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Archive for February 2009

‘Safety is Arroyo’s utmost concern’

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:03:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang called for more consultations on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), saying safety should come first amid moves to open the mothballed facility.

“Safety is the utmost concern of the President. What is needed here is a thorough review,” deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez told a news conference at the Palace Thursday.

“I have not seen the BNPP as part of the priority list [of Malacañang], but of course, we know that the priority of the President is we should be energy efficient in the next few years. There are many other programs aside from the BNPP,” Golez said.

Located in Morong town, Bataan province, the BNPP had not been opened since it was built in 1984 due to safety concerns.

Recently, Pangasinan Representative Mark Cojuangco filed a bill calling for the “rehabilitation, commissioning and commercial operation” of the nuclear facility.

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ThuUTC2009-02-26T14:29:07+00:00UTC02bUTCThu, 26 Feb 2009 14:29:07 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm02

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Poll automation bill ‘urgent’—Palace

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:11:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang reminded lawmakers that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo certified as urgent a bill appropriating P11.3 billion to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to automate the 2010 polls.

“I think we have sent a lot of signals already. That is the strongest signal that the Palace can send on that issue,” deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said, referring to the urgent certification.

“Members of Congress are aware of the deadline set by the Comelec. They are aware of that. Everybody is working hard to reach that point,” he said.

The Palace supports the poll body’s position that eradicating cheating “will entail full automation,” he said.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo had raised concerns that a “hybrid” election in 2010, or a combination of manual and automated systems, could pave the way for a repeat of massive cheating that allegedly occurred in the last general election in 2004.

Arroyo was an alleged beneficiary of the poll fraud, which enabled her to win a fresh six-year term over popular movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., who died in 2005.

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ThuUTC2009-02-26T08:27:19+00:00UTC02bUTCThu, 26 Feb 2009 08:27:19 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Arroyo bares P40B hike in IRA

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:01:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday announced a P40-billion increase in the internal revenue allotment (IRA) for local governments.

Speaking before a convention of the Vice Mayors’ League of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro City on Thursday, the President said the additional IRA would reflect the P100-billion increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) collections.

The government sets aside 40 percent of every increase in internal revenue to local governments, but the amount is released on a three-year lag. This year’s increase is from the 2006 tax collections.

Arroyo said she was the “best friend” of local government units and giving them their IRA is a “top priority.”

“I realize that the IRA is your primary tool to serve your constituencies,” Arroyo said, adding the fund would go a “long way towards ensuring that our people will get the kind of local government they want.”

Later on Thursday, Arroyo interacted with retrenched overseas Filipino workers looking for skills retraining options at an event organized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) also in Cagayan de Oro City.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said Arroyo’s recent provincial sorties were meant to send a message that government services were reaching the people.

Last Tuesday, Arroyo convened a Cabinet meeting in her home province of Pampanga to check on the status of infrastructure projects under the Luzon Urban Beltway “super region.”

Succeeding Cabinet meetings are also tentatively set for the provinces, as Arroyo checks on the other “super regions.”

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ThuUTC2009-02-26T08:24:56+00:00UTC02bUTCThu, 26 Feb 2009 08:24:56 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Arroyo might veto right of reply bill

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:03:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will veto the right to reply bill if it contains provisions that curtail freedom of the press, her spokesman said.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said Arroyo, as “protector of the Constitution,” would not allow the enactment of any law that would violate press freedom.

“Of course, because the President will always protect the Constitution,” Golez told a news conference, when asked if Arroyo would veto the measure should it violate freedoms enshrined in the Charter.

“If it curtails any press freedom, then, it will never get the support of the Palace,” he said.

Media organizations are outraged over the right to reply bill, which seeks to require the publication or airing of the reply of anyone offended or who feels alluded to by an article or commentary.

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ThuUTC2009-02-26T08:19:18+00:00UTC02bUTCThu, 26 Feb 2009 08:19:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Arroyo fears people power—ex-Sen Aquino

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:03:00 02/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo skipped the People Power anniversary rites on Wednesday probably because she was afraid to remind people that they could mount a similar uprising against her, a former senator said Thursday.

“Baka ayaw niya ipaalala sa tao na meron palang people power. Baka mamaya magkaroon ng People Power laban sa kanya, ayaw na niyang ipaalala pa yung People Power. [Maybe she didn’t want to remind people about People Power. There could be People Power against her],” Agapito “Butz” Aquino said in an interview on ABS-CBN television.

Aquino is the younger brother of the martyred former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. The elder Aquino’s assassination in 1983 was one of the catalysts of the bloodless uprising in February 1986 that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and catapulted his widow, former president Corazon Aquino, to power.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a no-show at the culmination of the four-day celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the revolt at the People Power monument along the EDSA highway last Wednesday, eliciting criticism from former president Fidel Ramos, one of the key players in the uprising.

Arroyo instead visited a job fair at the Philippine Overseas
Employment Agency (POEA), about a hundred meters from the People Power monument.

In a separate interview on ABS-CBN, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said Arroyo did not snub Wednesday’s rites since the schedule drafted by the People Power Commission called for her attendance at the kick-off rites last Sunday, where she laid a wreath at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery).

Asked if Malacañang would pacify Ramos, Remonde said: “We have explained that the President did not skip or minimize People Power 1. She gives importance to this.”

“Like what the President said, the spirit of EDSA must be harnessed so that we can unite against a fiercer dictatorship, the dictatorship of poverty, the dictatorship of the global crisis,” he said in Filipino.

“The call of the moment is to create jobs for people that are losing jobs,” he added.

Aquino stressed the importance of celebrating People Power, saying, “It is said to be the Philippines’ shining moment in history, when we tried to remove a dictator as peacefully as what happened. The entire world was celebrating with the Philippines. It was like we taught the world about democracy.”

Arroyo herself was a beneficiary of a People Power-type uprising, when in January 2001, thousands of protesters and a defection of the military top brass ousted then president Joseph Estrada, who was besieged with corruption allegations.

Arroyo was Estrada’s vice president.

The President has weathered numerous street protests demanding her resignation since 2005 when she was accused of cheating to win a fresh six-year term in the 2004 elections, followed by a string of corruption allegations.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2009-02-26T04:16:32+00:00UTC02bUTCThu, 26 Feb 2009 04:16:32 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Senate ‘forum shopping’ on WB mess

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By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:36:00 02/25/200

MANILA, Philippines — First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo said a plan of the Senate blue ribbon committee to conduct a separate inquiry into the alleged corruption surrounding World Bank-funded projects was “shocking” and tantamount to “forum shopping.”

“This is shocking to me as a lawyer because it smells too much of forum-shopping,” said Arroyo, who has been accused of benefiting from the alleged collusion between contractors and government officials to rig the bidding of the projects.

The World Bank has barred a number of Filipino and Chinese construction firms from bidding for projects because of alleged corruption.

Arroyo said that, while he would “respect” the decision of the blue ribbon committees, he hoped that his constitutional rights would be respected as well. He also noted that, if he engaged in forum-shopping, he would be sanctioned by the Supreme Court.

The blue ribbon committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon plans to take off from the inquiry into the World Bank mess conducted by the economic affairs committee of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairperson of the economic affairs committee, together with the committees on public workers, chaired by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., and finance, chaired by Senator Manuel Roxas II.

Arroyo also rejected a newspaper report, based on a World Bank briefing to senators, that he was part of the alleged “cartel” that colluded in rigging the bids for infrastructure projects.

“This is garbage. I have never been part of any cartel,” he said.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2009-02-25T09:16:31+00:00UTC02bUTCWed, 25 Feb 2009 09:16:31 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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Arroyo ready to defend baselines bill

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If issue raised at ASEAN summit

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:24:00 02/25/2009

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is ready to defend the country’s baselines bill before China and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), when she attends the regional bloc’s 14th summit in Thailand later this week, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

China has protested the baselines bill, calling it a violation of its sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, which were defined under the measure as a “regime of islands under the Republic of the Philippines” even as these were excluded from the national territory,

Asked if Arroyo would defend the baselines bill, should the need arise, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said: “Definitely.”

“The President is informed properly of the positions taken by the Chinese government… The President is conversant on the issue. I’m sure she will be able to discuss the matter in a very intelligent manner, and even [with] leaders of other claimant countries,” he said.

Also high on the agenda of the summit are the measures undertaken by ASEAN-member nations to weather the global recession, Ermita said.

Arroyo will leave for Thailand early Saturday morning.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brueni, and Tawian also lay claim to the reportedly oil-rich Spratlys in whole or in part.

The Philippines, China, and Taiwan claim the Scarborough Shoal.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2009-02-25T08:41:55+00:00UTC02bUTCWed, 25 Feb 2009 08:41:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am02

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