MARCH 12, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo announced yesterday that one of the world’s richest men, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, is planning to build one of his Raffles resorts in Panglao, Bohol.

In a speech at the Bohol Youth Day celebration, the President said that Prince Alwaleed intends to bring in another $150 million for the project. Earlier, Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Hotel Investments forged a tie-up with Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) for a $153-million hotel project at the Makati Central Business District.

Mrs. Arroyo said that the "decision of Prince Alwaleed to invest in Panglao was a result of her discussions with the heads of the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during her state visit last year.

The President said the Saudi Prince has expressed interest in buying the entire property in Panglao held by the Fonaciers, with the help of ALI.

"They would like to buy the whole Fonacier property in Panglao to put up a six-star (luxury) resort," the President said.

The resort would carry the famous Raffles name of Kingdom Hotel Investments, which is chaired by Prince Alwaleed.

Panglao Island in Bohol is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, particularly for beach and diving enthusiasts.

The Arroyo administration has made the promotion and development of the tourism industry as among its priorities.

A bill that would provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investments in tourism has been passed in the Senate but is still pending in the House of Representatives.

Once passed into law, the Tourism Act would pave the way for the establishment of tourist enterprise zones where investors would be given a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives.

GMA lectures DVD vendors on piracy The Philippine Star 03/11/2007

Quiapo traders who peddle pirated DVDs, VCDs and videogames got a lecture last Tuesday on intellectual property rights from President Arroyo, who also offered them alternative sources of income.

Mrs. Arroyo delivered her informal lecture to residents of Barangay 647 on San Agustin street, with Optical Media Board chairman Edu Manzano, whose men had been accused of harassment by some Quiapo traders.

"Piracy is a crime. It’s against the law. That’s why I’m offering alternative means of livelihood for you and your families,’’ she told some 50 residents, led by barangay chairman Suharto Buleg, who gathered inside a garage.

Manzano later disclosed that the President has ordered the filing of criminal charges against owners of malls and establishments selling pirated CDs.

She also instructed Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director general Augusto Syjuco to negotiate with the Land Bank of the Philippines for the possible conversion of a repossessed lot on Carlos Palanca St. into a livelihood center, possibly for pearl ornament making, or halal food processing or selling.

Mrs. Arroyo also handed a certificate to operate the "Tindahan Natin" to Jamira Buleg. The business is worth P20,000 and funded by the National Food Authority.

She also gave 120 TESDA scholarship certificates worth P5,000 each to the barangay chairman to be distributed to his constituents. Of the certificates, 50 are for scholarship training for call centers, 50 for welding training, and 20 for butchery skills development.

During the visit, Syjuco presented three of the 15 scholars who completed their TESDA training and are ready for deployment to Dubai.

The United States last year asked the Philippines to crack down on intellectual property rights violators or face foreign aid cutback.

Manzano said there are no clear estimates of industry losses to piracy.

Buleg told The STAR yesterday that it would not be easy for Quiapo traders to give up selling pirated DVDs because the business has not only brought in income but has drastically reduced crime in the barangay as well. He said 150 families in his barangay depend on selling pirated DVDs. He said there are around 10,000 people in his barangay.

He said that as a consultant to the Office of Muslim Affairs, "I know these businesses in Metro Manila.’’

"Petty crimes and also major crimes have drastically gone down because of this business. There are almost no more cell phone snatching (and) hold-ups. Before there were shootings here almost everyday but since selling DVDs became a source of income, for the entire year last year, there were only about two such shooting incidents,’’ he said.

"If the government takes this away from us, it would be very hard for me to contain and stop crime again,’’ he said.

He said most of the Muslims in Manila are Maranaos, who are more inclined to trade and barter.

"These scholarships on welding, and other skills are not very acceptable to us Maranaos. We prefer businesses. I think it would be better if the government could provide us livelihood and opportunities that could help us set up businesses,’’ Buleg said.

Buleg said that what the traders are asking is for authorities, such as the OMB, to be "a bit lenient to us.’’ "

Manzano, however, said selling pirated DVDs appears to be no longer lucrative in such areas because pirated products can now be found in other establishments and that the quality of the goods seems to be deteriorating.

He said 80 percent of pirated movies and software are smuggled into the country by Chinese syndicates. Their local contacts look for vendors and retailers who sell the pirated goods on consignment basis.

The OMB chairman said there are alarming cases of DVD selling being used as front for the distribution of illegal drugs and even firearms.

He said OMB and police operatives earlier found shabu hidden in DVD casings, and grenades, bullets and firearms concealed in large boxes of pirated DVDs.

But Buleg said corrupt policemen planted the drugs to extort money.

"Chairman Manzano is not aware of what some of his men or the policemen are doing. Based on my experience, a gunrunner or drug smuggler would not sell DVDs and vice versa. We even tipped the police on hideouts of drug syndicates,’’ he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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