World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
21 January 2020

PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC GROWTH REVS UP AS TAAL VOLCANO LOOMS


MANILA -- The Philippine economy was tipped to grow at its quickest pace for
2019 in the quarter ended December on the back of faster state spending and
low borrowing costs, analysts said, as the government kept watch on
potential fallout from the Taal Volcano eruption.
Gross domestic product likely grew 6.4 percent in the last 3 months of 2019,
according to the median forecast of 22 economists in a Bloomberg poll.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia gave a 6.6 percent forecast,
compared to the 6.2 percent expansion posted in the previous quarter.
Taal Volcano, located in the industrial and tourism region of Calabarzon
south of Manila, spewed giant ash columns on Jan. 12 and remained under
watch for a possible hazardous eruption.
"If there are more eruptions, then it may manifest long term and become
significant," Regina Capital head of sales Luis Limlingan told ABS-CBN News.
Official GDP data is due out on Thursday.
On industry and services alone, the volcano could cause P4.3 billion in
"foregone income" in Calabarzon, representing 0.17 percent of the region's
GDP, the National Economic Development Authority said.
If damage extends beyond the 14-kilometer danger zone, to 17 kilometers, it
could swell to P6.7 billion or 0.26 percent of the region's economic output,
it said.
Public spending revved up in the second half after being held back by the
delayed passage of the 2019 budget, signed 4 months into the year. President
Rodrigo Duterte signed the P4.1 trillion 2020 budget last Jan. 6.
Inflation also cooled last year from nearly 10-year highs, allowing the
Bangko Sentral to cut the benchmark lending rate by a cumulative 75 basis
points in 2019, with Governor Benjamin Diokno signalling a further 50-point
reduction this year.
"The fourth quarter should see a revival in investment activity, recovery in
capital formation after two quarters of contraction, while government
spending improves on 'catch up' spending," ING Bank senior economist
Nicholas Antonio Mapa told ABS-CBN News.
"Consumption should deliver more punch given benign inflation conditions,"
Mapa said, citing the 1.6-percent average inflation in the fourth quarter.
The economy likely grew 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and 6
percent for the entire year, BDO Chief Market Strategist Jonas Ravelas said.
The economy could grow by 6.5 percent this year, he said.
Dollar remittances from overseas Filipinos and revenues from business
process outsourcing and offshore gaming operations likely boosted
consumption in the fourth quarter, which will carry over into 2020,
Philippine National Bank said in a research note.


RAPPLER ASKS SC: CAN THE PRESIDENT BAN PRESS FROM COVERING PUBLIC EVENTS?

MANILA — Online news site Rappler has asked the Supreme Court to determine
whether the president can ban a member of the press from coverage based on
an accusation of being a “liar” or “fake news.”
In a 66-page Reply filed Monday, Rappler told the high court that the Palace
ban on Rappler reporters and correspondents “is not rooted in any provision
of the Constitution or a statute enacted by Congress,” but was based on a
"hollow imputation of Executive Power in response" to President Rodrigo
Duterte’s distrust on some members of the press.
The ban against Rappler staff started on Feb. 20, 2018, when a member of the
Presidential Security Group banned Pia Ranada from entering Malacañang
complex.
On March 1, 2018, Duterte said in a speech that he is banning Rappler
reporters from events where he will be in attendance.
The announcement came a day after Christopher “Bong” Go, Duterte's longtime
aide and since elected a senator, said the news site delivers “fake news”—a
comment often used for reports seen as critical of the administration.
In April 2019, Rappler reporters sought relief from the SC and assailed
Duterte’s order to prohibit them from covering his public events.
‘Pretextual’ accreditation
"Involved here is the invocation of executive power and an attempt by the
Government to directly interfere in the workings of the Philippine Press,"
Rappler stressed before the court.
"The question posed by Petitioners affects intersecting fundamental rights
under the Constitution. Thus, the Honorable Court is duty-bound to demarcate
clearer borderlines between the Press and the executive Branch, which is a
settled disposition of Hierarchy of Courts," it added.
Rappler then argued the SC has the power to “determine whether or not
Executive Power includes the power to brand a member of the Press as ‘liar’
or ‘fake news’ or ban a member of the Press from covering newsworthy public
events...involving the presence and participation of the Chief Executive.”


PNP CHIEF TO STEP UP DRIVE VS DRUGS, SCALAWAGS

MANILA — Newly appointed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie
Gamboa was sworn in yesterday by President Duterte in Batangas, the province
worst affected by Taal Volcano’s continuing unrest. ?
Residents displaced by the volcanic eruption witnessed the oath taking,
which was held at a gymnasium in Sto. Tomas City. ?The President also
conferred the four-star rank on Gamboa before posing for photos with the
police chief and his family.
Gamboa, who was appointed by President Duterte as the 23rd PNP chief last
Friday, vowed to press forward in the campaign against illegal drugs and
weeding out scalawags from the organization.
He promised to focus on high-value targets, such as large-scale drug
traffickers.
Since Gamboa will turn 56 – the mandatory retirement age for the uniformed
service – on Sept. 2, he will serve as PNP chief for only eight months. He
is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1986.
Prior to his appointment, Gamboa was the PNP’s officer-in-charge for three
months after his classmate, former police chief Oscar Albayalde, went on
non-duty leave amid allegations of protecting “ninja cops” or police
officers who recycle seized prohibited narcotics.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said honesty was Duterte’s
consideration in choosing Gamboa as PNP chief.
Also present during the oath taking were Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and
Sen. Christopher Go.
A ceremonial giving of government assistance to families affected by the
volcanic eruption immediately followed.


TAAL SIMMERS DOWN BUT DANGER NOT OVER — PHIVOLCS

Volcano is still inflating - Phivolcs
MANILA - The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs)
on Tuesday said that while there is a seeming decline in the volcanic
activities of Taal, people should not feel that it is safe enough to return
to the high-risk areas.
"There is a seeming weakening of the activities but it doesn’t mean the
danger is over,” said Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction
Division head Mariton Bornas during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
In its 8 a.m. bulletin, Phivolcs said that in the last 24 hours, it only
monitored “weak steam emission” from the volcano that generated ash plumes
500 to 600 meters high. Sulfur dioxide emissions were also lower at an
average of 344 tons per day. During the start of the eruptive activities of
Taal on January 12 and in recent days, sulfur dioxide levels have been
fluctuating, reaching around 4,000 to 5,000 tons per day. Bornas said the
fluctuation is due to the interaction of ground water and magma, which emits
sulfur dioxide when it is near the surface.
“The incidence of volcanic earthquakes is indeed lowering,” Bornas said,
adding that the type of quakes monitored shows that there is still magma
movement underground.
Since January 12 1 p.m., the Philippine Seismic Network (PSN) recorded 718
volcanic earthquakes. Of that number 176 are magnitude 1.2 to 4.1 and were
felt at Intensities I to V. But since 5 a.m on January 20 until the next
day, only five volcanic earthquakes were recorded. However, the Taal Volcano
Network, which can record small earthquakes undetectable by PSN, were able
to record 448 volcanic earthquakes. Seventeen of those were low-frequency
earthquakes, which signify movement of magma.
Bornas said the only time Phivolcs will lower its alert level 4 on Taal is
if they see an “overall trend” of all parameters.
“(But) the readings on the sulfur dioxide are fluctuating,” she said. “We
cannot just trust the daily reading. We have to look at the trend.”
Bornas said that even if the volcanic activity further weakens, magma is
already in place.
“We have ground deformation parameters that the volcano is still inflated
and is still inflating,” she said. “The magma is already there and the
volcano can easily erupt.”


5 ABU SAYYAF SLAIN, IN TAWI-TAWI, SULU

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Five Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed while a soldier was
wounded in military operations in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu over the weekend.
Oyong, Datu Solon and Rashida, all surnamed Maulana, and Nhadz Omar were
killed in an encounter in Barangay Lakit, Sapa-Sapa, according to Brig. Gen.
Camilo Balutan, commander of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi.
“The group was known as a conduit of those behind kidnappings in the
tri-boundary of Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines,” Balutan said in his
report to the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).
Balutan said an M1 Garand rifle, a bandoleer with seven magazines loaded
with bullets for a 5.56mm rifle, sachets of shabu, drug paraphernalia and
cellular phones were recovered from the suspects in Barangay Lakit,
Sapa-Sapa.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Westmincom said another bandit was killed in a
military air strike on Sulare Island in Parang town.
Sobejana said the 1102nd Infantry Brigade ordered the air strike after
receiving reports that the bandits boarded a speedboat in the area.
The military said an M16 rifle, two bandoleers with ammunition, four cell
phones and a twin engine speedboat were recovered during clearing
operations.
The military offensive followed an alert from its Malaysian counterparts on
the kidnapping of five Indonesian fishermen off Lahad Datu in Sabah on
Friday.


POWER RESTORED IN AREAS AFFECTED BY TAAL VOLCANO’S UNREST

MANILA — The restoration of electricity in areas affected by the explosion
of Taal Volcano has been completed.
The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said its line crew worked around the clock
to clean main lines and circuits affected by ashfalls.
“In the past week, portions of Cavite, Laguna and Batangas experienced power
interruptions because... ashfall affected various circuits in these areas,”
Meralco public information office head Joe Zaldarriaga said.
Meralco said around 180,000 households in parts of Bacoor, Silang, Amadeo,
Indang, Naic, Trece Martirez City, Alfonso, Cavite City, Dasmarinas City and
Tagaytay City in Cavite; Cabuyao and Calamba in Laguna, and Talisay in
Batangas were hit by power outages.
The Department of Energy (DOE) said it is coordinating with the National
Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Operations Center and the power
sector on the status of energy facilities and systems as well as issues that
could affect energy supply in areas near Taal Volcano.
The DOE advised energy facilities in Laguna, Rizal, Aurora and northern part
of Quezon to undertake appropriate measures to respond to contingencies with
the volcano’s continued activity.
In recent visits to affected areas in Batangas and Cavite, the DOE also
discussed measures to help ensure that unscrupulous traders do not take
advantage of the situation.
A price freeze on basic commodities, including liquefied petroleum gas and
kerosene, are in place in Batangas and Cavite, where a state of calamity was
declared due to Taal Volcano’s activity.


MOTORCYCLE TAXI PILOT RUN TO PROCEED, TRANSPORT OFFICIAL SAYS

MANILA -- The pilot run of motorcycle taxis will proceed, the transport
official overseeing it said Tuesday, as he called for a meeting with
ride-hailing platforms Angkas, JoyRide and Move It to thresh out rules.
The Department of Transportation's technical working group considered the
"sentiments" of senators during a hearing on Monday that the motor taxi
trial run must proceed, said Antonio Gardiola, a member of the Land
Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
Gardiola said on Monday that the pilot study would end and that the
ride-hailing trio could be considered "illegal." Motorcycles are not
recognized as public transport under Philippine law and the pilot run was
set as platforms such as Angkas grew popular among commuters caught in
traffic jams.
"Itutuloy natin yan (We will push through with it)," Gardiola told CNN
Philippines when asked if the trial run would proceed.
Gardiola said Sen. Bong Go approached him at the Senate last Monday and told
him, referring to the pilot run: "Dapat ituloy natin to (We should continue
this)."
While the technical working group "understands" the need for an alternative
mode of transportation, Gardiola cited violations of guidelines in the first
trial run, which ended last December.
"Without regulation, it's anarchy. Mahirap ho (It's really hard)," he said.
The government added JoyRide and Move It because it could not draft
regulation based solely on feedback from one participant, Angkas, during the
first trial run, he said.
"Mahirap mageksperimento kung iisa sample mo (It's hard to experiment with
just one sample), so we can come up with a viable and comprehensive
evaluation of any data that we can gather," he said.
Angkas, which is protesting the cap on riders per platform in the extended
trial run, said legal cases questioning it should not stop the pilot from
proceeding.
"The case is really of no consequence, rather what were focused on, what
were really pushing for is the lifting of the cap and that’s really what
they’re restrained by the court currently," Angkas chief transport advocate
George Royeca told ANC.
Imposing a cap and creating a controlled environment for the study "is a
little bit too late" after the initial 6-month period lapsed, Royeca said.
Royeca proposed allowing drivers to operate on more than one platform, which
he said worked in other countries.
"I think the first 6 months was a success and I really hope that they take
that into consideration. Let’s find out how we can legalize this," Royeca
said.


NCRPO CRACKS DOWN ON COPS USING STOLEN CARS

MANILA — The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) yesterday
launched a crackdown on policemen using stolen vehicles recovered in
operations for personal use.
NCRPO director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said they started checking the
license plates of cars used by police officers on orders of Philippine
National Police (PNP) chief Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa.
The program, dubbed “Oplan Viserion,” is part of the internal cleansing
efforts of the PNP, which penalizes officers who bought unregistered and
stolen vehicles.
Camp Bagong Diwa, the NCRPO’s headquarters in Taguig City, was placed on
lockdown after yesterday’s flag-raising rites as inspectors started checking
the vehicles parked inside the police camp.
Sinas said the inspectors found that a majority of motorcycles and cars had
no license plates, prompting speculations that these might be stolen
vehicles recovered by police.
Starting yesterday, vehicles without registration papers were barred from
entering the NCRPO headquarters.
The same protocol would be implemented in five police districts and stations
in Metro Manila, according to Sinas.
He said vehicles without the registration papers would be impounded.


ENTERTAINMENT & LIFESTYLE


'THANK YOU, JADINE': INSIDER SOURCES REVEAL WHY JAMES REID, NADINE LUSTRE
WITHHELD SPLIT

MANILA — Kapamilya love team James Reid and Nadine Lustre finally confirmed
that they broke up.
In ABS-CBN's "Tonight With Boy Abunda" on Monday evening, the former couple
announced their breakup through a joint statement.
“It’s true that we have split up, but not for all the reasons that are being
spread on the tabloids and social media, but because after quiet and mature
conversations, we decided to focus on ourselves not only for our careers but
more for our personal growth as we are still young and we want to achieve as
much as we can,” they said.
The former couple added that they agreed to split to pursue individual
dreams and careers. They assured, however, that they are in good terms.
“We agreed that going separate ways was best for both of us. We are in good
terms and are still really good friends and will continue to work with each
other especially when it comes to music,” said the pair, who might have
erased some pictures of each other on their social media accounts but have
continued to follow each other, unlike other couples who have broken up.
James and Nadine also thanked their fans for their support as they hope that
fans would continue to support them in their individual careers.
"Thank you for all the JaDine fans for their undying support and we hope you
continue to support us now and in the future. We shall forever be grateful
to them for their love and understanding. Thank you,” the former couple
said.
The pair were supposed to celebrate their fourth anniversary on Ferbruary
11.
Breakup rumors sparked when Nadine posted on Instagram: "For good reason,
lost all of my love."
The public thought the actress dispelled the rumors by posting her reaction
to The STAR Entertainment Editor Ricky Lo's column, JaDine breakup: A case
of too much, too soon?
In the column, Lo wrote, among other things, that Nadine has allegedly has
left James' house in Quezon City, their love nest for more than two years,
to move to a Makati City condo.
"None of what you said was true and it is never okay to use someone’s mental
situation/tragic past just to prove a point. Mental illness is a very
sensitive matter," Nadine said in an Instagram story as a reaction to Lo's
column.
After that, JaDine posted pictures of them together in Baguio and hiking
Mount Ulap. Just last week, they were in Brazil for a lifestyle magazine
shoot.
Insider sources, who are close to the couple but requested to stay private,
revealed to Philstar.com and The STAR that James and Nadine waited before
announcing their breakup because they allegedly still had a commitment to
appear in a project as JaDine. The former couple are yet to confirm this.

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