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HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
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(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

PALACE CANCELS CHRISTMAS BONUS FOR TOP COPS
(NOT SO FAST! When asked if he too is hoping for the cash gift like that of the PNP, Defense Secretary Lorenzana said he is not losing hope. Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said there is no  such extra bonus in the military)
[RELATED: PNP denies claims some cops already got cash bonus]


DECEMBER 21 -Ranking officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not receive hefty cash gifts from President Duterte after all. A day after PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced Duterte had allocated P50,000 to P400,000 in cash incentives each for star rank officers and police provincial directors, he said Malacañang will no longer give the cash bonuses. File photo Not so fast. Ranking officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not receive hefty cash gifts from President Duterte after all. A day after PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced Duterte had allocated P50,000 to P400,000 in cash incentives each for star rank officers and police provincial directors, he said Malacañang will no longer give the cash bonuses. During last Monday’s Christmas party for police officers and their families held in Camp Crame, Dela Rosa told officials who are entitled to the cash gifts to proceed to his office to claim their financial incentives. However, not a single official, including those who waited until evening, received money yesterday. When he was asked where the money was sourced, Dela Rosa replied it might have come from the intelligence fund of the President. READ MORE...RELATED, PNP denies claims some cops already got cash bonus...

ALSO: In Christmas message, pope laments children in war, poverty[ALSO: Duterte vows ‘safer, comfortable lives’ for Pinoys in Christmas message]


DECEMBER 25 -Pope Francis bows in front of the altar as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. AP/Alessandra Tarantino
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking about the plight of today's children, bemoaning how some must escape bombs or flee in migrant boats and how others are prevented from being born at all. Francis celebrated a somber Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter's Basilica, processing to the altar behind cardinals draped in golden vestments as the Sistine Chapel choir sang "Gloria" and the church bells rang out across Rome. Francis has spent much of the year denouncing the Islamic extremist violence that has driven Christians from Mideast communities that date to the time of Christ. He has also demanded Europe in particular do more to welcome refugees, saying Jesus himself was a migrant who deserved more than being born in a manger. And he has called out the wasteful ways of the wealthy when children and the poor die of hunger every day. READ MORE...ALSO, Duterte vows ‘safer, comfortable lives’ for Pinoys in Christmas message...

ALSO:
Senate faces hectic 1st quarter in 2017
[(YEARENDER) EJKs, brgy. polls, 2017 budget highlight Senate centenary]


DECEMBER 22 -The Senate faces a busy first quarter in 2017, with its agenda containing critical measures, including legislation that would allow the Philippines to shift to the federal form of government. The Senate went on recess for the holidays on Dec. 16. It will return on Jan. 18. “We will rest this Christmas season. And January to March, I promise you, [we’ll have] a hectic schedule. We have a lot to do,” Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said at a recent fellowship with Senate reporters. “Federalism will be in full swing,” said Pimentel, a staunch advocate of the federal system like his father, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. The shift to federalism is a legislative priority for the administration of President Duterte, who is confident it will clear Congress, which is controlled by his allies. READ MORE...RELATED, (YEARENDER) EJKs, brgy. polls, 2017 budget highlight Senate centenary...

ALSO: SMOG IN CHINA PROMPTS TIDE OF TOURISM FLEEING ‘AIRPOCALYPSE’ - REPORT
[RELATED, EARLIER REPORT (2015) Philippines: Ground Zero for Climate Change]


DECEMBER 21 -CHINASMOGAIR POLLUTION
The heavy smog enveloping northern China is creating a tide of “smog refugees,” traveling elsewhere in a bid for temporary respite from the pollution in their home region, travel agents warn. Smog has become a periodic problem for China, prompting a red alert most recently in Hebei province and the municipality of Beijing this month. China’s online travel agency Ctrip estimated that 150,000 would travel overseas in December, to escape the smog, news website China Daily reported Monday. READ MORE...RELATED, EARLIER REPORT (20150 Philippines: Ground Zero for Climate Change...

ALSO: ANALYSIS ‘Airpocalypse’
[RELATED FROM BIZ NEWS COLUMNIST RAY BUTCH GAMBOA: A blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone!]


DECEMBER 22 -By Babe G. Romualdez
Life is practically at a standstill in Beijing, Shanghai and over 20 cities in China which are now enveloped in thick smog, putting the lives of more than 200 million people across six provinces at risk due to toxic levels of air pollution. Hundreds of flights have been canceled due to very low visibility, while schools, offices and various business establishments have also been closed. According to Greenpeace East Asia, the air quality in China will continue to get worse despite several red alert measures that government authorities have put into place for some years now, saying that people in China are breathing “a hazardous cocktail of chemicals” that may cause heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, cancer and birth defects. Among the most vulnerable appear to be young children, with reports that many have been rushed to hospitals due to excessive coughing and difficulty in breathing. It’s not an exaggeration to say the Chinese are choking to death because of the toxic air quality. READ MORE...ALSO, A blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone!...

ALSO: Peso bills with Rody signatures out
[RELATED FROM WIKIPEDIA: Mayor of Davao City]


DECEMBER 21 -Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo presents the new bank notes with President Duterte’s signature during a press briefing yesterday. EDD GUMBAN
MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released yesterday the first batch of banknotes bearing the signature of President Duterte worth P8.75 billion. BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said the 27 million pieces of P20, P50, P100, P200, P500 and P1,000 new generation currency (NGC) bills were released to banks in the National Capital Region and areas outside NCR. “The design, the size, the dimension, the security features – they are all the same except the signatory…President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Guinigundo said. BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. also remains a signatory to the banknotes, being the incumbent head of the country’s central bank, he added. “We have already started shipping boxes to areas outside NCR. In the next few days there will be subsequent shipments of the Duterte-signed banknotes to the regions, to the provinces,” he added. FULL REPORT, RELATED, FROM WIKIPEDIA: Mayor of Davao City...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE BELOW
OR CLICK HERE TO READ ONLINE

Palace cancels Christmas bonus for top cops


Ranking officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not receive hefty cash gifts from President Duterte after all. A day after PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced Duterte had allocated P50,000 to P400,000 in cash incentives each for star rank officers and police provincial directors, he said Malacañang will no longer give the cash bonuses. File photo

MANILA, DECEMBER 26, 2016 (PHILSTAR)  By Emmanuel Tupas December 21, 2016 - Not so fast.

Ranking officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will not receive hefty cash gifts from President Duterte after all.

A day after PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced Duterte had allocated P50,000 to P400,000 in cash incentives each for star rank officers and police provincial directors, he said Malacañang will no longer give the cash bonuses.

During last Monday’s Christmas party for police officers and their families held in Camp Crame, Dela Rosa told officials who are entitled to the cash gifts to proceed to his office to claim their financial incentives.

However, not a single official, including those who waited until evening, received money yesterday.

When he was asked where the money was sourced, Dela Rosa replied it might have come from the intelligence fund of the President.

READ MORE...

Dela Rosa blamed himself, saying Malacañang apparently became “discouraged” to release their cash incentives because of his announcement.

“When we held a press conference, a lot of people asked where it was sourced. Malacañang was discouraged,” Dela Rosa told reporters after the turnover ceremony of the PNP Logistics Support Service in Camp Crame.

“They told us, maybe before New Year, we will be given one sack of rice each,” he added.

Dela Rosa admitted some of his fellow generals became frustrated after learning they will no longer receive the cash bonuses.

Dela Rosa told fellow officers to just wait if there would be cash incentives for them from the government.

“If we do not receive anything before New Year, maybe we should wait until next Christmas,” he remarked.

On being more careful with his pronouncements in the future, Dela Rosa said it could not be helped because he is “a transparent person.”

Several members of the PNP were disgruntled when they learned on Monday that only high-ranking officials have cash gifts from the President.

PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos assured every policeman they will receive their performance-based bonuses this year.

“No one will be left out,” he said.

On the amount of the cash incentives to be given, Carlos said: “It will be up to the giver of the planned incentives based on his/her appreciation of your performance.”

“If you will be given a gift or incentive by a person, will you make demands based on what you want? It’s not that way,” he said.

On the part of the military, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he is not asking for an extra Christmas bonanza for senior military officers.

“It’s up to the President if he will give or not. I don’t know if we too will have the extra bonus because the President has not been coming over to us (at Camp Aguinaldo). But I am not asking him for that,” Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana said he was not even aware about the extra Christmas gift for the police as announced by Dela Rosa.

When asked if he too is hoping for the cash gift like that of the PNP, Lorenzana said he is not losing hope.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said there no is such extra bonus in the military.

Arevalo said that as far as the military is concerned, the entire rank and file are happy with the President’s full support to the entire organization in order to accomplish its mission. – With Jaime Laude

----------------------

RELATED FROM ABS-CBN

PNP denies claims some cops already got cash bonus ABS-CBN News
Posted at Dec 20 2016 08:27 PM

MANILA - The spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP) denied that some top police officials have already received their Christmas bonuses even after Malacañang cancelled its announcement.

Speaking on ANC, PNP Spokesperson Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos (photo) said those claiming to have received the bonus should show a receipt as proof.

"Whoever received the amount must be able to show the receipt and the purpose of that amount, if ever there are those who were already given [the bonus.] In the first place, where is that

supposed to be cash bonus coming from and what source. As of now, we don't have the source kaya po hindi identified," he said.

An Inquirer report said a police official admitted that they have already received cash bonuses worth at least P100,000 each on Monday.

Carlos denied the claim and even challenged the anonymous source to reveal himself.

"We really have to look into the claim of that officer, who is that officer, what he has signed, what he has received, before we claim that it came from the intended cash gift coming from the commander-in-chief," he said.
"Let us produce who received that amount," Carlos added.

PNP chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa announced Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte had allocated P100,000 to P400,000 cash bonus for high-ranking police officials.

Malacañang, however, retracted its announcement on Tuesday, saying top cops will only receive a sack of rice each.

Dela Rosa's announcement of the cash gift for high-ranking policemen sparked questions about where Duterte sourced the funds and why the bonus would not cover cops below the star rank.

Abella on Tuesday morning said Malacañang was still seeking confirmation on where the President had sourced the now cancelled cash bonus.


PHILSTAR

In Christmas message, pope laments children in war, poverty By Nicole Winfield (Associated Press) | Updated December 25, 2016 - 11:11am 5 0 googleplus0 0


Pope Francis bows in front of the altar as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. AP/Alessandra Tarantino

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking about the plight of today's children, bemoaning how some must escape bombs or flee in migrant boats and how others are prevented from being born at all.

Francis celebrated a somber Christmas Eve Mass in a packed St. Peter's Basilica, processing to the altar behind cardinals draped in golden vestments as the Sistine Chapel choir sang "Gloria" and the church bells rang out across Rome.

Francis has spent much of the year denouncing the Islamic extremist violence that has driven Christians from Mideast communities that date to the time of Christ. He has also demanded Europe in particular do more to welcome refugees, saying Jesus himself was a migrant who deserved more than being born in a manger. And he has called out the wasteful ways of the wealthy when children and the poor die of hunger every day.

READ MORE...

In his homily, Francis urged his flock to reflect on how children today aren't always allowed to lie peacefully in a cot, loved by their parents as Jesus was, but rather "suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity."

Among the indignities, he said, are "hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants."

"Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do have not toys in their hands, but rather weapons," he added.

The Mass late Saturday was the first major event of the Christmas season, followed by Francis' noon Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world) blessing on Christmas Day.

In another appeal, Francis called for the faithful to not get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas — "when we are concerned for gifts but cold toward those who are marginalized."

Materialism has "taken us hostage this Christmas," he said. "We have to free ourselves of it!"

---------------------------------

ALSO FROM THE INQUIRER

Duterte vows ‘safer, comfortable lives’ for Pinoys in Christmas message By: Nestor Corrales - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ INQUIRER.net / 02:14 PM December 25, 2016


President Rodrigo Duterte salutes the troops during the 81st anniversary of the Armed Forces at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

 

President Rodrigo Duterte has promised “safer and more comfortable lives” for Filipinos as the nation celebrates the holiday season.

“As your President, I will bring food on the table; create more job opportunities; and make our people feel safer and more comfortable,” Duterte said in his Christmas message.

The President said the government remains committed to bring lasting peace to the country, one of his campaign promises.

“Peace remains as one of my main thrusts in governance. We, in the government, are walking the extra mile to offer the olive branch of peace to all,” he said.

He said Christmas the true essence of Christmas was built on peace and generosity.

It is “a season of giving and sharing” especially for the poor and the marginalized, he added.

“Our celebration of Christmas is the world’s longest—a testament that we, Filipinos, are a peace-loving nation. Christmas is also a season of giving and sharing,” he said.

“This wonderful feeling is seen in the faces of our hopeful children, and reflects in the hearts of our loving and cheerful family members and friends,” he added.

The Chief executive urged Filipinos to join the government in building lasting peace and making the Philippines progressive.

“May this year’s Christmas serve as an inspiration in bringing lasting peace and in attaining inclusive economic growth for the country. Together, let us join hands to build a peaceful and progressive Philippines,” he said. JE

RELATED STORY

Duterte’s Christmas wish: Peace, order, progress for PH


INQUIRER

Senate faces hectic 1st quarter in 2017 By: Tarra Quismundo - Reporter / @TarraINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:43 AM December 22, 2016

The Senate faces a busy first quarter in 2017, with its agenda containing critical measures, including legislation that would allow the Philippines to shift to the federal form of government.

The Senate went on recess for the holidays on Dec. 16. It will return on Jan. 18.

“We will rest this Christmas season. And January to March, I promise you, [we’ll have] a hectic schedule. We have a lot to do,” Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said at a recent fellowship with Senate reporters.

“Federalism will be in full swing,” said Pimentel, a staunch advocate of the federal system like his father, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

The shift to federalism is a legislative priority for the administration of President Duterte, who is confident it will clear Congress, which is controlled by his allies.

READ MORE...

‘Good six months’

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Senate had “a good six months” under the new administration, particularly with the timely passage of the 2017 national budget.

“I think we had a good six months, considering we were engrossed in the budget deliberation, we were still able to produce,” Lacson said.

Among the measures that passed on the committee level and brought to the floor for debate this year were measures granting emergency powers for the executive to deal with the traffic crisis and expanding exemptions under the Anti-Wiretapping Law to allow taps on drug, money laundering, coup d’etat and robbery suspects.

“There are many bills that could be passed easily because they have been sponsored to the floor, some are going through interpellation. I just hope when we return in January, one to two months, give or take, we will be able to pass important pieces of legislation,” Lacson said.

Pending are separate bills filed by Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon and Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution through a constitutional convention.

Autonomous states

The proposals are seen as the initial step toward the shift to federalism, a system that would devolve governmental powers to the provinces, making them autonomous states that can spearhead countryside development, which advocates say is hampered by the current centralized system.

The Pimentels held a forum on federalism earlier this year to push for a “uniquely Filipino” system that would borrow best practices from countries in Europe, North America, Australia, Malaysia and “emerging federations” in South America and Africa.

In remarks at the forum held in August, Pimentel, the current Senate leader, said “there is no time to lose,” as federalism is critical to pursuit of peace and development in conflict-torn Mindanao.

11 federal states

His father has proposed the division of the Philippines into 11 federal states: four in Luzon—Northern Luzon (the current Regions 1, 2 and the Cordillera Administration Region), Central Luzon (Region 3), Southern Tagalog (Region 4A) and Bicol.

Metro Manila will not become a separate state. It will become “the federal capital.”

The Visayas will have four states: Eastern Visayas (the current Region 8), Central Visayas (Region 7), Western Visayas (Region 6) and a new grouping for the provinces of Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon and Marinduque.

Mindanao will have three states: Northern Mindanao (the current Regions 9, 10 and the northern half of Region 13), Southern Mindanao (the current Region 11, 12 and the southern half of Region 13), and a separate federal state for the envisioned Bangsamoro.

------------------------------

RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

(YEARENDER) EJKs, brgy. polls, 2017 budget highlight Senate centenary 30 SHARES Share it! Published December 20, 2016, 5:25 PM By Philippine News Agency


 Senators Miguel Zubiri, Gringo Honasan, Grace Poe, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, and Tito Sotto during the senate probe regarding the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa (Jansen Romero / MANILA BULLETIN)

The centennial year of the Senate was highlighted by inquiries into alleged extrajudicial killings, the passage of a measure postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (village and student council) elections and the ratification of the 2017 national budget of P3.35 trillion.

On August 22, Sen. Leila De Lima, then chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, led a Senate inquiry into the alleged extrajudicial killings linked to the intensified campaign against illicit drugs under the Duterte administration.

Sen. Richard Gordon replaced De Lima after neophyte Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao moved to declare vacant the entire justice committee membership only a few days after she presented surprise witness and self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato in the September 15 hearing on extrajudicial killings.

Matobato claimed that then Mayor now President Rodrigo Duterte himself ordered the killings of several criminals and non-criminals in Davao City from 1998 to 2013. However, a number of senators, including Sen. Panfilo Lacson, found Matobato’s testimony “inconsistent.”

The Senate panel, in a 100-page committee report, later ruled out any proof of state-sponsored killings and the existence of the so-called vigilante group Davao Death Squad and Duterte’s alleged hand in unresolved killings.

Eleven senators have signed the committee report including Senators Gordon, Lacson, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, Nancy Binay, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Franklin Drilon signed but have reservations and intention to make amendments and interpellate while Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan signed with the intention to concur in part.

Meanwhile, the five senators who did not sign the committee report were Senators Leila de Lima, Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, Ralph Recto, Grace Poe and Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.

Despite the lack of proof of state-sponsored killings, Gordon pointed out that lack of clear and quick action to resolve such killings and cops’ disregard on cleaning its ranks.

De Lima, meanwhile, filed a 150-page dissenting report to provide what she described as “alternative analysis of the facts presented and the conclusions” of the same hearing.

De Lima’s dilemma

Also in August, embattled De Lima also faced several controversies after being implicated in the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison when she was then justice secretary. De Lima, however, has repeatedly denied her involvement in the illegal drug trade.

It was Duterte himself who revealed De Lima’s alleged involvement in the drug trade during a speech at the 115th service anniversary of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame where he mentioned how a certain senator had a “lover” who accepted drug-money from the penitentiary.

De Lima denied being a drug coddler but later admitted that she did have an affair with her former security aide and alleged drug money bagman Ronnie Dayan, who in a House hearing on November, admitted that he collected drug kickbacks for his former boss from self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa back in 2014.

He also claimed that De Lima ordered him not to appear before the House inquiry, which later led congressmen to file ethics complaints against the neophyte senator for “inducing disobedience to a summon issued by the Congress.”

In a Senate inquiry into the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, the younger Espinosa backed the admission of Dayan that the De Lima did receive some millions in exchange for his protection to use in her campaign fund as she was running for senator in the May 2016 elections.

Dayan and Espinosa eventually had a face-off in the Senate only for senators to cite ‘irreconcilable inconsistencies’ between their testimonies — particularly on dates and how the exchange in funds was facilitated.

Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said that his panel is set to submit a committee report on the Espinosa inquiry’s findings on January 2017.

The committee report on the slaying of Espinosa, to be prepared by Lacson, will also be presented to plenary on its resumption on January 2017.

Aside from the complaint filed by House leaders, De Lima is also facing other ethics complaints including one filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption grounded on the senator’s alleged violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act, another filed by former National Bureau of Investigation officials Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala citing the same violation, and most recently another by high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian in response to her claim that Sebastian was a government asset.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also ordered a probe into De Lima’s alleged culpability into the illegal drug trade, to which the Senator welcomed as a chance to finally clear her name.

Legislation feats

In September, the Senate approved the bill postponing village and youth council or Senate Bill No. 1112 on third reading with 20 affirmative and two negative votes.

Senate minority leader Ralph Recto and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV both voted against the bill while the rest of the senators voted for it.

The measure, which is the first measure to be approved in the 17th Congress, seeks to postpone the polls from October 31 this year to October 23, 2017.

The bill has so far incorporated two key reforms during plenary debates which are meant to ensure that important services of the government will not pause during the campaign period for village officials.

Recto, who proposed the two amendments, said that the implementation of village-funded projects, such as roads and bridges, will be suspended 10 days before the elections so as not to influence voters’ choices. Another amendment is the lifting of the ban on the hiring or promotion of government employees.

The Senate also ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 in December before going on a Christmas break after holding a series of conferences with the House to reconcile their differences.

After ratification, the 2017 national budget also known as the General Appropriations Act, will be sent to Duterte for signing.

Seventeen senators voted to pass the measure, two voted against it—Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian, and one abstained, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

Among the most important amendments introduced by the Senate is the P3-billion increase in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) budget so that all Filipinos will now be covered by the universal healthcare program, a P2-billion worth of irrigation fees subsidy in the budget of the National Irrigation Administration, and additional allocation is also provided for state universities and colleges (SUCs) for scholarships for all indigenous peoples and indigent students, especially those under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), and for across the board capital outlay increase for all SUCs.

The proposed national budget for 2017 is an 11.6-percent increase from the P3.002-trillion budget for 2016. It represents 20.4 percent of the gross domestic product in 2017, higher than the 20.1 percent GDP share this year.

Last-minute approvals

The Senate adopted 33 resolutions, most noteworthy is concurring the ratification of Articles of Agreement of the China-led international financial institution, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Senate Resolution No. 241 was passed on third reading with 20 affirmative votes, one negative vote from Senator Risa Hontiveros and zero abstention.

Hontiveros explained that she cast a negative vote noting that the Philippines should first verify whether the loan agreements the country has entered into with these institutions are in accordance with the principles on responsible sovereign lending and borrowing published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The AIIB is formed by 57 founder-member states like China, India, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The Philippines signed the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank last December 31, 2015 in China.

Duterte himself ratified the Agreement last October 19 and accordingly submitted it to the Senate for concurrence, in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.

The Senate also passed a resolution for an immediate increase of P1,000 in the monthly pension of all pensioners under the Social Security System starting this month.

Gordon explained that the release of the pension will come in two tranches — the initial P1,000 increase this month or early 2017 and the additional P1,000 in 2020 or earlier as second tranche.

SSS previously mentioned the releasing the P2,000 pension increase in two tranches to avoid putting the SSS funds at risk.

To recall, SSS cautioned that immediately implementing the full P2,000 pension increase will threaten the SSS funds.

The P1,000 hike would benefit pensioners without compromising SSS from maintaining its long-term financial viability, Gordon said.

When the Senate resumes its sessions on January 16, 2017, it is expected to tackle bills on the re-imposition of death penalty, and amending the 1987 Constitution to a shift to a federal form of government by either constitutional convention (con-con), or a constituent assembly (con-ass).

Also expected to be discussed are measures on personal income tax reform, the amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, emergency powers bill, and the end of contractualization (endo), among others.


NEWSWEEK WORLD NEWS

SMOG IN CHINA PROMPTS TIDE OF TOURISM FLEEING ‘AIRPOCALYPSE:’ REPORT BY DAMIEN SHARKOV ON 12/21/16 AT 6:40 AM


CHINASMOGAIR POLLUTION

The heavy smog enveloping northern China is creating a tide of “smog refugees,” traveling elsewhere in a bid for temporary respite from the pollution in their home region, travel agents warn.

Smog has become a periodic problem for China, prompting a red alert most recently in Hebei province and the municipality of Beijing this month.

China’s online travel agency Ctrip estimated that 150,000 would travel overseas in December, to escape the smog, news website China Daily reported Monday.

READ MORE...

Ctrip claims that on its cellphone app, the phrases “avoiding smog” and “lung cleansing” have become top searches with more than 5,000 results.

China’s state-run Global Times labelled the smog phenomenon an “airpocalypse,” while the decision to stay away while it literally blows over—a “lung vacation”.

The smog has already prompted a drop in steel and iron ore futures for a sixth consecutive session Wednesday as construction and industrial activities were halted.

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EARLIER REPORT FROM TIME ONLINE (SCIENCE/CLIMATE CHANGE)

Philippines: Ground Zero for Climate Disaster Justin Worland @justinworland Dec. 8, 2015

The country has experienced four of its 10 most devastating storms in the past decade


Relief packs are distributed in a flooded district of Taguig, Phillipines on Oct. 12, 2009. Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, devastated the region in 2009.

How countries adapt to a world radically altered by climate change has been a key focus of international climate change negotiations being held in Paris this week.

Extreme weather events connected to climate change promise to wreck devastation across the globe, from deadly heat waves in India and Pakistan to extreme tropical storms in the Pacific, and world leaders hope that an agreement in Paris will provide answers about what support they will receive for efforts to handle such weather events.

In few places is that question as relevant as in the Philippines. The Pacific island country, one of the nations most vulnerable to the weather effects of climate change, sits in a region with particularly harsh weather patterns and rapidly rising sea levels. And, with a GDP per capita of less than $2,500, its leaders lack the financial resources to implement technology that could protect the country.

Climate change doesn’t cause any individual storm, but research has suggested that it could make storms stronger and more frequent. For one, global warming leads seawater to evaporate more quickly.

That water can in turn form the clouds that fuel storms. And, when that happens, the Philippines’ location in the Western Pacific Ocean leaves it in the path of many large storms.

Read: Why ‘Once-In-A-Lifetime’ Flooding Keeps Happening

READ MORE...

Eight or nine tropical storms make landfall in the Philippines in an average year. And in recent years those storms have been worse in their effects. Four of the country’s 10 most catastrophic storms have occurred in the past decade, and sea levels in the Pacific Island country are expected to rise at a rate three times greater than the world average in coming decades.

The most devastating of those storms, Typhoon Haiyan, came in 2013. Sustained winds speed reached nearly 200 miles per hour, and the storm killed more than 6,000 people and displaced 650,000 others.

A storm of that magnitude would damage any community unlucky enough to be in the storm’s path. But the effects were particularly harmful to the Philippines due to development issues.

The country, where less than a quarter of roads are paved, ranks 113th on a list of infrastructure quality produced by the World Economic Forum.

The numbers and figures alone are astounding, but nothing captures the country’s vulnerability to climate change quite like images. Veejay Villafranca has spent the last six years in the Philippines photographing the impact of these extreme weather events.

“Documenting the aftermath seemed invaluable as it gets drowned by the headlines,” said Villafranca. “I touched on different facets of their lives from adjusting to their new homes to coping with the daily grind and to dealing with loss and instability.”

Officials from the country have been far from silent in recent years during international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For one, the country has led a group of vulnerable nations in their efforts for a more aggressive slowing of temperature rise.”We can fix this,” said Philippines climate envoy Naderev “Yeb” Sano at a conference in 2013. “We can stop this madness. Right now, right here.”

Negotiators failed to reach a meaningful agreement then, but as climate negotiations entered their second week in Paris, hopes are high again.

Read More: Climate Change Could Drive More Than 100 Million Into Poverty by 2030

Chelsea Matiash, who edited this photo essay, is a Multimedia Editor at TIME. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cmatiash.


PHILSTAR ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY

‘Airpocalypse’ SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 22, 2016 - 12:00am 1 9 googleplus0 0


By Babe G. Romualdez

Life is practically at a standstill in Beijing, Shanghai and over 20 cities in China which are now enveloped in thick smog, putting the lives of more than 200 million people across six provinces at risk due to toxic levels of air pollution. Hundreds of flights have been canceled due to very low visibility, while schools, offices and various business establishments have also been closed.

According to Greenpeace East Asia, the air quality in China will continue to get worse despite several red alert measures that government authorities have put into place for some years now, saying that people in China are breathing “a hazardous cocktail of chemicals” that may cause heart disease, stroke, respiratory illnesses, cancer and birth defects.

Among the most vulnerable appear to be young children, with reports that many have been rushed to hospitals due to excessive coughing and difficulty in breathing. It’s not an exaggeration to say the Chinese are choking to death because of the toxic air quality.

READ MORE...

Aside from China, New Delhi and other cities in India have also been tagged for their hazardous air quality, with people already gasping for breath due to increasing levels of vehicular emissions compounded by dust, garbage and the burning smell of crop wastes from areas surrounding Delhi.

In Europe, air pollution has been declared as “the single largest environmental health hazard” by the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency, with air pollution accounting for an estimated 467,000 premature deaths in 41 European countries in 2013 alone. In Paris, authorities have imposed several measures to combat air pollution, among them a continuing car ban on certain routes during certain days. A statement from city authorities says that, “Paris is suffering a pollution peak of exceptional intensity, with significant risks to public health.” The deteriorating quality of air in the City of Lights has given rise to calls for Parisians to use less toxic modes of transportation such as electric cars and bicycles.

This “airpocalypse” that is creeping in many parts of the world is being blamed for millions of deaths that occur every year, now estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) at seven million annually, a big percentage of which occur in China. Researchers in Canada say air pollution-related illnesses account for over 1.6 million deaths in China in 2013 alone.

A recent study by the WHO says outdoor pollution has increased by eight percent in the last five years. The study also disclosed that an estimated 92 percent of the world’s population is impacted by air pollution which continues to rise at an alarming rate, affecting economies and the people’s quality of life. In fact, air pollution has been dubbed as a “public health emergency,” with many areas all over the world covered by a blanket of tiny, toxic particles such as carbon monoxide, nitrates, sulfates and other fine particulate matters that can penetrate deeply into the lungs.

In Southeast Asia, a major source of deadly air pollution is traffic, particularly in highly urbanized areas where pollution levels are way above the acceptable levels prescribed by WHO. Considering the nightmarish traffic in Metro Manila – dubbed as one of the worst, if not the worst, in the world – it’s not an exaggeration to say residents are in grave danger because they are exposed to a minimum of four hours of traffic as they travel to the office and back home. In fact, even standing along a busy street in Metro Manila could be hazardous because people could develop acute respiratory problems especially during this high density-traffic Christmas season.

A new study conducted by cardiologists in Belgium reveals a correlation between air pollution and pulmonary vascular function, or the way blood vessels in the lungs function. Interestingly, the study cautioned people living in polluted urban areas against doing exercise as this could damage the lungs and potentially lead to heart failure. Apparently, pollution is more harmful to lung circulation during exercise or physical activity. Doctors say this is likely due to the fact that people usually inhale more air and breathe more deeply into the lungs during physical activity – which means people (like office employees in Makati) who think it is a healthy idea to jog or take brisk walks in the central business districts as a form of exercise are actually risking their health even more.

According to the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), smoke emissions from vehicles account for 80 percent of air pollution. This is perhaps the same reason why the government is bent on phasing out old jeepneys that are 15 years or older. Much earlier, the government has aready started phasing out old buses and taxi units as part of the Department of Transportation’s modernization program.

EDSA, in particular, is a health hazard because of the number of vehicles that ply this major thoroughfare. The highway has a maximum carrying capacity of 6,000 vehicles per direction per hour – but the actual number of vehicles that traverse this thoroughfare is estimated at 6,800 per direction per hour. This could increase next year because, according to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines or CAMPI, an estimated 400,000 new vehicles would be sold next year, 30 percent of which would likely ply the streets of Metro Manila.

The DENR has also launched an anti-smoke belching drive, saying they will impound vehicles spewing noxious fumes in a bid to reduce air pollution. A problem, however, is that they have yet to find a suitable impounding area for the smoke belchers – which are able to pass emission tests and renew their motor vehicle registration because of corrupt employees at the Land Transportation Office.


PHILSTAR

Peso bills with Rody signatures out By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 21, 2016 - 12:00am 1 5 googleplus0 0


Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas deputy governor Diwa Guinigundo presents the new bank notes with President Duterte’s signature during a press briefing yesterday. EDD GUMBAN

MANILA, Philippines – The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released yesterday the first batch of banknotes bearing the signature of President Duterte worth P8.75 billion.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said the 27 million pieces of P20, P50, P100, P200, P500 and P1,000 new generation currency (NGC) bills were released to banks in the National Capital Region and areas outside NCR.

“The design, the size, the dimension, the security features – they are all the same except the signatory…President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Guinigundo said.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. also remains a signatory to the banknotes, being the incumbent head of the country’s central bank, he added.

“We have already started shipping boxes to areas outside NCR. In the next few days there will be subsequent shipments of the Duterte-signed banknotes to the regions, to the provinces,” he added.

--------------------

FROM WIKIPEDIA

Mayor of Davao City


Duterte (left) with President Benigno Aquino III during a meeting with local government unit leaders in Davao City in 2013

After the 1986 People Power Revolution, Duterte was appointed officer-in-charge vice mayor.

In 1988, he ran for mayor and won, serving until 1998. He set a precedent by designating deputy mayors that represented the Lumad and Moro peoples in the city government, which was later copied in other parts of the Philippines.

In 1998, because he was term-limited to run again for mayor, he ran for the House of Representatives and won as Congressman of the 1st District of Davao City (under the Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino coalition).

In 2001, he ran again for mayor in Davao and was again elected for his fourth term. He was re-elected in 2004 and in 2007.

Davao City under Duterte won the National Literacy Hall of Fame Award for being a three-time first-place winner in the Outstanding Local Government Unit, Highly Urbanized City category.

In 2013, Davao City sent rescue and medical teams to Tacloban to give aid to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, locally known in the country as Typhoon Yolanda. Financial assistance was also given to Bohol and Cebu for the earthquake victims.

In 2010, he was elected vice mayor, succeeding his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who was elected as mayor. He has been offered the Interior Secretary post 4 times, by presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Benigno S. Aquino III but rejected all of them.

Duterte banned swimsuit competitions in beauty pageants in Davao City. Duterte also gained prominence for supporting the first-ever Gawad Kalinga Village inside a jail facility which is only located in Davao City. It is a home-type jail with ten cottages built inside the compound, which now serve as home for women inmates.

Law and order


Duterte (third from left) leading the city-wide 2015 Torotot Festival

Through the support of Duterte, the City Council amended ordinance No. 1627, Series of 1994, to impose a prohibition on selling, serving, drinking and consuming alcoholic beverages from 01:00 until 08:00 each morning.

Executive Order No. 39 was signed by Duterte, reducing the speed limits for all kinds of motor vehicles within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City in the interest of public safety and order. Duterte also signed Executive Order No. 04, Series of 2013 to impose an order creating the implementing of rules and regulations for the new comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance no. 0367-12, Series of 2012.

Davao City's Firecracker Ban was also implemented with ordinance No. 060-02/1406-02, Series of 2002 by the City Council through the support of Duterte.

Another known accomplishment was that the City Government of Davao was able to acquire 10 more ambulances for central 911 intended for medical emergencies and 42 new mobile patrol vehicles and motorcycles for the Davao City Police Office (the first and only 9-1-1 emergency telephone number in Asia which is also free of charge).

Duterte, through Executive Order No. 24, ordered all shopping malls and commercial centers to install, operate and maintain high end and high definition closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras at all entrance and exit points of their premises.

Duterte also passed the city's Women Development Code, the first and only in the country, which aims "to uphold the rights of women and the belief in their worth and dignity as human beings" and pushed for the Magna Carta for Women in Davao. It is a comprehensive women's human rights law that seeks to eliminate discrimination against women.

Crime rate


Duterte speaks with Davao City residents in 2009

Reuters reported in May 2016 that according to national police Davao has the highest murder rate and the second highest rape rate among 15 Philippine cities, and that locals think that the city has become safer because of Duterte's campaigns against drugs and crime.

Crime figures reported by Duterte, stated that crime in the city was significantly reduced during the period 1985–2000. Duterte suggested that there had been a decrease in crime from a triple-digit crime rate per 1,000 people in 1985, to 0.8 cases per 10,000 inhabitants in the period 1999 to 2005. Furthermore, according to police statistics, the population in Davao City grew from 1.12 million to 1.44 million between 1999 and 2008 (29 per cent). In the corresponding period, the incidence of reported crime rose from 975 to 3,391 (248 per cent).

The number of index crimes have significantly decreased since 2013 and 2015, with most killings occurring during police operations.

Prostitution in the Philippines is illegal. In Davao, by city ordinance, police ensure that prostitutes have a valid health card, but do not arrest them.

In 2010, the Philippine Child Protection Unit stated that Davao was one of the top five areas for child prostitution and sex tourism in the Philippines.[46] Jeanette Ampog, the executive director of Talikala, a Davao-based NGO that helps prostitutes, said in October 2016 that child prostitution had sharply increased over the past two years. She said that children were cheaper and more marketable.

Extrajudicial killings

Duterte, who has been dubbed "The Punisher" by Time magazine, has been linked by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to extrajudicial killings of over 1,400 alleged criminals and street children by vigilante death squads.

In the April 2009 UN General Assembly of the Human Rights Council, the UN report (Eleventh Session Agenda item 3, par 21) said, "The Mayor of Davao City has done nothing to prevent these killings, and his public comments suggest that he is, in fact, supportive."

Human Rights Watch reported that in 2001–2002, Duterte appeared on local television and radio and announced the names of "criminals", some of whom were later executed.

In July 2005 at a crime summit at the Manila Hotel, Duterte said, "Summary execution of criminals remains the most effective way to crush kidnapping and illegal drugs".

Duterte has denied responsibility for the extra-judicial killings. He has also frequently announced his support for them. According to Reuters, "Duterte's loud approval for hundreds of execution-style killings of drug users and criminals over nearly two decades helped propel him to the highest office of a crime-weary land."

In 2009 Duterte said: "If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination."

In 2015, Duterte confirmed his links to extrajudicial killings in Davao, and warned that, if elected president, he may kill up to 100,000 criminals. After the said confirmation, Duterte challenged human rights officials to file a case against him if they could provide evidence to his links with vigilante groups.

Federalism advocacy

In September 2014, Duterte and former mayors and governors, calling themselves the Mindanao Council of Leaders, advocated for a federalist government.

A month later, Duterte attended an event sponsored by the Federal Movement for a Better Philippines in Cebu City.

In December 2014 Duterte held a summit entitled Mindanawons Forging Unity Toward a Federal System of Government.

The Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte began at noon on June 30, 2016, when he became the 16th President of the Philippines, succeeding Benigno Aquino III.

At the age of 71, Duterte became the oldest person ever elected to the presidency, after former President Sergio Osmeña. Duterte is also the first local chief executive to get elected straight to the Office of the President, the second Cebuano to become president (after Osmeña), the third Cebuano-speaking president (after Osmeña and Carlos P. Garcia), the first Visayan from Mindanao and the fourth Visayan overall (after Osmeña, Manuel Roxas and Garcia).

President-elect Duterte (left) and outgoing President Benigno Aquino III at Malacañang Palace on inauguration day, June 30, 2016

Duterte takes his oath of office as the 16th President of the Philippines before Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes at Malacañang Palace while his children look on, June 30, 2016.

A Pulse Asia survey conducted from July 2–8 showed that Duterte had a trust rating of 91%, the highest of the six presidents since the Marcos dictatorship (the previous highest was Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino III with 87%).

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FROM PHILSTAR BUSINESS COLUMNIST RAY GAMBOA


By Ray Butch Gamboa

A blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone! BUSINESS LEISURE By Ray Butch Gamboa (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 24, 2016 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0 As 2016 comes to an end, it is good to review the year and see how the different business sectors fared.

It has been a tradition with B&L to talk with some of our business leaders representing their sectors for their assessment of their performance for the year as well as their fearless forecasts for the following year.

For the export sector, Philexport president Sergio Ortiz-Luis (SOL) shared that with a worsening world market, the Philippines registered negative growth for fifteen months until September 2016 when the sector registered a positive growth of five percent for merchandise exports.

Although the numbers for the last quarter are not in yet, SOL said it is unlikely that their forecast of six – eight percent growth for 2016 will be met. At best, Philexport hopes for a three percent growth.

SOL expressed confidence in President Duterte’s administration, optimistic about the surge in foreign direct investments that started in August, emphasizing that this will continue to increase with China as a driving force.

His message to the current administration for 2017 is to re-align the budget allocation for the conditional cash transfers which is now P70 billion and set aside even 10 percent of this for the funding requirements of our MSMEs.

* * *

Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry (PCCI) president George Barcelon remains optimistic about the country’s economy with our GDP that registered 7.1 percent higher than the last quarter. 2017, says George, will be another banner year. However, he admits that we still lag behind our ASEAN neighbors as far as manufacturing is concerned. Even comparing our foreign direct investments with others, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) twice as much as ours, not to mention Singapore which has FDIs five times higher than ours.

For 2017, PCCI will continue with their advocacy of helping our MSMEs who cannot access funding from commercial banks with their banking needs. The organization recently signed a MOA with Bank of China to hold a series of forums for the financial education for these entrepreneurs. They will also work together with the Philippine Bankers Association through its president Nestor Tan on how our traditional financial institutions can help our MSMEs.

* * *

At the start of B&L interview, the president of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) Jess Arranza shared that many Filipino businessmen are happy with Pres. Duterte’s governance, mainly because of his aggressive drive against drugs, crime and corruption. Business-wise, FPI appreciates his direction towards industrialization which allows the use of coal alongside alternative power sources. As far as our trade relations with countries like China, the FPI head’s view is that we should allow investments to come in for businesses where they have better technology than us so that we can benefit from the transfer of technology. Foreign investments may come in only if these do not supplant our existing businesses.

He also shared his frustration at the very weak performance of DTI’s Bureau of Standards, specifically citing the agency’s preferential treatment of imported steel bars as against our locally-manufactured ones. He ended the interview with the information that he is filing a case against DTI for this in 2017.

* * *

Indefatigable CREBA (Chamber of Real Estate & Builders Association) president Charlie Gorayeb laments that nothing has been done to address our housing backlog this year. Every time a new administration takes over, they dutifully submit their 5-point agenda which they crafted 25 years ago but the backlog keeps piling up, signalling that nothing has been done over that long period. Their proposal includes mortgages of at least 25 years with 3 percent interest for socialized housing of units under P1.5 million.

His appeal to the government in 2017: although Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. is a very capable man, a dedicated housing czar must be named, preferably one who has no political ambitions to distract him from his serious job. Another is to reconsider the position of the Dept. of Agriculture totally banning the conversion of agricultural lands into property development, saying this is actually anti-poor. He cited the Philippines’ total acreage of agricultural lands which are considerably higher than Cambodia and Vietnam, both countries now exporters of rice while we remain to be among the biggest importer of this staple grain. Sen. JV Ejercito seems to be their ally, hoping to pass the housing legislation in the 17th congress in 2017.

* * *

The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines is still hurting from the audit results of the mining operations of their members. For 2016, nickel mining saved the year as our nickel exports surged this year with China as our biggest market but only because Indonesia ordered a total ban on nickel exports. Metal prices remain down in the global market, according to the association’s VP for Legal Affairs Atty. Ronald Reidoro, but our copper exports are still viable with Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore as our major buyers while most of our gold goes to Hong Kong.

For 2017, the country’s miners hope that with 4,000 applications pending, new mines will be allowed to operate, and for a comprehensive mineral plan to finally be drafted by the government. Also, all of our metal output is exported because we have very little mineral processing here, which is a pity. If we can only address this need, we can export the higher value processed minerals.

* * *

Semi-conductors and electronics continue to be our biggest export, according to SEIPI (Semiconductors & Electronics Industries of the Phil. Inc.) president Dan Lachica and there is no problem hitting their target growth of 2-5 percent for 2016. He also reported expansions, particularly in the Cebu area, although generally, the electronics industry has contracted and margins continue to reduce every year.

Among the challenges he cited were the high cost of power and the lack of power supply security and good quality power; infrastructure especially the urgent need for a modern international airport, and the need for a better band width. The industry directly employs some 350,000 but this could translate to seven times more in indirect employment. They are working closely with DOST which has an advanced materials testing lab and TESDA which provides training for the high school graduates they hire.

The SEIPI head also shared that a miscommunicated presidential message during a China visit of severing ties with the US has rattled their US customers and resulted in order cancellations but Trade Secretary Mon Lopez issued an official statement to clarify the issue.

MABUHAY!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.


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