Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Zambales police inside compound 'taken over' by Palparan

Tension remained high Wednesday morning as members of the Zambales police entered a mining compound in Masinloc town that was allegedly taken over by police and Army units led by retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.

Palparan and his team of police and military agents raided the Masinloc project Tuesday while charges were being filed against him for allegedly "taking over" a mining site in Bulacan province.

An undetermined number of armed officers from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and soldiers from the 24th Infantry Battalion stormed the mining site of the Coco Mining Inc. (CMI) in Barangay Baluganon.

Members of the Zambales police led by Senior Superintendent Rolando Felix arrived at the gates of the mining compound in Barangay Baluganon Wednesday morning along with Edgar Garcia, president of CMI.

Garcia said CMI is responsible for the affairs of the site. Company officials brought documents that will allow them to enter the gates to "regain control of the compound."

Unidentified armed guards at the gate refused to let police and company officials enter the compound.

Zambales police, however, forced themselves in against the will of the armed guards.

As of this posting, the policemen from Zambales were conducting a perimeter check in the area to find the armed men who allegedly beat up several employees of the company Tuesday.

Negotiations are reportedly being set later in the afternoon between Palparan and the president of the mining company.

Employees allegedly hurt, forced out

Employees at the mining compound in Zambales site told ABS-CBN News that Palparan's men allegedly hurt them and took their personal belongings, including their cellular phones. The employees were also allegedly forced out of the mining site.

Following the raid, the employees held a vigil in front of the site's gates to protest the incursion.

Palparan: 'Augmentational security'

Palparan, who was still at the mining site as of Wednesday morning, evaded the media seeking an explanation for the raid.

Palparan talked to ABS-CBN earlier over the phone to state that there was no takeover and that all they did was an "augmentational security in the area". No details or clarification of his statement has yet been given.

Palparan’s role in leading the Army soldiers and CIDG members was also unclear as of posting.

Palparan was formerly the commanding general of Army’s 7th Infantry Division which had Central Luzon as its area of responsibility. Activist organizations have accused the then Army general of involvement in forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the region.

Charges in Bulacan

The group of the former general raided the mining site in Zambales while charges were being filed against him for taking over an iron ore mine site of Ore Asia Mining and Development Corp. in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan on April 12.

Former solicitor general Frank Chavez, Ore Asia's lawyer, led the filing of the charges of robbery through force and intimidation, grave coercion, serious physical detention and usurpation of real interest in real property against Palparan.

The other respondents of the complaint were a certain Lt. Col. Pederito Santos, lawyer Arturo Mercader, Barangay Camachin chairman Romy Santiago and 150 John Does.

Ore Asia told the Bulacan Provincial Prosecutor's Office that Palparan personally led the assault on the 442-hectare mine site in Barangay Camachin.

For hire?

Ore Asia is one of the contractors of Oro Development Corp., which has a mineral production sharing agreement from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The company said Palparan's men were armed with high-powered firearms like M-16 rifles, M-203 grenade launchers and M-60 machine guns.

Vicente Altobano, the company’s security chief, said the armed men, who wore fatigues but without any name patches or insignias, took the cellular phones, service firearms and other communications devices of his personnel and held them against their will and at gunpoint for almost 20 hours.

Altobano said his security officers managed to free themselves when Palparan’s group fled from the site following the arrival of mediamen the next day.

Danny Ong, spokesman of Ore Asia, said the company is currently in the middle of an internal dispute between two groups of stockholders, with Mercader belonging to one faction.

Ong said Mercader’s group earlier sought the reinstatement of another mining operator that was earlier booted out of the mine site by the DENR for allegedly violating environmental rules and regulations.

Palparan had denied having a hand in the assault on the Ore Asia mine site and belied reports that he is serving as a consultant of Oro Development Corp.

In a press briefing, former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, an adviser of Ore Asia, said Palparan was no longer the "Butcher," but a "hired dog," alluding to claims that the former Army general was behind the killings of militants in Luzon and the Visayas during his tours of duty there. ABS-CBN NEWS With a report from The Philippine Star

Labels: , , ,

Are Hanjin condos sitting on toxic site?

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – For nearly a week, the ruckus over two high-rise condominiums of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Philippines Inc. has been confined to issues of their location in the middle of a protected forest at the Subic Bay Freeport and the alleged tree-cutting there.

There are more questions, though. One is related to the health safety of the expected tenants – 180 Korean executives and employees, as well as their families. Another concerns possible future liabilities of the land manager, the government-owned Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

A copy of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued by the SBMA to Hanjin identified the condominium site as “Naval Magazine, Ilanin East Forest.” An undated 21-page lease agreement in 2007, however, states “a vacant lot at Subic Apex, Ilanin District.”

A PowerPoint presentation given by SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza to reporters identified the place as within the “Cubi-Triboa District.” The SBMA land-use plan in 2000 shut off any development within the Ilanin Forest East.

Wherever the site is, all those addresses are in the general area of the once US Naval Magazine, one of the 44 locations covered by a 1996 environmental baseline study (EBS) done by the firm Woodward Clyde for the SBMA on a $670,000 loan from the World Bank.

The study’s three maps and executive summary of the final report have been marked “confidential” by the SBMA, but copies were obtained by the Inquirer from the archives of the nongovernment People’s Task Force for Bases Cleanup (PTFBC).

Confidential report

Since the US Navy pulled out in 1992, the task force has demanded the “environmental remediation” of Subic and Clark Air Base from hazardous or toxic substances to make these facilities more viable for economic reuse.

In its study, Woodward Clyde ruled out widespread severe contamination of soils, groundwater or sediments from the activities of the US Navy.

“In general, the nature and extent of the chemical contamination identified by this study should not impede the proposed commercial, industrial, tourist and recreational developments planned by the SBMA,” it said about the implications for land use.

It recommended restricted development and land use in the Subic landfill, basin landfill, and the main explosive ordnance disposal area at Camayan Point.

On human health risks, Woodward Clyde said: “Based on the screening level risk assessment, the concentration of chemicals found in soil at 44 sites in the current study, poses a negligible risk to the health of the current nonresidential occupiers/users of the sites due to lack of an identifiable exposure pathway, and the nonresidential land use of the areas.”

A technical review of the EBS done by the US-based Clearwater Revival Co. (CRC) at the request of the PTFBC, believes otherwise.

Limited scope

“The EBS does not accurately characterize contamination at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and the potential for adverse impacts to human health and the environment,” CRC said. The analysis was provided chiefly by civil and chemical engineer Patrick Lynch.

CRC found the study to be limited in scope because:

The EBS did not assess all areas of the free port zone and did not include known environmental hazards, such as unexploded ordnance, asbestos, lead paint and radioactive materials.

Site reconnaissance was not performed inside buildings during the [environmental quality study or EQS].

The EBS did not adequately characterize historical land uses and the potential for contamination, relying instead on incomplete information.

In the absence of complete historical information, it failed to perform a comprehensive sampling plan. Sampling locations were limited to selected sites and sample densities of as low as one sample per six acres.

The sampling plan was technically flawed. Samples were not collected at depths of expected contamination.

The EQS failed to characterize the extent of soil and groundwater pollution.

The risk screening results were not reported. A summary of chemicals of concern did not refer to petroleum hydrocarbon, a pollutive byproduct of oil.

Recommendations and cost estimates for remediation and further investigation should be viewed as preliminary. These proposed actions and associated cost figures could not be accurately determined with the existing investigation area.

The EQS contained numerous misrepresentations, errors and omissions which undermined the credibility of the EBS findings.

Imminent danger

Despite the study’s limited coverage, CRC said the sampling results “indicate that existing environmental conditions within the free port zone present an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.”

Although the free port spans 24,000 hectares, the EQS was “restricted primarily to 10,000 hectares of developed land.” Among the areas where no sampling was conducted were the Redondo Peninsula, Grande Island, housing areas, and other parts of Subic Bay, CRC said.

“These areas were identified as sites of known or potential contamination in previous reports,” it said.

It is off Redondo Bay where Hanjin is building its $1.65-billion shipyard. As for its “apartment complex” project, four sites of its general area, the Naval Magazine, was covered by the Woodward Clyde study – Site 10, the small arms range; Site 11, the ammunition disposal burning pit; Site 12, the demilitarization facility; and Site 13, the wood treatment facility.

Arreza had said that Hanjin’s site used to be “Area B,” where an ammunition storage facility or an AUW (air and underwater) workshop used to be. SBMA officials had not said where Area B actually figures in relation to Sites 10, 11, 12 and 13.

CRC noted, however, that the “EQS indicates that high levels of heavy metals found in SS02 (naval air station) may be related to surface water runoff from the demilitarization facility. The extent of impacts from surface water runoff should be further investigated.”

The ammunition disposal burning pit needed “further action” to remove potential unexploded ordnance which might have been buried there or disposed of in Subic Bay, it said.

ëIsolated pockets’

In an undated “briefing paper on the hazardous wastes issue,” the Philippine government admitted that “testing of other forms of contamination was not carried out, mainly due to a lack of resources and expertise.”

Citing “results of the study commissioned by the SBMA,” it said: “Overall, there is minimal contamination in Subic Bay.”

Nevertheless, it noted “isolated pockets where the level of contamination will require remedial or cleanup action.” These areas “have levels of contamination that place serious restrictions on land use,” it said.

“The areas where unexploded ordnance may be present have been identified by the firm but their presence can only be verified and handled by military experts.”

In 2000, the SBMA closed at least 10 contaminated sites. The Hanjin apartment site was not among or closely near those sites, Ameth dela Llana-Koval, head of the SBMA ecology center, said.

Sitting on a light industrial and residential district, the Korean shipbuilder pays $37 per square meter on that part of the Naval Magazine.

The so-called toxic legacy in this US naval base-turned-free port may have caught up with the SBMA or Hanjin, its biggest investor, but the EBS showed “no contamination” on the site where the Korean firm built its apartments and thus, posed no liabilities on the part of the SBMA, Koval said.

Hanjin watch

Hanjin actually dealt with the toxic waste issue. Its general manager, Pyeong Jong Yu, said this was “well-addressed by the experts that prepared the environmental impact study (EIS) and us during the preparatory stage.”

“The result of those surveys and studies was negative for any ammunition or toxic wastes,” Pyeong said.

Carlito Rufo, the environmental engineer who conducted a technical review of the EIS, said the firm that made the study referred to the Woodward Clyde study and CRC review.

“The risk to the future residents was ruled out either from groundwater or soil/dust inhalation,” Rufo said, citing results of the EIS. Water samples are within the safe standards, according to the EIS.

“I believed a couple of waste oil drums were found stored in the site, but tests showed they contained used motor oil,” Rufo said.

Hanjin president Jeong Sup Shim said excavations and metal detectors found no signs of unexploded ordnance on the site. “It will be a nightmare if the place is not safe,” he told the Inquirer by phone.

The safety of its tenants has always been the “direction” of the project, he added. What was clear was that Hanjin made its own investigation on toxic waste.

According to Arreza and Koval, it was Hanjin that chose the site after the SBMA recommended possible locations. But minus a clean-up at the free port 16 years after the base conversion process started and with the 1992 warning of the US General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the US Congress, that “Air Force and Navy officials had identified contaminated sites with significant environmental damage” and that the cost of cleanup “could approach Superfund proportions,” how can any firm for that matter be really sure about health safety? Philippine Daily Inquirer

Labels: , , , , , ,

The uplifting story of the discarded juice packet…

What do discarded juice packets, fashionable bags and survivors of sexual exploitation have in common? They are all concerned, one way or another, with environmental justice. And as environmental justice is the theme of this year’s Fair Trade Fortnight (3-18 May), they are more than worth writing a few words about.

The foil drink pouch is a popular way to sell fruit drinks in the Philippines. The juice is consumed in vast quantities throughout the Philippines. The problem is that the foil pouches are a major environmental hazard that litter the streets. But, the indestructibility of the foil pouches has proved to be a silver lining for the poor of Olongapo City and surrounding towns. Every Friday afternoon at the Olongapo rubbish dump, the PREDA (Peoples Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance) waste management and purchasing team arrive to buy thousands of foil pouches from over 100 waste collectors. The collectors are the poorest of the poor and include single mothers and teenage school drop outs. Before the PREDA recycling project, the waste collectors struggled to survive from their slim pickings on the dump. But the PREDA project now provides a small income to buy healthy food and other essentials that were once only a dream.

The juice pouches bought from the waste collectors and ten schools involved in PREDA’s environmental education programme are washed and sanitised and then distributed to around 45 home-based sewers including abandoned wives with hungry children, survivors of sexual exploitation and out of work sewers. These sewers work with skill and dexterity to turn the recycled juice pouches into bright and colourful bags, sun hats, backpacks, wallets, belts and slippers. They are paid for each piece they produce, and some sewers are now able to earn more than the average Philippines wage. The fashionable bags and other items are then shipped around the world to Europe, Australia and New Zealand for sale as fair trade products.

Beyond the bags, the PREDA project creates awareness of environmental fragility, and motivates and organises clean up activities in the communities. It provides sustainable home and community based employment for the sewers and waste collectors. It improves the status of local women by empowering them with good earnings, interest free loans, and skills training in using recycled material. It is an alternative to begging and helps to protect their children from being trafficked. It is a project which simply lives and breathes ‘environmental justice.’

Environmental justice is more than just another slogan designed to make us feel guilty about our over-consumptive Western lifestyles. It is about seeking justice for the world’s poor as the adverse environmental effects of climate change begin to be felt around the world. Ironically it's those with the smallest carbon footprint who are likely to be the biggest losers as a result of climate change. Adverse effects of climate change will be an additional burden on top of already existing economic vulnerability. Environmental justice focuses on this group of people.

The UN Development Programme has already warned that climate change will hit the world’s poorest countries, raising risks of disease, destruction of traditional livelihoods and leading to huge population movements. The recent Greenpeace ‘Blue Alert’ Report predicts that 75 million people will be displaced in Bangladesh with the rising sea levels triggered by a projected increase in global temperature during this century. Closer to home, the fate of low-lying Tuvalu in the Pacific is of huge concern, and the prospect of 12,000 environmental refugees is a real possibility.

How does fair trade support environmental justice? Fair trade offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional trade. Fair trade encourages the production of items that have a minimal impact on the environment while creating terms of trade that ensure that these processes remain sustainable for future generations. The cost of helping producers with environmental sustainability is often built into the fair trade price. Fair trade enables both producers and consumers to make a real contribution to environmental justice.

For example, Trade Aid encourages consumers to look at the carbon footprint of production of consumer items in addition to the current trend of examining an item’s air miles. Although air miles can be a useful indication of a product’s carbon footprint, the vast differences in lifestyle between developed and developing countries which affect production processes are also worth considering. A fashionable PREDA juice bag from the Philippines made from recycled waste material by sewers in their own homes, with minimal electricity and without heavy machinery, has a low carbon footprint, even after sea freighting it to the market.

It is only by collective action that the promise of environmental justice will be realised. To become a reality, environmental justice requires action from rich and poor, north and south, developed and developing, with all taking collective responsibility for the future of our planet. As Sue Waugh, one of the artists in Christchurch Trade Aid’s “Junk to Green Funk” art competition said, “we all need to make a conscious decision to challenge and prioritise our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world, for present and future generations.” scoop.co

Labels: ,

US war vets thankful scam uncovered

James Dale, a retired master sergeant in the United States Air Force, feels safe now that the scam committed by a Philippine company on the US military’s health insurance program had been uncovered and those behind it convicted.

But while Dale, 70, has a greater sense of security now, some 2,000 American veterans in this city that hosted the Clark Air Base for almost a century until 1991 consider the case a lesson to guard against any efforts to mess up the Tricare system.

“They took advantage of it,” said Dale, referring to Health Vision Corp. (HVC) and its subsidiary, the Philippine International Hospital (PIH) in the village of Malabanias here.

“We in the Philippines are very sensitive that we do not want to lose our Tricare privilege. We resent that any doctor or medical [service] provider can upset the system,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.

The issue has been the subject of conversations among retirees in the last few days.

Dale said if the Tricare system bogs down and its support cut to US veterans like him, they would be forced to go to the US every time they need to avail of medical services under the Medicare system. The latter is not applicable in the Philippines.

Dale, who retired in 1984, settled in Angeles City when he married a Filipina in January 1985. They have two children who are in their teens.

“This has been my home,” he said, proud of the house-cum-hotel he and his wife started out on Fields Avenue here.

Dale suspected he got almost victimized when a PIH doctor in February 2005 diagnosed him to be having a tumor in the brain. Two tests, the doctor told him, confirmed that.

Dale, however, declined to undergo surgery, saying he preferred to undergo more tests in the US in October that year.

In the US, his doctor said he saw no traces of tumor.

“I wanted to raise hell,” he recalled, citing the torment he and his wife suffered from the earlier diagnosis of the Filipino doctor. “I find that strange.”

He did not know if PIH or the mother company, HVC, actually made claims on his behalf.

“I did not get anything though from Wisconsin, where Tricare Overseas administers the health insurance. Most of us didn’t know how they were doing it,” he said.

As far as he knew, the veterans in Angeles City were “not in complicity” with whoever was involved in the swindle.

Dale said he went to see Jack McDonald, then PIH administrator, about the complaints he learned from fellow retirees.

“Jack said he did not know what was happening even as he was the hospital’s administrator. He said those in Olongapo (HVC) controlled the billing. He said he knew nothing about the billing,” Dale said.

Now that the swindle had been confirmed, Dale said, “it’s like a lesson learned for us, too.”

“Maybe we could ask more specific questions. Before, we were not knowledgeable about the procedures in Tricare. We took it at face value,” he said.

“The concern now is to how to protect ourselves. We’re more knowledgeable. We will try to be less trustful [of how the Tricare system is utilized locally],” he said.

Three hospitals -- Cybercare, Lifeline and Mercedes -- handle Tricare patients here, but are not known to be involved in the swindle.

“I think they’re double-checking the system. We shouldn’t be signing blank documents,” Dale said.

Jim Boyd, chair of the Retirees Affairs Office here, said the Tricare system covers also the dependents of the veterans if the family or single person “[spends] $3,000 out of pocket expenses per fiscal year.”

“After that Tricare pays 100 percent [of the bills],” Boyd said.

According to Boyd, there are around 2,000 military retirees in Angeles City. Their average age is 55 and about 15 percent are past 70 years old.

“Tricare provides medical support [for] all eligible members. However, they are cautious due to past abuse,” he said.

Dale said that if any hospital messes up again, “we lose a benefit that we absolutely need here.” By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer Central Luzon Desk

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Lalo pang pina-igting ng Pamahalaang Lokal sa pamumuno ni City Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr. ang ‘City Scholarship Program’ para sa school year 2008-2009.

‘’Ang City Government ay handang umalalay sa pagtupad ng pangarap ng mga kabataang Olongapeñong nais makapag-tapos ng pag-aaral,’’ pahayag ni Mayor Bong Gordon.

Ang programa ay bukas sa mga mahirap ngunit magagaling at matatalinong kabataang mag-aaral ng lungsod na nasa elementary, high school at college levels. Upang mapabilang sa mga tinaguriang ‘’Scholars ng Bayan’’, kinakailangan na kompleto at maayos ma-isumiti ang mga sumusunod:

· Requirements for Elementary & High School Level
Letter of Intent addressed to Mayor Bong
Gordon (2 copies)
Bio-data with recent 2x2 picture
Report Card with 4th Grading Average (xerox copy)
If former City Scholar – attach certification

· Requirements for College Level
1. Letter of Intent addressed to Mayor Bong Gordon
(2 copies)
2. Bio-Data with recent 2x2 picture
3. High School card with 4th Grading General Average (xerox copy)
- if transferee-transcript of records (xerox copy)
4. Voter’s Registration or Voter’s ID of parents

Sa mga in-coming college students, kinakailangan muna na maipasa ang entrance exam na ibibigay ng Gordon College kung saan dito rin maaaring maka-kuha ng anumang dalawa (2) o apat (4) na taong kursong naisin ng isang ‘City Scholar’ sa kolehiyo.

Upang mapabilang sa educational privilege ng lungsod, kinakailangan rin na may mataas na grading general average ang aplikante.

Sa school year 2007-2008 ay umabot sa mahigit 1,133 ang ‘City Scholars’, kabilang na ang 355 elementary students, 255 high school students at 523 college students na tumanggap ng full scholarship sa ibat-ibang dalawang (2) taon at apat (4) na taong kurso sa Gordon College.

Matatandaan na tumanggap rin ng school supplies buhat kina Mayor Gordon at Olongapo First Lady at Zambales Vice Gov. Anne Marie Gordon ang mga elementary at high school city scholars sa pagbubukas ng eskwela.

Para sa karagdagang impormasyon maaaring makipag-ugnayan sa City Mayor’s Office, 2nd Floor, City Hall o makipag-ugnayan sa 222-2565. Pao/rem

Labels: ,


Binalaan ni City Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr. ang mga masasamang elementong responsable sa pagkawala ng ‘ball joint’ ng dredging machine ng Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) na umantala sa operasyon nito.

‘’Nais kong ipa-alam sa ating mga constituents na ang mga kahalintulad na insidente ay maaring mag-resulta ng negatibong epekto sa atin. Kapag nasira o may nawalang bahagi ang dredging machine, ito ay maaaring i-pull-out ng DPWH at titigil ang mga dredging projects sa lungsod na magre-resulta naman sa muling pag-baha sa mga mabababang barangay,’’ pahayag ni Mayor Bong Gordon.

Gayunman, agaran ring na-recover ang nawalang ‘ball joint’ bunga ng tawag na natanggap ng Olongapo City Police Office (OCPO) buhat sa isang concerned-resident ng Brgy. New Banicain nitong ika-27 ng Abril 2008 malapit sa New Banicain river.

Batay sa spot report ng Police Station 2, tinungo ng mga kawani ng OCPO, ilang opisyales ng barangay at kinatawan ng DPWH ang lugar at positibong itinuro ang nawawalang ‘ball joint’ ng dredging machine at na-recover sa may Banicain Fishport.

Sa kasalukuyan ay patuloy na tinutukoy ng OCPO ang mga suspect o suspects sa na-recover na ‘ball joint’ na nagkakahalaga ng tatlumpong-libong (P 30,000.00) piso. Ang ‘ball joint’ ay isang pipeline part ng dredging machine.

‘’Dahil sa pagkawala ng ‘ball point’ ay pansamantala ring nahinto ang dredging operasyon,’’ wika ni DPWH District Engr. Edward Ramos.

Sa ngayon, ay naka-daong ang dredging machine sa ‘bunganga’ ng Kalaklan River at magre-resume ng operation kapag naikabit na ang na-recover na ball joint.
Ang na-recover na ‘’ball joint’’ ng dredging machine na kasalukuyang naka-angkla sa ‘bunganga’ ng Kalaklan River.Pao/rem

Labels: , ,

Japanese solons curious why JPEPA still not ratified--Gordon

Japanese lawmakers, including former prime minister Shinzo Abe and the minister of trade and industry, are curious why the Philippine Senate has still not ratified the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), Senator Richard Gordon said Monday.

"Let's approve [JPEPA] already," he said.

Gordon, who went to Japan two weeks ago, said he was deluged with questions about the controversial agreement when he met with some members of the Japanese Diet (parliament).

"They are curious why we still have not ratified the treaty when all the other EPAs [economic partnership agreements] with other Asian countries have gone into force. They said the [JPEPA] has been signed a long time ago," he told reporters in a press conference.

The JPEPA was signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki on September 9, 2006.

At the same time, Gordon said Philippine Ambassador to Tokyo Domingo Siazon said Japan is unlikely to agree to the "conditional concurrence" proposed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee.

Gordon agrees with Siazon's position and said: "I want to get the job done…To give it back to the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs]. I don't think Japan will agree on it."

Critics fear the treaty would open the country up to the dumping of Japanese toxic wastes, among other issues. By Veronica Uy - INQUIRER.net

Labels: , ,

CIAC transfered to BCDA

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has transferred the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC), which operates the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) from the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) as its new subsidiary.

Arroyo, in issuing Executive Order (EO) 716, also transferred the ownership and corresponding dividends from the operation of the CIAC to BCDA. The CIAC was initially created through EO 193, series of 2003, as a CDC subsidiary to operate and manage the 2,200-hectare Clark Civil Aviation Complex (CCAC), including the DMIA, with its 50-year franchise.

The EO, however, transferred the operation and management of the Clark Civil Aviation Complex (CCAC), which is comprised of 2,200 hectare property, to the BCDA.

"There is a need to transform CIAC into a subsidiary of BCDA to ensure that the development of the CCAC-DMIA is aligned to the conversion program of the BCDA," she said adding that the CIAC shall still be subject to the policy supervision of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

With the transfer, the CIAC shall now have the sole supervision in the operations relating to aviation, aviation-related services, aviation-related logistic, as well as lease and business arrangements pertaining to the said services and activities.

The EO likewise directed the clarification and distinction of the functions and jurisdictions between the CIAC and the CDC "in order to create synergy between the two corporations."

It stated that despite CIAC's transfer, the CDC shall remain the implementing arm of the BCDA within the Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ) and the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ).

As this developed, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye announced that the President has also strengthened the two-year-old Subic-Clark Alliance for Development (Scad) Council "as the single body that will harmonize the strategies of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) and CSEZ after issuing EO 504-A which amended EO 504, series of 2006, that created the Council.

Bunye said under EO 504-A, Scad would facilitate "an integrated and coordinated approach to the development of the Scad corridor as a world-class mega-logistics hub and a global gateway to the Asia Pacific Region."

The EO directed Scad to prioritize the formulation of policies and programs to develop Subic, Clark, and the corridor in between them as a globally competitive mega-logistics hub; to formulate common investment promotions activities and harmonize in the SBFZ and CFZ programs, policies, rules and regulations affecting investments, incentives, customs, immigration, leasing, privatization, among others.

The agencies placed under the Scad Council's supervision include the BCDA, CDC, CIAc and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). (JMR/Sunnex)

Labels: , , , , ,

SCTEx starts commercial operation

The Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) started its commercial operation Monday.

In a symbolic gesture, Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan of the Subic Clark Alliance for Development (Scad) and Narciso Abaya, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), handed the first ticket to the first motorist at the Clark Logistics Plaza.

The first motorist, Reynaldo Ocba, was driving a Nissan Escapade for 10 passengers bound for a camp in Subic.

Only the 50.5-kilometer (km) Subic-Clark segment and a portion of the Clark-Tarlac of SCTex (for a total of 62 km), have been opened for commercial operations.

The remaining 32-km portion of the roadway will be opened within two months, BCDA officials earlier said. This includes a span from the boundary of the Clark North A Interchange in Mabalacat to Tarlac City.

The opening of this 32-km segment was deferred to give way to the final stages of constructing farm crossings, aside from installation of steel posts, cables and other accessories by the National Transmission Corporation (Transco).

The power lines are being rushed for the power requirements of Clark Freeport’s Texas Instruments.

Pamintuan cited SCTex as “one of the most significant component of the menu of development projects initiated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He lauded BCDA for delivering what could be “the crown jewel that our President can bequeath to the people of Central Luzon.”

Abaya, for his part, expressed confidence that, “in the days and months to come, SCTex will make available the lifeblood of an international logistics hub that holds so much promise for the nation.”

Class 1 vehicles entering SCTex from the Tipo Toll Plaza just outside Subic will pay a minimum of P24 toll if they take the exit at the Dinalupihan/Hermosa/Bataan Interchange.

From Tipo to the Clark Logistics Interchange, the rate for Class 1 vehicles is P112; Clark North B Interchange, P120; and Clark North A, P123.

Once commercial operations commence in the remaining 32 kilometers, Class 1 vehicles entering the Tipo Toll Plaza and intending to travel the full length of the expressway up to Tarlac City, will pay the maximum P181.

Motorists are advised to call SCTex Hotline for assistance at telephone numbers (045) 865-2030, (02) 3629997, (02) 3622246 and 0920-96-SCTex. By Reynaldo G. Navales - SunStar

Labels: , ,

Aboitiz Power income soars

50% Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. caused the issuance of a letter of award to Formosa Heavy Industries for the supply of the boiler, steam turbine, generator and related services that will be used for the construction of a 300MW power plant in Redondo Peninsula, Subic Bay

ABOITIZ Power Corp. reported a recurring net income of P1.055 billion in the first quarter of this year, a 150 percent jump from the P422 million it reported in the same period last year.

In a statement to the Philippine Stock Exchange, the company said it incurred a non-recurring loss, however, of P44 million due to foreign exchange net losses resulting from the revaluation of dollar-denominated loans and placements of some subsidiaries.

This brought its total earnings to P1.011 billion.

Revenue grew 41 percent to P2.97 billion during the period from the same quarter last year.

The company said that earnings contribution from the power generation business rose P603 percent to P639 million.

Acquisitions made in 2007 drove earnings performance, providing P584 million of the total income contribution from the generation group, said the company in a statement.

Top contributor

The 360 Mw Magat hydro plant contributed the largest block of earnings as it realized favorable average selling prices at the electricity spot market.

Power sales of the generation group rose over nine times to 377 Gwhrs from 36 Gwhrs year–on–year as a result of the 200 percent increase in AP’s attributable generating capacity to 490Mw from 164Mw.

For the distribution group, income contribution rose by 18 percent to P383 million from last year’s P324 million as a result of
higher electricity sales for the current quarter.

The group’s kilowatt-hour electricity sales for the period grew 17 percent year–on–year to 744 Gwhrs.

Excluding the sales contribution of the distribution utilities acquired in 2007, the group recorded an organic growth of seven percent year–on–year.


As of March 31, 2008, the company’s total assets amounted to P34.4 billion, five percent lower than at yearend 2007.

But the company said it remained in a net cash position with Cash and Cash Equivalents at P10.9 billion and total consolidated interest bearing loans at P4.2 billion.

The current ratio, a measure of the company’s liquidity, was at 2.8 times.

In January, AP broke ground for the construction of the 246MW coal-fired power plant in Cebu City, which will be completed in 2010. The project is a joint venture between 60 percent-owned Abovant Holdings and Global Formosa of the Metrobank Group.

Last March 7, AP concluded an agreement with Tsuneishi Holdings (Cebu), Inc. for the purchase of Tsuneishi’s 40 percent equity in Balamban Enerzone Corp. (BEZ) for about P178 million. This brought AP’s total ownership in BEZ to 100 percent.

Last April 3, 50 percent-owned Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. caused the issuance of a letter of award to Formosa Heavy Industries for the supply of the boiler, steam turbine, generator and related services that will be used for the construction of a 300MW power plant in Redondo Peninsula, Subic Bay.

After receiving the necessary approvals, the project is scheduled to start construction this year and is expected to be in operation by 2011. The project is estimated to cost approximately $500 million.

AP also expects the turnover by mid–year 2008 of the 175MW Ambuklao – Binga hydroelectric plants it won in November 2007, through the government’s privatization program. Upon turnover, the Ambuklao plant will undergo two years of rehabilitation work while the Binga plant will start operations. Once repairs for Ambuklao are completed, Binga will likewise undergo rehabilitation.

It is estimated that complete rehabilitation of the two plants will boost their combined generation capacity by 20% to 30%, with annual power generation of about 760 Gwhrs. Power produced will be sold to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), and both plants will be operated like the Magat hydro where two thirds of total power generation is sold at peak hours. SunStar

Labels: , , , ,

Who among docs are suspects in US Tricare scam?

Terminated from the Tricare program are Divine Shepherd, Philippine International Hospital and the Riverfront International Hospital. Other providers in the list were St. John the Baptist Hospital, Subic Bay Medical Center, the Total Life Center

Who amongst doctors are included in the now joint United States (US) – Philippine Government investigation on the multi-million dollar US Tricare scam?

Probers, The News Today (TNT) gathered are optimistic of yet more major breaks in the coming weeks with whereabouts of 20 of the 37 earlier indicted "accounted for." Corresponding requests for extradition have been filed, TNT further learned, however arrests are imminent on any one included in the list once they set foot on US soil or US territory.

The indictments were first unsealed in 2006 with the continued investigation and validation reportedly reaching Tricare medical records from Iloilo City health providers. One of the key players in the scam was Thomas Lutz of Olongapo City, a regular visitor then of Iloilo.

A noted surgeon shared the lavish lives of Ilonggo doctors affiliated with Lutz including free trips to Manila and Christmas parties with brand new cars as raffle prizes.

The scam, the Ilonggo surgeon admitted, was "shameful" with Ilonggo Filipino-American military retirees made to sign blank forms. The modus was for non-accredited Tricare doctors to do the procedures, paid immediately in cash by the accredited provider then money reimbursed but jacked up to at least four-folds.

Another shared how an offer was made for a brand new Toyota Revo in exchange for continued Tricare involvement.

A reputable doctor also revealed getting a check for US $1,500 for services charged at P1,500 only. The check mailed directly to him was an apparent mistake and meant for his Tricare partner who already paid him the P1,500.

Eventually, doctors not for the scam yet in the scheme of helping out Ilonggo Tricare beneficiaries began to notice the massive fraud.

Lutz when arrested in 2005 pleaded guilty and reportedly named his local accomplices. He was ‘credited' for at least $100 million in fraudulent Tricare claims.

No less than Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez expressed willingness to help in the extradition telling members of the national media the "Department of Justice (DOJ) is determined to track down and arrest suspects and coordinate with US for extradition of suspects."

The Tricare scam in the Philippines resurfaced last week following recent arrests of two Filipino Manila-based doctors.

TNT in a report learned that US Pentagon officials estimated some $40 million a year in "swindled" US taxpayers' money lost to scheming and conniving Filipino doctors and Tricare Health Providers.

In fact, it was back in 2005 when a top US health official sought clearance to send more investigators to the Philippines. The request was unfortunately unheeded.

Latest to be arrested was Dr. Diogenes Dionisio who was handcuffed minutes after entering Guam, a US territory. To his credit was some $2 million in alleged fraudulent claims. His lawyer, Charles Giesen told Associated Press that his client was getting off the plane with his golf clubs and totally caught by surprise with the arrest.

Another one was Dr. Alberto Marzan, one of the longest-wanted fugitives in the probe, who according to news wires, recruited dozens of military retirees to falsely claim they and their relatives were confined at his clinic.

He made fraudulent claims of US$1.5 million US prosecutors released in a report.

The Department of Health (DOH) now vowed to move for the revocation of licenses of hospitals found to be involved in the scam. However, it would be a more elaborate process with privately-run hospitals not under DOH control.

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) for its part also vowed action with the commission having a jurisdiction over licensed professionals like doctors.

Meantime, an advisory is out on the net on Tricare beneficiaries pushed by the Retired Activities Office (RAO) based in Subic Bay. Majority of the Philippine-based Fil-Am military retirees and US military retirees are based here.

The RAO site likewise posted a Notice on the Lutz indictment and Lutz-backed Health Visions Corporation and all Health Visions Corporation (HVC) owned facilities.

Excluded and terminated from the Tricare program are Divine Shepherd, Philippine International Hospital and the Riverfront International Hospital. Other providers in the list were St. John the Baptist Hospital, Subic Bay Medical Center, the Total Life Center. Other non-HVC providers excluded and terminated were CMDF Medical Center and the WSL Medical Clinic. By Florence F. Hibionada - thenewstoday

Labels: , , ,

DENR clears mining firm of environmental violations raps

IBA, ZAMBALES—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the province has cleared Benguet Corp. (BC) from charges of environmental violations filed by Zambales officials.

Separate reports submitted by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (Penro), the Community Environment and Natural Resources (Cenro) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to the DENR regional office showed that the charges filed by Sta. Cruz Mayor Luisito Marty and Lomboy village chair Danilo Merced against Benguet Corp. were “unfounded.”

Earlier, Marty and Merced sought government intervention after they complained that the BC has been destroying the environment in its operations and disturbing local communities. They also filed the same complaint with Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.

Marty said the complaint was based on community leaders’ report in Barangays Lomboy and Guisguis that the activities had destroyed their farms, roads and other infrastructure.


The provincial DENR’s findings, according to BC lawyer Reynaldo Mendoza, closely approximated the result of the investigation conducted earlier by the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) on the same complaint.

The PMRB, Mendoza said, recommended the case’s closure.

The DENR report said contrary to Merced’s allegations, the BC’s mining area is located in the villages of Guisguis and Guinabon, and not in Barangay Lomboy.

During a site inspection, village guards of Lomboy said the BC was not using barangay roads for their operations because the company was building its own haul road. Geodetic surveys showed that the road is in neighboring Barangay Guisguis.

The inspection team said no mining company had operated in Barangay Lomboy from December 2006 to March 2007 except A3UNA Mining Corp., which was found to be responsible for the dust and dirt pollution in the village. Cesar Villa, Inquirer Central Luzon

Labels: , , ,

Sta. Cruz SB endorses mining projects

BELYING earlier complaints that Benguet Corporation is causing environmental pollution in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, the company yesterday said it has received strong endorsement from the Sangguniang Bayan of the municipality.

The SB of Sta. Cruz, in its regular session last April 23, unanimously approved the application of Benguet for a business permit to operate its large scale nickel mining project in Barangay Guisguis under an approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement.

Sta. Cruz has been attracting many mining companies and investors interested in developing its rich mineral resources. While welcoming their investments, the SB members are also wary that only responsible and reputable companies, which are able to contribute to the local economy, become good business partners of the community and able to protect the environment, must be allowed to operate within the area.

The municipal officials noted that the nickel mining project of Benguet will bring economic progress and development to Sta. Cruz in terms of taxes, employment, business opportunities and commercial infrastructure (such as port, processing plant, etc.) among others.

They are also convinced that the complaint against Benguet is baseless and politically motivated. The resolution gives all necessary municipal support and assistance to Benguet for the full operation of its project.

Meanwhile, Benguet senior vice president for operations Marcelo Bolano, assured the local officials of “its unqualified commitment to responsible mining and sustainable development of its nickel property in accordance with mining laws and regulations and those dealing with environmental protection.”

“Benguet is ready to contribute to the social and economic welfare of the municipality of Sta. Cruz,” he said.

Sta. Cruz SB presiding officer and Vice Mayor Sebastian Tongson, Sr., certified the approved resolution and expressed elation that the municipality stands to gain much from the entry of similar business locators who meet the SB’s high standards.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 28, 2008


Olongapo City- “ Jobs should provide workers with a living—not cause deaths”, ito ang mensahe ng mga mangagawa, NGO’s, people’s organization at progresibong mga pulitiko na dumalo sa paggunita ng International Memorial Day for Dead and Injured Workers sa Olongapo City kahapon.

Sa mensahe ni Atty. Ernesto Arellano, National President of the National Union of Building and Construction Workers, binigyan niya ng diin na mahalagang ipagdiwang gunitain ang araw na ito sapagkat meron ng 2 milyong manggagawa ang namatay, 1.2 milyong ang nasugatan at 160 ang nagkasakit taon-taon sa buong mundo dulot ng hindi ligtas na kalagayan sa trabahop.

Ang pag-gumita ay ginanap sa lunsod ng Olongapo upang bigyan halaga ang kalagayan ng mga manggagawa sa loob ng Korean-owned Hanjin shipbuilding company sa Subic.

“Ang pangakong trabaho dulot ng pagtatayo ng Hanjin sa Subic ay nagdulot ng di maayos na kalagayan sa ating manggagawa, pagkamatay ng mga mangagawa bunsod ng tahasang paglabag ng dayuhang kumpanya sa batas ng paggawa, sa kalusugan at kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa”, pahayag ni Ruben Gaduang, Chairperson ng Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD).

Ayon kay Task Force Chairman Ramon Lacbain, ang pagkamatay ng mga manggagawa sa kumpanyang hanjin ay dulot ng ibat-ibang uri ng paglabag sa “Occupational Health and Safety standards” na pinatunayan ng notice of violations na inihain ng SBMA sa Hanjin. Ayon sa kanya, may 11 na ang namatay sa hanjin mula lamang noong 2007 hanggang March 2008, hindi pa kasama dito ang mga nasugatan at ang mga hindi nai-record.

“Because of Hanjin 450 families were displaced from from their home in Sitio Agusuhin. While they are building plush luxury condominiums for Koreans, the displaced families are languishing in sub-humane living condition. If Hanjin can subject its workers to precautious conditions, then it could tolerate the inhumane treatment of those displaced its operations,” dagdag pa ni Lacbain.

Nanawagan naman si AKBAYAN Representative Risa Hontiveros- Baraquel sa kanyang mga kasamahan sa kongreso sa umalalang kalagayan ng pagwawalang bahala sa kalusugan at kaligtasan ng mga manggagawa sa hanjin. “it is extremely appalling that Filipino workers are subjected to such danger by a foreign company enjoying the graces of Malacanang.” Diin ni Hontiveros.

Ang kongresista ng AKBAYAN ay nag-file ng Resolution 430 para sa pagsisiyasat ng kalagayan ng mga manggagawa sa Hanjin. Siya rin ay nag file ng House Bill 2453 upang limitahan ang sub-contracting ng labor sa 10% ng kabuan ng workforce ng kumpanya. “ we strongly believe that almost 90% of workers are sub-contracted and Hanjin uses this as an excuse when accidents happen. They pass on the responsibility to the sub-contractors by simply claiming that it is sub-contractors’ fault and not theirs.” Pagpapaliwag ni Hontiveros.

Naging madamdamin at puno ng galit sa Hanjin ang mga mensaheng binigkas ni Leticia Grateja Loquinario, ina ng mangagawang namatay sa hanjin na nagsampa rin ng kadong kriminal laban sa Hanjin at sa DMK sub-contractor ng Hanjin. “Napakabait ng anak ko upang dumanas ng walang katarungang kamatayan sa kumpanyang Hanjin, ilan pa ang buhay na mawawala dahil sa kanilang kapabayaan, hindi kayang bayaran ang buhay ng anak ko.. ang kailangan naming ay katarungan!” habang umiiyak na bigkas ni Mrs. Loquinario.

Ang grupo ay ngsagawa ng “symbolic candle lighting ceremony” upang alalahanin ang lahat ng namatay at nasugatan sa paggawa. “This should be a reminder of the pressing and urgent need for government and employers to take the health and safety of workers seriously. We cannot allow our labor force to continue to suffer because of dangerous work and dangerous workplaces. Deaths in the workplace must stop now,” pagwawakas na pananalita ni Atty. Arellano.

A symbolic candle lighting ceremony to commemorate those who have perished and have been injured in the workplace culminates the commemoration of the International Worker’ Memorial Day in Olongapo City yesterday. (L-R) Chester Amparo, Secretary-General of the Shipyard and Construction Workers’ Association; Atty. Ernesto Arellano, National President of the National Union of building and construction Workers; AKBAYAN Representative Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel; Task Force Hanjin Chairman Ramon Lacbain II; Ruben Gaduang, Chairperson of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD); Leticia Loquinario,mother of dead Hanjin worker Reynan Loquinario and Mrs. Adamos, mother of Jeremias Adamos , victim of explosion at Hanjin job site. ni Belen Quintana-Figueras

Labels: , , , ,

Arroyo intensifies Scad Council

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has strengthened the two-year-old Subic-Clark Alliance for Development (Scad) Council as the "single body" that will harmonize the strategies of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) and the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ).

In Executive Order (EO) 504-A, the President cited the "need to strengthen and enhance the powers and capabilities of the Scad Council as the single body with a fulltime head to rationalize resources and harmonize strategies."

The Scad Council will be headed by a chairman with the rank of a Cabinet member.

The President added that the strengthened Scad "will ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to the development of the Scad corridor as a world-class mega-logistics hub and a global gateway to the Asia Pacific Region."

EO 504-A, which amends EO 504, series of 2006, also highlighted the "need to clearly define and state the powers and functions of the Scad Council and the Office of the Chairman in order to effectively deal directly with the concerned agencies under its supervision."

Placed under the supervision of the Scad Council are the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and the Clark International Airport Corporation (Ciac).

"The Office of the President, through the Scad Council chairman, with Cabinet rank, shall exercise policy oversight" over the four agencies "in so far as the development of Clark, Subic and the Corridor them into a major logistics hub is concerned."

The Scad Council shall "formulate policies and programs to develop Subic, Clark, and the corridor in-between them as (a) globally competitive Mega-Logistics Hub" and "review, identify and recommend priority infrastructure projects for implementation."

The council will also "formulate common investment promotions activities; and harmonize in the SBFZ and CFZ such programs, policies, rules and regulations affecting investments, incentives, customs, immigration, leasing, privatization, and other matters related thereto."

To be appointed by the President, the Scad Council chairman "shall be a member of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda)," with the secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as vice chairman.

The other members of the council are the chairmen and presidents of the BCDA, CDC and Ciac, and the chairman and administrator of the SBMA. - Sun.Star Pampanga

Labels: , , ,

Photos confirm Hanjin built condo before it got ECC

Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Phil. Inc. had finished concreting the eighth floor of its 22-story condominium when the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority issued the project and environmental compliance certificate on July 13, 2007.

Sen. Pia Cayetano discovered the violation based on Hanjin’s own photographs of the construction activities.

Fifteen large photographs documented the phases of the work for the two condominium buildings (the other building is 12-story high). Both were built on a three-hectare land in the middle of the lush forest within the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales.

Cayetano’s technical team saw the photographs at the company’s makeshift office at the construction site. The senator showed copies of those photographs to SBMA officials when she and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri inspected the site on Friday.

Cayetano raised this issue with SBMA ecology chief Amethya dela Llana-Koval during the Friday hearing at the Subic freeport.

Koval said the SBMA has fined Hanjin P50,000 for the violation. She admitted that the SBMA did not suspend the construction, which Cayetano said should have been the proper thing to do under the environmental impact system law (Presidential Decree No. 1586).

Cayetano belittled the fine. “That’s pathetic. We definitely have to change the law. Is this the message we want to send to our locators? Come to this country [and] if you miss any permits, we are just going to fine you $1,000? Nakakaawa naman tayo (We are pitiful),” she said.

SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga said the SBMA made a mistake. “We goofed,” Salonga told Cayetano.

Manuel Gerochi, DENR undersecretary for lands management, said in the same hearing that “besides the penalty, they are to be suspended until the issuance of ECC.”

Cayetano said under SBMA guidelines on the implementation of the EIS, “all new and existing projects” within the freeport must get an ECC first or a certificate of non-coverage.”

Cayetano found Hanjin’s construction work prior to the ECC issuance as a “grave violation” of the law and SBMA guidelines.

Delegated authority

“Here we are in a situation where the function of the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) has been delegated to the SBMA, and it is clear to me that SBMA is not really certain as to what laws apply and what constitutes development, construction, plan, or whatever activities before the ECC permit,” she said.

“So how can you tell us that [DENR could] delegate these powers when it would take Undersecretary Gerochi over and over to even tell you when permits are due, when penalties are due, what activities are allowed,” Cayetano said.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the SBMA allowed Hanjin to start building the condominiums in January 2007 because “our position is that the clearing and demolition did not require an ECC because what were demolished were existing bunkers.”

Arreza said the site of Hanjin’s condominiums had previously been used by the Americans for the storage, test, check, assembly and limited maintenance of weapons. He said it was cleared by the United States Navy as early as 1968.

Koval said aside from the penalty and admonitions, Hanjin was required to apply for permits for demolition, clearing, tree cutting and soil testing surveys. Tonette Orejas with reports from Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

Labels: , , , , ,

Gordon, Cebu gov recall victory at Mactan

Calling it the first Asian victory against colonial aggression, Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday led ceremonies at the Rizal Park to commemorate the 487th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan and to honor the memory of Lapu-Lapu, the first Filipino hero and the first Asian to successfully repel a colonial occupation force.

Gordon was joined by other dignitaries led by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Rep. Carissa Coscolluela, Tourism Undersecretary Oscar Palabyab and Director DJ Bagatsing of the Philippine Tourism Authority, Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subi Bay Metropolitan Authority, and the Red Cross, which Gordon heads.

Also present were officers of the Armed Forces and the national police, Brig. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu of the Army, Rear Admiral Amable Tolentino of the Navy, Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Joselito Aseniero of the PCGA and NCRPO police director Chief Supt. Geary Barias.

The celebration was also graced by Consul General Hong Sung Mog of the Republic of Korea and members of the Korea Freedom League, who donated the 40-foot Lapu-Lapu statue at the Rizal Park.

The 40-foot Lapu-Lapu statue was erected in 2003 by Gordon who secured a donation from the Korean Freedom League of P18 million. The statue was created by renowned sculptor and TOYM awardee Sajid Imao.

“Lapu-Lapu is personified in our national anthem by the verse ‘a manlulupig di ka pasisiil’ and makes us proud to be Asia’s first to defeat a foreign invader. Lapu-Lapu should be an icon of our men in uniform who embodies the qualities of bravery, strength, honor, integrity and principles,” Gordon said.

Garcia, who flew all the way from Cebu, said, “We in Cebu have our own festivities in honor of Lapu-Lapu. However, I recognize the significance of this event being held in the national park. The people of Cebu are grateful to Senator Gordon for his efforts in putting up the Lapu-Lapu monument here in our national park.”

“The Cebuanos deeply appreciate that Senator Gordon valiantly, courageously and patriotically fought to put Lapu-lapu in the national park. He has placed history in its proper place and the Cebuanos stand proud with him,” Garcia added.

Gordon, then Tourism secretary, fought for the construction of the Lapu-Lapu statue to honor the Visayan Muslim who was the first to thwart Spanish invaders on the island of Mactan in 1521.

Gordon has filed a bill proposing April 27 as a national holiday as Adlaw ni Lapu-Lapu or Lapu-Lapu Day.

Labels: , , ,

CA upholds illegitimate daughter’s claim to father’s name

The illegitimate daughter of the late Senator Genaro Magsaysay gets to keep her father's surname, after the Court of Appeals rejected the state's move opposing her change of family name to Magsaysay.

The appellate court affirmed the November 2003 decision of the Bacoor, Cavite regional trial court that allowed Genevieve Arzadon Pantoja to change her name to Genevieve Arzadon Magsaysay.

The Republic of the Philippines, through the Office of the Solicitor General, questioned the RTC ruling before the appellate court on the ground that the change of name had allowed Genevieve to change her status from an illegitimate to a legitimate child.

The OSG said such a substantial change was not allowed under a petition for change of name, as well as under jurisprudence, which has been permitting changes only when the names were ridiculous or difficult to spell, to avoid confusion, when the change was based on a sincere desire to adopt a Filipino name or when the surname caused embarrassment, among others.

Genevieve, now 40, was initially registered with the surname Pantoja after the family name of her mother Lourdes Arzadon's estranged husband, Angelito Pantoja, in order to keep Senator Magsaysay's extramarital affair quiet.

Magsaysay, a former representative of Zambales, was married to Adelaida Rodriguez.

But Genevieve said that she fully knew who her biological father was while growing up, and Magsaysay had recognized her as his daughter. She was given her share of his estate when he died.

Magsaysay's widow and legitimate children also acknowledged her as the late lawmaker's daughter, and she was even invited to family gatherings.

Genevieve filed the petition to change her name and use her biological father's surname in 2001, and this was granted in 2003.

The appellate court, in siding with Genevieve, said that it was up to the RTC to determine whether the name change sought was backed by a reasonable and proper cause.

It noted that Genevieve's true parentage was never hidden from her and that without the name change to Magsaysay, she would legally be considered Pantoja's daughter with her mother. This inaccuracy would then create confusion because she would be considered Pantoja's heir as well.

"To allow such an error to subsist would be unfair not only to [Genevieve], but also grossly prejudicial to the interests of Angelito Garcia Pantoja and his bona fide heirs upon his demise... Accordingly, the same should be immediately rectified to avoid further and future confusion with regard to each of the parties' respective kin," it said in an April 15 decision penned by Justice Rodrigo Cosico.

It also said that Republic Act 9255, which amended a provision of the Family Code, allowed illegitimate children to carry their father's surname if the father had acknowledged them as his through the record of birth, public documents or private handwritten papers.

"Since there is really no problem in proving her filiation with her biological father, it is only right and in accordance with law that her petition should be granted," it added.

As for the OSG's argument that only Pantoja or his heirs could legally question Genevieve's real parentage, the appellate court disagreed and said that it was Magsaysay's family who could question her identity under the Family Code.

But since Magsaysay's family had long recognized and accepted Genevieve, there was no more reason for them to question her parentage, it added. By Leila Salaverria - Philippine Daily Inquirer


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gov’t workers to get pay hike anew

BUDGET Secretary Rolando Andaya has good news for the country’s close to a million national government employees: they can expect more salary increases in the next two years.

“Two more pay hikes for government employees are being planned and these will be implemented in 2009 and 2010,” Andaya told a hearing of the House committee on appropriations yesterday.

National government employees are scheduled to get a 10 percent increase in their basic pay on July 1.

Andaya assured Rep. Edcel Lagman (Lakas, Albay), chairman of the committee, that the funding for another round of salary increases will be included in the 2009 budget.

“The parameters of the 2009 budget are now being prepared at the agency level,” Andaya said.

“Insofar as the last two remaining budget proposals that President Arroyo will submit to Congress, each will contain a provision for a salary compensation increase for state workers,” he said.

The former congressman told the committee that the consecutive increases will be “consolidated in a new salary standardization law that will revamp the pay scale and eventually increase the salary rates for government employees.”

He also explained that the new salary standardization measure is aimed at “synchronizing the request for all workers and not just by profession.”

Andaya said the new measure would not only restructure the old salary standardization law, but it will also give the government a clearer “guideline on how much its employees should receive during pay hikes.”

Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said pay hike is necessary for wage earners to cope with increases in prices of commodities such as rice and fuel.

He said the government should make positive steps to follow the demand of the public and implement measures for workers to cope with the spiraling daily cost of living.

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma also called on the government to consider the sad state of the ordinary workers.

Labor groups had called for a wage hike to help wage earners cope with rising cost of living.

Some groups wanted P60 to P80 a day wage hike, while militant workers want P125 across-the-board.

But acting Labor Secretary Marianito Roque on Friday admitted that it is unlikely that the proposed P80 wage hike in the National Capital Region would be granted.

National Wages And Productivity Board Executive Director Ciriaco Lagunzad said that expecting a pay hike to be granted on May 1 may not be realistic, adding that wage boards have to follow several procedures before an increase is effected.

Businessmen also agreed with the assessment of the Department of Labor And Employment that a wage increase cannot be granted at this time. By: Raul S. Beltran with a report from Lee Ann P. Ducusin - Journal online

Labels: ,

US military health insurance fraud continues in Philippines, say retirees

Moncada - The clinic where Dr. Alberto Marzan allegedly played his role in a US$100 million (¤64.12 million) swindle of the U.S. military's health insurance program sits abandoned, along with the adjacent family home.

But a legacy remains, with a U.S. Navy retiree saying scams are still rife even after a federal judge ordered a Philippines company to pay back the money it skimmed.

Health Visions Corp., which pleaded guilty to mail fraud, was ordered to liquidate all assets within 10 months and give the proceeds to the U.S. government. Federal prosecutors say the company bilked the military's Tricare program out of US$99.9 million (¤63 million) from 1998-2004. The program insures 9.2 million active and retired U.S. servicemen and dependents worldwide.

The company routinely inflated claims by more than 230 percent, operated a phony insurance program, and billed for medical services never delivered, court records showed, as the Pentagon moved slowly to uncover the scheme.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Jarosz described Health Visions as the biggest violator yet in a long-running investigation into Tricare fraud in the Philippines.

Marzan, one of the longest-wanted fugitives in the probe, recruited dozens of military retirees to falsely claim they and their relatives were confined at his clinic and received expensive medical services, U.S. prosecutors say.

He made fraudulent claims of US$1.5 million (¤1 million) to the program and was paid more than US$1 million (¤640,000), prosecutors add. In return, he typically paid kickbacks to the retirees.
A U.S. federal grand jury returned a 35-count indictment against Marzan in 1999, but he has apparently remained free in the Philippines after vanishing from Moncada.

Neighbors, village leaders, police and former co-workers in the Moncada town hall, where he used to sit as councilor, say the doctor's family slipped out of town more than three years ago and remains underground.

Claro de Castro, head of the National Bureau of Investigation's Interpol division, said his office has arrest warrants for a doctor and a beneficiary. But he refused to identify them or say if the wanted doctor was Marzan because agents are still working on the case.

Jerry Minor, a Navy retiree and administrator of Lifeline Medical Center _ a Tricare-accredited clinic in western Olongapo city near the former U.S.-run Subic Naval Base _ said many accredited doctors and clinics in the city continue to overprice their services.

Retirees are usually lured into the scheme because the clinics do not charge them the required 25 percent share of the cost, instead sending the whole bill to Tricare, Minor said.

One clinic blacklisted by Tricare for fraudulent claims simply changed its name and is back in business, he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.

Minor said a retiree's wife who was convinced by a clinic four years ago to sign a stack of blank claim forms _ one is filled out every time a beneficiary goes to a clinic _ was shocked to find out last December that several women were collecting on claims using her details.

«It was like signing a blank check,» he added.
He said he tried to find out for himself about the overpricing by going to a doctor, who told him he would be charged 850 pesos (US$20; ¤12.82) for a 15-minute consultation. The price was higher than the 500 peso (US$12; ¤7.7) fee per consultation under Tricare regulations.

Minor said when he brought up his share of the cost, the doctor told him, «Don't worry about it, you pay nothing. Tricare does.

He said he has reported the anomalies to Tricare officials but the scams continue.

Vicky Gross, a retiree's widow who used to work for Health Visions, said many doctors and clinics don't charge beneficiaries their share of costs but she did not know what they were charging to Tricare.

Austin Camacho, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Tricare Management Activity, said the program has implemented new controls to combat fraud in the Philippines in recent years. Among other things, the program looks for patterns of aberrant practices and reviews claims that appear excessive.

In 2001-07, the program refused to pay US$288 million (¤185 million) in
fraudulent or excessive claims from the country, he said.

Still, he said it is hard to catch all fraud overseas and Tricare does not exclude providers «without sufficient evidence.

«This can be difficult in an environment where law enforcement resources are limited, providers are not always cooperative and are not subject to the U.S. government's subpoena power,» he said.

Rufino Bayao Jr., a Navy retiree who served a 1.5-year U.S. prison term and three years of probation for taking part in the scam with Marzan, advises retirees not to fall for the bait.

«If they are caught, they will also suffer,» he told AP in his home in northern Tayug town. «It's not worth it.

Aside from the prison term, Buyao is having more than a third of his US$800 (¤513) monthly pension deducted to pay for US$132,390 (¤84,887) in restitution that a U.S. court ordered him to pay.

He says he got only 200,000 pesos (US$4,760; ¤3,052) from Marzan for signing false claims, with much of the money going for drinking binges. Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.

Labels: , , , ,


Subic Freeport- Sinalubong ng protesta ang ginanap na “senate hearing” hinggil sa kontrobersyal na Hanjin two condominium building na itinayo sa gitna ng Subic watershed forest reserve sa Subic kahapon.

“Magarang condo para sa Koreano, mala-impyernong relokasyon para sa Pilipino” ito ang slogan na isinisigaw ng may 100 kataong nagprotesta sa harap ng SBDMC Bldg. sa Subic Bay Gateway Park kung saan ginanap ang hearing na dinaluhan nila Senator Richard Gordon, Sen. Pia Cayetano at Sen. Miguel Zubiri pagkatapos ng inspeksyon sa naturang Condominium ng Hanjin.

Ayon sa “statement” ng mga organisasyong CCSA (Concerned Citizen of Sitio Agusuhin), NAMANA (Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Nagyantok), SAMAHAN (Samahang Manggagawa Ng Hanjin), AKBAYAN-Olongapo/Zambales, KPD (Kilusan Para Sa Pambansang Demokrasya) at Task Force Hanjin, ang isyu ng Hanjin Condominium ay isa lamang sa mga problema bunsod ng pagkatayo ng Hanjin Shipbuilding sa Subic, ayon sa kanila mas malaking epekto sa kalikasan ang ginawang pagsakop sa dalawang komunidad na dati’y tila paraiso sa dami ng puno, magagandang bukal at kabundukan na kanilang pinatag, dagdag pa nila, hindi lang kalikasan ang kanilang sinira mas malala pa ang patuloy na pagyurak sa karapatang pantao, paglabag sa karapatan ng manggagawa at pagbasura sa karapang paninirahan ng mga taong naging biktima ng demolisyon na hanggang ngayon, 2 taon na ang nakaraan ay wala pa ring maayos na relokasyon at makatarungang kompensasyon.

Kinausap nila Senator Cayetano at Senator Zubiri ang mga nagproprotesta at nangakong tutugunan nila ang kanilang mga hinaing at iimbitahan sila sa susunod na senate hearing hinggil sa Hanjin.

Sa ginanap na Senate Hearing ginisa ng mga senador si SBMA Ecology Chair Ameth De Llana hinggil sa nangyaring pag-isyu nito ng ECC sa naturang proyekto na sakop ng watershed forest reserve pagkatapos lamang ng may 6 na buwan nang kontruksyon ng naturang proyekto.

Ayon sa mga pictures na ipinakita sa hinggil sa development works ng naturang proyekto, ay nagsimula ito noon pang enero 2007 at nagkaroon lamang ito ng ECC noong Hulyo 2007 kung saan ay 4 na palapag na ang naitatayo sa naturang building.

Ayon kay Senator Gordon, hindi alam ni De Llana ang batas sa pag iisyu ng ECC kaya hindi siya qualified sa pwesto bilang Ecology Chair. Ilang beses siyang hinamon ni Gordon na aminin ang kanyang pagkakamali pero hindi niya ito ginawa bagkus ang si SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga ang siyang nagsabing “We goof”.(30)

Subic Freeport- Sinalubong ng protesta ang ginanap na “senate hearing” hinggil sa kontrobersyal na Hanjin two condominium building na itinayo sa gitna ng Subic watershed forest reserve sa Subic kahapon.

“Magarang condo para sa Koreano, mala-impyernong relokasyon para sa Pilipino” ito ang slogan na isinisigaw ng may 100 kataong nagprotesta sa harap ng SBDMC Bldg. sa Subic Bay Gateway Park kung saan ginanap ang hearing na dinaluhan nila Senator Richard Gordon, Sen. Pia Cayetano at Sen. Miguel Zubiri pagkatapos ng inspeksyon sa naturang Condominium ng Hanjin.

Ayon sa “statement” ng mga organisasyong CCSA (Concerned Citizen of Sitio Agusuhin), NAMANA (Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Nagyantok), SAMAHAN (Samahang Manggagawa Ng Hanjin), AKBAYAN-Olongapo/Zambales, KPD (Kilusan Para Sa Pambansang Demokrasya) at Task Force Hanjin, ang isyu ng Hanjin Condominium ay isa lamang sa mga problema bunsod ng pagkatayo ng Hanjin Shipbuilding sa Subic, ayon sa kanila mas malaking epekto sa kalikasan ang ginawang pagsakop sa dalawang komunidad na dati’y tila paraiso sa dami ng puno, magagandang bukal at kabundukan na kanilang pinatag, dagdag pa nila, hindi lang kalikasan ang kanilang sinira mas malala pa ang patuloy na pagyurak sa karapatang pantao, paglabag sa karapatan ng manggagawa at pagbasura sa karapang paninirahan ng mga taong naging biktima ng demolisyon na hanggang ngayon, 2 taon na ang nakaraan ay wala pa ring maayos na relokasyon at makatarungang kompensasyon.

Kinausap nila Senator Cayetano at Senator Zubiri ang mga nagproprotesta at nangakong tutugunan nila ang kanilang mga hinaing at iimbitahan sila sa susunod na senate hearing hinggil sa Hanjin.

Sa ginanap na Senate Hearing ginisa ng mga senador si SBMA Ecology Chair Ameth De Llana hinggil sa nangyaring pag-isyu nito ng ECC sa naturang proyekto na sakop ng watershed forest reserve pagkatapos lamang ng may 6 na buwan nang kontruksyon ng naturang proyekto.

Ayon sa mga pictures na ipinakita sa hinggil sa development works ng naturang proyekto, ay nagsimula ito noon pang enero 2007 at nagkaroon lamang ito ng ECC noong Hulyo 2007 kung saan ay 4 na palapag na ang naitatayo sa naturang building.

Ayon kay Senator Gordon, hindi alam ni De Llana ang batas sa pag iisyu ng ECC kaya hindi siya qualified sa pwesto bilang Ecology Chair. Ilang beses siyang hinamon ni Gordon na aminin ang kanyang pagkakamali pero hindi niya ito ginawa bagkus si SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga ang siyang nagsabing “We goof”. ni Beleb Q. Figueras

Labels: , , , ,

SCTEX sets start of toll operations

THE entire 50.5-kilometer Subic-Clark segment and a portion of the Clark-Tarlac segment of the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) is set to officially start toll operations on Monday at 12:01 p.m., following simple rites at the Toll Operations Center in Mabalacat, Pampanga, Robert Gervacio, program manager for operational support, said.

As approved by the Toll Regulatory Board, motorists will pay a toll of P2 per kilometer.

With the start of commercial operations of 62 kilometers of the 94-km SCTEX, motorists will have immediate access to the provinces of Pampanga and Bataan and Olongapo City via interchanges that will simultaneously open on Monday. These are Clark North A Interchange in Mabalacat, Clark Logistics Interchange, Dinalupihan Interchange in Bataan and Tipo Interchange in Subic.

Subic-bound motorists coming from NLEX are advised to take the Spur/NLE interchange located between the Dau and Sta. Ines Exits and proceed to the SCTEX Clark Logistics Toll Plaza. After crossing the bridge, follow the loop of the ramp toward Subic. Motorists are advised to follow the road directional signage.

Motorists, going to Clark from the SCTEX have two options, according to Gervacio.

The first option is to exit at Clark Logistics Interchange, make a u-turn at the NLEX spur road towards MacArthur Highway and proceed to either the Main gate or Mabalacat gate of the Clark Freeport.

The second option is to exit at the Clark North A Interchange, then turn left to MacArthur Highway and finally turn right to the Mabalacat gate of the Clark Freeport.

Tollways Management Corp., interim operator of SCTEX, is deploying its entire team of patrol crews, toll tellers and the entire complement of traffic and roadside managers to handle all the traffic, communication and safety of motorists. TMC is also the operator of NLEX, an 84-km roadway from Balintawak to Santa Ines.

However, the opening of the remaining 32-kilometer portion of the SCTEX from the boundary of the Clark North A Interchange in Mabalacat all the way to Tarlac City has been deferred to give way to the final stages of constructing rice farm crossings, aside from installation of steel posts, cables and other accessories by the National Transmission Corp. for the power requirements of Clark Freeport billion-peso investor Texas Instruments. The opening of the remaining 32-kilometers is set for July of this year. journal online

Labels: , ,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

US Senate Passes Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007

US Senate Passes Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, Filipino World War II Veterans To Get Pension

Senator Richard Gordon in a few months successfully shepherded the passage of Senate Bill No. 142 amending Sec. 10 of Republic Act No. 6948 or "An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Dependents."

About 13,000 Filipino World War II veterans will soon receive $300 in monthly pension and benefits from the United States after its Senate passed the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 with a vote of 96 to 1. For some time, some senators had been stalling the bill's passage on account that the Philippine Veterans law would cancel pension benefits to veterans who would choose to receive pension from the US.

Senator Richard Gordon in a few months successfully shepherded the passage of Senate Bill No. 142 amending Sec. 10 of Republic Act No. 6948 or "An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and their Dependents." RA 6948, repeatedly referred to in the debates of the US Senate, previously forfeited the pension from the Philippine government should a similar pension be given by the US government.

At the Araw ng Kagitingan rites held in Mt. Samat on April 9, Gordon thanked Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her vocal support for more benefits for the veterans, and Representatives Carissa Coscolluela and Herminia Roman who co-authored the Lower House version of S.B. 142.

"We can only be honored to have played a part in securing what may be final victory for our
aging veterans. The US Senate's passage of the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 finally settles a 60-year old question of honor and justice long denied to our veterans who are mostly now in their eighties. Certainly, the expected benefits will provide comfort in their waning years, but what matters really is the American government's recognition of their heroism, valor and sacrifice," said Gordon.

Gordon, on behalf of the veterans and their families, thanked US Senator Daniel Akaka, sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Bob Filner. Gordon was assisted by US Amb. Willy Gaa in his efforts to secure passage of the bill.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 expands the coverage of veterans' benefits, including a program of insurance for service-connected disability, expanded eligibility for retroactive benefits traumatic injury protection coverage, housing benefits for those with severe burn injuries, and extension to two years of monthly educational assistance for apprenticeship and on-the-job training. www.richardgordon.blogspot.com

Labels: ,

RP firm in US health insurance scam starts selling assets


The Philippine company ordered by a United States federal judge to pay back the $100 million it swindled from the US military's health insurance program stopped operating in July 2006 and has since been working to sell its assets and turn over the proceeds to the US government.

"As part of our commitment, we have ceased operations in July 2006. The current board has been up to its task in disposing the assets in the Philippines. That's the US precondition [in the settlement]," Aaron Baesa, vice president of Health Vision Corp. (HVC), told the Inquirer on Saturday.

"Other HVC companies in the US and residential houses are also up for sale. Another group is handling that," Baesa said in a telephone interview from the Subic Bay Freeport, where HVC is based.

He said the settlement, worth $5 million, was the result of a plea bargain agreement made by Thomas Lutz, former president of HVC, after his deportation to the US in 2006.

"After the $5 million has been paid, the proceeds from the asset shares would go to the US government after we have paid our creditors," Baesa said.

HVC owes more or less P60 million to its creditors in the Philippines, he said.

He could not give further information on the settlement, saying the details were with the US Department of Justice.

The order by US District Judge Barbara Crabb for HVC to pay $99.9 million was "actually a welcome development to us for we can now freely address the disposal without fear of being charged [with] contempt," Baesa said.

Asked if HVC has that amount, he said: "Wala siguro (Perhaps not). I don't think it can do that much."

The company has not yet fixed the value of all its assets, which include four hospitals that it partly owns.

One of these is the former Philippine International Hospital (PIH) in Angeles City, north of this Pampanga city. It is the subject of a court dispute involving Janice Thieke, the wife of one its incorporators, Dennis Ray Thieke Sr.

The case involves alleged usurpation of authority to constitute a new board. Dennis Ray Thieke Jr., a son of Thieke by his first wife, constituted the Baesa-led board in 2006.

"The court can direct an inventory if ever we win the case," Baesa said.

Valued at P450 million in 2006, the 141-room PIH may not amount to that appraisal now, Baesa said.

He said some equipment was taken out of the PIH after the alleged "takeover" by the elder Thieke's second wife, Janice, and her business partners Mauro Fajardo, Mark Smith, and Reynaldo Pineda.

Smith and Pineda are known to be close to Pampanga Representative Carmelo Lazatin, but Baesa said he would neither confirm nor deny if Lazatin was among the owners of PIH.

Lazatin, in a phone interview on Saturday, said he knew Smith and Pineda but denied that he was a stockholder of PIH or the Divine Shepherd Medical Center, which is leasing the PIH building.

Not one of HVC's assets has been sold so far but negotiations are being undertaken, Baesa said.

He said the current board of the HVC "cooperated" with investigators from the US Department of Defense.

Investigators invited some directors of the board to a conference held in March or April 2007 to "validate some questions."

Corporate secretary Corazon Coronel Luttrell and board member Ansbert Joaquin, who is an Inquirer correspondent, did not attend that conference, he said.

No member of the board went to the US to testify in court.

"It was Lutz who assumed everything as president and director of HVC (before the current board was constituted)," Baesa said.

The board earlier showed the records to investigators, he said.

Asked if the current board was liable for the unlawful transactions of the past board, Baesa said: "We only cooperated in matters during our incumbency. We have nothing to do with past transactions of the HVC."

According to him, HVC has not handled Tricare patients from 2004 up to July 2006.

Tricare is a US government agency in charge of the health care system for its veterans and dependents. There are a number of veterans and their dependents living around Angeles City, host to the US Air Force's Clark Air Base until 1991.

Aside from maintaining the four hospitals that it partly owns, HVC has 20 accredited private hospitals and 20 accredited doctors from all over the country, Baesa said.

He said he did not know how many patients HVC treated or handled since its incorporation in 1997.

Dr. Adelfo Tuazon, former PIH administrator, told the Inquirer that the unpaid professional fees of HVC to PIH doctors were estimated at between P38 and P39 million at the time the HVC board led by Janice Thieke relieved him as hospital administrator in 2006.

Tuazon said he was removed from his post because he was persistent in demanding payment of the doctors’ fees. By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer Central Luzon Desk

Labels: , , ,

Investors eye ferro-nickle smelting plant in Zambales

A big consortium of investors is eyeing to put up a ferro-nickle smelting plant in the province of Zambales amounting to US$1 billion.

Zambales Governor Amor Deloso said the entry of AES Corporation to operate the 600 megawatt Masinloc coal-fired power plant is one major component and would pave the way for the realization and development of the Masinloc transshipment Port Project.

"The proponent is seriously considering the purchase of 700 hectares of raw land just across the proposed Masinloc International Transhipment Port," Governor Deloso said during the formal turn over ceremony of the Masinloc plant last Wednesday night.

"There is an excellent synergy in this project because within a 10 kilometer radius, the key components are located, the industrial park, the transshipment port and of course the Masinloc power plant who will provide energy by means of direct-tapping," he added.

Deloso also revealed that the boom in the mining industry in the province of Masinloc has given them about P120 million income in just ten months last year.

Masinloc Vice Mayor Roberto Eamilao said the entry of AES Corporation will give the province about P12 billion revenues in the next 25 years.

For the next 25 years, the local government of Zambales stands to earn P12 billion of revenues from Masinloc power plant," Eamilao said, adding that the Provincial Office in turn gives the new owner of Masinloc an incentive by cutting their taxes.

Aside from the potential investors in the industrial park, Deloso said two Korean firms are also planning to put up a major resort in the province while the other is eyeing the construction of the Ocean Fantasia resort complex in Silaguin Bay in Subic.

A modern hospital is now being developed and constructed in Subic.

For his part, AES Philippines president Matthew Bartley assured the government of Zambales as well as its people of strong business commitment.

He also committed to immediately address the growing demand for electricity in the country by improving the capacity of the Masinloc plant to another 600 megawatts in the near future.

Last week, AES finally settled the US$930 million cost of Masinloc which was bidded out on July 2007. (MSN/Sunnex)

Labels: , , ,

SBMA head hits Senate inquiry into Hanjin condo

Senators Cayetano and Zubiri said they appreciate the entry of investors and do not intend to scare them away

SUBIC FREEPORT: Chairman Feliciano Salonga of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) criticized the Senate Friday for making a “big fuss” over the housing project of Hanjin, a Koren shipping company.

“The senators are barking up the wrong tree. There is no environmental violation committed in the housing project. I am surprised that much attention is being given to this when our main problem lies in the parasitic vines,” Salonga said before the start of a joint Senate committee hearing on the housing project.

He said that the proper focus should be on the productive presence of Hanjin, which he said would employ about 13,000 laborers in what he called “the biggest shipyard” in Southeast Asia.

“Hanjin had built a ship in less than a year, which is an extraordinary accomplishment. Booked contract amounts to $3.5 billion, which will be completed in two to three years,” he added.

The Senate committees on environment and natural resources headed by Senator Pia Cayetano, housing and urban planning headed by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, and government corporations and public enterprises headed by Senator Richard Gordon, are jointly investigating reports that Hanjin built its 184-unit condominium buildings for its officials and employees on a three-hectare lot within a protected watershed area.

Cayetano and Zubiri said that they appreciate the entry of investors and they do not intend to scare them away but they added that they wanted to make sure that all laws on environment and zoning are followed by the investors.

“We’re here to strengthen existing laws,” said Cayetano.

Zubiri added that there was no chance of having the buildings demolished since they are already built. “We just hope that next time they take into serious consideration the consequences involved in building these structures in a forested area,” Zubiri said.

While Gordon noted that he was convinced that SBMA did not violate any law in approving the Hanjin housing project but he questioned the aesthetics of building a 28-story condominium building in the area.

SBMA Administrator Armand Areza said that the housing site was two kilometers away from the core ecological zone of the watershed area where no development is allowed. He also said that a team of land use experts hired by the World Bank to prepare a zoning plan for SBMA, had recommended in 2002 that the area, of which the housing site is a part, be declared as a recreational area.

Areza also said that only 43 trees were cut in the Hanjin housing site and that the US Navy had previously cut many trees there when it built its ammunition storage facility.

Cayetano said that it was the SBMA, not the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, that issued the environmental clearance certificate to the housing project.

“I am not aware of any law allowing the delegation of this power,” she said, as she questioned the legality of the memorandum of agreement between SBMA and the DENR.

Shortly before the hearing started at the Subic Gateway Park, a group of protesters suddenly popped out and demanded an investigation of the demolition of their houses in Subic to give way to the Hanjin shipyard. They also claimed that they were given a relocation site high on a mountaintop, almost three kilometers away from the sea, even if most of them are fishermen.

Zubiri said the joint committees would make an ocular inspection of the relocation site in the next hearing. Gordon said the problem occurred because Hanjin gave the money for the relocation to the local government of Subic but this apparently did not reach the supposed beneficiaries.

“I saw the relocation site and I was scandalized. There was no water so of course, the people refused to move there. I will not allow anybody to get away with this,” he said on the alleged anomaly in the relocation of 450 families from the Hanjin shipyard site.
-- By Efren L. Danao, Manila Times Senior Reporter -- With Anthony Bayarong

Labels: , , , , , ,

Probe health insurance fraud in Olongapo-Subic

DOJ confirmed that the medical care group found responsible for the fraud operated in Subic

The Philippine authority on Friday said they are investigating individuals and the companies that allegedly participated in defrauding a U.S. military health insurance program for 100 million U.S. dollars.

Lawyer Claro de Castro, chief of the National Bureau of Investigation's Interpol division, said a physician and an American veteran are now under the surveillance in connection with the scam, Philippine TV network ABS-CBN News reported.

The two, whose identities are not revealed to media, were probed following a U.S. judge ordered a Philippines-based firm Health Vision Corporation to liquidate its assets to pay back the swindled 100 million U.S. dollars.

The firm was charged with cheating the U.S. Department of Defense health care program, TRICARE, with inflated bills, a sham insurance program and fake claims between 1998 and 2004, local reports said.

TRICARE is the U.S. Department of Defense worldwide health care program for active duty and retired uniformed service members and their families. American veterans living in the Philippines have allegedly conspired with doctors, hospitals and clinics to defraud TRICARE through fraudulent claims.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez on Friday confirmed that the medical care group found responsible for the fraud operated in Subic, north of Philippine capital Metro Manila.

He said the Philippines will cooperate with the U.S. in prosecution even in cases of extradition, which though might demand a lengthy procedure.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the incident has tarnished the reputation of Filipino medical professionals and the authority might have the licenses of the doctors involved in the scam revoked. Comtex Business
= = =

Return $100 M, US court orders RP health firm

MADISON, Wisconsin – A federal judge has ordered a Philippine company to pay back $100 million it swindled from the US military’s health insurance program.

Health Visions Corp., which pleaded guilty to mail fraud, was ordered to liquidate all assets within 10 months and give the proceeds to the US government.

Federal prosecutors say the company bilked the military’s Tricare program out of $99.9 million between 1998 and 2004.

The program insures 9.2 million current and retired US servicemen and dependents worldwide.

In the Philippines, Malacañang expressed “sadness” over the scandal and said it would leave it up to US authorities to investigate the case further.

“This case happened outside the country and any violations will have to be prosecuted by laws of the US. We have nothing to do with that,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said.

“But we would want to express sadness because many Filipinos became famous (for) their achievements and they are overshadowed by this incident,” he said.

Health Visions routinely inflated claims by more than 230 percent, operated a phony insurance program and billed for medical services never delivered, court records showed, and the Pentagon moved slowly to uncover the scheme.

Assistant US Attorney Peter Jarosz described Health Visions as the biggest violator yet in a long-running investigation into Tricare fraud in the Philippines.

“This is basically a death sentence for the company. It will no longer exist and that will protect the Tricare program since it was the biggest violator,” he said after the hearing. “We got what we needed out of this prosecution.”

The US closed its military bases in the Philippines in 1992 and withdrew its active-duty forces, but thousands of retirees remained.

Formed in 1997, Health Visions owned and operated hospitals and clinics in the Philippines and billed Tricare on behalf of other health care providers.

On top of the $99.9 million in restitution, US District Judge Barbara Crabb ordered the company to forfeit an additional $910,000 and pay a $500,000 fine.

Health Visions will be required to sell off land, office buildings and hospitals in the Philippines and an airplane and houses in the US under Crabb’s order.

The company has run into problems selling hospitals because of ownership disputes, and Jarosz said it was uncertain whether the US government would ever recover the full amount.

The company’s lawyer, Christopher Kelly, declined to comment. He told Crabb he had nothing to add beyond a plea agreement, which was unsealed on Thursday.

Health Visions and its former president, Thomas Lutz, were hit with a 75-count indictment in 2005.

Lutz, a US citizen who turned 41 on Thursday, has pleaded guilty to his role in a kickback scheme and could face up to five years in prison when he is sentenced. A date for that hearing will be scheduled shortly now that the company has been sentenced, Jarosz said.

The case has been an embarrassment to the Pentagon, where different branches have blamed one another for allowing the company’s fraud to slip through the cracks.

The fraud was so extensive that claims from the Philippines increased by 2,000 percent between 1998 and 2003 even as the number of Tricare beneficiaries remained the same. Payments to the country went up from less than $3 million to more than $60 million during that time.

The Office of Inspector General has criticized Tricare’s managers for waiting years to cut off payments to Health Visions after suspecting the company of fraud.

William Winkenwerder, former assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said Thursday that the inspector general’s office was partly to blame because it refused his requests to send additional investigators to the country. He said he worked hard to stop the problems after they came to his attention in 2003.

Asked how the company was able to defraud the program of $100 million, Winkenwerder said: “There were some very deceptive practices that were occurring. The fact that this was a faraway location did add to the challenge of uncovering problems. And they didn’t get away with it ultimately, which is the good news.”

The investigation has been handled by prosecutors in Wisconsin because WPS Health Insurance, a Madison company, is the subcontractor that handles most overseas claims. About three dozen others have been indicted, mostly US military veterans and Philippine doctors.

NBI tags 2 in scam

In the Philippines, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it is hunting a doctor and a patient believed to be involved in the scam.

Claro de Castro Jr., chief of the NBI Interpol, said warrants of arrest have been issued against the two suspects who are of Filipino descent. He declined to name the two or the US-accredited hospitals they dealt with. But De Castro said the hospitals are outside Metro Manila.

Sources said the doctor connived with his patient in padding the latter’s medical expenses. They then divided the reimbursements from the US health program with the patient getting 35 percent and the doctor getting 65 percent.

The expenses are reimbursed through mail, which explains why they were also indicted for mail fraud, considered a federal offense.

De Castro said he could not ascertain how many more similar cases are being pursued by the Department of Justice in the Philippines.

A source who declined to be named said, however, that five or six more people – patients and doctors – are under investigation.

“Once identified, a request would be forwarded to the NBI for warrants of arrest against them. The NBI is the law enforcement agency that would implement a court’s warrants of arrest,” a source said.

The Filipinos involved in the scam were former civilian employees of the US armed forces in the mainland or in the Philippines, which used to host two US bases until 1992.

‘Shameful,’ says DOH

The Department of Health (DOH) deplored yesterday the involvement of some Philippine hospitals in the fraud but committed to help in the investigation if asked.

“This is shameful both here and in the international community. Our doctors conniving with veterans in scam,” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a telephone interview.

The DOH, he said, is ready to help in the US investigation but it needs a formal request for help.

“We have not received any reports from the US about that so we want to know if the US already coordinated with the NBI-Interpol. We want to know who are involved here,” he said.

Duque maintained that even the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or Philhealth is beset by problems of fraudulent claims.

“It’s also happening here. Actually, there’s no perfect system. It is also happening anywhere in the world. But we want to control this by strengthening the monitoring system of Philhealth,” he added.

Two groups of hospital owners – the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) and the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines – have also expressed intention to help investigate the anomaly.

But according to PHA president Dr. Tiburcio Macias, the accusation should not be “generalized” because not all hospitals in the Philippines are involved.

He said that Tricare, the Pentagon-run program, has accredited hospitals in the country. “There used to be Tricare hospitals in Olongapo City, in Angeles, Pampanga, in Iloilo and, I think, in Naga. But I think they are already closed.”

Macias said that PHA’s offer to assist in the investigation is part of its mission to “police our own ranks.”

“It’s actually an old issue,” PHAP president Dr. Rustico Jimenez said of the health scam. “Maybe, because there is a recession in the US so they are looking into it (spending) so this issue was brought up,” he said.

“It’s actually the patients who filed their reimbursement so the payments are given directly to them. They claim that they pay their premium in the US anyway. The US can identify those involved because there is a paper trail, especially since payments are not made in cash but in checks,” he added. - Sheila Crisostomo, Sandy Araneta and AP

Labels: , , , ,


This is a joint private blog of volunteers from Subic Bay. It is being maintained primarily to collate articles that may be of importance to decision making related to the future of Subic Bay and as a source of reference material to construct the history of Subic Bay.

The articles herein posted remains the sole property of original authors and publications which has full credits to the articles.

Disclaimer: Readers should conduct their own research and due diligence before using any article herein posted for whatever intended purpose it may be. This private web log will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a reader's reliance on information obtained from volunteers of this private blog.

www.subicbay.ph, http://olongapo-subic.com, http://sangunian.com, http://olongapo-ph.com, http://oictv.com, http://brgy-ph.com, http://subicbay-news.com, http://batanggapo.com 16 January 2012