Items filtered by date: Friday, 01 December 2017

Boels-Dolmans extend sponsorship of women's team to 2020

The Boels-Dolmans team has secured deals with both of its title sponsors until the end of 2020. The Dolmans landscaping company has sponsored the team since its inception in 2010 with Boels Rentals coming on board for the 2012 season.

Following the arrival of Boels as a sponsor, the team has quickly risen to the top ranks of women’s cycling. It has finished top of the team rankings for the past two season with Megan Guarnier winning the inaugural Women’s WorldTour for them.

“There wasn’t much to discuss when contracts were renegotiated,” said Boels Rental’s Corporate Marketing & Communications Manager, Yvo Hoppers. “It’s clear from everything that the team does that its management and riders have the right attitude towards professional cycling, which includes respect, sportsmanship and commitment. Boels Rental is pleased that the team will carry its name for another two years.”

Boels Dolmans dominated the Women’s WorldTour once again this season with Anna van der Breggen winning the individual rankings while the team ended the year over 1,000 points ahead of the next best, Sunweb, in the team rankings. A large part of that was down to Van der Breggen’s domination of the Ardennes Classics, where she won all three races, along with the second place finishes of Lizzie Deignan.

The team ended the season with 29 victories, which included, in addition to all three Ardennes races, the Giro Rosa, the Tour of California and the Crescent Vargarda team time trial. Chantal Blaak also ensured that the rainbow jersey would remain within the team for a third season when she won the world road race title in Bergen.

“Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team is the number one UCI women’s team in the world. Team spirit, passion and commitment from everyone involved in the team have led to our successes,” said Erwin Janssen, owner of Dolmans Landscaping Group. “We celebrate all of our achievements together and I think that’s exemplary of the atmosphere within the team. I’m thrilled that our partnership with the team will be continued for another two years. We are still eager for more success.”

There has been little change to the team’s line-up for the forthcoming season with Skylar Schneider and Anna Plichta their only signings, while Nikki Brammeier and Katarzyna Pawlowska leave at the end of 2017.

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Duterte surprises Sulu troops with ‘good friend’ Seagal

Hollywood action star Steven Seagal (right) listens as President Duterte speaks before soldiers at a military camp in Jolo, Sulu province, on Friday. The President said Seagal, who is shooting a television series in the country, had asked to join him in Sulu and told him, “Just give me an M4 (assault rifle) and I’ll be OK.” —VIDEO GRAB FROM PCOO

President Duterte had a surprise for soldiers he came to visit in Sulu on Friday—Hollywood action star Steven Seagal.

Mr. Duterte said Seagal, who is in the country to shoot a television series, “General Commander,” had asked to join him in Sulu.

Seeking to boost the troops’ morale at a military camp at Barangay Busbus in Jolo, Sulu, the President said he is the only President, save for Ferdinand Marcos, who has given so much attention and care to soldiers.

Mr. Duterte said he came to give them sidearms so they could protect themselves, especially from attacks by the New People’s Army, even when they were not on duty.

Promise of salary raise

He again promised to double their salaries and to give them everything they would need to succeed against the rebels and terrorists.

“I told you if you have a problem or if you cannot solve your problem here, just call me. Maybe, just maybe, I can solve it. I will give you all the tools (you need),” the President said.

His visit, he said, was intended to greet them a Merry Christmas in advance as well. Muslim soldiers were welcome to join in the yuletide celebrations, he added.

But before his pep talk, he asked Seagal to give a message to the soldiers.

“I’d like to commend you all for your commitment to your country, your President, and commitment to do the things you have to do to make the Philippines safe,” Seagal said.

He said he looked forward to discussing ways to combat the country’s problems on insurgency, as well as drug, human and organ trafficking, with the President.

“I know you guys put your lives on the line everyday. I myself have done and will do the same thing, so I understand that this is serious business. And I believe there is a formula that can help the Armed Forces, the police, the intelligence network, to combat these very, very well,” he said.

The action film mogul said war was winnable, but the fight would be a long one. “The idea is to annihilate the enemy through attrition,” he said.

The President, who regularly visits military camps across the country, told the soldiers that he was really impressed with their service.

‘Lover of soldiers’ like Marcos

He likened his “love for soldiers” to that of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“Never was a time—I’m not being boastul—no other President, just two, gave the attention that a soldier would need. Just me and Marcos. Marcos was also a lover of soldiers,” he said.

Marcos had put the Philippines under martial law and ruled for 20 years.

Explaining why he wanted to give soldiers new sidearms, Mr. Duterte said that “unlike the policemen, you do not have sidearms. So when you walk out, you’re sitting ducks.”

‘NPA brazen’

The President also warned the soldiers that “another strife is coming” because the NPA had “become brazen.”

The rebels, he said, killed soldiers and police officers while the ceasefire was in place. One of the slain soldiers had 73 gunshot wounds, which incensed him and prompted him to call off the talks earlier this year.

“We have been trying to fix this thing for 50 years and [the NPA wants] another 50 years. I cannot do anything anymore. They don’t want peace talks,” he said. “But don’t say one day that I have not tried to reach out. I was the first to do it by releasing political prisoners.”

He also promised to bring to Hong Kong the soldiers who would be left behind at the Jolo camp during the holidays.

They could bring their mistresses so that they would have a better time during the vacation, he joked. If they brought their wives, they might just end up fighting, he said. —WITH REPORTs FROM JULIE ALIPALA AND ALLAN NAWAL

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Self-rated poverty rises to 47% in Q3 —SWS

Self-rated poverty among Filipinos has risen to 47 percent in the third quarter of 2017, up by three percentage points from 44% in the second quarter, according to the latest survey of pollster Social Weather Stations.

In its survey report, posted on December 1,  SWS said that the figure would translate into an estimated 10.9 million families considering themselves poor.

SWS's June 2017 survey on self-rated poverty (families considering themselves as Mahirap or Poor) was at 44% or an estimated 10.1 million families.

The new figure follows nine consecutive quarters of either steady or declining self-rated poverty rates, which only ticked upward again between December 2016 and March 2017, or from 44 percent to 50 percent.

In its March survey on self-rated poverty (families considering themselves as Mahirap or Poor), the SWS found that around 10.1 million families rated themselves as poor.

Meanwhile, an estimated 7.4 million families, or 32 percent, consider the food their family eats as "poor." The figure has remained the same from June 2017 but is slightly lower than March's 35 percent. The SWS calls this food-poverty.

Self-rated food-poverty in the country averaged 31 percent in 2016 and 35 percent in 2015, it said. 

The survey also asked its 1,500 respondents if they have ever experienced "not being poor," and found that 36 percent of Filipino families overall have "always been poor."

This translates to 75 percent of self-rated poor families saying they have always been poor, while the other 25 percent of the group said they had not been poor sometime in the past.

As for the part of the population that does not consider themselves poor, the SWS learned the division was in clean halves—50 percent have been poor sometime in the past, and the other 50 have always lived in poverty.

This supposedly means that 25 percent of Filipino families overall have never been poor.

The latest study was done from September 23 to 27 this year, using face-to-face interviews of 1,500 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide, with sample distribution of 600 in Balance Luzon, and 300 each in Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao.

It has a sampling error margins of ±2.5 for national percentages, ±4 for Balance Luzon, and ±6 each for Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The SWS said it will also release reports on Filipino families' transition in and out of poverty and on transportation costs. —Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas/LBG, GMA News

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Poe urges transport groups to call off nationwide strike

PUBLIC SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIR. Senator Grace Poe wants to sit down with transport groups to avert another nationwide strike. Fle photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe on Saturday, December 2, urged transport groups to call off their planned nationwide strike next week, and asked them to sit down with the Senate committee on public services to discuss their concerns.

“I am appealing to transport groups Piston and the Stop Jeepney Phaseout Coalition to reconsider and call off their planned strike and instead sit down with us in the committee so that the Senate can hear their concerns regarding the proposed jeepney modernization program of the government,” Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said in a statement on Saturday.

 

The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide and the No To Jeepney Phaseout Coalition had earlier announced a natonwide jeepney strike on December 4 and 5 – their 4th one this year and the second specifically to protest the looming phaseout of old jeepneys in January 2018. announcement had prompted the governments of Albay province and Guagua in Pampanga to announce class suspensions. (READ: #WalangPasok: Class suspensions, Monday, December 5)

“In light of the announced transport strike scheduled on December 4-5, and in consideration of the interests of various stakeholders – the transport sector and especially the commuters, I am calling for an urgent hearing of the Senate committee on public services on Thursday, December 7,” Poe said.

She said that on Monday, December 4, she will file a resolution to conduct the hearing.

The senator said that the committee will look into issues in the modernization program raised by the transport groups that “still need to be carefully studied and threshed out with the concerned government agencies.”

“We also want to hear the alternative proposals from different stakeholders,” she added. 

Previous jeepney strikes had paralyzed commuters in parts of the country, prompting class suspensions in mostly urban areas. – Rappler.com

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Senate eyes probe into DOH anti-dengue vaccine in January

ANTI-DENGUE VACCINE. Health workers from the Department of Health administer anti-dengue vaccine to a student in an elementary school in Marikina City on April 4, 2016. File Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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MANILA, Philippines – The Senate will investigate the Department of Health’s procurement of anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, after manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur said it may cause “severe disease” to those who have no prior infection of the virus.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health, said he would convene a probe in January with the blue ribbon committee chaired by Senator Richard Gordon. (READ: Vaccinated Filipino youth now at risk of getting severe dengue)

 

“As chairman of the Senate committee on health and demography, I am convening a probe on the disturbing new findings…My committee will invite current DOH Secretary Francisco Duque and former secretary Paulyn Ubial in order to find out what actions will government take to protect those who may be exposed to the drug’s negative effect,” Ejercito said in a statement.“I intend to conduct the investigation jointly with the blue ribbon committee so that we can investigate if there was any irregularity in the procurement of the vaccine,” he added.

The blue ribbon committee has started the probe into the issue but has yet to wrap up the proceedings.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the chamber would likely investigate the matter and added the people who made money out of the deal should be held accountable.

"We need to study the findings very well. And if we are convinced, then we have to fight back against all those who made money out of this very dangerous transaction which can expose our children to severe diseases and even death," Pimentel said in a text message.

Pimentel said he would coordinate with Gordon on the schedule of the probe. 

Aquino admin to blame?

Gordon, for his part, accused the Aquino administration of “railroading” the procurement process, saying it was already given to schoolchildren even before the World Health Organization issued pre-qualification guidelines.

“This admission by Sanofi that the Dengvaxia poses risks shows that when the Aquino administration procured it and the DOH (Department of Health) proceeded to inoculate 280,000 children initially, the vaccine was not yet ready for distribution. Now we have the evidence on that,” Gordon said.

The DOH under then Secretary Janette Garin launched the school-based dengue immunization program was launched in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, and Calabarzon. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

When the program was launched in April 2016, health experts had raised the alarm for the “rushed” implementation of the mass vaccination. At the time, studies on the vaccine’s safety have not been completed.

Senator Joel Villanueva, for his part, said DOH officials and Sanofi should be made accountable for the incident.

“We should hold the appropriate DOH officials responsible for haphazardly allowing the vaccine to be administered to students, without extensive due diligence on the effects of the drugs and without waiting for the results of comprehensive clinical trial,” Villanueva said.

“Sanofi should also be made accountable for their haphazard release of the drugs without complete and proper clinical studies,” Villanueva added.

Villanueva also expressed his disappointment that Sanofi only recently revealed the result of their clinical study, after the DOH has already purchased P3 billion worth of the vaccine.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said over 700,000 Filipino children in Luzon have been given the dengue vaccine under the government's mass immunization program.

Aside from the Philippines, 10 other countries approved the commercial release of the vaccine. The other Asian countries are Thailand and Singapore. – Rappler.com

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Extension of martial law in Mindanao pushed


The head of the interagency task force overseeing the rebuilding of war-torn Marawi City wants martial law in Mindanao extended to secure rehabilitation efforts and foil attempts to recruit people into terrorist groups.

Bangon Marawi Task Force chair Eduardo del Rosario said “intelligence reports” suggest “massive” attempts by local Islamic State (IS) supporters to recruit people to their cause.

Del Rosario said some people are being offered amounts as high as P100,000 to entice them to join and this is a threat to the security of the rehabilitation effort.

“We do not like to have another Marawi incident,” Del Rosario said in a Palace press briefing.

“I would like martial law [to] continue during the rehabilitation phase because, as chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi, my main concern is the security of the whole rehabilitation effort,” he said.

President Duterte declared martial law over the whole of Mindanao on May 23 after IS-allied extremists attacked the city, but congressional approval of the move expires on Dec. 31 unless extended.

Del Rosario said any new eruption of violence would derail efforts to rebuild Marawi and could scare off contractors and workers.

“If something will happen in Marawi City during the rehabilitation phase, maybe no contractor or laborer would ever go there. Rehabilitation would be difficult,” he said.

Rehabilitation efforts need the support of the entire citizenry, he said “and that’s not only in the physical structure but in the security aspect.”

“[Local residents] themselves should drive away or neutralize the spread of the recruitment of the IS group in Mindanao, not only in Lanao del Sur or Marawi City,” he said.

He also said he would coordinate with the military and the police to properly assess the situation and make the necessary recommendation to the President on martial law.

Regional Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong agrees there is reason to extend martial law.

“If I [were] asked right now, [martial law] is really needed because there are pockets of recruitment happening surrounding [Lanao Lake],” Adiong said.

But he also said his recommendation to the President would depend on the assessment of the situation on the ground, which has yet to be completed.

Most of Marawi was reduced to rubble in the intense five-month battle for Marawi with 200,000 residents being displaced.

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De Lima renews plea for freedom


DRUG CASE / JUNE 30, 2017 Senator Leila de Lima leaves at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court on Friday, after she attend the drug charges filed against her. INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA
Senator Leila de Lima. INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima has asked the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) to reconsider the arrest order it issued last month because she had earlier appealed for a review of the deficient cases against her with the Supreme Court.

De Lima urged Judge Patria Manalastas-De Leon of Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206 to review the arrest order, issued on Nov. 16, and defer her arraignment set on Dec. 8 pending the resolution of her petition to the Supreme Court.

“It is incumbent upon this court [RTC Branch 206] to hold in abeyance the scheduled arraignment. Otherwise, such an act would be tantamount to this court preempting the Supreme Court, and arrogating unto herself the authority to have a final say on the jurisprudential effect of the Supreme Court’s decision,” she stated.

‘Fatal deficiency’

The detained senator also asked the lower court to review the “fatal deficiency” of the charges against her, noting that prosecutors have not even proved the existence of the drugs she supposedly attempted to sell.

It was the third arrest order separately issued against De Lima by three Muntinlupa courts.

All the cases stemmed from testimonies of drug convicts during the House of Representatives’ inquiry last year that she allowed drug trafficking in the New Bilibid Prison when she was justice secretary to raise funds for her senatorial campaign.

“It is impossible for the honorable court to determine the existence of probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest since the information is deficient of any of the essential elements charged,” she said.

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Alvarez: Sereno’s statements outside hearing ‘invalid’


maria lourdes sereno
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. INQUIRER PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

Whatever argument Chief Justice Maria Lourdes raises in media cannot be considered a valid defense in the impeachment charges against her because it is not the proper forum, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Friday.

“What I’m saying is, she does not appear in the hearing [so] how can she defend herself properly? Then she will issue statements to the media, but those are not valid,” Alvarez said in a dzMM radio interview.

Alvarez said Sereno’s statements during public appearances at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City last Thursday could not be considered valid because the engagements were not the proper forums.

“This is why she needs to attend [the House hearing] to disprove the allegations and the evidence laid out against her. She knows this since she is a lawyer herself,” the speaker said.

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WHAT WENT BEFORE: Dengue vaccine

Janette Garin

In December 2015, Dengvaxia, the world’s first vaccine against dengue virus developed by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, was licensed and approved for use in the Philippines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It was first licensed in Mexico in December 2015 but only for people aged 9 to 45 living in endemic areas in the country.

It is given in three doses six months apart via subcutaneous injection in the upper arm.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin said the Philippines participated in all three phases of the vaccine’s clinical development with subjects from Cebu and several areas in Metro Manila.

The vaccine resulted from more than a decade of “efficacy and safety studies” in 10 countries, involving more than 30,000 children, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

In April 2016, the DOH launched the program, providing free vaccines to selected Grade 4 public school pupils in three regions with the highest number of dengue cases—Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

Garin said the Philippines was the first in the world to introduce, adopt and implement the dengue vaccine through the public health system and under a public school setting.

The DOH said more than 700,000 public school fourth graders had received the first of three doses of the vaccine under a P3.5-billion program. It said figures for how many got the additional doses were not immediately available.

In October 2016, Sen. Richard Gordon said he would seek an investigation of the “undue haste” in using the vaccine despite safety questions.

In December 2016, FDA directed Sanofi to stop advertisements that said Dengvaxia was available over the counter. The vaccine is a prescription drug approved only for those 9 to 45 years old.

In May 2017, FDA ordered Sanofi and Watson’s Personal Care Stores to stop promoting and offering immunization services without authorization.

From January to September 2017, the DOH has recorded 97,287 dengue cases nationwide.

Dengue is the fastest growing mosquito-borne disease in the world, causing nearly 400 million infections annually, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO recommends that countries should consider introducing the vaccine only in geographic settings (national or subnational) where data indicate a high dengue burden.

Dr. Scott Halstead, founder of the Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative and an acknowledged leading figure in dengue research in the past 50 years, voiced serious concerns about the vaccine, saying it may enhance the development of dengue, rather than prevent it.

The vaccine appears to cause antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) that literally predisposes the dengue-naive recipients of the vaccine to a more severe clinical expression of the disease, he said.

In ADE, infection with one of the four strains of the dengue virus produces antibodies to that strain and cross-reactive antibodies to the other strains. “That allows a second dengue infection to cause severe illness, including dengue hemorrhagic fever,” Halstead said.

Source: Inquirer Archives, DOH website, WHO website

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Reenacted budget looms as Senate, House clash

The deliberations on the 2018 national budget are turning into an emotional battle between the Senate and the House of Representatives.

A clash of principles between the two chambers of Congress came to a boil on Friday as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said they would take the hard line and insist on certain allotments in the House version of the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018.

Alvarez’s warning to the Senate raised the possibility of a reenacted budget, casting a pall on bicameral discussions on the tabled P3.767 trillion appropriations. Last year’s budget amounted to P3.35 trillion.

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Disagreements over some items, including the Senate’s move to cut P50.7 billion from the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for right-of-way (ROW) acquisitions, have threatened to derail the talks.

Another point of contention is the Senate’s realignment of the Philippine National Police’s P900-million drug campaign budget, as well as the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s P500 million for its own drug program, to housing for cops and soldiers.

“We in the House of Representatives have discussed that we will take a hard stance on what we have agreed upon, because what we want to happen is what we approved in the House of Representatives,” Alvarez said in radio interview on dzMM.

“If we do not come to an agreement, then let us just reenact the budget. Tabla-tabla na lang (We will just square with each other),” he said.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said it was “perfectly” within the prerogatives of House lawmakers to stick to their guns on the budget issue.

The only way to prevent a reenacted budget, he said, is to come up with an agreement during the bicameral discussions.

“If we don’t want a reenacted budget, then an agreement must be reached somehow and sometime soon,” Pimentel said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto also said on Friday that a reenacted budget would “not be good for the country.”

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“I’m sure it will not be difficult to come to terms with the House,” Recto told reporters, adding that Alvarez was only taking a negotiating posture.

The House leader said a reenacted budget would be to the advantage of the Duterte administration.

“[With a reenacted budget], they will be able to program whatever they want,” Alvarez said, referring to the executive branch.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, vice chair of the Senate committee on finance, proposed the budget cut for ROW acquisitions, as well as P18.389 billion from the DPWH’s P598-billion budget for 2018.

“The congressmen should first look at the cuts and examine them, instead of expressing alarm and objecting violently to the same,” Lacson said.

“There’s only one obvious reason why they are alarmed. While they shout to high heavens that the budget has no pork anymore, my cuts, albeit unintended, hit their projects,” he added.

Lacson said the committee had been asking the DPWH since October to disaggregate the ROW and civil works cost in their proposed infrastructure projects for next year in compliance with the law, which disallows civil works to start unless ROW issues are resolved.

“Save for P11.38 billion, where they submitted a list of settled ROW issues, they failed to justify the rest of the P62.1 billion,” he said.

On Thursday, members of the House and the Senate met as a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differences in each chamber’s version of the proposed budget for 2018.

Because of the disagreements, however, the bicameral committee created two small groups to discuss the contentious provisions and to arrive at a compromise.

Both chambers must pass the budget before the end of year. Failing so, the current budget will be reenacted.

A reenacted budget has historically given the sitting President wider latitude to spend funds already appropriated in the current year, automatically appearing as savings.

The last day of session of Congress for 2017 is on Dec. 13.

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