Wednesday, 27 March 2013

FEATURE: Summer fun in the country’s best beaches

Boracay, The Beach … You can’t argue with success—the white-  sand beach on Boracay Island is still the best in the country, among the top in the world, according to several foreign publications and international travel blogs.


SUMMER is officially on!

And with that announce-ment from our friends over at Pag-asa, there will surely be massive beelines to the country’s beaches, for some fun in the sun.

I’ve always loved going to the beach since I was a child. I prefer it over the usual summer destinations like the cool climes of Baguio or Tagaytay.

Just walking along the shore, with the sand scrunching in between my toes, or splashing in shimmering, turquoise waters that not only relaxes the body but also renews the spirit.

This list is by no means complete, considering the many unnamed islands and coves that are still being kept a secret from us by locals in those areas.

The other beaches are just quite far, and in challenging locations. (Like I’d really want to recommend a gorgeous white beach in Basilan, but well, I might get you into trouble with your mother. But okay, just don’t tell her…it’s on Malamawi Island! Shhh.)

So consider this list as a mixed bag of the popular and the lesser-known beaches that are still accessible (as long as you have the patience), and are sure to provide massive enjoyment to you and your family and friends.

1. White Beach, Boracay Island
Of course the title of top beach in the country still goes to Boracay Island’s White  Beach.

It has fine, white-powdery sand the consistency of confectioner’s sugar, and while the waters close to the shore are now usually bedeviled by seaweed, further out it is all clear where it’s still possible to see tiny fishies darting about underwater.

This time of year, the island will be pretty crowded, and with the bars cranking up the volume to entertain the drinking and dancing masses of humanity, it’s no wonder Boracay has come to be known as “party central” among beach-goers.

Aside from white beach, the island has some of the best homegrown restaurants and cafés offering all sorts of cuisine from around the world. Resorts range from the one-note cottage fanned by the breezes or a ceiling fan, to luxurious five-star enclaves with infinity pools, spas and professionally-run restaurants.

Getting there: All major carriers fly to Kalibo, the capital of Aklan, or to Caticlan, the main gateway to Boracay.

From the Caticlan jetty port, take a 15-minute pump boat ride to the Cagban jetty port where vans and tricycles can take you to your resort of choice. (If you have reservations with a resort, they usually provide pick-ups and transfers either from Kalibo or Caticlan, and back.)

2. Botolan, Zambales
The sand is a fine gray, which can really get hot as the sun creeps toward noon. But toward the afternoon, it cools down and makes for a great beach-volleyball court.

The waters are also quite clear but at certain times of the year, the waves can get pretty rough with a strong undertow. There are a number of resorts to choose from but the better part of the beach is at Barangay Binoclutan.

Aside from the beach, there is a turtle hatchery operated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and waterfalls nearby.

Also, you can have a picnic at a white beach in Potipot Island, which you can reach from Candelaria. There are no accommodations there; just basic amenities like a toilet and shower, and stations for grilling.

The waters are clean and calm, which turns from a subtle mint green to a striking blue further from the shore. (There’s an entrance fee of P100 for the island’s maintenance.)

Getting there: Drive north along the North Luzon Expressway, enter the SCTEx and make your way through the Subic Bay free port, exiting at the Zambales National Highway.

There are road signs pointing to Botolan and resorts in the area. Going to Candelaria, take the Zambales-Pangasinan Road from Botolan—it’s just 45 minutes away.

3. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Pagudpud is the northernmost municipality of Ilocos Norte, and straddles two beaches—Blue Lagoon, which was once a secluded area at Maira-ira Point—and Saud Beach, the more public beach.

While Saud Beach is the more popular area because there are more resorts and restaurants, there are portions where the rocks underwater are quite huge and can hurt your feet. The sand is an off-white variety with crunches under your feet, but is a joy to lie on and sunbathe away.

At Blue Lagoon, the waters are crystal-clear with more sandy areas, although good resorts are hard to come by. An added attraction is a zipline.

While Pagudpud is often called “Boracay of the North”, just scale down your expectations regarding its resorts and restaurants. Think Station 3 and you’ll be just fine.

Getting there: You can travel the 11 hours by land from Metro Manila to Pagudpud (via North Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway going to Tarlac and Pangasinan, keeping to the MacArthur Highway until La Union, and on to the National Highway and through Manila North Road, turning to the Pan-Philippine Highway to Pagudpud),  but it would be better to stop over in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, to rest for a night.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific also fly from Manila to Laoag (one-hour flight). From there, you can rent a van or take a 90-minute bus ride to Pagudpud, then take a tricycle to your resort.

4. Bamboo beach, Nasugbu, Batangas
This is simply the best beach in Nasugbu, and one of the most accessible from Metro Manila. The sand is a creamy tan, and the waters have remained stunningly clear through the years.

Being a cove, it is free from the runoff and garbage from Manila Bay that usually plagues many Batangas beaches, for the most part of the year anyway. During the monsoon season, the surfers and skim boarders come and ride the waves.

The beach used to be accessible only via fishers’ bancas from the Munting Buhangin beach (which sadly is no longer as clean as it was in the 1980s from what I hear), and visitors could swim at Bamboo Beach for a day then leave before dusk set in. (There were no accommodations save for a few with privately owned cottages.)

The beach is now part of an exclusive private development called Kawayan Cove, so it’s best to find someone who owns a home there. Okay, I know that part was probably a hiccup, but I trust in the six-degrees-of-separation theory; I’m sure you will find a friend who has a boss with a relative who owns a villa there.

Getting there: Drive down the Slex, take the Santa Rosa Exit, head toward Tagaytay and keep going until you reach the Nasugbu town proper. There are signs that will point you to Kawayan Cove.

5. Mahabang Buhangin Beach, Calaguas, CamNorte
It is one of the spectacular white beaches that remains under the radar of the typical urbanite beach- goer. It may be a major production to reach this place, but once you arrive in Mahabang Buhangin, you will likely forget how long you sat on the bus for the trip.

As the name implies, this is a stretch of pristine white sand that seems to go on forever, with a splendid shimmering sea of blue water that remains transparent even in chest-deep water.

There are no resorts on the island, so it’s best to take basic camping equipment such as tents, food and water, flashlights and extra batteries or an oil lamp (yes, there’s no electricity!), and cooking/eating utensils. There are a few tiny nipa huts as well for rent and a public toilet.

Mahabang Buhangin is a beach for those who want privacy, quiet and just endless hours of serene relaxation. This is as rustic as you can get and just think, this was exactly how Boracay was before commercialization set in. (Entrance fee is P75.)

Getting there: If you want to go on a road trip, you can drive from Manila to Daet (via Slex, take the Calamba Exit and onward to San Pablo City, Laguna, taking the Pan-Philippine Highway through Gumaca, Quezon, then to Daet), which takes about six to seven hours. From there, go to Paracale for another two hours then a tricyle ride to Barangay Palanas, where you can ask local fisherfolk for a boat ride to Mahabang Buhangin (about P2,500 to P3,000 for three to eight persons).

Or take a public bus from Pasay or Cubao to Daet, CamNorte, then hop on a public van to Paracale (about 10 to 11 hours total).

You can also take a direct flight from Manila to Naga City, CamSur (45 minutes via PAL or Cebu Pacific), then from the Central Business District Terminal, ride an air-conditioned bus for two hours to Daet. – Business Mirror

Launch of Bicol Express commuter train derailed

Bicol Express … derailed again … by squatter shanties along the track.


LEGAZPI CITY: The launch of the full run of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) commuter train has been derailed because of the resistance of informal settlers to vacate the railroad’s “danger zone” as agreed upon.

The “danger zone” is 3m from both sides of the railroad tracks.

The run was scheduled before the end of this month.

The targeted informal settlers apparently changed their mind to vacate the PNR’s so-called danger zone on time, hoping they would get extra compensation from the PNR. 

To prove their defiance of their eventual eviction, some of the settlers built concrete houses.

“We will not pay even a single cent. Force demolition would be resorted to, to give these squatters a lesson,” said a source from the PNR who added that the local government units (LGUs) and barangays are equally to blame for the proliferation of the informal settlers inside PNR property.

At least some 500 identified informal settlers who breached the three-meter danger-zone delineation stretching the 102km long Legazpi City (Albay) and Naga City (CamSur) route have been earlier asked to voluntarily demolish their homes to allow the two-coach commuter train to make its initial full run.

The twice-daily train trips have been set at only P82 against the P180 in buses and vans.
The commuter-train ride will take only two-and-a-half hours plying the Naga—Legazpi route while buses normally take three hours.

There are 50,000 estimated informal settlers occupying railroad tracks from Legazpi to Calamba, Laguna. The first batch of 500 families in the danger zone affecting the Legazpi-Naga route were already asked to vacate, said PNR General Manager Junio “Jun” Ragragio.

He said as the first regular commuter trip was nearing the schedule, only a few of the squatters had vacated their place.

PNR officials had warned that the launch of the train would not push through unless the danger zone was fully cleared from any obstruction.

The PNR is now considering the forced demolition as the only option against the 500 informal settlers.

Local PNR official Constancio Toledano said the railroad will send an official notice to the families involved to leave within three months.

Toledano said that due to the refusal of the informal settlers to leave, the start of the operation of the local train service may take time.

He said the PNR would not pay them even if they voluntary vacate.

The Bicol Express commuter train had its test run starting late February and served as a warning for the affected settlers to vacate their place for the scheduled first regular run before the end of March.

During the test run, the PNR commuter train took almost six hours to penetrate the 102km Legazpi-Naga route because of the many obstructions affecting the danger zone.

The PNR test run was bombarded with protests from railroad residents in Legazpi and nearby Daraga town who complained the train was more a danger than a necessity, citing past accidents.

The PNR Bicol Express operation had been suspended for six years after Typhoon Reming devastated the area in November 2006.

It resumed last October, only to be suspended again after a week following damage to the railroad tracks and bridges in Quezon province due to another typhoon. – Business Mirror

Actor Aga needs to turn popularity into votes


SAN JOSE, CamSur: A popular movie star has no problem drawing crowd in thousands but to transform popularity into votes to win in an election is another matter.

Movie star Aga Muhlach, running for a seat in Congress in CamSur’s fourth district against a political scion, is an example of a movie star who never fails to draw crowd in thousands wherever his sortie is, but to transform the drawing power into votes is a challenge, according to Arnulfo Picaso, a staff of Goa town mayor allied with Muhlach.

Picaso said that people are drawn to political rallies of Muhlach because he is a movie star like his wife Charlene Gonzales and that they are accompanied by people in the showbiz.

“They are fans. If you ask them whom they will vote they will surely choose Aga while there. But it will be a different story when they go home and during the actual casting of ballots.”

Jun Rivero, an employee of a power coop and voter of this town, also wondered how the popularity of Muhlach can be translated into votes because he felt sure people were curious to see movie stars on the stage but to vote for a movie star he is not sure he said.

Rivero  said the Fuentebellas, whom Muhlach challenges in the electoral race, must never be underestimated given the long years of experience in political power play.

With the intention of continuing the political dynasty of the Fuentebellas, Deputy Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella fields his son Felix William Fuentebella under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) against Muhlach, a Liberal Party (LP) bet.

The younger Fuentebella took over in 2001 the congressional seat of his father to make an interval for the elder Fuentebella’s second three terms in Congress, from 2004 to 2010.

Arnulfo’s wife Evelyn, the incumbent mayor of Sagñay town, is a reelectionist and another son, Arnie, incumbent mayor of Tigaon town, runs for the third term.

Lagonoy Mayor Delfin Pilapil revealed there were only three incumbent mayors allied to Muhlach in the 10-town Fourth District.

Short of acknowledging shortage in resources he said they are finding ways of also delivering food packs during sorties.

“I support Aga all the way, all the time. Aga is doing good because I see people are for a change. But you know, even if a candidate is popular or super popular, if one lacks logistics it will be a downfall,” Pilapil surmised.

He said Muhlach needs support in terms of logistics.

Picaso said Muhlach spouses the slogan “Bagong Mukha, Bagong Partido (New Face, New Partido)” in vague terms, which must be spelled out in concrete terms.

He said it is not enough that Partido has a new face but what will be his concrete plan for the district.

“Our district has 10 municipalities. In six of them, according to data from the National  Statistical Coordination Board  (NSCB), poverty incidence is 50% or higher.

“In fact, one of the towns, Garchitorena, is top ten poorest in the entire region. Kitang kita naman ang kahirapan na pinagdadaanan ng tao doon. Sa tingin ko, there needs to be systemic change in the district, and more lasting solutions,” Muhlach explained.

“The main pillars of my platform are good governance, job creation and improving the road network. These are all linked.

“We need to create opportunities in the district, which is so rich in natural resources. So ngayon pa lang, we’re preparing an economic development plan for the district. We’re looking for new markets for products.

“And we’re hoping that responsible sustainable tourism will be a major source of investment – andon kasi sa 4th district ang Caramoan, and there are other equally beautiful islands that the district has to share.”

“With investment come job opportunities. At yun talaga ang kailangan naming – hanapbuhay. Pero at the same time, we need to make sure that there is enough infrastructure to support the investment (roads), and na hindi lang napupunta sa iilan ang pera na dapat sa tao (anti-corruption).”

Muhlach says: “Ang gusto lang, at parati kong sinasabi, kung ano ang dapat sa tao, mapunta  sa kanila na walang bawas. Para sa kanila lahat ito. Sa kanila rin ako nagpapasalamat, kasi sa lahat ng dinadaanan namin, andyan sila, sumusuporta, sumasabay sa amin.”

The Fourth District or Partido area has the third largest number of voters in CamSur with 227, 106.

There are 10 towns that include Caramoan, Garchitorena, Goa, Lagonoy, Presentacion, Sagñay, San Jose, Siruma, Tigaon, and Tinambac.

The three towns whose incumbent mayors are allied to Muhlach are Goa, Lagonoy and Siruma with 71,653 combined voters. – Bicol Mail


Anti-gambling drive nets 67 in CamSur


LEGAZPI CITY: The police’s anti-illegal gambling crack team have arrested 67 suspected jueteng bet collectors including its operators and confiscated some P39,000 in collection money  in two separate  raids conducted in the towns of Pamplona and Bula all in CamSur, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said.

The crackdown is part of the heightened campaign by the PNP against illegalgambling, particularly jueteng, proliferating in the six provinces of Bicol, according to Police Supt Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson.

The raid came days before President Aquino’s scheduled visit in Bicol starting last week.

Combined personnel from the Regional Public Safety Battalion, provincial, municipal, and police units swooped down at dawn on a suspected jueteng den at Zone 4, in Barangay San Gabriel, Pamplona, CamSur.

Bataller said the raid arrested at least 46 jueteng collectors who at the time of the raid were counting some P24,402 in bet collections.

Recovered from the raid were jueteng paraphernalia, two sets of desk top computers and a broadband unit.

The suspects were detained at the town jail while the seized jueteng money and paraphernalia were turned over to the police custodian as evidence.

The same police operatives raided another jueteng den in Barangay Sto. Domingo, Bula, CamSur.

The raid resulted to the arrest of 21 persons and the confiscation of P15,043 in jueteng bet collection.

The suspects have been booked for illegal gambling under Presidential Decree 1602. – Bicol Mail


CamSur mulls liquid waste treatment facility

WASTE disposal has evolved into a major headache of most modern communities, exacerbated further by rapid urbanization and industrialization and compounded by a booming population.

Some areas of CamSur are currently in such a situation with the problem of waste disposal anticipated to progressively worsen in the very near future, constraining the provincial government to launch a solid waste management program that is now being expanded down the municipalities and barangays.

The on-going program launched under a Public-Private Agreement, however, is only focused on solid waste management, leaving unaddressed the equally serious and in some cases even more perilous, problem of liquid waste disposal.

To round off the program, the provincial government through the initiative of Gov Lray Villafuerte has embarked on a collateral program to establish a pilot liquid waste treatment facility in the province.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been forged Thursday evening, March 14 at the CWC Clubhouse between CamSur represented by Gov. Lray Villafuerte and Cebu-based Pollution Abatement System Specialist represented by Engr Joselito Pugoy to conduct without cost to the province a feasibility study and submit a formal proposal covering the financial aspect and environmental impact and construction of a septic and hospital waste treatment waste facility in CamSur

If found viable, implementation of the program will commence as soon as possible at a yet undetermined location in CamSur.

Gov Villafuerte is particularly keen on establishing an effective liquid waste management system in CamSur to avoid the fate of Boracay where contamination of the surrounding waters is jeopardizing the island’s tourism industry. – Bicol Mail


Donation to candidates during election exempted from taxes

NAGA CITY: The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) here clarified Wednesday the donations given to candidates are exempted from taxes.
Socorro Lafuente, revenue district officer (RDO) of Naga City, said she failed to mention this exemption in an earlier interview and wanted to add this exemption to complete the information regarding BIR’s monitoring of candidates donations.
“Donation per se is an exemption to the general rule of donation. However, if they use the donation, the money donated becomes subject to 5% withholding tax,” Lafuente said.
The BIR requires the candidates in the 2013 elections to record their donations and expenses in book accounts to monitor taxable items they receive and spend.
Lafuente said the BIR is requiring all candidates to register their names and books of accounts and their tax identification number (TIN) for the BIR monitoring of collectible items.
The campaign to require all candidates and party-list groups to maintain records of donations and expenditures kicks-off nationwide Friday last week with the conduct of orientation meeting with them or their representatives.
Lafuente said the monitoring of donations and expenses of candidates is being implemented by the BIR based on Memorandum Circular No 15-2013 following issuance of Commission on Elections (Comelec) of rules and regulations governing finance and disclosure in connection with the May 2013 elections.
She said it shall be the duty of every candidate, treasurer of the party, and person acting under authority of that candidate or treasurer to issue receipt for every contribution received and to obtain and keep receipts stating the particulars of every expenditure  made.
Lafuente said the candidates and party-list groups are expected to keep detailed, full, and accurate records of all contributions received and expenditures they have incurred.
She added that they are also required to issue official receipts at least in duplicate registered with the revenue district office and preserve for three years the records of contributions and expenditures for future references.
Lafuente disclosed that the donations are taxed accordingly depending on the amount with P50,000 and less exempted from taxes while a minimum of 1.5% will be collected for donations from P50,000-P100,000.
She said the bigger the donation the bigger the taxes with more than P5 million donation with minimum tax of P358,750 plus 20% in excess over P5 million
Lafuente said the books of account pertaining to donations and expenditures are automatically ended 30 days from the date of elections. – Bicol Mail

Teenage pregnancy cases in Albay drop


LEGAZPI CITY: By keeping the teenager busy in school, teenage pregnancies in Albay significantly dropped way below the national average, according to Albay Gov Joey Salceda.

Salceda, quoting a 2012 study on teenage pregnancy by the provincial government, the Department of Health, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that teenage pregnancies in Albay dropped by 8%, reducing it to only 1,571 cases.

Salceda claims that Albay has one of the lowest teenage pregnancies at only 24 births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 19 versus a national rate of 53 births.

In 2010, the Albay Provincial Population Office recorded 1,667 teen age pregnancies, 42 of which were aged 10-14 years and 1,625 cases for those aged 15-19 years.

In 2011, there 1,700 teenage pregnancies, with one within the 10-14 years age level, while 1,699 were between the ages 15-19 years.

Teenage pregnancies in the Philippines have risen by 70% over the past decade from 114,205 in 1999 to 195,662 in 2009.

The teenage pregnancy rate in the Philippines is the highest among Asean’s six major economies at 53 births per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 19, the UNFPA 2011 annual report says.

Salceda claims that the possible reason for the low teenage pregnancy in Albay was due to the aggressive college tuition financing that kept them in school.

The provincial government had sponsored a scholarship program for 34,000 tertiary students in 2012, a big leap from only 14,600 scholars in 2010.

“Keep the kids busy, keep them in school. In the long run, higher educational attainment should lead to higher career ambitions; therefore, greater deferral of [early] marriages and, thus, pregnancies,” Salceda said.

The UNFPA study said the rising incidence of teenage pregnancies in the country is in a disturbing level.

The report said the rising number of teenage pregnancies in the country is among the areas of concerns that the UNFPA is giving serious attention to as this situation would expose adolescent girls (10 to 19 years old) to high risk.

The study recommended that a strong advocacy campaign is needed to give information on and advise young women about the dangers posed by early pregnancies to youngsters, including sex education and other reproductive health subjects.

The UNFPA report said this teen pregnancy concern, if not given focus, would derail and affect the target implementation of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) by 2015. – Bicol Mail


MWBuzzOddStuff: Breaking news: Marry me!

TRUE LOVE: Jillian Pavlica with her fiance, Vince Ramos. – Twitter

AN AMERICAN newsreader broke the news of her own engagement live on air when her boyfriend hijacked the autocue during a weekend news bulletin.

Jillian Pavlica, an anchor for Alabama news station FOX54, was told by her producer that there was a breaking news story and she needed to read what was written on the screen in front of her.

But mid-way through the "breaking news" item, Pavlica twigged that she was reading her own wedding proposal live on air.

She started by saying directly to the camera: "We have some breaking news to report to you. FOX54 has just learned that a Huntsville news anchor is being proposed to on live TV right now ..."

She started laughing, then weeping, as her fiance Vince Ramos walked on set and her colleagues left them to their moment.

But it was far from private, with the cameras still rolling and their engagement becoming the regular "good news" story at the end of the show.

Stunned: The news anchor was left stunned after realising that she had read out the first part of the proposal on live television. – Fox54

Ramos told his bride-to-be that he'd been waiting for the right time to propose.

"Finally, all of our pieces are falling together and I can't picture a day in my life not waking up with you by my side," he said, before getting down on one knee.
Jillian Pavlica, will you marry me?"

She said yes, thankfully.

FOX54 reported that Pavlica's producer, Dana Conley, told her that she had written a breaking news script and put it in the teleprompter. She instructed Pavlica simply to read what was in front of her.

Later, Pavlica tweeted: "Did I just really get proposed to live on air??? Umm.. why yes.. I think I did?!?!?! Holy cow!

"I can't breathe. Ahhhhhhh"

"Still can't believe I'm engaged. We've been together 6 years and I'm just thrilled. Thank you all :)."  - Sydney Morning Herald

Popping the question: Vince proposed to the news anchor telling her that 'all our pieces are falling together' – Fox54

MWBuzzOddStuff: Why did the elephant seal cross the road?

Sea mammal goes walkabout in Brazil

A MASSIVE  elephant  seal held up traffic for more than an hour after going on a walkabout in Brazil.
But at least the sea animal politely used the pedestrian crossing when it waddled out of the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday afternoon

The surprising sight attracted a large crowd in the coastal city of Balneario Camboriu in the southern state of Santa Catarina.

In an effort to keep it hydrated police officers and firefighters splashed water on the 10ft beast as traffic ground to a halt along busy Avenida Atlantica. 

t initially moved quickly across the road before slumping down in front of a waiting car.

The confused animal, estimated to weigh over half a tonne, finally sloped off back to the water after nearly 90 minutes in the sun.

It is unknown why this giant beast decided to leave the ocean - elephant seals spend most of their lives at sea and only return to land to mate.

There are two types of elephant seal, southern elephant seal and the smaller northern version.
It is named after the males' snout which resembles the trunk of an elephant.

The males can grow to be 16ft long and weigh over 6,000lbs
Their harems can contain several dozen females, which are somewhat lighter on their feet being a fifth of the males’ size - they are normally about 10ft long and weighing in at around 2,000lbs

They can hold their breath longer than any other cetacean animal – they can stay under water without air for up to two hours.

They were almost hunted to extinction in the 19th and 20th centuries but since then the population is estimated to have recovered to about 700,000 members. - MailOnline

MWBuzzOddStuff: Groundhog off the hook

Phil knows … Groundhog handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil aloft after he indicated when spring would come. - REUTERS

PHIL IS off the hook. A winter-weary Ohio prosecutor who filed a tongue-in-cheek criminal indictment against the famous Pennsylvania groundhog over his "prediction" of an early spring has dropped the charge.
Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said Punxsutawney Phil has a "defence with teeth in it" since the animal's handler is taking the blame.
The Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, about 100km northeast of Pittsburgh, attracts worldwide attention each year.
But when Gmoser filed his indictment last week after snow was forecast to fall after the official start of spring, renewed attention made it feel like February 2 all over again.
Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, said on Monday the furry prognosticator had actually predicted six more weeks of winter, but he mistakenly announced an early spring because he failed to correctly interpret Phil's "groundhog-ese".
"Now it turns out, Punxsutawney Phil is little more than a scapegoat," Gmoser wrote in the dismissal.
That's a sharp contrast to last week, when Gmoser had written: "Punxsutawney Phil did purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the people to believe that spring would come early."
Deeley said Tuesday that going after the groundhog probably gave prosecutors some relief from the challenges they normally face bringing murderers, drug dealers and other criminals to justice.
Meanwhile, Phil seemed unfazed by the charge.
"No, he's not worried," Deeley said.
"He's getting three square meals a day, and a lot of rest."
He also said the community appreciated all the extra publicity, which he said "you couldn't put a dollar figure on". Gmoser's office said he had also received hundreds of calls.
Deeley wanted to be sure Tuesday he wouldn't be the prosecutor's next target, but Gmoser said it was time to move on.
"Truly, I have really serious work to do in Butler County," he said from his office in Hamilton, some 25 miles north of Cincinnati, even as snowflakes dropped from the skies.
"Let's end it on a high note."
He assured Ohio's lesser-known fuzzy forecaster, Buckeye Chuck, he won't face prosecution for his own erroneous prediction. Chuck, it turned out, was granted immunity after agreeing to cooperate with the state.
"I'm kind of done with animal cases," Gmoser said.
"Maybe another prosecutor can go after the Easter Bunny.’’  - AP

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Can’t sleep … These two fishermen in Parang came back from Mambulao Bay about three hours ago after a long night of chasing fish in April 2012. But instead of hitting the sleeping mat (banig) for a much-needed rest, they remained up, tending to their fishing gear, which they will haul off back to the sea the following night. Meanwhile, their wives had taken off with their husbands’ catch – a total of 15kg or so – which they had shared equally, to peddle around the neighborhood of Parang. Fish is in demand despite their price going a bit higher these days, and it will sell in no time at all. This means it won’t be long when the fishwives would be home with lunch and dinner foodstuff they would buy from the wet market in poblacion. Over the years, their daily catch has decreased in volume, thus affecting their income. But their families still get by somehow and survive for another day.

Still a good business … This fisherman’s wife, whose family lives by the beach of Parang, is sorting out charcoal just delivered by a farmer from Tumbaga, a sitio in San Rafael, Mambulao, in April 2012. Charcoal has remained in demand as it is more affordable than kerosene and this has been another source of meager income for her, apart from the cash she makes from selling fish caught by her husband. A non-governmental organization (NGO) currently involved in a reforestation project in Larap learned from the local folks that charcoal-making has been the main cause of the destruction of the community mangrove forests. They said, there’s no other source of income for the local people except to chop down mangrove trees for firewood, which they sell at the community market for P250 a sack. Normally, to fill a sack, it would require chunks of charcoal from at least six young trees with trunks measuring at least 4 inches in diameter. – MWBuzzpics by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ

LATEST: DOTC delays construction of P3.4-B airport

LEGAZPI CITY: The Aquino administration target to finish construction of the P3.4-billion Bicol International Airport before 2015 suffers from a snail-paced implementation being carried out by the Department of Transportation and Communication.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said construction of the international airport was delayed by three years.

“Construction of Bicol International Airport is three years delayed and we could not afford to wait any longer for the DOTC green light. The delays will badly affect rapid economic and tourism growth,” Salceda told The Manila Times.

Earlier, two other Bicolano lawmakers led by Albay Rep Al Francis Bichara, chair of the House committee on foreign affairs and CamSur Rep Salvio B Fortuno, chair of the committee on Bicol recovery and economic development sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya expressing their concern over the delay in awarding the contract for airside facilities which are apart from the terminal facilities that would be bid out separately and its impact on the P900-million project fund allocated two years ago.

The Bicol solons asked Abaya to intervene and ensure the immediate implementation of the project to take advantage of the coming summer season which is most favorable for construction works.

The international airport site lazes on a 300ha tract of land in Alobo village, Daraga town.
The project was slated for completion in 2014.
But several months after a bidding was done, the DOTC has yet to award the project contract.

The DOTC bids and awards committee opened the bids submitted by two parties on Oct 22 last year. The lower bid was for P718 million, or 20% below the DOTC floor price.

Construction of Bicol International Airport was conceived by then president now Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was pushed through by President Aquino under the private and public partnership (PPP) scheme.

Salceda chairman of Regional Development Council said the President Aquino infused P780 million to expedite the project’s construction.

The new airport covers the villages of Alobo, Inarado, Kinawitan and Burgos with a panoramic view of Mayon Volcano as background.

The Bicol International Airport, identified as a major infrastructure priority project in the Medium Term Development Investment Plan and the South Rail and Bicol River Basin, is the touted a most critical aspect for Bicol region’s development since tourism is one of the catalyst for rapid investment and economic growth here, Regional Development Council chairman and Albay governor Joey Salceda told The Manila Times.

Total project cost is P3.4 billion to be funded locally through general appropriation act (GAA) of DOTC and supposed to be completed by last year.
However, until now no solid structure is being put up. – Manila Times

LATEST: ‘Eraptions’ still wow ’em in campaign

Estrada … he could still pack ‘eruptions’ in his campaign sorties


BAGUIO CITY:  An old face in Philippine politics emerges on stage, not at all as rundown as the Baguio Convention Center here, waving to the raucous crowd with one hand in his pocket, his typical pose.

Former President Joseph Estrada—deposed in 2001, charged with plunder and pardoned seven years later—is in familiar territory. It’s another election season and the campaign is his stage in a continuing crusade to redeem himself.

At the age of 75, the movie action star turned politician was clearly in his element during the United Nationalist Alliance rally on Sunday night. He cracked one “Eraption” after another with impeccable timing and delivery, even if many of them had been heard before.

But with UNA candidates slipping out of the winning circle based on recent surveys, can a vintage Erap infuse life into their campaign?

Estrada believes he could still be a factor, especially with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile—the so-called three kings of the UNA.

“I’m doing my best to help the ticket,” he told the Inquirer in a recent interview.

‘Happy Easterada’
By March 30, the start of the campaign period for local candidates in the May elections, Estrada is expected to have more on his plate. He is running for mayor of Manila, and he’s up against reelectionist Mayor Alfredo Lim—filmdom’s “Asiong Salonga” taking on the man known as “Dirty Harry”.

Estrada’s proclamation rally is set at Liwasang Bonifacio on Easter Sunday, the eve of April Fool’s Day, in an event he dubbed, “Happy Easterada.”

In the meantime, he is all business with the UNA, whose senatorial lineup includes his son, San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito.

Given his own commitments in his mayoral run, Estrada could join only major UNA campaign sorties. But whenever he is around, he is the undisputed star of the UNA show, as was the case here last weekend. In motorcades and in the ensuing rally in the evening, he was the main attraction, the senatorial candidates his supporting cast.

Not that they mind it, especially with Estrada bringing the power of his political endorsement for each UNA candidate.

But first they all had to listen to his story.

Estrada spent the first half of his campaign remarks recalling how the ruling class (“naghaharing uri”) purportedly conspired to unseat him in 2001.

Apologies from Cory
Estrada is convinced he had found redemption when the late President Corazon Aquino, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias (whom he mistakenly referred to as “archi-bishop”), and ex-Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Perfecto Yasay all apologized to him for Edsa II.

Videos of these apologies were shown on a huge screen providing a dramatic entrance for Estrada, who later told the crowd in Filipino: “I am confident to face you because I am innocent. I stole not a single centavo.”

It’s only after he had unburdened himself on the events of 12 years ago that he began making a pitch for the UNA candidates one by one.

“I won’t face you tonight and endorse them if they are tainted with any anomaly,” said Estrada, who made an amazing run for the presidency in the 2010 elections, placing second in the balloting.

With everything said and done, Estrada retired to his seat, yielding the spotlight to his son, the second to follow his footsteps to the Senate, and who knows where else. - Inquirer