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NCMF to probe deaths of pilgrims in Saudi

August 15, 2019

ILIGAN City--The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) ordered on Wednesday (August 14) an investigation on the reports that some pilgrims were not accommodated in their tents in Mina, Meccah during the last days of the Hajj from August 9-11 due to overcrowding. Dr. Dimapuno Alonto Datu-Ramos, Jr., public relations and information head of the NCMF, said that initial reports reached the attention of NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan about some regular pilgrims who were not being accommodated in their tents because hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the kingdom were “illegally smuggled inside” to occupy beds supposedly for the regular pilgrims. “Last night (August 13), I was performing my Tawaful Ifda (SA-I) in Masjid Haram, some 30 OFWs approached me for a picture-taking. They confirmed to me that they joined the Hajj in Arafa-Muzdalifah-Mina with the regular pilgrims in their buses and tents,” Pangarungan said in a statement released by Datu-Ramos. These OFWs admitted that about 300 to 400 of them managed to sneak in for a fee of 2,000 to 2,500 Saudi Riyal and this practice has been going on since the previous Hajj allegedly in connivance with some Sheiks and some employees and officials of the NCMF who issued the OFWs “fake identification cards (IDs)” in exchange of the said amount. “We in the NCMF will get to the bottom of this illegal practice which is stiffly punished under Saudi laws. For this infractions, many OFWs were caught in the past and are languishing in Saudi jails,” Pangarungan said. “While we commiserate with our OFWs in their desire to join the Hajj, we cannot tolerate this unlawful practice at the inconvenience and expense of our regular pilgrims,” he added. Pangarungan said the NCMF is working hard to reform and improve the Hajj operations and paid the full food and tent accommodation for this year’s 7,234 pilgrims in Mina. The NCMF arranged for a five-star hotel accommodation in Madinah and Meccah and worked hard for the reduction of the Hajj fees and airfare ranging 10 thousand to 30 thousand pesos per pilgrim. For the next Hajj, Pangarungan said, the NCMF will consider a good quality hotel in Misfallah nearer Haram in response to the clamour of sheiks and some pilgrims. Datu-Ramos and other two NCMF directors were directed to submit an investigation report of this within 30 days from August 14. Five deaths Meanwhile, the NCMF announced on Monday (August 12) that there were five mortality in this year’s Hajj. The fifth pilgrim, who died two days before the Hajj would end on Wednesday, August 14, is identified as Macapalao Rasuman, 62, from Lumba Bayabao town in Lanao del Sur. He died inside his tent in Mina and the only mortality during the Mashair or the last three days of the Hajj. Like the other four mortalities, Rasuman died due to cardiopulmonary arrest secondary to massive myocardial infarction or heart attack. The pilgrims who died while performing the annual Hajj in Meccah were buried in a cemetery in Saudi Arabia. Datu-Ramos said many Muslims preferred to die while performing Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. In 2018 Hajj, eight mortalities were recorded and most of those who died were in their senior years. Medical services Datu-Ramos said that the NCMF is trying all the best to serve the pilgrim but mortalities cannot be avoided as many pilgrims are already in their senior years. Even before pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia, the medical team of the NCMF was already in place since July 10 working continuously. The NCMF reported that more than 200 pilgrims were served daily by eight to nine health workers per shift that composed of medical doctors, nurses and clerical staff. The Filipino pilgrim will start returning to the Philippines on August 17 to 31.

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NHA builds blast wall in Marawi’s most affected area

August 14, 2019

ILIGAN City--The National Housing Authority (NHA) has built a blast wall in the most affected area (MAA) of Marawi City as additional precautionary and safety net for the residents who will be coming back anytime now while continue looking for the remaining unexploded ordnances (UXOs). NHA’s Engr. Roderick Ybaṅez, head of Marawi Project Management Office, the blast wall is deployed in portions of sector 7, particularly along Mapandi area; sector 5, along Quezon Avenue in sector 4 and in between sector 4 and 6 that composed of Barangays Wawalayan Marinaut, Marinaut West and Tuca Marinaut. Built in three meters high and one meter thick, the blast wall is made of thick fiber with a steel mesh compressed by a debris filling that can withstand shock wave. “It will be an additional precautionary and safety net for the residents who will be coming back in sectors 1 to 3 while we are still looking for the remaining UXOs in sectors 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9,” Ybaṅez said. In a press briefing Wednesday morning, August 14, Housing Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario, Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairman, announced that sectors 1, 2 and 3 areas are now ready to be reoccupied and residents can start rebuilding or repairing their structures provided they will comply requirements such as building permit from the local government unit. TFBM Field Office Manager and Housing Assistant Secretary Felix Castro, Jr., said that residents must also apply for electrical connection clearance from Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (LASURECO) and water connection clearance from Marawi Water District. As of August 14, no resident has started yet constructing their house as they are still complying their application from the city’s Office of the Building Official (OBO). Bomb clearing to continue While residents are complying and preparing for their return, a group of soldiers who are expert in explosive ordnance called Joint Task Group Builder (JTGB) continue to scour the area to look for the remaining UXOs that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) planes has dropped against enemies during the five-month war in Marawi City in 2017. Col. Ireneo Sebastian, commander of JTGB, said they are still looking for 46 UXOs based on the coordinates given by the PAF. On August 3 was the last detonation and disposal of UXOs, retrieved from the 250-hectare land area that composed of a 260 and 110 pound general purpose bombs and other surface bombs. These bombs were retrieved in the ongoing demolition and clearing operations of the EDDMARI Construction and Trading, a private company that won the contract of managing the debris inside the MAA. It was detonated inside a nine-meter deep hole in Barangay Moncado Colony where the 260-lbs was recovered. Sebastian said they have learned from the June 26 blasting of UXOs that drew criticisms from Marawi residents because it sent a loud sound and shockwaves around the detonation area. “We can control the loud sound by putting together the UXOs in a hole and covered it with soil. The sound was very minimal that residents nearby could hardly hear it,” Sebastian said. The detection, using the bomb sniffing dogs and the ground penetrating radar (GPR), is ongoing in sectors 5, 8 and 9.

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Residents in Marawi's most-affected area can now go home

August 14, 2019

MARAWI City--Marawi residents are now allowed to go back to their areas inside the most affected area provided they will comply all the requirements set by the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) and the local government unit (LGU). In a press briefing on Wednesday, August 14, Housing Secretary and TFBM Chairman Eduardo Del Rosario said that residents in sectors 1, 2 and 3 inside the most affected area can start constructing and or repairing their structures as soon as their building permit applications will be approved. Del Rosario said residents of sector 1 were allowed to go back since July while those who are of sectors 2 and 3 can now start processing their requirements at the city hall. There are 6,435 structures affected during the five-month war against the Dawlah Islamiya in 2017 and out of it are 4,000 housing and commercial establishments advised to be removed because those are no longer safe to be rehabilitated and or repaired. Eighty percent of the owners of these structures have given consent to the government, through the National Housing Authority (NHA), for their structures to be demolished and at the end of October, this year, the demolition and debris clearing will be finished. “Yung 20%, sila na ang magpapatanggal sa kanilang mga nasirang mga bahay. They will secure a permit from the local government and if given, then they will be allowed to demolish. They will not be given building permit unless proven na yung kanilang structures ay hindi na compromise. Kung yun ay compromised at hindi na safe, they will not be given a permit to repair,” Del Rosario said. The owners will spend the demolition and debris management cost, not the government according to Del Rosario and that they will construct their structures in accordance with the building code. Challenges The TFBM said that what made the demolition and clearing slow is the refusal of some owners to allow the government demolish their house because of sentimental value. Some also have their ancestors buried at the back or inside the premises of their compound or house. Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra also said approving applications for building permit is not easy because there are “overlapping claims” of one structure or area. To resolve their problem, these claimants are being referred to proper court for resolution. Vertical projects to start this year In the last quarter of this year, the vertical management works will start as the concerned agencies are now on its procurement process. Vertical works include installation of power, water and telecommunication lines, construction of schools, market, convention center, hospital and other government facilities. Del Rosario said there are about 20 vertical projects to be implemented by respective implementing agencies. “One they are ready and the budget is available, they can start the construction on the last quarter of the year, just in time for the completion of the debris management. Maybe 75% of the total will start their construction within the year and the remaining 25% will start the construction on the first quarter of 2020,” Del Rosario said. The local government of Marawi is the first agency to submit their pre-procurement documents that will implement five projects like construction of barangay hall, the grand central and Padian market, promenade, museum and the peace memorial.

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Ayala Corp. to go cashless with GCash

August 13, 2019

AYALA Corporation (Ayala), one of the oldest and largest conglomerates in the Philippines, has adopted GCash's Powerpay+ disbursement platform to disburse incentives to its employees at the parent company. Powerpay+ is a bundled funds disbursement facility that allows companies to pay out salaries, commissions and allowances more conveniently and securely to people by crediting funds directly to employees’ GCash accounts. It provides the flexibility to disburse scheduled or recurring payouts and is easily accessible via mobile phone. GCash is operated by Mynt, a partnership among Globe Telecom, Ayala Corporation and Ant Financial. “Digital payments within the group was a natural move for us at Ayala. As a 185-year-old company, we are taking advantage of a new digital format that gives our employees ease, convenience, and security. We used to give gift cheques, which later became electronic gift cheques, so the move to e-wallets was a logical next step for us following the increasingly digitally savvy lifestyle of our employees and GCash’s recent exponential growth as the country’s leading mobile wallet,” said John Phillip Orbeta, Ayala’s Chief Human Resources Officer and Corporate Resources Group Head. Mynt CEO Anthony Thomas also emphasized the added security and convenience that are innate to e-wallets. He says that with a digital format, "you have a trail, you have the ability to send out money for any purpose. Payroll is one, but incentives, reimbursements, agent commissions—all these needs are taken care of through an enterprise interface which allows you to pay instantly, and even small amounts, making it very efficient.” Like the rest of GCash’s 20 million users, Ayala employees have been using the platform to accomplish daily tasks like buying prepaid load, paying bills online, booking movie tickets, sending money to other GCash accounts and traditional bank accounts, and transacting with over 50,000 QR-enabled merchant partners nationwide. GCash also offers GSave, which gives the highest savings rate in the country and requires no minimum balance, and GCredit, which uses alternative credit scoring models to provide microloans. Orbeta says that using the Powerpay+ platform will simply take their Ayala employees’ GCash use to another level. At Ayala’s 2019 Annual Stockholders’ Meeting last April, Ayala Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said the company is undergoing a massive transformation to ramp up the digitalization of its companies, as this was key to propelling the company into the future. Zobel emphasized that the corporation, with business interests in real estate, banking, telecommunications, water, power, infrastructure, industrial technologies, health care, and education, has started "to participate in digital businesses that we believe are disruptive. These investments are designed to complement our group’s traditional brick-and-mortar operations, future-proof our existing portfolio, and broaden the digital experience of Filipinos." "We spend significant time studying other markets that are in the advanced stages of digital maturity and we have teams constantly looking at emerging trends and technologies," Zobel added. "Absorbing and learning from these experiences, we have become more deliberate in our own digital transformation journey and have elevated it into a group-wide strategic agenda." Aside from enjoying the benefits of going digital, Thomas said GCash users also contribute to Philippine environmental sustainability efforts through GCash Forest, a feature within the app that computes how transactions done via GCash help the environment. The app computes one's carbon credits, which upon hitting a predetermined target will require GCash to plant a tree at the Ipo Watershed, the biggest source of water for Metro Manila.

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John Lloyd Cruz hints showbiz comeback, says Director Cathy Molina-Garcia

August 10, 2019

METRO MANILA (National Entertainment news digital) - Philippine show business top director Cathy Molina-Garcia said the other day that John Lloyd Cruz wants a showbiz comeback, reportedly after his rumored break up with actress Ellen Adarna.   Molina, over "Tonight With Boy Abunda" said John Lloyd Cruz has contacted her and hinted of going back to the showbiz industry, where he became a multi-millionaire after he rise to stardom many years ago.  The lady director said “He called me po before I started this movie.” She was apparently referring to “Hello, Love, Goodbye,” the new movie of Kathryn Bernardo who is paired with GMA's gem Alden Richards. “In fact may kinalaman sa ‘Ano to, ano tong naririnig ko, ano daw ‘tong magreretire ka na?’ Hindi! Sabi ko hindi yan totoo!’ Sabi niya sa’kin,” Molina said. "Pagbalik ko na lang, pagbalik ko magkita tayo, gawa tayo pelikula  pagbalik mo. So I am looking forward,” was John Lloyd's last statements over the phone, Molina-Garcia added. ON MOLINA-GARCIA'S RUMORED RETIREMENT But Molina clarified on TWBA she is not retiring yet and cleared she was only taking a break. But in 2017 there were rumors the director planned of retiring in 2019. "Let’s not call it retirement, A break” Molina clarified to her fans ang the Philippine entertainment. Molina said right now she has directed a movie with Piolo Pascual, then after Piolo's there will be two more movies she'll be directing. “After this movie I’m scheduled to do, dapat isa na lang po with Piolo [Pascual] but then mahal ko ang kompanya, mahal ko ang paggawa ng pelikula. So pumayag pa po ako ng another one after this. So after this movie, I have two more,” she pointed out. Asked by Boy Abunda if one of the two movies already include that of John Lloyd Cruz's comeback movie, Molina said she has not talked with anybody yet about John Lloyd's comeback to Philippine cinema. “Sana, but hindi pa po napag-uusapan,” was the lady director's quick answer when pushed by Boy Abunda.  Meanwhile, John Lloyd Cruz took an "indefinite leave of absence" from show business in 2017 after she reportedly married then famous actress Ellen Adarna. Cruz's love affair with Adarna started way back on their TV sitcom "Home Sweetie Home" when Adarna was added as one of the mainstays of the TV sitcom. Adarna then got pregnant and the Philippine entertainment was shocked with the sudden turn of events - with their idol John Lloyd surprisingly announcing his leaving showbiz to start a private life with Adarna. ###

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A traveler’s passion: Spreading the gospel of agriculture to the young

August 6, 2019

THERE is a new passion driving the 8th edition of Cebu Pacific’s iconic Juan for Fun backpacking adventure! In this all-new Juan for Fun 2019, Cebu Pacific chose five enthusiastic and passion-driven travelers out of thousands of nominees to go on a week-long backpacking trip in search of destinations and activities. Participants will journey around the Philippines – visiting new places, trying unique activities, and unlocking memorable travel milestones to enrich their personal passions and stories many young travelers are driven by their hobbies and advocacies when exploring destinations. Among them is 23-year old Dariel Vallez, a recent agriculture graduate of the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines in Claveria, Misamis Oriental. Claveria is the largest among the 23 towns of Misamis Oriental and makes up one-third of the total land area of the province. The local economy is mainly agricultural, mostly crop production, freshwater aquaculture, livestock and poultry production. Crops mostly consist of vegetables such as tomato and bell pepper, corn, root crops, coffee, and rice.  The town is the seat of the premier agriculture school of the entire province, the USTP- Claveria, (formerly Misamis Oriental State College of Agriculture and Technology or MOSCAT). The son of a farmer, Dariel wants to travel where he could appreciate how food is produced and reaches the table – to promote agriculture as a vocation for the youth. For Juan For Fun 2019 he and his companions: classmate Lea Encabo and younger sister Jolina Vallez traveled to Clark and Bacolod. “I want to share with the young that farming is great, and without it we will not have anything to eat. What we wear comes from agriculture, and even our medicines come from agriculture. So if everyone is not interested in agriculture, what will happen to farming in the Philippines if no one is left to farm?” Dariel said. Claveria-born and raised, the young advocate was a Philip Morris scholar but doesn’t plant tobacco. “Since my elementary days, I already saw my parents farming corn, bell pepper and chili pepper. I have noted how our farmers are getting older, many already retired, but many of them did not share or transmit to the younger generation the love and passion for farming,” he noted. As a consequence, Dariel notes most of today’s youth are no longer interested in agriculture and don’t want to get themselves dirty tilling the earth. “We need to undertake some initiatives to encourage the youth to convince them that like other professions you can also earn good money from agriculture.” Fortunately, Dariel was taught by his parents from an early age to farm the traditional way, since the children helped around the farm. Armed with his B.S. in Agriculture degree, the farming advocate aims to leverage his Major in Agriculture Education to share to future students what he learned from school and his travels. “Learning is more meaningful and effective when it is based on personal experience, so if I can do it, they can do it as well, if not better,” Dariel stressed. To further drive home learning is best learned by doing, he aims to continue farming in a lot which was recently acquired by his family to grow some crops productively. Most of all, Dariel aims to make the most of his learnings from his travel to Israel where he and his classmate, childhood friend, neighbor and fellow aggie graduate, and now fellow JFF travel companion Lea undertook their on-the-job training, “Another of our reasons to travel is to immerse ourselves in different cultures since the Philippines has very diverse peoples and cultures, with diverse foods and dishes,” shared Lea. “I want to learn life skills and lessons from other places I travel to, which I can share with my neighbors and town mates when I get back,” she added. Dariel’s younger sister and JFF travel companion Jolina aims to follow in her Manong’s footsteps and also take up agriculture in USTP-Claveria seeing how it helped expand Jariel’s learnings and life skills.  For their JFF Journey to Clark and Bacolod, Jolina aims to further bolster her self confidence and try what I have not yet tried, and share with others the life skills and learnings she learned from this journey. With inspiration from these three Juan for Fun travelers, the future of agriculture in Claveria, Misamis Oriental appears to be in good hands.

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