HEADLINE NEWS FROM OCT 4 TO 6...

CHRONIC LACK OF TRAINED TEACHERS CHALLENGES 'EDUCATION FOR ALL' GOAL 

OCT 4 --PHOTO: TO SIRS AND MA’AMS, WITH LOVE — Students at Araullo High School on United Nations Avenue, Manila, flash their greeting sign for their mentors yesterday as campuses around the globe celebrate World Teachers’ Month. (Valeria Sorrenti)

The education system in many countries, the Philippines included, is facing a major problem that’s bigger than the shortage of teachers. It is the chronic lack of trained teachers. In a policy paper that will be published tomorrow to mark World Teachers’ Day (WTD) 2014, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showed that “chronic lack of trained teachers” remains a challenge in achieving the Education For All (EFA) goals. “Without action, it will be impossible to get all children into school by 2030.” SACRIFICING STANDARDS UNESCO said that in the rush to fill the “chronic, global shortage of teachers,” many countries – including the Philippines – are “sacrificing standards and undermining progress by hiring people with little or no training.” * READ MORE...

ALSO Oct 4: Senior citizens get free LRT, MRT rides today  

OCT 4 --Senior citizens can avail themselves of free rides at the light rail lines in Metro Manila today, Oct. 4, as the country celebrates the Elderly Filipino Week from Oct. 1 to 7. In a tweet on social media, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said elderly Filipinos have only to present their senior citizens’ identification card to station security to avail of the free rides. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is spearheading the elderly celebrations with this year’s theme “Ang Nakatatanda ay Yaman, Katuwang sa Pag-unlad ng Bayan, Pangalagaan Kanilang Kapakanan.”

Presidential Proclamation No. 470 issued by 1994 President Fidel Ramos mandates the annual celebration of Elderly Filipino Week or Linggo ng Nakatatandang Filipino every first week of October to stress the important role that older persons play in nation building as well as address issues concerning the older persons’ sector. Last Wednesday, a “Walk for Life” was held at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. Other activities include a “Dalaw Kalinga” today, October 4; visit to “Visitorless, Indigent, Sick, Old Prisoners” at National Bilibid Prison and Correctional Institute for Women on Oct. 5; a “Forum on Social Protection for Senior Citizens” on Oct. 7; Forum on Social Pension on Oct. 8; Forum on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction on Oct. 11; and Painting Exhibit at SM Megatrade, Mandaluyong City on Oct. 1-7. More than 2,000 participants from various senior citizens’ organizations, other government agencies, and NGOs joined the Walk for Life at the Mall of Asia. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Quake hits Visayas, some houses damaged but no injuries reported

OCT 4 --A magnitude-5.7 quake hit the Antique area in Western Visayas Friday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. Phivolcs director Renato Solidum Jr. said they are still verifying information that the quake caused damage in some areas in Antique province. "May nireport na damage sa Culasi, Antique. May bahay (na na-damage) pero sketchy ang report," he said in an interview on dzBB radio. However, he allayed fears of the quake generating a tsunami. In its initial bulletin, Phivolcs said the quake was recorded at 4:05 p.m., with the epicenter at 5 km east of Culasi in Antique. Phivolcs also warned of possible damage and aftershocks. The intensity of the quake was reportedly as high as Intensity VI or "very strong."

An initial list of areas that felt the quake included: • Intensity VI: Culasi, Antique • Intensity V: Kalibo, Aklan; Sebaste, Pandan, Lauan and Libertad (Antique) • Intensity IV: San Jose, Sibalom and San Remegio (Antique) • Intensity III: La Carlota City; Roxas City; Iloilo City • Intensity II: Cebu City • Intensity I: Zamboanga City --An Intensity VI quake is "Very Strong," and many people can be frightened and run outdoors. "Some people lose their balance. Motorists feel like driving (with) flat tires. Heavy objects or furniture move or may be shifted. Small church bells may ring. Wall plaster may crack. Very old or poorly built houses and man-made structures are slightly damaged though well-built structures are not affected. Limited rockfalls and rolling boulders occur in hilly to mountainous areas and escarpments. Trees are noticeably shaken," Phivolcs said. — Joel Locsin/TJD, GMA News THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: How many Filipinos are still not connected to Internet?

OCT 4 --Out of 98 million Filipinos, there are still 62 million not connected to the Internet as of 2013, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company. The Philippines ranked 11th worldwide in the ranking of countries with the most number of non-Internet users. India topped the list with 1.06 billion without Internet access. It was followed by China with 736 million and Indonesia with 210 million non-Internet users. Rounding out the top five are Pakistan with 162 million and Bangladesh with 146 million without Internet access. “Despite significant gains in Internet penetration, there is still a sizable population of the world that is not online. This offline population is disproportionately rural, low income, illiterate, elderly, and female,” the study said.

The study said that an estimated 4.4 billion people around the world still do not have access to the Internet. From this figure, 3.2 billion are living in 20 countries, which include Nigeria (108 million); Brazil (97 million); Ethiopia (92 million); Mexico (69 million); and Congo (64 million). In the study’s Internet Barriers Index, which ranked 25 countries based on four categories of barriers—incentives, low incomes and affordability, user capability and infrastructure—to Internet adoption, the Philippines ranked 16 with a score of 57 out of a maximum score of 100. Countries with a high score have relatively low barriers to Internet adoption. The United States scored the highest with 94, followed by Germany and South Korea scoring 93 each. The study noted that the lack of electricity and logistics infrastructure in developing regions remain a barrier in Internet connectivity.

“In Southeast Asia, approximately 134 million people—more than one-fifth of the region’s population—lack access to electricity; electric access levels are below 75 percent in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Indonesia,” the study revealed. “Countries such as Colombia, the Philippines, and Tanzania all struggle to provide rural areas with the foundational elements that could help increase the viability of telecom investments,” it added. According to a separate study, the Philippines also has one of the slowest average connection speeds in Asia Pacific.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: North & South Shake hands at Asian games: North Korea's No. 2 visits South for rare talks  

OCT 4 --SEOUL -Hwang Pyong So, left, vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, shakes hands with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae upon his arrival at a hotel in Incheon, South Korea. (AP) SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea's presumptive No. 2 and other members of Pyongyang's inner circle made a surprise trip Saturday to South Korea for the close of the Asian Games, a visit that will include the rivals' highest level face-to-face talks in five years. After months of tensions, including a barrage of insults between the divided neighbors and an unusual number of North Korean missile and rocket test firings, expectations for any breakthrough aren't high, but even the visit itself is significant, allowing a valuable meeting between confidants of North Korea's authoritarian leader and Seoul's senior official for North Korean affairs.

The North Korean delegation to the games in Incheon was led by Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer at the Korean People's Army and considered by outside analysts to be the country's second most important official after leader Kim Jong Un. The visit comes as rumors swirl in the South about the health of Kim, who has made no public appearances since Sept. 3 and skipped a high-profile recent event he usually attends. A recent official documentary showed footage from August of him limping and overweight and mentioned his "discomfort." Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol told reporters that the North Korean officials plan to hold talks over lunch with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and national security director Kim Kwan-jin before flying back home later Saturday. It was the first senior visit of this kind to the South since conservative South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office in early 2013. The last such trip was in 2009. It wasn't clear what the officials would talk about. Lim said there were no immediate plans for the North Koreans to meet with Park. * READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Noy powers to include Malampaya Fund’  

OCT 6 --President Aquino will be authorized to tap about P4 billion to P10 billion from the Malampaya Fund once Congress gives him special emergency powers to prevent an impending energy crisis next year, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday. Drilon said the funds would be used to either lease or purchase generation sets from available suppliers. “My estimate, if I am not mistaken, and I am just relying on my memory – anywhere from P4 billion to P10 billion depending on megawatts or whether this will cover rental or purchases,” Drilon told radio dzBB. “There are various amounts involved depending on the situation, and (the funds) will come from the Malampaya funds,” he added.

Congress’ plan to grant special powers to the President came less than a year after the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the use of the Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Malampaya Fund for purposes other than energy-related projects. Voting 14-0 in November last year, the Supreme Court nullified “all legal provisions of past and present Congressional pork barrel laws, such as the previous PDAF and Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which authorize/d legislators-whether individually or collectively organized into committees – to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution.”

The Supreme Court also ruled as unconstitutional the provisions of the laws allowing the President to use the Malampaya Fund for purposes other than energy-related projects as well as the provision which allows the President’s Social Fund to be used for priority infrastructure development projects. At the height of the pork barrel controversy, Sen. Ralph Recto asked the administration to give a full audit of how the government spent the proceeds from the Malampaya operations – amounting to about P170-billion over the years. Recto estimated that there should be about P130 billion left out of the proceeds from the royalties from the natural gas operations off Palawan since P25 billion was spent during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term and about P 15 billion was tapped by the current Aquino administration by 2013. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

(ALSO) Bar taker for 3rd time at 88: Never say die   

OCT 6 --PHOTO: Hope springs eternal. Bienvenido Hilario, 88, visits the UST campus to take this year’s Bar exams after failing to pass them in 2008 and in 2012. Eighty-eight year-old Bienvenido Hilario of Bulacan was one of the 6,344 hopefuls who trooped to the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Sunday at the start of this year’s Bar exams. Hilario, a graduate of the Philippine Law School, said this year was the third time he was taking the tests after he failed in 2008 and in 2012. He said he did not enroll with any review centers but reviewed on his own. “I didn’t get lucky in the past tests and this is why I’m here today,” Hilario said.

This year’s 6,344 Bar takers compare with the 5,293 who took it last year and the 5,343 who took it in 2012. The Manila Police Department deployed some 400 policemen to secure this year’s examinees, and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada went to the campus at 6:30 am to see the security arrangements. Estrada said the policemen will secure the campus during the tests that will take up four Sundays this month, and that a liquor ban will be enforced in the vicinity from 4 am to 8 pm for the duration of the exams. “For the four Sundays of October, namely October 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2014, during which the whole-day Bar examinations for 2014 are to be administered by the Supreme Court in the premises of the University of Santo Tomas, no store, restaurant, eatery, café or any eating places or ambulant vendors shall be allowed to sell, peddle or offer drinks to any person intoxicating beverages such as beer, liquor, wines and the like between the hours of 4am and 8pm within 200 meters from the perimeter walls of UST along España Boulevard and Lacson Avenue, Dapitan Street and P. Noval Street,” Estrada said in Executive Order 65. *READ MORE...

ALSO: Mayon threatens big eruption  

OCT 6 --LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Mayon Volcano threatened a big eruption yesterday as magma continued to rise towards its surface. Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology (Phivolcs) chief volcanologist in Bicol, said magma intrusion is taking place inside Mayon as its surface remains inflated. However, the volume of sulfur dioxide emission could not be measured due to rains over the 8,077-foot volcano, he added. Laguerta said that they will analyze the new images of the lava dome taken during an aerial survey yesterday morning.

The findings will be presented in today’s media briefing at the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, he added. Laguerta told The STAR a small eruption might occur once rainwater seeps into the crater and makes contact with fresh magma at the upper vent of Mayon. “Once rainwater touches portion of the magma, it might spark a small explosion that in turn may disturb the degassing process and trigger big secondary eruptions,” he said. Laguerta said heavy rains and clouds around Mayon were preventing scientists from getting the correct volume of sulfur dioxide emission needed to determine whether the degassing process has been sustained due to magma intrusion towards the surface of Mayon.

“For three days now we could not determine the accurate volume of sulfur dioxide emission due to the presence of non-volcano clouds over Mayon,” he said. “Right now, the correct measurement of gas emission is very important in determining the actual condition of this volcano.” Laguerta believes the sudden drop in sulfur dioxide emission could be attributed to the bigger lava dome that had blocked more than half of the 250-meter wide mouth of Mayon. “We are not including volumes of SO2 emissions if we are in doubt that they are contaminated by heavy rains or presence of thick clouds,” he said. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Chronic lack of trained teachers challenges ‘Education For All’ goal


T
O SIRS AND MA’AMS, WITH LOVE — Students at Araullo High School on United Nations Avenue, Manila, flash their greeting sign for their mentors yesterday as campuses around the globe celebrate World Teachers’ Month. (Valeria Sorrenti)

MANILA, OCTOBER 6, 2014 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Ina Hernando Malipot - The education system in many countries, the Philippines included, is facing a major problem that’s bigger than the shortage of teachers. It is the chronic lack of trained teachers.

In a policy paper that will be published tomorrow to mark World Teachers’ Day (WTD) 2014, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) showed that “chronic lack of trained teachers” remains a challenge in achieving the Education For All (EFA) goals. “Without action, it will be impossible to get all children into school by 2030.”

SACRIFICING STANDARDS

UNESCO said that in the rush to fill the “chronic, global shortage of teachers,” many countries – including the Philippines – are “sacrificing standards and undermining progress by hiring people with little or no training.”

* The new policy paper is prepared by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR). It pointed out that “at least 93 countries have an acute teacher shortage.” Thus, there is a “need to recruit some four million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015.”

Pressured to fill gaps, UNESCO said many countries are recruiting teachers “who lack the most basic training.” In one-third of countries with data, the study also showed that “fewer than 75 percent of primary school teachers were trained according to national standards in 2012.”

TEACHERS ARE THE CORE

According to UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, “a quality universal primary education will remain a distant dream for millions of children living in countries without enough trained teachers in classrooms.” She added that teachers are the core of any “education system” and “hiring and training new and already established teachers is fundamental to protecting children’s ability to learn in school.”

If the deadline of the EFA goal is extended to 2030, there is a need to hire “more than 27 million teachers,” and 24 million of them will be required to “compensate for natural attrition.” However, at present rates, 28 (or 30 percent) of these 93 countries are found incapable of meeting these needs, UNESCO said.

LACK OF TRAINED FILIPINO TEACHERS

Kate Redman, UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report Communications and Advocacy Specialist, told the Manila Bulletin that the Philippines is among the countries that lack trained teachers.

“In the Philippines, like in many other countries of the region, the lack of trained teachers, especially in critical early grades and in disadvantaged areas remains a problem,” Redman said.

The “number of pupils per teacher has slightly decreased over the past decade – from 35:1 in 2000 to 31:1 in 2009. She noted that the shortage of trained teachers is still among the challenges the country’s education system needs to face.

TRAINED TEACHERS IN HIGHER GRADES

“More experienced teachers who might be knowledgeable in effective strategies to teach early grade reading and math are more likely to be assigned to higher rather than lower grades,” Redman explained. “This is reflected in very poor performance of students in reading and mathematics in early grades,” she added.

According to EFA Global Monitoring Report Director Aaron Benavot, “putting well-intentioned instructors in front of huge classrooms and calling them teachers will not deliver our ambitions to have every child in school and learning.”

NEW ADVOCACY TOOLKIT

To address this, UNESCO has prepared a new Advocacy Toolkit for teachers to help relay these messages to their respective governments. “Teachers, better than anyone else, can relay how teacher shortages and a lack of training are making it nigh-on impossible to deliver a quality education,” Benvavot explained.

To gauge opinions on teacher and education-related issues, the GMR has also launched an online questionnaire for teachers where they are asked to assess “where policy reforms have made a difference and where there is still room for improvement.”

To ensure the steady supply of trained teachers, UNESCO said that countries “must ensure that all new teacher candidates have completed at least secondary education” and must increase their investment in education. UNESCO Institute for Statistics Director Hendrik van der Pol said that “most countries can afford to hire the extra teachers if they continue to steadily increase investment in education.”

FROM PHILSTAR

Senior citizens get free LRT, MRT rides today By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 4, 2014 - 12:00am 1 7 googleplus0 0


Senior citizens join a march organized by retired employees and senior citizen groups in Baguio City yesterday. Elderly Filipino Week is celebrated from Oct. 1 to 7. ANDY ZAPATA JR.

MANILA, Philippines - Senior citizens can avail themselves of free rides at the light rail lines in Metro Manila today, Oct. 4, as the country celebrates the Elderly Filipino Week from Oct. 1 to 7.

In a tweet on social media, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said elderly Filipinos have only to present their senior citizens’ identification card to station security to avail of the free rides.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is spearheading the elderly celebrations with this year’s theme “Ang Nakatatanda ay Yaman, Katuwang sa Pag-unlad ng Bayan, Pangalagaan Kanilang Kapakanan.”

Presidential Proclamation No. 470 issued by 1994 President Fidel Ramos mandates the annual celebration of Elderly Filipino Week or Linggo ng Nakatatandang Filipino every first week of October to stress the important role that older persons play in nation building as well as address issues concerning the older persons’ sector.

Last Wednesday, a “Walk for Life” was held at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. Other activities include a “Dalaw Kalinga” today, October 4; visit to “Visitorless, Indigent, Sick, Old Prisoners” at National Bilibid Prison and Correctional Institute for Women on Oct. 5; a “Forum on Social Protection for Senior Citizens” on Oct. 7; Forum on Social Pension on Oct. 8; Forum on Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction on Oct. 11; and Painting Exhibit at SM Megatrade, Mandaluyong City on Oct. 1-7.

More than 2,000 participants from various senior citizens’ organizations, other government agencies, and NGOs joined the Walk for Life at the Mall of Asia.

* It is held annually by the Department of Health to enhance awareness of the public on the health concerns and wellbeing of the elderly.

The elderly sector comprises 6.8 percent of the Philippine population and is an integral part of society. The state has a responsibility to protect its members, the DSWD said.

Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010 provides more benefits and privileges to the elderly.

They are entitled to 20 percent discount on the purchase of certain goods and services, special five percent discount on prime commodities and basic necessities, and five percent utility discount on electric and water consumption.

Likewise, eligible indigent senior citizens are entitled to a social pension amounting to P500 monthly. The government’s social pension program for indigent senior citizens is being implemented by the DSWD. – With Reinir Padua

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Quake hits Visayas, some houses damaged but no injuries reported October 3, 2014 4:20pm

A magnitude-5.7 quake hit the Antique area in Western Visayas Friday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum Jr. said they are still verifying information that the quake caused damage in some areas in Antique province.

"May nireport na damage sa Culasi, Antique. May bahay (na na-damage) pero sketchy ang report," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.

However, he allayed fears of the quake generating a tsunami.

In its initial bulletin, Phivolcs said the quake was recorded at 4:05 p.m., with the epicenter at 5 km east of Culasi in Antique.

Phivolcs also warned of possible damage and aftershocks.

The intensity of the quake was reportedly as high as Intensity VI or "very strong."

An initial list of areas that felt the quake included:

• Intensity VI: Culasi, Antique • Intensity V: Kalibo, Aklan; Sebaste, Pandan, Lauan and Libertad (Antique) • Intensity IV: San Jose, Sibalom and San Remegio (Antique) • Intensity III: La Carlota City; Roxas City; Iloilo City • Intensity II: Cebu City • Intensity I: Zamboanga City

An Intensity VI quake is "Very Strong," and many people can be frightened and run outdoors.

"Some people lose their balance. Motorists feel like driving (with) flat tires. Heavy objects or furniture move or may be shifted. Small church bells may ring. Wall plaster may crack. Very old or poorly built houses and man-made structures are slightly damaged though well-built structures are not affected. Limited rockfalls and rolling boulders occur in hilly to mountainous areas and escarpments. Trees are noticeably shaken," Phivolcs said. — Joel Locsin/TJD, GMA News

FROM ABS-CBN

How many Filipinos are still not connected to Internet? by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com Posted at 10/03/2014 6:34 PM | Updated as of 10/03/2014 6:50 PM


People use computers at an Internet cafe in Manila

MANILA, Philippines – Out of 98 million Filipinos, there are still 62 million not connected to the Internet as of 2013, according to a recent study by McKinsey & Company.

The Philippines ranked 11th worldwide in the ranking of countries with the most number of non-Internet users.

India topped the list with 1.06 billion without Internet access. It was followed by China with 736 million and Indonesia with 210 million non-Internet users.

Rounding out the top five are Pakistan with 162 million and Bangladesh with 146 million without Internet access.

“Despite significant gains in Internet penetration, there is still a sizable population of the world that is not online. This offline population is disproportionately rural, low income, illiterate, elderly, and female,” the study said.

The study said that an estimated 4.4 billion people around the world still do not have access to the Internet.

From this figure, 3.2 billion are living in 20 countries, which include Nigeria (108 million); Brazil (97 million); Ethiopia (92 million); Mexico (69 million); and Congo (64 million).

In the study’s Internet Barriers Index, which ranked 25 countries based on four categories of barriers—incentives, low incomes and affordability, user capability and infrastructure—to Internet adoption, the Philippines ranked 16 with a score of 57 out of a maximum score of 100.

Countries with a high score have relatively low barriers to Internet adoption. The United States scored the highest with 94, followed by Germany and South Korea scoring 93 each.

The study noted that the lack of electricity and logistics infrastructure in developing regions remain a barrier in Internet connectivity.

“In Southeast Asia, approximately 134 million people—more than one-fifth of the region’s population—lack access to electricity; electric access levels are below 75 percent in Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Indonesia,” the study revealed.

“Countries such as Colombia, the Philippines, and Tanzania all struggle to provide rural areas with the foundational elements that could help increase the viability of telecom investments,” it added.

According to a separate study, the Philippines also has one of the slowest average connection speeds in Asia Pacific.

FROM FOX NEWS DOT COM

North & South Shake hands: North Korea's No. 2 visits South for rare talks


Hwang Pyong So, left, vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, shakes hands with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae upon his arrival at a hotel in Incheon, South Korea. (AP)

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea's presumptive No. 2 and other members of Pyongyang's inner circle made a surprise trip Saturday to South Korea for the close of the Asian Games, a visit that will include the rivals' highest level face-to-face talks in five years.

After months of tensions, including a barrage of insults between the divided neighbors and an unusual number of North Korean missile and rocket test firings, expectations for any breakthrough aren't high, but even the visit itself is significant, allowing a valuable meeting between confidants of North Korea's authoritarian leader and Seoul's senior official for North Korean affairs.

The North Korean delegation to the games in Incheon was led by Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer at the Korean People's Army and considered by outside analysts to be the country's second most important official after leader Kim Jong Un.

The visit comes as rumors swirl in the South about the health of Kim, who has made no public appearances since Sept. 3 and skipped a high-profile recent event he usually attends. A recent official documentary showed footage from August of him limping and overweight and mentioned his "discomfort."

Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol told reporters that the North Korean officials plan to hold talks over lunch with South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and national security director Kim Kwan-jin before flying back home later Saturday.

* It was the first senior visit of this kind to the South since conservative South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office in early 2013. The last such trip was in 2009. It wasn't clear what the officials would talk about. Lim said there were no immediate plans for the North Koreans to meet with Park.

One South Korean analyst saw the talks as a crucial moment for inter-Korean ties over the next few years.

If no progress is made after Saturday's talks, the rivals' strained relations will likely continue until Park finishes her single five-year term, said analyst Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute.

Cheong speculated that the North Korean officials were probably carrying a message from Kim Jong Un. The visit could also be part of an effort to show that Kim has no problem making high-profile political decisions and has no serious health issues, he said.

The other North Korean officials, Lim said, are Choe Ryong Hae and Kim Yang Gon, secretaries to the ruling Workers' Party. Hwang, the No. 2, holds other top posts, such as a vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission led by Kim Jong Un and a vice marshal of the army.

High-level North Korean visits to South Korea have been highly unusual since inter-Korean relations became strained after Park's conservative predecessor Lee Myung-bak took office in early 2008 with a tough line on the North.

In 2009, senior Workers' Party official Kim Ki Nam and spy chief Kim Yang Gon, the same official who visited Saturday, came to South Korea during a mourning period to pay their respects to the late liberal South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. During the visit, the North Koreans met President Lee, conveyed a message from then leader Kim Jong Il and discussed inter-Korean cooperation.

Besides the recent North Korean test firings of rockets and missiles, both sides have leveled harsh criticism at each other, with North Korean state media calling the South Korean president a prostitute.

The Asian Games participation by the North was welcomed as a step forward.

North Korea boycotted the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Summer Olympics, both in Seoul, but attended the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, the 2003 University Games in Daegu and the 2005 Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon. Those last three came during an era of liberal governments in Seoul that were more accommodating to Pyongyang.

North Korea had said ahead of these games that it wanted to send both athletes and cheerleaders but later balked at sending cheerleaders because of what it called South Korean hostility.

FROM PHILSTAR

‘Noy powers to include Malampaya Fund’ By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 6, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino will be authorized to tap about P4 billion to P10 billion from the Malampaya Fund once Congress gives him special emergency powers to prevent an impending energy crisis next year, Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Drilon said the funds would be used to either lease or purchase generation sets from available suppliers.

“My estimate, if I am not mistaken, and I am just relying on my memory – anywhere from P4 billion to P10 billion depending on megawatts or whether this will cover rental or purchases,” Drilon told radio dzBB.

“There are various amounts involved depending on the situation, and (the funds) will come from the Malampaya funds,” he added.

Congress’ plan to grant special powers to the President came less than a year after the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the use of the Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Malampaya Fund for purposes other than energy-related projects.

Voting 14-0 in November last year, the Supreme Court nullified “all legal provisions of past and present Congressional pork barrel laws, such as the previous PDAF and Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) articles and the various Congressional Insertions, which authorize/d legislators-whether individually or collectively organized into committees – to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution.”

The Supreme Court also ruled as unconstitutional the provisions of the laws allowing the President to use the Malampaya Fund for purposes other than energy-related projects as well as the provision which allows the President’s Social Fund to be used for priority infrastructure development projects.

At the height of the pork barrel controversy, Sen. Ralph Recto asked the administration to give a full audit of how the government spent the proceeds from the Malampaya operations – amounting to about P170-billion over the years.

Recto estimated that there should be about P130 billion left out of the proceeds from the royalties from the natural gas operations off Palawan since P25 billion was spent during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term and about P 15 billion was tapped by the current Aquino administration by 2013.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Bar taker at 88: Never say die By Rey E. Requejo | Oct. 06, 2014 at 12:01am


Hope springs eternal. Bienvenido Hilario, 88, visits the UST campus to take this year’s Bar exams after failing to pass them in 2008 and in 2012. Danny Pata

Eighty-eight year-old Bienvenido Hilario of Bulacan was one of the 6,344 hopefuls who trooped to the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Sunday at the start of this year’s Bar exams.

Hilario, a graduate of the Philippine Law School, said this year was the third time he was taking the tests after he failed in 2008 and in 2012.

He said he did not enroll with any review centers but reviewed on his own.

“I didn’t get lucky in the past tests and this is why I’m here today,” Hilario said.

This year’s 6,344 Bar takers compare with the 5,293 who took it last year and the 5,343 who took it in 2012.

The Manila Police Department deployed some 400 policemen to secure this year’s examinees, and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada went to the campus at 6:30 am to see the security arrangements.

Estrada said the policemen will secure the campus during the tests that will take up four Sundays this month, and that a liquor ban will be enforced in the vicinity from 4 am to 8 pm for the duration of the exams.

“For the four Sundays of October, namely October 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2014, during which the whole-day Bar examinations for 2014 are to be administered by the Supreme Court in the premises of the University of Santo Tomas, no store, restaurant, eatery, café or any eating places or ambulant vendors shall be allowed to sell, peddle or offer drinks to any person intoxicating beverages such as beer, liquor, wines and the like between the hours of 4am and 8pm within 200 meters from the perimeter walls of UST along España Boulevard and Lacson Avenue, Dapitan Street and P. Noval Street,” Estrada said in Executive Order 65.

* Violators of the ban will be fined P200 or jailed for six months or both and their licenses revoked.

The UST has been hosting the Bar exams since 2011 after the high court decided to move it from the De La Salle University on Taft Avenue, which had been hosting the Bar exams since 2002.

Earlier, the high court ordered the examinees to use transparent or see-through bags for their books, Bar materials and other items as part of the security measures for the tests.

Of this year’s 6,344 Bar examinees, 3,115 (49.1 percent) are first-time takers while 3,229 (50.9 percent) are repeat takers.

The high court has already lifted the “five strike rule” under which one may not take the Bar exams more than five times.

This year’s exams are 80-percent essay questions and 20 percent multiple-choice questions.

This year’s exams also mark the first time that the examinees will be using the “bar code” system instead of the “name card” system in their examination notebook.

Bar Confidant Christina Layusa said the new system would help ensure the integrity of the exams by making the process of checking, encoding and decoding the examination booklets faster and more secure. With Ma. Jerrylyn B. Damaso

FROM PHILSTAR

Mayon threatens big eruption By Cet Dematera (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 6, 2014 - 12:00am 1 18 googleplus0 0

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Mayon Volcano threatened a big eruption yesterday as magma continued to rise towards its surface.

Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology (Phivolcs) chief volcanologist in Bicol, said magma intrusion is taking place inside Mayon as its surface remains inflated.

However, the volume of sulfur dioxide emission could not be measured due to rains over the 8,077-foot volcano, he added.

Laguerta said that they will analyze the new images of the lava dome taken during an aerial survey yesterday morning.

The findings will be presented in today’s media briefing at the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, he added.

Laguerta told The STAR a small eruption might occur once rainwater seeps into the crater and makes contact with fresh magma at the upper vent of Mayon.

“Once rainwater touches portion of the magma, it might spark a small explosion that in turn may disturb the degassing process and trigger big secondary eruptions,” he said.

Laguerta said heavy rains and clouds around Mayon were preventing scientists from getting the correct volume of sulfur dioxide emission needed to determine whether the degassing process has been sustained due to magma intrusion towards the surface of Mayon.

“For three days now we could not determine the accurate volume of sulfur dioxide emission due to the presence of non-volcano clouds over Mayon,” he said. “Right now, the correct measurement of gas emission is very important in determining the actual condition of this volcano.”

Laguerta believes the sudden drop in sulfur dioxide emission could be attributed to the bigger lava dome that had blocked more than half of the 250-meter wide mouth of Mayon.

“We are not including volumes of SO2 emissions if we are in doubt that they are contaminated by heavy rains or presence of thick clouds,” he said.

* Phivolcs recorded yesterday only one rockfall event in the past 24-hour period, and maintained the 308 tons a day SO2 emission measured three days ago.

Laguerta predicted a hazardous explosion should Mayon continue its surface inflation while the clogged crater is preventing gas from escaping from the crater.

A drop in volcanic earthquakes and rockfall events is not always reliable in determining that Mayon’s overall condition is already going back to normal, he added.

Eduardo Villacorte, Phivolcs science research specialist, said pressure build-up has increased somewhere along the column due to a clogged magma conduit hindering the ascent of new magma towards the vent and the lava dome at the crater surface.

He could not say until when the magma column would be able to hold the amount of pressure inside.

Villacorte said factors determining the explosive potentials of magma are viscosity, water content and crystals, considering that the magma at Mayon is andesitic.

Sulfur gas emission dropped to 138 tons Saturday, way below the reading last Thursday at 308 tons per day, he added.

Villacorte said a pressure build-up at the magma chamber can also trigger an ash-driven explosion.

Villlacorte said more magma would result in more gas, and if the pressure exceeds the strength of the surrounding rocks inside the magma chamber Mayon would erupt. – With Celso Amo


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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