Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DepEd says around 5,000 learners affected by Marawi clashes

EVACUEES. Residents fleeing Marawi City are cramped on a truck as they traverse a traffic gridlock near a police checkpoint at the entrance of Iligan City on May 24, 2017. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP 


The education department is preparing temporary learning shelters in neighboring cities to accommodate the additional number of learners from Marawi 

by Jee Y. Geronimo

MANILA, Philippines – Around 5,000 learners are affected by the clashes between the military and local terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, the Department of Education (DepEd) said on Thursday, June 1.

Asked how many learners evacuated from Marawi City, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said "more or less around 5,000 learners."

In fact, in one of the 3 schools in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, that's being used as an evacuation center, authorities identified around 1,500 children of school age.

"Our projections there is that they won't go back to Marawi anymore. It has happened before that, once they evacuate, they will not necessarily come back," the education secretary explained in a mix of English and Filipino. 

She added: "You should assume already that they will be affected until the school opening, that they will still be there until the school season. It's not going to be easy to go back to Marawi. For all we know their homes are already destroyed, for all we know their livelihood is already lost."

DepEd is postponing the June 5 opening of classes in Marawi City and 8 other barangays in the province of Lanao del Sur and in Iligan City in the next province. Briones did not identify the 8 barangays because they are "just projections" of where the fighting could spill over.

The postponement in these areas could last up to two weeks.

Schools as 'zones of peace'

Because of the ongoing clashes – on its 10th day on Thursday – education officials expect reduced number of enrollees in Marawi City, and an influx in Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City, and nearby cities.

DepEd is now preparing temporary learning shelters to accommodate the additional number of learners in Marawi's neighboring cities. Briones said schools in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City would also have to adjust their school hours.

"The classes should start early so that the children could go home early, and they wouldn't have to stay until the afternoon," she explained.

Briones wants affected learners to be integrated "as early as possible."

"We're making all possible adjustments to make it easier to integrate students to our school systems, because, as I said, our basic principle is that we will reach out to all children wherever they are, whoever they are, whatever their parents believe in."

She reiterated DepEd's position that schools are zones of peace and therefore should not be used for negotiations nor should they be used as battlegrounds.

"Schools are neutral places, and especially since children are in schools. So that's our request to those involved in this unrest, that they don't use schools," Briones added.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, following clashes between the military and the Maute terrorist group in Marawi City. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

The 1987 Constitution states that martial law should not exceed 60 days. Any extension has to be approved by Congress. (READ: Martial Law 101: Things you should know) –


Saguisag: Do we still have a Congress?

By:  - / 03:08 AM June 02, 2017

The courage of Eva Estrada-Kalaw for standing up to the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship was extolled on Thursday at necrological services in the Senate for the former senator who died on May 25 at the age of 96.

“The Marcoses were very well entrenched in power, people were afraid, and the press was silenced; and freedom, democracy and human rights were words used only by the opposition,” recalled former Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta.

There were a few brave men who dared go against Marcos, Oreta said. “Among them was this lady … she was unafraid.”

Some participants used the occasion to blast the current members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for rejecting opposition moves to convene a joint session to reject President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“Do we still have a Congress?” former Sen. Rene Saguisag asked, lamenting that today’s lawmakers have clammed up. “Puro tameme,” he said.

“We need the likes of Senator Eva today who will be asking the foolish questions of today: ‘Where is the invasion, who are the invaders, where is the rebellion, who are the rebels? Unfortunately, what we see now or here are echoes, not voices. She was a voice in our time,’” Saguisag said in his eulogy.

Former Sen. Eddie Ilarde said he was with Kalaw in the last Senate that was abolished upon declaration of martial law in 1972 by then President Marcos.

“We pray that this is not the last Senate when the next martial law is declared,” said Ilarde who called Kalaw a “mentor” and “one of the voices of what is right for the good of our country and our people.”

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III vowed to continue the public service of Kalaw.

“She may have been born in a different era, but the values of integrity, respect for the rule of law, and dedicated service to the people that she believed in and practiced remain as relevant as ever. Tita Eva, we are here to continue your causes,” Pimentel said.

Kalaw survived the 1971 bombing of the opposition Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda. She was the first woman to be elected to the Senate and the first to win a reelection. She was incarcerated several times for criticizing the Marcos regime.



Controversial Coron resort to push through–DOT

By:  -


No corals would be destroyed.

This was the only assurance that Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said was needed from the proponents of the Nickelodeon resort, which would be built on a 100-hectare area on Coron island, one of Palawan province’s top tourist destinations.

“They’re going to push through with it,” Teo said in a television interview.

“We are not going to destroy the corals,” Teo said. “We will preserve them.”

In a statement that followed the interview, Teo said the Department of Tourism (DOT), though “excited” about the project, would have to defer to “appropriate agencies” for the permits and approval that the project proponents needed to start construction.

“From a tourism perspective, the DOT is excited about the idea,” she said.

Not ‘underwater’

The developer, Coral World Park Undersea Resorts Inc. (CWP), had clarified that the project was not an underwater theme park, but an undersea-themed project that would be land-based.

Teo said the project was not under the auspices of the DOT and that the developer was dealing with the local government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Teo said she had been convinced to support the project after the developer showed her maps and development plans.

Extra effort to explain


Local government officials, who had expressed opposition to the project, “probably did not understand it,” Teo said.

She said the developer had made an extra effort to explain “that’s why I got it.”

The project would feature a floating restaurant designed to have transparent floors to allow patrons to see the coral reefs underneath, Teo said.

She said proponents had thought of bringing the project to Indonesia but chose the Philippines instead.

The developer would also build hotels and condominiums, she said.

Nickelodeon project

Nickelodeon’s parent firm, Viacom, announced the project in January. Famous Nickelodeon characters, like “Spongebob” and “Dora,” would be features.

That statement had said “underwater restaurants and lounges will be located about 20 feet below sea level with vivid views of the world beneath the ocean.”

Former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had publicly opposed the park, citing concerns about the marine ecosystem.

Netizens also launched an online petition opposing the project.



NAIA Expressway now fully open; 80K daily travelers seen




MANILA – A few minutes before midnight Friday (June 2), Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar announced the full opening of the NAIA Expressway, which will connect NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to Cavitex, Skyway, and Entertainment City. 

“A total of 17 off and on ramps have been constructed along strategic locations at Villamor Airbase, Resorts World, Naia Terminal 3, MIAA Road, Imelda Avenue, Cavitex, Seaside Drive and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard,” Villar said.

“The NAIA Expressway project is expected to benefit 80,000 travellers per day and expected to reduce travel time from SLEX to NAIA from 1 hour to 20 minutes,” he added.

The P20.45-billion NAIA Expressway Project is a four-lane, 12.65-kilometer elevated expressway (including ramps) and 2.22-kilometer at-grade road traversing Sales Avenue, Andrews Avenue, Parañaque River, MIAA Road and Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard.

“With our growing participation in the infrastructure industry and the formal opening of NAIA Expressway, we can have a meaningful impact on the lives of millions of Filipinos. For SMC, this is the road ahead: One that leads to progress and prosperity for all,” Ramon Ang, President and Chief Operating Officer of San Miguel Corporation said.

The completion of the Naia Expressway Project is expected to provide easy access to and from NAIA Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 and will interface with the South Luzon Expressway through Sales Interchange, Manila Cavite Toll Expressway and Macapagal Boulevard.

“The opening of Ramp 1 and 17, which provides access to both Alabang and Makati area, is expected to complement the existing NAIA expressway road network, which already connected Macapagal Boulevard and Pagcor Entertainment City to NAIA Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and Skyway. The two ramps will be toll-free for 30 days,” Villar noted.




Duterte presides over joint AFP-PNP command conference


News5 | InterAksyon

MANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presided over the joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) Command Conference at the Heroes Hall in Malacañan Palace on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

President Duterte [center] at prayers before the start of a Command Conference with officers and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. Photograph from the Malacañang Photo Bureau.Among those joining the Conference were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Interior and Local Government Acting Secretary Catalino Cuy, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs Arthur Tabaquero, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Isidro Lapeña, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Alex Monteagudo, Philippine Coast Guard Chief Joel Garcia, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence Go and other officials from various law enforcement agencies.


Fuel excise tax: inflation impact higher than DOF’s projection – experts


Beverly Natividad, Bloomberg TV Philippines | InterAksyon


MANILA – The House of Representatives has approved tax reforms the government claims are critical for its infrastructure effort, but some critics are looking to the Senate to reject planned tax hikes or at least tweak provisions to limit the impact on the public.

One example of a measure in the reform package that some experts say the government had underestimated the impact of: the higher excise taxes on fuel.

Economists from the University of Asia and the Pacific said that while they weren’t against the tax reform bill, the likely impact on inflation could be higher than that forecast by the government. They aired their views at a Senate ways and means committee hearing on higher excise taxes on fuel.

UA&P economist Ronilo Balbieran, said that “contrary to the results of the DOF [that it’s] within inflation target, we fear that it is being too close to the inflation ceiling of the 4% target inflation for 2018.”

He thinks the inflation target “will be breached if we’re going to push for the 3-2-1,” referring to the House-approved imposition of higher excise taxes on fuel that will be spread out over three years, supposedly to blunt the impact.

Balbieran thinks the inflation target will be breached “mainly because [there will be an] inflation expectation [when you shock the public in the] first year of implementation.”

Among others, the bill calls for a 6-peso fuel excise tax that will split into a 3-peso adjustment for the first year, P2 on the second and 1 peso on the third, from 2017 to 2019. 

The UA&P economists recommended that this be changed to P1.75 on the first year and P2 each for the next two years.

Transport groups also appealed to the senators for an exemption, claiming that privately owned cars far outnumber public utility vehicles.

Zenaida Maranan told senators their sector should be exempted from the higher excise taxes “because there are only 470,000 PUVs – the trucks, AUVs, taxis and jeepneys – as against 10 million private cars.”

If exemptions can’t be accommodated, transport groups asked the Finance department for help in modernizing their fleets.

Efren de Luna of ACTO proposed the conversion of a portion of the excise tax, say 50 centavos a liter, into a loan that they can use to modernize.

Department of Social Welfare and Development officials also spoke up against the bill, breaking with other government agencies that have expressed support for tax hikes.

Undersecretary Emmanuel Leyco said the poor would be particularly affected and planned subsidies to mitigate the impact would cost the government.

“We think that we can go and make corruption as an equally important goal of this government. With our experience, the Napoles scam alone is estimated to cost us more than P10 billion and tax evasion, tax leakages cost us billions,” said Leyco.

President Rodrigo Duterte certified the tax reform bill as urgent and the House of Representatives complied by approving the measure just before Congress adjourned this week.

Senators on Wednesday indicated that the government should expect major revisions in the House-approved package when their chamber finalizes their version.


WATCH | Marawi residents come out of hiding, jump from roofs during quick rescue ops


MANILA, Philippines – As if it’s from a movie scene of a house burning, a woman suddenly gets a massive adrenalin rush and then jumps from a high roof to cheat death. 

But no, the scene isn’t fiction but the real life of those caught in the war in Marawi. 

An estimated 2,000 residents locked themselves up in their own homes for a week over fears they would be among the casualties in the attacks unleashed by Maute rebels. 

On Wednesday, the Provincial Crisis Management Committee of Lanao del Sur came to the aid of 60 of the trapped residents, including the elderly, who endured hunger as they hid from the militants who want to control Marawi and allegedly create a wailayat or an ISIS province in Mindanao. 

The rescue operations had to be swift but cautious as Maute snipers could just be around ready to shoot government forces and even civilians. 

On the same day, a bombing accident that was supposedly an air strike on the Islamist rebels took place in the Lanao del Sur capital, killing 11 government troops. 

The incident came during what was the first offensive deployment of fixed-wing aircraft in the nine-day operation, aimed at flushing out the Islamist gunmen who have defied expectations by clinging on through days of ground assaults and helicopter rocket attacks.

“Sometimes in the fog of war a lot of things could happen. Accidents happen, like this,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference on Thursday. 

“It’s very sad to be hitting our own troops,” he added. “There must be a mistake somewhere, either someone directing from the ground, or the pilot.” 

The deaths of the soldiers takes the number of security force members killed to 38, with 19 civilians and 120 rebel fighters killed in the battles in Marawi over the nine days.

Lorenzana said militants who were Saudi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Yemeni and Chechen were among eight foreigners killed in the fighting, in what experts say is a sign the Philippines may have a major problem on its hands.

Lorenzana said the military might suspend air strikes, describing the rebels as a small force that “cannot hold that long”.

Bombardments by OV-10 light attack aircraft were carried for over an hour early on Thursday. Troops engaged rebel snipers, as helicopters circled identifying targets.

A fire blazed in one building moments after a plane dropped its payload. Smoke rose into the sky.


Dindo Flora, News5 | Tom Allard and Neil Jerome Morales, Reuters 


President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned radical ideology is spreading in the southern Philippines and it could become a haven for militants forced out of Iraq and Syria.

He made no mention of the killing of soldiers by air force planes in a speech on Thursday. He said the Maute group was being given too much credit, and that the occupation of Marawi was the work of Islamic State, and planned a long time ago.

“You know, the rebellion in Mindanao, it’s not Maute, it’s purely ISIS,” he said.

The military was carrying out air strikes on locations it believes are sheltering Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of Islamic State and point man in the Philippines.


Video link:


Elon Musk to Trump: You quit Paris, so I quit you

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has quit two of President Trump's business advisory councils after the president announced he will pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris climate agreement.

"Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," Musk said Thursday on Twitter, shortly after the president announced from the Rose Garden that he would begin the process of leaving the accord. 

Musk had vowed to step down from the advisory councils he sits on if the president pulled out of the pact.

"I've done all I can to advise directly to POTUS, through others in WH & via councils, that we remain," he said Wednesday on Twitter

Musk was one of 18 business leaders serving on Trump's chief business advisory council, known as the Strategic and Policy Forum. He was also an adviser on the president's manufacturing jobs initiative, and has met with Trump to talk about infrastructure spending. 

Musk has been under fire from the start for his willingness to engage with the Trump administration. 

In April, a startup investor shelled out $400,000 to run ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post urging Musk to "dump Trump." It was part of a $1 million bid to persuade the billionaire CEO that he shouldn't work with Trump, given their sharp ideological differences, especially on climate change.

Until now, Musk had said he thought it was prudent to put his differences with Trump aside so he could have a seat at the table. This isn't the first time Musk has publicly opposed the Trump administration. 

Musk adamantly disagreed with Trump's decision to sign an executive order in January that temporarily banned travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. 

Despite his concerns, Musk decided to remain on the president's business councils -- even as Uber CEO Travis Kalanick departed amid public pressure

"Advisory councils simply provide advice, and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration," Musk said in a statement, posted on Twitter at the time. 

Musk's decision to leave is a bold move from a man who has a lot of skin in the game. 

Elon Musk with President Trump before a meeting of the business advisory council in February. 


SpaceX has scored a number of lucrative government contracts in recent years. The company is currently fulfilling a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to send supplies to the International Space Station. It also has an $82.7 million contract to send a U.S. Air Force satellite into space in 2018. Last month, it launched a spy satellite for a U.S. intelligence agency. 

In fact, SpaceX has an ISS resupply mission scheduled for Thursday night

But transitioning the world sustainable energy is the crux of Tesla's business -- and Musk's personal brand. 

When Tesla (TSLA) starting accepting deposits for its Solar Roof in May, Musk reiterated his belief that the world is moving toward that widespread use of green power. 

"That's the vision for the future we think is the only sensible vision for the future -- and the one we're building toward," he said.

  • Published in U.S.

Resorts World Manila: Gunman sparks panic at Philippines hotel

BBC News

Police in the Philippines have taken control of a hotel and entertainment complex in Manila after it was stormed by a masked gunman. 

Resorts World Manila was put on lockdown after the incident, which happened shortly after midnight local time (16:00 GMT). 

Swat teams were deployed to the scene, with people fleeing the hotel in panic.

The Philippines police chief said they did not believe it was a terror attack.

Ronald dela Rosa said a lone gunman had entered the gaming area at Resorts World, fired at a television, and set some gambling tables on fire.

Gunshots were fired, he said, but were not aimed at people in the room.

He admitted that the gunman had not been found.

"We have cleared the rooms [on the floor of the hotel where the gunman was last seen], but we don't see where he is," Mr dela Rosa said.

Resorts World Manila features multiple hotels and bars, as well as a shopping centre and casino. 

The police chief told local radio station DZMM the gunman had filled a bag with casino gambling chips, and that the incident may have been an attempted robbery. 

He warned that Islamic State militants might falsely claim to be behind it to further their propaganda.

"We cannot say this is an act of terror ... he [the gunman] did not hurt anyone," the police chief said. "If you are a terrorist you will sow terror."

He added that nobody had been shot and that the only injuries were from smoke inhalation, or the stampede that formed as people tried to escape.

Many witnesses took the incident for a militant assault.

Maricel Navaro, a Resorts World employee, told DZMM radio he had returned from his break to find people fleeing in panic.

"Guests were screaming. We went to the basement locker room and hid there. People were screaming, guests and employees were in panic.

"When we smelled smoke, we decided to go for the exit in the car park. That's where we got out. Before we exited, we heard two gunshots and there was thick smoke on the ground floor." 

Eyewitness Hessa Isabelle filmed the scene from a nearby balcony and described seeing "people screaming and running out of the building".

"People are being evacuated out of the building and there's smoke coming out, and they're saying that it's a terrorist attack," she said.

As the situation unfolded, the US state department tweeted a warning to citizens, stating: "Reports of explosions/gunfire at Resorts World Manila, near the Manila Intl Airport. Avoid area & monitor local news." 

Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which is around a mile (1.6km) from the resort, was placed on lockdown. 

President Donald Trump labelled the incident a terror attack, and offered his "thoughts and prayers" to those affected.

The incident comes as the Philippines army is fighting militants linked to the so-called Islamic State group for control of the city of Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao.



Chris Froome: My biggest Tour de France threats are Porte, Contador, Bardet

Defending champion says Quintana may struggle after Giro d'Italia effort


Chris Froome has named Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and last year’s runner-up Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) as his main contenders for the Tour de France. Froome did not, however, point to Nairo Quintana (Movistar), saying that the Colombian may suffer from the challenge of doing the Tour and the Giro d’Italia in the same season.

"My biggest threats come from guys who did not do the Giro, Richie Porte, Alberto Contador and Romain Bardet," Froome told Reuters. "I think it is going to be tough for Nairo to do the Giro and the Tour."

Quintana embarked on a Giro-Tour double attempt this season but fell short of the mark last month when he was beaten by Tom Dumoulin by just 31 seconds. Froome told Reuters that he did not see much of the Giro d’Italia due to altitude training in Tenerife, but admitted that Quintana could be in better shape come July.

"He may then be doing better on the Tourbecause he is a rider who is better in the second than the first grand tour," said Froome.

It is his former right-hand man Porte that has been the leading light of the general classification lot so far this season. Porte opened his account at the Tour Down Under, and despite a failed GC bid at Paris-Nice, he came home with a stage win. His last outing was the Tour de Romandie, where he beat Simon Yates to the title by 21 seconds. Froome suffered from back problems during Romandie, eventually finishing 18th overall.

"Richie has been amazing this season, winning the Tour Down Under and recently the Tour of Romandie. I think this year's Tour suits Richie really well," said Froome. "He's definitely got a chance to be up there for the win. This season he has been showing what he is capable of. I always believe in Richie.”

Porte finished fifth in last year’s Tour de France after losing time in the in the opening week due to a mechanical problem.

Without Porte behind him, Froome looks to Geraint Thomas and Wout Poels to be his last men in the mountains these days. Neither will be with Froome at the Criterium du Dauphine, which starts later this week. Thomas was given an opportunity to lead a Grand Tour for the first time at the Giro d’Italia. However, he left in the second week after injuries he sustained in a heavy crash on stage 9 to Blockhaus. Froome sympathises with his teammates but says that it could prove beneficial for the Tour de France.

“On the one hand, it was a huge setback for Geraint that he was not able to finish the Giro, but for the Tour, it will be only a good thing for the team because he will be fresher and have more time to prepare," he said.

After a lengthy spell training at altitude, Froome will begin the final stages of his Tour de France preparation at the Criterium du Dauphine. It has been a quiet season so far for the Team Sky rider, but he is happy with how things have panned out thus far.

"I think it has been a build-up similar to what I had last year. I think it worked well and I was able to do the Tour and the Vuelta," he said, adding that the Vuelta was not yet a certainty on his programme. "After the Tour, if everything goes well, I'd love to do the Vuelta.”


(With Richie Porte(BMC) photo by Tim de Waele)

(Photo by Jayco Herald Sun Tour)

(With Alberto Contador Getty Images)

  • Published in Sports
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