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Faces of the News: October 18, 2020

/ 05:02 AM October 18, 2020
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ILLUSTRATION BY RENE ELEVERA

Ramon Ang

The stars are aligning for San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang as the food, drinks and infrastructure conglomerate pursues its biggest project yet.

SMC will soon begin building the P735-billion “airport city” in Bulacan province that is eyed to ease the congestion problem at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

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Despite setbacks stemming from the COVID-19 health crisis, SMC is bent on pursuing the project and plans to break ground soon.

A big boost recently came from lawmakers who promised to grant the project a 50-year congressional franchise.

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While this comes with strings attached like additional oversight and a revenue-sharing scheme, important tax breaks are also included. San Miguel Aerocity Inc. will be exempt from all direct and indirect taxes and fees during its construction period.

Once completed, the project will also be exempt from income and property taxes until investments are recovered.

Expect an airport with a capacity of more than 100 million passengers a year — three times the size of Naia — to create almost half a million jobs. Airport operations should be in full swing by the time the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

—Miguel R. Camus

Lord Allan Velasco

A series of tumultuous events at the House of Representatives concluded with the ascent of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as the new Speaker.

His rival Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano’s last hurrah was a bitter concession speech on Facebook. The two men had feuded savagely over the term-sharing deal brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2019.

Cayetano would serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress before Velasco takes over during the next 21 months.

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The turnover should happen this October until it seemed Cayetano had other plans. A visibly peeved Duterte summoned the two to Malacañang where an  Oct. 14 transition right after the 2021 budget is passed was agreed on.

Cayetano then made a series of parliamentary maneuvers including an offer to resign on Sept. 30, a forced vote of confidence and an abrupt suspension of the session after congressmen passed the budget on second reading.

Velasco turned to Davao Mayor Sara Duterte and 186 followers quickly elected him as the new Speaker via a rump assembly outside Congress. More lawmakers soon jumped ship, leaving Cayetano and his loyalists outnumbered.

—DJ Yap

Reina Mae Nasino

Handcuffed and clad in personal protective equipment, detained activist Reina Mae Nasino buried her 3-month-old daughter River on Friday while flanked by about 20 security escorts.

River spent her first month with Nasino at the Manila City Jail’s female dormitory until they were separated by a court order.

The baby was later confined at a hospital for two weeks where she died of pneumonia complications on Oct. 9.

Nasino, an urban poor coordinator facing charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, already asked the court’s permission to see River at the hospital but her urgent motion was not acted upon.

Nasino saw River again only during a tension-filled wake on Oct. 14 and at the burial two days later.

Critics found the number of city police and jail guards present on both occasions to be an “overkill.”

“We were denied a chance to be together. I did not see you laugh. I will be stronger when I am freed,” Nasino vowed.

She was in the early stage of pregnancy when Nasino was jailed in November 2019 during a government crackdown on activists.

Even before she gave birth on July 1, her lawyers have been asking the lower court and later the Supreme Court for her temporary release.

—Nikka G. Valenzuela

Alex Eala

You know you’re made when a 20-time Grand Slam winner tweets a message congratulating you. That’s exactly what happened to Alex Eala when she secured a semifinal finish in the French Open and rose to No. 2 worldwide in the girls’ rankings.

Rafael Nadal’s shoutout to Eala, a scholar in his tennis academy, spread like wildfire on social media. T’was a sign that Eala is starting to make her mark.

Another congratulatory message also went viral, albeit for the wrong reasons. The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) lauded Eala in a Facebook post but made the mistake of trumping its support to the tennis ace.

The problem?

The Ealas never received the P4.5-million assistance that the PSC barked about. PSC officials immediately scrambled to check what happened — there was money of that amount earmarked for Eala, after all.

Bureaucratic processes apparently hampered its transmission. The PSC promised to fix the problem and release the money but it was too late.

Eala’s father, Michael, said the 15-year-old ace has been doing fine without the PSC’s support. He asked the agency to channel the funds to athletes who need it more instead.

—Francis T.J. Ochoa

LeBron James

One of the greatest to ever play the sport and also one of American basketball’s most polarizing figures, LeBron James answered a postgame question by demanding “damn respect, too” from those who watch him perform.

Indeed, just how much should one man do to earn his share?

Reaching the finals for eight straight times while winning three championships for two different franchises apparently wasn’t enough for critics to tip a hat to the man dubbed as “The King.”

Critics would not allow him to get over the hump easily after being compared to arguably the greatest basketball player ever: Michael Jordan.

At age 35 however, James has shown everyone what one analyst described as the longest prime for any athlete.

Once again he led his team through the playoffs and into the championships. He averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the finals against the Miami Heat to help the Los Angeles Lakers win their 17th title.

The confetti has settled, the sweat has dried and the NBA’s bubble season ended with LeBron James capping off his 17th season with another set of trophies in hand—his fourth title as well as his fourth finals MVP award.

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TAGS: Alex Eala, Faces of the News, LeBron James, Lord Allan Velasco, Ramon Ang, Reina Mae Nasino
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