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Archive for September 2008

Stop communists’ ‘ideological nonsense’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:55:00 09/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered troops in Samar to put a stop to the “ideological nonsense” and “criminal acts” of communists, saying they hamper the central Philippine island’s tourism development.

“If we want Eastern Samar to become a tourism destination, we have to put a stop to their [rebels’] ideological nonsense and their criminal acts once and for all,” Arroyo said her speech in Balangiga town, Eastern Samar province on Tuesday.

Arroyo said Samar beaches could rival popular destinations in other parts of the country, but development was being held back by the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“General Tabaquero will play a big role in the local economy. So [it’s] either get rid of them now, or get rid of them, but before 2010, right general?” she said, referring to Brigadier General Arthur Tabaquero, the commander of the 8th Army Infantry Division, who was in the audience.

Tabaquero’s area of operations includes the entire Eastern Visayas region.

“You know your marching orders, whatever happens, they must be stopped,” Arroyo said.

The President also said that she has instructed National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to form a Leyte and Samar Peace and Security Council.

Arroyo was in Samar to promote Calicoan Island in Guiuan town as a tourist spot, but an approaching storm, tropical storm “Pablo,” forced her to cancel all her engagements there.

Instead, the President attended the 107th anniversary commemoration of the Balangiga encounter between Filipino and American troops, in Balangiga town, and later convened a Regional Disaster Coordinating Council meeting on storm preparations in Tacloban City.

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Tue+00:002008-09-30T15:28:10+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 30 Sep 2008 15:28:10 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

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‘Stick to facts’ in double entry row

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:52:00 09/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday urged senators to “stick to the facts” as it belied suspicions raised during a legislative inquiry that the executive branch benefited from the double entry of a P200-million item in the 2008 budget.

At a hearing on the double entry of the budget for the C-5 road extension project, Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, a resource person in the proceedings, said the Palace could have benefited from the double entry.

“I hope our friends from the opposition will rise above partisan considerations and refrain from speculative statements and just stick to facts. The Palace made it clear from the outset that it will not allow any illegal release of any fund, much less benefit from it,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a statement.

Dureza appealed to lawmakers to work for an “early but definitive” end to the budget insertions controversy, which has divided the Senate into two factions, one led by Senate President Manuel Villar, the other led by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Lacson had accused Villar, a successful real estate developer before entering politics, of benefiting from the C-5 road extension project.

“We can all direct valuable time and attention to the more urgent issues like the financial turmoil that is now inflicting all of us and the whole world. President [Gloria Macpagal] Arroyo needs the support of all sectors as we brace ourselves for the challenges in the days ahead,” Dureza said.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. maintained that the government did not benefit from the double entry, which was not disbursed.

“This issue is and should be and will always be confined to the senate it cannot go beyond that,” he told reporters at the Palace.

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Tue+00:002008-09-30T15:26:43+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 30 Sep 2008 15:26:43 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

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An alternative to cow’s milk

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:46:00 09/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the scare caused by melamine-laced milk from China, one of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s aides is proposing a switch to goat’s milk, which she said was the healthier alternative to cow’s milk.

Citing studies by the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said goat’s milk was next only to breast milk in terms of nutrition.

“Goat’s milk is better than cow’s milk. It’s more pure. I am advocating that like brown rice,” Fajardo, concurrent presidential assistant for Central Luzon, told reporters at the Palace Tuesday.

“This is a good opportunity for us. The crisis can be turned into an opportunity for these goat farmers,” she added.

Fajardo acknowledged that the government would need to invest more to commercialize goat’s milk. She said goats from other countries like
Australia, which produces more milk, could be imported to breed them with local goats.

She said goat’s milk was initially more expensive compared to cow’s milk, but once its industry was developed, goat’s milk could be cheaper than cow’s milk since goats required less maintenance compared to cows.

The government has banned milk products from China after hundreds of babies there fell ill while several others died after they consumed milk containing melamine, a toxic chemical that could cause kidney failure.

Also on Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque met an inter-agency group tasked to enforce the milk ban. The group includes representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Bureau of Customs, and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG).

“The instruction is to file charges against the violators immediately,” Fajardo said.

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Tue+00:002008-09-30T09:23:20+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 30 Sep 2008 09:23:20 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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Gov’t braces for effects of US financial crisis

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By Joel Guinto, Agence France-Presse
First Posted 15:41:00 09/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Monetary authorities are working hard to maintain fiscal stability and shield the public from shock waves after the US Congress shot down a $700-billion bailout, President Gloria Arroyo said Tuesday.

Arroyo said she hoped the US legislature would reverse its vote and agree to the plan to buy up a mountain of bad debts that has led to a collapse of investment banks.

“Umaasa pa tayo na magkakaroon ng panibago pang boto, maybe this Thursday, para matulungan ng gobyerno ang Wall Street [We are hoping for another vote, maybe on Thursday, so that the US government can help Wall Street],” she said in a speech in Balangiga town, Eastern Samar province.

“But that just goes to show that this is really a time of global economic uncertainty,” Arroyo said. “And in this time, we in the Philippines have been working tirelessly to address challenges arising from the global slowdown combined with the spike in oil and food prices.”

Arroyo said shock waves from the US crisis were causing “real difficulties for countries around the world.”

She said that her economic managers were working hard to manage inflationary pressures and provide a safety net to those affected.

They were to meet late Tuesday to assess the impact on the economy if US lawmakers reject again the bailout package.

Tuesday’s meeting, the first in a series, would involve “data-gathering,” Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said.

Among those expected to attend were Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Central Bank governor Amando Tetangco, Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes.

Andaya said that if the US Congress fails to pass the rescue plan proposed by President George W. Bush, the resulting crisis could be worse than the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

“The best scenario is it will be passed. We want it passed, but that is something beyond our control. We want to be prepared for any eventuality,” Andaya told reporters in Malacañang.

If the bailout plan is rejected, Andaya said: “It will have an adverse effect on the US economy, and also our economy.”

“All sectors will be affected. Interest rates will go up, exports will shrink,” he said. The United States is the Philippines’ biggest trading partner.

Andaya said the government would continue to boost its infrastructure spending, buoyed by tax collections, to keep the economy afloat.

Asked if additional taxes would be discussed in the meetings, Andaya said: “Probably [as] a side issue. We’re more concerned about the negative effects if the bailout does not materialize. Of course, down the line, that could be one of the solutions. That’s always the option, but that’s not the main agenda.”

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Tue+00:002008-09-30T09:22:19+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 30 Sep 2008 09:22:19 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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Palace: Pray for peace on Eid’l Fitr

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:20:00 09/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang called on the nation to pray for peace as the country’s Muslim population marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“As we come to the end of the most venerated and holy month of Ramadan, the Palace sends its greetings to our Muslim brothers and sisters and the Islamic world on the joyous Eid’l Fitr, and enjoins the whole nation to pray for guidance and peace,” deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said in a statement.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has declared Eid’l Fitr, which marks the end of the month-long Ramadan, on Wednesday as a regular non-working holiday nationwide.

Sporadic clashes between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters continued in Central Mindanao throughout Ramadan as the military pressed on with offensives against rebel commanders accused of leading attacks on civilian communities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte provinces in early August.

Some quarters have voiced concern that the end of Ramadan would mark the intensification of hostilities in Central Mindanao.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-09-30T09:20:32+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 30 Sep 2008 09:20:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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Arroyo cuts short Samar trip due to storm

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 01:54:00 09/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has cancelled her Cabinet meeting in Eastern Samar province on Tuesday due to tropical storm “Pablo,” cutting short her two-day visit there, a Palace official said.

Arroyo will grace the 107th anniversary of the Balangiga encounter in Balangiga town in the morning, and will attend a meeting of the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) immediately afterwards, Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia said.

“All events in Eastern Samar after the event in Balangiga are cancelled due to the storm,” Capadocia said in a phone interview.

The President called off the National Economic Development Authority cluster meeting of the Cabinet in the resort island of Calicoan in Guiuan town in the afternoon, and a dinner and interview opportunity with reporters in the evening.

A tourism master plan for Calicoan Island was on the agenda of the cancelled meeting.

Arroyo arrived in the Eastern Visayas province on Monday to inspect road construction projects.

The state weather bureau has raised public storm signal number 2 (60-100 kilometer per hour winds) in Eastern Samar province, with “Pablo” poised to hit the coastal town of Guiuan.

The President was scheduled to be in Bacolod City, also in the Visayas, on Wednesday for the Maskara festival. There was no word yet if it would still push through.

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Tue+00:002008-09-30T04:23:07+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 30 Sep 2008 04:23:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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Election fever to drown out Charter change fears

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 18:09:00 09/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s chief political adviser rejected former Senate president Franklin Drilon’s observation that efforts to rewrite the Constitution would intensify in the run up to the 2010 elections.

“I disagree with the prognosis of former Senator Drilon that cha-cha [Charter change] efforts will intensify as we near 2010,” Secretary Gabriel Claudio said in a statement.

On the contrary, he said preparations for the polls would “generate excitement” next year and would “drown out any moves for, or speculations about Charter change.”

Claudio acknowledged the administration coalition’s silence on its plans for 2010 was “adding to the opposition’s paranoia” that charter change was being readied to extend Arroyo’s term.

“The silence of the administration regarding its preference for the presidential election, including the criteria and selection process it will employ is a matter of strategic timing,” he said.

“We do not want it to be so premature as to make the administration coalition politically vulnerable and at the same time, distract the nation from the urgent issues of governance, especially at this time of global financial turmoil,” he said.

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Mon+00:002008-09-29T13:49:48+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Mon, 29 Sep 2008 13:49:48 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

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