Albay gov joins Aquino, shocks Arroyo party

Salceda: I will make him win in Bicol

MANILA, Philippines—Stalwarts of the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD are bewildered by the defection of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to the camp of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and are appealing to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step in and stop the bleeding.

“I don’t understand,” Lakas-Kampi-CMD secretary general Raymundo Roquero said by phone early Wednesday. “[Salceda] organized the Caucus for Governors. The very basis for their existence is palabra de honor (word of honor). It’s very hard to comprehend.”

Be that as it may, Salceda, who’s running unopposed for reelection, has indeed accepted Aquino’s offer to be the LP regional chair in Bicol. But he has asked to be given “sufficient” time to “make proper notices to [the Lakas Kampi-CMD] leadership, local leaders and Ma’am PGMA.”

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Sarah Geronimo speaks on ‘break-up’ with Rayver Cruz

MANILA, Philippines – ASAP XV’s Pop Princess Sarah Geronimo broke her silence on reports saying that she has broken off her relationship with dancer-actor Rayver Cruz.

“Paano naman mangyayari yong magbi-break kami na hindi naman kami naging kami,” Geronimo said during a press conference for her latest endorsement “555 Corned Tuna” with actor John Lloyd Cruz.

The Pop Princess said she and Rayver are just friends and that Rayver is dating someone else.

Geronimo also cleared speculations that Rayver gave up pursuing her because of her strict parents.

“Sila mommy at daddy para sa akin na maging committed nag-aaral pa ako at may career pa ako, basta kami ni Rayver ay magkaibigan at lahat ng kaibigan ko ay espesyal sa puso ko pero hindi,” she said.

Geronimo also spoke about the recent exit of singer Rachelle Ann Go from ASAP XV allegedly because the latter was not given enough exposure on the show because of Geronimo.

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15 dead in Basilan blasts

Abu Sayyaf tagged in simultaneous attacks

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Abu Sayyaf bandits took their campaign of terror to the heart of Basilan on Tuesday, setting off bombs at a Roman Catholic cathedral, school grandstand and three other places, and clashing with government forces in Isabela City.

At least 15 people, including the brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Purudji Indama, were killed in the attacks staged by armed men wearing police and military uniforms, reports said Monday night.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad appealed to local residents to stay calm and pray as he called on military and police officials to run after those responsible for the attacks, which happened for the first time in the city after more than 20 years.

“This is definitely the handiwork of terrorists out to sow fear among the people of the province,” Senior Supt. Antonio Mendoza, Basilan police chief, told reporters in Manila.

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Berto vs Pacquiao most sensible match: analyst

MANILA, Philippines – It seems like another boxing champion is setting his sights on challenging pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, just like Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito and Erik Morales.

World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight champion Andre Berto, who successfully defended his title on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) against Puerto Rican Carlos Quintana, said Pacquiao has not faced a boxer like him.

“It would be a great showdown because he (Pacquiao) has never had to deal with my type of speed and power combined,” Berto said in an Examiner.com article by Vivek Wallace.

“Some of his opponents had one or the other, but you could make an argument that I’d be the first with that kind of mix,” the Haitian American added.

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Smartmatic: Don’t expect total efficiency

MANILA, Philippines—If a machine conks out, it doesn’t mean there’s a glitch.

Duh?

Not all of the counting machines will work perfectly on Election Day, but voters need not worry because officials are prepared to handle the hiccups, according to Smartmatic-TIM Corp. Asia Pacific president Cesar Flores.

At a news conference Monday, Flores angrily denounced newspaper headlines highlighting the cold and damp weather in Hong Kong that momentarily decommissioned two precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines on the second day of the month-long overseas absentee voting.

He said people’s expectations in the conduct of the country’s first nationwide automated elections on May 10 should be tempered.

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Gov’t eyes more VAT, excise taxes this year as economy rebounds

The government has set higher goals this year for value-added and excise tax collections — major components of the country’s tax revenues — on the back of the recovering economy.

The government expects the economy to grow by 2.6–3.6 percent this year from 0.9 percent last year, when the global economic slump reached its height.

While it is normal for the government to target higher collections each year, “tax revenues, specifically VAT, [are] directly correlated to economic growth,” Finance Assistant Secretary for Fiscal Policy and Planning Ma. Teresa S. Habitan said via text at the weekend.

The government has set a P199.2-billion goal for VAT this year, more than half more than the P168.2-billion target last year, a document from the Finance department showed.

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US ‘green’ award for Arroyo draws outrage

MANILA, Philippines—Not so fast.

More environmental and religious groups have expressed outrage over the prestigious conservation award President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to receive at the US Congress in Washington on Tuesday.

Ms Arroyo is also scheduled to receive another award this week in Madrid from Spanish King Juan Carlos I for her efforts in promoting the Spanish language in the Philippines.

A Switzerland-based organization has written the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF), saying it was “shocked and very angry” over the Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award to be conferred on Ms Arroyo during her visit to the United States.

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New Giant Lizard Discovered in the Philippines

Scientists couldn’t see the lizard for the trees.

But now they’ve tracked down and named Varanus bitatawa, a skittish reptile that’s hard to spot even though it grows up to 2 meters long and sports bright yellow speckles.

In forests on the Philippine island of Luzon, the newly discovered monitor lizard hauls itself up into trees in search of fruit and melts into the vegetation if humans approach, says herpetologist Rafe Brown of the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He and his colleagues describe and name the species in paper published online the week of April 5 in Biology Letters.

The species is “new to us,” Brown clarifies, because the Agta and Ilongot peoples living in forests of the Sierra Madre range know the lizard well — as a delicacy. It mostly eats fruit and reportedly tastes better than a much more common scavenging monitor that’s “attracted to stinky stuff,” Brown says.

A cousin to the giant Komodo dragon, Varanus bitatawa is hard to find but once detected, is pretty hard to ignore. During adulthood, yellow markings differentiate it from a much drabber neighbor — though both species sport colorful patterns as juveniles.

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Mike Arroyo goes home, told to lose weight

MANILA, Philippines—Wearing an elastic abdominal brace, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband was discharged on Wednesday from St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City with strict instructions from his doctors to lose weight.

Asked why Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo was deemed fit to go home after a two-week confinement for a recurring ailment, his main attending physician, Dr. Juliet Gopez Cervantes, said: “Simply because he improved remarkably.”

The First Gentleman had to wear the brace to stabilize his abdomen and back while traveling from Taguig to Malacañang, Cervantes said.

Speaking on behalf of a team of 20 doctors who attended to Arroyo, Cervantes cited three instances that led them to decide on his discharge.

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Ayala Land, Manila Water set sights on Laguna

PROPERTY GIANT AYALA LAND INC. AND AFFILIate water concessionaire Manila Water Co. have teamed up on a new framework on the development and operation of a water and wastewater utility service in Laguna.

The partnership will open up a new business stream for Manila Water in terms of putting up a large-scale pipeline and plumbing infrastructure in Laguna while benefiting Ayala Land and the consumers in terms of lower water distribution cost.

“Manila Water is looking for the next East Zone [its concession area in Metro Manila] and we think that the next East Zone is really Laguna,” said Perry Rivera, director for regulation and corporate development.

“We realized that there are potential synergies and this is just the first of the series of moves where our companies will partner,” he said.

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