Monday, September 24, 2012

Senate flare-up shows Palace factionalism, say lawmakers

Last week’s flare-up in the Senate involving the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China was evidence of the worsening strife between rival factions in the Aquino administration, party-list lawmakers said Sunday.

“On one level, [it’s] the factional rivalry [between] Balay and Samar playing itself out. On another, the [conflict between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV] is a personal rivalry between an old padrino and his protégé,” Rep. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“Unfortunately, the hope of a strong, independent position on the territorial dispute with China has been undermined by this conflict,” Tinio said.

“Balay” is the faction identified with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, referring to the Roxas mansion in Cubao, Quezon City, used as the Liberal Party (LP) campaign headquarters in 2010.

“Samar” is the faction led by Vice President Jejomar Binay, referring to the campaign headquarters of Binay on Samar Avenue in South Triangle, Quezon City.

Enrile, an ally of Binay, and Trillanes, an ally of President Benigno Aquino, clashed in the Senate on Wednesday over a bill that would divide Camarines Sur into two provinces. Their exchanges led to a tussle over Trillanes’ earlier admission that he was Mr. Aquino’s backroom negotiator in the talks with China in the territorial dispute over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Enraged by Trillanes’ brashness, Enrile disclosed notes from Trillanes’ meeting with Ambassador to China Sonia Brady in Beijing in August that tended to show Trillanes as undermining the Philippine position in dispute and criticizing the efforts of Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

Unable to stand the heat, Trillanes walked out. Enrile called him a “fraud” and “coward.”
Originally posted: 9:37 pm | Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Younghusbands ditched by Azkals for Peace Cup

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Azkals will be without leading international scorer Phil Younghusband and brother James when they vie in the Paulino Alcantara Peace Cup starting Tuesday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The lineup released Sunday by the team did not include the Fil-British brothers, who missed the training camp in the United States and the match against Malaysia last June because of prior commitments before coming back to play in the series of friendlies early this month.

The Azkals are toughening up for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November and have matches lined up against Bahrain and Kuwait in October.
“Having greatly benefited from Suzuki Cup 2010, we expect our players to work harder than ever this year,” a statement from the team said yesterday.

“Unfortunately, not everyone in the team could assure us of this; a few have already signified their unavailability for some crucial activities leading up to the tournament.”

The team added: “While this is admittedly a setback in our plans, we understand that family obligations and club/work commitments sometimes take precedence.”

Speaking through their manager Cathy Rivilla, the Younghusband brothers expressed shock over the decision, which was relayed to them by coach Michael Weiss, who, she said, only informed the brothers via a text message.

“Anything else after the Peace Cup remains to be seen,” Weiss told the brothers whom he tried to reach Sunday.

Sources said the brothers could not commit to the Azkals’ schedule in October because of their commitment to their United Football League club, Loyola Meralco Sparks.

The Sparks still have semifinal matches in the Singapore Cup in the first week of October, which also marks the start of the UFL Cup.

Sparks chair Randy Roxas said they are ready to release the Younghusbands for national team duty on the Fifa dates.

“We remain 100 percent committed to the national team,” the brothers said through Rivilla. “We do not know what transpired as we have been in talks with coach Weiss. But we respect whatever decision management has and we will be available for whatever call up.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Federal Land doing well in Queen City of South

CEBU CITY—Federal Land Inc., the Metrobank Group’s real estate arm, introduced here recently the newest addition to its list of residential development—the Parkview Residences.

This followed strong demand of the first two towers, the Marco Polo Residences.

Federal Land president Alfred Ty says the strong appetite for investment from the locals and demand for condominiums are just a few of the factors why they chose the Queen City of the South as the location of this exclusive community.

Five towers will rise in Nivel Hills district, 500 feet above sea level in this P20-billion luxury condominium development.

The Residences (first tower) and the Two Residences (second tower) were launched last year while the Park View Residences (third tower) was launched early this year.

All towers will have bare units and basic fixtures. Units range from 47 to 140 square meters and cost about P4 million to P15 million. Since the project is owned by Metrobank’s subsidiary, Ty says the bank will provide lower interest rates for buying units in the towers.

Senior marketing manager Johanna Clavecilla says the 26-story Parkview Residences will have the best landscape view of the city. Buyers can also choose units with either a mountain view or a sea view.
“The Residences is almost a hundred percent pre-sold while the other two towers are nearing 50 to 65 percent,” Clavecilla says.

Dennis Lim, vice president for sales and marketing of Federal Land says most of their buyers are locals of the city who already have big houses near the location of Marco Polo Residences.

“Some investors tell us that they want to own a unit, not to lease it out but to use it sometimes,” Lim says.

The favorable market response, according to Ty, is attributed to low maintenance of condo living and to Cebu being a haven of tourists since there are direct flights from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.

Lim says another reason behind the success of this modern-contemporary development is the quality of service provided by the Marco Polo Plaza, a 5-star hotel which is just beside the site of the Marco Polo Residences along Cebu Veterans Drive.

The hotel was formerly known as the Cebu Plaza Hotel, the renowned 20-year-old hotel in this city, which closed in March 2003.

In 2006, the Metrobank Group and Hong Kong’s Marco Polo company decided to reopen the hotel.
“Most of the local business people who invest in this development feel the nostalgia of the old hotel and they want to entertain that piece of history of their families and the memories of this place,” Lim says.

Jose Mari Banzon, executive vice president and general manager of Federal Land says almost a hundred percent of the people they employ in their projects here in Cebu are locals.

“Almost all of our workers here are from the city except our consultants who come from different places in the country,” Banzon says.

Coupled with the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in Cebu, Banzon says these projects will generate more jobs for the locals thus soliciting full support of the local government.

In its 40 years in the real estate industry, Federal Land Inc. continues to establish its reputation in real estate management and property development with a vision to provide quality and affordable lifetime investments for the Filipinos.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Palace tells DFA chief, Trillanes to shut up on West Philippine Sea dispute

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang moved swiftly to contain the fire stoked by revelations of infighting between Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario and pro-administration Senator Antonio Trillanes IV over the issue of the West Philippine Sea being disputed by China.

President Aquino ordered both officials to keep things to themselves until he has separately met with them.

In a Palace briefing, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda disclosed that the President had already talked with Del Rosario.

“The President intends to speak to Senator Trillanes also,” said Lacierda, but was quick to say that Trillanes was authorized by the President to talk with Beijing officials via back-channel negotiations.
This, he said, was during the height of the tensions between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal.

“And the President said let’s keep our options open. The President was approached by Senator Trillanes that there’s a way forward to hold these things … and so, that’s what happened,” said Lacierda, adding, “But you must remember that Senator Trillanes also mentioned...   Read more here...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New PH map with ‘West Philippine Sea’ name to be out soon – Namria

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines — The new official government map showing the South China Sea being renamed as the West Philippine Sea could be out in two weeks’ time, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) said on Tuesday.

John Fabic, Namria Information Management Department director, said the map would also show the extent of the country’s maritime borders based on its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (ECZ) under the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We’ve seen the first draft. There’s a new appellation for that area. It could be out in two weeks,” Fabic said at a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council conference.

Fabic said the initial draft has been submitted to Malacañang for review.
The new map was produced after President Benigno Aquino III last week  issued an administrative order renaming the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
To demarcate the nation’s territory, Namria map experts also established the baseline around country for its exclusive economic zone.

The map clearly shows that the Kalayaan islands (the portion of the disputed Spratly islands claimed by the Philippines) and Panatag shoal are well within the country’s ECZ, according to Fabic.

However, he declined to say if the islets, shoals, and reefs claimed by the Philippines were also renamed.
“We’ve seen the template but we also have to recall the old maps this would replace,” Fabic said.
“Let’s wait for the announcement from the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and Malacañang,” Fabic said.

Aquino said the government would deposit a copy of the map and his order with the UN secretary general and notify relevant international organizations like the International Hydrographic Organization and the UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names.

Read more south china sea news here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lawmakers assail dropping of Puno probe

Why let President Benigno Aquino’s friend Rico E. Puno so easily off the hook?

Lawmakers on Sunday criticized the decision to halt a planned probe in the House of Representatives into a P1-billion firearms deal for the Philippine National Police and the role in it of Puno, who resigned on Monday as undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Zambales Representative Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, a minority member, said the cancellation of the inquiry was a blow against transparency and was meant to make the issue against Puno, a presidential shooting-range buddy, die down.
“They want to nip the issue in the bud by ordering allies to bury it and hopefully it won’t stick in the people’s mind,” Magsaysay said.

“Daang matuwid (The straight path) is a myth,” she said, referring to the President’s oft-repeated catchphrase of his reform program.

“The stoppage of the Congress hearings is a clear sign that this administration doesn’t want the truth to come out and [wants to] to protect the alleged shenanigans happening. The people have been misled into believing that this administration is for transparency and accountability,” she said.

But even members of the House majority think the hearings must go on.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. of the Liberal Party said the investigation should delve deeper into the issues involving the PNP transactions to show that people close to the President were not being treated with kid gloves.

“To ensure that there’s no iota of doubt about the impartiality of the administration on a perceived P-Noy (President Aquino) friend, the probe must go on until the issues are thoroughly discussed,” Baguilat said. Corruption allegations must not be taken lightly, he said.

Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said one Senate hearing was not enough to put closure to the issues.

Other experts who played no part in the firearms transaction, such as the Commission on Audit and the Government Procurement Policy Board, must be consulted as well about the explanations offered by the officials involved in the bidding process, Casiño said.

The House probe, earlier requested by Agham Representative Angelo Palmones and Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, was supposed to center on the alleged irregularities in the PNP’s arms purchases.

Sereno approves release of fringe benefits to court officials, employees

MANILA, Philippines—Good news for the Judiciary officials and employees, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has approved the release if fringe benefits for all court officials and employees.

Under the law, a Chief Justice is allowed to grant fringe benefits to court officials and employees of the judiciary “to help them overcome the present economic difficulties, to boost their morale and to further their commitment and dedication to their jobs.”

Also following tradition, a new Chief Justice is also allowed to grant a one-time financial assistance to employees on occasion of his or her appointment.
Based on Memorandum Orders 29-2012 and and 29-A-2012, justices, officials and personnel of the Supreme Court, Presidential Electoral Tribunal shall receive P15,000 benefits while justices, officials and personnel of the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and Court of Tax Appeals shall receive P10,000.

The funds shall be taken from the Fiscal Management and Budget Office of the Supreme Court and the PETs Fiscal Autonomy Account.

Meanwhile, judges, officials and employees of lower courts shall receive P7,000 each. The funds for these will be sourced from the lower court’s fiscal autonomy account.

The resolution stated that the FBMO has already certified the availability of funds for the financial assistance.

Under the high court’s implementing guidelines, those who worked for the judiciary for at least 4 months as of Aug. 31, 2012 shall receive the amount in full while those who worked less than 4 months shall receive an amount on a pro-rated basis.

DOT sees 4.5M tourist arrivals by year’s end

MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Tourism expects tourist arrivals to the Philippines to hit the 4.5 million target for the full year of 2012, DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez said during the Philippine economic team’s briefing held Monday at the Philippine International Convention Center.

He said that estimated tourist arrivals in the first half stood at 2.2 million, up year-on-year by 11.68 percent.

Monday, September 17, 2012

MANILA, Philippines–Cash remittances from Filipnos overseas amounted to $1.8 billion in July, up year-on-year by 5.4 percent.

This was announced by Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas during the economic briefing of the Philippine economic officials at the Philippine International Convention Center on Monday.

‘When you play football, there’s no religion, war’

To drum up support for the peace process in Mindanao, the Philippine national men’s football team will teach children in conflict-affected communities about peace and sportsmanship through football, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said over the weekend.

OPAPP spokesperson Polly Michelle Cunanan said the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), represented by the Philippine Azkals, had sealed a partnership with the government to support the peace process through the “I Choose–Peace” youth program.

This program aims to teach youths aged 8-12 in conflict-affected communities about peace and sportsmanship through football.

The PFF and the Azkals, who were named Ambassadors for Peace, will hold a peace caravan consisting of a series of football clinics and will dedicate all their games to the cause of peace.

“When children play, there are no religions or wars, just peace and football,” said PFF head Mariano “Nonong” Araneta, noting that even the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or Fifa had initiatives for peace.

Araneta said the PFF aims to establish a football center in Bukidnon to harness football players from Mindanao.

“Our sport promotes the same values that we hope we share with all the parties at the negotiating table that are working on a peace agreement,” Araneta said.

“All of our games, we dedicate them to peace in the country. We are partners in achieving greater consciousness of the peace process,” he added.

According to Araneta, the PFF will inaugurate later this month the Philippine Football Peace Cup, a tournament funded by Fifa. The Philippine national men’s football team is slated to play against teams from China, Taiwan, Macau and Guam.

Early this month, the Azkals took part in the kick-off of the observance of the 9th National Peace Consciousness Month with the theme “Ako. Ikaw. Tayo. Magkakaiba, Nagkakaisa sa Kapayapaan.”
The Azkals showed their full support for peace with a football clinic where about 100 kids from diverse backgrounds met the players and learned from them the basics of the sport.
Azkals team captain Aly Borromeo earlier said that teaching football to children was a “great avenue” to promote peace.

“Just like [playing football as a team], if you want to promote peace you need to work together, you put aside the differences,” Borromeo said.

Azkals member Jason Sabio stated the theme of unity and teamwork with the peace process.
“In the peace process, no one’s the same. It’s really about finding a way to explore everyone’s uniqueness to increase the welfare of everybody,” Sabio said.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Active LPA now tropical depression ‘Karen’

MANILA, Philippines — The active low pressure area monitored by the state weather bureau east of Mindanao has intensified into a tropical depression and has been named “Karen.”

As of 10 a.m., Karen was spotted 700 kilometers east of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and was moving northwest at 7 kilometers per hour, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said.

Moderate to heavy rains were seen within the 300 kilometers of the tropical depression.

Although it is still too far to affect any part of the country, Karen is likely to intensify within the next six to 12 hours, Pagasa said.

It is forecast to be 600 km east of Siargao Island by Wednesday morning, 460 km East of Borongan Eastern Samar by Thursday morning and 390 km East of Virac, Catanduanes Friday morning.

Find more Pagasa weather forecast here.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Aquino back from Russia, cites gains

MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III and his entourage arrived in Manila on Sunday afternoon from the 20th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok, Russia.

The President’s plane landed at around 5:35 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, 40 minutes early because of a tail wind.

In a five-minute speech delivered in Filipino, the President said that the APEC’s goals — make regional investments and trade strategies productive, the supply chains continuous and financial systems able to withstand crisis — have remained on track.

He highlighted his meetings with the leaders of Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Chile. He said Chilean President Sebastian Piñera invited him to visit the South American country and discuss investments on aquaculture and mining, exchange of geothermal energy technology as well as the deployment of Filipino teachers.

He said the Singaporean, Malaysian and Vietnamese leaders also extended their “warm support” on matters pertaining to the West Philippine Sea.

“We have successfully imparted the new face of the Philippines: more open to business opportunities, fairer to those who are ready to invest and a lucrative center of commerce and trade not just in the Asia-Pacific but in the whole world,” he said.

He said the international community was abuzz over the fact that the “Philippines is now very different, more developed than others.” He said Filipinos should be ready to contribute to increasing globalization by reconsidering the country’s economic barriers that might hamper further development.

Aquino was met at the airport by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Jessie Dellosa and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, among others.

After 40 years, Azkals topple Singapore

SINGAPORE—Fueled by a virtuoso performance from Stephan Schrock and the quality finishing of Chieffy Caligdong and Phil Younghusband, the Philippines finally broke a long winless spell against Singapore with a 2-0 thumping Friday night at the Jurong West Stadium here.

In one of the national side’s finest performances, Caligdong and Younghusband supplied the finish to well-crafted counter-attacking moves as the Filipinos won for the first time in 40 years against one of the traditional powerhouses of Southeast Asia.

Both teams were making use of the friendly match to sharpen up for the AFF Suzuki Cup in November, but for a Filipino side always aching to prove itself, the win meant so much more.

“I’ve always believed that we could be there with the best in Southeast Asia and tonight we were able to prove that somehow we can actually win against a strong team in the region,” said Azkals manager Dan Palami.

“It’s a massive statement,” said defender Rob Gier. “We’ve always been in the shadow and people saying that we were lucky in the Suzuki Cup. This shows that we are contenders for this year’s tournament.”

Schrock’s brilliance, a resolute defense anchored by Gier, Jerry Lucena and Jason Sabio and quicker combination plays compared to the scoreless draw against Cambodia helped the Azkals avenged their 0-2 loss to Singapore in October last year.

“It just shows that we have come a good way from last year,” said Azkals coach Michael Weiss. “But definitely by far we’re still not at the level where we could be.”

Against the run of play, Schrock found Caligdong, whose classy right-footed finish took a fortunate bounce of a rough patch of grass in front of goal before finding the back of the net.

Younghusband atoned for a couple of early misses with a left-footed strike in the 49th that came after Schrock floated a measured ball into his path just outside the box.

Caligdong could have made it 3-nil when he latched unto a cross from Carli de Murga in the 62nd minute, but only managed a foot save from Singapore goalkeeper Hyrulbizam Jumaat.

Singapore actually had the first clear chance when Shi Jiayi’s low shot was stopped by Neil Etheridge in the fourth minute. The Lions had a goal disallowed for offside in the 36th minute when Fazrul Nawaz tapped in from close range and almost forced an own goal when Etheridge bobbled a header by Shi five minutes later.

Read more news on Football Philippines here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

PBA legends unite for a cause

Having inspired many to pursue their hoop dreams, six PBA legends continue to do the same even after retirement.

But this time, Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras, Jojo Lastimosa, Ronnie Magsanoc, Jerrry Codiñera and Johnny Abarrientos turn inspiration into something more tangible.

Tapped by Alaxan FR to spearhead “The Galing Mo” campaign, these former pro greats came together to support community-led construction of basketball courts in chosen barangays around the country.

“There’s a social value into it,” said Magsanoc. “It’s just a basketball court for some, but it has a long-term effect on the communities we visited.”

With volunteer residents also pitching in, the program had already built five concrete basketball courts in Iloilo, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Butuan and Sarangani. Projects are also lined up in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Tacloban and Zamboanga.

“It’s a chance for the legends to bless the chosen community,” Patrimonio, a four-time PBA MVP, said in a press conference Tuesday.

“It’s one way of giving back to the basketball community,” added Codiñera.

In their community visits, the six stars said the reception had been overwhelming.

“Most of the places we’ve been to haven’t been reached by PBA out-of-town games,” said Abarrientos. “So we really had a warm welcome.”

Lastimosa said what makes the project even more special was the fact that their own hoop dreams also began in the barangay courts.

“We all had humble beginnings,” said Lastimosa.

“We really hope we can inspire more players and communities,” said Paras.

PFF suspends penalties on Weiss, 2 others; new hearing set

PHNOM PENH—The Philippine Football Federation Appeals Committee yesterday suspended the penalties imposed on national team coach Michael Weiss, manager Dan Palami and player James Younghusband.

The decision penned by committee chair Gregorio Larrazabal said the two-game ban on Weiss and Palami as well as the one-game ban on Younghusband will not be implemented pending a hearing on their case on Sept. 14 at the PFF office.

With the appeal granted, Weiss and Palami will be allowed to resume their duties for the matches against Cambodia slated last night and against Singapore on Friday, where the Azkals will have Filipino-German standout Stephan Schrock in their squad.

Younghusband was set to play against Cambodia also last night.

The sanctions stemmed from the sexual harassment complaint filed by AFC match commissioner Cristy Ramos, who actually accused players Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado.

The two players have been cleared although the Disciplinary Committee slapped one-game bans on Moy and Guirado and Younghusband for a “breakdown in discipline” during the pre-match inspection of the Malaysia-Philippines friendly, while Weiss and Palami were punished for “failure of leadership.”

The Appeals Committee noted that Weiss, Palami and Younghusband were not part of the complaint filed by Ramos.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Clinton heads to China with hopes over sea tensions

AKARTA—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads Tuesday to Beijing after talks in emerging US ally Indonesia as she voiced hope for progress in managing soaring tensions in the South China Sea.
Clinton, on her third visit to the region since May, encouraged a united front among the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations as she stood firm in calling for freedom of navigation in the strategic sea.

The top US diplomat travels to China after sounding an optimistic note in Southeast Asia’s largest nation Indonesia, where she will meet Tuesday with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and visit the headquarters of the ASEAN bloc.

Clinton said she saw positive signs in Southeast Asia and was optimistic for movement on a code of conduct governing the South China Sea in time for an Asia summit in Cambodia in November to be attended by President Barack Obama.

“I think we can make progress before the East Asia Summit and it’s certainly in everyone’s interest that we do so,” she told a joint news conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

Clinton refrained from criticising China directly before her visit but signalled unease over Beijing’s recent establishment of a remote garrison in the South China Sea where six nations have often overlapping claims.

“The United States believes very strongly that no party should take any steps that would increase tensions or do anything that would be viewed as coercive or intimidating to advance their territorial claims,” Clinton said.

“We believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively together to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force,” she added.

The United States has taken a vocal stance on the South China Sea — through which half of the world’s cargo flows — as the Philippines and Vietnam accuse a rising Beijing of intimidation to exert its claims.

But when Clinton visited Cambodia in July, ASEAN foreign ministers for the first time failed to reach a joint communique at their annual meeting as the nations stood divided on how to deal with an increasingly active China.

The United States and its partners believe a code of conduct would establish dialogue and mechanisms to manage disputes in the South China Sea and prevent flare-ups of the kind seen recently from escalating into full-blown conflicts.

In an effort that heartened Clinton after the divisive meeting in July, Indonesia’s foreign minister spearheaded a recent statement of ASEAN principles that includes the 10 nations working together on a code of conduct.

Natalegawa, who welcomed Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to Jakarta last month, said that his initiative was not aimed at countering China as a code of conduct was in the interests of all nations in the region.

“Absent a code of conduct, absent a diplomatic process, we can be certain of more incidents and more tensions in our region. So it is a win-win,” Natalegawa said.

The Obama administration has supported a greater role for Indonesia, seeing the populous and historically moderate Muslim-majority democracy as a positive force for the region and beyond.

US relations with China have been fraught with tensions, despite what US officials say is quiet cooperation in several areas including on pressuring Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Chinese state media have accused Clinton of trying to contain the Asian power’s rise. China claims most of the South China Sea and has generally preferred to negotiate individually with each nation instead of a united ASEAN.

Clinton’s last visit to China in May was overshadowed by a crisis over prominent dissident Chen Guangcheng, who fled to the US embassy after reporting beatings under arbitrary house arrest in his home in Shandong province.

China eventually allowed the blind activist, who angered authorities by exposing forced abortions under the one-child-only policy, to leave for New York to study.

A US official said that Clinton was expected to discuss human rights but that it was unclear if Chen’s case would again come up.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Clinton to urge ASEAN unity on South China Sea

BRISBANE, Australia – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling for Southeast Asian states to present a united front to the Chinese in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Clinton will be in Indonesia’s capital Monday to offer strong U.S. support for a regionally endorsed plan to ease rising tensions by implementing a code of conduct for all claimants to disputed islands. Jakarta is the headquarters of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and Clinton will also press the group to insist that China agree to a formal mechanism to reduce short-term risks of conflict and ultimately come to final settlements over sovereignty.

She wants “to strengthen ASEAN unity going forward,” a senior U.S. official told reporters on board Clinton’s plane as she flew from the Cook Islands to Australia for a brief refuelling stop en route to Indonesia.

Indonesia played a leading role in putting the six-point plan together after ASEAN was unable to reach consensus on the matter in July. The official said the U.S. is “encouraged” by the plan but wants it acted on — particularly implementation and enforcement of the code of conduct, which has languished since a preliminary framework for it was first agreed in 2002. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly preview Clinton’s meetings.

The U.S. has asserted a national security interest in the peaceful resolution to South China Sea disputes and hopes for progress to be made before a November summit of East Asian leaders that President Barack Obama plans to attend.

The U.S. position has riled China, which has become increasingly assertive in pressing its territorial claims with its smaller neighbors and wants the disputes to be resolved individually with each country. The U.S. says it takes no position on the conflicting claims but wants to see them resolved between China and ASEAN, which has collective clout that its 10 members do not have individually.

Clinton will travel to China on Tuesday to continue talks on the South China Sea and a number of other issues, including the crisis in Syria and ways to deal with Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Clinton will be in Indonesia on the second stop of an 11-day, six-nation tour that will take her to East Timor, Brunei and Russia’s Far East after her stop in China.

In Indonesia, the official said, Clinton would also raise human rights concerns, including a recent uptick in mob violence against religious minorities.

The official described the incidents as “disturbing” and said Clinton would be asking Indonesian authorities how they intend to deal with them. The U.S. has championed Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, as a model for a moderate Islamic democracy.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday called for Clinton to bring up such cases and press the government “to take concrete steps to address rising religious intolerance” in Indonesia. It also asked her to address Indonesian authorities’ use of blasphemy and criminal defamation laws that it says are being used to persecute minorities and political activists.

“Indonesia needs to recognize that oppressive laws and policies against religious minorities fuel violence and discrimination,” the human rights group said.

Ramos rips decision clearing two Azkals

ASIAN Football Confederation match commissioner Cristy Ramos slammed Friday the decision of the Philippine Football Federation Disciplinary Committee that found no basis in the sexual harrasment charges she filed against members of the men’s national team last March.

In a television interview, Ramos, also a former president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, said she was disappointed and disgusted at the decision that cleared Lexton Moy and Angel Guirado.

But while Guirado and Moy were cleared, the two players were also handed one-game suspensions as the PFF Disciplinary Committee noted “a breakdown in discipline” when Ramos conducted the prematch inspection for the Philippines-Malaysia international friendly last February.

Azkals manager Dan Palami has already appealed his two-game suspension for the “failure of leadership” during the time of the incident. But Palami felt relieved that the sexual harassment charge has already been dismissed.

Also handed a two-match ban was Azkals coach Michael Weiss, while skipper James Younghusband was also suspended for one game—the same sanction given to assistant coach Edzel Bracamonte.

Ramos accused Moy of sexual harassment, after she felt alluded to by a comment about bra size. Guirado, Ramos claimed, was only wearing underwear during the inspection.

“It is to the relief of the team and the management that such a serious charge has been found to be without foundation but this is no surprise to us,” Palami said in a statement Friday.

In the same interview with News 5, Ramos blasted the PFF, saying the verdict showed that the federation tolerates disrespectful behavior. The Disciplinary Committee, PFF president Nonong Araneta said, is an independent body.

The daughter of former president Fidel Ramos also felt that the six-month wait for the verdict worked against her.

Read more news about Football Philippines here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Only Mercado to miss Fiba Asia Cup

WAS PRESIDENT Aquino serious when he threatened to write a letter to PBA ballclubs to make their players available for the national team?

If he was, then a number of clubs should expect communication coming from the Office of the President soon.

About half of the teams in the league had earlier failed to notify the PBA office of their intent to lend their players to Smart Gilas.

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To be honest, as of this writing, I’m still not clear on the process that was supposed to be followed, if there was one, in the formation of Smart Gilas.

Was Smart Gilas head coach Chot Reyes supposed to request the PBA Commissioner’s office for the players he wanted for the forthcoming Fiba Asia Cup in Japan, with PBA Commissioner Chito Salud in turn writing each team for the players requested?

The way a senior colleague explained it to me, the clubs were expected to submit a sort of conforme letter to the PBA office, since “the teams must be aware of the players Chot wants,” he said.

“The names are always in the papers.”

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Yesterday afternoon I touched base with commissioner Salud for some enlightenment. Did Chot ask for specific players? Was there a process?

The commissioner’s reply: “Yes, Chot did have a list of 16 at first. Then the board said he could have a pool of 20. Then they (Chot and company) went around asking the players to sign a commitment letter.”

I stopped to mull what the commissioner said, trying to read between the lines. Perhaps there was no need to have a letter of commitment signed; perhaps the transactions should have been coursed through the PBA Commissioner’s office, ensuring a hundred percent cooperation from all teams.

Minutes after my talk with Salud, I got a call from PBA media bureau head Willie Marcial who assured me that all the players who participated in the Jones Cup, except for Sol Mercado, will be able to play in the Fiba Asia Cup this September in Japan.

“Sol was disqualified because of a technicality,” he said.

Willie also explained that Chot needed a formal commitment from the players, before proceeding to the next step, which is to secure the approval of the team.

“Chot wants to make sure the national players are willing to undergo the demands of training for two teams. During the training period for the national team, they may not even have time for their families,” he said.

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Not everybody in the PBA contingent heard the President’s offer to write “unpatriotic” teams a letter.

According to a member of the group, one of the officials was asked by the President if he could do anything to help the national team. The official told him that one of their biggest problems was that some of the PBA ballclubs would not allow their players to render service to flag and country.

“I will write them a letter. Sasabihin ko sa kanila, boss, thank you for being (less) nationalistic,” the President was quoted as saying. I don’t know if those were his exact words. He could have been just joking. The President, I mean.

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“The move by the NCAA to transfer network is already seeing positive results,” reports Paul Mata of AKTV.

The oldest collegiate league in the country signed a deal with TV5 to air the games on AKTV on IBC starting this school year.

“Based on the ratings released by Nielsen, NCAA has a big margin of viewers watching its basketball games compared to the UAAP in Mega Manila. The average number of viewers reached 120,000 viewers against the 70,000 average of the UAAP on Studio 23,” he said.

“Two games registered high numbers as well in the National Urban Television Audience Measurement. The tightly fought match between San Beda and Perpetual registered the highest number of viewers with 374,296. The opening-day game between Letran and San Sebastian placed second with 297,460 watching Kevin Alas score 31 points to lead the Knights.”

Read more PBA finals news here.