Sunday, September 30, 2007

Put Up Funding For Workers, Labor Group Asks Manila

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30) – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Sunday said Manila should set aside an initial P2-billion to provide a “safety net” for workers who may lose their jobs as a result of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Alex Aguilar, TUCP spokesman, said the labor group expects the JPEPA, once ratified by the Senate, to eventually cause "significant job dislocation" as a consequence of reduced, if not zero tariffs that will allow cheaper imports into the country.

One of the sectors that would likely be hit hard by the JPEPA is the local automotive industry, which is ruled by Japanese companies, according to Aguilar.

"Our sense is, Japanese car makers with global manufacturing operations will ultimately find it cheaper to just bring in completely built up units from less expensive production facilities in Thailand and possibly even Vietnam," Aguilar said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

"We anticipate some of them will eventually scale down their car production activities here," he said.

Japanese firms Toyota Motor Phils. Corp., Honda Cars Phils. Inc., Mitsubishi Motors Phils. Corp. and Isuzu Phils. Corp. dominate the local motor vehicle industry that employs more than 74,000 workers and sells almost 100,000 units every year.

Aguilar said the P2 billion could cover emergency assistance as well as skills retooling programs to enable displaced workers to get new jobs.

He said that part of the fund could also be used to subsidize the language training of Filipino nurses, to allow them to readily qualify for employment in Japan.

Under the JPEPA, at least 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers would be allowed into Japan in the first two years, subject to re-negotiation thereafter. They would have to undergo a six-month language training to be supervised by the Japanese government.

Aguilar, however, said the Philippines should not just totally rely on Japan for the language training.

Despite the prohibitive initial quota, Aguilar expressed confidence that Japan would eventually open up its lucrative health care labor market in a bigger way to Filipino nurses, physical therapists and caregivers.

"This is a function of demographics. As the Japanese population gets older, they will be forced to accommodate more foreign health care workers," he said.

"However, once this bigger opening is created three to five years from now, Filipino nurses will have to compete with practitioners from other Asian countries, mainly South Korea and Indonesia," Aguilar said.

"Thus, we have to stay on top of the game by encouraging our nurses who are keen on seeking employment in Japan to learn the (Japanese) language," he added.

Sulu Gazette October

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Burma: One Monk For Every Soldier: The Observer

Only a mutiny in the army - and it is possible - can end the Junta's rule in Burma.

It is an epic clash between the monks and the military in Burma. On one side: the wisdom and non-violent principles of over 2,500 years of Buddhist tradition. On the other: military might honed over 45 years of brutal authoritarian rule. The number of monks in Burma is estimated to be anywhere between 400,000 to 500,000. The number of soldiers is around 400,000. So, one monk for every soldier.

When the monks began marching in peaceful protest over a week ago, the junta remained ominously silent. Then, on Tuesday, the crackdown began. An unconfirmed number of monks were shot dead, monasteries were raided and hundreds of monks have been imprisoned.

How will the predominately Buddhist population of Burma respond to this attack on members of its revered religious order? With absolute horror, I imagine, as they have done to previous attacks (an unverified number of monks were shot dead during the nationwide uprising in 1988, and over 500 were imprisoned).

But people's reactions will probably be expressed behind closed doors. The regime has a terrifyingly effective network of spies and informers, and people are often not willing to openly voice any criticism of the regime for fear of imprisonment and torture.

The surveillance has been so insidious that there are Burmese people I have met who do not trust anyone outside their immediate family; they won't talk openly to cousins or close friends. When I asked a friend for advice on how to safely do research in Burma, he told me to operate under the assumption that everyone I met was an informer - including him.

After the events of 1988, the regime began to eliminate all possible means of dissent within the country. The student community, which had led and organised the demonstrations, was politically emasculated. Through surveillance and intimidation, the regime managed to create a country in which there is no social or political space for people to gather or organise in big numbers.

Many Burma watchers, myself included, thought that protests of the kind which took place in 1988 couldn't happen again as there is seemingly no way to gain a critical mass within such an oppressive environment.

And yet, over the past fortnight, the monks have risen up in numbers it would have been impossible to imagine just a few weeks ago. They are being led by the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks, an organisation that must have been operating deeply underground as few people had ever heard of them before last week.

Many of my Burmese friends are unsurprised by surprising events such as this. One friend always travels prepared for any eventuality; he sits bolt upright throughout overnight train journeys with his belongings clasped in his lap, just in case. When I ask his opinion on future events, he squints his eyes with theatrical aplomb and says, "In Burma, anything can happen."

Somewhere within that "anything" is the possibility of a mutiny within the army. For many soldiers, being ordered to shoot or beat up a monk goes against every grain of their spiritual up-bringing, and ensures they will carry the burden of bad karma for life-times to come. And the lower-ranking soldiers share certain similarities with the rest of the population: they, too, are poor, badly treated and afraid.

I used to see soldiers living in the crumbling outbuildings of the old British Secretariat, the regime's main ministerial building until it moved to its new capital. In the centre of Rangoon, these poorly-paid soldiers had to use kerosene lamps and cook over camp-fires as if they were in the jungle.

One of the many rumours to emerge from Burma over the past couple days is that there may be a split in the army. Troops from central Burma are said to be marching towards Rangoon. Some say they are coming to challenge the soldiers who are attacking monks; others say they are coming to reinforce them. Whether these rumours are true or not, they are often accurate barometers of people's hopes and fears: Will they free us, or will they crush us?

If the army succeeds in crushing this uprising - which, so far, it seems to be doing - then the regime will set to work purging the monastic order of what it likes to call "destructive elements" and even more monks will be imprisoned and tortured. The regime's intelligence agents will shave their heads and infiltrate the monasteries, praying among the monks as one of them.

What little space for political organisation once existed within the monkhood will be obliterated. Yet another attempt by the people to speak out about their suffering will have been silenced.

So how will the Burmese people respond to soldiers aiming their guns at unarmed monks? How can they respond? If they are able to push aside a lifetime of oppression and fear, they can make martyrs of themselves and walk out into the street towards the guns. And the monks could do the same - if they are still able to mass themselves - there is, after all, at least one monk for every soldier willing to shoot him. (Emma Larkin/The Observer)

(Emma Larkin is the author of Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Teashop, published by John Murray. She spent the better part of two years living in Burma to research the book and is currently based in Bangkok, Thailand)

Madness in Myanmar: Edmonton Sun

Increasingly serious situation could turn into another Iraq or Yugoslavia.

Growing unrest and mass street demonstrations across Myanmar could herald an extremely dangerous period for the nation formerly known as Burma.

Military-ruled Myanmar is extremely difficult to enter and bans foreign journalists. This writer has managed to get into Myanmar three times. On the last, I was told the secret police were actually conducting bed checks in people's homes in the capital to ensure no trouble-makers from the rebellious northern states were in town.

On a second visit, I eluded the secret police and got to see the nation's Nobel prize-winning democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi in her home in Yangon, formerly Rangoon, where she has been under house arrest for 17 years.

The crisis in Myanmar seems a simple morality drama. The saintly Suu Kyi is held like a bird in a cage by a junta of brutal, wicked generals, who until recently called themselves the State Law and Order Council, or SLORC. In 1988, the junta's soldiers crushed student demonstrations, killing 3,000. After Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory in 1990 elections, the generals annulled the vote and declared martial law.

This week President George W. Bush and other western nations called for even tighter sanctions against Myanmar's junta and urged its replacement with democratic government.

Myanmar, in-deed, is a nasty police state. Its generals have plundered resources and kept this magnificent nation in direst poverty. Myanmar is often called a "jewel" and "unspoiled Asia of 1940s." True enough. But that's because the junta and its predecessor, mad dictator, Gen. Ne Win, turned Burma into a weird, hermit kingdom.

But extreme caution is advised in dealing with Myanmar. If things go wrong there, it could turn into an Asian version of Iraq, Yugoslavia or Afghanistan.


Myanmar has been at war for 50 years with 17 ethnic rebel groups seeking secession from the former 14-state Union of Burma created by Imperial Britain, godfather of many of the world's worst current problems.

Burmans, of Tibetan origin, form 68% of the population of 57 million. But there are other important, well-defined, independence-minded ethnic groups: Shan, the largely Christian Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon, Wa, Rakhine, Anglo-Burmese, and Chinese.

The largest, Shan, with its Shan State Army, are ethnically close to neighbouring Thailand, and in cahoots with the Thai military. Each major ethnic group has its own army and finances itself through smuggling timber, jewels, arms, and drugs.

The military juntas in Rangoon, and their 500,000-member armed forces, known as Tatmadaw, battled these secessionists for decades until the current junta managed to establish uneasy ceasefires with the major rebel groups.

If the junta were to be replaced by a democratic civilian government led by the gentle Suu Kyi, and military repression ended, it is highly likely Myanmar's ethnic rebellions would quickly re-ignite. The only force holding Myanmar together is the military and secret police.

Shan, Karen, Kachin, and Mon still demand their own independent nations. Myanmar's powerful neighbours -- India, China and Thailand -- have their eye on this potentially resource-rich nation.

China exercises strong influence over Myanmar and is building a naval base near Rangoon to give direct access for the first time to the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean.

India sees rival China threatening its rebellion-plagued eastern hill states along the Burmese border, and is increasingly alarmed by Chinese naval ambitions in the Indian Ocean.


A new democratic government in Yangon-Rangoon that is not tough enough to deal with secessionist regions around its troubled periphery could see Burma fall into internal turmoil and also invite intervention by covetous neighbours.

At worst, India and China could even clash head-on over control of strategic Burma, a threat identified in my book on Asian geopolitics and Indian-Chinese rivalry, War at the Top of the World.

So the West should tread with great caution in Myanmar. The West and Asia must exercise great care they do not exchange military dictatorship for ethnic strife and regional conflict. (Eric Margolis/Edmunton Sun)

Militant Groups Slam Arroyo For Burma Statement

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo waves to well-wisher during her arrival from New York, United States of America (Sept. 30) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City. With the president in photo are Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (Luisito Iglesias/OPS-NIB)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner/ Sept. 30) – Two Filipino political groups on Sunday have criticized President Gloria Arroyo for calling on Myanmar to free pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners while political killings still continue in the Philippines.

"The economic and political crisis in Myanmar, which triggered series of protests tackling variety of issues from oil price increases and human rights violations, is similar to what the Filipinos are experiencing under the Arroyo administration," said Jeppie Ramada, a spokesman for the group Bagong Alayansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in southern Philippines.

Ramada said Arroyo's statements in the 62nd United nations General Assembly urging Myanmar "to go back to the path of democracy," are mere rhetoric that contradict the human rights problems in the Philippines.

"With Arroyo's speech in the United Nations General Assembly centered on Myanmar's atrocities, it only manifests that she's trying to evade and divert the issue of political killings in the Philippines."

"Instead of answering allegations of political persecution in her own country, she managed to wipe the dirt into her fellow dictators in Myanmar. She has lost the moral ascendancy to talk about human rights violations since 2001, when hundreds of activists summarily executed," Ramada said.

The militant women's group, GABRIELA, also branded Arroyo's statements as hypocritical and ironic.

"Mrs. Arroyo's statements are attempts to cover up her regime's murderous record on extra judicial killings and disappearances, amid much international criticism over the human rights crisis in the country."

"This duplicitous show of support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the pro-democracy movement in Burma is mortifying. Mrs. Arroyo even had the gall to summon women power for the Burmese leader when in her own country, her repressive policies are the very hindrance to women power," Rep. Liza Maza said.

Maza said that human rights documentation in the country since Arroyo assumed office in 2001 indicate that 96 women have fallen victims to extrajudicial killings and 31 have disappeared.

Under Arroyo, the Philippines have had 22 women political prisoners, many of them in conditions no different from Suu Kyi, she said.

"No different from the military junta in Burma, Mrs. Arroyo has led the violent dispersal of protests with her calibrated pre-emptive response. She has led attempts to silence critics with her Proclamation 1017 and deny Filipinos the truth behind the rampage of corruption in her administration with EO 464. Certainly, her two-faced statements cannot hide her bloody record from the international community," Maza said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Rebels Blamed AFP Generals For Hostilities In South RP

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30, 2007) – Muslim rebels have blamed Filipino military generals as behind fresh hostilities in the southern Philippines.
Fighting had killed 2 soldiers and wounded more than a dozen others, including a civilian in the villages of Baguindanan and Silangkum in the town of Tipo-Tipo in Basilan island last week.
"They have not coordinated with us and went inside a territory and attacked our members without provocation," said Hamza Sapanton, a senior MILF leader in Basilan island.
Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of marine forces on the island, said troops were pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants in Tipo-Tipo.
Sapanton said government soldiers were attacking them in the guise of pursuing the Abu Sayyaf, a small but the most violent rebel group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya and blamed for the spate of killings and kidnappings in the southern Philippines.
"The military generals are themselves the problem. They are always lying to the media about everything," he said. The MILF said it has protested the attack on Basilan.
Manila is currently negotiating peace with the MILF, the country's largest Muslim rebel group fighting for a separate homeland in Mindanao. But despite a truce signed in 2001, sporadic clashes still continue in many parts of the region.
In July, MILF forces killed 14 Marines in a firefight after soldiers entered a rebel stronghold in the town of Al-Barka near Tipo-Tipo without proper coordination. Dozens of soldiers were also killed and wounded the next month in fierce clashes between security and rebel forces in the area.
Marine Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said the MILF is coddling the Abu Sayyaf, an accusation strongly denied by the rebel group.
"The MILF is not coddling the Abu Sayyaf. We are not coddling terrorists and the MILF has repeatedly and publicly denounced terrorism. We have on many times condemned violence and terrorism," Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.
Peace talks have been stalled since last year after both sides failed to agree on the issue of the Muslim ancestral domain, which refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland. It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement. (Mindanao Examiner)

Dipolog City Joins "Clean Up The World"

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30) – More than 600 Filipino volunteers from across Dipolog City in Zamboanga del Norte province took action to protect and improve the environment by participating in the simultaneous global environmental campaign, Clean Up the World.

The local environmental campaign, held recently, was spearheaded by Clean Up Dipolog, a network of local organizations which have gathered together to inspire the local community to clean up, fix up and conserve the environment, said Ernie Rojo, the group’s chairman.

Speaking on behalf of the local organizing group, Rojo expressed his appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of local volunteers. “The community understands the urgent need to protect our local and global environment. The achievements of volunteers have shown that the people of Dipolog City do care about the state of the environment.”

“Together we are addressing the problem of solid waste disposal. Volunteers contributed to our aim of inspiring our local communities to give their own share of maintaining the cleanliness of our place,” he said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner on Sunday.

Opening the 3rd annual clean up event in the city was Dipolog Mayor Evelyn T. Uy who has committed her support to the noble initiative taken by young people by accepting the title of Honorary Clean Up Chairperson conferred to her by the local organization.

The event was part of one of the world’s most successful community-led global environment campaigns, Clean Up the World. The campaign involves an estimated 35 million volunteers in over 120 countries each year.

From Australia, Ian Kiernan, founder and chairman of Clean Up the World said, “Clean Up the World Weekend allows volunteers to witness first hand the impact of rubbish in the environment. From Australia to Dipolog City, together we are creating a healthier world for our children. I congratulate and thank the volunteers of Dipolog City for their outstanding efforts.”

For three years now, Clean Up the World activities in Dipolog City are organized through a network of organizations which include the Dipolog Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the local chapters of REACT, Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Junior Chamber International and Junior Jaycees, Rotaract and Red Cross Youth.

Volunteers who participated in this year’s campaign came from the St. Vincent’s College, Jose Rizal Memorial State College, DMC College Foundation, and Andres Bonifacio College. Local organizations APO Fraternity and Sorority, SVC-SSG, JPIA and LASS were likewise present to volunteer.

Future events planned by Clean Up Dipolog include a film showing to raise public awareness about Climate Change, the focus of this year’s global environmental campaign.

Clean Up the World originated in Sydney, Australia in 1993 and is held in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The campaign brings together community groups, schools, governments, businesses and individuals to undertake activities to improve water quality, clean up local streets, parks, waterways and forests and educate children about the environment.

Clean Up the World originated in Sydney, Australia in 1993 and is held in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The campaign brings together community groups, schools, governments, businesses and individuals to undertake activities to improve water quality, clean up local streets, parks, waterways and forests and educate children about the environment.

The Mindanao Examiner Front & Back Pages Oct. 1-7, 2007


RATED PG by Ike Señeres


How could government agencies communicate securely, economically and efficiently with each other? This appears to be the three main government considerations in communicating with each other, to make it secure, economical and efficient.

As it is now, very few agencies seem to be concerned about their data security, as evidenced by the fact that only a few agencies have their own proprietary encryption. Truth to tell, encryption is the way to secure both data and communications, regardless of how and where messages are sent. Logically speaking therefore, government agencies should invest more in encryption rather than in the bandwidth where messages are transmitted.

Long before Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) became popular in the public mind, the Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology was already available, with no government agency taking advantage of it. To this day, VPN is still available, and still no government agency is using it.

Simply put, VPN enables users to have their own secure network within any other network, commercial or otherwise. To be more specific, users could have their own VPNs within the networks of Smart, Globe, Sun Cellular, BayanTel and PLDT, and it would work securely, as if they have their own.

On the side of economy, users could run VoIP within a VPN, thus eliminating the need to spend for commercial calls within the Plain Old Telephone System (POTS). This is another issue, as the carriers may not like the idea of reducing their POTS revenues. Practically speaking however, the costs of National Direct Dialing (NDD) long distance costs within the POTS has already gone down to ten pesos for unlimited calls, thus making it very economical already.

Considering all the telecom options that are already available, the government should instead come up with a policy that would guide employees which options should be used to save money the best way.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sweldo Ng Guro Sa Sulu, Problemang Muli

Si Sulu Gob. Sakur Tan habang pinakikinggan ang mga hinaing ng mga guro sa Sulu. Dumulog sa gobernador ang halos 100 mga guro upang ipabatid ang kanilang mga hinaing ukol sa ibat-ibang problema. (Photo contributed by Ahmad Fabi)

SULU – Nagbabantang mag-aklas ang mga guro mula sa mga government schools upang i-protesta ang umano’y pagkakaantala at kawalan ng mga sahod nito sa mga nakalipas na buwan mula sa Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Inireklamo rin ng mga guro ang diumano’y kawalan ng aksyon ni Sulu School District head na si Delfin Unga ukol kanilang hinaing.

Kamakailan lamang ay nakipagpulong ang halos 100 guro kay Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan upang idulog ang kanilang mga problema. Dito ay inisa-isa ng mga guro ang kanilang hinaing – mula sa naantalang sahod ng mga regular teachers hanggang sa kawalan ng sweldo ng mga temporary teachers sa buong lalawigan.

Maging ang mga contributions ng mga ito sa Government Service Insurance System o GSIS ay hindi rin umano matagpuan o kaya ay hindi nai-remit sa pamahalaan. Dumaraan kasi ang lahat ng mga ito sa ARMM kung kaya’t hirap ang mga guro na ito’y reklamo.

Tinatayang mahigit sa 5,000 ang apektado nitong problema. Nangako naman si Tan na idudulog ang problema sa Department of Budget and Management at sa ARMM at Pangulong Gloria Arroyo ang mabigat na pasanin ng mga guro sa Sulu.

Ngunit maging si ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan ay hindi rin mahagilap sa opisina nito sa Cotabato City dahil ni anino ay hindi umano makita sa kanyang tanggapan. Palagi umano itong nasa kanyang bahay sa Shariff Kabunsuan at dismayado na rin ang mga empleyado ng ARMM.

Maging sa mga lalawigan na sakop ng ARMM ay hindi riin mabisita ni Ampatuan. Tagilid umano ang katayuan nito kung muling tatakbo sa susunod na taon sa halalan sa ARMM.

Pinaghahandaan na umano ng mga guro ang kanilang demonstrasyon na isasagawa sa tuwing matatapos ang klase o kaya ay sa tuwing Sabado at Linggo. Suportado naman ito ng mga mga Parents-Teachers Association at mgaing ng mga estudyante. (Mindanao Examiner)

Top Manila Fotogs To Auction Works For A Cause

MANILA, Philippines - As part of the Cancer Institute Foundation’s (CIF) campaign on cervical cancer prevention, a photo auction will be held on October 6 at the Silverlens Gallery in Makati City.

To be auctioned off are photographs by Jo Avila, Bahaghari, Miguel Fabie III, Ronnie Lazaro, Jun de Leon, Isa Lorenzo, At Maculangan, Billy Mondoñedo, Emmanuel Santos, Ivan Sarenas, John Silva, Pilar Tuason, Wig Tysmans, Lilen Uy, Jake Verzosa, and Denise Weldon, and an etching by National Artist Benedicto Cabrera.

The auction will start at 6 p.m.

Proceeds from the sales of the prints shall help support the Cervical Cancer Prevention (CECAP) Program. The Program aims to empower Filipino women with information and knowledge in preventing cervical cancer, and to influence them to take part in the first cervical cancer support group in the country.

In the Philippines, as in many parts of the world, cervical cancer is second only to breast cancer as the most common potentially deadly disease that afflicts and kills women.

In the Philippines, estimates in the year 2000 placed the number of cervical cancer cases at between 35 thousand and 70 thousand, and there are 7 thousand new cases that are added to it every year.

This is mainly due to late detection, the lack of awareness about the disease among Filipino women, and the stigma associated with cervical cancer.

The good news is that cervical cancer is highly preventable through healthy lifestyle and regular pap screening. It can also be prevented by a breakthrough vaccine that could be given to young girls as early as 9. Cervical cancer is the only cancer with a vaccine.

The Cancer Institute Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit, non-stock foundation that provides support to among others, the Cancer Institute, and its other accredited cancer management network institutions with clinical, research, advocacy, and to the extent possible, financial assistance, especially for the prevention of cancer and/or their treatment.

The CIF campaign is made possible through the support of: Marks & Spencer, L’Oréal Professionnel, MSD, The Philippine Star, Figaro Coffee Company, Crossover 105.1 FM, Neo Spa, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Ayala Malls, Rustan’s Essenses.

There will be a preview of the photos to be auctioned off on October 5.

Silverlens gallery is located at 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Warehouse 2, Yupangco Building. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays to Fridays and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call (02)8160044 or email:

Friday, September 28, 2007

NHA namahagi ng certificates sa Sulu

Ipinapakita ni Sitti Radzma Jadjuli ang kanyang certificate of payment mula sa National Housing Authority bilang katunayan na siya ang nagmamay-ari ng kapirasong lupain sa bayan ng Indanan sa Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Sept) – Halos 200 pamilya ang nabigyan ng kanilang mga certificates mula sa National Housing Authority matapos na mabayaraan ang mga lupaing kinatitirikan ng kanilang mga bahay sa bayan ng Indanan nitong lalawigan.

Hindi naman maitago ng mga pamilya ang kanilang kagalakan at pasasalamat sa NHA at pamahalaan. Kamakailan ay ginanap ang awarding ng mga certificates sa Indanan na kung saan ay pinanguhanan nina Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan at alkalde ng bayan na si Alvarez Isnaji.

Hinimok naman ni Tan ang mga may-ari ng lupa na lalong magsumikap para sa kinabukasan ng kanilang pamilya. Doon ay sinabi rin ng gobernador ang mga magagandang plano nito sa lalawigan upang maisulong ang patuloy na pag-unlad ng Sulu.

Kasama nina Tan at Isnaji ay mga ibat-ibang opisyal ng naturang bayan at lalawigan, gayun si Engr. Al-Khwarizmi Indanan, ang district manager ng NHA sa Basilan, Sulu at Tawi-Tawi.

Kabilang sa mga opisyal ay sina Hussin Ahajan, ang bise-alkalde ng Indanan, Abdullah Hayudini, isa sa mga Barangay chairman sa nasabing bayan; Abdulpatta Saddarani, mula sa tanggapan ni Rep. Yusop Jikiri; at Hector Buclao, miyembro ng Sanguniang Panlalawigan.

“Nagpapasalamat talaga ako sa lahat ng mga opisyal ay nabigyan na rin kami ng certificate na magpapatunay na kami ay may-ari ng lupain. Malaking tulong ito sa kinabukasan ng mga bata,” ani pa ni Sitti Radzma Jadjuli, isa sa mga nabigyan ng certificate. (Mindanao Examiner)

BURMA: With Technology as Weapon, Citizens Become Reporters: IPS Asia-Pacific

BANGKOK - In sharp contrast to the lack of information during the 1988 military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Burma, streams of graphic accounts of the biggest uprising in two decades continue to come from within the country, aided by technology and the Internet.

This has also seen something of a reversal of roles in providing information from a country that for many years, has taken great pains to limit easy access to the Internet and mobile telephones.

In the days after Wednesday’s violent crackdown of Burmese monks and protesters and the muzzling of news by state-run media, ordinary citizens have been taking over in providing up-to-date information and journalists, the receivers.

Even though foreign correspondents not allowed in Burma, reports of how security forces shot at crowds, mauled monks and scenes of panic in Rangoon continue to inform international audiences – thanks to blogs, as well as photos and videos taken from mobile telephones and sent to news organisations or uploaded on the Internet.

In the Sep. 27 entry in his blog, 'Ko Htike's Prosaic Collection (, Ko Htike wrote: "To all folk, it is really bad in Yangon. Please, can someone do something for our country.... Inside Yangon it looks like a war zone. I even heard shooting over the phone...They even used teargas in a primary school."

In another blog site,, the blogger who directly participated in the series of Buddhist clergy-led protests asked the United Nations to step in. “We, the people of Burma, need direct actions from the U.N. A possibility could be deploying UN peace-keeping troops and help establish [an] interim government,” it pleaded.

Such reports are also coming in a situation where the local media have been controlled for decades, and where new restrictions were issued recently. On Sep. 23, the Burmese press was ordered by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division to publish or air announcements stating that they are not supporting the anti-junta protests.

Thus, people are taking matters into their own hands.

"The media are the only defence the people have in this kind of situation and it is clear that there is a synergy going on between traditional media and citizen journalists. This sense of collaboration is apparent in the information and images that are being transmitted to the media worldwide," said Premesh Chandran, founder of the independent news site.

Since the crackdown began, we've been getting information through emails and images every half hour,” Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) director Khuensai Jaiyen said in an interview, “This is so different from the events in 1988 when information was hard to come by. We didn't have sophisticated tools like the Internet to help us then."

"It's amazing to watch the quality of the materials coming out of Burma,” added Aung Zaw, the editor-in-chief of the Chiang Mai-based ‘Irrawaddy’ magazine (

“These images tell the whole story and highlight the nature of the Burmese military junta, their brutality and their intentions," said the former student activist, who had also joined the 1988 uprising.

Foreign journalists are also relying on blogs set up by young Burmese living abroad, such as Ko Htike's blog 'Ko Htike's Prosaic Collection (, as well as,, where dramatic images of the situation are uploaded as they come in.

Other Burmese uploaded videos of the monk-led demonstrations on You Tube. A cursory check of the site reveals over a hundred videos related to the ongoing protests, with one video, posted by a CSPANJUNKIEdotORG, getting as many as 21,000 hits.

International news channels such as the BBC and CNN have been flooded with emails and images from within Burma.

Time Magazine ran an exclusive story about a first-hand eyewitness account of the crackdown in its Sep. 26 online issue. "With foreign journalists locked out of the country by Burma's military government, this dispatch was written by TIME staff based on eyewitness reports," it said.

The article described an 80-year-old monk bleeding from a baton gash on his head, people throwing down water bottles from their shop balconies in aid of protesters, burning cars and motorcycles on the road, enraged younger monks carrying clubs and one toting a riot shield snatched from a policeman.

According to the New Delhi-based exiled Burmese news group Mizzima News, these popular blogs and sites have been blocked by the Burmese junta as of Sep. 26.

Internet-savvy users in Burma are reported to have turned to proxy sites and other creative means to be able to get access to the banned sites.

Internet access in Burma, says OpenNet Initiative, accounts for only .56 percent of the population, with two Internet providers under state control.

Support for the anti-government demonstrations is being sought through different ways, including through a signature campaign online,, put up by a global advocacy group, Res Publica, and, an online community of Internet activists in the United States.

As of last count, the campaign has gathered more than 160,000, a big jump from the less than 50,000 a couple of days ago.

The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma says it is getting much-needed information from their underground journalists in Burma.

"Right now, we are getting information from three online sites set up by citizen journalists. As a rule, we make sure to confirm everything from other sources, including news agencies both within and outside Burma," Jaiyen of SHAN news agency explained.

"The timeliness of the flow of information is getting close to real time. In our case at Malaysiakini, we've been getting new stuff about the unrest every hour. Now whether we can translate this into an actual outcome is a different matter," said Chandran.

The outcome of the protests and whether resistance from inside Burma will survive the military crackdown remains unclear for now.

But "the effect of citizen journalism to the traditional forms of media will definitely have a long-term effect, perhaps giving way to a closer interaction in the future," said Jaiyen. (Lynette Lee Corporal/IPS Asia-Pacific)

Ex-Army Colonel Shot Dead In Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) – A former army colonel who escaped assassination in Sulu province was killed in an attack Thursday by a lone gunman in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, police said.

Police said Ramon Honggo, 68, was shot in the village of Baliwasan and died instantly. “He was shot and killed by a lone gunman,” said Senior Superintendent Manuel Barcena, chief of the local police force.

He said police is still investigating the killing. “The motive of the killing could be personal grudge,” he said.

Honggo arrived in Zamboanga City by boat from Jolo on Wednesday. Police said Honggo was also shot and wounded by one of two gunmen in Jolo town in July. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Brutal Generals And Dissenting Monks: The Globe And Mail

"If priesthood forms an alliance with the winner of 1990 election, a 'very significant force' would be born".

Penniless, devout and thoroughly dangerous.

Amid reports of mounting violence inside isolated Myanmar, that assessment now seems to be the ruling military's view of the unarmed, maroon-robed Buddhist monks leading the popular revolt against 45 years of dictatorship.

Numbering 400,000 to 500,000 in a country that is 90 per cent Buddhist, with a monastery in virtually every community, the monks in what used to be called Burma command huge respect, providing spiritual guidance and a ubiquitous role at weddings, funerals and other events in the community.

The monks are traditionally aloof and secretive, and the absence of foreign correspondents in the country makes their aims hard to read, said A. Haroon Akram-Lodhi, a professor of international development studies and Asian specialist at Trent University.

In the first weeks of the protests, he noted, the priesthood known as the sangha appeared anxious to keep some distance from pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1990 election and has spent most of the intervening years under house arrest.

But recent reports of an alliance with the famous dissident suggest a shift in the landscape.

"This is the most surprising development if it turns out to be the case," Prof. Akram-Lodhi said.

"Together they would be a very significant force ... and the military would have to use a lot of violence."

Sixty years after Burma secured its independence, the generals running one of Asia's most repressive nations have changed its name to Myanmar, built a shiny new, eerily empty capital city 320 kilometres north of Rangoon (now called Yangon) and struggled to persuade their few foreign friends the current upheaval can be contained.

But in many regards, Myanmar's crumbling infrastructure and its 50 million impoverished, ardently religious people remain stuck in a time warp in which Buddhism remains the basis of daily life.

Thus it was hardly surprising that the army held its fire for several weeks, as throngs of demonstrators led by monks choked the streets of Rangoon, Mandalay and other cities, galvanized over a 500-per-cent jump in fuel prices last month.

"An attack on the monks is an attack on people's faith, and that's where there's going to be a lot of problems," Prof. Akram-Lodhi said.

It is thought that about 10,000 monks have been taking a role in the protests. And they know how to yank the military tiger's tail.

Dependent entirely on donations for their livelihood, the monks' recent announcement that they would no longer accept handouts from the junta struck a particular nerve, said Myint Swe of the BBC's Burmese-language radio service.

"The government wants the image they are pious and helping the monks."

Drawn from the Theravada, or southern, school of Buddhism, Myanmar's monks have long been politically active - "the worst of all" the trouble makers, George Orwell wrote in Burmese Days, his 1934 novel about British imperialism's fast-fading glories.

From the British colonial era, through to the 1988 rebellion in which an estimated 3,000 civilians died, non-violence has been the monks' hallmark.

And by every estimate, the support they enjoy is near universal.
"The country is very devout. It's also incredibly poor and unequal, and people find solace in their faith," Prof. Akram-Lodhi said.(Timothy Appleby)

3 Soldiers Killed In Clash In Southern Philippines: NPA

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) – Three government soldiers were killed in fierce fighting Thursday with communist insurgents in the southern Philippines, a rebel spokesman said.

Nestor dela Cruz said the fighting erupted in Loreto town in Agusan del Sur province after New People’s Army rebels attacked an army unit. “Two other government soldiers were wounded in the fighting,” Dela Cruz said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

He said there were no NPA casualties.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division did not give any statement about the fighting and officials ignored telephone calls from journalists.

Other reports said five rebels were allegedly killed in the clash, but this could not be independently confirmed.

Rebel forces on Sunday also raided a police base in Surigao del Sur’s Cantillan town and took away assorted weapons after disarming policemen.

NPA rebels also stormed last week a veneer factory in Compostela Valley province and killed one militiaman. The rebels, from the NPA's Armando Dumandan Command, carted four automatic rifles and a handgun from militias guarding the Li Chiang Veneer Plant in Montevista town.

The NPA branded the firm as “despotic” and accused it of actively supporting the military operations against innocent farmers in the town, said Marcella Valiente, of the Armando Dumandan Command.
The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been fighting for decades to establish a Maoist state in the country.

The Philippine government opened peace talks with the rebels, but the negotiations collapsed in 2004 after the United States listed the CPP and the NPA and its political arm, the National Democratic Front, as foreign terrorist organization on Manila’s prodding. (Mindanao Examiner)

Troops Press For Sayyaf, MILF Hunt In South RP Island

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) – Security forces on Thursday continue hunting down Abu Sayyaf militants and Moro rebels blamed for the killing of two government soldiers in fierce clashes in Basilan island, south of the Philippines.

Officials said civilians were also providing vital intelligence about the militants, whose group is tied to al-Qaeda terror network and Jemaah Islamiya, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Civilians are passing us information about the terrorists. Security forces are also tracking down the terrorists,” Army Maj. Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, accused the Philippine military of violating the truce when soldiers attacked rebel forces in the villages of Baguindan and Silangkum in Tipo-Tipo town on Tuesday.

The daylong clashes killed two army soldiers and wounded 10 more.

Batara said ten gunmen were also killed in the fighting, but Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, denied the report. “We have no casualties,” he said in a separate interview.

He said MILF forces under Hamza Sapanton clashed with government soldiers in Tipo-Tipo town.

Maj. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the First Infantry Division, said that troops were fighting combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces in Basilan. He accused the MILF of colluding with the Abu Sayyaf group.

“My soldiers are fighting the rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists who joined forces in Basilan,” he said.

Batara said security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants and MILF rebels in Basilan island, blamed for the killing of 14 soldiers, ten of whom were beheaded in July in fierce fighting in Al-Barka town near Tipo-Tipo.

The fighting erupted after troops entered an MILF stronghold in the guise of pursuing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, wanted both by Manila and Washington for killing two kidnapped US citizens in 2001.

The military accused the MILF of coddling the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the southern Philippines.

Manila opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 and both sides signed a truce, but despite the truce fighting still continue in some areas in the southern Philippines.

The MILF is fighting the past decades for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

US, RP Move Supplies, Infra Equipment In Sulu

A US convoy transporting supplies and equipment for infrastructure passes Thursday 27 Sept, 2007 through a village in Indanan town in Sulu province in southern Philippines. Washington has poured $3.7 million in development projects in Sulu to help in Manila's peace efforts. Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said the money will be used for the repair of the Jolo airport and the putting up of a potable water system in the province. Last month, the US signed a $190 million grant aid for various infrastructure projects in Mindanao island. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Sept) – US and Filipino soldiers deployed in Sulu have began moving supplies and equipment for infrastructure projects on Thursday as more countries pledged to help develop the southern Philippine province.

The soldiers were spotted passing in the town of Indanan in several trucks and jeeps transporting equipment to the delight of the locals. “We have projects to do here…for the people,” one Filipino soldier yelled as their truck headed to Indanan.

Hundreds of US troops are stationed in Sulu and helping Filipino soldiers carry out humanitarian missions on the request of the Philippine government. The US is also training local troops in anti-terrorism warfare.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said some countries, including Syria, have expressed to help in peace and development projects in the province.

“We welcome all assistance and aid from donor countries and international nongovernmental organizations to promote peace and development in the region,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Tan did not say what other countries have pledged to help Sulu, but on Monday the United States and Britain unveiled a huge package of development projects in the province in an effort to help Manila bring peace and progress in the region.

Ambassadors Kristie Kenney, of the United States, and Peter Beckingham, of the British Embassy, arrived in Jolo town and announced a $3 million funding for the repair of the local airport and the installation of a $700,000 potable water system in Sulu.
Tan said the US and British projects will help a lot of people in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

It was on top of the $190 million development and economic growth agreement the US signed last week to help fund other projects in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

4th RBAF Peace Monitoring Team Bound For Philippines: The Brunei Times

SIX personnel from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) departed for Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines Tuesday to represent Brunei Darussalam in the fourth contingent of the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

The IMT is a Malaysian-led, 60-member body that oversees the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the Philippines government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim separatist group there.

The Mindanao-bound crew boarded the Royal Brunei Air Force CN235 transport aircraft at a departing ceremony at the Hangar 'B' of the Rimba Air Force Base yesterday, witnessed by RBAF Commander Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General Dato Paduka Seri Hj Halbi Hj Md Yussof.

The fourth contingent will be taking over the duties of the third, which is due to return this afternoon.

The fresh contingent of troops comprises of four officers and two warrant officers.
They are: Major Hj Rosmadi Hj Othman, Captain Hj Hasmin Hj Lilah, Captain Sharil Affendi Hj Abdullah, Lieutenant Mohd Yusra Hj Piut, Warrant Officer Abu Sufyan Hj Metassan and Warrant Officer Pg Hj Nordin Pg Hj Sulaiman.

Their mission will involve observing and monitoring the implementation of the cessation of hostilities between the Philippines government and the MILF, along with the socio-economic development aspects under the agreement.

They will form a singular mobile team and will be located at Cotabato City, where their monitoring operations will cover the provinces and cities located therein.
In addition, throughout their tour of duty they will be provided with the privileges and immunities given to resident diplomatic representatives.

The operation highlights Brunei's contribution towards regional cooperation, and demonstrates the nation's support of peace and stability in the Southeast Asian region.

It will also provide much-needed experience and exposure for the RBAF personnel in overseas missions.

Brunei's contribution as part of the IMT has been operating in Mindanao ever since October 2004, after the Philippines government and the MILF signed the ceasefire agreement in July 2003.

Brunei and the Philippines recently carried out a combined naval exercise, codenamed Exercise Seagull, to further enhance their operational and communications interoperability against seaborne terrorist threats and other transnational crimes. (The Brunei Times)

Two Arroyo Allies Collide Head-On Over House Post

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) – An ally of President Gloria Arroyo has supported a complaint by a top-caliber layer against House Speaker Jose de Venecia for allegedly intervening for his son’s telecommunication business interest with the government.

Rep. Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), president of the administration’s KAMPI party, has thrown his support for the “breach of ethics” complaint against De Venecia by lawyer Roel Pulido.

Pulido has filed the complaint against De Venecia, however, he stressed that he would rather that the 25-member House committee on ethics and privileges look into and address his complaint against the veteran politician “based on merit.”

Pulido, who once served as counsel to the Magdalo group of rebellious junior military officers, has welcomed Villafuerte’s move.

“The last thing I want is for me to be reduced as a pawn in the political wrangling in the House,” Pulido said in a statement sent Wednesday to the Mindanao Examiner.

“The complaint that I filed on September 20 is sufficient in form and substance, and deserves a fair, impartial and reasonable hearing by the House committee.”

“If Representatives Villafuerte, Jose Solis of Sorsogon and Pablo Garcia of Cebu as well as their allies wish to unconditionally champion my complaint, then they are absolutely welcome to do so. After all, they are supposed to be leaders of the so-called House reform bloc,” Pulido said.

But Pulido appealed to lawmakers to endorse his complaint. “I am appealing to them and to every House member to endorse my complaint strictly based on merit – because this is the right thing to do – and not just because this happens to be politically convenient for them to so do,” he said.

Villafuerte and Solis led the group of pro-administration House members that tried but failed to field Garcia as De Venecia’s challenger in the race for the top House post in July.

On Tuesday, Villafuerte revived his row with De Venecia after being accused of instigating the plot to oust the House leader.

In a heated privilege speech, Villafuerte threatened to openly support Pulido’s complaint before the ethics committee.

“If the Speaker keeps on accusing me, I myself will pursue this ethics case. I want that on record,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said that if there is something De Venecia should be worried about, it is the complaint filed by Pulido.

“But if ever disciplinary action is meted out against the Speaker, and whatever that will be, it will not come from me but from the ethics committee,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte’s outburst almost triggered a shouting bout with colleagues loyal to De Venecia on the House floor. Villafuerte became furious after he was tagged as the one who allegedly offered to depose De Venecia.

According to published reports attributed to the Speaker’s camp, in a recent meeting with President Arroyo, Villafuerte supposedly volunteered to lead a House mutiny against De Venecia.

In his complaint, Pulido asked the House committee on ethics and privileges to investigate and discipline De Venecia on two causes: failure to stop a criminal act and failure to discourage the wrong perceptions of his role as dispenser or peddler of undue patronage.

According to Pulido, the Speaker’s son and namesake, Jose De Venecia III, by admission and by record, managed to corner a lucrative congressional franchise for a previous broadband venture. The son’s franchise was granted by Congress in 1995 and expanded in 1997, both while his father was Speaker.

In November last year, the son also submitted an unsolicited bid for the national broadband network project that was later on awarded to China’s ZTE Corp. -- the same concession that his father is now urging Malacañang to throw out.

In his complaint, Puildo said that De Venecia Jr. was obviously aware of his son’s business interests -- in spite of the prohibition under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act -- as the Speaker publicly hailed his son as "the father of broadband in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia."

Pulido cited the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which says: “It shall be unlawful for the spouse or for any relative, by consanguinity or affinity, within the third civil degree, of the President of the Philippines, Vice President of the Philippines, the President of the Senate, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to intervene, directly or indirectly, in any business, transaction, contract or application with the government.”

Troops Attack MILF Forces In Southern Philippine Island

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Sept) – The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), on Wednesday accused government soldiers of attacking its forces in the southern island of Basilan.
The fighting which began Tuesday in Tipo-Tipo town left 10 rebels and two soldiers dead, said Army Maj. Eugene Batara, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command. But the MILF said troops attacked rebels in the villages of Baguindan and Silangkum, sparking daylong clashes in Tipo-Tipo town.

“The Philippine military has again violated the cease-fire agreement. Government troops attacked MILF forces without provocation,” Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner. Kabalu also denied that 10 rebels were killed.
Supt. Salik Macapantar, Basilan police chief, on Wednesday confirmed the fighting in Tipo-Tipo town were between government forces and Abu Sayyaf militants, backed by MILF rebels.
He said two Abu Sayyaf gunmen and three MILF fighters were killed in sporadic clashes and that 14 government soldiers and militiaman have been wounded also. A high-school student was hit with a stray bullet, but is alive.

“Five gunmen are dead and 14 soldiers wounded, including a pro-government militiaman. One student was also wounded,” he said in an interview.

Maj. Gen. Nehemias Pajarito, commander of army forces in western Mindanao, also said that troops were fighting combined MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces in Basilan.
“The operation is on going against the MILF and Abu Sayyaf forces responsible in the hostilities in Basilan,” he said in a separate interview on Wednesday.
Kabalu said MILF forces were ordered to remain in heightened alert and defend themselves against government offensive. “We don't want any hostilities, but MILF members are ready to themselves,” he said.
It was unknown how the latest fighting would affect the peace talks, which have been stalled since last year, after the MILF and the government failed to sign any deal on the ancestral domain. It is one of the most contentious issues in the negotiations before both sides could sign a peace agreement. The ancestral domain covers almost all of the provinces in Mindanao, including the islands of Palawan, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Security officials in Basilan island ignored telephone calls from journalists and declined to give any statement about the latest fighting. Police said the fighting on Tuesday broke out after patrolling security forces ran into a group of armed men and a firefight ensued.
Batara said security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants and MILF rebels in Basilan island, blamed for the killing of 14 soldiers, ten of whom were beheaded in July in fierce fighting in Al-Barka town near Tipo-Tipo.
The fighting erupted after troops entered an MILF stronghold in the guise of pursuing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, wanted both by Manila and Washington for killing two kidnapped US citizens in 2001. The military accused the MILF of coddling the Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the spate of terrorism and kidnappings in the southern Philippines.
Manila opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 and both sides signed a truce, but despite the truce fighting still continue in some areas in the southern Philippines. The MILF is fighting the past decades for the establishment of a strict Islamic state similar to Iran. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

PLDT Union Assails Termination Of Workers

Manila, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Sept) – Labor union of the country’s largest telephone company, PLDT, assailed the continued termination of employees despite a huge profit the past three years.

The Manggagawa sa Komunikasyon ng Pilipinas (MKP) said PLDT has been raking profits, but despite this it had terminated hundreds of workers the past months, yet executives enjoyed hefty bonuses and other fringe benefits.

It said the company has recently terminated 575 employees, but PLDT said those who were laid off had been paid more than in accordance with labor laws.

3 Wounded In Basilan Clash

BASILAN ISLAND, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Sept) - Government forces clashed with a group of gunmen on Tuesday in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, leaving three people wounded, police said.

Police said sporadic fighting between soldiers and gunmen were reported in the villages of Baguindan and Silangkum, all in Tipo-Tipo town, a known stronghold of the Muslim separatist rebels Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Two gunmen and a high school student are wounded in the fighting in Tipo-Tipo town and we have deployed police forces in the area to secure the civilians,” said Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the provincial police chief.

Macapantar said the student was hit with a stray bullet while the two wounded gunmen managed to escape. He said the hostilities broke out after patrolling security forces ran into a group of armed men and a firefight ensued.

“There are no reports of military casualties,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Macapantar would not say if the gunmen were MILF rebels or Abu Sayyaf militants. “We cannot say whether the gunmen are rebels or Abu Sayyaf, except that the area is a known sanctuary of the MILF,” he said.

Security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf militants in Basilan island, blamed for the beheading in July of ten Marines in Al-Barka town near Tipo-Tipo.

The MILF did not say if the gunmen were rebels or not. The MILF is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state similar to Iran.

Manila opened up peace talks with the MILF in 2001 and both sides signed a cease-fire agreement, but despite the truce fighting still continue in some areas in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

9 Injured In Sulu Fire

Sulu Gov. Salur Tan inspects Tuesday Sept. 25, 2007 the aftermath of the fire in Jolo town. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Sept) – At least 9 people were injured and thousands left homeless after a fire swept through a neighborhood in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

”Nine people are with minor injuries and now at the hospital,” Gov. Sakur Tan said during a provincial peace and order council meeting on Tuesday in Jolo town.

The governor ordered a relief operation to help feed the fire victims and has offered refugees the use of the province’s sports complex as temporary shelters.

The fire broke out late Monday in the village of Asturias and more than 500 houses were burned, said village chieftain Kerkarl Tan. “There could be more victims and we need help now, like foods and blankets and tents for the refugees,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

The governor said they would provide the refugees with tents and food aid and also sent a team of social workers and doctors to take care of the women and children. He said policemen were also sent to the village of Asturias to prevent other people from building structures or occupying lands they do not owned.

“We have to protect the victims here until such time they will be able to rebuild their homes,” he said.

There were reports of casualties, but many victims had blamed the fire department for the conflagration. They said fire engines had no water and residents doused their houses with dirty water taken from canals and creeks.

“Now, we don’t know where to stay for the night. Our house is burned and we have nothing left,” said Ibrahim Abubakre, a fisherman.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the conflagration, but one woman said the fire started from a wooden house where an oil lamp fell to the floor. “That’s where it all started,” she said.

The fire ate up at least two blocks in downtown Jolo, said a man, Nasser Unting.

“My conservative estimate is that more than 500 houses are burned and thousands are without homes and that’s for sure,” he said, pointing to the direction where houses were burning.

“You look at the sky, it’s red, and that’s fire below. You can hear people screaming and crying and cursing and you can’t blame them,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fire Leaves Thousands Homeless In Southern RP

The fire in Sulu's Jolo town that left thousands of people without homes Monday Sept. 24, 2007. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Sept) – Thousands of people were left homeless after a fire late Monday swept through a neighborhood in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or casualties and victims had blamed the fire department for the conflagration. They said the fire engines had no water and residents doused their houses with dirty water taken from canals and creeks.

“Now, we don’t know where to stay for the night. Our house is burned and we have nothing left,” said Ibrahim Abubakre, a fisherman.

Authorities were investigating the cause of the conflagration, but one woman said the fire started from a wooden house where an oil lamp fell to the floor. “That’s where it all started,” she said.

The fire ate up at least two blocks in downtown Jolo, said a man, Nasser Unting.

“My conservative estimate is that more than 500 houses are burned and thousands are without homes and that’s for sure,” he said, pointing to the direction where houses were burning.

“You look at the sky, it’s red, and that’s fire below. You can hear people screaming and crying and cursing and you can’t blame them,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

US, Britain Pour Development Aid In Southern RP

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan with US and British Ambassadors Kristie Kenney and Peter Beckingham on Monday Sept. 24, 2007 in Patikul town in Sulu province in southern RP. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Sept) – US and British officials on Monday unveiled a huge package of development projects in Sulu province in an effort to help Manila bring peace and progress in the southern region.

Ambassadors Kristie Kenney, of the United States, and Peter Beckingham, of the British Embassy, arrived WITH Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon in Jolo town where Gov. Sakur Tan led local officials in welcoming the delegation.

Tan said the US and British projects will help a lot of people in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Among the projects are the rehabilitation of the Jolo airport by the US worth $3 million and $700,000 potable water system funded by the British government under the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program.

"The $3 million will be used to rebuilt and renovate the Jolo airport so people here can their fabulous products out to market in Manila and the rest of the world," Kenney told reporters.

It was in addition to the $190 million development and economic growth agreement the US recently signed to help fund other projects in Mindanao. "The $190 million will be spreading it evenly throughout various parts of Mindanao. The airport in Jolo and the water system, which costs $700,000, are separate projects," she said.

The potable water system, on the other hand, will benefit hundreds of people in four villages - Siolakan, Bakud, Latung, and SibakLatud – in Sulu's Siasi town, where AMORE also set up the communities' first access to electricity using solar power technology in 2004.

The project consist of an intake structure, four impounding reservoirs confined with 7,335 meters pipeline and with 21 tap stands, said Tetchie Capellan, AMORE's chief of party.

"I am confident that the completion of the potable water system project, the health, sanitation, and economic living conditions of the 200 marginalized households spread across the four villages will be addressed," Capellan said.

The AMORE is an alliance of the United States Agency for International Development, the Philippines' Department of Energy, Mirant Philippines Foundation Inc., the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Winrock International.

Bekingham described the province as vibrant and tremendous. "Everybody is very friendly and I am delighted to be here and see the projects that we are doing here," he said.

He said Britain is committed to increasing expenditure on water related projects, ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation. The British government, he said, has already supported projects in developing countries, like in the Philippines, a community-based program integrating water, sanitation and hygiene education.

Kenney and Beckingham also handed over ten units of computers to the Sulu National High School. The British government provided reference materials while the USAID helped to install the new computers and train teachers on their use for classroom instruction.

They also visited the Jolo Market Road which had been upgraded recently from an earthen causeway to a concrete-paved boulevard by USAID. Tan said the improved road now provides a more efficient means of moving products and people from Jolo port to the market area.

The road has already become an evening attraction for locals, many of whom now regularly take walks to watch the sunset and panoramic view of the Sulu Sea.

Tan said the ambassadors also handed over aquaculture production materials to former Muslim rebels now engaged in lobster and abalone farming. "Peace and development in the province of Sulu has always been the ultimate goal of my administration and the people of this historical archipelago."

"Seeing it flourish again into agricultural and marine-based economic potentate in the region amidst challenges is the glory we all relentlessly working for early realization," he told Kenney and Beckingham.

Esperon said the peace and order condition in Sulu has improved a lot the past months and is giving confidence to foreign countries to take a second look into the province's rich natural resources. "Sulu is very peaceful and we have the US and British ambassadors here pouring a lot of development projects. It is a very good sign that progress," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Water Facility Change Lives Of Muslims In Southern Philippine Town

SIASI, SULU – Water is a precious resource. In fact, it is one of the world’s most important resources, yet two fifths of the people of our planet face severe shortages of it.

In the Philippines, access to safe water and hygiene is an alarming issue though the country was known to have copious water sources.

Statistics showed that only 35% of the populations have access to safe water. In Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the country’s poorest region, the statistics are even more alarming as only 24% of its entire population has access to clean water.

In this town, about 58 kilometers southwest of Sulu’s capital, Jolo, the situation is most serious and access to clean drinking water alone accounts for water-borne diseases particularly hostile to children. The situation here was desperate for many.

Villagers tried to bring clean water supplies to the entire town village. Here, they have drilled over 100 unsafe hand pumped wells in the communities.

Desperate need

For Nina Tingkahan, a native from the village of Latung, getting clean water is a daily struggle to keep her and her family well and alive.

The 38-year-old mother of 12, Tingkahan, along with other women here have very little status in this poor town. Before the advent of potable water system—they were the ones fetching the water from distant wells but also working in the fields and attending the family.

For several years, mothers in other nearby villages of Siolakan, Bakud, and Duggo, aptly known as SiBakLatuD, collected water from the rocky terrain carrying heavy pots back to their community, their children in tow were hauling same weighty buckets.

SiBakLatuD is a remote village in the island of Siasi. It is surrounded by bodies of water to the eastern portion of Sulu Sea. The four beneficiary villages are clustered together at the southeastern portion of the Siasi Island.

Siasi, with estimated 67 thousand inhabitants depending on fishing, seaweeds farming, corn, abaca, and fruit crops for livelihood. Tinkahan recalls: “I leave home at two in the morning and I get water at six. My children were usually sick because of the dirty water we are using.”

Water borne diseases such as schistosomiasis-a bloodsucking worm that causes injury to the intestines, the bladder and other organs were high, she says.

Diseases like this significantly affect children’s growth and school performance and the work capacity of farmers. Over three million deaths yearly, mainly of children under the age of five, are caused by water related diseases like diarrhea.

Like Tinkahan, Abdural Jimbulan, a 30-year-old father of two school graders from a small village of Duggo, admits that water used to be a rare commodity to them.

He recalls that they were tired because they wake up as early as 2:00 in the morning to fetch water. Villagers here lined up with their buckets around those houses to buy water - to purchase it at about P5 per gallon.

Many times gallons of water had to be brought into the island, shipped by motorized pump boat that could eat up P200 worth of fuel from the neighboring towns in Sulu. Shipping costs each household some P5 a gallon.

Normally, one household consumes 10 gallons everyday used for cooking, drinking and washing.

“I really prayed that my kids experience will end. I want them to focus on their studies,” Jimbulan says. He believes that clean water means healthy crops and healthy people.

Most pressing need resolved After the Alliance for Mindanao Off-grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program set up the community’s first access to electricity using 50 watt-peak Solar Home System with two streetlights and a system for the mosques in 2004, at least 240 households of Siasi’s villages had been lit up in Ipil, Duhol Tara, North Manta and South Silumpa including the 120 households spread across Sibak-Latud. Everyone rejoiced of the “stroke of luck,” villagers say.

The AMORE, with support from British government, again ventured into another project to address the need for clean and safe water of about 4080 individuals in SiBakLatuD. In July 2007, the community-managed potable water system (PWS)—the community’s first access to safe water, started to benefit at least 680 homes.

The project consist of an intake structure, four impounding reservoirs confined with 7,335 meters pipeline with 21 tap stands.

The Project cost is P2.09M, AMORE partnered with the United States Agency for International Development, Department of Energy, Mirant Philippines Foundation Inc., the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Winrock International with funding support from the British government.

Britain is committed to increasing expenditure on water related projects, ensuring universal access to safe water and sanitation.

The British government has already supported projects in developing countries, like in the Philippines, a community-based programme integrating water, sanitation and hygiene education in SibakLatud.

“The water here is very good. It’s clean and clear,” says Jimbulan.“You can’t compare them to our traditional wells,” approves Tingkahan.

“Before I had to walk 60 minutes to get water. I can waste a whole day just to fill two gallons, and even then the water is brown.”
Tingkahan adds: “We have clean potable water, our life is much better,” she shares.

“My children, and even myself, used to fall sick because of dirty water. No more complaints of diarrhea because of clean water we are safe.”

Accordingly, the population in the community have increased because due to the presence of the water system. Empowered locales “With less time for fetching water, where the time saved is now replaced by income generating activities, mothers now have ample time to look after the children,” Jimbulan and Tingkahan admit.

The potable water system has increased villagers’ productive time—more than the P .50 centavos and they agreed to pay their community association.

The fund is used to operate and maintain the water system, and to protect and develop the SiBakLatuD watershed to ensure the integrity of the water system.

Herdan Hasinon, who heads the Barangay Renewable Energy and Community Development Associations or BRECDA in Latung says: “With the water system, now, we don’t need to walk for many hours everyday. In just five minutes, we can fill our pots and buckets by just turning a tap.

The AMORE organizes its community partners into BRECDAs and trains them not only to operate and maintain their renewable energy systems but also to pursue other development projects for their communities.

The SiBakLatuD community has actively participated in the overall project development where sense of ownership, commitment and responsibility blossomed and developed with the processes involved.

“Now we know how to do project consultations, orientations, meetings, trainings,” says Hasinon. As beneficiaries, the community was actively involved in all process of development.

“From the conduct of technical survey, project implementation to crafting of policies for Operation and Maintenance we can do these things now.”

Jimbulan, who also serves as Dunggo’s BRECDA chair, exclaims: “Children especially girls have not since collected water. They are now in regular classes in school. Now we have time to enjoy life.”

Now, Hasinon and Jimbulan look after 21 water distribution points from four villages—and are enormously proud of their job.

Many of the residents said that traditional wells where most of them were already abandoned has remained a strong memory of the past.

They also said that incidence of water borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and typhoid has been significantly reduced.

Light and water for the poor The AMORE, which has been energizing communities since 2002, organizes its community partners into BRECDAs and trains them not only to operate and maintain their renewable energy systems but also to pursue other development projects for their communities.

The AMORE has developed a sustainable approach to rural electrification hinged on organizing communities for self-propelled development.

While electricity is its entry point, it realizes that its work cannot end with installing the renewable energy systems.

Tetchie Cruz-Capellan, the AMORE chief of Party, recognizes the important role of water in the community, in achieving socio-economic development of the ARMM, particularly in Siasi town and in raising the standard of living of its people.

According to the United Nations more than a billion people, one in five of the world’s population lack access to safe water. Three billion don’t have basic sanitation. The impact on the poor is almost too severe to imagine,” Capellan shares.

Water borne diseases account for the deaths of one child every 8 seconds. It is a horrific statistic-and 75% of illness treated in some parts of globe was due to bad drinking water.

“I am confident that the completion of the potable water system project, the health, sanitation, and economic living conditions of the 200 marginalized households spread across the four villages will be addressed,” she says.

“I share the communities’ belief that water is Allah’s gift for villagers in SibakLatud. The water brought hopes to the communities. I know it is much easier for mothers to take care of their families and meet their daily needs. Water is helping to revitalize the villages,” she adds.

The SiBakLatuD community is aware of the need to protect the natural resource of the ARMM. “We are hoping that the private sector will partner with BRECDAs role in investing and running community based water systems,” ends Hasinon. (Rosa de Guzman)