Stories posted 2008

Beautification in a time of crisis?

House facelift to cost taxpayers P1 billion; fund source a puzzle

THE 14TH Congress will open its second regular session on Monday with a spit-polished image, amid massive renovation efforts for the Marcos-era Batasang Pambansa building, home to the House of Representatives.

Largely cosmetic, the frenzied makeover has secured an initial funding of P200 million from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but once completed will cost taxpayers almost a billion pesos.

Romulo L. Neri: Can golf, realpolitik work at SSS?

BACK IN May, speculations were rife that Romulo L. Neri was returning to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) as director general and socioeconomic planning secretary by August. The nasty rumor had so distressed some at NEDA that on a bulletin board next to the ground floor elevator lobby that had been turned into a sort of freedom wall was posted this note from an anonymous commenter:

“I don’t think bringing back Neri to NEDA will be good for the agency. We are now finding out that he maintained a group of advisers/consultants in the likes of Jun Lozada who seemed to act as fixers/moderators of greed. Imagine that! Neri seemed to be running another office corresponding with NEDA staffs whose sole purpose was to take charge of the wheeling and dealing in government. Shall we allow that again?”


Safe bet or big gamble?

SOON AFTER she took power in January 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo gave her imprimatur for the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s (Pagcor) showcase project that she had wanted to christen “Bagong Nayong Pilipino Integrated Tourism City.”

A little more than six years later, Pagcor unveiled its plan for what is now called the “Tourism City” project along Manila Bay.

The Pagcor money machine: Who spends what, and how?

GLORIA MACAPAGAL Arroyo will go down in Philippine history as the president who made gambling the third biggest source of government revenues, after taxes and customs duties.

Under her watch over the last seven years, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has grown into a humongous money — and power — machine. Until now the monopolistic state gambling agency, Pagcor’s gross revenues of P13 billion in 2001 more than doubled to P26.83 billion in 2007, or an average annual growth of 18 percent.

Meet the Packers

THE MAN behind Bloombury Investment Ltd.’s supposed foreign partner has in recent months launched aggressive moves to expand his inherited multibillion-dollar gaming and media empire.

But he has done so at a time when his rank on the lists of Australia’s richest billionaires lists has been sliding steadily.

Arroyo allies linked to ‘Garci’ behind mystery firm in Pagcor ‘Tourism City’

A COMPANY that has neither track record in the gaming business nor proven financial capability to back up a multibillion-peso enterprise is poised to become the newest investor in the ambitious “Tourism City” project of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).

But what Bloombury Investments Ltd. lacks in these top two criteria for investors in the Pagcor project, it more than makes up for in terms of political connections, based on records of the state-run corporation itself, as well as information from those privy to the deals.

In Taal, communities struggle to stave off disaster

TALISAY and SAN NICOLAS, BATANGAS — Being officially designated as a protected area failed to save Taal Lake from environmental degradation, and now some are saying even Environment Secretary Joselito ‘Lito’ Atienza’s defiant “no fish cages” stance for the lake will have the same result.

What may work, say scientists and activists alike, is close coordination and cooperation among all those who depend and benefit from the lake. And while they say vigilant monitoring is a must these days, ensuring that everyone understands the consequence of each one’s action is crucial if the lake is to be kept from further deterioration.

Legal loopholes, politics exacerbate Taal’s woes

TALISAY and SAN NICOLAS, BATANGAS — More than a decade ago, Talisay resident Vicente Llona’s take-home pay after a day’s hard work at a construction site came to P110.

Today, the 43-year-old high school graduate earns five times as much. Since 2002, he has been growing tilapia in fish cages in Taal Lake, an occupation that now nets him as much as P100,000 every six months — and he doesn’t even have to break much sweat.

Declared protected area in distress

Illegal fish cage operations poison Taal Lake

TALISAY and MATAAS NA KAHOY, BATANGAS — Looking down from the wind-swept resorts and hotels of Tagaytay City, vacationers see Taal Lake as pristine and as inviting as before. Indeed, from a distance, the 24,356-hectare body of water that is part of one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions remains a sight to behold, with gentle breezes often rippling its surface.

Usually overshadowed by Laguna de Bay next door, Taal Lake is tapped for aquaculture, fishing, navigation, and tourism purposes; it is even the water resource of the posh Tagaytay Highlands resort.

Making sure Mama makes it

VALLEHERMOSO, CARMEN, BOHOL — Had she been in the same situation eight years ago, Jesusa Panes would have probably just given birth at home, even without her husband in sight, and even if her neighbor the hilot (traditional birthing attendant) happened to be drunk. But things have not been the same for expectant mothers in this town since 2002, and so when the child in her belly starting demanding to be let out, Panes began trudging toward the birthing center that was several minutes away by foot from her home.

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