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Archive for August, 2006

Senators set to issue arrest orders on snubbing execs

Posted by Michille on 31st August 2006

Senators set to issue arrest orders on snubbing execs – The Daily Tribune!

By Angie M. Rosales

Senators have had it with President Arroyo and her gag orders whether in the form of Executive Order 464 or Memorandum Circular 168. And they have had it too with her aides and officials showing disrespect for the institution of the Senate through their deliberate snubbing of the chamber’s hearings.

United in their stand, the senators are now gearing up for a head-on collision with Malacañang as they are readying the issuance of either arrest warrants or contempt charges against all summoned executive officials who have snubbed their inquiries, unless they are able to “show cause” why they should not be cited for contempt and ordered arrested.

With the virtual ultimatum aired, the senators, however, said they will wait for Malacañang to draw first blood as they would still give the officials who snubbed their hearings a chance to explain the snubs before they are meted the “appropriate sanctions.”

Both administration and opposition senators took this latest position, with this being the result of an all-members’ caucus held late Tuesday night, after senators were denied, for the umpteenth time, the opportunity to grill ranking government officials during last Monday’s convening of the Joint Oversight Committee on Clean Water when it took up the matter of the Guimaras oil spill disaster, now seen to become the biggest environmental, health and economic threat to the country, as well as the recent inquiry into the Charter change (Cha-cha) controversy stirred by the signature drive of the Sigaw ng Bayan movement.

Officials from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who have three times invoked memorandum circular No. 108 in shielding themselves from the Senate’s investigation on the nursing licensure examination scandal, stand as the first possible “casualties” as lawmakers from the upper chamber have agreed to apply their adopted policy on them.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. and Sen. Franklin Drilon, in separate interviews, disclosed to reporters the decision reached by the Senate as a body, explaining that this would be the procedure that will be followed.

“I have suggested that these members of the PRC who refused to appear, if again they will not appear at the hearing today, should be asked to explain why they should not be cited for contempt. It is a show cause order similar to the procedure adopted in the regular courts, where those who are subpoenaed are given an opportunity to explain why they have refused to heed the subpoena,” Drilon said before the hearing called by the committee on civil service and government reorganization chaired by Sen. Rodolfo Biazon was conducted.

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Worst feared for spill

Posted by Michille on 31st August 2006

Worst feared for spill – The Manila Times!

Guimaras could equal Alaskan catastrophe


Unchecked damage from the worst oil spill in the Philippines has raised fears of a local disaster similar in scale to major catastrophes like that of the Exxon Valdez.

While the amount of oil aboard the Solar 1 when it sank off Guimaras Island is a fraction of what the Valdez disgorged when it foundered off Alaska in 1989, experts say many more people could ultimately be affected.

Only one-tenth of the Solar’s oil has leaked so far, leaving what experts call a ticking time-bomb on the ocean floor—and while the Valdez spilled in a relatively remote area, hundreds of thousands of people depend on the Guimaras region for their livelihoods.

Nestor Yunque, a marine biologist, said the number of Alaskans dependent on the ecosystem harmed by the Valdez was minuscule compared with those on the coasts of Guimaras, Panay and Negros islands.

The speed with which the oil reached the Guimaras coast is a key concern, Yunque said, noting that it took time for the Valdez crude to hit the Alaska coast, allowing for some chemical disintegration of the pollutants.

“It took a while,” Yunque said. “It will probably take three or six months before we will be able to see the actual damage [here].”

The Alaska spill contaminated about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) of coastline, killed a quarter-million sea birds, thousands of otters and hundreds of seals.

The environmental economist Rodelio Subade said damage from the Solar 1, which went down August 11 in rough seas, was not limited to “tradable goods” like fish stocks but that it could have an impact on generations of fishermen here.

“From the point of view of the economist, I can say that it will entail a huge environmental cost,” Subade said. The destruction in relative terms to major spills like the Valdez “could be close,” he said.

A mangroves expert, Resurrección Sadaba, said fish, mollusks and other marine organisms as well as coral reefs have started dying within the roughly 1,000-hectare Taclong national marine reserve.

The reserve took a direct and immediate hit when the Solar 1 sank, carrying 500,000 gallons of industrial fuel. Only 50,000 gallons have leaked so far, and there are fears the other tanks could give way.

Sadaba said seedlings and saplings among some 90 hectares of mangrove thickets, vital shelters for fish fry, were already “showing signs of withering” after being suffocated by up to a meter of oil.

“They serve as the basis of the marine food chain,” he said. “If the mangrove system is removed, then the whole thing will collapse.”

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Comelec decides ‘Sigaw’ bid today

Posted by Michille on 31st August 2006

Comelec decides ‘Sigaw’ bid today – The Manila Bulletin Online!

Fate of people’s initiative petition awaited 192 boxes of documents, signatures tightly guarded by poll body

By E. T. SUAREZ

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) decides today the fate of the petition filed by multi-sectoral organization Sigaw ng Bayan and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) proposing amendments to the Constitution through a people’s initiative.

The Comelec, led by Chairman Benjamin S. Abalos Sr., will hold an en banc session to decide whether to reject or dismiss outright the petition, or to schedule it for public hearing.

Abalos, along with Commissioners Resurreccion Z. Borra, Florentino A. Tuason Jr., Romeo A. Brawner, Rene V. Sarmiento, and Nicodemo T. Ferrer, is expected to announce in a press conference at 12 noon today the decision of the Comelec en banc.

Abalos assured the senators last Wednesday during the public hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws that the Comelec would decide on the people’ initiative petition within the week, Friday being the latest.

He declined to say what would be the decision of the Comelec en banc.

The crucial announcement will be preceded by the Comelec en banc hearing on the more than two-year-old pre-proclamation case filed by Estrellita “Neng” Juliano against Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema.

The hearing was ordered by the Supreme Court which rejected Sema’s motion questioning the High Tribunal’s order to remand the case to the Comelec. Sema’s lead counsel is lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal.

Meanwhile, Charter change advocates are hopeful that the Comelec will entertain the people’s initiative petition stressing that they have satisfied the constitutional requirements for the conduct of national referendum that will lead to the dismantling of the conflict-prone bicameral legislature and the birth of a unicameral assembly under a parliamentary government.

The main petitioners, Raul Lambino of Sigaw ng Bayan and Bohol Governor Erico B. Aumentado of ULAP, submitted to the Comelec a duly certified count of 6,327,952 verified signatures or 14.53 percent of the total number of registered voters nationwide, beyond the 12 percent constitutional requirement.

The signatures, contained in 192 boxes, are now kept in a room adjacent to Comelec Law Department Director Alioden D. Dalaig’s office at the eighth floor of Palacio del Gobernador Bldg. in Intramuros, Manila. Sigaw and ULAP have asked the Comelec for an authority to post guards in the room on 24-hour basis to prevent a break-in to tamper the signatures or preempt charges of tampering by the oppositors to the petition.

They asked the Comelec to hold a plebiscite on proposed amendments to the Constitution through a people’s initiative not earlier than 60 days but not later than 90 days after its certification of the sufficiency of the petition.

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PRC: No retake of nursing exams

Posted by Michille on 31st August 2006

PRC: No retake of nursing exams – INQ7.net!

Adjusted grades add 499 to list of passers

By Michael Lim Ubac, Christine Avendaño
Inquirer
Last updated 01:03am (Mla time) 08/31/2006

Published on Page A1 of the August 31, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE PROFESSIONAL Regulation Commission has come up with a formula that it believes will put to rest the cheating controversy surrounding the June nursing board exams — maintaining that “passers” will not retake the exams, and nullifying 90 of the 100 questions under Test V.

The formula would even increase the number of passers by 499, PRC Chair Leonor Tripon Rosero yesterday told the House committees on civil service and good government.

Rosero said the formula was a “fair and impartial way” of putting closure to the controversy.

“Oh yes, it’s fair to all. So we released the (recomputed) results of the board exam. That’s already fair to everyone even to those who failed,” Rosero told reporters shortly after the hearing.

In another controversial move, the PRC gave a 2-percent bonus to those who got 73 percent, raising their scores to 75 percent. The bonus is aimed at providing those who might be hurt by the downgrading of Test V (psychiatric nursing) with a “cushion.”

To pass the nursing board exams, examinees should correctly answer at least 75 percent of 500 test questions equally distributed among five subject matters.

Test V was one of the two tests whose questions were leaked by two review centers to their students days before the nursing board exams were administered on June 11-12. The other was Test III (medical-surgical nursing).

The leakage led the Court of Appeals to order the PRC to put on hold the oath-taking of those who passed the tainted exams. Hundreds were able to take their oath before the CA issued the restraining order to the PRC. But a group of nurses and students wants the court to nullify the oath-taking.

Because of the controversy, a number of hospitals are reluctant to hire the June passers.

Violation

The new PRC formula did not mollify those calling for a retake of the nursing board exams to restore public confidence in new nursing graduates.

Dante Ang, who heads an inter-agency task force looking into the leakage, said the recomputation violated Republic Act No. 9173, or the Nursing Act of 2002.

He said even Test III was recomputed.

“The law says that your passing average should be 75 percent, provided you don’t get a grade below 60 percent in any subject. When the Board of Nursing recomputed Test III corresponding to the questions from one percent to 1.25 percent, the effect of that would be to get the 60 percent minimum passing average for Test III,” Ang said at the hearing.

Thus, examinees only have to answer 48 correct questions.

“By revising, or by recomputing Test III, and by assigning 1.25 percent to every questions left, in effect, you’re passing average was reduced from 60 to 48 questions. This is not acceptable if you follow the original intention and the spirit of the law … and therefore putting in doubt the competence of the examinees,” he said.

Here’s how the PRC formula works:

The PRC nullifies 90 of the 100 questions under Test V and incorporates the scores of examinees in the remaining 10 questions into the final score, which is computed by combining the average of Tests I-IV and Tests I-V.

The result: The number of passers went up from 17,322 to 17,821, or from 41.24 to 42.42 percent passing rate. A total of 42,006 nursing graduates took the exams on June 11 to 12 in 11 test centers across the country.

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BACTERIA EYED VS. OIL SPILL: DoST looking for ‘Bioremediation option’ to control slick

Posted by Michille on 31st August 2006

BACTERIA EYED VS. OIL SPILL: DoST looking for ‘Bioremediation option’ to control slick – Tempo News!

By FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD

The Department of Science and Technology (DoST) is eyeing the technology called Bioremediation and oil-eating micro-organisms or bacteria as a last resort to help control the MT Solar I oil spill off Guima-ras Island.

In a press briefing at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Science Garden in Quezon City, Engineer Romeo M. Cabacang, chief of the Microbiology and Genetics Division, Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) of the DoST, said there are two branches to Bioremediation.

He said one is the on-site Bioremediation where it may involve stimulation of the growth of indigenous oil-eating microbes to degrade the oil contaminants including addition of nutrients, aeration and use of dispersants.

“Addition of nutrients containing nitrogen and phosphorous is known to increase microbial population five times. For aerobic oil degradation, induced aeration will facilitate oil conversation into CO2 and water while addition of dispersant will multiply the oil surface area where oil degradation takes place. On-site Bioremediation may also involve use of fast oil-degrading microbial inoculants to hasten the degradation process,” Cabacang told reporters.

Cabacang said the other approach, is off-site treatment where oil-contaminated materials are transferred to another site for treatment. This approach may involve the use of bioreactors, landfarming and composting.

The use of bioreactor facilitates aeration, nutrient addition and ease of microbial inoculants, will also be done.

“Landfarming is a biological treatment technology where contaminated materials are spread in soil surface as sludge and slurries. This involves addition of nutrients and period mixing. Another one windrow composting or composting pile where oil continuously aerated in the case of static pile. The design for this includes provision for leachate emission and water run off control,” he said.

“It may be noted at this point that the use of imported micro-organism to bioremidate the oil spill contamination will require approval from the DoST to use,” he added.

Cabacang said the ITDI oil-eating microorganism best strain: pseudomonas aeruginas may be used in the containment of the oil spill.

“ITDI currently has four locally isolated oil-eating microbes that may be used as microbial inoculants with pseudomonas aeruginosa as the best strain. This was isolated in contaminated estero in Pandacan near the Pandacan Oil Depot. This microbe is ubiquitous, meaning it can be found anywhere. It is mostly found in polluted and most especially in oil contaminated waters, he said.

“This strain is popular worldwide as an oil degrader,” he concluded.

Right now, the Philippine Coast Guard, National Disaster Coordinating Council, the local government of Guimaras, and other various groups are conducting on-site cleaning of the affected areas.

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GDP grows to 5.4% in 3-month period

Posted by Michille on 31st August 2006

GDP grows to 5.4% in 3-month period – PIA!

By Rose B. Palacio

Davao City (31 August) — Economists polled by XFN-Asia expect annual gross domestic product during the three month period up to June to have grown by an average of 5.4 percent with forecasts ranging from 5.0 to 5.8 percent.

The economy expanded by 5.5 percent in the first quarter and the government is expecting the second quarter growth to come in between 5.3 percent and 5.8 percent.

“I think agriculture will provide stronger contribution to overall growth. The remittances also remained strong and supportive of domestic consumption, said Singapore-based economist Song Seng Wun of CIMB-GK Research who gave the most bullish growth forecast of 5.8 percent.

Farm output grew to 6.41 percent in the second quarter which is the fastest pace since 2004 as favorable weather boosted rice and corn harvests, according to data released earlier this month by the department of agriculture.

Filipinos working abroad sent home 1.1-billion dollars in June, up by 18.1 percent year-on-year, bringing remittances in the first half to a record 6.0-billion dollars or 15.4 percent more than a year earlier, the central bank said.

There are more than 8-million Filipinos or about a tenth of the population who decided to work in foreign countries because of low wages at home.

Increase government spending on infrastructure in preparation for next year’s elections will boost growth, offsetting the negative impact of high oil prices on the economy, said Jonathan Ravelas, market strategist of Banco de Oro Universal bank who added that Philippine economy likely grew 5.25 – 5.50 percent in April to June from a year ago and is on track to sustain this pace of expansion for the rest of the year.

Dennis Arroyo, director for planning and policy of the National Economic Development Authority said that growth in exports this year would likely exceed the government’s target of 10 percent given an upbeat outlook for global semiconductor demand in the second half, which comprise the bulk of Manila’s shipments. (PIA-XI)

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