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Sabotage ruled out in missing chopper

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:17:00 04/08/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Authorities have ruled out sabotage in the case of a presidential helicopter that has gone missing in the north, saying it was “very remote” given tight security.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not scheduled to board the Bell 412 since it was only a back-up aircraft.

Five Malacañang staff were on board the helicopter – press undersecretary Jose Capadocia, appointments secretary Marilou Frostrom, director Perlita Bandayanon from the Presidential Management Staff, Senior Military Aide to the President Brigadier General Carlos Clet, Clet’s aide Petty Officer 1 Demy Reyno.

Major Rolando Sacatani was the pilot with Captain Alvin Alegata as co-pilot.

“Definitely, we have ruled out that angle,” Philippine Air Force (PAF) Chief Lieutenant General Oscar Rabena told a news conference at the Palace, when asked if investigators were eyeing sabotage.

Asked why sabotage was being ruled out, Rabena said: “Because the presidential helicopters are well secured. They have guards in place, and it is very remote that a saboteur was able to come near the choppers.”

Rabena said the PAF had “no idea” yet on why the Bell 412 went missing. Reports said the aircraft encountered bad weather after it took off from the Loakan Airport in Baguio City, near the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at around 4:20 p.m. Tuesday.

The group was set to conduct an ocular inspection of the Halzema Highway in Banaue town, Ifugao province ahead of Arroyo’s visit there, which was eventually cancelled.

The President is staying at her vacation house in Baguio City, monitoring the search and rescue operations, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

As standard operating procedure, Rabena said all Bell 412 helicopters in the PAF’s inventory have been grounded, and the President would use other aircraft in the meantime.

Meanwhile, a mass was held at noon Wednesday at the Palace briefing room, across Capadocia’s office to pray for the group’s safety.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2009-04-08T08:52:37+00:00UTC04bUTCWed, 08 Apr 2009 08:52:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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US helps in search for presidential chopper

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Two cargo choppers dispatched

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:39:00 04/08/2009

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The United States has dispatched two cargo helicopters to help in search and rescue operations for a presidential helicopter that went missing in the north Tuesday, the chief of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said.

The helicopters, which were identified as CH-46 Sea Knight, are expected to arrive at the Loakan Airport in Baguio City Wednesday noon from Zamboanga City, where US troops are preparing for annual joint exercises with Filipino troops, PAF Chief Lieutenant General Oscar Rabena told a news conference in Malacañang Wednesday.

Rabena said the PAF also dispatched five helicopters, including Vietnam War era UH-1H or Hueys to look for the Bell 412 presidential chopper that was carrying two pilots and five Palace staff, including press undersecretary Jose Capadocia, appointments secretary Marilou Frostrom, the President’s senior military aide Brigadier General Carlos Clet.

The Bell 412 was declared missing late Tuesday evening after it failed to land in Ifugao province after it took off from the Loakan Airport at 4:20 p.m.

Also on Tuesday, a PAF Fokker F-27 was dispatched to track down an emergency signal that was believed to have come from the Bell 412, but there have been no sighting so far of the missing aircraft, said Major General Jovito Gamad, PAF chief of staff.

The missing Bell 412 chopper is equipped with a global positioning system, navigational and weather instruments, an onboard radar, and an emergency locator transmitter, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres, Jr. said, adding that it is rated for day and night instrument flight rating.

The chopper was purchased brand new and was delivered in 1996, and its latest Certificate of Airworthiness was issued on February 10 and set to expire Feb. 10, 2010, Torres said.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2009-04-08T08:50:18+00:00UTC04bUTCWed, 08 Apr 2009 08:50:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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WWII vets’ grandkids eyed for service corps

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:18:00 04/07/2009

MT. SAMAT, Bataan – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the government would tap grandchildren of World War II veterans for the recently-launched National Service Corps, which is geared towards community service.

In a speech during the 67th Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) celebrations at the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) war memorial here, Arroyo also announced that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is looking for 10,000 “field engineers” for its poverty mapping project.

“I would like to instruct, [defense] undersecretary [Ernesto] Carolina to help us identify grandchildren of Filipino World War II veterans [who] can be recruited to the National Service Corps. This is another way of helping our veterans,” she said.

Arroyo likened the P1-billion poverty mapping project to a GPS (Global Positioning System) device that will locate poor families eligible for conditional cash transfers and subsidized rice from the government.

“The DSWD needs an army of field engineers in assembling a concise picture of poverty and coordinate where poor households are,” she said.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2009-04-07T08:02:48+00:00UTC04bUTCTue, 07 Apr 2009 08:02:48 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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Envoy: 26,000 apply for WWII vets’ lump sums

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US approves 3 payments

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:11:00 04/07/2009

MT. SAMAT, Bataan – At least 26,000 Filipino World War II veterans have applied for the lump sum payments offered by the US government, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said on Tuesday as officials announced that three of the applicants’ payments have been approved.

Two of the three veterans, Felix Pestana and Rafael Estrada, received notices of approval of their applications from Kenney during the 67th Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) celebrations at the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) here.

The third veteran, Salvador Princesa, a former guerilla intelligence officer in the Bicol region, failed to attend the ceremonies because of mild pneumonia, defense undersecretary for veterans and reservist affairs Ernesto Carolina said.

“We have, I think as of last Friday, there could be more even now, had 26,000 people apply. We’re processing those. We expect to be giving out the first notices you saw here this morning,” Kenney told reporters in an interview.

“You can help us, again get the message out…if there are other people out there, please apply [for the lump sums], people who think they’re eligible, it’s free [to apply],” she said.

Kenney reiterated that the US Embassy in Manila and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) will continue accepting claim applications for one year. The application period started last February.

Filipino veterans in the country are entitled to a $9,500 lump sum while those living in the US can get $15,000.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her speech, again thanked US President Barack Obama and American lawmakers for passing the economic stimulus package, which included the lump sum payouts.

The Araw ng Kagitingan rites commemorate the heroism of Filipino and American forces who fought the Japanese occupation.

In a speech, Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura reiterated that his country expressed “apology and a deep sense of remorse” for the “damages” caused by the war, including the Death March, during which Filipino and American forces who surrendered in Bataan were forced to march to Tarlac province.

Kenney, in her speech, noted the significance of commemorating the heroism of World War II veterans during the Holy Week, when Catholics remember the passion of Jesus Christ.

“It is a week in which we recognize new beginnings borne out of sacrifice,” she said.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2009-04-07T08:01:32+00:00UTC04bUTCTue, 07 Apr 2009 08:01:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am04

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‘Less talk, the better’ for 2 hostages—Palace

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:06:00 04/03/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang kept mum on details about the release of a Filipina Red Cross worker from the Abu Sayyaf, so as not to compromise the safety of the two other captives.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, however, maintained that the government was firm in its “no ransom” policy, amid speculation that money changed hands for the release of Mary Jean Lacaba on Thursday evening.

“The less talk muna [for now], the better,” Remonde said, adding “Hindi natin muna dapat busisiin. Hayaan natin ang autoridad on the ground [We should not scrutinize this now. Let’s leave this to authorities on the ground].”

Remonde said the Palace was “grateful” to those who worked for Lacaba’s release – the local crisis committee headed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

“They have done a good job. Na-release naman si Lacaba [Lacaba was released],” Remonde said.

Two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers remain under captivity, Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian national Eugenio Vagni.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2009-04-03T18:04:42+00:00UTC04bUTCFri, 03 Apr 2009 18:04:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Palace welcomes move to shelve Charter change

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:48:00 04/03/2009

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s chief political adviser welcomed a move by the administration Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats party to put efforts to rewrite the 1987 Constitution in the backburner.

“We welcome, cheer, and support the assurances of the leaders and Charter (change) proponents in Congress that, whatever route or fate cha cha (Charter change) takes, the elections next year will not be suspended or cancelled and terms of incumbent officials will not be extended,” Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio said.

“The Palace simply maintains its position to leave the fate and disposition of cha cha to Congress. Meanwhile, we are putting on high gear all preparations for the general polls next year, particularly measures to ensure honest, efficient, and credible elections through full automation,” he said.

House Speaker and Lakas-CMD President Prospero Nograles had said that Charter change proponents only have until the adjournment sine die of Congress on June 6 to push for their resolutions to amend the Charter.

He said there was not enough time to push for constitutional amendments when Congress resumes sessions in late July, or 10 months before the May 2010 elections.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2009-04-03T18:03:36+00:00UTC04bUTCFri, 03 Apr 2009 18:03:36 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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Arroyo sets P35-M for school buildings

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:25:00 04/03/2009

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced that she would give P35 million to the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FFCCII) to build low-cost school buildings for grade school students.

The President praised the FFCCII for donating thousands of school buildings, which they built “at half the cost” in a speech during the group’s 27th biennial conference in Pasay City on Friday.

“I will give you a P35-million check so that you can be even more generous, as you have been generous with your two-classroom building donations,” she said.

The President said the money should be spent in elementary schools where the ratio of students per classroom was 100 for every shift or 50 students each for two shifts.

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Written by joelguinto

FriUTC2009-04-03T18:01:20+00:00UTC04bUTCFri, 03 Apr 2009 18:01:20 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm04

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