Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Pirates seize German cargo ship with Pinoys

BRUSSELS - Pirates hijacked a German cargo ship north of the Seychelles in an attack over the weekend, the EU's naval mission confirmed Wednesday, as the nearest Navfor vessel was too far away to help.

"After four days of uncertainty regarding the exact status of the crew, MV Beluga Nomination is now believed" to have been captured by pirates, the EU Navfor mission said in a statement on the hijacking.

An unknown number of pirates travelling on a skiff and bearing small arms attacked the German-owned and Antiguan and Barbudan flagged, on Saturday in the Indian Ocean, the statement added.

The attack took place 390 nautical miles north of the Seychelles as the vessels was sailing for Port Victoria.

The 12 sailors on board -- Polish, Filipino, Russian and Ukrainian -- had retreated into a citadel as soon as the pirates boarded but the assailants "were eventually able to enter".

A spokesman for EU Navfor told AFP: "All vessels have been asked to install citadels with communications equipment, enabling crew to talk to us and to wait for a military intervention."

In this case however the nearest EU Navfor warship was more than 1,000 nautical miles away waiting to escort a World Food Programme (WFP) ship delivering vital aid to Somalia, which is the mission's main task.

Navfor said it had no information on the condition of the crew but was monitoring the situation.

The use of a citadel does not guarantee a military response, but "communication is crucial because it gives us guidance," the Navfor spokesman added.

"It is important that the whole crew goes into the citadel otherwise pirates can take prisoners."

Heavy rains worry stranded OFWs in Jeddah

MANILA, Philippines - Stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) living under the Kandara Bridge are appealing for help after heavy rains flooded the roads in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

According to Charles Tabbu, correspondent of ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau, they received several calls from distressed OFWs temporarily seeking shelter under the bridge as flood water continued to rise in the area.

Tabbu said the rain also forced some schools to send their students home.

There are about 100 stranded OFWs remaining under the bridge. Saudi authorities earlier took the women and children under its custody and destroyed makeshift tents because it was illegal.

The Philippine Consulate recently held a meeting attended by different organizations in Jeddah that discussed the problem of distressed OFWs, particularly those living under the Kandara Bridge.

Agents to sue cargo firm for missing balikbayan boxes

HAWYARD, California – ACE Cargo agents Ed Cachuela and Ramon Bunag have been trying to find out what happened to the missing balikbayan boxes their clients ordered over a year ago.

“Kulang sa information and public dissemination on the part of ACE Cargo they have the moral obligation na gawin nyo yun,” said Bunag.

Both agents are caught in the mess after they found out that ACE Cargo has since closed shop.

Bunag has 15 boxes from clients missing, while Cachuela has 110 of his clients’ boxes still unaccounted for.

“I was very worried because most of my clients are calling me saying why their boxes were not delivered yet," Cachuella said.

Last January, 11,000 boxes shipped by ACE from California, Nevada and Washington were put on hold by the Philippine Department of Customs after reportedly seizing illegal items like guns, electronics and donated goods intended for sale.

ACE was not able to pay more than $100,000 in storage fees so, by law, Customs had to offer the boxes to public auction.

“Hindi nino-notify ng Bureau of Customs at saka ng ACE yung mga taong nagpadala. At bago nila i-auction, responsibilidad nila na i-notify yung mga tao,” stressed Bunag.

Bunag and Cachuella are worried that their clients’ boxes may have been among those auctioned. Their employees in Manila are now looking into the status of the boxes.

As ACE agents, they are liable to pay $200 per box lost to their clients.

But, they said, this is unfair. They claim ACE Cargo should be the ones responsible for the payments, not them. The two said they delivered the boxes to ACE, which should have protected them, too.

“They are responsible for the damages. But the problem is there is no longer any communication with them," Cachuella said.

Bunag and Cachuella are now in the process of filing a class action lawsuit against ACE in hopes of reclaiming their losses.

“Mayroon na kami ng referral o pagtatanong sa mga abugado dito sa bay area. Binubuo namin ang substance of the case against ACE Cargo,” said Bunag.

Balitang America contacted Tito Gonzales, the owner of ACE Cargo but they have not yet responded.

Fil-Am No. 1 teen tennis player in the US

CLAREMONT, California - When Gabrielle Andrew first picked up a tennis racket at age five, she didn’t like the sport. But after falling in love with it, she is now ranked number one in the United States Tennis Association’s 18-and-under division.

“I just kept practicing and got better and better and started playing in tournaments,” she recalled.

For her Filipina mother, Evelyn, who works for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and her father Mike, a Los Angeles policeman, the family never thought she would be this good. Tennis started out as a family fitness activity, when she was five.

“It was 'Hey, lets go out have fun, we’ll socialize, it’d be a good activity, family fun, all in the spirit of togetherness and family,' but I had no idea she’d turn out to be as good as she is,” said her father Michael.

In less than 9 years, Andrew has earned a record of 80 wins and only 12 losses. She finished 2010 by winning the Juniors National Tournament in Arizona and will travel to Spain in February to train for a month.

“To have that high ranking and seeing all of my records--from being 110 to 13 is a really, really good record. And I was proud of myself, and I wouldn’t stop there. I really want to keep going,” Gabrielle said.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Oversupply of nurses blamed for illegal recruitment

MANILA, Philippines – An oversupply of nurses in the country is resulting in nurses becoming victims of illegal recruitment, healthcare groups said Tuesday.

According to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates, there are 80,000 nursing board passers each year, while there are just a handful of job openings.

Hospitals also allegedly don't follow the international standard on nurse-to-patient ratio.

Instead of the 1:12 ratio, hospitals currently have between a 1:30 to 1:45 ratio, the groups said.

A lot of plantilla positions in hospitals are also not filled up.

To decrease the oversupply of nurses, either non or low-performing nursing schools should be closed.

There are more than 400 nursing schools in the country and around 112 were identified by the Commission on Higher Education as non-performing, which means the schools only have between 1% to 20% nursing board passing rate.

Fil-Am wins $1 million in lottery

VIRGINIA – A Filipino-American got lucky after winning $1 million in lottery in Virginia.

Florante Jimeno came to the US 20 years ago to seek a better future. His dream finally came true after being proclaimed one of the three $1 million winners in the New Year’s Millionaire Raffle.

Jimeno could take home about $700,000 after taxes.

He said he intends to invest his winnings, pay his bills and ensure the future of his 3 children.

Pinoys in UAE to run for 'kababayans' in need

MANILA, Philippines – A group of Filipino runners based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will hold a marathon to raise funds for their countrymen in need of financial and harassment assistance.

Called the Filipino Runners-UAE, the group pledged to run a total of 800 kilometers (kms) in the "Takbo para kay Kabayan (Run for my Countrymen)," as part of the annual Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon scheduled on January 21.

The group, composed of both veteran and amateur runners, said they hope to raise at least UAE Dirham 40,000, or P480,000, from individual and company pledges.

It said the proceeds will go to help Filipino patients in Rashid Hospital who can't afford the costs; to workshops which will educate the expatriate workers regarding their basic rights; and, to repatriate migrants currently staying at the Polo-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Center in Abu Hail, Dubai.

Euca Bolingot, the Filipino Runner-UAE coach and team captain, said the "Takbo para kay Kabayan" is their way of reaching out to their compatriots, especially those who are suffering maltreatment and unfair labor practices

"Finishing the Dubai Marathon which includes the grueling 42-km event as well as 10-km race is a major feat in itself but participating in that event to help others is glorious," he said.

“More than ever we are more determined to reach the finish line. Each stride, each bead of sweat, each glory and pain is dedicated to improve the lives of our fellow migrant workers," the IT professional added.

Yuri Cipriano, chairperson of UAE chapter of Migrante International (Migrante-UAE), seconded Bolingot on the cause of the "Takbo para kay Kabayan."

“The event is a clarion call to all Filipino expats to hold similar activities that will uplift the lives of their kababayans (countrymen) in the Middle East," he said.

Last November, the Filipino Runners-UAE had partnered with Migrante-AUE in the hopes of getting support for the project from other organizations under the Filipino Community (FilCom), an umbrella group of Filipino associations in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

For details on how to give donations to Takbo para kay Kabayan, visit or call Euca Bolingot at +971 50 5189917.

New York attorney general to help abused Pinay babysitter

NEW YORK CITY, USA – A Filipina babysitter who was allegedly turned into a modern-day slave by her Filipino employers in the United States has found an ally in the New York state’s attorney general.

After 10 years of suffering in the hands of alleged human traffickers, Leticia Moratal is now smiling.

She is enjoying her new-found freedom and is thankful for all the support she is getting.

Moratal has met with the lawyers of the New York attorney general's labor office.

“There were 4 lawyers who met with us this....Of course they’re interested to find out if there is a criminal aspect to the allegations that were contained in the civil complaint we filed before the district court in Brooklyn,” said civil rights lawyer Felix Vinluan.

He said says the attorney general's office has vowed to assess if the government can file a criminal case against Moratal's former employers, the Nolasco family, who allegedly enslaved and abused her for 10 years.

Moratal claimed that employers Elsa and Augusto Nolasco and their daughters confiscated her passport, isolated her, and subjected her to years of "backbreaking labor and psychological abuse," without being paid since 2001.

Moratal also claimed that she was threatened with deportation if she did not follow their demands.

As a victim of human trafficking, Moratal can secure a visa to stay and work in the US.

Filipino-American nonprofit groups National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines are standing behind the pursuit of justice for labor trafficking victims like Moratal.

“Historically, may mga nahawakan na rin tayo na campaigns before na naipanalo natin at nakuha yung mga demands nung mga naging victims. Sa ngayon, ang NAFCON ay handing tumulong at sumuporta,” group official Jonna Baldres said.

Moratal said she will tell her story in public events for her kababayans to learn from her experience.

“Ang kahilingan ko naman sa Aquino administration na magkaroon tayo ng public awareness seminar, na iyung bago umalis ng ating bansa as overseas worker, malaman nila ang karapatan nila bilang immigrants sa kung anumang bansa,” she said.

Moratal added that after experiencing what she calls “hell on earth,” she would never want other kababayans to go through what she went through.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Accused Fil-Am teacher pleads not guilty to child porn

LOS ANGELES - The Filipino-American teacher accused of child pornography appeared in the Los Angeles Superior Court for his arraignment.

Silvestre Layug Ela entered a plea of not guilty to a pair of felony charges. One charge accuses him of possessing child pornography. The other charge claims he distributed child pornography.

The 53-year-old teacher from Dominguez Elementary School in Carson, California declined to comment on the case. The District Attorney’s office said the investigation is on going.

Prosecutors said they found over a thousand pictures and videos, mostly of pre-teen boys. During the initial investigation, they said they may find more evidence before the next court appearance on February 2.

Ela was arrested last November when prosecutors said they tracked him down through a website where some 90 members shared child pornography. They are trying to see if Ela had any involvement in producing the pornography.

They have asked potential victims from the school, as well community groups he was involved with, to contact police. So far, no one has come forward to authorities.

Ela had lived in Carson for over 30 years. He taught at Dominguez Elementary School for the past 15 years where he had a clean record. He has been placed on unpaid leave since his November arrest. He will not return to the school district unless the case is resolved.

At his first court appearance last month, the court told him he cannot be with minors, unless accompanied by an adult. Ela remains out of custody on a $20,000 bail. If convicted, Ela could spend up to 3 years and 8 months in state prison and register as a sex offender.

Filipino slain in Mexico more than just a teacher

SAN DIEGO, California – Students say Professor Henry Acejo was more than a Linguistics teacher.

Acejo played a big role in the Filipino community throughout many San Diego campuses. They said he dedicated his life and work to his family in the Philippines and to his students in the US.

Acejo once held office at the University of California in San Diego. He was found stabbed to death in his Tijuana apartment on December 18. Police said they have not yet found a motive or suspects.

Friends said, even though his siblings know, Acejo’s 85- year-old mother still does not know about her son’s death. Students and friends said they only heard about the news last week. The news of Acejo’s death has left students throughout San Diego in shock.

Joseph Ramirez recalled, “He really cared about the students work. Not just how they were doing in school but how their personal life was.”

“He always brings smiles to everyone’s faces. Just with the way he teaches, it’s always fun,” added another former student, Mark Yu.

A former elementary school and college teacher in the Philippines, Acejo migrated to the US in the mid-90s where he began teaching language classes at several San Diego colleges.

Friends said despite reports that he taught at three schools, Acejo also taught Tagalog at UC San Diego as well as a local community college.

His friend Ernald Macaraeg helped start the memorial Facebook site, and has been helping the family by collecting donations. He’s also helping other friends and teachers tie up some loose ends left behind by Acejo’s untimely death.

Macaraeg said the only relatives he knew in the US are in Florida. The rest of his family are mostly in San Mateo, Rizal. The hard working Acejo sent at least a US$1,000 monthly.

Acejo lived in Tijuana because the cheap rent allowed him to send more money to the Philippines. Acejo’s friends were worried by his choice to live in Tijuana with its high crime rate.

“People brought that up with him and told him. But I guess he wanted to live there. He said it was pretty safe. It’s a gated community where he lives,” explained Macaraeg

Macaraeg said the Filipino community is growing impatient with Mexican police over progress in the case.

Students at UC San Diego say they will make a push for the school to honor Acejo, whom they credit with helping build Filipino culture programs in the school during his 3-year stay as a part-time staff and substitute.

Two schools where Acejo was scheduled to teach at this year, San Diego State University and Southwestern College, have been collecting funds from friends and former students. The funds are being sent to Acejo’s sister in Hong Kong to offset the costs of shipping his body to the Philippines, and for funeral services.

Acejo’s body is expected to be flown back to the Philippines by the end of the week.

Seaman’s wife stretches income via rubber plant investment

PASAY City - Early evening here in an air-conditioned room, Sandra dela Cruz performed what she does every morning far south in her rubber plantation: stretching a hand.

But while the 50-year-old spouse of a seaman is used to doing the latter, there was a lifting feeling as she did the former.

Who wouldn’t be if, like Dela Cruz, she was the matriarch of this year’s most outstanding Filipino seafaring family, awarded December 6 by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

But her mind already stretched to a husband bobbing on a boat on a vast blue sea on-and-off for the past 15 years.

Likewise, with rubbery knees with the accolades she received, Dela Cruz said she couldn’t wait to go back to her fourth-class hometown of Sofronio Espanola (100 kms. south of Puerto Princesa City) in Palawan where her 4-hectare farm awaits the touch of its mistress.

Her work on the three-year-old rubber tree farm is the reason for the OWWA recognition, and her basis to say she’s used to stretching her hand.

Every morning since 2007, she said she and two caretakers stretch their hands to pour the right amount of fertilizer to the trees, as well as water that matches the light from the Palawan sun. Those trees must get the right balance of water and heat, she explained.

Sandra said she will continue this daily routine until the year 2012, when the trees start bearing latex.

If plans don’t go awry, yields from this high-value commercial crop can see Sandra stretch the investible value of remittances coming from husband Victor.

This is because the wife also wishes husband Victor to stay home, on dry land, for good.

The 53-year-old electrician is currently deployed under local-based ship principal, BW Shipping.

“I estimate the prospective income from rubber production will be bigger than his salary as a seaman by the time our third child finishes schooling.”
Sandra’s youngest is on his sophomore year in high school while a daughter is taking up nursing in Manila. Two of her older daughters are already working.


Sandra’s confidence in the yields offered by rubber planting is based on scientific and financial data.

A budded rubber tree not only grows faster than unbudded trees: budded rubber trees can produce latex of 200 grams minimum, and harvesting is every other day.

A hundred budded rubber trees can yield 20 kilos of latex, or 300 kilos in a given month —and at just a little above a greenback (P50) per processed latex, a rubber farmer can yield P15,000 every month from a hundred trees.

A rubber tree (or Havea brasiliensis, which is of South American origin) even gives farmers latex that lasts up to 35 years.

“My children and grandchildren can inherit my business,” Sandra said.

The inheritance may be big as Sandra said her family plans to expand their farm by another 20 hectares next year.

“Twenty hectares more to plant rubber next year,” she says with glee. “Anyway, I’m used to this.”

She’s confident with the plan saying that rubber production is “not too expensive”.

Sweat and fertilizers are the equities —cheaper, Sandra says, compared buying budded rubber seedlings at the cost of P4,500 to P5,000 (100 seedlings cost P45 to P50).

Seedlings are not much of a problem for the barangay because the mountainous part of Labog had a lot of these.

She said she first saw those seedlings —“a truckload”— after visiting the family-owned rice field in 2006.

That encounter made dela Cruz decide to plant rubber after 12 years (beginning 1994) of planting various crops —from fruits, paper trees, to mahogany trees, to even oil palm fruits. The latter, according to her, easily perish after harvest.

A year later, in 2007, Sandra and Victor bankrolled a seminar organized by the provincial agriculturist that benefited 64 fellow villagers.

After the training, the Barangay Labog Rubber and Ube Planters Association was formed.

When the group’s former president died, Sandra, that time the group’s project manager for external affairs, took over. She prodded members to plant 100 budded rubber trees on each of their own nurseries.


Several references cite the Philippines having a young rubber industry (55 years), though rubber planting was first discovered in Basilan during the early 1900s. Mindanao provinces such as North Cotabato and Zamboanga City, are the country’s rubber havens, a paper by the Bureau of Agricultural Research cited.

The Philippines’ mostly smallholder rubber planters plant the crop in a total of 110,958 ha. and produced a volume of 407,640 metric tons of rubber in 2009, data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics bares.

During a 2005 international rubber conference held in Davao City, international rubber experts predict the Philippines can soar in the world rubber market by 2020, given the country’s high production and consumption of natural rubber.

Palawan is not actually a hub of rubber planting and production in the Philippines, given that the provincial agriculturist’s inventory shows that the province only has 625.4 has. of rubber plantations.

Agriculture officials eye Palawan as the next rubber hub as tire manufacturer Goodrich announced last April plans to set up a 20,000 ha. plantation in the province. The target area is big enough to set up a tire processing center.

Goodyear, Firestone, and Sime Darby have already penetrated the Mindanao market.

Department of Agriculture official Rene Espino of the high value commercial crops (HVCC) program says this size of a property for rubber planting requires one “large investor” to spend US$2,000 to US$3,000 per ha.

This amount would already cover the entire rubber production cycle: from planting rubber to processing sap into rubber sheets.

Rubber is also used to make condoms, furniture, medical products like surgical gloves, foam mattresses, and even artificial flowers.

What rubber does is spread 50,000 times over —not just for automobile tires,
Philippine Rubber Board executive director Eugenio Alcala said during the 2005 conference.


Sandra and her fellow villagers from Labog village are trying to capitalize what Palawan has to offer: rubber trees grow well in the island’s climatic and environmental conditions, scientists say. Agriculture officials and private investors also want to make many areas of the Philippines’s western stretch a hub of rubber production.

Agriculture department executives are enticing more investors, not just Goodrich, to open new rubber planting areas in Palawan.

Sandra said she’s neither worried about that nor the entry of middlemen in the budding agri-business.

Dela Cruz says local farmers need not bring their products elsewhere but within Palawan, especially given Goodrich’s plans.

She also thinks the stretch of the market “is wide” since the demand for processed rubber is worldwide (China alone, rubber experts say, already consumes a third of rubber production).

Given Palawan’s location, dela Cruz says neighboring Southeast Asian countries Indonesia and Malaysia are a target market especially if the first-class municipality of Brooke’s Point (near the southern tip of Palawan) opens a port to cover the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

“We are producers or suppliers, so we are not worried of the competition,” said dela Cruz.

But these market prospects mean dela Cruz will continue stretching roles: farmer-tiller, farm manager, fellow smallholder-cultivator, and left-behind migrant housewife to four children.

Husband Victor will also have to continue, for the meantime, his seafaring stretch.

Which means Sandra’s use of some of Victor’s remittances for rubber planting also stretches. The P600,000 prize from the OWWA award also would help.

“Ever since, our fellow villagers invested money and in hard work on planting rice, but rice harvests cannot sustain our needs. Until now, the situation remains the same,” dela Cruz said.

She said that by going into rubber, the scenario greatly changes.

“We invest our money just one time, then continue with working hard, and in the end we just harvest and harvest. That’s what rubber does.”

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Fil-Am Vera bows to Silva in UFC clash

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Filipino-American Brandon "The Truth" Vera has failed to bounce back from losses and an injury.

He absorbed another loss at the hands of Thiago Silva in their Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight clash Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

Vera was defeated by Silva via unanimous decision in their "UFC 125: Resolution" bout held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Silva secured the win via a 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 decision.

In the first round, the 2 fighters showcased aggressiveness, with Vera landing leg kicks and Silva driving hard punches.

A minute into the fight, Silva took down Vera.

Thirty seconds into the second round, Vera attempted to redeem himself but Silva once more got on top.

At the start of the third round, Vera bounced back by knocking Silva down. Within a minute, however, the latter took control as he went on top of the Filipino once again.

Silva's grappling power seemed too much for Vera, who had his nose broken by his opponent.

With the victory, the Brazilian now boasts a 15-2 record.

Meanwhile, Vera – who had vowed to win after sustaining an injury against American Jon “Bones” Jones last March – dropped to an 11-6 record.

Coke, Air21, Alaska start import-shopping

MANILA, Philippines – The Coca-Cola Tigers, hoping to redeem themselves from a so-so showing in the PBA Philippine Cup, may will be the first team to fly in an import, Penn State standout Titus Ivory, who is scheduled to arrive in the next few days for the reinforced tournament.

Other teams are now also in search of a prospective import with the all-Filipino tourney now deep into the playoffs.

The Philippine Cup Final Four goes full blast Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum with Talk n Text going for a 2-0 lead over defending champion B-MEG Derby Ace in their best-of-seven showdown. San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra start their own semis match-up on the same day.

Air21 team manager Allan Gregorio said they’re now short-listing their prospects.

Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi, meanwhile, said he’s waiting for a meeting with the team management so he can make his preparations.

Coca-Cola beat everybody to the draw, naming Ivory as its reinforcement for the second conference featuring imports with a height limit of six feet and four inches.

Alaska would have loved to bring back Diamon Simpson for a shot at a title repeat. Simpson, however, is two inches over the limit.

Ivory is listed as a 6-foot-4 guard with vast experience overseas.

He’s expected to play multi-position at Coca-Cola, tasked to prop up the team after a poor seventh-place finish in the All-Filipino tourney.

Ivory is considered one of the most experienced floor leaders in Europe, having played in Germany, Belgium, Lithuania and Italy.

The Penn State U star suited up with the Golden State Warriors in the 2001 NBA Summer League after completing a five-year stint highlighted with his inclusion in the All Big Ten Third Team.

As a senior, he then led Penn State to the NCAA Sweet 16.

He averaged 31.1 minutes, 15.8 points, 4.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals in his final year in the NCAA, and ended up with 129 career games played – the most in Penn State history.

He’s second in all-time steals record with 218, sixth in all-time assists with 443 and seventh in all-time points with 1,369.

He led Big 10 Conference in steals (2.55) and free-throw shooting (90 percent) and was fourth in assists (4.4) and fifth in points (15.8) also in his senior year.

Ivory played high school ball with North Mecklenburg in Charlotte, North Carolina, averaging 22.5 points and being nominated for North Carolina’s High School Athlete of the Year in 1994.

He played football in his prep and also stood out, emerging New England Prep School Player of the Year.

Paragua, del Mundo place joint 2nd in US chess tourney

MANILA, Philippines – Two chess players from the Philippines, Grandmaster (GM) Mark Paragua and FIDE Master (FM) Anton Paolo del Mundo, tied for second place in the recently-concluded Eastern Open held at Westin Place in Washington D.C., United States.

Paragua defeated International Master (IM) Raymong Kauffman, while del Mundo won against GM Alexander Ivanov.

Both players earned US $833 each after also sharing second place with Jialin Ding.

Jing, meanwhile, accepted a draw with top winner GM Aleksandr Lenderman.

Del Mundo cuffed Ivanov, with the latter failing to outplay the Filipino even after 6 hours of play.

Ivanov lost due to time forfeit.

The grandmaster would have been a solo second-placer had he beaten Del Mundo, and instead lost out of the prize money with the forfeit.

Ivanov would have bagged US $1250 if he had won.

"I would have accepted a draw if he offered one,” said del Mundo, who sacrificed his knight to get the GM's 3 extra pawns thus to avoid a loss and force a draw.

Del Mundo was left with 2 connected pawns on the fifth rank. Meanwhile, Ivanov had one left stranded on the seventh and in a corner, but was stopped by one of Del Mundo's pawns.

With the knight sacrifice, Del Mundo had one bishop left and was persistent on winning while the GM Ivanov had 2 bishops. At the time scramble, the American sacrificed a bishop and instead, allowed Del Mundo to go for the win.

Meanwhile, GM Paragua had a piece up and 3 pawns advantage going into the end game as he carried through an easier win against IM Kaufmann.

Paragua was also the top winner in the blitz championship by scoring 8 1/2 points out of a possible 10 points. Another Filipino, William Marcelino, placed second with 7 1/2 points.

Duncan leads charge as Spurs thump Thunder

SAN ANTONIO - Tim Duncan scored 21 points, George Hill had 16 off the bench as the San Antonio Spurs won their fourth in a row, 101-74 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday (Sunday, in Manila).

Tony Parker finished with 14 points and 10 assists and DeJuan Blair added 12 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio.

San Antonio can now boast of having one of the 10 best starts in NBA history and are 29-4 on the season.

Kevin Durant had 16 points for the Thunder, who shot a season-low 32.9 percent from the field and suffered their most-lopsided loss this season.

Durant shot just seven-of-15 from the field for Oklahoma City who scored a season-low 74 points.

With the game in hand, Parker and Duncan didn't play in the fourth quarter as the Spurs got some much-needed offence from their bench players.

The Spurs have won 14 of 15 but they are in the midst of a tough road trip. They next face New York and East-leading Boston Celtics.

San Antonio can become the NBA's first team to 30 wins on Tuesday at New York. The current road swing also takes them to Indiana.