March 12, 2014 Edition

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  1. PH summons Chinese diplomat over dispute in Ayungin Shoal

    AFP Photo/Philippine Government

    The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has summoned China’s charge d’affaires on Tuesday, March 11 to explain why China drove away two Filipino ships from Ayungin Shoal. China’s Foreign Ministry said on March 10 that Chinese coast guard vessels patrolling the Ren’ai Reef (Ayungin Shoal) “warned” two Philippine vessels against approaching the reef. DFA Spokesperson Hernandez said China used a megaphone, sirens, and even a digital signboard to drive the civilian vessels away. The DFA said it also “urged China to desist from any further interference with the efforts of the Philippines to undertake rotation and resupply operations at the Ayungin Shoal.” The Philippines is set to file a written pleading on March 30 at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

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  2. More filipinos unemployed despite high growth

     Photo by AFP

    The benefits of a growing Philippine economy have failed to trickle down to some Filipinos, particularly those unemployed. The Philippine Statistics Authority’s latest Labor Force Survey showed unemployed Filipinos rose slightly to 2.969 million in January from 2.776 million a year ago. This was equivalent to an unemployment rate of 7.5%, higher than the 7.1% recorded in January 2013. Two possible factors cited by the PSA were the major calamities that closed down many companies and the growing labor force population. Filipinos aged 15 and above made up the labor force, which grew to 61.78 million from 60.74 million. This trimmed the proportion of the employed to 92.5% from 92.9%. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the government can respond by encouraging more employment opportunities in places of refuge, where survivors of typhoon Haiyan and other disasters go to seek employment.

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  3. Crimea assembly declares independence from Ukraine

     Photo by AFP

    Pro-Moscow lawmakers in Crimea voted for independence from Ukraine on Tuesday, March 11, in a precursor to a referendum this weekend for the region to become part of Russia. The local assembly approved a declaration of independence for the autonomous republic of Crimea with 78 out of 81 lawmakers voting in favor. The move by the parliament, which has been declared illegal by the new government in Kiev, appeared to be aimed at creating a legal framework for joining Russia as a sovereign state. The latest escalation of Europe’s worst crisis in decades came moments after ousted pro-Kremlin leader Viktor Yanukovych defiantly vowed to return to Kiev from Russia and declared he was still the leader of the ex-Soviet country. On Tuesday, March 11, pro-Russian militants ordered a suspension of all flights in or out of Crimea’s main airport in Simferopol, except those connecting to Moscow. Militants have taken over air traffic control at the airport and a flight that took off from Kiev on Tuesday was forced to turn back after being refused permission to land.

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  4. ERC orders WESM to cut power prices

    File photo by Romeo Gacad/AFP

    Citing market failure, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Tuesday, March 11 ordered the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) operator to cut the generation charges it imposed on Luzon consumers in December and January. In a decision signed on March 3 but released to the public on March 11, the ERC ordered the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) to calculate and implement “regulated” WESM prices for the period October 26 to December 25, 2013, or when the Malampaya natural gas facility was shutdown for maintenance. The regulated prices are expected to be at least 70% lower than the original charges imposed by WESM. Revised bills will be sent out for settlement of distribution utilities in Luzon but Meralco’s billing would be retained until the Supreme Court lifts a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the matter.

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  5. Ex-President Arroyo not getting better

    AFP file photo

    Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s health condition has not improved while being held in detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC). In a medical updated dated March 5, VMMC doctors said Arroyo has poor appetite and lost weight due to the narrowing of her esophagus. The medical bulletin was signed by Dr Martha Nucum, medical team head and chief of VMMC’s medical professional staff, and was submitted by defense lawyer Modesto Ticman to the Sandiganbayan First Division on Monday, March 10. The bulletin added that Arroyo continues to complain of cervical radicular pain and low back pain, which are relieved temporarily with medication. Nucum said, however, there is no actual clinical improvement. Arroyo, serving her second term as Pampanga representative, is under hospital arrest for plunder charges over the alleged misuse of P366 million of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.

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  6. Albay farmer’s son is PMA valedictorian

    Photo by Dave Leprozo Jr/ Rappler

    22-year-old Cadet First Class (CFC) Jheorge Millena Llona, who used to walk great distances to his elementary school, will be handed the Presidential Saber as valedictorian of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Siklab Diwa” Class of 2014. Besides receiving the award from President Benigno Aquino III, Llona will also receive 6 other awards, including the Philippine Air Force Saber. The son of a farmer, Nelson, from the rural barangay of Maopi in Daraga, Albay, Llona is graduating at the top of his class. This year, 222 PMA cadets will receive their diplomas and be enlisted in the military’s officer corps. One cadet, CFC Aldrin Jeff Cudia, will not be joining his cohort after being separated from the Academy for violating the institution’s strict honor code.

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  7. Obama and Hangover star trade barbs on web show

    Screen grab of the episode from

    American President Barack Obama is trying a new strategy in his struggle to sell his stumbling health care law – self parody. Obama ventured onto the spoof online comedy show “Between Two Ferns” in which host and “Hangover” star Zach Galifianakis grills showbiz luminaries with embarrassing questions. “What’s it like to be the last black president,” Galifianakis asked Obama in the show, which debuted on the “Funny or Die” website on Tuesday. “What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president,” Obama hit back. Galifianakis, spoofing low budget television interview shows, also jabbed Obama over “ambassador” Dennis Rodman’s trips to North Korea and ribbed him over his “home country” of Kenya. For the president, the point of the exercise was to reach a youthful audience since the health care law depends on healthy, young Americans to sign up to subsidize care for the sick and elderly. The Obama administration is in full sales mode on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, ahead of a sign-up deadline on March 31.

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  8. What is the selfie capital of the world? Don’t look far!

    According to Time Magazine’s ranking of the ‘Selfiest Cities in the World,’ Makati and Pasig City together create more selfies, or self-shot portraits shared on social media, than any other area on the planet per capita. The Philippines’ financial capital and its bustling neighbor feature 258 selfie-takers for every 100,000 citizens. Coming in second is New York’s Manhattan borough, with 202 takers per 100,000 citizens. In order to make the distinction, Time analyzed 402,197 Instagram photos from Jan 28 to Feb 2, 2014. Makati and Pasig were merged into one due to Time’s ‘nearest neighbor’ algorithm, which collects photos from within a radius of five miles from the city’s center. With Makati as the main city, some photos also come from nearby Pasig, as it also falls within the covered area. Similarly, Manhattan’s coverage also includes a bit of neighboring New Jersey. This comes as no surprise, though, as the country is dubbed the social media capital of the world, with over 30 million users on Facebook alone.

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  9. US senator accuses CIA of illegal surveillance on Congress

    Photo from her official website

    A senior US senator on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of illegally searching computers of Senate staff members who were investigating a CIA interrogation program. Dianne Feinstein, the powerful chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, angrily denounced the actions of the CIA, accusing it of seeking to “intimidate” lawmakers from holding the spy agency accountable. “I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” Feinstein said in a dramatic speech on the Senate floor. She also said the CIA may have violated a criminal statute, as well as the executive order that bars theCIA from domestic spying. Shortly after Feinstein’s speech, CIA director John Brennan denied her allegations.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

  10. Ugandan activists challenge anti-gay law in court

    Ugandan gay rights activists and politicians filed a challenge in court Tuesday to a tough new anti-gay law that has sparked international outrage and drawn foreign aid cuts. “I believe it (the law) to be harmful, redundant, unnecessary, and inconsistent with the constitution,” said Fox Odoi, an MP and one of the nine petitioners who submitted their appeal at Uganda’s constitutional court. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last month signed a bill which holds that “repeat homosexuals” should be jailed for life, outlaws any promotion of homosexuality and requires people to report on homosexuals. The passing of the bill was largely a popular move in conservative Uganda, where Museveni – a devout Christian who has been in power for 28 years – looks set to be re-elected in 2016. But the petitioners argue the law violates the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, as well as the right to be free from discrimination, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

    Read the full story on Rappler.

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