Philippine News Roundup −13 May 2008

As the military underwent a turnover of command, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved the pardon for 9 military officers convicted of leading a 2003 coup attempt known as the Oakwood Mutiny. On top of that, she also ordered a 10% pay hike for the pardoned renegades. A few weeks ago, newspapers reported widespread speculations that the soldiers pleaded guilty in return for a promised pardon. All of these are happening as the government spars at the negotiating table with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who is into saber rattling mode. It currently accuses the government of stalling the peace talks. There were earlier pronouncements from various MILF sources that while they are pursuing peace talks with the government, they are ready for war. Hopefully, things will improve as new peace monitors from Libya are expected to come to replace the Malaysian contingent which pulled out.

In Metro Manila, the transport strike was hardly felt as reports say that less than 10% of the drivers participated. The story is different in other parts of the country, where a bigger percentage of drivers is said to have joined. Contrary to the pre strike declaration of the lead organizer, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), that the event will be peaceful and done in accordance with the law, incidents of metal spikes scattered to paralyze vehicles and harassment of non participating drivers were reported in many parts of the country. The objective of yesterday's strike is to paralyze road transport all over the country in order to put pressure on the government to scrap the expanded value-added tax (E-VAT) on oil products and of the oil deregulation law.

In related news, the MERALCO issue heats up as the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) prepares to submit its buyout proposal to the controlling Lopez group. One of the hot issues at during the past few days involve alleged Meralco sweetheart deals with businesses owned by the Lopez family as well as supposed unethical passing of its losses to the consumers. In separate statements, Meralco denies all charges.

Overseas, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake left approximately 5~10,000 people dead and 10,000 injured in Sichuan province in China.

For the weather, rain showers are said to have caused a creek to overflow. The MMDA reported that a creek in Quezon City overflowed and flood waters rose to approximately 4.5 feet. This made some residents along Sta. Clara St. in Bagong Silangan to climb to the roof of their houses. Rescue teams were deployed.

From PagAsa, rains are expected today until tomorrow and things are expected to worsen a bit on Wednesday and Thursday as gusty winds are also being forecasted. Friday is still expected to be rainy. All of these are because of a Low Pressure Area (LPA) which is estimated at 390 kms west southwest of Iba, Zambales (14.5ºN 116.3ºE).

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