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June 17, 2024

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Mastercard targets full e-commerce tokenization by 2030 in Europe

ISTANBUL, June 17 ------ Mastercard said it wants to reach full e-commerce tokenization in Europe by the end of the decade.


The decision is part of the company's plan to phase out manual card entry and make e-commerce safer and more accessible for everyone, it said in a statement. The tokenization will replace the 16 to 19-digit numbers on payment cards with a secure token to reduce fraud, which is estimated to exceed USD91 billion by 2028.


The US-based multinational payment card services company said it will make it easier to embed ”Click to Pay” into merchant sites in e-commerce, and enable its bank partners to help consumers enroll their cards. Merging tokenization with “Click to Pay” and payment passkeys are expected to benefit the entire ecosystem of e-commerce, according to the company.


Consumers will experience faster and safer checkouts, merchants will see increased sales, fraud protection, and higher approval rates, while issuers will gain customer security, it said. "We’re focused on bringing best-in-class digital services together to deliver more value, access, and safety to our customers and the end-consumer," the company’s Chief Product Officer Jorn Lambert said in a statement. "We’ll continue to harness the potential of these technologies to deliver enhanced security, better experiences, and overall, new ways to pay." 





Denmark recalls South Korean noodles for being too spicy

SEOUL, South Korea, June 17 ------ Denmark's food agency has recalled South Korean instant ramen produced by a brand popular in the West, warning noodle lovers that they were so hot they might cause "acute poisoning".


Three Samyang Foods noodle products were assessed to have dangerous levels of capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said in a statement on Tuesday. The three products from Samyang instant ramen line Buldak 3x Spicy & Hot Chicken, 2x Spicy & Hot Chicken, and Hot Chicken Stew -- were being withdrawn from sale in Denmark.


The level in a single packet of the noodles was "so high that they pose a risk of the consumer developing acute poisoning", the Danish body said. "If you have the products, you should discard them or return them to the store where they were purchased," the statement added. It issued a special warning against children eating the noodles, urging parents to contact the Poison Line if their little ones appeared to show "acute symptoms".


Samyang products are hugely popular overseas, with the company's operating profit hitting a record high of over $110 million in 2023. Samyang Foods said it was the first time the company's products had been recalled because they were deemed too hot, and added that it would work to better understand local regulations in export markets. "Currently, the products are being exported around the world, but this is the first time they have been recalled for this reason," a spokesperson for the company told AFP. Samyang Foods saw its stock price soar 70% in recent months after its buldak carbonara ramen went viral on TikTok, with the product becoming so popular in the United States there have been reports of shortages.




Biogas Shows Promise, But Only if Carefully Managed

June 17 ------ The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center has released an upbeat forecast on the future of biogas, suggesting that it could play an important role as a fuel for the green transition - so long as it is carefully managed. 


In a year-long study, the center determined that biofuel can be produced at a useful scale using existing technology, and could support decarbonization of shipping - particularly in the early phases of the process. Biogas production and refinement pathways that incorporate carbon capture and storage show promise, and some are even carbon-negative because the feedstock source creates biogenic CO2 uptake (the vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide from the air). However, the technical details of production matter a great deal, and are specific to each industrial site and method. "We find that the type of biofuel matters less than the optimization level of the production pathway, with optimized value chains able to deliver both LBM and bio-methanol with strongly negative emissions," the center concluded. 


One possible operating method for this system would be to use the biogas near the site of its production, then sell the certificate of decarbonized energy activity to a shipping company to offset a vessel's fossil-derived emissions (a book-and-claim system, already in common use for liquid biofuel). If it is to be used aboard a ship as a marine fuel, the least-cost method to get biogas on board is to turn it into the bio-based equivalent of LNG: LBM, liquefied biomethane. "We find that the standard commercial process to manufacture LBM via upgrading and liquefaction of biogas is the cheapest of the options considered," the center's researchers concluded. "At comparable sizes, SNG and biomethanol are 50%–70% more expensive."


The main environmental challenge for biofuel is in "practicing excellence" in controlling unwanted bio-methane emissions from production, transport and use - a familiar issue found today with fossil-based methane fuel (natural gas). Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and lifecycle methane emissions must be minimized in order to achieve a climate-friendly fuel system with biogas, according to the center. Leaks during production, distribution and use could "erase the sustainability benefits" of a biofuel value chain, the center warned, and current methane emissions levels suggest a need for improvement in this area. At today's estimated loss rate of 5-6 percent, European biogas infrastructure could leak enough biomethane into the atmosphere to equal 15-45 percent of current CO2 emissions from European shipping. Fuel with this kind of well-to-wake profile might not meet the definition of "sustainable," the center found, depending on how the impact is measured. 


"One of the main concerns regarding widespread use of methane as an energy carrier is humanity’s scant track record in avoiding anthropogenic methane emissions to the atmosphere, which are currently estimated at 350 million tons per year," cautioned the authors. "We consider tightening of the regulations in the biogas industry as being of the utmost importance and urgency to ensure that new plants coming into operation have incorporated the right technology to be emissions-free."





Port of Seattle: All homeported cruise ships to use shore power from 2027

June 17 ------ The Port of Seattle became the first port in the U.S. to independently require that 100% of all cruise vessels homeported in Seattle be shore power capable and use shore power.


As informed, the order passed by the Port of Seattle Commission on June 11, 2024, will take effect in the 2027 cruise season, three years before the port’s previous goal of 2030 of universal shore power use. “We applaud the Port of Seattle’s leadership to move cruise vessels off of dirty fossil fuels,” said Jayne Stevenson, Climate Policy Associate for Pacific Environment. “Ocean going vessels, including cruise ships, are the #1 maritime polluter in the Puget Sound area. We urge the state of Washington to implement a statewide shore power policy to eliminate air and water pollution from all ocean going vessels at the ports and protect the health and well-being of port communities.”


“We appreciate the leadership shown by the Port of Seattle to move ocean going ships off of fossil fuels by committing to transition 100% of homeported cruise vessels to shore power. And, we call on other ports to follow the leadership of the Port of Seattle to move ports and shipping to a zero-emissions future,” Fern Uennatornwaranggoon, Climate Campaign Director for Ports at Pacific Environment, stated.


According to the port, plugging into shore power reduces diesel emissions from cruise vessels at berth by 80% on average. Furthermore, during the 2023 season, cruise ships using shore power avoided emitting 2,700 metric tons of greenhouse gases and 0.75 metric tons of diesel particulate matter. The port noted that it is finalizing the electrification of Pier 66 and plans to connect cruise ships to shore power there this summer.


This milestone will make shore power available at all three Seattle cruise berths, which will achieve the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy goal to electrify all cruise berths by 2030, six years early, according to the port officials. It will make Seattle one of the first cruise ports to offer shore power at all of its multiple berths.


In 2004, the Port of Seattle, through investments by Carnival Corporation, became the first homeport in North America to offer shore power at two cruise berths. Carnival and other cruise operators continue to use those infrastructure investments, with 66% of cruise calls equipped to plug in.


The port also continued to work in partnership with cruise ports in Alaska, Victoria, BC, and Vancouver, BC, and the cruise industry to explore the world’s first cruise-focused green corridor from Seattle to Alaska.


Green corridors, through collaboration across sectors, create the technological, economic, and regulatory feasibility needed for zero greenhouse gas emission ships to succeed. First Mover partners aim to leverage and support each other’s decarbonization work already underway and bring those resources and technological advancements to this focused and coordinated effort. In 2021, the Seattle Port adopted near-term implementation plans to identify, prioritize, and focus resources on actions that help achieve their collective zero-emission vision.





Polymeric Solutions Contributing to Maritime Decarbonization

June 17 ------ A range of new technologies are emerging to help the maritime sector meet the challenges of decarbonization. Belzona, a designer and manufacturer of polymer repair composites and industrial protective coatings, recently participated in the effort to complete the United States’ first all-electric tugboat, the eWolf. The company provides unique solutions that make repairs possible supporting a circular economic business model that further mitigates carbon emissions.


Meeting the emerging international regulations and the International Maritime Organization’s aspirational goals for reducing carbon emissions will require a tripling of renewable energy capacity and a doubling of energy efficiency improvements by 2030. One of the fundamental ways in which the maritime sector can achieve these goals is through “scalable zero-emission fuels,” and other pioneering technologies. The eWolf, as the U.S.’s first zero-emission tug powered by electricity from its battery system, is a huge step forward in terms of decarbonization.


Launched in 2023, the 82-foot (25-meter) eWolf is leading the way in terms of mitigating the climate impact of the maritime sector. Over the first 10 years of its use, the operation of the new “eTug” will reduce 178 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), 2.5 tons of diesel particulate matter, and 3,100 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), versus a conventional tugboat.


The eWolf is capable of speeds of up to 12 knots and will be powered by a 6.2 megawatt-hour main propulsion battery and two electric motors. The electricity comes from a charging station that is part of a microgrid facility, equipped with two energy storage containers. Battery modules in each container have a storage capacity of nearly 1.5 megawatt-hours.


Bonding Solution Required for Front Fender

The front fender for the eWolf needed to be bonded together using a strong adhesive that would withstand pushing and pulling forces during the process of adhering the fender to the eTug. Having established confidence in Belzona technology from using their polymeric systems in previous applications, the customer chose Belzona once again for the application.


Following an inspection by Micah Heath, Technical Consultant at Belzona Distributorship, Belzona Alabama, the fast curing, one-part elastomeric primer, Belzona 2911 (Elastomer QD Conditioner), was specified. This conditioner is optimized for adhesion to a variety of substrates including rubber, as required for this particular application. For the bonding, the polyurethane resin, Belzona 2211, was specified. This flexible rubber repair material is optimized for applications where high build, durability, and elasticity are required. “Once the required surface preparation was completed using grinding wheels and MBX Bristle Blaster, the conditioner, Belzona 2911 (Elastomer QD Conditioner), was applied,” explains Heath. “As soon as the conditioner was touch dry, Belzona 2211 was used to attach the plugs into the fender, and then attach the three-part fender together. The application team used a manual cable puller to apply the necessary pressure to ensure the various surfaces were sufficiently pressed together. Once completed, the application was left for 36 hours to cure, achieving an excellent mechanical bond.”


Contributing to the Circular Economic Business Model

In addition to pioneering technology like the eTug, Belzona highlights that polymeric systems also play a key role in the decarbonization of the maritime sector. Belzona’s circular economic business model is grounded in the practice of repairing and improving damaged assets, rather than decommissioning and replacing them. Not only does this allow the asset owner to make considerable financial savings, but it also mitigates the carbon footprint incurred during the process of replacing damaged assets. In turn, this supports a net zero by 2050 pathway, in line with the Paris Agreement.


In addition, Belzona systems are manufactured according to the ISO 9001 quality management systems and are approved by classification societies from all around the world including Lloyd’s Register, American Bureau of Shipping, Bureau Veritas, RINA Services, DNV, China Classification Society, and the Korean Register of Shipping. 





Chinese Coast Guard bullying escalates after WPS fishing ban

MANILA, Philippines, June 17 ------ Fishers’ group New Masinloc Fishermen Association (NMFA) said the bullying by the Chinese Coast Guard has intensified after China banned fishing activities in areas in the West Philippine Sea that include the Philippines territory.


NMFA president Leonardo Cuaresma said that Pinoy fishermen are driven away by the CCG and were not allowed near the lagoon in Panatag Shoal. The Philippines has protested the unilateral ban issued by Beijing, which will start on June 15.


Cuaresma said the number of Chinese ships in Panatag has increased. “Since the start of the campaign of the government to fight for our sovereignty, even personnel of Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard,” he said, adding the CCG even pointed guns at some Filipino fishermen.


Cuaresma advised fishermen to sail by groups so they could defend themselves in case the CCG would harass them. China considers almost the entire South China Sea its territorial waters.





MWSS: Angat Dam won't reach critical level

June 17 ------ The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) said the Angat Dam will not reach its critical level, despite operating at below minimum amount. “Sa ngayon, nasa 177.89 meters na po ang ating Angat reservoir. Though mababa pa po ito, hindi naman po natin ito nakikitang aabutin ‘yung ating critical level na 160 meters,” MWSS Water and Sewerage Management Department Manager Engineer Patrick Dizon said at a public briefing.


According to Dizon, Angat Dam hit the critical level during the El Niño in 2010. “Sa ngayong elevation po, sapat pa naman po ito dahil meron po tayong mga nakukuhang tubig nanggagaling sa pag-uulan sa ating mga watershed,” he said. The dam's minimum operating level is at 180 meters.


Dizon, meanwhile, added that recent thunderstorms and upcoming tropical cyclones due to the La Niña phenomenon are expected to boost water supply in parts of Luzon from July to December. “Makakatulong din po sa atin ito para ma-refill ‘yung ating mga binabantayang tatlong reservoir na pinagkukunan natin ng tubig.”


The MWSS had previously sought higher allocation from the Angat-Ipo-La Mesa water system for the rest of June to ensure there will be no water interruptions in Metro Manila and its nearby areas. Angat Dam provides around 90% of the potable water in Metro Manila, Rizal, and portions of Cavite and Bulacan. MWSS Administrator Leonor Cleofas said the agency will ask the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) to increase its allocation for June 16 to 30 period to 52 cubic meters per second (cms) from the current 51 cms.


The MWSS administrator, however, clarified that even if the NWRB allocates 50 cms, the normal allocation, “there will be no water interruption” since it is already the rainy season.





Recto: MySSS Pension Booster enhances Filipinos' financial security

June 17 ------ The Department of Finance (DOF) said the newly launched pension scheme by the Social Security System (SSS) is a vital step towards financial empowerment for Filipino workers.


In a statement, Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto said the MySSS Pension Booster program is closely aligned with the government's continuous efforts to secure financial well-being for all Filipinos. Recto, who also serves as the Security Commission (SSC) Chairperson, noted, "This program aligns perfectly well with the national government’s ongoing efforts to ensure financial security for all Filipinos, which is the cornerstone of inclusive growth.”


The MySSS Pension Booster comprises a retirement savings program that includes both mandatory and voluntary components - the Workers’ Investment and Savings Program (WISP) and WISP Plus, respectively. Recto played a key role in the establishment of WISP, which was introduced in January 2021 under the Social Security Act of 2018, a bill he sponsored during his tenure as a legislator. Following the compulsory WISP, the SSS introduced WISP Plus in December 2022.


The Booster, meanwhile, functions as an additional benefit to the monthly pension provided by the regular SSS retirement program. All SSS members without a final benefit claim, such as Total Disability, Retirement, and Death benefits under the Regular SSS Program, and whose monthly salary credit (MSC) exceeds P20,000, are automatically enrolled in the mandatory savings scheme of the MySSS Pension Booster. Conversely, the voluntary savings scheme is accessible to all SSS members, regardless of their MSC, as long as they have made at least one contribution and have not yet filed a final claim.


Moreover, the voluntary MySSS Pension Booster is an affordable and tax-free savings plan with a minimal management fee of one percent yearly, applied to the total accumulated account value of the member. By making a minimum monthly contribution of P500, participants in the voluntary savings scheme of the MySSS Pension Booster are projected to receive an interest rate of 7.2 percent by the end of 2024.


The SSS assured its members that contributions are invested following the key principles of liquidity, safety, security, and yield. In 2023, the fund for the voluntary retirement savings scheme grew to P386 million from 38,000 members.





DOTr begins work on NSCR Banlic Depot in Calamba

MANILA, June 17 ------ The Department of Transportation (DOTr) broke ground for the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) System’s Banlic Depot in Calamba, Laguna.


During the groundbreaking ceremony, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said the Banlic Depot signals the “rapid progress” of the project after its land development and other preparatory works began in 2023. “We mark the significant progress since June last year in land development and other preparatory works such as geotechnical investigation, fencing, clearing, erecting temporary project site offices and access roads,” he said.


The depot, part of Contract Package (CP) S-07 of the NSCR, covers an area of 24.5 hectares and consists of a control center, stabling yard, maintenance shop, and other ancillary buildings. CP S-07 is worth PHP16.9 billion and is scheduled to be completed in 2028. “For residents of Banlic and adjacent communities, the NSCR will not only enhance connectivity but also transform their socio-economic status by providing rapid mobility for people and goods,” Bautista said.


Meanwhile, he also called on project contractors of the NSCR to give special consideration to the safety of their workers. “I therefore urge our contractors – the joint venture of Hyundai Engineering and Dong-Ah Geological Engineering – as well as other contractors building the various segments of the NSCR, to always focus on safety throughout the construction sites,” he said. He said a delay with no record of an accident at the workplace is more acceptable than having workplace casualties. “Of course, on-time completion with no accident is better,” he said.


Co-financed by the Asian Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the 147-kilometer NSCR system will connect Pampanga, Bulacan, Metro Manila and Laguna via railway. Once operational, the NSCR is seen to reduce travel time from Clark, Pampanga to Calamba, Laguna to less than two hours and accommodate 800,000 passengers daily.





Philippines must prepare for external threats

MANILA, Philippines, June 17 ------ President Marcos has ordered Army units in Northern Luzon to be “well-prepared” amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan.


Speaking to members of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division at Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela on Monday, Marcos said the Philippines’ proximity to Taiwan puts it within China’s area of interest. “As I’m sure you know, Kaohsiung is 40 minutes flight from Laoag, so Taiwan is very close, which immediately puts us in the area of interest of China, and that is why it is important that the northern part of the Philippines is well-prepared for any eventuality,” Marcos said.


China considers Taiwan a renegade province. “The external threat now has become more pronounced, has become more worrisome. And that is why we have to prepare,” he said. He told officers and men of the 5th ID that their mission has expanded to territorial defense and stressed the importance of continued modernization of the Armed Forces. “So, that is the mission that you have before you. Now, you have two missions, whereas before it was only internal security,” he said. “For our part, (we will) build up that capability to make sure that you have all that you need to be effective in the defense of the republic,” the President said. While the Philippines is not taking territory, its leadership has to make full commitment to defend the country against foreign attacks, according to the President. “We are not trying to take territory. We are not trying to redraw the lines of sovereign territory, the EEZ (exclusive economic zone), the baseline,” he said.


Citing the changing geopolitical landscape and emerging new threats, the government decided to include Cagayan as a site for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Signed in 2014, EDCA allows US access to Philippine bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing. Permanent basing is prohibited. In his keynote speech at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Marcos stressed that the country has “clear moral ascendancy” in asserting its sovereign rights and maritime claims, which are based on “solid legal footing.” “The lines we draw on our waters are derived not from imagination, but from international law,” Marcos said, in a subtle dig at Beijing’s sweeping “10-dash line” claim over the South China Sea. Chinese defense minister Dong Jun was among those present at the annual security summit.





PH among 10 worst countries for workers for 8th straight year

MANILA, Philippines, June 17 ------ For the eighth consecutive year, the Philippines was named one of the 10 worst countries for working people by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), an organization that promotes and defends the rights of workers.


In the group’s Global Rights Index 2024 report released on June 12, the country received a rating of 5—the same as last year—on a scale of 1 (sporadic violation of rights) to 5+ (no guarantee of rights due to the breakdown of the rule of law). The rating is based on the degree of respect for workers’ rights, with violations recorded annually from April to March. A rating of 5 means there is “no guarantee of rights” for workers. Despite laws that covered labor rights, “workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices,” the report noted.


It observed that 22 trade unionists were killed in six countries, including the Philippines, where workers and union members remained “vulnerable to violent attacks, being blacklisted by the government, abductions, and arbitrary arrests.” Also included in the ITUC report were the murders of two prominent Filipino trade unionists last year—Alex Dolorosa, a cal l center organizer with the BPO Industry Employee Network and Jude Thaddeus Fernandez, an organizer from Kilusang Mayo Uno. “The government fostered a climate of fear and persecution, silencing the collective voice of workers. Workers across many sectors still faced significant obstacles when attempting to form trade unions,” the report said.National disgrace


The nine other countries on the list were Bangladesh, Belarus, Ecuador, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Myanmar, Tunisia and Turkiye.“It is a national disgrace that our country has been listed among the world’s ten worst countries for eight consecutive years,” Joanna Coronacion, deputy secretary general of local labor group Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Sentro), said in a statement. “This black mark on our nation’s record threatens to unravel all the investment efforts the Marcos government has been painstakingly courting,” she added.


From 2016 to 2023, a total of 72 union members were killed over their union activities, Sentro secretary general Joshua Mata said. In a statement from the Department of Labor and Employment, Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said the government remains committed to complying with labor standards in the employment sector. 2024 International Trade Union Confederation Global Rights Index report.





Over 300 illegal POGOs in Philippines, says PAOCC

MANILA, Philippines, June 17 ------ The Philippines is host to more than 300 illegal Philippine offshore gaming operator (POGO) hubs in various parts of the country, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) Undersecretary Gilbert Cruz said.


“There are about 300-plus illegal POGO hubs,” Cruz said in an interview with “Storycon” on One News. “According to Pagcor (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.), only around 48 or 49 registered with them and secured an IGL or internet gaming license.” “The rest of the 300-plus did not register… Since last year, they are operating without a license,” he added.


Cruz bared the extent of the problem as PAOCC continues with its search of the more than 40 POGO hubs that it raided last week in Porac, Pampanga. “So far, we have already searched 18 buildings. We still have to search 25 more buildings,” Cruz said. At least four sets of military uniforms were found during the raid, some of which have the initials PLA, which authorities suspect stands for the People’s Liberation Army, the armed component of the Chinese Communist Party.


The PAOCC is verifying the authenticity of Chinese military uniforms as these may have been used to threaten their POGO subjects. “They may have just bought it from a military surplus shop. Since we have seen emergency tags, we have to check it. Emergency tag contains blood type, names and the service that the owner of the uniform belongs to. We have to verify that to our counterpart agencies in other countries,” Cruz said, referring to China.


Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed belief yesterday that the Chinese military uniforms found may just be props. “The limited number of PLA uniforms found suggests they are more indicative of use in deceptive activities rather than any preparation for an invasion,” AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said.


Investigators also discovered equipment used for scams, as well as torture rooms and illegal drugs. “The torture equipment that we are referring to are baseball bat, retractable baton, steel, blazers that you might think are batons but with electric on its end point,” Cruz said. He said they have persons of interest, including foreign nationals and Filipinos who may have helped the syndicates get their POGOs operational. “Filipinos are hired as workers in services such as laundry, security. But those mostly in POGO hubs are foreigners,” Cruz said.


At least 160 foreigners were taken into custody from the POGO hub. Of the figure, at least 126 are Chinese nationals. “We already have persons of interest. There are actually names, but I am not at liberty to reveal it to you yet. The local government has issued letter of no objection last year. We are also checking 2020, 2021 and 2022. For now, what are in our possession started in 2019,” Cruz said. Cruz said they also have names for Chinese and Filipino nationals in the SEC registration of the POGO hub. “We will know there who represented the company,” Cruz said.


The director of the Pampanga Police Provincial Office was relieved from his post amid the ongoing investigation into the POGO hubs. Police Regional Office 3 director Brig. Gen. Jose Hidalgo announced yesterday that Pampanga police chief Col. Levi Hope Basilio was relieved on June 10 “to pave the way for a fair and impartial investigation in relation to the POGO raid in Porac.”


The recent discovery of military uniforms with alleged markings of the PLA at the raided POGO site in Pampanga indicated “clear and present danger,” senators said yesterday. In an interview, Sen. Robinhood Padilla questioned how members of the PLA managed to get into the country without being noticed by local and national authorities. Reporters asked him whether the discovery of the uniform indicated a threat, and Padilla replied, “Naturally. It’s a clear and present danger to us.” “If we want to intensify our law enforcement, let’s do it locally first. Because if the local is not on our side and the local is fighting with the national, how will the law be enforced? There needs to be coordination between the political power and the local governments so that we can understand each other,” Padilla added.


Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the discovery of the PLA uniform “is clear evidence that POGOs are a national security threat to our nation.” “It has opened the doors, not only to criminal syndicates but also to those who want to destabilize and infiltrate our governmental and political institutions. This is another reason why the administration should no longer allow them to operate in our country,” Gatchalian added.


Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the discovery of the PLA uniform only corroborates information shared by intelligence agencies establishing credible links between POGOs and foreign intelligence assets. “Someone is hellbent on compromising our sovereignty.” “The implications of these uniforms should send chills down our spine. It is so clear that every POGO has exploited our economic vulnerabilities and that POGOs have now evolved into a breeding ground for crime and a national security threat. All POGOs are bad,” she noted. 





Philippines slips 9 notches in gender gap ranking

MANILA, Philippines, June 17 ------ The Philippines saw its ranking drop nine places in the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s index tracking gender parity, but it remains among the leading countries in Eastern Asia and the Pacific region.


WEF’s Global Gender Gap 2024 report released on Wednesday showed the Philippines placed 25th out of 146 economies in terms of gender parity, down from 16th spot last year. The Philippines had a gender parity score of 77.9 percent this year, below its score of 79.1 percent in 2023.


The WEF report ranks economies based on the progress in closing the gender gap across the following dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival as well as political empowerment. In terms of economic participation and opportunity, the Philippines’ ranking slid to 20th this year from 17th last year. The WEF said the country’s economic participation and opportunity score of 77.5 percent is 1.4 percentage points lower than in 2023, despite achieving parity in professional and technical workers (100 percent) and recording progress toward parity in labor force participation to an all-time high (69.3 percent) as it saw a reduction in the share of women legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as a drop in perceived wage equality for similar work.


When it comes to educational attainment, the Philippines ranked first along with Belize, New Zealand, Namibia, Argentina, Ireland, Maldives, Israel, Malta, Colombia, Costa Rica, Botswana, Czechia, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, United Kingdom, Honduras, Lesotho, Latvia, North Macedonia, Mongolia, Malaysia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and the US. The Philippines placed 32nd in this dimension last year. “The economy has achieved full parity across all educational attainment indicators, although the shares of women enrolled at each level of education have not all consistently increased across editions of the index,” the WEF said.

In the health and survival dimension, the Philippines placed 86th, the same as last year’s ranking. “An important 1.6-point gender gap remains in the sex ratio at birth, which lowers the subindex score and places the Philippines among the lowest performers on this indicator,” the WEF said.


The Philippines got the 34th spot in terms of political empowerment, down from 30th last year. The WEF said the years during which the government was led by Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continue to elevate the country’s political parity score despite the lower levels of parity in ministerial roles and lack of progress on parliamentary seats.





Tarah Valencia credits ‘support system’ for earning Miss Supranational PH crown

June 17 ------ The 2024 Miss Universe Philippines pageant ran a competition period that spanned two months and three weeks, culminating at the grand coronation night on May 22. Miss Supranational Philippines Tarah Valencia said a combination of factors helped her power through until the end.


The 23-year-old Baguio lass, who was also third runner-up in the recent national pageant, sat with a select group of media scribes and online content creators at her contract signing as Miss Villa Medica, a special title she received during the competition, at the Newport Mall in Pasay City on June 13. There she shared how she sustained herself all throughout her first national competition, maintaining her grace, poise and beauty in what is arguably the most competitive edition of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant with a handful of international veterans among the roster of candidates. “I really had a great support system, from my family, to my team, they really shouldered some of the things I had to focus on,” Valencia shared with in an interview. Because there were other people who took care of several aspects of her preparations, she said she was able to focus “every step at a time.” She added that she starts her day by thinking of the things she is grateful for, which also motivated her to fight for the crown day after day. “So I think that was the factor, really, that made me reach the coronation night,” said the cum laude Tourism Management graduate of the University of Baguio, who majored in international tourism.


Valencia also shared that the Miss Universe Philippines Organization (MUPH) took care of the well-being of each of the 53 delegates in this year’s competition, helping them boost their health and amplify their beauty throughout the duration of the competition. “Villa Medica has been taking care of us during our Miss Universe Philippines journey. So there were a lot of services that they really offered to us, for us to maintain not just our beautiful skin, but also [our] health,” she shared. And Valencia will certainly enjoy a lot of pampering for her “me-time” as she waits for more than a year before she will be able to represent the Philippines in the Miss Supranational pageant. As her predecessor Alethea gears up for the international competition’s 15th edition this July, she will have her turn to raise the country’s colors in 2025. Valencia’s Miss Supranational Philippines title is with The Miss Philippines, a sister search of the Miss Universe Philippines pageant under Empire Philippines, which also holds the franchises for other international competitions for both ladies and gentlemen.





Prince of Pinoy Pop Dingdong Avanzado recalls changing his screen name twice

June 17 ------ The Original Prince of Pinoy Pop, Dingdong Avanzado, will perform on stage at The Theatre at Solaire on July 19, 2024, to delight music lovers anew. 


After 12 years, Dingdong Avanzado is geared to make a highly awaited comeback to the concert stage. This comeback guarantees a remarkable experience, showcasing a blend of cherished classics and exhilarating new music. His last major concert was staged at the Music Museum in 2012. "But in 2018, I did it with Jessa, the last major show we did together in Manila," said Dingdong during an interview in Quezon City recently. Be clear: Dingdong has always been a part of the music scene, performing small shows with Jessa both locally and internationally. However, this year's concert at Solaire will mark his first major solo performance in 12 years.


Dingdong's family leads the lineup - his wife Jessa Zaragoza and daughter Jayda, his friend Randy Santiago, and, in a very special appearance - singer-songwriter Pablo of SB19, whom Dingdong has expressed a deep admiration for. Also among the guests are Idol Philippines Season 2 winner Khimo, Tawag ng Tanghalan Grand Duets champions Marielle Montellano and JM dela Cerna, and singer and award-winning actor LA Santos. Dingdong chose each guest, and the singer-songwriter specially selected the songs they would sing with him. "Talking with my guests about the numbers we'll be doing and then discussing the details with my musical director, Elmer Blancaflor, and concert director, Jay Klio Bermudez, excited us all! We can't wait to perform these for the audience on July 19," Dingdong enthused. 


A successful singer-composer, Dingdong, 55, with a rich catalog of popular Filipino hits, recalled how he started in show business 37 years ago. "My first television appearance was for Penthouse Live! with Martin (Nievera) and Pops (Fernandez). Parang I sang 'Leave A Tender Moment Alone' or 'Trapped in A Stairway.' Yun ang mga influences ko noon. Parang, I was wearing a cardigan. Uso yun noon di ba? That was in 1987." "Mga 1986 umaaligid na ako sa industry. I was supposed to be launched with the New Minstrels. Apat kami noon. I watched Jo-Anne Lorenzana's concert in a bar in Greenhills. Roxanne Lapus saw me there. Sabi ko, 'Hi Roxanne!' Sabi niya, 'There you are! I've been looking for you!' Sabi ko, 'Really?' 'Sabi niya, 'Are you interested in becoming a solo artist?' Sabi ko, 'Yeah! Sure!' So sabi niya, 'Lets meet!' One weekend, we met. Her first question to me when we sat was, 'Do you think you're good-looking?' "I paused. Sabi ko, 'What a question.' Sabi ko, 'Yes.' Sabi niya, 'Good! Because in this industry, it's 70 percent looks and 30 percent talent. I remember Roxanne," he said. Dingdong mentioned that he misses Roxanne, who passed away before the pandemic. He said Roxanne helped him a lot when starting in showbiz.


What's in a name?

But did you know that Dingdong was not the first screen name they thought of for him? The singer gladly recalled how they settled on Dingdong. "My real name is Fernando, and I am named after my grandfather. But my two grandfathers had Dings in their nicknames. My lolo Fernando, ang nickname nya is Nanding. And then my lolo on the father's side, his nickname was Ding, whose name is Fidel. "But my grandfather, kaibigan nila dati si late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, nicknamed Dingdong. He was called Dingdong Teehankee. Noong time na yun, parang na fascinate sila at parang ang ganda raw ng pangalan na Dingdong. So ginawa nilang Dingdong," he said.


For a time, Dingdong asked his mom about the origin of his name. His mom answered: "Pasalamat ka Dingdong ang pangalan mo. Ang dali-daling i-recall." "Sabi ko naman, sometimes it takes effort to take me seriously if your name is Dingdong. Lalo na sa States, I made fun of myself when I performed. They laughed about my name, but I told them that in the Philippines, Dingdong means cute. "But when Roxanne Lapus discovered me, they changed my name. They tried to change my name. My name was supposed to be Easy Avanzado. Sabi ko, 'Why?' People have known me as Dingdong all my life. But thanks to Eat Bulaga. Dingdong remained. "They put it on a poster already. I was introduced in a show as Easy Avanzado. Roxanne said I was easy on the eyes. That's why it was Easy Avanzado. I was 19 at that time. Before, I auditioned for The New Minstrels.  "Andoon pa nga si Boy Abunda noon. They like changing names. Noon kasi uso yung Keno, mga one word names. Si Ogie (Alcasid) nga Rock pa ang name sa kanya. Kasi noon bato-bato si Ogie nag-gi-gym kaya Rock ang name niya. "Buti na lang noong nasa Eat Bulaga ako, wala si Roxanne noon. So they asked me, 'Ano ba talaga yung name na ilalagay namin?' I had to make a choice. So sabi ko Dingdong. And the rest is history," Dingdong said.


However, the renowned musician declared that plans to change his name did not end there. "In the 10th year, they considered changing my name again because I was at a crossroads. "So sinabi ako ano ba ang pangalan na gusto ninyo? Ilabas n''yo? Wala talagang nag-stick. So ganito na lang, 'Umabot ako ng sampung taon and I think I would live and die as Dingdong Avanzado. Tinangkilik na ako. So they agreed and put out the album. Nag-platinum, ibig sabihin gusto ka ng tao," he said.





Kim Chiu signs off from 'What's Wrong With Secretary Kim'

MANILA, June 17 ------ Kapamilya actress Kim Chiu bade farewell to her character Secretary Kim in the Philippine adaptation of hit romantic series "What's Wrong With Secretary Kim," which also stars actor Paulo Avelino.


The Philippine version of the hit South Korean series has released its final episode on VIU.


In her Instagram post on Thursday night, Chiu looked back on how she embraced the fears and doubts to play the role of Secretary Kim. Chiu said thank you to all the people involved in the show including its director, other cast members, VIU, Dreamscape Entertainment and her on screen partner Avelino. She also thanked the late Dreamscape head Deo Endrinal.





UP launches Fighting Maroons Basketball School

June 17 ------ THE positive energy surrounding the University of the Philippines basketball teams continues to expand, as the UP Office for Athletics and Sports Development (OASD) launches the Fighting Maroons Basketball School (FMBS).


FMBS is State U's official basketball grassroots development program which seeks to set up a stage for boys and girls ages 8-16 to showcase and then strengthen their skills in the spirit of the UP Fight. "We're happy to launch the FMBS as a way to give back to the UP community, tapos at the same time, makakapag-pave din tayo ng path para sa mga bata who want to follow in the footsteps of Carl Tamayo and CJ Cansino, then now, also Louna Ozar and Favour Onoh," said UP OASD Dir. Bo Perasol.


UP's men's basketball team is fresh off a perfect conquest of the Filoil EcoOil 17th ECJ Preseason Cup and registered gold and then back-to-back silver finishes in the UAAP. The women's basketball team also shone bright in Season 86, as it advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2008. The inaugural offering for the FMBS is scheduled from July 8 to 13 at the UP Community Court inside the Diliman campus. The second module will then run from July 29 to August 3 still at the same venue.


One of UP OASD's mandates is to provide sports and physical activities for the UP community, and as such, sees FMBS as an answer to that call. In the future, training camps may very well feature sports other than basketball. "Yung ganitong initiative is much welcome for both the UP OASD and the UP community. Through this basketball school - and in the future, many other sports as well - we hope to provide another venue to promote being stronger and better through sports together," said Perasol.


Online registration for FMBS is now open through this link. Each week-long training module to be overseen by qualified coaches is priced at PHP 3,500.





Paris Olympics: What to know and who to watch in men’s basketball

June 17 ------ A roadmap to follow for the men’s basketball competition during the Paris Olympics:



— LeBron James, United States: The NBA’s all-time scoring leader seeks his third Olympic gold medal (2008, 2012) and returns to the Games for the first time in 12 years. At 39, James presumably is playing in his final Olympics.


— Kevin Durant, United States: He is seeking to become the first four-time men’s basketball gold medalist, after helping the U.S. win gold at Tokyo in 2021, Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and London in 2012.


— Victor Wembanyama, France: The NBA rookie of the year and runner-up for defensive player of the year (behind French teammate Rudy Gobert) will be one of the faces of the Paris Games.


— Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada: The runner-up in this season’s NBA MVP voting behind Nikola Jokic of Serbia (another likely Olympic player this summer) will be asked to help deliver Canada a medal. It’s not out of reach, as proven by Canada’s bronze at the World Cup last summer.


— Stephen Curry, United States: The NBA’s all-time 3-point leader will make his Olympic debut at age 36.


— The drive for five. Can the U.S. win gold for a fifth consecutive Olympics, or has the world caught up to the Americans? France figures to have perhaps the best chance at ending the U.S. reign. And four teams will clinch their spots and round out the 12-nation field in July, barely two weeks before the Olympics begin, so they’ll have some momentum.


— Wemby. Victor Wembanyama’s first season in the NBA didn’t disappoint, and now he’ll take his game to the biggest stage in the sport.


— South Sudan. Officially a nation for only about 13 years, the African country is headed to the Olympics for the first time.



— July 27-Aug. 3, group games.

— Aug. 6, quarterfinals.

— Aug. 8, semifinals.

— Aug. 10, gold-medal and bronze-medal games.





Valorant soon to be playable on consoles

MANILA, Philippines, June 17 ------ Riot Games has announced during the 2024 Summer Game Fest that its first-person-shooting game, Valorant, will soon be available on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 consoles, with a limited beta starting this month for select areas and rolling out to other global regions within the year.


Launched in 2020 on PC, Valorant is a free-to-play 5v5 tactical shooting game that combines precise gunplay, unique character abilities and strategic map positioning to win rounds. "We believe there are millions of players that would love to play Valorant, but currently can’t, and we hope to change that with bringing Valorant to consoles. We aim to provide them the joy of the Valorant experience and all it entails: a core tactical shooter gameplay focused on mastery and player expression, a team based competitive environment where match quality and fairness comes first, our amazing ecosystem with a unique style, high quality cosmetics and a thriving community that values personal and competitive identity," said Valorant’s production director at Riot Games, Arnar Gylfason.


Unlike some games that are played across different devices, Valorant on console will not have a cross-play feature between PC and consoles. But players on PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5 will have a connected, shared inventory and gameplay progression tied to their Valorant account. Both PC and console players will receive simultaneous platform releases of all live patch balances, new agents, maps, premium content, and additional live service features. “When exploring whether to bring Valorant to additional platforms, we knew we had to be able to offer the same uncompromising, competitive experience that we’ve provided to PC players for years: a precise, team-based, tactical shooter. We were adamant that Valorant's core, competitive gameplay, must feel natural on a controller; and — if we couldn’t deliver on that gameplay promise — we had to be prepared to walk away from it. We hope we nailed it, but ultimately, our players will have the final say,” added Gylfason.


One of the biggest challenges for the developers was to adapt the game's shooting mechanics for controllers, without compromising the precision and skill required for the game. To achieve this, Valorant on console will have a new feature called Focus, which is a shooting mode that behaves essentially like Hip-Fire, but with reduced sensitivity. Gylfason adds, "Focus is a new shooting mode that behaves essentially like Hip-Fire, but with reduced sensitivity. This way, players can use Hip-Fire whenever they need speed in moving their camera/aim (peeking corners, dodging utility), but utilize focus mode whenever they need precision (getting those cool headshots). This also approximates the shooting mechanic to what console players are used to in shooters, all of this without losing the added value Valorant's ADS provides."


Global console players can learn more about the Valorant Limited Beta regional eligibility rollout and register their interest in beta access at





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