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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Eco group bucks RP-Japan trade pact

The Ecological Society of the Philippines (ESP) has joined other environmental groups to denounce and oppose an agreement between the Philippine and Japanese governments on the dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes in the country.

Fears raised by environmentalists sprang from their interpretation of the list of products or trade subjected to zero tariff.

ESP president Antonio M. Claparols said the Philippines needs to take a second look "to determine if we will be giving away too much or what the country is giving up in exchange for the entry of Filipino nurses and the tuna export to Japan. We need to compute the aggregate amounts of these concessions, for we may be at the losing end in the long run."

The ESP leader said they would appeal to Japanese officials to stop their government from making the Philippines a dumpsite for toxic and hazardous wastes.

Claparols added that "we must protect our country, its environment and people from toxic and hazardous wastes. We must all stand up and protect our country." link

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gov’t winning anti-insurgency campaign in Northern Luzon — military

Government troops are winning the anti-insurgency campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Luzon, the region’s military commander said yesterday.

Quoting figures from the last quarter, Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Maj. Gen. Bonifacio Ramos said since Oct. 1, troops killed eight rebels in eight clashes with the NPA in Northern Luzon.

"There is no question that we are succeeding in reducing the capability of the enemy, because right now, the NPA is in total disarray," he said.

However, the total number of NPA fatalities could be higher because residents who witnessed the shootouts reported that the rebels dragged their dead comrades, he added.

Ramos said troops encountered the NPA in Pantabangan and Carrangla in Nueva Ecija, Orion in Bataan, Malolos in Bulacan, Dupax del Sur in Nueva Vizcaya, Rizal in Cagayan and Balbalan in Kalinga.

No government casualties were reported in these encounters, he added.

Ramos said troops also "neutralized" top NPA leaders like Leopoldo Caluza alias Ambo/Ino, Central Luzon NPA regional operational command chief and Nueva Ecija provincial committee secretary, and Edward Cabanero alias Jerry, squad leader of Platoon Alfa, Kilusan Larangang Gerilya front 1 under the Nueva Ecija provincial committee.

Troops also seized eight assorted high-powered firearms from the rebels, including a hand grenade, a two-way radio, medical paraphernalia and subversive documents, he added.

Ramos said Caluza was reportedly responsible for the killing of Kathlyn Ramos, a 19-year-old student, who was suspected of being a government informer.

Cabanero is the whistle-blower behind the sexual harassment of NPA amazons and other abuses committed by rebel leaders, he added.

Ramos said 568 members of NPA-organized mass base, supporters and sympathizers gave up to the Army’s 48th Infantry Battalion with 315 assorted firearms in San Jose City, and surrendered 129 firearms to 69th Infantry Battalion in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga.

Ramos said civilians in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija fully support the establishment of the integrated territorial defense system (ITDS) to guard and protect their communities against the NPA.

The NPA might attempt to recover lost ground once the soldiers vacate the area for another assignment, he added.

He is confident that the recruitment of additional soldiers and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) members will further seal the military’s gains, Ramos said.

Meanwhile, Nolcom said continuing purges within the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are behind the killing of leftist activists in Northern Luzon.

The allegations are contained in a special report sent to journalists yesterday entitled: "The Truth Behind the So-Called Political Killings."

Nolcom said NPA hit men killed a certain Manegdeg, worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, on Nov. 28 last year in San Esteban town, Ilocos Sur and Albert Terredaño, an employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Bangued, Abra, the next day.

The special report alleged that Manegdeg and Terredaño had ties with the CPP.

Subtitled "Unmasked," the special report claimed that Manegdeg was the secretary of the Urban White Area Committee, Ilocos Cordillera regional committee and executive committee member of the ICRC for quite sometime while keeping up his work in aboveground organizations.

The Nolcom report said Terredaño was a CPP member and the man behind the pseudonym Diego Wadagan, spokesman for the NPA’s Abra based-Agustin Begnalen Command who had threatened to punish Tineg, Abra Mayor Clarence Benwaren for allegedly having "incurred blood debts awaiting revolutionary justice."

"We cannot ignore the glaring reality that at one point in time, ‘Ka Pepe’ and Terredaño allowed themselves to be used by the communist underground movement," read the report.

Nolcom said Manegdeg’s killers knew how important their target is to the underground movement and ascertained his movements to accomplish their mission. — James Mananghaya, Ding Cervantes, Artemio Dumlao

Gov’t gets high marks from visiting American businessmen

A visiting business delegation from the US-ASEAN Business Council and the US-Philippines Business Council expressed satisfaction and continued confidence in the Philippines yesterday following a meeting with President Arroyo.

"Our mission is a show of commitment by US businesses in the Philippines. The economy is clearly improving and we’re here to reaffirm our support and explore policies to enhance the competitiveness of the Philippines," Council president Matthew Daley said.

The US companies represented by the delegation included the American International Group, Ford Motor Co., General Electric, InterGen/Quezon Power, Mirant, Oracle Philippines Corp., Qualcom, Time Warner and Unisys.

Daley said the businessmen met with Mrs. Arroyo and her economic team to get an update on recent developments on the economic and political fronts as well as trade ideas on how the Philippines can be more competitive.

The US business delegation, Daley said, was generally happy with the economic growth, the lowering of the budget deficit, the strengthening of the peso, the improvement in revenue collection and the increase in foreign direct investments.

The improvements, Daley noted, have qualified the Philippines for the Millennium Challenge Account, which would provide funds for fighting corruption. link

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines Tuesday officially announced a last-minute switch on the venue of next month's Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, citing concerns expressed by other member states.

The December 10-13 summit would now be held at a hotel near the Cebu airport on the tiny island of Mactan off the central city of Cebu, instead of the Cebu International Convention Center, which was still being built, deputy Philippines police chief Avelino Razon said.

While the hosts have assured the heads of government of ASEAN member countries, as well as their main trading partners, that the convention center would be built before the summit starts, "some of the foreign delegations expressed concern that the convention center will not be finished", Razon said.

"So the venue was transferred to Shangri-La Mactan to satisfy the requirements of some of the foreign delegations," he told the foreign correspondents association.

National police intelligence chief Romeo Ricardo said that "no threat group" was targeting the ASEAN summit.

The Philippines is fighting Islamic militants behind some of the country's worst terrorist attacks, as well as long-running communist and Muslim separatist rebellions.

Razon said "the security preparations for the ASEAN summit is all systems go", with 10,000 policemen and 3,100 soldiers detailed to provide protection for ASEAN leaders and members of their delegations.

The security contingent would conduct a dry run on November 23, he added. link