1 dead in ramming of Phl fishing boat

he Philippines alleged yesterday that a Chinese vessel accidentally rammed a local fishing boat north of the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, killing one and leaving four others missing.

The fishing boat set out from the northern coastal town of Bolinao in Pangasinan last Monday and was reported to have sunk two days later, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos said.

“Of the eight fishermen aboard, four were plucked out of sea only yesterday (Saturday), but one of them died in the hospital,” Ramos said. “Four others are still missing.”

The rescued fishermen told authorities they believed the vessel that collided with their boat was Chinese, Ramos said, though this could not be independently verified.

Chinese embassy officials were not available for comment yesterday.

The motorized fishing boat AXL John was anchored to a payaw, or fish sanctuary, when it was rammed by the unidentified vessel.

No other details could be provided on the vessel, which left the area after the incident.

Noy warns illegal loggers

President Aquino yesterday warned illegal loggers and their cohorts in government, saying his government is serious in putting them behind bars.

In his speech during the 25th anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at Malacañang, the President expressed concern that illegal logging thrives despite the total logging ban.

Without mentioning specific areas or regions, the President said it has come to his attention that some people in government are protecting illegal loggers.

“It seems that some people do not believe we are serious in imposing a total log ban,” the President said.

Aquino said he would not want a repeat of the devastation wrought by typhoon “Sendong,” when hundreds of logs found their way to rivers in Mindanao, proof of the proliferation of illegal logging.

“Since they (illegal loggers) are directly challenges us, I will accept the challenge,” he said in Filipino.

The President ordered the DENR and the Departments of the Interior and Local Government and Justice to intensify their campaign against illegal logging and ensure the conviction of illegal loggers.

“Probably we should also instruct the Bureau of Corrections to prepare additional space so that they can have their vacation there, in case they think I’m joking,” he said, drawing applause from the audience.

The President earlier issued an executive order that imposed a moratorium on logging in natural and residual forests all over the country.

The President also directed the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to form a joint task force to hunt down and arrest the perpetrators and mastermind in the murder of forest rangers and DENR personnel enforcing environmental laws.

He ordered Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr. to set aside P5 million from the Presidential Social Fund and donate it to the foundation that provides financial assistance to the families of DENR personnel killed or disabled in the line of duty.

Oil firms cut gas prices by P1.20/liter

Manila, Philippines –  Major and independent oil firms have again cut prices marking the 11th consecutive weekly price rollback.

“We continue to reflect developments abroad. This is already the 11th [consecutive weekly price decline],” Shell spokesman Roberto Kanapi said.

Industry giants Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. and Chevron Philippines Inc., along with independent oil player Eastern Petroleum Corp., slashed prices of premium and regular gasoline by P1.20 per liter and P1.10 per liter, respectively.

The companies also rolled back prices of diesel by 50 centavos per liter and kerosene by 35 centavos per liter effective early today.

Last week, major and independent oil firms cut pump prices of regular and premium gasoline by 40 centavos per liter and 30 centavos per liter.

The oil firms have also reduced prices of diesel by 65 centavos per liter and kerosene by 60 centavos per liter on the back of lower prices abroad.

Militant groups to attend Rio +20 meet

Members of Philippine peasant organizations led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) confirmed that they are in Brazil to participate in the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) in protest of Rio 20+ or the so-called Green Economy of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Head of the Philippine delegation Lita Mariano of Amihan noted, “20 years ago, capitalist exploiters made use of the same recipe courtesy of the First Rio Earth Summit in 1992.”

Mariano said that the Green Economy agenda in Rio+20 “will continue to and further intensify the policies of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization of underdeveloped economies.”

According to Pambansang Alyansa ng Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) national chairman Fernando Hicap, the mad rush for Green Economy has prompted President Aquino to offer two of the major fishing areas – the 90,000 hectares of freshwater Laguna Lake and Manila Bay – to Green Economy investors.

“Under the Green Economy inspired public-private partnership (PPP) program, the Aquino government offered to financial investors 54 big ticket projects in Laguna Lake that would initially cost local taxpayers some P400 billion,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

The Laguna Lake Master Plan is a Green Economy development program that hopes to transform the lake fishing environment into a major industrial and commercial hub for foreign and local investments, while a national reclamation plan consisting of 38 land reclamation projects in Manila Bay will eat up 26,234 hectares of foreshore areas and coastal lands under the concept of Green Economy.

“The bankruptcy and sinister agenda of Green Economy is further exposed by the widespread offshore mining activities in the Philippines. The Aquino administration has put on the bidding table over 10 million hectares of ocean waters in Visayas Sea, Palawan Sea, Sulu Sea and other areas in the disputed South China Sea for oil and gas exploration,” Hicap noted.

‘Butchoy’ Moves Closer To Phl

Tropical storm “Guchol” moved closer to the Philippines yesterday but state weather forecasters said it is not expected to directly hit any part of the country.

Guchol, which will be given the local name “Butchoy” once it enters Philippine territory, was unlikely to make landfall, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said yesterday.

However, PAGASA said Butchoy may enhance the southwest monsoon and bring rains over Luzon and Western Visayas until early next week.

PAGASA administrator Nathaniel Servando in a text message to The STAR said the storm was expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility today or tomorrow.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the storm was spotted at 1,390 kilometers east of northern Mindanao, packing winds of 65 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph. It was forecast to move west-northwest at 15 kph.

Meanwhile, PAGASA said the southwest monsoon and a shallow low pressure area off Mindanao will continue to bring rains over some parts of Luzon and Mindanao in the next few days.

The shallow low pressure area was located at 210 km east of Northern Mindanao as of 8 a.m. yesterday.

The weather bureau also reiterated its warning to fishing vessels and small sea craft in Luzon and Visayas not to venture out to sea due to strong winds.

It said strong to gale force wind is expected to affect the seaboards of Luzon and the western seaboard of Visayas.

Rizal Park Hosts 10,000 Jobseekers

Heavy rains yesterday failed to dampen the desire of thousands of jobseekers to find employment.

Over 10,000 jobseekers braved the rain and trooped to government-initiated job fairs nationwide, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported.

DOLE spokesman Nicon Fameronag said that as of 11 a.m., they had received a total of 10,045 job applications from various regions nationwide.

“We are expecting the number to increase further as we get data from the rest of the 17 regions,” he said.

Of the 10,045 registered applicants, 3,408 were considered qualified, with 2,777 set for further interviews.

Fameronag said 719 jobseekers were also hired on the spot.

At the job fair in Rizal Park in Manila alone, DOLE recorded a total of 5,245 job applicants as of 1 p.m. Of the number, 156 were hired on the spot.

Criselda Sy, DOLE Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) director, said those who were hired on the spot normally apply for entry level positions.

“If the vacant position is highly technical, you would expect the applicant to be subjected to further interview,” she said.

“They have to go to the company for further matching, concerning the requirements of the company,” Sy explained.

More than 150,000 local and overseas jobs were offered in the simultaneous job fairs held in observance of Independence Day.

Sunday shocker

Timothy Bradley scored a split decision over Manny Pacquiao that his fans deemed shockingly bizarre.

The unbeaten American, outfought and outgunned by Pacquiao throughout much of the 12-round bout, took a surprise decision and snatched the WBO welterweight crown from the Filipino superstar before a dejected predominantly pro-Pacquiao crowd at the MGM Grand.

Bradley, who hurt his ankle early in the fight and ended up in a wheelchair after the bout, couldn’t have made it without the help of two of the three judges whose minds, critics believed, were perhaps somewhere else, far outside the arena packed with a lively crowd of 14,206 on Saturday evening here and millions more all over the world.

Pacquiao, fighting like the vintage champion that he was in search of a convincing win after a lackluster performance the last time out, put the pressure on Bradley and was ahead for fans and fight experts’ scorecards.

But the judges saw it otherwise.

Jerry Roth gave it to Pacquiao, 115-113, but C.J. Ross and Duane Ford handed it to Bradley, 115-113, for the split decision.

“It is so bizarre. It is unfathomable,” said Top Rank chief Bob Arum in the post-fight press conference.

Upon hearing the decision, the eyes of the ageless promoter almost popped out of his head. He faced the press box, his arms spread on the ropes, wide-eyed.

Arum was surprised like he’s never been in his life, and it looked like he wanted to leave the ring as soon as possible.

“I have never been ashamed to be associated to the sport of boxing as I am tonight. This is ridiculous. This is absurdity,” he also said, adding that as stipulated in the fight contract, there will be a big rematch. The date already set for Nov. 10.

“I want a rematch. I want a rematch,” said Pacquiao.

Even the winning score for Pacquiao was questioned and contested because it was hard to believe that the fight was really that close.

After ring announcer Michael Buffer read Roth’s winning score for Pacquiao, there was a hush from the crowd. Then Buffer read the scores of Ross and Ford, and after brief pause, he announced Bradley as “the new” welterweight champion of the world.

The crowd, mostly Pacquiao fans, instantly reacted with boos that must have been heard along the famous Strip. Those inside the arena, except for the judges, were stunned, even American mediamen who had Pacquiao winning convincingly.

Pacquiao fans froze from their seats.

“This is the worst boxing decision I’ve seen in my life,” said the former mayor of Manila and one of Pacquiao’s biggest supporters Lito Atienza, on his way out of the arena.

Pacquiao dominated the fight that lasted 12 rounds, giving away more than a couple of rounds at most. He had Bradley in trouble at times, like in the fourth round when the American staggered. But he failed to bring Bradley down even once.

Still, it doesn’t mean that Pacquiao had no right to win the fight. The punch stats were all for the Filipino fighter who hadn’t lost a fight in seven years and three months, when he dropped a bloody decision against Erik Morales in the same MGM ring.

Bradley said he got his second wind in the sixth round, and started to move more, landing occasional punches to Pacquiao’s head and body. In the last three rounds, Bradley became more aggressive because he said that’s what his trainer asked him to do.

He also said he sprained his left ankle as early as the second round. He showed up for the post-fight presser on a wheelchair, and had to leave early to be taken to the hospital for X-Rays.

“I was told by my corner that if I win the final round I would win the fight,” said Bradley, who remained undefeated in 29 fights. He was the WBO junior-welterweight champion, and moved up to challenge Pacquiao.

On his wheelchair, Bradley said he was still “shocked” and didn’t know what to say. But felt that he deserved the victory.

“What do you want me to do?” he replied to one question. “There were judges and two of them felt I won the fight. I’m the new champion. We did it baby. I’m the new champion. Let’s do it again.”

The 33-year-old Pacquiao took only his fourth loss in his career (54-4-2) and how this loss would affect him will be worth watching. He fought a good fight, and was so much in control he often challenged Bradley to come in. He smiled a lot inside the ring.

Pacquiao just couldn’t believe it.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said in an interview inside the ring. “I did my best but my best wasn’t good enough I guess. I have no problem with the rematch. I will be ready.”

Pacquiao said Bradley never hurt him during the fight, because most of those punches he was able to block with his arms.

Did he feel he won the fight?

“No doubt,” he said.

Noy In US For Obama Meeting

President Aquino arrived in this US capital for a three-day visit that officials from both countries hope will revitalize the Philippines-US alliance to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

He looked in good spirits as he shook hands with a small group of Filipinos who welcomed him at Andrews Air Force base on his arrival from London on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

Aquino made no statement and proceeded directly to his suite at the Mandarin Oriental, about two miles from the White House.

A press briefing for the Filipino media in Washington scheduled to have been given by Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang was scrapped at the last minute without explanation.

American efforts to strengthen and deepen the Phl-US alliance are part of a broader strategy by the Obama administration to increase its strategic engagement and focus in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China’s growing interest and strength in the area.

The security cooperation between both countries is expanding beyond counterterrorism, driven in part by Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea as it is referred to in Manila, US analysts said. The Aquino administration is seeking US help to build a credible maritime defense force.

On his first full day in Washington on Thursday, Aquino will meet with business leaders including those from Sithe Global and Denham Capital, equity investors of GN Power Mariveles Coal Plant in Bataan, and Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based company involved in the safety science industry.

He will visit the Quantico Marine Corps base, an hour’s drive in Virginia, attend a Senate reception at Capitol Hill and grace the inaugural dinner of the newly formed US-Philippines Society whose $250-a-plate cover charge has upset the less affluent members of the Filipino community in the area.

They said they wanted to see Aquino at the dinner since his tight itinerary precluded his usual meet and greet session with them.

At the Senate, Aquino will meet Senate President Pro-Tempore Daniel Inouye, who is also chairman of the committee on appropriations, Republican Sen. William Thad Cochran, a member of the committee on appropriations, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the committee on foreign relations, and Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, a member of the committee on foreign relations.

“The senators would want to hear about the Aquino administration’s efforts to fight corruption and promote good governance,” said Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia.

“There will also be discussions on our bilateral, economic and defense cooperation, the shift in the focus of the United States toward the Asia-Pacific and ways to revitalize our alliance, he said.

The final day of President Aquinos official visit on Friday will be taken up with a one-on-one with President Barack Obama at the White House Oval Office after a luncheon in his honor given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

GMA, Garci Cleared In 2004 Poll Bribery

The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday junked for insufficient evidence a bribery complaint against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stemming from alleged fraud in the May 2004 general elections.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also cleared former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, former Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general and Philippine Ports Authority general manager Alfonso Cusi, PPA manager Efren Bollozos, former justice secretary Agnes Devanadera, former Shariah Circuit Court judge Nagamura Moner and the former president’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.

In a 43-page resolution approved on May 25, the Ombudsman said the evidence against the seven was insufficient since “the complaint contains bare allegations and pieces of evidence that are unsubscribed, unauthenticated and recanted affidavits or statements.”

The Ombudsman said the allegations “could not create a well-founded belief that the crimes have been committed and that the accused were probably guilty thereof and should stand trial” under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed in August 2011 by Pacasirang Batidor, Ahmare Balt Lucman, Hadji Rashid Limbona, and Hadji Abdullah Dalidig.

They alleged the respondents conspired to cheat during the 2004 elections, particularly in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City.

The complaint claimed, among others, that the respondents during the 2004 elections in Mindanao provided transportation through the grant of 12 multi-cab vehicles and the use of a helicopter, and distributed envelopes containing money to unidentified election officers.

The Ombudsman noted, however, that the complainants were not able to identify the election officials that received the supposed bribe.

“In bribery, it is essential that the recipient of the bribe is a public officer. Hence, before a prosecutor can declare that there is probable cause for said felony, there should be proof or showing that the recipient is indeed a public officer. In the present case, nothing of that sort appears. In fact… the supposed recipients of the bribe were not named or sufficiently identified,” the Ombudsman said.

As for allegations of conspiracy, the Ombudsman said the complaints failed to prove its existence.

“For conspiracy to exist, two or more persons must come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman said the same degree of proof required for establishing the crime was also required to support a finding of conspiracy and it must never be presumed.

Mrs. Arroyo, under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, is currently facing graft and electoral sabotage cases.

Her husband Mike is also facing a separate graft case.

US Troops Can Use Clark, Subic Bases

American troops, warships and aircraft can once again use their former naval and air facilities in Subic, Zambales and in Clark Field in Pampanga as long as they have prior clearance from the Philippine government, a senior defense official said.

“They can come here provided they have prior coordination from the government,” Defense Undersecretary for defense affairs Honorio Azcueta told reporters after his meeting with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday.

Coming straight from the just-concluded three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Dempsey was in the country the other day for a follow-up meeting with senior defense and military officials.

Azcueta pointed out that a shift of US security focus toward the Asia-Pacific region is expected to increase with more military engagements between the two long-time allies.

Earlier, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the US is increasing the deployment of its naval presence in the region, without necessarily establishing permanent military bases in any country in the region.

Asked if US troops as well as their warships and fighter planes would be allowed access to their former naval base in Subic, Azcueta said yes.

“That’s what we want… increase in exercises and interoperability,” Azcueta said.

Aside from offering a safe haven for ships due to its

secured location from cyclones, the former US naval base in Subic has an airfield that can accommodate civilian and military planes.

During the Vietnam war in the 1970s, Subic Naval Base, especially its airfield, was used by the US military as staging point of all its major air operations against the Vietcong.

However, in 1992 Subic Naval Base and the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, the two biggest US military bases outside mainland America, were shut down after the Philippine Senate rejected an extension of their presence in the country.