Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zamboanga Boulevard Now Off Limits To Vendors

Sunset in Zamboanga City's R.T. Lim Boulevard. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 30, 2011) – Local government officials have banned the selling of snacks and other foods along a boulevard in Zamboanga City’s beach front as part of a beautification and sanitation program.

Officials said vendors along the stretch of the R.T. Lim Boulevard were also violating at least three city ordinances and one of them is the anti-littering law. The boulevard was recently renovated with portion of the break wall expanded to a few meters.

The area is also a favorite of promenaders because of Zamboanga’s famous sunset and cool breeze. Locals also gather at the beach every weekend for picnic, but seawater around the boulevard is polluted.

Many promenaders welcomed the move to ban vendors in the area because of sanitation problem and also urged the local government to put up portable toilets and additional trash bins along the one-kilometer stretch, including a sign warning swimmers that the sea is polluted. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mining operations in the Philippines alarm environment groups

Sister Stella Matutina, Secretary-General of Panalipdan Mindanao, speaks during a news conference in Digos City in Mindanao.

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 30, 2011) – A Filipino environment coalition called ‘Panalipdan Mindanao’ said the Aquino government should stop pushing for large scale mining operations in the country following the deaths many villagers in a landslide that hit a mining community in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town.

The group lamented the deaths of more than a dozen people and said Manila should think twice before pushing allowing liberalized large scale mining and other activities that pose threats to communities. In a news conference in Digos City that coincided with Earth Day, the group said Aquino should heed the Pantukan incident as a warning.

“It is the irony that the Aquino administration pursues liberalized large-scale mining which brings about far greater effects of waste spilling, denudation of forests, and depletion of water resources. The government’s eleven priority large-scale, open-pit mining projects in Mindanao promise to be exponentially destructive,” it said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

“The Pantukan incident showed the dangers posed by the mining industry and stressed the need for government to regulate small scale mining along nationalist development goals,” it said, adding that Aquino's Mindanao 2020 program is potentially damaging since it promotes industries that destroy natural resources.

Sister Stella Matutina, Secretary-General of Panalipdan Mindanao,’ said what Filipino communities need is food security rather than so-called development projects that damage resources, such as mining, hydro and coal-fired plants, and agri-business expansion. “Such projects have shown its negative impact towards communities, harming their sources of livelihood,” she said.

Hundreds of people from various organizations have attended Panalipdan Mindanao’s Earth Day conference from April 25 to April 27.

Presidente Aquino nagmando og pagpangita og bag-o nga Ombudsman

Si Presidente Benigno Aquino III ug resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. (Photo by Jay Morales)

MAYNILA - Si Presidente Benigno Aquino III nagmando sa pagpangita alang sa bag-o nga Ombudsman human si Merceditas Gutierrez mi-undang kaniadtong Biernes, mga duha ka semana sa wala pa magsugod ang usa ka impeachment nga proseso nga gitumong sa pagkuha kaniya gikan sa buhatan, report sa Philippine Information Agency kagahapon.

“I now urge the Judicial and Bar Council to begin the search for a new Ombudsman. With the support of the public, we can now proceed more decisively in making government officials more accountable to their bosses, the Filipino people,” matud sa Presidente sa usa mensahe kagahapon.

Si Presidente Aquino mipahayag nga siya nalipay sa pag-undang ni Gutierrez, sa pagdugang nga ang Kongreso karon makatutuk na sa mga butang nga naglambigit sa nasudnon nga kaayohan kaysa paggasto og panahon diha sa pagpahigayon og hataas nga proseso sa impeachment.

“Her action has spared the country from a long and divisive impeachment process that would have distracted our lawmakers from dealing with the many problems we face today,” dugang pahayag sa Presidente.

Kauban sa pagkansela sa proseso sa impeachment, ang Kongreso karon nagtutuk kalabot sa sobra sa 20 ka prayoridad nga mga lakang nga ang iyang administrasyon nagpaluyo, mga balaodnon nga nagkinahanglan og dinalian nga pagpasa tungod sa ilang mga benepisyo ngadto sa mga katawhan, matud niya.

Sa sama nga higayon, ang Presidente nagpasalamat sa House of Representatives nga nagtrabaho pag-ayo diha sa paglantugi og pagsumite sa impeachment nga reklamo ngadto sa Senado.

Gipangutana sa mga magtatahu, kon si Gutierrez makalingkawas na human makahimo og lakang sa pag-undang og gipangutana siya kon adunay konsesyon, ang Presidente mipahayag nga wala siya nangita og bisan unsa nga i-uli tungod sa pag-undang ni Gutierrez.

Ang Presidente nagdugang nga, “ that judicial reform is one of his plans under his leadership and at the same time acknowledged the weaknesses of the country’s judicial system, noting that there must be prioritization in going after those who committed misdeeds.”

Out-of-School Youths nihuman sa e-Skwela bridge course

CEBU CITY - Mikabat sa 31 ka mga out-of-school youths o mga batan-ong wala nagtungha ang migradwar sa e-Skwela bridge course sa barangay Mabolo, siyudad sa Sugbo.

Gitawag kini nga “Ang Kwelang Eskwela”. Ang e-Skwela gimugna sa barangay Mabolo alang sa mga kabatan-onan ug mga edad-edaran nga maka-angkon ug diploma bisan pa man sa ilang katiguwangon ug sa kalisod sa pinansyal nga kahimtang.

Usa sa 31 ka OSYs ang nihuman sa elementarya samtang ang nahibilin nigradwar sa sekondarya.

Aduna usa'y 38 nga nihuman sa Basic Computer Literacy Course (BCLC). Ang paghuman sa kurso motugbang ug regular nga elementarya, sekondarya o BCLC curriculum.

Ang mga nigradwar nidawat sa ilang mga diploma nga pinirmahan sa Education Secretary nga si Armin Luistro niadtong Abrill 11. (Angie Amodia)

Can Websites Fight Poverty?

QUEZON CITY, Philippines - It began six years ago with a gathering of 30 unassuming women from struggling households.

The meeting place was rather downcast-Tatalon, Quezon City is one of the most destitute communities in Manila. However, the talk in the microfinance lecture was jovial and even hopeful. Each mother or young wife was absorbed, looking for ways to straighten out their living conditions.

Their words drifted across the room like lifeboats in a wide and stormy sea. Until someone who had just arrived unannounced turned to listen, and the words reached her heart like lifeboats touching land to call home.

The unexpected visitor was former president Tita Cory Aquino. The women, upon noticing the PinoyME chairperson, scrambled to give her a decent seat. However, Tita Cory only gently asked them to ignore her and to continue their meeting. She was there to hear out what they had to say.

A woman asked shyly asked where she could get a loan of P2000 for a banana-cue kiosk. Another said she needed P5,000 to maintain her sari-sari store. As Tita Cory quietly listened to their plans, she became convinced that microfinance was the most potent tool to provide the women means to build more prosperous lives. With sufficient training and support, poor Filipinos can bring an end to poverty.

These were the lessons and the words she heard in Tatalon-words she gave voice to, and shared with businessmen, NGO workers, and others when she called out for support for her last advocacy-a new people power that would translate to better lives for more Filipinos, the People Power of Microenterprise Development.

"Over the past year, I have been inspired by the noble work of microfinance institutions which have reached out to the entrepreneurial poor, giving them the means to uplift their lives through honest and hard work," she said in one of her last speeches. "The small but steady income from their microenterprises makes it possible for them to eat decent meals, to send their children to school and to nurture dreams of a better life."

Tita Cory and PinoyME

If there was one great act that our former president never stopped doing, it was that she always took time to listen. Perhaps it is for this reason that many consider her the mother of Filipino democrocacy, and why so many of us relate to her to the point that we braved the rain and choked back tears during her funeral.

In the case of the women microentrepreneurs, she listened and brought about PinoyME, a vehicle to support microentrepreneurs through funding, training, capacity building, and by helping them find markets for their products.

On its fifth anniversary, PinoyME gathered with other stakeholders to discuss and build on the efforts of the private sector to empower enterprising Filipinos in poor communities. It brought about promsing dialogue and partnerships that PinoyME seeks to cultivate through a website.

The DPC Yellow Pages, the market leader in directories advertising in the country, volunteered to produce this website, which would serve as online portal for all microentrepreneurs and microenterprise stakeholders. It is envisioned to be a virtual marketplace where big companies, small producers, consolidators, and other service providers can make inquiries, exchange information, forge partnerships, or even make transactions.

"The whole thrust is to use people power for people to help themselves," DPC president Bong Bautista said. " I myself have been a entrepreneur for the last 40 years, and I know the issues. Most entrepreneurs know the operating side. If I'm a tailor I know how to sew, if I want to put up a microenterprise like a pandesal store I know how to bake. But the shortfall of most microentrepreneurs is marketing. They probably know how to sell, but the marketing side is not that easy.

"You are there in some barrio or even in a big city, even here in Metro Manila, you're out there starting your small trading company-how do you market this? If you do not have a huge budget for advertising, how are people going to know what you are offering? And then here comes the People-Powered Markets website."

"I remember more than ten years ago I used to be supplying a company. But that needed me to talk to some friends, to some executives. And it took some time, months before I can do my first shipment-e ako may network. But what about those small guys? How will they be able to tap that market? These are your neighborhood bakeries, the trading companies. We are probably their only source of advertising, their only souce to connect to the rest of the world."

People-Powered Website

The People-Powered Markets website is modeled after the Yellow Pages website with functionalities that allow a consumer to find a product in a specific location. For instance, if one is looking for a sari-sari store in San Pedro, Laguna one only needs to type "sari-sari store" in the What search box, and "San Pedro, Laguna" in the Where box. A list of sari-sari stores will then be provided after a clicking the Find it button.

Moreover, the website will incorporate social network features that allow microentrepreneurs to upload profiles of their businesses, including photographs of the products and maps to help customers find their stores. This would be huge help to a microentrepreneur such as a stuff toy maker or food vendor who can now go to a nearby computer shop, and advertise teddy bears or tapsilog to buyers online.

The site will more importantly help big companies partner with microentrepreneurs as it provides them a database of small businessmen and their products. "Our vision is really very simple. To develop a marketplace so that the buyers and sellers could meet," said Bautista.

Bautista is particularly proud and excited about the website. He explains that while DPC Yellow Pages has worked before with NGOs in community development projects-DPC volunteered its employees in house-building efforts with Gawad Kalinga-this is the first time that the company is using its "core competencies" of creative advertising and marketing to be a driving force for change. "We have been doing this thing for so many years, and this is something I can do to help rebuild our country," said Bautista.

People Power Online?

The page of the social network Facebook recently published a story of a Filipino, Jay Jaboneta, whose Facebook status generated a fundrasing campaign to buy boats for 200 elementary school children who used to swim half a mile to school everday. The new yellow boat, called Bagong Pag-asa, gives the kids free rides to school during the week. Seaweed farmers can also use the boat to take their products into town for a small fee.

Stories like this reflect the power of the Internet to encourage collective action that concieves a productive impact in a community. It is this power that PInoyME and DPC Yellow Pages would like to harness as a tool to empower microentrepreneurs.

The advent of the Internet has opened so many possibilities for people to market their products. For some companies, the website is the centerpiece of the communication or distribution channels-with the ability to inform and sell to the most number of people. The People-Powered Markets site provides every microentrepreneurs who signs up with a microsite that is searchable by the entire Internet-surfing world.

It gives them the opportunity to partner with the leading companies such as Jollibee and Petron or other microentrepreneurs. Most importantly, it provides enterprising Filipinos in poor communities with the power to get heard, to connect. And as that meeting between the Tatalon women and Tita Cory shows, each time we listen, each we take time to connect with other Filipinos, the seeds of a more lasting People Power are being sowed anew.

Farmers and Rural Enterprises to get funds through value chain financing

The impelling need to support farmers and other enterprising Filipinos in agricultural areas brought together stalwarts from microfinance institutions (MFIs), development NGOs, the banking community, and the government for the Multi-stakeholder Conference on Value-Chain Financing on Agriculture and Rural Microenterprise.

The gathering held on April 12 at the Landbank Plaza Manila was organized by PinoyME and the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc. (MCPI) to catalyze opportunities for collaboration among different sectors to assist the growth of farm and other rural enterprises through value-chain financing.

The conference gathered more than 150 microfinance stakeholders, including Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and Undersecretary Jerry Pacturan of the Department of Agrarian Regorm, Liduvino Geron of Landbank, Lalaine Joyas of MCPI, Ma. Piedad Geron of the Asian Development Bank, Marie Valdez of the Grameen Foundation, Nestor Raneses of the University of the Philippines Institute for Small-Scale Industries, and Marilou Velasco of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

What is Value-Chain Financing?

Professor Ronald Chua of the Asian Institute of Management in his Overview of Value-Chain Financing defined values chains as "the full range of activities and services required to bring a product or service from its conception to sale in its final markets - whether local, national, regional, or global. Value chains include input suppliers, producers, processors, and buyers. They are supported by a range of technical, business and financial service providers "

He then described value chain financing as "financing provided to or by a value chain actor in order to increase value-chain growth and competitiveness." A successful value chain model to support rural enterprises is that being carried out by Jollibee and farmers from Nueva Ecija and Bukidnon. With the partnership, the farmers now have a dependable market--their crops are bought by Jollibee for its requirement of fresh ingredients like onions and bell peppers.

The other players in the value chain are The Catholic Relief Service Philippines, which promotes market-driven strategies to facilitate farmers' participation in the mainstream market, the National Livelihood Development Corporation, a government corporation that provides for the credit needs of farmers, and the Alalay sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (ASKI), a microfinance institution that directly delivers the funds to the farmers cooperative.

This model of sharing the risks in rural finance and leveraging the competencies and resources of different players to strengthen the agricultural enterprises is an inititative, which PinoyME seeks to calalyze all over the country.

A value chain is only as strong as its weakest link

Joey Bermudez, chairperson of Maybridge Asia, Inc., explained the weighty importance of strong value chain models, especially for agricultural enterprises. He said that "risks in rural finance will be unwieldy as long as value chains are weak."

Bermudez added: "A value chain is only as strong as its weakest link." He then presented how the "weakest link" can weaken the entire value chain. For instance, if rice farmers plant less because of raw weather, then there will be a dearth of rice for consumers. Moreover, fertilizer merchants will also sell less. MFIs will also have a low repayment rate if the farmes who borrowed from them do not have enough profit to settle their loans. The weakness of the farmers will diminish the entire value chain.

Joselito Almario, Deputy Executive Director of National Credit Council - Department of Finance, then provided the stakeholders a survey of opportunities for Public-Private Partnership for Risk Protection in the Agriculture Sector. He pointed out key roles for both government and the private sector to accomplish.

Almario was moreover unwavering when he called out for cooperation among all stakeholders. "Agricultural finance goes beyond production loans. It necesarily involves the whole supply and value chain process. More importantly in involves all of us," he said.

The next lecture by Mario Valdez, General Manager of the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association, covered Private Sector Initiatives on Risk Protection. While Valdez zeroed in on the importance of insurance for rural enterprises, he said that " agricultural or crop insurance is really an adjunct to a whole set of risk management measures of which adequate farm management practices constitute the most important."

He added that "insurance by itself is no substitute for good production practice," and that stakeholders can help out by identifying "existing gaps and inefficiencies by analyzing cost structure of the system and seek ways to reduce these costs and increase productivity."

Collaboration: The Way Forward

After the lectures on policy issues, stakeholder representatives shared their experiences in agricultural finance and their responses to the presentations. Jane Manucdoc of ASKI was the representative for MFIs; Atty. Ronald E. Alvizo or Enterprise Bank spoke for the rural banks; Jinky Flores of Gata Daku Multi-Purpose Cooperative presented the experiences of cooperatives; Maria Agnes Angeles of the Planters Development Bank represented private banks; while Undersecretary Jerry Pacturan represented the government.

The sharing of ideas was very informative and cordial, and there was laughter when Jane Manucdoc quipped that "prayer" was one way for MFIs to minimize the risks of lending to farmers. Each participant agreed that collaboration among the different players was an indispensible step to improve rural financing practices.

After the discussions, the participants were organized into groups that would answer the question "What are the ways in which different sectors can work together to mitigate the risks in agricultural financing?" The result was a list of recommendations and possibilities. Some of the most notable recommendations include:

1. Developing insurance and guarantee products - A mechanism or task group must be brought about to advocate for solutions to policy bottlenecks, particularly in the areas of credit, contract enforcement, and guarantees. Government should also address issues that affect the agricultural enterprises such as prices and security.

2. Improve Farmers' negotiating capacity - This entails capacity building of key institution in the value chain, including training on entrepreneurship, negotations, and financial literacy. Insurance products for agricultural businesses should also be developed.

3. Address the policy issues - There is a need to fast track the availability of credit information for MFIs; the credit bureau should be established.

4. Continous capacity buiding of insititutions - We should continue the development of value chain models. Value chain models such as that of Jollibee and the Nueva Ecija farmers should be evaluated and replicated in other rural areas. A better awareness and understanding of value chains and and value chain financing mechanisms must be cultivated among stakeholders. Mechanisms for value chain sharing and collaboration at the local level should be brought about. Value chain managers should also be trained to ensure the development of various agricultural value chains.

Microfinance Graduates Hit the Ground Running

"They are hard working, good, fast learners. They can perform other related tasks, are flexible and thorough of course. They're satisfactorily prepared to a microfinance practitioner."

This is how Brenda Flora of the Simbag sa Pag-asenso, Inc, describes Janice Ogao and Jim Berrido, the new graduates who have started working for the microfinance institution.

Janice and Jim are among the first to earn a Certificate in Microfinance for Loan officers, which is the initial step in the ladderized program of the BSBA Major in Microfinance. The two have studied under the Dual Training System Competency-Based Education (DTS-CBE) for Microfinance, a program designed by PinoyME and its partners to make sure there are quality individuals who can contribute their talents to the microfinance industry.

The DTS-CBE provides students with sufficient knowledge and skills to be employed after two years of education. Moreover, they still have the option to continue studying Microfinance while working because the program is ladderized.

The graduate

Janice Ogao was a scholar when she took up microfinance in Bicol University. Her mother is also a microentrepreneur--she made fans from anahaw; her dad is a farmer. She was in fact somewhat familiar with how microfinance helps fledgling businessmen as her mother had a loan from Center for Agricultural and Rural Development for her livelihood. The industrious family approached Fr. Jovic Lobrigo, a microfinance stalwart in Bicol, when she finished high school for the opportunity to study in a university.

Janice took full advantage of the opportunity. She worked hard, learning the "fundamentals" of microfinance, and built on that knowledge as an on-the-job trainee for Simbag sa Pag-asenso, Inc. After she finished studies, the microfinance institution immediately offered her a job as community development organizers. Janice is currently responsible for "baranggay mapping, community profiling, organizing groups, monitoring of members, and recommending loans for the members to approve," according to Brenda.

Janice says she really "enjoys" her work, and even recalls going to far-flung Batan Island to monitor the community as one of the memorable experiences of her budding microfinance career."Mababait sila. They are very hospitable at pinagkape pa nila kami." It was also fulfilling for her to be able to provide half of her first salary to her "mama."

Moreover Janice finds great fulfillment in being part of microfinance and its cause of providing people with means to make their lives better. She tells of a variety store in Legazpi that grew with help from a loan from Simbag. "Ngayon naka-avail na sila ng stall. Masaya yung may natutulungan ka sa trabaho mo."

Agents of empowerment

Dr. Ramesis Lorino, Industrial Coordinator for Microfinance and Assistant Dean of Bicol University, is proud of the achievements of Janice and his other former students.

He cites the students who have earned Certificates in Microfinance as budding agents in the microfinance community's mission of alleviating poverty through people empowerment, and not through charity.

Dr. Lorino says: "Microfinance is a vital tool for poverty alleviation. It addresses one of the major and very common problems in the Philippine setting - poverty. I would like to quote one of the statements that our colleague had said 'as long as there is poverty, there is microfinance'. And so I thought, it is impossible to eradicate poverty. Alleviation is the answer. The existence of microfinance is somehow forever. It's a good thing that our students and hopefully future microfinance practitioners earn and at the same time help the community especially the poor."

"Bicol University is a premier state university in the Bicol Region. Improvement on the lives of every Bicolano is a part of its vision and mission. Through the offering of the microfinance program poverty will be alleviated. The stakeholders will also be given opportunities to earn and learn."

Ex-Tarlac Guv throws hat in ARMM polls

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 30, 2011) – A Filipino socialite and politician Margarita Cojuangco has been reported to have agreed to run as regional vice governor in elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with ex-congressman Pax Mangudadatu as their official candidate for the regional governor.

The decision was arrived later on Thursday after both Cojuangco and Mangudadatu agreed to join forces, said Teng Garcia, a spokesman for Mangudadatu, who was a former governor of Sultan Kudarat province for nine years.

Mangudadatu’s son, Suharto, is now the provincial governor, and son-in-law, Raden Sakaluran, is a congressman while another daughter, Ruth Sakaluran, is a town mayor.

Elections in the five-province autonomous region are set this year, but President Benigno Aquino III was talking to his allies in Congress to postpone the polls and synchronize it in the national elections in 2013.

It was unknown if Cojuangco, former governor of Tarlac province in Luzon Island, could muster enough support from Muslim voters and politicians in the autonomous region, particularly from the four influential provincial governors of Sulu - Sakur Tan; Jum Akbar of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi’s Sadikul Sahali, and Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao.

The four politicians have thrown their support behind Aquino and have campaigned for the postponement of the ARMM elections, and for the President to appoint officers to take charge of running the regional autonomous government until new leaders are elected.

Cojuangco, who resides at a posh village in Makati City, may not be eligible to run in the autonomous region because under the law, she should have resided in the Muslim autonomous region for at least one year.

But Mangudadatu's spokesman said the socialite owned houses in the Muslim autonomous region. “She has many houses in the region,” he said.

Cojuangco is the aunt of the President being married to Aquino’s uncle and clan patriarch Jose Cojuangco. She had been spotted travelling in Maguindanao, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi the past weeks and was reported to be lobbying for support, but is unknown to many Muslims in the autonomous region.

The governor of Lanao del Sur province, Mamintal Adiong, is also eyeing the position of the regional governor which is currently being held by his younger brother, Ansaruddin Adiong.

The young Adiong is said to run for the gubernatorial post in Lanao del Sur to pave way for his brother’s ambition to become the regional governor should elections push through.

Adiong, the ARMM’s vice governor, was appointed officer-in-charge after Zaldy Ampatuan, the elected regional governor, was arrested and jailed along with his father and brother and relatives after being accused of killing 57 people, including at least 32 journalists in 2009 in Maguindanao province.

Those killed were on the political convoy of then town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, a political opponent of the Ampatuan clan. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sayyaf abducts Filipino restaurant owner

Plaza Panciteria in Jolo town. (Photo from Rasulassoc. Link:

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 30, 2011) – Abu Sayyaf gunmen abducted a Filipino restaurateur in the southern town of Jolo where troops are fighting the militant group blamed for kidnappings and terrorism in the Philippines.

Officials said the gunmen seized Nelson Lim, 56, late Friday afternoon in outside his residence in Jolo where he owns the Plaza Panciteria, one of the town’s oldest and popular restaurants. The militants dragged Lim to a waiting van which was found abandoned in the village of Sandah in nearby town of Patikul.

At least 8 gunmen were involved the abduction and one those was Asman Sawadjaan, an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader.

“Policemen are tracking down the abductors and their hostage,” said Chief Inspector Amil Baanan, operations’ chief of the Sulu provincial police force.

The mayor of Jolo, Hussin Amin, could not be immediately contacted about the latest abduction, but militants had previously kidnapped traders in the town and ransomed them off. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Philippine rebels holding 2 soldiers release proof of life

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 29, 2011) – Communist rebels have released Friday video and audio recordings of two government soldiers being held as prisoners of war in the southern Philippines.

The duo – Corporal Delfin Largo Sarocam and Private First Class Jayson Burgos Valenzuela – were captured by New People’s Army on April 14 in the village of Datu Inda in North Cotabato’s President Roxas town.

Isabel Santiago, a spokesperson for the NPA’s Herminio Alfonso Command, assured the soldiers’ families that the infantrymen are safe and well and warned the military of any rescue attempt, saying, it could jeopardize the safety of the two and derail their possible early release.

The two soldiers were being investigated for possible crimes against civilians and the NPA in the course of the mission. They rebels said the soldiers are part of a counterinsurgency team deployed in the town where the NPA is actively operating.

The soldiers are members of the 57th Infantry Battalion. The military said the two soldiers are part of a team of peace and development groups involved in community works.

In his audio recoding, Sarocam said he is being treated well by the rebels. “I appeal to my battalion commander to pull out the troops operating near here to hasten our safe release. To my wife and child, do not worry because I am in good hands,” he said.

Valenzuela also said that his captors were treating him well, but he sounded scared and told his family not to worry about him. He also appealed to his commander to stop all rescue operation. “The New People’s Army will not release us if our safety is not guaranteed,” he said.

The Philippine Army did not give any statement about the two prisoners nor its operations aimed at rescuing the soldiers. The rebels are fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. (Mindanao Examiner)

Struggles of Life: Still Life!

Visitors flock to a photo exhibit dubbed “Mamumuo” at the Museo Dabawenyo in the southern Filipino city of Davao. The exhibit, which will run until May 28, shows the life and struggles of Filipino workers by Davao’s homegrown artists. (Photo by Karlos Manlupig)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

GRP-MILF end peace talks with no accords

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 28, 2011) – Philippine government peace negotiators ended talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday, but no significant accords had been reached by both sides in Malaysia.

It was the 21st rounds of peace talks between the two peace panels since negotiations for an end to decades-old insurgency problems in Mindanao Island where the rebels are fighting for self-determination.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiators, said both sides agreed to continue the talks later in June in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations. The MILF earlier asked Manila to release its political prisoners, while the Aquino government expressed concern over renegade rebel leaders Ameril Umra Kato and Abdullah Macapaar who are opposed to the peace talks.

Both commanders had previously led rebel forces in attacking civilian targets in Mindanao after the Supreme Court rejected an earlier agreement by peace negotiators on Muslim ancestral domain, saying, the accord was unconstitutional. The 2008 attack had left dozens of people dead and wounded. (Mindanao Examiner)

NPA rebel killed in Surigao raid

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 28, 2011) – Communist rebels attacked a police station in the southern Philippines on Thursday, sparking a fierce firefight that left one raider dead, officials told the Mindanao Examiner.

Officials said another gunman was wounded and captured in the fighting as troops launched a pursuit operation on a band of New People’s Army in the town of Lianga in Surigao del Sur province.

The rebels also opened fire on a civilian vehicle wounding one of its passengers as they try to flee from security forces, said Major Eugenio Osias, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.

He said policemen and soldiers repulsed the raid.

“There is a pursuit operation and General Felix ordered troops to get the raiders,” he said, referring to the local division commander, Major General Victor Felix.

Osias said soldiers have recovered an M16 automatic rifle left behind by rebels, who are fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate Maoist state.

The raid came as government and rebel leaders are negotiating for an end to bloody fighting in the country that had killed hundreds of thousands of people the past four decades. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MSU to hold first-ever seminar-workshop on Mindanao peace process

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 27, 2011) – The Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao (IPDM) of the Mindanao State University announced Wednesday that it will hold its first-ever seminar and workshop on issues of the government peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The three-day seminar is set to start on May 20, according to IPDM Director Dr Moctar Matuan. “As one of the premier institute of higher learning in Southern Philippines created to address the so-called Mindanao problem, it is expected to contribute concrete ideas on how to end this old Moro question and decades of conflict in Mindanao,” he said.

The announcement coincided with the resumption of the peace talks Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur.

MSU’s academicians from it eight campuses in Mindanao are expected to join the seminar and share their views on the peace process and to formulate specific recommendations to the peace panels. Other professionals are also expected to attend the seminar, including lawyers and social scientists who were invited to speak to the affair.

Matuan said the activity is in line with the 12-point Reform Agenda of MSU President Dr Macapado Muslim.

Former Commissioner of Human Rights, lawyer Nasser Marohombsalic, will also give a talk on various issues, and including the legal impediments under Philippine Laws of the Moro struggle for self-determination.

Muslim on the hand is to present a paper entitled “Christian Settlers and Indigenous Peoples Objections to the Bangsamoro Demands: Creative Solutions to Address their Legitimate Concerns.” And so is Professor Syed Linga, who will discuss his paper "Possibilities in Uniting the Leadership of the Various Bangsamoro Fronts: Key to the Final Resolution of the Mindanao Conflict.” (Asa Madale)

Cebu Pacific holds P1,299 sale from Mindanao to Manila; offers Japan, Korea, China seats as low as P1,499

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB) offers a P1,299 seat sale for all its 10 routes from Mindanao to Manila from April 28-30, 2011 or until seats last, for travel from June 1 to August 31, 2011.

It said the P1,299 seats are up for grabs for those traveling to Manila from Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, General Santos, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Surigao or Zamboanga.

Those traveling from Manila to San Jose, from Cebu to Bacolod, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Surigao or Tacloban, and from Davao to Cagayan de Oro can also avail of P399 seats.

Meanwhile, P1,499 seats are available for those going from Manila to Guangzhou and Taipei. Manila-Beijing and Manila-Shanghai seats are also up for grabs for P1,999.

Those traveling from Manila to Osaka, Busan and Incheon (Seoul), and Cebu to Busan and Incheon (Seoul) can also avail of P2,999 seats. These seat sale fares are up to 57% lower than CEB’s year-round fares for these routes.

“CEB offers the lowest fares in all its routes, and North Asia is no exception. We currently operate 73 weekly flights to Greater China, 7 weekly flights to Taiwan, thrice weekly flights to Osaka in Japan and 18 weekly flights to South Korea,” CEB Vice President for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

The airline remains optimistic about expansion in North Asia, especially with a passenger growth of 28% for its Greater China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea routes in the 1st quarter (Q1) of 2011.

CEB flew a total of 381,513 passengers between North Asia and the Philippines in Q1 2011, compared to 298,485 passengers in Q1 2010.

Its Q1 2011 passenger figures went up 73% in Taiwan, 30% in Japan, 31% in South Korea and 23% in Greater China, compared to the same period last year.

“The airline is already set to launch its four times weekly Manila-Pusan flights on June 15, 2011, and is hopeful its applications to Japan will be approved to enable it to expand to cities such as Nagoya and Tokyo in the near future. CEB also plans to increase flights to Beijing and Guangzhou to accommodate passenger demand,” she added.

Flies aid rescuers in locating bodies in Philippine landslide

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 27, 2011) – Philippine rescuers are now being aided by swarms of houseflies in locating buried bodies in a mountain village in Mindanao struck by landslide last week.

So far, 13 people had been rescued in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town where 11 more are still missing in the landslide that buried at least 20 houses, mostly owned by gold miners.

On Tuesday, five more bodies were recovered from the site. And of the total 13 cadavers, two remain unidentified, said Army Major Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the 10th Infantry Division.

She said rescuers were relying on swarms of houseflies in their search for bodies buried under mud and boulders.

“The flies are a big help in the retrieval operations because they swarm around the area where bodies are buried deep in the mud and true enough the bodies are there,” she told the Mindanao Examiner.

Manuel said at least 110 houses were demolished on Wednesday by their owners after local government authorities in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town ordered their evacuation barely a week after the tragedy struck.

Many of those who were evacuated have been brought to temporary shelters in the town. “Relief goods from different donors were distributed to the evacuation centers,” she said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kidapawan City launches vaccination drive

A health worker in the southern Filipino city of Kidapawan gives a vaccine to children to protect them from measles as part of the local government health program. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Geo Solmerano)

Tribal leaders vow to protect environment, ancestral lands in Mindanao

Photos released by the indigenous group Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao show the gathering of the tribal leaders in Digos City in Mindanao.

DIGOS CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 26, 2011) – Some 100 Lumad tribal leaders from the southern Philippines gathered Tuesday in Digos City to demand for a stop to all large-scale mining they claimed is destroying their ancestral domain and the ecology.

Most of those who gathered were from the tribes of Bagobo, Ata-Manobo, Matigsalug, Obo, Manobo, B'laan, T'boli, Higaonon, Kaolo, Banwaon, Talaandig, Subanen and Manobos.

They said that so-called "development" projects have encroached in their ancestral lands and these include agri-business and coal-power plants. They also cited the recent deaths in a landslide at a mining area in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town where the same could occur in other areas should large-scale mining continues.

Datu Duluman Dausay, an Ata-Manobo tribal leader, said that while they firmly oppose mining in Davao region, local officials failed to show the same resolve. “It is no longer the destruction of environment, but the destruction of life as well,” he said.

“Does the extraction of minerals go back to us? Do the plantations alleviate hunger?" asked Jomorito Guaynon, a Higaonon leader.

These projects, they claimed, ultimately earn profit for foreign-owned companies at the expense of destroying the environment, and the life and culture of Lumads.

There are 18 ethnologuistic groups in Mindanao roughly with a three million population and all share the common problem of environment plunder, and the military harassments accompanying these projects.

Peace caravan launched in Mindanao to support GRP-MILF talks

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

US man kills self after shooting Pinay girlfriend

An undated photo of Ramy Jacildo published by the Filipino newspaper, the Visayan Daily Star, on its April 26, 2011 issue. (Photo from

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 26, 2011) – A Filipino woman in the United States was shot dead by her boyfriend who committed suicide after the killing, US media reported on Tuesday.

It said the woman, Ramy Jacildo, who was a native of Bacolod City in the Philippines, had been repeatedly shot inside her brother’s home in New York by Vincent Russo, 26.

Jacildo was in the US to visit her brother in Central Valley. The two met last year while the woman was vacationing in Washington, D.C. Federal authorities are investigating the motive of the killing.

A Filipino newspaper, the Visayan Daily Star, reported on Tuesday that Jacildo was a teacher who taught autistic children in her hometown. It said the woman travelled to the US in March to visit her parents, Zenaida and Eduardo Jacildo, who had migrated there.

It also quoted an aunt of Jacildo as saying that Russo wanted to marry the woman, but she was not ready for it. Jacildo’s relative described Russo as “too possessive” and that she had discovered that the man had a temper.

“Russo told her they could get married and if it did not work out they could easily get a divorce, but my niece being a Filipina, did not believe in that, she was a religious person,” the newspaper quoted the woman’s relative as saying.

“Ramy was full of life, she was a ballet dancer, and worked with special children. She had gone to the United States as she had a sponsor for a job and most of her family is already living there,” Jacildo’s aunt said. (Mindanao Examiner)

5 more bodies recovered from Compostela landslide

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 26, 2011) – Five more bodies were recovered on Tuesday on a mountain village hit by landslide in the southern Philippines and raising the death toll to 10, officials said.

Officials said four of the cadavers have already been identified and that authorities have contacted the families and relatives of those still missing in the landslide that occurred in the town of Pantukan in Compostela Valley province last week.

At least 11 people are still unaccounted for in the mining community of Panganason where the mud and boulders loosened by heavy rains buried more than a dozen houses at the foot of the mountain.

“Retrieval operation is going. A total of 13 bodies have been recovered so far,” said Major Rose Maria Cristina Manuel, an army spokeswoman.

Manuel said 13 people had been rescued since Friday.

The military had earlier said that as many as 50 people were missing from the tragedy that struck at dawn. Environment officials have ordered villagers to evacuate from the area for fear that another landslide could occur after cracks in the ground were discovered this week.(Mindanao Examiner)

Here’s a priest, a Jesuit, who favors mining

MANILA, Philippines - This priest calls those who oppose mining as ignorant.

Mining is a vital part of everyday life. Even those who are not connected with the industry use materials that result from mining in their day-to-day activities, said Fr. Emeterio J. Barcelon, SJ, of Milamdec Microfinance Foundation Inc. and of Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan.

In an exclusive interview with Malaya Business Insight, Barcelon said the members of the Church who oppose mining are "hyped by a lot of these international groups who are against mining."

"It is part of Filipino culture to be opposed to everything big. This is a result of us being a colony for 400 years. That is how we think.

But we can change," he said.

Barcelon said there is no Church doctrine that is against mining.

"The idea is that we should take care of what God has provided us, but being against mining is illogical," he said.

Barcelon said the Church has always been positive on mining and that the industry could well lead to the country’s economic salvation.

He said the country needs to create wealth so that its people do not have to leave their families behind in order to find jobs abroad.

Barcelon added that people who are against mining have not thought about their position thoroughly.

"If they oppose something, they should have reasons for it. One of the valid reasons is that when a mining company eventually leaves the area, the poor people are just as poor as before they came," Barcelon said.

"What happens is that they (miners) took away our treasures and left nothing. But that is not the problem of mining. That is a problem of politics," he added.

He said gold lying idle in the mountains does not benefit anybody. Gold has to be extracted "so that it will help people live a decent life," he said.

The 83-year-old Jesuit priest also questioned the way anti-mining advocates propose to "preserve" the environment.

"The Philippines is rich in minerals. Maybe some people want to preserve the natural resources for future generations. But the problem in the Philippines is that why should we preserve our minerals for the future generations when we need these for the present generation," said Barcelon.

Barcelon said he favors open pit mining in South Cotabato, saying the method is much better than deep mining (tunneling).

"First of all, areas in open-pit mining hardly entail 200 hectares. Such sizes can be reforested and rehabilitated quite readily. Mining cannot be compared to logging where thousands of hectares are involved."

"How big is the biggest open-pit mining in the world? Two hundred hectares is only three times as big as our campus (Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan). It is very, very small. Compared with Cagayan de Oro City, our campus is a grain of sand in an ocean. The footprint of an open pit is small, and it can be rehabilitated once it is finished," he said.

South Cotabato hosts the Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. The project, when fully operational, is the fifth-largest copper producer in the world and the second-biggest foreign investment in the country at $5.9 billion after the Malampaya gas field.

The project covers 9,460 hectares in 10 barangays in the municipalities of Tampakan, Kiblawan, Columbio, and Malungon in the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.

The area has estimated resources of 2.4 billion metric tons containing 13.5 million MT of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold at a 0.3 percent cut-off grade.

SMI, which is 62.5 percent owned by Swiss company Xstrata Copper with Australian Indophil Resources NL as a minority partner, expects commercial operations to start in 2016.

During the lifetime of the project, SMI expects to pay $5.1 billion to the national government in taxes and $300 million to indigenous communities.

During construction and development, Tampakan will employ 7,000 workers. It will have a permanent work force of 2,090 when operational.

Barcelon said while he favors the entry of large mining companies, he makes an exemption in the case of mining in Mt. Diwalwal in Compostela province.

He said that were it not for Diwalwal, the insurgency problem would have been worse.

"If it were not for Diwalwal, we would have a lot more NPAs. This is how the people of Davao survived during those years," said Barcelon, who was first president of Ateneo de Davao in 1977, at the height of the insurgency.(Madelaine D. Cabrera)


Dapitan City to commemorate Rizal birthday during Palaro, Hudyaka Festival

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines - This summer, Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte province in Mindanao, has a lot on its plate, actually more considering the fact that aside from the Palarong Pambansa from May 8 to 14, and the Hudyaka Festival that runs from May 6 to June 6, the Shrine City will also commemorate the 150th birthday celebration of our Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro declared that “this is actually a source of pride and excitement for everyone in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, that aside from the Palarong Pambansa, Dapitan will also celebrate the Dr. Rizal's 150th birth anniversary.

“Dapitan was a refuge for him, a happy place, where his love was nurtured with Josephine. What the people should realize is that what we are building here for this Palaro are not just the structures, the pools or grandstands, but we are building what Rizal sow in Dapitan – the love of country and love for your fellowman,” Luistro said.

“After the Palaro, athletes and guests will continue to talk about how well-organized, how hospitable, how well they were taken cared of in their stay in Dapitan, in Dipolog City, in Zamboanga del Norte. That fact is it will be a source of pride for all people here.”

Luistro also mentioned of Rizal being an environmentalist. “I amm hoping that the program for the Palaro will also have an environmental feel. Rizal was an environmentalist. So, environmental awareness should be a priority for the Palaro,” he said.

“What a source of pride it will be for you, the people of this beautiful province when athletes will go home and say that this is the best Palaro ever,” Luistro added. “That will be your birthday gift to Dr. Jose Rizal. This type of investment will come back to you. To the province, to the city, to the people because what we show is not just the external site, but our love for our country. This will put Dapitan in the national, and hopefully, in the global map.”

Rizal was a Filipino patriot and the most prominent advocate for reforms in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. He was the founder of La Liga Filipina, a civic organization that subsequently gave birth to the Katipunan, which was then led by Andrés Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo.

Rizal was a prominent proponent of institutional reforms by peaceful means rather than by violent revolution. He was exiled here in Dapitan from 1892 to 1896. During such four-year stay in Dapitan, Rizal would practice medicine, pursue scientific studies, continue his artistic and literary works, widen his knowledge of languages, establish a school for boys, promote community development projects, invent a wooden machine for making bricks, and engage in farming and commerce. (With a report from Becky de Asis)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Justice For Maguindanao Massacre Victims; 17 Months Had Passed!

It is 17 months now since the Maguindanao massacre where at least 32 journalists were among 57 people brutally murdered.

Mindanao tribal chieftains vow to defend domain vs. large-scale mining, fossil fuel plants

Tribal chieftains perform ritual in Digos City in Mindanao. (Photos by Kalumaran)

DIGOS CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 25, 2011) - Indigenous tribal leaders from five regions in Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines performed a ritual to signify their unity in defending their culture and ancestral domain, and held a solidarity meal to begin the three-day Earth Day Conference in Digos City.

The native chieftains represented the tribes of the Ata-Manobo of Talaingod in Davao del Norte province; Bagobos of Davao del Sur province; the Higaonon and Talaandig of Bukidnon province, Manobo of Caraga administrative region, and the B'laan of Saranggani and South Cotabato provinces.

The highlights of the three day gathering will be a cultural program for defense of culture on Tuesday, and a caravan in Davao del Sur areas affected by large-scale mining and coal-fired power plants.

Cebu Pacific offers cheap ASEAN tickets

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB), boosts its ASEAN operations with a seat sale to all its seven Southeast Asian destinations from April 26 to 27, 2011 or until seats last, for travel from June 1 to August 31, 2011.

CEB offers P999 Lite Fare seats from Manila to Kota Kinabalu, and from Clark to Singapore. Also available are P1,499 seats from Manila to Brunei, Ho Chi Minh or Singapore, as well as from Cebu to Singapore.

Fares are lowered 44% with P1,999 Lite Fare seats from Manila to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, and from Clark to Bangkok. After the seat sale, the lowest year-round Lite Fare for these routes is P3,599.

Flights to Jakarta, one of CEB’s farthest destinations, are also available for P2,499, or 39% lower than the lowest year-round Lite Fare. After the seat sale, Manila-Jakarta P4,099 seats will be up for grabs.

Meanwhile, domestic flights from Manila to Virac are available for P399, while flights from Manila to Legazpi or Naga are available for P499.

“CEB operates the most ASEAN flights, routes and destinations, making it very convenient for overseas Filipino workers, and leisure and business travelers. With CEB’s trademark low fares and 85 weekly flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Jakarta, we make it possible for more Juans to fly,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

The airline flies from the Philippines to Singapore 46 times weekly, to Bangkok 12 times weekly, to Malaysia 13 times weekly, to Vietnam 7 times weekly, to Brunei 3 times weekly, and to Jakarta 4 times weekly.

Iyog also encouraged guests to avail of their Prepaid Baggage Allowances upon booking for more travel savings.

“Guests can also do web check-in for a faster and hassle-free airport experience, or avail of our payment center options such as over-the-counter bank and LBC transactions, online banking and mobile banking,” she added.

CEB operates the most number of routes and flights in the Philippines, using the youngest aircraft fleet in the country. This is composed of 10 Airbus A319, 15 Airbus A320 and 8 ATR-72 500 aircraft. By the end of 2011, CEB will be operating a fleet of 37 aircraft – with an average age of 3.5 years – one of the most modern aircraft fleets in the world. Between 2012 and 2014, Cebu Pacific will take an additional 16 Airbus A320 aircraft.