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The Philippines finally can fully implement a new law honouring Filipinos who have scored a milestone by reaching 100 years. This as the Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Centerians Act of 2016 (Republic Act No. 10868) was signed in ceremonies in Malacanang with no less than President Duterte witnessing the event. The signing of the IRR was made a few days before the observance of Elderly Filipino Week, which is annually held on Oct. 1 to 7. The National Respect for Centenarians Day is also held on the first Sunday of October.


Under the new law, it will now be mandatory for the national government to grant all 100-year-old Filipinos, whether living in the country or abroad, P100,000 as a birthday gift and a letter of felicitation from the President. The centenarians will also receive an additional cash gift and a plaque of recognition from their respective local government units. Actually, many LGUs like Makati City have been giving cash gifts to its centenarians in the past. Aside from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH) and Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) will also aid in carrying out the Centenarian Law.


The new law is expected to benefit some 3,000 centenarians who are in the country. The same will also boost the morale of thousands of seniors to make lives healthy and meaningful to be able to reach the milestone of 100 years. Already, thousands of seniors are receiving discounts on food and important purchases, fares for air, water and land transportation, free admission in cinemas, free parking and many other benefits. There are moves to also exempt them from value added taxes on their purchases and transactions.


The Centenarians Act of 2016 is in keeping with Article XV of the 1987 Constitution which states: "The family has the duty to take care of its elderly members but the State may also do so through just programs of social security." We laud the members of Congress for coming out with the new law honouring and supporting our elders. Perhaps, our leaders could also make mandatory the tradition of Filipinos kissing and saying “Mano po” to our elders to whom we owe our lives as many of the youth today has forgotten this golden tradition.  


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U.S. President Barack Obama has cancelled what could have been his first bilateral talks with new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte at the sideline of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos due what was considered as personal attack on the US leader by the maverick Filipino president. Malacanang later apologized for Mr. Duterte’s acidic rhetorics even as it thanked Mr. Obama for supporting the Philippines in the tug of war with China over the West Philippine Sea and stressing that the US-Philippines alliance was strong as ever.


Former Philippine Ambassador to Washington Albert del Rosario and several leaders put Mr. Duterte to task for what they said as careless statements that resulted to the cancellation of the talks and thus the opportunities to voice out concerns on the sea disputes with China, campaign against drugs and terrorism, and the strengthening of military and defense relationship as well as trade and commerce, among others.


Others, however, understood where Mr. Duterte is coming from. The Philippine leader is barely three months in office and has yet to polish his speech and acts to be more diplomatic in the eyes of the world. Others believed that Duterte’s statements were totally blown out of proportion by the local and international media. In the United States, an independent group dissected an accurate transcript of President Duterte’s Q&A with Reuters correspondent Jerome Morales and explained what Duterte said point by point. Fil-Am writer Nizza Gueco, admittedly not a Duterte fan, for one said that the President was concerned more about the implications of soured US-Philippine relations. The statements clearly indicates that the President addressed the particular reporter who asked an offensive and out-of-line question despite Mr. Duterte’s plea that questions be limited to his ASEAN and working trips overseas, according to the group.


Foul or not, for sure, there will be another forum for Mr. Obama and Mr. Duterte to clear things up. Filipino reporters covering the event in Laos claim that the two may yet hold an informal talk when the American leader meets the leaders of ASEAN in a dialogue. This was confirmed by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes who said the US leader will have an opportunity to interact with Mr. Duterte as with all leaders. So goodluck to Mr. Obama, Mr. Duterte, the ASEAN leaders and other delegates to various summits taking place in Laos.


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With a new government in place, big businessmen are in a frenzy to corner contracts to reclaim close to 1,000 hectares in Manila Bay fronting the cities of Manila, Pasay City and Paranaque City.


The trouble with projects is that they will be destroying the waters and coastal lines which form part of the public domain and yet they all aim at pleasing the needs of the private sector for business expansions with the government, owner of the all the supposed to be reclaimed areas, in the lowest priority of the equation.


This brings to the fore the first Manila Bay reclamation project undertaken during the administration of then President Ferdinand Marcos which had the government as the main beneficiary. Thus, from the reclaimed area rose the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex which includes the Folk Art Theater, the Coconut Palace, the Film Center and the Philippine International Convention Center which the government and the people have been using for local and foreign guests since 1969 are still using going into its 50th year by 2017.


Sad to state but the second and third reclamations undertaken under the aegis of the Philippine Reclamation Authority, a national government agency in charge of such projects, with the Pasay City and Paranaque City governments, are sprinkled with expensive malls, expensive hotels and condominium buildings, private offices buildings and casinos, among others, all controlled by greedy private businesses.


It’s good that some leaders like Sen. Cynthia Villar has come forward to oppose the reclamation of 26,000 hectares of Manila Bay as proposed by PRA and called on the big businesses to reconsider their action given the adverse effects the reclamation would bring to the communities like floods and the livelihood of more than 300,000 fishermen as well as ecology. “Instead of reclaiming Manila Bay, we should all support its restoration and rehabilitation and avoid massive flooding, which experts say could go up to eight meters in Paranaque, Las Pinas and Cavite,” she added.


Paging President Rodrigo Duterte. Let’s protect the environment and not destroy it for the present and the future Filipinos. To businessmen, moderate your greed.

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For the first time in many months of years, newspapers in the Philippines had one common banner headline after a United Nations tribunal upheld the Philippines position over the West Philippine Sea, the South China Sea and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS). At the same time, thePermanent Court of Arbitration under the aegis of UN dashed China’s nine-dash line and claims over the vast international waters where trillions of dollars worth of cargoes pass each year.


In its own words, the international tribunal stated: "The  Tribunal  concluded that  there  was  no  legal  basis  for  China  to claim  historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’," referring to a demarcation line on a 1947 map of the sea, which is rich in energy, mineral and fishing resources. "[A]s between the Philippines and China, China’s claims to historic rights, or other sovereign rights or jurisdiction, with respect to the maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention."


The tribunal added: “Having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the Tribunal found that it could—without delimiting a boundary—declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.” Also, it said: “Having found that certain areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, the Tribunal found that China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by (a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone,” it added.


Moreover, the Tribunal held that Chinese law enforcement vessels had unlawfully created a serious risk of collision when they physically obstructed Philippine vessels. The Tribunal also sided with the claims of environmental groups that China’s large-scale land reclamation to construct artificial islands on top of disputed maritime features was causing “severe harm to the coral reef environment, ” pointing out that China “violated its obligation to preserve and protect fragile ecosystems and the habitat of depleted, threatened, or endangered species.”


The Tribunal thus clearly stated that China has violated Philippine sovereign rights. Despite China’s insistence that the ruling was not binding on the country, it is but proper that China accept and respect the unprecedented ruling and stop its massive reclamation and buildup of military facilities in the region, stop preventing Filipinos, Vietnamese and Taiwanese from fishing in the waters in the contested areas and support mineral and geological resources studies in the region. Cannot China co-exist without sowing fear in the region? Let’s have peaceful co-existence and enjoy natural resources and not ignite a flashpoint for military confrontation and war where we will all be losers. China, the world is watching you.


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It is very disturbing that while Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is yet to assume as the next President of the Philippines, there are reports stating that several millions of pesos have been raised by drug lords as a bounty or reward for those who could eliminate him and his would-be Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Chief Supt. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. As of the latest report, from P 5 million, the bounty was raised to P10 million, then P50 million and, now, an unprecedent amount, P1 billion.


According to reports, the bounty was offered by several drug lords, the heads of syndicates involved in the manufacture and trade of illegal drugs, after President-elect Duterte offered reward for those who will be able to stop the drug lords and their tentacles, dead or alive. Informed sources said at least 20 drug lords operating within the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City raised P50 million each for the bounty for Duterte and dela Rosa’s head. The report identified one Peter Co as the drug lord inside the Bilibid who collected P50 million from 20 drugs for the bounty.


Of course, the report could be officially confirmed even as President-elect Duterte shrugged off the report. He added that such reports cannot deter him from going after the drug lords and syndicates which have been victimizing and killing the youth. He reaffirmed his plan to work out for the re-imposition of the death penalty especially on drug lords. “Hindi na nila ako kailangan takutin dahil matagal nang naubos ang takot ko. Wala na akong takot na naiwan. Ang naiwan nalang sa akin, tapang,” Mr. Duterte even said.


Whether the drug lords are serious or not, President Duterte and incoming PNP chief De La Rosa should all the necessary security measurers to ensure that the drugs will not succeed in their vicious plans. The country must intensify the crackdown on drugs and drug syndicates which have also become the driving force for the youth and other people to commit crimes. Every citizen of the land must contribute his/her share towards the success of this endeavour.


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Amidst the death of five persons for using prohibited drugs during the SM MOA concert organized by Closeup, the arrest of a policeman in his Manila house fit for a general with illegal drugs and millions of pesos in his vault and the seizure of P1 billion worth of chemicals for 'shabu" during a raid in a house in a subdivision in Angeles City, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte announced that he has set aside P5 million as "bounty" for drug traffickers, "dead or alive," to be able to get rid of the drug menace and protect the youth at the shortest possible time.


During the campaign, Mr. Duterte has repeatedly said that he detests illegal drugs and even announced that he would punish any member of his family who is found to be into the use and trade of the illicit drugs. His announcement in Davao City after meeting his would-be Cabinet members was one step to fulfil his promise to get rid of the country of drugs and crimes, many of which are drugs induced. He clarified that the bounty he is offering actually will be P50,000 for ordinary drug traffickers and P1 million to P2 million if it is a drug lord who is busted and arrested. The bounty, he explained, is actually now available as it will come from excess contributions for his campaign.


Mr. Duterte, at the same time, called on his incoming heads of the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation to enforce his order and even personally kill the drug lords and traffickers under circumstances that it is allowed under the law. He also revealed plans to tap even the military in the crackdown on crimes and drugs, especially when rogue policemen are involved. And Mr. Duterte left a message to drug dealers: "Do not destroy my country because I will kill you. Do not destroy the youth of the land, our children, because I will kill you."


Mr. Duterte won by landslide during the last election presumably due to his vow to get rid of criminals and stop crimes and illegal drugs which seemingly had gone out of control during the Aquino administration. The people’s mandate should now be translated into support by the citizens themselves to the crackdown on crimes and drugs. With the help of citizens, the campaign will surely succeed. But without it, success maybe difficult.   

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At least 15 more candidates and supporters were killed on the eve of the May 9 election and on the day of election itself, raising to almost 40 those killed and much more wounded in the just concluded heated national and local elections. But just the same, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) described the political exercise as one of the most peaceful and orderly elections in the country in many years. And this nation’s leaders and citizens seem to agree, despite pockets of violence, especially in remote areas.


And the election also appeared on record as one of the most transparent with quick counting of results by the citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections. In fact, a day and at the most two days after the election, many local candidates – governors, mayors, vice mayors, councillors and congressmen have been proclaimed and the results of the presidential election known. Except for the official canvassing of votes by the National Board of Canvassers, the Senate and the House of Representatives combined acting as such, the country’s next president and vice president plus the 12 councillors are known by the public. In that unofficial counting, maverick Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte appeared headed in a landslide victory with close to 16 million already and over 6 million votes plurality over his closest rival, former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II. President Aquino has in fact even congratulated Duterte as Senator Grace Poe and Roxas conceded defeat. In the race for the second top most position, Sen.  Ma. Leonor Robredo is winning over Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. but the result is too close that a winner has not been projected.


As the country awaits with great anticipation the next President and leaders, it is time for the country to now heal the wounds created by the campaign. Mr. Duterte himself pitched for the political healing, saying “let’s all unite and be friends again.” Yes, indeed, because the most important is that the country can resolve problems and issues confronting it in order for the country to move forward and progress. Meanwhile, let us join hands as responsible citizens with Mr.  Duterte and his team for the good of our country. For without support and unity, failure will loom in the horizon and we will all be the losers.


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For two weeks, some 10,000 American and Filipino troops are holding their joint military exercises in land and at sea in the Philippines for two weeks. The two-week war drills called “Balikatan” which means shoulder-to-shoulder are made in the wake of the growing tension with China over its continued reclamation and threats in the South China Sea. China has even captured several islands and shoals in clear Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea like the Scarborough Shoal and Panatag Shoal, prompting Philippines authorities to raise the issue before the United Nations and the International Court.  


The war drills is bigger this year than in previous years with the participation of Australian and Japanese defense forces and observers from several countries, namely, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam, some of which have claims over islands and reefs in the region. Not only that – US Defense Secretary Ash Carter will be observing the war drills, especially the use of high weapons which will be used in the drills and the patrols on board US destroyers at sea.


Officials claim that the war drills are not connected in any way with the conflict with China, but observers still welcome the exercises as they could be considered a preparation for a possible armed confrontation in case China insists on its claims over the vast waters, once considered international waters where navigation was free for shippers and transport. No less than Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has been vocal against China’s capture of a big part of Philippine territory, has warned of a possible arms race and confrontation in the region in case the Philippines will be sustained by the United Nations and the International Court on its stand on the disputes.


Many are sad that the dispute with China widened under the Aquino administration which allowed wittingly or unwittingly China to reclaim many islands, reefs and shoals in the region and capture a big part of Philippine territory. Was this part of the well-publicized back-door negotiation with China made by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV under the aegis of Malacanang? Filipinos will not only be sad but sorry if military confrontation will be triggered as a result of China’s continued belligerence or insistence on its claims. Something solid must be done not only by the Philippines and the United States and other peace-loving nations to ease the tension in this regional flashpoint for a wider conflict that could lead to armed confrontation. Let’s have peace, not war!


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In a last-minute decision former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada abandoned his fellow opposition leader Vice President Jejomar Binay in his presidential bid and shifted his support to Sen. Grace Poe who is leading the race based on latest surveys.


Many were not surprised with Estrada’s decision as he has become known in Manila as a man without his word, having promised to Manilans in the 2013 elections that he was good only for one term. “It is my last hurrah,” Estrada was quoted as saying then and the voters took his bait resulting to the defeat of then incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim.


Many experts believe that Estrada’s endorsement of Senator Poe would do well for her candidacy, but many also believe it will not make a dent as the voters now can decide on their own and not just swayed by any endorsement, especially from those with checkered records like the former President.


For many Manilans, Estrada’s decision was simply an act of political survival for himself especially as the lady senator has soared in the polls while Binay, Estrada’s erstwhile bet, has started to roll. If Estrada really was sincere in his endorsement, he could have made known his support for Poe early on and not wait for the surveys to come in. Also, why allow San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, his partner, to endorse another candidate in the person of Manuel “Mar” Roxas II? Others surmise that there could have been a deal on the case of Estrada’s son, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who is currently incarcerated in connection with the pork barrel scam, which the senator and mayor roundly denied.


Whatever is the motivations behind the endorsement, it will certainly be the people who will make the final decision as Senator Poe continues to surge in the polls even sans the mayor’s backing. We leave it to Manilans to discern and make the right choice for mayor and for president for the whole country.


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A couple of days before millions of people around the world will mark Earth Hour, environment activist and former Vice President Albert Gore of the United States visited the Philippines and warned of a looming disaster facing the country as a result of the rising temperature causing rising sea levels in the vast Pacific Ocean. He called on everybody to exert all efforts to avert adverse climate change in the world and prevent a disaster of enormous proportions. This early, Gore also proposed the relocation of some 13 million Filipinos to higher grounds to prevent a repeat of the havoc wrought by super typhoon Yolanda whose ground zero in Tacloban City he visited as he interacted with the typhoon victims and survivors. Yolanda swept through central Philippines in November 2013, with giant waves wiping out entire communities from the Leyte and Samar islands to the paradise islands of Palawan and leaving 7,500 people or more dead or missing. Since the disaster, high-profile personalities including Pope Francis and French President Francois Hollande have visited Tacloban to call attention to the effects of climate change.


The warning of Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize awardee for his work on environment protection, also came as the Philippines’ weather agency warned of extreme heat in the coming days and cautioned the public against too much sun exposure that could lead to heat stroke as the onset of summer nears.


In a lecture later in Manila, Gore urged the people to pressure their leaders to act on climate change despite efforts by skeptics to muddle the issue. “A people’s movement from grassroots up (is needed) to confront the decision-makers for decision and leaders in making a choice for yes instead of no or right instead of wrong,” the former US vice president stressed as he noted that the Philippines is planning to build more coal plants despite the global shift to clean energy. The coal-fire power plants are linked to global warming and extreme weather conditions, he pointed out adding that  while the Philippines experienced the most number of weather-related disasters in almost two decades, it remains a laggard in terms of using clean energy.


Do Filipinos still need people from other countries like Mr. Gore and President Hollande to remind them of the dangers of climate change when, in fact, they have seen such as those of super typhoon Yolanda and are seeing ill-effects in their midst? Let’s protect our seas, forests and biodiversity, change climate change and Mother Earth, otherwise we will all eventually perish with it.


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