HEADLINE NEWS THIS WEEK...

PHL DEMANDING CANADA TO 'REPATRIATE' ITS 'JUNK' THAT ENDED UP IN MANILA  

OCT 16 ---A small mountain of Vancouver garbage rotting on the Manila waterfront has
morphed into a diplomatic row as Philippine authorities demand Canada repatriate its “junk.” “I will not tolerate this matter sitting down,” said Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, in a statement last week. “Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada,” she said. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs has threatened legal action, and of late the issue has made Canada a prime target of Philippine environmental groups.

“Canada pick up your garbage!!! reads a 25,000-signature petition demanding Ottawa’s immediate “re-export” of the trash. “Philippines is NOT a dumping soil of Canadian garbage!” The saga began last February when the Philippine Bureau of Customs inspected a batch of 50 Canadian shipping containers declared to contain “scrap plastic materials for recycling,” and instead found them packed with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers. Declaring the shipment “junk materials could pose biohazard risks,” officials impounded the shipment at Manila International Container Terminal. The containers, packed with waste sourced from the Vancouver area, were sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris. The telephone numbers for the company appear to have been disconnected, but in February, Mr. Makris spoke to the Toronto Star by phone about the Philippine seizure. * READ MORE...

ALSO: House OKs P54 billion for MRT buyout  

OCT 17 --The House of Representatives has provided P54 billion in the proposed P2.606-trillion
2015 national budget for the government buyout and takeover of the breakdown-prone Metro Rail Transit 3, the mass rail line along EDSA. “Yes, it’s included, as requested by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and by the President,” Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, said yesterday in a text message. A select committee composed of majority and minority representatives led by Ungab is finalizing the budget proposal for presentation to the House next week for the third and final reading. After finally approving it, the House will send the spending measure to the Senate for its own approval.
Ungab said the P54-billion MRT-3 buyout-takeover appropriation was included in the “unprogrammed” portion of the proposed budget.

“This means that unlike any item in the programmed portion, this is not funded yet. Its funding would depend on excess revenues and loans to be obtained. But I’m sure the administration can raise the necessary cash, since they will have the appropriation cover,” he said. In a television interview, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya described as “queer” the ownership of MRT-3. He said MRT Corp. (MRTC) is the owner of the EDSA rail facility and is regarded as a private firm, though it is controlled 80 percent by state-owned Land Bank and Development Bank of the Philippines. He said 20 percent remains in the hands of the original investors led by the Sobrepeñas of the financially troubled College Assurance Plan (CAP), a pre-need industry pioneer. He said the government wants to buy out particularly the share of the private owners so they won’t meddle with efforts to upgrade the EDSA rail line.
*
READ MORE...

ALSO: Lava flows out from Mayon’s southeast flank   

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Lava flowed out from the southeast flank of Mayon Volcano yesterday, indicating a high level of unrest towards an imminent eruption as it threatens four villages within the extended seven-kilometer danger zone whose residents have not yet evacuated. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned barangays Matanag, Mabinit, Buyuan and Bonga could be initially hit by lava pouring out from the volcano once the explosion occurs. Phivolcs regional volcanologist Ed Laguerta said the lava poured out 100 meters from where the lava dome was located at 5 a.m. yesterday. He said the lava could have flowed down slope further compared to the flow observed a week ago that reached some 350 meters from the eastern portion of Bonga Gulley facing Legazpi-Daraga. “The volume is bigger and the stretch wider compared to the lava which flowed at the right side of the lava dome last Oct. 12,” he said.

Seismic network recorded two volcanic earthquakes during the past 24 hours related to the ascent of degassed magma from Mayon’s previous eruption. “What flowed out was not yet the new magma we are expecting which could trigger the eruption,” Laguerta said, explaining a degassed magma is viscous and produces sluggish moving lava. Aside from the lava flow, the faint crater glow is intensifying due to the magma at the crater, although it cannot yet be observed during inclement weather. “If what came out were fresh magma, the soft eruption which started Sept. 12 can now normally proceed to a full-blown eruption,” he warned. Moderate emission has changed from whitish to brownish steam plumes that drifted west and northwest due to the presence of ash at a shallow source. The low output of sulfur dioxide emission at 269 tons could be due to sealed gas pores at the column from the viscous magma, Philvolcs said. “We have to maintain the present Alert Level 3 to prepare for sudden changes in parameters as the volcano gathers enough pressure underneath towards an eruption,” Laguerta said. * READ MORE...

ALSO Earlier Report: Mindanao, coffee country  

FEATURE STORY: OCT 12 --MANILA, Philippines - Not many people realize that Mindanao produces about 70
percent of coffee in the country. Many still think it is Batangas, or maybe Cavite, which now comes as a close second to our Southern mountain areas. We were in Davao some weeks ago to prepare for our coffee month celebration this October. Dubbed “Coffee Origins,” this week-long celebration is the only time in the country where coffee can be had for FREE all week long. During the past 17 years, Ayala Malls has supported the coffee industry by providing a venue for the coffee sampling activities. This year, the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) is taking everyone to Davao! It will be held in Abreeza Mall (also an Ayala property) starting tomorrow until Oct. 17. Even our 7th National Coffee Summit will also be held in Davao, at the new SEDA Hotel.

While in Davao, we explored a few coffee places and of course did not miss the most exotic of them all, Mt. Apo Coffee. Mt. Apo is located inside the Crocodile Park run by the same group of Philip “Sonny” Dizon. For our morning treat, Sonny brewed civet coffee and Peaberry Civet (how special!) in a stove-top espresso maker. While meeting some friends, we savored the smooth cup of brewed coffee, without any sugar or cream. Do you know how to tell if a coffee is really good? Try letting it cool down to about 90 degrees Celsius and it will still be smooth-tasting. Good coffee will always be good hot – and even when it cools down. A bad cup will taste bad when hot and worse when cold. Just some tips for enjoying a cup of coffee. Mindanao has coffee from Mt. Apo in Davao, Mt. Matutum in Cotabato, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, many more lower mountains in Basilan, Sulu, CARAGA area, Sultan Kudarat and generally just about everywhere that is over 300 meters elevation. The Arabicas are, of course, found over 1,500 meters above sea level, just like our award-winning Kapatagan coffee, which Sonny serves at the Mt. Apo Roasting Factory and coffee shop. If you want to spoil yourself, try the Kapatagan Civet. Spoiled rotten? Try the Peaberry Civet. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Abu Sayaf Group says ransom for German captives already reached them 

OCT 17 --The Abu Sayyaf ultimatum to execute their male German captive on Friday lapsed without any
word from the militants, with one of its members revealing that the money believed to be the ransom had already reached them. “What can you say, they have already delivered the money,” told Al Kataib, said to be an aid of Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami.
Kataib, however, did not further elaborate if they will release the victim following the payment of the ransom. He said they are waiting for Rami to issue a statement. The Abu Sayyaf group have earlier given until Friday 3 p.m. as ultimatum and extended it to 5 p.m. to execute their captive German Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek if no one will make a last-minute negotiation.

Okonek, 74, and his wife Henrike Dielen, 55, were snatched from their yacht by the Abu Sayyaf last April while steaming near Palawan and brought captive in Sulu. Reports disclosed that a certain Rudger Konig, said to be a German facilitator, has flown to Sulu and negotiated for the release of the couple. Police and military authorities have declined to confirm this, including the provincial government of Sulu. The Abu Sayyaf also confirmed that they have been surrounded by the government troops up to the last minute of the ultimatum and warned to behead Okonek ahead of the ultimatum if the troops will move closer to their position, Rami during a midday Friday interview over local DxRZ Radio Mindanao Network. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Search for hostages intensifies after Abu Sayyaf threatens to behead German 

OCT 18 --This photo provided by the Abu Sayyaf shows German scientist Viktor Stefan Okonek, 71,  with an assault rifle pointed at his head at the terrorist group’s hideout somewhere in Sulu province. - Picture taken from Inquirer website --The Philippines has stepped up army patrols in the jungles of the southern island of Jolo where Abu Sayyaf terrorists are holding two Germans captive and are threatening to kill one of them on Friday. However, a midday wire report quoted a senior Filipino military officer as saying that the Abu Sayyaf were willing to extend the deadline by two hours if they received word that the ransom would be paid. Their earlier threat was to carry out the beheading at 3pm today, Friday.

The Abu Sayyaf had demanded a 250mil pesos (RM18mil) ransom and for Germany to stop supporting US-led air strikes in Syria in exchange for the freedom of the German man and woman. Colonel Allan Arrojado, commander of army units on Jolo, told reporters on Thursday that he was ordering more patrols. "We are ready for all-out law enforcement operations," he said. This photo provided by the Abu Sayyaf shows German scientist Viktor Stefan Okonek, 71, with an assault rifle pointed at his head at the terrorist group’s hideout somewhere in Sulu province. - Picture taken from Inquirer website "We will do everything not to endanger their lives," he said of the hostages. German Stefan Viktor Okonek said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he was being held in a hole in the ground, which he had been told would be his grave if the rebels' demands were not met. "(The Abu Sayyaf) told me this is my grave," said Okonek. Okonek said he was separated from his wife, Henrike Dielen, on Monday. The couple has been in captivity since April after being abducted from militants from their yacht off the western Philippine province of Palawan as they were sailing to Sabah. * READ MORE...

ALSO: No ransom was paid, Palace insists  

OCT 19 --FROM iBTIMES.COM: German hostages Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek (L) and Henrike Dielen (C) speak with Philippine military officials at the military headquarters in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines in this October 18, 2014 handout photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in the Philippines released the two hostages on Friday, after saying they would behead one of them if their demands were not met. The hostages, captured by the Abu Sayyaf group in April from a yacht on the high seas, had been held on the remote island of Jolo, 600 miles (960 km) south of Manila and a hotbed of Islamist militancy in the mainly Roman Catholic nation. Reuters/Armed Forces of the Philippines, PAO/Handout via ReutersPresident Benigno Aquino III was quite pleased at the news that German nationals
Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen had been released by their captors, but Malacañang still would not confirm reports that ransom was paid in exchange for their freedom.

“The President was happy to receive the news yesterday that the two German hostages had already been recovered,” and inquired into their physical condition, said deputy spokesperson Valte on the government Radyo ng Bayan.
But Valte stressed that the government did not sanction the payment of ransom, even as media reported that the kidnappers claimed having been paid P250 million. Spokespersons for the Abu Sayyaf extremists that abducted Okonek and Dielen claimed that ransom had been paid, which led them to initially abort their threat to execute Okonek and to eventually free both Germans. The military and the German foreign ministry on Saturday both confirmed that Okonek, 71, and Dielen, 55, were now safely back with the German embassy in Manila.
“We are relieved to confirm that the two Germans are no longer in the hands of their kidnappers. They are being taken care of at the embassy in Manila,” said a German foreign ministry spokesperson.

“We thank the government of the Philippines for their close collaboration, undertaken with full confidence,” the spokesperson added. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said the German kidnap victims were released in Patikul, Sulu, at about 8:50 p.m. on Friday. He did not say who took custody of Okonek and Dielen from the kidnappers. Flown to Villamor --He said the two were brought to a military camp in Jolo at 9:20 p.m. for a medical checkup. They were then transported to Zamboanga City where they were given more medical attention, he said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Phl leads countries with highest obesity levels   

While the world is focusing on global hunger and malnutrition, another ugly “monster” has emerged. Obesity, a new form of malnutrition, has surfaced as an urgent challenge affecting several countries. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Philippines and India are among the developing countries with high levels of obesity and under-nutrition. Obesity as a form of malnutrition often coexists with under-nutrition and results from shifts from local and traditional diets to foods that are increasingly heavy in salt, sugar and fat or processed foods. The shift to a steady diet of processed food is due to the increasing cost of nutritious and natural food, the FAO said.

The global prevalence of combined overweight and obesity has risen in all regions, increasing among adults from 24 percent to 34 percent between 1980 and 2008. The FAO said the prevalence of obesity among children has increased even faster, doubling from six percent to 12 percent over the same period. “Overweight can co-occur with underweight within the same household, and is on the rise in countries with a high level of under-nutrition,” the FAO added in the report. A 2011 survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) showed that 22.3 percent of Filipino adults are overweight and 6.1 percent are obese. The prevalence of overweight Filipinos is expected to increase significantly by 2015. “If this trend continues, it is highly likely that more will suffer from high-risk diseases that could lead to death,” the FNRI report said. * READ MORE...

ALSO Philstar Business column: MRT-3 better off with MVP - Osmeña 

OCT 16 --Public commuters whose patience are wearing thin at the spate of breakdowns
and
delays that underscore the wretched state of the MRT-3 share the sentiment of Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo who wants to slap economic sabotage charges against DOTC and LRTA officials. The DOTC virtually took over the maintenance of the MRT-3 when it suddenly dumped Sumitomo Corp. in 2012 with very little notice and, without benefit of any public bidding, “handed over” the maintenance contract to PH Trams and later on to current maintenance provider APT Global. As everyone knows, everything has been downhill since then, with the MRT now facing the prospect of a shut down after APT Global admitted that the stock of rails handed over by Sumitomo is getting depleted.

Castelo says the proposal to shut down MRT-3 for (long overdue) maintenance work will spell more suffering for ordinary wage earners who have no other option for a cheaper mode of transport to get them to work – which in turn could spell untold economic losses to businesses. And seeing the poor condition of MRT trains – not to mentions the rail tracks – the public is amazed at DOTC’s suggestion to take over by buying the combined 80 percent in bonds of the Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines, which would cost government roughly P54 billion. Critics have slammed the so-called Equity Value Buy Out, saying it will not solve commuter woes because the agency would only pay for the stocks of the two government bank, but not for additional trains. Others also describe the buyout scheme as merely transferring taxpayers’ money from one government pocket to another. Besides, the private operator has not signified willingness to sell its shares, so what buyout are they talking about? * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Mountain of Vancouver garbage that ended up in Manila has Phl demanding Canada repatriate its ‘junk’


Philippine Bureau of Customs Photo

MANILA, OCTOBER 20, 2014 (NATIONAL POST, CANADA) A small mountain of Vancouver garbage rotting on the Manila waterfront has morphed into a diplomatic row as Philippine authorities demand Canada repatriate its “junk.”

“I will not tolerate this matter sitting down,” said Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, in a statement last week.

“Pick up your garbage Canada, and show us the decency that we so rightfully deserve as a nation. My motherland is not a garbage bin of Canada,” she said.

Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has called for an official government inquiry into the Canadian garbage, the country’s Bureau of Customs has threatened legal action, and of late the issue has made Canada a prime target of Philippine environmental groups.

“Canada pick up your garbage!!! reads a 25,000-signature petition demanding Ottawa’s immediate “re-export” of the trash. “Philippines is NOT a dumping soil of Canadian garbage!”

The saga began last February when the Philippine Bureau of Customs inspected a batch of 50 Canadian shipping containers declared to contain “scrap plastic materials for recycling,” and instead found them packed with household garbage, soggy paper and even used adult diapers.

Declaring the shipment “junk materials could pose biohazard risks,” officials impounded the shipment at Manila International Container Terminal.

The containers, packed with waste sourced from the Vancouver area, were sent by Chronic Inc., a Whitby, Ont.-based plastics exporter owned by Jim Makris.

The telephone numbers for the company appear to have been disconnected, but in February, Mr. Makris spoke to the Toronto Star by phone about the Philippine seizure.

* “It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard of in my entire life,” he said, adding that “anyone with a brain” would know it is cheaper to dump garbage in Canada than ship it across the Pacific Ocean. Philippine Bureau of Customs Noting that he had exported similar shipments without incident, the exporter said he suspected he was being punished for failing to furnish a payoff.

As of mid-October, Chronic Inc. had not removed the containers and appears to have no plans to do so.

Meanwhile, after months of curdling in the tropical Manila weather, the shipment’s contents are reportedly in the later stages of decomposition, and have begun to leak “garbage juice.”

According to the estimates of one Philippine political party, they have cost the government more than $1.5-million in storage fees to date at the crowded container terminal.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this unabashed attempt to dump hazardous waste misrepresented as recyclable plastics into our country,” Romy Hidalgo with the Manila-based EcoWaste Coalition told the Philippine Daily Enquirer on Tuesday in the one of dozens of Philippine news stories published about the garbage fiasco.

The Philippines contends that the containers are a violation of the Basel Convention, a United Nations treaty on hazardous wastes. Facebook Under that treaty — of which Canada is a signatory — countries are obligated to repatriate any “illegal traffic” intercepted overseas.

The garbage uproar appears to have come as a surprise to Canada’s Philippine diplomats. As early as April, ambassador Neil Reeder was telling the local press, “We don’t want this to be a stain on our very, very good relationship.”

Nevertheless, according to Canadian foreign officials, their hands remain tied about shuffling the rotting shipment back across the Pacific.

“Currently there are no domestic laws which the Government of Canada could apply to compel the shipper to return his containers to Canada,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told the National Post by email.

“The Government of Canada is working with the shipper and the Government of the Philippines to find a solution to this waste shipment in the Philippines, in accordance with our two countries’ respective regulations and legislative frameworks.”

Last week, Greenpeace’s Philippine office released what it called a “damning exposé” — a leaked letter from the country’s Department of Environment showing that Canada and the Philippines were working to have the waste disposed “locally in a landfill.”

This is controversial among members of Philippine eco-circles, who maintain the trash should be removed from the country’s borders.

“This government proposal sends a signal to unscrupulous and illegal waste traders to ship their unwanted junk to the Philippines,” said Von Hernandez, director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia in a statement last week. “There can be no compromises here — this garbage shipment must be sent back to Canada, its country of origin.” National Post

FROM PHILSTAR

House OKs P54 billion for MRT buyout By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 16, 2014 - 12:00am 2 66 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has provided P54 billion in the proposed P2.606-trillion 2015 national budget for the government buyout and takeover of the breakdown-prone Metro Rail Transit 3, the mass rail line along EDSA.

“Yes, it’s included, as requested by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and by the President,” Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, said yesterday in a text message.

A select committee composed of majority and minority representatives led by Ungab is finalizing the budget proposal for presentation to the House next week for the third and final reading. After finally approving it, the House will send the spending measure to the Senate for its own approval.

Ungab said the P54-billion MRT-3 buyout-takeover appropriation was included in the “unprogrammed” portion of the proposed budget.

“This means that unlike any item in the programmed portion, this is not funded yet. Its funding would depend on excess revenues and loans to be obtained. But I’m sure the administration can raise the necessary cash, since they will have the appropriation cover,” he said.

In a television interview, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya described as “queer” the ownership of MRT-3.

He said MRT Corp. (MRTC) is the owner of the EDSA rail facility and is regarded as a private firm, though it is controlled 80 percent by state-owned Land Bank and Development Bank of the Philippines.

He said 20 percent remains in the hands of the original investors led by the Sobrepeñas of the financially troubled College Assurance Plan (CAP), a pre-need industry pioneer.

He said the government wants to buy out particularly the share of the private owners so they won’t meddle with efforts to upgrade the EDSA rail line.

* Abaya cited a recent decision to purchase 48 new coaches, which a Makati court initially stopped upon petition by private owners. The court eventually allowed the procurement. Delivery of the new coaches will start next year.

He said the government chose the buyout-takeover option, as it is the most economical on the part of the riders and taxpayers, aside from resolving the ownership issue.

He said DOTC, with the approval of President Aquino, rejected offers from two local conglomerates to upgrade MRT-3 “since it would have meant increasing fares and extending the BOT (build-operate-transfer) contract and annual taxpayer subsidies of up to P7 billion a year by 15 years.”

The DOTC chief said the present contract would expire in 10 years.

A state buyout-takeover is the most beneficial option for the more than 500,000 MRT-3 riders and taxpayers, he said.

During the House plenary debates on the proposed 2015 budget, in response to questions raised by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, DOTC officials said the government has already spent a total of P147 billion for MRT-3.

They said MRTC has received P85 billion in “rental payments.” Additionally, the government has paid P32 billion of the loans incurred by MRTC, since such loans were state-guaranteed, and P20 billion for the private company’s taxes. Some P10 billion more has been spent for the maintenance of the rail line.

Colmenares lamented that taxpayers have so far paid a total of P147 billion “for a rail line that was valued at only P28 billion in 2000.”

“And now we want to buy this system for P54 billion more, or for total expenses of more than P200 billion? And the private owners are claiming that P54 billion is not even enough for them? And what are we buying, an old, dilapidated rail line that is frequently breaking down,“ he said.

Lava flows out from Mayon’s southeast flank By Celso Amo (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 20, 2014 - 12:00am 5 3 googleplus0 0

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Lava flowed out from the southeast flank of Mayon Volcano yesterday, indicating a high level of unrest towards an imminent eruption as it threatens four villages within the extended seven-kilometer danger zone whose residents have not yet evacuated.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) warned barangays Matanag, Mabinit, Buyuan and Bonga could be initially hit by lava pouring out from the volcano once the explosion occurs.

Phivolcs regional volcanologist Ed Laguerta said the lava poured out 100 meters from where the lava dome was located at 5 a.m. yesterday.

He said the lava could have flowed down slope further compared to the flow observed a week ago that reached some 350 meters from the eastern portion of Bonga Gulley facing Legazpi-Daraga.

“The volume is bigger and the stretch wider compared to the lava which flowed at the right side of the lava dome last Oct. 12,” he said.

Seismic network recorded two volcanic earthquakes during the past 24 hours related to the ascent of degassed magma from Mayon’s previous eruption.

“What flowed out was not yet the new magma we are expecting which could trigger the eruption,” Laguerta said, explaining a degassed magma is viscous and produces sluggish moving lava.

Aside from the lava flow, the faint crater glow is intensifying due to the magma at the crater, although it cannot yet be observed during inclement weather.

“If what came out were fresh magma, the soft eruption which started Sept. 12 can now normally proceed to a full-blown eruption,” he warned.

Moderate emission has changed from whitish to brownish steam plumes that drifted west and northwest due to the presence of ash at a shallow source.

The low output of sulfur dioxide emission at 269 tons could be due to sealed gas pores at the column from the viscous magma, Philvolcs said.

“We have to maintain the present Alert Level 3 to prepare for sudden changes in parameters as the volcano gathers enough pressure underneath towards an eruption,” Laguerta said.

* Laguerta is requesting the Office of Civil Defense for another aerial survey to verify the exact source, volume and location of lava flow as well as the overall status of the 8,077-foot volcano.

Albay Public Safety and Management Office chief Cedric Daep said the evacuation of some 46,317 villagers inside 47 evacuation centers will be maintained.

Col. Raul Farnacio, Task Force Mayon commander, said 30 vehicles are ready to evacuate those at the 8-kilometer buffer zone when Alert Level 4 is raised.

Farnacio is also asking the help of local officials to monitor the evacuees inside the centers to prevent them from coming back or harvesting their crops within the high-risk zone.

Tourist arrivals in the area had declined even after the level threat was raised.

Department of Tourism regional director Maria Ravanilla said bored domestic and foreign tourists have packed up their bags. – With Cet Dematera

EARLIER REPORT

Mindanao, coffee country By Chit U. Juan (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 12, 2014 - 12:00am 3 9 googleplus0 0


Filipino coffee farmer Isidra Prayon in Mindanao harvests beans that she will hull, dry and sort before selling to Nestlé and local roaster Kape Maramag. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS --Pls. click the link to read more...

MANILA, Philippines - Not many people realize that Mindanao produces about 70 percent of coffee in the country. Many still think it is Batangas, or maybe Cavite, which now comes as a close second to our Southern mountain areas.

We were in Davao some weeks ago to prepare for our coffee month celebration this October. Dubbed “Coffee Origins,” this week-long celebration is the only time in the country where coffee can be had for FREE all week long.

During the past 17 years, Ayala Malls has supported the coffee industry by providing a venue for the coffee sampling activities.

This year, the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. (PCBI) is taking everyone to Davao! It will be held in Abreeza Mall (also an Ayala property) starting tomorrow until Oct. 17.

Even our 7th National Coffee Summit will also be held in Davao, at the new SEDA Hotel.

While in Davao, we explored a few coffee places and of course did not miss the most exotic of them all, Mt. Apo Coffee. Mt. Apo is located inside the Crocodile Park run by the same group of Philip “Sonny” Dizon. For our morning treat, Sonny brewed civet coffee and Peaberry Civet (how special!) in a stove-top espresso maker.

While meeting some friends, we savored the smooth cup of brewed coffee, without any sugar or cream. Do you know how to tell if a coffee is really good? Try letting it cool down to about 90 degrees Celsius and it will still be smooth-tasting. Good coffee will always be good hot – and even when it cools down. A bad cup will taste bad when hot and worse when cold. Just some tips for enjoying a cup of coffee.


MANILA TIMES WRITER CHIT JUAN shows off award-winning coffee beans from Kapatagan

Mindanao has coffee from Mt. Apo in Davao, Mt. Matutum in Cotabato, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, many more lower mountains in Basilan, Sulu, CARAGA area, Sultan Kudarat and generally just about everywhere that is over 300 meters elevation. The Arabicas are, of course, found over 1,500 meters above sea level, just like our award-winning Kapatagan coffee, which Sonny serves at the Mt. Apo Roasting Factory and coffee shop. If you want to spoil yourself, try the Kapatagan Civet. Spoiled rotten? Try the Peaberry Civet.

* Going up the specialty coffee ladder is not difficult when you are at Mt. Apo. They get the red cherries fresh and ripe from the mountains, process them in Davao City, ferment and dry them until they are ready for roasting. So, you can see green beans which are bluish in color like the famous Sumatran Blue Lintong. Nicky Matti and I were smelling away at the freshly dried coffee beans, and admiring the clean smell of raw coffee. Now, can you imagine its flavor when it’s roasted? Yum.

At our coming coffee event, many farmers who never even tried roasted coffee will have the chance to see how it transforms from green to golden brown when we take the side trip to Sonny’s roasting facility. This is roasting the slow food way, he reminds me. The roasters are fired by charcoal, Sumiyaki-style, just like how the Japanese do it.

By the way, Japan is the second largest consumer of coffee in the world and they have been roasting this way ever since. Charcoal. Slow roast. Delicious coffee.

We hope that we can meet all the coffee farmers and stakeholders in Mindanao so we can produce more beans, and fulfill our local demand, which still is more than our supply. I would not mind drinking Kapatagan coffee every day. Matutum also has a different flavor note to it, too. So with Bukidnon. So better sharpen your geography and check out the Mindanao origins.

Remember these names when you want a good, true cup of coffee – Apo, Matutum, Kitanglad. Sultan Kudarat, Kalamansig, Sulu.

What a trip! I am so energized after that smooth cup of Kapatagan Peaberry. Davao will always hold many coffee memories for me. And I will add to my stash of good stories in October when I return.

Meanwhile, let me check which restaurant I will try tonight. I have been to three good ones already. No MSG. Just good freshly-made food. Davao has so many treasures besides its coffee. And I can stay here and discover more places to visit.

Hey Davao, I already feel like a local.

For more information on Coffee Origins and the 7th National Coffee Summit, email admin.pcbi@gmail.com or call 0908-8831218.

The author, Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle and president of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc.

Abu Sayaf Group says ransom for German captives already reached them By Roel Pareño (philstar.com) | Updated October 17, 2014 - 6:05pm 0 120 googleplus0 0

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - The Abu Sayyaf ultimatum to execute their male German captive on Friday lapsed without any word from the militants, with one of its members revealing that the money believed to be the ransom had already reached them.

“What can you say, they have already delivered the money,” told Al Kataib, said to be an aid of Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami.

Kataib, however, did not further elaborate if they will release the victim following the payment of the ransom. He said they are waiting for Rami to issue a statement.

The Abu Sayyaf group have earlier given until Friday 3 p.m. as ultimatum and extended it to 5 p.m. to execute their captive German Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek if no one will make a last-minute negotiation.

Okonek, 74, and his wife Henrike Dielen, 55, were snatched from their yacht by the Abu Sayyaf last April while steaming near Palawan and brought captive in Sulu.

Reports disclosed that a certain Rudger Konig, said to be a German facilitator, has flown to Sulu and negotiated for the release of the couple.

Police and military authorities have declined to confirm this, including the provincial government of Sulu.

The Abu Sayyaf also confirmed that they have been surrounded by the government troops up to the last minute of the ultimatum and warned to behead Okonek ahead of the ultimatum if the troops will move closer to their position, Rami during a midday Friday interview over local DxRZ Radio Mindanao Network.

* A ground troop, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the group of the Abu Sayyaf militants holding the captives was just in their “line of sight.”

“The group was on our sight but there was no order to launch rescue operations yet,” the soldier disclosed.

Earlier, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command, said they were just waiting for the decision of the Special Action Committee (SAC) that was convened by the Provincial Peace and Order Council.

“The discussion is to focus to the areas where the Abu Sayyaf group was encamping and the areas where they are holding the hostages,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said as of press time there has been no significant engagement.

“We will not hesitate on what to do,” Guerrero added when asked if they are ready to rescue the victims once given the signal by SAC.

REPORT FROM THE STAR ONLINE

Search for hostages intensifies after Abu Sayyaf threatens to behead German


This photo provided by the Abu Sayyaf shows German scientist Viktor Stefan Okonek, 71, with an assault rifle pointed at his head at the terrorist group’s hideout somewhere in Sulu province. - Picture taken from Inquirer website

JOLO: The Philippines has stepped up army patrols in the jungles of the southern island of Jolo where Abu Sayyaf terrorists are holding two Germans captive and are threatening to kill one of them on Friday.

However, a midday wire report quoted a senior Filipino military officer as saying that the Abu Sayyaf were willing to extend the deadline by two hours if they received word that the ransom would be paid.

Their earlier threat was to carry out the beheading at 3pm, Friday.

The Abu Sayyaf had demanded a 250mil pesos (RM18mil) ransom and for Germany to stop supporting US-led air strikes in Syria in exchange for the freedom of the German man and woman.

Colonel Allan Arrojado, commander of army units on Jolo, told reporters on Thursday that he was ordering more patrols.

"We are ready for all-out law enforcement operations," he said.

This photo provided by the Abu Sayyaf shows German scientist Viktor Stefan Okonek, 71, with an assault rifle pointed at his head at the terrorist group’s hideout somewhere in Sulu province. - Picture taken from Inquirer website "We will do everything not to endanger their lives," he said of the hostages.

German Stefan Viktor Okonek said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he was being held in a hole in the ground, which he had been told would be his grave if the rebels' demands were not met.

"(The Abu Sayyaf) told me this is my grave," said Okonek.

Okonek said he was separated from his wife, Henrike Dielen, on Monday.

The couple has been in captivity since April after being abducted from militants from their yacht off the western Philippine province of Palawan as they were sailing to Sabah.

* Abu Rami, a spokesman for the militant group, had said they would execute the man at 3pm (0700 GMT) on Friday after giving both the Philippines and Germany enough time to meet their demands.

The militants sent a video to a radio station this week showing a group of men manhandling a handcuffed man who was apparently the captured German.

The man in the video was moaning and complaining that his handcuffs were tight as armed men made him sit in front of black flag, which appeared to be the flag used by Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

The Abu Sayyaf has in the past released video statements expressing allegiance to the Middle Eastern group. - WIRES

FROM THE INQUIRER

No ransom was paid, Palace insists By Nikko Dizon and Cynthia D. Balana |Philippine Daily Inquirer3:06 am | Sunday, October 19th, 2014


FROM iBTIMES.COM: German hostages Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek (L) and Henrike Dielen (C) speak with Philippine military officials at the military headquarters in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines in this October 18, 2014 handout photo provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in the Philippines released the two hostages on Friday, after saying they would behead one of them if their demands were not met. The hostages, captured by the Abu Sayyaf group in April from a yacht on the high seas, had been held on the remote island of Jolo, 600 miles (960 km) south of Manila and a hotbed of Islamist militancy in the mainly Roman Catholic nation. Reuters/Armed Forces of the Philippines, PAO/Handout via Reuters

President Benigno Aquino III was quite pleased at the news that German nationals Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen had been released by their captors, but Malacañang still would not confirm reports that ransom was paid in exchange for their freedom.

“The President was happy to receive the news yesterday that the two German hostages had already been recovered,” and inquired into their physical condition, said deputy spokesperson Valte on the government Radyo ng Bayan.

But Valte stressed that the government did not sanction the payment of ransom, even as media reported that the kidnappers claimed having been paid P250 million.

Spokespersons for the Abu Sayyaf extremists that abducted Okonek and Dielen claimed that ransom had been paid, which led them to initially abort their threat to execute Okonek and to eventually free both Germans.

The military and the German foreign ministry on Saturday both confirmed that Okonek, 71, and Dielen, 55, were now safely back with the German embassy in Manila.

“We are relieved to confirm that the two Germans are no longer in the hands of their kidnappers. They are being taken care of at the embassy in Manila,” said a German foreign ministry spokesperson.

“We thank the government of the Philippines for their close collaboration, undertaken with full confidence,” the spokesperson added.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said the German kidnap victims were released in Patikul, Sulu, at about 8:50 p.m. on Friday. He did not say who took custody of Okonek and Dielen from the kidnappers.

Flown to Villamor

He said the two were brought to a military camp in Jolo at 9:20 p.m. for a medical checkup. They were then transported to Zamboanga City where they were given more medical attention, he said.

* A private plane flew Okonek and Dielen from Zamboanga to Manila at dawn on Saturday. They arrived at Villamor Air Base at 6:45 a.m., and the German embassy took custody of them, said Cabunoc.

“I cannot confirm that there has been a ransom paid primarily because… the longstanding policy of government is that we do not engage in the payment of ransom,” Valte said.

However, while the Philippine government is quite firm about its no-ransom policy, it cannot dictate on others who may want to pay off the kidnappers in exchange for the freedom and safety of the hostages, she said.

Valte directed questions about the supposed P250-million ransom payment to the Armed Forces “primarily because they have more of the details and they provided support to the law enforcement operation.”

The AFP on Saturday cast doubt on the ransom payment claim of the kidnappers, saying that it was more because of the heightened pressure put on the terrorists by the “law enforcement operations” of the military and the police that the hostages were released.

Claim as propaganda

Cabunoc described as “propaganda” the claim of a P250-million ransom payment made by Abu Rami, the spokesperson of Radulan Sahiron, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf faction that seized the Germans.

“Of course he (Rami) can always say that. As far as I know, there was no ransom paid, at least not from our side because we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” he said.

According to Cabunoc, the massive deployment of troops and K9 units to Sulu to surround the kidnappers’ lair was what did the trick, putting pressure on the kidnappers to abandon the two hostages.

“It was like we had eye contact with them. They (kidnappers) could see us. The area where they were was not heavily forested,” he said.

He said pursuit operations were continuing but the retreating terrorists were using civilians as human shields.

Cabunoc said he expected an encounter between the two forces anytime today.

“This is a full-scale deployment because the AFP chief wants to show that the AFP is not there just because of the two Germans,” Cabunoc said.

“We are thinking about the 10 other hostages as well,” he added. With an Agence France-Presse report

FROM PHILSTAR

Phl leads countries with highest obesity levels By Ted Torres (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 1


Photo by FBellon/ CC

BY MANILA, Philippines - While the world is focusing on global hunger and malnutrition, another ugly “monster” has emerged.

Obesity, a new form of malnutrition, has surfaced as an urgent challenge affecting several countries.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Philippines and India are among the developing countries with high levels of obesity and under-nutrition.

Obesity as a form of malnutrition often coexists with under-nutrition and results from shifts from local and traditional diets to foods that are increasingly heavy in salt, sugar and fat or processed foods.

The shift to a steady diet of processed food is due to the increasing cost of nutritious and natural food, the FAO said.

The global prevalence of combined overweight and obesity has risen in all regions, increasing among adults from 24 percent to 34 percent between 1980 and 2008.

The FAO said the prevalence of obesity among children has increased even faster, doubling from six percent to 12 percent over the same period.

“Overweight can co-occur with underweight within the same household, and is on the rise in countries with a high level of under-nutrition,” the FAO added in the report.

A 2011 survey by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) showed that 22.3 percent of Filipino adults are overweight and 6.1 percent are obese.

The prevalence of overweight Filipinos is expected to increase significantly by 2015.

“If this trend continues, it is highly likely that more will suffer from high-risk diseases that could lead to death,” the FNRI report said.

* The factors leading to obesity in developing countries like the Philippines are numerous.

One leading factor is increasing world and domestic food prices, forcing increased purchase of unhealthy processed food over healthy and staple but expensive food.

Price increases threaten food security for poor households. For example, the 2011 increase in the price of basic grains meant that, in many developing countries, the cost of a kilogram of wheat doubled from about $.15 to $.30, a critical difference for people who live on little more than a dollar a day.

Food represents a substantial portion of the expenditure of poor households in poor countries.

For countries in Asia and Africa, expenditure on food was generally over 50 percent in the early 2000s, prior to the 2007-2008 crisis. In the Philippines, expenditures on food amount to 63 percent of a person’s income.

Biggest risk

Obesity is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus. It likewise aggravates hypertension and raises blood cholesterol levels, which are major predisposing factors to the development of heart attacks and strokes.

In overweight men, the occurrence of impotence and sterility is higher than average while in obese women, there is a higher than average incidence of menstrual disorders, infertility and complicated pregnancies.

In both sexes, obesity increases the risk for gallbladder stones.

Obesity is likewise associated with cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix, ovary and gallbladder among women, and colon, rectum, prostate, pancreas and stomach among men.

PHILSTAR BUSINESS COLUMN

Osmeña: MRT-3 better off with MVP SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 16, 2014 - 12:00am 6 19 googleplus0 0


By Babe G. Romualdez

Public commuters whose patience are wearing thin at the spate of breakdowns and delays that underscore the wretched state of the MRT-3 share the sentiment of Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo who wants to slap economic sabotage charges against DOTC and LRTA officials.

The DOTC virtually took over the maintenance of the MRT-3 when it suddenly dumped Sumitomo Corp. in 2012 with very little notice and, without benefit of any public bidding, “handed over” the maintenance contract to PH Trams and later on to current maintenance provider APT Global. As everyone knows, everything has been downhill since then, with the MRT now facing the prospect of a shut down after APT Global admitted that the stock of rails handed over by Sumitomo is getting depleted.

Castelo says the proposal to shut down MRT-3 for (long overdue) maintenance work will spell more suffering for ordinary wage earners who have no other option for a cheaper mode of transport to get them to work – which in turn could spell untold economic losses to businesses. And seeing the poor condition of MRT trains – not to mentions the rail tracks – the public is amazed at DOTC’s suggestion to take over by buying the combined 80 percent in bonds of the Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines, which would cost government roughly P54 billion.

Critics have slammed the so-called Equity Value Buy Out, saying it will not solve commuter woes because the agency would only pay for the stocks of the two government bank, but not for additional trains. Others also describe the buyout scheme as merely transferring taxpayers’ money from one government pocket to another. Besides, the private operator has not signified willingness to sell its shares, so what buyout are they talking about?

* Sources inform Spy Bits that DOTC has been less than straightforward in justifying the summary termination of erstwhile maintenance operator Sumitomo, ostensibly because the Japanese firm refused to offer any financial warranty to continue operating the MRT-3 and even supposedly demanding a fee much higher that the amount awarded to PH Trams and APT Global for running the system. All lies, our sources inform us, adding that it’s also not true that Sumitomo has supplied MRT-3 with cannibalized spare parts and sold the same to the DOTC as brand new.

On the contrary, the Japanese firm provided financial guarantees under its contract – a fact confirmed by DOTC Undersecretary Catherine Gonzales in one of the Senate hearings. Sumitomo’s contract was also anchored on a “single point of responsibility” principle that included designing, building and maintaining MRT-3. However, when DOTC terminated the Sumitomo contract, it resorted to a “chop-chop” arrangement with PH Trams and APT Global – without the financial warranty clause present in Sumitomo’s contract, sources disclose.

Facts unraveling in the long-running Senate hearings on the sorry state of MRT-3 also reveal that DOTC consistently ignored several capacity expansion proposals to buy additional light rail vehicles, the most recent one from Metro Pacific Investment Corp., after the latter bought into the light rail system via a cooperation agreement with the MRTC. Apparently, MPIC had made an offer under a build-operate-transfer, public private partnership proposal.

Calling the MRT a disaster waiting to happen, Sen. Serge Osmeña expressed indignation at DOTC’s inaction, saying some 500,000 daily commuters are risking their lives. Had the breakdowns and accidents happened in the US, the American government would have been sued for negligence, he said.

Obviously exasperated by the ineptitude he has been witnessing, Serge suggested that the best available solution at the moment would be for the DOTC to ditch its takeover plan and accept instead the 2011 proposal of MPIC. Saying the buyout would be just a waste of taxpayer money – aside from the fact that merely buying the bonds would not give government control of the MRT – Osmeña is convinced that the best solution would be to negotiate the offer of the group of Manny Pangilinan. “I think’s it’s a very good offer,” the Senator reiterated, noting that MVP is a professional manager and business entrepreneur.

A lot of people agree with the Senator considering the success of MVP in turning even moribund companies into successful enterprises. Abaya and his inept deputies would do the commuting public – and the taxpaying Filipinos in general – a lot of good if they considered the proposal of the Senator to speed things up and straighten out the kinks in the MRT system.

Ray Espinosa elected Stargate chair


ESPINOSA

PLDT director Ray Espinosa has been elected as the new chairman of Stargate Media Corp., PhilSTAR subsidiary and publishing arm of the country’s number one glossy magazine PeopleAsia. The entry of Espinosa as chairman of The Philippine STAR and Stargate is precipitated by the acquisition of the MVP Group of a majority stake at the Phil Star.

Espinosa’s entry in Stargate signals an exciting new era for the magazine publishing company as it looks at putting up or acquiring new titles and going into digital media publishing. The MVP group is poised to become the country’s most complete media outfit in the Philippines, with PLDT set to develop multimedia platforms with synergy and convergence made possible by the telecoms firm.

Ray Espinosa replaces Dr. Charles Chante in the Stargate board with STAR president and CEO Miguel Belmonte elected as Stargate vice chairman. Philstar.com president and CEO Kevin Belmonte will remain as Stargate president and associate publisher. Ms. Joanne Rae Ramirez is the PeopleAsia editor-in-chief and general manager.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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