Opinion & Community

Pinoys can expect easier time applying for multiple-entry visa to China —envoy

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santa Romana on Wednesday said Filipinos can expect that it will be easier to apply for a multiple-entry visa to China, a report on Unang Balita on Thursday said.

More and more Filipinos are going to China these days, Santa Romana added, according to GMA News' Sandra Aguinaldo's report.

Santa Romana said there are also new jobs that China can offer to Filipinos, such as English teachers and skilled workers.

"The Chinese middle class is growing real fast and there is a Chinese elite that is becoming more prosperous. And so they are able to pay higher salaries compared to what's prevailing for example in Hong Kong," he said at a press conference in Beijing.

Relations between China and the Philippines have improved but the issue on the territorial dispute in the South China Sea remains unresolved.

On Friday, the Philippines and China will have their first meeting on the bilateral mechanism tackling the matter.

The arbitral ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration nullifying the claim of China over a part of the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea may be tackled in the right time, the report said.

The meeting will also not touch on the structures built by China on reefs in the South China Sea.

"To ease the tension so that the South China Sea will not become a flashing point and will not be a cause of tensions or lead to possible confrontations or another possible standoff. And I think we have already achieved to a limited degree some of that. There's still issues that remain. But as I said, for example, the fishing rights at Scarborough. Preserving, preventing reclamation at Scarborough. For one year, we've been able to prevent it," Santa Romana said. —KG, GMA News


PHL GDP grows slower than expectations at 6.4% in Q1


The Philippine economy grew slower than expectations, expanding by 6.4 percent in the first quarter, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported on Thursday.

It was the slowest phase of growth for the gross domestic product (GDP), since it registered at 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia attributed the deceleration mainly to the absence of election-related spending. "Growth last year was high due to election spending, impact of which has already dissipated," he said.

"Changing of the guards of the government really took time to settle," the Cabinet official noted.

Pernia said government spending also came in at a slower pace in the first three months of the year.

Overall the economy was slower that what was desired ... "and, for this, we are somewhat downcast because we were expecting something around the midpoint of the growth range 6.5 to 7.5 percent," Pernia said.

Financial markets react

The first quarter GDP compares with the revised 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2016, and 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter of the same year.

Frustrated by the GDP results, financial markets reacted with a negative note. The peso weakened and shares prices faltered during the morning trade.

COL Financial Vice President and head of research April Lyn Tan noted the declines were a direct reaction to the GDP results. "The market is reacting negatively with the lower-than-expected number," Tan said.

The peso opened 8 centavos weaker at P49.840:$1 from Wednesday's close of 49.760. "Essentially, the peso's decline was a reversal of its prior gain, which was due to initial expectations of strong GDP growth in the first quarter," Land Bank of the Philippines market economist Guian Angelo Dumalagan told GMA News Online.

Pernia, who last month said the economy likely grew by 7 percent in the first three months of the year, noted on Thursday the Philippines remains one of the strongest performers among the major emerging economies in Asia.

"For the first quarter, we overtook Vietnam and Indonesia which grew by only 5.1 percent and Thailand by only 3.3 percent. We are only second to China’s growth of 6.9 percent while India’s number hasn’t come out yet," Pernia told reporters during the press briefing on the National Accounts.

Growth momentum

Pernia is adopting an optimistic view to things. "Moving forward, the domestic economy is poised to maintain growth momentum," he said.

"Government has also been busy laying down a strong foundation," he added, noting the administration plans to invest heavily in infrastructure.

The government intends to spend P8.2 trillion to finance the country's "golden age of infrastructure" over the next six years, with P860.7 billion allocated to big-ticket projects this year.

"Among the many reforms and programs are infrastructure spending as well as other government programs including capital development program," Pernia said.

"We expect construction activities and public spending to pick up sharply," he added. — with Ted Cordero/ VDS, GMA News

Clash between soldiers, NPA rebels reaches Laguna nat’l highway

SAN PEDRO CITY – An ongoing battle between New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and government soldiers on Wednesday has reached a national road, prompting local officials to set road blocks to keep civilians off the encounter site.

As of 6 p.m., Supt. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson of the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon (Calabarzon) police, said the firefight has reached the national highway in Luisiana town in Laguna.

“It’s on the national highway already so we prohibit vehicles from passing,” Gaoiran said in a text message.

Just an hour earlier, Rommel Palacol of the Laguna Action Center, said the encounter between the rebels and the police occurred in Barangay Bulajo in the adjacent town of Cavinti.

“Roads are blocked and vehicles coming from Pagsanjan (Laguna) and Lucban (Quezon) are asked to re-route,” Palacol said. He said there are reports of “casualties” on the government’s side.

Gaoiran said the ongoing battle on Wednesday began around 12 noon on the boundary of Barangay Kalangay and Mahabang Parang in Lucban. This involved members of the 5th Maneuver Platoon of Quezon Police Public Safety Company.

So far, police reported certain Police Officer 2 Leonida and Police Officer 1 Tayaba wounded in the clash.


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Pacquiao is second billionaire in Senate after Villar


Senator Cynthia Villar is no longer the only billionaire member of the Senate as she now shares the spot with neophyte Senator Manny Pacquiao.

Villar remained, however, the richest among the 24 senators based on their 2016 statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN).

From P3.5 billion last year, Villar’s wealth slightly increased to P3.606 billion as of December 31, 2016.

Pacquiao, came in second with P3.072 billion net worth. He declared a total assets of P3.422 billion but had liabilities worth P350,595,647.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, meanwhile, was the poorest with P6,506,672.13, replacing Senator Francis Escudero, who held the spot in 2015.

Trillanes, known critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, declared total assets of P16.012 million and total liabilities of P9.506 million.

Trillanes’ net worth in 2016 was higher by more than half-a-million pesos from his P5.9 million net worth in 2015.

Escudero was the second poorest with P6.602 million net worth last year, still higher than his P5.8 million net worth in 2015. He had no liabilities in 2016.

The third poorest senator was neophyte Senator Leila de Lima with P6.617 million. She declared total assets of P9.8 million and liabilities of P3.182 millon.

De Lima has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center over drug charges.

Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III’s net worth was P17.734 million while Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had P82.482 million.

Senator Grace Poe’s wealth, meanwhile, was reduced by half a million peso after she ran in the May 2016 presidential election.

From P89 million in 2015, Poe’s net worth went down to P88,480,811.91 last year.

She declared total assets of P124.349 million in 2016 but she also had total liabilities of P35.865 million, including a loan from her mother, Jesusa Poe, also known as Susan Roces, amounting to P17.760 million. CBB

Below is the list of the senators’ net worth in 2016.

1. Sen. Cynthia Villar: P3,606,034,556
2. Sen. Manny Pacquiao: P3,072,315,030
3. Sen. Ralph Recto: P 522,610,452.59
4. Sen. Sonny Angara: P123,949,722
5. Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri: P 121,768,713.77
6. Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian: P 92,141, 701.14
7. Sen. Grace Poe: P88,480,811.91
8. Sen. Franklin Drilon: P 82,482,955
9. Sen. JV Ejercito: P 79,130,483.36
10. Sen. Richard Gordon: P66,928,851.46
11. Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III: P63,800,450
12. Sen. Nancy Binay: P 60,483,437
13. Sen. Loren Legarda: P40,911,192.90
14. Sen.Panfilo Lacson: P38,703,615
15. Sen. Bam Aquino: P33,860,702
16. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano: P24,132,490
17. Sen. Joel Villanueva: P21,519,770
18. Sen. Gregorio Honasan: P21,279,749.74
19. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III: P17,734,400
20. Sen. Risa Hontiveros: P16,332,952.70
21. Sen. Francis Pangilinan: P9,288,108.84
22. Sen. Leila de Lima: P6,617,635.62
23. Sen. Francis Escudero: P6,602,082.09
24. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV: P6,506,672.13


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Tondo cell no secret, police probers say

Investigators from the Philippine National Police-Internal Affairs Service (IAS) found that a “secret cell” inside a Manila police station was not secret after all and the officers responsible for it did not violate human rights or police regulations, IAS Inspector General Alfegar Triambulo said on Wednesday.

Triambulo said an IAS fact-finding team reported that the 10 detainees in the Raxabago Police Station cell bore no torture marks, were allowed visitors and underwent inquest proceedings 18 hours after their arrest.

“They did not see any human rights violation … That was the result of their investigation,” he said.

He added that the “secret cell” served only as a “holding cell” and local barangay officials knew about its existence.

“They got testimony (from the detainees’ relatives) and two barangay chairs even made a certification that (the cell) had existed publicly for a long time, so that means that is not secret detention,” Triambulo said.

The IAS investigated the case after the one-meter by five-meter narrow, windowless and smelly cell was discovered on April 27 by lawyers from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) who had been tipped off by unidentified informants.

Following the discovery, Raxabago station chief Supt. Robert Domingo and the 12 members of his station’s Drug Enforcement Unit were relieved.

Triambulo said that an IAS precharge investigator was supposed to review the fact-finding team’s conclusions, but the review was cut short after the CHR last week asked the Office of the Ombudsman to look into possible cases of arbitrary detention, grave threats, grave coercion, robbery, extortion and maltreatment, and torture of the “secret” detainees against the Raxabago station officers.

“What happened was even before the papers were completed, the CHR filed a case before the Ombudsman so immediately I directed the fact-finding team to give the results, which I had not seen at that time, to the Ombudsman because it might help,” he said.


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Controversial trader to supply weapons to PH

EIJING—Poly Technologies Inc., a controversial Chinese arms trader, will provide military equipment to the Philippines under a $500-million loan agreement between Beijing and Manila, according to the Philippines’ Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Speaking at a press briefing on Sunday night, Lorenzana said the Chinese company provided a letter of intent for an arms supply deal.

Poly Technologies officials met with President Duterte on Sunday, Lorenzana said.

‘Wide array’

Mr. Duterte was in Beijing to attend the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, joining delegates, including some heads of state, from 28 other countries.

Lorenzana said Poly Technologies was offering the Philippines “a wide array of defense equipment” for some of which the Chinese government offered a $500-million loan.

A subsidiary of China Poly Group Corp., Poly Technologies, was sanctioned by the United States in 2013 for violating the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

The law imposes sanctions on private and public entities that provide equipment or technology that could have a “material contribution” to the development of weapons of mass destruction or cruise or ballistic missile systems to rogue states.

The sanctions on Poly Technologies were lifted in 2015.

Lorenzana said the Philippines would send a technical working group to China to look at the equipment being offered by Poly Technologies.

He could not say what weapons the Philippines needed, as these would depend on the recommendation of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

“We are not saying that we will buy from them or we will not buy from them, but if we need anything from the Chinese defense industry then we’re going to procure using the loan that they are going to offer to us,” Lorenzana said.

Territorial defense

The Philippines needs warships and multirole jet fighters to defend its territory in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, a claim that the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated last year in a challenge brought by the Philippines after Beijing seized Panatag Shoal, a rich fishing ground off Zambales province, after a two-month maritime standoff in 2012.

China rejected the ruling, insisting on bilateral talks to settle rival territorial claims.

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China.

But while it offers talks, China is building artificial islands in the South China Sea and topping them with military facilities, including runways and missile batteries.

Unlike Vietnam, which has fought naval battles with China over territory in the South China Sea, the Philippines has nothing to defend its own territory in the globally important waterway.

Separate matters

Lorenzana, however, does not relate the South China Sea dispute with the modernization of the Philippine military.

“I think we should separate our dispute from the South China Sea from our relationship with the Chinese,” he said.

He said China also offered $14 million in December last year, although he did not clarify if this was also a loan.

He said the money would be used to purchase four fast boats, 200 sniper rifles and several hundred grenade launchers with ammunition—all of which would be delivered by the end of the year.






PH refuses new EU grants; P13 billion at stake

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The European Union on Wednesday evening, May 17, confirmed that the Philippines has decided to no longer accept new EU grants, pegged at around 250 million euros or P13.85 billion.

"The Philippine government has informed us that they no longer accept new EU grants," the EU delegation to the Philippines said when sought by Rappler for confirmation Wednesday.

The EU delegation said the Philippine government relayed this decision only this week.

The exact reason for this decision is unavailable as of posting time. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has not responded to our request for comment.

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said the Philippines’ decision will affect up to 250 million euros in EU grants. 

This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte slams the EU for supposedly interfering in his bloody anti-drug campaign. "If you think it's high time for you guys to withdraw your assistance, go ahead. We will not beg for it," Duterte told the EU in October 2016. 

The EU Parliament earlier warned the Philippines that it could lose trade incentives if the human rights situation in the country does not improve.

Jessen stressed that the EU was not "imposing" human rights conditions on the Philippines, and it was the Philippines that signed 27 labor and human rights conventions under the United Nations system. 

The EU, in any case, is one of the Philippines' biggest donors.

When Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck in November 2013, for example, the European Commission was the Philippines' second biggest donor, having given $40.47 million. Combined, donations from the European Commission and individual EU member-states made up around 11% of the foreign aid received by the Philippines after Yolanda. – Rappler.com



Ivanka Trump got destroyed by a humble librarian

Customer rearranges Ivanka Trump book display to include guide to getting over narcissistic and toxic parenting

These books include everything from Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents to The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation.

Ivanka Trump’s book did not have quite the reception the first daughter hoped for. Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success not only has an average of just 1.7 stars on popular US bookseller Barnes and Noble’s site but was almost unanimously derided by the critics.

However, if this was not enough, President Donald Trump’s daughter has now had her self-help book's display subverted by an upset customer at Barnes & Noble’s store in Long Beach, California.

Ms Trump’s book, which was released at the very beginning of May and has been dubbed a “career manual for the one per cent”, has been replaced with a whole host of other titles.

These books include everything from Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents to Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-AbsorbedThe Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our LivesToxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life, No More Narcissists!: How to Stop Choosing Self-Absorbed Men and Find the Love You Deserve, and The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation.

Strategy consultant, Ryan J Davis, shared a photo of the bookstore’s makeover, saying: “Ivanka Trump look your book is getting the perfect bookstore placement”.

Since the story was first reported, Chloé Pascual, a librarian, has admitted it was her who rearranged the display. “I was acting in my role as a cheeky bookstore customer,” she told The Cut.

There is one particular extract of the first daughter's book, which centres on providing career advice for working mothers, which has garnered the most criticism. This is the part where Ms Trump reveals she was so busy during her father’s election campaign that she was forced to go into “survival mode” and forego her usual massages.

Ms Trump, who is married to fellow White House advisor Jared Kushner, writes: “During extremely high-capacity times, like during the campaign, I went into survival mode: I worked and I was with my family; I didn’t do much else. Honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care. I wish I could have awoken early to meditate for twenty minutes.”

Readers immediately jumped upon this extract and mocked the first daughter, who is said to be the President’s favourite child, for the revelation on Twitter.

"Awww poor Ivanka Trump couldn't get a massage during the campaign. Most working women can't afford a message. Clueless and heartless," said one.

"#WomenWhoWork are a class you don't understand. It's not having a massage as a break but having a second to breathe... is the reality," said another.




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