“US may not enforce a domestic legislation on a sovereign state.
It was a veiled warning that the United States government issued through media on pursuing an arms deal with Russia or, for that matter, any country outside the Western alliance.
The Reuters report citing the possible breach of sanctions imposed by the US if the country proceeds with the purchase of Russian grenade launchers was obviously supplied by the American government.
The article even warned that “the deal could add strain to a nearly 70-year-old security alliance that Washington has described as ‘ironclad.’”
The US imposed sanctions last year against any country trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors as a retaliation for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its support for Syria’s government and alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections.
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act on the Russian penalties was signed into law in 2017.
In a radical policy shift, President Rody Duterte had sought a diversification of military arms purchases to non-traditional sources such as China and Russia.
Russia has donated assault rifles and trucks to the Philippines, but the grenade launchers were the first government purchase of weapons.
A carrot-and-stick policy was too evident as, on the same day the article on possible sanctions on the Russian purchases came out, the US Embassy said $26.5 million in aid over the next two years is on the way to boost counterterrorism support for law enforcement agencies.
The US mission also reminded the Duterte administration that “the United States is a proud ally of the Philippines and will continue to provide whole-of-government support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts.”
The Department of National Defense (DND) and Malacañang said jointly that Russian arms purchases will not be hindered by the US sanctions threat, citing sovereign rights.
“Rody’s independent foreign policy is apparently rankling the US government.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who is an international law professor at the University of the Philippines, said the US may not enforce a domestic legislation on a sovereign state primarily since the transaction will not occur on American soil.
“The sale will be most likely in Russia. The goods are in Russia and the delivery in the Philippines. So, what is the relevance of US laws?” he said.
The DND said the government will not allow sources for military modernization to be limited “to only a few countries” since the need is for the acquisition of the best technology “allowed by our budget.”
Rody is expected to have a stronger resolve to pursue the Russian deal if the admonition or warning will come directly from the US government as he had rejected intrusion of another government into the country’s domestic affairs. Thus, the coursing of the American government sentiment through media.
“We are free to enter into contracts as we please and we are not bound by any domestic law, particularly where the transaction will not occur in US soil,” Roque said.
Rody’s independent foreign policy is apparently rankling the US government even as it is in the midst of efforts to contain the Asian powerhouse China which is emerging as its global rival.
Also, the recent contrived alarm over the arrival of Chinese vessels and aircraft in Davao City could have been part of the propaganda mill to question Rody’s diplomatic shift.
The drift of the propaganda operation against the independent foreign policy is, however, absurd since if Chinese landings and dockings are questioned, so, too, should those of other countries.
The Philippines has a mutual defense agreement exclusively with the United States which appears to be what the Americans want honored, but that Rody warned he might seek to revise as a result of frequent American intrusion into the country’s affairs.
Thus far, Rody’s policy shift is working in favor of the Philippines in gaining from the US more and bigger financial aid while good international relationships are diversified.
Four municipalities from North Cotabato province formally handed over a total of 254 loose firearms to the 6th Infantry Division last July 19 at the provincial gymnasium in Amas, Kidapawan.
The loose firearms were from the municipalities of Aleosan, Kabacan, Pigcawan and Libungan.
“I would like to thank the local chief executives of the province of North Cotabato for their support and cooperation in the campaign against loose firearms of the national leadership,” said Brig. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, Commander of 6th Infantry Division.
The army commander also commended the leadership of Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza under whose efforts a total of 772 loose firearms have been surrendered in her province to date.
“The number of firearms surrendered can be translated into the reduction of crimes in the community that will greatly contribute to achieve long and lasting peace,” Sobejana added.
Mendoza said she will not stop until loose firearms are totally eradicated in her province.
Also present at the turnover ceremony were Pigcawayan Mayor Eliseo Garcesa, Libungan Mayor Cristopher Cuan, Aleosan Mayor Vicente Sorupia and Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman Jr. as well as 602nd Brigade Commander Col. Alfredo V. Rosario, 34th Infantry Battalion Commander Angelo Lutera and Lt. Col. Ciriaco Lomas-e.
Among the firearms surrendered were 3 cal 7.62mm sniper rifle, 5 cal 7.62mm M14, 2 caliber 5.56mm Ultimax, 2 caliber 5.56mm M16, 9 cal .50 sniper rifle, 1 cal .30 sniper rifle, 42 cal .30 Garrand, 44 cal .30 Mussel, 4 cal .30 Carbine, 1 cal .30 light machine gun, 3 cal .30 Browning Automatic rifle, 51 12-Gauge Shotgun, 43 cal 40mm M79 grenade launcher, 1 cal 40mm M203, 1 rocket propelled grenade, 4 60mm mortar, 1 single-shot pistol, 1 single-shot M16, 2 Thompson, 17 Springfield rifles, 2 Carbines, 2 cal 9mm UZI, 2 KG9, 2 12-gauge shot pistol, 1 cal .45 pistol, and 8 cal .38 revolver.
Managua, Nicaragua — President Daniel Ortega used Thursday’s 39th anniversary of the 1979 revolution against dictator Anastasio Somoza to celebrate strengthening his grip on power after three months of anti-government protests and to attack Nicaragua’s Roman Catholic Church as allies of “coup mongers.”
In recent days, the government and its supporters routed some of the remaining focal points of the resistance.
Those still loyal to Ortega, who helped lead the Sandinista uprising decades ago, say the country has made progress under his rule. Detractors argue Ortega has become a dictator himself and should step down after consolidating near-total political control in the hands of his family. His wife, Rosario Murillo, occupies the vice presidency.
Tens of thousands gathered at a public square near Lake Managua to hear Ortega and others speak during a rally commemorating the fall of the Somoza dictatorship.
“It has been a painful battle,” Ortega said of the recent unrest. “Painful because we have confronted a conspiracy armed and financed by internal forces we all know and external forces we totally identify.”
The Nicaraguan Pro-Human Rights Association tallied 351 killings related to unrest between April 19 and July 10, while the government puts the death toll at more than 200. The vast majority of the deaths were civilians, the group said.
On Thursday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said it had counted 277 deaths.
While lauding his own government for patience and restraint, Ortega singled out the Catholic hierarchy for blistering criticism. He originally asked church leaders to mediate the crisis, but on Thursday he said their actions had disqualified them as mediators. He said the bishops had given him an ultimatum to call early elections and he alleged that churches have been used to stockpile weapons and stage attacks.
“I thought they were mediators, but no, they are committed to the coup mongers. They were part of the coup mongers’ plan,” Ortega said.
Managua auxiliary Bishop Silvio Baez said via Twitter that slander does not hurt the church. “It suffers for those who have been murdered, for the families that cry, for the unjustifiably detained and for those who flee repression.”
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, which on Wednesday passed a resolution condemning human rights abuses by Nicaraguan security forces, tweeted that all sides must return to the dialogue mediated by Nicaragua’s Episcopal Conference.
“Rice prices for the period also averaged higher to 4.8 percent from 4.67 percent.
Headline inflation likely climbed higher in July to 5.3 percent, mostly on the basis of food inflation having also pushed higher during the month, the Department of Finance (DoF) said on Friday.
In its latest bulletin, the DoF said that from only 5.2 percent in June, commodities prices were seen at a higher plane as food inflation likely ramped up 6.12 percent in July from only 6.07 percent in June.
The food component of the consumer price index (CPI) accounts for more than half of the basket of services and goods regularly surveyed by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The non-food component of the CPI was similarly seen climbing from 4.03 percent to 4.25 percent.
These numbers, while preliminary, indicate some disanchoring in prices as the confluence of domestic and global events contributed to higher headline inflation.
According to the DoF, vegetable prices were estimated to have significantly climbed an average 11.85 percent in July from only 8.63 percent in June, along with the tobacco component also seen averaging higher to 29.36 percent from 28.29 percent.
Rice prices for the period also averaged higher to 4.8 percent from 4.67 percent, the DoF said.
On the aggregate, food and non-alcoholic beverages contributed 2.43 percent to the forecast headline inflation in July.
The non-food component of the CPI, on the other hand, contributed 4.25 percent to the July inflation survey from only 4.03 percent the previous June.
The electricity, gas and other fuels component contributed the most to inflation during the month averaging 10.77 percent from 9.37 percent, as did clothing and communications which contributed 2.31 percent and 0.42 percent, respectively.
Inflation, which limits the purchasing power of the consumer and dampens the incentive to save, first breached the target celing of only 4 percent in March when this averaged 4.3 percent and has not come down ever since.
But finance and monetary officials have since discounted the likelihood of high and persistent inflation over the next 18 to 24 months, saying such resulted from the one-off impact of higher excise tax on fuel and sugar-sweetened beverages under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN Act that took effect last January.
Thus far, headline inflation averaged 4.3 percent in the first six month, substantially above the 2 to 4 percent target rate plotted much earlier by the economic managers.
CAR SALES DIP
The slide in total car sales for the first half of 2018 cannot be solely attributed to the TRAIN law, a group of major automotive companies said recently.
The Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors led by Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. said there are other important factors that have played into the waning of car sales this year.
In its regular quarterly report, AVID said its sales momentum slowed by 11 percent, reporting only 43,138 units sold in the first half of 2018, down from 48,344 units sold for the comparable period in 2017.
AVID President Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo said: “The consumers are still adjusting to new income and new commodity price levels.”
“We see this as a transitionary period and may soon normalize as both supply and demand factors stabilize,” Perez-Agudo explained.
The AVID report considers factors such as higher petroleum prices that have raised the total cost of owning vehicles and the indirect impact of higher interest rates that affect buyer preferences and priorities as some of the leading causes of the vehicle sales drop.
Another reason is some customers have also advanced their purchases late in 2017 to take advantage of the lower prices and interest rates.
“Still, the association expects the effects of the TRAIN law to be short-term and transitional, foreseeing that the need for vehicles will continue to rise and that the market will eventually adjust to the new tax regime,” according to the report.
AVID said the additional excise tax had immediate impact on the Passenger Car and Local Commercial Vehicle (CLCV) segments, however, tax exemptions on hybrid and electric vehicles placed them in a favorable position to break into an emergent market. The report also claimed that the new tax bracket on luxury vehicles is expected to make that segment very competitive.
The AVID group sold a total of 16,176 units of passenger cars from January to June in 2018 as against the 18,769 units sold from the previous year, a decline of 14%. The volume continues to be mainly driven by Hyundai as it recorded 10,838 units sold in the first six months of the year.
On the other hand, local commercial vehicles sales went down by 10 percent across all segments with the exception of pick-ups as these are exempted from paying excise taxes under TRAIN. The segment hit 26,528 units sold in 2018 versus the 29,575 units sold in the first semester of 2017. Ford continues to dominate the LCV segment, selling a total of 12,155 units.
Representing AVID’s Commercial Vehicle Segment, JAC Automobile Int’l Philippines Inc. sold 434 units from January to June 2018. AVID welcomed JAC Automobile Int’l Philippines Inc., the exclusive distributor of JAC models - light and heavy vehicles, bus, coach and heavy equipment, into its fold in May 2018.
AVID is composed of car importers and distributors that are mainly non-members of the more dominant Chamber of Automobile Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. or CAMPI.
Its members are Geely, Auto Nation Group (M-B, Jeep), British Bespoke Automobiles (Rolls Royce), British United Automobiles (Lotus), The Covenant Car Company (GM/Chevy), BDPhils Motorsports Inc. (Aston Martin), Focus Ventures (FAW), Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Subaru, PGA Cars, Scandanavian Motors (Volvo), Suzuki Phils. and the United Asia Automotive Group (Foton).
I awoke, disoriented from a deep slumber. I looked up, expecting the sight of scattered stars. Instead it was pitch black. Slowly, it dawned on me that I was sleeping in a hammock inside a cave where the ceiling rose as high as 200 feet.
I checked my watch and it said 6:35 a.m. It was daytime outside, but inside the cave, it was always dark night.
I stood up and packed my things as we prepared for breakfast before making our way to the exit at the other end. Excited, I prepared mentally for the rigorous routes that awaited us in the many chambers of Langun Gobingob.
The man who caved in
The day before we entered the mammoth mouth of Langun Gobingob cave in Calbiga, Samar, cave master Joni Bonifacio of Trexplore the Adventures, gave us a brief backgrounder of the cave.
Known to the locals for many decades, the cave gained prominence in 1987 when an Italian group of speleologists, headed by Guido Rossi, explored the cave’s deeper and farthest chambers. After a thorough mapping process, local caving enthusiasts soon joined future explorations.
Joni Bonifacio was one of many who was lured by the cave’s allure. Not long after, he started guiding his friends on weekend forays inside Langun Gobingob.
After having spent a hundred spelunking trips to the cave, Bonifacio decided to put up Trexplore the Adventures – an adventure outfitter guiding travelers to Samar, Leyte and Biliran.
In the years that followed, Bonifacio became the go-to guide for caving buffs wanting to explore Samar’s many cave systems. He became so popular that even the Lonely Planet guidebook highly recommends him.
‘Biggest’ cave in the Philippines
Inside Calbiga Cave, we saw a treasure trove of karst formations of different shapes and sizes spanning an underground a labyrinth of 2,970 hectares. The sight solidified current claims of it being the biggest cave system in the Philippines and one of the largest in Asia. It is so huge that our original camping spot is called the “football field.”
When we entered the cave, hard rain the previous night had made it into a swamp with three-feet mud, forcing us to make an emergency campsite at one of the cave’s flat portions.
Tangled maze of spectacular chambers
The next day, on our way out, we saw the full grandeur of Langun Gobingob cave.
From one chamber to another, we were greeted by extraordinary stalactite and stalagmite formations. Even in the dark with only our headlamps illuminating our way, we could clearly see the calcium carbonate-covered rock formations shimmering like extravagant jewels.
For each chamber, Joni had a name. Giant Chandeliers, for example, referred to the part where stalactites looked exactly like the dripping crystals of huge chandeliers.
Each time exhaustion crept in, all I would do was direct my headlamp into the fascinating rock formations around me and it would be replaced by sheer euphoria.
The last part of our route should tickle every adventurer’s imagination. We waded through chest-deep natural pools, ambled through mud-filled cavernous passageways, and rappelled down from a 40-meter high wall. Every inch of the cave was designed by nature to cater to every swashbuckling caver.
While splashing my way into another natural pool, I finally saw the light emanating from the mouth of the cave.
“We’re almost there,” I told myself as Audrey, my new friend from Belgium, strode behind me. Mixed feelings reigned over me as we posed for a photograph celebrating our two-day assault of Langun Gobingob Cave. Ecstatic that I could finally relax all my limbs and muscles, I also felt the blues at leaving this astonishing spot.
As we exchanged high fives, I turned around for one last glance and thanked Mother Nature for spending thousands of years carving this remarkable cave.
“If you teach any technique of acting without any attention to the humanity and the health of the actor, you’re selling the actor short.
Learning continues for 40 talents of GMA Artist Center as famed New York City acting coach Anthony Vincent Bova conducts new acting workshops here. Together with actress Anna Feleo, his co-teacher in the workshops, Anthony holds sessions that focus on the actors’ emotional and psychological alignment.
After his visit last February, he now wants Kapuso artists to learn how to quickly build and change characters, which, according to him, is easier said than done.
“In order for the actor to surprise his audience, they have to surprise themselves first. That’s it. The question is, how do you surprise yourself when you know the lines? How do you surprise yourself when you know at the end of the scene that’s going to happen? This is what the craft is all about; this is what being truthful and honest and being in the moment is all about,” he said.
Among the first participants were Andrea Torres, Chynna Ortaleza, Benjamin Alves, Gil Cuerva, Mikoy Morales and Thea Tolentino, all of whom attested to the workshops’ life-changing effect.
“(Bova) challenges us to think of other ways to present it so the audience can enjoy. And, I think, if you’re a passionate artist, that will always be your goal -- to be truthful in every scene so that you’ll be able to give them something that they won’t forget,” Torres said. “We’re open to doing exercises that are not awkward to look at because we understand each other so it’s a really big help that we’re all in this. We get to bond with other artists on set so at least we grow together.”
At the end of the training program, artists are expected to be equipped with the necessary tools to work effectively.
When they go on set, they are more open to different emotions and are more inspired to do their craft.
“But now, you are more relaxed all the time because you know if this method doesn’t work, you still have other techniques. I can give a performance that is not half-baked, still truthful,” Torres added.
The workshop began on 18 July and will run until the 24th. Bova will come back in January 2019 to conduct a culminating activity that will showcase what the artists have learned throughout the year from his training program.
“I believe that this work will make a dramatic impact in that way. When you learn the craft to do that, you’re going to catch the audience more. That is very exciting. When you think of actors and acting, it’s all about dramatic scenes, but it really is all about the scope of life. I hope that this work will bring substance there. I think that’s something that’s going to be impactful,” Anthony said.
Health and humanity
Aside from the techniques, the famed acting coach emphasizes that people should also give importance to the health and well-being of the actors.
“If you teach any technique of acting without any attention to the humanity and the health of the actor, you’re selling the actor short. More likely the odds will be higher that they will have some problems because they’re not taught to really understand being a grounded human being. I always check in with the actor because if the actors are coming from the state of depression, they are not going to function. They can function like a band-aid, they can get through a movie or two or five, but they’re going to spiral. They need to be a healthy person. (If you’re healthy), the more you’re not afraid to access different parts because you know you’re in a healthy place,” Anthony expounded.
GMA Artist Center is also considering launching the workshops for the people working behind the cameras.
“Anthony will be working with the actors, producers, directors and some of the writers. So we’re going to expose them to what Anthony does with the artists and ask them to participate as well. We’re looking into that this time with the people off-cam. Hopefully, as we go along, we get more people involved. So, little steps -- first with the actors whom we see on the screen; the next level (will be) the people who produce, then we go on and on. We hope to continue this next year,” said Gigi Santiago-Lara, GMA special assistant vice president for Alternative Productions.
Bova is a protégé of famed acting coach Eric Morris, who has taught some of the country’s best actors including Laurice Guillen, Johnny Delgado, Leo Martinez, Michael de Mesa and Joel Torre.
“It’s never about the character. It’s always about the humanity of the individual. There are roles that are fake. It’s always about if the actor is there to share his humanity. When the humanity is present, it doesn’t matter -- truth begets truth even if it’s comedy or drama,” Anthony concluded.
By Nelson S. Badilla
“Eventually everyone will get tired of riding the dilapidated jeepneys that are hazards on the road.
The Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory (LTFRB) yesterday rolled out more than 200 modern public utility jeepney (PUJ) units to operators yesterday in Manila.
The awarding of units by the DoTr and LTFRB was accomplished through the “Dispatch of Modern Public Transport Vehicles” event at the Quirino Grandstand in Ermita, Manila.
Earlier, the LTFRB had awarded provisional authority to two jeepney transport groups in Taguig City and Pateros to operate 142 units of modern jeepneys compliant with the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP).
The units are spacious with high headroom and engines that are either Euro 4 emission-compliant or are purely electrical running off solar powers on the roof, LTFRB-NCR Director Zona Russet Tamayo said.
The new jeepneys have air-conditioning, closed-circuit television cameras, GPS navigation systems, an automatic fare collection system, speed limiters, dashboard cameras and Wi-Fi.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade explained that the modern jeepney units are also compliant with regulations set by the Bureau of Standards.
They have side doors instead of rear doors and a higher ceiling that allows passengers to stand on the aisles, translating to higher carrying capacity, added the DoTr chief.
LTFRB said the Class 1, 2 and 3 jeepneys are already available for dispatch.
“It is time for the public to have not only safe but comfortable and convenient public transport. If you were to choose where do you want to ride: old and dilapidated jeepneys that belch black smoke or modern jeepneys wherein you will be able to seat comfortably and you are assured that you will reach your destinations safely and not contributing to pollution?” Tugade said.
He added there are financing schemes available to operators and drivers to help them pay for the cost of the modern jeepneys.
DoTr Undersecretary Tomas Orbos noted that there is no problem with financing with a “5-6-7-80,000 formula, which means easy downpayment, very low interest rates, payability in seven years and P80,000 in government subsidy.”
“Eventually everyone will get tired of riding the dilapidated jeepneys that are hazards on the road, because we all know we deserve better and there are better options out there. The government would not neglect them,” Orbos said.
The PUVMP was first launched in Tacloban City, Leyte, in January where it initially deployed 45 solar-powered jeepneys.
Last month, 15 out of 35 modern PUJ units of the Senate Employees Transport Service Cooperative were rolled out and started to ply the route of StarCity/CCP to PICC, GSIS/Senate to MoA to PITX and back.