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Archive for October 2nd, 2007

RP-China ties won’t be affected by NBN deal row–Palace

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:35pm (Mla time) 10/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Ties between Manila and Beijing will not sour over the government’s decision to suspend its $329-million telecommunications contract with China’s ZTE Corp., President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesman said Tuesday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye issued the statement from Shanghai as Arroyo kicked off her two-day official visit to China, where she is expected to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Bunye said Trade Secretary Peter Favila held “extensive back-channel talks” with Chinese officials, who “respected” the government’s position on the contract that had been hounded by controversy because of alleged irregularities.

“This situation is properly explained and I believe that you already heard from the Chinese officials that they understand and would respect the decision of the Philippine government,” said Bunye.

Businessman Jose de Venecia III and former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director general Romulo Neri claimed that former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos had tried to bribe them.

De Venecia’s Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) lost out to ZTE in the bid for the NBN contract. The project also needed the approval of then NEDA chief Neri, who is now chairman of the Commission on Higher Education.

Abalos resigned from his post on Monday and vowed to take De Venecia and Neri to court.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-10-02T09:48:14+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Tue, 02 Oct 2007 09:48:14 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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‘Ineng’ to bring more rains; public warned against floods

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:40pm (Mla time) 10/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The state weather bureau has warned the public against big waves, flashfloods, and landslides as tropical storm “Ineng” (international codename: Krosa) is expected to bring more rains in Luzon and the Visayas.

At 2 p.m., “Ineng,” which packs winds of 85 kilometers per hours and gusts of up to 100 kilometers per hour, was spotted 830 kilometers east of Northern Luzon, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

“Residents in coastal areas, low lying-areas and near mountain slopes are advised to take all the necessary precautions against possible big waves, flashfloods and landslides,” the agency said in a weather bulletin issued at 5 p.m.

Moving at just three kilometers per hour, PAGASA said the storm was “almost stationary” and was enhancing the southwest monsoon, triggering the rains.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-10-02T09:45:52+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Tue, 02 Oct 2007 09:45:52 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Army to draft 8,400 militia men

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:59pm (Mla time) 10/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Army will seek additional funding to draft an 8,400 militia men in 2008 to boost its chances of meeting Malacañang’s 2010 target to crush communist insurgents, the
commanding general, Lieutenant General Alexander Yano, said Tuesday.

But if there will be a shift of forces to Mindanao, where troops have stepped up offensives against the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, it would be “difficult” to meet the 2010 deadline, he said.

“We may have some difficulty as far as this is concerned,” Yano told
ANC television when asked if he agreed with reports that the Basilan
and Sulu offensives could cause the military to fall short of the Palace deadline.

“If there will be some escalation of hostilities in Mindanao, definitely, there will be realignment of forces from Luzon and the Visayas and this would entail additional forces to maintain our presence, especially against the communist insurgents,” he added.

The approved recruitment of 8,400 Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU) men for 2007 was ongoing, Yano said. They will augment the 60,000-strong Army militia force.

Yano could not immediately provide an estimate on how much money was needed to draft 8,400 more CAFGU forces next year. Militia men receive P2,600 monthly subsistence allowance.

Since July 10, 59 soldiers and dozens of Abu Sayyaf militants have been killed in encounters in the restive southern provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given security forces until the end of her term in 2010 to “defeat” the New People’s Army, “destroy” the Abu Sayyaf, and “contain” Muslim rebel groups.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-10-02T09:04:25+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Tue, 02 Oct 2007 09:04:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Mike Arroyo expected back in RP Tuesday–airport official

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 03:33pm (Mla time) 10/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines — First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, accused of meddling in the National Broadband Network (NBN) project, will return to the country on Tuesday, an airport official said.

Mr. Arroyo’s plane is expected to land at the Ninoy Aquino
International Airport (NAIA) at around 5 p.m., Angel Atutubo Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) assistant general manager for security and emergency services, said in a phone interview.

Atutubo could not provide additional flight details.

Asked if Mr. Arroyo’s arrival would be open to media coverage, Atutubo said: “We’re still waiting for word from the Presidential Security Group [PSG].”

A lawyer and spokesman for the First Gentleman could not be contacted for comment.

Mr. Arroyo left the country for Hong Kong last September 17, the eve of a Senate investigation into the $329-million NBN contract, which was awarded to China’s ZTE Corp.

During the hearing, businessman Jose “Joey” de Venecia III said the
First Gentleman told him to “back off” from the NBN project, and give way to ZTE. De Venecia’s Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) lost in its bid for the NBN project.

On Monday, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos resigned. De Venecia III and Romulo Neri, former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director general, had accused Abalos of trying to bribe them to enable ZTE to bag the NBN project.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-10-02T09:03:25+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Tue, 02 Oct 2007 09:03:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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At least 15 killed in Basilan, Sulu clashes

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 05:37pm (Mla time) 10/02/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Four government soldiers and an estimated 11 Abu Sayyaf extremists were killed in two clashes Tuesday in the southern island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, where troops are running after the al Qaeda-linked militants, military spokesmen said.

Tuesday’s clashes bring to 62 the number of soldiers killed in encounters with the Abu Sayyaf in the two provinces since July 10. Dozens of extremists were also killed according to intelligence estimates, though not all of their remains were recovered.

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, troops from the elite Naval Special Operations Group and the Marine Battalion Landing Team 7 clashed with an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf members and their supporters on Lanjil island, off the main island of Basilan, said Major Eugene Batara, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command

Four NAVSOG troops were killed while two others were wounded. An estimated 10 Islamic extremists, including a certain Abduraja Sadikal, who is facing murder charges, were also killed, Batara said.

“The combat operation was launched as a result of various reports about these armed lawless elements [that] bring fear to the villagers on the island,” Batara said in an email statement.

Batara said Sadikal’s brother, Faisal, was also present during the encounter. The brothers are identified with Abu Sayyaf commander Anwar Abubakar, who was killed several years back in an encounter with government troops in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Basilan is a known bailiwick of the Abu Sayyaf, where fierce encounters on July 10 and August 18 left 29 Marines and dozens other rebels killed. Ten of the 14 Marines who were killed in the earlier encounter were beheaded.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caculitan said the names of the casualties on the government side would be released once their families are informed.

The remains of the slain soldiers were airlifted to Zamboanga City. The wounded were brought to the Camp Navarro hospital at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters in the same city.

At around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, a suspected Abu Sayyaf militant was killed in an encounter with government troops in Sulu province, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said.

The 20-minute encounter between one company from the Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion and some 50 extremists started at around 7:45 a.m. in the sub-village of Niug, Sangahan village, Talipao town.

An M16 rifle and a backpack were recovered from the scene, Bacarro said.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-10-02T04:14:21+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Tue, 02 Oct 2007 04:14:21 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Arroyo leaves for China Tuesday

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 08:32pm (Mla time) 10/01/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will leave for China at dawn Tuesday, and according to Malacañang, Chinese investors remain “upbeat” on the Philippines despite the cancellation of a $300-million telecoms contract between the government, and China’s ZTE Corp., which had been hounded by controversy.

In a text message, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye confirmed that Arroyo was pushing through with the two-day trip, despite the controversy generated by ZTE Corp.’s bid for the National Broadband Project (NBN).

Philippine Airlines Flight PR-001 bound for Shanghai is expected to depart from the Centennial Terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 5:40 a.m.

“China is still upbeat about investing in the Philippines,” Philippine Consul General Rowena Mendoza Sanchez, who is in Shanghai, was quoted as saying in a Palace statement.

In Shanghai, the President will keynote the Philippine Business and Investment Forum, where some 300 chief executive officers of Chinese firms are expected to attend.

“So this is what the forum is all about and we have no less than the Head of State encouraging Shanghainese and Chinese businessmen to invest in the Philippines. I think we can expect very good outcomes from this forum,” she said.

Sanchez said Chinese investors were keen on business process outsourcing, as well as mining, transportation, tourism, and agriculture.

The envoy was quoted as saying that China “respects” the government’s cancellation of the ZTE contract and is “not concerned at all” by the controversy surrounding it.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos resigned on Monday amid allegations he tried to bribe businessman Jose de Venecia III and former National Economic Development Auhtority (NEDA) director general Romulo Neri so that ZTE could bag the NBN contract.

Abalos has denied the allegations and has vowed to bring his accusers to court.

While in Shanghai, the President will also keynote the Global Policy Summit on the Well-Being of People with Intellectual Disabilities and attend the Special Olympics.

Arroyo will be in China for two days, the Palace said, afterwards, she will go to India, also on an official visit.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-10-02T04:13:43+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Tue, 02 Oct 2007 04:13:43 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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