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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.






PAGASA launches satellite-based constant weather watch system

South Korea's Communication, Ocean and Meteorological Satellite (COMS) Cheollian-1 continuously hovers some 36,000 km above the equator, sending out weather data every 15 minutes.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is now able to take full advantage of the satellite's capabilities through a new system inaugurated this Wednesday, May 17.

Dubbed the COMS Data Analysis System, the initiative is a joint project with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

24/7 imaging every 15 minutes

The COMS Cheollian-1's geosynchronous orbit above the equator means that it is in almost always in sight of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.

According to PAGASA administrator Dr. Vicente Malano, the agency's new COMS Data Analysis System enables practically constant weather monitoring via receiving stations in Metro Manila and Cebu.

"Mas frequent ang data na naibabato (ng COMS satellite) sa atin. Dati-dati, ang nakukuha nating data (sa ibang satellite) is every 30 minutes. Ngayon, every 15 minutes na lang," he said.

The system is particularly useful for the live monitoring of rainfall, fog, clouds, and large fires in the country, Malano said.

Complement to Project NOAH, Diwata-1

Malano also said that the COMS system complements and augments PAGASA's other tools, including Project NOAH and Diwata-1.

Project NOAH, for example, utilizes a network of sensors across the country whose range does not extend far offshore. Malano explained that the COMS satellite can augment this data by tracking weather disturbances long before they make landfall in the Philippines.

"Ang mga (ground-based) radar natin ay may capability of monitoring not more than 400 km away from the station. But itong satellite na ito, kahit nasa karagatan pa ang (weather disturbance) ay makukuha ng satellite ang hindi kaya ng radar," he said.

On the other hand, Diwata-1 and its upcoming sister satellite Diwata-2 utilize a different set of sensors and serve different functions to the COMS satellite.

"Ang Diwata is sun synchronous, okay yung resolution for research. But (the COMS satellite) is for monitoring," explained Dr. Vicente Palcon, COMS project proponent and PAGASA's counterpart focal person to KOICA.

Priority aid from South Korea

The COMS Data Analysis System is fully funded by KOICA and involves access to the COMS satellite as well as basic training for Filipino personnel.

"Wala tayong binabayarang subscription. Ang binibigay ng KOICA ay libre, kasama ang receiving facilities, computing system, at training," Malano said.

Shin Myung Seop, country director of KOICA's Philippine office, said that the COMS Analysis System was a priority aid initiative.

"(The Philippines) is one of the most advanced countries in implementing the shift from a reactive emergency response to a proactive risk reduction approach," he explained.

"The KOICA Philippine Office is making efforts towards the prioritization of the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Sector in our cooperation areas this year," he added. — GMA News


PHL joins call to stick to climate pact amid Trump threats

Countries at high risk of sea-level rise, drought and storms caused by global warming urged world leaders Wednesday to stay the course despite America's threatened exit from a UN climate pact.

The Paris Agreement struck in 2015 to limit warming by capping emissions from burning coal, oil and gas, is "our lifeline", pleaded the Climate Vulnerable Forum.

The grouping represents the interests at UN climate negotiations of over a billion people in nearly 50 countries on five continents.

"As long there is a chance to stop global warming at a level that lets humanity survive and thrive, we should seize it," CVF representative Emmanuel De Guzman, a climate commissioner from the Philippines, said on the sidelines of UN talks under way in Bonn.

"This is why we continue to advance the call for world leaders to keep to the 1.5 goal and to recalibrate climate finance" for poorer countries to build less polluting infrastructure and raise their defences against climate impacts.

The Paris Agreement set a limit of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) limit for average global warming over pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Also underwritten is an aspirational lower target of 1.5 C, which the CVF considers says is key to the survival of millions of its people.

Trump has yet to announce whether or not he intends to execute his threats to withdraw America from the pact which his predecessor, Barack Obama, was instrumental in pushing through.

"We really believe that right now without increased climate action no country can ever be great again," said De Guzman, referring to Trump's campaign slogan: "Make America great again."


The American president may also opt to abandon the US' pledge to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The new administration has already said it intends to cut funding for the Green Climate Fund and related fora, including the UN climate secretariat under whose auspices the 196-nation Paris Agreement was negotiated.

"There should be no backsliding on existing commitments," said a CVF statement, which warned that "inaction is a serious threat to global cooperation."

Trump is only expected to make his announcement after returning from a meeting of the G7 rich nations in Sicily on May 26 and 27, where many are hoping America's peers will put pressure on Trump to stay in the deal.

The other six, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, "must make a strong case for action," argued climate activist Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, which advocates for poor country causes at the UN forum.

"Like witnesses to a violent assault, they will be complicit in the suffering of the world’s poor if they refuse to try and steer America back towards the right path."

The Paris Agreement's signatories, including a delegation from the United States, are gathered in Bonn until Thursday to work on a nuts-and-bolts "rulebook" for achieving the agreement's goals. —Agence France-Presse


12 hurt in Quezon road accident

LUCENA CITY – At least 12 persons were injured in a vehicular accident along the Maharlika Highway in Calauag town in Quezon province early Wednesday, police said. Senior Supt. Rhoderick Armamento, Quezon police provincial director, said a Manila-bound Bicol Isarog bus being driven by Rufino Hernandez accidentally collided with an incoming Toyota Avanza van being driven by Eusebio Landicho in Barangay (village) Doña Aurora around 4:50 a.m. An initial investigation report said the passenger bus was negotiating a curved section of the highway when the incoming van occupied the other lane and collided with the bus. The impact caused the bus to fall and consequently turn turtle on the side of the road. Ten bus passengers and two occupants of the van sustained injuries and were brought to the Saint Peter hospital in the town center for treatment. SFM By: Delfin T. Mallari Jr. Southern Luzon


More Filipinos expect quality of life to get worse—SWS survey

Filipino optimism declined in the first quarter of 2017, based on the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The SWS said 43 percent of those surveyed said they expect their personal quality of life to improve in the next 12 months and six percent expect it to get worse.

The result yielded a net personal optimism score of +36, classified as "very high" but nine points lower compared to the December 2016 survey's +45 score.

The December 2016 survey showed that 48 percent expect their personal quality of life to improve and only three percent expect it to get worse.

The latest survey, with 1,200 adult respondents, was conducted from March 25 to 28. It has sampling error margins of ±3% for quarterly national percentages, ±4% for Balance Luzon, and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao.

The survey firm said the latest result is the lowest in the last five quarters, with net personal optimism scores of +40 and above.

The lowest net optimism score recorded by SWS was in September 2015 at +33.

The SWS said that in Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte's bailiwick, the net optimism score also saw a huge decline at +32, which is 22 points lower from December 2016's +54.

Optimism, meanwhile, plunged by 17 points in Class E or "high" +29 compared to December 2016's "very high" +46. Net personal optimism in other socioeconomic classes stayed "very high," the survey showed.

Economic outlook

The survey also showed that fewer Filipinos or 47 percent believe the general Philippine economy will get better next year and more Filipinos, at nine percent, felt it would deteriorate. In the previous quarters, 51 percent were optimistic and only eight percent were pessimistic that the country's economy will grow.

The latest survey garnered a  net optimism of "very high" +38, five points lower than the December 2016 survey.

The SWS, meanwhile, noted that optimism of Filipinos, based on its past surveys, "have been highly negative."

The March survey also showed that net optimism of the economy stayed "very high" across geographical areas and socioeconomic classes.

Meanwhile, 35 percent of the respondents said their quality of life improved while 19 percent they it worsened, yielding a net gainers score of "very high" +16, which was the same result in the December 2016 survey.

The SWS said the net gainers scores since April 1983 "had been positive" and above +10 since September 2016.

It said the latest survey saw a decline in gainers in Mindanao, but the overall score was pulled up by the increases in Visayas and Metro Manila. —ALG, GMA News

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