Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

NEWS ARCHIVE January 2007

Credible or incredible elections?
P1,000 salary hike for govt employees
Clark freeport status okayed
Missoula couple answers the call for conservation
Admin asks opposition to stop using no-el as campa...
Gordon to Comelec: Automate or else…
Governor celebrates his birthday
Lopez toll road firm allots P1b for ’07 expansion
Workers rally to save Clark ecozone
Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway to make RP among Asi...
Comelec, Senate clash over automated polls
Bicam panel approves ecozone tax perks bill
Drug gang members charged for murder attempt
Damage suit mulled vs. 2 shipping firms
Journalist accuses US soldier of hitting him
Untying the Gordon knot
BCDA to bid out 3 service areas along Subic-Clark-...
Ecozone officials alarmed over Senate version of i...
2 injured in plane crash in Subic Bay
SC orders Malacañang to explain Smith transfer
Five-year Philippine ship building and repair prog...
Subic Fish Cages
Closure of two casinos in Subic reduced number of ...
P40-M monthly savings seen in Clark ecozone
Olongapo village named 2006 Barangay of the Year
’Gapo LTO collection up 5%
All Subic fish cages removed soon to clear congest...
Next VFA commission exec must toe gov’t line -- Pa...
12 firms eye 10-yr Subic-Clark tollway contract
Subic rape case far from settled
SBMA gets P200-M modern hospital project deal for ...
RP Acts to Ease Strain in Ties
Clark prexy sees savings in power rates discount
Another shipbuilding facility to rise in Subic zon...
Subicwater, nagkamit ng international award
Wall stirs suspicions of tunnel existence at Subic...
Subic Freeport seen as shipbuilding hub
High Court asked to return Smith custody to RP
SBMA gets P68.4-B FDI pledges in Jan-Sept 2006
Public works office gets infra goal in 2006
All Subic fish cages removed soon to clear congest...
Execs push for Subic-Clark road in Angeles City
Subic-Clark-Tarlac road nears completion
Pool of Former OFWs Planned for New Jobs in Subic
Tanggapan ng ‘Gapo mayor bukas sa mahihirap
Justice chief wants VFA body head out
US Rejects Call For Review Of Security Pact With P...
SBMA remains No. 1 with P68.4-B approved FDI pledg...
V(u)isiting Forces Agreement
Petron to build Subic blending hub
Pro-US bases senator open to review of military pa...
Philippines' Subic, Korean Co Sign US$12.3 MLN Hot...
No more night-clubbing for GIs
Job Opportunities in Olongapo & Subic Bay
Miss World Bikini 2006
US-Philippines military exercise back on after US ...
Chinese to Perform FedEx Maintenance in Subic Bay
Mayor sneers at transfer of Smith to US custody
Whampoa sets up Subic aircraft repair hub
BOC chief seeks dismissal of ’Gapo judge
'Nicole's' camp to file contempt charges on Smith'...
Mendaros joins war against poverty
‘Iwas Putok’ drive pays off in 'Gapo
Clark to sign airport catering deal
RP giant turtle migrates from Subic to Vietnam
Politics in Subic rape case
Customs chief wants Olongapo judge fired
Old U.S. base site in Subic now a bustling town


Tuesday, January 30, 2007


BUMILIB ang isang Amerikanong naging pasyente at ang kanyang asawang balik-bayan sa kalidad ng paglilingkod ng James L. Gordon Hospital sa kanila.

Ayon kay Ester Lozada, balik-bayan mula sa Victorville,California, “bagama’t naghihirap ang kalooban namin sa pagkawala ng aking asawang si Van Stell, napahanga naman kami ng mga empleyado,doktor at facilities ng James Gordon Hospital.”

“ Inasikaso kami ng mabuti ng mga doktor at nurses. Hindi rin kame pinabayaan ng mga empleyado, kaya naman sa loob ng maikling panahong ipinamalagi ni Van Stell sa ospital ay napamahal na sa kanya ang mga tao doon kaya nga ang nais sana nya ay makapagtayo ng foundation para matulungan ang JLGMH,”sabi pa ni Lozada. “Nalaman kasi namin na napakaraming natutulungan ng ospital hindi lamang sa Olongapo ngunit pati na rin mga pasyenteng mula pa sa iba’t-ibang lugar tulad ng Bataan, Pampanga at Zambales,” dagdag pa ni Lozada.

Sinabi rin ni Lozada na bagama’t binawian na ng buhay ang kanyang asawa, itutuloy pa rin nya ang balak na pagtulong sa JLGMH sa pamamagitan ng pagbabalita sa mga kaibigang Filipino sa Amerika ng magandang ehemplong ipinakita ng JLGMH upang matupad ang pagtatayo ng foundation para sa ospital.
Ang James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital (JLGMH) na patuloy na nagbibigay serbisyo sa mga pasyente ng Olongapo, Zambales, Bataan, Pangasinan at iba pang- lalawigan sa luzon.


"Kailangang matugunan ang mga suliraning nararanasan ngayon ng mga pangunahing lansangan sa lungsod kabilang na ang matinding trapiko lalo na sa pagsapit ng rush hour," wika ni Olongapo City Mayor James "Bong" Gordon, Jr.

Kaugnay nito ay nakatakdang maglagay sa mga susunod na araw ang lokal na pamahalaan ng tatlong (3) public address system (PA system) sa ibat-ibang bahagi ng lungsod.

Ilalagay ang PA System sa Ulo ng Apo sa Rotonda, Rizal Avenue sa East Bajac-Bajac Public Market at RM Drive, mga lugar na ito ang natukoy ng Office of the Traffic Management Board and Public Safety (OTMBPS) na nagkakaroon ng pagsikip ng trapiko at bulto ng mga mananawid.

Ang PA System ay ilalagay sa command post na may mga nakatalagang trained personnel ng OTMBPS pagdating sa pagmamando sa trapiko at aalalay o mag-momonitor sa galaw ng mga mananawid o pedestrians.

Layon rin ng mga ilalagay na PA Systems ang turuan ang mga drivers at commuters hinggil sa mga batas trapiko at batas lansangan. Isang paraan rin ito upang mabilis na masita ang mga lumalabag sa batas dahil sa makukuhang atensyon ng mga taong nasa lansangan.

Credible or incredible elections?

The Philippine Star

The statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) hits the nail right on the head when it said this country needs credible elections which should not be marred by any allegations of cheating or dagdag-bawas. If that happens, then we can expect another period of political instability, and this time, it could create a real firestorm. Do we want credible or incredible elections? If nobody believes the results of the elections, then we’re back to square one. Once again, the economy will be in trouble with businessmen shying away from investing in this country.

Automation is the answer to put an end to the problem associated with manual voting. But as usual, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is again insisting there is no time to prepare for automated poll this May, giving all sorts of excuses. In the first place, the automation will not cover the entire country but just selected areas — two provinces and two cities each for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Poll automation for the entire country will be in 2010. There should have been enough time to prepare for automated elections this May, if Comelec had not flipped-flopped and wiggle-waggled on the issue.

The group of Raffy Garcia — president and COO of Mega Data Corp. (not to be confused with Mega Pacific e-Solutions whose anomaly-ridden automation contract with Comelec has been junked by the Supreme Court) has the solution through Botong Pinoy, and Raffy said he is making it available to the Philippine government for free. Raffy Garcia’s group is behind the successful computerization of the NBI and the LTO, that’s why applications and renewals are no longer the tedious processes they used to be.

Raffy made a presentation to the Comelec en banc to showcase Botong Pinoy. Asked why Mega Data was giving it away for free — Garcia’s answer was, "Because we love the country." Is that so bad? Botong Pinoy is "idiot-free" — meaning it is interactive and can guide the voter through the whole process. All a voter has to do is point at the candidate of his choice on the computer screen, and after he has made his choices, a print-out of the ballot will be made which will have a 2-D barcode for recounts and auditing. Filipinos are very adept at adjusting to technology — after all, Pinoys are already very familiar with the use of bank ATMs, which is going to be pretty much like what voting through Botong Pinoy computers will be.

Raffy’s group has offered this program to give credibility to the coming elections, but Comelec is saying there is no time to automate because bidding still has to be conducted. But if the software is being provided for free, where’s the need for the bidding? As for the hardware, the Department of Budget and Management already buys "PC ng Bayan" for various government agencies without any bidding — and these PCs can be used to run the Botong Pinoy program. Besides, these computers can be used by the schools where the elections will be held. This will also solve the costly problem of storage which those automated counting machines required. As Raffy said, "Give automation a chance. There is still time. Kung ayaw may dahilan. Kung gusto may paraan."


Sa kagustuhan ni Mayor James "Bong" Gordon Jr. na marinig ang saloobin at makasalamuha ang mga kababayang taga Olongapo ay patuloy nyang isinasagawa ang mga pagpunta sa mga barangay sa lungsod.

Noong ika-19 ng Enero, 2007 ay sinadya ni Mayor Gordon ang mga taga-Tabacuhan, Sta. Rita upang magsagawa ng barangay consultation kung saan dumagsa ang mga residente upang makadaupang-palad at ma-iparating sa kanya ang kanilang mga suliranin at hinaing.

Napuno naman ang covered court ng Barangay Gordon Heights ng mga residenteng nais makausap si Mayor Gordon nang magsagawa ng consultation sa nasabing barangay nang sumunod na araw.

" Natutuwa ako sa pakikiisang ipinapakita ng mga Olongapeño sa mga programang inilulunsad ko upang maabot sila at malaman ko ang kanilang mga problema," wika ni Mayor Gordon. " Kailangan lamang nating magtulungan upang masolusyunan ang lahat ng sulirainin," dagdag pa ni Mayor Gordon

P1,000 salary hike for govt employees

Government employees will soon receive an average of P1,000 increase in their monthly salaries, a senator assured on Monday.

Sen. Joker Arroyo told reporters the Senate is set to approve for inclusion in the national budget P10.3 billion, which will be utilized for the passage of legislation increasing the pay of government employees nationwide.

Effective July, a 10-percent salary increase would apply to national government employees, policemen and military, local government employees, and employees of government owned and controlled corporations, he said.

“The only problem that remains is the procedure of implementing this increase,” said Senator Arroyo.

He denied that the salary increase had anything to do with improving the administration’s image for the upcoming elections.

President Arroyo has expressed a preference for a 10-percent increase in the salaries of around 1.4 million government employees.

Private sector workers, however, will have to wait for their turn.

Senator Arroyo said the P125 across-the-board wage increase for private workers was “too controversial” because of the business community’s resistance and was unlikely to be passed by the Senate.
By Ilang-Ilang Quijano, Manila Times


Republic Act No. 9369
Automated Elections System

1. What is the coverage of the automation?

· In 2007, the law provides for full automation in 2 provinces and 2 highly urbanized cities each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao chosen by the Comelec, with the consent of their respective Sanggunians. LGUs whose officials have been the subject of administrative charges within 16 months prior to the May 14, 2007 elections shall not be chosen. An APPROPRIATION of 2.6 Billion is provided for 2007. In 2010, RA 9369 provides for a nationwide automated election system.

2. What are the features of the automated system?

· There is a VVPAT (voter-verified paper audit trail) – so that voters can see that their votes as cast are recorded accurately.

· The AES must be secured against unauthorized access and there must be accuracy in recording and reading the votes, tabulating, consolidating/canvassing, electronically transmitting and storing the results . It must also be accessible to illiterates and disabled voters. It is also flexible. Different automated systems can be used in different provinces, depending on applicability (not limited to one technology).

· The Comelec must prepare a Continuity Plan in case of a systems breakdown, and this plan is certified by the Technical Evaluation Committee.

3. What technology may be used in the automated system?

· It is technology-neutral. Does not preclude current or future technology. We can use whatever is out there, and whatever is appropriate, secure, applicable and cost-effective.

· The chosen system must have demonstrated capability. For 2010, it must have been successfully used in a prior electoral exercise here or abroad. Participation in the 2007 pilot exercises shall not be conclusive of the system's fitness.

4. How will the election results be transmitted?

· Results per precinct will be simultaneously transmitted electronically within 1 hour after printing the election returns and shall be transmitted to the different Board of Canvassers, to the accredited citizen's arm, dominant majority and minority party, and to the media through the KBP. This means No more dagdag-bawas and wholesale cheating .

5. How will automation ensure the accuracy of the vote?

· Voters can verify their votes because the law requires a Voter-verified paper audit trail. So before the vote is cast, the voter checks that his choices were properly recorded.

· automatic random manual audit - in 1 precinct per congressional district randomly chosen by the Comelec in each province and city. Any difference between the automated and manual count will result in the determination of root cause and initiate a manual count for those precincts affected by the computer or procedural error.

6. What will be considered as official election results in the automated election system?

· The election returns and certificates of canvass transmitted electronically and digitally signed and authenticated shall be considered as official election results and shall be used as basis for the proclamation of a candidate.

7. How will the machines for the automation be procured?

· Ideally, the COMELEC should procure the machines by conducting a public bidding. The General Procurement Act ( R.A.9184) states that it "shall not exceed three (3) months, or a shorter period to be determined by the procuring entity concerned." Alternatively, the machines may be acquired by Negotiated Procurement, where the COMELEC directly purchases commonly-used goods from another government agency such as the Procurement Service of the DBM.

Clark freeport status okayed

CLARK ECOZONE -- The bicameral committee on Monday approved two pending bills converting the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) into the Clark Freeport Zone.

"It feels like we just won the championship in a world football match. Clark now has the same status with that of Subic," said Clark Development Corp. (CDC) president Levy Laus, who exclaimed minutes after the bicameral committee passed the two measures.

Laus, who has been lobbying for the granting of tax incentives to Clark investors and locators, said Congress' decision "will have a tremendous impact not only on Clark but on the whole of Central Luzon."

"It will be the start of a bigger and far-reaching growth and development for Clark and the whole Central Luzon," he said. "Now we can really say that the future of Clark is so bright you have to wear shades," he added.

CDC vice president for corporate services Pepito Galang confirmed the reconciliation of Senate Bill (SB) 2260 and House Bill (HB) 5064 with the freeport status at Clark, which prevailed over a proposal to declare half of the economic zone under the Philippine Export Zone Authority (Peza).

"It will be the CDC which will still administer the ecozone," he said.

Joining Laus in a celebratory mood were CDC directors, executives and employees as well as members of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PamCham) who trooped to the Senate.

"We are thankful to our good senators and congressmen who have supported the bills and our advocacy from the very start and the people of Central Luzon owe them a huge debt of gratitude for their wholehearted support," Laus said.

Under the present system, the CDC manages and operates 2,200 hectares of the zone, while its subsidiary Clark International Airport Corp. (Ciac) takes care of the other 2,200-hectare aviation complex that hosts the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA).

Among those who gave their all-out support were Senators Manuel "Lito" Lapid, Richard Gordon, Mar Roxas, Ralph Recto and Sergio Osmena III, and Representatives Francis Nepomuceno, Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, Rey Aquino and Anna York Bondoc-Sagum.

Recto and Gordon fought for the freeport status of Clark by sponsoring the Senate bills in Congress.

Laus also thanked CDC chairman Rizalino Navarro, CDC directors, executives and employees for their hard work and prayers for the approval of the bills.

"Every one really gave their best for this and we thank God for hearing our prayers," he said.

The Senate version, which sought freeport status for Clark, however, later accommodated a proposal for a Peza take over of half of the economic zone area. The House version, which also largely batted for a status quo at Clark, was authored by then Representative Jesli Lapus who is now the education secretary.

The bicameral committee members also earlier reconciled HB 4900 and SB 2259 granting a one-time tax amnesty to investors at the CSEZ.

The bills were filed after the Supreme Court (SC), in its decision in July, 2005, declared that investors at Clark as well as other former US military facilities that are now economic zones are not covered by Republic Act (RA) 7227 or the Bases Conversion Law.

The same law cites only Subic Freeport as being entitled to such privileges. The High Court affirmed its decision "with finality" last month.

Cila president Frankie Villanueva thanked the senators and congressmen who supported freeport status at Clark as he expressed confidence that this would finally remove "the feeling of uncertainty among current and prospective investors" at the economic zone.

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is expected to sign the bill into law soon as this would boost her plans to make the Clark-Subic corridor into a major investments hub in the Asia Pacific region. He also lauded the leadership of Laus who had been leading in lobbying efforts for the passage of the Senate bill as initially proposed by Recto.

Since the CDC was created in 1993 to administer the entire CSEZ, 389 foreign and domestic investors have moved into Clark, pumping in P24.33 billion worth of investments. Last year alone, investors here exported worth US$1 billion of various items.

Over 47,000 people, mostly from Pampanga, Tarlac, and Bulacan, are now employed at Clark. By Reynaldo G. Navales - SunStar

Monday, January 29, 2007


Tatlong (3) araw na magkakasubukan ng lakas ang mga mag-aaral ng ibat-ibang paaralan sa lungsod kaugnay sa isinasagawang "2007 Palarong Panglungsod"

Ang city meet ay sinimulan nitong ika-24 at tatagal hanggang 26 ng Enero 2007 sa East Tapinac Oval Track (ETOT) sa pangunguna ng Department of Education (DepED) at sa pakikipag-tulungan ng Olongapo City Government.

Apat (4) na distrito ang naghaharap para sa elementary level samantalang ang mga pinaka-magagaling na atleta buhat naman sa secondary level ang patuloy na nagpapaligsahan ngayon.

Ang mga magwawagi sa palaro ay ang magiging pambato ng lungsod sa 2007 Central Luzon Regional Athletic Association (CLARAA) at ang papalarin dito ay mapapabilang sa Palarong Pambansa.

Sa pagbubukas ng city meet ay naging pangunahing panauhin si City Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr. na nagwikang, ‘’Sa mga palarong katulad nito ay mahalaga ang koordinasyon ng mind, body and spirit.’’

"Ang may malakas na katawan ay may mabilis na kaisipan kaya samantalahin ninyo ang pagkakataon na kayo ay bata pa at lumahok sa ganitong kumpetisyon. Dito rin ninyo matututuhan ang tunay na kahulugan ng sportsmanship," dagdag pa ni Mayor Gordon.

Sa pangunguna ni City School Superintendent Dr. Ligaya Monato ay full force ang DepED sa isinasagawang Palarong Panglungsod kaya sa tulong ng pamahalaang lokal ay patuloy ang mga kabataan ng lungsod na humahakot ng pagkilala sa larangan ng palakasan

Missoula couple answers the call for conservation

By BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian

Tammy Mildenstein and her husband, Sam Stier, are among the many University of Montana graduates who have served in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961, having worked in the Philippines on forest preservation and wildlife issues. Nationally, UM ranks No. 6 for producing Peace Corps volunteers among medium-size colleges.
TOM BAUER/Missoulian

When Tammy Mildenstein joined the Peace Corps in 1997, she didn't set out to save the flying foxes of Subic Bay in the Philippines.

She didn't even know what a flying fox was. Truth is, the University of Montana master's degree student had to consult a map to learn that Subic Bay is in the northwestern part of the country, on a big island that is home to one of the last remaining lowland tropical forests.

Nevertheless, Mildenstein and her husband, Sam Stier, embraced their Peace Corps assignment and headed off to the southeast Asian country for what they believed would be the required two-year commitment. Their initial mission: to help protect a last big swath of untouched jungle and to help foster local conservation of the wildlife found within its leafy borders.

They were ideal candidates for the challenge, said Steve Siebert, coordinator of UM's international resource management master's degree program.

Hardworking, personable and compassionate, he knew the couple would represent UM well, achieve their Peace Corps assignment and juggle their academic responsibilities. At the time, Sam was working toward a master's degree in resource conservation, and Mildenstein, a master's in wildlife biology.

Peace Corps volunteers only go into places where they are invited by the people and the communities they serve, Mildenstein said. Their invitation came by way of a local chapter of the World Wildlife Foundation, whose members asked the UM students to help promote wildlife conservation in the area because the forest had never been formally protected.

Pushing the issue - and threatening the forest - was the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy, which had leased the forest for a century, and had inadvertently protected the wildlife from hunters, development and logging.

“It was an open-ended request to help, and we weren't really sure where to start,” Mildenstein said.

At first the mission seemed daunting, but it wasn't long before their calling came into sharp relief. On a tour of the jungle, the sky suddenly filled with giant pterodactyl-like creatures the size of bald eagles.

It was the flying foxes - rare Old World fruit bats that have puppylike faces and 6-foot wingspans.

“They just blew us away. There were almost 30,000 bats,” Mildenstein said. “They swooped across the sky - I felt like we had dipped back into prehistoric time.”

Although the tour also included endangered parrots and threatened mangrove forests, it was the flying foxes that captured the scientists' attention.

“When we saw the flying foxes, we knew what we wanted to spend our time on,” she said. “They are a fascinating creature and we realized they were an ideal species for conservation focus in a place where hardly any conservation work is being done - they draw big crowds and that gives people a chance to talk about conservation issues and protecting species.”

With their work now identified, the couple set out to learn more about the largest flying mammal in the world, and in the process discovered that there's not a lot known about the species found in the Philippines.

“We found out that local management knew nothing about them except that they roosted in trees in the day and that they wanted to protect them. But they didn't know where to start other than to draw a circle around the roost site and prohibiting hunting around it,” Mildenstein said.

And so their research projects began.

With telemetry equipment, Mildenstein started tracking the day-in-a-life of a handful of collared bats - trying to unlock mysteries such as where and when they foraged, what they did at night and how far they flew. Meanwhile, Stier studied what they ate, what the bats' role in the ecosystem was, which trees they pollinated and what seeds they help disperse throughout the region.

When they weren't collecting data, the couple was working with surrounding communities, learning about the species' connection to the Filipinos as a food source, and putting together educational programs for tourists, school children and others who came to the forest.

Two years sped past, and by the time the volunteers were supposed to head back to UM they had enough data to defend their theses, but they felt there was still so much unfinished work left to do.

“Each of us felt the usefulness of our research would be dependent on training local managers and presenting talks to local stakeholders,” Mildenstein said.

They originally believed when their volunteer stint was finished, it would be the end of their Peace Corps experience. But one thing you learn in the Peace Corps is the art of flexibility, Stier said, and to count on one axiom: Things change. The couple never came home; instead, they signed up for a second tour and stayed in Subic Bay for two more years.

“We stayed on to create an audience for the research we did,” Mildenstein said.

“The bats depend on the forests and the Philippines had lost more than 95 percent of their original forest cover - what is left of these bats depends on this forest - and in a large way the forest depends on the bats,” Mildenstein said.

“We felt obligated to continue our research work.”

No one knew how many bats actually exist, Mildenstein said. Locals used to say “millions,” but counting parties she organized - which included hunters, community members and wildlife managers - counted far fewer numbers.

Such outings fomented a conservation ethos in the most unlikely communities - among the people who hunted and ate the creatures, Mildenstein said.

“I couldn't tell people there aren't as many as everyone thought, the only way for them to realize that was to be out there counting with us, and seeing for themselves.

“And that kind of community experience is a far better teacher than someone like me telling them.”

For Subic Bay, the best guess is that there are 30,000 flying foxes, but rigorous counting efforts are under way to better understand the population.

During their post-master's work, and after their four years with the Peace Corps, the couple began a counting project, which launched a nonprofit organization called Bat Count Philippines.

Although they have been back in Missoula since 2001, have earned their degrees and have a toddler, Mildenstein and Stier continue to spearhead the organization from their Rattlesnake home. And they have returned to the Philippines once a year ever since their tour was completed.

Bat Count's mission is carried out by six students who live near the Philippine forest and have been trained by wildlife managers. It is funded with the help of 27 partner nonprofit organizations

The interpretative center they created is still there, used to help explain the forest and its giant fruit-loving bats. The forest is now protected, and attracts more than 140,000 visitors a year.

“I do feel good about the work we accomplished,” Stier said. “And it certainly wasn't just us - we are just part of the long history of people who have worked for the forest's protection. We had the opportunity to work with a whole range of stakeholders - the government, villagers and an indigenous tribe - and we worked closely with everyone to make the place protected and sustainable.

“It's one of those extremely real and vivid experiences where you all get your hands dirty and get involved at the grass-roots level for a common goal,” he said. “In the end, that's really exciting and rewarding to be a part of.”

“I know we are both really thankful for the Peace Corps experience, and the opportunity UM gave us to advance our education. The experience changed our lives.”

Admin asks opposition to stop using no-el as campaign gimmick

President Arroyo’s supporters in the House of Representatives said on Sunday that the opposition should stop spreading stories that the May 14 elections would be scrapped. House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles of Davao City and Rep. Monico Puentevella also chastised the critics of the Arroyo administration for insinuating that Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. would be blamed if a failure of election was declared.

Nograles played down the suspicions floated by two unnamed prominent opposition figures that the failure of election would lead to the scrapping of the midterm polls.

“If that is really the belief of the opposition and administration critics then why are they so hot about participating and putting up their opposition ticket? If they think it’s a no-el [no-election] scenario then they ought to boycott, right?” Nograles told The Manila Times.

Another Arroyo ally, Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas Cagas, also scoffed at the idea that Abalos was being made into a fall guy.

“That’s improbable. The President wants automation, the reason she signed the automation bill into law. It’s the Comelec which has been honest to accept that automation can’t be done because of time limitations,” Cagas said.

He said the opposition should find other excuses for its impending defeat in the elections.

Nograles said the opposition should refrain from raising suspicions that would only confuse the public.

Puentevella, chairman of the House Committee on Youth and Sports and known Arroyo ally, turned his ire on Sen. Richard Gordon, who had insisted it was still possible to automate the elections.

“This is Dick Gordon’s time for media mileage... after a few days this will fizzle out,” Puentevella said.

He assured the public the May 14 elections would go ahead as scheduled, even if the poll automation law is not implemented.

Puentevella suggested that if Gordon wanted to he could experiment with automated elections in his hometown, Olongapo City.

Cagas, who heads the House contingent to the Electoral Tribunal, also denounced attempts by government detractors to politicize the issuance of a Comelec resolution that sets the guidelines for the filing of a new people’s initiative.
By Maricel V. Cruz, Reporter Manila Times

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gordon to Comelec: Automate or else…

There’s no more time, says Abalos


SEN. Richard Gordon yesterday said Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. could be jailed for graft and corruption and dereliction of duty if he insists on the postponement of the partial poll automation in the May 14 elections.

"The Commission on Elections has no business saying that it can no longer implement the law in time of the May elections. This is plain and simple shirking of responsibility," Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, said.

Abalos, in an interview, said he would rather go to jail than be forced to implement a law for which the Comelec is not ready.

"If we fail because of lack of preparations, people will still talk ill of me long after I’m buried six feet below the ground," he said.

Gordon insists that partial automation is still doable and warned of "messy" elections in 2010 if this is not implemented in the May 14 election.

He stressed that enforcing partial automation in two provinces and two cities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for the coming elections would be the "the first and vital step toward real electoral reform."

"By initiating the system in the 2007 elections, we can make needed adjustments and changes in technology and organization for a nationwide automation of the vote," he said.

Gordon said Abalos could not use lack of time as an excuse.

"He was with the deliberations all the way. He could have prepared a long time ago. He knew that once both houses approved and ratified the bill, it’s enactment into a law becomes imminent," Gordon said.

He said it is common practice that once a Palace-backed measure is approved and ratified by Congress, it is only a matter of time before the President affixes her signature.

President Arroyo signed the poll automation bill into law last Tuesday, amending RA 9369 or the Election Automation Act.

Congress ratified the bill before going into Christmas recess last December.

The Comelec advisory council will convene on Monday to make a final decision on the viability of pilot testing automated voting, counting, canvassing, transmission and consolidation.

Last Jan. 2, the council, composed of representatives from other government agencies and technical consultants, recommended that the pilot testing be dropped due to lack of time and preparation.

The council backed full automation for 2010, adding that two years would be needed for the study and selection of the best technology, training of personnel and public demonstration and education.

Abalos said Comelec may still implement the electronic transmission of voting results since this may be done with the use of simple technology such as facsimile, e-mail or even texting.

"Electronic transmission would lessen incidents of possible cheating," he said.

He said Comelec, if pressed, could still adopt partial computerization in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, instead of the two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao as required by the law.

"Perhaps we can implement it in just one region, ARMM, because that’s a problem area," he said.

"In our consultations, some local officials said they wanted to study it first while some asked what if problems occurred and cause confusion among the candidates and the electorate," he said.

He said Comelec has not received the P2.6 billion which Malacañang said it has set aside for the law’s initial implementation. He said the law requires that the funds come from the Comelec’s election modernization funds.

Malacañang downplayed concerns that the automation law may not be implemented this year.

"Whether it is implemented this year or not, we at least have an updated automation law in place," said presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio.

Claudio said Malacañang wanted an automated system in place as early as 2004 to ensure clean and honest elections but "it was caught in extended acrimonious debates in the Senate."

He said there was no undue delay in the signing of the bill because the enrolled copies had to be subjected to review by Malacañang’s legal department and to consultations with concerned agencies. If the bill had not been signed, it would have lapsed into law on Feb. 10.

Chief presidential legal counsel Sergio Antonio Apostol said the President did the right thing in signing the bill even if it could no longer be implemented.

"Yung timing lang naman ang naging problema. Andiyan na ang batas, di pirmahan na lalo na’t priority bill iyan. At least may batas na on poll automation. We have a legal basis already to implement it. Bakit ibi-veto kung mapapakinabangan at least sa mga susunod na elections?" he said.

RA 9369 requires a fully automated election system in the May 10, 2010 elections. But first, it should be pilot-tested in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the 2007 elections.

The amount of P2.6 billion for the automated election system shall be charged against the Comelec’s modernization fund for this year. This is aside from the P3 billion necessary to carry out the manual system which shall also be charged from the poll body’s budget. – With Gerard Anthony Naval and Regina Bengco

Governor celebrates his birthday

THERE’S no way one would have forgotten Zambales Governor Vicente Magsaysay’s birthday last Saturday. There were constant reminders all over the province. Banners saying “Happy Birthday, Govic” were strung on trees on the main highway, or strapped on facades of government offices throughout the province, with various local officials or government unit claiming authorship.

Indeed, it was not a birthday to be missed. It began with a lunch that was open to the public in a resort in Bangantalinga, in Iba, the capital. The governor, who turned 67 last Saturday, did not have to work hard to draw in the crowds for a program later that night, attended by common folk and government workers from the province’s 13 towns. On stage were Manila-based stars like the Baywalk Bodies, Masculados, EB Babes, comedienne Giselle Sanchez, and Bobby Soul, an original member of the singing group, The Platters. Traffic in front of the capitol and the adjoining plaza was rerouted to accommodate the over 5,000 people who started flocking in as early as 5 p.m.

The party ended at 3 a.m., as people stayed up for the piece de resistance: a raffle. The governor raffled out a Mercedes Benz 350, a mini van and a light duty truck. Those who attended the party said the car was previously owned and used by the governor himself. Locals add that in a previous birthday, Magsaysay also gave out as many as 12 motorcycles.

TV performers do not come cheap. An out of town assignment may fetch a fee each of P20,000 upwards.

Actress Giselle Sanchez says she accepted a very minimal fee for her participation in the party, which she in turn donated to her foundation. She refused to comment further, saying she is a long-time friend of the Magsaysays.

It wasn’t the first time that stars from Manila were brought to Zambales for the governor’s birthday. It will be recalled that in 2005, sexy star Ana Leah Javier charged Rep. Antonio Diaz with sexual harassment. That scandal broke out after Javier’s performance during the governor’s party, for which she was allegedly hired by the congressman for P50,000.

Zambales is a second class province. Of its 13 towns, five are third class and four are fourth class in income category. Its income is mainly pulled up by the business activities in Subic and Olongapo.

PCIJ tried to get the governor’s reaction for days, but he was unavailable for comment.

Magsaysay has been governor of the province since 1998. He held the same position several times in the past, beginning in 1967. In his 2002 statement of assets and liabilities (SAL), he reported a net worth of P4.5M. He owns stocks in nine companies, and listed no liabilities. His SAL was also silent on vehicle ownership.

Posted by: Jaileen Jimeno - Inside PCIJ (Jaileen Jimeno is the PCIJ’s new deputy executive director. She came on board this January. She used to work as Program Manager of GMA Network where she handled the public affairs shows “Imbestigador,” “Debate,” and “Lovely Day.”)

Lopez toll road firm allots P1b for ’07 expansion

"..will involve the construction of a 65.8-km road connecting Subic Bay Freeport to the expressway. "

The Lopez Group-led Manila North Tollways Corp. plans to increase its capital expenditure from P300 million to more than P1 billion this year, mainly to finance the extension of the 84-kilometer North Luzon Expressway to Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City by October.

Manila North Tollways, which is majority owned by First Philippine Holdings Corp. and Benpress Holdings Corp., holds the concession rights to operate the existing expressway (Phase 1) until 2030 and construct two extensions of the project.

The company has completed the $384-million expressway rehabilitation project, backed by financing from the Asian Development Bank and other multilateral lenders.

Phase 2 will run from C5 to Malabon while Phase 3 will involve the construction of a 65.8-km road connecting Subic Bay Freeport to the expressway.

In a news briefing organized by ADB and the National Economic and Development Authority, Manila North Tollways chief operating officer Rodrigo Franco said a large amount of the company’s capital expenditures for the year would kick start Segment 8.1 under Phase 2 of the expressway project.

Franco said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had identified Phase 2 as among the priority infrastructure projects this year. Also known as C5 Interconnection, Phase 2 is envisioned to be a 22-kilometer extension of the expressway that will stretch from the northern portion of C5 at the University of the Philippines to Malabon City.

A part of Phase 2 will be Segment 8.1, a two-km road from the expressway in Balintawak to Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City.

“We hope to start construction of this segment in October 2007,” Franco said. He expects the project to be completed in one-and-a-half years or until early 2009.

Franco said preparatory works on the high-impact Segment 8.1, including project design and securing of environmental clearance and other permits, were ongoing.

“We have been meeting with a lot of people in the executive branch of government, and they are supporting the project,” he said.

He said they were just awaiting the release of government funds, amounting to P1 billion, for the right-of-way before actual construction begins. The high land values in Quezon City and the presence of informal settlers in the project site have pushed up the right-of-way cost, he said.

Franco said the company intended to raise commercial borrowings this year to finance the project, which is estimated to cost P3 billion. “A lot of banks, both local and foreign, have already expressed interest in lending us,” he said.

The plan is also to start Segment 9, which will connect the expressway to Mc Arthur Highway in Valenzuela City this year, but the government has yet to start preparatory works for this segment.

“It makes a lot of sense to construct the two segments simultaneously,” he said.
By Roderick T. dela Cruz - Manila Standard Today

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Workers rally to save Clark ecozone

CLARK ECOZONE - Employees of Clark Development Corporation (CDC) held a noise barrage here Wednesday afternoon as part of their efforts in urging members of the bicameral conference committee to act on the passage of pending bills that would concretize and legitimize tax and duty free incentives for locators inside the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ).

In a lightning rally staged after office hours, CDC workers urged legislators to resolve conflicting versions of tax incentives bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate make the bills at par with Subic incentives.

Marcial Caniones, spokesperson of the workers confederation said, “CDC made Clark happen. CDC brought the national dream of economic recovery from the ravages of lahar and American pull-out a reality.”

“Kill Clark, you kill its surrounding towns, you also kill the livelihood of thousand of Filipinos dependent on the economic activity in the Zone. Lost of jobs will kill the workers and their families. No economic activity outside the zone will mean no progress in the towns and municipalities around. Kill Clark, you kill towns near it, the province and Central Luzon,” he added.

The CDC Employees Confederation said in a statement that "the Senate version of tax incentives would defeat the original intention of the Republic Act 7227 in promoting economic growth in the Metro Clark Area, in particular, as well as the entire country, in general."

“The bills pending before the Senate now will not only kill the investments inside Clark Ecozone but will also bring the now lively world-class industrial aviation area into a ghost-town,” the workers said.

They added that “the Senate bill will not only kill Clark but also its environs. It will not only drive away investments, it will leave more than 50,000 workers hapless and jobless.”

The Senate version of tax incentives for Clark will be limited to only firms inside the 2,200 hectares of the aviation complex which is expected to be declared the freeport zone and the 22 hectares near the CSEZ main gate, while the rest will be under Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) administer area.

The main zone of Clark has 4,400 hectares and more than 30,000 hectares for the subzone.

Should the proposed Senate version be approved, about P150 million annual income of CDC will be affected.

“We, the employees of CDC, implore our local and national leaders to rally behind the cause of Clark Special Economic Zone and save the existence of CDC, the very organization that made the former ash-laden military base bustling with activity and ushered economic revival to its surrounding town,” the confederation of workers in CDC said.

The confederation of CDC employees is composed of the Association of concern CDC Employees (Acces), Association of CDC Supervisory Personnel (ACSP) and the Association of Corporate CDC Executives. At present, the state-owned firm has more than 700 employees. Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC), on the other hand, has more than 300.

CSEZ has a total of 641 investment projects, of which 405 are local firms, 113 foreign, while 123 are firms with foreign and local equities with an aggregate of P24.33 billion since 1993 and produced US $1.1 billion in dollar-earning exports.

The companies have generated 47,481 jobs as of Dec. 31, 2006, of which 90 percent of whom come from Central Luzon, mostly from Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan. The number of employment has been considered all-time high since the state-owned firm’s inception in 1993.By Dante M. Fabian - Sun Star

Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway to make RP among Asia's best logistics hub

The completion of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway in Central Luzon, which is expected to be finished by November 2007, will soon make the Philippines among Asia’s best logistics hub.

Secretary Eduardo Pamintuan, chair of the Subic Clark Alliance for Development Council, said once the facilities in the economic corridor are completed, massive investments will start pouring in.

The P21-billion project will put in place all enabling components of the so-called “logistics hub” as part of the Luzon Urban Beltway super regions' blueprint of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“Upon completion of this project, we expect massive investments both local and foreign to put up business in this part of Luzon… thus it will generate jobs for local residents,” Pamintuan said at a press conference.

As designed, the expressway will link a deep water port in Subic, with Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, one of the Philippines' finest airports, which is located at Clarkfield in Pampanga.

The project has two phases: Package 1, the stretch of highway from Subic to Clark via Dinalupihan, Bataan; Lubao, Floridablanca, Porac and Angeles City in Pampanga, while Package 2 would link Subic to Tarlac City by way of Mabalacat, Pampanga as well as Bamban and Concepcion towns in Tarlac.

He added that the logistics hub could become a modern and efficient marketing venue for Philippine products since both Subic and Clark Field, both former US military bases, have high-quality infrastructure and can offer opportunity to logistical synergy.

“In five years, we can compete with all the other logistics hub in Asia… what sets us apart is that we are strategically located in this region,” Pamintuan said.

On the other hand, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator Armand Arreza said they are expecting millions of pesos worth of projects within the Subic area for 2007.

“Various investments such as the biggest call center in India will put up business in Subic, and there will also be new resorts and hotels,” Arreza said.

The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway’s Phase 1 of construction was started on April 21, 2005 and will be completed by August 2007 while Package 2 will be completed three months later.

Pamintuan said the expressway is expected to be inaugurated by December 2007. (PNA)

Comelec, Senate clash over automated polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Senate are on a collision course over the poll body’s refusal to computerize the elections in May despite the recent enactment of the poll automation law.

"The Comelec and the advisory council have reached the consensus that automation of voting and counting and canvassing is no longer doable in time for the 2007 elections," Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos said. But he said electronic transmission of election results is possible and doable.

Sen. Richard Gordon said Abalos and other election officials face impeachment for "abdication of responsibility" if they fail to implement the poll automation law.

"This is not something that suddenly woke him up from his slumber," Gordon said, adding that the Comelec had always been part of the deliberation on poll automation.

"We should ask Abalos what he has been doing to ensure that elections will be clean," he added.

Abalos said an "end-to-end" computerization is not possible even in selected areas. An "end-to-end" process covers voting, counting, canvassing, transmission and even recount.

"If we only have to automate the transmission of results in certain pilot areas, we can do that because machines that can do such functions are readily available," Abalos said. He stressed that an electronic transmission is good enough because it is in this stage where irregularities are usually committed.

He added that only P100 million would be required for an electronic transmission system.

While praising President Arroyo for signing RA 9369, Gordon called Comelec’s insistence on limiting automation to transmission as "spectacularly idiotic" and meant to force the country to use the overpriced poll automation equipment supplied by MegaPacific Consortium. The Supreme Court had already declared as null and void the Comelec’s multimillion peso contract with MegaPacific.

Based on the newly enacted Republic Act 9369, the poll automation for the May elections will be limited to six pilot provinces and six highly urbanized cities across the country. Comelec will choose these areas in consultation with local councils.

Automatically disqualified from the pilot election automation scheme are provinces or cities whose officials are administratively charged within 16 months before the May 14 elections. Poll automation on a nationwide basis takes effect in 2010.

Gordon said that the technology required for the automation, including the machines, are readily available and that the country may even lease the poll equipment used by the United States in its midterm elections last year. But the Comelec said the US equipment may be incompatible with the local system.

Gordon also said that the advisory council formed by Comelec should not be confused with the one that is supposed to be created under the law.

"They are saying this without looking at what’s out there in the field. They are looking at their own navels. This is a very irresponsible Comelec," Gordon said.

"We won’t entertain mediocrity. We can’t entertain mediocrity in this country," he said. Hands off
Ironically, Malacañang is giving Comelec a free hand in implementing a measure that Mrs. Arroyo herself signed into law recently.

Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol, in separate interviews, said there was nothing wrong about Mrs. Arroyo’s signing of RA 9369 even if there’s no more time to implement it in May.

Apostol also said Abalos would not be held liable if he is unable to implement the law due to lack of time.

"Given the proximity of the bill’s passage to the May elections, we will have to rely on Comelec’s judgment on the feasibility of implementing its provisions," he said.

"The President is correct. The law is already there so she had to sign it especially that that was a priority bill," Apostol said. "At least we already have a law on poll automation so we already have a legal basis to implement it."

He said RA 9369 would be the basis for the computerization of succeeding elections.

Abalos and the country’s top election lawyers including Romulo Macalintal, who defended Mrs. Arroyo in the election protest filed against her, had been dissuading her from signing the law.

"Automated elections are part of the 10-point reform agenda of the President. It is in pursuit of political and electoral reforms that she signed the AES bill, which she had certified as urgent," Claudio said..

House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles also backed Abalos stand on automating the May 14 polls.

"Three months before elections will cause more confusion. Even election lawyers must be oriented so they will know how to object or handle cases involving automation. We can test that for the October 2007 barangay election, not now," he said.

Crispin Beltran, on the other hand, expressed doubts on the government’s sincerity in signing the law.

"We don’t distrust technology, we distrust the Arroyo administration and its infamous record of massive electoral fraud," the detained Anakpawis party-list representative said in a statement.

"We fear that injecting higher technology into Philippine elections while such a corrupt and politically desperate administration is in office and in charge of the electoral process would further endanger the already shaky credibility of the polls," Beltran, 74, said.

The veteran labor leader, who has been detained since February 2007 on non-bailable charges of rebellion, said Mrs. Arroyo’s motive was to "maintain a majority hold over the Senate and the House."

"And what better, easier way to do it than electronically. We have a measure of trust in technology and how it can make the polls more efficient, but we cannot trust the administration to run a clean and honest elections," he said.

"It might well be easier for the administration to manipulate election results if the polls are automated. It is possible that polls will be automated in the urban areas and regions where Arroyo is most unpopular," he added. Backing from CBCP
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) lauded yesterday the signing of the poll automation law saying a modernized election process "has been the wish of the bishops."

"If national resources could afford such a positive development, then we see no problem with it," Caloocan Bishop Deogracia Iniguez Jr., CBCP public affairs head, told The STAR. A computerized election process, the bishop added, "will be beneficial not only for the government but for the country in general."

The CBCP, which is holding its semi-annual plenary assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, is expected to come out with a pastoral statement on the new poll automation law tomorrow.

On Abalos’ claim that there is not enough time to automate the polls, Iniguez said the government should "verify his claim."

He said the bishops are keeping track of election issues with great interest and many consider the coming midterm polls a "referendum of the people‘s mandate on this administration that has so many unresolved issues."

In earlier pastoral statements, the CBCP stressed the importance of electoral reforms in the government’s efforts to regain trust and confidence of the people.

"The Commission on Elections has to be transformed into a competent and reliable body beyond reproach. The call for resignation or even prosecution of a number of commissioners should not be lightly brushed aside. The electoral process, including counting of votes, has to be reformed and modernized," the bishops said.

Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar the Philippines (IBP) will seek Comelec accreditation as an official independent watchdog in the 2007 elections.

This was announced by IBP president Jose Vicente B. Salazar during a visit to Cagayan de Oro City yesterday.

"This IBP leadership believes that lawyers in the country are not anymore confined in the court system. We believe that our profession entails a social obligation as well," he said. - With Paolo Romero, Edu Punay, Mark Francisco, Mayen Jaymalin And Marvin Sy -The Philippine Star

Bicam panel approves ecozone tax perks bill

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga —A congressional bicameral conference committee has approved a measure exempting 375 companies from paying taxes to the government.

At the same time, more than 1,000 employees of the state-owned Clark Development Corp. urged members of the bicameral committee to consider the welfare of the 47,000 people who work in companies located inside the Clark Special Economic Zone.

But the bicameral panel has not approved the bill that will amend the Bases Conversion Act of 1993 and specify the tax exemptions of companies that have set up shop in the economic zones formed from former US bases.

The bills were filed in Congress after the Supreme Court declared on July 29, 2005 that the tax perks the companies enjoyed were unconstitutional because the Bases Conversion Act specified that such perks should only be extended to companies located at the Subic Freeport.

But during the CDC employees rally at Clark, vice president for corporate affairs Pepito Galang announced that the bicameral panel approved the tax amnesty bill.

“This is a good news for the entire Clark Zone area [because] the passage of the two bills are vital for the development of the former US facility as well as to prevent economic disaster such as the pull-out of locators and the displacement of the 47,000 workers in the zone,” Galang said.

Irvin Joy Rivera, assistant manager of the CDC’s customer service division, also said that should the bicameral panel fail to approve the tax bills, only 147 locators out of the current 375 firms in the economic zone will be covered by the tax exemption.

Caloy Cabrera, president of the Association of Concerned Employees of CDC, said “the employees of CDC implore our local and national leaders to rally behind the cause of Clark Special Economic Zone and save the existence of CDC, the very organization that made the former military base bustling with activity and ushered economic revival to its surrounding towns.”

“The bills pending before the Senate now will not only kill the investments inside Clark but will also bring back the now lively world class industrial aviation area into a ghost town. The Senate bill will not only kill Clark but also its environs,” he said. “It will not only drive away investments, it will leave more than 47,000 workers hapless and jobless.”
By Rendy Isip - Manila Standard Today

Friday, January 26, 2007


Japanese shipbuilders have expressed interest to set up operations in the envisioned 100-hectare shipbuilding hubin the Subic Freeport, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano Salonga said. Salonga reported this upon his arrival from a four-day trade and investment mission in Tokyo to lure Japaneseshipbuilders to partake in the country's Domestic Shipping Development Plan (DSDP). According to Salonga of members of the Shipbuilders' Association of Japan have expressed keen interst to explore business potentials of Subic Freeport. Salonga has offered SBMA to the japannese shipbuilders a prime location to construct various types of ship for the domestic inter-island trade such as tankers, passenger and roll-on roll-of (RORO) cargo vessels for local deployment. "The entry of Japanese shipbuilders would surely boost our domestic shipping development program,"Salonga said. Salonga, along with SBMA deputy administrator Ferdinand Hernandez anmd Investment Processing department headRonnie Yambao amd consultant for loators and intergovermental affairs Ben Natividad, conducted a presentation of the ongoing shipbuilding project in Subic Freeport before SAJ members and officers led by its managing directorYoshihiro Midorikawa. (Cont'd on page B-3)

Drug gang members charged for murder attempt

SUBIC, ZAMBALES—The National Bureau of Investigation filed murder and frustrated murder charges against two suspected members of a drug syndicate operating in Subic, Zambales, for the attempted killing of a village councilor in 2004.

Joel Curameng, NBI-Olongapo City chief, also filed similar charges against six suspected hired killers who were involved in the murder attempt on Orlando Timbol, village chair of Calapacuan.

Two of the hired guns were arrested for alleged involvement in separate murder cases and are now detained at the Olongapo City jail.

Charged were Julito Reyes, Rosito Calledo, Ronnie Miol, Gerald Donque, Bani Gapul, Rico Nebreda Bernaldez and two unidentified suspects.

The NBI said Reyes, the suspected mastermind, drew up an elaborate plot. He ordered three hit men, who were not known to each other, to do the job in one place at the same time, to ensure that the target was killed.

Assassination attempt

Timbol, who was hit in the right shoulder and left leg, escaped on his motorcycle and survived. However, two teenagers—Jean Romamban, 16, and Maron Diaz, 13—were hit by stray bullets and died.

Timbol said that as a councilor in his village, he once called several suspected illegal drug pushers to a meeting and warned them to stop their trade.

He suspected that the plot to kill him was hatched after that meeting.

He identified Gapul as one of those who attacked him.

Three months after, a witness, Alejandro Balida, identified five more possible suspects whom he reportedly saw at the crime scene before the shooting.

“Magkakatropa po kami, kaya alam ko ang mga ginagawa nila (I know them and I know about their activities),” Balida told the NBI in a statement.

Hiring three gunmen only proved a liability for Reyes when one confessed to his role in the killing and identified his accomplices two years after the crime.

Murder case

The NBI said Bernaldez, who was arrested because of a separate murder case, admitted to being one of those who shot Timbol. He pointed to Reyes, also known as “Tisoy,” as the one who offered him P60,000 to kill the village official.

Bernaldez said he met Reyes in the house of Calledo a week before the attack on Oct. 5, 2004. He said Reyes gave him a P30,000 down payment during that meeting.

He also identified Miol as one of the three men who actually shot Timbol.

Bernaldez said he came to know Miol after a man on a motorcycle took them both to Barangay San Isidro, also in Subic, immediately after the shooting. He said he did not know the third gunman.

Almost two years after the attack, Bernaldez told the NBI that Miol had been detained at the Olongapo jail for another murder case.

Bernaldez said Reyes had wanted Timbol killed because the latter was considered an “obstacle” to Reyes’ illegal drug trade
By Ansbert Joaquin - Inquirer

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Nagkaroon ng pagkakataon ang mga kabataan ng lungsod na ihayag ang kanilang paghanga sa "Ama ng Olongapo" na si James L. Gordon, Sr. nitong ika-24 ng Enero 2007 sa FMA Hall.

Sa pangunguna ng Department of Education (DepED) at sa pakikipagtulungan ng Lokal na Pamahalaan ng Olongapo ay isinagawa ang "Division Tula & Oratorical Contests" na sumentro ang tema sa mga hindi malilimutang nagawa ni Jimmy Gordon para sa lungsod.

Sa programa ay ibinahagi ni City Mayor James "Bong" Gordon, Jr. ang magandang relasyon sa ama kabilang na ang mga aral na kaniyang natutuhan katulad ng kasipagan, katapatan at kababaang-loob.

"Bilang ama ngayon ng lungsod ay ibinabahagi ko sa inyo ang mga magandang katangian na iniwan sa akin ng aking ama na si Jimmy Gordon," wika ni Mayor Bong Gordon.

Nagpasalamat rin ang punong-lungsod sa DepED dahil sa patuloy na ipinababatid sa mga kabataan ang kasaysayan at ang koneksyon nito sa kasalukuyang tinatamasang kalayaan ng Olongapo.

Sa siyam (9) na lumahok sa Tula Contests-elementary level ay nangibabaw ang galing nina Regine Calubid (Iram Elementary School), Neal Angelo Soriano (Gordon I High School) at Jimmy Bacani (Tapinac Elementary School) na nagwagi ng 1st, 2nd at 3rd places.

Naging mahigpit rin ang laban sa Oratorical Contests-secondary level bagamat umangat sa panlasa ng mga hurado sina Ma. Cristina Cifra (Barretto High School), Ma. Ghiezel Cumigad (Olongapo City National High School) at Divine Cabarle (New Cabalan High School) na nag-uwi ng 1st, 2nd at 3rd places.

Samantala, inihayag rin ng DepED na sa darating na Pebrero 2007 ay isasagawa rin ang "Sabayang Pagbigkas" ng elementary at high school na may katulad ring tema na ang magwawagi ay ang magiging pambato ng lungsod sa national competitions.

Damage suit mulled vs. 2 shipping firms

The Dumaguete City government is bent on filing a damage suit against two shipping lines whose vessels damaged severely the coral reefs in the city's 6.5-hectare marine sanctuary area, in Barangay Banilad Monday.

Both MV Jake Vincente of Dos Villa Shipping Lines based in Siquijor and MV Anastacia of July Lightherage Corporation ran aground in the marine sanctuary, investigation showed.

MV Jake Vincente Dos was on its way to the Dumaguete Coconut Oil Mills port in San Miguel, Bacong from Subic Bay, Olongapo City, loaded with tons of animal feeds, when it miscalculated its destination.

In the investigation, the ship captain, Laurencio Demape, thought it was already the DUCOMI port, and it was too late when he learned that the ship had already ran aground at the shallow marine sanctuary in Banilad, Dumaguete, near Sta. Monica beach.

Unfortunately, MV Anastacia, in its attempt to rescue the first vessel also ran aground. Vice Mayor William Ablong had called for a special meeting with officials of the city and the Philippine Coast Guard to come up with a special investigation on the mishap.

The Philippine Coast Guard will also file another case against the two shipping companies.

Ablong, an active environmentalist, said he was saddened by the incident. He said the process of growing coral reefs will take 80 to 100 years.

Reports from Bantay Dagat revealed the damage was estimated at about three meters seaward.

The city has also asked Silliman University President Ben Malayang III for assistance from the Silliman Marine Laboratory headed by Dr. Hilconida Calumpong.

The laboratory has conducted an underwater assessment on the damage of the marine sanctuary, the result of which will be released on Jan. 29 and will be the basis for the investigation of the city.

Under the city government ordinance, anybody who will destroy the marine sanctuary will be penalized by imprisonment and will be administratively fined.

On the other hand, the city police said it does not want to take chances and immediately verified reports that MV Jake Vicente Dos was bringing hitch-hikers from Subic, city PNP chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos said.

Carlos and his team, however, failed to recover contraband items believed to be carried by a one Karen Valdez.*JG/MA

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


AN OLONGAPO City Councilor was meted six-monthm suspension by the Office of the President for alleged sexual harasment.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita suspended Councilor Noel Atienza after finding him liable for violating Sec. 4c of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) in relation to Section 60h of the Local Government Code.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government had recommended Atienza's suspension after it conducted investigation of the case filed by a city hall employee whose name was withheld. The complainant said that at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11,2004, City Vice Mayor Rolen Paulino to talk to his driver.

He said somebody had answered the phone and introduced himself as Noel,whom the complainant assumed was a staff of the vice mayor. She said the person on the other line allegedly uttered lewd remarks on her. The next day, the complainant said, she confronted a certain Noel, who answered the phone as he had gone home early.

The complainant said Atienza's staff had admitted it was his boss who took her call. The lady employee said it was not the first time Atienza had made lewd remarks on her. She said in several intances and in the presence of the other employees, Atienza would tell her that her lips were kissable. She said the councilor had even offered to live with her.

The city councilor, she said, would also hold her hands against her will. During an investigation conducted by the DILG, the councilor denied the allegations leveled against him, saying they were concocted "to destroy my integrity and credibility."

After studying the case, however, Ermita said they were left with no other option but to find the councilor liable and to remind him that as public servant, "the notion of a public office is public trust and that he should at all times be accountable to the people." "This office could not be oblivious of the testimonies of the complainant's other witnesses such as erstwhile City Councilor of Olongapo City, Tedoro del Rosario, and a certain Haydee Manuel, an alleged paramour of the respondent, for their straightforward declarations which unfortunately, were not properly rebutted by Councilor Atienza," the decision read.

Ermita furthersaid they could not understand the respondent's behavior when he committed the acts imputed against him as he is a lawyer and the chairman of the council's committee on laws, complaints, investigation and human rights protection. People's Tonite

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Journalist accuses US soldier of hitting him

GENERAL SANTOS CITY - The controversy generated by the transfer from the Makati City Jail of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, a US Marine convicted for the rape of a Filipina in Olongapo City, is yet to die down. But another American soldier has been accused of carrying a short firearm and hitting a local reporter here.

Master Sergeant Steve Saunders reportedly slapped the forehead of DZRH correspondent Henry Araneta for no apparent reason at the Cassado Bar of East Asia Royale Hotel here at dawn Thursday.

Araneta said he was having fun with other journalists when the incident happened. The American soldier was drunk, he added.

The alleged victim said he will file a complaint for slight physical injury against Saunders on Monday or Tuesday.

"I want to teach him a lesson. I could not accept that a foreigner hit me in our own country," he said in a phone interview, noting he could have just shrugged off the incident if it was a fellow Filipino who did it to him.

Saunders, according to Araneta, was apparently pissed when the journalists became boisterous and teased one of their colleagues to sing more songs.

The American soldier, who is reportedly detailed with the United Nations Humanitarian Force, went to the comfort room and when he returned he allegedly knocked the head of Araneta.

The journalists confronted the foreigner, whom Araneta said had a gun tucked in his waist.

The journalists called for help and when responding Army troopers arrived, they seized a 9 mm pistol from the suspect, he said.

Rey Remegio, one of the journalists, later reported the incident to the city police precinct station three for record purposes, the victim said.

Araneta said he has pictures to prove Saunders carried a gun but that the film was yet to be developed.

Saunders was reportedly brought to the 6th Infantry Division in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

MindaNews contacted Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, 6th ID spokesperson, for comment but he did not answer his cellular phone. Later on the phone was turned off.

Araneta said reporters from the Malacanang Press Corps called him up Saturday to inquire on the incident, apparently to let Palace officials comment.

Reached by phone on Sunday, Matthew Lussenhop, US Embassy spokesperson, defended Saunders, saying "he was not in violation of the law." "No criminal charges have been filed against him

Monday, January 22, 2007

Untying the Gordon knot

Manila Times

Sen. Gordon has always been a kind of an enigma to observers of the local political scene: A bit too abrasive for a typical politician but able to attract loyal supporters and best of all, manages to deliver on the hype he generates for his projects and advocacies.

Raissa Espinosa Robles of the South China Morning Post captured the essence of Sen. Dick Gordon in the title I borrowed from her published introduction to the senator: Untying the Gordon knot. Sen. Gordon has always been a kind of an enigma to observers of the local political scene: A bit too abrasive for a typical politician but able to attract loyal supporters and best of all, manages to deliver on the hype he generates for his projects and advocacies.

Sen. Gordon delivered the keynote address in last Friday’s Prospects conference of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP). Dick painted a cautiously hopeful picture of the nation’s prospects in his address before the foreign correspondents. He early on made it clear that those who want to divorce politics from economics and governance in this country must wake up to the hard reality "that politics and governance are crucial to sustaining our economic momentum. There is no way forward outside of democratic politics and sound public policy and administration."

The senator sees a convergence of economic and political concerns that will sustain our economic momentum. In this regard, he sees three key political challenges: first, is holding free, credible, and speedy elections in May and commencing the process of automating the conduct of elections and other electoral reforms; second, is affirming the rule of law in the country, and all that it connotes of public order, national security, effective judiciary and transparent laws and regulations; third is the need for effective executive-legislative collaboration in taking down long-standing roadblocks to economic modernization like the poor state of infrastructure and social services in the country.

Gordon believes each of these challenges "is a test of Philippine political credibility... we will soar or sink depending on how successfully we meet them." This is why he thinks "the May elections have taken on exceptional importance, not only because electoral results will have grave repercussions in policymaking, but because they are now seen – at home and abroad – as a test of our capability to hold credible elections."

Sen. Gordon’s big worry is that even as we are the oldest democracy in Asia, "we are back to kindergarten school in elections management." He laments our failure to adopt modern technologies in our electoral system and processes. "Each political exercise has become more farcical than the last."

On the second challenge about the rule of law, "this simply means that the government is subject to law; the Constitution is the criterion of validity; the Judiciary is independent; individual rights are guaranteed; and citizens’ welfare is promoted." With specific reference to concerns from the business sector, Sen. Gordon observes that "when we are not over-regulated, we are inequitably regulated. And we have a habit of changing policies."

To be taken seriously by investors, Gordon insists that "law and policy governing the economy have to be enduring and sustaining. We cannot stimulate investments and encourage trade with policies that lurch and change frequently. Weak and unstable states lack this kind of continuity. Strong and stable states provide investors time horizons for planning their projects."

On the third challenge, Gordon does not believe we need to abolish the Senate to cure the so-called legislative gridlock. "I believe we can sustain our current economic momentum if there is more effective Executive-Legislative collaboration." He is right. Former President Ramos demonstrated during his time that this could be done. It is a measure of Ate Glue’s quality of leadership that she is finding difficulty in this area.

Dick wants to use this greater Executive-Legislative collaboration to address more effectively the major obstacles to accelerated economic growth to include the modernization of infrastructure in the country; the improvement of education; the improvement of public services; and eradicating graft in government.

There is a difference between Gordon and other politicians who say pretty much the same things. Gordon comes across as more credible for the simple reason that he has delivered in his own little way in his own small corner of the Republic not too long ago. You know he did not just pick those nice words and concepts out of thin air. He has first hand experience and track record to back up his words.

So that when Dick says as he did say last Friday that our problem "is more than just a problem of money. It is a problem of commitment" you know exactly what he means. Dick is not totally happy that the economic prospects for the country have improved dramatically in recent months because he knows we could and we should do much better.

"We have Monday many opportunities that could spell huge dividends if our infrastructure were only better. We can double our tourism arrivals if we had the rooms, the airports, flights and the facilities to host them... We could also spur greater growth in agriculture, industry and services if our infrastructure were up to speed...We could do many more things that could rival our high-growth neighbors if only we had made the necessary investments in infrastructure, like in an adequate and efficient national railway system, in earlier years."

A number of comments were made after his address that Dick Gordon sounded presidential. He has the vision and he has demonstrated in the past that he has enough leadership and ability to deliver on that vision. And while he isn’t exactly on top of the list of the country’s best loved politicians, he could be what the country needs. I think he is capable of inspiring our people enough to unite for a common goal and achieve it. His past programs for Olongapo and Subic as captured in the slogans: bawal ang tamad... bawal ang tanga, can be adopted nationwide.

I can’t believe things could really be looking up. If we manage to have elections in 2010 to elect Ate Glue’s successor, we could end up with Manny Villar, Mar Roxas and Dick Gordon as the contenders. If that happens, no one can say we were not given good choices anymore. The one advantage of Dick over the two Manuels is that Dick had once upon a time been given the chance to deliver on a vision and he has delivered... up until politics intervened and everything went down the drain

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

BCDA to bid out 3 service areas along Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) will be ready to bid out at least three service areas along the Subic-Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) by the first week of March, according to Bambi Andal of the operations and maintenance division of the project management office (PMO) of the SCTEX.

Andal said the Clark to Subic stretch will be divided into two service areas while the Clark to Tarlac portion will be the third service area.

Four service areas were actually planned, two for each direction.

However, Andal explained, the fourth service area would have to be bid out at a later date because of some legal problems.

The service areas, Andal said, would be for use primarily as a gasoline station with accompanying restaurants and food service stores.

The service areas are for lease or joint venture and would cover about five hectares each.

The BCDA needs to secure an exemption from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct the bidding for the service areas in March.

Andal said, the BCDA is now buying the lots for the planned service areas. However, she refused to reveal the acquisition cost of the lots as it could affect the price of other lots the BCDA is securing for other service areas.

Earlier, the BCDA had announced that at least 12 companies have expressed interest in bidding for the 10-year operation and maintenance of the SCTEX).

The 12 companies have submitted their letters of intent to participate in the bidding for the operation and maintenance of the 93.77-km SCTEX.

The SCTEX is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Among those that have expressed interest to participate in the bidding are First Philippine Holdings Corp., Mideast Alliance Resources Corp., SNC Lavalin International, Ausphil Tollways Corp., Pacific Concrete Products Inc., UEM-MARA Philippines Corp., R.D. Policarpio Co. Inc., Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Ayala Property Management Corp., STAR Infrastructure Development Corp., J.V. Angeles Construction Corp., and Pietras Builders Inc.

The operation and maintenance contract would cover toll collection, traffic management, roadway maintenance, general administration, greening and landscaping.

Andal said the BCDA has set a ceiling bid of 12.2 percent from toll fees collected within the 10-year contract period.

According to Andal, "if the winning bidder bids five percent, then the firm would receive five percent of the toll fees collected every year for the 10-year contract period."

Andal said that the rest of the toll fees collected would be allotted for debt servicing of the loan used to finance construction of the toll road.

The BCDA bankrolled the construction of the project through a P21-billion loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

The BCDA also secured a standby P2.5-billion credit line facility from local banks to ensure that construction of the 93.77-km toll road would be finished on schedule.

Andal said the contract for the operation and maintenance would take effect on May 13 of this year and expire on May 3, 2017.

She added, "we expect the winning bidder to be on board by May this year to familiarize them with the state-of-the-art toll collection system set in place to ensure the smooth operations of toll collection."

Andal said the toll collection system is comparable to that of the North Luzon Expressway.

Its key features include a toll operation center computer system (TOCCS) and plaza computer system (PCS) with real time lane status display that is upgradeable to accommodate video incident capture.

Other major components are a lane computer system (LCS) capable of both manual collection and recyclable contact less smart card designed for quick passage by motorists.
By Marianne V. Go - The Philippine Star

Ecozone officials alarmed over Senate version of incentives bill

Special economic zone officials have expressed apprehension over the current version of a Senate bill that seeks to grant amnesty and fiscal incentives only to export-oriented firms.

According to the ecozone officials who requested anonymity, the Senate bill was intended to restore the incentives that were stripped from their locators following a Supreme Court ruling that only the Subic Freeport was entitled to the incentives while other ecozones such as Clark and elsewhere in the country were not.

Unfortunately, the ecozone officials said, the pending Senate bill limits the grant of fiscal incentives and amnesty to export-oriented firms.

The sources said the limitation was a new addition to Senate Bill 2259 which originally sought to cover all locators in the Clark Special Economic Zone, John Hay, Poro Point, Morong and other special ecozones.

If the Senate bill is passed with the limitation to export-oriented firms, the ecozones officials pointed out, foreign and local locators in the disenfranchised ecozones would have to return all the incentives they enjoyed since the early 1990s.

They would also have to pay the regular tax rate instead of the preferential five-percent of gross corporate income tax. To avert the possible adverse effect to existing ecozone locators, Mala-cañang has reportedly asked the House of Representatives and the Senate to came out with remedial legislations.

The upper chamber come out with SB 2259 while the Lower House has presented House Bill 5064 which would grant amnesty and incentives to all types of enterprises located within the ecozones. However, the Senate version limits the grant of perks to export-oriented firms.

The limitation, sources said, would endanger not only the existing locators, but also the new investments that are expected to come in.

Ecozone locators such as power utility firms would be adversely affected, making the cost of electricity in the ecozones rise which, in turn, would turn off potential investors looking for low power cost.

Based on their computation, source said, the loss of fiscal incentives such as duty-free importation of capital equipment and raw materials would translate to at least a 30 percent increase in electricity and water rates as the utilities firms would have to add the cost of their tax payments.

"This is bad because right now, our power rate is already among the highest in the region," the officials said. By Marianne V. Go - The Philippine Star

2 injured in plane crash in Subic Bay

OLONGAPO -- A Filipino pilot and his Malaysian student were injured Tuesday when their single-propeller Cessna trainer plane crashed into the sea near a former US naval base, police said.

The pilot radioed that his engine had malfunctioned and decided to ditch the plane in the waters of Subic Bay, about 200 meters (yards) from the edge of the runway, said Lieutenant Conrado Medina, harbor patrol officer of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

The staff at the James Gordon Memorial Hospital in Olongapo City said the pilot, Emil Matibag, 27, and his student, Ng Soong Sen, 35, suffered cuts and bruises and were conscious.

Students from a Norwegian-run seafarer's training school were first at the crash site and were later assisted by the harbor patrol and local fishermen, Medina said.

The plane belonged to the Aeroflite flying school at the former Subic Bay naval base, which is now a tourism and industrial estate, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Manila.
Associated Press


Asian Spirit plane makes emergency landing

An Asian Spirit plane from Batanes made an emergency landing at the Manila Domestic Airport Tuesday after encountering what appeared to be a problem with its landing gear.

An Asian Spirit official who declined to identify himself said the pilot alerted air traffic controllers as a precautionary measure to ensure that the plane will be given extra attention in case of an emergency.

The plane came from Batanes and was carrying 21 passengers and four crew members. It landed safely at 2:04 p.m.

The aircraft is being checked as of this posting to make sure that all parts are functioning properly.

Also Tuesday a two-seater Cessna plane crashed off the coast of Grande and Chikita Island near Subic Bay in Zambales.

Capt. Emil Mananghaya, the plane’s pilot and flight trainer, and his student, Malaysian Ng Soong Sen, escaped the accident with minor injuries. The victims were from the Aeroflight Training center in Subic. They were immediately brought to the James Gordon Hospital in Olongapo City for treatment.

Armand Arreza, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority administrator, said the plane failed to reach the runway by a kilometer and crashed into the waters.

The Air Transportation Office, meanwhile, is looking into the accident to determine the cause of the crash. ABS CBN


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