Thursday, July 31, 2008

Philippine Coast Guard Gets Chinese Equipment

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2008) – Some P20 million worth of Chinese marine pollution control equipment were handed over Thursday to the Coast Guard and Filipino officials said it would be sent immediately to central Philippines where a ferry capsized in June during a typhoon.

The Chinese government donated the equipment last year to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and it was only on Thursday that they had been formally transferred to the Coast Guard.

The equipment include 10,800-meter oil spill boom, 500 pairs of protective overalls, 200 units of high pressure sprayers, among others, according to Coast Guard spokesman Armand Balilo.

He said it would be sent to Sibuyan Island where the 23,800-ton Princess of the Star which was carrying more than 800 passengers and crew capsized. About 5 dozen people had survived the tragedy. The ship was also carrying cargoes of pesticides and poisonous chemicals. (Chris Navara)

MILF rebels Assail Move To Oust Govt Cease-Fire Chief

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2008) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday assailed North Cotabato officials for passing a resolution urging Manila to remove the head of a government cease-fire committee for failing to prevent rebel attacks.

Provincial legislators passed the resolution after Vice Governor Emmanuel Pinol accused MILF rebels of attacking government militias and burning civilian houses in North Cotabato. Fighting escalated in the province after rebels and militias clashed sporadically since last week.

The resolution, Pinol said, calls for the immediate relief of Army Brig. Reynaldo Sealana.

The MILF, which is currently negotiating with the government, has recently signed a deal with Manila on ancestral domain that included parts of North Cotabato province in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity that will make up a separate homeland for Muslims in Mindanao.

Pinol, the former governor of North Cotabato, is opposing the inclusion of the province in the ancestral domain and rejected government’s proposal to hold a plebiscite on the areas under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

Pinol accused Sealana of ignoring calls by provincial leaders to sanction the MILF for the attacks, which was a violation of the truce agreement. Sealana said the fighting in the province was triggered by a long-time feud between rebels and militias.

Politicians suggested that Sealana was siding with the MILF.

The MILF said militias, used as private armies of politicians in North Cotabato, were attacking rebel forces in the province, sparking clashes that left several people wounded from both sides the past weeks. It said militias would often attack MILF areas with mortars.

The military said sporadic clashes have forced thousands of villagers to flee their homes for fear they would be trapped in the cross-fire.

The rebel group also branded as unfair the resolution passed by the North Cotabato Provincial Board Council.

“Gen Sealana is not defending the MILF with what is happening in Aleosan, Cotabato for the past weeks. Gen. Sealana is merely doing his mandate, without any reservation, to protect and sustain the ceasefire on the ground and to uphold the primacy of the peace process,” said Toks Ebrahim, Sealana’s counterpart in the MILF.

“My counterpart is doing very well and it is so unfair that an ouster call was imputed on him,” Ebrahim said.

The MILF also wanted the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is composed of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao and Maguindanao province, including Marawi City, postponed until after the peace agreement is signed.

The ARMM is also included in the MILF ancestral domain and also some areas in Zamboanga Peninsula, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces in Mindanao and Palawan in central Philippines where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. (Mindanao Examiner)

What Land Reform? Farmers Group Asked

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2008) - Filipino farmers decried Thursday the government's failure to address the worsening land problems in the Philippines.

“Farmers are not fooled by Mrs. Arroyo’s rhetoric and bloated figures. Such reports cannot mitigate the hunger, disease and the loss of dignity that the crisis has afflicted the rural poor,” said Pedro Arnado, deputy chairman of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao.

He also criticized President Gloria Arroyo's State of the Nation Address this week spelling out her land reform achievement. Arnado's group said 1.651 million hectares of land and the 600,000 ancestral domains reportedly distributed by the Arroyo presidency under its land reform program in the last seven years were mere figures which "hide the suffering condition of farmers and lumads."

Lumad is one of more than dozen indigenous tribes in the southern Philippines. Arnado said problems of farmers on Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program are worsening and is contributing largely to the country’s “chronic” economic disorder.
“Behind these figures, the truth glares us in the face: most CARP lands have already been foreclosed by Land Bank because farmers are hardly able to pay for the high amortization rates, farm lands are without irrigation, farmers have no access to subsidy for farm implements and technology, or these have already been grabbed by multinational corporations.”
“We have no one else to blame for the shortage of rice. It is not at all topography, it is only because we have a president who promotes land conversion in order for multinational companies to get their super profits while our farmers lose their lands and our nation suffers from the worst state of food insecurity in history,” Arnado said in a statement.
He said Mindanao agricultural lands are subject to the encroachment of agri-business investments when Arroyo promised in her previous State of the Nation Address to turn the region as the country's food basket.
He said some 200,000 hectares of lands in southern Mindanao alone have been converted into banana and pineapple plantations by Del Monte and Dole corporations while millions of hectares are also threatened with the looming ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

KMP also dared the Arroyo government to bare the “vast” area of lands which have remained under the property of landed families or those leased to foreign agribusiness and mining corporations.
“We call on the president to never again use the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the Filipino masses for her lies, if she has any dignity and shame left. We will not be with her as she has summoned. We can’t let her bring the nation further into any ‘roller coaster’ disaster,” Arnado said. “Our stand remains, GMA has no moral and political ascendancy to rule this government. She must go,” he said.

NPA Rebels Raid Davao City Village

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 31, 2008) – Communist rebels raided a southern Philippine village as government offensives continue in Mindanao against the New People’s Army.

About 50 NPA rebels stormed the house of a banana grower and seized weapons from security guards after overpowering them late Wednesday in Buhangin district in the outskirts of Davao City. The rebels also raided the Lapanday banana plantation and RTQ construction firm in Buhangin and torched equipment and trucks.

Police and military said there were no reports of casualties or injuries and that security forces were pursuing the raiders. “We have dispatched additional police forces in the area to protect civilians from future attacks by rebels,” said a regional police spokesman, Chief Inspector Querubin Manalang.

Government troops were also deployed to track down the attackers, led by Leonardo Pitao, said Lieutenant Colonel Roland Joselito Bautista, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

“We have deployed more troops to hunt down the NPA terrorists headed by Leonardo Pitao who were responsible for the attacks,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Last week, the rebels also raided a banana plantation owned by Dole Makilala town in North Cotabato province. Rebels also raided a drilling site of the Sagittarius Mines in Davao del Sur's Kiblawan town on July 19 and carted away a dozen firearms from the firm's arsenal.

The NPA said the attack was a punitive action against the banana plantation’s alleged encroachment into the cultivated farmlands of small farmers and indigenous tribes and for the injustices inflicted on its workers by militarizing their legitimate mass protests, and suppressing their leaders.

Rebels have vowed to launch more attacks against government and military targets in the southern Philippines where thousands of troops are battling the NPA, which is fighting for a separate Maoist state the past four decades.

Communist leaders broke off peace talks with the Arroyo government in 2004 after accusing Manila of reneging on its commitments to free all political prisoners and to put a stop to political killings, among others.

The United States and the European Union on Manila’s prodding listed the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, including its political arm, the National Democratic Front, as foreign terrorist organizations and froze their assets abroad. (Romy Bwaga)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Zamboanga Highway Collapses, Hundreds Of Commuters Stranded

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Hundreds of commuters were stranded in Zamboanga City after a portion of a highway collapsed Tuesday.

“The road is now closed and we are working on a diversion road to allow motorists to pass,” said Mayor Celso Lobregat, who inspected the site in the hillside village of Victoria.

Villagers blamed torrential rains the past months to the erosion of the soil that led to the collapse of the concrete road. There were no reports of accidents, but thousands of commuters had been stranded in Zamboanga City because provincial buses cannot pass the road.

About 100 meters of the highway was destroyed after soil beneath the road collapsed about four feet below. Surprisingly, the broken concrete slabs had no steel supports.

Last month, a pregnant mother and her child were killed after a landslide buried a house on the hillside village of Maasin also in Zamboanga City. Heavy rains triggered by typhoon Fengshen had loosened soil that buried the house. (Mindanao Examiner)

Security Forces Foil Abu Sayyaf Raid In Basilan Island

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Police and soldiers foiled an Abu Sayyaf raid Tuesday on a small town in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, where security forces are battling militants tied to Jemaah Islamiya.

Security forces briefly battled some 100 Abu Sayyaf gunmen, backed by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels near Tipo-Tipo town. The gunmen retreated after more soldiers arrived in the town to reinforce a small police team holding back the militants.

“There were no reports of casualties, but the Abu Sayyaf and MILF rebels tried to enter the town,” Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the island’s police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said he deployed more policemen to Tipo-Tipo to beef up security forces in the town. Policemen last week also seized a motorcycle allegedly owned by the Abu Sayyaf at a checkpoint in Tipo-Tipo town, but it was not immediately known if it was connected to the foiled raid.

Police tagged Nurhassan Jamiri, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf and Commander Long, of the MILF, as behind the failed attack. The two had been previously linked to kidnapping and attacks on soldiers in Basilan island, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group.

The MILF has previously denied involvements in past attacks and pointed to the Abu Sayyaf as behind the spate of terrorism on the island, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City.

Last year, Abu Sayyaf and MILF rebels killed and decapitated dozens of soldiers in Basilan after false military intelligence reports led them astray inside rebel territories in Al-Barka town where a kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi was being held.

Bossi was freed by MILF rebels in Lanao province in exchange for a huge government ransom. (Mindanao Examiner)

Gunmen Kill Trader, Wife In Davao City Attack

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Unidentified gunmen killed a rice trader and his wife and injured their two children in an attack outside their house in Davao City in the southern Philippines, police said.

Police said the at least three gunmen were involved in the attack that occurred late Monday in Matina Aplaya village.

The victims, Renie and Molly Caholes, and their children had just arrived home when the gunmen, apparently waiting for them near their house, opened fire killing the couple and also wounded Renie, 12, and Reny, 16.

The gunmen fled on motorcycles after the shooting, a police investigator said.

The motive of the attack is still unknown, but police said robbery, land conflict and the involvement of the communist rebels are being investigated. The victims reportedly owned a vast track of land in Davao del Sur province, where rebels are actively operating.

Robbery incidents have risen in Davao City this year compared to only 1,088 during the first six months in 2007. Police have already recorded 1,602 cases from January to June this year, said Senior Superintendent Ramon Apolinario, chief of the local police force. (Romy Bwaga)

Police, Troops Mount Operation Vs Highway Bandits Who Killed 5 In Mindanao

PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Philippine security forces mounted a massive search for gunmen who robbed a commuter van and killed five of its passengers in Lanao del Sur province in Mindanao, officials said.

Officials said the gunmen flagged down the van late Monday and held up its passengers on a highway near Calanugas town and then killed five of them later.

“We have launched a manhunt against those responsible in the killings. The military is assisting the police in the operation,” Army Brig. Gen. Hilario Atendido, the commander of a military task force in Mindanao, told the Mindanao Examiner.

“Five people were killed in the heist,” he said, adding, more policemen and soldiers have been deployed along the Narciso Ramos highway to protect civilians from further robbery and attacks.

The 180-km long highway connects Lanao del Sur to the province of Maguindanao and is a vital route for traders in Mindanao. It was also the scene of bloody battles between government troops and Muslim rebels in the past.

The bodies of the five men had been recovered on the highway near the town of Malabang. The van was heading to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur when it was waylaid.

Atendido said no groups or individual claimed responsibility for the killings. “Bandits could be behind this attack,” he said.

Highway robbers and criminal gangs have in the past attacked commuter buses and vans in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte provinces.

Early this month, ten gunmen also opened fire on a Zamboanga City-bound commuter bus in the town of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte, killing its driver and wounding several passengers. (Mindanao Examiner)

Eco-Tourism Summit, Kinabayo Festival Successful In Dapitan City

Journalists pose for picture during the 1st National Media Summit on Eco-tourism held recently in Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte province in the southern Philippines. Also in the photo are Dapitan City Councilor Apple Marie Agolong, left, Tourism regional operations manager for Mindanao Romeo Urian and Dapitan City Vice Mayor Patri Bajamunde Chan during the opening of the summit at the Dakak beach resort. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 29, 2008) – Dozens of journalists have pledged to support and help promote eco-tourism in the southern Philippines after the two-day 1st National Media Summit on Eco-tourism held in Dapitan City.

The summit, held at the Dakak beach resort, also coincided with the annual Kinabayo Festival, which is celebrated every July 25 in Dapitan City. Some 50 media participants, together with tourism officials, attended the media summit, said organizer Cheng Ordonez, president of the Peninsula Media Network.

City Councilor Apple Marie Agolong, who chairs the City Council's Committee on Tourism, said the summit was aimed at providing awareness to media practitioners the importance of eco-tourism on national and local economy.

She said resource persons from the Philippine Tourism Authority and City Tourism Council also spoke during the summit. “The role of the media is very vital in promoting local tourism, thus we have conceptualized this media summit,” Agolong told the Mindanao Examiner.

Agolong said Dapitan City is being promoted a major tourism destination in the country because of its beautiful beaches, among them the world-class Dakak resort, and rich culture. “That is why our local tourism stakeholders have come up with programs to aggressively promote Dapitan City as one among the world class tourist destinations in the country,” she said.

Agolong said Dapitan City is also where the Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was exiled for four in July 1892 by the Spaniards. While in exile, Rizal practiced ophthalmology, built a school and waterworks, planned town improvements, wrote, and carried out scientific experiments.

Then he successfully petitioned the Spanish government to join the Spanish army in Cuba as a surgeon; but on his way to Spain to enlist, the Philippine revolution broke out, and Rizal was returned from Spain, imprisoned, and tried for false charges of treason and complicity with the revolution. Rizal was executed on Dec. 30, 1896.

The day before he was executed, Rizal wrote to a friend: “I am innocent of the crime of rebellion. So I am going to die with a tranquil conscience.”Agolong said among the city's tourism potentials include the historical shrine of Rizal.

“The historic exploits of Jose Rizal during his exile in Dapitan make our city a historical tourist place that could not be found in other places in Mindanao,” she said.

She said journalists were also given the opportunity to witness and cover the Kinabayo Festival which is being celebrated in honor of St. James. The festival is a colorful pageant re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish wars, mainly the Battle of Covadonga where the Spanish forces under General Pelagio took their last stand against Saracan.

They were able to overturn the tide through the miraculous spirit of St. James. The addition of local color and modernism has made this annual celebration a popular attraction which brings thousands of tourists to the Dapitan City.

St. James, the Greater is the patron saint of Dapitan City. Earlier on into the Spanish rule, Dapitan was still flooded by Moro pirates. The Jesuit priests fatefully set up St. James, to protect the locals from an attack of invaders. It was believed that in the fifth century, an apparition of St. James, atop a horse carrying a sword, guided the Spanish soldiers into victory over the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga. (Mark Navales)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Photo: Anti-Arroyo Rally In Mindanao

Photos sent to the Mindanao Examiner by Kawagib and Suara Bangsamoro groups show Muslim villagers and political activists during an anti-Arroyo rally in Cotabato City in the southern Philippines Monday, July 28, 2008 which coincided with President Gloria Arroyo’s 8th State of the Nation Address. The demonstrators accused Arroyo of various charges, from human rights violations to the current poverty situation in the country.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo Delivers Her 8th State Of The Nation Address

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo delivers her 8th State of the Nation Address during the opening of the Second Joint Regular Session of the 14th Congress Monday, July 28, 2008 at the Batasang Pambansa. Also in the photo are Senate President Manuel Villar, left, and House Speaker Prospero Nograles. (Photos by Marcelino Pascua)
The following text was President Gloria Arroyo's 8th State of the Nation Address.

Thank you, Speaker Nograles. Senate President Villar. Senators and Representatives. Vice President de Castro, President Ramos, Chief Justice Puno, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen:

I address you today at a crucial moment in world history.

Just a few months ago, we ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong and a million new jobs were created. We were all looking to a better, brighter future.

Because tough choices were made, kumikilos na ang bayan sa wakas. Malapit na sana tayo sa pagbalanse ng budget. We were retiring debts in great amounts, reducing the drag on our country’s development, habang namumuhunan sa taong bayan.

Biglang-bigla, nabaligtad ang ekonomiya ng mundo. Ang pagtalon ng presyo ng langis at pagkain ay nagbunsod ng pandaigdigan krisis, the worst since the Great Depression and the end of World War II. Some blame speculators moving billions of dollars from subprime mortgages to commodities like fuel and food. Others point of the very real surge in demand as millions of Chinese and Indians move up to the middle class.

Whatever the reasons, we are on a roller coaster ride of oil price hikes, high food prices and looming economic recession in the US and other markets. Uncertainty has moved like a terrible tsunami around the globe, wiping away gains, erasing progress.

This is a complex time that defies simple and easy solutions. For starters, it is hard to identify villains, unlike in the 1997 financial crisis. Everyone seems to be a victim, rich countries and poor, though certainly some can take more punishment than others.

To address these global challenges, we must go on building and buttressing bridges to allies around the world: to bring in the rice to feed our people, investments to create jobs; and to keep the peace and maintain stability in our country and the rest of the world. Yet even as we reach out to those who need, and who may need us, we strive for greater self-reliance.

Because tough choices were made, the global crisis did not catch us helpless and unprepared. Through foresight, grit and political will, we built a shield around our country that has slowed down and somewhat softened the worst effects of the global crisis. We have the money to care for our people and pay for food when there are shortages; for fuel despite price spikes.

Neither we nor anyone else in the world expected this day to come so soon but we prepared for it. For the guts not to flinch in the face of tough choices, I thank God. For the wisdom to recognize how needed you are, I thank, you Congress. For footing the bill, I thank the taxpayers.
The result has been, on the one hand, ito ang nakasalba sa bayan; and, on the other, more unpopularity for myself in the opinion polls. Yet, even unfriendly polls show self-rated poverty down to its 20-year low in 2007.

My responsibility as President is to take care to solve the problems we are facing now and to provide a vision and direction for how our nation should advance in the future.

Many in this great hall live privileged lives and exert great influence in public affairs. I am accessible to you, but I spend time every day with the underprivileged and under represented who cannot get a grip on their lives in the daily, all-consuming struggle to make ends meet.

Nag-aalala ako para sa naka-aawang maybahay na pasan ang pananagutan para sa buong pamilya. Nag-aalala ako para sa magsasakang nasa unang hanay ng pambansang produksyon ng pagkain ngunit nagsisikap pakanin ang pamilya. I care for hardworking students soon to graduate and wanting to see hope of good job and a career prospect here at home.

Nag-aalala ako para sa 41-year old na padre de pamilya na di araw-araw ang trabaho, at nag-aabala sa asawa at tatlong anak, at dapat bigyan ng higit pang pagkakakitaan at dangal. I care for our teachers who gave the greatest gift we ever received – a good education – still trying to pass on the same gift to succeeding generations. I care for our OFWs, famed for their skill, integrity and untiring labor, who send home their pay as the only way to touch loved ones so far away.
Nagpupugay ako ngayon sa kanilang mga karaniwang Pilipino.

My critics say this is fiction, along with other facts and figures I cite today. I call it heroism though they don’t need our praise. Each is already a hero to those who matter most, their families.

I said this is a global crisis where everyone is a victim. But only few can afford to avoid, or pay to delay, the worst effects.

Many more have nothing to protect them from the immediate blunt force trauma of the global crisis. Tulad ninyo, nag-aalala ako para sa kanila. Ito ang mga taong bayan na dapat samahan natin. Not only because of their sacrifices for our country but because they are our countrymen.
How do we solve these many complex challenges?

Sa kanilang kalagayan, the answer must be special care and attention in this great hour of need.
First, we must have a targeted strategy with set of precise prescriptions to ease the price challenges we are facing.

Second, food self-sufficiency; less energy dependence; greater self-reliance in our attitude as a people and in our posture as a nation.

Third, short-term relief cannot be at the expense of long term reforms. These reforms will benefit not just the next generation of Filipinos, but the next President as well.

Napakahalaga ang Value Added Tax sa pagharap sa mga hamong ito.

Itong programa ang sagot sa mga problemang namana natin.

Una, mabawasan ang ating mga utang and shore up our fiscal independence.

Pangalawa, higit na pamumuhunan para mamamayan at imprastraktura.

Pangatlo, sapat na pondo para sa mga programang pangmasa.

Thus, the infrastructure links programmed for the our poorest provinces like Northern Samar: Lao-ang-Lapinig-Arteche, right now ay maputik, San Isidro-Lope de Vega; the rehabilitation of Maharlika in Samar.

Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis.

Lalong lumakas ang tiwala ng mga investor dahil sa VAT. Mula P56.50 kada dolyar, lumakas ang piso hanggang P40.20 bago bumalik sa P44 dahil sa mga pabigat ng pangdaigdigang ekonomiya. Kung alisin ang VAT, hihina ang kumpiyansa ng negosyo, lalong tataas ang interes, lalong bababa ang piso, lalong mamahal ang bilihin.

Kapag ibinasura ang VAT sa langis at kuryente, ang mas makikinabang ay ang mga may kaya na kumukonsumo ng 84% ng langis at 90% ng kuryente habang mas masasaktan ang mahihirap na mawawalan ng P80 billion para sa mga programang pinopondohan ngayon ng VAT. Take away VAT and we strip our people of the means to ride out the world food and energy crisis.

We have come too far and made too many sacrifices to turn back now on fiscal reforms. Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard.

The government has persevered, without flip-flops, in its much-criticized but irreplaceable policies, including oil and power VAT and oil deregulation.

Patuloy na gagamitin ng pamahalaan ang lumalago nating yaman upang tulungan ang mga pamilyang naghihirap sa taas ng bilihin at hampas ng bagyo, habang nagpupundar upang sanggahan ang bayan sa mga krisis sa hinaharap.

Para sa mga namamasada at namamasahe sa dyip, sinusugpo natin ang kotong at colorum upang mapataas ang kita ng mga tsuper. Si Federico Alvarez kumikita ng P200 a day sa kaniyang rutang Cubao-Rosario. Tinaas ito ng anti-kotong, anti-colorum ngayon P500 na ang kita niya. Iyan ang paraan kung paano napananatili ang dagdag-pasahe sa piso lamang. Halaga lang ng isang text.

Texting is a way of life. I asked the telecoms to cut the cost of messages between networks. They responded. It is now down to 50 centavos.

Noong Hunyo, nagpalabas tayo ng apat na bilyong piso mula sa VAT sa langis—dalawang bilyong pambayad ng koryente ng apat na milyong mahihirap, isang bilyon para college scholarship o pautang sa 70,000 na estudyanteng maralita; kalahating bilyong pautang upang palitan ng mas matipid na LPG, CNG o biofuel ang motor ng libu-libong jeepney; at kalahating bilyong pampalit sa fluorescent sa mga pampublikong lugar.

Kung mapapalitan ng fluorescent ang lahat ng bumbilya, makatitipid tayo ng lampas P2 billion.

Sa sunod na katas ng VAT, may P1 billion na pambayad ng kuryente ng mahihirap; kalahating bilyon para sa matatandang di sakop ng SSS o GSIS; kalahating bilyong kapital para sa pamilya ng mga namamasada; kalahating bilyon upang mapataas ang kakayahan at equipment ng mga munting ospital sa mga lalawigan. At para sa mga kalamidad, angkop na halaga.

We released P1 billion for the victims of typhoon Frank. We support a supplemental Western Visayas calamity budget from VAT proceeds, as a tribute to the likes of Rodney Berdin, age 13, of Barangay Rombang, Belison, Antique, who saved his mother, brother and sister from the raging waters of Sibalom River.

Mula sa buwang ito, wala nang income tax ang sumusweldo ng P200,000 o mas mababa sa isang taon – P12 billion na bawas-buwis para sa maralita at middle class. Maraming salamat, Congress.

Ngayong may P32 na commercial rice, natugunan na natin ang problema sa pagkain sa kasalukuyan. Nagtagumpay tayo dahil sa pagtutulungan ng buong bayan sa pagsasaka, bantay-presyo at paghihigpit sa price manipulation, sa masipag na pamumuno ni Artie Yap.

Sa mga LGU at religious groups na tumutulong dalhin ang NFA rice sa mahihirap, maraming salamat sa inyo.

Dahil sa subsidy, NFA rice is among the region’s cheapest. While we can take some comfort that our situation is better than many other nations, there is no substitute for solving the problem of rice and fuel here at home. In doing so, let us be honest and clear eyed – there has been a fundamental shift in global economics. The price of food and fuel will likely remain high. Nothing will be easy; the government cannot solve these problems over night. But, we can work to ease the near-term pain while investing in long-term solutions.

Since 2001, new irrigation systems for 146,000 hectares, including Malmar in Maguindanao and North Cotabato, Lower Agusan, Casecnan and Aulo in Nueva Ecija, Abulog-Apayao in Cagayan and Apayao, Addalam in Quirino and Isabela, among others, and the restoration of old systems on another 980,000 hectares have increased our nation’s irrigated land to a historic 1.5 million hectares.

Edwin Bandila, 48 years old, of Ugalingan, Carmen, North Cotabato, cultivated one hectare and harvested 35 cavans. Thirteen years na ginawa iyong Malmar. In my first State of the Nation Address, sabi ko kung hindi matapos iyon sa Setyembre ay kakanselahin ko ang kontrata, papapasukin ko ang engineering brigade, natapos nila. With Malamar, now he cultivates five hectares and produces 97 cavans per hectare. Mabuhay, Edwin! VAT will complete the San Roque-Agno River project.

The Land Bank has quadrupled loans for farmers and fisherfolk. That is fact not fiction. Check it. For more effective credit utilization, I instructed DA to revitalize farmers cooperatives.

We are providing seeds at subsidized prices to help our farmers.

Incremental Malampaya national revenues of P4 billion will go to our rice self-sufficiency program.

Rice production since 2000 increased an average of 4.07% a year, twice the population growth rate. By promoting natural planning and female education, we have curbed population growth to 2.04% during our administration, down from the 2.36 in the 1990’s, when artificial birth control was pushed. Our campaign spreads awareness of responsible parenthood regarding birth spacing. Long years of pushing contraceptives made it synonymous to family planning.
Therefore informed choice should mean letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.

From 1978 to 1981, nag-export tayo ng bigas. Hindi tumagal. But let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Panahon pa ng Kastila bumibili na tayo ng bigas sa labas. While we may know how to grow rice well, topography doesn’t always cooperate.

Nature did not gift us with a mighty Mekong like Thailand and Vietnam, with their vast and naturally fertile plains. Nature instead put our islands ahead of our neighbours in the path of typhoons from the Pacific. So, we import 10% of the rice we consume.

To meet the challenge of today, we will feed our people now, not later, and help them get through these hard times. To meet the challenges of tomorrow, we must become more self-reliant, self-sufficient and independent, relying on ourselves more than on the world.

Now we come to the future of agrarian reform.

There are those who say it is a failure, that our rice importations prove it. There are those who say it is a success—if only because anything is better than nothing. Indeed, people are happier owning the land they work, no matter what the difficulties.Sa SONA noong 2001, sinabi ko, bawat taon, mamamahagi tayo ng dalawang daang libong ektarya sa reporma sa lupa: 100,000 hectares of private farmland and 100,000 of public farmland, including ancestral domains. Di hamak mahigit sa target ang naipamahagi natin sa nakaraang pitong taon: 854,000 hectares of private farmland, 797,000 of public farmland, and Certificates of Ancestral Domain for 525,000 hectares.
Including, over a 100,000 hectares for Bugkalots in Quirino, Aurora, and Nueva Vizcaya. After the release of their CADT, Rosario Camma, Bugkalot chieftain, and now mayor of Nagtipunan, helped his 15,000-member tribe develop irrigation, plant vegetables and corn and achieve food sufficiency. Mabuhay, Chief!

Agrarian reform should not merely subdivide misery, it must raise living standards. Ownership raises the farmer from his but productivity will keep him on his feet.

Sinimula ng aking ama ang land reform noong 1963. Upang mabuo ito, the extension of CARP with reforms is top priority. I will continue to do all I can for the rural as well as urban poor. Ayaw natin na paglaya ng tenant sa landlord, mapapasa-ilalim naman sa usurero. Former tenants must be empowered to become agribusinessmen by allowing their land to be used as collateral.

Dapat mapalaya ng reporma sa lupa ang magsasaka sa pagiging alipin sa iba. Dapat bigyan ang magsasaka ng dangal bilang taong malaya at di hawak ninuman. We must curb the recklessness that gives land without the means to make it productive and bites off more than beneficiaries can chew.

At the same time, I want the rackets out of agrarian reform: the threats to take and therefore undervalue land, the conspiracies to overvalue it.

Be with me on this. There must be a path where justice and progress converge. Let us find it before Christmas. Dapat nating linisin ang landas para sa mga ibig magpursige sa pagsasaka, taglay ang pananalig na ang lupa ay sasagip sa atin sa huli kung gamitin natin ito nang maayos.

Along with massive rice production, we are cutting costs through more efficient transport. For our farm-to-market roads, we released P6 billion in 2007.

On our nautical highways. RORO boats carried 33 million metric tons of cargo and 31 million passengers in 2007. We have built 39 RORO ports during our administration, 12 more are slated to start within the next two years. In 2003, we inaugurated the Western Nautical Highway from Batangas through Mindoro, Panay and Negros to Mindanao. This year we launched the Central Nautical Highway from Bicol mainland, through Masbate, Cebu, Bohol and Camiguin to Mindanao mainland. These developments strengthen our competitiveness.

Leading multinational company Nestle cut transport costs and offset higher milk prices abroad. Salamat, RORO. Transport costs have become so reasonable for bakeries like Gardenia, a loaf of its bread in Iloilo is priced the same as in Laguna and Manila. Salamat muli sa RORO.

To the many LGUs who have stopped collecting fees from cargo vehicles, maraming, maraming salamat.

We are repaving airports that are useful for agriculture, like Zamboanga City Airport.

Producing rice and moving it cheaper addresses the supply side of our rice needs. On the demand side, we are boosting the people’s buying power.

Ginagawa nating labor-intensive ang paggawa at pag-ayos ng kalsada at patubig. Noong SONA ng 2001, naglunsad tayo sa NCR ng patrabaho para sa 20,000 na out of school youth, na tinawag OYSTER. Ngayon, mahigit 20,000 ang ineempleyo ng OYSTER sa buong bansa. In disaster-stricken areas, we have a cash-for-work program.

In training, 7.74 million took technical and vocational courses over the last seven years, double the number in the previous 14 years. In 2007 alone, 1.7 million graduated. Among them are Jessica Barlomento now in Hanjin as supply officer, Shenve Catana, Marie Grace Comendador, and Marlyn Tusi, lady welders, congratulations.

In microfinance, loans have reached P102 billion or 30 times more than the P3 billion we started with in 2001, with a 98% repayment record, congratulations! Major lenders include the Land Bank with P69 billion, the Peoples’ Credit and Finance Corporation P8 billion, the National Livelihood Support Fund P3 billion, DBP P1 billion and the DSWD’s SEA-K P800 million. For partnering with us to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, thank you, Go Negosyo and Joey Concepcion.

Upland development benefits farmers through agro-forestry initiatives. Rubber is especially strong in Zamboanga Sibugay and North Cotabato. Victoria Mindoro, 56 years old, used to earn P5,000 a month as farmer and factory worker. Now she owns 10 hectares in the Goodyear Agrarian Reform Community in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, she earns P10,000 a week. With one hectare, Pedro and Concordia Faviolas of Makilala, North Cotabato, they sent their six children to college, bought two more hectares, and earn P15,000 a month. Congratulations!

Jatropha estates are starting in 900 hectares in and around Tamlang Valley in Negros Oriental; 200 in CamSur; 300 in GenSan, 500 in Fort Magsaysay near the Cordero Dam and 700 in Samar, among others.

In our 2006 SONA, our food baskets were identified as North Luzon and Mindanao.

The sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.

The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office.

The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est reminds us: “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love for neighbour is indispensable.”

Pinagsasama-sama natin ang mga programa ng DSWD, DOH, GSIS, SSS at iba pang lumalaban sa kahirapan sa isang National Social Welfare Program para proteksyonan ang pinaka-mahihirap mula sa pandaigdigang krisis, and to help those whose earnings are limited by illness, disability, loss of job, age and so on—through livelihood projects, microfinance, skills and technology transfer, emergency and temporary employment, pension funds, food aid and cash subsidies, child nutrition and adult health care, medical missions, salary loans, insurance, housing programs, educational and other savings schemes, and now cheaper medicine—Thanks to Congress.

The World Bank says that in Brazil, the income of the poorest 10% has grown 9% per year versus the 3% for the higher income levels due in large part to their family stipend program linking welfare checks to school attendance. We have introduced a similar program, Pantawid Pamilya.

Employers have funded the two increases in SSS benefits since 2005. Thank you, employers for paying the premiums.

GSIS pensions have been indexed to inflation and have increased every year since 2001. Its salary loan availments have increased from two months equivalent to 10 months, the highest of any system public or private—while repayments have been stretched out.

Pag-Ibig housing loans increased from P3.82 billion in 2001 to P22.6 billion in 2007. This year it experienced an 84% increase in the first four months alone. Super heating na. Dapat dagdagan ng GSIS at buksan muli ng SSS ang pautang sa pabahay. I ask Congress to pass a bill allowing SSS to do housing loans beyond the present 10% limitation.

Bago ako naging Pangulo, isa’t kalahating milyong maralita lamang ang may health insurance. Noong 2001, sabi natin, dadagdagan pa ng kalahating milyon. Sa taong iyon, mahigit isang milyon ang nabigyan natin. Ngayon, 65 milyong Pilipino na ang may health insurance, mahigit doble ng 2000, kasama ang labinlimang milyong maralita.
Philhealth has paid P100 billion for hospitalization. The indigent beneficiaries largely come from West and Central Visayas, Central Luzon, and Ilocos. Patuloy nating palalawakin itong napaka-importanted programa, lalo na sa Tawi-Tawi, Zambo Norte, Maguindanao, Apayao, Dinagat, Lanao Sur, Northern Samar, Masbate, Abra and Misamis Occidental. Lalo na sa kanilang mga magsasaka at mangingisda.

In these provinces and in Agusan Sur, Kalinga, Surigao Sur and calamity-stricken areas, we will launch a massive school feeding program at P10 per child every school day.

Bukod sa libreng edukasyon sa elementarya at high school, nadoble ang pondo para sa mga college scholarships, while private high school scholarship funds from the government have quadrupled.

I have started reforming and clustering the programs of the DepEd, CHED and TESDA.

As with fiscal and food challenges, the global energy crunch demands better and more focused resource mobilization, conservation and management.

Government agencies are reducing their energy and fuel bills by 10%, emulating Texas Instruments and Philippine Stock Exchange who did it last year. Congratulations, Justice Vitug and Francis Lim.

To reduce power system losses, we count on government regulators and also on EPIRA amendments.

We are successful in increasing energy self-sufficiency—56%, the highest in our history. We promote natural gas and biofuel; geothermal fields, among the world’s largest; windmills like those in Ilocos and Batanes; and the solar cells lighting many communities in Mindanao. The new Galoc oil field can produce 17,000-22,000 barrels per day, 1/12 of our crude consumption.

The Renewable Energy Bill has passed the House. Thank you, Congressmen.

Our costly commodity imports like oil and rice should be offset by hard commodities exports like primary products, and soft ones like tourism and cyberservices, at which only India beats us.

Our P 350 million training partnership with the private sector should qualify 60,000 for call centers, medical transcription, animation and software development, which have a projected demand of one million workers generating $13 billion by 2010.

International finance agrees with our progress. Credit rating agencies have kept their positive or stable outlook on the country. Our world competitiveness ranking rose five notches.
Congratulations to us.

We are sticking to, and widening, the fiscal reforms that have earned us their respect.

To our investors, thank you for your valuable role in our development. I invite you to invest not only in factories and services, but in profitable infrastructure, following the formula for the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.

I ask business and civil society to continue to work for a socially equitable, economically viable balance of interests. Mining companies should ensure that host communities benefit substantively from their investments, and with no environmental damage from operations.

Our administration enacted the Solid Waste Management Act, Wildlife Act, Protection of Plant Varieties, Clean Water Act, Biofuels Act and various laws declaring protected areas.

For reforestation, for next year we have budgeted P2 billion. Not only do forests enhance the beauty of the land, they mitigate climate change, a key factor in increasing the frequency and intensity of typhoons and costing the country 0.5% of the GDP.

We have set up over 100 marine and fish sanctuaries since 2001. In the whaleshark sanctuary of Donsol, Sorsogon, Alan Amanse, 40-year-old college undergraduate and father of two, was earning P100 a day from fishing and driving a tricycle. Now as whaleshark-watching officer, he is earns P1,000 a day, ten times his former income.

For clean water, so important to health, there is P500 million this year and P1.5 billion for next year.

From just one sanitary landfill in 2001, we now have 21, with another 18 in the works.

We launched the Zero Basura Olympics to clear our communities of trash. Rather than more money, all that is needed is for each citizen to keep home and workplace clean, and for garbage officials to stop squabbling.

Our investments also include essential ways to strengthen our institutions of governance in order to fight the decades-old scourge of corruption. I will continue to fight this battle every single day. While others are happy with headlines through accusation without evidence and privilege speeches without accountability, we have allocated more than P3 billion – the largest anti-graft fund in our history – for real evidence gathering and vigorous prosecution.

From its dismal past record, the Ombudsman’s conviction rate has increased 500%. Lifestyle checks, never seriously implemented before our time, have led to the dismissal and/or criminal prosecution of dozens of corrupt officials.

I recently met with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US agency that provides grants to countries based on governance. They have commended our gains, contributed P1 billion to our fight against graft, and declared us eligible for more grants. Thank you!

Last September, we created the Procurement Transparency Group in the DBM and linked it with business, academe, and the Church, to deter or catch anomalies in government contracts.
On my instruction, the BIR and Customs established similar government-civil society tie-ups for information gathering and tax evasion and smuggling monitoring.

More advanced corruption practices require a commensurate advances in legislative responses. Colleagues in Congress, we need a more stringent Anti-Graft Act.Sa pagmahal ng bilihin, hirap na ang mamimili – tapos, dadayain pa. Dapat itong mahinto. Hinihiling ko sa Kongreso na magpasa ng Consumer Bill of Rights laban sa price gouging, false advertising at iba pang gawain kontra sa mamimili.

I call on all our government workers at the national and local levels to be more responsive and accountable to the people. Panahon ito ng pagsubok. Kung saan kayang tumulong at dapat tumulong ang pamahalaan, we must be there with a helping hand. Where government can contribute nothing useful, stay away. Let’s be more helpful, more courteous, more quick.

Kaakibat ng ating mga adhikain ang tuloy na pagkalinga sa kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino. Iisa ang ating pangarap – maunlad at mapayapang lipunan, kung saan ang magandang kinabukasan ay hindi pangarap lamang, bagkus natutupad.

Sama-sama tayo sa tungkuling ito. May papel na gagampanan ang bawat mamamayan, negosyante, pinunong bayan at simbahan, sampu ng mga nasa lalawigan.

We are three branches but one government. We have our disagreements; we each have hopes, and ambitions that drive and divide us, be they personal, ethnic, religious and cultural. But we are one nation with one fate.

As your President, I care too much about this nation to let anyone stand in the way of our people’s wellbeing. Hindi ko papayagang humadlang ang sinuman sa pag-unlad at pagsagana ng taong bayan. I will let no one – and no one’s political plans – threaten our nation’s survival.
Our country and our people have never failed to be there for us. We must be there for them now.

Maraming salamat. Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Kinabayo Festival In Southern Philippines

Subanon indigenous people show their best at the recent Kinabayo Festival in Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte province in the southern Philippines. The annual celebration is being held in honor of Saint James, whom Catholics say defended Christian settlers in Dapitan City during an invasion by Muslim warriors in the 18th century. The festival coincided also with the 1st National Media Summit on Eco-tourism held in Dapitan's Dakak beach resort. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)

Photo: Zamboanga's Poor Garbage Collectors

Government garbage men in Zamboanga City collect thrash Monday, July 28, 2008 without safety boots, gloves and dust masks making them more vulnerable to injuries and diseases. Many garbage collectors in Zamboanga are without basic protection despite the government's more than P2 billion in banks. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Philippine, MILF Negotiators Back On Peace Table Again

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Security Forces Break Up Anti-Arroyo Rally In Zamboanga, Elsewhere In Mindanao Successful

Photos released to the Mindanao Examiner by the Suara Bangasamoro and Liga ng Kabataang Moro show its members before they were dispersed by government soldiers and policemen and City Hall personnel in Zamboanga City on Monday, July 28, 2008.

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2008) – Soldiers and policemen broke up Monday an anti-Arroyo rally in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga, which coincided with President Gloria Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address, organizers said.

Amira Lidasan, of the human rights group called Suara Bangasamoro, said policemen dispersed dozens of students and political activists who were holding a rally to protest the high prices of basic commodities and the poverty situation of the country under Arroyo’s seven-year rule.
“We are just expressing our sentiments, but apparently there is no freedom of expression and speech in Zamboanga City. City Hall ordered the police to break up the rally,” Lidasan told reporters.

Police said the rally had no permit and students were obstructing traffic near the Western Mindanao State University. Lidasan said the local government previously rejected their application to hold peaceful rallies in Zamboanga.

“How can we have a permit when City Hall is not granting us such permission? We were threatened with arrest by soldiers and policemen. They threatened to seize our vehicles if we do not disperse or stop our rally,” Lidasan said.

She said Elmer Apolinario, a senior City Hall official, led the dispersal of the rally.
Prior to the dispersal, Apolinario told a local radio station DXRZ Radyo Agong that the rally had no permission and ordered security forces to disperse the protesters.

Lidasan said they had been holding rallies in Zamboanga City every time Arroyo delivers her State of the Nation Address and it was the first time local authorities stopped them.

One protester, Abdel Abdulkarim, said only anti-Muslim or anti-ARMM protests or pro-government rallies are allowed in Zamboanga. “This is unfair. We have our rights too,” he said.

Abdulkarim was referring to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Local officials in the past had opposed any conference of the ARMM in Zamboanga City and would tell organizers to bring their meeting elsewhere, like in Cotabato City or areas covered by the autonomous region.

The ARMM is composed of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao and Maguindanao provinces. Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi which are near Zamboanga City have contributed largely to the bulk of the local economy.

Most of the elected officials in Zamboanga City were former members of the opposition party Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, but have allied themselves with Arroyo’s own Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino party after a merger last year.

Militant groups led by Bayan and other farmers’ organizations also held simultaneous protest rallies in key cities in Mindanao.

“President Arroyo should think twice before letting out promises that are already nailed even before she even finishes her SONA. Since 2001, she has promised cheap rice, prosperous farmers, and rice self-sufficiency. Now we dare her to look at the landless farmers eating root crops, bananas or nothing at all.”

“Look at the paupers in the street as they are made to beg for two kilos of rice which has tripled in cost,” said Tony Salubre, acting spokesperson of the Farmers Association of Davao City.

Pedro Arnado, deputy chairman of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao, said more than 4,000 protesters held a rally in North Cotabato province to protest Arroyo’s failure to improve the country’s poverty situation.

“Under GMA, this country has gone through the worst economic and political tragedy that this nation has never experienced before. The immorality, corruption, militarism and puppetry that have become the central policy of this regime, has made us the sick man of Asia that we are today,” Arnado said.

The Kawagib Moro Human Rights group also assailed Arroyo’s pro-poor program and her failure to stop the rising cost of fuel and rice in the country.

“Arroyo’s so-called pro-poor programs such as ‘Ramdam ang Kaunlaran’ and ‘Katas ng VAT’ as well as the mushrooming of foreign capitalists in the country, will again be the frontage of her rhetoric in the pretext of helping the Bangsamoro and Filipino people.”

“But the truth continues to hunt the poor people. In a survey of Social Weather Station, 50% of the 88.9 million Filipinos are ‘self-rated poor’ and 14.9 million experiences hunger everyday while prices of oil and basic commodities continue to skyrocket. Cases of human rights violations are also continuing while the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination is not recognized,” it said.

Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said Arroyo has such a long record of lying that no one expects her to describe the real state of the nation and indicate the solutions to the problems that have grown terribly worse under her regime.

“She is ever more determined to lie in a vain attempt to evade responsibility for the extremely aggravated suffering of the Filipino people. But reality cries far louder and clearer than her lies. These add insult to injury. And the outraged people become ever more resolute and relentless in their struggle.”

“Arroyo is poised to claim that she has nothing to do with the crisis of the domestic ruling system and that this is simply the result of external factors that would soon blow away. She is likely to repeat her lie that the economy continues to grow and that she has already laid the basis for the Philippines to become a "first world country" in the next twenty years, even as she has not undertaken any program of national industrialization and land reform,” he said in a statement released on Monday.

The New People’s Army, CPP’s military wing, have been fighting the democratic government the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the Philippines.

It broke off peace talks with the Arroyo government in 2004 after rebel leaders accused Manila of reneging on previous agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners and to put a stop on the extra-judicial killings of political activists in the Philippines.

Arroyo, accused by opposition politicians of cheating and electoral fraud in 2004 Presidential elections and whose administration has been involved in many corruption scandals, is extremely unpopular in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Peasants March In Southern Philippines, Disgruntled Over Arroyo's Rule

Peasants march in Philippines.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2008) - Chanting their disappointment over what they call seven “unlucky” years of grave destitution of the Filipino farmers under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency, peasants on Monday marched in Davao City in the southern Philippines to protest the current poverty situation in the country.

The protest coincided with President Gloria Arroyo’s 8th State of the Nation Address. Farmers together with Lumad tribesmen from Davao City’s said they are disgruntled and angry with the way the country, especially the agricultural sector, has been under Arroyo’s rule.

“President Arroyo should think twice before letting out promises that are already nailed even before she even finishes her SONA. Since 2001, she has promised cheap rice, prosperous farmers, and rice self-sufficiency. Now we dare her to look at the landless farmers eating root crops, bananas or nothing at all.”

“Look at the paupers in the street as they are made to beg for two kilos of rice which has tripled in cost,” said Tony Salubre, acting spokesperson of the Farmers Association of Davao City (FADC-KMP). Salubre cited landlessness as the prevailing problem of 70 % of the farmers in the region, a big percentage of whom are joining the increasing number of farm workers in banana or other crop plantations who he claim suffer from extremely low and unjust wages.

The protesters gathered at the Freedom Park where actors staged a play which showed hooded men in the act of beheading a farmer with a sickle, labeled with words “E-VAT (expanded value added tax) and RICE CRISIS.” Farmers complained that they are hardly able to get through a day with food on their stomach because of the high cost of basic commodities. Pedro Arnado, vice-chairperson of KMP- SMR, said more than 4,000 protesters also held a similar protest in North Cotabato province.

“Under GMA, this country has gone through the worst economic and political tragedy that this nation has never experienced before. The immorality, corruption, militarism and puppetry that have become the central policy of this regime, has made us the sick man of Asia that we are today,” Arnado said.

Arnado said the Arroyo presidency has been the worst “executioner” of farmers and Lumad who, due to extreme hardship is motivated to struggle and resistance.

Militant group KAWAGIB said Arroyo’s so-called pro-poor programs such as ‘Ramdam ang Kaunlaran’ and ‘Katas ng VAT’ as well as the mushrooming of foreign capitalists in the country, will again be the frontage of her rhetoric in the pretext of helping the Bangsamoro and Filipino people.

“But the truth continues to hunt the poor people. In a survey of Social Weather Station, 50% of the 88.9 million Filipinos are ‘self-rated poor’ and 14.9 million experiences hunger everyday while prices of oil and basic commodities continue to skyrocket. Cases of human rights violations are also continuing while the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination is not recognized,” it said.

Militant Groups Slam Govt For Suspending Classes On Day Of Arroyo's SONA

An anti-Arroyo protester.

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 28, 2008) – Militant groups and political activists criticized the Arroyo government for ordering the suspension of classes in many schools Monday in Manila which coincided on the President’s State of the Nation Address.

The government suspended classes in many schools in Manila because of the typhoon IGME, whose international code is FUNG WONG.
Militant groups accused the government of preventing students to join a massive rally to protest Arroyo’s failure to bring down high gas prices and rising cost of basic commodities

Filipino weather experts said the typhoon was heading to Taiwan.

Leaders of the militant groups BAYAN and its affiliates said they will stage simultaneous rallies in key cities and provinces in the country during Arroyo’s address.

Arroyo, accused by opposition politicians of cheating and electoral fraud in 2004 Presidential elections and whose administration has been involved in many corruption scandals, is extremely unpopular in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Typhoon Watch: IGME July 28, 2008

Satellite image of Typhoon IGME as of 5 a.m. July 28, 2008

Synopsis: At 2 a.m. today, Typhoon "IGME" was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 280 kms north northeast of Basco, Batanes (23.0°N, 122.4°E) with maximum sustained winds of 140 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 170 kph. It is moving west northwest at 15 kph.

Forecast: Extreme Northern Luzon will experience stormy weather. The rest of Northern Luzon will have rains and gusty winds and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. The rest of Luzon and Western Visayas will have monsoon rains. The rest of Visayas will experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms. Mindanao will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the southwest will prevail over the rest of Luzon and Visayas and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, light to moderate winds coming from the south and southwest will prevail with slight to moderate seas except during thunderstorms. (PAGASA)

Kidnappers Free 3 Hostages In Basilan Island

BASILAN, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2008) – Three people kidnapped in the southern Philippine island of Basilan have been released late Sunday by their captors, police said.

Police said the trio had been freed on a remote village in the town of Al-Barka, a known stronghold of the Muslim separatist rebels Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

It was not immediately if ransom was paid in exchange for the freedom of Ronnie Ando, Wilma Sumergido and her son Michael, who were kidnapped July 20 on a highway near Lamitan town.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad identified the two of the victims as Vilma Ayson and Wilma Suharludo.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, Basilan police chief, said the three hostages were freed at around 10.50 p.m. to a village chieftain, Asbie Alkie, who negotiated with the kidnappers. “They are all freed and we are glad it’s over,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Six people, including two village officials, were kidnapped in Basilan in recent weeks and four of them had been ransomed off while police rescued the remaining hostages. The kidnappings have been blamed to the Abu Sayyaf and rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Manila Gives In To MILF Demand, Signs Deal On Muslim Homeland In Troubled South

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2008) – Philippine peace negotiators late Sunday rushed to make a deal with Muslim rebels and promised them ancestral homeland hours before President Gloria Arroyo is to deliver her State of the Nation Address.

Government negotiators and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels have agreed on the issue of ancestral domain and formal signing has been set next month, said Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator.

“We have already initialed the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain at ten p.m. tonight. There will be formal signing on August. The document is secured from further discussion,” Iqbal told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from Kuala Lumpur where the peace talks were held.

Rebel leaders have accused the Arroyo government of reneging on previous agreements on the Muslim ancestral domain that led to the failure of the peace talks in Malaysia, which is mediating in the negotiations.

Government peace negotiators led by Rodolfo Garcia tried to change an earlier deal on the ancestral domain that led to the collapse of the talks on Friday, Iqbal said.

President Gloria Arroyo’s peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon flew Sunday to Malaysia to restart the stalled talks and eventually agreeing to the rebel demand for a separate homeland.

The MILF also wanted the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) postponed until after the peace agreement is signed. The five-province ARMM is included in the ancestral domain, including some areas in Zamboanga Peninsula, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces in Mindanao where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And also Palawan Island in central Philippines.

The formal signing of the agreement on the ancestral domain was originally set on August 5. Arroyo has supported the proposal to postpone the ARMM polls for the peace talks to succeed. Arroyo is also expected to include the MILF peace talks in her State of the Nation Address on Monday morning.

Iqbal said the formal signing would be held in Malaysia with Esperon, Garcia and Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Arroyo’s security adviser.

Esperon said there is need to amend the Constitution to allow plebiscite on areas under the ancestral domain that would make up the so-called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and give Muslims their own homeland.

The MILF previously said it will not sign any peace deal with the Arroyo government unless its demand for self-determination is granted. Last year, peace talks were also stalled after government negotiators reneged on the same deal.

Arroyo opened peace talks with the MILF in 2001 after deposing President Joseph Estrada in a bloodless revolution. But despite the peace talks, sporadic fighting between rebels and soldiers still continue in Mindanao with both sides accusing each other of violating a fragile truce accord.

The MILF is fighting for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in Mindanao, whose more than 18 million populations include about 4 million Muslims.

The Arroyo government previously offered the MILF the whole of the Muslim autonomous region, which is composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi which are among the poorest in the country torn by strife and clan wars since its creation in 1989. The MILF flatly rejected the offer and insisted on self-determination.

But peace negotiators earlier this month signed an agreement in Kuala Lumpur that will empower the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity to build, develop and maintain its own institutions, inclusive of civil service, electoral, financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, police and internal security force, judicial system and correctional institutions necessary for developing a progressive Muslim society. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine WBO Champ Retains Belt

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2008) – Philippine boxing champion Eric Canoy retained his WBO Oriental Featherweight belt after a technical draw Sunday with Thailand’s Terdsak Jandaeng in Zamboanga City.

The draw was decided after a head clash on the 4th of the 12-round bout that cut Canoy’s right eye. Referee Bruce McTavish stopped the fight on the suggestion of a ringside physician.

Canoy has 5 knockouts of the seven wins to his career record while Jandaeng boasts of 20 knockout wins in his 33 professional fights.

Indian astrologer Bejan Daruwalla earlier predicted that Canoy may win the fight.
"Ganesha finds that Eric Canoy may win in this boxing match and Terdsak Jandaeng may lose, despite good performance," the astrologer said in his website Ganesha. (Mindanao Examiner)

Soldiers Wounded In Sulu Island Clash

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2008) – At least two government soldiers were reported wounded in a clash Sunday with unidentified gunmen in the southern Philippine island of Pangutaran off Sulu province.

The Philippine military did not give any statement about the fighting and spokesmen and security officials ignored calls by journalists who were verifying the reports. Two Marine soldiers were injured in the clash on the island where pirates and Abu Sayyaf militants were believed to be hiding.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said there is an ongoing military operation in Pangutaran after local leaders sought the help of the military to run after pirates and criminals, including the Abu Sayyaf who were behind extortion activities and attacks on trawlers and small fishermen at sea.

"We are supporting the ongoing military and police operation aimed at neutralizing the lawless elements," Tan told the Mindanao Examiner.

Police said it would deploy more forces on the island to secure civilians and protect them from possible attacks by lawless groups. "We will send more police forces in Pangutaran and enforce law and order on the island," Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim, the provincial police chief, said in a separate interview.

Kasim said he would replace the current police chief on the island.

The fighting occurred as politicians running for the August 11 elections in the Muslim autonomous region are campaigning. Sulu is one of five provinces that comprise the autonomous region.

Piracy is rampant in Sulu Sea where trawlers and ferries had been attacked in the past by gunmen. (Mindanao Examiner)

Philippine Storm Watch: IGME July 27, 2008

Synopsis: At 2 a.m. today, Typhoon "IGME" was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 360 kms east northeast of Basco, Batanes (21.2°N, 125.6°E) with maximum sustained winds of 120 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 150 kph. It is moving west at 11 kph.

Forecast: Extreme Northern Luzon will experience stormy weather. The rest of Northern Luzon will have rains and gusty winds and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. The rest of the country particularly the western sections will experience monsoon rains.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the southwest will prevail over the rest of Luzon and the western sections of Visayas and Mindanao and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, light to moderate winds coming from the southwest will prevail with slight to moderate seas except during thunderstorms. (PAGASA)

Mayor's Bodyguard Killed After Attacking Soldier At Checkpoint

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 27, 2008) – A bodyguard of a southern Philippine town mayor was killed after he attacked and shot a government soldier at a checkpoint in Zamboanga City.

Police said soldiers were manning the checkpoint when they stopped a man who was carrying a pistol before dawn Saturday. The man, identified as Hajan Abubakar, fought off the soldiers who tried to arrest him.

Abubakar, an alleged bodyguard of Sibuco town Mayor Norbi Edding, drew his gun and shot one soldier. Abubakar, who earlier harassed innocent civilian, was later killed by soldiers.

Police and military have imposed a total gun ban in Zamboanga City since last year because of the spate of killings and criminalities. (Mindanao Examiner)

Rebels Raid Mindanao Town, 3 Soldiers Hurt

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Philippine Storm Watch: IGME July 26, 2008

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration

Synopsis: At 2 p.m. today, Tropical Storm "IGME" was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 510 kms east northeast of Basco, Batanes (21.5°N, 127.0°E) with maximum sustained winds of 115 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 145 kph. It is moving west at 15 kph.

Forecast: Batanes group of islands will experience stormy weather while the rest of Extreme Northern Luzon will have rains and gusty winds and the coastal waters along these areas will be rough. The rest of the country will have mostly cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the southwest will prevail over Luzon and the western sections of Visayas and Mindanao and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, light to moderate winds coming from the southwest will prevail with slight to moderate seas except during thunderstorms.