Navy Monitors 79 Chinese Boats Near Shoal

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday that China has already positioned close to a hundred numbers of vessels within the Philippine territorial waters for about 124 nautical miles from our mainland Zambales, to further heightening the territorial row in the area.

Reports coming from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were forwarded to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showing that in the present times, there are already 5 Chinese vessels within the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on top of 16 Chinese fishing boats that have been situated 56 utility boats for their ongoing fishing operations.

In addition, it has already added 2 additional Fishery Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels in Panatag, harmonizing the first fishery vessels.

Nevertheless, China’s foreign department refused such number of vessels in the area. It was said that it was only 20 fishing boats that were present in Panatag, the usual; number during May in past years.

Raul Hernandez, DFA spokesman, stated that China has sent the vessels while conversing with the Philippines on how to resolve tensions in the area.

At around 7 p.m. of May 21 the 5 Chinese vessels were monitored near the shoal which corresponding names, namely Chinese Maritime Ships (CMS-71) CMS-84, and FLEC 301, FLEC 303 and FLEC 310.

2 of the Chinese vessels were considered as the most advanced Chinese vessels, FLEC 301 and FLEC 303 respectively, it’s the latest addition in the disputed shoal against the 2 Philippine civilian vessels positioned in the area just to symbolize the country’s territorial ownership.

Last Tuesday, Hernandez mentioned that there were still 16 Chinese fishing vessels and that the number of utility boats rises up to 76.

“It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a de-escalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area,” Hernandez said in a press briefing.

He added that the Philippines even objected for these actions of China as clear misruling of Philippine sovereignty and authority over the shoal and sovereign rights over the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that covers the waters around Panatag Shoal or also known as Bajo de Masinloc

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed it sincere concern over these continuous actions by China that worsen the tension in Panatag Shoal in a note verbale dated May 21, 2012  that was sent to the Chinese government through the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Hernandez cited that the actions of China are also in violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea, specifically paragraph 5, which calls the Parties “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Phl demands pullout of Chinese vessels

Despite China’s self-imposed fishing ban it was said by the FCG reports that reached the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), that Chinese fishermen have still been running fishing in the area aside from reaping giant clams and other endangered species inside the shoal.

Moreover, the PCG report to the DFA also highlighted the 16 Chinese fishing boats in which 10 of them were inside the lagoon fishing while the 6 others were outside. It was monitored that it arrived last Monday evening escorted by a Chinese vessel.

“The increase in the number of China’s vessels in the area imperils marine biodiversity in the shoal and threatens the marine ecosystem in the whole of the West Philippine Sea,” Hernandez said.

He as well said that the Chinese fishermen have unlawfully scoured the area and dishonestly garnered giant clams and corals.

He said the recent actions of China are also in violation of the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 2.4, which provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

“The Philippines, therefore, demands that China’s vessels immediately pull out from Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines’ EEZ and for China to refrain from taking further actions that exacerbate the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” Hernandez said.

China: Only 20 vessels

Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said yesterday that the Philippines have taken some offensive actions in the Huangyan Island waters which in is required “China to adopt corresponding measures to strengthen management and control.”

“To our knowledge, now there are about 20 Chinese fishing boats working in that area. This number is roughly the same with that in the same period of the previous years. The way these fishing boats are working complies with the related Chinese laws and the fishing moratorium issued by the Chinese government,” Hong said.

On Tuesday, China said that the involvement of countries in the standoff will meet steadfast opposition from the Chinese government.   Beijing was alarmed that some countries would help the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense posture by providing the country with patrol boats and military aircraft, so as to complement the Philippines’ diplomatic initiative in dealing with territorial disputes with China.

Phl Seeks Win-Win Situation In Shoal Row With China

President Benigno Aquino III said that the country will pursue a win-win situation with China within the claims with both countries regarding Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Aquino told the business forum of the Joint Alumni Clubs of US Universities last Wednesday that, “We have not stopped having communication with them in trying to look for a win-win situation.”

However, while the country intends to look for a win-win scenario for both parties, Aquino mentioned that he would still keep track of upholding and enforcing the laws.

“If it’s clear that we have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone designated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and both of us are parties to it, is it too much to ask that our rights are respected by our neighbors, in the same token that we respect their rights?” he asked.

With determination, Aquino also claimed that he is not going to give up any areas that belong to the country.

“I am not empowered to give up any of our territory,” he said.

Aquino added that the authority intends to handle the matter diplomatically.

“We do not want to present a threat to them in any shape, manner, or form in terms of military action,” he added.

On the other hand, Albert del Rosario the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, revealed that the Philippines has more investments in China than China has in the Philippines.

He stated that the Philippine investments in China amounts to nearly $3 billion as against to China’s investments in the Philippines which is approximately less than a billion and a half ($1.5).

Last Wednesday, Del Rosario told the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines that, “We benefit from our relations with China just as China benefits from its relationships with us.”

Del Rosario also mentioned that China, in which is considered the Philippines’ 3rd largest trading partner, signed a memorandum of agreement during President Aquino’s state visit last year that both countries would work towards accomplishing $60 billion in 2-way trade within a 5-year period and 2 million inward visitors within 5 years.

“It was also agreed upon that the bilateral agenda would be moved forward in the most positive way, while the areas of contention such as the West Philippine Sea would be abstracted and dealt with separately,” he added.

Having the fact that Chinese investments in the country is only half of Philippine investments in China, Del Rosario then said that Filipino businessmen will not be discouraged from investing in their country despite the recent activities and happenings taken by the Chinese travel agencies suspending tour packages to the Philippines as tensions over the borderline of the islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) increased.

Also, China possessed Philippine fruit exports suspected of carrying pests amid a tense argument between the two countries over Panatag Shoal.

“I don’t think that we should be discouraging our businessmen from investing in China. It’s a good thing if they see how we do it here but what we’re trying to do is at least equalize the amount of investments that go out and we’re hoping that more Chinese investors will take an interest in the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

“We’d like to believe it’s not,” Del Rosario replied when he was asked if the suspension of tour packages to the Philippines, the reduction in flights, and the possession of Philippine bananas are forms of pressure by China among the maritime argument between Philippines.

“We’d like to believe it’s a technical issue,” he added.

Economic pressure

If China continues to exert economic pressure to the Philippines such as blocking bananas and canceling tour packages, then, the lawmakers said and warned that the economy of the Philippines would be in danger.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said the suspension of tour packages and the controls on fruit importations is “China’s subtle warning versus Philippine on its vast economic arsenal.”

Also, they urged that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should step up efforts in paving the way for the creation of a joint Philippine-China study commission, which would focus on finding mutually acceptable solutions to end the dispute in the Spratlys.

“The decision of Chinese travel agencies to suspend travel to the Philippines could be China’s subtle warning that it does not even need its military to bring widespread economic destruction in the country,” Haresco said.

He warned the suspension of tour packages to the country by Chinese travel agencies “could be the beginning of a larger and more sustained campaign to remind the Philippines and even the US that its economic arsenal is as devastating as its three-million strong People’s Liberation Army.”

Also, he added that the effect of the travel suspension would already deny the economy millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues and warned that Beijing might even go further by obliging a ban on Filipino overseas workers, including those working in Hong Kong and Macau.

Haresco said that the only way to fix the problem in the Spratlys is through direct mutual dialogue with China without discounting the possibility of entering into a joint exploration arrangement in the areas claimed by the Philippines.

While the United States will always remain a valuable supporter to the Philippines, bragging Washington into the Spratlys argument “will do more harm than good” as this is being viewed as an indirect needling by Beijing.

Tactical support

On the other hand, Malacañang, restated that the presence of a US submarine in Subic had nothing to do with the Philippines’ disagreement with China over the disputed Panatag shoal.

Edwin Lacierda, Presidential spokesman, illiterates that the US government made a request last April 3, 2012, days before the April 10 standoff saying that they be allowed to dock their submarine in the area.

“And so it (US request) was addressed to the Department of National Defense and the DND gave its approval on April 24. So, I don’t need to answer or respond to the statements made by the Left,” Lacierda explicated.

Earlier, security officials revealed the visit of submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777) in Subic was a routine port call scheduled last April 3, before the standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Panatag shoal started. The US attack submarine rose last Sunday in Subic Bay.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the visit of a US submarine in Subic violated the country’s sovereignty.

In a statement, the CPP said the US is using the entire Philippines as a vast military base where it could dock its ships, land its fighter jets, fly its drones, conduct repairs and replenish supplies.

Filipino protesters led by former military rebel Nicanor Faeldon said they are planning to sail to Panatag as a show of support.

“They want to protest against the aggression being committed by China against our country, Faeldon’s spokesman kit guerrero said.

He said at least two fishing vessels carrying faeldon’s group were expected to arrive at the shoal later on Friday.

“They are intending to stay there at least three days and fish, if they are not prevented from doing so, Guerrero said, adding that planting a Philippine flag on the rock was also an option.

Fishermen from Batanes, Faeldon’s home province, along with fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales would be joining Faeldon to fish in Panatag that China has included in its declared fishing holiday.

The Philippines has reminded China that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of their bilateral relations.

The Philippines remains a safe and a welcoming country even as tensions over the disputed islands escalated.

Stay on the line

China has demanded manila not take measures in the political and legal aspects, saying it will worsen and complicate the situation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said last Monday in a press conference in Beijing that the Philippines should adhere to “diplomatic negotiations” to resolve the standoff.

“In particular, diplomatic negotiations should be adhered to in resolving the current situation, rather than continuing to incite public opinion and send contradictory messages,” Hong said.

Airlines Seek Customs Overtime Padding Probe

Airline industry is willing to cooperate with the Ombudsman in investigating a complaint filed by airport Customs examiners against their immediate seniors for apparently stuffing their overtime claims with airline companies, and pocketing, instead of distributing properly, the money that is being collected.

The spokesman for the Board of Airline Representatives (VBAR), Mr. Bayani Agabin, mentioned yesterday that the complant supports “our longstanding suspicion of overcharging and abuse of this overtime arrangement. We are thankful that the present administration has decided to do away with the backward practice of a single shift from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon plus overtime, and instead operate 24/7 on three shifts at key ports as is done worldwide.”

Airlines paid airport Customs approximately P2 billion since the early 1990s until 2005, unfortunately when they decided to stop paying, airport Customs sought them to double their charges.

There about 200 Customs employees at the airport. Which then the airlines challenged the overtime practice in court, arguing that Customs employees are government staffs, not theirs.

The complaint before the Ombudsman was filed in August 2009 by some examiners who did not get their share.

Agabin said that it will send a strong message to stumbling civil servants and that the resolution of this case would resound across the government.

Agabin also mentioned that the Ombudsman should find out if the check payments from individual airlines were deposited to the government accounts and it is properly accounted and distributed, whether the recipients professed that these are part of their taxable compensation income.

“If they encashed the checks and divided it among themselves, then this constitutes malversation which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment,” he said. “This may also amount to a violation of Civil Service Commission rules on double compensation, Commission on Audit rules on accounting and disbursement of funds, and tax laws on payment of taxes on income.” Agabin added.

According to the complaint, Customs collectors prepare two sets of payroll.

One is presented to the airline that shows the complete list of examiners even if some are actually absent, on leave or had been transferred, while the other is the “final payroll” where those actually absent were taken off the list and their share is allegedly pocketed by the superiors, the complaint said.

The airport Customs personnel is also been abused this overtime practice by adding meals and transportation allowances to their billings, and charging four times if four planes land for the same hour they serve, he said.

Philippines Ignores China Demand To Quit Shoal

Declaring “that’s our territory” and giving a warning to Chinese vessels to back off, the Philippine officials last Wednesday disregarded China’s demand to remove Filipino vessels from Panatag Shoal.

BRP Edsa, a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, along with an archaeological survey mission aboard the MY Sarangani and a fishing boat was remained in the area, facing off two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and a fishing boat.

Last Monday an order was demanded by China that all Filipino vessels should be out or clear the area, which then calls Huangyan Island and which is known internationally as Scarborough Shoal, and also sent an aircraft to buzz a Philippine fishing boat in the second, such incident happened since Saturday.

According to Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, “We’re also telling their ships to do the same,” he told the reporters.  “That’s our territory and we’re also saying the same thing to their ships.”

Carandang said talks between the Philippines and China were continuing. “Tensions have not degenerated,” he said, and the fact “that not a shot has been fired is already a sign that the situation is not deteriorating.”

Arbitration call ignored

Philippines and China have decided to settle the argument diplomatically but have both asserted on their ownership of the shoal, extending an eight-day deadlock on the high seas.

Last Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, asked China to bring the debate to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for negotiation. The Chinese embassy, though, disregarded the proposal and asked the Philippines to extract its vessels from the shoal “and restore peace and stability there.”

The latest standoff between Manila and Beijing over disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) began on April 8 when a Philippine Navy plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in Panatag, a cluster of reefs and islands around a lagoon.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, the Philippine Navy flagship was transmitted to the area on April 10 and its officials boarded the fishing boats, but Chinese maritime surveillance vessel interposed. The fishing boats glided last Friday night.

The argument is just one of a countless claims over islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea that quarry china against the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Conflict has increased in the past 2 years over worries that China is becoming more aggressive in its claims to the sea that overlaps shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe also the Middle East.

Even though supplicant countries have vowed to fix the territorial gaps peacefully, the arguments have vented in violence in the past which includes the 1988 when China and Vietnam collided in the Spratly Islands in a defiance that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers. Many fear the disagreements that became Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.

Vietnam held a maritime ceremony last Monday near the area where the event happened to remember the dead soldiers, state-controlled media reported.

Numerous rounds of talks have failed to end the impasse at Panatag, which is 872 kilometer from Hainan province, China’s next-door territory to the shoal.

Ancient Chinese shipwreck

Zhang Hua, Chinese embassy spokesperson, acknowledged that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos, permits countries to claim an exclusive economic zone but was then reported that Philippines could not exercise sovereignty on areas within those waters that are owned by other countries.

One ancient Chinese shipwreck could be found at Panatag, but the Philippine research ship has no right to rescue it, Zhang said. “We urge the archaeological vessel to leave the area immediately,” Zhang said in a statement.

‘We will not leave’

In an interview with the reporters last Wednesday, Defense Secretary Voltaire De Gazmin called on Filipinos to come together and let the world know that ”we are being bullied” by China.

Also on Wednesday, Bayan Muna Representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares filed a resolution condemning China and calling for an inquiry into the government’s failure to assert sovereignty over the shoal.

“We also do not want to go to war, but we must assert our sovereignty, through whatever means we can,” Casiño said.

On Tuesday, Gazmin said, “We will fight for what is ours. We are in the area and we will not leave while we continue the talks” between the DFA and Chinese authorities.

PAL Adds, Cancels Flights For Holy Week

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is regulating its operations on Holy Week by adding 6 extra flights to 3 destinations and developing 20 international and 2 domestic flights by using larger aircraft.

An additional flight will be attached to and from the following destinations: Taipei and Puerto Princesa City on the 8th of April while on the 9th will be at Hong Kong.

The flights that will use larger aircraft to lodge more passengers are those to and from Shanghai (Pudong airport) on April 4; Xiamen, Taipei, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing on April 5; Puerto Princesa City on April 7; Hong Kong, Xiamen and Beijing on April 8; and Xiamen on April 9.

PAL domestic operations will be scaled down with the cancellation of 38 flights to 7 destinations on Good Friday, Black Saturday and Easter Sunday to permit PAL employees to at least witness Holy Week practices.

On Good Friday, particular flights to and from will be cancelled such as cities of Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Zamboanga and Tacloban. While on Black Saturday, certain flights to and from Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao will be also withdrawn.

On Easter Sunday, one flight each to Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga will similarly be canceled.

Visit the PAL website for a complete list of canceled, upgraded and additional flights (www.philippineairlines.com) or call PAL Reservations at 8558888.

Passengers are recommended to arrive earlier than usual at the airport, also that they double check travel documents (passport, tickets, etc.) and minimize bringing bulky carry-on baggage to avoid aggravations.

Manny Pacquiao buys a brand new Ferrari 458 Italia

(photo from PhilBoxing.com)

(photo from PhilBoxing.com)

Boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao recently bought a brang new Ferrari 458 Italia. The purchase came three weeks before his fight with Mexican boxer Juan Miguel Marrquez.

The price of the car, which is in color gray, is believed to be worth at least US$225,000 and is now parked at the Filipino champion’s apartment unit at the Palazzo in downtown Los Angeles according to Ed de la Vega.

Just a couple of days ago, the 8-time world champion was checking on a Mercedes Gullwing, which was being sold to him for $210,000. However, it seemed that he chose the 4,499cc V8 Ferrari.

Saranggani Representative Pacquiao is known for having a wide array of expensive cars. Among the high-end cars he uses while moving around Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Philippines include a Porsche, Lincoln Navigator, Escalade, Mercedez Benz and other SUVs which he and his escorts use for official government functions.

Fil-Am singer Ellona Santiago receives four “yes” in The X Factor pilot episode

The young Filipino-American singer Ellona Santiago gets “yes” from all the The X Factor judges (Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Cheryl Cole, and Antonio “L.A.” Reid.) through her strong singing performance during the audition round. She thereby advances to the next round.

“For 14 years old, I was really impressed,” said judge Cheryl Cole (soon replaced by Nicole Scherzinger). Judge Paula commented, “Absolutely yes.”

Ellona got emotional after hearing the approval of the judges. She is one of the many people who auditioned for the show in Los Angeles, about 15,000 according to ETOnline.

From 12 years old onwards, contestants with singing talents, whether by group or solo, may perform in the audition round of the show. Contestants are divided in four categories: boys, girls, over 30s and groups. Every category will be mentored by a judge. Contestants who are selected will join in a hardcore boot camp. Very few will be chosen to qualify in the next level. After which, the judges will select the official finalists of the show. Altogether, these finalists will move in The X Factor house and contends in a weekly live show.

The U.S. edition of The X Factor is hosted by Steve Jones. The lucky winner will receive a five-million-dollar recording contract.

The two-hour premiere was aired on Fox TV last September 21 (September 22 in the Philippines). The X Factor airs locally on Studio 23.

The pilot episode of The X Factor is aired on Studio 23 last September 22 (Manila time)

In accordance with amerikana.info, Ellona is born in the Philippines. At the age of 11, their family migrated to the United States.

Filipinos also took part in 9/11 memorial ceremony

After 10 years of the event that changed the world on a clear morning of September 11, 2001, Filipinos took part in the mourning and remembering of the nearly 3,000 victims of the tragic event.

A total of 2,753 names were read aloud by family members during the memorial service which were graced by Former US President, George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush, and incumbent US President , Barrack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama and other dignitaries, men and women of the US Armed Forces.

All family members had sweet words and touching messages for their loved ones. Part of the families that participated in the memorial are the families of the 20 Filipinos who also perished in the 9-11 attacks. There were 18 Filipinos who were killed at the World Trade Center buildings and 2 who were on board the airplanes that crashed into the twin towers.

Anisia Capito Abrabar, sister of Marlyn Capito Bautista who worked at Marsh & McLennan Co., said: “We love you and we miss you. You are always in our hearts.”

Ian Tamayo, whose father Hector was a project manager for the Vanderbilt Group,” said: “My father Hector Tamayo, you were a star so bright, so bold, now in the heavens where you belong. Your light still shines down here to us as if that light was in fact our own. We love you, we miss you, we thank you.”

Corazon Fernandez described her daughter Judy Hazel, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, as “amazing and beautiful.” “Judy, you gave us so much joy. We miss you so much. You’ll always be in our hearts. Your kuya Rich, Liza, your nephew Derick, ate Emma, Tim and your nieces Emily and Avery love you,” she said.

Here’s a list of the 20 Filipinos killed in the September 11 attacks:
1. Grace Alegre-Cua, 40, accountant for Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking Co.
2. Cesar A. Alviar, 60, accountant for Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.
3. Marlyn C. Bautista, 46, worked at the Accounts Payable Department of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.
4. Cecile M. Caguicla, 55, Assistant Vice President of Finance of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.
5. Jayceryll M. deChavez, 24, assistant to the portfolio manager of Fiduciary Trust International
6. Benilda Pascua Domingo, 37, utility worker for ABM Industries
7. Ramon Grijalvo, 58, computer programmer for Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield
8. Frederick Kuo Jr., 53, mechanical engineer for Washington Group International
9. Arnold A. Lim, 28, analyst for Fiduciary Trust International
10. Manuel L. Lopez, 54, corporate tax manager for Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.
11. Carl Allen Peralta, 37, broker at Cantor Fitzgerald
12. Rufino Conrado F. Santos III, 37, computer consultant for Accenture
13. David Marc Sullins, 30, a paramedic at Cabrini Hospital
14. Hilario Soriano (Larry) Sumaya Jr., 42, technology manager for Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.
15. Hector Tamayo, 51, project manager for Vanderbilt Group Inc.
16. Maria Theresa Santillan, 27, customer service representative for eSpeed
17. Judy Hazel Fernandez, 27, benefits specialist for Cantor Fitzgerald
18. Cynthia Motus-Wilson, 52, head receptionist at International Office Centers Corp.
19. Ruben Ornedo, 39, propulsion engineer for Boeing Co.
20. Ronald Gamboa, 33, store manager at Gap

Aside from the memorial ceremony in Ground Zero. Simultaneous memoials also happened in Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvannia.

Lea Salonga as one of the Judges in Miss Universe

One of the Filipinos Pride, a Tony and Oliver Award-winning theater actress, the Disney legend and the Broadway star Ms. Lea Salonga has been chosen by the Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart and NBC Universal head Donald J. Trump to be one of the seven telecast judges of the 2011 Miss Universe pageant. This will be held in at the Credicard Hall, Sao Paulo, Brazil this September 12, 2011 as the preliminary judges selected the top 15 semi-finalist for the pageant’s night.

Lea Salonga is the fifth Filipino to become a judge in the 60-year history of the world’s most prestigious beauty pageant. The most recent Filipino judge for the Miss Universe beauty pageant was Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation Chairman Don Emilio T. Yap when the contest was held in Manila in 1994. India’s Sushmita Sen won the beauty pageant. The first Filipino judge for the contest was the late Gen. Carlos P. Romulo when the Miss Universe contest was held for the first time in Manila in 1974. The late Amparo Munoz of Spain won the contest, only to give up her crown later. Fashion designer Josie Natori became the second Filipino judge in 1989; and later singer-actress Kuh Ledesma in 1991.

Miss Universe 2011, the 60th anniversary of the Miss Universe pageant. Ximena Navarrete of Mexico will crown her successor. Contestants from 89 countries and territories are participating in this year´s pageant, surpassing the previous record of 86 contestants in 2006.

Joining our very own Lea Salonga in judging the 89 delegates of Miss Universe 2011, are the following: Adrienne Maloof, from Bravo’s hit series “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”. Amelia Vega, Miss Universe 2003. Connie Chung, U.S. broadcast legend. Helios Castroneves, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Isabeli Fontana, Brazilian supermodel and Vivica Fox, actress & television producer.

Andy Cohen of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens: Live” and Natalie Morales of NBC’s “Today” will be hosting the event. Live performances will come from Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Bebel Gilberto and Brazilian native pop singer Claudia Leitte.

Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup and the 88 other contestants were judged based on personal interview, evening gown, and swimsuit. The personal interviews were conducted for two days, ahead of the preliminary competitions on swimsuit and evening gown. A total of 16 semifinalists are expected to be announced in the finals. Telecast judges will then choose the Top 8 and Top 4 contestants.

The live coverage of the 2011 Miss Universe beauty pageant will be shown on ABS-CBN on September 13 in the morning.

Warning of Pope Benedict XVI about following a “counterfeit Jesus”.

Pope Benedict XVI 1.5 million pilgrims in Madrid Sunday not to seek faith without the Church, warning they risked following a “counterfeit Jesus”.

“Make Christ, the son of God, the centre of your life,” the 84-year-old told a sea of young Roman Catholics gathered at an airbase for a mass culminating World Youth Day celebrations.

“Let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church,” he cautioned.

The leader of the world’s 1.5 billion Roman Catholics was alluding to “pick and choose” believers who follow only some teaching of the Church while rejecting with others that are harder to accept.

“We cannot follow Jesus on our own,” the pope said.

“Anyone who would be tempted to so do ‘on his own’ or to approach the life of faith with the kind of individualism so prevalent today will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.”

“Do not keep Christ to yourselves,” the pope told the pilgrims from 193 nations.

“Share with others the joy of your faith,” he said, urging them to bear witness to their faith even where they are met with “rejection or indifference”.

The pilgrims were from countries “filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promise of a lifestyle that has no room for God,” the pope said.