Opinion & Community

3rd Annual AJ Strong Memorial Run

In Memory of AJ Jabonero, A Tragic Victim of Hepatitis B Induced Liver Cancer-San Francisco Hep B Free Partners With Team Cancer Sucks For The 3rd Annual AJ Strong Memorial Run

San Francisco-Team Cancer Sucks and San Francisco Hep B Free are partnering for the 3rd Annual AJ Strong Memorial Run, a 6.5k run/walk to honor AJ Jabonero, who passed away from hepatitis B induced liver cancer. This run serves as a remembrance of AJ and to raise awareness for the leading cause of liver cancer in the world, hepatitis B.

AJ Jabonero, a triathlete and Iron Man, of otherwise perfect health, who didn't drink, smoke, or eat unhealthy, was diagnosed at the age of 30, in December 2014, with stage 4 liver cancer from chronic hepatitis B infection. AJ knew he was a carrier, having suffered an episode of jaundice at the age of three; however, after years of being symptom-free and not regularly monitoring his viral load, AJ passed away, two and a half months after his diagnosis, on March 5th, 2015. Unfortunately, AJ was not the only member of the family to have suffered from chronic hepatitis B infection. AJ's aunt, father, mother, and sister were all carriers of the hepatitis B virus, his father having passed away from hepatitis B induced liver cancer in November 2005.

The 3rd Annual AJ Strong Memorial Run serves not only to remember Iron Man AJ Jabonero, but also to raise awareness for hepatitis B, where upwards of 80% of all liver cancer cases around the world are directly associated with it. As many as 1 in 12 Asian and Pacific Islanders are chronically infected with the virus, with 2 out of 3 not knowing they have it, and 1 in 4 developing liver cancer or liver disease from it.
Following the run there will be a health fair, food, and music, including free hepatitis B screenings provided by San Francisco Hep B Free.


More than half of Filipino drivers stupid, says Sotto

More than half of Filipino drivers will fail an honest-to-goodness driver’s examination, according to Sen. Vicente Sotto III.
Because they are stupid.

“Here in the Philippines, if we [give drivers an honest-to-goodness examination like those required in other countries, especially the United States], I expect more than 50 percent of [them] will not pass,” Sotto said during a hearing on road safety called by the Senate committee on public services on Tuesday.
“Terrible. They are not only reckless but they are also stupid, that’s why they will surely fail,” he said.
“In a real examination, 50 percent of drivers in the Philippines will fail,” he said, without explaining the sudden reduction in his estimate.

Road congestion
Filipino drivers who do not follow traffic rules contribute to the worsening congestion on the country’s roads, said Sotto, who drives his own car.
He lamented the parking of cars along city streets, which aggravates the congestion, especially in Metro Manila.
“Who’s responsible for that if not stupid drivers?” he said.
“They violate the law because they did not go through scrutiny. It’s so easy to get a driver’s license here,” he said.
Sotto then urged officials of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to enforce stricter rules for the issuance and renewal of drivers’ licenses.
Assistant Transportation Secretary Edgar Galvante, the LTO chief, admitted shortcomings in the qualification process, especially in the issuance of professional drivers’ licenses.


Acting Sol Gen NoelFrancisco described as ‘disciplined’ and an ‘outstanding musician’

NEW YORK -- If all goes well in the confirmationhearings, the next Solicitor General of the United States is a prominentFilipino American lawyer who was a clerk of the late conservative firebrand,Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Noel John Francisco of Oswego, New York, isreported to be Donald Trump’s choice to be the next Solicitor General,described by Texas Senator Ted Cruz as a “principled conservative.”

Francisco has argued that Trump’s order banningimmigration from six mostly Muslim countries is a decision only the presidentcan make, and not open to any legal challenge.

“The power to expel or exclude aliens is a fundamentalsovereign attribute, delegated by Congress to the executive branch ofgovernment and largely immune from judicial control,” he said in a widelypublished legal brief.

Filipino Americans are divided in their opinion ofFrancisco. Conservatives welcomed the appointment of a FilAm – the third so far— to the Trump administration, while liberals warned against too much rejoicingif the official will work against the interests of immigrant communities,including Filipinos.

Donald Trump Has Call Centers in the Philippines Worried

Outsourcing companies in the Philippines, whose clients are mainly U.S. companies, are worried that Donald Trump’s plan to bring jobs back to America won’t end at just manufacturing but extend into services.

The industry is considering hiring a U.S.-based consultant to monitor the threat of rising American protectionism, Ike Amigo, the head of the Philippine association representing outsourcing companies, said in an interview on Wednesday.

“We are looking at hiring a consultant on the ground pretty soon, as early as March,” he said in his office in Manila. “We keep an eye on developments in the Trump administration. Certainly, it is a concern,” adding the consultant may be a lobbyist or a research group.

Trump is shaking up the global stage as he persuades companies such as Ford Motor Co. to put up factories and investment in the U.S to create jobs. While outsourcing companies have largely escaped his notice, his policies could hurt the industry in the Philippines, among the largest foreign-exchange earners, just as the peso is weakening.

Click here to read how the peso’s decline is forecast to worsen this year

“Trump is one of the biggest risks facing outsourcing revenue,” said Michael Wan, an economist at Credit Suisse Group AG in Singapore. “That comes on top of a more protectionist mood globally, not just in the U.S. The outsourcing sector will have to contend with that challenge.”

Philippine outsourcing revenue surged 160 percent in the past six years to an estimated $23 billion in 2016 and is forecast to rise to $39 billion by 2022. It is projected to provide 1.8 million jobs by then, about 4 percent of total employment.

To achieve their goal, the industry is moving to offering higher-skilled jobs in areas such as animation, medical, legal and game development, Amigo said. That will add to the Philippines’ natural advantages which include cheaper wages, accent-neutral English language skills, affinity with customer service and familiarity with American culture.

Philippine providers also seek to diversify their markets to boost clients from Japan, Australia, Singapore, South Korea, India, U.K., and Southeast Asia, he said.

The average cost of a full-time business process outsourcing employee in the Philippines is about $19,300 a year, compared with $72,300 in the U.K. and $91,100 in the U.S., according to consulting firm Everest Group. The cost calculation includes salaries and expenses related to benefits, administration, facilities, technology and others.


DFA puts on hold renewal of Yasay’s Philippine passport

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs has put on hold the application of former Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. for renewal of his Philippine passport pending resolution of questions surrounding his citizenship by “competent authorities.”

Yasay filed the application on March 9, a day after the 15-member Commission on Appointments rejected his appointment as head of the country’s foreign service for lying about his American citizenship.

“At this writing, we have received instructions from Acting Secretary (Enrique) Manalo to suspend or hold in abeyance the issuance of the passport to former Sec. Yasay pending resolution of the legal question by competent authorities,” Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Frank R. Cimafranca said.

Asked about the DFA’s move, Yasay said, “I don’t know about that. They did not inform me.” He declined further comment.

Sources close to Yasay said the former secretary’s Philippine passport issued in 2013 is valid up to mid-2018. He applied for Express Processing (seven working days) and paid P1,200.

The DFA’s Office of Consular Affairs said the only requirement for renewal of an e-passport is the current passport.


Phl to China: Explain ship in Benham Rise

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines – through its ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Santa Romana – has officially asked China to explain the reported presence of one of its vessels in Benham Rise in the Pacific, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“The Philippines has expressed its concern about the reported presence of a Chinese ship in Benham Rise, which has been recognized by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as Philippine waters,” the DFA said in a statement.

“The Philippines has sent a note to the Chinese embassy seeking clarification on this,” it added.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose yesterday said that they are still awaiting the Chinese response through official channels, but cited the media statement of the Chinese foreign ministry regarding the matter.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang confirmed the reported presence of its ship in eastern Philippines last year but maintained that it was simply exercising its freedom of navigation.

“But this is purely carrying out normal freedom of navigation and right of innocent passage, and there were no so-called other activities or operations,” he told a regular news briefing. “Comments from individuals in the Philippines on this do not accord with the facts.”

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday expressed concern over the latest incursion of China on Philippine territory and ordered the Navy to accost or drive away Chinese ships if these are seen again in the area.


Concerns raised on impacts of decreasing copra prices

TACLOBAN CITY -- Global copra price has decreased steadily in the past two months, raising concerns that downward trading value may lose farmers' interest to seriously cultivate coconut in Eastern Visayas region.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said United States' production of soybeans, one of the leading competitors of coconut oil in the international market, has soared since last month, prompting some buyers to shift to alternative oil.
The situation forced Philippine coconut oil producers to adjust prices, according to PCA.
From an average copra farm gate price of PHP39.06 per kilogram, it went down to PHP36.44 in February. In the first week of March, its value further dipped to only PHP30.96.
PCA Eastern Visayas Regional Manager Joel Pilapil is anxious that if prices of copra will continue to drop in the next months, farmers may lose their interest to join in the coconut replanting program and process less productive trees into logs.

The government embarked on massive replanting activities after supertyphoon Yolanda that either uprooted or sheared 16.1 million coconut trees when it struck on Nov. 8, 2013.
“If prices are high, farmers are more motivated to replant, make existing trees more productive,” Pilapil said.
The official, however, noted that this year’s prices is higher than the pre-Yolanda years where it dropped to as low as PHP10 to PHP15 per kilogram.
Copra is the dried meat, or dried kernel, of the coconut used to extract coconut oil. The oil is extracted from it and this has made copra an important commodity for the coconut-producing Eastern Visayas region.
Other competitors of copra in terms of oil extraction in the global market are soya, palm, rapeseed, and sunflower.
A third of the region's farming communities are dependent in coconut production, hence, copra price adjustments have huge impacts to the local economy, according to Pilapil.
Before the 2013 monster typhoon struck, the region has been producing two billion nuts, the second highest in the country. In 2016, the projected coconut production is at 1.6 billion nuts.
The goal is to restore the output to pre-Yolanda level within two years.(PNA)


Hundreds of MILF child soldiers released in Philippines

Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest armed group, ends recruitment of children as part of peace plan.

Hundreds of child soldiers have been released by the Philippines' main separatist rebel group, continuing its commitment to end the recruitment and use of children within its ranks.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), one of the most powerful armed groups in the country, released the children on Friday as part of an action plan with the UN.

Reporting from the disengagement ceremony in Lanao del Sur, Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan said Friday's release did not happen overnight.

"This is something that started eight years ago," she said. "It required a lot of ground work, a lot of investigations, a lot of re-education, not just of leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but also of parents who have had their children exposed to combat."

In 2009, the group signed an action plan with the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers, a practice that extends over generations.

The first in a series of disengagement ceremonies took place in February and the group will eventually disengage more than 1,800 children, according to UNICEF.

Some of the children fought on the front line with the group, but the majority performed tasks as couriers and support staff.

Richard Heydarian, a professor of political science in Manila, told Al Jazeera it is important to remember that many of these child soldiers were born into the conflict.

"We have to keep in mind that this is not like South Sudan or Sierra Leone ... where you have these children ripped apart from their family and forcibly coerced to become child soldiers," he said.

"Many of these children are actually very much part of the fabric of the community that has been supporting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front."

The Islamic group, based on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, has fought for succession for decades, routinely recruiting and using children within its ranks, according to UNICEF.

Al Jazeera's Alindogan said Friday's ceremony shows the sincerity of the MILF in making sure the "third and fourth generation of children are not going to end up with the same fate as their parents and grandparents".

The children who are released will be offered scholarships to finish school, as well as support from the government and NGOs for full integration back into society.

"The release of children from the MILF is only the beginning of the next phase of their youth. The next step is to ensure that these children receive support," UNICEF's country representative Lotta Sylwander said last month.

Example for other armed groups

The number of child soldiers in the Philippines remains unknown. Mindanao is home to a number of armed groups who use and recruit combatants under the age of 18, according to the UN.


The cost of protecting the Trump family

"It’s not easy or cheap," as per estimates gathered by The Washington Post

Early reports from the nation's capital paper have stated that President Trump and his family would supersede what it cost to protect former President Barack Obama and his family by 'hundreds of millions of dollars.'
According to Judicial Watch, a well-known conservative group that kept track of Obama's travel expenses, an estimate of $97 million was spent during the former president's eight years in office.
The period under report has set forth an example of just four weeks into the 45th president's term.

Enumerated below are but a few examples thus far:
· 3 trips to Mar-a-Lago in Florida since the Trump inauguration, may have cost about $10 million, based on a government report from October that provided an analysis of the White House travel which includes expenses on the cost of US Coast Guard patrol boats on the shoreline.

· Palm Beach County officials announced how they will request reimbursement of tens of thousands of dollars per day from the White House, for their deputies who provided “security and logistical support around the city.”

· Police officials have provided estimates on what it would cost New York $500,000 a day or $183 million a year, to guard Trump Tower, where First Lady Melania Trump and the ten-year old Barron Trump live.

· Secret Service and embassy employees paid some $100,000 in hotel room bills during a trip to Uruguay by a Trump son, Eric. Reportedly, he went to that South American city where he
promoted a "Trump-branded building."

· Should the Pentagon successfully secure rental space in Trump Tower -- "needed" when the president returns to New York -- it would cost $1.5 million per month, per information received from the building's website according to news reports.

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