Saturday, 5 December 2009

Proclamation No. 1959--declaring Martial Law in Maguindanao and Press Conference

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Martial law in Maguindanao

Palace move paves way for arrest of massacre suspects
Manila Bulletin

Malacañang placed Maguindanao under the state of martial law effective Friday night in preparation for the arrest of several key personalities implicated in the November 23 massacre of 57 people, including 30 journalists, a well-placed source revealed last night.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde refused to neither confirm nor deny the report, saying: "No comment."

Presidential Adviser on Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza said if the report was true, Malacañang will not announce it as it will defeat the purpose.

Among those to be arrested are members of the Ampatuan political clan, the source said.

With the imposition of martial law, the military will now temporarily take over in running the provincial government, the source said.

However, ABS-CBN reported that while martial law is in effect, Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao commander, will take over from Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., one of the suspects in the massacre, as the provincial military governor.

At present, there are now six battalions of government forces deployed in the entire province of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City.

But while Maguindanao is now under martial rule, state of emergency remains in effect in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City.

Of the six battalions of military troops, three are concentrated in Shariff Aguak, the capital of Maguindanao and where the main mansions of the Ampatuans are located. One mechanized battalion with more than a dozen Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) are also in Shariff Aguak.

On Thursday, government forces discovered a huge cache of artillery and ammunition buried at a vacant lot near the mansion of the Ampatuans in Shariff Aguak. Authorities believed some of these weapons were used in the massacre.

Gov. Ampatuan Sr. summoned

Earlier Friday, government prosecutors summoned Ampatuan patriarch, Maguindanao Gov. Ampatuan Sr., six members of the clan, and five others to appear before the Department of Justice in Manila on December 18 in a preliminary investigation to answer multiple murder charges (six counts) filed against them by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in connection with the deaths of six of 57 persons killed in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao, last Nov. 23.

The respondents who were summoned, aside from Andal Sr., were his detained son Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Jr., Shariff Aguak Vice Mayor Datu Ulo Ampatuan; Mamasapano Mayor Bahnarin Ampatuan; Salibo Vice Mayor Kanor Datumanong; Tony Kenis Ampatuan, a police auxiliary of Shariff Aguak; Muhamad Sangki, Sangguniang Bayan member of Datu Abdullah Sangki town; Tammy Masukat; Tumi Timba Abas, a police auxillary of Shariff Aguak; one alias Kumander Beri, a member of the civilian volunteer organization in Shariff Aguak; and a certain Dahutay, a militiaman assigned at Sitio Binibiran, Matagabong, Ampatuan town.

The respondents were required to file their respective counter-affidavits on the murder charges when they appear before prosecutors on Dec. 18.

The CIDG filed multiple murder charges against Andal Sr. et al before the DoJ Wednesday in connection with the deaths of lawyer Catalino Oquendo and his daughter-lawyer Cynthia Oquendo Ayon, Manila Bulletin reporter Alejandro "Bong" Reblando, Jepson C. Cadagdangon, Mac Gilbert Ariola, and Francisco Subang, Jr.

The Oquendos, counsel of Maguindanao gubernatorial candidate and Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, were accompanying the wife of Mangudadatu and a few supporters in filing his certificate of candidacy at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak when they were waylaid by a group of armed men allegedly led by the Andal Jr.

Reblando, Cadagdangon, Ariola, and Subang Jr., were part of a news team from General Santos City who were covering the filing of Mangudadatu’s election papers when they were killed. The news team considered the filing a significant event in the province as no one had dared challenge the power and influence of the Ampatuans.

Andal Jr. was reportedly being groomed by the elder Ampatuan to take his place after three terms as governor. Andal Sr. had always run unopposed.

The respondents have already been placed on the watch list by the Bureau of Immigration.

Earlier, 25 counts of murder had been filed by the DoJ before a Cotabato City court against Andal Jr., for the death of 25 out of the 57 massacre victims.

The additional six counts of murder filed by the CIDG with the DoJ raised to 31 the number of murder cases filed against Andal Jr.

Meanwhile, police and military authorities recovered on Thursday several powerful firearms buried in a vacant lot near the Ampatuan residence in Shariff Aguak, according to a report reaching the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP-WesMinCom).

The report, which was also sent to PNP headquarters in Metro Manila, said military troops aided by members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) team of the Philippine National Police (PNP) dug up late Thursday several high-powered firearms buried in a lot in Barrio 3, Shariff Aquak, Maguindanao.

Found were two 90mm Recoilless Rifles, one 57mm Recoilless Rifle, three 60mm mortar tubes, four M60 Light Machineguns, two 81mm mortar tubes, a caliber .50 Barret sniper rifle, a FAL rifle, an Ultimax automatic rifle, a Bushmaster 5.56mm rifle, two Browning automatic rifles, an AK-47 rifle, an HK11 rifle, a 5.56mm M14 rifle, four 9mm pistols, seven .45 pistols, 140 boxes of 5.56mm ammunition, a spare barrel for caliber 50 and assorted gun parts and magazine assemblies.

The report added some residents tipped off the military about the arms cache buried in the area and the troops asked a local court for a search warrant.

The troops also recovered several military uniforms in Barangay Poblacion Tres, Shariff Aguak, suspected to have been used by the gunmen in the killings of the 57.

Director General Jesus Verzosa, chief of the PNP, said raids were conducted on the houses of four members of the Ampatuan family in Poblacion Tres, Shariff Aguak town.

He said 60mm mortars are issued only to special police and military units. "If it’s a mortar, it’s unauthorized, it’s loose. Only authorized units or security forces are allowed to possess these firearms. Civilians or local government executives are not allowed to have them."

Verzosa said a bulldozer was used to dig the site as the firearms and uniforms were buried deep under the ground. "Our estimate is that these seized firearms are enough to arm a battalion," he said.

All of the firearms seized will be subjected to ballistic examinations to determine if they were used in the massacre.

Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., said initial reports by the AFP state that discovery of the buried firearms was made through joint operations by the police and the military led by 601st Brigade commander Col. Leo Ferrer, together with 73rd IB’s Lt. Col. Edgardo de Leon under the 10th Infantry Division and intelligence groups. (With a report from Genalyn Kabiling)

RP’s corn production expected to breach 7M tons in 2009

Jennifer A. Ng
Business Mirror

CORN production in 2009 is projected to grow by 1.63 percent to 7.041 million metric tons (MMT) despite the adverse effect of climate change on domestic crop production.

Although first-semester corn production was at 3.22 MMT or 2.27-percent lower than last year’s 3.29 MMT, output for the year’s second half is projected to increase 5.16 percent to 3.82 MMT.

In a report to Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Romeo Recide, director of the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), said that for the July-September period, corn production surpassed last year’s output by 5.17 percent from 2.26 MMT to 2.37 MMT, largely due to the expansion of harvest areas and the improvement in per-hectare yields.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dennis Araullo said that other initiatives helped corn’s increased production, like the National Food Authority’s (NFA) adjustment of corn support price to P13 per kilogram from P11 per kilo.

Araullo also pointed to the significant increase in the NFA’s corn procurement this year which helped stabilize prices.

Recide reported to Yap that harvest areas grew by 3.10 percent from 921,000 hectares to 949,000 hectares in the third quarter, with the per-hectare yield jumping by 2.01 percent from 2.45 MT to 2.5 MT per hectare (MT/ha).

Moreover, “inspite of the damages caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy and typhoons Pepeng, Ramil and Santi, the standing crop for the October-December 2009 period points to a production gain of 5.15 percent from last year’s level of 1.38 MMT to 1.45 MMT,” Recide said in his report.

He said that for this period, expected harvest area may expand 0.51 percent from 604,000 hectares to 607,000 hectares while yield may improve by 4.61 percent from 2.29 MT per hectare to 2.39 MT/ha.

Recide said there were significant corn production increases in Cagayan Valley , Northern Mindanao, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the year’s third quarter.

For the July-September period, corn output in Cagayan Valley increased by 13.42 percent or an additional 75,390 MT; in Northern Mindanao , 18.42 percent or 75,320 MT; and ARMM, 15.2 percent or 35,020 MT.

Recide said for the last quarter of the year, production in ARMM is expected to grow by 21.9 percent or 57,200 MT due to the massive plantings in idle and forest lands and in areas damaged by typhoons Jolina and Kiko, which led to the expansion in harvest areas by 31.42 percent or 23,880 hectares.

He also noted that there would also be a remarkable increase in corn production in Cagayan Valley in the October-December period by 52.65 percent or 53,070 MT as the harvest area there may expand by 58.73 percent or 16,570 hectares due to plantings of in-fallow and newly opened areas.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Marinduque Extreme Series 2

PGMA Statement at the UNTV Broadcast Center, General Santos City

PLDT readies ‘broadband over power lines’

By Paolo Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said it will be ready to launch, in six to 12 months, its landmark “broadband over power lines (BPL)” service, seen as a new technology that will fast-forward the growth of Internet use in the country.

The BPL technology is a by-product of the PLDT group’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest power distributors.

The new technology, as its name suggests, will allow PLDT to efficiently bring broadband services to virtually all of Meralco’s 24 million customers concentrated in Metro Manila and nearby areas at a minimal cost.

The technology will allow the company to deliver Internet services to households using Meralco’s network of power lines in Metro Manila.

PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said tests for the BPL technology in parts of Malabon, which started in July, have been on-going.

“I’ve seen what the [BPL] can do, and it seems to be doing fine,” he told reporters earlier this week.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Pangilinan said, adding that a more widespread roll-out of the service would be realistic in six to 12 months.

Despite the popularity of online gaming and social networking sites in the country, Internet usage in the Philippines is still far from being as widespread as it is in neighboring countries in the region.

Only one in every five Filipinos has access to the web, as compared to other Asian countries like Korea and Singapore, where almost everyone is online.

PLDT is the country’s largest telecommunications provider with nearly 40 million people subscribed to its “telephony” or voice and text messaging services—a far cry from its nearest rival Ayala-led Globe Telecom, Inc., which has only 25 million.

However, PLDT has only about a million broadband subscribers.

Meanwhile, Pangilinan said this would mean a new income stream for Meralco since the power firm would be getting paid to have its power lines used to deliver the Internet services, even if it was for its sister firm.

“Meralco will provide the highway for the broadband signals, so Meralco will get paid for its services,” he said.

PLDT, its employee pension fund and another Pangilinan-led firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), directly and indirectly own a combined 41.4-percent stake in Meralco.

Video: Rehabilitated Philippine railways

By Mithril Cloud

What's up? Political heat

Fernan Marasigan
Business Mirror

Villar: NP now stronger

THE Nacionalista Party (NP) is now seeing an unprecedented surge in the number of its members, growing ten-fold over since the start of this year under the leadership of the party president, Sen. Manny Villar.

“I took an oath to reclaim the old glory of the Nacionalista Party and recapture its rich history of unparalleled greatness. Today, I can safely say we are on the right path toward that goal,” Villar, the party’s standard-bearer in next year’s election, said in a statement.

He revealed that from just a few members early this year, the NP’s membership has swelled to more than 6,000.

“This continues to grow by the day as our leaders begin to recognize the party’s stability as an organization and its firm resolve to fight poverty through genuine reforms,” he explained.

Villar said NP is the only party in the country today that can claim to have done more in shaping the country by immensely influencing the course of political history.

“This great party had produced six presidents and thousands of great leaders over a period of more than a century. The ideals and principles that guide the Nacionalista Party up to now are founded on doctrines of independence,” he said.

“We continue to take the side of the oppressed, the masses, the workers, the poor and the dispossessed. This, I believe, is one of the reasons we are growing bigger by the day.”

Last month was a productive one for NP’s efforts to enlist more members, as national and local leaders took oaths of membership with the party almost every day, sometimes by the hundreds.

The latest of these mass oath-takings with the NP was held on November 23, where some 700 incumbent officials across the country swore allegiance to the party in a simple ceremony at the Laurel House in Mandaluyong City.

Two days before that, some 200 grassroots leaders in Batangas took oath as new members of the party in Santo Tomas, Batangas.

“These defections can only mean one thing: 2010 will be a great year for the Nacionalista Party. With our political stock continuously growing, I am confident we can relive the greatness of the Grand Old Party once again,” Villar said.

Vidal on Arroyo’s Congress bid: ‘No big deal’

CARDINAL Ricardo Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, played down Mrs. Arroyo’s candidacy, saying it is her privilege to do so since it is allowed by the Constitution.

Asked by reporters at a Makati hotel if he does not consider as a big deal the President’s decision to hold a lower elective post after relinquishing the presidency, the Cardinal curtly replied; “Why should it be?”

“That is her privilege as a citizen. If she wants her expertise to be shared again, it is up to her,” Vidal stressed.

“If she wants to serve the people, who can stop her?” he added.

Two other bishops defended Mrs. Arroyo’s 2010 bid, indicating that they respect it as an exercise of her legal and democratic rights.

“As a Filipino citizen supporting the ideas of democracy, I have to uphold the Constitution and the law of the land. As long as any move or action of anyone is in conformity with it, I believe I have to respect and uphold his or her rights,” Bishop Emilio Marquez of the Diocese of Lucena said in a statement.

Bishop Rodolfo Beltran of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe in Northern Luzon said legal experts have assured him that there are no constitutional or statutory obstacles to President Arroyo’s candidacy.

“If the President is motivated by a desire to continue serving her constituency in Pampanga as their representative in Congress, the purpose is noble and it is to be lauded,” Beltran said in his own written statement.

(With R. Alluad and C. Monforte)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

QTV: Arroyo condoles with families of slain journalists

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Videos: LRT / MRT

Too many people? No, too many Malthusians

Brendan O’Neill

"Since 200 AD, scaremongers have been describing human beings as ‘burdensome to the world’. They were wrong then, and they’re still wrong today."


" population has risen exponentially over the past 40 years and in the same period a great many people’s living standards and life expectancies have improved enormously. Even in the Third World there has been improvement – not nearly enough, of course, but improvement nonetheless. The lesson of history seems to be that more and more people are a good thing; more and more minds to think and hands to create have made new cities, more resources, more things, and seem to have given rise to healthier and wealthier societies."

The financial typhoon is coming

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

It is the holiday season and we should be upbeat and positive. However, there are events unfolding in the global financial markets and economies that deserve immediate attention and consideration.

It is unfortunate that our leaders are preoccupied with next year’s elections and believe that it is just “business as usual.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

The global financial system is more fragile and precariously hanging by a thread today than ever in history. There is a risk, a real potential of a systemic global economic failure in the next six months.

Earlier this year, Iceland went bankrupt. That nation of 300,000 went out of business, rescued only by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout of $6 billion. Last week, Dubai quit paying its debt and now needs a $50-billion cash infusion to stay in business.

Great Britain will see its economy shrink by 5 percent in 2009. The government needs an additional $300 billion for each of the next three years to fund spending. This money can only come from additional borrowings and the printing of currency.

The United States has borrowed to the highest level in its history, pumping more than $1 trillion into its economy. Yet the economic benefits are not there. Holiday spending is down from last year despite that trillion-dollar stimulus. The housing market is still a catastrophe with nearly 25 percent of all home loans greater than the market value of the house, making it better for mortgage holders to default than to pay. Commercial real estate is beginning to show the same signs of foreclosure and loan-default potential.

Countries have printed so much money that devaluation is reducing purchasing power daily. Further, because there is little chance that this devaluation will stop, combined with near-zero interest rates, people are borrowing dollars to buy any tangible asset in sight. Oil goes higher in spite of demand going lower. The prices of wheat and other grains go higher in spite of high prices nearly killing the US grain export market. Home construction in the US is dead, yet lumber prices go higher because “cheap” money is looking for “cheap” hard assets.

Stock-market prices go up and no one cares if the companies are making any profit or even if they will be in business in a year. The trading model is simply get out of cash and into anything and everything that has some intrinsic value.

And as hard assets increase in price beyond the theoretical demand-justified price, currencies become less valuable and, therefore, less valued, hence devaluation. Further, there is no indication that currency devaluation is going to stop anytime soon as all the developed countries (Japan is the latest) have made clear that they will continue the policy of low interest rates, continued spending and continued currency printing.

The risk of a monstrous financial armageddon grows every day because eventually we may reach a trigger point where prices will suddenly go berserk.

There may well come an incident that pulls the trigger.

A major sovereign failure could occur. Greece has a debt burden equal to more than 100 percent of its annual gross domestic product. The markets are worried about the potential of a $200-billion default. Ireland looks shaky also with some $70 billion in loans at risk. Either of these would cause a domino effect as foreign creditor banks would, in turn, require bailouts from their home countries, and there is just not enough funding available. The only alternative is to print more money creating a spiral of devaluation.

The US banking system is in worse condition than before the massive bailouts of these last two years. Another major bank failure there would create a ripple effect requiring billions of unavailable rescue funds.

How high is the risk of a global collapse? Higher than you may think.

Gold hit a high above $1,200 yesterday. Gold is up 20 percent in less than two months. Theoretically, there should be an equal drop in the value of the dollar. It has not happened. If gold prices continue to go higher, as I firmly believe they will, at some point, $1,400, $1,500, $1,800, the dollar will collapse, dragging the global financial system. One day in the near future, we may see gold jumping by increments of $20, $30, $50 and the dollar dropping by €2 or €3 with each trade.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government blissfully moves forward doing little, relying on the wisdom of Obama and trusting in Uncle Sam. Our central bank buys dollars and sells pesos. Others do the opposite. Sri Lanka buys 10 tons of gold and sells $375 millions. Mauritius bought two tons gold last month. India spent $6.7 billion for gold at an average price of $1,045. They all have made a 10-percent to 20-percent profit. How much money has the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) earned on its dollar holdings?

Do not expect the Philippine government to do anything to protect your wealth.

Sell your dollars now. If you do not trust the peso manipulation by the BSP, buy yen and euros for the moment. Eventually you will be running back to pesos. As the dollar drives lower, there will be nothing the BSP can do to prevent peso appreciation to below 40 and more.

Buy the local stock market and real estate. Countries like the Philippines will become global safe havens for hard cash as the peso has plenty of appreciation room, interest rates are high by comparison (backed by sound banks), and Philippine assets have true value. Buy physical gold and silver coins from the BSP. Also be prepared for a large spike in oil prices early next year until the peso catches up with dollar devaluation.

This is not a worst-case scenario. What we have seen in the last 12 months is only the dark clouds before the typhoon comes.


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‘Bayan-anihan’ helps poor Filipinos be food-sufficient

Rizal Raoul Reyes
Business Mirror

DURING the campaign season, politicians from every political spectrum will profess their love for the hampas-lupa (landless or downtrodden).

However, Gawad Kalinga has been ahead in championing the welfare of the hampas-lupa through their advocacy, which goes national by the end of 2009. The program will roll over 300 additional farms in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, according to Gawad Kalinga chairman Antonio Meloto.

At present, there are 107 Bayan-anihan farms established in Luzon that have harvested more than 66 metric tons of vegetables, feeding over 17,000 Filipinos.

The over 100 farms utilized an estimated 5 hectares of land, which is only 0.0001 percent of the total arable land in the Philippines, according to 2007 figures compiled by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture.

According to Meloto, Gawad Kalinga is aiming for sustainability through the Bayan-anihan program, which takes care of the food component.

In a recent media briefing, Meloto said Bayan-anihan teaches marginalized Filipinos to be productive members of society by encouraging them to produce their own food.

“We want to uplift the status of the hampas-lupa to enable them to have a better future,” said Meloto.

Recalling his younger years in Bacolod, Meloto said he saw how the hampas lupa, the sacada, in Negros used to sleep on the ground after working in the sugar-cane fields.

The land problem, according to Meloto, continues to haunt the marginalized as they are forced to live in squatter colonies in subhuman conditions.

“Because he does not have the capability to own a piece of land, the landless individual continues to be a hampas-lupa wherever he goes,” said Meloto.

Meloto said that the fight against poverty needs to be placed on the high list, citing that “most Filipinos are not aware that hunger is a very big issue in the Philippines.”

“It is a huge problem as shown in a third-quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations Inc., with 17.6 percent of Filipino households experiencing involuntary hunger. That is an estimated 3.2 million families. With over 1.5 million families affected by Ondoy and Pepeng, these numbers will continue to worsen and will keep the Philippines’ hunger numbers in double digits for the sixth year. It is no surprise that the Philippines was ranked as the fifth-hungriest country in the world in the 2008 World Hunger Survey by Gallup International,” said Bayan-anihan in its information sheet.

Through Gawad Kalinga and Bayan-anihan, Meloto said they want to prove to the country that rural folks don’t need to go to Metro Manila because there is a future in the countryside.

“We want to pursue a reverse-migration policy and help the country attain sustainable development,” he said.

Bayan-anihan, moving under Gawad Kalinga’s direction, has crafted 10- square-meter farming models under its hunger eradication program. The road map includes small-scale commercial farming integrated farming and establishment of cooperatives.

Meloto said this program will develop a culture of productivity, from reliance to self-sufficiency.

“This is part of changing the cultural mindset of the Filipinos to become self-reliant,” he said.

Bayan-anihan’s farming model is family-based because each family is given a 10-square-meter plot of land where they can farm and are equipped with the necessary tools like weighing scales, vegetable seeds and seedlings, and organic fertilizers. Each plot can yield a minimum of 10 kilograms of vegetables per month, good enough for 30 meals per family.

The beneficiaries are also provided with training programs, seminars and community-building campaigns which allow them to learn proper methods of farming, gain information on nutrition, gain culinary skills, and take part in a community which recognizes the hard work that they are able to put into their fields.

To facilitate replanting, Bayan-anihan farms use open pollinated seeds that can self-generate for the next planting cycle versus hybrid seeds.

Vegetables and fruits grown by Bayan-anihan are organic. Chemical pesticides are never used. A composting pit will even be set up in each farm to produce its own organic fertilizer.

A study funded by the European Union found that organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants than conventional equivalents. Called Quality Low Input Food Research, it takes only five months from community qualification to full harvest, a mere 20 weeks of converting a community from reliance to self-sufficiency.

To make the program more formidable, he said Bayan-anihan has formed partnerships from different sectors to implement these programs. At present, Bayan-anihan has partnered with 50 corporations and individuals, over 100 local government officials, more than 80 agricultural universities, and 2,000 students.

Meloto said Bayan-anihan’s partnership with some corporations has gone beyond the adoption of farms. For instance, Del Monte has created “Goodbye Gutom” recipes to encourage mothers to cook their vegetables in new ways. Shell has committed to championing the composting technology.

Bayan-anihan is an integral part of post-Ondoy rebuilding efforts of partner corporations such as Globe’s Bangon Pinoy and Smart’s Ahon Norte.

Meloto said the important role of the Department of Agriculture (DA) through Sec. Arthur Yap as a founding partner of Bayan-anihan. The DA is providing farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizers.

Sustainability is another important element in the antipoverty campaign of Bayan-anihan. It has deployed a full force of volunteer faculty and agricultural students from over 80 agricultural schools and universities who conduct trainings to communities and monitor the farms.

Although she belongs to a prominent family, Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski said farming is one of her hobbies. She didn’t think twice when Gawad Kalinga asked her to be one of the warriors in the fight against hunger.

Cojuangco-Jaworski recalled that she learned of the significance of Bayan-anihan when she watched one of the videos during the GK 1MB (Isang Milyong Bayani) Summit, where a man’s life was completely changed after he was given a home and a 10-square-meter plot of land where he can plant vegetables for his family to eat.

“I was so touched by it, not only because of how it enriched their lives and changed Mang Antero’s [the man featured] outlook about himself, but because, just like the homes of GK, Bayan-anihan is another very tangible, realistic, attainable way of making our lives better. So it immediately struck me.”

After her encounter with the Bayan-anihan farms in the aftermath of Ondoy and Pepeng, Cojuangco-Jaworski realized that a family values more its output when they worked hard for it. “When we know we’ve achieved something with our effort, we’ll make the most of it. We’ll maintain it and make sure that it’s used to its full potential,” she said.

“After all these disasters, we see these people bonding together and getting back on their feet as one instead of pointing fingers at each other. Aside from the bayanihan spirit being even more alive, they went on restoring what has been lost because they know they are able to do it, because they’ve done it before. They can help themselves because they already have the knowledge and skills,” she added.

She said farming taught her the values of persistence and determination, especially when the plants she planted died. Failures according to Cojuangco-Jaworski, taught her to learn the proper ways of farming and planting. To make her knowledgeable, she studied topography, irrigation and related topics. By following the right steps, Cojuangco-Jaworski said she was able to maintain an herb garden and a farm for vegetables and fruit trees where she grows her favorite organic produce.

“Agriculture and farming are best examples of using our knowledge that fits or is in harmony with the natural order of things. In this field, if you practice what you learn, definitely and literally, you will harvest something and you can help improve the lives of others,” she said.

ODA partners express support for reconstruction efforts worth $3B

Cai U. Ordinario and Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

IN A bid to help the Philippine government undertake reconstruction and recovery efforts, the donor community represented by the country’s official development assistance (ODA) partners have indicated they will extend financial support worth $3 billion.

Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) chairman and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves told reporters that the amount cannot still be termed as a formal commitment since the donors as well as the public- and private-sector representatives will still have to meet and discuss the details of the financial support.

Teves said the amount will not be final until donors and the national government have already signed an agreement indicating the exact amounts donors will be contributing.

Apart from the financial support from ODA partners, Teves also said the government, particularly government financial institutions (GFIs), government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and local government units (LGUs), will extend some $2 billion to share part of the reconstruction- and recovery-effort burden.

“We are pleased with the broad indication of support by our development partners that reached $3 billion. Together with available funding from the public sector, or about $2 billion, plus private-sector, efforts through the PDRF, we are confident that we can have enough funds to meet the requirements for the country’s recovery and reconstruction,” Teves said.

Teves explained that the GFIs, GOCCs and the LGUs will be able to provide funds since most of these government entities are in surplus. The GFIs and GOCCs which will likely be tapped include the GFIs, Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.

GOCCs that will likely be tapped include the Home Mutual Development Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund and the National Development Corp.

Vice President Noli de Castro indicated that the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council already extended P12 billion worth of home calamity loans and relocated families displaced by the storms.

De Castro said most of the families displaced by the storms were relocated in safer areas in the nearest cities or towns from their original locations.

Teves said the funds from the ODA partners will be available in three to six months’ time. The finance secretary also assured that apart from the ODA, which will be composed of concessional loans and grants, and the government’s share, support from the private sector may also be expected within the next few months.

“The support from the GFIs and GOCCs is a welcome boost to our recovery and reconstruction efforts as we recognize that the fiscal space of the national government is getting tighter due to the revenue-eroding measures and the impact of the global financial crisis and the economic slowdown on our revenue collection,” Teves said.

National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Acting Director General Augusto Santos said the majority of the projects that will be financed by these funds will be geared toward flood-control projects.

The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report stated that the total cost of recovery and reconstruction may be onerous, but doing nothing could be more expensive for the government.

“Because of the rapid increase in economic activity and concentration of people in Metro Manila, the costs of disasters such as Ondoy warrant investments in much higher protection against floods and other disasters than currently in place,” the PDNA stated.

Teves said public, as well as private- sector entities committed on Tuesday far more resources than the economic ruin left in the wake of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

While damage done to the economy totaled more or less $4.4 billion or P208 billion, the country’s development partners vowed to spend around $5 billion or P234 billion for three years to compensate for the losses.

The economic toll has been huge, the damage having been estimated to equal 2.7 percent of local output or the gross domestic product this year, Teves said.

More than 90 percent of the economic ruin was sustained by private- sector entities, and its impact was magnified by the fact that it struck a sector, the Metro Manila area, which accounts for 60 percent of GDP.

“We are pleased with the broad indication of support by our development partners which reached more than $3 billion. Together with available funding from the public sector of about $2 billion, plus private-sector efforts through the PDRF, we have more than enough funds to meet the requirement for the country’s recovery and reconstruction,” Teves said.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Manila trash becomes hot London fashion item

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, December 1, 2009 (AFP) - At a warehouse near Manila's infamous Smokey Mountain dump, slum-dwellers working for a British-led charity are turning rubbish into fashion items that are proving a hit in top-end London shops.

Under a dim fluorescent lamp, amid the constant humming of sewing machines, about 20 women cut pieces of cloth and other materials found amid the garbage to make teddy bears.

Others are busy putting finishing touches to handbags and purses made from discarded toothpaste tubes, while glossy magazines are turned into colourful bracelets.

"This bag costs about 100 pounds sterling ($165) or more in London," said Jane Walker, a former publishing executive from Southampton who gave up her lavish lifestyle in 1996 to set up the Philippine Christian Foundation in Manila after seeing the plight of the poor here.

Walker said about 200 bags were currently being shipped to boutiques in London, and the foundation was unable to meet demand.

"I had to turn down three shops in London ordering our products because we keep running out."

Walker said a deal to supply a major luxury chain was also in the works, while negotiations were underway with an American firm to produce shoes and slippers using discarded car tyres.

Known in the local press as Manila's "angel of the dumps" for her work among the scavengers of Smokey Mountain, the 45-year-old single mother's tireless efforts have helped entire families rise above crushing poverty.

Last year, she was made a Member of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of her work.

Relying mainly on corporate donations, the non-profit foundation provides livelihood projects, health services and free education to children of families living on the dumpsite.

Covering a sprawling area in Tondo district near Manila Bay and just a few kilometres (miles) from the presidential palace, Smokey Mountain has come to symbolize pervasive poverty in this Southeast Asian nation of 92 million people.

An entire colony of squatter families lives off the dump, which got its name from methane gas-induced black smoke billowing from the mound.

While parts of the site have been levelled to make official settlements over the past decade, a large portion remains a permanent open dump for tonnes of daily refuse from Manila's 12 million inhabitants.

Before Walker set up her foundation, swarms of children and entire families would descend on the trash, scavenging for items to sell at junkshops.

The thousands of people living on Smokey Mountain had no other way out, and the few pesos earned from a day's gruelling work was spent on food.

Many still do scavenge.

But through Walker's efforts, a school was built, an abandoned warehouse was transformed into a livelihood centre where hot meals were offered and the children were given a semblance of a normal life.

Then, when the global financial crisis hit last year and many donors cut back on corporate social responsibility work, Walker was forced to find creative ways to raise new funding.

She came up with the idea of turning trash into fashion accessories and began getting members of the community, mainly mothers, to start sewing together ring tabs from aluminum cans into tiny purses.

She then expanded the project to include laptop and shoulder bags for women.

Other products soon followed -- necklaces and bracelets from colourful magazines, and stuffed toys from readily available material from the dump.

"The magazines are cut into triangular shapes and glued and rolled, keeping the brightly coloured part as the last part to roll so the beads are more interesting," Walker said.

"The beads are then dipped in clear varnish and later assembled into jewellery."

The products were first sold to friends, but then found their way into a specialty store carrying eco-friendly fashion in Manila's upmarket Makati financial district.

Soon, there were orders from shops in London.

"The mothers come up with their own designs, they are all very creative," she said.

At any given time, about 40 families are directly employed by the foundation, with each earning at least P3,000 ($65) a month -- far more than they could earn from picking trash alone.

"This has helped me a lot because I can work and watch my grandchildren go to school," said Martha Dominguez, 60, as she delicately put together a stuffed toy.

"We lived surrounded by trash all our lives, not knowing that we could have made it into money."

Walker said the project gave the people involved more than just income.

"There is a big social angle to the project. Many mothers consider mastering the techniques in making bags their biggest achievement in life," she said.

Proceeds from the sales are not enough to sustain the foundation's entire operations but they have helped fill a void left by the donor slump.

"We will never be 100 percent financially sustainable, but if we can aim to be at least 50 percent self-sufficient, then we can expand the work we are doing,"

Walker said, adding the long-term goal was for the organisation to have its own boutique in Manila.

Meanwhile, Walker and her staff are busy trying to expand the fashion line.

"We are always taking in stuff from the dumps. Right now, I'm trying to figure out how to use old piano keyboards as a design on a hand bag," she said, briefly pausing before her eyes lit up.

"Ahh, I need to drill holes into them first."

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Things will never be the same

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

There are singular events in a person’s life that become milestones and change that person forever. These are not the same for everyone, but often there are some universal occasions that affect all of us.

Your first real paycheck when you realize you can earn money (and pay taxes) from selling your time and talent. The first time you experience the death of a close loved one and your own mortality becomes a reality. The birth of your first child when you begin to understand the continuity and continuation of life. Nothing is the same again and future actions and consequences are the result of these events.

The world experiences those same sorts of life-impacting moments. Everything changed that day in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space. In 1963, John Kennedy was assassinated, and as with Aquino’s killing in the Philippines 20 years later, the nation was never the same. Twenty-five years ago AIDS became part of the global vocabulary and every person on the planet is ultimately affected.

Many personal and “national” life-changing events are simply a progression of what is natural and expected. Everyone experiences that first loved one dying in the same way that virtually every conquered and colonized nation throughout history eventually became independent.

Still, some things that happen are not part of life’s natural progression. They are unique and stand alone. They become wake-up calls that make us realize that the world is not the way we imagined it to be and will not ever be that way again.

The assassination of Ninoy Aquino woke the Filipino to the realization that even a “benevolent” dictatorship was by definition evil and inherently wrong. And once that understanding came, it was inevitable that the people would eventually rise up. Aquino’s death changed the course of the Philippines.

We all know deep inside that 2009 is a milestone year, that the world will change course because of what has happened this year.

My oldest son was born the year that the United States first became a debtor nation, owing more than it was owed. For more than 20 years, the US and the West built wealth on borrowing. An entire generation of Americans matured on the belief that there was an alternative method to prosperity other than hard work: credit.

No need to get a job; borrow for your school tuition payments. Apply for a credit card when you want a new computer. Not making enough money to afford a car? No problem, easy financing. Would you like to live in a bigger house? Get a loan.

It has been a global pyramid scheme. Look at what happened in Dubai. Dubai has defaulted on $80 billion worth of loans. Honestly, $80 billon is nothing, only petty cash in the large picture. Although the stock markets dropped on the news, Dubai’s problem means nothing, except for the reasons behind the default.

Banks loaned billions to Dubai to build property developments. Banks loaned more billions to buyers to purchase Dubai’s real estate. When the banks ran out of money to loan to buyers, property prices dropped 50 percent. You know what we call an investment that constantly requires new money to stay alive? A pyramid scheme. And pyramid schemes always eventually collapse. The same is true with the housing markets in the US and Europe.

The collapse of the $10-trillion global pyramid scheme in 2009 has changed forever the global economic/financial model.

For nearly 40 years, there has been a dedicated effort to convince people that humans were killing the earth. From the use of chemical pesticides to population increase to the loss of some animal species, there has been a growing “religion” that humans are the worst thing that could have ever happened to the planet. Maybe we just do not belong here. This “religion” has been in direct opposition to “traditional” religions that believe that the world was created for the benefit of humans, not the other way.

But over these 40 years, not a single claim or prediction of the doomsayers has materialized. The final “anti-human” cult has been based on global warming/climate change. So-called scientists have become the new high priests of this religion. Governments have embraced this religion as a way to increase their power over the people, not unlike, as in past times, when the political leader (pharaoh, king, emperor) was assumed to have gained his power because he was a god.

Discoveries over the last few months are proving that this “religion” is based on lies, falsified data, manipulated data, cover-ups, and suppression of the truth and dissenting opinion. The latest is from New Zealand, where a government agency simply changed the temperature numbers so the data would fit the climate-change model. It is ironic that traditional religion, especially the Catholic Church, has been accused of these same practices for 1,000 years by these same secular humanists.

Even as Philippine political leaders fly to Denmark for the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, 2009 marks the end of this decades-old phony “science.” Not only is the global-warming/climate-change nonsense dead, but we may see a return to the mindset where there is more skepticism of what the god of science wants us to believe.

The Maguindanao Massacre should be a nation-changing event. The Philippines cannot continue with two types of governments. Part of the country lives under a feudal warlord system, the other under a participatory republic; one where the power comes from the top, the other where, for all of its flaws, the right to govern comes from the bottom.

These are incompatible, not unlike pyramid schemes are to economic prosperity and false science is to reason and wisdom.

The year 2009 will be a year that will be looked back on as one filled with turning-point events.

PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by Inc. E-mail comments to

Poverty slightly down in the Philippines

Number of poor Pinoys decrease
Manila Bulletin

Despite the destruction wrought by storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng”, the number of poor Filipino families slightly decreased to 9.4 million households in a special survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The nationwide special survey conducted from October 24 to 27 had 1,200 respondents and was used to assess the effects of cyclones Ondoy (international code name Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) to Filipinos, a month after it hit Metro Manila and wide areas of Luzon.

The respondents were shown three cards with the words “poor”, “on the borderline” and “not poor” to rate their families.

It showed that 51 percent of Filipino households consider themselves as poor or “mahirap”, which translates to 9.4 million families. The figure is slightly lower than the self-rated poverty in September with 53 percent or 9.7 million households.

SWS noted the slight decline in the overall self-rated poverty to a three point decrease in the poverty rate in Mindanao from 57 to 54 percent, a two point drop in Luzon outside of Metro Manila from 51 to 49 percent, and a one point drop in Metro Manila from 41 to 40 percent.

Meanwhile, overall self-rated poverty remained at 60 percent in the Visayas.

Considering poverty in the rural areas, the survey showed that it increased by eight points from 59 percent in September to 67 percent at present.

However, it was offset by a five point decline in urban areas from 46 percent last September to 41 percent in October.

The survey also showed that 7.4 million families (40 percent) consider themselves as food-poor.

SWS said the present self-rated food poverty is slightly lower than the 7.5 million families (41 percent) last September.

With regard to geographic areas, there was a five point increase in the self-rated food poverty in areas of Luzon outside of Metro Manila from 38 percent to 43 percent.

However, the latest figure was also compensated by a seven point decline in Metro Manila from 35 to 28 percent, six point decline in Mindanao from 43 to 37 percent, and two point decline in the Visayas from 48 to 46 percent.

SWS said self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not consider themselves poor in general, for the first time increased in Metro Manila.

The poverty threshold increased from P15,000 in September to P19,000 at present in Metro Manila.

The amount is equivalent to P11,957 in base year 2000 purchasing power after deflation by the consumer price index.

SWS said that with the base year threshold at P10,000, this was exceeded only seven times in 36 SWS surveys since 2001.

It further noted that the increase in poverty threshold is considered a positive result on Metro Manila’s effort to improve its living standards.

Likewise, poverty threshold in the Visayas increased to P6,000 from P5,000 in September.

It remained at P5,000 in Mindanao, while it decreased in areas in Luzon outside of Metro Manila with P7,000 from P10,000 in September.

Teodoro, wife dump population control bill

Christine F. Herrera
Manila Standard

ADMINISTRATION standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro and his wife, Tarlac Rep. Monica Louise Prieto-Teodoro, have withdrawn support for the reproductive health bill, saying it does not address the problem of poverty.

Prieto-Teodoro, chairman of the House committee on the welfare of children, yesterday withdrew her signature as co-author of the bill, which is authored by Albay Rep Edcel Lagman and co-authored by some 131 lawmakers.

She now echoes the views of Catholic bishops that contraceptives are “abortifacients.”

Earlier, Zambales Rep. Maria Milagros Magsaysay, Teodoro’s spokesman, also withdrew her co-authorship of the bill.

The about-face comes days before the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines is to announce its guidelines for Catholic voters.

The bishops have persistently pressured presidential candidates and even threatened to withdraw support for those who would support the bill.

The Catholic Church supports only natural family planning and seeks to block legislation that would offer Filipinos a choice of other methods of contraception.

Teodoro’s cousin and rival, Senator Benigno Aquino III, has continued to defy the bishops and support the RH bill.

Aquino, who received 41 percent in the latest Standard Poll, is leading the surveys in the presidential race while Teodoro is at the tail-end with only 3 percent.

[“My] new stand on the issue is consistent with [my] husband’s platform of government to fight against the four faces of poverty: poverty of the mind, poverty of the pocket, poverty of the environment, poverty of relationships,” Prieto-Teodoro said, in a bid to explain her withdrawal.

“We shall protect the life of each and every citizen. Respect for life shall be from the moment of conception to the moment of death of our constituents. The protection of life is guaranteed by our constitution and on this principle there is no compromise,” Teodoro said in a speech during the Lakas-Kampi- CMD convention recently.

Prieto-Teodoro said the RH bill had been “defanged and is now toothless” in addressing her key advocacies: food, shelter, education and clothing for poor Filipino children.

Like the Arroyo administration, the Teodoros do not want a legislated national policy on reproductive health and population development to curb the rapid 2.36-percent annual population growth.

Prieto-Teodoro said the bill did not directly address the problem of poverty in the country, where about 5,000 Filipinos are born daily, with most of them ending up poor.

“I don’t want to give poor Filipinos, especially children, the false hope that this bill will solve the problem of poverty because it does not,’’ she ssaid.

“I’d rather spend our meager resources in directly feeding the poor, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the poor and educating them so they grow up productive and independent,’’

People should be told that it took more than population control to reduce poverty and spark socio-economic development in the Philippines.

“Population growth is not a problem if resources are available and well-managed to cope with the additional people requiring public services, employment, housing, and so on,” she said.

The RH bill seeks to grant public funding to family planning methods using artificial contraceptives and sex education for students. It also gives access to reproductive health information to avoid unwanted and untimely pregnancies and maternal deaths to limit the country’s population.

But Prieto-Teodoro said majority of maternal deaths was caused by the lack of proper medical facilities and care.

She said the RH bill “does not address this lack of basic health care services, and will allow the problem to persist while it wastes funds on abortifacients and other ineffective reproductive health measures.”

Monday, 30 November 2009

PGMA announces bid for Congress seat in Pampanga in 2010 polls

MANILA (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Monday formally announced that she will run as representative in the second district of Pampanga in the May 2010 elections.

"Yes, I will file my certificate of candidacy (CoC)," the President said in a recorded interview with a government radio station DZRB.

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the deadline for filing of CoC for the 2010 elections is on December 1 at 12 midnight.

Many speculate that President Arroyo's frequent visit to Pampanga -- at least 50 times this year alone -- that she will run for Congress in next year's polls.

Romulo Macalintal, the President's poll lawyer, earlier said her "body language" reveals that she is 91 percent sure to run for congresswoman in the second district of Pampanga in the May 2010 elections.

"Mga 91 percent sa body language," said Romulo Macalintal in a television interview when asked how sure Mrs. Arroyo will be running for a congressional seat in next year's poll.

The President's son, incumbent 2nd District Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel "Mikey" Macapagal Arroyo, earlier said he is willing to give way in case her mother decided to run for congresswoman.

"If my mother runs for Congress, there's a clamor for her to run, siyempre I have to give way for her to run (Of course I have to give way for her to run)," said Mikey, who is on his second term. (PNA)

PCCI monitors key gov’t infra projects

Manila Bulletin

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is continuously working with the government towards ensuring the completion of key infrastructure projects that would sustain economic growth.

PCCI President Edgardo G. Lacson said through the pro-performance steering committee for infrastructure, they continue to actively monitor over 150 key projects nationwide as well as oversee quality control, completion and the developmental impact of many of these undertakings.

Lacson identified some of these infrastructure projects as the grand central terminal at the intersection of EDSA-West and North Avenues, the Light Rail Transit 1 South extension project, the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 7 North extension project, MRT 9 and common bus terminals in Cavite and Bulacan.

These projects also include the circumferential road 6, the North Luzon Expressway extension to Pangasinan and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway extension to Aurora and La Union, Manila Skyway North Extension Stage 3 and the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

“We have proposed these new projects that have either already materialized and are up for bidding,” Lacson said.

The completion of C6 and DMIA Terminal 2 is seen critical in the development of the Subic-Clark-Batangas Logistics Corridor, according PCCI.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Updated shots: Metro Manila Commuter Train vs MRT 2


President promises support for CNN Hero

PGMA orders DepEd to replicate ‘kariton’ classrooms in Metro Manila

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed education officials to find out how the “kariton classrooms,” for which Efren Penflorida won the CNN Hero of the Year award, can be replicated in Metro Manila, “where there is a high non-participation rate of youths in schools and learning.”

The President had just conferred Penaflorida the Order of Sikatuna. The ceremonies held in Malacañang Palace were attended by Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, Presidential Adviser on Education Mona Valisno, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde and Presidential Election Lawyer Romulo Makalintal.

“First identify the area with the highest non-performance rate, then identify the point person who will implement the program,” the President told Valisno and Lapus.

The President then asked Penaflorida “to help implement this project. We need your guidance in this field.”

Penaflorida explained the kariton classroom, which evolved from plastic bag to backpack and then to pushcart, was conceived by the Club 8586, a non-government organization associated with a Christian group in 1987 to address the high rate of school dropouts.

The 28-year old public school teacher from Cavite said he joined the Dynamic Teen Co. (DTC), a group under Club 8586, because he was constantly harassed and threatened by local gangs.

He said the kariton classroom program does not only teach children how to read and write. “We also impart to them good moral values and the need to observe personal hygiene. We feed them after every lesson because food is our way of enticing them to join us in our lessons,” he said.

He teaches in a public school in Cavite from Monday to Friday to support himself. On Saturdays, he pushes the cart, which contains educational materials, play things, and food, to the poor areas to teach children from age 4 up to teenagers.

The President could not contain her admiration for this CNN hero, his mother, his DTC mentor and his fellow volunteer-teachers “for your dedication in helping your less fortunate brothers and sisters who need to learn new skills they need in life.”

In the end, the President handed Penaflorida an envelope with a check “to help you fund your operations. Tell us what you need and we will try to help you,” she said. (PND)