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The new Uniqlo ‘global flagship’ store in Makati, which opened today

Uniqlo has opened its first ‘global flagship’ store in the Philippines — and it’s the brand’s biggest outlet in Southeast Asia.

Celebrities and eager shoppers were on hand today (Friday, October 5) to welcome the clothing and lifestyle brand to Makati.

Uniqlo said the new global flagship is one of only 15 worldwide and has 4,100 square metres — or 44,100sq-ft — of sales floor area.

In a press release, the brand said: “Situated at prime locations in cities of global prominence, Uniqlo Global Flagship Stores represent the best and latest of the brand, its LifeWear clothing and its famed customer service, all set in cutting-edge store design on a grand scale. 

“Uniqlo has chosen Manila as the location of its newest flagship store to strengthen the foundation of its business in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia – a key global growth engine for the brand.”

Uniqlo’s other global flagship stores are in such prestigious locations as New York’s Fifth Avenue, London’s Oxford Street, Paris’ Opera District, Ginza in Tokyo and Orchard Road in Singapore.

Satoshi Hatase, Uniqlo’s chief executive officer for Southeast Asia and Oceania, said: “This exciting new retail environment and experience will help put our Manila business in the global spotlight. 

“We sense growing enthusiasm in the community here and hope to share the very best of the Filipino lifestyle, culture and optimism with the world through our flagship store.” 

The Japanese brand has been operating in the Philippines since 2012 and currently has 48 stores across the country.

The brand plans to enter Vietnam next year and is on track to hit its target of tripling sales in Southeast Asia to $2.6 billion.

The expansion puts Fast Retailing — the parent company of the brand — in a strong position to capitalise on the region’s growing middle class, said Thomas Jastrzab, Bloomberg Intelligence industry analyst.

“Uniqlo’s value-priced basics such as t-shirts and skirts should appeal to budget-minded consumers dealing with rising inflation,” he said.

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Just weeks away from the island’s reopening, only 67 Boracay establishments have so far complied with various environmental laws. 

Sophie Manuel, Regional Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, made the admission during a meeting on the island today (Friday, October 5).

She said they were still processing the applications of 353 other establishments. “We are hoping to finish the evaluation soon so they would be considered compliant,” she added.

So far, more than 1,200 establishments have been checked for compliance with regulations under the Clean Air Act; Clean Water Act; Hazardous Waste Law; Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Presidential Decree 1,586, or the establishment of environmental impact system.

Manuel said other establishments may have not yet submitted their applications because they were still putting up their sewage treatment plants, which is a requirement imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Under this, establishments with 50 rooms or more are required to have their own plants while those with fewer rooms must have access to shared facilities.

As well as this, establishments should also have a mayor’s permit, barangay clearance, Bureau of Internal Revenue annual registration, clearance certificate from the Social Security System, occupancy permit, garbage fee, sanitary permit, real property tax clearance and building permit.

The Department of Tourism aims to have 5,000 rooms ready for operation when the island opens on October 26. 

Meanwhile, beach vendors have protested after being told they will not be allowed to operate along the seafront.

The workers, represented by the Malay Boracay Vendors, Peddlers, Masseurs, Manicurists Association, are urging a change of heart on the ruling. 

Adelfa Cuesta, a former president of the association, which represents more than 300 vendors, said: “We want to know where will the government transfer us. We need to know so we can prepare.

“This is all that’s left for us. This is our livelihood. It was an extremely difficult time for poor people like us to be in this critical condition for almost five months. We do not have any other source of income. We know you will not let us down.”

Under plans for the newly renovated Boracay, all beach tables, chairs, beds and other furniture, such as umbrellas, will also be banned from the famous white-sand beach.

We have recently reported on other restrictions planned for the island, including bans on water sports, drinking on the beach and smoking.

Visitors will also have to pre-register their visits, with a strict cap placed on numbers of arrivals.

The island was completely closed to visitors for ‘environmental rehabilitation’ in April after President Duterte branded it a “cesspool”.

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President Duterte has said he would not seek treatment if a “growth” discovered during an endoscopy turns out to be cancer.

Duterte admitted yesterday (Thursday, October 4) that he spent an hour on Wednesday at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City for tests, a follow-up to an endoscopy and colonoscopy he underwent weeks ago.

This contradicted his spokesman Harry Roque, who had earlier denied that the president had a hospital visit, insisting he had simply taken a day off.

The president revealed the development during the joint command conference with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police at the presidential palace yesterday.

Speaking at a news briefing today, Roque said: “Endoscopy is what he underwent. And I think endoscopy was recommended from his own words, in the general staff command conference, because they wanted just to be sure that there was a growth, and they wanted to know more about the growth.”

Asked if the growth could be a tumour, Roque said he did not know.

“Beyond what he has said, he is entitled to privacy in this matter. I do not know if I am still here next week, then I will tell perhaps we need to issue a medical bulletin, whether or not, it’s serious.” He added that the president was only constitutionally mandated to inform the public if he had serious illness.

“Perhaps we would need to bring in your physician because it’s the only way to stop all talk about your health. But I do not know also where I will be next week,” he said.

Roque had earlier said in the same press briefing that he was mulling whether to quit his job after admitting that he did not know the president had been in hospital.

The 73-year-old president yesterday suggested that he would not seek treatment if diagnosed with stage three cancer.

He said: “I will not prolong my agony in this office or anywhere.”

“I don’t know where I’m now physically but I have to wait for that. But I will tell you if it’s cancer, it’s cancer.”

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St Padre Pio, with the stigmata – or mysterious bleeding – visible on his palm.

The “incorrupt” heart of St Padre Pio — who became famous for exhibiting the wounds of Christ — is coming to the Philippines.

The relic is due to arrive at Manila airport from Italy tomorrow (Friday, December 5).

The internal organ will then be transported by motorcade to Lipa as it begins its three-week tour of the Philippines.

Devotees will get their first chance to worship before the relic at a mass led by Archbishop Giordano Caccia at 9am on Saturday (October 6) at the the National Shrine of St Padre Pio in Batangas.

The relic will be in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and will stay in the country until October 26.

The Luzon leg, from October 8-10, will be hosted by the Archdiocese of Manila; the Visayas leg, from October 11-13, will be under the Archdiocese of Cebu; and the Mindanao leg, from October 14-16, will be handled by the Archdiocese of Davao.

Then, on October 17, the relic will return to Batangas until October 26.

The Philippines is only be the fourth country to be visited by the heart, alongside the US, Paraguay and Argentina.

The relic rarely leaves its home at San Giovanni Rotondo, the Capuchin monastery in where the stigmatist spent his entire life. He died there in 1968.

St Padre Pio ’embarrassed’ by bleeding

Padre Pio had his first occurrence of stigmata — bodily marks, pain and bleeding in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ — while hearing confessions in 1918. 

This phenomenon continued for fifty years, until the end of his life. 

He was embarrassed by this condition and most photographs show him with his hands and feet covered. However, this did not stop him becoming the centre of worldwide fascination and veneration.

At the time of his death, his body appeared unwounded, with no sign of scarring. There was a report that doctors who examined his body found it empty of all blood.

He was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2002 and is the patron saint of civil defence volunteers. 

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Pastor Apollo Quiboloy “the appointed son of God” and founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church on the campaign trail with then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

A self-proclaimed messiah and friend of President Duterte has been accused by a former church member of running a child sex ring.

The accusation emerged during the trial of Kristina Angeles in Hawaii, who is accused of sexually assaulting a female member of her former church.

In response, she alleged in court that when a minor, she was sexually abused by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church.

The Davao-based megachurch empire claims a global following of six million people, while Quilboloy claims to be “the appointed son of God”.

A report in Hawaii News Now yesterday (Wednesday, October 3) quoted Deputy Public Defender Grant Giventer, who is representing Angeles. 

He said: “If this matter goes to trial, I’m confident that once the jury learns of the brutality and rape perpetrated against Ms Angeles and other unwilling minors by Pastor Quiboloy, the complainant and other … witnesses will have their credibility eviscerated.” 

However, the church’s attorney Michael Green dismissed the accusations against Quiboloy as a diversion. 

As we reported in February, the FBI is investigating Quiboloy after his plane was seized at Honolulu Airport.

A church official, Felina Salinas, was later indicted for trying to smuggle $335,000 out of the US. As well as the cash, rifle parts were also found on the plane.

Salinas was previously arrested by police in 2015 for allegedly assaulting Angeles.

“My belief is that Salinas’ criminal activity relates to … Pastor Quiboloy and his child sex ring, which we view as a very relevant aspect for our upcoming trial,” Giventer wrote.

Angeles claims she ran away from the church three years ago because of the alleged abuse. Her attorney has argued that the sex assault accusation against her is retaliation for leaving the church.

Giventer also said that the unnamed female who accused Angeles made similar accusations against another church member, which prosecutors declined to pursue.

The charges and counter-charges have now led the judge to postpone the criminal case until February. The trial was scheduled to start on October 15.

“This case involves a less than ordinary set of circumstances,” Circuit Judge Rom Trader said.

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Troy in action. Picture from his Facebook page.

Filipino-American basketball star Troy Rike is questioning his future in the Philippines after being held by immigration officials for nearly 24 hours.

The 22-year-old, who has joint nationality and a valid Philippine passport, was detained overnight by agents of the Bureau of Immigration who questioned whether he really was a Filipino.

Rike, who grew up in California, was picked up by BI agents after playing for the Filipino National University on September 19.

He said: “It was tough, I’m not gonna lie. I was a bit emotional. I’ve never been arrested before.

“The good thing everyone was very respectful, but at the end of the day I’m being detained against my will for more than 24 hours. You sleep on the floor, you don’t know what’s going on. I’m questioning my whole future here.”

He was released from the BI office in Pasay City the at about 6pm the following day after showing his passport, certificate of recognition as Filipino citizen and birth certificate, he said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“I don’t think it was justified what they did. I don’t think they do this in general just rounding up Americans, saying show me your papers so I do feel I was singled out and that’s not okay in my opinion,” he added.

BI spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said that there had been a complaint sent to them and they just acted on it. “We act on any report or information we receive from the public,” she added.

She also confirmed that there was no pending case against Troy Rike.

Troy Rike commended after ‘basket brawl’

Rike also hit the headlines in July after he defended Australia’s Chris Goulding during the now-infamous “basket brawl” that broke out during a World Cup qualifying tie at the Philippine Arena.

His act drew praise from Bounty Agro Ventures president Ronald Mascariñas, who awarded him a cheque for 100,000 pesos.

Rike, who is a cadet for the national team, the Gilas, announced that he would divide the cash between a Philippine charity and an Australian one.

After learning of this generous act, Mascariñas matched the player’s donations by donating another 100,000 pesos to the same charities.

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A depiction of an aswang, a terrifying nocturnal mythical creature of the Philippines

A parish priest in Negros Oriental has publicly refuted claims that an aswang — a bloodsucking monster — is terrorising his flock.

Speaking yesterday (Tuesday, October 2) Father Christian Durango cautioned people against spreading “false and unverified information” about the terrifying mythical creatures.

The priest from Bayawan City spoke out after a nationwide television show reported on Sunday evening that a remote village was being attacked the ghouls.

Perhaps the best-known of the country’s mythical creatures, aswang are shapeshifting vampires. They resemble humans by day but transform into various horrible guises by night.

While anyone can fall victim to these flesh eating ghouls, pregnant women about to give birth are said to be their favoured prey.

The latest reports about the creature, the priest said, could endanger lives and also destroy the image of the village.

“That story does not have any factual basis whatsoever,” he said. Father Durango has been the parish priest of Tayawan village since November last year.

He said that ever since he had first arrived, frequent rumours had circulated about the alleged aswang. In his view, this was “because we entertain ourselves with these kinds of talk”.

“When we say something, let us first verify if it is true. We are already, in a way, defaming someone and causing social stigma,” he added.

The priest also described how relatives of people accused of being aswangs would often move away out of fear and shame. He added that even some members of his congregation had been linked to the monsters.  

“Those who have been interviewed [on the television show] are now being bashed by the people there,” he added.

Belief in mythical creatures remains widespread throughout the Philippines, particularly in rural areas.

Last month, we reported how Cebu police launched an investigation after townspeople in San Fernando claimed their fighting cocks had been savaged by an aswang.

Previously, in August villagers in Minanao blamed a sigbin — another nocturnal nasty — for the killing of 21 fighting cocks.

In 2015 we reported on another suspected aswang attack in Pasay City. However, a man who thought one of the monsters was on his roof later discovered it was an endangered pangolin.

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Screenshot from amateur footage of the eruption posted to YouTube (watch below).

A volcano has erupted on Sulawesi, just days after the Indonesian island was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami. 

Mount Soputan on Sulawesi island today (Wednesday, October 3) spewed a massive column of ash more than nearly 20,000 feet into the sky. 

No evacuations have yet been ordered and there have been no reports of any deaths or injuries.

A government volcanologist has said it’s possible the eruption was accelerated by the magnitude 7.5 quake that struck the island on Friday.

“It could be that this earthquake triggered the eruption, but we have seen an increase in volcanic activity since July and this began surging on Monday. Yet we can’t say there a direct link, as the mountain is quite far away,” Kasbani, the head of Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Agency, said on local television.

Nazli Ismail, a geophysicist at the University of Syiah Kuala on Sumatra island said there was no concrete evidence to show the two incidents are linked.

“People talk about the butterfly effect. The concept is that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a catastrophe,” he said. “So it is possible for the earthquake to trigger the volcano eruption, but it’s not conclusive. This needs to be further investigated.”

Danny Hillman Natawidjaja, a geologist with Indonesia’s Institute of Science, echoed the views, saying there was not enough data to make a link.

“In principle, the seismic waves from the earthquake could increase pressure in the volcano’s magma chamber and could cause an eruption. We don’t know for sure,” he said.

Soputan’s eruption status was raised from an alert to ‘standby’ four kilometres from the summit and up to 6.5 kilometres to the west-southwest. Standby status means the public should avoid the area nearest the volcano and have masks available in the event of ash fall.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho dismissed concerns that the eruption could affect planes transporting aid and supplies for quake victims.

The earthquake set off a tsunami that devastated coastal communities. As of today, the official death toll has risen to 1,407. This is expected to increase further. Thousands of others have been injured and more than 70,000 have been displaced.

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Mt. Soputan eruption (amateur video). Indonesia sulut gunung soputan meletus 3 Oktober 2018 - YouTube

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A Cebu couple who used their own children to record live-streamed child abuse for foreign perverts have been sentenced to life.

The sentence was handed down by Judge Ferdinand Rafanan at the Regional Trial Court in Mandaue City yesterday (Tuesday, October 2). 

The judgement comes more than seven years after the couple were first arrested.

They cannot be named in order to protect the identity of their seven children.

The court was told how the couple forced their children to undress and pose naked in front of a web camera. Overseas ‘clients’ would pay from 1,000 to 5,000 pesos for each ‘show’. 

In his ruling, Judge Rafanan said: “There is overwhelming evidence against their parents.”

The six children were not present at the sentencing. The couple remained silent as the ruling was read.

The couple were handed life sentences for “qualified trafficking”, from five to 12 years for “other acts of child abuse” and up to 20 years for “offering, transmitting and broadcasting any form of cyberpornography”.

They were also ordered to pay 12.8 million pesos in fines for the abuse.

Commenting on the sentence, Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who is also chairwoman of the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), said: “This is a long-drawn battle we have had. Imagine, this is the first cyberpornography we filed against a Cebuano couple. The mood of PWC is just ecstatic.” 

During the trial, Magpale described the videotape she watched of the children in lewd poses being directed by an adult behind the camera.

“This conviction sends a very strong message that we, in the province of Cebu, are very serious in our campaign against human trafficking. What could be a stronger message than this conviction? There’s definitely no letup in our campaign,” she added.

Prosecutor Lolita Lomanta, who represented the victims throughout the proceedings, said: “We already obtained victory the day we rescued these children because that was when we gave them hope. This conviction is simply a validation of that victory we obtained. To me, this is victory especially for the children.” 

A private, non-profit organisation has looked after the children for the past seven years.

The brothers, who are now aged 22 and 20, are already out of the care home. One works as a cook on a cruise ship and the other is a production operator at a Cebu factory.

The third of seven children is studying for a degree in science in social work in a private university in Cebu. She is also volunteers as a teacher with the Cebu City Task Force on Street Children.

The other children remain in care.

Ms Lomanta added that justice had been done thanks to help from the USA. “This is the first case where agents of the US Homeland Security testified in a local case. They flew all the way from Virginia to testify in a local case at no expense of the Philippine government,” she said.

The agency had previously forensically examined hard drives seized from the couple at its Cybercrime Center in Virginia.

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Photo courtesy of Bureau of Customs District 7 – Cebu

Containers of relief goods donated for survivors of super typhoon Yolanda are to be destroyed after standing idle for more than four years.

The Bureau of Customs in the Central Visayas announced today (Wednesday, October 3) that the goods — including baby food, clothes and medical supplies — will be incinerated.

Cebu Customs District Collector Elvira Cruz said the donors and consignees did not get an exemption from paying taxes and duties from the Department of Finance, leaving the items to rot in limbo.

He added: “This was meant to be donated for the Yolanda victims in Cebu. But it was not processed because the donor did not want to pay taxes and at the same time he had no permit. He had no exemption.

“It is such a waste.”

Yolanda, corruption and incompetence…

The donated items in three of the four containers – which came from Belgium, the UK and Norway – have now been taken to RRDS Petro-Chemical Industries, in Mandaue City for destruction.

They had been intended to help the survivors of the natural disaster — international name Haiyan — which hit the country in 2013 killing at least 6,300 people and displacing some six million. It was the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded. 

The international community rallied round, and billions of dollars were donated to the relief effort. However, from the outset corruption and incompetence meant that much of these funds failed to reach the victims.

The three consignees of the donated goods were ABS-CBN Foundation, DSV Air, and Sea and Wellmade Motors and Development Corp.

The Bureau of Customs eventually issued a notice and declaration of abandonment of shipment in June last year.

Cruz said they tried to approached the Department of Social Welfare of Development in Central Visayas to make use of the items instead. However, the department refused because most of the items were expired and the moratorium on the acceptance of forfeited used clothing is yet to be lifted.

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