Thursday, November 27, 2014

Duterte: Davao City aims Davao Railway Project Completed by 2016

Representatives from the Korean Engineering Company (KEC) will be reporting by March next year on its findings for a possible railway line in the city, according to the city council committee chair on transportation.

In an interview Wednesday, transport committee chair Tomas Monteverde IV told reporters that the engineers were already conducting studies on which possible railway project could be apt for the city.

“We have a choice of going for a system like a rail subway or a train line on an elevated platform,” Monteverde said.

The councilor added that the city was also inclined to have the railway system being operated on a build-operate-transfer system under a public-private partnership.

In October, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte visited South Korea to speak with KEC representatives on the proposed project.

Duterte had earlier said that he wanted to see a Davao City railway project being finished before his term ends in 2016.

However, Duterte told reporters in a press forum early November that he would prefer the cheapest version of the railway project that the city could afford.

Monteverde said the city was also willing for the railway project to be financed by a loan.

The councilor added that the city government would be pushing for the reduction of the number of vehicles on the streets once the railway project is completed.

“We can’t be like the situation in Manila,” Monteverde said, referring to an influx of vehicles after the creation of several railway projects such as the Metro Rail and Light Rail Transit projects. - Mindanao News



Thursday, October 23, 2014

El Nido Palawan Island is now the island in the world Over Maldives and Islands in Hawaii?

Rugged beauty: Palawan is a popular base for island-hopping tourists. Photo:

The best island in the world! Travellers vote the little-known Philippines outcrop of Palawan as the most exotic on Earth

  • Palawan claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014
  • It was largely thanks to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the top natural wonders of the world
  • At nearly five miles in length, Puerto Princesa is the second longest subterranean river in the world


An island that boasts crystal clear waters, incredible beaches and one of the newest natural wonders of the world has been named the best in the world by readers of a leading travel magazine.

The idyllic island of Palawan in the Philippines claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014.

And it’s largely thanks to its latest claim to fame: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been named one of the world’s best natural wonders.

Stunning: Palawan Island in the Philippines has been named the top island in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Photo:

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been named one of the world’s best natural wonders. Photo:


Best in the world: The idyllic island of Palawan claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes. Photo:


Undersea adventures: Palawan is home to some of the best locations for snorkelling and diving.  Photo:

At nearly five miles in length, Puerto Princesa is the longest underground river in Asia and the second longest in the world.

Visitors on guided boat tours travel through a subterranean cave system featuring large chambers, stalactites and stalagmites. 

Home to amazing locations for snorkelling and diving, Palawan province has a second Unesco World Heritage Site that is popular spot for undersea adventurers –Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park.

Palawan's beauty and thrilling outdoor or undersea adventures are no secret to the world.

It was once named of the best islands in the world by National Geographic Traveler.

Getting there isn't too difficult by air - the average flight lasts around 75 minutes - but a ride on a ferry boat takes around 24 hours. 

The island is known as the Philippines' 'last frontier' because it is part of the far western Palawan province, with its southern tip just north of Malaysia.

Palawan Island edged some of the most popular destinations in the world for top spot on the list of the world's 30 best islands.

Breath-taking: Tourists walk on a beach as a rainbow forms in the background. Photo:

At nearly five miles in length, Puerto Princesa is the longest underground river in Asia and the second longest in the world. Photo:

Palawan edged some of the most popular destinations in the world to claim top spot on the list of the world's 30 best islands. Photo:

Tourists can reach Palawan by plane or ferry with flights from Manila lasting just 75 minutes. Photo:

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, came in second, followed by the islands of Maui and Kauai in Hawaii. Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique rounded out the top five.

Sixth through tenth were Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands in Australia, Santorini and Cyclades in Greece, St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Kangaroo Island in Australia, and Big Island in Hawaii.

None of the UK’s islands managed to crack the top 30. - Mail Online


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Monday, October 20, 2014

Philippines' biggest wind farm to be completed by November –EDC


PHL's biggest wind farm to be completed by November –EDC

The Philippines will have its largest wind farm once geothermal and renewable energy producer Energy Development Corp. completes the 150-MW Burgos Wind Project in Ilocos Norte by end-November.
"We are targeting to complete the 150-MW [wind farm] by end-November 2014," EDC executive vice president Ernesto Pantangco told GMA News Online in a text message.
Groundbreaking for the Burgos Wind Project took place in April 2013 while the Construction for the initial 87 MW capacity of the wind farm started in June 2013.
By the time it is completed, the Burgos Wind Project will be the largest wind farm in the Philippines, with a total of 50 large-scale Vestas V90-3.0MW wind turbines and an ancillary plant to be supplied and constructed by global wind turbine manufacturer Vestas.
The project is also one of the largest investments to date in Ilocos Norte as it occupies a 600 hectare site covering three barangays, namely, Saoit, Poblacion and Nagsurot, in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.
Once it starts operations, the project will provide 370 GWh of electricity to power approximately 2 million households, EDC president and COO Richard Tantoco said in a statement.
"We also will displace about 200,000 tons of carbon emissions annually,” he added.
The end-November target is for the company to be the first to avail of the Feed-In-Tariff, which the Department of Energy (DOE) will grant to 200 MW of wind projects on a "first to commission, first served" basis, Tantoco said.
Under the FIT system pursuant to the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the Energy Regulatory Commission will give guaranteed payments on a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour—called FIT rates—for power producers harnessing renewable energy.
"With construction in full swing, we are confident that we will meet our target commissioning date and avail of the Feed-in-Tariff,” Tantoco said.


Source: TJD, GMA News



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Solar News - 9TV rebrands as CNN Philippines for 5 years

Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom - CNN arrives in the Philippines. - Image:

9TV rebrands as CNN Philippines

It started out as a joke. Nine Media Corporation chairman Antonio Cabangon-Chua and his friends bantered about bringing CNN to the country. Then they realized it could be done. 

That eventually led to Tuesday’s official announcement of the rebranding of the former ambassador to Laos’ 9TV, formerly Solar News, to CNN Philippines—the result of 1 year and 4 months of negotiation with CNN International (CNNI).

No, the latter is not investing money in Nine Media Corporation; after all, foreigners can’t invest in media properties in the country. It is the Filipino company that’s paying CNNI every month. How much, Cabangon-Chua didn’t want to disclose.

“This is not all about money in the business sense anymore,” he said. “I’m already 80. I want to leave a legacy.”

 So what’s going to change?

Kayen Zialcita, the local company’s senior vice president for brand development and marketing, summed it up: “The look and feel of the channel, the way we gather news, the way we report the news… those are all going to change.”

She added, “Everything will have to change because we have to live up to the standard of CNN.”

Thus, Filipino journalists will receive extensive training from CNN here and abroad.

CNN arrives in the Philippines. - Image:

That CNN agreed to the five-year partnership means that the two organizations’ vision, mission, and values are aligned, CNNI senior vice president Ellana Lee confirmed.

They only have a few partnerships, and CNN Philippines is the newest addition to their small family that includes those in Indonesia, Chile, India, Turkey, and Japan.

“We have to look at the type of company that we partner up with,” Lee explained. “They [Nine Media] bring a lot of the same values that we look for in terms of covering the news and where they want to take the news specifically in the Philippines.”

In exchange, CNN will have the opportunity to reach in to the Philippine market, as their local partner is on free TV besides being available 24 hours on cable and pay television —unlike CNN’s other partnerships.

A win-win situation, according to representatives of the two organizations. 

CNN Philippines will operate from studio facilities in Metro Manila and will replace 9TV on the RPN network nationwide. It will deliver content from CNN’s affiliates, including the one in the United States. Feature programming and newscasts will be distinct.

“It’s a combination,” Zialcita said. “Otherwise, there will be no difference from the cable TV channel.”

 “But again, this is not a one-way business,” CNNI VP for content sales and partnerships Greg Beitchman stated. “You’ll see stories made globally for the local market, but we will also broadcast the best news in the Philippines that can be offered internationally.”

This development should provide competition in an industry dominated by two TV networks: ABS-CBN, which has the ANC 24-hour news channel, and GMA-7, which has GMA News TV, a channel that broadcasts the whole day as well, albeit on free TV.

“We have 34 years of strong knowhow, so we will shake up the [Philippine] landscape,” Beitchman said.

He added, “It will be quite challenging but fun. Competition is good; it will make us all better, and hopefully, it will also improve Filipino journalism.”

Expect CNN Philippines to be available first quarter of 2015 on free-to-air TV in Manila RPN-TV9, Cebu RPN-TV9, Davao RPN-TV9, Zamboanga RPN-TV5, Baguio RPN-TV12, and Bacolod RPN-TV8. 

It will likewise be on cable TV through Sky Channel 14 (Metro Manila), Sky Cable Channel 6 (Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Baguio), Destiny Cable Channel 14, Cablelink Channel 14, and Cignal Channel 10.  - Yahoo News Philippines



Sunday, October 12, 2014

CREBA: ASEAN 2015 economic integration could boost Philippine property industry growth

Image from: Asean Community 2015 Facebook Page

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The integration would require more commercial and residential infrastructure for highly urbanized cities within the region, including key cities of the Philippines

CREBA: ASEAN integration to boost PH property industry growth

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Philippine real estate industry is expected to grow further next year as the upcoming Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic integration continues to attract foreign investors and with the region’s increasing role in the global economy.

The ASEAN integration in 2015 will change the economic landscape of the whole region, particularly the real estate market, Noel Cariño, president of Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association (CREBA) said in a statement.

“The demand for residential spaces adjacent to malls, retail complexes, and other recreational spaces would go up and will likely increase the already healthy real estate market,” Cariño explains.

More commercial and residential infrastructure for highly urbanized cities within the region including key cities of the Philippines would be needed as the integration sets in.

“Residential, commercial, and retail developers, which will be exposed to international market, will expand their operations and acquire properties inside and outside the country, while foreign investors and corporate executives with local operations in the country will look for residential spaces for a place to stay,” Cariño added.

                                                            Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Reforms needed

To reap the benefits of the ASEAN integration, the country must continue to pursue relevant market reforms in order to remain competitive.

“Foreign ownership restrictions enshrined in the Philippine constitution will hinder the growth of foreign direct investments, so we need to continue to improve the business environment in the country in order to attract more investors,” Charlie Gorayeb, national chairman of CREBA pointed out.

CREBA is pushing for the passage of a bill that will consolidate the function and powers of major housing and urban agencies of the government to address effectively the needs of both consumers and developers.

CREBA also aims to sustain a centralized home financing program for the country to address the current housing backlog and supply the housing demand of the growing middle class within the next 20 years.

With the upcoming ASEAN integration, property players “should work together to unlock strategic approaches to keep the domestic property sector afloat” as multinational players enter the already stiff competition in the country’s real estate market, according to the organizers of the convention, CREBA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Iloilo will host host CREBA’s 23rd National Convention on October 15 to 18. Senator JV Ejercito, who chairs the senate committee on urban development, housing and resettlement, is set to deliver a keynote speech on the legislative agenda of the real estate industry in the 16th congress. –



Friday, October 10, 2014

Philippine Export rise up 124% to $5.5 Billion US Dollars

BOUNCING BACK. The coconut products’ performance bounced back from a 2-month volume shipment slump in June and July this year. Outward shipment of coconut products grew by a hefty 124%, likewise benefitting from higher international prices during the period. Photo by

PH exports continue double-digit growth

The Philippines now places 3rd highest exports performer in East and Southeast Asia

MANILA, Philippines – Maintaining its position among the top performers in East and Southeast Asia, the country’s top exports continued their double-digit growth at 10.5% in August, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) reported on Friday, October 10.

Total export receipts totaled $5.5 billion during the period, up from US$5.0 billion in August 2013 due to stronger outward sales of manufactured products, total agro-based, and mineral products, The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Total exports also increased by 9.2% to $40.7 billion for the first 8 months of 2014, from $7.3 billion in the same period in 2013.

The Philippines now places 3rd as the highest exports performer in East and Southeast Asia, following Vietnam at 12.6% and Indonesia at 10.6%.

“Manufactures remained as the major contributor to exports growth, reflecting the positive developments in the global manufacturing sector,” NEDA deputy director-general and currently officer-in-charge Emmanuel F. Esguerra said.

Exports in July 2014 showed receipts reaching $5.46 billion that month, up 12.4% from $4.86 billion in July 2013. The growth was faster than the 2.8% rise recorded last year, but slower than the 21.3% jump in June.

Manufacturing diversifies

Export earnings from manufactured goods reached $4.4 billion, up by 8.4% from $4.1 billion registered in August 2013, PSA said.

The manufacturing sector's performance was mainly due to increased outbound sales in diverse commodities. Electronic products remain on top of the list, with their total sales receipts reaching $2.3 billion in August 2014, higher by 10% versus $2.1 billion in August 2013, Esguerra noted.

Higher production indices of intermediate and capital goods, including higher net sales indices both in terms of volume (5.6%) and value (3.3%) in August 2014 were also noted, the PSA’s Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries (MISSI) report said.

The PSA MISSI report shows that the manufacturing sector is moving toward more diversification and there is a continued strong local demand for manufactured goods and improvement in export demand.

“In fact, the fast approaching holiday season is also expected to beef up the sector’s production, as we anticipate an increase in demand from both the local and external consumers,” Esguerra said.

Coconut products bounced back

Apart from manufactured products, total agro-based products also sustained their robust growth in August 2014, with their export value hitting $505.2 million, or up by 41% from $358.4 million in the same period last year.

The coconut products’ performance also bounced back from a 2-month volume shipment slump in June and July this year. Accounting for 53.2% of total agro-based exports, outward shipment of coconut products grew by a hefty 124%, likewise benefitting from higher international prices during the period, Esguerra said.

Meanwhile, revenues from mineral products also grew by 30.9%, mainly due to increased shipment of iron ore agglomerates, copper metal, chromium ore, and other mineral products. This is also largely due to higher demand from the People’s Republic of China (PR China), Hong Kong, and South Korea.

Petroleum and forest products though registered lower revenue performances.

Japan remains as top export market

Japan remains as the country’s top export market with a total value of $1 billion, accounting for 19.1% of our total revenues from merchandise exports during the period. This is followed by the People’s Republic of China with a 15% share and the US with 14.6%.

Shipment to the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) account for 14.1% of the country’s total exports while the European Union (EU) covered 12.7%.

Esguerra noted exports’ double-digit growth remains healthy and is likely to be sustained, primarily anchored on increasing global demand alongside business expansions and new product launches for garments and information technology sectors, including improved availability of raw materials and agricultural products.

“Moving forward, export revenue growth is likely to be driven by the rebound in the export of electronic products, machinery, and transport and other electronics,” Esguerra said.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Philippines suspends work on South China Sea military airstrip

In this March 30, 2014, file photo, Philippine Marines raise the Philippine flag on the first day of their deployment on the dilapidated navy ship LT57 BRP Sierra Madre at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, off the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines on Monday, Aug. 18, slammed what it called China’s “illegitimate sovereignty patrols” of Philippine waters, following President Aquino’s revelation that two Chinese research vessels had been spotted on oil-rich Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. AP FILE PHOTO


MANILA, Philippines–Malacañang said Saturday it has shelved planned improvements on a military airstrip in the disputed South China Sea to support its bid for a UN ruling against Beijing over the tense territorial row.

The Philippines infuriated China in March by asking a United Nations tribunal to declare Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea a violation of international law.

China claims almost all of the sea, a vital avenue for world trade that is also believed to harbor vast oil and gas reserves.

But its claims overlap in parts with those of the Philippines, as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

President Benigno Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the government had suspended long-planned upgrade work on a military runway in the disputed Spratly islands to boost chances of a favorable ruling at the UN.

“We wanted to maintain the moral high ground in light of the case we filed at the (UN) arbitration tribunal regarding the West Philippine Sea,” Valte said, using the Filipino name for the area.

“We chose… to ease tensions and avoid any incident that may be construed as ramping up tensions or trying to provoke any of the claimant countries,” Valte said over government radio on Saturday.

The small runway lies on Thitu, the largest of several islands and reefs in the Spratly group that are garrisoned by Filipino soldiers but also claimed by China.

The runway is used mainly by military aircraft to resupply the Filipino troops guarding the island and nearby rocks, as well as a small community of Filipino civilians living on Thitu.

The upgrade plans were suspended by Aquino “sometime in the middle of 2014″, Valte said.

The airstrip project, as well as acquisitions of navy vessels, were part of Aquino’s efforts to upgrade the capability of the Philippine military, one of the most poorly equipped in the region.

China has refused to take part in UN arbitration with the Philippines, and warned Manila that bilateral ties will suffer.

The two countries have been involved in several tense confrontations in the South China Sea in recent months.

Valte dismissed suggestions that suspending the airstrip project would allow China to ramp up its increasingly assertive efforts to stake its claims in the South China Sea.

“In our view, it will not weaken our position,” she added. - Inquirer 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Japan eases visa requirements for the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia

Tourists at the Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Marc Veraart/CC BY

Japan eases visa requirements for Filipinos

MANILA, Philippines — In an effort to boost tourist arrivals from the Philippines, Japan on Tuesday started to simplify the Filipinos' procurement of visas.

In a statement, the Japanese Embassy in Manila announced that the "substantial relaxation of multiple visas" is coupled with the extension of visa validity for up to five years.

"Additionally, for those applicants residing outside of their countries of origin, it will now become possible to apply at the diplomatic mission which has jurisdiction over their place of residence," the embassy noted.

Besides the Philippines, Japan also eased visa requirements for nationals of Indonesia and Vietnam.

The process for acquiring single-entry tourism visas by registered travel agencies, meanwhile, will also be simplified by November.

According to the embassy, the measures benefiting three of its Asian neighbors aim to make Japan a "tourism-oriented" economy as well as promote people-to-people exchanges.

The new policies came after a June 17 announcement of the embassy vowing to relax multiple-entry visa processing "to a quasi-exemption-equivalent level when applied via specified travel agencies." - philSTAR

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Philippines Is Ripe for Convenience-Store Growth with 1: 41,000 ratio

Philippines Is Ripe for Convenience-Store Growth

Chains Such as 7-Eleven and FamilyMart Spread in a Nation With Rising Incomes


MANILA—When a bakery shut down in a prime location in central Manila earlier this year, there was little doubt that a convenience store would open in its place.

Chains such as 7-Eleven, Mini Stop and FamilyMart are spreading over the capital and other cities in the Philippines—where people have typically shopped at basic neighborhood stores—as retailers bet on a largely untapped market with fast-rising disposable incomes.

"If we look at markets in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is the biggest opportunity," said Stuart Jamieson, managing director in the Philippines for market-research company Nielsen.

In terms of convenience stores per capita, the Philippines has a fraction of most other East Asian markets. As of 2012, the country had one for roughly every 41,000 people, Nielsen's latest figures show. South Korea has roughly one store for every 2,000 people. The figure is similar in Taiwan, where 7-Eleven's mascot even starred in his own musical.

The spike in interest in the Philippines is dramatic. Mini Stop and 7-Eleven were the only two convenience store chains in the country 18 months ago. Now there are seven, and most have aggressive expansion plans that will see the number of stores nationwide double from around 2,000 today to 4,000 within four years.

The boom—in retail generally, but in convenience stores in particular—is being driven by the increasing wealth of urban Filipinos. According to the World Bank, gross national income per capita totaled $3,270 in 2013, up from $2,480 in 2009, and almost treble the amount in 2003.

It is also being driven by changing working practices. The country's thriving outsourcing sector employs one million people, many of whom draw good salaries fielding calls from American and European clients at all hours of the day and night. This makes them ideal for the 24-hour convenience-store model.

The new chains also offer a clean, consistent and air-conditioned alternative to the traditional street-side shops that Filipino shoppers still rely on in many parts of the country.

As anticipated, the former bakery in Manila's central business district is now a FamilyMart, a Japanese-owned chain that began opening stores in the Philippines last year. Unlike India, the Philippines welcomes foreign investment in its retail sector.

Inside the new FamilyMart, many lunchtime customers appeared most excited about the self-service ice cream dispenser, paying 25 pesos ($0.55) to balance as much ice cream as possible on top of a small cone. Some stayed in the air-conditioned store to eat. Like many Asian convenience stores, there was a seating area. Otherwise, convenience stores here look similar to others around the world.

FamilyMart's general manager in the Philippines, Eduardo Paredes Jr. , said the company plans to have 500 stores in the country by 2018, up from 130 by the end of this year. "It's a numbers game—you need a few hundred stores to become profitable."

To accelerate growth, the company will begin franchising by the end of September, Mr. Paredes said. Like most operators in the Philippines, FamilyMart combines franchising with direct management. Mini Stop and 7-Eleven, the two entrenched players, are responding with plans for hundreds of new stores.

Indonesian chain Alfamart has a partnership with SM Group, one of the Philippines' biggest conglomerates. This will enable it to draw on SM's local savvy and gain exclusive access to its properties, including nationwide shopping malls, Mr. Jamieson said.

Eduardo Paredes Jr., general manager of FamilyMart in the Philippines, at the chain's newest Manila outlet, on Sept. 16. Trefor Moss/The Wall Street Journal

It isn't unique in this approach. Japanese chain Lawson's will open its first store later this year after a tie-up with retailer Puregold. FamilyMart owes its prime spots in central Manila to its partnership with Ayala Corp. , another powerful conglomerate and real-estate developer.

"Location is the primary factor, but smart operators will also have to differentiate," said Mr. Jamieson.

Alfamart would stand out by positioning itself as a "minimart," said Corazon Guidote, senior vice president at SM Investments Corp. SM.PH -0.06% , a unit of SM Group. She said it would sell staple food and ready-to-cook items.

Other newcomers, U.S. chain Circle K and the locally owned All Day—both of which began opening stores only recently—could be successful because of the sheer scale of the demand, Mr. Jamieson said. Given the number of new players piling into the Philippines, convenience chains could end up merging as the market consolidates, he added.

Mr. Parades looked out from the new FamilyMart in Makati. "There is a 7-Eleven over there, and a Mini Stop on the other corner," he said. "In the future, Manila will be saturated. But there are so many cities elsewhere."

The Wall Street Journal: Write to Trefor Moss at


Friday, September 26, 2014

Smart Communication Philippines offer FREE INTERNET to 60 Million Subscriber Starting today! How?

#SmartFreeInternet: Free mobile Internet for Smart, Sun, TNT prepaid subscribers launched

(VIDEO TO BE UPLOADED IN A BIT) What if Philippine telcos say they will give you free mobile Internet? Sounds crazy, right? Wrong. Smart Communications, Sun Cellular, and Talk 'N Text prepaid subscribers—all 66 million of them—will get to enjoy two months of free Internet starting today, September 26, according to Manny V. Pangilinan, chairman of Smart and its parent company, PLDT.

This turned out to be the "very important announcement" he teased on Twitter two days ago.

"We aim to unlock the value of the Internet to the prepaid market, which is 90 percent of our users," Pangilinan said.

He added: "Out of all smartphones used today, only a third use the Internet. And 30 percent phones shipped are smartphones. We now want to democratize data and give users access to the Internet."

Prepaid users who have at least P1 balance in their account will have free access to mobile Internet. That means you—assuming you're eligible—can shop online, read news on Yahoo, search for information, send and receive emails, use navigation apps like Waze, stream music, and update your Flickr or Tumblr account at any time.

But won't this affect their network?

Pangilinan assured that they are ready to handle the traffic. "We are prepared," he said.

The service is not without its limits. Before you go crazy on your "online spree," better read this:
* The offer is not unlimited. You have free data volume package of up to 30MB per day, which Pangilinan said is more than enough for the average user. You don't have to worry, though. Once you've used up your free allowance, you'll hit a pay wall, giving you a choice of whether you want to buy Internet packages.

* It excludes the following:
- downloading, streaming, and watching of videos (so no to YouTube and the like, sorry)
- using of VOIP apps like FaceTime, Skype, and Viber, Tango
- accessing of messaging apps like Line, KakaoTalk, and WhatsApp
- taking advantage of peer-to-peer file-sharing sites and apps like Bittorrent
Regular data charges will apply if you ever do those, remember that.

* The special offer is good until November 30, 2014. But there's a ray of sunshine here: It may get extended depending on its success.

* It is not available for roaming.
How do you avail yourself of the free service?

Just register by sending FREE to 2999. Take note that you have to do that every day. You can post ads Free at now

So who's now saying that the idea of telcos giving free Internet access is crazy?
Got questions? Violent reactions? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @aloraguerrero. - Yahoo Philippines

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rest house, poultry linked to PNP chief Purisima found : Aquino on Defend- Where is President's Loyalty to Purisma or to the Philippines?


Watch the Video in Youtube


'Rest house,' poultry linked to PNP chief found


MANILA -- A consumer rights groups has urged Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima to make his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) public.

The Coalition of Filipino Consumers revealed that Purisima have several properties, including a rest house in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.

The staff of "Failon Ngayon" went to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to get a copy of Purisima's SALN, but were told that they should go to the Office of the President (OP) to get a copy. However, the OP also did not have a copy of the Purisima's SALN.

Upon visiting Nueva Ecija, the group were told by residents of San Leonardo of a rest house in the area that is allegedly owned by Purisima.

But when the group went to the Office of the Municipal Assessor of San Leonardo to ask about the controversial property, they were given a certificate showing that Purisima does not own any real property in town.

Aside from the house in San Leonardo, Purisima also allegedly owns a poultry farm in Barangay Macatbong in Cabanatuan City.

According to the Office of the City Assessor of Cabanatuan City, the property is "owned" by Rainier Van Albert Purisima, one of the four sons of the PNP chief.

Rainier is a registered nurse and is also the owner of a general merchandise store in Cavite.

After a few weeks, "Failon Ngayon" received a message from CSC chairman Francis Duque saying they now have a copy of Purisima's SALN. He said it was included in the bulk of SALNs submitted by the PNP Human Resources Office.

Purisima's SALN listed several properties, including a house and lot in Caloocan City, a condominium unit in Cubao, Quezon City, a vacant lot in Ilocos Sur, and the property in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija.

However, the SALN does not include the multimillion poultry farm in Cabanatuan City. -- Failon Ngayon, ABS-CBN, September 20, 2014

Pres. Aquino receives freedom medal in Germany's Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

(Contributed photo)

Aquino receives freedom medal in Germany

Recognition for President Aquino's Effort For: 

  • Reproductive health Law
  • Human rights
  • Foreign investments and economic growth
  • Education
  • Bangsamoro peace Agreement
  • International law in the dispute with China (UNCLOS at West Philippine Sea /South China Sea Disputes)
  • Fighting corruption

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III was presented the Friedrich-Naumann-Freedom-medal in Berlin, Germany last Saturday for his successful reforms in the areas of education, anti-corruption and rule of law.

Dr. Wolfgang Gerhardt, chairman of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), said that Filipinos serve as an inspiration worldwide.

"You are the embodiment and the instigator of this inspiration. Your straight path, the daang matuwid, is our motivation too," he told President Aquino.

Gerhardt listed Aquino's achievements, including in the area of reproductive health, human rights, foreign investments and economic growth, education, human rights, the Bangsamoro peace, sticking to international law in the dispute with China and, in particular, in fighting corruption.

The Foundation for Freedom has worked together with liberal partners in the Philippines since 1986.

“When I joined the Liberal Party and became aware of the assistance of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, I came to realize the importance of this work of solidarity,” said Aquino upon accepting the award. “We need solidarity in defense for freedom. We have to assist each other in pursuit of all freedoms.”

“We will forever be grateful for the recognition of our efforts in advancing the cause of humanity,” Aquino added.

FNF Philippines Country Director Jules Maaten said, “This prestigious medal is recognition from Germany and Europe of the tremendous progress that the Philippines made since 2010 in fighting corruption and promoting good governance. This also made the country more attractive for foreign investments and promoted economic growth.”

The ceremony took place on Saturday, September 20, in Berlin.

The Friedrich Naumann Freedom (FNF) Medal is awarded to outstanding personalities who engage themselves for more democracy, human rights and market economy in partnership with the foundation. In the past the medal was awarded, among others, to Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Western Cape Prime Minister Helen Zille, and Liberal International President Hans van Baalen.

FNF is a German foundation working for good governance, human rights and market economy, with more than 60 projects across the globe. (PR) / Sun Star


Friday, September 19, 2014

International bank proposes Philippine peso ₱ ‘globalization’ like US Dollars $

Paris, FRANCE – President Benigno S. Aquino III passes through Honor Guards upon arrival at the Palais de L’Elysee for the Bilateral Meeting with French President Francois Hollande. RYAN LIM/ Malacañang Photo Bureau

Int’l bank proposes peso ‘globalization’

PARIS—Bouyed by his rockstar welcome, President Aquino announced he also received an equally “shocking” suggestion from an international bank proposing the “globalization” of the Philippine peso.

Breaking the news before a gathering of Filipinos on Wednesday night (1:30 a.m. Thursday in Manila), the President said he had asked Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to study the proposal, which Aquino found surprising by his own standards.

“I thought I was a bit difficult to surprise. But I was shocked when this big bank told me that we should ‘globalize’ the peso,” he said in a speech at the Chapelle Sainte Bernadette.

“Never had I thought that anyone would ever make such a suggestion, believing that the Philippines is in such a good shape that he would be willing to invest in our currency because he believes in the stability of our economy.”

“Internationalizing” the local currency will allow nonresidents to transact in peso and exports can be invoiced in the same currency, reducing foreign exchange costs. Government can also issue peso-denominated debt overseas more competitively.

New profit opportunities

An internationalized currency “offers new profit opportunities to private sector financial institutions, although this benefit may be offset in part by the entry of foreign financial institutions into the domestic financial market, to the extent that the government permits it,” according to the late international economist Peter Kenen.

But it could also “pose new risks to the domestic financial system due to the issuance of foreign debt to a country’s residents.”

Aquino received a rousing welcome from Filipinos when he came by for what was supposedly a relatively short meeting on the sidelines of his two-day trip in Paris. With his compatriots raring for a photo opportunity, the President accommodated them and ended up staying at the Chapelle Sainte Bernadette long after he delivered his speech.

The message, delivered in folksy Filipino, sought to inspire the Filipino community here with stories of what he called “transformation” now happening in their home country since he took office four years ago.

Government cares

He described a government that now “cares” for its people by using public funds properly and that agencies were working for their benefit.

Judging by the crowd reaction, the affair had the feel of a celebrity stopping by for a meet-and-greet, not a politician about to deliver an obligatory speech and was himself mired in controversies back home. People brought out their iPhones, iPads, and selfie sticks, competing for the best available view of Aquino, who was visiting Europe for the first time as President.

“There he is! There he is!” many of them shouted in Filipino, waving small Philippine flags with one hand, the other one pointing to the man forced to waddle along a corridor congested by well-wishers.


Outside, a French man driving a sedan got curious about the presence of so many Filipinos, many of them assembled across the chapel and beside the entrance.

“Why so many people?” he asked the Inquirer in broken English then gave a “thumbs-up” sign when told the President was here.

A Filipino woman said she had left work a hour early just to see Aquino. Those who managed to find seats inside the chapel considered themselves lucky, having been allowed to take pictures with their VIP guest.

Besides the serious stuff about how the Philippines had “improved” under his watch, Aquino entertained the crowd with jokes and sardonic remarks about the supposed excesses of his predecessor.

The President was supposed to get a breather Thursday night with a scheduled private tour of the Louvre museum.

Accustomed to criticisms

In his meeting with the Filipino community here, Aquino took the opportunity to unburden himself before his captive audience, saying he had grown accustomed to brickbats from critics.

At home, the President is under fire for flirting with the idea of a second term, a move that would require a constitutional amendment. Earlier this week, he said “nothing is impossible” and it could still be done with less than two years left before the next elections.

In the speech, he made it clear that he had only six years, saying “I will make the most out of every opportunity to deliver benefits to the greater number of Filipinos.”

“Some people are asking: Will the [reforms] still continue? Who will do that?” he said.

“Perhaps they’re asking the wrong question because it’s clear that we were able to do all this because we are all united, we persevered and we paddled toward the same direction.”

“Since that’s the case, all of us Filipinos would be the ones to continue what we have started. This is not dependent on one person or group alone.”

LRT agreements

The President left for a fellowship dinner about an hour later. Filipinos began filing out of the chapel, showing off their precious photos with the man who claims he brought back a government that cared for its people.

On Thursday, Aquino witnessed the ceremonial signing of agreements for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 at a business forum here.

One was a technical services agreement between the Light Rail Consortium and the French transport firm RATP Developpement for operation and maintenance of the Manila LRT 1 Cavite Extension Project.

Another was with French engineering firm Bouygues Publics Travoix, Alstom Transport for the “design and construction” of the LRT 1 Extension Project, which would provide eight more stations spanning 12 kilometers. - Inquirer 



244 Philippine UN peacekeepers To arrive Manila, Withdrawn After defying order of Rebel Supporter UN Indian General

A UN peacekeeper from the Philippines crosses back from Syria at the Quneitra Crossing between Syria and the Israeli Golan Heights,Thursday, March 7. (photo credit: AP/Ariel Schalit)

Philippines begins withdrawing troops from Golan


Filipino ‘warrior peacekeepers’ an outsized global presence, but last month’s firefight with Syrian rebels led to decision to evacuate


The Philippine army has begun withdrawing its forces from the Golan Heights two weeks earlier than planned due to the escalating fighting on the Syrian side of the plateau


A military spokesman in Manila said 244 Filipino soldiers were evacuated in a UN aircraft, and are slated to arrive Friday in the country’s capital Manila, Israel Radio reports.


The remaining 100 soldiers will be evacuated in a week.


Last month, Philippine soldiers found themselves surrounded and battling Syrian rebels with ties to Al Qaeda after the rebel group had demanded their surrender.


The Philippine government had decided before the incident not to extend the forces’ stay in the Golan beyond next month.


The Philippine contingent served five years in the 1,200-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan, which has recently relocated to Mount Bental, behind the Israeli defensive line, to avoid further clashes with Syrian armed groups.


An outsized global presence

After nearly two decades on the frontlines against Muslim insurgents in the Philippines’ violence-plagued south, Army Captain Teodoro Nicor is looking forward to guarding a war zone abroad.


Nicor is training with hundreds of other battle-hardened troops to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission overseas, continuing a tradition that began more than 50 years ago when Filipino soldiers went to the Congo.


“We are very excited,” said Nicor, 39. “There is fear, but we have prepared really well for this.”


The Philippines participation in the UN’s blue helmet brigades came under the spotlight last month when 75 soldiers fended off an attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.


While the incident made world headlines and prompted the UN to withdraw its peacekeeping force from the Syrian side of the territory, training for Nicor and his colleagues is very much focused on charm offensives.


At a military base dedicated solely to UN peacekeeping training, Nicor last week led a seven-vehicle convoy through a mock war zone to deliver supplies when they were stopped by “civilians” desperate for food.


With the rifle slung on his back pointed to the ground, he sought out the group’s leader and offered a handshake while his men in blue helmets and bulletproof vests stood on guard behind him.


“My friend, good morning,” a smiling Nicor said.


Angry, repeated demands for food ensued, with Nicor slowly defusing the situation through calm negotiations while maintaining a friendly demeanor.


Warrior peacekeepers

Colonel Roberto Ancan, commander of the training camp, said Filipinos brought a unique mix to the UN’s peacekeeping missions with their internationally renowned friendliness and battlefield experience.


“We wave, we smile, we shake hands, we greet good morning, good afternoon and good evening and in the local language as well,” said Ancan, himself a former peacekeeper in Timor Leste.


He said the Filipinos had a term for themselves that reflected their unique qualities: “warrior peacekeepers.”


The warrior element was on full display in the Golan Heights stand-off, after the rebels surrounded the Filipinos at their outposts and demanded their weapons.


The rebels had just launched a similar assault against 45 Fijian peacekeepers, who surrendered and were taken hostage.


In what proved to be a highly controversial move, the Filipinos defied an order from their UN commander, an Indian, to also surrender, and eventually escaped after four days. The Fijians were released after two weeks.


The Philippines lodged a formal complaint against the UN commander for issuing the surrender order, as President Benigno Aquino heaped praise on his troops.


“Every Filipino soldier there, from the privates to the colonel, showed cleverness and expertise,” Aquino said.


The trainees at the base, in the farming community of Capas about three hours’ drive from Manila, said they were not surprised that their compatriots did not surrender.


“Our guns are like our wives, we don’t give them up,” Nicor said.


Battle hardened

Nicor speaks with the experience of having spent most of his career in the southern Philippines, where Muslim rebels and communist guerrillas have been waging two of Asia’s longest insurgencies.


He is the leader of a battalion whose members were selected to join the UN efforts because of their success battling the Muslim rebels, who have been fighting since the 1970s for an independent homeland.


Nicor and the other 330 soldiers in training were due to replace the Golan Heights crew next month.


However Aquino decided to end the Philippine presence in the Golan, contested by Syria and Israel, due to the rising security threats.


The troops were part of the UN force monitoring a 1974 ceasefire in the Golan Heights, where Israel captured 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) in 1967.


More than 100 troops serving with a peacekeeping force in Liberia were also recently pulled out because of fears they may contract Ebola.


This will leave only about 150 Filipino troops wearing the UN’s blue helmets in Haiti, plus a handful of observers in the Ivory Coast, India and Pakistan.


Before Aquino decided to withdraw from the Golan Heights and Liberia, the Philippines had more than 600 troops abroad with the UN, making it one of Asia’s biggest contributors to the global peacekeeping missions.


However the government and military chiefs insist the commitment to the UN is as strong as ever, and Filipinos will continue to be deployed overseas for many years to come.


“The Philippines remains committed to peacekeeping engagements because we are determined to promote international security and stability,” military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala said.


While Nicor and the other training troops will not go to the Golan, they will remain on standby for the next UN appeal to guard a global hotspot, according to Ancan, their commander.


Lucrative missions

The soldiers themselves are keen to head overseas, as joining a UN peacekeeping mission can be lucrative and often lead to promotions on return.


The Philippines has one of Asia’s poorest and most ill-equipped militaries, with a soldier’s salary ranging from just 16,000 pesos ($364) to 60,000 pesos ($1,365) a month.


Peacekeepers get a $900 (39,500-peso) monthly allowance from the UN, on top of their regular salary.


One of the trainees at Capas, Corporal Mynald Cartaciano, 33, said he wanted to build a house for his wife and two babies.


“I want to save up for my family, for my children,” he said. - The Times of Israel



Monday, September 15, 2014

Philippines wins Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Best Country award at the FIBA World Cup 2014

Supporters of Gilas Pilipinas earned the Philippines the Most Valuable Fans award at the FIBA World Cup

MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas fans, stand up and take a bow. The outpouring of support for the Philippine men's national basketball team earned the nation the Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Best Country award at the FIBA World Cup.

The Philippines, which competed at the FIBA World Cup for the first time in 36 years, had supporters converge on Seville, Spain from around Europe and as far as the Philippines.

The Philippines captivated the imaginations of a nation of 100 million people, coming close to knocking off the third ranked Argentina, plus the highly regarded Croatia and Puerto Rico teams while losing a competitive match to fifth ranked Greece.

Gilas' victory over Senegal in a non-bearing game was celebrated like a championship win, despite the Philippines having already been eliminated the night before. The victory was the Philippines' first at the World Championship since 1974

FIBA says that it used "a broad range of social actions" including hashtags like #Spain2014 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to measure "MVF points."

"All points earned by fans that support the same national team accumulated to determine the MVF Best Country Award," said a news item on the FIBA website. -

Friday, September 12, 2014

Philippines displays ancient maps to debunk China's sea claims that limit 'til Hainan only

A local photographer looks at an ancient map on display at a Catholic university in Manila September 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco- View in Full screen here


Philippines displays ancient maps to debunk China's sea claims


The Philippines on Thursday put on display dozens of ancient maps which officials said showed that China's territorial claims over the South China Sea did not include a disputed shoal at the centre of an acrimonious standoff.

The Philippines is in dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea, including the Scarborough Shoal, an area believed to be rich in oil and natural gas as well as fisheries resources.

China seized control of the shoal in June 2012 and has prevented Philippine fishermen from getting close to the rocky outcrop, a rich fishing ground.

Philippine officials said the exhibition of old maps at a university showed that for almost 1,000 years, from the Song Dynasty in the year 960 until the end of the Qing Dynasty early in the 20th century, China's southernmost territory was always Hainan island, just off the Chinese coast.

"We should respect historical facts, not historical lies," said Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has done extensive research on the territorial disputes.

The facts were graphically illustrated on the ancient maps, both official and unofficial, he said.

Carpio said the exhibition could be viewed online and it would help everyone in all claimant states understand the facts, "either to restrain extreme nationalism fuelled by historical lies or give hope to a just and durable settlement of disputes".

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea.

But Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the sea, which is traversed each year by ship-borne trade worth about $5 trillion.

Exhibition organisers said the Scarborough Shoal never appeared in any old Chinese maps. But on numerous ancient maps made by foreigners and Filipinos, from as early as 1636, the rocky outcrop was consistently shown to be Philippine territory.

Carpio, in an earlier lecture, said the shoal was also used as a naval gunnery range by U.S. and Philippine armed forces from the 1960s to the 1980s, and neither China nor any other country protested against the bombing practice.

In June, China unveiled a new official map of the country, giving greater play to its claims on the South China Sea.

The Philippines, a close U.S. ally, has brought a case to the U.N. arbitral court in The Hague, seeking clarification on its entitlements under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China has refused to take part in the arbitration. A ruling is expected late next year.

Ancient Philippine Map

Philippines' Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio (L) gestures to an ancient map on display while Philippines' Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario (2nd L), Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin look on at a Catholic university in Manila September 11, 2014. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco - View whole album here 


Visitors point at an ancient map on display at a Catholic university in Manila September 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco - View whole album here 

Published in Paris in 1650, this map shows an unnamed shoal as part of the East Indies.Philippines Institute for Maritime and Oceanic Affairs. View Photo here

A map published in 1770 by Britain's Royal Hydrographer shows the “Panacot” shoal, today's Scarborough Shoal.National Library of Australia. View Photo here
Published in 1734 by a Jesuit named Pedro Murillo, this map is one of the first to identify what is today the Scarborough Shoal, then named the “Panacot” shoal.US Library of Congress. View Photo here
Tian Ditu, or “the Atlas of Heaven and Earth,” published in 1601 during the Ming Dynasty shows shows Hainan Island as China’s southernmost territory.U.S. Library of Congress. View Photo here
A world map published by the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci in 1602 at the request of the Ming Dynasty shows the southern boundary of China as Hainan. View Photo here

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1 Million jobs created over a year; Philippine Unemployment rate drops down

Unemployment rate drops as 1M jobs created over a year

MANILA, Philippines - With over 1 million jobs created over a year, the country's jobless rate declined to 6.7 percent in July 2014, down from the 7.3 percent registered a year ago, the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) reported on Wednesday.

Data from the July 2014 Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed that 93.3 percent of the country's labor force (aged 15 and above) have jobs, an improvement from the 7.3 percent posted last year. The National Economic and Development Authority noted that the number of employed Filipinos rose by 2.8 percent to 38.5 million in July 2014 from 37.4 million in July 2013. This translates to 1.06 million jobs created over a year.

The underemployment rate similarly went down, dropping to 18.3 percent from last year's 19.2 percent. Employed workers in need of additional jobs or hours of work in their current jobs are considered underemployed, PSA noted.

Data from the state agency showed that three regions had employment rates lower than the national average. These are the National Capital Region (89.7 percent), Central Luzon (91.7 percent) and CALABARZON (92 percent).

The labor force participation rate (LFPR) also went up to 64.4 percent in July 2014 compared to 63.9 percent a year ago. This means the labor market absorbed 879,000 labor entrants, expanding the labor force to 41.23 million.

"To some extent, the growth in the LFPR reflects the more positive outlook of workers in line with the momentum created by the robust economic growth in recent years, along with the expectations of better employment,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Balisacan said the Aquino administration should continue fostering an economic climate conducive to business and investment to sustain the recent gains in the labor market.

“In industry, the key objective should be to increase investment, especially in labor-intensive sectors, and to encourage the existing pool of employers to hire more workers.  In the immediate term, the demand for labor can be driven by the infrastructure program of government, reconstruction activities in the Visayas and other disaster-hit areas, and private construction.  In services, the focus must be on increasing sales and clients enough to warrant the hiring of workers. There is much room for expansion in business-process management and tourism-related activities,” he added.

In agriculture, Balisacan said there is a need to introduce non-farm employment opportunities during the off-season, such as value-adding activities and community-based employment programs. This would address the seasonal and low-paying jobs in the sector, he said.

“To further support the labor market performance in the medium term, the government should remain vigilant to attendant risks to growth and make sure that pre-emptive measures and programs are in place to mitigate any adverse effects of such risks or shocks in the economy,” he added.

PSA noted that the July 2014 LFS did not include employment data from Leyte, because of the large number of households displaced by typhoon Yolanda last year. The 7.3-percent jobless rate in July 2013 also excluded data from the typhoon-ravaged province to make the estimates comparable. - By Jovan Cerda @ philSTAR




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Monday, September 8, 2014

Philippine Mayor Call Indian General of UNDOF to be SHOOT IN THE HEAD for negligence to UN Peace keepers, Ireland to Withdraw

Mindanao: Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte - “If you see the UN general, shoot him in the head. Tell them it’s Mayor Duterte’s request,”


Duterte: Shoot Undof chief in the head


Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte did not like that a United Nations general called the Filipino peacekeepers who escaped from Syrian rebels “cowards.”

In his weekly television program aired Sunday, Duterte said that United Nations Disengagement Observer Force overall chief Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha should be shot in the head due to his “offensive remark.”

“I am offended that the UN general said that our Filipino soldiers are cowards,” Duterte said in Cebuano.

“If you see the UN general, shoot him in the head. Tell them it’s Mayor Duterte’s request,” he added.

In an interview with India Today on Thursday, the Indian general said that the escape of the Filipino soldiers was “unprofessional” and that it endangered the lives of Fijian peacekeepers who were captured by the Syrian rebels.

“The higher UN echelon as well as the Indian Army agrees with me that the decision was correct. It is an act of cowardice to desert posts especially when a delicate ceasefire was in place,” Singha said.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines called the act of the Filipino peacekeepers as the “greatest escape.”

Philippines want Indian UN commander investigated over order to refuse surrender


Gen. Gregorio Pio Carapang, the U.N. peacekeeping commander in Golan Heights, is under fire for advising 40 Filipino peacekeepers not to surrender their arms to Syrian rebels. -MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines called the act of the Filipino peacekeepers as the “greatest escape.”

The Philippine military said Monday that a U.N. peacekeeping commander in the Golan Heights should be investigated for allegedly asking Filipino troops to surrender to Syrian rebels who had attacked and surrounded their camp.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said he advised the 40 Filipino peacekeepers not to lay down their arms, and they defied the U.N. peacekeeping commander’s order. Instead,they staged a daring escape from the Golan Heights camp over the weekend, ending a tense, days-long standoff.

The disagreement is another blow to a U.N. peacekeeping mission that has been threatened by an escalation of violence in a buffer zone it has been guarding between Israel and Syria. A number of countries have withdrawn their troops from the peacekeeping force due to rising rebel attacks.

Forty-five Fijian peacekeepers who surrendered their firearms to the rebels last week are still being held by the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents.

The commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, which supervises the peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights, was overseeing talks with the Syrian rebels to secure the freedom of the Fijians. However, Catapang said he would not agree to any resolution of the hostage crisis that would put Filipino troops in grave danger.

When the besieged Filipino troops sought his advice after they were ordered to lay down their arms as part of an arrangement with the rebels to secure the Fijians’ release, Catapang said he asked them to defy the order.

“I told them not to follow the order because that is a violation of our regulation, that we do not surrender our firearms; and, at the same time, there is no assurance that you will be safe after you give your firearms,” Catapang said.

“Our stand is, we will not allow our soldiers to become sacrificial pawns in order to save the Fijians,” Catapang told The Associated Press. “They should look for other ways and means to save the Fijians.”

UNDOF did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Catapang said an investigation would allow the UNDOF commander to explain his side and the Philippine military to explain why it advised the Filipino peacekeepers to defy his order.

Due to the differences over the handling of the Golan crisis, Catapang said he asked a Filipino military officer playing a key role in UNDOF to resign.

The Philippines has given notice it will not deploy a new contingent when its current peacekeeping force ends its already-extended stint in October.

The latest crisis began after Syrian rebels overran the Quneitra crossing — located on the de facto border between Syrian- and Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights — on Wednesday. A day later, insurgents from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front seized the Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded their Filipino colleagues, demanding they surrender.

The Filipinos, occupying two U.N. camps, refused and fought the rebels on Saturday. A first group of 35 peacekeepers was then successfully escorted out of one camp by Irish and Filipino forces in armoured vehicles.

The remaining 40 peacekeepers were besieged at the second camp by more than 100 gunmen who rammed the camp’s gates with their trucks and fired mortar rounds. The Filipinos returned fire in self-defence, Philippine military officials said.

The Bravery of Philippine UN peacekeepers

“All troops accounted for, sir!” With a snappy salute, Capt. Nilo Ramones, United Nations (UN) peacekeeping contingent leader reported this to officials in the Philippines via Skype. The young captain, along with his men, just came out unscathed from their fierce standoff with Syrian rebels in Outpost 68 in strife-torn Golan Heights.

In Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, officials led by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto del Rosario broke out in applause after hearing the good news from Capt. Ramones. They have been closely monitoring the situation of our Philippine troopers immediately after the attack by Syrian rebels against the multinational peacekeeping forces.

Ramones and his men are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, whose mission is to monitor a 1974 disengagement in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. The Filipino troopers escaped during the ceasefire.

The AFP chief of staff called it “the greatest escape” pulled by the Filipino UNDOF troopers. With the help of other fellow UN peacekeepers, it averted what could have been a tragic end of their gallant stand.

The UNDOF peacekeeping forces in the area included 1,223 troops from India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands as well as the Fijians and Filipinos who came under attack last week. They are under UNDOF commander Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singha of India.

Syria’s three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israeli-controlled territory last week when Islamist fighters overran a crossing point in the line that has separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since a 1973 war. The Syrian rebels have now also turned against the UN peacekeeping forces patrolling the ceasefire line for the past 40 years now.

The Filipino UNDOF contingent, also called “blue helmets,” had been besieged in outposts known as positions 68 and 69. Those in Outpost 69 were rescued last Saturday. UN said both Syria and Israel helped in the rescue.

The 31-year-old Army captain Ramones and his men were left behind in Outpost 68. But they eluded the Syrian rebels by crawling in darkness Sunday night over a minefield.

Gen. Singha reportedly ordered Pinoy UNDOF troopers to give up their firearms to the Syrian insurgents who earlier captured 44 UNDOF peacekeepers from Fiji. Ramones and his men, however, held on tough with their M14s, M16s, M60 light machineguns, Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWS) and M4s and 45s cal. sidearms issued to them by our AFP for their peacekeeping mission.

Told about this purported order by the UNDOF commander to Pinoy peacekeepers, Gen. Catapang “countermanded,” saying it is simply unacceptable. “We don’t surrender our firearms. To them (Syrian rebels), it’s symbolic but to us, it’s honor that is at stake,” the AFP chief of staff pointed out.

In our language, the name of the AFP chief of staff Catapang can best describe the gallantry of our 75-man troopers in the UN peacekeeping force. The Filipino troopers put up a gallant stand against Syrian rebels trying to forcibly take their firearms.

Catapang, or “katapang” in Tagalog as loosely translated means “how brave!”

Catapang hails from Batangas. He belongs to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)’s Class 1981 that called its batch  “Dimalupig,” or synonymous to being invincible, unconquerable, indomitable.    

A highly decorated officer, Catapang was named AFP chief of staff last July 18, or just a few days after he turned 55 years old. The Commission on Appointments is expected to confirm his promotion today.

Barely warming his seat, Catapang got his acid test in a war abroad that he has to lead via remote buttons from here.

After he learned Singha’s order was supposedly part of an arrangement with the Syrian rebels to secure the release of hostaged Fiji peacekeepers, Catapang ordered Pinoy troopers to defy UNDOF chief’s order to lay down their AFP-issued weapons. He also vowed to press for an investigation by the UN of Singha who he also accused of having “unstable” decisions during a crisis situation.

Catapang’s unofficial assumption of command from Singha was enough reason for the latter’s UNDOF chief of staff, Col. Ezra James Enriquez of the Philippines, to resign his post yesterday. Enriquez, however, will continue on as contingent commander of the Philippine peacekeepers in Golan Heights. Obviously, the Indian UNDOF commander has problems with how he commands his forces.

Yesterday, an unnamed senior UN official reportedly denied there was an order given to the Filipinos to surrender their weapons. At the same time, the UN has announced the Philippines will pull out of UNDOF. Other countries like Austria, Japan and Croatia have also withdrawn their troops as the civil war in Syria reached the Golan Heights.

Philippine government officials earlier assured the public the Filipino troopers would remain in Golan Heights until their mission ends this October, and not withdraw prematurely following the attacks on UN peacekeeping forces by the Syrian rebels.

The Israel embassy in Manila, in its official website, paid tribute to Pinoy UNDOF peacekeepers in Golan Heights: “The Filipino soldier is indeed, world-class.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council strongly condemned Saturday’s attack on the UNDOF peacekeepers’ positions and the ongoing detention of the Fijian peacekeepers.

As commander-in-chief of the AFP, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III will have the opportunity to talk with the UN secretary-general when he goes to the UN headquarters in New York City later this month. Inevitably, President Aquino would reap the brownie points before the international community from the bravery of our Filipino UNDOF troopers.

Our battle-tested soldiers are the best peacekeepers in our own country that remains deeply divided by ideological strife being waged by hardcore communists here and Muslim separatists groups breaking out from peace pacts with the Philippine government.

While deserving of accolades, the bravery of our Pinoy UN peacekeepers, unfortunately, may have been misplaced by our officials by fielding them in battlefields abroad.

Irish Foreign Minister: We May Leave Golan Force

Philippine UN peacekeepers - AFP file

Ireland is considering dropping out of the UN peace force on the Golan Heights, after dozens of Filipino peacekeepers were kidnapped by Islamist rebel groups on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border. Speaking Sunday, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he did not want to see Irish soldiers serving on behalf of the UN “sucked into a Syrian civil war.”

The kidnapping and subsequent escape of over 70 Filipino Golan peacekeeping soldiers has sent shock waves among all the members of the international delegation that serve in the UNDOF outfit, which has been in place since shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War to keep Syrian army and IDF troops at bay. With the breakdown of the Syrian government and heavy losses by the Syrian Army to Islamist rebel groups, the Syrian Golan has been the scene of heavy fighting between both sides. On Saturday, Syrian officials announced fresh losses on the Golan to rebel groups, after a new round of fierce fighting.

A similar fate could await Irish troops, Flanagan said Sunday. "This is a crisis; the situation remains extremely tense and my department is in daily contact with the UN. “The time scale of the UN review of the ongoing viability of the mission is short-term and urgent. We don't want to see Irish troops or the UN contingent being drawn into a Syrian civil war," he added

The withdrawal of Irish troops could be a blow that the UN forces on the Golan would not be able to withstand, observers said. The Irish are the best-equipped and best-defended among the 1,200 soldiers of the UN member countries who send soldiers to the Golan, and their withdrawal could frighten off other countries' soldiers from serving.

Over the past year, the UNDOF force has had its peacekeepers seized by armed groups, its observation posts attacked and looted, and its freedom of movement curtailed. Tensions have been high on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights lately, as fighting in the area intensifies between rebels and the Syrian army.

Meanwhile, as fighting intensifies between Syrian army troops and Islamist rebels, the IDF has increased its presence on the Golan Heights. Security officials fear that the fighting could “spill over” the Israeli border.

A senior Israeli security official said that the IDF had recently changed its conception of defense on the Golan. A group of highly trained and experienced soldiers who know the terrain well are now on duty at all times, constituting a forward force ready to deal with trouble as it develops.

Sources: Inquirer, The STAR, philSTAR, and ARUTS SHEVA 7 - Israel




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