PHILIPPINES 'SEEKS CLARIFICATION' FROM CHINA ON ‘FORCEFUL’ RETAKING OF ROCKET DEBRIS
MANILA — The Philippines is “seeking clarification” from China on the reported “forceful” seizure of rocket debris by the Chinese Coast Guard from the Philippine Navy, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Thursday.
In an interview on CNN Philippines’ “The Source”, Manalo said Manila has sent Beijing a note verbale on the incident first reported by Navy Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos. The latter accused China’s coast guard of blocking a Filipino rubber boat towing an “unidentified floating object” in the disputed Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
“We have, of course, our own reports but we would like to hear it from the side of China. And at the same time, we will continue monitoring these incidents and will see what further diplomatic action might be needed,” Manalo said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier told reporters that his country will send China a diplomatic note asking "why is it that their account is so different and it's much more benign."
“Yes, a Note Verbale has been sent following the instruction of the President," Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a text message.
“As explained by the Secretary the note seeks clarification from the Chinese side over the incident involving the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard in the vicinity of the waters of the Pag-asa Cays on 20 November 2022," the agency added.
While the Philippines is still seeking China’s side on the reported incident, Manalo said they are standing and “taking to heart” Carlos’ statement. “That’s why we have referred it in effect in the note verbale to China and we’d like to see how they reply,” he said.
“Depending on the reply, if we find the reply lacking or we need further clarification we will continue the discussion perhaps in notes verbale or if necessary through verbal face-to-face meetings,” Manalo added.
SENATE OKS PROPOSED 2023 NATIONAL BUDGET, TRIMS AGENCIES' CONFIDENTIAL, INTEL FUNDS
MANILA — The Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading the proposed P5.268 trillion budget for 2023, with a few amendments on the controversial confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) granted to some agencies.
Voting 21-0-0, the Senate passed House Bill No. 4488 or the 2023 General Appropriations Bill.
The senators agreed to reduce the Department of Education's confidential funds from P150 million to P50 million. The amount would be reallocated to the agency's Healthy Learners Institution Program.
Aside from the DepEd, Senate Finance panel chairperson Sen. Sonny Angara said the CIF of Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Office of the Ombudsman, and other executive offices were slashed and moved to their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
Minority senators Risa Hontiveros and Koko Pimentel also pushed for a provision in next year's spending plan that would require agencies to submit a "work plan" for their confidential funds. No senators opposed the move.
The Senate also named the senators that would be included in the Bicameral Conference Committee that would finalize the proposed budget before submission to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Angara would be the committee's chairman, with the following as:
Senior Vice Chair:
Sen. Pia Cayetano
Sen. Loren Legarda
Sen. Imee Marcos
Sen. Cynthia Villar
Sen. Bato Dela Rosa
Sen. Win Gatchalian
Sen. Bong Go
Sen. Risa Hontiveros
Sen. Nancy Binay
Sen. Grace Poe
Sen. Francis Tolentino
Sen. Mark Villar
Sen. JV Ejercito
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano
Sen. Chiz Escudero
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada
The Congress is eyeing to pass the budget law "before Christmas."
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY BERSAMIN, FINANCE CHIEF DIOKNO SECURE CA NOD
MANILA — The Commission on Appointments approved Wednesday the designations of Benjamin Diokno as Department of Finance (DOF) secretary and Lucas Bersamin as Executive Secretary.
Bersamin, a former Supreme Court chief justice, was the first to face the CA members. Bersamin was chairperson of the Government Service Insurance System before he was appointed by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. as executive secretary.
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda pushed for the speedy approval of the ad interim appointment of Bersamin, citing his experience and character.
"With all the problems in the country that the Executive Secretary, known as the Little President, has to handle, having been the Chief Justice of our land with such esteemed vision and character, there is no need to delay, nothing to investigate with Chief Justice Bersamin as Executive Secretary," Legarda said.
Meanwhile, Senators Imee Marcos and Risa Hontiveros asked Bersamin about various issues hounding the executive department.
Marcos questioned the slow rollout of appointments to key positions in various government agencies such as at the Department of Health (DOH) and other priority areas.
"I am certain that you can get a handle on this situation but it is almost half a year now and the people expect a level of urgency and commitment to filling up all these positions, some of them are very high and of urgent priority,” Marcos said.
Bersamin said his office was carefully studying the matter and trying to put everything into proper order.
Diokno's confirmation was also a breeze after he received endorsement from several lawmakers.
VIETNAM, PH TO WORK CLOSELY ON TRADE, AGRI
Vietnam on Wednesday committed to cooperate with the Philippines on a wide range of areas that include food security, climate change, defense and food supply.
The commitment came from Vietnam National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue in a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Malacañang.
“I am looking forward to building upon excellent relationships between our two countries. And under your leadership, we will continue to work closely together and I am very confident under your leadership and with your experience, you will help contribute further to strengthen the bilateral relations between our two countries and also in helping elevate the role and position of the Philippines on the global stage,”Vuong told President Marcos.
President Marcos said he was fortunate to have met his Vietnamese counterpart, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, at the 29th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand last week.
“I was able to have a meeting with your president wherein we discussed many subjects that primarily [include] agriculture and the trade between our two countries, when it comes to the agricultural importation and in importing from Vietnam to the Philippines,” Mr. Marcos told the Vietnamese official.
“He was kind enough to make a commitment of Vietnam to always include the Philippines as part of your trade partners, especially when it comes to rice. We covered many other subjects as well. We touched upon the issues in our region about defense and security and some of the common interests between the Philippines and Vietnam,” Mr. Marcos said.
EMPLOYERS MUST GIVE 13TH MONTH PAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Employers must pay their employees the mandatory 13th-month pay on or before December 24, Christmas Eve, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reminded them Wednesday.
Private sector employers are mandated to pay the benefits due to their workers equivalent to an employee’s one-month salary, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said.
This developed as the Department of Trade and Industry released the price guide for Noche Buena products on Wednesday to guide consumers on the current price of products sold in the market, boost awareness, and assist the public in making informed purchases.
Prices have increased by 10 percent to 27 percent, depending on the product, compared to 2021, Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said during the Laging Handa briefing.
Meanwhile, Laguesma said in a radio interview: “There is no exemption, no deferment. We recognize employers are still struggling. But according to the law, there is no exemption for the 13th-month pay.”
However, he noted that employers and employees could forge special arrangements to pay out the benefit.
“That matter (special arrangement on the payment) is between the employer and employees. They can just come to an agreement. We have not overcome the pandemic, but we need to understand the condition of the workers. For our (employer-employee) relationship to be happy, I hope we grant them what is set by the 13th-month pay law,” Laguesma said.
Castelo said the price of ham went up 10 percent, fruit cocktail by 13 percent, and mayonnaise by 27 percent.
“DTI continues to monitor, especially now, during the Christmas Season. For the Noche Buena products, we have a list of prices sold in the market,” she said.
Manufacturers also informed the department they would raise prices this year, Castelo said.
GHOST OF ABS-CBN SHUTDOWN HAUNTS CORDOBA AT CONFIRMATION HEARING
MANILA — Sen. Risa Hontiveros did not give Commission on Audit chairperson Gamaliel Cordoba an easy time during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday as the opposition lawmaker raised his involvement in the shutdown of ABS-CBN that left thousands jobless and millions without access to information.
Hontiveros grilled Cordoba over his broken promise to the House of Representatives’ legislative franchises panel that the National Telecommunications Commission, which he headed at that time, will issue ABS-CBN a provisional license to continue broadcasting pending a fresh franchise from Congress.
“How can you be trusted by the public and how can we trust in your integrity as COA chair if you violated a commitment that you gave under oath?” Hontiveros asked Cordoba.
Cordoba said he made that commitment following a legal opinion from the Department of Justice allowing the granting of a provisional license, but the NTC had to study the matter further when the Office of the Solicitor General filed a quo warranto petition against ABS-CBN before the Supreme Court and threatened legal action against NTC commissioners.
“Actually the letter did not scare us. What the letter did to us and the quo warranto case did to us was to make us pause,” Cordoba said.
Unsatisfied, Hontiveros continued to pound Cordoba with questions, repeatedly raising issues of press freedom, job losses and the loss of a source of entertainment and information.
Hontiveros only paused when she was accused by Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list), one of the leading figures in the shutdown of ABS-CBN, of “belaboring this issue.”
“[This is] hardly belaboring because this has something to do with the trust that the public will place on the COA chair based on his track record as chairperson of another commission,” Hontiveros said in reply.
A tense exchange followed between Hontiveros and Marcoleta, who again rehashed supposed violations of ABS-CBN that were already cleared by various government agencies.
Hontiveros proceeded to answer Marcoleta’s arguments point by point, particularly his assertion that the shuttering of ABS-CBN is not about press freedom.
“Of course it is about press freedom! Because a broadcasting company is asking for the renewal of its franchise. Because aside from this broadcasting company, millions of their viewers had pinned their hopes on what the NTC chair said, that they could be given a provisional franchise like three other broadcasting companies — GMA-7, TV5 and Subic Broadcasting,” she said.
The CA panel deliberating on Cordoba’s appointment suspended its proceedings as Hontiveros and other lawmakers still wanted to ask more questions.
POPE SACKS TAGLE, LEADERSHIP OF CARITAS INTERNATIONAL
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis sacked on Tuesday the entire leadership of Vatican-based Catholic charity network Caritas Internationalis, including its president Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and appointed a temporary administrator after outside experts highlighted management and procedural “deficiencies.”
The surprise move, announced in a Vatican statement, removes the existing leadership of the organization, a federation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social organizations operating across 200 countries.
According to a decree issued by Francis, Tagle will remain working with the CI assisting newly appointed temporary administrator Pier Francesco Pinelli, a former renewable energy executive and Bain consultant trained by the Jesuits.
Among Pinelli’s jobs will be leading preparations for the next general assembly of all Caritas’ member organizations planned for May 2023, when a president, general secretary and treasurer will be elected.
The removal of CI’s entire leadership follows a review of the “workplace environment” of Caritas Internationalis by a panel of independent experts commissioned by the Vatican’s dicastery for promoting integral human development (DPIHD).
“No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work,” the DPIHD said in a statement.
OCTA: COVID-19 POSITIVITY RATE IN METRO MANILA RISES TO 9.2%
MANILA — The COVID-19 seven-day positivity rate in Metro Manila rose to 9.2% from 7.8% in the past week, pandemic monitoring group OCTA Research said Thursday.
Positivity rate refers to the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come out positive.
The World Health Organization recommends that the proportion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive remains below 5% to ensure that the spread of the coronavirus is under control.
“Unless the trends change, this looks like the start of another wave of infections in the National Capital Region as cases will likely start increasing again,” OCTA Research fellow Guido David said.
The Department of Health reported 8,004 additional COVID-19 infections from November 14 to 20. The number of cases averaged 1,143 in the past week, which was 12% lower than the number of infections logged from November 7 to 13.
The Philippines has registered more than 4.02 million cases, with 64,504 deaths, since the pandemic started.
LGUS TOLD: PREPARE ANTI-DRUG PLAN OF ACTION BASED ON LOCAL SITUATION
MANILA — Ahead of the launch of its flagship information campaign against illegal drugs, the Department of the Interior and Local Government urged local government units to formulate their anti-drug plan of action that responds to the needs of their localities.
“Our anti-illegal drugs campaign takes a whole-of-government approach which would only be efficient if we are able to execute plans such as local anti-drug plan of action (LADPA) and barangay anti-drug plan of action (BADPA) down at the grassroots. It is imperative that our LGUs work with us and draft their respective LADPAs and BADPAs in the barangays,” Abalos said.
"Our focus now is unity in the fight against illegal drugs up to the grassroots, just like our Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan Program."
In DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2022-141, Abalos encouraged provincial and city/municipal local chief executives to formulate their 2023-2025 LADPA within their first 200 days in office, specifying their anti-illegal drug programs and activities based on their localities’ drug situation.
He said the LADPA shall include the anti-illegal drugs situation of the locality for accurate decision-making; priority anti-illegal drugs issues and challenges; prioritizing supply and demand reduction; objectives to address the local issues and challenges; critical policies, programs, projects, services and activities for the anti-illegal drugs issues; and, funding requirements of the PPPSAs.
“The local Sanggunian shall appropriate the fund for the enforcement of the anti-illegal drug initiatives included in the LADPA and BADPA," he said.
COP GETS 2 LIFE TERMS OVER DEATH OF TEEN BOYS
The Caloocan City Regional Trial Court has sentenced Police Officer 1 Jeffrey Perez to two life terms plus reclusion perpetua (another 20 to 40 years) after finding him guilty of planting of evidence and torture, in connection with the killings of teenagers Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman in August 2017.
In the decision, Presiding Judge Rodrigo Pascua Jr. of the Caloocan RTC, Branch 122, said the lower court gave more weight to the testimony of star witness Arnold Perlada along with the findings of Dr. Erwin Erfe, a forensic consultant and designated director of the Public Attorney’s Office Forensic Laboratory Service, in convicting Perez of violating the Anti-Torture Act of 2010, and violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 for planting of evidence.
“After a careful scrutiny of the records and evaluation of the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution, the court is convinced that the prosecution was able to overcome its burden,” the judge ruled.
“The court finds the testimony of Perlada on matters relevant to the case before us, corroborated by the forensic report and the expert testimony of Dr. Erfe worthy of belief,” he said.
ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE
Isabel Santos hits red carpet with John Lloyd Cruz in dress made from leftover materials
MANILA — Artist Isabel Santos, rumored girlfriend of actor John Lloyd Cruz, stood out on a recent red carpet where she wore a dress made from leftover material.
Santos accompanied Cruz on the red carpet of the 15th Asia Pacific Screen Awards, where Lav Diaz's "Kapag Wala Nang Mga Alon" starring Cruz was competing, and immediately caught attention with her sustainable outfit.
The artist wore a pastel pink see-through dress that was made from leftover material belonging to fashion designer Martin Bautista, a friend of Santos, and paired it with Mary Jane shoes.
Santos told Preview that she took cues from patchwork clothes to create the dress, opting for squares over other irregular shapes, added textures to the petals, topped off by acrylic paint adorning sections that were silkscreened onto the dress.
The artist posted photos of herself with Cruz at the awards show, one of them showing the rumored couple holding hands.
Cruz was up for Best Performance but lost to Lee Jung-eun from "Hommage" — Jung-eun is best known for her role as the housekeeper Moon-gwang in "Parasite."
"Kapag Wala Nang Mga Alon" lost in the Best Film category to "Before, Now & Then" while Lav Diaz lost Best Director to "Return to Seoul" filmmaker Davy Chou.
The environmental thriller documentary "Delikado" about Palawan by Karl Malakunas did get a Special Mention in the Best Documentary category, though the award ultimately went to "All That Breathes."
FOREX $1 = P 56.94
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
I've grown to realize the joy that comes from little victories is preferable to the fun that comes from ease and the pursuit of pleasure. - Lawana Blackwell