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Tacloban airport closed for repairs

MANILA, Philippines — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) ordered yesterday the temporary closure of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City to pave the way for repair works of potholes on the runway caused by continuous rains since last week.

In a notice to airmen, CAAP said the airport would be closed from 5:30 p.m. yesterday until 9 p.m. today.

Cebu Pacific and its subsidiary Cebgo cancelled six flights to and from Tacloban yesterday.

Cebu Pacific said flights to and from Tacloban might also be affected in the coming days due to additional repairs on the runway.



‘TROJAN HORSE’ | House Minority: Giving China Telecom access to communications infra too risky

An internet cable is seen at a server room in this picture illustration. REUTERS FILE
MANILA – Opposition members of the Philippine Congress raised concern on Wednesday that China Telecom Corp Ltd, which may enter the Philippine industry, could be a “Trojan horse” aimed at giving China access to state secrets.

The Southeast Asian country aims to name a third telecom operator within the first quarter that will break the duopoly of PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom Inc. State-run China Telecom has been named as a possible investor in that third entity.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has warned both PLDT and Globe to shape up or face competition, has welcomed Chinese entities specifically to become the third telecoms operator.

Beijing has selected China Telecom to invest in the Philippines, according to Philippine officials, but it would need to partner with a local company as it cannot operate alone under the law.

China Telecom’s presence in the Philippines, however, does not sit well with some lawmakers, given China’s telecommunications expertise and sophisticated technology.

Despite Duterte’s warm relations with China, the Philippines has a long history of mistrust of it, due largely to its maritime assertiveness and its challenges to Philippine claims of sovereignty over various islands, reefs and waters.

“While we agree that telecommunications and connectivity are serious problems in our country, it behooves us to scrutinize the China deal,” the House minority bloc said in a statement.

“Is China Telecom a Trojan horse?”

The lawmakers sought a congressional inquiry and cautioned the government against rushing into any deal.

“Giving China access to the country’s communications infrastructure is a serious threat to national security,” they said, adding that even the United States was aware of such risk.

Two US lawmakers introduced a bill this week that bars the US government from using or contracting with Chinese telecom firms Huawei or ZTE Corp.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment on the lawmakers’ security concerns.

The Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) sought to allay the lawmakers’ concern on Wednesday.

A National Cybersecurity Plan is in place to provide measures and controls against security risks, DICT Assistant Secretary Allan Cabanlong told Reuters.

“Rest assured that there is no problem. What is important is that we are focused on the development of the country,” he said.


Over 5,000 aliens barred from entering PH in 2017

Reuters file photo of a Philippine flag
MANILA — More than 5,000 foreign nationals have been barred from entering the country last year, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported on Wednesday.

According to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Marc Red Mariñas, a total of 5,146 foreign nationals were denied entry in different airports nationwide in 2017.

He said that the aliens were prevented from entering the country as their presence was deemed “inimical to national interest”.

Statistics showed that 2,168 Chinese nationals topped the list of excluded aliens, followed by 295 Indians, 190 Americans, 183 Koreans, and 120 Vietnamese.

Based on his report submitted to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, Mariñas disclosed that majority of the foreigners, or 4,511, were turned away at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

A total of 334 and 112 aliens were also denied entry at the airports in Mactan, Cebu and Kalibo, Aklan, respectively, while 11 others were intercepted at Clark, Pampanga.

Mariñas added that most of the aliens who were turned back were profiled as individuals who did not have the means to support their stay here and whose purposes in entering the country were doubtful.

Likewise, he said that exclusion orders were issued against the foreign nationals convicted of sex crimes, improperly documented aliens, and passengers who were rude and disrespectful towards immigration officers.

For his part, Morente commended the BI-POD personnel for thwarting the entry of the undesirable aliens even as he exhorted them to keep their vigilance in discharging their duties as gatekeepers of the country.

“Our country is safer and our borders are secure because of you. Keep watching!” the BI chief in his message to BI port personnel.



Self-rated poverty eases in Q4 but increases in 2017 from 2016

Reuters file photo of a poor family cooking by the roadside.

MANILA, Philippines — Some 10 million, or 44 percent of Filipino families, considered themselves “mahirap,” or poor, in the last quarter of 2017, a three-point decline from the 47 percent, or 10.9 million families, who said they suffered poverty in the previous quarter, results of the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations showed.

But SWS noted that “this gives an average Self-Rated Poverty of 46 percent for all quarters of 2017,” two points higher than 2016’s “record-low” 44 percent.

In SWS’ first quarter survey last year, 50 percent of families rated themselves poor. This slid to 44 percent in the second quarter.

As for “food-poor” families, or those rating their food as mahirap, SWS said this remained unchanged at 32 percent (7.3 million) in December from September (7.4 million).


“This gives an average Self-Rated Food Poverty of 33 percent for the year 2017, 2 points above the record-low 31 percent of 2016,” SWS said.

Earlier in the year, “the proportion of Self-Rated Food Poor families was 35 percent in March and 32 percent in both June and September,” it added.

The polling firm attributed December’s 3-point decline in self-rated poverty to a 10-point decrease in Balance Luzon, and slight dips in Metro Manila and the Visayas, offset by a 7-point increase in Mindanao, from September’s 45 percent to December’s 52 percent.

The averages for the whole year wee 43 percent for Balance Luzon, three points higher than the 40 percent in 2016; a record-low average of 31 percent for Metro Manila, one point down from 2016’s 32 percent; 58 percent for the Visayas, up three points from 55 percent in 2016; and 52 percent for Mindanao, up a point from 51 percent the previous year.

The December survey also saw poor households placing their “self-rated poverty threshold,” or the monthly budget for household expenses needed to elevate them from poverty, at 15,000. This made for an unchanged median “self-rated poverty gap,” or the amount they need to meet the threshold, of P5,000.

Meanwhile, respondents placed the national median “self-rated food poverty threshold,” or the monthly budget that a food-poor household needs to stop considering its food as poor, at p6,000; and the national median “self-rated food poverty gap,” the amount they lack in monthly food expenses, at P3,000.

The non-commissioned survey was conducted from December 8 to 16 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults (household heads) nationwide with sampling error margins of ±2.5% for national percentages, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.


Palace: BBL should adhere to the Constitution

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be purged of constitutional infirmities to avoid being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

“You need to pass a BBL that’s consistent with the Philippine Constitution, simply put,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a press briefing.

Roque noted that a similar effort — the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain — during the Arroyo administration was struck down by the Supreme Court for violating the Constitution.

In December, President Duterte said he had doubts about the draft BBL passing constitutional muster.
But on Monday, Roque said the President wanted the proposal passed before Congress proceeds with Charter change.
Roque also dismissed as “speculative” suggestions that Malacañang was prioritizing the BBL over Charter change because the House of Representatives-led campaign to revise the Constitution was antagonizing the Senate due to reports that it would be abolished.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III conceded on Tuesday that it was easier to pass the draft BBL than amend the Constitution, which Mr. Duterte now wants Congress to prioritize amid the division between the Senate and the House over the mode of pursuing the changes.
This developed as Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said he had assured the President that the Senate would prioritize the proposed BBL.



Taguig transport terminal breaks ground

An graphic image shows how the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange would look like when completed in 2020. INQUIRER / JOVIC YEE
Close to 4,000 provincial buses are expected to be taken off of Edsa and other major roads once the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange (ITX) becomes operational by the first half of 2020.

On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade led officials in the groundbreaking ceremony of the second integrated transport terminal meant to not only improve the public’s commuting experience but also decongest Edsa.

To be built in partnership with Ayala Corp., the Taguig ITX will rise inside the 5.6-hectare FTI compound. It will host the provincial buses going to and coming from South Luzon, Bicol, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The six-story building will have a centralized ticketing area, a number of business and retail establishments, and can accommodate an estimated 160,000 passengers daily.
Construction of the terminal is set to start by the second half of this year. To ensure better connectivity, the terminal will be linked to the Philippine National Railways’ FTI station and the proposed subway system. /cbb



Doubling teachers’ pay to impact govt’s fiscal health — Diokno

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he was not opposed to the salary increase for teachers but clarified that doubling their pay would negatively impact the government’s fiscal health.

“The DBM [Department of Budget and Management] recognizes the important role of teachers. We are not strictly against the salary increase of teachers,” Diokno told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“I understand the crucial role teachers have in nation-building and I do believe they should be rewarded accordingly,” he added.

In fact, Diokno said that the take-home pay of teachers has already increased this year with the implementation of the third tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

He said that currently, an entry-level public school teacher (Teacher 1) with a Salary Grade 11 under Tranche 3 of the SSL gets a monthly salary of P20,179.

“Annually, he/she enjoys bonuses and allowances of P74,358. This rounds up the monthly compensation package of teachers to P26,375,” he added.

The Budget chief said that by 2019, the monthly salary of an entry-level teacher will increase to P20,754 and the total annual bonuses and allowances will increase to P75,508, rounding up their monthly compensation package to P27,046, or P671 more per month.

He said the reason behind his previous statements in which he cautioned against the doubling of teachers’ salaries was its budgetary impact.

He clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction was “to look into increasing their salaries, not doubling them.”

Diokno said that doubling the salaries of teachers this year will require an additional P343.7 billion in recurring costs for the national government.

“Financing this P343.7 billion may require hiking the deficit from 3 percent of GDP [gross domestic product]to 5 percent of GDP, and it may put at risk the excellent international financial standing the Duterte administration has built over the past 18 months,” he said. MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO


Classes suspended in Bicol due to heavy rain

This satellite photo taken and released by Pagasa Wednesday morning, Jan. 17, 2018, shows the clouds (indicated by the colors yellow and orange) that are bringing heavy rainfall in much of Luzon. PAGASA IMAGE
LEGAZPI CITY – Classes on Wednesday in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, and some towns in Sorsogon were suspended due to heavy rainfall that poured without letup since Tuesday.

In Albay, Governor Al Francis Bichara said due to the orange warning or heavy rainfall warning issued by the weather bureau, classes in all levels in public and private schools were suspended. Flooding is possible in the low lying areas and near river channels, as well as landslides in the mountainous areas.

In Sorsogon, John Joseph Perez, information officer of Department of Education, said the local government of Pilar has suspended classes in all levels. In Sorsogon’s Castilla town, classes in pre-school to secondary were also suspended.

In Camarines Sur, Governor Migz Villafuerte also announced a suspension of classes in all levels due to the continuous rain that may cause flooding and landslide in some areas in the province. Sailing, island-hopping and water activities were also prohibited in Camarines Sur due to gale warning.
In Camarines Norte, Governor Edgardo Tallado also announced a suspension of classes but only in pre-school to senior high school.
The Orange Warning raised by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) was brought by the tail-end of a cold front. /cbb


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