Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 14 June 2017

DOTr eyes revival of law vs distracted driving in July

By: Jovic Yee - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 01:20 AM June 16, 2017


texting driving ban law
A man drives while using his cellphone to check the traffic in Taft Avenue, Manila.INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES



The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is set to resume as early as the first week of July the implementation of Anti-Distracted Driving Act (Adda), which restricts the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices while driving.

Assistant Transport Secretary Leah Quiambao said the DOTr was set to publish within the week the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law, also known as Republic Act No. 10913. The law goes into effect 15 days after the publication.

Addressing one of the contentious issues concerning navigational devices, the new IRR allow motorists to mount such gadgets on the dashboard as long as they don’t exceed the four-inch height limit.

Quiambao added that the revised IRR allows the driver to use the hands-free functions of a device and as long as it does not obstruct his line of sight.

Among the prohibited acts under Adda are: Holding the device to make or receive calls; composing, sending, and reading text messages; performing calculations; playing games; watching videos and browsing the internet.

Confusion marked the first implementation of Adda in May, although more than 240 motorists were cited for violations by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.


The most affordable fish in the Philippines

Photo: Clown Knifefish at Navotas Fish Complex. Photo by Gregg Yan

Recently visiting the Navotas Fish Complex in Manila, I noticed about 30 tubs of Clown Knifefish (Chitala ornata) being sold for the low, low sum of P15 per kilo — making them ten times cheaper than galunggong (Decapterus punctatus), which sells for P150 a kilo and was long touted as ‘the poor man’s fish’! 

Resembling spotted silver blades slicing through river murk, Clown Knifefish originate from Indonesia, plus the great brown-water river systems of Southeast Asia – the Mekong, Chao Phraya and Mae Klong –snaking through Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. 

Though cute (but not quite cuddly) at three inches and popular as aquarium pets, they gulp down everything and reach over a meter, eventually outgrowing all but the largest aquarium or pond. Hobbyists who don’t want to euthanize their beloved pets often set them free in local canals and waterways, allowing these fish to invade, proliferate and wreak havoc in America, Singapore, the Philippines and other countries. 

In Navotas, fish peddlers erroneously called them Arowana, after a group of similar-looking but far more expensive fish. Filling about 30 tubs, they ranged from one to five kilos each.

Legend has it that Clown Knifefish invaded the country’s largest lake, Laguna de Bay, after Typhoon Ondoy flooded parts of Metro Manila in September 2009. Silently, the ravenous, fast-growing and highly adaptable predators multiplied and began to take a toll on other fish.

“Invasive species like Clown Knifefish have literally been cutting a swath through the Tilapia, Bangus and Carp stocks of Laguna. Worse, they are eating our native fish like Ayungin and Biya,” explains Dr. Ma. Rowena Eguia, head of the Manila office of SEAFDEC, an international body which promotes sustainable fisheries development in Southeast Asia. “For every kilo of weight they put on, they will already have eaten seven kilos worth of other fish.”

Thus, the 30 tubs of Clown Knifefish I saw in Navotas had already eaten at least 210 tubs worth of other fish. There are many dangers in releasing alien fish into Philippine waterways. The most common fish in our rivers – Tilapia, Guppies and Janitorfish – are all aliens.

Clown Knifefish at Navotas Fish Complex. Photo by Gregg YanClown Knifefish at Navotas Fish Complex. Photo by Gregg Yan

“We must wipe out the threat posed by Clown Knifefish so consuming them to depletion is a good solution. Living as we do in a mega-diverse biodiversity hotspot, we must protect our native fish by eliminating invasive species,” adds Marianne Pan-Saniano, former National Project Coordinator for the Forest Invasive Species (FORIS) project of the government’s Biodiversity Management Bureau.

Fortunately, Clown Knifefish make for good eating. They are economically-valuable food fish in their home range. Years ago, BFAR started a program which gave Laguna fisherfolk incentives in exchange for wild-caught Clown Knifefish while training housewives to process the invasive fish into fishballs, nuggets and other products – all done to control the proliferation of Clown Knifefish and avert the displacement of native and farmed fish.

BFAR recently launched a program called Balik ang Sigla sa Ilog at mga Lawa (BASIL), which promotes the reseeding of Ayungin, Hito and other native species while limiting unsustainable aquaculture activities in the lake. 

The Philippine-based Best Alternatives Campaign, a movement to promote green environmental alternatives, encourages Pinoys to buy these inexpensive fish.

At a paltry P15 per kilo, the country’s new ‘poor man’s fish’ can feed thousands of Pinoys and give Laguna de Bay’s Tilapia, Bangus and Carp stocks a much-needed reprieve – so visit the Navotas Fish Complex and try these delectable fish today!


Bohol gov releases P100K for search of Mayor Gisela Boniel’s body

By: Doris C. Bongcac - Day Desk Editor / @dbongcacInquirer Visayas

Photo: Niño Rey and Gisela Boniel
Bohol Board Member Niño Rey Boniel with wife, Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Boniel (Contributed photo)

CEBU CITY — Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto released on Thursday P100,000 in financial assistance to the ongoing search for the body of Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Boniel who was presumed to be dead after being kidnapped, shot and dumped into the sea allegedly by her husband, Bohol Board Member Niño Rey Boniel, and several men.

According to the statement issued by the Bohol provincial government on Thursday afternoon, Chatto handed the assistance to Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, police director for Central Visayas.

Chatto also called Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza to personally thank her for her government’s support for the search of Gisela’s body.

The statement said the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) through its Bohol-chapter president, Clarin Mayor Allen Rey Piezas, gave P50,000 to help defray the costs of the ongoing search for Gisela’s remains.

Police learned in their investigation and also through the confessions of Niño’s cousin and driver that her body was thrown into the sea between Cebu and Bohol.

The cousin and driver also pointed at Niño as the one who shot Gisella.

Acting Bien Unido Mayor Rene Borinaga sent a team of divers on Thursday morning to help in search.

Parricide charges have been filed against Niño and seven of his men for the kidnapping and murder of his wife, Gisela. SFM


TESDA official surrenders to cops to deny links to Maute

By: Edwin O. Fernandez - @inquirerdotnetInquirer Mindanao


KORONADAL CITY – The provincial director of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) surrendered on Thursday, to police authorities to deny his alleged links with the Maute Group in Marawi City.

Talim Bayabao, TESDA-South Cotabato ditector, surrendered to Senior Supt. Franklin Alvero, South Cotabato police chief.

A certain Talib (not Talim) Bayabao was No. 4 in Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s arrest order No. 2. which was issued following the declaration of martial Law in Mindanao. “I am not in any way connected to or related to the Mautes of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur,” Bayabao told reporters here.

But Bayabao has admitted that he is a Maranao and his families are victims of Marawi City siege too.

Bayabao said he believed his name was included in the list because he used to be the city engineer of Marawi City prior to his assignment as TESDA provincial director here last year.

While serving as city engineer of Marawi, Bayabao said he served Marawi City’s former mayors Fahad Salic and Solitario Ali. Salic was arrested in Misamic Oriental on June 7.

Both Ali and Salic vehemently denied involvement in the Marawi crisis.

Bayabao said he also worked as a bank executive and as an official of Mindanao State University.

“My name is clear that’s why I voluntarily showed up here,” Bayabao said.

According to Alvero, Bayabao will stay in the custody of the South Cotabato police provincial office while they are waiting for advice from the national police headquarters. SFM


Tourists still coming despite ‘hiccups’–Abella

By: Leila B. Salaverria -LeilasINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer

Presidential spokes person Ernesto Abella. INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

The Philippines continues to enjoy an increase in visitor arrivals despite bouts of “hiccups,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

Abella was reacting to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report that ranked the country the 11th most dangerous for tourists.

According to the WEF’s 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, security concerns remain high in the country.

It also noted diminished protection of property rights, a less effective judicial system and stricter rules on foreign direct investments, which make the environment less conducive to business.

“Contrary to the WEF report, tourism businesses are exposed to security risks. In spite of that, foreign visitors continue to increase steadily. There are just hiccups every once in a while, but they (tourists) continue to increase,” Abella said in a press briefing on Thursday.

He said that from January to March 2017, foreign visitor arrivals stood at 1.78 million, which was higher than the 1.6 million posted last year.

The increase in foreign visitors in the first quarter of the year could be attributed to the addition of 160,000 airline seats with the establishment of new direct flights that connected local secondary airports in the Philippines to China and South Korea, he said.

The new flight routes were: from Kalibo to Shanghai, Hangzhou and Zhengzhou; Cebu to Wuhan, Chongqing and Chengdu; and Clark to Incheon.

The Philippines also has tourism deals with China, Cambodia, Thailand and Turkey, he said.

“We should be looking up, you know. We don’t really focus on critics. We focus on actual work and processes. And there really is an increase, it’s quite positive,” he said.


Gov’t forces close in on terrorists

By: Frinston Lim, Jeoffrey Maitem - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer /

Photo: AP



MARAWI CITY—Government troops on Thursday advanced toward the center of Marawi, in an operation aimed at dislodging local terrorists who had seized the city to establish an enclave in the Philippines of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesperson for the military’s 1st Infantry Division, said government forces had gained control of key bridges in the city after street-to-street fighting in recent days.

He said the security forces were now advancing toward the inner parts of the city where about 150-200 gunmen from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorist groups were holed up in houses and commercial buildings.

Fighting was now confined to 10 percent of the city, or about 8.7 square kilometers, Herrera said.

The battleground constituted four of the city’s 96 barangays, he added.

“We intend to finish the fight as soon as possible,” Herrera told reporters.

The military had stopped using fighter jets and helicopter gunships to avoid injury to civilians trapped in the battle zone, but Herrera said airstrikes could be resumed if the troops on the ground needed air support.

“We have neutralized key enemy positions. [But] our options (airstrikes) are still open,” he said.

About 300-500 civilians are believed to be trapped in houses and buildings in the battle zone and the military, according to Herrera, is doing its best to rescue them.

“We’re still receiving distress calls. The challenge now is [how] long their cell-phone batteries [last]. We’re trying to locate them,” he said.

Herrera said the military was verifying reports about the presence of 300 armed men in a town outside Marawi.

The reports seemed to suggest some of the terrorists had been able to slip out of Marawi and could open a new front.

The crisis began on May 23 when Maute and Abu Sayyaf gunmen rampaged through Marawi after a failed military attempt to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the Abu Sayyaf commander who had pledged allegiance to IS and on whose head the US government had put a $5-million reward.

More than 200 people have died in the fighting, including 58 soldiers and policemen, and 26 civilians.

The military said on Thursday no soldier had been killed since the June 9 gun battle where 13 Marines died.

On the 24th day of the fighting, the government’s losses stood at 58, said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“It remains at that number. We have not have any soldier killed and, knock on wood, we hope there [will] be no more,” Padilla told reporters.

He said Hapilon, who styles himself as the “emir” of IS in Southeast Asia, was believed to be still in Marawi.

There were reports that the leaders of the Maute group, brothers Omarkhayam and Abdulla Maute, had been killed but Padilla said “we cannot say this is confirmed because we have no evidence yet.”


More than 325,000 people have fled the fighting in Marawi, a city of 200,000 people.

Explaining the discrepancy, Defense Undersecretary Recardo Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said people from areas surrounding Marawi also fled their homes to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

“And as of [June 15], we have on record 66,738 families composed of 324,406 individuals displaced from Marawi City and the municipality of Marantao in Lanao del Sur,” Jalad said.

“Of this number of displaced people, only about 5 percent are checked in or living, staying inside evacuation centers,” he added.

Jalad said the government had set up 79 evacuation centers in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and in Cagayan de Oro City.

“Only about 5 percent are currently staying in the evacuation centers. The rest, the 95 percent, are staying in their relatives, in the houses of their relatives and friends, and we call them home-based IDPs (internally displaced people),” he said.

Jalad said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was in charge of managing the evacuation centers, providing for the food and nonfood needs of the evacuees.

The displaced will get P5,000 in financial assistance—P1,000 food allowance and P4,000 for transportation and other needs.

On the other hand, the Department of Health (DOH) was tasked with providing water, health services and sanitation.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that as of June 13 the DSWD central office had sent P60,055,000 to its field offices in Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen and Caraga.

It also provided P70,701,994 to its response centers and field offices responding to the fighting in Marawi, Abella said.

“The distribution of relief items is [going on] for the basic needs in the evacuation centers as well as for the needs of home-based IDPs,” Jalad said.

He added that the government is planning to set aside an initial P10 billion for the rebuilding of Marawi after the fighting ends.

“But the exact figure will be determined once we conduct the study, the assessment and then formulate the rehab plan,” Jalad said.

Denied entry into Marawi

Two left-leaning party-list representatives reported on Thursday that they were denied entry into Marawi on a humanitarian mission.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, along with former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, were among those who were barred from entering the city as part of the “National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission.”

The delegates were supposed to conduct relief operations and psychosocial services for traumatized residents when they were stopped from entering, according to Bayan Muna.

In a statement, Brosas said Gabriela had coordinated with the military about its plan to distribute relief goods in Marawi but was denied entry when the group got there.

She said the group was forced to bring the relief goods to another destination, an evacuation center in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur province, where at least 400 families were staying. —WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKO DIZON, PHILIP C. TUBEZA AND DJ YAP


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