compete with Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipbuilder, and other domestic rivals, which swept nearly 40 percent of global orders in 2005. (BCM - Manila Bulletin)
Other News:

FedEx may not leave RP totally

By Marianne V. Go - The Philippine Star

Federal Express (FedEx) may not completely leave the Philippines.

According to government sources, FedEx is still studying the possibility of keeping its back office operations in the country.

President Arroyo and Trade and Industry Secretary Peter B. Favila are still reportedly negotiating with FedEx to keep some operations in the country.

FedEx had earlier announced plans to cease hub operations in Subic by December 2008 and move to China.

Because of its increasing volume and the need to use much bigger aircraft, FedEx has decided that Subic’s current runway capacity cannot accommodate much larger aircraft.

Thus, FedEx has decided to locate to China which is also a more lucrative market.

FedEx is expected to exceed its 20 MD-11 cargo plane capacity limit at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) for its Asia-One operations.

There had been offers from the government that once FedEx exceeds its Subic capacity, Clark’s Diosdado Macapagal International Airport could handle the additional operations of FedEx.

The Clark DMIA can accommodate much larger aircraft such as the A-380 which requires a longer runway.

FedEx, however, decided not to extend its operations in Subic once its lease agreement expires in 2007.

FedEx is one of the biggest investor at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Its Asia-Pacific hub enabled it to deliver overnight to the United States.

Angelito Alvarez, president and chief executive officer of Airfreight 2100 Inc., the local licensee of Fedex, had said its current hub in Subic could no longer accommodate the infrastructure needs of the company.

Subic investor to pay for relocation of squatters

Ronnel W. Domingo - Inquirer

A SOUTH KOREAN shipbuilder putting up a $1-billion facility in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, northwest of Manila, is picking up the tab of relocating informal settlers from the project site to hasten the start of its operation, a Subic official said.

Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. Will pay for the cost of moving 300 households to an area not too far from the Redondo peninsula where the shipyard will be built, said Armand Arreza, chief executive of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

"But since the agreed relocation site is not yet ready, the company will build temporary accommodation for the families," Arreza said.

The company has already paid for new school buildings that will replace an elementary school and a high school in the area, he said.

He said Hanjin was taking the initiative on its own and had signed a relocation agreement late last February.

He did not say how much Hanjin had allotted for the relocation.

He said most of the squatters were amenable to the arrangement with Hanjin, although about 10 or 12 families were "resistant."

Hanjin has also committed to take into its workforce at least one household member of the squatter families, Arreza said.

The company is expected to employ 6,000 people at its shipyard, he said.

"Hanjin needs to start developing the shipyard and raise a workforce," Arreza said. "I learned that it already has orders for four vessels from a client in France."

It has earmarked P1 billion for training and human resources development, including P50-P100 million for training welders, for which it is working with the government's Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, he said.

In an earlier interview, Arreza said the Hanjin shipyard would be the fourth-largest in the world and would have capacity to handle big vessels that can accommodate 8,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, a TEU being a 20-foot dry-cargo container.

The shipyard will take five years to build. With INQ7.net

Thursday, April 27, 2006

P5-million worth of smuggled cars seized

By Anthony Bayarong, Researcher

SUBIC BAY Freeport: P5-million worth of smuggled vehicles, including a Honda sports car worth P1 million, was recently confiscated by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Task Force Subic.

Three 40-foot container vans were opened by the Task Force Subic, led by retired Gen. Jose Calimlim, at the Naval Supply Depot inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Among the vehicles confiscated were two Toyota luxury vans, one Hyundia Sonata, a Kia Carnival and a Honda hatchback sports car.

The two vans, carnival and the sonata, came from South Korea, while the Honda sports car came from Japan.

Calimlim, also the SBMA senior deputy administrator for operation, said they opened the containers after learning that the address and consignees of the container van where fictitious.
He explained that the vehicles, like all other contraband confiscated by the task force, will become the property of SBMA. The agency has the option of auctioning the goods since the authority has formed a committee to auction out confiscated contraband.

“The only thing we can do now is to investigate the broker since the name and the address of the owners of the shipment are fictitious,” he said.

Calimlim presented to the media two Hyundia Grace vans confiscated by the task force while being smuggled out of the Subic main gate.

The owner of the two vans were not identified by the authorities.

DOT questions Korean road work in Pinatubo

A Department of Tourism official on Monday has denounced a Korean company that he claimed carved a 20-km road leading to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo, a World Tourism Organization-recognized site, without a permit from any government agency.

In a travel advisory posted on Monday, Ronaldo Tiotuico, DOT Central Luzon director, said his office has “vigorously registered its strong and unequivocal objection” to the road project by the PDC Development Corp. (PDCDC). The road runs from Capas, Tarlac, to Botolan, Zambales.

The firm was the first private company to have invested in the area, running the Mt. Pinatubo Spa Town in Barangay Sta. Juliana, the nearest gateway to the volcano that last erupted in June 1991. The company also offers tours to the volcano, which the Aetas and the DOT began in 1994.

In a phone interview, Tiotuico said he learned of the new trail only through the Sta. Juliana tourism council.

“I would not have allowed it if I had learned of this project from the start,” he said.

Aside from not coordinating with the DOT, the company did not obtain an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or a free and prior informed consent certificate (FPIC) from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Tiotuico said.

Cris Park, PDCDC president, said the project was approved by Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan and the Capas town council.

“We built the road to provide development in the area,” Park said when reached through his mobile phone.

Park, who said he was unaware of Tiotuico’s complaint, said he would coordinate with Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano to answer the allegations.

Park threatened to close shop because of Tiotuico’s non-cooperation.

“I cannot understand him. He was not helping us,” he said.

Francisco Villena Jr., the company’s operations chief, said the trail merely revived an old logging road in the area. Villena confirmed the “minimal side-cutting” of hills to restore the road but denied that the entire stretch or any portion of it was concreted or bulldozed.

According to Villena, this route allows tourists to reach the crater in just 30 or 40 minutes. He said the regular route via the O’Donnell River in Crow Valley takes about seven hours to hurdle.

Catacutan said he and other local officials initiated the road project to boost the town’s tourism program.

He said PDCDC did not need a DENR permit because what was rehabilitated was an old road built by the United States Air Force that maintained a radar and training station at Crow Valley.

“We just removed big boulders and [some] trees in the path. The soil is stable,” Catacutan said.

The mayor said local NCIP representatives and the heirs of Don Antonio Aquino, among them former vice presidential candidate Hermie Aquino, gave consent to the project. The Aquinos own the land traversed by the project.

The Philippine Air Force, which has jurisdiction over the area, has been consulted, Catacutan said.

Tourism-related activities, he said, have helped the Aetas and upland farmers in Capas cope with the effects of Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption. By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer


(STAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Arguments between and among lawyers are a common sight in every courtroom but rarely among fellow prosecutors.

Today’s hearing will center on the arguments between government prosecutors and private lawyers on the rape case involving four American servicemen which has been transferred to the Makati City regional trial court from Subic.

A rather tricky problem arose following the decision of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to downgrade the charges against the four American servicemen.

On Monday, the prosecution team led by City Prosecutor Feliciano Aspi filed a motion to amend the complaint of rape against the four accused.

On Gonzalez’s orders, the government lawyers sought to downgrade the rape charges against Dominic Duplantis, Keith Silkwood and Chad Carpentier to mere accessories to the crime, leaving Daniel Smith as the principal accused.

But Evalyn Ursua, of the Women’s Legal Bureau acting as the private counsel of the rape victim, filed a 12-page motion opposing the move of the prosecution.

Ursua argued the Department of Justice (DOJ) made a mistake in its decision to downgrade the charges, pointing out her duty to protect the rights and interests of her client.

"Talagang maling-mali (The decision was a big mistake), it has no basis in fact and in law. The evidence shows that there was conspiracy," Ursua said.

Ursua explained the DOJ decision has no basis in law since accessories to a crime are those who did not in any way participate in the offense.

"It’s public knowledge that they were all in the van. Therefore, all must be charged as principal accused," she said, referring to the vehicle where the rape allegedly took place.

"Gonzalez created a strange concept of accessory," Ursua added.

Women’s groups led by Gabriela are expected to troop to the court today and call for the resignation of Gonzalez.

The prosecution lawyers, on the other hand, will have to battle it out with each other before the sala of Branch 139 Judge Benjamin Pozon with the defense lawyers as spectators.

During last week’s hearing, Ursua and the DOJ prosecution team sought to declare a certain provision of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) unconstitutional since it prevents the Philippines from taking custody of the accused.

However, the prosecution team had a disagreement with Ursua over the move, a simple sign of the dissension within their side during the trial.

In open court, they ended up arguing as to who would head the prosecution panel and call the shots.

Ursua argued she cannot entirely submit to the DOJ’s panel of prosecutors since they represent the People of the Philippines while she is representing the victim as the personal lawyer.

"There will be times when we will respectfully disagree with them," Ursua said.

All the four US servicemen will have to present themselves before the court at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow regardless of the results of today’s hearing.

Branch 139 clerk of court Liza Marie Picardal said they cannot be simply represented by their legal counsels since they will have to enter their respective pleas.

Zambales holds fora on people's initiative

by Recto Mangosing Adamos

Subic, Zambales (26 April) -- Commissioner Ronald L. Adamat of the ChaCha Advocacy Commission recently gave an orientation on the people's initiative to some 200 government personnel, including employees of the Sanggunian Panlunsod of Paranaque City, as well as representatives of local media here.

Adamat addressed various concerns of the the audience raised during the open forum, such as: "the change will lessen corruption, it is a platform based politics, lawmakers are also the implementers of the enacted law."

The Peoples Initiatives on Charter Change has created various public opinions in our country particular in the grass roots level. In order to create an atmosphere of understanding along the countryside, the government spearheaded campaign so that people will realize the impact of this in our county.

The event was covered by STV6 of Olongapo City, a local cable network, who aired the report the following day at Balitang OZ, 11 AM, with replay on the same day at 5:00 PM.

A random sampling of verbal interviews conducted by PIA at the reception area revealed that most of these government personnel have limited knowledge on this campaign so that after this seminar have enlightened them all.

One of the main issues raised by the participants was some people in the barangay level were made to sign for the charter change, and paid an amount for signifying their signatures, which the speaker’s denied that these do not belong to the 15 members of the AdCom of the Charter Change. (PIA)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


With the Supreme Court declaring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) as unconstitutional, Senator Richard J. Gordon stated that “this shows that the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, is paramount to the exercise of the powers of the Executive in protecting her Administration.”

“The Constitution cannot be trifled with. The President must be more circumspect in the exercise of her Executive powers. She should not experiment with the people’s rights which are inherent in the Constitution,” said Gordon.

“The CPR has undeniably disrupted our democratic way of life in our country, and in effect, adversely affected tourism, business, and investments,” added Gordon.

Gordon who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws observed that the series of acts of the President, including Executive Order No. 464, Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, and the aggressive moves towards Charter Change, have all “weakened our constitution and our democracy to the detriment of our country.”

“We need to break this destructive pattern in order to move forward. We need to respect our Constitution and strengthen our democracy by first and foremost guaranteeing the constitutional rights of our people,” said Gordon.


Senator Richard J. Gordon, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, disclosed that charter change is not a silver bullet that can answer the nation’s problems.

Gordon said the proponents of charter change are selling this as a cure-all for our country’s problems. But, charter change is not a silver bullet that can resolve all our problems.

“The problem is not our system or form of Government. A shift from a presidential to a parliamentary form of Government may not change very much if the same culture of transactional politics is prevalent. It will be more of the same, if not worse,” declared Gordon.

He added that fundamental change can only be effected by a Government whose leaders are truly dedicated to uplifting the lives of the people.

“There are people running amok with cha-cha, blatantly and illegally, through a signature campaign for a people’s initiative, notwithstanding the ruling of the Supreme Court on the need for an enabling law first,” said Gordon.

Gordon believes that there are several issues that the proponents of charter change via people’s initiative are concealing from the people.

“Is the public aware that in a parliamentary system, the people will lose their right to directly vote for their leader? That is what will happen if we revise Articles VI and VII of the Constitution and shift to a parliamentary system, and I doubt if the people were enlightened on this point,” said Gordon.

Gordon revealed that in the current proposal to shift to a parliamentary form of Government, the people will be losing their right to directly vote for their leader, the Prime Minister, who will be primarily running the affairs of the Government.

“It will become a Government headed by a Member of Parliament chosen by his or her peers, much like how it is in the House of Representatives right now with Mr. Jose De Venecia as chief executive. He was not chosen by direct vote of the people, but he holds the reins of power, because that is how the parliamentary system works,” explained Gordon.

Gordon added that amending Articles VI and VII constitutes a revision of, and not a mere amendment to the Constitution, which is clearly outside the ambit of a people’s initiative. Thus, the very process of revising the Constitution – as put forward by the proponents of people’s initiative – is not just flawed but unconstitutional.

He further pointed out that any proposed constitutional amendment must still be submitted to the people for ratification in a plebiscite called for this purpose, which will be under COMELEC’s watch.

“But if COMELEC is distrusted by the people because of its perceived failure to prevent massive electoral fraud in the past, how can we have a reliable plebiscite? The integrity and credibility of the COMELEC and its ability to give us clean, honest, and fair elections must be addressed first before we can even begin talking about charter change. We must be able to provide our people with an electoral system that is worthy of public trust and confidence,” stated Gordon.

More investors flock to Subic Freeport


At least 12 companies with combined investments of $ 28.177 million, approximately P1.4 billion, have lined up for approvals by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

SBMA administrator Armand C. Arreza said the ceremonial contract signing for the lease agreements of the 12 companies, comprised mostly of Chinese firms, are scheduled on Thursday this week.

Under the law, locators are allowed to a 50-year-lease period on land plus 25-year extension for a total maximum of 75-year lease period.

Among the 12 companies, the biggest project is the $ 12 million garment venture of Yienson Manufacturing Corporation represented by its president Chou Fang Kuen.

Yienson has proposed to manufacture, import and export of semi-finished and finished garments. The project is expected to employ at least 1,000 individuals.

Another big project is Inyoung-Philippines Inc. for its $ 10 million for the manufacture, fabrication, construction and trading of steel industries for the project of HHIC-Phil Inc. in Redondo Peninsula.

The Korean project, with its president Young Hun Kim, is going to employ 200 workers.

Also for contract signing are $ 1.74 million Gigatek Subic Bay Inc. as manufacturer and trader of electronics, communication and computer related products or devices, plastic injection and other related products.

The company is being represented by its vice president Moses Huang. Once fully operational, the project would generate 324 workers.

Also scheduled for signing next week is the Subic Executive Lofts Condominium Corp., which is developing and operating condotels, restaurants, gymnasium in the central business district in the Subic Freeport.

This Filipino group is represented is by its chairman Eduardo Francisco. Once operational, the project would hire 15 employes.

Taiwanese-owned Coin Chemical Subic Inc. is also coming into Subic to engage in the manufacture and trading of goods such as paints, lithium-ion battery, bio-cosmetics, highend shoes, electronic unit assemblies and other related products.

With a committed investment of $ 870,000, the company expects to hire 31 people. It is represented by its president Chadwick Wu. The company, however, has hired Benney Lee as its local CEO to handle its Subic operations.

Other projects scheduled for approval next week include Asiapro Cooperative, Century Peak Corporation, Interisland Resorts and Services Inc., Mango Valley Corp., Shengkai Corp., Sibic Amino Hightech Corp., and Winstar Subic Display Corp.

Its Freeport status and convenience to undertake trading operations have attracted foreign firms to locate in the former U.S. military naval facility.

The Freeport is also a self-contained facility that affords convenient and pleasurable stay for expats.

Since it is a Freeport, good imported and exported are mostly tax-free unless the products are brought outside of the Freeport customs territories and into the domestic Philippine market.

Zambales to hold annual mango festival

Iba, Zambales -- The world’s sweetest mango-producing province will hold its yearly Mango Festival come April 26-29, 20006 at this town. Dubbed as Dinamulag 2006, the affair is the sixth since 2001, will again offer fun, entertainment, excitement and of course its generic ingredient – the “pinakamatamis” mango.

The 4-day festivities, which is one of the provincial government strate-tegies for economic turnaround is now the foremost tourist-drawer during summer.

Governor Vicente Magsaysay said that originally the festival was geared towards the development of tourism and mango industry but in the process the other industries are towed along.He further said that with Dinamulag the mango development momentum is very promising and eventually Zambales will regain its lost glory as the number one mango-producing province of the Philippines.

The attractions of the celebration are: Mango at reasonable price, street-dancing, Dinamulag trade fair and excibit, Dulce de mangga, Likhang Buhangin, Bikini Beach Olympics, Zambales National Bikini Open, Bb Zambales 2006 Grand Pageant Night, Mango Forum and other fun-filled activities. (by Lito Abuan - PIA)

Subic rape victim's lawyer vows to fight raps downgrade

By Tarra Quismundo - Inquirer

THE PRIVATE lawyer of the woman who accused four US Marines of rape vowed to oppose the expected downgrading of the criminal charges against three of the accused.

Evalyn Ursua said on Friday she would file an opposition to the government prosecution panel's planned modification of the criminal information against the American servicemen.

The amendment would adopt a Department of Justice (DoJ) resolution dropping the charge of rape against three of the Marines, naming them as accessories instead of principals.

"We will file an opposition to the motion amending the information, downgrading the charges [against the three] to accessory... We will definitely oppose it because we believe it is legally and factually incorrect," Ursua told reporters after the Friday hearing.

"We have to recognize that it's the city prosecutor who has control and supervision over the prosecution of this crime. However, the private complainant, also has her rights in the case... to oppose the motion. There are instances when the private complainant has to stand on her own to defend her rights, and we cannot compromise that because the [public prosecutors] have taken a particular position," she said.

The newly assembled prosecution panel, however, said it would welcome the opposition.

"That's [to be] expected because if they believe that the resolution is not to their satisfaction, they could oppose [it]. There are instances that the complainant has an independent right... There are certain aspects of the case that they can take action [on] independently," said Makati City Prosecutor Feliciano Aspi, named chief of the prosecution panel.

Judge Benjamin Pozon of Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 139 had set the arraignment of the four accused -- Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier and Marine Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis -- for Friday afternoon.

The four, who have remained in the custody of US authorities by virtue of the Visiting Forces Agreement, were charged upon the complaint filed by a 22-year-old Filipino woman, who alleged that the servicemen raped her on Nov. 1 last year in a cruising van at the Subic Bay Freeport.

The court, however, has yet to take cognizance of the DoJ's resolution naming only Smith as the principal accused, for which he may face life imprisonment if convicted. Hence, the court still has at hand the original case, where all four are principals.

Centennial tops President's Cup Regatta

By Jasmine W. Payo - Inquirer

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Zambales -- Bolstered by a well-trained national sailing team, the Centennial of the Philippines captured the overall championship in the 14th President's Cup Regatta on Saturday at the Subic Bay here.

Judes Echauz's Sydney 46 Centennial, skippered by Jamie Wilmot, topped three of the six inshore races to finish with seven points in the nine-day international tournament.

"I have 14 members in my crew, 10 are from the Philippine sailing team," said Echauz after his nine-year-old boat clinched its fifth tournament title in the IRC racing class. "We're quite happy because we haven't been competing, we've been absent in the past two years."

Jo de Ros, owned by George Hackett of the United States, dominated the IRC Cruiser Racer class, while Carrera, owned by Mikhailov Ahexey of Russia, ruled the PY Cruising class.

Ray Ordoveza's Karakoa made it a 1-2 finish for the Philippines in the IRC Racing class. Narrowly trailing Centennial, the Excel 53 Karakoa garnered two first-place finishes for an eight-point total.

Jelik, owned by Frank Pong of Hong Kong, was a distant third with 16.5 points.

"Most of the race we were competing against a local boat, Karakoa, which won two years ago. Before (the last day of competition), we were tied with Karakoa," said Echauz.

Also the winner in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002, Echauz noted that the cooperative weather also boosted his crew's campaign.

"We were not sure if we could win it," he added. "But the race turned out to be very good because the wind was quite consistent."

Also on board Centennial were Captain Tom Hofvenschiold and co-owner Malabon-Navotas Representative Ricky Sandoval.

In the IRC Cruiser Race, Vivaldi, owned by Claudio Altura of the Philippines, aggregated 10 points for a second-place finish, just four points behind winner Jo de Ros. Rags of Scotland's Allan Burrell settled for third place with 15 points.

Completing the winners in the PY Cruising class are Manta of the Philippines' Edwin Almeda with eight points and Fast Exit of Japan's Seiji Kawakami with 14 points.

Subic launches bid to host Asian airline conference

(Manila Standard Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) SUBIC BAY FREEPORT--This freeport wants to host the biggest gathering of international airline companies belonging to the 29-member Airline Operators Council in South East Asia in an effort to showcase the trade and tourism facilities here.

This was agreed during the two-day meeting of members and officials of the AOC-Manila held at the Subic Bay International Airport, a facility being touted as the next regional hub in the Asia-Pacific rim.

Leoncio Dakila Nakpil II, AOC chairman, said organizers are expecting more than 300 participants to attend the summit, which will focus on the ratification of the AOC draft constitution and bylaws.

"Each member-country has its own local AOC and affiliates attending the summit of Asean-AOC serving as the umbrella organization in compliance with the United Nations resolution to ensure industry cooperation and security in the region," Nakpil said.

Nakpil said Panay and Cebu International Airports have both expressed interest in hosting the event.

Nakpil added that AOC-Manila has cited SBIA and the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark Special Economic Zone as primary alternate airports of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in case of diversion of both local and international flights.

AOC-Manila agreed to actively participate and be involved in the promotional campaign of SBIA to lure more airline carriers and even cargo air-couriers in its bid to increase air-traffic volume and passenger arrivals here.

"Subic Freeport has a lot to offer but the sad part of it only few knew that the area has already been developed to become a destination for both local and foreign travelers," said Nakpil.

Dave Paculan, airport service manager of Emirates Airline, the international carrier of the United Arab Emirates, said migrant workers, particularly those from Central and Northern Luzon, could use the world-class passenger terminal of SBIA to and from their destinations.

Firms investing P1.4B in Subic

Ronnel W. Domingo, Inquirer

LOCAL AND FOREIGN INVESTORS are putting in about P1.4 billion in various projects at the Subic freeport, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

SBMA Chief Executive Armand C. Arreza said the agency would sign contracts with the locators on Wednesday for 12 projects that are expected to create about 1,700 new jobs.

The projects include those engaged in manpower recruitment; trading and shipping of minerals, plastic products, garments and construction supplies; manufacturing; hotel and restaurant operations, and research and development.

The companies involved include Asianpro Cooperative, Century Peak Corp., Coin Chemical Subic Inc., Gigatek Subic Bay Inc., Interisland Resorts and Services Inc., Inyoung-Philippines Inc., Mango Valley Corp., Shengkai Corp., Subic Amino Hightech Corp., Subic Executive Lofts Condominium Corp., Winstar Subic Display Corp. and Yienson Manufacturing Corp.

The biggest of the projects in terms of capital layout would be Yienson's $12-million (about P600 million) venture into the manufacturing, importation and export of semi-finished and finished garments.

Second biggest would be Inyoung's $10-million (about P500 million) project to manufacture, fabricate, construct and trade steel structures for another locator's facility that would rise at the Redondo peninsula within the freeport zone.

Also, Arreza said SBMA hoped that more airlines operators would consider doing business in the freeport after the Airport Operators Council last week held its yearly meeting at the Subic International Airport's facilities.

Affiliated with the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association, the AOC groups 48 international airline operators doing business in the country.

In March, Arreza announced that SBMA was offering discount rates on aeronautical fees of between 60 percent and 80 percent in an effort to attract more airline operators.

The fees cover the landing and take off, parking, lighting and other charges like those for the use of navigational equipment and radar.

Arreza had said SBMA was looking into the possibility of SBIA being able to service routes to "any point in Asia."

Current carriers using SBIA include Inter-Island Airlines, which offers chartered flights to Manila and Taiwan; Mandarin Air with flights to and from Taiwan; Cebu Pacific with flights from Incheon in South Korea, Air Philippines with flights to and from Hong Kong.

Subic slaps $100 fee on imports of vehicles

By Elaine Ruzul S. Ramos - Manila Standard Today

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has imposed a $100 import permit fee for locators who are bringing in used vehicles and equipment into the free port.

SBMA administrator and chief executive officer Armand Arreza said the fee, imposed since October last year, had served as deterrent to importers of used vehicles.

He said the imposition of the new import permit was also expected to dampen the flourishing secondary market for imported used, right-hand-drive vehicles.

“The SBMA is allowed to impose reasonable fees. So far, we have generated P11 million from the issuance of import permits during the last quarter of 2005,” said Arreza.

He said the imposition of the new fee had led to a slowdown in the issuance of import permits, which essentially allows locators to bring in used vehicles and equipment. The import permit earlier was issued free of charge so there was hardly any limit to the number of permits that could be issued to an entity.

The SBMA issued a total of 2,200 import permits for both used vehicle and equipment in the last quarter of 2005 when the fee was first imposed,

“No import permit was issued from June 2004 up to October 2005, but when we (the new SBMA administration) came in, 3,300 import permits were left pending, meaning they were already approved by the SBMA but are still unutilized.”

He said the issuance of import permits were market-driven but the SBMA was more circumspect in allowing locators to bring in used vehicles.

Arreza said the SBMA also checks the size of the yard of the importing locator, on whether or not the yard can accommodate the number of vehicles being imported. The administration also checks the sales receipts of the importers to ensure the vehicles are not brought outside the Freeport.

To be able to import used vehicles, an importer must be a bona fide locator in the free port. So far, there are 59 registered importers of used vehicles in Subic Bay but some have been inactive for some time.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Sitio Agusuhin, Subic Bay Freeport Zone. The relocation site for the families who are affected by the construction of Korean Shipyard project in this area is not yet ready to receive residents.

This was the observation of Zambales vice governor Ramon G. Lacbain II accompanied by Commission on Human Rights Central Luzon regional director Atty. Jasmin N. Regino and Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor area coordinator Olympia Micor during their ocular inspection yesterday of the relocation site located about 15 minutes away from Sitio Agusuhin whose residents need to be relocated to give way to Hanjin Shipping of Korea for their shipyard project in the area.

“The construction of the relocation site of the municipal government of Subic for the residents of Sitio Agusuhin started two weeks ago. We have three bulldozers provided by governor Vic Magsaysay. But one bulldozer is out-of-order now and I have additional two personnel working with me for this project”, according to Willy Napoles, an employee of the municipal government of Subic supervising this project.

Mr. Napoles does not even know when this relocation site will be finished and whether this project has funding when asked by vice governor Lacbain.

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“It’s mountainous and too far from the beach area that will make it very difficult for children and senior citizens to go up and down from their houses to the beachfront, there is no available potable water, no beachfront where residents who are mostly fishermen can park their motorized bancas and the construction of new elementary and high school buildings, day care center, health center and community park with basketball court and stage have not yet started”, said vice governor Lacbain after inspecting the relocation site.

CHR regional director Regino was also wondering why the Korean shipyard project was allowed to commence more than a month ago by either the provincial government of Zambales or the municipal government of Subic without first securing the necessary certificate of compliance from the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor as provided for by Executive Order No. 152, series of 2002 which provides for the compliance of a checklist of documents to be attached to their application for certificate of compliance.

Among some of the requirements to be submitted by the concerned local government unit before the start of the Korean shipyard project include – development plan of relocation site, certificate of availability of relocation, affidavit and/or copy of MOA of negotiated and voluntary dismantling with board resolution designating people’s organization’s representatives, proposed development plan of the property to be cleared, certification from LGU or concerned agency that the area is the site of an infrastructure project with available funding and shall commence within 60 days after clearing of the said area, minutes and attendance of consultation meetings conducted and three notices of meeting receipts, copies of notice of demolition issued to all affected families bearing acknowledgement receipts and masterlist of underprivileged and homeless beneficiaries.

More than 200 residents of Sitio Agusuhin in Subic, Zambales have already accepted their payment from Hanjin Shipping and have allowed their houses demolished more than a month ago but they have remained in the small portion of their houses because of the absence of relocation site.

Another more than 200 residents who are members of Samahan ng Malaya at Nagkakaisang Residente ng Agusuhin (SAMANRA) have not accepted the offer of payment from Hanjin Shipping for their houses and other improvement because of the absence of acceptable relocation site and the amount of payment being offered which according to them is unfair.

The Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor is expected to call a meeting by next week among all stakeholders of this project to settle once and for all issues and concerns pertaining to relocation including livelihood of affected families.

The community is covered by a 230-hectare land lease agreement between the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd., a South Korean company to build and operate a $1 billion worth shipyard inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo witnessed the signing of the agreement last February 28 in Malacanang Palace.

Once operational the shipyard will build liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers and very large container carriers (VLCC) for customers around the world. The investment is also expected to boost economic activity in the country since it is expected to generate 30,000 – 40,000 jobs.

Korean shipyard project faces protest

By Allan Macatuno - Inquirer

SUBIC, ZAMBALES—The construction of what is deemed as the country’s largest ship building facility here was met with protests by at least 200 families who are going to be displaced by the project.

Residents of Sitio Agusuhin here formed human barricades to prevent clearing operations on a 230-hectare lot along the Redondo Peninsula, the site of the 2.3 million-square meter shipyard here. It is within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Members of the Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Residente ng Agusuhin (Samanra) expressed their dismay over the failure of Hanjin shipping company officials to give proper compensation for their houses and a relocation site.

More than 70 houses and other government structures, including schools, have already been demolished since February this year, according to Teresita Ogayon, a resident.

“We are willing to leave our place as long as they will give us just compensation and assure us that there will be a permanent site for relocation as they have promised,” Ogayon said.

She said some of the houses were demolished after residents sold them for low prices to the Korean shipping firm but the proposed relocation site has not been readied yet.

This rendered some 150 residents homeless. They were also forced to stay in their ruined houses while waiting to be transferred to the relocation area.

Residents placed several streamers in the area condemning the “unjust and deliberate destruction” of their property without being compensated properly.

They also denounced the demolition of three public school buildings in the area despite their strong opposition.

“Our local officials cannot even assure us that children here will be able to return to school ...,” said Luvidico Salcedo, another resident and spokesperson of Samanra.

Tension gripped the area after the provincial government sent troops from the Special Action Force.

The shipping firm also deployed 12 private security guards.

Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II appealed for an amicable settlement.

Sonny Pumarada, Hanjin project coordinator, said there is no forced demolition but only dismantling because some of the houses have been bought and paid for by the Korean shipping firm.

Agusuhin Demolition Stopped

Angry DOJ chief scolds Olongapo prosecutor over Subic Rape Case

Angry DOJ chief scolds Olongapo prosecutor
By Tonette Orejas, Tarra V. Quismundo - Inquirer

OLONGAPO CITY—Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has threatened to file insubordination charges against city prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni for “openly disagreeing” with Gonzalez’s decision to downgrade the charges filed against three of four US Marines accused of raping a Filipina in Subic last year.

Jalandoni said an irate Gonzalez called him by phone on Thursday to tell him of the insubordination charges.

“I told the secretary I had no intention of hurting him or disrespecting him. I was just voicing my opinion as to why I could not accept his resolution,” Jalandoni told the Inquirer by phone on Friday, two days after he resigned from the newly created five-member prosecution panel.

“Even the Supreme Court respects the prerogative of fiscals. We are the first line of defense in the criminal justice system. We can’t deviate from how the law defines the accessories or principals in a crime,” said the University of the Philippines-trained Jalandoni, who has spent at least 13 years as a prosecutor in Olongapo City.

He said Gonzalez should not have designated him to the panel because Gonzalez knew all along that he and Olongapo City Assistant Prosecutor Raymond Viray had found probable cause that Staff Sgt. Chad Brian Carpentier and Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis conspired with Lance Corporal Daniel Smith to commit rape.

The charges against Carpentier, Silkwood and Duplantes were downgraded by Gonzalez to mere accessories, instead of principals.

In their Dec. 27, 2005 resolution after the preliminary investigation, the two prosecutors said Carpentier, as platoon leader, did not exercise his moral ascendancy over his men especially Smith to stop the alleged abuse inside a moving van.

“Similarly, the other respondents lent moral assistance to Smith not only by their mere presence inside the van but by cheering him to go on. Such encouragement must have emboldened Smith to continue raping the victim despite the latter’s resistance.”

Smith, 21, had told the US Navy’s criminal investigation unit that what took place between him and the woman was “consensual sex.”

But the woman, 22, a native of Zamboanga City, said in her Nov. 3 affidavit that she was forced into it.

The four US Marines are expected to be arraigned next Friday at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 139 for their alleged role in the rape.

Makati RTC Judge Benjamin Pozon yesterday set the arraignment of the accused servicemen on April 28.

During the arraignment, the accused would have to enter a plea of either “guilty” or “not guilty” to the charges.

“Considering the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) provisions... and the constitutional right of the people to a speedy disposition of cases, the court hereby set the arraignment of the accused on April 28.... US military authorities and the US Embassy are hereby directed by this court to bring the accused before the court on the arraignment,” Pozon ordered in open court yesterday morning, his first time to hear the case.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Payumo charged anew

Jimmy Mendoza and Bert Pineda illustrate strength and unity after filing a corruption case against Mr. Felicito Payumo, former Chairman of SBMA. The case stemmed from Payumo's lopsided concessions with Subic Coastal Development Corporation (SCDC).

According to the complaint filed this afternoon at the Office of the Ombudsman, on August 2002, Payumo executed an agreement with SCDC leasing 16.5 hectares of prime beachfront property for a miserable pittance of 2.75 pesos per square meter notwithstanding the fact that properties adjacent to SCDC such as Subic Aqua Sports and Pista sa Barrio Restaurant are paying PhP 146.66 & PhP 140.94 respectively.

The property was then subleased by SCDC to companies such as Moonbay Marina for PhP50.00 per sqm, Subic Park Hotel for PhP 70.00/sqm and Maxus Subic Food for PhP 85.00/sqm, a scheme, (according to Pineda) that defrauded the government of almost one million pesos monthly.

With such property located in the hearth of one of our country's summer capital; on the level of Baguio and Boracay where land is sold at tens of thousands of pesos per square meter, it is highly questionable to lease the Subic Beachfront for a measly two pesos and seventy five centavos per square meter! Mendoza alleged.

And to add insult to injury, it was leased by Payumo in pesos and not in dollars which is the stronger currency . . . and gave it up for fifty years! This act of corruption is unforgivable; we demand that the perpetrators be brought behind bars.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Subic offers summer tourism packages

By Bebot Sison Jr.
The Philippine Star

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The tourism department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has announced new tourism packages under its newly launched tourism tagline "Nature, Fun and More."

Venancio Triguero II, the SBMA’s new tourism manager, said the new "exciting and affordable" tour packages were designed to suit every Subic visitor.

"This is a very exciting time for us here, for the first time in years, we are finally offering packages that will cater to everyone. Now, everyone who comes to Subic can really make the most of their stay here," he told The STAR.

The summer tour packages include day tours, which offer tourists discounted rates in all recreational facilities; family, corporate and "Gimmick Barkada" overnight packages inclusive of overnight stay; and a tour of different facilities in the Subic Freeport.

For the more adventurous, Triguero said the SBMA is offering a "Nature Adventure" package for treks and visits to scenic spots in the Freeport.

As a show of support for the SBMA tourism program, some ecotourism establishments in Subic are now offering as much as 15 percent discounts for facilities as well as free breakfast for a standard overnight accommodation of P1,200 per person.

Meanwhile, the Subic day tour is priced at P800 per person, while the Subic overnight package ranges from P899 to P1,999 per person, inclusive of accommodation and day tour.

Triguero said the special packages were conceptualized during a recent "tourism branding" seminar where tourism stakeholders and employees thought of ways to make Subic click as a premier tourist destination.

Earlier, SBMA administrator and chief executive officer Armand Arreza announced that the Subic Bay International Airport has reduced its aeronautical fees by as much as 80 percent on weekdays to encourage more airlines to bring in more tourists to Subic.

The weekend rates, on the other hand, are now down by 60 percent, Arreza added.

Subic has monthlong Earth Day celebration

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and its Ecology Center are holding a monthlong celebration in observance of Earth Day on April 22.

Ameth de la Llana, manager of the SBMA Ecology Center, said the celebration will educate everyone about the protection of Subic’s natural environment despite economic zone’s continued development.

Among the activities are an acoustic concert at the famous Subic boardwalk, a junk art contest, a photo contest, a body-painting contest, a garden show, a dog show, mural painting and an ethnic-dance competition.

Armand C. Arreza, administrator of the SBMA, said the celebration is a way to promote awareness among residents and investors of Subic Bay Freeport.

Arreza also explained that besides the strategic location, the port, the airport and the competitive fees, investors also consider the natural surroundings of Subic, which the SBMA has preserved through strict implementation of regulations.

Earth Day has been celebrated worldwide for over 30 years to increase awareness about environmental issues. It began in the United States, and coincides with a tree-planting holiday there called Arbor Day.

DENR issues ultimatum against Zambales mining firm

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes has given two mining firms a 15-day deadline to repair the defective structures in their abandoned mines after a Department of Environment and Natural Resources study confirmed the possibility of waste spillage in surrounding communities once La Niña sets in.

Reyes informed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of his decision to file appropriate charges against the Marcopper Mining Corp. in Marinduque and the Dizon Copper-Silver Mines Inc. in Zambales in a Cabinet meeting at Malacañang yesterday.

“With the onset of La Niña, we must take the necessary precautions so that these abandoned mines will not pose environmental hazards such as spillage of waste,” Reyes said.

Reyes said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau has identified the Maguila-guila siltation dam and Tapian pit of Marcopper and the Bayarong tailings pond and Camalca waste dump of the Dizon Mines as “critical” mine structures.

Based on the DENR study, about 81 baranggays in Marinduque and the entire town of San Marcelino in Zambales are in danger of tailings spill and waste overflow.

“The President has said that the safety of the environment and the safety of the communities are nonnegotiables. We are not taking any risks even as we welcome local and foreign mining firms,” Reyes said.

On March 24, 1996, a tailings spill in the Marcopper mines released 1.6 million cubic meters of waste and killed the 26-kilometer Makulapnit and Boac river systems.

In his letter to Dizon Mines, Reyes cited “potential danger” from the collapse of the Bayarong tailings dam. He told the executives of Marcopper that there is “imminent dangers to life and property” from their defective mine structures. Joyce Pangco Pañares - Manila Standard

2 chartered Chinese airlines plan direct flights to Subic

Two chartered airlines from mainland China are seriously considering operating direct flights to Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), raising to four airlines that will be operating in the Freeport and make the former military naval base a major tourist destination.

This was revealed by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator and chief executive officer Armand C. Arreza following his recent trip to China.

According to Arreza, the Chinese airline was supported by the Shijianzhuang and Taizhou cities and one municipality in the southern part of China.

Arreza said that top officials from these Chinese cities and municipality have started serious talks with SBMA.

Arreza attributed the interest of foreign airlines to operate short haul flights from Subic because of the upgraded facilities of the SBIA and the start of the Subic Bay Port Development project.

Aside from the improved facilities, SBMA is also offering 80 percent discounts on all aeronautical fees during regular days, and 60 percent during weekends to attract more airline operators to use the SBIA and consequently bring in more foreign and domestic tourists.

The big savings cover fees for landing, takeoff, parking, lighting and the use of the navigational and communication equipment such as radar and others

"As a result, more Asian cities would wan to establish direct flights to Subic," Arreza said.

"We are prioritizing these negotiations," Arreza said.

The proposed new direct flights from China will be in addition to the current domestic and international direct flights to and from Subic. Among them are Mandarin Air, which flies Subic-Taipei route, Subic-Incheon of Cebu Pacific, and Subic-Guangzhou of Air Philippines.

SBMA Chairman Feliciano G. Salonga also cited the freeport’s tourism package program for the summer season that includes several special events and cultural activities.

The summer tourism package program has made Subic the best nature and industrial theme park in the country.

The tourism package was made possible with the freeport’s improved tourism facilities, upgrading of standards and services.

Philippines: President's Cup Regatta should see largest fleet of top class racing yachts in Asia

The 2006 President's Cup (April 18th to 22nd) follows on after the CSR in Subic Bay where perhaps the biggest fleet of top class racing yachts will be racing together in Asia. Local yachts Ray Ordoveza's Excel 53 Karakoa will be skippered by Steve Benjamin and Judes Echauz's Sydney 46 Centennial by Jamie Wilmot to ensure that the Hong Kong racers don't have it all there own way.

Hong Kong has by far the biggest fleet of racing boats in Asia that represent the bulk of the racing class at most Asian regatta's. Frank Pong's two 76 footers Boracay and Jelik adds a distinctive big boat flavour to any regatta. Peter Morton is helming Boracay with Pierre Mas calling the shots and some of his China Team America's Cup crew spread across the two boats which certainly lifts the profile of the event.

The Fred Kinmonth/Nick Burns owned Mandrake are fresh from their China

Sea Race victory and pose the biggest threat here as they are also the defending champions. Robert Knight's DK 46 Drumstick has also collected some silverware recently at the Phuket King's Cup and Royal Langkawi Int. Regatta to put themselves into contention for top honours here.

Gallivanting Aussie Geoff Hill has entered his Lyons 49 Strewth in all the major Asian regatta's this season and will be joining the racing class this time round as not enough premier cruisers are taking part to form their own class.

Chairman of the President's Cup committee Jun Avecilla clinched the Cruising Class at the Singapore Straits Regatta on his Beneteau First 36.7 Selma Star and is expected to be amongst the leaders of the eight IRC cruiser/racers by the end of the regatta. Defending champion George Hackett's J 35 Jo de Ros normally finishes up on the podium and Martin Tanco's X - 452 Challenge could also strike a lucky chord after a lengthy China Sea Race.

The Performance Handicap PY Class has a Russian, Japanese, Philippine and an Australian entry in four different yacht designs which shows how diverse the fleet can be in Asia. Aussie Peter Sharpe will be helming the Beneteau First 31.7 Selma/SBYC Sags and as he has taken up residence in Subic Bay plus come to grips with the vagaries of the wind here should start as favourite in the class. More on the President's Cup can be found at: http://www.manilayachtclub.org/prescup/

Capt. Marty Rijkuris: http://AsianYachting.com

3 of 4 US Marines in rape case relegated as accessory

MANILA -- Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. on Tuesday downgraded as mere accessory three of the four US servicemen indicted for rape of a 22-year-old Filipino woman in Subic Bay Freeport in November last year while he sustained the charge against Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, being the principal accused.

Gonzalez said in a press briefing that Smith's failure to submit his counter-affidavit to rebut the complaint is a clear indication that he is admitting the charges against him.

He also said charges against Smith's co-accused, Staff Sergeant Chad Carpentier and Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis should have been dropped except that there was still the unresolved issue raised by the victim that one of them allegedly "cheered" Smith in raping her inside a van.

"Based on my appreciation of evidence, these three people should not be charged with rape because the girl, in all her statements, said she was molested by only one. They have knowledge about what was happening inside the van but they did not do anything," Gonzalez said.

"I should have exonerated them but I was trying to satisfy the mob. The fact that they were there, they have knowledge, and they just abandoned her. One (of the three accessories) also called the girl 'a bitch,' and I didn't like that," he added.

Gonzalez said based on his review of the case, Carpentier, Silkwood, and Duplantis were present when the alleged rape was committed but it does not mean that they participated or conspired with Smith in raping the woman.

Gonzalez was supposed to release his resolution on the petitions for review submitted by the respondents contesting the recommendations of the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office finding probable cause against them.

His resolution would have modified the findings of Olongapo City Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni who indicted all four US Marines as principals.

Van driver Timoteo Soriano was earlier indicted as accessory but the charge against him was dropped later on by Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Judge Renato Dilag.

But Gonzalez said earlier that he would order the reinvestigation of Soriano as well as his reinstatement as one of the respondents in the case, being the driver of the van.

Gonzalez also said he decided to strike out the allegations that there was conspiracy among the four accused soldiers to rape "Nichole," a native of Zamboanga City who was visiting some relatives in Subic when the crime took place.

"There is no conspiracy. All the affidavits submitted by the prosecution are from people who were not present or inside the van," he said.

Smith is facing capital punishment as principal accused while his three co-accused are facing a maximum jail term of 20 years if found guilty.

Under the law, a person charged principally in a rape case is not allowed to post bail but accessories to the crime may do so.

This means that the three accessories to the rape case may leave the premises of the US embassy where they have been under protective custody since the filing of the rape case.

Last March, the case was transferred from the Olongapo to the Makati City RTC in the sala of Judge Benjamin Pozon following the inhibition from the case of Dilag. (ECV/Sunnex)

Manila reduces rape charges against 3 U.S. Marines

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines said on Tuesday it reduced charges against three U.S. Marines over the alleged rape of a Filipino woman last year, making them accessories to a fourth sailor accused of carrying out the attack.

Prosecutors originally charged the four Marines with raping the 22-year-old woman in a van before leaving her on a roadside in November after they had taken part in military exercises with Philippine soldiers.

The justice department reviewed the charges after an appeal by defence lawyers before the formal arraignment, which has been postponed from last month.

"Based on my appreciation of the evidence, these three people should not be charged with rape because the girl, in all her statements, said she was molested by only one," Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez told reporters.

"I downgraded them to accessories," he said. "They were there, they have knowledge and they just abandoned her."

The rape case has prompted small protests outside the U.S. embassy in Manila and calls by some politicians for the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement to be amended or scrapped.

But analysts see little long-term damage to ties between the United States and the Philippines, a former U.S. colony and Washington's closest security partner in Southeast Asia.

The rape trial has also been delayed by the withdrawal of the judge handling the case, who said his voluntary move was prompted by a motion from the victim's lawyer.

To avoid further delays, the Supreme Court moved the trial to a court in Manila from Olongapo City, northwest of the capital.

The U.S. embassy has ignored an arrest warrant for the four Marines, saying the Visiting Forces Agreement allows the United States to maintain custody of sailors until judicial proceedings have been completed. (With reporting by Jesus Llanto)

Rape case driver may be charged

The justice department will again look into the criminal liability of the driver of four American servicemen accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipina in Subic, Zambales, in November, an official said yesterday.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Timoteo Soriano could have been charged as an accomplice, and particularly because he failed to report the incident to police.

“I ordered the conduct of a new preliminary investigation. He could have been charged as an accomplice,” Gonzalez said.

“He was the driver and he must have known [what had really taken place]. He could have reported it to the police.”

Gonzalez made the statement even as he was expected to release today the resolution on the petition for review filed by Keith Silkwood, Daniel Smith, Dominic Duplantis, and Chad Carpentier. The four accused want the rape charges against them dismissed.

Last week, the lawyers of the alleged rape victim petitioned the Court of Appeals to reinstate the driver of the four US servicemen among the accused.

Lawyer Evelyn Ursua claimed that Olongapo City judge Renato Dilag abused his discretion when he dismissed the rape case against driver Soriano on Jan. 13, 2006.

Olongapo Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni had appealed to indict Soriano as a coaccused in the rape case in December because, it was claimed, he had intentionally driven the van slowly to give Smith more time to “sexually ravish the victim.”

Dilag dismissed his appeal on Feb. 10.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez has reconstituted a new panel of prosecutors to handle the rape case now pending before the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 139.
By Rey E. Requejo - Manila Standard

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Agusuhin Demolition Stopped

Demolition in Agusuhin, Subic, Zambales was temporarily halted due to on-going negotiation to settle dispute with the island’s settlers. More than 200 families in Sitio Agusuhin, Bgy. Cawag, Subic, Zambales is facing eviction.

Reynaldo Samonte, Chairperson of Samahan ng Malaya at Nagkakaisang Residente ng Agusuhin (SAMANRA, Organization of Free and United Residents of Agusuhin) said that Zambales governor Vic Magsaysay had “ordered the demolition of the community” and the to date, they have already succeeded in destroying many houses including the three buildings of the Agusuhin Elementary School and Agusuhin High School, both of which were constructed by the settlers themselves and without help from the government.

Samonte claims they have been living in the area for at least 50 years and will fight the plan to uproot them from their community. He belied reports that they have been paid already and that they were provided a decent relocation.

Earlier visits by Zambales Vice Governor Ramon Lacbain revealed that other activities relative to the construction of Hanjin Shipyard is causing sickness among the island's inhabitants.

Inside sources revealed that the primary reason for the temporary stoppage of demolition activity is to pacify the protesters in preparation for the ground breaking ceremony scheduled today where President Arroyo will be the guest of honor.

This writer called SBMA this morning and was informed that the ground breaking ceremony was reset to another date, SBMA Chairman Fil Salonga and Administrator Armand C. Arreza however proceeded to Malacanang to update the President on the developments in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Monday, April 17, 2006

DoJ bent on replacing prosecutor in Subic rape case vs. marines

The Department of Justice (DoJ) is determining whether or not to replace the lead prosecutor handling the “Subic Rape” case, as it considers the extra-burden it may cause him with the transfer of case to a court in Makati.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said he will designate a prosecutor from Makati City to lead the prosecution of the US marines, if Olongapo City Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni would not be able to handle it effectively.

"We can allow a Makati prosecutor to handle it, including City Prosecutor Feliciano Aspi, if he is interested. But we might also allow Prosecutor Jalandoni, if he can effectively handle the case without sacrificing his other pending cases in Olongapo," Gonzalez said, in an interview.

"The problem with Jalandoni is that he has to travel from Olongapo to Makati City every time there is a hearing. (This, when) he also needs to attend to his other pending cases (in Olongapo," he said.

Nonetheless, Gonzalez vowed to resolve the matter as soon a possible, even as he expected Makati RTC Judge Benjamin Pozon to set the arraignment of the accused when the latter comes back from Lenten vacation.

In a chance interview before the Holy Week, Pozon said that he would decide on the date of the arraignment after the Lenten break, and until after the Olongapo Prosecutor’s Office transmitted all the documents pertaining to the Subic rape case.

The Makati City judge said he would set the arraignment of the case immediately, despite the pendency of the DoJ’s ruling on the petitions for review filed by accused L/Cpl. Daniel Smith, S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier, L/Cpl. Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis. (Gabriel S. Mabutas - Tempo)

A totally different Subic

Manila Bulletin - Philippines

Speaking Out: Ignacio R. Bunye

OVER the Holy Week break, my family experienced a completely different Subic Bay, courtesy of the hardworking men and women of SBMA, led by Chair Fil Salonga, Administrator Armand Arreza and ret. Gen. Jose Calimlim. Our trip began with the marvelous arrangements by Gina Agustin, Armi Llamas, Sep Ruiz, and SBMA tourism manager Benny Triguero II. We were assigned an amiable guide, Milbert Adlawan, who made sure every minute of our stay was filled with new adventures. Milbert was among the original volunteers who cleaned up Subic Base and its environs after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption almost 15 years ago. He has stayed on and is eager to show visitors all of Subic's nooks and crannies.

Among the highlights of our visit were jungle survival skills demonstrations at Pamulaklakan village by an Aeta, Mang Miguel, who taught us how to start a fire without matches and cooking rice using bamboo. One of the original instructors during the US bases years, Tata Iking Bulatao, is now based in the United States and continues to teach jungle survival techniques. At another area of the Jungle Environment Survival Training (JEST) Camp, a grandson of Tata Iking taught us other skills such as another method of starting a fire and getting drinking water from a bamboo.

For the extreme adventurists, Slide for Life provides absolute thrill. One starts from the highest point swinging fast downwards from treetop to treetop while suspended by a harnesss on steel cables. The other stages involve negotiating hanging bridges, and finally, trekking upwards to point of origin.

In an area adjacent to the JEST Camp, we had an educational afternoon viewing exhibits at the Spiderworld, Butterfly Farm and Bird Park. These exhibits are highly recommended for the whole family.

Just as educational and enriching was our visit to Zoobic Safari, one of the newest and most popular attractions at Subic Bay. Zoobic Safari, a joint venture between SBMA and the Yupangco Group, gives visitors a chance to see various animals up close and, in certain instances, to pet them. I had a chance to pet a tiger cub and carry a huge python. Many of the animals we saw are indigenous to the Philippines, such as civet cats, various breeds of monkeys and of course, whitebreasted eagles and brahminy kites. Others were obtained from overseas, such as tigers, ostriches, sheep, a moon bear and cassowary. In the case of the tigers and ostriches, Zoobic Safari has been quite successful in breeding them locally, according to Safari Manager Delia de Jesus.

A visit to Zoobic Safari would not be complete without taking the safari ride, where visitors board a jeepney, protected with iron mesh of course, to see the tigers lounging in pools and basking in the sun. Our guide dangled a live chicken through the jeepney's window in the hope that a tiger would chase our jeep and give us a thrill. Unfortunately, with the more than 2,000 visitors to Zoobic Safari during Holy Week, the tigers appeared sated and bored.

A side trip to the Subic small arms firing range, with Benny Triguero and SBMA law enforcement chief Jaime Calunsag, capped one afternoon.

On Good Friday, we drove to Casa San Miguel in Zambales for the annual performance of Haydn's The Seven Last Words by renowned violinist Coke Bolipata and the Pundaquit virtuosi. This dramatic and moving work was composed by Haydn to serve as descriptive orchestral interludes between the spoken portions of the Holy Week service in the 1700s. It was our second year to experience the artistry of Coke Bolipata and his young protégés. Coke and his family of artists are committed to bringing their music to groups and places where orchestral music is not normally performed. A new addition to Casa San Miguel is an exhibit hall for paintings and other visual arts.

Breaking tradition, my family stayed at Grande Island Resort this year, where we all had a relaxing time and enjoyed the unparalleled hospitality of owners Robin and Nancy Tan, and General Manager Thomas Lee. Just one and a half years in operation, Grande Island Resort is being visited in record numbers by tourists from Taiwan and Korea, many of whom fly directly to Subic. Other guests take day trips and come in droves on the ferry that makes several runs daily. The resort currently has 80 rooms (casitas) facing Subic Bay and work is about to begin on a two-phase construction of a seaside hotel which when completed would provide an additional 96 rooms. Grande Island has become a favorite venue for corporate and team building events from where, we were told, no one can 'escape'.

Our adjoining casitas featured breezy porches from where one could just spend the whole day enjoying the fresh air or watching around ten varieties of birds that regularly visit the alagao trees for their morning meal. Just a stone's throw away are a variety of water sports activities, such as snorkeling, jet skiing and fishing. Special thanks go to Filman Sibulo who took care of us throughout our stay. On our first day, Filman, whose father- in-law Nito Coronel once drove for my wife's family, guided me around the island as we drove in a convoy of four-wheeled bikes. Among the attractions are WWII gun emplacements and fortified bunkers.

After regularly visiting Subic for many years, there are still many new places to discover, such as the Seafood by the Bay restaurant owned by the siblings Johnny and Jeannett Ong, which only opened last December. Another favorite gastronomic destination is the Golden Dragon Restaurant where former US President Clinton dined during the APEC Summit.

Investments continue to pour in (not the least of which is the Hanjin shipbuilding facility) which together with Subic International Airport would help establish the Subic-Clark corridor as the leading logistics hub in the region.

Truly, Subic is a hub for business, nature, entertainment and history.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

2007 polls should be priority -- Gordon

AMID the stepped-up campaign for Charter change, Sen.Richard Gordon said the government should prioritize preparations for the 2007 national and local elections instead of the moveto amend the Constitution.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, made the appeal as he urged fellow senators to immediately pass his bill computerizing the electoral process.

"The impending 2007 elections should be the primary focus of our country today.We need to urgently provide for an Automated Electoral System (AES) that eliminates cheating and ensures clean, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections," Gordon said.

He said Senate Bill 2231, already on second reading at the Senate floor, requires partial computerization of elections in 2007 and full computerization by 2010. AES calls for the use of appropriate technology for voting, counting, consolidating, canvassing, transmission of election results, and other electoral processes.

"This will use the best technology available for elections and limit the amount of human handling of the ballots, and thus assure the secrecy and sanctity of the ballots in order that the results of elections shall be fast, accurate and reflective of the genuine will of the people," Gordon said.

He said that "reforming Comelec and the electoral system is a condition sine qua non to Charter change.

"But how can we have a reliable and trustworthy plebiscite when the integrity and credibility of the Comelec is still in question? Thus, Comelec must primarily be strengthened as a vital democratic institution.We must be able to provide our people with an electoral system that is worthy of public trust and confidence," he said. Bernadette E. Tamayo - People's Journal

Boracay takes CSR 2006 Line Honours, enroute to Subic

'Boracay, CSR 2006 Line Honours winner' Guy Nowell
After the fleet park-up overnight 13th-14th, Jelik, along with Mandrake and Siren, gambled on taking a route north of the rhumb line, while Boracay 'tacked and tacked and tacked on every puff' as she worked her way south of the line and south of the fleet as well.

The IRC Cruising and HKPN Divisions have stayed with the pack, and eventually the breeze filled in to the 11kt north-easterly promised by Hong Kong Observatory and everyone got moving again.

All through the day of the 14th the fleet tracked pretty much straight towards Subic Bay, with only minor differences in course.

An EPIRB signal was received from Soko. Thanks to the Purplefinder tracking system in operation, it was possible to precisely identify Soko’s position, and also that of the nearest boat in the fleet (Cave Canem) who was then asked to investigate Soko’s situation. The signal turned out to be a false alarm, but the incident did reinforce the usefulness of a tracking system for safety purposes – and not just as a way of ‘interested observers’ watching the progress of the race.

By 1800 hrs 14th the race at the front of the fleet was still on, but overnight the breeze went into the northwest, favouring Boracay who was able to put some miles on Jelik.

Now the calculators were working overtime, and from the 1800 positions it was looking as if Mandrake was well placed on handicap, ahead of Jelik and Robbie Knight’s dk46, Drumstick.

However, never underestimate the vagaries of the soft breeze on the Philippine coast. Local (and ex-Hong Kong) sailor David McKenna said, 'it’s an easy call… stay south of the rhumb line after 1st April, and never, ever, get caught inshore to the north of Capones'. Boracay closed the coast in the early hours of the morning, and then found a hole. 'Somewhere Jelik took 35 nm out of us' said skipper Peter Morton, 'and I haven’t figured out how!' Laurence Mead added, ‘we were parked, and we could see her coming up to us.'

Boracay finished at Grande Island in the mouth of Subic Bay at 05:22:32 hrs, with Jelik just 48 minutes back at 06:10:55 hrs, bringing to and end the Derby Match between Frank Pong’s two 76-footers.

Philippine entry, the X-452, Challenge, was abeam Cape Bolinao at about 1130 hrs Sunday morning – 'This is our first China Sea Race, Challenge, Philippines’ entry, CSR 2006 Guy Nowell
and we are looking forward to finishing in home territory' said owner Martin Tanco.

All the HKPN boats have over half their race still to go, so it's too early to make predictions, however on current forecasts, it is entirely possible that all five boats will make it into Subic Bay sometime on Tuesday.

by Lindsay Lyons, RHKYC / Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia



As the nation opens the summer vacation season, Senator Richard J. Gordon, former Tourism Secretary and now Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism, reiterated his appeal for full support of the country’s tourism industry. “Even with the boom in tourism we’re experiencing now, the industry has yet to reach its full potential. It is a sleeping giant that can generate jobs and opportunities for everyone,” he said.
“It means jobs and opportunities, not just for the waiters and bellboys, or the restaurateurs and hoteliers, but the carpenters and engineers that will build the resorts and hotels, the vendors and the taxi drivers on the streets, and even the bankers and lawyers that will help bring in big investments. This is the power of tourism,” Gordon said.
The Department of Tourism had earlier announced that there were 2.623 million tourist arrivals to the Philippines in 2005, surpassing the 2.5 million target it set earlier that year.
Gordon however said that, “The 2.6 million arrivals were expected. In fact, it could have happened much earlier if we didn’t have to contend with SARS, 9/11, disasters, terrorist kidnappings and bombings. But the 2.6 million was achieved because of reforms we began, continuing and strengthening international promotions, so the world can know us and appreciate what we have to offer, thus investing in tourism growth over the last five years.”
He emphasized, however, that this is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2005, the World Tourism Organization reported that there were 808 million tourist arrivals in the whole world. With such a size of the global market, the Philippines accounts for less than 1%. “But we know how beautiful our country and culture are. The question is, are we ready to compete in the big time? Tourism is a global business. Are we ready to compete not just with Phuket and Bali or Hong Kong and Singapore, but with Paris, Rome, Madrid And new York?”
“The Philippine tourism sector is a sleeping giant, and we hope we can awaken it with the Tourism Act of 2005,” Gordon pointed out. “If we increase our arrivals from 2.6 to 10 million, the country can raise around $10 billion or P500 billion annually enough to power our economy, pay our foreign debt, and sustain our educational and health needs.”
“If we want to compete, we need fundamental reforms. We can aim for 10 million in a few years if we wanted to, if we truly set our minds to it. If Thailand or Malaysia can hit 12 or 15 million, we can definitely hit 10 million.” said Gordon.
Gordon added that study after study has been made on how to reform the tourism sector. He stated that many of the proposals there have been incorporated into the SB 2138.
“We have consulted the major players in the industry. We are doing our best to address all the issues of the tourism industry and the various sectors. But the big picture is simply this: we have to make our tourism globally competitive not because we are cheap, but because of the beauty of our country and our culture, and because we give a truly world-class experience,” he stated.
The senator also believed that tourism presents a real and genuine opportunity for our country to generate jobs and investment across the board and thus come closer to eliminating poverty.
“We must remember that that where tourism advances, poverty retreats,” Gordon said.

Restore Hope and Rebuild our Country

"The Eagle Will Not Fly Without the Poor"
By Antonio P. Meloto, Gawad Kalinga
Ateneo de Manila University Commencement Exercises
25 March 2006
I asked some members of the senior class last week why they chose me as their commencement speaker. I have no business empire. I hold no political power. And I am no academic genius. I am just an ordinary Filipino, a graduate of the Ateneo, who did not even excel as a student... just an ordinary man who loves to tell stories about the extraordinary things that people are doing for our country today.

And they told me--- because I represent a movement that presents hope at this time when many in our country are in despair. You are lookiing for hope in me, but I am here to tell you that this school and the other members of this university have been a source of hope and inspiration for me in the last three years.

When Father Ben Nebres and the Ateneo Board of Trustees bestowed the Ozanam Award on Gawad Kalinga through me on July 23, 2003, they triggered A REVOLUTION OF HOPE in the Ateneo...sweeping the Ateneo from grade school, high school, college, to the Alumni... then leading the way for other universities, corporations, government institutions and Filipino organizations abroad to follow their example and joining the bandwagon for nation building. The Ateneo is showing the world that "The eagle will not fly without the poor".
Thank you Father Ben for your great love for our country and for inspiring the young to make a difference in the lives of our people.

Caring for the poor and restoring the dignity of the Filipino in his own country have now become an urgent mission for Filipinos here and abroad. This is not just healing for our country's poor and neglected but it is healing for me and many like me as well.

Unknown to most of you, for 32 years it wasn't easy for me to return to Ateneo. I didn't come to the reunions and homecomings, simply because of a sense of guilt of a person who grew up with the suffering poor but later forgot them after I got an Ateneo education. I was so focused on repackaging, and building up myself that I forgot the accompanying responsibility that came with the privilege of an Ateneo scholarship. I forgot the poor... I left them behind. I left them like so many others before me.

There are many who blame the rich and powerful for the plight of the poor. I know there is basis for the accusations but I cannot bring myself to blame them. How could I expect them to love the poor whom they do not know when I grew up poor and yet forgot to help them, too.

I realized my great shortcoming as a Filipino in 1985 when I joined Couples for Christ. It was then that I found my faith and grew a conscience and decided to live a righteous life... to correct the mistakes and the injustice committed to our country and to our people by people like me. Couples for Christ taught me to repent for my sins and to be genuinely sorry for the things I failed to do for my country and for my people.

I am really sorry for the state of things, because of my failure to do something about it. And many are now sorry, just like myself because of this state of degradation... But feeling sorry is not enough. Sorry does not restore beauty, sorry does not restore dignity, sorry does not restore the plan of God for man. Sorry begins it, but sorry is not enough.

What needs to be done is to bring sorry to action, to convert regret to reform, to lift apathy to compassion and development. We who have not done well by the talents and treasures we have been gifted with, we who have abdicated our responsibility of shepherding the poor and the young to their birthright of enjoying the treasures of a beautiful and abundant country, we who have seen the errors of our ways and are sorry --- we must now restore what we destroyed... or allowed to be destroyed.

Because the Ateneo is a Christian university which believes in the mission of forming students to become persons for others, the principle of good over evil goes beyond the fundamental understanding of right and wrong. It is not enough not to do wrong. To battle evil, we must do good. The path of reform and transformation for Ateneans... for Christians, must be one of peace. It must believe that good is more powerful than evil, and only in the exercise of good can evil be eliminated. Thus, the path of reform and transformation, personal and social, must be a path of good works.

Build homes. Build communities. Build capacities. Restore dignity. Restore abundance. Restore beauty. Restore peace. Build and restore, build and restore.
And you did! The eagle has landed in Payatas. Because you could not bring the poor of Payatas to Ateneo, you brought Ateneo to the poor of Payatas. In this once desolate place, you restored dignity, you have brought back hope!
The former squatters now have security in their land. You transformed 200 shanties -- the slum and the garbage have now become a beautiful middle class community. Crime has virtually disappeared. Forrmer streetchildren are now in school. The idle have been motivated to find employment and are now living productive lives. Nawala ang sindikato sa lupa, sa tubig, at sa ilaw. You have transformed hell into a piece of heaven... all because you cared, you shared and you learned to work together. The grade school worked with their parents, the high school students gave up their parties... the college students gave up their weekends. And the Alumni from all over the world also helped.
I salute and honor the eagles of Payatas, especially Steph Limuaco, former President of the Ateneo Student Council and now full-time worker of Ateneo for Gawad Kalinga, students, parents, the caretaker team from CFC and Mayor Sonny Belmonte who not only paved the way for the poor to own the land in Payatas but also paved the roads.

Again you performed the same miracle in Gabaldon!
The surviving flood victims who were once squatters living in dangerous areas now have their own land in sites that have been cleared as environmentally safe and their own sturdy homes. Now the people are growing their own food and planting trees. Land for the landless, homes for the homeless, food for the hungry... For this I honor Mark Lawrence Cruz, the 300-strong Team Gabaldon and Mayor Mandia. You washed away the mud of despair and brought out the gold in the poor of Gabaldon.

Gabaldon is part of a massive rehabilitation and reconstruction effort called Kalinga Luzon that goes beyond the usual relief operations after the calamity. Malaki ang tulong dito ng 3 Atenista in helping 40,000 survivor families of the Luzon typhoons and floods... Secretary of National Defense and NDCC Chairman Avelino "Nonong" Cruz , Smart-PLDT Chairman Manny Pangilinan and former Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo.

This afternoon I invited the proud leaders of Payatas and Gabaldon, together with the mayors of Cabiao, San Isidro, and Gen. Tinio, Nueva Ecija who have also benefited from the help of Ateneo. They are here to witness the graduation of a new breed of Ateneans and Filipinos who not only have the brains but also the heart for our country and our people.

The journey to rebuild our country is just beginning and moving towards massive upscaling with the entry of corporations, national government agencies, LGU's and Filipino organizations abroad.

Corporations too are searching for a deeper and better __expression of corporate social responsibility. Rival corporations are rising above business competition to help. P&G and Unilever, Jollibee and McDonalds, Shell and Petron, Pfizer and Wyeth and Smart-PLDT... and over a hundred others. Sabi ng Shell "Kung may layunin, malayo ang inyong mararating". Sabi ng Smart "We're not just building homes, we're building a nation" . Both campaigns are inspired by the spirit of Gawad Kalinga, the spirit of being a person for others - going beyond conventional charity towards helping the poor become better stewards of their families and their communities. Converting our human resource from liability to asset, expanding the market base by empowering the poor make good business sense!

This afternoon we have with us the country chairman of Shell Philippines, Mr. Ed Chua, who is from La Salle and the president of Pfizer, Mr. Gerry Bacarro, who is from Ateneo. Both are firm believers of corporate social responsibility geared towards nation-building. It is our hope that the stiff rivalry between Ateneo and La Salle in basketball will be elevated to a higher level of nobility of building the most number of houses and communities and educating the most number of poor children.

My fellow Ateneans, when you leave this campus, many of you will join these corporations and will be happy to note that they have a keener sense of social responsibility and a work environment that will nurture your idealism.

In the field of governance, more than 300 mayors and governors have chosen the same path of nation-building. Hundreds more will join this year and members of Congress are being inspired to do the same. Many of you will be the future mayors, governors and members of congress... and again will be happy to note that your predecessors have begun the path of building and restoring our country.
Even Filipinos abroad have found a reason to hope and a way to concretize their love for the motherland. Many have gone beyond sending resources... they themselves are coming home to help build the nation of their dreams... Bicolanos helping Bicol... The Ilonggos helping Negros and Panay... the Cebuanos helping Cebu... And the Fil-Am doctors are going beyond the usual medical mission and are building healthy communities as a way of giving back to a country that they have never stopped loving.

When you care for others, especially the weak and the powerless, you will be amazed at how God will take care of you and the people you love. Today I thank God for my wife and my five children who have joined me in this mission to help restore this beautiful land. This is the best legacy I can give them. I honor my son Jay, who at 22, left his job and an exciting life of fast cars and beautiful girls in L.A. to help the typhoon victims of Bicol... and my son-in-law Dylan Wilk who left his country England, his family and friends, his extravagant lifestyle - his Ferrari, his Porsche and BMW... in exchange for the poor families in this country that he has learned to love and care for.

And of course, the nameless and unrecognized workers and heroes of other Ateneo initiatives like Pathways, Tulong Dunong, Jesuit Volunteers of the Philippines, Leaders for Health and other NGOs and cause-oriented groups who love this county... Today there are tens of thousands of them... tomorrow there will be millions. Together we will build a slum-free, squatter-free, crime-free Philippines.

And so in the same spirit of heroism, I urge you young Ateneans to do the same. After you leave this campus, there is no doubt that you will soar to great heights but it will all be meaningless if you fly alone. The poor do not have strong wings like you do and they need you to carry them, inspire them to discover their own strength and greatness. Sana eto ang walang iwanan.

For the parents, as you have invested in the future of your children by giving them the best education possible... support also your children's desire to invest in the future of this country. They will honor you even more if you value their aspirations for nobility and their dreams for a better country that will be a source of pride for them and their children.

As we go through this defining moment of Philippine history, let us strive never to forget four things:
(1) Never stop hoping for our country.
(2) Don't stop caring for our people.
(3) Demand greatness of yourself as a Filipino.
(4) Inspire greatness in other Filipinos.

As you leave the campus to join the real world, let your vision and the power that you have discovered to change the world, define what is real to you.
Make your love for this country and our people, especially the poor, your reality and your priority. Make it the foundation of your career plans, your dreams and ambitions for your children and the goal of any political or economic power that you have the privilege to wield.

Wherever you are in the world, excel and prosper but remain connected to the motherland and dedicate your success to the fulfillment not just of your dreams but to the many in your country who have lost their capacity to dream.
Do not be content in finding artificial security in gated subdivisions when you can provide yourself a buffer of peace by caring for the needy around you. Nor be content with living in first world luxury in a third world environment and contributing to the discontent and the growing threats around the security of your own family.

Give value to the land of your birth by sharing with those who for generations have been deprived of its use and abundance. Be a blessing to your children's future by making it your responsibility to be father or mother to the abandoned and neglected.

Be the healing of the soul of this nation and the fulfillment of the dream that we have forgotten.

Be the proud Filipino that we are not yet, but soon will be.
Be the hero who finds courage and the conviction that this country is worth saving, because it is a gift from God and that your life is meaningless if it is not dedicated to the fulfillment of a divine destiny to be a great people.
Let me end this speech and send you off with a prayer.

Dear God, pour out your blessing upon our new graduates. Guide them in their journey to greatness. Show your power and majesty to this troubled and sinful nation through these young Filipinos who will strive to live lives of righteousness and excellence. Make them healers of our wounded people and restorers of our broken land. Anoint them as the new generation of living heroes who will bring this country to our destiny of greatness.

Mabuhay kayong mga bagong bayani ng bayan! Kayo ang bagong lakas ng pagbabago! Kayo ang magandang mukha ng kinabukasan!

Happy Easter!!!


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