Archive for July, 2012

How ready are Cebu roads for Ironman?

REPAIR work on the Marcelo Fernan Bridge is wrapping up today.

Now sports organizers have to look at the state of roads to be used by over 1,700 athletes who will cycle or run races in Metro Cebu for the 2012 Ironman international triathlon on Aug. 5.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia promised during the June 27 launch of the Ironman 70.3 in Makati that Cebu is ready to host the major sports event and that the provincial government would give its full support.

During one coordination meeting in the Capitol, she asked for photos to be taken of the roads to be used in the races.

Some major roads in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu may be closed to motorists from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the event said Ian Fresnido, Cebu provincial coordinator.

Traffic advisories will be issued next week.

With less than a month left to prepare, organizers have to apply already for a road closure permit in Cebu City, said Rafael Yap, executive director of the Cebu City Traffic Operations Management (Citom).

The streets need to be cleared of obstructions, including stray animals that may wander along the route.

Yap said coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) may also be needed to cover potholes along the route.

Fresnido assured that airport traffic wouldn’t be affected so much with this set up.

About 40 percent of more than 1,700 athletes who signed up for the Ironman triathlon are foreigners.
They include celebrities like Jericho Rosales, Mateo Guidicelli and Richard Gutierrez.

Athletes will start with a 1.9 kilometer swimming event in Lapu-Lapu City, followed by a 90 kilometer cycling event to Mandaue City, crossing the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, and passing through the coastal road of Cebu City to the South Road Properties and back to Lapu-Lapu City.

The triathlon will end with a 21-kilometer run in Lapu-Lapu City.

As of last Thursday, Citom said it has not yet received a formal request for road closures for a traffic plan.

Arriving and departing ship passengers in the Cebu City seaport may be affected from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While the race is going on, passengers from different ports will be ferried to Pier 1 so that they can take their ride home from there.

In Mandaue, traffic chief Edwin Ermac said discussions were held about the triathlon, but the route has not yet been finalized.

In Lapu-Lapu City, organizers will have a final coordination meeting with barangay captains of Punta Engano, Mactan, Bua-aya, Ibo and Pusok which are aong the route. The Ironman Triathlon is sponsored by Cobra Energy Drink. /Marsante Alison, Doris C. Bongcac, Carmel Loise Matus, Fe Marie D. Dumaboc , Norman V. Mendoza 🙄

Queen Sofia wants Spanish back in Phl public schools

Visiting Queen Sofia of Spain expressed her government’s desire to “reintroduce and reintegrate” the Spanish language in the Philippine educational curriculum.

“I wish to emphasize the support we gave to the educational sector and particularly the efforts of the Department of Education for successfully making into reality the reintroduction of Spanish language in the public educational system,” the queen said during the toast at the state banquet President Aquino hosted in her honor at Malacañang Tuesday evening.

“Since the time of the galleon of Manila, the Spanish language arrived in the Philippines as a promising tool for work and development for the Filipino people,” the queen said.

She said the Spanish language not only highlights the two countries’ rich cultural heritage, but also “opens up opportunities to secure the well-being of future generations of Filipinos in a globalized world.”

Jesus Gracia, Spain’s secretary of state for international development, told The STAR during the queen’s visit to Legazpi City yesterday that they want more Filipinos to speak Spanish to understand the roots of their culture better.

“We are happy to see the Philippines progressing as we reminisce 350 years of our common history and we are proud of our common friendship,” Gracia said.

But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Spanish language cannot be taught in all public schools due to lack of teachers.

“It is taught in selected public high schools. We have limitations right now. We don’t have adequate teachers. At the moment we cannot make the teaching of Spanish mandatory,” Lacierda said.

He said only 64 of the 7,000 secondary schools nationwide are offering Spanish as an elective for third and fourth year students.

“This is in close coordination with the Instituto Cervantes,” he said.

“It’s part of our cultural heritage. It’s nice to learn a foreign language. It’s always an advantage to learn a foreign language. But the problem is the mechanics and also the practicality of having sufficient teachers,” he added.

More employment opportunities

Senate committee on education, arts and culture chairman Sen. Edgardo Angara said reintroducing the Spanish language in schools will not only strengthen bilateral relations with Spain but also help prepare students for a possible career in tourism, business process outsourcing and other related sectors.

Angara said Spanish language courses should be integrated in arts, livelihood and sports subjects at the 11th and 12th grades under the K+12 program.

“If you speak Spanish, you can speak to almost one-third of the world. If you speak Mandarin, English and Spanish, you talk practically to the entire world. That’s how valuable language is in these modern times,” Angara said.

“The trend of investment and tourism of Latin America is towards Asia. We ought to catch that wave because now we have a natural destination,” he added.

Angara noted that the Spanish government, through the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) or the Spanish Agency for International Development and Cooperation and the Instituto Cervantes, has been sponsoring the training of teachers of the Spanish language in public schools, starting with the first batch of 100 teachers who have completed an intensive summer training last year.

P-Noy hails Phl-Spain ties

Aquino cited the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Spain, saying both countries “stand shoulder-to-shoulder in pursuing the ultimate goals of both our nations – of fulfilling the vast potential of our peoples.”

“And we are working together – whether in trade, sports, defense, or in tourism – in all the vital spheres of human endeavor,” Aquino said.

He said bilateral trade with Spain has been steadily increasing, with 2011 trade figures pegged at $329.6 million.

He said Spain is also a partner in improving the lives of Filipinos through their official development assistance and humanitarian programs.

The President said the visit of Queen Sofia was “a new history being made” that highlighted “a partnership between two nations with shared democratic ideals; of friendship based not on nostalgia, but a principled commitment to the positive strength that can be derived from divergent histories… a shared, and affectionate, cultural affinity.”

P12.4-M grant

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recently received P12.4 million in grants from the Spanish government for the implementation of the agency’s community development projects in far-flung areas in the country.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said AECID has extended a new grant to the DSWD for the implementation of the project, “Poder y Prosperidad de la Comunidad 7,” particularly in the Caraga region.

Soliman said the AECID grant will be used for the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) in Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur and Tubajon towns in the provinces of Dinagat Islands and Surigao del Sur.

The Caraga region has 148,516 4Ps beneficiaries.

The AECID has implemented projects ranging from local governance to disaster prevention, rural development, environment, education, health and social services in the country.

Queen visits Bicol

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and officials of the provincial government welcomed Queen Sophia and her delegation, including Spanish Ambassador Pedro Domecq and Vice Minister of International Cooperation and Latin America Gracia at the Legazpi City airport at around 8:40 a.m. yesterday.

After a short program at the airport, the queen motored to Albay Peñaranda Park, where she and Salceda unveiled the life-size statue of the first Spanish governor of Albay from 1834 to 1843, Jose Ma. Peñaranda.

The queen then visited the Camalig North Central School and evacuation center.

She also inspected the newly installed facilities, including dialysis and x-ray machines, at the Josefina Belmonte Duran Memorial District Hospital in Ligao City.

She also attended a briefing on the P110-million Legazpi landfill project funded by AECID at the Climate Change Academy at the Bicol University. Gonzalo Serrano, AECID program officer in the Philippines, said Spain had released a total of P1.6 billion, or P400 million a year since 2008, to Albay.

The AECID-funded constructions in Albay include the P110-million sanitary landfill in Legazpi City, four evacuation buildings convertible into classrooms in Camalig North Central School in Camalig town, Travesia Central School in Guinobatan town, Ligao West Central Elementary School in Ligao City, and an evacuation center in Daraga town. Salceda said AECID was also among the top donors after super typhoon “Reming” devastated Albay in 2006, as well in efforts to make the province a model in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Tight security for Zamboanga visit

In Zamboanga City, police and the military have secured all the places that Queen Sofia will visit today.

Brig. Gen. Eugene Clemen, deputy chief for West Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said they have not monitored any threat or plot to disrupt the visit of the queen.

“We have implemented tight security for the visit of the Queen of Spain in all her engagement points,” said Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesman for Westmincom.

Cabangbang said intelligence units have also been monitoring the movement of threat groups operating in southern Philippines.

Queen Sofia is expected to check the housing project for urban poor funded by AECID and managed by Manos Unidas, a Spanish non-government organization, and Zabida, a local NGO.

She will also unveil the commemorative marker at the Fort Pilar Museum.

Disneyland in the Philippines

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Why can’t the Philippines be seriously considered as the perfect location for a fourth Asian branch of American theme park Disneyland? It’s a brilliant idea as proposed by Pampanga First District Rep. Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin in a letter to Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company based in Burbank, California, USA. My daughter told me about this over lunch and I must confess, it was the first time I had heard about it. I only hope the Disneyland official thinks it is as good an idea as we do. Now is the perfect time for an idea like this, what with the present administration doing their best to attract foreign investment and looking for bankable ideas for local tycoons to put their money in. Putting money in our country will not only drive our economy, but will help raise the living standards of the Filipino people.

I remember a time when the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of advancement. The peso was trading two to one for every dollar and one could buy so much with that money. The fare for commuters was only 10 centavos and a softdrink could be had for the same amount. Now, instead of advancing even further, we find ourselves having backslid to the bottom of the progressive ladder with only Myanmar (Burma) in last place behind us. But they may not stay there for long. The Burmese are slowly opening up their society and if we are not careful, we might end up being last in Southeast Asia.

But that is just a grim possibility and one we can prevent from happening. I believe we can recover from our economic woes and hopefully, in my lifetime, we can find ourselves back on the progressive economic track. There are so many possibilities for us and so many diverse attractions for local and foreign investment. However, the deterrent to this growth are the many rising costs occuring at the same time. The cost of living now in the country is increasing and prices of basic necessities like electricity are at an all time high in Asia. This is proving to be a detriment to production. In addition to high cost of electricity, labor costs are rising as well. Problems like these are becoming roadblocks to attracting investors.

What was attractive to investors before was the ease and many incentives we offer them. Now, our neighbor countries have begun offering better and more attractive incentives to get investors to put their money in those countries instead. This is truly sad because the Philippines has so much to offer to the world. The ease of doing business here is a major advantage to foreign investors due to our democratic government and our mastery of the English language. In fact, we are the third largest English speaking country in the world following the United States and Great Britain. We are not only easy to communicate with, we are a very well traveled people as well. These days the sun sets on Filipinos in every nook and cranny of the world. When my wife and I went on a cruise a couple of months ago, many of the crew members were our countrymen. It was such a delight to be with them even in the far reaches of Alaska. There was even a monument built to Dr. Jose Rizal in the heart of the city of Juneau, the capitol city of Alaska, as there is a prominent Filipino community residing there. What a surge of pride we felt seeing that. Someday should you happen to find yourself in that area, you will surely have the same feeling.

With all the conveniences and the attractions the Philippines has to offer to both foreign investors and tourists alike, it brings me back to my original thoughts of how we would be an ideal location for a new Asian Disneyland. They would fit perfectly in the 4,400 hectare main zone and the 27,600 hectare subzone in the Clark Park that Lazatin offered the Walt Disney Company. Aside from the large space, the Clark Freeport Zone is an attractive destination for the park because of the tax-free privileges given to its locators. What’s more, the Clark International Airport is the perfect place for Disneyland tourists to land that will take them straight to the park. There are also several accommodations to choose from around the area in addition to the Disney Hotels the company always builds around their theme parks. The Philippines is already a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia and coupled with our very own Disneyland, we could really be a formidable tourist draw. It is ideal for both partners.

Plus, how many of our performers and artists leave to work in Disneyland in Hong Kong, China, and Japan. With a park right in our own shores, the Walt Disney Company would never have a shortage of English proficient professional performers and our artists need not travel too far for work, plus they would not need to learn Chinese and Japanese as they do in Disneyland parks in other countries. Our citizens and the many Disney enthusiasts in our country will no longer need to leave the Philippines to go to the theme park they love.

Hopefully it is an idea that comes to fruition. Lazatin was quoted telling Iger “together with our population of more than 90 million Filipinos, a Disneyland theme park in the Philippines could be a major income generating site for your company.” 🙄