Saturday, 24 July 2010

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Friday, 23 July 2010

Barrio Fiesta in Austria a success

VIENNA, Austria – The Barrio Fiesta celebration in Vienna was a hit among Filipinos as it became a venue for friends and families to bond together.

“Ito po ay pagtitipon-tipon, pagasama-sama ng mga Pilipino at pasasalamat sa mga biyayang dumarating sa ating lahat. Ito po ang spirit of the Barrio Fiesta. Salu-salo, get together with our friends, neighbors and the community and sharing all our blessings,” said Philippine Ambassador to Austria Lourdes Yparraguirre.

Yparraguirre likewise affirmed the growing unity among the Filipinos in the country.

“This Barrio Fiesta event is indeed a peaceful and happy occasion as we Filipinos are understanding and peace-loving people,” said Yparraguirre.

Manfred Wurm, District Councilor in Vienna’s 23rd District, also attended the event.

“The Vienna city government is very much glad to acknowledge your presence here. Such feast like this adds color to our multi-cultural society,” Wurm said.

Austrian businessman and Pinoy enthusiast Arion Schütz was glad to have attended a number of Filipino activities. He said the Barrio Fiesta for him is the peak of all the Pinoy activities in Vienna.

“I am here because I want to celebrate with the Filipinos a very impressive event like this Barrio Fiesta. And if I would be a Filipino, I surely would be very proud to be one,” Schütz said.

Rolly Mercado of the Council of Filipino Associations in Austria thanked his “kababayans” for their utmost support during the Fiesta.

”Despite the constant threat of rain we had a wonderful weather. Stalls were very well arranged and orderly. Maraming salamat sa lahat ng mga tumulong for the success of this Barrio Fiesta 2010. The support and contribution of all had aided us to deliver an orderly and successful family gathering, thus enabling us all to keep the Filipino tradition alive,” Mercado said.

The event was organized by the Council of Filipinos in Austria in cooperation with the Philippine embassy.

DOJ creates anti-human trafficking task force

MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino government is stepping up the campaign against human trafficking.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has signed an order that would create an anti-human trafficking task force which will be headed by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar.

De Lima said a conviction is necessary to address the worsening situation of human trafficking in the country.

She noted that the Philippines is listed under the Tier 2 watch list of the US State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons report.

“So we’re stepping up,” De Lima said.

Jobless Filipinos are often vulnerable to trafficking, De Lima said.

She added that trafficking thrives because there is collusion between the traffickers and some government agencies.

Petron to push through with Limay plant project

MANILA, Philippines - Petron Corp. is still keen on building a 70-megawatt power plant within its refinery in Limay, Bataan, but has pushed back the target completion date of the facility.

"We still plan to have the 70 MW to be located beside our refinery," Eric Recto, president of the country's largest oil refiner, said.

Recto noted that construction of the plant will end by the third quarter of 2012 instead of the earlier announced target of first quarter the same year.

In line with the company's cost efficiency program, the plant will supply 35 to 40 MW of the power requirement of Petron's refining facility, and the excess capacity will be sold to the grid.

Petron is expecting to save P1 billion per year on energy costs once the power plant becomes operational.

The company recently raised P10 billion from the issuance of 100 million perpetual preferred shares to partly finance the construction of the P5-billion Limay plant.

The plant is part of synergies forged with diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp., which now owns majority of Petron.

San Miguel, through power generation arm San Miguel Energy Corp., has the largest capacity portfolio to include the 620-MW Limay Combined Cycle Power Plant, and the contracted energy output of the 1,000-MW Sual coal-fired power plant, 345-MW San Roque multi-purpose hydro plant and the 1,294 MW Ilijan natural gas power plant.

San Miguel trims Pure Foods shortlist to 2

MANILA, Philippines - Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. said on Friday it had short listed 2 buyers for a minority stake in subsidiary San Miguel Pure Foods Co. Inc., out of a list of 5 bidders.

Ramon Ang, San Miguel president and director of Pure Foods, said in a statement the 3 bidders would conduct further due diligence prior to final negotiations.

San Miguel has said it was selling 49% of the food firm but there had been some speculation it would sell its entire 99.9% holding.

3 major quakes hit Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines - Three major earthquakes struck the southern part of the Philippines on Saturday morning, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported.

The USGS said the quakes happened in succession, with the first striking at 6:08 a.m. The next 2 tremors happened at 6:51 a.m. and 7:15 a.m.

It said the first quake, which was tectonic in origin, had a magnitude of 7.3. It added that the quake was 604.5 kilometers deep.

In an interview over radio dzMM, Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said that the actual magnitude of the quake was 6.9.

Solidum said the quake's epicenter was traced at 94 kilometers southeast off Cotabato City. He said the quake's depth was 606 kilometers.

He clarified that the USGS's report was just a preliminary estimate.

"They made a high estimate," the Phivolcs chief said in Filipino over radio dzMM.

Solidum said that according to initial reports received from local Phivolcs stations, the quake was felt at Intensity 2 in Surigao and General Santos cities.

An ABS-CBN Regional Network Group said the earthquake was also felt at Intensity 2 in Butuan, Davao and Cagayan de Oro cities.

He said they expect to receive more reports. He added that a large part of Mindanao, and even parts of Visayas, may have slightly felt the earthquake and its aftershocks.

He said they do not expect major damages from the earthquake because of its depth.

Solidum added that the earthquake will not cause a tsunami.

During Solidum's radio interview, the USGS flashed the second earthquake report. It said the quake that struck at 6:51 a.m. measured at magnitude 7.6 at 115 kilometers off Cotabato City.

The USGS said the third quake was still strong at magnitude 7.4. It was traced at 120 kilometers off Pagadian City.

The last 2 earthquakes' depth were 576.3 kilometers and 616.7 kilometers, respectively, according to the USGS.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

DLSU Chorale serenades Pinoys in London

LONDON - Before competing in the international choral contest at the annual Lllangollen Festival in Wales, the De La Salle University Chorale had a brief stopover in London for a night of melodious, entrancing music, in a concert held at the Royal Over-Seas League at Green Park.

Under the baton of Professor Rodolfo Delarmente, the group opened the concert with a powerful back-to-back line-up of songs such as Ama Namen, Richte mich Gott, Exultate Deo and Jauchzet Dem Herrn.

They also crooned Pinoy folk songs such as Sitsiritsit Alibangbang, Padayon, among others, which enthralled the crowd even more, especially foreigners.

“The performance that I saw this evening is simply breathtaking, spell-binding, unbelievably professional,” said Michael Rothery.

Since its inception in 1987, the group has made a name both in the local and international choral scene particularly when it started reaping international recognition and awards.

Under the tutelage of Delarmente, the group has swept recognition across Europe in 1995, bagging a total of 6 first prizes and 2 Grand Prix awards from Arnhem, Netherlands and Tampere, Finland.

The years 1999 and 2004 were also winning years for the choral group with more participation in various music festivals and choral competitions.

This is not the first time that the group is joining the Llangollen choral completion. It has garnered awards for the Folkloric and Chamber Choir categories in the past, and with this year’s 12-14 contenders from all over the world, it is hoping to perform better and bag the top awards.

“The pressure started mounting 3 months before we left Manila. There’s a lot of preparations. One month before we left Manila, we have been rehearsing everyday including Sunday in order to hone the sound well,” said Delarmente.

He also said confidently without being brash that they have the winning streak.

“The advantage we have is our sound, which is different from other choirs because most of them are using the dark tone while we are using the bright tone,” explained Delarmente.

The DLSU Chorale concert in London was organized by One La Salle UK in cooperation with the Inter-Cultural Society of London.

“A group of us who studied in La Salle decided to form One La Salle UK and this is our first project,” said Peps Villanueva, one of the pioneers of the group.

One La Salle UK is at its nascent stage and is hoping to attract more members for future similar activities.

“What we are hoping to achieve is to get the alumni out, to get them interested and hopefully make them sign up to the chapter. We want to be a channel, to be their point people here in the UK and be a support group as well,” said Cathy Pabalan-Frideres.

President Aquino gets nod of Dutch investors

HAGUE, The Netherlands - Dutch businessmen have a high confidence in the new government of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Through the Philippine Netherlands Business Council (PNBC), several Dutch businessmen worked hard to persuade their compatriots to invest in the Philippines.

“He [Aquino] would work on simplifying all the business rules and this kind of things. And I think it’s very important for the Philippine government that it will be easier for starting the company,” Bareld Koostra of Global Fruit said.

At the PNBC conference, the investors presented their experiences and how their businesses became successful in the Philippines.

Ambassador Cardozo Luna supported the Dutch businessmen’s testimonies and assured the potential investors that the business climate right now is very promising in the Philippines.

“This optimism started right at the beginning of the first quarter of 2010 when the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific gave a projection that the Philippine economy will grow by 3.5% in 2010,” Luna said.

However, it can’t be avoided that the issue of corruption was raised during the conference.

“It’s a question of restoring trust. Trust has always been there in our economy but most recently it has suffered a serious downfall,” Filipino lawyer Peter Payoyo said.

According to Payoyo, President Aquino should appoint a neutral person from the business sector who will monitor the investigations of corruption in government transactions.

The businessmen said they are ready to invest their money in the Philippines, but only if President Aquino will put an end to corruption, particularly in business contracts.

The investors want results as they vowed to monitor Aquino’s first 100 days as president of the Philippines.

Fil-Ams challenged to help rebuild RP

MANILA, Philippines - Thousands of overseas Filipinos are more informed and updated on what is happening back home than in their adopted countries, thanks to Filipino cable channels, news web sites and social media.

During the recent conference of Overseas Filipinos for Good Governance in Manila, television journalists shared how reporting the news has changed in the internet age and how viewers have become more informed and engaged.

ABS-CBN News head Maria Ressa, who presented the network’s “Boto Mo iPatrol Mo” campaign, lauded the efforts of the almost 200 Filipino Americans who flew into Manila to attend President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s Inauguration.

“This is an incredibly powerful group that is empowered and they have the kind of attention and focus on issues. The question now is how will they put that into action?” Ressa said.

Some in the audience said there’s just too much bad news and not enough good news to make them feel better about the Philippines.

Broadcast journalist Cheche Lazaro challenged overseas Filipinos who complain a lot about their home country, but do nothing about it.

“You left us, it’s like you left our house. You made lots of money there, aren’t you going to come back and have the roof repaired? Help us. Help, because you know you’re not different from us. We all eat adobo, we all know what it means to say ‘aray,’” said Lazaro.

But many overseas Filipinos insist they never really left and that their hard-earned remittances help keep the Philippine economy afloat.

Mark Wolfisz, an overseas Filipino based in London said, “overseas Filipinos sacrificed a lot for this country. I mean my family had left, but some of my family members are still here. At the end of the day, we’re all Filipinos. Kahit ano pang sabihin ng lahat, Pilipino tayo at tinutulungan natin itong bansang ito. I think we need more engagement with media on this issue.”

“It’s not true. If others would think na kayong nasa Amerika umalis kayo para magpasarap, hindi kayo tumutulong – that’s not true. Mayroon mga iba, ganon talaga, but majority would like to help, majority are helping, supporting Gawad Kalinga, this movement for good governance,” said Dr. Philip Chua of Nevada.

Chua insisted millions of Filipinos left the country out of necessity but often return because of love. This and the recent peaceful transfer of power in the homeland, he said, are good news.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Finland wins Wife-Carrying World Championships

HELSINKI - Finland for the second year in a row took first place at the annual Wife-Carrying World Championships held in the central Finnish town of Sonkajaervi, organisers said Saturday.

Taisto Miettinen, who was defending his champion title, raced through a 250-metre (273-yard) course with two hurdles and a pool in just over one minute four seconds, carrying Kristiina Haapanen on his back.

The winners beat Estonia's Alar Voogla and Kristi Viltrop, who also took silver last year, by 0.4 seconds.

The 45-year-old Miettinen, a commercial lawyer by day, attended the competition for 10 years before grabbing gold -- and putting an end to Estonia's 11-year reign -- last year.

He told AFP by phone he did not beat his 2009 score of 62 seconds because of a bigger pool.

"I love competing and I love winning. We practiced a lot, but the race was not as easy as last year because the pool was bigger," said the winner, who excels at a number of other sports.

He added the best way for a racer to carry the "wife" -- in his case, a friend he has been racing with for four years -- was "Estonian style".

"That means (for the racer) to dangle her upside down over his back."

Finland also won the third place bronze with the team of Ilpo Haalisto and Satu Juurinen.

Sonkajaervi village, located some 490 kilometres (302 miles) north of Helsinki, has in the past 15 years made its entertaining wife-carrying competition known around the world.

This year, 51 teams from 13 countries including Australia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates competed in front of a crowd of 4,000.

The race was inspired by the legend of a local thug, Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, who lived in a forest in the late 1800s and is said to have snatched food and sometimes ladies from villages in the region.

Dacers believe Noynoy won't protect Lacson

MANILA, Philippines - The daughter of slain publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer said Saturday she is confident President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III will not break his own promise of "justice for all" in his inaugural address.

"Napakinggan ko po ang inaugural speech ni President Aquino, and I think na one of his important programs is to pursue justice for all. He said his mandate to Justice Secretary De Lima is to go ahead and pursue truth and justice para sa lahat," Karina Dacer told former Vice-President Noli de Castro in a phone patch interview on radio dzMM.

The publicist's daughter said she believes President Aquino would be able to relate to their family's situation as he was also a victim of injustice because of the death of his father, Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

"Naniniwala rin po kami na dahil sa history ng buhay niya alam niya kung ano ang nararamdaman namin at hindi niya pababayaan na hindi sagutin ni Senator Lacson sa korte ang nakahain na kaso sa kanya," Dacer added.

She said they are hoping that President Aquino will not extend special treatment to Lacson just because he is a senator.

Lacson fled the country right before a Manila court issued a warrant for his arrest for the 2 counts of murder filed against him by the Dacer daughters.

Speaking through his lawyers, Lacson said he left the country because he feels will not get a fair treatment from the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

'Will raise hell'

"If he fears persecution under the Gloria administration, he should now return because there is a new administration. And [he should] present his defense and prove that the charges against him are baseless," Demetriou Custodio, lawyer of the Dacer daughters, said over the same radio program.

Custodio also believes that with President Aquino's own family history, he will not allow Lacson to continue evading the law.

He said they are hoping that the new Philippine president will abide by his own promise of "justice for all" and refrain from intervening in the case, once Lacson decides to submit himself to authorities.

The lawyer said if Lacson returns to the country, they expect the Aquino administration to let the senator be subjected to regular criminal procedure.

He said Lacson should be put directly to jail if he returns to the country because of the existing warrant of arrest.

"Kapag hindi po nangyari iyon ay we will raise hell. The law is for everyone at hindi po dahil sa senador siya at meron siyang inaasahan sa present Aquino administration ay magkakaroon po ng exemption on the application of rules," Custodio said.

Lawyer Alex Avisado, meanwhile, said even he and the other lawyers of the wanted senator are hoping that Lacson will finally decide to return to the country and face the charges in court.

Avisado assured that Lacson will not ask a "special favor" from President Aquino. He also denied that Lacson is convincing allies in the Senate to fight for his custody once he decides to come out from hiding.

"Wala pong inaasahan si Senator Lacson na special favor dito sa present administration. Knowing Senator Lacson, hindi hihilingin ni Senator Lacson kay President Aquino na makialam sa kasong ito," he said.

The Department of Justice filed 2 separate cases in relation with the murders of Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, in November 2000.

Lacson was included in the second case filed by the Dacer daughters before the Department of Justice, which was elevated to a Manila court.

The case was filed after Lacson’s former aide, Cezar Mancao, executed an affidavit alleging that the senator may have been involved in the murders.

The senator has repeatedly denied his involvement in the murders. His lawyers believe that Mancao’s testimony was too weak to prove Lacson’s role in the killings.