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Philippine News Digest 117

June 11, 2007 · 


=Cheers for increased agriculture dept budget
=Arroyo to media: Gov’t to end killings, libel suits
=Bishops divided on Pope’s visit

Cheers for increased agriculture dept budget

First posted 05:12:42 (Mla time) June 15, 2007
Ernesto Ordoñez

MANILA, Philippines — June 12 felt like a special Independence Day for the small farmers and fisherfolk because an announcement was made that promised the start of their independence from poverty.

After what they perceived as nine years of neglect, many applauded Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap’s bold announcement that he would propose a P32.7-billion 2008 budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA).

When too rapid liberalization took place and our own tariff reductions were even more severe than what the World Trade Organization (WTO) required, the farmers and fisherfolk staged several rallies.

They were placated by the promise of safety nets and a well-crafted agricultural law spearheaded by Senator Edgardo Angara.

This was the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997.

Since then, things have gotten worse instead of better.

Instead of being a net exporter of agricultural products, we are now a net importer.

And the promised significant increase in agricultural jobs never materialized.

The farmers and fisherfolk felt betrayed. The promises of safety nets proved empty. Afma was never properly implemented. And only last August 2006, the recommended P46.4-billion supplemental budget did not include even one peso for agriculture.

Arroyo to media: Gov’t to end killings, libel suits
First posted 04:12:25 (Mla time) June 15, 2007
Juliet Labog-Javellana

MANILA, Philippines — In a bid to improve her relations with the media, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Thursday promised to end the killing of journalists and protect them from libel suits and arbitrary arrest.

The President hosted a dialogue in Malacañang with representatives of local and foreign news organizations and told them she would take up their recommendation to form a special prosecution team to handle media killings.

She also agreed to update a 1990 agreement under which police serving warrants of arrest for journalists facing libel charges would first notify the National Press Club and the media organization concerned.

The President, who had not been accessible to the media, offered to meet with journalists every three months.

Stop all violence
“As we have made tough choices to turn around our economy, we will also get a handle on these killings to end them once and for all. Today, let us join hands in mutual trust and common purpose so that all the violence will be stopped,” Ms Arroyo said.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye denied the dialogue had something to do with the arrival on June 18 for a 10-day visit of six human rights experts from the European Union to look into the government’s efforts to stop the killings of journalists and militants.

Fifty-one journalists have been killed since Ms Arroyo became president in 2001. Human rights groups say more than 800 militants have been killed since 2001 in extrajudicial executions (the Philippine Daily Inquirer count is 296).

EU Ambassador Alistair MacDonald told reporters in a separate briefing the visit was a response to a Philippine request for assistance in the establishment of special courts, training of judges and prosecutors, strengthening the witness protection program and improving forensic skills.

Bishops divided on Pope’s visit
First posted 22:57:17 (Mla time) June 14, 2007

MANILA, Philippines — That the planned visit of Pope Benedict XVI could be politicized, as some anti-administration prelates maintain, was unavoidable because of the Pope’s dual role, said Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

“You must know that the Holy Father is not only a religious leader but also a state leader,” said Lagdameo who is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which extended the invitation to the Pope.

The Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church and also a political sovereign as he heads the city-state of the Vatican.

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz has advised the Pope not to visit the Philippines, saying the visit “would dignify a national leadership that is suffering from dire lack of moral ascendancy not to mention its big socio-political liabilities.”

“We don’t know if that will happen, but such an interpretation is possible,” Lagdameo said in an interview with Radio Veritas.

But Imus Bishop Luis Tagle said the Pope would not be able to go anywhere if all he would think about is that his visit would be “manipulated.”

Tagle, who is being supported by Manila Archbishop Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, said a papal visit would inspire the Catholics and remind them to be better Christians as well as of their mission in evangelizing Asia.

Rosales said the Pontiff was certain to come to the Philippines, but not this year. He said the timing of the papal visit was still being arranged. Jerome Aning



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