[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 18 March 2008 Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Fri Mar 14 06:35:58 PHT 2008

Newsbriefs 18 March 2008 Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan


RP warned on peril of Spratlys study (Philippine Daily Inquirer )

MANILA, Philippines-An American think tank has urged Washington to treat with "serious concern" the corruption scandal over the aborted National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China's ZTE Corp. as well as suspicions linking the flow of Chinese loans to Manila to a 2004 accord that allows Beijing to scan the disputed Spratlys island chain for fuel deposits.

The Heritage Foundation, however, said that from a US standpoint it would be "far more preferable" for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to finish her term rather than be ousted through extra-constitutional means, "even if under a cloud of suspicion" over the NBN-ZTE and Spratlys issues.

It observed that the NBN-ZTE scandal had aroused "still-meager protests" and that "public outrage has not reached a level that rules out amicable settlement."

But the group also echoed warnings from critics of the Spratlys agreement, saying a "study today" of the area's resource potential may eventually threaten Philippine sovereignty and ultimately reinforce Chinese claims on the territory.

"As Washington calculates its diplomacy and geopolitical interests, politics in Manila going completely off the rails should be a serious concern," said Walter Lohman, director of the foundation's Asian Studies Center

 (UPDATE) Chinese ship for Spratlys project docks in Palawan (abs-cbnNEWS.com)


The president and chief executive of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) confirmed Monday that a Chinese ship that docked in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, is involved in seismic mapping in the disputed Spratlys Group of Islands in the South China Sea.


PNOC president Antonio Cailao said the Nan Hai 502 is one of three vessels owned by China Oilfield Services Limited, which won the bid to gather data for the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among the Philippines, Vietnam and China.


"There's a ship. At least three ships are involved in gathering data. It's a mapping... that's what these ships do. Whether they dock in Palawan for fueling or wherever is another matter. But their activity is limited to gathering of data in the area of JMSU. Now, presumably when they run out of fuel or they have to feed the people, they have to go elsewhere, and the nearest island is maybe Palawan island," Cailao told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).


New SC justice's first test of independence: Neri case (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)


On the virtues of honesty and integrity, he is said to be beyond reproach. But a cloud of doubt hangs over newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Arturo Brion when it comes to independence.


Thrice bypassed by Malacanang, Brion finally made it on his third try to the Tribunal, reportedly due to the strong lobby of Justice Renato Corona, President Arroyo's chief of staff when she was Vice President. Brion and Corona were classmates at the Ateneo College of Law and belong to the Fraternal Order of Utopia.


His appointment comes at a time when Malacanang and the Senate are clashing over the issue of  executive privilege. Commission on Higher Education chair Romulo Neri was asked to testify in the Senate to answer questions on President Arroyo's extent of participation in the overpriced national broadband deal.  


Neri brought his case to the Supreme Court when the Senate ordered him arrested. The High Court issued a status quo order which meant that Neri need not testify in the Senate. It is scheduled to decide on Neri's case on March 25. 


The case could be Brion's first test of independence.


Senator Arroyo wants NBN hearings to end (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines -- Senate President Manny Villar has endorsed a proposal to draft a preliminary report on the alleged kickbacks and overpricing in the $329-million National Broadband Network deal.

But his Wednesday Group peer, Senator Joker Arroyo, wants the joint Senate panel investigating the corruption in the aborted NBN deal to terminate the hearings after spending nearly 100 hours in 12 hearings over the last six months.

"I think the committee has enough to make an interim report for the benefit of the public to give them a summary of what has been done and what needs to be done,'' said Villar in a press conference at the Senate.

Philippine unemployment rate balloons to 7.4% in Jan (www.gmanews.tv)
MANILA, Philippines- The country's jobless rate increased to 7.4 percent in January 2008 from 6.3 percent in October last year, the National Statistics Office said Tuesday. 

The unemployment rate was at 7.3 percent in October of 2006.

Year-on-year, however, the NSO said January 2008's unemployment rate is a slight decrease from the 7.8 percent recorded in the same month in 2007.

NSO's latest data also showed that the country had 33.7 million employed persons, out of a labor force of 36.4 million in January, placing employment rate at 92.6 percent. In October last year, there was a smaller labor force of 35.9 million persons, but almost the same number, 33.69 million, were employed.


No Holy Week truce - Palace (www.philstar.com) 

There will be no suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) against communist rebels and other armed groups during the Holy Week, Malacañang said yesterday.

Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said there would be no letup in security operations of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police as the predominantly Christian nation takes a break in observance of Holy Week to remember the passion and death of Jesus Christ.

Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said the authorities "will continue to provide maximum security for all citizens."

"The police will continue to ensure peace and order while the military shall continue to provide defense for our people," Fajardo said.

IMF retains RP growth forecast (www.philstar.com) 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has retained its six percent economic growth projection for the country this year, but advised the Arroyo administration to restore its tax base and keep a close eye on guarantees granted by government to private investors.

The IMF concluded its 2007 annual Article IV review of the Philippines and in the report officially released yesterday, the fund's executive directors said the country's economic performance was "generally impressive."

"Executive directors commended the authorities for the economy's impressive performance - strong growth, low inflation, sustained fiscal consolidation, and improved investor confidence," the IMF said in its report.

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