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Archive for March 2009

April 6 a holiday—Palace

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:49:00 03/30/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos will enjoy two successive long weekends starting this week, after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared Monday a holiday.

Pursuant to her “holiday economics,” Arroyo declared Monday, April 6 a holiday since Araw ng Kagitingan, which recalls the bravery of World War II veterans, would fall on Holy Thursday.

This is contained under Proclamation 1699, which lists down all the holidays for 2009.

There will be only two working days next week, Tuesday (April 7) and Wednesday (April 8). Thursday and Friday are regular holidays as part of the Catholics’ commemoration of the Lenten season.

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Mon+00:002009-03-30T14:23:29+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:23:29 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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RP, Papua New Guinea sign MoU on fisheries

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:41:00 03/30/2009

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Papua New Guinea entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would enhance the cooperation between the two countries on the development of fisheries, Malacañang said.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Papua New Guinea Fisheries Minister Ben Semri signed the MoU at the Shangri-La Resort and Spa in Boracay Island on Monday, following a bilateral meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare, the Palace said.

The MoU will facilitate technology transfer in aquaculture
development, promotion of shipping ventures, investments, technical training, joint research, and “strategic complementation” of each country’s plans in the “Coral Triangle” – or the waters between the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands, according to a statement released by Malacañang.

“This Memorandum of Understanding on fisheries cooperation mirrors the commitment of both parties to the goal of securing a productive and sustainable future for their respective fishing industries through joint exploration, development and implementation of priority development undertakings,” the document read.

In a joint statement, Arroyo and Somare said the MoU would pave the way for future bilateral agreements on technical and development cooperation, taxation, investment promotion, and air services.

“Both leaders hoped that the state visit would also spur potential new exchanges of expertise such as university lecturers, teachers, doctors, technocrats, social and civil society workers,” the statement read.

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Mon+00:002009-03-30T14:21:55+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:21:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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HK columnist slammed over ‘servant’ remark

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 11:59:00 03/30/2009

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) Malacañang led the protest against a remark by a Hong Kong journalist that the Philippines was a “nation of servants.”

Malacañang decried as “reprehensible” an article by Chip Tsao which claimed that the Philippines had no right to assert its claim over the Spratly Islands, after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the controversial baselines bill into law, which established the country’s claim to the reportedly oil-rich territory.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, however, could not immediately say if the government would take action against the Chip Tsao, saying, “We will look into that because we should not be provoked by one columnist.”

“Reprehensible iyang ginawa ng mamamahayag na iyan. Tingnan natin kung ano ang dapat nating gawin diyan [What that writer did was reprehensible. Let’s see what needs to be done],” Remonde told radio station dwIZ.

In his column published on HK Magazine Online last March 27, Tsao protested the Philippines’ assertion of sovereignty on the Spratly Islands, which he said, “belonged to China.”

“As a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter,” Tsao said, as he pointed out that 130,000 Filipinas were working on “cheap” wages in Hong Kong as domestic workers.

Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, chairman of the committee on foreign affairs at the House of Representatives, said that the Philippines should send a note verbale to Hong Kong to convey its displeasure with the article, notwithstanding its attempt to be satirical.

“We should not let it pass. I will ask Secretary [Alberto] Romulo to send a protest, a note verbale,” Cuenco said in a phone interview.

He added that even if Tsao meant to be satirical, the lawmaker said “it should not be at our expense.”

He also said there was also much about Hong Kong that should be criticized.

Meanwhile, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, United Opposition president, said Filipinos must demand an apology not only from the writer but also from Arroyo whom the local executive blamed for the low regard against Filipinas.

“By all means, let us demand an apology from Chip Tsao. But we must also demand an apology from the Arroyo administration for giving no options for our women,” Binay said in a statement Monday.

“Because of the administration’s failed employment policies, a record number of Filipino women have been forced to seek jobs abroad to make ends meet,” Binay said, noting that professionals have resorted to becoming domestic helpers for lack of opportunities in the country.

Binay said programs like “Super Maids” – a program by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to produce “world-class and professional domestic helpers” – only worsened other country’s perception of the Philippines as a nation of domestic helpers.

Tsao said he “summoned” his Filipina maid, Louisa, whom he said has a degree in international politics from the “University of Manila,” and told her that if she wanted a salary adjustment, she should tell her fellow maids that the Spratlys belonged to China.

For his part, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said Tsao “went too far.”

“Instead of insulting a policy, he insulted a nation,” Biazon said.

But he said the Philippines should spare itself the trouble of a making a diplomatic protest, since the talent of the country’s foreign service would be wasted by paying attention to Tsao.

“But I think we should declare him persona non-grata,” he added.

Valenzuela Rep. Rex Gatchalian, vice chair of the House Committee on Overseas Workers’ Affairs, added Tsao should issue a public apology for his defamatory remarks, especially against the Filipina domestic helpers.

Gatchalian said the hardworking Filipina workers should be spared from attacks and added that Tsao should not be looking down on developing countries, especially since China was once in that state.

Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza railed at Tsao’s column, but said the Philippine government was responsible for such an image because of its policy of sending people to find jobs abroad due to its failure to guarantee them any employment at home.

“Although the export labor policy of the government as a response to unemployment here has systematically driven Filipinos abroad and which is also to blame for this image, such is not an excuse for that racist slur,” she said.

Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said Filipinos should also be angry at the government.

“The anger should be aimed at the government, specifically at Gloria for having made us a country of servants,” she said.

In October last year, producers of the US television show “Desperate Housewives” and television network ABC apologized for a racial slur against Filipino medical workers in one of its episodes.

With reports from Thea Alberto,; Leila Salaverria, Inquirer

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Mon+00:002009-03-30T14:20:50+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:20:50 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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Arroyo: Cooperate with CHR in slay probes

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:11:00 03/30/2009

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed all concerned government agencies to cooperate with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in its investigation into vigilante killings in Davao City, Malacañang said Monday.

“That’s the duty of the Commission on Human Rights [CHR] and the government will cooperate with them,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said in an interview on radio station dwIZ.

The CHR will begin on Monday its public inquiry into the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS), which has been blamed for some 800 killings in Davao City over the last 11 years.

While the vigilante group has targeted suspected criminals, it has
also allegedly killed minors.

The CHR will also look into allegations that the DDS was working with the blessings of local government officials.

Remonde said the President gave a similar directive for the military to cooperate with a separate CHR inquiry into the killing of substitute teacher Rebelyn Pitao in Davao City last March 4.

Pitao is the daughter of Leoncio Pitao alias Commander Parago, commander of communist guerrilla forces in the Davao Region.

The family has blamed the military for the Young Pitao’s death.

“The President has ordered the military to cooperate with any and all investigations to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights,” Remonde said.

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Mon+00:002009-03-30T14:19:19+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Mon, 30 Mar 2009 14:19:19 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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De Castro, Teodoro on Palace 2010 shortlist

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:35:00 03/27/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Vice President Noli de Castro have been shortlisted as the administration standard bearer in the 2010 presidential elections, but it is not closing its doors on “people outside” the coalition and other allies, a Malacañang official said.

“I can mention at least two, Vice President Noli de Castro and Secretary Gilbert Teodoro,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said, when asked about reports that the administration has shortlisted three personalities as its possible presidential bet.

Since politics is the “art of the impossible,” Remonde said “people from outside” the ruling coalition could also be considered.

“We are not ruling out our other allies, who have expressed intentions to run for president like [Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman] Bayani Fernando, Senator Dick Gordon and the others,” he said.

Earlier, Remonde singled out eight Cabinet officials as possible senatorial candidates: Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Augusto Syjuco, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, and presidential adviser on climate change Heherson Alvarez.

A committee headed by Presidential Political Adviser Gabriel Claudio was tasked to set the criteria for the selection of administration candidates as well as to pursue the merger between the administration parties Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats and the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino.

Remonde also said the administration’s selection process would not be pressured by plans of a group urging Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio to run for president to mount US-style primaries to find its presidential bet.

“I think medyo hindi kailangan nagyon na mag-scramble ang administration sa pamumulitika [I don’t think the administration needs to scramble in politicking] The President is right, the best politics is good public service,” Remonde said.

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Fri+00:002009-03-27T08:54:52+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 27 Mar 2009 08:54:52 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Join ‘Earth Hour’, Palace urges Filipinos

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:01:00 03/27/2009

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is urging the Filipinos to join the worldwide Earth Hour and switch off lights from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday in an effort to increase awareness on global warming.

“We are definitely supporting that. We’re encouraging our people to join the observation of Earth Day. We have only one Earth, we should all be good stewards of the planet we live in,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently appointed herself as head of the government’s anti-climate change task force and devoted a portion of her schedule on Fridays to environment issues.

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Fri+00:002009-03-27T08:30:57+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 27 Mar 2009 08:30:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Don’t waste money on ‘trimmings’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:11:00 03/27/2009

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo urged local government officials not to waste their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) on “trimmings,” and instead, spend it on social services and employment generation projects.

Arroyo stressed the government’s drive against wasteful spending especially since the IRA would get a P40-billion boost this year from Value Added Tax (VAT) collections.

“Certainly, it would doubly worth the sacrifice, if you in the league take up the challenge now that you have this big increase in IRA to make sure that each province spend your IRA windfall prudently, not on trimmings but only on strategic programs that will keep us growing in spite of the slump in the world today,” she said in a speech before
the Provincial Board Members League in Davao City on Friday.

Arroyo said that pushing for the VAT in 2005 was a “period of sacrifice,” but she was thankful that local governments supported her during that time.

“Indeed the government, national and provincial must pool all savings and revenue into programs that help the poor and the middle class, this includes more and more investments in education, health care, and infrastructure, which are well within the spending authorities of the provincial governments,” she said.

“To fund all the things we need to do, to keep the Philippine economy strong during this global economic crisis, we must cut government waste and that is at the national and provincial level,” she said.

The President said she was hoping that local governments adopt cost-cutting measures of the national government, including regulating the use of government vehicles, replacing lighting fixtures with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, and turning off air-conditioning at 4:30 p.m., except in offices with 24-hour operation, among others.

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Fri+00:002009-03-27T05:29:30+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 27 Mar 2009 05:29:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Arroyo lauds Nograles’ leadership in House

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:21:00 03/27/2009

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave a “hats off” to Speaker Prospero Nograles for his “firm leadership” of the House of Representatives.

Arroyo saluted Nograles in a speech before a convention of the Provincial Board Members League of the Philippines at the Apo View Hotel in Davao City on Friday. The Speaker was in the audience.

“I would like to greet and give my hats off to Speaker Boy Nograles for his firm leadership of the House of Representatives, and thank you also Boy and other people of Davao City for hosting this very important convention,” she said.

Arroyo issued the statement after Nograles said on Thursday that he would file a resolution that would pave the way for lawmakers to convene themselves into a constituent assembly that would revise the Charter.

The resolution, signed by 175 lawmakers, was drafted by Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte, president of Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party.

Talk of Nograles’ ouster as Speaker spread after his action to amend the 1987 Charter was perceived as slow.

Arroyo’s critics see Charter change as a way for the incumbent to extend her stay in power after her term ends in 2010.

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Fri+00:002009-03-27T05:28:15+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Fri, 27 Mar 2009 05:28:15 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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Workers need not be laid off — Arroyo

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:42:00 03/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said employees of electronics companies that have been hit by the global recession could pay their employees half the minimum wage instead of laying them off for a period of six months until the electronics sector recovers.

During the time when they are receiving half their wages, affected electronics workers could undergo additional skills training with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Arroyo said in an informal talk with reporters late Wednesday.

“There are electronics companies (who) know electronics will come back. They don’t want to lose their workers. They’d like to keep them in their payroll if they can, even if they’re not really working,” Arroyo said.

“So the idea is to pay them half of the minimum wage while they are training, and then TESDA will give them, help them with scholarship for training so that when the market comes back, they are now more skilled,” she said.

Of the over 40,000 Filipinos who lost their jobs, Arroyo said 30,000 were from electronics and garment export firms in Laguna province.

Earlier this week, the President formed the Global Recession Impact Monitoring (GRIM) to prevent the recession that has gripped two-thirds of the world from spreading to the Philippines.

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Thu+00:002009-03-26T12:31:09+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Thu, 26 Mar 2009 12:31:09 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm03

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Feed school kids, Arroyo tells cops

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:52:00 03/26/2009

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to use their savings to provide breakfast for daycare, pre-school, and grade one students in schools near police camps.

Arroyo issued the order in a speech during graduation rites at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) in Silang town, Cavite province on Thursday, as she reiterated her directives for government agencies to tighten their belts and cut wasteful spending to pour more money for social services.

“You graduates are lucky because you have jobs waiting for you. In return, I am instructing all police camps, including the PNPA, to spend part of your savings to provide breakfast to the day care, pre-school, and grade one children in the school nearest your camp,” she said.

“The government must also continue to come to the rescue of the poorest among us with targeted subsidies of food, fuel, and rice. To fund all these, cut government waste,” she said.

“On the part of government, we must live within our means and run a lean and efficient government, this includes fiscal prudence on the part of every agency, including the PNPA,” she said.

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Thu+00:002009-03-26T09:14:55+00:00+00:0003b+00:00Thu, 26 Mar 2009 09:14:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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