#HindiManhid: Bring Them Home mission for stranded OFWs in Saudi


“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation.”
jan28_ofw
Photo from abs-cbnnews.com
More than 11,000 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) in Saudi Arabia are the subjects of an urgent government mission to bring them home by September 10, according to Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
Taguiwalo detailed her department’s participation in the multi-agency mission headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III as the latter announced a giant step in efforts to ease the crisis of 11,000 workers affected by setbacks in the Middle East country’s oil industry, the backbone of its economy.
Bello said the Saudi monarch has instructed the Ministry of Labor to waive immigration penalties for workers with expired working visas. The King has also directed Kingdom officials to provide food aid and start processing the money claims of the workers.
Taguiwalo said “Operation Bring Them Home” also aims to document situations of undocumented OFWs in crisis like women and children,  facilitate provision of appropriate services and referral to their respective regions for the needed services. The DSWD is earmarking P50 million to help the OFWs in crisis.
OPTIONS
The labor secretary said the King has offered workers options: plane fare for those who want to return to the Philippines and re-employment aid for those willing to transfer to other firms.
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Labor Secretary Silvestro III and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo
Taguiwalo said the DSWD would provide psychosocial interventions like counseling and debriefing, help distressed OFWs in reintegration with families and communities and provide after-care and other material services.
The Foreign Affairs and Health departments are also part of the mission ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Many Filipino workers have said they are willing to stay on and be absorbed in other industries to going home and facing unemployment. But complex legal requirements and unhelpful employers have made for a difficult process.
While Saudi Arabia has some of the most onerous labor policies in the Middle East, the government of President Duterte has managed to wrest concessions from the Kindgom, in contrast to the performance of former president Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
The Saudi labor ministry has confirmed the King’s instructions “to guarantee and protect the rights of foreign workers,” according to Bello.
Taguiwalo appointed DSWD Undersecretary Vilma B. Cabrera, Assistant Secretary Hope V. Hervilla, Social Welfare officers Perlita V. Panganiban, Mely S. Pangilinan, Teresita L. Valentino, Victoria N. NAvida, Marygrail B. Dong-as, Franco V. Lopez, Bienvenido V. Barbosa and Ali B. Namia to the mission
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Urgent queries from OFWS in crisis. Photo by abs-cbnnews
The affected OFWs were  previously employed by three multinational companies: Bin Laden, Saudi Oger, and Mohammad  Al Mojil, as well as by six (6) sub-contracting companies.
“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation,” she explained.
The focus of the mission is the stranded OFWs in three major KSA cities, namely Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/Al-Khobar.
“This is not the first time that Filipinos working overseas such as in the KSA have experienced severe crisis because of questionable labor policies imposed by their employers and because of the neglect of their contracting agencies,” Taguiwalo said.
“The DSWD sees it important to take part in this humanitarian mission so we can gauge the impact of such policies on the lives and welfare of our OFWs. We hope to come up with findings that can help guide us in the future when it comes to the implementation of the country’s export labor policy,” she stressed.
“As the government agency that’s primarily tasked to look after the welfare of Filipinos, the DSWD wants to also provide assistance to our OFWs the same way we also aim to help their families here at home when it comes to their emergency  needs,” Taguiwalo said.

NERI COLMENARES IS MY ACTION MAN


My son calls him, “the real action man.” A friend, a true-blue capitalist from Binondo, beams on hearing the name Neri Colmenares.

Neri Colmenares (#11) is the first and only one of two names on my Senate list.

The man lawyers call “Comrade Amparing” has given honor to the term “activist”.

He paid his dues as a teenager – arrested, tortured, jailed.

He has never acted like he’s owed for the sacrifice.

After years as a human rights lawyer and three terms as Bayan Muna representative in Congress, Neri continues to invest his soul and root his politics in the “karaniwang tao.”

The people’s lawyer became the people’s fighter in the House of Representatives, bastion of traditional politicians. He authored 11 laws, including these:

  • Amending the Rent Control Act by prohibiting excessive rent for low income groups;
  • the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) law, increasing the salaries of PAO lawyers;
  • the law requiring disaster warnings through text; and
  • the law creating Special Election Precincts for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

These are laws that affect the lives of millions of Filipinos in ways that truly matter.

He authored several human rights laws including the law compensating human rights victims during Martial Law, the Anti-Torture Law and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law.

His bill for a P2,000 pension hike for Social Security System members sailed through the House of Representatives. Senators gave him the highest display of respect by adopting his bill en toto and passing it swiftly.

He aims for the elimination of VAT on electricity, water and fuel; the prohibition of privatization of public hospitals and public health services; the increase in income tax exemptions; the Freedom of Information Law.

He’s also the main author of the bill, Magna Carta of Airline Passengers Rights, to protect passengers from abusive airline companies. You and I know how important this is.

neri

It’s easy to see why Neri has worked so well in the House of Representatives.

Soft-spoken, polite to all, with a comic bent, he is ferocious when attacking abuse and persuasive in advocating his causes.

Colleagues across party lines stress his diligence, sharpness and his skill in building consensus where it can be forged.

His labors extend beyond the doors of Congress, all the way to the Supreme Court where he won a decision stopping Meralco and other electric companies from imposing excessive electricity rates in Metro Manila and other provinces.

He was also petitioner in the Supreme Court cases which declared DAP and PDAF pork barrel unconstitutional and in the P10 Billion overcharging and refund case against Globe and Smart telecoms. He has argued before the Supreme Court several times in various petitions defending human rights and the public against excessive rates for public service — including unjust MRT-LRT rate increases.

He argued before the US District Court in Hawaii for the compensation of human rights victims on the Marcos human rights case. He is the President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) a national association of human rights lawyers and a Bureau Member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers based in New York and Belgium.

Oh, Neri is one of a handful of candidates who openly espouse divorce. He’s for the anti-discrimination bill that gives justice and dignity to LGBT’s in this country.

Lourd de Veyra says: He’s solid.

Neri’s more than solid. In a field full of dross, he’s golden.

Plus, how many senators can sing Buchiki and What a Wonderful World and give these equal meaning?

 

 

Track record over words: My left-handed choice for the vice presidency


 

Bongbong Marcos, the unrepentant son of the dictator, was never in the running for my vote. Nor was failed mutineer Antonio Trillanes ever considered. Nor Honasan.

Cayetano’s a competent lawmaker. And bless him for going hammer and tongs at Marcos. But his bigotry was in full display during the Mamasapano hearings and BBL-related events. I’ve seen up close and personal the results of such bigotry. For that reason, I’ve never considered Cayetano.

For some time, it has been a toss-up between Sen. Chiz Escudero and Rep. Leni Robredo.

Before delving into the pros and cons of both candidates, here are some issues and points that influenced my decision. These are mine; I am well aware others have theirs and have no intention of forcing these on anyone.

  • You are not your father or your spouse, whether they be demons or saints. (Had Bongbong showed repentance, had he cooperated with the country’s search for justice, he would not be the candidate I most revile.)
  • Human rights are non-negotiable. So is a justice system that gives the poor a fair shake.
  • Corruption is evil. Working for transparency and systemic changes that make it harder for the corrupt to operate earn big points.
  • My socio-economic views have always leaned to the left, for inclusive governance that goes beyond dole-outs.
  • #ScrapPork
  • I have never voted based on gender. What one does for gender equality is more important.
  • “Experience” is over-rated. What one has done is what matters.

 Leni Robredo

Leni is competent. An economics degree the University of the Philippines (UP) and law from the University of Nueva Caceres. She is a member of Saligan, a national alternative lawyers’ group helping farmers. She is a lawyer for the poor. And, yes, her lifestyle is simple.

What has she done in her single term in Congress? I’ll quote Yoly Ong’s article in Rappler:

“Leni has pushed for the bills that benefit not only her constituents but the entire country such as the charter extension of the Philippine National Railway. She filed for the Full Disclosure Bill that will require all elected officials and government agencies to fully disclose any transactions, documents, and budgets of public interest. She is a champion for the Freedom of Information bill (FOI).”

Leni also backed President Aquino’s Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL.) I will give her full credit for taking on Marcos. She supports reforming the law on annulment. (No contender for the top two posts has come out for divorce.) She’s an opponent of the death penalty.

The FOI bill DIED in the House of Representatives. There were champions, yes. I think they tiptoed too much around Mr. Aquino’s aversion to FOI – even when they had accommodated Malacanang’s numerous suggestions. The timidity helped kill the FOI. The unwillingness to confront stalling House leaders helped ensure the bill would lie there and die there.

“Support for the BBL” is a phrase that doesn’t impress me. I followed proceedings. The BBL was WATERED DOWN by Mr. Aquino’s allies, Robredo among them. What it looked like after they got through with it was something the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vowed to reject.

I won’t invoke the sainted Jesse’s fight against illegal gambling. But Leni praising the governor of Pampanga (the wife of one of the country’s biggest alleged illegal gambling lords) puts into question her commitment to fight corruption.

To invoke good governance as a reason for getting cozy with Mrs. Pineda (who represented her husband in Senate probes) totally flies before known facts:

1) Pineda was a name that surfaced during the Estrada impeachment trial – those sacks of money delivered to San Juan;

2) A falling out over the spoils of jueteng made the family embrace Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;

3) Coming out bigger post EDSA 2, Pineda’s name once more during accounts of electoral fraud by the former President; he was allegedly among those who underwrote fraud.

 

Leni may spout anti-corruption lines. She may from time to time seem independent from this administration. But she sure hasn’t shown that independence when it comes to the heavy-handed use of government services – paid for by taxpayers – for her campaign.

Chiz Escudero

My problems with Chiz:

He’s too soft on President Aquino; they are good friends.

He justified the Iglesia ni Cristo’s shameless, extra-legal pressure to block a legitimate criminal case.

He did not come after Bongbong Marcos.

He did not banish that rapist Jalosjos from the slate’s campaign sorties. (A pardon does not change my mind about Jalosjos.)

He’s hasn’t given up on the idea of pork. (Robredo has her own DAP problems.)

He is a critic of the BBL.

Problems other people cite that I don’t buy:

Noy-Bi: Chiz was never LP; he owed Mar no allegiance. The President’s own sisters were Noy-Bi and so was the man he appointed executive secretary. There could have been no Noy-Bi without the Noy. (Don’t say, ‘didn’t he know Binay was corrupt?’ I’ll point you to PNOY and family.)

Alleged closeness to Danding — The old man is not fond of Chiz, whom he considers defiant and rebellious.

Blocking the coco levy bill — DHe’s not the only one who has serious concerns about HOW that particular bill aims to give justice to coco farmers.

Corruption — What? Where? When? How? There have never been clear facts on that. And that Napoles claim fizzled out fast.

So, yeah, never expect fire and brimstone from Escudero. He has never pretended to be an “alternative” politician. If you call him “trapo,” he’ll probably smile and and give you that silly wave.

Where it counts, however, Chiz DELIVERED on my priority issues.

He will not bash Marcos. But he was the main author in the Senate of RA 10368 – the reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime; RA 10353 – defining and penalizing enforced or involuntary disappearance; and RA 9745 – penalizing torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Aside from laws that added many courtrooms nationwide, he authored laws that seek systemic reforms in the justice system, reforms that better the odds for those without money or ‘connections’:

RA 10389 – institutionalizing recognizance as a mode of granting the release of an indigent person in custody as an accused in a criminal case;

RA 10158 – decriminalizing vagrancy;

RA 10071 – strengthening and rationalizing the National Prosecution Service (increasing salaries of public attorneys, among other changes);

RA 9999 – providing a mechanism for Free Legal Assistance;

RA 9995 – defining and penalizing the crime of photo and video voyeurism (critical in this digital age);

RA 9946 – granting additional retirement, survivorship and other benefits to members of the judiciary

We all know how PAGASA has improved. Escudero authored RA 10692, which allowed for the modernization of the weather service. He also authored

RA 10625 – reorganizing and strengthening the Philippine Statistical System; and RA 9470 – strengthening the system of management and administration of archival records, stabling the National Archives of the Philippines. (Very important, if not really sexy laws.)

For anybody who wonders how safe are the funds we park in banks, Escudero authored RA 9576 – increasing the maximum deposit insurance coverage, strengthening regulatory and administration authority and financial capability of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.

Transparency? Chiz is among the rare politicians with their pork allotments out there for public review. He has submitted a genuine waiver with his Statement on Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth since 2013. It’s the real thing. He just doesn’t do a big song and dance.

Among his pending bills are :

SB NO. 16 – requiring public officials and employees to submit written permission or waiver in favor of the ombudsman to look into ALL DEPOSITS OF WHATEVER NATURE WITH BANKS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE PH, including investment bonds issued by PH govt; and

SB NO. 18 – the Senate version of the FOI — implementing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern … and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. (Full disclosure in there; Chiz was main author; Poe it’s champion. The Senate passed it.)

My anti-Epal side likes SB NO. 17 – declaring as unlawful the naming of govt projects after govt officials and other persons whose name or identity may be associated with said officials.

SB NO. 118 – an act penalizing influence peddling; and SB NO. 425 – an act providing for protection, security and benefits of whistle-blowers should matter a lot to those hoping for a less corrupt country.

As a journalist, I appreciate SB NO. 127 – an act decriminalizing libel.

SB NO. 445 – amending the law on prostitution by imposing penalties on its perpetrators, and protective measures and support services for its victims – would end the current hypocrisy that penalizes sex workers while letting their users go free.

On consumers’ rights: SB NO. 123 – an act increasing the penalty for criminal negligence committed by common carriers

On OFW welfare: SB NO. 432 – penalizing the imposition of excessive placement fees against overseas Filipino workers

SB NO. 441 – magna carta of workers in the informal sector – tries to narrow the cracks in the economic system.

And, of course, it counts that he voted for the Senate version Neri Colmenares’ SSS pension increase bill.

I only have one vote and that goes to support real, tangible issues that matter. What’s been done matters.

Escudero gets my vote. It doesn’t scare me that many Filipinos are waltzing with a dictator’s son. And the argument that my vote will help him win doesn’t impress – because this administration’s record has made a mockery of the word ‘democracy.’

A black hole for a heart: PH hunger games


Hunger that drives people to madness and despair is tragic. Ignoring needs of hungry folk and answering demands for food with a hail of bullets is criminal. Launching a parade of lies to defend the indefensible is obscene. It strips President Benigno Aquino’s government of legitimacy.

The President is missing in the face of crisis, as usual. His spokespersons and alter egos, and local stooges, swerve and lurch from one falsehood to another.

tudla corn darwin
The Agriculture Secretary claims drought isn’t so bad in North Cotabato. This photo by Tudla productions shows Mrgy Malibatuan, Arakan,  hometown of 22-year old Darwin Sulang, killed in the April 1 dispersal of hungry farmers’ Kidapawan City barricade.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman Wilben Mayor claimed cops didn’t carry guns. Photos show armed cops were there from the start of the protest.

KILAB MARCH 31 Screen Shot
Kilab Multimedia staff took this photo of the police line in the Kidapawan protests on March 31, the day after cops shot at protesters. Their negotiators says the armed cops, contrary to national officials claim, were stationed very near the rallysts from the first day of the protest. 

Then the PNP said armed cops were sent because of the reported presence of rebels. They got a search warrant against the protesters’ church-owned sanctuary, but came out of the United Methodist Church compound with only one sports cap.

Manila officials cringed when the regional head of the Commission on Human Rights came out to say that cops had fired at kneeling and fleeing protesters.

KILAB SHOOTING2
Still image from Kilab video, “Bullets for Rice” (see below)

It didn’t surprise anyone who’d already seen video footage of the dispersal. The (pleasant) surprise was to find that some government officials remain committed to truth-telling.

Watch: Bullets for Rice by Kilab Multimedia

Suddenly, functionaries who had demanded the public wait for a government probe decided CHR Region 12 Director Erlan Deluvio. was not a person of authority.

 

The government ignored Deluvio and turned right to focus on a new tack:  communists were to blame for “duping” the farmers.

Farmers didn’t know why they were there, said these spokespersons.

mar-roxas-1Who fed them? demanded Malacanang factotums and lapdogs. There would have been no protest if nobody fed and encouraged these poor farmers, they said.

Liberal party standard bearer Mar Roxas has joined the chorus, as if he didn’t see the outpouring of support for the Lumad he and his patron refused to help.

Filipinos responded to the callous spin with an outpouring of rice donations for the farmers.

donation
Donations roll into the United Methodist Church compound after an embarrassed government ordered the lifting of a food blockade. These 400 sacks of rice from the Kilusang Mayo Uno. Photo by Kilab Multimedia

Officials staged more tantrums. The donations were aimed at embarrassing the government, they said.

donate2

Cops barred food from reaching protesters. They also tried to bar lawyers, rights workers and kin from access to the wounded, even to the dead.

National Union of People’s Lawyers Edre Olalia said cops kept arrested protesters in a gym way beyond the legally prescribed time — and then, in the absence of a lawyer, made them sign away their rights.

Every right had to be fought for. In the city of Kidapawan, the Philippines has its first display of urban hamletting — mass illegal detention and denial of the most basic needs.

The government even tried to scare off local businesses. Tudla Productions reported on April 5:

Kidapawan City Councilor Lauro Taynan, Jr. recieved a call from a trader that 300 sacks of rice to be donated to farmers were held up in the warehouse for the police refused that the sacks be taken out. The sacks were purchased by Becky Vidanes, Robin Padilla’s manager.

The persistent outcry and appalled statements from multilateral agencies and international groups and most media outfits prompted an about face that finally allowed the flow of aid today.

But not before the most obscene act opened.

The budget secretary, responding to reports that it had slashed P2-billion off requested El Nino mitigating funds, said agencies had been told to source whatever was needed from the budgets for other programs.

It truly needs people living on a different plane of reality would think it is right to cut an urgent request in half, and then stealing funds from allocated programs to cover up.

That’s a shell game, pure and simple, using people’s money – and you wonder what they’re covering up because they’ve been throwing money left and right to their pet legislators and local government officials.

National government started an outpouring of technocratese to numb the debate. But one of the ruling coalition’s most powerful members decided spice things up by suddenly becoming a security spokesman for the government.

alcalaProspero Alcala, President Aquino’s untouchable agriculture secretary – a slew of graft charges, his congressional slush fund ending up in ghost NGOs that used farmers without ever giving them the benefit of taxpayers’ monies – told media:

Things aren’t so bad; the communists only want it to sound bad, because they wanted a big shebang to celebrate the March 29 anniversary of the New People’s Army. The entire protest, says Alcala, was just a show. There wasn’t much hunger. There was, in fact a bumper crop.

That made for a collective puke heard around the country.

And that’s how you know it’s over, when the government starts botching up even the simplest rules of logic.

Government neglect and inefficiency and hubris were responsible for the Kidapawaan tragedy. Everything else that follows is just proof that this is a government without soul and, thus, without legitimacy. #30

READ Nat’l Food Authority workers say govt neglect led to Kidapawan Massacre

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, Bongbong, here’s a dictionary


Just in case all the partying during your dad’s glorious reign sidelined basic vocabulary lessons, here’s the Merriam-Webster definition of “gain”:

So let’s talk about “value” or what we hold dear.

Life is at the top of the pyramid, dude. Cavalier would be a kind adjective for your dad’s attitude towards the basic right to life. At last count, more than 75,000 have filed for compensation for human rights abuses under daddy dearest.

True, they’re still killing, torturing and arresting activists and journalists. Not that you’d be weeping tears for them.

But AFTER Edsa, the courts at least offered some chance of redress.

Under the Marcos dictatorship, everything was hostage to the whims of your father’s henchmen, including that fossil who owes his freedom – in the face of plunder raps – to the Supreme Court.

Your father’s regime cut short the lives of some of the country’s best and brightest. You’re alive and hale enough to pollute the air with your lies. Allowing even idiots their right to life is a real gain, don’t you think?

Had those guys with the same dictatorial bent succeeded in their putscht, you and yours would be buried in some deep pit.

Also, unless you think “Constitution” is a synonym for toilet paper, we do have a chance now to challenge autocrats who abuse power.

That right, which we wrested back from your dad’s stranglehold, led to landmark decisions on the pork barrel. Perhaps that’s a gain wasted on the son of a kleptocrat, who propped up his regime by borrowing gazillions to keep his minions happy.

bongbong2You don’t think people care about what happened under two decades of tyranny? And your empirical evidence is the dearth of people asking you questions about martial law and human rights violations?

It never occurred that people don’t bother asking you because of all the news reports detailing your memories of some warped wonderland?

Yes, news. We’re even printing your pratling. You’re allowed to peddle your fantasy. Of course, we’re also allowed to shoot down your lame fiction. I can see why you don’t count this as a “gain.”

“Gain” also includes the breakup of the monopolies your dad showered on his pals.

joel abong2
Joel Abong, the boy who became the poster child of famine in Philippines’ Sugarlandia — on www.revolutionrevisited.com

Go check out what the thousands of agricultural workers in Sugarlandia think of your dad and his cronies — not that opposition landowners were any better. Their children are still poor but no longer look like starving, sub-Saharan waifs.

Read what UcanNews reported way back in 1985:

In a pastoral letter draft in July, Philippine bishops said the famine “raised the spectre of a generation of brain-damaged children” …

Severe third-degree malnutrition among Negros children reached 7-8 percent, according to a UNICEF survey in July. This doubled the 1984 rate.

UNICEF officials told UCA News some countries declare 3 percent an emergency.

Doctor Violeta Gonzaga of La Salle College in Bacolod City says the third-degree malnutrition rate was 10 percent or more in August.”

There have been gains for the sugar workers — no thanks to the old-style oligarchy and the new-style kleptocracy. Those gains weren’t gifts from anyone but the fruits of their struggle.

You think life under Ferdinand Sr. was so flush?

The Businessworld points out:

“The average GDP growth rate from 1972 to 1985 (Marcos’s last full year) was all of 3.4% per annum. Per-capita GDP grew annually at less than 1% average over the period — more precisely 0.82%… For comparison, the average GDP growth from 2003 to 2014 — even under a bumbling and quarrelsome democracy — has been 5.4% per annum — with a rising trend. On a per capita basis, GDP today is rising 3.5% annually, more than four times the growth rate under the dictatorship.”

It’s laughable when you lament the lack of jobs that force people to brave foreign shores. The dearth in employment that pays enough for a decent life is true. But dude, the diaspora was launched and encouraged by your dad to mask rising unemployment and bring in foreign reserves needed to pay for the debts he racked up – to keep the party going.

 

You think all young Filipinos are so guillible? Let’s see what happens in May.

I may not think much of those seeking to lead the nation. But you talk like gains are on the account of a few leaders. In fact, gains have been won despite leaders. And young people know this.

Duh. This country owes you and your family  nothing for nothing.

The Philippines isn’t beyond saving. It can be made better. It will be made better. You and yours  are the last thing we need.

 

PH climate change plans favour big business, threaten IP lands


*Featured image by Kathy Yamzon, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – National Capital Region

Thousands of Filipinos joined today’s global climate change march led by the Roman Catholic church to protest a mitigation program that they say favors big business.

As President Benigno Aquino Jr. readies for his talk in Paris on behalf of nations vulnerable to climate change, environmentalists in the Philippines say the race to build coal-fired power plans and start mining operations on indigenous peoples’ lands erode his credibility.

Environmental groups like Kalikasan, Caraga Watch and Greenpeace International say the push for coal sets back the country’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 70% within the next 15 years.

Even the government’s ambitious re-greening program covering more than 7 million hectares of denuded lands has come under fire because of the focus on plantation cash-crops that include oil palms, the source of the deadly Indonesian haze that recently blanketed Southeast Asia.

Community farm - Lianga caraga1
Lumad of the Andap Valley complex in Surigao del Sur fear their farms will wither and die with the entry of coal mining firms .

Caraga Watch, which monitors investment projects in Southern Mindanao, links these big development projects to the spate of attacks on Lumad.

More than 60 indigenous leaders in Mindanao have died in resource conflicts since 2010. Ten of the dead were children. The attacks, which almost always precede the entry of mining and plantations have displaced more than 40,000 Lumad, according to the human rights group Karapatan.

Many of the rights violations are traced to paramilitary groups that received funding, arms and training after Mr. Aquino allowed the creation of investment defense forces.

Dirty coal

Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan forecasts Mr. Aquino’s short talk next week before the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as “grandstanding double talk that will ultimately toe the line of the United States and other top big polluter countries.”

He pointed out that coal and other fossil fuel power projects in the pipeline comprise more than 80 percent of all upcoming energy projects in the Philippines.

“In order to make climate solutions work for our nation, we need to put pressure not only on the world leaders, but most especially on our country’s leaders themselves,” Bautista said.

Sen. Loren Legarda has warned that the push for coal jeopardizes the country’s commitments to ease climate change.

“They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe,” Legarda stressed.

alsons saranggani bigger photo
Alson’s Power Group will start operating its new coal plant on the shore of Sarangani Bay by January next year. Environmentalists fear damage one of the country’s richest fishing grounds. The company counters that it is using “the latest clean coal technology.” 

The government’s energy program originally called for a 30-30-30 energy mix with natural gas, coal and renewables each accounting for 30% with 10% reserved for alternative technologies.

Legarda, however, said coal now dominates the country‘s energy mix, accounting for for 42.5% of power generated. By 2020, she added, coal would account for 56% of the mix.

“Barring any intervention, this will further increase to 75% by 2030— the highest share of coal among countries in Asia,” Legarda said.

Twenty-three new power plans are starting operations in the next five years.

“By embracing coal, the Philippines loses its credibility in fighting for a good climate change treaty,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.

Government’s coal program ignores the Greenpeace’s warnings in its 2012 report:

“From mining to combustion, coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels. A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal … Coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel and coal mining is responsible for 8-10% of human-made methane emissions globally.”

Threat to Lumad lives

Michelle Campos lost her father, Dionel, to a September militia attacked linked to coal mining. Soldiers acting on behalf of mining firms are demand a halt to Lumad resistance in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex, she said.

While Lumad huddled in a displacement camp, mining firm Abacus brought in mining equipment and personnel into the valley, according to Caraga watch.

MINING - EXISTING OPS

Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the environment department show half a dozen mining firms, including some responsible for horrific disasters, preparing to start operations.

Coal mining contracts cover 6,000 hectares in Lianga, Campos’ hometown, where militia killed her father, an uncle and the head of a Lumad school for “poising the minds” of IPs against extractive industries.

The town hosts the world’s biggest coal block reserve, according to Caraga Watch.

Coal, the country’s major lignite reserve, can be found in three of its provinces: Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The biggest bulk of coal reserve is said to be found in Bislig and the Andap Valley Complex which covers the municipalities of Tandag, Tago, San Miguel, Cagwait, Marihatag, San Agustin and Lianga in Surigao del Sur.

Aside from approving coal mine applications, the government is pushing construction of coal-fired power plants in Surigao del Sur and nearby provinces.

Mr. Aquino promises peace and greater economic standards from his development thrust.

The Ibon Philippines think tank, however, notes that most of the financial gains from mining — the country’s mineral reserves are valued USD 1.387 trillion or five times the country’s 2013 gross domestic product —  go to the big private firms.

Resource conflicts, meanwhile, put much burdens on local government units whose please to disband paramilitary forces have been ignored by Mr. Aquino.

MINING - AREAS OF CONFLICTS

“When we protect our ancestral lands we also protect all Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans, from environmental devastation and food insecurity,” Campos stressed. “When President Aquino talks of development and peace, he means the peace of the graveyard for our people.”

 

 

 

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE DUTERTE?


Even when he said enough, few people believed that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would be sailing off into the night.

Duterte has always been a lightning-and-thunder, one-man spectacle. With his latest pronouncement — now running for the 2016 Presidency –expect the Duterteserye to dominate the news and social media.

Whether you like him or not, Digong has shaken the odds for 2016.

His strengths may not be enough to give him victory. Not yet. But he has that rarest of political wealth — true believers. He has more than enough to bloody the noses of the two main power blocs.

He will hurt Roxas more than Poe. READ WHY on scaRRedcat’s latest blog on ABS-CBNNews.com:

UPDATE: I asked Norodin Alonto Lucman , who has filed his candidacy for the senatorial elections and is expected to be in a Duterte slate: How does he feel about Sen. Alan Cayetano, the mayor’s running-mate, if and when? Cayetano is at par with Bongbong Marcos and Roxas where the MILF and many Muslims are concerned.

Noor’s answer: Honestly, do we have a choice? Bongbong Marcos is a liability in Mindanao although it was assumed that he will deliver the North and Western Visayas votes. That is wishful thinking. Bisayans and Mindanaoans will vote for Duterte, hands down. Cayetano is a good prop but he might learn a thing or two about humility with Mayor Duterte.

He also points out that METRO MANILA IS THE REAL BATTLEGROUND.

Metro Manila is the ultimate battleground. There are 22 million votes in Mindanao and as of this writing 70% are in favor of Duterte candidacy. This is likely to surge after today’s announcement. He is also ahead in the Visayas region, ahead of Santiago and even beating Mar Roxas in his region, including Capiz. Luzon will be contested by three candidates from Luzon but Duterte will dominate the masa vote. Metro Manila has a sizable Bisayan and Mindanaoan population. They will campaign not because of some election circus in Manila but of survival and self-dignity. Having said that, Mindanao/Bangsamoro unity – especially the 5-million strong Muslim votes nationwide – is the key to Duterte’s presidency. His senate slate have to tag along because he needs his senators to push his sweeping agenda in Congress. This is a non violent revolution. But if Luzon resist, Mindanaoans knows how to fight too.

Another reader, Godofredo Bernabe · notes:

Duterte’s entry into the presidential race will alter significantly the political landscape and voters equation. PDP-Laban may attract NP (of Manny Villar that has 3 VPs but no presidential candidate). Pacquiao also may leave VP Binay and move to Duterte’s camp. LP nagmamatigas NOT TO LOWER TAX RATE FOR THE WORKING CLASS (one-third of the workers income) prolonged also by the boring LP bets. You have 2 Mannys (Villar and Pacquiao) and the ‘money” they bring to the table of Duterte. Mass exodus is expected.

*Must admit, haven’t thought of the two money bags.

Meanwhile, LenDante Clarino believes Roxas will be the biggest loser and Poe the biggest gainer from a Duterte run … but for a different reason. He says Mr. Aquino will back Poe secretly to ensure his peace in the post-presidency days:

With ‪#‎Duterte‬ entering the prez race and the consequent exodus of NP leaders and others or their shedding off of their political skin to show off to the Davao Mayor, ‪#‎MarRoxas‬ and that idiotic bandwagon, ‪#‎TuwidNaDaan‬ is a goner. The main beneficiary of this latest move by the ‪#‎Digong‬would be ‪#‎GracePoe‬. Foundling or not, natural-born, she’s not, nothing will stop ‪#‎PNoy‬ from throwing his all-out support to Poe—albeit secretly—by using the resources of his office—which last time we look, cornered almost 50% of the PhP2.66 trillion of the 2015 national budget in the form of lump sum funds and other ‘insertions’ including his office’s share in the current deliberations for the proposed PhP3.1 trillion 2016 budget, which is an election year. 

This president will do anything just to avoid jail-time after his stint ends next year. He has this track record when he went all out with his previously unknown ‪#‎DAP‬ pork funds and accordingly bribed—per Sen. Jinggoy Eatrada—the senator- judges in impeaching ex-Chief Justice Corona. If Poe doesn’t bite this ‘carrot on a stick,’ a repeat of “Noy-Bi” would be a likely possibility. In the meantime, it may do well for his supporters to ensure the impending win of ‘El Presidente Duterte’ by pressuring ‪#‎Comelec‬ and its partner-in-crime ‪#‎Smartmatic‬ and expose this syndicate and the fraud that is, ‪#‎PCOS‬ (PNoy’s Criminal Option in Sabotaging) elections.