Saturday, 28 June 2008

MV Princess of the Stars video update: Volunteering spirit spreads amid sea tragedy

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MV Princess of the Stars video update: AFP chief visits divers in 'Princess' rescue operations

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VP de Castro: No endosulfan in water samples but fishing ban stays


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MANILA, Philippines - Water samples taken near the site where MV Princess of the Stars capsized have tested negative for the highly toxic pesticide endosulfan, but the ban on fishing will stay until the chemical is removed, according to Vice President Manuel "Noli" de Castro Jr.

De Castro based his statement on the findings of government experts, and said on Saturday that professional divers were ready to go underwater to assess the situation and figure out how they could haul out the container van of endosulfan from the ferry.

"Ang resulta ng test ng Bureau of Plant Industries, negative sa water sample pero nakikita sa TV 'yung hitsura ng bangkay, hindi maganda sa tao kaya baka walang bumili ng isda. Ang suggestion sana sa local government official at mayor mag-suggest ng pinakamaganda at pinakakamabilis na magagawa ng kabuhayan," De Castro said in an interview with radio dzRH.

(The Bureau of Plant Industries' initial tests found no trace of endosulfan in the water samples. But we still have to come up with livelihood programs for the fishermen because TV footage showed the corpses and the fish, and people may not want to buy fish from the area for a while. I asked the local government units to suggest what kind of livelihood assistance would be best for them)

De Castro also appealed to local government officials to come up with their suggestions soonest, as fishermen in Romblon province were starting to protest their loss of income due to the ban.

One of the fishermen, Ruben Rapada of Sibuyan Island, said they could not just subsist on meat for long. "Binabawal dito wala kaming magagawa." (We can't do anything here because fishing is being banned)

"Sa madaling panahon dapat dumating ang suporta ng gobyerno (Government should send us help soonest)," he added.

De Castro said he was planning to go to Sibuyan Island on Sunday to bring relief goods. "Naunawaan natin sila (We understand their plight)," he said.

Government halted all ongoing search, rescue, and retrieval operations for survivors and fatalities, and banned fishing in the area, after learning that a container van of endosulfan was inside the capsized vessel.

The discovery prompted officials to consider a new investigation and possible new sanctions against Sulpicio Lines, owner of the ill-fated ferry, which capsized off Sibuyan in Romblon on June 21 at the height of typhoon Frank (Fengshen).

For now, all is clear for diving operations to retrieve the container van containing the toxic chemical, according to De Castro. "Sabi ng divers pwede mag-dive na... mabuti ang condition ng pinaglagyan (The divers can dive in, conditions are good as of this time).

De Castro said a crane and barge are on their way to the site to remove the container van.

"Baka matunaw ang pulbos at mapunta sa dagat, di lang Romblon ang aabutin no'n (The powder could melt in the water and the destruction might go beyond Romblon. We don't want that to happen)," he said.

Meanwhile, Transportation undersecretary Elena Bautista said diving operations at ground zero had shifted to endosulfan retrieval.

Bautista, head of a task force looking into the sea mishap, said her group's problem now is to find the best way to extract the endosulfan from the vessel.

"Pag natanggal sa dagat babalik ang diver para ituloy ang operation (Once the endosulfan is removed, that's the only time the search operations for survivors and bodies can resume)," she said in an interview on dzXL radio. - GMANews.TV

The Philippine ferry disaster

Those in peril
Not for the first time, navigating the archipelago by ferry proves deadly
Jun 26th 2008 | MANILA
From The Economist print edition

THE shipping industry in the Philippines put another big blot on its abysmal safety record when the ferry Princess of the Stars, carrying 862 passengers and crew, sank during a typhoon in the central Philippines on June 21st. By the middle of the week rescuers had found 48 survivors. But 70 bodies had been recovered and 744 people were still missing. The authorities had little hope of finding any more alive. It will probably turn out to have been the most deadly maritime accident in the Philippines for 20 years.

The route taken by the 24,000-tonnes Princess of the Stars from Manila heading for the central city of Cebu took it straight into the path of the approaching Typhoon Fengshen. The coastguard received a signal saying the ship had engine trouble and that it had run aground just off the island of Sibuyan. Survivors said that the order to abandon ship was given, but that the vessel capsized shortly afterwards in high winds and rough seas.

An official inquiry will focus on the captain’s decision to sail into the teeth of an oncoming storm and the coastguard’s decision to allow the voyage. It will also examine the seaworthiness of the vessel and the competence of its crew. The owners, Sulpicio Lines, said the vessel was only 24 years old (positively new, by Philippine standards) and that it met all the safety requirements.

The domestic shipping industry is vital to the economy of the archipelago, but its history is one of lethal mishaps. In 1987 the world’s most deadly peacetime shipping disaster occurred in the central Philippines, when another ship owned by Sulpicio Lines, the Dona Paz, sank with the loss of more than 4,000 lives. The rules governing shipping safety are comprehensive, but they are often weakly enforced and circumvented by corruption. Official encouragement of competition on domestic routes in the 1990s prompted owners to buy newer and bigger ships. But since then the advent of cheap air travel has creamed off the highest-paying passengers. The Philippines provides about one-quarter of the world’s merchant seamen, but the best officers and crew are lured away by the pay offered by foreign shipping lines.

Human failings aside, no one can legislate for the weather. About two dozen typhoons or weaker storms hit the country every year. Apart from sinking the Princess of the Stars, Typhoon Fengshen left more than 700 dead or missing in various parts of the Philippines.

President Arroyo's trip to New York: Advances RP economic and investment opportunities

NEW YORK CITY---President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo starts her campaign here to advance economic and investment opportunities in the Philippines that would create more new jobs and sustain economic growth.

Day One in New York, the President had several business meetings with ''Manhattan-based corporations to expand their investments in and trade with the Philippines and to add new jobs,'' the President said in her statement at the reception of the Filipino community here at the Hilton Hotel.

''During our trip, we are advancing key issues that impact on the Philippines, particularly during this time of global economic uncertainty, ''the President said.

This morning, the President met with Vikas Kapoor of IQor, witnessed the signing of an agreement between Clark Freeport Zone and Berthaphil, and the memorandum of agreement between the New York Stock Exchange and the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Then she would also meet with officials of Libbys Fruits, Rotec, Target Sourcing, APAC and Citi Group.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said Berthaphil, a business outsourcing company located at the Clark Freeport Zone agreed to support efforts to create the secondary development of the information technology after the primary infrastructures are in place.

''We told them to put up the facilities similar to Eastwood Cityin Libis so in the evening, these employees would have a place to eat and listen to music or what have you, ''Favila said.

IQor, also a BPO company, would be expanding its 1,400 seats with another 800 seats while Libby's Fruits would be on canned pineapples from Camarines Sur.

Libby's Fruits specializes in canned tropical fruits such as pineapple juice, canned guavas, red and yellow papaya, sliced mangoes, mandarin orange, among others.

''Libby's went to Camarines Sur for canned pineapples. I will help them initially through the National Development Corp. and then have an exit mechanism and get them some private local partners,' Favila said.

Target Sourcing , a provider of high-quality, trend-right merchandise at an outstanding value for more than a thousand outlets, would want to get Philippine products for their outlets.

''it is more on trade--we will be selling to them our items,'' Favila said.

Rotec, on the other hand, is an Australian-based company but has a design center at Silicon Valley. It is a world leader in the design and development of highly-efficient diesel engine technology.

Favila said the Philippines is inviting Rotec to put up their facilities in the country.

PGMA orders insecticide sealed off and search & rescue/retrieval operation suspended

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the sealing-off of a 40-foot container van filled with highly-toxic insecticide inside the cargo hold of the capsized MV Princess of the Stars to prevent any contamination of rescuers and nearby fishing communities.

The Presidential directive was revealed by Deputy Presidential Spokesman Antonio Golez in an interview over Radio Station DZBB this morning.

Golez – who further revealed that the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) had decided to suspend the Search and Rescue/Retrieval (SAR) operations -- added that President Arroyo also wants the container van retrieved so as to prevent any spill that poses grave danger to rescuers and possibly cause a fish kill:

“… Si Presidente Arroyo ay nag-utos na sa ating mga iba’t-ibang kawani ng gobyerno to make sure that the area is going to be contained (so that) the contamination (if any) will not be spread.”

“And hopefully na ma-retrieve iyong 40-foot container na iyan dahil naka-selyado na iyan. So ma-retrieve iyan para hindi na kumalat pa nag peligro na mukhang hinaharap natin ngayon,” concluded Golez.

Golez -- who is also NDCC chief executive officer – said the SAR shall remain suspended until such time that the toxic cargo is finally retrieved.

Pinatigil na po ang search and rescue operations para dito sa MV Princess of the Stars… Dahil nalaman lang natin kahapon na ang MV Princess of the Stars mayroon palang kargamento na nagko-contain ng isang 40-foot container na… insecticide.

Ito pong insecticide na ito is highly toxic sa atin, sa mga tao at saka sa mga isda… Dapat itigil muna nila iyong kanilang ginagawang search and rescue… Huwag munang mag-dive sa ilalim,” said medical doctor Golez who added that the container has not yet been located.

The insecticide-filled container inside the ill-fated ship’s cargo hold was not declared by Sulpicio Lines to authorities conducting the SAR, lamented Golez who said the NDCC found out about the cargo only from a letter of the Pesticide and Fertilizer Authority (FPA) to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

All set for NAIA 3 opening on June 30

Anjo Perez, Louie Perez

Newly appointed head of the Task Force NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) 3, former Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor, announced yesterday that all is set for the historic docking of the first commercial flight at the NAIA Terminal 3 on Monday, June 30.

Defensor was appointed as head of the task force last June 9, through Executive Order (EO) 732, mandating him to ensure the immediate opening and operation of the NAIA Terminal 3.

Yesterday, the task force inspected the ongoing system repairs in the terminal in preparation for the arrival of the flight with President Arroyo onboard and her US delegation on board.

With NAIA General Manager Alfonso Cusi showing him around, Defensor announced that all systems are go for the initial operation of the terminal.

"Almost all of the airport systems are working," Defensor said. "The lighting system are all OK, four of the six air-conditioning systems are now working, and work on the baggage conveyor will be completed tomorrow. One major thing that we have to address is the computerized check-in system, but that will be corrected soon."

According to Defensor, they are on track in the full operation of the terminal that will be completed this weekend, in time for President Arroyo’s arrival from the US on Monday.

Defensor disclosed that Mrs. Arroyo will arrive at 5 a.m. together with her 90-man delegation as well as 340 revenue passengers aboard the Philippine Airlines flight PR105 from San Francisco, California.

The President, together with the other passengers, will disembark from Gate 116 of the terminal’s Head House then walk to the immigration counters for clearance.

From the immigration hall, the President will take the escalator down to the baggage reclaim area, walk to the Customs clearing zone, then proceed to the greeter’s area where she will be led to the presidential limousine.

"I will be here to make sure that everything goes smoothly when the President arrives," Defensor said.

Update Video MV Princess of the Stars tragedy


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US carrier to stay outside RP waters during aid operations

The Manila Bulletin

NEW YORK CITY (Via PLDT) —- A large United States aircraft carrier will be stationed outside the Philippine territorial waters while it participates in the rescue and retrieval operations for the victims of a sunken MV Princess of the Stars, President Arroyo said here last Thursday (Friday in Manila).

To avoid legal questions about its deployment, the President ordered the authorities to restrict the entry of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest Nimitz-class supercarrier in the service of the US Navy, into the country.

Mrs. Arroyo, speaking to a group of Filipinos at the Hilton Hotel here, bewailed news reports about critics questioning the entry of the aircraft carrier into Philippine territorial waters.

"Sabi may nuclear weapons daw ang aircraft carrier, kaya bawal daw pumunta sa Pilipinas. Kaya tuloy para iwasan na lang ang intriga, mananatili na lang ito sa dulo ng territorial waters ng Pilipinas," she said.

With the ship outside the country, the President said, the US troops will have to shuttle back and forth to send relief and rescue assistance to the ferry disaster victims. "Pinahirapan pa natin sila sa pagtutulong (We inconvenienced them while they are helping us)," she said.

The President thanked anew the US government for its disaster relief assistance, saying the US was among the first nations to offer assistance "because we are such strong, dependable allies."

Last Tuesday, US President George W. Bush ordered the dispatch of the USS Ronald Reagan and other naval assets after the meeting with President Arroyo in the White House.

Bush told President Arroyo that Washington is always happy and ready to help Manila, its long- time friend and ally, when in need.

The USS Ronald Reagan group includes the cruiser USS Chancellorsville, the destroyers USS Decatur, USS Gridley, and USS Howard, the frigate USS Thach, and other support vessels.

The US Navy ships will transport cargo, do aerial damage assessment, search-and-rescue, production, and delivery of potable water, medical assistance, and machinery repair, President Arroyo said.

Washington also pledged financial assistance to typhoon victims in the Philippines.

At the start of the gathering of Filipino community, the President led a moment of silence to pray for those who perished in typhoon Frank and in the ferry tragedy last week.

Western Visayas officials appeal for more water, food, medicine

Disaster response officials in Western Visayas yesterday appealed for more supplies of potable water, food, and medicine along with portable power generators to restore normalcy in several areas battered by typhoon Frank.

In an interview during the Talakayan sa Isyung Pulis (TSIP) media forum in Camp Crame, Quezon City, Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PNP Regional Office 6 director, said that their area is badly in need of potable water since heavy flooding in the past days had severely affected water supply.

As of yesterday morning, Cuevas said that the death toll in his region from typhoon Frank had reached 287 while 255 persons still missing.

A big number of the fatalities remain unidentified, prompting disaster response officials to seek assistance from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory Service under Director Arturo Cacdac to send a team of forensic experts in the area.

About 50,000 families or 300,000 persons are in evacuation centers being run by government relief agencies.

As this developed, Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. expressed disappointment over the apparent failure of the National Disaster Coordinating Council to equally distribute government relief goods to the regions affected by typhoon Frank.

He senator arrived in Iloilo with his own relief packages consisting of rice and instant noodles. He set aside R1 million for the Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo for the benefit of those requiring medical attention.

Revilla met with Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupaz and Iloilo City Mayor Gerry Treñas who both lamented the seeming shortcomings of the national government in their jurisdiction. According to the two local officials, NDCC provided a measely 250 "family packs" of relief goods, each consisting of three kilos of rice, seven cans of corned beef, and seven cans of sardines, for Iloilo City and 1,000 thousand sacks of rice for Iloilo province.

Revilla said that considering the population of Iloilo City of approximately 400,000 and Iloilo province which has more than one and a half million, the food assistance is definitely insufficient.

Also yesterday, Archbishop Oscar Cruz said instead of betting their money on the boxing fight of Manny Pacquiao tomorrow, Sunday, the faithful should just donate their money to the victims of typhoon Frank.

"There are a lot of organizations where the people can give their cash donations like Caritas Manila or NASSA," Cruz said. NASSA is the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Cruz, an anti-gambling advocate, issued the appeal knowing the Filipinos’ knack for betting in sports events, especially whenever Pacquiao has a boxing fight.

As this developed, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila de Lima yesterday ordered a tight monitoring of how government authorities and the Sulpicio Lines management are treating families of victims of the ferry sinking in relation to protecting their human rights.

De Lima said advisories stating the basic human rights of families and victims of the sea tragedy will be sent out to protect them against human rights excesses that might be committed against them.

Also, National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez said that the agency has enough stocks of rice but an oncoming typhoons with the same intensity as Frank could affect rice production in the country if these will hit rice fields set for harvest. (with reports by Leslie Ann Aquino and Ben R. Rosario)

Friday, 27 June 2008

Media Releases Q1 2008 BOP Surplus at US$1.7 Billion 06.26.2008 The balance of payments (BOP) for Q1 2008 yielded a surplus of US$1.7 billion, 20.8

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
Media Releases

The balance of payments (BOP) for Q1 2008 yielded a surplus of US$1.7 billion, 20.8 percent higher than the US$1.4 billion surplus registered in the same quarter a year ago. This developed as both the current and capital and financial accounts continued to post surpluses.

As a result of the positive external payments position in Q1 2008, the gross international reserves (GIR) rose to US$36.6 billion as of end-March 2008, higher by 8.5 percent relative to the end-December 2007 level of US$33.8 billion. The GIR level as of end-March 2008 was equivalent to 6.2 months’ worth of imports of goods and payment of services and income (import cover). In terms of short-term external debt coverage, the reserves level was 5.2 times the amount of the country’s short-term external liabilities based on original maturity and 3.1 times based on residual maturity.


NAIA 3 update video: prelude to opening

Youtube Video by Cogiebaby

Helicopters from US carrier deliver aid to Iloilo

By Pia Lee-Brago
The Philippine Star

American military personnel from the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group were deployed yesterday to distribute relief goods and provide assistance to typhoon victims.

The US Embassy in Manila announced the arrival of the carrier group, which started the relief and rehabilitation work with local officials in the areas worst hit by the storm.

Local officials helped American troops in unloading boxes of rice and bottled water at the Iloilo International Airport as part of a joint US-Philippine humanitarian relief effort.

Two planes and three helicopters from USS Ronald Reagan delivered a total of 11,000 pounds of rice and over 20,000 bottles of water and turned them over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution to communities severely affected by the typhoon.

Six US Navy Seahawk helicopters from the aircraft carrier arrived in Iloilo City, which bore the brunt of typhoon “Frank” (international codename Fengshen) when it slammed into the Philippines on Saturday.

“We will use our air assets to transport relief goods into inaccessible areas,” said Captain Thomas Lalor, deputy commander of the helicopter group.

“We are here to give the local officials whatever help they require.”

More than 490 people died and more than a million have been left homeless by the typhoon, according to civil defense estimates.

The number does not include the hundreds presumed killed when the Princess of the Stars, battered by extreme weather, sank carrying more than 850 people.

US President George W. Bush ordered the carrier group to proceed to the Philippines during talks on Tuesday with President Arroyo in Washington.

“We want to help our friends in a time of need,” Bush told Mrs. Arroyo as they met in the White House.

A US Navy supply ship, divers and a maritime patrol aircraft arrived earlier and helped local officials in finding victims of the ferry disaster.

“The arrival of the aircraft carrier group in the Republic of the Philippines exemplifies the longstanding ties between the United States and the Philippines and the US commitment to assisting the Philippines, in keeping with our mutual commitments under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty,” the embassy said.

Rescue officials led by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said the US government’s help in sending the carrier group to the relief efforts showed the good results of President Arroyo’s trip to the US while the Philippines was being battered by the typhoon.

Gordon said the decision to send USS Ronald Reagan, among other assistance, would be of great help in retrieving the bodies of the victims of the ferry sinking.

“I saw ships, for commercial and fishing, just passing by the bodies, they will not stop because it’s a waste of time for them to retrieve the bodies so we need all the assistance we can get,” Gordon said.

He said Mrs. Arroyo was able to expand US help with her visit, among other benefits of personally meeting US officials and businessmen.

According to Gordon, the congressmen who went with Mrs. Arroyo in the US should be criticized.

“Maybe those from the Visayas should come home because they are badly needed by their constituents,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he was supposed to join the trip to lobby for the bill pending in the US Congress granting benefits to Filipino war veterans but decided to stay to lead the PNRC in relief and other efforts to help the victims displaced by the typhoon.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., for his part, joined Sen. Francis Pangilinan in urging Mrs. Arroyo to return to the country and attend to the victims of the typhoon.

“Her meeting with (US President George W.) Bush is done. She must come home and exercise leadership. As for the congressmen, perhaps only those whose districts were damaged by the typhoon (should return),” Pimentel said.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, for his part, clarified he did not see any violation of the Constitution in allowing USS Ronald Reagan to enter the country.

Biazon stressed he was not against any assistance being sent by the US.

“The only concern I am raising is that maybe it is better if the United States send salvage ships which are better equipped to do what has to be done relative to the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars. I am not against USS Ronald Reagan coming in with other ships,” Biazon said.

Biazon expressed his concern that the aircraft carrier could be carrying nuclear weapons that are banned under the Constitution. – With Aurea Calica

GMANews video update on MV Princess of the Stars'Princess'

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Satellite gear to track sea vessels never got installed

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Foreign tourist arrivals up 7%

BusinessWorld Online

FOREIGNERS visiting the Philippines reached close to 1.4 million in January to May, with Americans registering the most number of visits, followed by Koreans and Japanese.


HK-Philippines air talks increase plane capacities

The Manila Bulletin

Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) yesterday said that the air talks between the Philippines and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), held last June 25-26 at Clark, Pampanga, led to an increase in both air passenger and cargo capacities.

Secretary Mendoza said the talks resulted in an increase in passenger capacity for the following routes: Manila to Hong Kong, from 13,000 to 15,000 per week; Clark to Hong Kong, from zero to 6,300 per week; Cebu to Hong Kong, from 2,300 to 2,500 per week; and any other point from the country to Hong Kong, from zero to 2,500 per week.

For air cargo, Secretary Mendoza said, the Manila-Hong Kong route will now have a capacity of 400 tons per week from the previous 300 tons, and for the Clark-Hong Kong route, 1,400 tons per week, where previously there was none.

"This is in line with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s thrust to strengthen the super regions to sustain economic growth and to spread progress to all the areas of the country," he said.

Undersecretary for Civil Aviation Doroteo A. Reyes II, chairman of the Philippine delegation, said, the increase in the RP-Hong Kong air capacity answers the challenge of congestion for this route in Manila. "This is good news for the travelers and other stakeholders for they now have more options to fly this route.. It will also boost tourism and other related businesses."

NFA okays rice allocation to all gov’t employees

The Manila Bulletin

TARLAC, Tarlac — The governing council of the National Food Authority (NFA) has agreed to allocate on a monthly basis 25 kilos of commercial grade rice at R25 per kilo to all regular national, provincial, city, and municipal government employees, an NFA official said yesterday.

The "privilege allocation" will also benefit regular employees of all government-owned and controlled corporations, said NFA Tarlac manager Serafin Manalili.

"It will be on a cash-to-cash basis," the provincial NFA manager here said, noting that they have been authorized to coordinate with officials to inform them about "this special privilege offered by the NFA."

The announcement was welcomed here by Gov. Victor Yap and all mayors during an emergency meeting of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC).

"This is welcome relief for our government employees who will not have problems anymore about their rice purchases. They can now concentrate in their work to provide services to our people," Yap said, who invited Manalili to attend the PDCC meeting.

Manalili said he will conduct a briefing on the procedure that the NFA will implement regarding this "privilege allocation" at the local level in a scheduled regular meeting in Victoria town of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP), Tarlac chapter.

Similar briefings are to be conducted nationwide, he added.

Manalili said the NFA agreed to allocate commercial grade rice, imported from Thailand, to all regular government employees, following an urgent request from President Arroyo.

"The idea emanated from Malacanang and the NFA Council gave its approval two weeks ago," the provincial NFA manager here said.

Initially, the NFA conducted its own assessment of present stocks of commercial grade rice as well as the demand situation nationwide. He said this development also means that the "NFA has and will have enough supply of rice, at R18.25 and P25 per kilo during the year."

As a basic procurement procedure, Manalili said the NFA would only require the personnel and human resources officers of government offices to submit their certified lists of regular employees.

It must also be certified that they do not have existing NFA rice allocations, Manalili said.

RP will be self-sufficient in rice by 2013 – President


WASHINGTON D.C. (via PLDT) --- The Philippines will no longer need to import rice and will be able to produce enough staple to the feed Filipinos by 2013, President Arroyo announced on Wednesday.

The President, speaking to the Filipino community at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel here, said her administration is committed to achieve rice self-sufficiency in the Philippines in five years.

Mrs. Arroyo also explained her government’s rice importation policy despite the soaring food costs.

"The new economics of global food security now make it imperative that we control our own destiny in terms of rice. We are moving to rice self-sufficiency within five years," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said that the country imports 10 percent of its rice requirements while 90 percent are sourced from local production.

Although Filipinos are among the most productive rice farmers in the region, the President said the Philippines has a smaller land area for rice production compared to Vietnam or Thailand, and other rice exporting nations.

"The Philippines is a rocky, densely populated archipelago, with relatively few sources of fresh water, and frequently visited by typhoons," she said.

She said the country has been importing rice since the Spanish colonial times and only was able to export rice at one period which lasted less than two years.

"Historically, it was more economically efficient and cheaper to rely on markets for 10 percent of our needs rather than go for self sufficiency," she said.

The President said her administration implemented measures to ensure food security amid the global rice shortage and soaring prices.

Earlier Monday, President Arroyo endorsed a proposal to include rice hoarding and profiteering in the list of crimes considered economic sabotage.

In her seven directives in the aftermath of typhoon "Frank" which left hundreds dead and missing, Mrs. Arroyo urged Congress to classify rice hoarding and profiteering as economic sabotage, with disaster as aggravating circumstance.

Mrs. Arroyo also directed officials to impose a maximum price of rice during a state of calamity that would still allow for reasonable profits for farmers and traders. (with a report by David Cagahastian)

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Updates from GMANews.TV on MV Princess of the Stars--25 & 26 June

Task Force has recovered 97 bodies
12:10, 26 June 2008

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Task Force still on search and rescue mode
12:06, 26 June 2008

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Retrieval operations still slow despite help from US Navy
08:34, 26 June 2008

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Divers to recover 115 bodies spotted off Burias Island, CamSur
08:31, 26 June 2008

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18:21, 25 June 2008

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US soldiers join typhoon relief effort


SIBUYAN ISLAND - U.S. soldiers shuttled water, rice and medicine to typhoon-ravaged islands in the central Philippines on Thursday as the search for hundreds of bodies from a capsized ferry continued.

Helicopters from the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier that cut short a visit to Hong Kong to help relief efforts, transported supplies and scoured the seas around the Princess of the Stars, which went belly up with 865 people on board during Typhoon Frank (international name: Fengshen) on Saturday.

The overall death toll from the sixth typhoon to hit the Philippines this storm season could top 1,300, while over 1.4 million people have been forced to evacuate their homes and are reliant on handouts to survive.

Rescue efforts have been focused on the Princess of the Stars off central Sibuyan island. U.S. and Philippine navy divers have been combing the seven-storey vessel, where hundreds of corpses are feared trapped.

"They brought 10 bodies up from the first class cabins yesterday. We don't have any identification yet. Some were wearing life vests, some weren't," said Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo, coast guard spokesman.

NAIA 3 update: Aircon, parking lot lights in operation


Four air-conditioning units and lights in the parking lots are already working at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, the head of the government task force to oversee the facility's opening next month said Thursday.

Defensor, a former presidential chief of staff, did not elaborate on why [when?] the aircon units have yet to be fully operational.

He, however, assured officials and reporters who covered the task force's inspection said he would check and continuously monitor the improvements being done in the terminal to ensure smooth operations when its opens in July.

He said the task force and airport officials will meet to discuss how to address other problems, including the terminal’s computer system. He said the meeting will take place after President Arroyo’s state visit to the United States on Monday.

The President's plane is set to touch down at Terminal 3.

Two weeks ahead of its opening, government and airport officials conducted a dry run Friday last week to simulate the departure and arrival of passengers.

The opening of the new facility, which has a capacity of 13 million passengers per year, aims to decongest other domestic terminals.

The new terminal will initially cater to domestic passengers before it serves those leaving for abroad.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Mobile banking has seven million clients in RP


MANILA, Philippines - More than seven million Filipinos are registered users of mobile phone banking, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said.

Although the Philippines’ top two telecommunications companies have contributed a lot to promote the service, monetary officials said that the country has a “largely unbanked population."

“Over 90 percent of adults in industrialized economies typically have accounts in financial institutions compared to penetration rates as low as six percent in developing countries," BSP deputy governor Nestor Espenilla said. “In the Philippines, only 12 percent of survey respondents in small cities had bank accounts."

The monetary official was referring to the BSP’s consumer expectations survey. Conducted every three months, the survey is thoroughly analyzed and synthesized to help the BSP’s monetary body to formulate policy plans and programs.

Citing the survey’s results, Espenilla said that nearly 97 percent of all the country’s businesses are microenterprises and that more than four million of the poorest families are engaged in small business activities.

Bulk of these individuals remain unbanked to this day, Espenilla said, adding that 47 municipalities in the country have no access to any form of financial service.

“Our data show we have a low usage of bank services but that does not mean low demand for bank services," he said.

The BSP has supported initiatives to encourage microfinance by issuing circulars that grant incentives for financial institutions engaged in such activities. - GMANews.TV

Sulpicio Lines used old guidelines for sailing - BMI

Johanna Camille Sisante

MANILA, Philippines - The Marine Board of Inquiry on the capsized Princess of the Stars said on Wednesday that Sulpicio Lines did not use the new guidelines for sailing vessels which states that a shipping company is responsible for determining movement during inclement weather.

This was the initial finding of the Board of Marine Inquiry during its hearing Wednesday regarding the mishap which resulted in the capsizing of the Sulpicio Lines-owned MV Princess of the Stars and the deaths of its passengers and crewmen, according to a report on dzRH radio.

BMI head Rear Admiral Ramon Liwag said Sulpicio Lines was using the old guidelines which Sulpicio lawyer Arthur Lim read.

He was referring to memorandum circular 03-98A dated October 15, 1998, stating it is the responsibility of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to plot the route of a typhoon and give warnings to owners of sea vessels.

Liwag said that this circular has long been replaced, and that the latest is memorandum circular 0407 - issued June 27, 2007 - saying that sailing through Signal No. 1 is under the discretion of a ship’s captain and the management of a shipping company.

During the BMI hearing, Commander Ramon Reblora of the PCG said Sulpicio Lines cannot blame the PCG because it is the shipping company’s responsibility to determine the movement of the typhoon, according to a separate dzRH report.

“That’s why I am asking Mr. Go here, is he aware that this memorandum circular on movement of vessel during heavy weather is already known to you?" he said.

Sulpicio Lines owner Edgar Go said they were not informed that the PCG had changed its guidelines.

The hearing will resume Friday, where officials and radio commanders from the shipping line's Manila and Cebu ports will be questioned about their communication with the ill-fated ship when it sailed Friday night until its capsizing Saturday afternoon. -

Arroyo holds Sulpicio Lines ‘accountable’ for sea tragedy


MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday held Sulpicio Lines Inc, the owner of the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars, accountable for the incident which left 70 people dead and 744 others missing.

"We are holding the ferry company accountable," President Arroyo said in a speech before the US-Asean Business Council and US Chamber of Commerce.

The President said that holding Sulpicio Lines accountable would ensure that the incidents leading to the tragedy will be known and to enable authorities to act and make sure that it will never happen again.

"(This is) to ensure that we find how this ferry tragedy could have occurred so we can take steps to make sure it never happens," Mrs Arroyo said.

Government-run station Radyo ng Bayan also reported Wednesday that Mrs Arroyo assured that those who would be found responsible for the tragedy will be held accountable.

Radio dzRB reported that the President said that she will not lay blame at anyone at this point but vowed that those responsible for the incident will be held liable.

The report added Mrs Arroyo was saddened by the lives lost due to typhoon "Frank" and the capsizing of the ship.

The report also said the President was angry with the incident and had ordered a wide and thorough probe to determine how it happened in order to avoid similar incidents from happening in the future.

BMI probe

Before the Board of Marine Inquiry started its probe on the MV Princess of the Stars tragedy Wednesday morning, Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) officials said that the missing captain of the capsized ship had much to account for in the incident.

In a radio interview, Coast Guard commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo said ship Captain Florencio Marimon Sr had much leeway to act when he set sail from Manila to Cebu on the night of June 20.

But Tamayo said he has also ordered an investigation into the Coast Guard personnel who may have been "involved" in allowing the ill-fated ship to set sail.

Still, he said the captain and the shipowner both have "responsibilities."

On the other hand, Marina enforcement unit officer-in-charge Arnie Santiago said in a separate interview that the captain should have plotted his trip, taking into consideration the path of "Frank" as plotted by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The plotting would have allowed the captain to find "shelter" when the ship runs into the path of the storm, he said.

Santiago said Pagasa usually faxes copies of its weather advisories to the proper agencies, including the Coast Guard.

He added it is the job of the ship owner's radio officer to gather the information and relay it to the ship via marine radio. - GMANews.TV

Manila Coast Guard official relieved as BMI probe starts


MANILA, Philippines - The station commander of the Philippine Coast Guard in Manila was relieved of his duties Wednesday, while an investigation is ongoing on the tragedy that befell MV Princess of the Stars over the weekend.

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo ordered Cmdr. Erwin Balagas relieved while the Board of Marine Inquiry does its work.

"As per directive ni Admiral Tamayo, relieve muna ang ating station commander sa Manila, si Cmdr. Balagas habang ginagawa ang investigation ng Board of Marine Inquiry (As per Admiral Tamayo's orders, Balagas was relieved as Manila port commander while the Board of Marine Inquiry conducts its investigation)," Balilo said in an interview on dzRH radio.

The dzRH report said an initial investigation showed Balagas was not at his post when the ill-fated vessel left port Friday last week.

On the other hand, the order came amid Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez's suggestion for the Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority to inhibit themselves from the investigation.

Earlier in the day, the BMI started its investigation into the capsizing of the MV Princess of the Stars owned by Sulipicio Lines.


First to be grilled was Edgar Go, the first president of the shipping company. The panel grilled Go regarding the ill-fated ship's seaworthiness.

The Sulpicio Lines official was also asked to reveal the last message radioed by the ship's captain before the vessel lost contact with home base.

In response, Go said their office in Cebu City last communicated with the ship' crew about 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

The ship's captain, Florencio Marimon Sr, reportedly said they were already experiencing difficulty in maneuvering the vessel as it was already beginning to tilt.

Marimon, however, reportedly assured that the ship's engine was running fine at the time.

For his part, Sulpicio Lines lawyer Arthur Lim put the blame to officials of the Philippine Coast Guard, citing a 1998 memorandum circular that directs the government agency to plot routes for ships during bad weather.

The BMI, however, scoffed at Lim's argument, citing a revised memorandum circular released in June 2007 which clearly stated that full responsibility is given to the ship's owner and captain in such a circumstance.

The hearing, which ended about noon, will resume on Friday. Officials from the shipping company's office in Cebu City will be invited to recount their last conversation with the ship's crew. - GMANews.TV

US Navy finds 87 bodies from MV Princess of the Stars


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Just the tip of the bow of the 23,824-ton Princess of the Stars was jutting from the water. The storm's aftermath kept rescue workers away until calm, sunny conditions Tuesday allowed some of the 35 divers to slither inside for the first time.

The ferry was lying on unstable coral and villagers have said a deep trench may be nearby, so there are concerns it could slip and plunge deeper.

"It's a delicate situation with the ferry's position on a reef out there," said US Navy Lt. Christian De Salvo of the USNS Stockham, adding that American divers were working with Philippine frogmen to survey the seabed.

"We'll provide them all the equipment they need, but they'll be the ones to go into the ship and take out the bodies," De Salvo said.

Updates from ABS-CBN & Inquirer: MV Princess of the Stars tragedy

CLICK HERE for ABS-CBN running coverage (includes images and videos).



US Navy battle group now racing to RP to help find bodies

Cuts HK holiday and leaves some behind
ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

WASHINGTON D.C. - The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group could be in Philippine waters in the next 24-48 hours to help scour for victims of Typhoon Frank and help in salvage operations for the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars.

President Bush offered the help of the USS Ronald Reagan, the newest of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, during his meeting with President Arroyo at the White House Tuesday morning.

The President later called on US Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon. The meeting lasted less than half an hour, but Philippine Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro was left behind to discuss details of Bush’s offer of assistance, as well as other security and military matters.

Unang-una sa dami ng helicopter na kanyang karga malaking tulong ito. Na-realize natin ang mga katawan baka kalat-kalat o 'yung mga tao stranded kalat-kalat, kailangan nila ng projection na mabilis at ang aircraft carrier, imbes na dalawa ay kaya nito walo o sampung helicopter malaking tulong na ito,” Teodoro explained.

But he was asked if the deployment of a US naval combat force, suspected to be carrying nuclear weapons, might raise a howl from militant groups back home.

Palagay ko binatikos ang Myanmar sa hindi pagtanggap ng tulong mula sa ibat-ibang bansa, hindi naman siguro nila dapat batikusan ang pagmamagandang-loob ng ating kaalyado,” Teodoro said.

The US maintains a policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons aboard its combat ships.

Officials told ABS-CBN’s "Balitang America" that the Reagan Battle Group was the nearest significant US asset in the region, and thus was the most logical to mobilize to help Philippine needs.

It was reportedly patrolling sea lanes between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean before being ordered to the Philippines.

Like all of America’s nuclear-powered carriers, the USS Ronald Reagan never travels alone. Her battle group is composed of the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville; the destroyers USS Decatur, Gridley and Howard; and the missile frigate USS Thach. Battle groups are also usually escorted by nuclear submarines. According to their Web site, the battle group entered the Pacific area of operations only two weeks ago.

The USS Ronald Reagan has a complement of four fighter squadrons, the “Black Eagles” air reconnaissance squadron, as well as a squadron of SH-60 “Seahawks”.

US satellites, Orions to help search for bodies

The fate of about 700 passengers of the MV Princess of the Stars has become, for many here, the face of the Typhoon Frank tragedy. The President was told that over a hundred scuba divers – including eight from the US Navy – will try to bore into the ferry’s submerged superstructure Wednesday morning (Manila time).

US satellite imagery is also being used to find bodies believed to be trapped inside the ill-fated ship. The US may also deploy P-3 Orion anti-submarine patrol planes to help search for bodies that may still be floating in the sea.

Malacañang deputy spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said the US has promised to make available any resources the Philippines may need to cope with the Typhoon Frank calamity.

Teodoro said use of the assets from the USS Ronald Reagan Battle Group would be controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and they in turn, will be directed by the NDCC.

Ang NDCC ang magbibigay ng tasking dito para coordinated,” he explained. The defense chief added that the USS Ronald Reagan Battle Group will stay in Philippine waters for as long as necessary. He said additional help, like rehabilitation and civil works activities, are also on the discussion table.

He said he talked with Secretary Gates about the need to strengthen the country’s capabilities for disaster response and humanitarian assistance on a regional level, including the staging of future joint exercises between the Philippine and US militaries.

Kailangan tulong tulong dito, hindi kaya ng Pilipinas o Estados Unidos lang. It’s a new paradigm in the disaster response field na sama-sama ang mga nations dito. We have to have the systems and capabilities to accept these donations in a coordinated manner. Kung hindi baka magkadoble-doble lang ito, sayang lang,” he averred.

USS Ronald Reagan CVN76 carrier operations

VP de Castro presides Cabiinet meetings

‘KABAYAN’ PRESIDING -- Vice President Noli De Castro presides over the Cabinet meeting held Tuesday June 24, 2008 at the Presidential Broadcast Room in Malacanang. Beside him is Executive Secretary Eduado Ermita. (Rey Baniquet/OPS-NIB Photo)

Video: VP De Castro on MV Princess of the Stars disaster

Update Video MV Princess of the Stars tragedy

TV Patrol: Officials discard plan to bore holes in ferry


Interview with Philippine Navy commander

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

30,000 Pinoy workers needed in $15B Guam project


MANILA, Philippines - For their “renowned" work ethics and English proficiency, Filipino construction workers are preferred by Guam companies to work in the $15-billion relocation project of the US military base, according to an organization of licensed recruitment firms.

The Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI) said about 20,000 to 30,000 Filipino workers are expected to fill up the vacancies for the military relocation program.

The $15-billion project aims to transfer the existing US Marine Base in Okinawa, Japan to Guam.

Victor Fernandez, PASEI president said Filipino workers are expected to earn a minimum of $750 dollars net per month while other higher positions will receive the same pay as their American counterparts.

Aside from Filipinos, Japanese workers are also set to apply for jobs in the US military facility since Tokyo will be shouldering 60 percent of the transfer to Guam, according to Fernandez.

To avoid irregular migrants and overstayers, the US Senate has passed a legislation that exempts Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) from the nationwide quota on all H visas until 2014.

All foreign workers including Filipinos who will enter Guam under the H-2b work visa will be issued special "Guam only" work visa and it means they will not be allowed to travel to Hawaii or the US mainland after their work visa expires on December 31, 2014, according to Fernandez.

Construction of the multi-billion dollar project is expected to start next year and will become home to about 10,000 US marines and 8,000 of their dependents. -

NAIA 3 update photos

CLICK HERE and scroll down...

President Arroyo PGMA thanks gov't for extending help to typhoon Frank's victims

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo personally thanked today the United States government for the support it is extending to the victims of typhoon Frank.

The President expressed the Philippines’ gratitude during her meeting with US State Department Deputy Secretary John Negroponte at the Willard Hotel here.

''We are deeply grateful for the help by the US government...'' the President said.

The US pledged to send P4 million (or roughly $100,000) worth of emergency relief goods through the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).

The US Navy Ship Stockton, with rescue helicopters on board, is now on its way to Sibuyan Island off Romblon to help in the rescue and recovery of the passengers of sunken MV Princess of the Stars.

The US Navy P-3 maritime aircraft was also ordered to help in the search for survivors.

Negroponte said President George W. Bush would personally convey tomorrow to the President the US government’s ''condolences to the Filipino people.''

''We want to express our condolences to the government of the Philippines and the people, particularly those who have been affected by the tragedy,'' Negroponte said.

''Our hearts go out to the government and people of the Philippines, particularly the victims of this terrible tragedy which has just occurred,'' he added.

Typhoon Frank left hundreds of dead and missing with an estimated P1.45 billion in damages.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, who is also here for the President's visit to the US capital city, echoed Negroponte's statement that President Bush would convey the US government's condolences when the two leaders meet tomorrow at the Oval Office.

Update photos of South Luzon Expressway (SLEX)


Sample photo:

Philippines leads the way in geothermal power

Beneath your feet

Jun 19th 2008
From The Economist print edition
Geothermal could be hot

THE Philippines are not generally associated with the cutting edge of technological change. In one respect, though, the country is ahead of its time: around a quarter of its electricity is generated from underground heat. Such heat is free, inexhaustible and available day and night.

It is also part of a geology that sees parts of the country devastated by volcanic eruptions from time to time. The geysers that turn the generators are merely the gentlest manifestations of this volcanism. The question that exercises Jefferson Tester, a researcher at MIT, is whether it is possible to have the one without the other. The Earth’s depths are, after all, hot everywhere. So if there is no natural volcanism around to bring this heat to the surface, his answer is to create controlled, artificial volcanism—what is known as an engineered geothermal system (EGS). Instead of relying on natural hot springs, you make your own.

Read the rest of the story here:

Hefti recommends dismissal of 51 district officers

By Iris C. Gonzales
The Philippine Star

The chief of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has recommended the dismissal of 51 Revenue District officers and their staff as part of the government’s implementation of the Lateral Attrition Act of 2005.

Internal Revenue Commissioner Lilian Hefti recently submitted her recommendation to the interagency Revenue Performance Evaluation Board.

In her recommendation, Hefti said the 51 revenue district officers and their subordinates missed their collection targets by at least 7.5 percent.

The Lateral Attrition Law prescribes sanctions including the dismissal of BIR and BOC employees and officials who miss their revenue targets by at least 7.5 percent.

It also provides incentives for rank-and-file employees and officials of the two agencies who exceed annual collection targets for the government.

The evaluation board, composed of the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Bureau of Customs and BIR, is tasked to evaluate the performance of BIR and BOC employees and make the necessary actions to implement the attrition law.

The BIR has roughly 12,000 employees including 115 revenue district officers.

The review board has yet to make a final decision on the matter. It earlier asked the revenue officers who have been recommended for dismissal to explain the reasons for their collection shortfall.

Officials cited the removal of the cap on input value-added tax as reasons for the shortfall.

Input VAT is the amount of VAT that a company shoulders every time it purchases a good or a service whose price already includes the 12-percent VAT. It is deductible from one’s total VAT liabilities and output.

Vice President vows action on Mimaropa projects

The Manila Bulletin

Vice President Noli de Castro vowed to complete the priority projects of Region 4-B in 2010, saying he will use all his powers to bring development in Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan.

De Castro, who was recently appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development (CORD) for Region 4B which covers the four provinces known as Mimaropa, said he will complete the priority projects and programs of the region on time.

In a meeting of the region’s development council in Calapan, Mindoro, the other day, De Castro said he will follow up with the department secretaries themselves if their department or agencies are slow in implementing the priority projects.

He said he accepted the CORD position for Region 4-B because it covers Mindoro where he comes from. De Castro is from Pola, Mindoro.

De Castro said the region’s development council should not waste any time if it wants to accomplish its priority projects and programs, which include an airport, aimed at transforming Mimaropa as one of the food baskets and tourism hubs of the country.

Monday, 23 June 2008

President Arroyo issues 7 directives in Fresno

CITY OF FRESNO, CALIFORNIA -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning issued seven directives after she convened the second National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting in less than 24 hours.

''Let me give you a summary of what should be done -- should be followed as a result of that meeting,'' the President said during the program with some 600 Filipino-Americans from Fresno and the neighboring areas in Central Valley here.

The directives were:

(1) Congress to certify a bill that would consider rice hoarding and profiteering as economic sabotage with disaster as aggravating circumstance;

(2) state of calamity should include imposing maximum rice price and giving decent return for farmers/traders, plus wholesale of hoarded rice;

(3) announce government aid for ferry disaster victims or families;

(4) pending review of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) protocols so that no vessel sails if it would pass possible typhoon path;

(5) assign an NDCC official at Sulpicio Lines to get and release information on victims;

(6) embassies in the US, Europe and Middle East should open disaster relief donation accounts plus NDCC account website or text number;

(7) National Telecommunications Co. (NTC) and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) should help ensure NDCC site to be able to work amid high traffic.

The President was given an update on the consolidated damage wrought by typhoon Frank, as well as assistance, relief and rescue operations being implemented.

Although typhoon Frank would be totally out of the Philippines area of responsibility by Tuesday morning, according to PAGASA, NDCC Chair Gen. Glen Rabonza said consolidated damage report is yet to be completed. He stressed, however, that relief and rescue operations are on-going especially for the victims of the MV Princess that sank off Romblon at the height of typhoon Frank last Saturday.

The Board of Maritime Inquiry (BMI) will conduct a thorough probe on the MV Princess sinking and the reported 200,000 liters of oil in the sunken ship that may cause an oil spill.

In the meantime, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza said all Sulpicio Lines vessels are grounded to check on their seaworthiness.

The President welcomed the news from the PCG that the sunken vessel was already located off Calunay, Quezon, and that 28 survivors were found.

''Praise God!'' the President said.

The President immediately left for Washington DC after she joined the Filipino community here in hearing Sunday mass.

Pres. Arroyo castigates Sulpicio Lines management for failing to follow maritime guidelines


Pres. Arroyo castigated the management of Sulpicio Lines early this morning over the tragedy that struck the MV Princess of the Stars last Saturday.

The president insisted that, contrary to the Sulpicio management’s assertions, there was a violation (or [sic] maritime rules) in allowing the MV Princess of the Stars to set sail Friday when typhoon Frank already hit.

Videos of Sulpicio Lines tragedy


Sulpicio Lines disaster: President scolds Coast Guard

From CNN

From GMANews

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For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

DOTC orders divers to cut into capsized ship to reach trapped victims

06/23/2008 | 01:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation Sec. Leandro Mendoza gave Philippine Coast Guard and Navy divers the green light Monday noon to "force" their way inside the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars that capsized off Romblon, as part of efforts to search for survivors.

Radio dzBB reported that the divers had the green light to cut a hole on the sunken ship's hull to find survivors and bodies of other fatalities.

At least 14 divers from the Coast Guard and Navy were mobilized to conduct search-and-rescue operations for possible survivors of the passenger vessel owned by Sulpicio Lines, which capsized off Romblon at noon Saturday.

Mendoza had earlier ordered the convening of the Board of Marine Inquiry to be headed by Admiral Ramon Liwag to investigate the cause of the sea mishap. - GMANews.TV

US to join rescue efforts for Romblon sea mishap victims
06/23/2008 | 12:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A US Navy ship was deployed to assist local Philippine Coast Guard personnel undertaking rescue operations for around 700 passengers of the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized off the coast of Romblon over the weekend.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez Jr said a US rescue vessel will be arriving within 15 hours at the site where the Sulpicio Lines passenger vessel MV Princess of the Stars capsized off Sibuyan Island in Romblon.

Golez said the information came from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in the US for a 10-day trip.

"The President mentioned that in 15 hours' time, a rescue vessel from the United States Armed Forces will be... at the vicinity of the sunken vessel and they will help in the rescue efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Golez said, noting the the US rescue vessel will be coming from the US base in Okinawa, Japan.

Meanwhile, a radio report quoted Press Sec. Jesus Dureza as saying that US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney relayed the information about the Navy assistance after President Arroyo arrived in the US.

Dureza also said President Arroyo ordered two more meetings with government officials via video conference - one at 3 p.m. and another at 6 p.m.

At the 3 p.m. meeting, President Arroyo is set to convene officials from the departments of Energy, Public Works and Highways, and Education as well as the Philippine Coast Guard.

While in the 6 p.m. meeting, the President will be speaking to officials from the Department of Health and the Philippine National Red Cross.

Earlier in the day, President Arroyo scolded the Coast Guard for allowing the Sulpicio Lines ferry MV Princess of Stars to leave Manila late Friday despite the bad weather. - Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Departure Statement of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

• Before we leave home tonight for the United States, we called a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council this noon wherein we issued the following instructions:

1. Put the whole Department of National Defense and Department of Interior and Local Government into a relief-and-rescue standby mode.

2. We ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways into a repair-and-rehabilitation footing so work on damaged infrastructure can begin once the weather clears up.

3. The Department of Health and Department of Social Welfare and Development shall forward-deploy resources to areas on typhoon path. By law, Calamity Funds have been advanced to DND, DPWH and DSWD, which means that the tools to provide care and comfort have been prepositioned in our first responders.

4. The Air Force, including the Presidential Airlift Wing, are under orders to fly mercy missions, when the need arises.
5. Sec. Arthur Yap has been ordered to ensure stable rice supply in affected areas. If Frank will bring flood, Art will respond by flooding these areas with rice. If they will exploit the situation, hoarders will soon find themselves in hot water, a certainty Sec. Raul Gonzales will guarantee.

6. I have also instructed the Pink Brigade of the Metro Manila Development Authority to rush to areas that might be damaged by the storm. Army engineers, with their heavy equipment, will roll out and join the bayanis of Bayani Fernando in their mercy caravan.

7. We dropped by Villamor Air Based and inspected the aircraft and the airmen on standby. We designated VAB as operations center, a springboard for help.
8. With our without the typhoon, but the latter would make it urgent, the distribution of power subsidies will commence in areas the typhoon will hit, in a manner that will not overburden government officials attending to relief work.

• The United States is the Philippines' strongest friend and ally. Filipinos love America, its people and culture. We may be separated by an ocean, but we are bound by a shared history and common values of economic prosperity and a strong democracy. The relations between the US and the Philippines are stable, strong and mature.

• Our friendship goes well beyond simple diplomatic relations between nations. Over 4 million American citizens are of Filipino heritage. Over 250,000 Americans live and work in the Philippines. We are more than allies; we are family.

• During our West Coast visit, we will meet with our Filam and OFW community to discuss their needs and concerns. Not a day goes by that our administration is not fighting for the interests of our OFWs somewhere in the world.

• In Washington, we will be meeting with President Bush and members of his administration as well as political leaders of both parties in the US Congress. We share many issues that are of global concern, beginning with the price of food and fuel and food security. As such, discussions will focus on food security, defense cooperation, environmental protection and economic assistance.

• On food security, the agreement between our two governments will lay the groundwork for securing the following: a) hastening phytosanitary protocols that will open the way for fresh banana and mango exports from the Philippines to the US starting with an initial shipment of $5 million , then $15 million, and growing in the years to come; b) biotechnology cooperation especially in the development of disease tolerant rice seeds varieties through a $1.5 million grant; c) accelerated dairy development program which plans to infuse 10,000 dairy animals in the next five years worth $25 million; d) increased rice supply purchase agreements through the Public Law 480 of at least $20 million and General Services Manager 102 Program of at least $70 million, e) a proposed surplus equipment program of $50 million, extension service capacity building program of $25 million and accelerated liverstock genetic resource improvement program of $25 million.

• On defense cooperation, we will discuss military platform spares; radars; patrol crafts, ships, inshore vessels and gunboats; military education and training, rigid hull inflatable boars, radios, surveillance aircrafts, spare parts, radars, patrol crafts, ships and boats, training, radios, surveillance aircraft, among others worth about $458 million.

• On environmental protection, we are targeting at least $20 million from the Coral Triangle Initiative.

• On economic assistance, having been approved as a Compact country, the Philippines will produce a Compact proposal which may be eligible for a grant close to $700 million.

• I will thank those members of the US Senate who voted 96-1 to support our Philippine veterans who served valiantly in WWII. This strong vote is an indication of the long overdue desire to bring equity and justice to Filipino veterans who fought under the American flag. The Philippine veteran provision is part of a much larger bill. It is currently caught up in domestic US politics. While its immediate fate remains unknown, we will meet with congressional leaders to fight for passage to ensure equity for Philippine veterans of WWII. The Filipino veterans provision creates about $250 million in new benefits over 10 years.

• Finally, in New York we will meet with numerous investors and business leaders to promote more investment and job creation in the Philippines.

• We will meet with Target Sourcing which buys $70 million annually from the Philippines. Their new cosmetic care line in virgin coconut oil estimated at $25 million for 2008 will benefit 1,500 small and medium enterprises in Manila and Quezon.

• We expect a long term, 35-year supply contract with Libby's to earn over $500 million for more than 5,000 farming families in Bicol.

• We will meet with IQOR Call Center with annual billings earnings of $50 million in the Philippines, APAC Customer Services with $100 million. We will encourage them to expand their investment. Orbis Global Solutions will invest an initial 1,800 seats with billings of $20,000 per agent.

• We will meet with Bertaphil which will invest a minimum of $1 million in Clark and minimum guaranteed lease revenues of $919 thousand and additional 3-10% gross rental revenues from sublessees over a 50-year period.

• We will meet with ROTEC which will install $10 million of envirodiesel design device on initial 10,000 jeepneys to reduce greenhouse gases in Metro Manila.

• We will meet with Abundant Biofuels who will invest $200 million in Northern Mindanao.

• In our infrastructure meeting with investors and business leaders, we will promote 10 ready-to-go projects, six of which are valued at $1.377 billion.

• We will also be meeting with officials from the United Nations about issues related to food security and to champion the candidacy of Senator Santiago to the Court of Justice. No trip to New York is complete without meeting with our strong and lively OFW community there.

• The Philippine-US relationship is essential for a strong, growing and stable Philippines. We are looking forward to our talks in order to advance the interests of the Philippines and further deepen our historic ties.

• We will return via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal III for our arrival cum inspection of our newest gateway.

NAIA 3 update photos


PGMA orders opening of NAIA 3 to domestic flights on her arrival from U.S. on June 30

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 should have been opened yesterday, according to Mike Defensor, head of the newly-created task force that exercises administrative supervision and control over Terminal 3.

Defensor, however said, “overcoming all legal barriers, the President ordered its use upon her arrival on the 30th of June from the U.S.

“We will initially utilize it for the domestic flights in preparation for its full utilization for international flights this year,” said Defensor, adding that “we will not fail our people in ensuring that this white elephant, the gateway of our country to the people of the world, will be open for service. This will be our showcase to boost tourism, the economy and the confidence of the business sector and our OFWs.

After 10 years of controversy-marred construction, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has created Presidential Task Force on NAIA Terminal 3 to undertake the necessary preparations for the much-awaited opening of NAIA 3.

The creation of the task force is contained in Executive Order 732, which the President issued on June 9.

Under EO 732, instead of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the task force will exercise administrative supervision and control over Terminal 3.

Under EO 778, dated March 4, 1982, as amended by EO 341 issued on Aug. 2, 2004, the MIAA is mandated to administer and operate the MIA.

EO 732, which amends both EOs 778 and 341, directed the task force to exercise control and supervision over the opening of Terminal 3 and provide policy directions and executive guidance on all matters relating to the opening of Terminal 3.

The EO further stated that the MIAA shall provide administrative support and technical assistance to the task force, whose head will be appointed by the President.

The EO also directed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release funds it deems appropriate for the task force’s operations. The allocation will be drawn from the Office of the President.

Japanese firm Takenaka Corp. was the lead contractor hired by Piatco to build the terminal in 1998.

Piatco was the consortium that submitted a winning counter-bid to build the NAIA-3 against the unsolicited proposal of AEDC, the corporation then formed by five Filipino-Chinese business tycoons.

In Dec. 2004, the Supreme Court nullified the build-operate-transfer contract between Piatco and the government due to onerous amendments to the original contract.

On the strength of the SC ruling, the government subsequently took over the terminal and started expropriation proceedings that in turn led to Piatco and its German investor, Fraport AG, to file cases before local and international courts.

In Dec. 2005, the High Court issued a ruling ordering the government to pay Piatco just compensation if it wanted to take over Terminal 3.

MIAA was about to hold a soft opening of NAIA-3 on March 31, 2006, when a portion of the ceiling collapsed four days before the opening date.