Sunday, May 18, 2008

7 killed at height of 'Cosme'--gov’t reports

It was the so-called calm before the storm.

Northern and Central Luzon experienced moderate rains and wind on Saturday afternoon as tropical storm "Cosme" (international code name Halong) hovered over these regions. But by Saturday night through Sunday, Cosme's wrath was felt in Zambales, Pangasinan, Benguet, La Union and the Ilocos provinces.

Seven people reportedly died in Pangasinan, Dagupan City and La Union during Cosme's onslaught on Saturday night, while two other children swept away by floods in Dagupan City were still missing as of Sunday.

Power supply was cut off in several areas in Central and Northern Luzon on Saturday as trees fell on power lines in Pangasinan, Benguet and Zambales. Power supply had yet to be restored in most of these provinces as of Sunday afternoon.

Several roads in Benguet were closed as landslides hit these areas.

Thousands of families were left homeless in Pangasinan and Zambales as strong winds and waves battered coastal communities.

Reports reaching the provincial disaster coordinating council (PDCC) in Pangasinan said two persons died in Bugallon town, while another died in San Fabian town.

Lourdes Soriano, 72, was hit by a galvanized iron sheet blown off by strong winds in Bugallon town. The other victim, Cesario basi, died after a coconut tree fell on his house on Saturday night.

A 36-year-old man, identified only as Pascual, was pinned by a fallen mango tree in Barangay Bolasi in San Fabian town.

In Dagupan City, Supt. Dionicio Borromeo, police chief, said the body of two-year-old Miguel Poserio was found floating along Tanap River at Catacdang Bonuan on Sunday. However, his two brothers, three-year-old Randyl and four-year-old Rodyl, were still missing as of Sunday. Their mother said the three boys disappeared Saturday night.

Dr. Anthony Golez, deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), told reporters Sunday afternoon that the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) received field reports that three persons were killed in La Union. The NDCC, he said, was still confirming the La Union deaths.

The victims were said to have died of electrocution and trauma injuries sustained after being hit by flying GI sheets and fallen trees, said Golez who is concurrently a MalacaƱang deputy spokesperson.

"Zambales and Pangasinan were the hardest hit by the typhoon," Golez said.

In Central Luzon, strong winds accompanying Cosme damaged 7,000 houses in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, on Saturday night, Gov. Amor Deloso told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Sunday.

"The winds were strong. They were like ipo-ipo (tornado)," he said when reached by phone while inspecting the damage in the town at past 10 a.m.

The number of damaged houses accounted for 80 percent of total houses in Sta. Cruz, he said.

The Zambales provincial government opened three evacuation centers in public schools in villages Malabago and Gama, and at the Sta. Cruz Academy at the town proper.

More than 500 families or about 3,000 people living near the shores of the South China Sea in the town sought refuge there on Saturday afternoon, he said.

The rest of the affected families chose to stay in their damaged houses, he added.

Deloso said the municipal board in Sta. Cruz would meet in an emergency session on Sunday to declare the town under a state of calamity so the town and provincial governments can use portions of their calamity funds for the reconstruction of houses.

At least 23 houses in a resettlement site in Barangay Cawag in Subic town were damaged as heavy rains and strong winds pounded the area on Saturday. Reports said most of the houses had cracked walls and floors.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Luzon said floods hit villages in Botolan, San Antonio and Iba towns, all in Zambales.

Reports from the Bulacan PDCC on Sunday said there was no report of flooding or typhoon-related casualty in the province's 21 towns and three cities.

On Sunday, major roads in Pangasinan were littered with galvanized iron sheets from blown off rooftops, fallen trees and electric posts and other debris.

"We did not expect the typhoon was this strong," said Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr.

"We can see the devastation but we cannot quantify yet the damage because our local officials are still in the process of assessing the damages in their own towns," he said.

Power went off early Saturday night as Cosme unleashed strong winds and dumped strong rains. Telephone lines also went down after trees fell on electric and telephone lines.

Several families were reported to have been evacuated in Lingayen, Calasiao and Manaoag towns, and San Carlos City.

Espino has ordered clearing operation in major roads in the province to ease the flow of traffic.

Espino said worst hit by 'Cosme' were western and central Pangasinan towns. He said he recommended to the provincial board the declaration of the province under a state of calamity.

In Dagupan City, city administrator Alvin Fernandez said the city took a heavy blow from "Cosme."

"Dagupan City was badly hit but at the moment we cannot assess yet the damage to property for the very reason that it's massive," Fernandez said.

"The truth is that we are prepared for a calamity but not for this type… which was unexpected," he said.

At the Dagupan City Jail, inmates took advantage of the typhoon and the power failure Saturday night and engaged in a riot at 7 p.m. Three inmates escaped during the melee.

But a report at the provincial disaster coordinating council here said one inmate was rearrested.

Fernandez said Dagupan City would be declared under a state of calamity.

"It is just formality. Everyone already sees that we are already in a state of calamity. The fish pens, the crops are all destroyed. Most of the houses, especially those made of light materials, have been damaged," he said.

Bangus (milkfish) pens and ponds in the city also overflowed, allowing bangus to escape to the Lingayen Gulf.

As result, bangus prices went down from a range of P75 to P80 a kilogram to P25 a kg.

Several hardware stores in Calasiao, Pangasinan, ran out of supplies, especially nails, as many residents started rebuilding their damaged houses on Sunday.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Sunday inspected the typhoon damage in Pangasinan.

In Benguet, landslides that hit the province's interior roads led provincial disaster relief officials scrambling for loaders to clear blocked roads.

Cosme's continuous rains closed several provincial roads but several private contractors sent their equipment to clear these roads.

As of 11 a.m. Sunday, the following areas were closed to traffic: Guiset-Ambuklao-Guirrel in Kabayan and Bokod towns, Dalupirip and Twin River in Itogon town, Kennon Road in Tuba and Palew in Tublay.

The Barangay Pakpakitan section of the Halsema Highway in Buguias town was closed but Gov. Nestor Fongwan immediately sent a loader there to clear the area.

Fongwan said more loaders would be needed to clear landslide-hit sections of the 84-km Halsema Highway. The province has only two loaders and a bulldozer.

The highway passes through the major vegetable producing towns of La Trinidad, Tublay, Atok, Buguias and Kibungan in Benguet and Bauko in Mt. Province.

Fongwan allayed fears of lack of vegetable supply since the Halsema Highway along Atok, Tublay and Kibungan towns were open. He said the typhoon struck on Saturday and Sunday when there was no trading.

Two families in Barangay Alno in La Trinidad town escaped death when their houses were destroyed as Cosme crossed the province on Saturday night.

Juanna Banawe, provincial social welfare officer, said Waldo Manuel's house was crushed by rolling boulders while Daniel Aquino's family was able to move out before a strong current swept their house.

At least 21 houses in Sitios Toll Gate, Kiangan, Mill Site, Power and Green Valley in Barangay Camp 6 along Kennon Road were damaged by landslides.

Atok Mayor Concepcion Balao provided comic relief at the provincial disaster coordinating council center at the provincial capitol when she declared that classes in her town would be suspended.

She retracted the announcement after she realized schools were still closed for the summer break.

Roads leading to Ifugao and Mt. Province were closed due to several landslides.

Only Kennon Road, however, was closed among the major routes to and from Baguio City, reports from the Office of Civil Defense in the Cordillera said.

The OCD said two minor landslides were reported along Kennon Road but the agency ordered the road's closure as a "preventive measure."

The Nueva Vizcaya–Ifugao–Mt. Province road, Banaue-Hungduan road and Banaue-Mayoyao road were closed to traffic. Clearing operations started on Sunday.

In Baguio City, the OCD reported only two typhoon-related injuries in the city. A car passing by Bakakeng Road was lucky to miss a tree falling although Harvey Sevilla, 23, was hurt as a branch hit him.

Roger Damaso, 28, was also hit by a fallen branch while walking along a road in Barangay Camp 8. Both are now at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.

A house near the Dontogan Elementary School was covered by a landslide but the five family members living there were unhurt.

OCD reports showed that rainfall measured 206.86 millimeters on Sunday.

"The storm was not so strong but the rains were hard," an OCD official said.

The National Transmission Corp. (Transco) ordered half a meter opened in Ambuklao's gate valves to release excess water, but the firm had not been able to update OCD abut the water level at the dam on Sunday morning. Reports from Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo-Fuertes, Delmar CariƱo, Frank Cimatu and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes and Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon; Nikko Dizon, Inquirer in Manila

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Zambales, Pangasinan worst hit by 'Cosme' - NDCC

Zambales and Pangasinan are the provinces hit hardest by tropical storm "Cosme," according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Anthony Golez Jr, NDCC deputy administrator said at least two people were reported injured in Baguio City, while several road networks were disrupted due to trees that felled by the storm, which is forecast to exit Philippine territory by Tuesday.

"So far, Zambales at Pangasinan ang may pinakamatinding pinsala (So far
Zambales and Pangasinan have been hit hardest)," Golez said in an interview on dzBB radio.

The Health department has ordered local medical teams to make sure epidemics do not break out in evacuation centers, according to Golez.

The health teams have instructions also to make sure children do not catch diseases while in evacuation centers.

Golez said Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr ordered the release of rice to families in areas affected by the storm.

As this developed, dzBB radio quoted a report from the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council saying that it might take a month before electric power in Pangasinan is restored.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said "Cosme" continues to weaken while traversing the mountainous terrain of Northern Luzon.

It said that as of 10 a.m., "Cosme" was 30 kilometers (km) east of Tuguegarao City, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph.

"Cosme" was moving northeast at 19 kph and was expected to continue to cross Northern Luzon Sunday.

By Monday morning it was expected to be 370 km east-northeast of Aparri, Cagayan or at 330 km east-southeast of Basco, Batanes.

On Tuesday morning it is expected to be 1,030 km northeast of Basco, Batanes or at 440 kms east-southeast of Okinawa, Japan or outside the Philippine area of responsibility.

Under Storm Signal No. 2 are Batanes, Cagayan, Babuyan, and Isabela.

Under Storm Signal 1 are Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Kalinga, Abra, Mountain Province, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Quirino, Benguet, Pangasinan and La Union.

"Cosme" will continue to enhance the southwest monsoon and bring occasional rains over Southern Luzon and Western Visayas.

Residents in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes were advised to take all the necessary precautions against possible flash floods and landslides.

Residents along the coastal areas of Western Luzon and Western Visayas were also alerted by Pagasa against big waves. - GMANews.TV

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'Cosme' ravages Zambales town; 7,000 families homeless

Tropical storm "Cosme" has ravaged Sta. Cruz town in Zambales province, leaving about 7,000 families in the area homeless, according to Governor Ramon B. Lacbain

In an interview with radio dzBB on Sunday, Lacbain appealed for help for the residents of Sta. Cruz, after the storm wrecked an estimated 75 to 85 percent of the homes there.

As of posting time, there were only about 500 people who were evacuated to safer places, according to Lacbain. "Kagabi lang nag-evacuate kasi malalim ang tubig (We were able to evacuated them just last night because the water was deep)."

Santa Cruz, a second class municipality, has a population of 49,269 people in 9,754 households, based on the 2000 census. - GMANews.TV

How stolen vehicles are given new LTO papers

A FULL-BLAST investigation conducted by the Philippine National Police Traffic Management Group with the support of the Land Transportation Office enabled officials to find out how stolen motor vehicles are being sold in the local market complete with LTO registration papers.

“We have identified a number of LTO officials and men who appear to be liable in the anomalous registration schemes concerning stolen motor vehicles in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” said Chief Inspector Joseph Q. Orsos, head of the PNP-TMG Legal Service.

Orsos furnished the Journal Group copies of their investigation report on some of the LTO officers and men. The investigation was conducted with the help of LTO chief Alberto Suansing and his Legal and Internal Affairs Task Force.

He cited the case of former Tagbilaran City LTO district head Gavino L. Paden and verifier/encoder A.G. Petarco. In a report to TMG director, Chief Superintendent Perfecto P. Palad, Orsos said the two appear to be liable for anomalous registration when they allowed the transfer of registration of two Mitsubishi Adventures with license plates AHB-423 and AHE-415 which are supposed to have originated in Cordillera Administrative Region-LTO wherein in fact no confirmation was made in any district office of the Cordillera LTO.

Orsos said their verification from the Cordillera LTO showed that the motor vehicle file numbers used as their basis for the transfer of registration were for jitney and motorcycle as pointed out by Cordillera LTO officials.

The Adventure with plate no. AHB-423 was found out to be truly owned by one Concepcion Ramos and with original plate no. TVV-747. he said. The vehicle was stolen on June 19, 2001.

On the other hand, the Adventure with plate no. AHE-415 turned out to be owned by one Lorenzo Sibayan with original plate no. WSX-464. The vehicle was stolen in Sikatuna Village, Q.C., on June 7, 2001.

Orsos said that on the case of former Tarlac City LTO district head Luciano L. Llanillo and verifier/encoder L.S. de Vera, they appear to be liable for anomalous registration when they allowed the original registration of two motor vehicles-a Honda CRV with plate no. CSP-216 and a Mitsubishi Pajero with plate no. CSN-898-wherein the registration papers were issued even before the supposed ‘owners’ acquired the same.

Orsos said it turned out that the Confirmation Certificates were issued ahead of the Sales Invoices in that particular case at the Tarlac City LTO office.

He said that the Honda CRV turned out to be owned by Jean Pierre Tuazon of Mandaluyong City who lost his car with original plate no. FES-559 to heavily-armed car thieves in Pasig City on May 15, 2002. On the other hand, the Pajero was found to be owned by one Manolito Natividad who reported that the SUV with plate no. YOU-888 was stolen by car thieves along Herrera St. in Makati City on April 27, 2002.

The case of LTO Bislig district head in Surigao del Sur, Bedula R. Lipoles also involved the anomalous registration of a Toyota Fortuner, said Orsos. The TMG lawyer said that Lipoles allowed the original registration of the Fortuner with plate no. LMG-164 under the name of one Edmundo Pang Sr., wherein the supporting documents made it appear that the subject vehicle was imported but without any certificate of payment or listing from the Bureau of Customs.

Orsos said they also doubted if the LTO district in Bislig was allowed to originally register an imported motor vehicle as this is allowed only in certain districts of LTO in Regions 3,7 and National Capital Region. The subject vehicle recovered from the possession of professional basketball player Lordy Tugade was found to be the real property of Jose Marcial Villanueva with original plate no. VDZ-615. The SUV was stolen while parked in Araneta Avenue, Q.C. on Dec. 6, 2006.

There was also the case of an Isuzu Crosswind Wagon with plate no. XEA-609 owned by one Edgardo Grafilo that was stolen while parked in front of a hotel in Quezon Avenue, Q.C. on Nov. 28, 2002.

Orsos said that on Sept. 3, 2007, the vehicle already sporting the plate no. JBM-685 was intercepted by TMG agents in Dumaguete City while being driven by one Sylvia Sy Uymatiao. He said that the Crosswind was established to be the very vehicle of Grafilo upon expert or macro-etching examination which revealed that the chassis and enginenumbers are already tampered and that the restored numbers corresponded to Grafilo’s vehicle.

Orsos said they discovered that the wagon was registered at the Cebu City LTO under the name of one John L. Cabanes using the spurious file number of the Danao City LTO. Orsos said the same Cebu City LTO under Ms. Anita Pulga is being investigated for the anomalous registration of motor vehicles with plate numbers UMJ-979, LMA-667 and YOK-182. By: Alfred P. Dalizon - Journal online

Friday, May 02, 2008

10% wage hike to gov’t workers

Arroyo signs order granting 10% wage hike to gov’t workers

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez,

MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed the executive order granting a 10 percent wage increase to all government workers, her spokesman said Thursday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bune made the announcement Thursday, Labor Day.

The increase, expected to benefit 898,848 national government employees, will cost P9.216 billion, the budget department said.

Meanwhile the adjustment for the 297,905 soldiers, policemen, firemen, jail guards, and Coast Guard personnel will cost the government P2.84 billion, it said.

Senate OKs working students bill on second reading

By Veronica Uy -

MANILA, Philippines -- The Senate earlier this week passed on second reading a bill allowing, among others, more companies to hire working students and for working students to earn credits while working.

Senate Bill 2116, which seeks to amend the Special Program for the Employment of Students 16 years after its initial passage, was sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, chairman of the labor committee.

In his sponsorship speech, Estrada said SPES was originally set up in 1992 by Republic Act 7323 to encourage poor students to pursue their education through employment -- during summer and Christmas vacations for high school students and throughout the year for those in college or vocational schools.

He said some 984,840 students have benefited under SPES since 1995.

Under the system, SPES-registered employers pay 60 percent of the salaries of SPES-certified poor students in cash, while the government issues education vouchers worth 40 percent of their salaries to pay for tuition and book expenses. It is open to Filipinos between 15 and 25 years old.

The bill is expected to pass third reading next Tuesday, as no senator introduced any changes.

The Senate approved the following amendments to the current law:
• Change the requirement for companies that seek to qualify under SPES from having 50 employees down to 16;
• Grant academic credits to students employed in activities related to their courses;
• Require employers to inform student-workers of their rights, benefits, and privileges under existing laws and company policies;
• Penalize persons or entities who refuse or dishonor educational vouchers by the government; and
• Remove threshold amount (formerly pegged at P36,000) for maximum family income requirement.

"They earn and learn system of SPES has been extremely helpful in assisting poor but deserving students finance their education and open opportunities for employment. It also develops the productive work ethic of our young working students," Estrada said in a statement.

Citing statistics provided by labor regional offices, SPES has benefited in 2006 alone more than 60,000 students who were employed in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, electronics, and other industries all over the country.