Pinay scientist discovers world’s largest caldera in Benham Rise

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 24, 2019   •   1324

Filipina scientist, Jenny Anne Barretto, along co-authors Ray Wood and John Milsom have discovered what may be the world’s largest caldera located in Benham Rise.

The New Zealand-based scientist recently published a paper describing the morphology and formation of the Benham Rise.

Among their discoveries is the Apolaki Caldera which may be the world’s largest known caldera.

A Caldera is a crater-like feature that forms when a large eruption of magma leaves a gigantic empty chamber underground.

Based on their paper, the Apolaki Caldera has a diameter of ~150 km or twice the size of the Yellowstone in the United States.

“For comparison, Earth’s largest calderas, like the Yellowstone, is only about 60 km. The size is comparable to shield calderas in Mars (Olympus Mons; 80 km x 65 km) and Venus (Sacajawea; 150 X 105 km),” according to the University of the Philippines (UP) MSI Geological Oceanography Laboratory.

The researchers named the caldera Apolaki, meaning “giant lord”.—AAC

PH mulls over lifting travel ban in HK, Macau

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 17, 2020

The Philippine government is mulling over lifting the travel ban in Hong Kong and Macau amid the COVID-19 threat.

This is amid the call of Filipinos in Hong Kong to lift the travel ban in the said country.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Infectious Disease will release an update on the issue by Tuesday (February 18).

“Pag-uusapan iyong mga issues about Hong Kong and even Macau, so baka bukas po mayroong developments on the particular issue (They will discuss the issues about Hong Kong and even Macau so there might be developments on the particular issue by tomorrow),” according to DFA Asec. Ed Meñez.

The Philippine government already lifted the travel ban in Taiwan after it drew criticisms from the Taiwanese government and several Filipinos in the said country.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there are things to consider if the government will lift the travel ban in Hong Kong and Macau.

“Now we’re assessing travel ban on Macau and Hong Kong, so depende, kasi ang mahalaga sa atin, kay Presidente, iyong safety ng mga kababayan natin (It depends because what is important to us, to the President is the safety of our fellowmen),” he said.

Panelo also said the travel ban in Taiwan was lifted due to how strict their protocols are and the assurance that the Filipinos in Taiwan are safe amid the virus scare.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

PH sends VFA termination notice to US

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 11, 2020

The Philippines has officially sent its notice of termination of Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA )to the United States (US).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. confirmed that the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination.

The termination will take place 180 days after the US received the signed notice based on the Article IX of the VFA agreement

“This agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement,” according to Article IX.

According to Malacañang it is time for the Philippines to stop depending on other countries for strengthening its defenses.

“As the President said, it’s about time we rely on our own resources,” according to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte said US President Donald Trump is still attempting to save the VFA.

However, the Chief Executive reiterated his stand on the VFA termination saying the VFA termination is due to the “meddling” of the US in Philippine affairs particularly the case of former Senator Leila de Lima.

“Imagine demanding the release of De Lima and their threat […] may (there is a) colatilla that all persons who had a hand in the imprisonment of De Lima will not be allowed to go to US,” Duterte said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Finance chief says PH economy to remain strong amid nCoV threat, other challenges

Robie de Guzman   •   February 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) has expressed confidence that the challenges posed by the global spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the eruption of Taal Volcano and the cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) are not enough to drag the country’s economic growth below the government’s target.

In a joint hearing conducted by the Senate committees on health and finance on Tuesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the administration’s economic teams stands by its target of attaining a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 6.5 % to 7.5% this year even amid the headwinds from 2019-nCoV and other challenges.

“At this moment, it is reasonable to expect that while these developments might slightly restrain our economic expansion, these threats are not enough to force a dramatic reduction in our growth estimates,” Dominguez said.

While the hearing was called to study ways of mitigating the impact of the nCoV outbreak on the economy, Dominguez said this development should be assessed together with the effects of the recent Taal Volcano eruption and the ASF outbreak to determine whether these require revisiting economic growth targets this year.

“While these developments may dampen our growth somewhat, domestic tourism is expected to increase as more people would likely prefer to travel within our borders, thus boosting domestic consumption,” he said.

“With our ‘Build, Build Build’ program firing on all cylinders this year, complemented by a benign inflation rate and a stable monetary policy, we expect the economy at large to sustain its momentum,” he added.

The Finance chief also stated that with the nCoV outbreak still on its early stages, it would be difficult for the economic team to estimate its potential economic costs at this time.

“We are consoled by the observation that the virus has limited local transmissions outside China,” he said.

“A significant impact on the economy will most likely be centered in the tourism sector. The travel and tourism industries around the globe are taking a hit as a result of the various levels of travel bans imposed by national governments and of voluntary decisions of airlines to cut flights to and from China,” he added.

Dominguez also said that the country may also suffer a short-term slight decline in exports, particularly in the sale of electronics and auto parts, due to a possible disruption in the global supply chain as a result of the temporary factory closures in China, which is the country’s top trading partner.

“Incidentally, our top imports from China such as steel, machinery and petroleum are products that do not seem to carry the nCoV virus, though we will continue to take all necessary precautions,” he said.

To address the possible temporary decline in the exports of electronics and auto parts, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has committed to work closely with affected Chinese and China-based companies, which will be looking to strengthen their operations by adding a production site outside of China, Dominguez said.

Dominguez added that what happened during the previous outbreaks of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), H1N1, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERSCoV) might give authorities a glimpse of how the nCoV could impact the economy.

As for the ASF outbreak, Dominguez noted that the government has been successful in intercepting contaminated pork imported from other countries through the Bureau of Customs’ anti-smuggling campaign and the Bureau of Animal Industry’s meat inspection efforts.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has also been strictly enforcing biosecurity measures and setting up more quarantine checkpoints, as well as providing more disinfection facilities to manage, contain, and control the spread of the ASF, he said.

As for the impact of the latest Taal Volcano eruption, the Finance chief said that an explosive eruption could still happen, and “unless and until this actually happens, we can only speculate on the full impact of this episode on the economy.”

As of January 20, estimates from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) show that the total foregone income in the economic sectors owing to the eruption could reach P6.66 billion pesos or 0.26 percent of the 2018 gross regional domestic product of the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) corridor.

“The bulk of the foregone income comes from agriculture and fisheries sector, services, and industry,” Dominguez said. “Short of a major eruption, the damage to our crops and the challenges of dislocated communities to which the government will continue to respond, will not significantly impact our overall growth projections.”

He said the DA and the concerned local government units are expediting the release of production support, agri-fishery aid and livelihood assistance, and cash or zero-interest loan assistance programs to the affected farmers and fisherfolk, as well as the implementation of the recovery and rehabilitation plans for the affected areas.

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