PNP warns against online 'kidnap-for-ransom'

MANILA -- The Philippine National PoliceAnti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) on Wednesday, March 22, warned companies in the country against ransomware, an online "kidnapping-for-ransom" modus of cybercriminals.
"Angtrending ngayon is ransonware. 'Yung they will automatically encrypt your file, para bang sa traditional may kikidnapin na tao tapos pababayaran,"Superintendent Jay Guillermo, PNP-ACG spokesperson, told reporters at the sidelines of the 4th National Summit on Cybercrime.
"They will kidnap your data, information tapos babayaran mo 'yun sa kanila for the password," he added.
He said when a data is encrypted, it cannot be accessed or opened by the owner unless they get the password.
He said those victimized by ransomware are mostly companies.
"Victimized are companies that have information, very vital yung information na 'yan. They will encrypt that file eh hindi mo s'ya mabubuksan kasi for you to open that you have to have a password," he said.
He said they are currently investigating two to three cases of ransomware in the country.
"It is already happening, but with regard tot he company wala pa namang reports.Only yung file nila it was encrypted. natakotlang sila if they (attackers) will use this information," he said.
He said attackers sometimes ask for a payment through bitcoin or cryptocurrency and an online payment system.
"Minsan two or three bit cons, mga P120,000 ang bit coin. Through virtual currency [angbayad]," he said.
Backing-up your files, regularly checking the backed up files and avoiding opening attachments on emails from anonymous senders or people you don't know are among the best preventive measures against ransomware. — GMA News


Employers group warns of job losses from 'endo' prohibition

MANILA -- The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) has warned of job losses due to the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) order prohibiting the practice of "endo" in the country.

"We believe it will create some job losses, but still we will comply,"Sergio Ortiz-Luis, honorary chairman of ECOP, said in a phone interview.

"Kasi kapag ni-regularize mo 'yung isa, mawawalan naman ng trabaho 'yung isa. Kasi sa 'endo' circle 'yan.There were people working in rotation, but 'pag regular na mawawala na 'yung circle and also no other jobs are created," Ortiz-Luis said.

Last week, Labor andEmployment Secretary Silvestre Bello III signed Department Order (DO) 174 ordering an immediate prohibition on "endo" or the repeated hiring of workers by contractors under an employment contract of short duration that skirts the mandated six months for a worker to qualify for regularization.
ECOP President Donald Dee said the group is now working with DOLE to clarify some provisions of the new DOLE order.

"We are now meeting with DOLE to just make sure that we are on the same page as far as understanding the provision of DO 174," said Dee.

"We are organizing teams to go all over the country to explain how they implement the DO. We have asked DOLE to give our staff the necessaryorientation," Dee added. — GMA News


Barangay officials uncooperative in anti-illegal drugs drive face charges

MANILA -- The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)has issued a warning to barangay officials who fail to reduce drug-related incidents in their respective jurisdictions will be charged with negligence of duty.
“If a certain barangay official was not able to reduce by lower than 50 percent the number of drug personalities in his area by June, we will file charges of negligence of duty against the barangay officials,” DILGSecretary Ismael Sueno said in an interview on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the 15th Meeting of the ASEAN Senior Officials Responsible forInformation (SOMRI) held Wednesday at the SMX Convention Center in BacolodCity.
Sueno said the department is working with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) in identifying barangays that are seriously affected by illegal drugs due to larger presence of personalities involved such as users, pushers and financiers as well as the prevalence of drug dens in the area.
A DILG memorandum has reiterated the importance of the barangay’s anti-drug abuse councils (BADAC) led by the barangay chairman on the government’s campaign against illegal drugs and in drug clearing operations.
Under the DILG memorandum, failure of local officials to appropriate a portion of their budgets to assist or enhance Republic Act 9165or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 is a ground for disapproval of a barangay’s annual budget. Administrative charges for dereliction of duty will be filed against violators.
The department has also organized the MASA Masid (Mamamayang AyawSa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Iligal na Droga ) teams in various barangays nationwide.
MASA MASID is a barangay-based and volunteerism-based program of the DILG that adopts a multi-sectoral and mass-based approach in reporting incidences of illegal drug activities, criminality and corruption in communities.
Meanwhile, the PDEA has also set new standards for the classification of drug-affected barangays in the country.
A reported presence of at least one clandestine drug laboratory or marijuana plantation in the community will merit a classification of a seriously affected barangay.
Barangays will also be classified as seriously affected if more than 20 percent of its total population are drug personalities (users, pushers,financiers) and there is a reported presence of three or more drug dens or “tiangges" (flea markets).
Moderately affected barangays have two to 20 percent of its total population as drug personalities.
Those that have reported drug personalities that are less than two percent of the population will be classified as slightly affected.
According to the PDEA, 20 percent of the barangays nationwide are drug-affected at present. The National Capital Region (NCR) has the highest rate of affectation with 92.10 percent of the region’s barangays affected, followed by Region 4A (Calabarzon) at 33.78 percent. -- PNA


Over 100 ‘Yolanda’-hit families still live in rooms the size of 2 'ping pong' tables


MANILA – More than three years after super typhoon Yolanda pummeled the coastal town of Basey, Samar, more than a hundred families remain in bunkhouses, which were built as emergency shelters after the 2013 disaster. Each family lives in a room with a standard area of 8.64 square meters, similar to the size of two table tennis or "ping pong" tables.

Jap Cabuboy, whose family has been living in a bunkhouse in Canmanila village for three years, said they envy other Yolanda-hit families who have already transferred to permanent houses

“It’s our dream, and we have been waiting for it. We are willing to wait until the time when the government tells us to transfer to our new home. Most of us here feel bad on the very slow response of (concerned) government agencies,” said Cabuboy, whose wife works as an Overseas Filipino Worker.

The bunkhouses are located along the national highway in a local government-owned lot.

Melissa Eracho, who shares a room with a friend, expressed the same sentiment for the dilapidating bunkhouses.

“Some of our friends have decided to return back to our old places along river banks and coastal communities, classified as danger zones,” Erachosaid. “I hope President Rodrigo Duterte will check our condition so he can help us.”

The bunkhouse built by the Department of Public Works and Highwaysin Yolanda-hit provinces in Eastern visayas in late 2013 is divided into 24 rooms to accommodate more families.

The bunkhouses are made of corrugated sheets, plywoods and coco lumber. Each bunkhouse has four toilets, two bathrooms and a kitchen.

Basey Mayor Igmedio Ponferrada said those who remained in emergency shelters in Canmanila are recipients of housing projects funded bythe Diocese of Calbayog, United Nations Development Programme and Ledesma Foundation.

The mayor said hundreds of families remain in coastal communities while waiting for the completion of housing units being built by the National Housing Authority (NHA).

The NHA contractors have started building houses in Basey only last year, which is why all projects are still ongoing, according to Ponferrada.

“Looking for the site where to construct the house was one of the major hindrances. Adding up to the delay is the long list of requirements,” the mayor added.

Construction is ongoing for 3,000 permanent housing units in threesites in this town.

“We also want the permanent houses to be done as soon as possible because we have been spending a lot for electricity bill and daily water supply to the bunkhouses,” the mayor told PNA.

Basey town is about 24 kilometers northeast of Tacloban, the regional capital. On Nov. 8, 2013, the town was one of the places heavily devastated by super typhoon Yolanda, leaving more than 200 people dead. -- PNA


132 NPA Rebels Neutralized Since Feb. 4

MANILA -- A total of 132 suspected New People’s Army rebels have been neutralized by the military since President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace negotiations with the communists.

At a news conference on Wednesday, March 22, Armed Forces Public Affairs chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said that of those neutralized from February 4 to March 22, 24 rebels were killed while 20 others were arrested by authorities.

Arevalo added that more than 80 communists have surrendered to the military. Meanwhile, government forces also recovered 83 firearms from the insurgents.

The military also reported 64 armed encounters with the NPA during the same period.

Arevalo said the latest encounter with the communist rebels occurred on Tuesday at 5:45 a.m. in Lupi in Camarines Sur. No casualties were reported on both the government forces and the insurgents.

Meanwhile, Arevalo said the NPA committed 67 atrocities since January15.

“Record of NPA atrocities from January 15 to present ay umaabot sa 67. There were eight incidents of ambushes, 33 na harassments, seven incident ng abduction, 14 na panununog, isang robbery,” he said.

Arevalo reiterated the AFP’s support of attaining lasting peace with the communist rebels, saying they only operate against the NPA for their illegal activities.

“Kung meron mang grupo na gusto ngpangmatagalang kapayapaan para sa kapakanan ng ating bayan at para sapag-unlad, yun po ang ating Armed Forces of the Philippines. We have been consistently working our best in order to ensure that that end is realized,” Arevalo said.

“Kung nagpapatuloy ang paglabag sabatas ng mga kagawad ng NPA kagaya ng pangingikil, panununog, pagpatay, at panggigipit sa ating mga kababayan at komunidad, wala pong magagawa ang inyong Armed Forces pati yung Philippine National Police but to enforce the law,” he added.

Arevalo said operations against the NPA will continue until a ceasefire is declared.

“Wala pang declaration, wala pang umiiral na [suspension of military operations] at nagpapatuloy ang focused operations against the NPA,” Arevalo said.

In early February, Duterteterminated the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front.

But formal talks are expected to resume on April 2 to 6 in The Netherlands. This came following successful backdoor negotiations early this month. — GMA News


Investors Optimistic About PH Equities in Next 6 Mos

MANILA -- Investors in the Philippines are quite optimistic about investing in local equities in the next six months, given the improving market conditions, the latest Manulife Investors Sentiment Index(MISI) showed.

"The Manulife Investor Sentiment Index survey revealed that 92 percent of investors in the Philippines indicate that the next six months 'will be a neutral to good time' to invest in equities," Manulife said in a statement on Wednesday, March 22.

The top reasons for the optimism are improving market conditions, better employment situation and stable market place.

"The Philippines delivered encouraging growth momentum in 2016. Looking ahead, we expect a continued execution of larger infrastructure spending and co-investing projects with private capital," said Aira Gaspar, chief investment officer at Manulife Philippines.

"This will generate positive multiplier effects on employment, manufacturing, retail trade and productivity. These factors, coupled with supportive structural reforms, would drive stronger corporate earnings and create new catalysts for Philippine equities," Gaspar noted.

The Philippine economy grew by 6.8 percent in 2016, the fastest since 2013, mainly driven by manufacturing, trade and real estate business activities.

"It is expected that the Philippine economy will continue its strong performance delivered in 2016 and keep its upbeat economic momentum this year," Manulife said.

Manulife also noted good prospects for emerging markets in the region, given the improvement in global economic momentum.

"Despite considerable global political uncertainties, modest improvement in global economic momentum is expected to continue this year," it said.

A separate survey by Thomson Reuters noted that business sentiment at Asia's top companies rose to its highest level in almost two years in the first three months of the year, on the back of positive economic signs from the United States and China.

Earlier this year, First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC) said it expects the local stock barometer to reach the 2017 full-year target of 7,500. — GMANews


China sets meeting with ASEAN on code of conduct framework

MANILA -- China is set to host a meeting with members of the Association of theSoutheast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in May on the Code of Conduct framework amidterritorial disputes in the South China Sea.

This was announced by Acting Foreign AffairsSecretary Enrique Manalo in a press conference along with other Cabinetofficials joining President Rodrigo Duterte for a two-day visit inThailand.

“China will be hosting a meeting in May andhopefully by that time, we have made significant progress on the framework,”Manalo said.

He said expert groups are already meeting on the Code of Conductframework.

“One of the key things that will be consideredthere will be the work on the framework kasingayon nagmi-meeting experts groups on the framework itself and the hope -- I’m not saying it will happen -- but the hope of everyone is that by thetime we get to the meeting in May, the senior officials in the ASEAN China maybe able to already have, at least, a preliminary agreement on the framework,”Manalo said.

“And the Philippines is fully committed in seeingthat we can get to that point,” he added.

Manalo said the framework, once completed, willjumpstart “serious discussions” on the “key elements” of the Code of Conduct.

The ASEAN and China have signed in 2002 aDeclaration on the Conduct of Parties on the South China Sea. A legally-bindingdocument to manage regional disputes, however, has yet to be approved.

Manalo said the Philippines’ insistence on thecompletion of the Code ofConduct is with the aim that disputes are settled throughdiplomatic and peaceful means.

“All countries, even though we may have somedisputes, we have to behave and deal with each other in a way that doesn’t leadto conflict but rather promotes cooperation,” he said.

“The President has been very clear. We want to havea peaceful and diplomatic settlement of these disputes but we will not fail toprotect our national interest if necessary,” Manalo added.

Manalo likewise said that a legally binding Code ofConduct will put the Philippines in a position “to actually discuss how we cansettle disputes peacefully.”

The Philippines has overlapping claims with Chinain the South China Sea, parts of which Manila refers to as the West PhilippineSea.

A decision issued by the Permanent Court ofArbitration in July last year ruled ruled in favor of the Philippines, as itinvalidated the so-called nine-dash line, China’s basis for claiming almost theentire South China Sea.

China however has repeatedly refuse to recognizethe said decision. — GMA News


PHL, Thailand going for 'balanced' trade relations

THAILAND -- Trade relations between the Philippines and Thailand are expected to be "balanced" after the visit of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said Wednesday, March 22.

"Right now, Thailand is our sixth largest trading partner ... Mas malaki ang export nila sa atin kaysa ang export natin sa kanila. What we will do is to balance it," Lopez said in a press conference in Bangkok.

Duterte and his delegation arrived in Thailand on Monday, March 20, and will be there until Wednesday, March 22.

Part of the official delegation are Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo, Tourism Secretary Wanda T. Teo and Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano.

"In this Thailand trip, I guess what I can add is the commitment from Prime Minister [Prayut Chan-o-cha] to help us balance the trade between the two countries," Lopez said.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed Philippine exports to Thailand reached $2.129 billion in 2016.

Meanwhile, imports from Thailand amounted to $6.472 billion. — GMA News


US-PH cooperation leads to successful anti-trafficking operation

Manila — The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines congratulates the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti-Human Trafficking Division for a successful operation resulting in the rescue of nine children and the arrest of Arlene and Emelinda Aringo for offering children for sexual acts in exchange for money.
This operation was undertaken thanks to close coordination between the NBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Manila, and HSI in Portland, Maine.
This operation was supported by the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development and the International Justice Mission, a non-governmental organization.
Arlene and Emelinda Aringo were arrested for violation of the Philippine Republic Act (RA) 9208, Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 as amended by RA 10364, a non-bailable offense.


US awards science, technology, and innovation grants to Filipino scholars, universities

Manila – The United States government, through the US Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID), recognized 10 research scholars and 37 grant recipients in science, technology, and innovation who support the Philippine government’s push for innovation-led and inclusive growth.

The grants and scholarships are awarded by USAID’s Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) project, which boosts science and technology research in the Philippines to stimulate inclusive economic growth.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim personally acknowledged the individual scholars and the research grant recipients. “Our grantees represent the best scientific minds in the Philippines,” said Ambassador Kim. “We look forward to the results of their research projects that will upgrade industries, generate jobs and investments, and build skills and capacities in communities, academic institutions, and companies.”
The awards included 24 P5 million ($100,000), one-year research grants to Philippine universities to undertake collaborative research with US universities on disciplines that contribute to high-growth sectors, including electronics, chemical industries, alternative energy, agri-business, and information technology.

USAID also funded 10 prototype development research grants, valued at P1.15 million ($23,000) each, and three innovation development grants that address human development challenges, valued at about P4 million ($80,000) each.

The universities who received research grants include University of the Philippines Diliman, Western Philippines University, University of Southeastern Philippines, and the Technological Institute of the Philippines.
USAID’s $32 million Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) Project is the US government’s largest higher education project in the Philippines. The five-year project strengthens the Philippines’ capacity for innovation-led inclusive growth through strengthening applied research capabilities in Philippine universities and industries, and bolstering human capacity development in science, technology and innovation (STI).

To date, the project has awarded approximately $5.5 million in collaborative science, technology, and innovation research grants to more than 20 universities around the country. It has awarded 56 scholarships to Filipinos to study in US universities, provided advanced technical training to scientists and researchers, and brought 28 U.S. professors to visit the Philippines. STRIDE is also establishing 10 knowledge and technology transfer offices at select universities in the Philippines.

USAID’s STRIDE project is implemented by RTI International, in collaboration with sub-grantees including the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, Florida State University, Rutgers University, and local non-profit Philippine Business for Education.

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