Saturday, September 30, 2006

Zamboanga Hermosa Festival 2006

Zamboanga City's theme logo for the 2006 Zamboanga Hermosa Festival. (Gerky Valesco)

ZAMBOANGA CITY ((Uly Israel) / 30 Sept) - Here comes the most touted, considered as the grandest festivity staged every year in Zamboanga City - the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival!

Starting September 30 until the end of month of October, a series of activities have been prepared by the city government and the private sector, an ambitious project designed to draw local as well as foreign tourists to the city.

The organizers have adopted the theme: “Alegria, Alegria, Adelante Zamboanga” (Merry, Merry, Forward Zamboanga!) to highlight what awaits those who would join the revelry.

Expected to draw visitors to the city are scheduled concert of Sharon Cuneta on the 7th of October, the unique presentation of "Wow Zamboanga!", the Band and Dance competitions, the Regatta de Zamboanga, the religious activities on October 12, the free concert of Rey Valera, the trade fair and many more.

It officially reeled off September 30 with the opening of the 14th Shell National Youth Active Chess Championship (regional leg tournament) at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University gymnasium.

The month-long celebration consists of over 40 activities which will last until the end of October. The annual revelry is being held in honor of the feast day of the Nuestra Senora de la Virgen del Pilar, the city’s patron saint, on October 12.

Senate President Manuel Villar will be the city’s guest of honor and speaker during the commemorative program on October 11 at the open stage fronting City Hall. The program will be preceded by a street dance where elementary and high school students will parade the streets with their different costumes and dances at 9 a.m.

At 1 p.m. the same day, a floral float competition and street dance showdown would be held fronting the open stage.

This year’s festival will be highlighted by the unique presentation of Wow Zamboanga!, wherein some of the city’s 98 villages will present nightly cultural shows at the National Museum Courtyard from October 3-10, spearheaded by the Department of Tourism (DOT-Zamboanga City).

On October 1st, traveling merchants will open their stalls for the public at the CDCP complex, which has been converted into an open bazaar complex. Some 200 merchants from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will participate in the festivities.

Micaela Marquez, a Zamboanguena, will feature her art works in an art exhibit dubbed as “Las Mujeres de Zamboanga” at the lobby of the Lantaka Hotel.

The “Cosechas de Zamboanga”, a trade fair exhibit will also run from Oct. 3-15 at the Plaza Pershing.

The 2006 Dance Sport competition will be held on October 4 at the City Coliseum while a motorcade for Sharon Cuneta will be held on October 5 from the Zamboanga International Airport to the Palmeras Restaurant in Sta. Maria where she is to hold a press conference.

On October 6, the activity will include the 26th Chavacano Song Festival at the Garden Orchid Hotel roof deck (6 p.m.); a torch parade sponsored by the Universidad de Zamboanga, which will also be celebrating its Foundation Day; the Search for Mannequin of the Year, 7 p.m. at the Astoria Regency; and the free concert featuring Rey Valera, Saling Ket and Yra Johnson dubbed as “Ayer, Ahora y Manana Tuloy ang Love Songs, at 7 p.m. at the Coliseum in Tetuan village.

The public will have the chance to see the "Carrera de Zamboanga" from the Sta. Cruz Island to R.T. Lim Boulevard, Luyahan-Pasonanca-Muruk and then to City Hall on October 7.

The same day will also be the start of the two-day 1st Zamboanga Hermosa Mindanao Age Group Swimming Competition at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex; the start of the two-day (Oct. 7-8) golf tournament dubbed as Mayor Celso Lobregat Cup Golf Tournament at the Golf and Country Club and the start of the BC Cup 2006, an inter-government badminton tournament sponsored by Vice Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco at the LB Badminton Center (Oct. 7-8) and Sharon Cuneta's Mega Concert (Oct. 7) at the Summit Center in Tetuan.

October 8 will be the Regatta de Zamboanga, the sail boat race at the R.T. Lim Boulevard at 7 a.m.; the Milo Marathon at the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex; 37th Celebrating Dance, a dance competition at the WMSU gym and the Balikbayan Night, a dinner program for the Vamos A Zamboanga participants sponsored by the Department of Tourism at the Hacienda de Palmeras, 6 p.m.

October 9 activities will include the band competition at the Southern City Colleges and the Modern Dance Competition dubbed as “You Got Serve” at the Ground Zero disco.

The 3rd quarter regional scout committee meeting will reel off on October 10 at the Astoria Regency in the day time and at 7 p.m. simultaneously will be the Miss Zamboanga Beauty Pageant at the Astoria Regency and the ABS-CBN Mighty King of the Road Amateur Singing Competition at the City Hall Open stage

On the eve of the Fiesta Pilar - Oct. 11 - will be the street dance at 9 a.m. and the street dance showdown and floral float at 1 p.m. and culminated by program with Sen. Villar as guest.

October 12, the Feast Day of the Nuestra Senora, declared a non-working holiday in Zamboanga, will be devoted to religious activities. At 5 a.m. will be Diana (street brass band play) and the saying of the Holy Rosary and the grand procession in the afternoon from the Metropolitan Cathedral to the Fort Pilar shrine where the mass will be held.

The post fiesta activities include the October Fest at the Park 88 diner (Oct. 12-14); Oct 14 - Six Cycle Mind's concert at the city coliseum and the Concert at the Open Stage City Hall featuring the Viva Hot Babes; October 14-15-culmination of the BC Badminton Cup; October 20-21-Clean Green Coco Zamboanga at the Yubengco Star Mall in Putik village.

Mayor Celso Lobregat has given a directive to police and military authorities to draw up the security plans for the month-long celebration of Fiesta Pilar. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Troops Patrol Jolo Island

Filipino soldiers patrol a hinterland village in Jolo island, where military forces are hunting down members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiya. (Mindanao Examiner)

RP To Boost Abaca Production

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Darwin Wee / 30 Sept) – The Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) in Western Mindanao has expressed optimism that it would exceed the 8,000 hectares targeted for abaca plantation in the region in three years time.

FIDA regional director Eduardo B. Holoyohoy said the government is targeting to expand the abaca plantation to at least 50,000 hectares in different abaca production areas in the country under the National Abaca Development Program.

"Although our initial target is 8,000 hectares, we are confident to go beyond our target abaca plantation areas to more than 10,000 hectares," he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Mr. Holoyohoy attributed the upbeat projection after several local investors signified their interest to develop and transform idle agricultural land to abaca plantation in the region.

He said the bulk of the expansion projects are in the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

In Zamboanga del Norte alone, at least 7,000 hectares are expected to be fully planted with abaca within this year, he said.
"Currently, we have 2,000 hectares in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte which is being funded by the Canadian mining firm TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc., under its so-called corporate social responsibility program."
"Another private firm has pledged to develop 5,000 hectares in Sibuco town also in Zamboanga del Norte. The proposal is yet to be presented to Agricultural Commodity Enhancement Fund," he said.

In addition, Mr. Holoyohoy said that there are also two private investors from Manila and Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao which are also eyeing to plant 5,000 hectares in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province and 2,000 hectares more in Zamboanga Sibugay.

To maintain the abaca seedlings distribution in the region, FIDA is establishing at least two new seed banks and nurseries.
"This is to augment the current seed stocks in Kalawit and Muntiya towns in Zamboanga del Norte. Seed banks and nurseries are very important for us to be able to realize the project. This will be the source of all the planting materials," he said.
He said another investor in Zamboanga Sibugay has already established a five-hectare nursery to supply the needs of its 300 hectares abaca plantations.
Currently, Western Mindanao has about 10,000 hectares planted to abaca. In 2005, the abaca production in this region reached more than 106 tons, a 50% increase compared from the previous year.

Mr. Holoyohoy said at least 95% of the total production of abaca in Western Mindanao comes from Sulu Archipelago. Last year, Sulu produced more than 2,500 tons of raw abaca fiber.
Being the major abaca producing province, Sulu also has the biggest plantation of abaca in the region with a little over 5,000 hectares.
FIDA's planning officer Concepcion A. de Barras, said the Zamboanga Peninsula, which comprises Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte, do not have any abaca processing plant.
She said the at least 80% of raw abaca fiber is delivered to Lanao del Norte province and the rest are being delivered to Leyte and in Cebu in the Central Philippines.

The region has at least 45 buying stations of abaca and majority of it falls in the classification of Class C and Class D traders which could only supply some 25,000 kilos of abaca per year.
She said the current buying prices of abaca in the region ranges from P33 to as high as P43 per kilo depending on the location of the farmers and where the accumulation of the fiber is done.
There are more than 3,000 abaca farmers. She said to encourage more farmers to plant abaca; FIDA is stepping up its training program for farmers to boost abaca production in the region.
"We are conducting an average of 20 trainings per year on basic abaca planting and techniques on fiber craft manufacturing," she said.
Ms. de Barras noted that the abaca industry in this region still faces the "perennial" problem such as lack of post-harvest facilities, processing, and marketing.
"In terms of technology, the Western Mindanao region is still lagging from new machines particularly in stripping, which majority of the farmers strips the abaca manually," she said.
Abaca is obtained from a banana-like plant, which is known scientifically as "Musa textiles." It is indigenous to the Philippines but is also found in Borneo, and Indonesia.
It is also considered the strongest of natural fibers being three times stronger than cotton and two times stronger than sisal fiber. Aside from rope, abaca fibers are also being used as a major component for food packaging as in tea bags and meat casings, filter papers and cigarettes papers.
It is also being use in tarpaulin, such as billboards, photo frames, albums, stationery, flowers, all purpose cards and decorations, among others. Abaca pulp is also use as a component in producing currency notes in some countries.
With the new technology, abaca seeds are also being used in shampoo making and pastries, according to Ms. de Barras.
Based on the 2006 Philippine Abaca Industry Report, the demand of abaca raw materials, which include its fibers, pulps and seeds are increasing with an average of 3% annually both local and exports consumption.
Abaca remains as a major dollar earner, with the Philippines accounting for 85% of the world supply. Exports of raw abaca fibers and processed abaca fibers generate average annual earnings of $76 million with an estimated 1.5 million Filipinos dependent on abaca for their livelihood, the report said.
The United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, and South Korea are among the major markets for abaca fiber.
Mr. Holoyohoy said local farmers should look at the great potential of planting abaca. "Abaca is a cash crop for local farmers and planting abaca will greatly help them to augment their income. We are now on the massive campaign in encouraging our farmers to help us improve production and meet the demand for both the local and the international markets," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Commies Torch Bus In Southern Philippines

MAGUINDANAO (Juan Magtanggol / 30 Sept) - Suspected communist insurgents torched a provincial bus after divesting its passengers of valuables in the southern Philippines, military authorities said Saturday.

It said the attack occurred late Friday on a remote village in Makilala town in North Cotabato province. Three gunmen, who posed as passengers, announced they were members of the New People's Army and were taking over the bus.

The men ordered around 40 passengers to disembark from the bus, took their money and valuables and then poured gas and torched the vehicle before fleeing. No one was hurt from the incident, the military said.

It said a group of armed men, believed to be rebels, joined the trio in their escape.

The motive of the attack was unknown, but the military suspects it was connected to an extortion attempt on the bus firm. The NPA had previously torched other passenger buses in the province after their operators failed to pay illegal taxes to the rebel group.

The NPA is fighting the government the past three decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Dipolog City To Host 1st Mindanao Trade Congress

DIPOLOG CITY (Darwin Wee / 29 Sept) – The historic city of Dipolog in Zamboanga del Norte province is to host the two-day 1st Mindanao Trade, Investments and Tourism Congress next week.

Some 100 delegates from different business groups are expected to attend the congress which will begin October 5.

The congress is being spearheaded by the Federation of Business Chambers of Mindanao Foundation which is composed of 15 business chambers from the cities of Dipolog, Ozamis, Iligan, Marawi, Cotabato, Kidapawan and from the provinces of Misamis Occidental, Bukidnon, Lugait, Tandag, Cantilan, Basilan, Sultan Kudarat, Isulan, South Cotabato and Midsayap.

The two-day congress will discuss the potentials, opportunities, challenges and issues related to trade and investments in Mindanao, according to the Philippine Information Agency.

It also quoted Edwin Capili, chairman of the Dipolog Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), that dignitaries from Manila and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, together with Miguel Varela, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, are expected to attend the congress.

"This is an opportunity for us to show to our guests the trade and investment potentials of the (Zamboanga del Norte) province," Capili said. (With reports from the Philippine Information Agency/Mindanao Examiner)

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Troops Clash With Abus In Jolo Island

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Sept) - Government soldiers clashed with members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Filipino island of Jolo, a regional army spokesman said Saturday.

The fighting broke out Friday in the hinterlands of Patikul town, scene of previous clashes between security and Abu Sayyaf forces, said Major Eugenio Batara. "There was fighting alright in Patikul, but we still don't know if there are any Abu Sayyaf casualties. The terrorists had fled the fighting and troops are pursuing them," he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Batara said there were no military casualties. It was the second fighting to break out in Jolo island since the Muslims began their month-long Ramadan fasting.

Jolo is a predominantly Muslim province, about 950 km south of Manila, where troops were tracking down Abu Sayyaf leaders, including their chieftain, Khadaffy Janjalani; and two Jemaah Islamiya militants, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both wanted by Jakarta and Canberra for the deadly Bali bombings in 2002 that left more than 200 mostly Australian holiday-makers dead.

Australia is to begin a joint anti-terror warfare training with the Philippine military in the restive southern region this year, according to Batara.

6 Injured In Grenade Blast In South RP

COTABATO CITY (Juan Magtanggol / 29 Sept) -- At least 6 people were injured when a grenade exploded near a huge crowd watching a rock concert in the southern Philippines, police said Friday.

Police said an unidentified man lobbed the grenade at a crowd in Kabacan town in North Cotabato province late Thursday, wounding at least six students.

There were no reports of casualties, but the explosion sent many people running away from the scene and dozens had been hurt in the stampede.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the blast, but police investigators suspect the attack was connected to a fraternity or gang war. Police ruled out terrorism as behind the blast. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More Rubber Plantations In Mindanao By 2010

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 28 Sept) – To maintain its position being the major producer of rubber in the country, the Department of Agriculture (DA) regional office here is targeting to develop an additional 20,000-hectare rubber plantation in Zamboanga Peninsula until 2010.
According to senior agriculturist Marcial Fantone, the expansion project will augment the region's existing 35,000 hectares, which is currently the biggest area in the country planted with rubber. He said the expansion project will be implemented "phase by phase."
"We are developing at the rate of 5,000 hectares of new lands per year for rubber plantation," he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Mr. Fantone said 60% of the expansion area will be in Zamboanga del Norte province and the rest will be in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan.
To support the project, the DA through its research-arm is also set to establish more than 10 budwood gardens and nurseries in the emerging rubber production municipalities in Zamboanga Peninsula.
The DA regional office is presently maintaining 12 budwood gardens and nurseries which are located in different key rubber production areas in the region, Mr. Fantone said.
He said Budwood garden is where local farmers can avail the budded rubber planting materials. "Budwood garden served as the laboratory where the rubber plants are being budded, clone, and cultured."
"An alternative means of providing low cost and available clonal planting materials is the establishment of budwood gardens and rootstock nurseries at the farmer level operated by farmer groups in each identified municipalities," he said, adding that the establishment of budwood gardens and rootstock nurseries is a self-assistance program for the preparation of planting materials for the local farmers.
He said the expansion project will also aim to stimulate farmers to plant clonal planting material and to provide low cost planting materials which are available at the municipality level.
Mr. Fantone said the DA regional office is now conducting several trainings to local farmers to increase their capability to produce their own clonal planting materials.
He said this program needs very intensive guidance from local agricultural extensionists in all steps, from nursery preparation to grafting and transplanting to the field.
"We really have to train our local farmers with new techniques to maintain the supply of rubber seedlings, and to promote the propagation of the multibillion-peso rubber industry in this region," he emphasized.
He said the project is inline with the government's Rubber Industry Roadmap and to support the National Rubber Development Program that was launched in Kidapawan City early this month.
At present, the total area planted to rubber in the country is pegged at 81,925 hectares with Zamboanga Sibugay having the largest area with 19,576 hectares, followed by North Cotabato and Basilan.
He said the region has at least 32, 000 vacant lands that are very much suitable for rubber plantations.According to him, Zamboanga Peninsula has been the major rubber producer in the country, which contributes at least 48 percent of the total rubber productions in the country.
In 2003, rubber was the top export earner for Mindanao, registering sales of US$44.2 million from production volume of 32.8 million kilograms.Last year, Zamboanga Peninsula was able to produced 146,000 metric tons of raw dried rubber, slightly increased of 3% compared to the previous year with 143,000 mt.
Currently, farm-gate price of raw rubber ranges from P32 to P42 per kilo with 50 to 52% dry rubber content.
On the other hand, the semi-processed rubber are being sold at a price running between P92 to P96 per kilo, and expected to continue to increase up to 2015, due to huge demand both locally and abroad, Mr. Fantone said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Mechanize, Armor Brigades Hold Trainings In Maguindanao

Members of the 2nd Mechanize Infantry Brigade (Makasag) and Light Armor Brigade hold exercises in Dimapatoy quarry range in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao province. Col. Jorge B. Lomboy III, of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, guides the gunners during the training that involved British-made Simba and U.S.-made Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle tanks. (Mindanao Examiner / Mark Navales)

New Mindanao Trade Group Signs Pact With Indonesia

INDONESIA (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Sept) - Southern Mindanao's Jose Abad Santos-Glan-Sarangani (JAGS-CT) Cooperation Triangle has forged trade links with North Sulawesi, a recent breakthrough made out of the five-day trade mission to Indonesia under the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) cooperation.

The Filipino trade mission, headed by Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez and Philippine Special Envoy for BIMP-EAGA Efren Abu, was held in Manado and Bitung and ended this week.

The mission signed a memorandum of understanding between Glan and Bitung for the establishment of cooperation in the promotion of education, socio-cultural development, tourism promotion, fisheries and marine resource development as well as trade and commerce.

Both countries are expected to begin exporting its products next week when shipping services opens the new Glan-Tahuna-Bitung sea route.

JAGS-CT aims to increase trade, tourism and investment activities within the cooperation triangle through joint local resource mobilization and local private-public sector partnerships. (With reports from Darwin Wee and MEDCo)

Zamboanga City's Fiesta Theme Logo

Zamboanga City's theme logo for the 2006 Fiesta Pilar celebration on October 12. (Mindanao Examiner)
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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

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BSP Launches National Coin Recirculation Program

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Sept) In an effort to put back coins kept by many people into circulation, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has formally launched Wednesday the National Coin Recirculation Program.

Arnel Adrain C. Salva, BSP's acting manager on advocacy unit, said the campaign aims to encourage the public to deposit or use their coins instead of just keeping them at homes.

"Our common interest here is to increase public awareness on the importance of coins and the need to keep them circulating," he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Mr. Salva said the program is expected to run until December 31.

Ruben S. Badon, the acting deputy director of the local BSP branch, said the BSP would incur loses if it frequently produces and issues new coins.He said producing one coin costs much more than its face value.

"The government is spending large amount of money to produce new coins, which are just being neglected by many people, especially those with low denominations."

Mr. Badon said commercial banks have been instructed to urge their clients to deposit their coins, instead of keeping it at home. There are 11.1 billion coins currently circulating in the country.

Military, Civilian Doctors Attend Seminars On Surgery Techniques

COTABATO CITY -- More than 30 civilian doctors from various hospitals in Central and Western Mindanao, and 40 military doctors assigned to conflict areas throughout the Philippines, have began seminars on war surgery techniques and the care of patients with war wounds, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The surgical seminars will enhance the doctors capability to respond quickly to emergencies.

"Filipino doctors will be able to respond more effectively to the needs of the victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence, particularly in Mindanao," said Dr Sarji C. Muldong, ICRC Medical Field Officer and coordinator of the events.

The seminars will take place at two venues -- Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines from today until Friday and in Quezon City on October 2 and 3.

The ICRC has acquired extensive experience from working with trauma specialists and surgeons in war situations around the world, and these seminars will be an opportunity to share this experience with Philippine specialists who suddenly find them selves having to deal with people injured as a result of armed violence.

Filipino specialists will lecture on the role of nurses in treating the war wounded and on the management of specific war wounds in the local setting.

All over the world, the ICRC provides medical services to victims of armed conflict when medical systems are disrupted. This may involve providing medicines, equipment or staff, or setting up temporary parallel facilities. The organization also supports the evacuation and treatment of casualties and trains local personnel.

Since opening its delegation in the Philippines in 1982, the ICRC has been helping people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence in the country. The ICRC cooperates with the authorities, other humanitarian organizations and the Philippine National Red Cross.

Zamboanga Retailers Urged To Put Up Halal Section

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Sept) The Depatment of Trade and Industry in Western Mindanao has urged retail establishments in Zamboanga City to set up a Halal section in their stores, saying that if it proved successful, the measure could be implemented nationwide.

By setting up a Halal section, the stores will also give retailers an idea on how to upgrade their marketing practices not only to stay afloat, but also to be sensitive to their consumers’ needs, particularly the growing number of Muslim buyers, said Sitti Amina Jain, assistant regional director of the Trade and Industry department.

"What we advocate is that retailers should be sensitive to the needs of the Muslim shoppers," she said.
Halal is an Arabic term, which means lawful or permissible. "It compasses everything from money to marriage. It fundamentally defines the Muslim way of life," she said.

"Muslims only patronize products and services that are permitted in Islam and this offers a huge opportunity not only for manufacturers, but also to the retailers who are at the end point where the consumer and the sellers meet," she added.

Ms. Jain said her office had introduced the proposal to retailers in the city, consisting of supermarkets, malls, and department stores. "We are targeting an initial of at least 10 major retail stores in the city. We hope that these establishments can finish setting up the Halal sections before the Consumer Month in October, with the main theme as Halal," she said.

"Since the city lies at the center of Muslim-dominated islands and provinces, setting up a Halal section in retail stores is a market strategy to capture not only Muslim customers but also to keep up with the demands of other customers," she said.

"At least 29% of the 700,000 population of Zamboanga City alone are Muslim, and it is still growing with a projection of roughly 3% increase per year. Aside from that, retailers have to consider that Zamboanga City is the trading, commercial, and shopping center for Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, which are dominated by Muslim residents," she said.

The trade of Halal foods is lucrative since Halal products are fit for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, particularly health-conscious consumers. In setting up a Halal section, retailers should also follow certain rules.

"For Halal meats, there should be separate facilities to cut the meat, such as the knives, chopping board, weighing scale and freezer, and this will be manned by Muslim salespersons. On the other hand, for processed foods, cosmetics and others, retailers will have to construct a cabinet that will separate non-Halal from Halal goods," she said.

Ms. Jain said the setting up of a Halal section in groceries will help the government protect the interest and promote the welfare of Muslim consumers. "This will help the consumer locate where the non-Halal and Halal goods are. Aside from that, the stores will also earn the recognition and gratitude of the Muslim community," she said.

To help retailers stock up Halal goods in their stores, the Islamic Dawa Council of the Philippines has already listed the names and directory of the more than 50 manufactures with Halal certification which produce an average of 400 Halal products.

"This will also help the local retailers spread their business through networking," she said, adding Trade has already sent a proposal to the national government to implement the program not only in Zamboanga City but also nationwide, particularly in Mindanao.

Sayyaf Hunters Get Bounties In South RP

Two of three civilians who helped the military track down three Abu Sayyaf terrorists get P450,000 rewards Wednesday 27 Sept 2006 from Army Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) The Philippine military rewarded Wednesday P450,000 to three civilian informants who helped the military capture two of three members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines.

Two of three informants, who wore ski masks to hide their faces, received P150,000 each from Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City for the capture of Quirino Mahijul and Isnan Anenol in Basilan island in 2004.

The third civilian did not show, but he was largely credited for leading troops to the hideout of Mihadon Arok, who was killed in a firefight with soldiers in Patikul town in Jolo island also in 2004.

"The intelligence provided by these civilians helped us neutralized the three terrorists. Civilians continue to provide us vital information about the Abu Sayyaf and their allies and those who are supporting them and we will not stop pursuing them until they are also neutralize," Cedo told the Mindanao Examiner.

Cedo said the bounty came from the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The duo did not give any statement and were whisked away by soldiers after getting the money.

President Gloria Arroyo offered up to P100 million bounties for the capture of senior Abu Sayyaf leaders -- dead or alive. The United States also offered as much as $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Khadaffy Janjalani, its chieftain.

The Asia Foundation Launches Video To Encourage Better Business Climate in RP

A video documentary titled, “Reinventing Business Permitting Means Better Business Climate,” will be launched on October 6, 2006 at 6:00 o’clock in the evening at the Renaissance Ballroom, New World Renaissance Hotel, Makati City. This event aims to share the lessons of Mindanao cities in enhancing their business permits and licensing processes with the rest of the country.
The video was produced as part of the Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) Project of The Asia Foundation in partnership with the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Representatives from international development agencies, the national government and the mayors of sixteen TAG cities in Mindanao are expected to attend the launch.

Internationally, the challenge of “doing business” and overcoming the red tape surrounding business permitting systems is of growing concern. Here in the Philippines, vast improvements have been made as a result of the changes initiated by Mindanao cities in their Business Permits and Licensing Systems (BPLS).

For example, in Zamboanga City, the amount collected during the January 2006 renewal period increased by 300%, compared to the same period in 2005. And in Malaybalay City, the number of establishments that acquired business permits from the first time increased from 200 to 300. Moreover, the time it took for an applicant to get a permit decreased from three days to half a day in Ozamiz City.

Cities are empowered by the 1991 Local Government Code to issue business permits and collect fees and taxes. With assistance from The Asia Foundation, technical working groups were tasked to look for ways to improve their systems.

Among the innovations were: simplification of requirements for renewal; translation of forms into local languages; re-arrangement of the workflow among tables in the one-stop-shop venue; changes in the sequence of steps; and convincing national government agencies to be available in the one-stop-shop venue.

With the support of city mayors, technical working groups collaborated with private sector groups such as the city chambers of commerce and industry, national government agencies, and civil society partners to bring about the desired results.

As these changes were implemented, cities were able to earn more from taxes, and doing business was made easier and faster thus resulting in a better business climate. Regular inspections are conducted to ensure continuous service improvement which is a key ingredient towards transparent and accountable governance.

The Asia Foundation
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Makati City, Philippines
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RP Immigration Holds 140 U.S. Troops In Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) Some 140 U.S. soldiers participating in a new joint anti-terrorism training in the southern Philippines were briefly by Filipino immigration authorities in Zamboanga City after some problems with their documents.

The soldiers arrived on a chartered plane late Tuesday and were held at the Zamboanga International Airport for several hours until all their papers and identities had been properly processed by immigration people.

Col. Antonio Supnet, a local army task force commander, said the U.S. troops arrived to train Filipino troops in fighting terrorism in the restive region, where local security forces are hunting down members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and the Jemaah Islamiya.

"They are here to train our soldiers and conduct humanitarian mission as part of a bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the United States. They will replace some soldiers who are to return home after being here for a while," Supnet told the Mindanao Examiner.

Supnet said immigration people allowed the U.S. troops after thoroughly examining their documents. "The U.S. soldiers went through a routine immigration process just as every foreigner coming here. There is a documentation process and we have to follow this rule," he said.

The U.S. were later allowed to go to a Philippine Army base called Camp Arturo Enrile in the village of Malagutay to join other American forces stationed there, he said.

Supnet said the soldiers will later be deployed in Jolo island in the Sulu Archipelago and in central Mindanao to train local troops in anti-terrorism warfare. "This is a routine. U.S. soldiers come and go," he said.

Many U.S. troops deployed in the southern Philippines came from military bases as far as Hawaii and Japan. It was not immediately known how many U.S. soldiers are returning to their bases, but among those who are leaving is Army Col. James Linder, commander of U.S. military forces.

Col. David Maxwell will replace Linder as new commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines. Linder had served for almost a year as task force commander. The U.S. military, on the request of the Filipino government, is assisting and advising the Armed Forces of the Philippines in fighting homegrown terrorism.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

5 Crew Men Of Ill-Fated Ferry Rescued At Sea

ABANDON SHIP: Philippine Navy and Coast Guard rescue crew members from a ferry that is listing on its left side at the southern port city of Zamboanga, Philippines on Tuesday, 26 Sept 2006. The vessel ran aground after hitting a reef at nearby Sta. Cruz Island and was battered by huge waves. No casualties were reported. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) Five Filipino crew men were rescued from a sinking ferry Tuesday as heavy rains and huge waves battered small sea crafts off the southern port city of Zamboanga City, the Coast Guard said.

"Navy and Coast Guard teams rescued the five crew members of M/L Harcima-1," Claro Pontecha, leader of a Coast Guard rescue team, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the boat was on its way to the coastal village of Recodo when it hit the reef, several nautical miles off the Sta. Cruz Island. The daring rescue took hours because huge waves and strong winds were making it difficult for the Coast Guard and Navy boats to go near the sinking ferry.

"We have to use two vessels and divers to rescue the crew and inspect the condition around the ill-fated boat; whether we can pull it out from the water or not," he said.

The boat was not carrying any passengers, except for the crew, Pontecha said. The rescued crewmen were taken by the Coast Guard to its base in Zamboanga.

Heavy rains and huge waves forced many fishermen to anchor their vessels. "We cannot go out at sea in this condition. Look at the waves and look around you, it is not safe to go out at sea because of the bad weather," said Omar Sakalahul, a fisherman.

Many streets in downtown Zamboanga were flooded and a large portion of the city was without electricity since morning because tree trunks, felled by strong winds, tripped power pylons in some areas.

Private and public schools also sent their students home early by midday. Boat passengers bound for Jolo and Tawi-Tawi islands in the southern Philippines were also stranded in Zamboanga after inter-island ferries refused to sail due to bad weather.

1 Dies After Eating Cassava, 3 Others Hospitalized In Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) -- A child had died and three others were hospitalized after eating cassava cake in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, health officials said Tuesday.

Officials said they were investigating the case, but relatives of the victims claimed the four had eaten the cake two days ago in the village of Divisoria and later complained of difficulty in breathing and stomach pains.

The four children ages between 10 and 14 were rushed to hospital, but one had died.

"What we know was that they had eaten cake made from cassava and that one had died and the rest hospitalized," said Dr. Rodelyn Agbulos, the chief of the local health office.

A local radio station RGMA reported that the lone casualty was a ten-year old child of a farming family.

Last year, at least 50 people were also hospitalized for severe diarrhea and difficulty in breathing after feasting on pork stew cooked with cassava starch in the southern Philippines.

Most of the victims were teachers and parents attending a school meeting in the village of Alimbayong in Magpet town in North Cotabato province. The cassava root is widely consumed in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world, but it can also be poisonous if not completely peeled or thoroughly cooked.

MILO Marathon Goes To Zamboanga

3OTH National MILO Marathon

Join this year’s edition of the only nationwide and most prestigious running event in the country, the 30th National MILO Marathon!

Zamboanga City Race will be on October 8, 2006 at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex at 6 o’clock in the morning. Participants of the race are required to come earlier.

A non-refundable entry fee plus 1 Milo Label (minimum of 300 grams) must accompany each accomplIshed and signed Official Entry Form (available at the registration center).

Entry Fees are the following:

21 K Race - P100.00
5 K Race - P 40.00
3 K Race - P 30.00

Participants who are below 18 years old must have their enry form signed by a parent or guardian.

Children who are 12 years old and below ON RACE DAY are qualified to join the 3 K Kiddie Run. They are required to have their entry form signed by a parent/guardian and must also submit a photocopy of their birth certificate.

Registration Center is at Alavar Seafood Restaurant on Don Alfaro st., Tetuan, Zamboanga City. For further inquiries about the race, call +63 62 9912483

Mindanao Governor Urges RP and MILF To Continue Peace Talks

North Cotabato Gov. Emannuel Pinol hands a gift to Malaysia Maj. Gen. Dato Mohammad Ismail Bin Ahmad, head of the internation truce observer in Mindanao. (Sidney Nanini)

KIDAPAWAN CITY (Carl Bautista / 26 Sept) -- North Cotabato Governor Emmanuel F. Pinol urged the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to continue peace talks after both sides failed to sign any agreement on the so-called Muslim ancestral domain in Mindanao.

Pinol called on both parties to reject the use of arms in resolving the age-old Mindanao problem.

"Our experiences have shown us that there is no winner in such a war, only losers with our people suffering the most terrible loss of all -- continued poverty and lingering hopelessness," he said.

Members of the Malaysian-led truce observer headed by Maj. Gen. Dato Mohammad Ismail Bin Ahmad, of Malaysia, met with Pinol and both discussed the peace process and the importance of the cease-fire agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Filipino Muslims Praise Italian Philanthropist

(Mindanao Examiner Video)

JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Sept) Muslims in Jolo on Monday praised an Italian philanthropist, Armando de Rossi, for his active role in bringing aid to many poor families in this impoverished southern Philippine island.

“We are very thankful to the Italian. He has been helping us here many times already and when he is in Panamao (town) many people are happy,” said Mukaram Santi, a farmer.

De Rossi, who runs the 3P (Peace and Prosperity for the Philippines) Foundation, last year had donated more than P50 million worth of aid.

De Rossi, also president and CEO of the CMC di Ravenna (Asia), Inc., has been living in the Philippines the past three decades.

"All we want to do is to help the Filipino people, especially those who are now at the different government shelters in Jolo. I've been living in the Philippines the past 30 years. I love this country and we will continue to help the poor people," De Rossi said told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said he contacted his friends from around the world to raise some P50 million to help finance the rehabilitation efforts in Jolo. "We are going to bring here a lot of aid, a lot of help from different people, to buy food and medicines, hospital equipment, to fund the building of mosques, of potable water system, of school rooms and more," De Rossi said.

But he also admitted that most of the money would come from his own pockets. "Helping other people is the most important thing for me, money is just a tool to help those who have less in life," De Rossi said.

According to the website of the American Digital Channels, the CMC di Ravenna (Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti) was founded in 1901 and is the largest construction cooperative in Europe based in Italy and world renowned among the leading European contractors with its impressive record of completed projects in all construction fields and good reputation among domestic and international clients.

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney Visits Restive Jolo Island

(Mindanao Examiner Video)

Above, U.S. troops guard the Jolo airport where the plane of Kristie Kenney, the U.S. Ambassador to Manila, is to land. And U.S. Army Col. James Linder leads Kenney and Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, chief of the Western Mindanao Command. Below, Kenney gets a kiss from an old Filipino Muslim woman during her visit at remote town of Panamao in Jolo island Monday, Sept. 25, 2006. U.S. forces are assisting Philippine troops as they continue their hunt against members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiya in the volatile island. (Mindanao Examiner)
JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Sept) U.S. Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney on Monday braved the island of Jolo in the restive southern region, where Filipino troops, assisted by American intelligence, are hunting down leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and two Jemaah Islamiya bombers.

Kenney inspected U.S.-funded infrastructure projects in Indanan and Panamao, two towns previously torn by war between security and Abu Sayyaf forces. "I am so happy to be here and talk to a lot of people and assured them of the U.S. support in developing this beautiful place," she said.

The Philippine military said troops were pursuing two Jemaah Islamiya militants Dulmatin and Umar Patek. The Abu Sayyaf, it said, is coddling both Dulmatin and Patek, blamed by Jakarta as behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 mostly Australian holiday-makers.

The United States offered as much as $10 million reward for the capture of Dulmatin and another $1 million bounty for Patek. The U.S. also put up another $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Khadaffy Janjalani, its chieftain. President Gloria Arroyo also offered up to P100 million bounties for the capture of senior Abu Sayyaf leaders -- dead or alive.

Kenney was met at the Jolo airport by Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo and U.S. Army Col. James Linder and other local government officials. Security was tight during her visit and Filipino and American soldiers were protecting the ambassador.

She also visited mostly poor Muslim villagers in Bwansa, a hamlet in Indanan town, where soldiers from both countries and local health people were conducting a joint medical mission. She spoke before a huge crowd of Muslim villagers and told them that more humanitarian aid are on its way and that Washington is supporting the government efforts to defeat terrorism in Jolo island.

Kenney also met with U.S. troops on Jolo and had a lunch with them.

U.S. soldiers are currently in Jolo island and assisting and advising the local military in fighting homegrown terrorism. No U.S. or Filipino officials would like to say how many American soldiers are on the island, but local villagers estimate that more than a hundred troops are currently deployed in Jolo, many inside the Philippine Army and Marine bases on the island.

Many of the U.S. troops are also involved in medical and civic missions in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the locals. From February to March this year, over 150 Filipino soldiers and 250 American troops held humanitarian projects here and provided free medical assistance to some 11,000 people.

Since 2004, more than 37,000 people on Jolo island also benefited from joint U.S. and R.P. medical missions in partnership with local governments and international organizations. The U.S. Navy ship, Mercy, also arrived here in June for a series of medical mission to thousands of villagers.

The U.S. military, working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has so far completed more than 50 individual development projects on the island worth some $4.5 million since 2003 -- from road construction to new school buildings.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Good News: Key Indicators Reflect RP's Strong Economy

MANILA -- Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye on Sunday said the strong showing of key indicators -- rise in incomes, stable prices and low inflation rate -- reflect the good health of the Philippine economy.
He expressed confidence that the government would be able to sustain the upbeat economic trend.
"Key indicators speak well of the country’s overall economic health. We are confident that we can sustain this trend as we keep up the spirit of enterprise and the faith in the Filipino," Bunye said.
As a result of fiscal reforms, good governance, increased investments and better revenue generation and collection, the government can now afford to undertake more infrastructure facilities and deliver social services more effectively, according to the official.
"The rise in incomes, stable prices and low inflation are signs that people from all walks of life are beginning to get their fair share of the economic momentum that is being propelled by more investments, better infrastructure, good governance and the more effective delivery of social services," Bunye said.
Romulo Neri, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, reported that the country’s per capita had increased to its highest level since the post-war era.
He said that this year, per capita income would hit $1,400, higher than the 2004 level of $1,200 and the 2002 level of $1,040. On the currency issue, Standard and Chartered Bank Plc. has predicted that the Philippine peso would breach the P50 to $1 mark by yearend due to improving government finances.

RP President Expresses Solidarity With Muslims On Observance Of Ramadan

MANILA -- President Gloria Arroyo expressed deep solidarity with the Filipino Muslim community in the universal aspiration for peace and harmony as Muslims all over the world observe the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
"I join the Filipino Muslim community in the great hopes for peace, harmony and oneness with the Almighty in the observance of the holy month of Ramadhan," the President said in a statement.
She said the month of Ramadhan offers an opportunity for self- renewal and understanding among all communities based on mutual respect, unity and understanding regardless of religious beliefs.
"We acknowledge this moment of noble sacrifice among our Muslim brethren as we all steer the national community in the path of interfaith dialogue and cooperation, mutual respect among all creeds, and a common pursuit of a better life for all," Arroyo said.
"May this sacred month give us all the opportunity for self-renewal and the strength to bring forbearance and understanding to all communities—sharing that profound dream of every Filipino for peace not only in Mindanao but throughout the land and in the whole world."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mindanao Examiner Has New Website!

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Photo: Ramadan Starts In Southern RP

Muslims pray Saturday 23 September 2006, at a mosque in Sta. Barbara village in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga. Muslims are required to fast and abstain from sexual activity during the daylight hours of Ramadan. Determined according to the lunar calendar, Ramadan can fall in any season of the year. The Ramadan fast is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam and the end of the fast is celebrated as one of the important religious holidays of Islam. (Mindanao Examiner)

Ramadan or Ramadhan (رمضان), the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holiest month in Islam.

The word Ramadan is derived from the word ramd "to burn". The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. The name came from the time before the Islamic calendar, when the month of Ramadan fell in the summer. Fasting during this month is often thought to figuratively burn away all sins. Muslims believe that the Quo’ran was sent down to the earth during this month. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad told his followers that the gates of Heaven would be open all the month and the gates of Hell would be closed. The first day of the next month is spent in great celebrations and rejoicings and is observed as the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’ or Id al-Fitr.
The Mindanao Examiner joins the Muslim world in the observance of the holy month of Ramadan.

Photo: U.S. Military Chopper Flies Over South RP

A U.S. military helicopter flies Saturday 23 Sept 2006 over Zamboanga City in the restive region of the southern Philippines, where Filipino troops are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group. The U.S. military, on the request of the Filipino government, is assisting and advising the Philippine military in the fight against local terrorism. (Mindanao Examiner)

Kidnapped Zambo Teen Freed In Basilan Island

Freed kidnapped victim Grace Gonzales in Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Sept) Kidnappers freed the daughter of a university president after almost 2 months in captivity in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, an influential Catholic priest in Zamboanga City said.

Monsignor Cris dela Cruz said the 19-year old Grace Gonzalez, who was seized August 2 near their house in Guiwan village in Zamboanga City, was reunited with his family.

"She is fine and okay and is with her family now," Dela Cruz said after talking to the victim's father, Eldigario Gonzales, president of the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.

The family said it would take the victim to Manila to rest after she was freed late Friday in Basilan.

The elder Gonzales said they paid an unspecified amount of money as "board and lodging" fee. "We paid some amount that they call board and lodging fee and we are happy that my daughter is finally reunited with us," he said.

Gonzales said private negotiators helped in the safe release of her daughter.

"We are very thankful to all those who helped secure her release, including President Gloria Arroyo who ordered authorities to work on the freedom of my girl," he said.

No group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but the military had previously blamed the Abu Sayyaf, tagged by Manila as behind several high profile kidnappings of foreigners and wealthy Filipino in Zamboanga City.

The group had last month beheaded two of their kidnapped victims in Jolo island, about 950 km south of Manila after their family failed to pay P1 million in ransom.

The severed head of Jeffrey Selvin, 27, was found by civilians in front of the police headquarters in downtown Jolo on August 12. Her mother's body was later recovered.

The duo was kidnapped July 27 outside their house at Gandasuli Road in Jolo. The 58-year old woman, Jacky, owns a bakery shop in Jolo.

In June, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen freed a kidnapped 41-year old pharmacy owner Bren Vergara after more than two months in captivity after their family allegedly paid more than one million pesos in ransom.

The man was snatched April 12 together with his ailing 70-year old mother Caridad Vergara, who had been later freed near Jolo town.

The group had previously kidnapped a German canning executive here, two Belgians and a Taiwanese matriarch and Filipino-Chinese traders.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sayyaf Militant Slain In Firefight In Jolo

Troops kill Friday, 22 Sept 2006, a member of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in a firefight in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, where security forces are hunting two Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek, tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombings. (Jun Batara)

PATIKUL, Jolo Island (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Sept) Government troops clashed Friday with the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya groups, killing one gunman in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, officials said.

Officials said there were no military casualties in the fighting that broke out on a hinterland village in Patikul town.

“Relentless military offensives launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines troops against the Abu Sayyaf group and its Jemaah Islamiyah allies incurred the fatality of one of its member at around 10:30 a.m. in an encounter in Patikul,” Major Eugene Batara, a regional army spokesman, said.

Batara said villagers tipped off the military about the presence of gunmen in the hinterlands. He said the gunmen were consolidating in the hinterlands when soldiers attacked them, triggering a firefight.

“A running gun battle ensued and heavy exchange of gun fires occurred, which resulted into the death of one ASG member,” he said.

Batara said two MG-520 helicopters were sent to provide close air support to ground troops.
The Abu Sayyaf had killed a marine lieutenant and wounded 24 others early this week in a clash with security forces in Patikul town.

The Philippine military said troops were also pursuing two Jemaah Islamiya militants Dulmatin and Umar Patek. The Abu Sayyaf, Batara said, is coddling Dulmatin and Patek, blamed by Jakarta as behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 mostly Australian holiday-makers.

The United States offered as much as $10 million reward for the capture of Dulmatin and another $1 million bounty for Patek. The U.S. also put up another $5 million for known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Khadaffy Janjalani, its chieftain. President Gloria Arroyo also offered up to P100 million bounties for the capture of senior Abu Sayyaf leaders -- dead or alive.

Village Chieftain Killed In Zamboanga Attack

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examier / 22 Sept) An unidentified gunman shot dead a provincial village chieftain in an attack Friday in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said.

Police said the victim, Arip Alpha, was killed while on his way to sell live prawns in the village of Baliwasan. The attacker fled on foot after the killing, it said.

Alpha’s companion told police investigators that he saw the gunman shot the victim once behind the head. “He was wearing a hat and escaped immediately after the shooting. I don’t know why Arip was killed,” he said.

Alpha was a village chieftain in the island of Oluntanga near Zamboanga del Sur province.

Police investigators said they recovered an empty shell of a .45-caliber pistol, believed used in the shooting. The motive of the killing is unknown.

Last week, a policeman was also killed by unidentified gunman while walking near a police camp in R.T. Lim Blvd. near downtown Zamboanga. More than a dozen people had been killed in violence in Zamboanga City the past weeks.

The spate of killings have alarmed many traders in Zamboanga and urged the police and military to step up its patrol. Zamboanga is to celebrate the Fiesta Pilar, an annual feast held every October 12 in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Kenney Inspects U.S.-Funded Projects In South RP

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Sept) U.S. Ambassador to Manila Kristie A. Kenney inspected Friday Washington-funded infrastructure projects in the southern port city of General Santos, officials said.

Jesus Dureza, Filipino presidential peace adviser, accompanied Kenney in General Santos City where she also handed several Internet-ready computer sets to the Nicolas Barreras National High School.

The donation was part of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Computer Literacy and Internet Connection (CLIC), which provides computers, printers, software, and equipment to connect schools in remote areas to the Internet.

In General Santos alone, the U.S. donated computers and equipment 14 schools. Almost 400 schools have benefited from the CLIC program.

“This is my first visit to General Santos City and I’m thrilled to meet the citizens who work so hard for peace and prosperity here. The American people have supported development in the area for more than a decade, including funding for major infrastructure projects such as the Makar Wharf, the airport, and several major roads.”

“Our partnerships with the people of General Santos have in common one goal: to create prosperity for families here,” she said.

Kenney later met with officials from Dole Philippines, an American firm that employs hundreds of local residents in the world’s largest integrated pineapple plantation, cannery, and packaging complex.

She also met with members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ new Eastern Mindanao Command to learn about regional security issues and discuss how the U.S. can assist in developing the area.