Rappler Newscast | December 7, 2012

Typhoon Bopha -- twice the impact of Hurricane Sandy -- leaves almost 300,000 homeless in Mindanao as the death toll rises to at least 500. | Faced with massive destruction, President Aquino will declare a state of calamity. | A 7.3 magnitude earthquake strikes northeast Japan, triggering a small tsunami in Miyagi Prefecture.


Today on Rappler.

  • Typhoon Bopha — twice the impact of Hurricane Sandy — leaves almost 300,000 homeless in Mindanao as the death toll rises to at least 500.
  • Faced with massive destruction, President Aquino will declare a state of calamity.
  • A 7.3 magnitude earthquake strikes northeast Japan, triggering a small tsunami in Miyagi Prefecture.

Mindanao reels from a typhoon the New York Times says is twice the impact of Hurricane Sandy.
At least 10 bodies were pulled out under mud, logs and debris a few hundred metres away from a crowded basketball court, now a relief center.
President Benigno Aquino visits that center Friday.
Bopha leaves almost 300 thousand homeless in Mindanao as the death toll rises to at least 500.
500 more remain missing. Rescue workers are searching remote areas for survivors, struggling to clear roads.
2,000 survivors are in the basketball court in New Bataan, one of the few buildings left standing in the town, a gold rush and banana plantation area.
Survivors put up with the overpowering stench of decomposing corpses from the parking lot outside, focusing on surviving.
The concrete floor of the basketball court is streaked with mud.
Part of the gym’s roof was blown away by the cyclone, exposing the dazed survivors to both intermittent rain and the heat of the tropical sun.
Dry space along the few benches around the court is at a premium.
Families take turns sleeping on benches around the walls.
The 2,000 refugees share the building’s two toilets.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman says the government is appealing for immediate international aid for food, tents, water-purification systems and medicines.
Refugees eagerly crowd around the distribution area waiting to get their ration of rice, instant noodles and canned meat.

President Benigno Aquino says he will declare a state of calamity after seeing the massive destruction of Typhoon Bopha.
As the President speaks, a yellow excavator tears into the rubble of a row of flattened houses, allowing rescue workers to pull out the bodies of two more victims.
The declaration will release calamity funds for affected areas and the grant of no-interest loans to victims.
It also allows government to impose price control on basic commodities.
On Friday, Aquino goes to the two provinces hardest hit by the typhoon: Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.
In his visit to New Bataan in Compostela Valley, Aquino says, “We want to find out why this tragedy happened and how to keep these tragedies from happening again.”
He says the government will find the cause of the devastation in the province. Illegal logging and mining are seen as reasons for the large-scale tragedy.
Aquino adds, “I am not satisfied. We need to ensure there are no casualties every time there is a disaster. This is not a time for talk. It is a time for work.”
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas says the government wants to know why so many people are killed despite advance warnings given ahead of the typhoon.
He adds, houses should not have been built on the landslide prone area.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council says the cost of damage to agriculture and infrastructure by typhoon “Pablo” tops P4 billion.
Agriculture suffers the biggest losses, with nearly P3.4 billion in damaged crops, livestocks and fisheries.
Roads, bridges, and other infrastructure worth P630 million need repair.
The NDRRMC says Compostela Valley — where 150,000 people depend on the banana industry — lost almost P3.5 billion in crops.
Earlier, the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association says the storm would cost the industry P8 billion.

A woman now leads the peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, University of the Philippines political science professor, is the new chair of the government peace panel, replacing now Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announces the appointment Friday and says it’s –quote “Well-deserved given her competence and credentials as a peace negotiatior.”
Ferrer was adviser of the government peace panel’s technical working group on the issue of normalization.
The next round of talks for the 3 annexes that will complete the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will resume this month.

Rappler’s editor at large Marites Vitug talks about the gray zone in media ethics when it comes to journalists being paid speakers’ fees.
Here’s her video blog.

In my most recent blog, I wrote about the gray zone in media ethics — situations that are tricky to navigate, like accepting free trips from news sources.
Thanks to Media Nation, we’ve started a momentum in discussing this sensitive issue.
So here’s one more gray area.
Many times, journalists are invited by corporations, NGOs, government and international agencies to speak at their conferences. Some of them pay speaker’s fees, from a high of P25,000 to a low of P5,000.
Others merely give gifts.
For their part, TV anchors are asked to emcee corporate events. The fees here are apparently much more generous.
Some say this seems to be a fair exchange. We get paid for a certain service and, most of the time, the speakers’ fees are minimal.
Questions creep in when the sponsor happens to be part of the journalist’s beat and when it pays a huge amount.
In the US, some scoff at this practice, especially because celebrity journalists are paid mammoth speakers’ fees, say, $35,000 for an hour or so. Big corporations pick up the tab.
As the American Journalism Review wrote, do we simply “take the money and talk?”
The rule here is to disclose this to one’s editors. It’s up to the news organization to come up with standards that will not hurt its credibility and that of its staff members.

Overfishing is depleting tuna supplies in the Pacific, and environmental groups want a total ban.
The Philippines is lobbying an international commission to allow its fishermen continued access to special areas in international waters so tuna here can recover.

Katherine Visconti reports on the decision that spells death or survival for the local fishing industry.
This is General Santos – nicknamed the tuna capital of the Philippines.
Times are tough for fishermen here.
Overfishing made tuna scarce in Philippine waters.

JOHN HEITZ, TUNA TRADER: Even the smaller boats have to go into Indonesian waters to catch enough fish to make it profitable now. Philippine waters are very difficult now. Too much fishing pressure. Too many people trying to catch a limited amount of tuna.

Restaurants require huge tuna like this for sushi, but fishermen say the ones they bring in are getting smaller and smaller.
Local tuna canneries are still bustling but no longer run around the clock like they once did.
There is a tug of war between environmental groups who want a total ban on tuna fishing to replenish stocks and fishermen who say that would spell the death of an industry already struggling.

CARLY THOMAS, GREENPEACE REGIONAL TEAM LEADER: We are starting to see warning signs for bigeye and yellow tuna, and other species in the region, skipjack and albacore, are also going into decline. So we really need to fix things now in order to make sure the Pacific doesn’t go the way of tuna stocks in other oceans.

Overfishing is a local and global issue since tuna migrate from one territory to another.
Tuna is a global food product.
45% of the tuna processed in this Philippine factory will be sent abroad to countries like Japan and the United States.
The Philippines ranks 7th among the top 10 tuna producing countries worldwide.
Environmentalists say it’s crucial that top fishing countries cooperate if they hope to reverse the tide of overfishing.
A group of over 30 fishing countries and territories known as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission met in Manila for 5
days to find solutions for 2013.
The Philippines won another year-long exemption from a tuna fishing ban in the Pacific Ocean.

BENJAMIN TABIOS JR., ASST. DIR. BUREAU OF FISHERIES & AQUATIC RESOURCES: For the Philippines we have been victorious.

The Philippines is given special access to high seas Pocket 1 – an area bounded by Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and Indonesia.
But while access was exclusive to the Philippines before, now other countries aren’t banned from coming in.
Tobias explains that the status quo has been maintained for the country’s annual yearly catch.

MARFENIO TAN, EX-PRESIDENT, SOUTH COTABATO ASSOC. OF FISHING FEDERATION: I think that everybody is contented with the result that we have to maintain to fish in the area. That will also add to the production of the Philippines.

Greenpeace calls the results of the meeting a disaster.
But the Philippine delegate argues fishing in the high seas would prevent local fishermen from depleting nearby spawning grounds.
The problem of overfishing still remains, but for now the Philippine tuna industry is rejoicing it will remain afloat for another year.
Katherine Visconti, Rappler Manila.

The Department of Foreign Affairs postpones four-way talks between neighboring Southeast Asian nations on rival claims over the South China Sea.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez says the meeting, originally scheduled for December 12 in Manila, has been moved to a later date.
According to DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario, talks between the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, will focus on adopting a common position regarding their respective territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Invitations were not extended to Taiwan and China, because of China’s preference for bilateral talks with claimant countries.

Small tsunami waves hit Miyagi prefecture after a 7.3 magnitude undersea earthquake strikes Japan.
One-meter-high tsunami waves hit northeast Japan forcing thousands to flee their homes.
Authorities urge residents along the shoreline go to higher ground after initial tremors.
The quake also shakes buildings in Tokyo – as you can see in this video of a mall in Japan’s capital.
Japan’s meteorological agency lifts the tsunami alert around 6 in the evening, Philippine time.
The Miyagi prefecture is one of the areas badly hit by the March 2011 tsunami that killed thousands.

Social stigma discourages people at risk of HIV infection from getting tested.
But taking the test is important and a routine process in many parts of the world.
Devon Wong takes us through the steps in Manila.

So you’ve decided to get tested for HIV but you have no idea what to do. I’m here at the RITM satellite clinic in Malate to take you through the steps.
First, choose a clinic that fits your needs.
The process is quick and confidential, and Philippine law says you don’t even have to give your real name.
The price for the test varies by location.
Many city clinics offer free HIV testing for men having sex with men.
Straight men and women may pay a nominal amount for the tests.
Clinics are even open 7 days a week.
Once you arrive, you’ll fill out forms with your personal information and a questionnaire on your knowledge of HIV.  
A counsellor will conduct a short interview to ask about your lifestyle and sexual history in a confidential and safe space.
This gives the counsellor an opportunity to educate you on things you may not know about your sexual health.
Be honest. Counsellors do this kind of work every day and it’s only to gauge your risk for the disease.
Next, the technician will take a small sample of your blood to determine whether you carry the virus.  
In Manila, the Rapid and Particle Agglutination tests are the most commonly used in clinics.  
Technicians want to find out if your body is producing antibodies that would be present if you were fighting HIV.
These antibodies can take up to six months to develop, so if you test negative, you may be advised to come back in for retesting.  
If positive, the clinic will forward the results to a hospital for further testing.
Whether you test positive or negative for HIV, your counsellor will provide you with more information to make sure you understand your results.
Your sexual health is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.
For more information on free HIV counselling and antibody testing, call Take the Test at  0917-58-HIV-RT.
Devon Wong, Rapper, Manila.

At number 3, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi calls for a dialogue with his opponents this weekend, but he’s not backing off from an earlier order granting himself sweeping powers.
As Morsi delivered his televised address to the nation on December 6, protesters gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir Square chanting, “leave! leave!”
He warned those “formenting violence” that they will not escape punishment.
Overnight clashes kills 5 people and injures 644 others.
The government has detained at least 80 protesters.

At number 4, Filipino terror suspect Ralph Kenneth De Leon pleads not guilty before a federal court in California of “conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.”
On December 6, the 23-year-old De Leon was brought to the court in shackles.
His relatives were also present inside the court.
De Leon, a U.S. permanent resident, was arrested in November when he was supposedly on his way to Afghanistan reportedly to join the Taliban and the Al Qaeda.

At number 6, Former NASA executives launch a private venture to send two people to the moon for a cost of 1.4 billion dollars.
Golden Spike Company, run by former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern, says it hopes to make its first launch by the end of the decade.
Other countries such as South Africa, South Korea and Japan can now join the voyage.
Stern says they are going to “make a commodity of it in the 2020s.”

And at number 8, The polar opposites will slug it out once again on Sunday, Manila time.
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have fought 3 other times before, each time ending with similar results: a controversial decision that could have gone either way.
Neither fighter got the consensus win over the other — even if officially, Pacquiao has taken all 3 wins over Juan Manuel Marquez.
Who is the better fighter? Pacquiao’s counterpunching ability is built-in to his amazing reflexes. Will he make maximum use of this on Sunday?

The Philippines will face off with Singapore for the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
It is the first time a semi-final Suzuki Cup match will be held in the Philippines.
Azkals team manager Dan Palami says the Philippine national team will take a similar approach as they did in the group stages.

DAN PALAMI, AZKALS TEAM MANAGER: At this point in time we’ve studied all the games of Singapore and I’m sure they’ve done the same with us but I think the approach that we’ll be using will be the same as the group stages except for a few changes to keep them surprised.

– Rappler.com

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