Friday, June 09, 2006

Transport group demands LTFRB action on Super 5 case

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - A TRANSPORT group yesterday warned it would paralyze much of the public transportation in this part of the country unless the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) acts on a complaint against a bus company for undercharging.

The group, calling itself Bonded and United Members of Provincial Endangered Route (Bumper), gave LTFRB officials in Manila until this month to act on its problem with the bus company Super 5.

The LTFRB has set a pre-hearing of the case against Super 5 on June 30.
"The workers are getting hungry day by day," said Bumper lawyer Her-nan Tabalba as he decried the practice of undercharging.

The group said many operators and drivers of public vehicles have long been complaining about the ‘‘unfair competition’’ from Super 5.

Tabalba has accused Super 5 and the firm’s owner, Paul Padayhag, of defying a LTFRB order against the illegal fare reduction.

‘‘It’s killing the drivers and their families,’’ said Tabalba.

Unless Super 5 is stopped, Tabalba said he feared Padayhag would soon monopolize the public transport business in this part of the country by ‘‘sabotaging the industry."

On May 11, LTFRB suspended the operations of Super 5 for one month due to violations. The Board even warned that defiance would mean the seizure of the firm’s buses.

But Tabalba said Super 5 merely ignored the order and continued to operate under the noses of authorities.

"Padayhag received the order on May 2 but Super 5 continued to operate until May 20 and only stopped on May 21.

This means they stopped operating for 12 days only and not 30 days. The 30-day suspension order was ignored," said Tabalba.

Tabalba said he could not understand the inaction of concerned government agencies in regard to the Super 5 problem when several cases have been filed against the company.

"If nothing happens during the June 30 pre-hearing, we will be forced to stage a demonstration. We need immediate action. To delay the cases would be to delay justice," he said.

Bumper, is the umbrella organization of nine transport groups that include the Iligan Drivers’ Association, Iligan Cooperative Jeepney Operators Inc., Iligan Transport Services Cooperative), West Misamis Oriental Operators, Drivers and Dispatchers’ Cooperative Association, Iligan-Lugait Drivers’ Association;
Iligan, Kulambugan, Kapatagan Operators and Drivers’ Association; and the Iligan, Kauswagan, Operators and Drivers’ Association.

The biggest bus company in this part of the country, Rural Transit Mindanao Inc. (RTMI), will be joining Bumper’s cause, according to Tabalba.

RTMI, he said, has also been complaining about Super 5’s ‘‘unfair’’ business practices. (With a report from AMOR BARLISAN)

"can be read at Gold Star Daily>Link

Envoy : Nothing Underhand in Bounty for Terror Tipsters

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY ( MIKE BAÑOS / June 8 ) - US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney today said there was nothing sinister about the US Government's paying bounty to two Filipino informers whose information led to the arrest in Zamboanga City last October of Hilario del Rosario Santos III, also known as Ahmed Islam Santos, alleged head of the Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM), a group of Christian converts to Islam allegedly linked the Jemaah Islamiyan and the Abbu Sayyaf, and implicated in the February 2004 bombing of a Super Ferry ship that killed 116 people, the second worst terrorist attack in Asia, and has also been linked to plots to attack the US embassy and American nationals.

Kenney personally awarded the US$500,000 (PhP25.25M) bounty to the two informers in highly publicized turnover rites held at the US Embassy in Manila Wednesday.

In a press release circulated to media Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
questioned the propriety of awarding the money directly to the tipsters and its conformity to diplomatic conventions, Philippine or international laws.

"My impression is that the intention of the Americans is good," Pimentel said. "There is no question about it. But is it in accord with international laws or conventions for foreign embassies to show publicly their hands in the attempt to implement law and order in the territory of their host country?" Pimentel said. "Or is that a right accorded only to superpowers who might want to assert it as a prerogative?"

Although Kenney claimed she had no knowledge of Pimentel's observations, she assured nothing underhand was meant by it.

"It's a US State Department program called "Rewards for Justice" which pays cash bounties for information leading to the arrest of terrorists involved in attacks on Americans," she said, claiming rewards were an effective deterrent in the war against terror.

"Their goal is to destroy, and so they constantly seek to stay a step ahead of us in doing that. What we're doing here is trying very hard not to let them get a step ahead," Kenney told a news conference.

Kenney said the US Government has already paid out over US$62 million during the last seven years to informers who helped authorities capture and jail terrorists. In the Philippines, US officials have paid US$1.6 million in reward money to six Filipinos for helping government forces capture suspected terrorists, she said.

Pimentel acknowledged that while the efforts of the US government in helping the country's counter-terrorist campaign is good, something was amiss with the manner by which the reward money to informants was being handed out.

"That the Americans gave the reward money directly to the informants at the US Embassy speaks volumes about their lack of trust for the top Echelon of the AFP," the minority leader said. "We raise that question so that Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs may clarify it," he added.

But Kenney said the awarding was done with the full knowledge of Philippine authorities, although she said she would find out later why the program was held in the US Embassy.

"The cooperation between the US and the Philippines on the war on terror is extraordinary," Kenney said. "I have never seen such a high level of cooperation elsewhere."

She remarked that she was extremely impressed by the "very strong will of the people for peace".

Kenney was in the city Thursday to attend rites awarding the Green Bank of Caraga's 30,000th microloan client under the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Microenterprise Access to Banking Services (MABS) program and the launching of the U.S. Government-sponsored Education and Employment Alliance (EEA).

On another matter, however, the senator from Mindanao and the American diplomat were in perfect accord :

Kenney said the US is committed to help fund the integration of the MILF guerillas into the mainstream society once they sign a peace pact with the Philippine government. Kenney said the US would also provide an economic program to consolidate the continued integration of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which inked a peace treaty with the Philippine government on Sept. 2, 1996. "The US government hopes to offer a similar program if another major Muslim insurgent group signs a peace accord with the Philippine government," she said.

Pimentel said Monday it's about time the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front wrap up the peace negotiation and sign a long overdue final peace agreement after nine years of negotiations.

"The statement issued by the MILF peace panel ruling out the signing of a final agreement this year is unfortunate and a big letdown for the people of Mindanao who have long been clamoring for an end to decades of Muslim rebellion and full restoration of peace and stability in the island," he said.

The MILF in a statement issued by Jun Mantawil, head of the Front's peace panel secretariat, said it does not see a peace accord being concluded this year because government and rebel negotiators still have to fully iron out the issue of ancestral domain which will be the basis for the definition of Bangsa Moro territory.

The government earlier wanted to forge a final agreement with the MILF by September or before the start of the Ramadhan, the month-long Islamic period of fasting.

"This is a big headache for the nation," Pimentel said. "Without a final peace agreement, the people in Mindanao will live in constant fear of a shooting war."

Peace talks between the government and MILF began in 1997 under the Ramos administration, a year after the government concluded a peace pact with the Moro National Liberation headed by Chairman Nur Misuari.

The peace talks were continued by the Estrada administration but broke off after the 2000 "all-out war" declared by Estrada. The talks resumed in 2002 but took a new tack when the Arroyo administration tapped Malaysia as peace broker and facilitator.

Pimentel is advocating for the creation of a Bangsa Moro federal state, as part of a federalized Philippine republic, but acknowledges this would require amending the 1987 Constitution.

"I hope that the government and MILF will be able to settle the remaining issues in the peace talks. But it is unlikely they will be able to sign a final agreement unless the government will grant the MILF's demand for a system of governance where they will enjoy self-rule, and preserve their Islamic way of life and their cultural identity," the lone senator from Mindanao said.

""Rene Michael Banos" Link

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Deal was with UKC, not with city hall says Advincula

COUNCILOR Reynaldo Advincula yesterday admitted being the owner of ‘‘videoke’’ and video game machines at Cogon public market but he strongly denied breaking laws.

Advincula called this paper yesterday to point out that the 3rd floor of the Cogon public market is being ran by UKC Builders, the firm that undertook the multimillion-peso redevelopment of Cogon public market under a build-operate-transfer scheme.

The agreement was for city hall to operate the first two floors of Cogon market. Based on the agreement, UKC takes charge of the 3rd floor.

Advincula argued that, technically, he has no contract with city hall. ‘‘The contract is with UKC and not with the city government.’’

Advincula admitted owning a few coin-operated video machines at the public market but he stressed out that he has no contract with UKC.

The contract with UKC, he said, was signed by Renie Cordova, his business ‘‘partner.’’

Advincula said he decided to yield the business to Cordova when city legal officer Cancio Guibone raised some legal issues about his business interests at Cogon market.

Advincula also denied an allegation made by Barangay 33 chairperson Pelagio Nambatac that the Cogon ‘‘amusement center’’ has no business license from city hall and a clearance from the barangay.

Advincula called Nambatac a "teller of lies." He said the allegations were ‘‘erroneous’’ and ‘‘inaccurate.’’
"It’s an old story... [the issue] was already resolved by the RCB last year," said Advincula. ‘‘It’s purely a political issue to discredit me.’’

The councilor showed this paper a city hall permit and a clearance for the business.

Advincula said Nambatac himself issued the barangay clearance.
‘‘And now he (Nambatac) would deny?’’ he sarcastically asked.

The barangay clearance, according to Advincula, was issued ‘‘under my name.’’
The required papers from city hall was issued early this year, said Advincula.

Advincula said the issuance of a permit from the treasurer’s office was only delayed due to the complaint filed by Nambatac last year.

Nambatac has complained about the noise coming from the market’s 3rd floor.

Nambatac was out of his office when this paper tried to get his comment. But Nambatac’s staff told the Cagayan de Oro Journal that the videoke and video machine operators, and Nambatac already settled the issue in 2005.

"can be read at Gold Star Daily>Link

Montalba identifies six of 11 small-time crime groups in Oro

POLICE identified six of 11 crime groups specializing on burglary and robbery as they continued a crackdown of suspected petty crime suspects in the city.

"They are enemies of peace and order," said deputy city police director Antonio Montalba.

Montalba identified some of the crime groups as Lipat Bahay, Akyat Bahay, Buray-Buklay group, Pukot Gang, Salisi Gang, Tiempo Gang.

There are other groups specializing on snatching, robbery and the sale of Rugby (solvent).

"Many of them are operating in the villages and subdivisions," said Montalba.

He said many of the suspects are from nearby towns.

"The operations would continue,’’ said Montalba.
On Monday night, police carried out another ‘‘saturation drive,’’ rounding up six suspects in the process.

The group of police officers who raided Isla Delta last week were responsible for Monday’s operation.

Monday’s raid, carried out around 7:30 p.m. in Barangay Lapasan, came only a few hours after the city council passed a resolution expressing dismay over the performance of city police director Senior
Supt. Aurelio Trampe.

Anti-Theft and Robbery Section chief Mario Pelaez said the six suspects yielded items that are believed to have been stolen.

Pelaez identified the suspects as Ello Sambas, 19; Leonardo Atencio, 30; Danilo Pardillo, 32; and Jannette Gabatan, 24. The names of the two others are being withheld because they are minors.

Cases were already filed in court against most of those who were arrested last Friday.

Some of those invited for questioning last Friday were already released because there was insufficient evidence against them.

"can be read at Gold Star Daily >Link

Oro traffic back to 'normal' as firm opens bridge

ADHI Karya-VT Lao Construction surprised Cagayan de Oro and gave motorists relief when it fully opened the Ysalina Bridge on Monday.

The half-a-century old bridge has been undergoing major repairs for a month already. It was closed to traffic last May 7 and was supposed to be fully opened on June 15.

But to the contractors and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), it didn’t come as a surprise.

Deputy project engineer Ricky Galera and DPWH northern Mindanao assistant director Norma Gironella earlier told councilors that only the reasphalting of the bridge’s pavement was the hindrance to its reopening.

The reasphalting was completed on Sunday night.

While the rest of the city was preparing for the opening of classes, the firm’s workers started dismantling their tents, equipment, barricades and other makeshift facilities from the bridge’s pavement in the wee hours of Sunday night.

Even jeepney and motorela drivers as well as the Roads and Traffic Administration (RTA) personnel assigned at both sides of the bridge were caught unaware when they discovered that the bridge was fully opened early Monday morning.

RTA personnel hurriedly went back to their pre-June 8 assigned posts both at the Gaston park and Carmen areas to guide the flow of traffic there.

Meanwhile, the Carmen rerouting was implemented again.

Thus, the overall traffic flow in urban Cagayan de Oro was back to the pre-June 8 level with a few instances of traffic jams because of the 30,000 public elementary and high school students trooping back to their respective campuses.

June 8 was the starting date that Ysalina bridge was closed to traffic.

Still, councilors who conducted their weekly plenary Monday afternoon at the fourth level of the City Hall Executive Building which has an overlooking view of the bridge could not help but be amazed.

They were the same councilors who earlier sternly reminded the project contractors that they would go after the P17.3-million security bond of the bridge repair if they could not completely reopen it on June 15.

Councilor Ian Mark Nacaya lauded the company, saying the bridge was fully opened 10 days ahead of schedule. "We commend the contractor for a job well done."

Councilors said they had expected only one of the two-lane bridge to be opened last Monday. It’s full opening was therefore a big surprise, they said.

On Monday, the council passed a resolution commending the contractor for the full opening of the Ysalina Bridge.

Councilor Reynaldo Advincula said the city engineer was tasked to check the bridge retrofitting project just to make sure it is safe for use.

Councilor Maryanne Enteria said she was glad because the opening of the bridge decongested the city’s roads.

Its closure had resulted in traffic jams the likes of which have never been seen before in the city.
‘‘It’s a relief," said Enteria.

The project is not finished yet though. The firm said the project would continue until September.
The retrofitting work would be focused on the bridge’s columns, said the project engineer.

"can be read at Gold Star Daily >Link

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Exec Advises Oro Chamber: Benchmark Opposition for Increased Competitiveness

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MIKE BAÑOS / June 7)– Asked what Cagayan de Oro needed to do to further increase its competitiveness as the leading economy in Mindanao, the chairman of one of the city's real estate development firms replied : "Benchmark the opposition."

Speaking at the 2nd Quarter General Membership Meeting of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Oro Chamber), Guillermo D. Luchangco, chairman of Pueblo de Oro Development Corporation, outlined a five-point program which included benchmarking the opposition, being proactive in making the city attractive and friendly to potential investors, organize teams to personally share first hand experience with visitors, brief "champions" in government on Cagayan de Oro's potentials by personally inviting them to experience the city, and more pragmatically, tempering the city's vaunted 'opposition" stance so as not to make it a deterrent to potential investors.

"Few people may actually come to you just because your team exists," Luchangco cautioned. "You may have to work at becoming the organization to which investors are automatically referred if they are looking at Cagayan de Oro."

To make that possible, Luchangco turned over a lot at the Pueblo de Oro Business Park which will house the Oro Chamber Business Development Center (OC-BDC) in groundbreaking rites yesterday afternoon attended by City Mayor Vicente Emano, Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno and Romeo Serra, chairman of the Mindanao Business Council.

"We are very pleased with the fact that the dream f the board of directors and the general membership, even that of the past chamber officers is finally seeing fruition," said Oro chamber president Ruben Vegafria. "With the support of corporate partners like Pueblo de Oro, our business development and investment promotion undertakings are slowly but surely materializing."
The future business office of the Oro Chamber, OC-BDC will offer business advisory and information services, events management, investment promotion, policy advocacy, market development and entrepreneurial and marketing trainings for its clients and Oro Chamber members. Construction is slated to start in two months.

Luchangco said the latest Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Survey of Competitiveness of Philippine Cities in which to do business, shows Davao city among the top five for Metro Cities and Iligan City among mid-sized cities.

"Maybe the chamber can take upon itself to study what enabled Davao and Iligan to qualify for this ranking," Luchangco said. "I suggest that the chamber set a goal for itself, and that is, to put Cagayan de Oro among the Top 5 next year! I believe that if you can do this, you will be making a real contribution to the economic expansion of the city. And it will also be good for your business!"
Perhaps equally important, albeit sensitive, was the frequent comments regarding Cagay-anons' "chip-on-the-shoulder".

Luchangco related how he heard about the survey of the attitude of the potential work force commissioned by a foreign company for its call center which eventually decided not to locate here due to the survey results which showed that "employees would likely have a tendency to be difficult to deal with, to often clash with management, rather than cooperate, to be defiant."

Although he indicated that the recent decision of Pueblo de Oro IT park call center locator Link2Support to double its work force appears to debunk this finding, Luchangco said it is incumbent upon business leaders "to exert influence to temper that tendency in appropriate degrees whenever you see the problem arising."

"Do not just seek back and watch such events transpire," he urged. "Get involved and try to intercede and explain to your people where they are too quick or too negative in reacting."
Not the least, he cited the key role played by meticulous preparation.

"In the case of Pueblo de Oro, when we set about to attract a call center to locate here, we studied what was important to operators of call centers. We prepared a presentation that addressed the facts they wanted to know, from power rates to supply, to telecommunications availability to supply of the types of people they would want to hire," Luchangco stressed. "One call center company told us this was the most impressive and comprehensive presentation they had see.

"And of course, do your homework. Don't expect to just sit down with the visiting businessman and talk small talk. Know your statistics and facts about Cagayan de Oro versus the rest of the Philippines."

"MIKE BAÑOS501 V. F. Cabaraban St.,
Cabaraban Subdivision,Puntod, 9000 Cagayan de Oro City
PhilippinesMobile 0921-469-6305IM

Maya tries to rebut DBM findings on city hall overspending

CAGAYAN de Oro Councilor Maryanne Enteria on Saturday criticized the budget department, describing its call on city hall to go slow on its spendings as ‘‘unfair.’’

The department’s call ‘‘is not fair to the city since there is no legal basis," Enteria said.

Enteria referred to the result of the review of the Department of Budget and Management which thumbed down city hall’s 2006 budget because of ‘‘excess in expenditures.’’

In a gist, the DBM’s findings show that city hall plans to spend more than what it would earn this year. Also, the budget does not jibe with the city government’s internal revenue allotment (IRA), the department said.

Enteria, an ally of Mayor Vicente Emano, said the finding that city hall was bound to overspend based on the 2006 budget ‘‘is purely [an] observation and projection.’’

"That’s not true,’’ said Enteria. ‘‘DBM’s assessments are mostly projections. They just give an estimated amount."

Enteria also said it would be ‘‘too early’’ for DBM to conclude that the budget approved by the city council for this year is illegal.

The councilor, a lawyer by profession, also questioned the basis for the DBM’s rejection of the granting of personnel economic relief allowances (Pera) to city hall’s non-regular employees.

The 2006 budget of city hall shows a P96 thousand excess in the Pera, said DBM.
The department disallowed the granting of the Pera to Emano, Vice Mayor Michelle Spiers and the councilors.

Budget Circular No. 12 dated April 7, 1997 provides the updated rules and regulations on the grant of Pera. It is based on the General Provisions of the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

The GAA General provisions states that the Pera is to be given to "all appointive national and local government employees occupying itemized plantilla positions."

Since the law explicitly specified "appointive" officials, those elected are not entitled to the Pera, the DBM said.

Enteria argued that any excess in the budget, especially on the personnel services, ‘‘can be justified since allowances and bonuses given to employees are within the mandate of the law.’’

Enteria said allowances and other perks, while set by law, can be augmented by way of an Executive Order from Malacañang. She said the Palace has issued a dozen EOs in the previous years.

Enteria said city budget officer Creselda Joson assured that no new expenditure was added to city hall’s personnel services fund. The fund set aside for this in the 2006 budget is P476,496,119.

According to Enteria, the city budget office would disallow the creation of new city hall positions this year to comply with government budget regulations on fixed expenditures ceiling.

Enteria said city hall’s technical working group, composed of officials from the budget, finance and accounting offices, cited a law that states that any excess in the budget could only be determined at the end of the year.

"We’ve just ended our second quarter and we’re about to start the third quarter... we can’t make conclusions [in regard to] excess allocations," she said.

It was DBM director for northern Mindanao Romeo Melad who called the attention of Mayor Emano in regard to "excess in expenditures" in city hall’s 2006 budget.

City hall’s 2006 budget simply exceeded government guidelines, according to Melad.
The DBM earlier thumbed down the granting of incentives to some 2,588 city hall employees. It said to do so would be illegal.

"The same cannot be allowed for lack of legal basis and considering that there is an excess in the personnel services limitation," Melad said in a letter, a copy of which was furnished Gold Star Daily.

In the 2006 budget, city hall set aside bonuses amounting to P15,528,000 for all regular and casual employees.

But in the letter, dated March 6, the DBM said city hall has been overspending for salaries, way above a 45-percent ceiling.

In 2004, city hall had an income of P874,989,478.73. Forty-five percent of this––P393,745,265.43––is the salary cap.

City hall however set aside P476,496,119 for personnel services in the 2006 budget or P82,750,853.57 above the salary cap.

Melad said the budget for the City Economic and Enterprise Department (CEED) alone exceeded by over P10 million. The CEED is the department that handles the operations of the city’s public markets and terminals.

Melad also called Emano’s attention in regard to his P9-million intelligence fund. He asked the mayor to go slow on the fund. The intelligence fund is not subject to strict auditing and can be used at the local executive’s discretion.

"[Budget officer] Joson assured that Mayor Emano has complied with all auditing rules in disbursing his intelligence fund," Enteria said.

The DBM also called city hall’s attention in regard to its budget for representation and traveling allowances (Rata) which it said exceeded by P1,378,000.

"can be read at Gold Star Daily>Link