Top tourism official says OFs’ holiday behavior is changing

Time was when overseas Filipinos returning home for a holiday would see two places: Manila, where the plane lands; and his hometown.

Not anymore, says Philippine Tourism Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon Jr.

“Dati, pag meron kang balikbayan galing sa America, pag umuwi ng Pilipinas, dalawa lang ang pupuntahan niyan. Manila, dahil doon sila maglalanding, at home town. Dalawa lang,” Bengzon told The Filipino Times in an interview at the Philippines’ booth during the just-concluded Arabian Travel Market held in Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC).

“But, nakita namin na nagbago na iyan. Nowadays, pagdating nila ng Pilipinas, they go to Bohol, Palawan, Boracay because they heard so much about these places,” Bengzon added.
The tourism official, who has regularly been leading the Philippine contingent to ATM in the past years, said it’s time for OFs to change their “mindset.”

He explained: “Our mentality is pag nandito lang sa atin, dapat mas mura. Pag sa abroad puwedeng mas mahal. What if the offer is better? Why is it that the Hong Kong tourist is willing to pay $300 in El Nido (Palawan)? Because they are there for the experienc.”

“Amanpulo in Palawan is USD600 a day. But, maraming pumupunta doon, hindi lang mga foreigners, but mga Pilipino.”

About 31 key players, including travels agencies, tour operators, hotels and resorts and two of the Philippines’ major airlines, joined the agency’s “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” campaign at the Middle East’s largest travel show.

UAE fans eagerly await Australian artists’ concerts

Avid fans of Hillsong United are excited to see their favorite band in Dubai for a two-day concert slated on April 28 and 29 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium. Proof of this is that tickets for the first night were sold out in less than four days with those for the second day also selling fast.

Sabu George, CEO of Voice International, organizers of the much anticipated concert, said he and his team find the response of the group’s fans in the UAE very overwhelming.

“The tickets sales have been fantastic. We sold the first night in less than four days which was overwhelming for us at Voice. We are so grateful to the band, to the Dubai Government and the rulers of this land for the opportunity to showcase this band that has been eagerly awaited by the community here in the UAE for years,” he said.

Voice International is also looking forward to hosting the Planetshakers Conference on May 12 and 13 at the IPIC Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Like Hillsong United, Planetshakers also has a huge following in the UAE and the Middle East. The group has held two sold-out events in Dubai. Sabu said, “This time around, they will be here to train and teach at the conference which is great for musicians and leaders. This is the first time they will be performing in Abu Dhabi.”

“The songs this band writes touches our soul and are a life changing experience to many as they listen. They bring in peace, joy and hope to the hopeless. There is a lot of learning from these bands in terms of excellence, band dynamics and skill, among others. Overall, it is a great experience. It is going to be an uplifting conference where the teaching and music will be inspirational,” added the organizer.

Hillsong United is a band that originated as part of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. Since it was formed in 1998, the group has released 11 annual live albums, as well as four studio albums. The band composes songs and performs in church services as well as concerts in worldwide tours.

Planetshakers is an adults and youth movement in Melbourne, Australia. A central part of Planetshakers group is the contemporary music band “The Planetshakers.” The 2003 Australian Idol winner, Guy Sebastian is a former member of the band, taking both lead and back-up vocal parts in the 2002 and 2003 albums and conferences.

Though consisting mainly of young singers and musicians, Hillsong United and Planetshakers cater to all age groups and have a huge following all over the world.

Duterte May 1 surprise for workers raise hopes

President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called surprise for Filipino laborers this Labor Day drew mixed responses from various labor groups on Thursday, raising hopes of a possible end to contractual labor in the Philippines.

“We welcome the gesture of President Duterte to give a gift to workers as government’s appreciation to workers who build and sustain the country’s high economic growth on their backs,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).

“If Mr. Duterte means his promise for genuine change for the people, it is always excellent to begin by alleviating workers and their families from poverty,” he added.

Duterte is set to hold a May 1 assembly at the People’s Park in Davao City, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced.

Duterte is reportedly mulling a surprise gift for Filipino workers.

The moderate ALU-TUCP is hoping for the Department of Labor and Employment to issue a “monthly cash subsidy and significant wage hike for worker.”

But the more radical Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that is not enough.

“Filipino workers need a more substantial and sustainable wage hike through the implementation of a National Minimum Wage of P750 daily for private sector workers and P16,000 for government employees,” the group explained.

It said the national minimum wage “would serve as an immediate relief for workers amidst our growing hunger and poverty.”

KMU stressed that the allowance and wage hike ALU-TUCP hopes “would not suffice to, even at the very least, ease Filipino workers’ worsening hunger and poverty.”

Earlier in the day, calling themselves “strange bedfellows,” center left ALU-TUCP together with its umbrella coalition Nagkaisa banded with far left KMU in a historic first move to condemn contractual labor in the country.

The two have been at odds on various labor issues, with ALU-TUCP often sitting in tripartite dialogues to come up with compromises with business and government representatives.

As not all relevant stakeholder groups are represented during tripartite discussions, not all gaps and concerns in the workplace are raised. There is almost always post-dialogue resistance from the very same groups that refused to engage in the discussions.

ALU-TUCP has been filing petitions for floor wag hikes before regional wage boards, while KMU has been consistent with their call for a national across-the-board minimum wage.

President Duterte is set to meet with top officials of ALU-TUCP in a dialogue with labor groups at 3 pm on Labor Day before he delivers his Labor Day speech.

KMU also extended its invitation to the president for a consultation a day before Labor Day.

Photo Credit: Malacañang

Guimaras offers 9-day ‘all-you-can-eat’ mangoes

Visitors to the scenic island-province of Guimaras this May 11 to 22 in time for Manggahan Festival will get to enjoy nine days of “all-you-can-eat” Guimaras mangoes!

The mango feast will start in the opening day of “Manggahan Fest” on May 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol grounds, Brgy. San Miguel here, said Liberty Ferrer, provincial tourism office officer-in-charge.

The Guimaras mango festival will continue until May 22.

Within the prescribed time, visitors can choose whether they want to eat ripe or green mangoes. They can also pair the ripe mangoes with “ibus” or sticky rice, or eat the green mangoes with “bagoong” or shrimp paste.

The event has been part of the festival for 15 years now, according to the Provincial Agricultural Services Office (PASO).

In last year’s festival,PASO recorded a total of 4,429 “mango eaters” in a period of nine days.

Guimaras mango is distinct for its sweet-sour taste, less fibrous pulp, and thinner skin or epicarp. It is also certified weevil-free.

For this year’s mango all-you-can eat event, the Guimaras Mango Growers & Producers Development Cooperative (GMGPDC) is readying to supply the PASO a total of 10.4 tons or 10,400 kilos of fresh mangoes. (PNA)

Why only 23% of Pinoys finish college

A survey conducted by one of the country’s leading insurance firms showed that “only 23 percent of Filipinos were able to finish college due to financial constraints.”

Jenny Santos, director of agencies of Philamlife for South Central Mindanao, on Wednesday revealed that the survey was conducted by their company in order to establish a reference point whether Filipinos have financial protection for their future. The survey was divided into three parts: education, health and retirement.

For education, Santos said that of the 1,000 Filipinos surveyed, only 230 were able to finish college.

One of the major factors for the failure of parents to send their children to higher education was lack of funds or savings.

For health, Santos said 96 percent are conscious of their health. Of the 96 percent, 16 percent can afford to pay for serious illnesses.

The survey also showed that 80 percent want to retire at 50 years old but don’t have the capacity to fund their retirement, prompting them to retire at 65.

Santos said Philamlife conducted the survey as part of their corporate social responsibility and in line with the company’s 70th year anniversary.

SC junks VP Robredo plea, orders her to pay PHP8-M vs Marcos poll protest

The Supreme Court (SC) sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on Tuesday denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo for the election protest case filed against her by former Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive during summer session of the magistrates in Baguio City.

Te said the PET denied the petition filed by Robredo seeking reconsideration of its March 21 resolution and directed her to pay the cash deposit as stated in the said resolution regarding the election protest filed by Marcos.

”The PET denied protestee Robredo’s motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated March 21, 2017 and directed protestee Robredo to pay the cash deposit as stated in the Resolution dated March 21, 2017 within a non-extendible period of five days from notice of Resolution,” Te said after Tuesday’s en banc.

In the same order, the high court deferred action on Marcos’ omnibus motion to dismiss the counter protest until Robredo complies with the directive to pay the deposit.

Last March 21, the PET ordered Marcos to pay PHP66,223,000 for the 132,446 precincts for his election protest against Robredo to proceed.

In its three-page resolution, PET ruled that Marcos should pay PHP36,023,000 on or before April 14 and PHP30-million on or before July 14 while Robredo is required to pay PHP8 million on or before April 14, and PHP7,439,000 on or before July 14.

Last April 17, Marcos went personally to the SC Clerk of Court to pay the first installment.

Robredo, on the other hand, was reportedly required to pay the cash deposit in PHP8 million last April 14, which happens to be Good Friday, and another PHP7,439,000 on or before July 14.

But Robredo reportedly failed to pay the partial PHP8 million and instead filed a manifestation last April 12.

Robredo won the 2016 vice presidential race with 14,418,817 votes or 263,473 more than Marcos who got 14,155,344 votes. (PNA)

Pope Francis’ TED talk well-received as Emiratis meet him

The leader of world’s Catholics has addressed a TED international conference for the first time, urging tenderness amid the discovery of new frontiers in technology.

“This was the first time that a reigning Pope has recorded such a speech, and the first time Pope Francis has addressed an international conference,” said The Verge in its report.

The beloved Pope Francis said scientific breakthroughs should go hand in hand with basic human understanding of another person’s needs.

“How wonderful would it be if, while we discover faraway planets, we could also rediscover the needs of the brother, or the sister, orbiting around us!” he was quoted as saying.

The Verge also said the pre-recorded talk highlighted the importance of interrelationships among men and women.

Pope Francis said “each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.”

His message has gained a substantial following online, as a delegation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) came to the Vatican to meet him.

“UAE officials met Pope Francis in the Vatican on Wednesday about the importance of promoting tolerance worldwide and preventing prejudice, extremism and violence,” The National reported.

According to the report, the Emirati delegates stressed how the UAE serves as host to expatriates from 200 different nations who are able to live “in dignity and safety.”

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, was able to meet Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, The National said.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Help needed for UAE’s endangered wonder gecko

Efforts to conserve a rare specie of geckos are underway in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) but further studies are needed or the project to prosper, The National reported.

Experts from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah are reportedly leading the conservation project of the colorful moonshine gecko, named that way for its glowing eyes at night.

Pritpal Soorae of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi said the wonder gecko has “very specific soil and climate conditions that it needs.”

Soorae, however, explained that most areas where the geckos exist are unfortunately areas “now under high development.”

Johannes Els of Sharjah’s Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife said the challenge is making residents understand the importance of biodiversity.

“It is a very difficult thing to explain to people why we should preserve a small gecko,” Els was quoted as saying.

Els said reptiles like the wonder gecko usually gain less attention than mammals but urged the public to “treat everything equally.”

The conservationist also explained that the project also needs attention research-wise, as it “shows that we can all work together and that even the small, not-so-charismatic species are also important.”

“The next step over the coming five years is to do more in-depth ecological studies and have a look at what these animals particularly require in the wild to survive,” he said.

“Once we have a better understanding of all the requirements, it will be easier for us to make better management ­decisions for these animals in the wild,” he added.

Photo Credit: Pritpal Soorae / Environment Agency Abu Dhabi via The National

TESDA chief to ‘fake scholars’: Your days are numbered

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Guiling Mamondiong said the days of the agency’s “fake scholars” will end soon.

TESDA told the Philippine News Agency that these “fake scholars” didn’t undergo training.

“During the past administrations, some names have been approved as scholars, but they didn’t undergo any training,” TESDA explained.

It added that the people behind this anomaly got the budget for the scholarships.

“Some Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) and operators were involved in this,” TESDA said in a text message.

The agency said this administration would not tolerate such illegal practice because it would pave a way for corruption.

“A big chunk of its budget due to fake scholars,” Mamondiong cited in a statement.

He has created “technical audit teams” which will check the equipment and facilities of TVIs while the Barangay Kasanayan para sa Kabuhayan at Kapayapaan (BKKK) scouts for scholars in every barangay.

“Inspectorate teams” were formed tasked to make the rounds of TVIs nationwide apart from the “Tendering System”, in which training institutions submit their “bids” to avail of scholarships.

Furthermore, Mamondiong has ordered TESDA’s provincial and regional offices to help arrest the suspects linked to the illegal transactions.

TESDA discovered that some TVIs could get a voucher or scholarship slot through cohorts inside the agency, even without the proper training.

“We also found out that cohorts who serve as ‘operators’ also get a share of money through the anomalous transactions with TVIs and training institutions,” the agency cited. (PNA)

House leaders slam complaint vs Duterte before ICC

House Appropriations Committee chair and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said the complaint, which was filed by self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato’s lawyer Jude Sabio, is part of a “ploy” to put the President in a bad light before the international community.

Nograles pointed out that the complaint has no “real legal basis” and “bereft of any hard evidence” for the prosecution of President Duterte over crimes against humanity.

“The case filed against the President in the ICC, as most Filipinos know, is the latest step in the destabilization plot against the Duterte administration. This is complete waste of time because any lawyer would say there is no basis to prosecute the president for alleged crimes against humanity,” Nograles said.

The Davao City lawmaker said the objective of the filing of the case is to topple the Duterte administration and generate sympathy to weaken the Chief Executive’s “overwhelming popular support”.

Nograles said the ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute the President because existing Philippine courts remain “very credible and functional”.

“The legal and judicial system in the Philippines is functional and equipped enough to deal with the complaints. It’s not as if we are so helpless and powerless a state that we need the ICC to come in and acquire jurisdiction over us,” he explained.

For his part, House Dangerous Drugs Committee chair and Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers dismissed the complaint as a “propaganda for self-aggrandizement.”

“The International Criminal Court complaint is nothing more but an attempt to grab the headlines and enjoy his three minutes of fame at the expense of President Duterte and Speaker Alvarez and all other accused,” said Barbers.

Barbers noted that the complaint is “bereft of merit” and insufficient in evidence considering that there is no direct link proving that the President committed the crimes being charged against him.

“Atty. Sabio offered as evidence the findings of the Human Rights Watch, one that is not even a fact-finding body,” Barbers added.

The Surigao del Norte solon said that despite plots to besmirch the current administration ahead of the country’s hosting of the ASEAN Summit, Duterte still enjoys solid public support and his reputation is as ”solid as the Rock of Gibraltar”.

Sabio filed a 77-page complaint against the Chief Executive and 11 senior government officials before the ICC on Monday, accusing them of crimes against humanity through administration’s aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.

Sabio, in his complaint, cited the similarities in the drug war when Duterte was mayor and now as president including police participation, element of hitman, reward system for killing, reward in cash, a kill list, among others.

Sabio said that with the case filed, the Office of the Prosecutor is set to determine whether the case is within the jurisdiction of the ICC and if it is proper to file criminal charges against the accused, before investigating the case and issuing Warrant of Arrest against them.

Aside from Duterte, also charged for violating different provisions of the Rome Statute, to wit: Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre; Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa; Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of the House of Representatives; Former Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno; Police Superintendent Edilberto Leonardo; Senior Police Officer 4 Sanson “Sonny” Buenaventura; Police Supt. Royina Garma; National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran; Solicitor General Jose Calida; Senator Richard Gordon and Senator Alan Peter S. Cayetano.(Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)