Lawmen investigating macabre BGH incident : Baby’s head ‘forcibly' pulled off from body

>> Monday, March 31, 2008

BAGUIO CITY – The police and National Bureau of Investigation are now investigating Baguio General Hospital staff here after one of the latter allegedly forcibly pulled off the head of a baby from her body making it roll on the floor while the mother was delivering birth.

After three miscarriages, 22-year-old Amy Diaz and her 24-year-old husband, Bernabe, a gasoline attendant, were expecting their first-born to be christened Ayesa Bea Mae on Easter Sunday.

Their expectations didn’t materialize as on Black Saturday they had to bury her after the incident in the delivery room of the BGH and Medical Center Wednesday night.

“I saw my baby’s head roll on the floor,” Amy said, adding her husband rushed her to the hospital before midnight after she began to suffer labor pains.

“A certain Edward “forcibly pulled the head of my baby,” she claimed.
She said she saw the head drop to the floor and roll.

Amy said doctors had to operate on her to remove her baby’s headless body. She added it would have been easier to accept if her first-born was dead inside her womb prior to the delivery.

“We were told our child suffered from an abnormality,” she said.
Amy disputed this, saying an ultrasound and an ECG prior to the delivery showed her baby was healthy.

Following this, the couple reported the incident to the police and NBI. “We will have to wait for the results of the investigation,” Bernabe said.

Newsmen tired to get a comment from the hospital’s chief obstetrician-gynecologist, Teresita Agbanlog, but she didn’t want to release a statement on the incident pending results of the NBI probe.

Bernabe said he was told it may take a month to finish the investigation.
Mary Jo Dulawan, Ifugao provincial health officer, meanwhile denied that her son, Edward, a medical intern in the hospital, could have been the one tagged by Amy.

“He could not have been involved,” she said, adding Amy could have mistaken her
son doing the procedure.

She added her son, as an intern in the pediatrics department, is physically present in the delivery room but only takes over the newborn after obstetrician-gynecologists have done their job.

Other BGH personnel didn’t want talk on the matter to the media.

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Gen Razon inaugurates La Trinidad PNP station

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon inaugurated the new police station here March 22 to boost crime fighting capability of local cops.

Aside from the guest of honor and speaker, joining the event were local government and police officials headed by Gov. Nestor Fongwan, Mayor Artemio Galwan, Sangguniang Bayan members, regional police director Chief Supt. Eugene Martin and Supt. Danilo Pelisco, Benguet police chief.

Regional chaplain Sergio Surigao blessed 15 mobile cars and nine motorcycles given by the PNP national headquarters during the event.

The lot where the PNP station now stands was donated by the local government under Resolution 77-2008.

The two-storey building over a 300 sq meter lot was built with a P5.5 million appropriation from the PNP.

Razon explained in his message the concept of the “integrated transformation program” particularly the Mamang at Aleng Pulis.

He said different provincial and town police offices f Benguet will be issued mobile cars and motorcycles.

He commended the construction of the new police station as a sign of a close and strong police and community partnership which connotes a pleasant and healthy environment.

“Strong police stations are needed in the community to ensure a more peaceful and orderly place to live in,” he said.

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Comelec junks protestvs mayor

By George Trillo

MABALACAT, Pampanga -- Mayor Marino Morales of this town is now well-entrenched in the mayoral post he has been occupying since 1995 after the Commission on Elections junked a petition to disqualify him from a purported fifth successive term.

The Comelec issued March 25 its verdict quashing for ‘’lack of merit’’ a motion for reconsideration filed by one Roberto Dizon, an ally of Morales’ political rival Anthony Dee, asking the poll body to reverse an earlier decision of the Comelec’s second division that also favored Morales.

The decision said the ‘’three-term limit is not applicable in the instant case’’ as it noted that ‘’the respondent was not the duly-elected mayor of Mabalacat for the July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007 term primordially because he was not even considered a candidate.”

“The respondent has failed to serve the entire duration of the term of office because he had already relinquished the disputed office on May 16, 2007 which is more than a month prior to the end of his supposed term,” the Comelec verdict stated.

On May 17 last year, then vice mayor Cris Garbo took over as mayor of Mabalacat after Morales’ certificate of candidacy for the May 2004 synchronized national and local elections was cancelled by the Comelec which said Morales has actually filled in a fourth term in violation of the law limiting local officials to only three successive terms.

The Comelec, in its verdict, noted an ‘’involuntary break’’ in Morales’s term. ‘’The Constitution does not require the interruption or hiatus to be a full term of three years.

What the law requires is for an interruption, break or a rest period from a candidate’s term of office for any length of time.’’

‘’The privilege of holding office is a valuable one, laws prescribing qualifications and disqualifications for office should be liberally construed in favor of eligibility. Where a candidate, such as respondent, has received popular mandate, overwhelmingly and clearly expressed, all possible doubts should be resolved in favor of the candidate’s eligibility, for to rule otherwise it defeat the will of the people,’’ the verdict said.

The Comelec en banc added ‘’to successfully challenge a winning candidate’s qualifications, the petitioner must clearly demonstrate that the ineligibility is so patently antagonistic to constitutional and legal principles that overriding such ineligibility and thereby giving effect to the apparent will of the people would ultimately create greater prejudice to the very democratic institutions that the Constitution and laws so zealously protect and promote. This, petitioner clearly failed to do so.”

The en banc decision was penned by Comelec Acting Chairman Romeo Brawner and also signed by Commissioners Rene Sarmiento, Nicodemo Ferrer and Moslemen Macarambon.

For his part, Morales said ‘’the voice of the people’’ has prevailed, even as he urged his poitical adversaries to ‘’respect the rule of law.’’

Morales said the Comelec en banc ruling was relayed to him by his lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Arnold Bayobay.

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Gunman in slay of Japanese arrested

CABANATUAN CITY -- Police nabbed on March 23 one of the prime suspects, allegedly the gunman in the killing of a Japanese businessman at the boundary of Nueva Ecija and this city last March 5.

Police identified the suspect as Lauro Javier y Roxas, 36, married and resident of Purok 6, Bagong Sikat, Cabanatuan City.

He was linked to the killing of victim Junichi Itoh.

Senior Supt. Napoleon Taas, Nueva Ecija police provincial director, said Javier was nabbed at their hideout in Barangay Mabini, Homesite, Cabanatuan City after continuous operation by the Nueva Ecija and Cabanatuan police.

Itoh, 45, was shot by two unidentified robbers on March 5 in Barangay Macatbong, Caba­na­tuan City during an apparent robbery attempt.

Taas said one of the witnesses, Ramon Balintag, father-in-law of the victim, positively identified Javier during a confrontation on March 24.

“We have a number of witnesses, including Balintag, who positively pointed to Javier as the gunman of the Japanese national,” said Taas, adding that the suspect choose to remain silent on charges against him.

The arrest of Javier came after tricycle driver, Rosendo Garcia Jr., complained that the suspect held him up of his P500 earnings along Barangay Imelda.

A team headed by Supt. Ely Cruz, Cabanatuan City police chief, arrested Javier in Barangay Mabini Homesite.

Confiscated from Javier was a 9mm caliber pistol loaded with five live bullets, while his live-in partner, Jenny Alingasa, yielded assorted drug paraphernalia.

Cruz also confiscated from Javier’s possession one black Bajaj motorcycle, the same vehicle used in the killing of Itoh, along the rough road in the boundary of the city and Sta. Rosa town.

According to Taas, the description given by witnesses in the killing of Itoh, like body built and height, matched that of Javier.

He added they have a witness in custody who claimed he heard Javier and Alingasa boasting they played key roles in the killing of a foreign national in the city early this month.

Investigator PO2 Walter Pineda reported that the victim together with his wife, parents-in-law and some friends were on their way home from a swimming party when the incident took place on the night of March 5.

The victim was on board a tricycle when the scooter of their friends developed engine trouble prompting the group to alight from the vehicle to check.

It was at that juncture when two robbers approached the victim and tried to grab his belt bag containing his money and valuables. Police said the victim resisted prompting the robbers to shoot him.

Aside from homicide charges, police said Javier will also be charged with violation of R.A. 8294 or illegal possession of firearms and ammuni­tions and violation of RA 9165 or possession of drug paraphernalia.

The prosecutor recommended P100,000 bail for the suspect.

Taas said Javier was arrested by police after two weeks of manhunt operations.

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Kennon road controversy:DOTC director unfazed by relief bid of 2 Palace execs

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – The regional director of the Department of Transportation and Communication in the Cordillera belittled a move of two MalacaƱang officials to relieve him from his post due to the controversy over the control of vehicular traffic on Kennon Road.

Earlier, lawyer Federico Mandapat Jr., Cordillera DOTC director, was asked to reconsider his order banning inter-regional vehicular traffic on Kennon Road, the shortest route to and from this mountain resort city to the lowlands.

Mandapat stood firm on his decision to ban garage vans from passing through
Kennon Road and rerouting these vehicles to Marcos Highway, saying it is for the safety of the motorists and the public.

He said he is willing to face the consequences of his actions even if the issue is brought to the attention of President Arroyo and DOTC officials, provided "he will be given the opportunity to fully explain the matter to them."

Mandapat said he has the documents to support the controversial order, including the declaration of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau that at least 85 percent of Kennon Road is susceptible to landslides due to the highly fractured rock formations and loose soil cover.

Earlier, Presidential Assistant for the Cordillera Affairs Thomas Killip and Secretary Ariel Lim of the Public Transport Affairs Office recommended to the President the relief of Mandapat from his post until the controversy over the closure of Kennon Road to intra-regional traffic is resolved.

The recommendation was made by the two Malacanang officials after they conducted a dialogue which came up with a "win-win solutions" to the plight of garage vans.
The solution called for Mandapat to reconsider his order.

But Mandapat said when he re-routed the garage vans to Marcos Highway, he was simply implementing an administrative order of President Arroyo giving full authority to DOTC to ensure road safety.

He said most of the garage vans traversing Kennon Road are out of line because their franchises were secured in Region I.

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Itogon folk nix dumping site for Baguio garbage

>> Sunday, March 30, 2008

By Dexter A. See

ITOGON, Benguet — Officials and residents of Barangay Gumatdang here are opposing a plan to construct a multimillion-peso sanitary landfill in their area, fearing the allegedly great negative impact on the environment and the manipulation done by some people to conceal the project.

In a resolution, the Gumatdang barangay council aired opposition to the proposal to establish a sanitary landfill in the area, saying that the project came as a surprise to the people in the barangay.

The council said most of their constituents were not aware of any detail relative to the plan to set up sanitary landfill facility at Sitio Besil because they were not informed of the project which is expected to solve the solid-waste problem of the municipality and Baguio City.

Barangay officials said they came to know about the project only when one of them saw an invitation to bid for the project posted at the municipal hall.

Because of this, they believe that there is a grand design to conceal the project from the residents for unknown reason.

The consultation with thousands of residents and former barangay officials showed there was no information dissemination conducted regarding the implementation of the project in the barangay.

At the same time, former barangay officials said they had never issued any document endorsing the construction of the solid waste facility because of its expected negative impact on the environment and hazards on the health of the residents.

While recognizing the need for local government units to establish their own sanitary landfills, the council said that the affected residents should be consulted so that all issues and concerns are properly addressed by the proponent. Before it is implemented, the project should be endorsed by the affected communities.

Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological solid Waste Management Act requires all local government units nationwide to close the operation of their open dumpsites and convert these facilities into sanitary landfills for better environmental management.

At present, Baguio City is looking for a sanitary landfill site within Itogon and Tuba in compliance with provisions of the law.

If they fail to comply with the law, the local officials could be charged administratively.
The 5.2-hectare Irisan open dumpsite of the city has already been closed, causing a garbage crisis in the city in the past several months.

The situation was aggravated by the continuous failure of the residents to abide by the "no segregation, no collection policy."

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Six troopers, 1 reb dead as army overruns NPA camp

TUBO, Abra -- Government troops overran a major New People’s Army here after a weeklong gunbattle, an Army general said Thursday, warning of reprisals ahead of a key rebel anniversary at the weekend.

Lt. Gen. Rodrigo Maclang, chief of the Armed Forces Northern Luzon Command based in Tarlac, said troops found several assault rifles, an undetermined quantity of ammunition and two landmines at the hastily abandoned rebel camp in the mountains of Barangay Tubtuba in Tubo.

Soldiers also found the body of one rebel in one of the bunkers and witnesses saw the guerrillas fleeing with some wounded comrades, Maclang added.

“We lost two men in the assault and six others were wounded,” Maclang told reporters in mobile phone text messages.

“We hit the jackpot. We’ve found a major rebel base deep in the mountains straddling three northern provinces,” he said.

Maclang said troops stumbled upon the NPA base at the end of an eight-day gunbattle with guerrillas on Tuesday.

“We’re expecting the rebels to retaliate because we probably disrupted their plan to attack Army detachments to celebrate the NPA’s 39th founding anniversary on March 29,” he added.

In Aurora province, meanwhile, two soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack by suspected communist rebels.

Maclang said two grenades were lobbed at the headquarters of the Bravo Company of the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Dibacung, Casiguran town.

The Army claims to have dismantled 13 rebel bases in 2007, reducing the number of communist guerrillas from 7,000 to a little over 5,700 fighters, the lowest level in the nearly 40 years of conflict that has killed 40,000 people.

Active in 69 of 81 provinces across the archipelago, the communist rebels have also been engaged in on-off peace talks with the government since the late 1980s.

The latest round of negotiations was stalled in August 2004 over rights and terrorism issues.

The government has declined to help remove the communist group from terrorist blacklists of the United States and some Western European states.

Maclang said security forces have been placed on alert for possible rebel reprisals, particularly remote Army and police detachments and less defended municipal halls in mountainous regions.

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Baguio number coding suspended April 1 to May 30

By Julie G. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY-Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr. last week approved Administrative Order 39 exempting private vehicles from the traffic number coding scheme from April 1 to May 30.

According to the mayor, the present suspension ends March 31, thus the need for another suspension as “a multitude of vacationers are still expected to spend their summer break here in the city.”

The suspension shall also provide local and foreign tourists, for two months, “a comfortable and stress-free journey” to main attractions of the city, in the comfort of their personal vehicles.

As stated also in the AO, chartered Public Utility Vehicles of visitors/tourists/vacationers and participants of sanctioned activities such as conventions, conferences and assemblies are exempted from the number coding scheme. Appropriate identification that they are participants to said official functions, however, should be presented.

The mayor further directed the traffic management branch of the Baguio City Police Office to strictly enforce the AO.

As per city ordinance 01, series of 2003, the number ending of vehicle plates are used as basis for coding during certain days of the week.

Plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 should not be on the roads during Mondays; 3 and 4 during Tuesdays; 5 and 6, Wednesdays, 7 and 8, Thursdays, and 9 and 0, Fridays.

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MORE NEWS, BAGUIO CITY

P60M set for rehab of 9 Baguio roads
By Dexter A. See


BAGUIO CITY – The national government has earmarked at P60 million from this year’s approved P1.227 trillion national budget to rehabilitate nine national and secondary arterial roads in this city to ensure smooth flow of vehicular traffic.

Enginner Neri Bueno, district engineering office chief bared this added rehabilitation works had been bidded out for implementation during the dry months.

The rehabilitation works of the city’s national roads include reconstruction of damaged portions generated from pavement management system or highway development and management of roads: Kennon – P7 million; Leonard Wood – P3 million; Loakan – P7 million; Ferguson – P7 million; Harrison 2 – P5 million; Manuel Roxas – P7 million; Balatoc – P7 million; Outlook Drive – P7 million and concreting of Loakan phase II – 10 million.

According to Bueno, most of the works to be undertaken on the said roads would be the improvement of the drainage system in preparation for the onset of the rainy season and the replacement of damaged concrete pavements.

Baguio City has a total of 72 km concrete roads and 20 kilometers asphalt road under the jurisdiction of the local district engineering office.

Although all the roads in the city are in good condition, the district engineer pointed out the need to conduct periodic maintenance as well as replacement of damaged concrete and asphalt pavements for the convenience of the motoring public.

However, Bueno said they could not attend to numerous complaints of local residents relative to the poor conditions of their roads especially during the rainy season due to the insufficiency of funds since the funds being released to them by the central and regional offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways are dedicated for specific purposes.

At the same time, the BCDEO is closely coordinating with the local government unit and the office of Baguio City Rep. Mauricio G. Domogan to make sure there will be provision of needed funding assistance for the maintenance of national and secondary arterials roads within the jurisdiction of the city.

Relative to the controversial asphalt overlay projects implemented in the different parts of the city previously, Bueno said it is difficult for them to predict the weather condition in the city, thus, the implementation of maintenance works that have available funding are being greatly affected but they are constantly doing appropriate studies to prevent a repeat of the controversy in the future.


GMA gives management of Burnham Park to city
BAGUIO CITY — President Arroyo formally turned over last week to the city government the administration, operation, and management of Burnham Park, the premier tourist destination in this mountain resort city, to ensure the upkeep and rehabilitation of the park facilities.

President Arroyo made the announcement during a simple program held at the Skating Rink of Burnham Park to celebrate Easter Sunday or the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

She said the turnover of the park’s management from the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) to the city government would allow City Hall to do what it wants to do for the maintenance and operation of the scenic Burnham Park which is located in the heart of the city.

"Baguio does not need a tourism-oriented activity to attract tourists. It is the tourists who keep coming to Baguio because of its unique weather condition and scenic spots which should be properly maintained," Arroyo said.

However, the Arroyo asked the city government to share with the national government a certain percentage of its income from the operation of Burnham Park so that it could be utilized to boost her administration’s pro-poor program which is aimed at improving the living condition of poor people in the countryside.

For the past several years, the city government had been lobbying for the national government to turn over the management and operation of Burnham Park so that it could oversee the rehabilitation of dilapidated park facilities and make it more attractive to tourists.

In 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos transferred to the city government of Baguio the administration, operation, and maintenance of Burnham Park through Executive Order 224 which created the Burnham Park management committee, composed of representatives of both national and local government agencies. Its task was to oversee the operations of the park.

Furthermore, Ramos ordered the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) to provide the city government an annual appropriation of P18 million as the national government’s subsidy for the maintenance of the park.

But since the Asian financial crisis, the PTA was not able to fulfill its commitment to the city government, and the annual allocations for subsidy had so drastically gone down to that it was the city government which had been advancing the payment of park workers, among others.

President Arroyo cited the need to improve the park facilities as the reason for the turnover of its management to the city government so that the tourists will have something new to see when they are visiting the city. – Dexter A. See


Mall to be built in site?Baguio execs press preservation of convention center pine forest
BY AILEEN P. REFUERZO

BAGUIO CITY – Three more councilors joined the call for the preservation of a forested lot within the Baguio Convention Center reservation.

Councilors Fred Bagbagen, Isabelo Cosalan Jr. and Elaine Sembrano joined Councilor Richard Carino’s call “to oppose the removal of the pine forest” in the area to give way to the construction of a commercial structure reportedly a mall now being worked out.

In a proposed resolution now being studied by the council committee on ecology and environmental protection, the aldermen said removing the woodland would have great effect as apart from being one of the few remaining pinestands in the area, it supplies part of the water needs of the city.

“The said pine forest forms an integral part of the Camp 8 Forest and Watershed which feeds the water aquifers supplying the Camp 8 Pumping Station of the Baguio Water District which provides part of the water supply of the City of Baguio,” the aldermen noted.

They recalled that the area “which stands within the Government Center Reservation was planted more than three decades ago under the direction of then First Lady Imelda Marcos who was also Minister of Human Settlements at the time, hence, it is a government forest.”

They said the Constitution mandates that “forests are inalienable natural resources of the State.”

“Public interest and welfare demands that the pine forest at the Baguio City Convention Center area should be preserved and even enhanced and not destroyed to give way to commercial development,” they said.

Reports said the area is being eyed by the SM Investments Corporation for development into yet another commercial hub.


CPLA one main reason why Cordillera conflict-ridden – NEDA Usec
BAGUIO CITY – The presence of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army in the region is one prime reason why the Cordillera continues to be a conflict area.

Marcelina Bacani, OIC-Deputy Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority bared this saying thus, the Office of the Presidential Assistance on the Peace process declared the region one of the eight priority conflict-affected regions in the country where the peace process needs to be strengthened.

The Cordillera, she said, is one of the least developed regions in the country since it is discriminated from the benefits of development being an indigenous peoples-dominated area with the slow implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and it is among the eight priority conflict-affected regions.

National government and foreign funding agencies must give priority assistance for implementation of poverty alleviation projects in the cordillera which is considered as one of the key focus areas in terms of interventions to rid the country of poverty, she said.

Bacani represented NEDA Director-General Augusto Santos during the recently-concluded donors forum for poverty-stricken areas in the Cordillera.

According to her, the Cordillera is one of the regions in dire need of help from overseas Development Assistance which is second to Mindanao.

While the overall regional poverty situation has been improving in the Cordillera as indicated by the drop in poverty incidence since 1988, Bacani cited Cordillera was ranked the 11th poorest region in 2003 and remains as one of the poorest Luzon-based regions, nest to Bicol and MIMAROPA.

Across provinces, she revealed three of the Cordillera provinces remain among the poorest 40 provinces in the country in 2003, namely Mountain province ranked 7th, Kalinga ranked 13th and Abra ranked 18th.

Based on the 2005 local government unit classification by the Bureau of Local Government and Finance, 36 out of the 76 municipalities in the region are classified as 5th class municipalities.

Bacani said based on the assessment of the situation and performance of the region over the past 15 years on the implementation of the millennium development goals, it showed that the Cordillera is lagging behind in terms of some of the MDGs and targets.

The small projects proposed for funding in the donors forum are deemed to significantly contribute to the attainment of the MDGs in the Cordillera and accelerate the progress of meeting the targets set by 2014, especially those that have been identified as having low or medium probability of being met.

Furthermore, Bacani explained that the initiatives are in line with the cordillera regional Development Council’s action agenda to beef up capacities and will enable the region to be self-sustaining and self-reliant towards being autonomous in the future. -- Dexter A. See


Kennon Road settlement issues hound task force
By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- The city will have to resolve settlement issues on its way to having the whole stretch of the Kennon Road, the scenic highway to the country’s summer capital, declared as a historical and heritage site.

A task force created by mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. to work on this inspected Thursday the zig-zag portion of the mountain road and was met by settlers seeking a dialogue on their claims and structures they had set up along the whole span of the road.

A report from Marvin Binay-an, punong barangay of Camp 7 and task force member, showed 166 structures set up, including commercial stalls and 51 without numbers.

Some of the stalls were set up beside the Lion’s Head, a landmark carved out of a giant rock near the Baguio-Tuba boundary. The city earlier built a row for souvenir shops away from the lion’s head but these remain vacant.

Councilor Antonio Tabora Jr. proposed that the area be developed in such a way that visitors can take pictures opposite the figure and that provisions for vehicle parking be provided at the back of the building built by the city.

Councilor and task force action officer Isabelo Cosalan Jr., on the other hand, recommended that a parking deck made of steel be installed at the side of the lion’s head.

The task force also inspected is the nursery of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which DENR regional executive director Samuel Penafiel was planned to provide rest and comfort facilities for travelers.

He added trees planted in the area were uprooted by still unidentified persons.
The creation of the task force was triggered by a Sangguniang Panlungsod resolution, for it to determine the process and agencies to be involved in declaring road as a heritage and historical site.

As per the mayor’s order, it is also tasked to determine whether the process of declaration should be a joint project with Tuba town and the province of Benguet which have jurisdiction over the lower portion of the same.

Meanwhile, a group of Baguio journalists are planning to white-wash commercial signs painted on the rip-rapped walls of the zigzag ascent, claiming these are eyesores.

The news reporters expressed concern over the proliferation of commercial advertisements along the highway after they passed through it during the Holy Week.


2 frat men in robbery mauling nabbed
BAGUIO CITY – Two Samahang Ilocano fraternity members were arrested and jailed after they allegedly mauled and robbed a Sangguniang Kabataan adviser at the Post Office Loop here.

The loot was not recovered.

Chief Supt. Eugene G. Martin, director of the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera, identified the arrested suspects as Elford Dimacale Marrero, 24, single, college student, of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, who resides on Upper Malvar St., Baguio; and Jerus Jerico Pascua Menis, 19, single, student, of Santiago City,who lives at Bayan Park, Aurora Hill, Baguio.

The victim was Richard Kim Depawen Tewes, 23, single. – Dexter A. See

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MORE NEWS, BENGUET

Beneco board approves spot market participation

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- The Benguet Electric Coop. Inc. board unanimously approved three resolutions granting Beneco to directly participate at the Wholesale Electric Spot Market (WESM) in their March 4 special meeting.

The board approved the management's recommendation for Beneco’s registration as a direct participant in the wholesale electricity spot market under Resolution 32-2008.

The second resolution approved is the renewal of Beneco’s transistion supply contract (TSC) with the National Power Corp. at 15,400,000 kilowatthours for April 2008 and 14,000,000 kilowatthours this coming May and June.

The third approved resolution authorized Beneco’s general manager to open a letter of credit to serve as the "prudential requirement" for the Beneco’s registration as a direct participant in the WESM.

“The March 25, 2008 expiration of Beneco’s contract with the NPC with the Beneco board’s approval, will provide a window of opportunity for Beneco to already trade and participate at the WESM,” said Beneco general manager Gerardo P. Verzosa.

Beneco’s contract with NPC is renewed quarterly. NPC and Mirant supplies about 97 % of Beneco’s power requirement (NPC-68%, Mirant 29%, others -3%), according to engineer Mario Gayao Beneco WESM specialist.

The NPC’s function as the default wholesale supplier (DWS) will end by June as mandated by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

All power purchases of electric cooperatives will be sourced either from the WESM or bilateral contracts.

Should the NPC function as DWS gets extended, energy purchases beyond the Minimum Energy Off-Take (MEOT) with the NPC will be charged with a premium rate. Energy purchases beyond the contract will be subject to a 10% increase of the cost of NPC Time of Use (TOU) or WESM Load Weighted Average Price (LWAP) cost whichever is higher, according to Gayao.

“Electric Cooperatives’ participation to the WESM is required by law (EPIRA), the DWS issue with the ERC will expose us (Beneco) to risks anyway, and based on the Ilocos Norte Electric Coop. experience, it is worthwhile to try WESM,” Verzosa told the board.

The board approved Verzosa’s recommendation to decrease the MEOT contract of Beneco with the NPC in anticipation of Beneco’s participation at the WESM.

Prior to the board approval, INEC’s general manager and a professional electrical engineer Renato Balintec presented INEC’s experience to the board.Balintec said, though there are risks and birth pains involved, once the coop has familiarized and learned to trade, there are also rewards in terms of lower rates.

“INEC has invested about P9 million when they started to participate at the WESM in 2006… and now has P28 million in the bank,” according to Balintec. But the ERC is still quiet on how the P28 million will be used.

The Beneco corporate planning office presented the cost comparison of the NPC/Mirant generation cost to that of the WESM that was the basis of the BENECO management’s recommendation to the Board.

“Since Beneco’s WESM participation is inevitable because it is required by law, it is prudent for Beneco to start learning the art of trading (electricity),” Beneco board president and lawyer Benny Bomogao said explaining their unanimous vote.

Under the EPIRA law’s section 30, the “Department of Energy shall establish a WESM that shall provide the mechanism for identifying and setting the price of actual variations from the quantities transacted under contracts between sellers and purchasers of electricity.”


Benguet veggie farmers losing opportunities to train in China

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Farmers in this vegetable-producing province have lost several opportunities to train in China on how to produce quality agricultural crops without heavily using chemicals and pesticides in the production process because of minor differences.

This was bared by Dr. Charles Cheng, one of the leaders of the Filipino-Chinese Community in Baguio City and Benguet, who added the refusal of farmers to pay their air fare to China has bungled their opportunity to be trained on organic agricultural production.

However, he said the local Chinese community is still willing to help farmers train in China on how to produce big and quality agricultural crops which are globally competitive in order for them to earn a descent income for their families.

In the 1990s, some farmers in the province were invited to train in China and were required to pay their fare from the Philippines to China and vice versa while the sponsors will take care of everything but those chosen wanted the trip to be all expenses paid by the sponsors which resulted in the project being called off.

Cheng said local farmers must learn to minimize the use of chemicals and pesticides in the production of their crops because the health of their consumers and their families are the ones being compromised.

He called on local farmers to learn how to sacrifice a little so that they will be equipped with the proper knowledge and skills especially from the Chinese farmers on how to produce quality crops with lesser farm inputs.

Dennis Sy, president of the Baguio Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said that one of the major setbacks in the local agriculture industry is the blatant failure of farmers to comply with their commitments especially for contract growers.

According to him, farmers tend to sell their products to other buyers especially when the market price is much higher than the buying price of their benefactors, thus, food chains and high-end consumers have lost their trust and confidence to the local farmers.

At the same time, Sy cited that the lack of crop programming is a major deterrent in the stability of prices of local agricultural crops since there is an over supply of vegetables particularly when the buying price is high, thus, the law of supply and demand will prevail thereby affecting the income of farmers.

The local businessman recommended that local farmers must form a strong cooperative so they will have the bargaining power to deal with contract growers and high-end consumers for a better price of their products and not to be cheated by middlemen especially when the transaction is done on individual basis where the farmer is always at the losing end.


Police arrest wanted persons
CAMP DANGWA, Benguet – Police arrested wanted persons last week in different parts of the region.

In Pinukpuk town in Kalinga, police police led by PCI Joe Baday arrested a certain Noel Brillantes y Saking, 26, married, farmer and resident of Barangay Bayao for frustrated murder.

On March 15, same police personnel nabbed Gabriel Balcanao y Bangit, 38, married, farmer and resident of Barangay Dugpa for robbery with violence.

Both warrants of arrest for the suspects were issued by Judge Marcelino Wacas of
Regional Trial Court, 2nd judicial region Branch 25 in Tabuk City.

In Bangued, Abra on March 22 at Barangay Calaba, personnel of 1601st PPMG conducting patrol at said place arrested two Fred Laureta Apolinar, 29 and Romeo Almazan y Biserra, 42, widower, both married, fishermen and residents of said place for illegal possession of firearms.

Confiscated from Apolinar was one Cal. 45 pistol loaded with one magazine containing six bullets while Alamzan was found in possession of one Cal. 38 revolver loaded with four bullets.

In Ifugao on March 20 at barangay San Quintin, Alfonso Lista town, Senior Insp. Emmanuel Viernes received a cell phone call from PO2 Leonardo Macaraeg saying group of male persons were y cutting Gmelina trees at the farm of his father in-law, Ricardo Agruda, located at Barangay San Quintin.

Viernes dispatched a team to validate the report who coordinated with the barangay captain Marcos Bunguihan.

The team saw the group who already cut Gmelina trees into different lumber sizes. When accosted, they could not present any permit to cut from the CENRO-DENR which prompted the responding team to apprehend them.

The following persons were arrested for illegal cutting of trees and qualified theft: Eddie Pannoman y Sigway, 40, married, farmer; Orlan Ancheta y Ibarra, 39, married; Warlito Vilarde Y Prudencio, 42; former CAFGU member, Domingo bantiyan y Pallay, 46, married and Benjamin Vilarde y Prudencio, 56, all residents of above mentioned place.

Confiscated from the group were one chain saw and four pieces sawn lumber of undetermined amount cut in different sizes.

The arrested persons were brought to San Quintin Police Station for investigation.

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MORE NEWS, IFUGAO

Drinking, gambling in PNP offices would be curtailed – Ifugao top cop
By Jun Kindipan Dumar


LAGAWE, Ifugao – The new provincial police chief said disciplining his men will be his first priority before his outside responsibilities saying “drinking and gambling in PNP offices by our men in uniform are the most problem as was the usual practice in every police station.”

“This cannot be allowed as they are being paid their salaries every 15 days” said Senior Supt Joseph Adnol during a courtesy call at the Snggunaing Panlalawigan office where Vice Gov. Nora Dinamling and SP members pledged support to his programs.

Board member Jojo Odan asked Adnol: “What can you do to stop illegal gambling especially jueteng in the province?”

Odan said this was one of the reasons why they needed the change in the commanding post of PNP in the province.

Other questions asked were the wide scale prostitution in the province and lack of facilities in PNP stations.

Adnol said he had not received any report yet on jueteng when he assumed his post. On prostitution, he said he was informed women working in bar and restaurants were not Ifugao natives but ladies from other provinces in the lowlands and from other parts of the Cordillera

He said women applying for working permits in the province as waitresses was not wrong but if they were engaged in prostitution, this was illegal.

“I also appeal to the local executives to screen the applications of these women applying for jobs as waiters to clarify that their job will really be a waitress,” Adnol said.

When asked also by board member Rudy Dulnuan on lack of facilities in municipal police stations especially gasoline, Adnol said: “They have their monthly funds from the national government. There are about six to seven thousand pesos allowance for their vehicle gasoline. We cannot deny that the municipal chief of police, tinatago nila yan para makahingi sa municipal government. Actually, that is one form of corruption also in the PNP. Yun ang probleme na pinapamonitor din namin.”

Adnol also answered a question from board member Bongtiwon who asked him: “Are you open for suggestions and recommendations that can be part of solutions in the PNP problems in the province?”

Adnol replied: “Definitely I am open to suggestions, recommendations, and even positive and negative criticisms.”

Other board members present during the courtesy call were Jose Gullitiw, Robert Humiwat, Rodolfo Dulnuan, Clemente Bongtiwon, Samson Atluna, Aldrin Guingayan, Joseph Odan, and Allan Cutiyog.


Lagawe hires 40 persons to clean the town streets
By Mhars B. Lihgawon

LAGAWE, Ifugao – Forty jobs were created by the municipal government to implement the clean and green program of the municipality.

Mayor Ceasar Cabbigat said the 40 job orders will maintain the cleanliness of the poblacion including some adjacent barangays of this municipality.

“The 30 of them will act as street sweepers while the 10 would be garbage collectors,” he said. “I asked them not just to clean but to plant flowers along the highways to add color to the environment.”

Cabbigat added barangay captains in the poblacion agreed to maintain cleanliness in their respective areas by providing garbage cans along the highway.

In addition, the LGU is pushing the strict implementation of the dog and “moma” spitting ordinances.

The mayor revealed that more than 100 violators of the “moma” spitting ordinance were cornered by LGU personnel and law enforcers here.

According to the ordinance, a violator will pay a fine of P50 and P100 for the first and second offense while for the third time a P250 fine and to render a four hour community service.

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MORE NEWS, ABRA

Peace efforts gaining ground in violence-rocked Abra towns
By Dexter A. See


BANGUED, Abra — The decades-long drive for economic prosperity in this conflict-rocked province is now gaining headway with the efforts of local officials and policemen to maintain peace and order in 303 barangays.

This was reported by Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin who said the support that the provincial government is getting from national government agencies is now bearing fruit.

He said the people of Abra are beginning to feel the benefits of an improved peace and order condition.

He cited the importance of peace and order in economic development, saying prospective investors will not hesitate to pour in money on potential business opportunities in the province if they are assured of their safety and security.

In the past two decades, Abra has gained the unsavory reputation as the "killing fields of the North" due to the unabated violence which had claimed the lives of many people, including politicians.

Bersamin urged the Cordillera Regional Development Council and the Regional Peace and order Council to give Abra special attention so that the problems of poverty-stricken communities would be addressed.

The potential investment opportunities in the province include mining, tobacco growing, agriculture, hydropower, and livestock raising.

Ironically, the National Statistics Coordination Board listed Abra as one of the poorest provinces in the country with a poverty incidence of over 50 percent.

However, Bersamin said that the inclusion of his province in the list of the less fortunate provinces in the country could serve as a challenge for the provincial government, RDC, and RPOC to step up development efforts.

Juan Ngalob, director of the National Economic Development Authority in the Cordillera and interim chairman of RDC, believes that Abra deserves support from the national government, and that the RDC is working hard to help in the realization of development thrusts for the province.

On peace and order, Chief Supt. Eugene G. Martin, director of the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera and acting chairman of the RPOC, said political violence in Abra has significantly declined since the May 14, 2007 elections, but crimes caused by personal conflicts are still prevalent, although manageable.

He also said that the nine private armed groups which had been operating in the province for the past two decades had voluntarily disbanded and are no longer considered as serious threat to peace and order in the province.

Despite sightings of New People’s Army rebels in remote areas of the province, Martin said the communist movement is no longer a threat because the rebels were not involved in violent activities and because that the NPA has already lost support from the people.

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MORE NEWS, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE

27 Mt Province groups benefit from animal dispersal scheme

By Juliet B. Saley

BONTOC, Mountain Province – Livelihood projects have been provided by the provincial government for marginalized families in the province.

Last year, there were 27 organizations with 250 members who availed of the projects under the provincial livelihood program.

Based on last year’s annual report of the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian, the province procured 112 goats, 67 swine, four cattle and 274 duck pullets with a total cost of P569,572.00.

With the assistance of the OPV, the animals were dispersed to organization beneficiaries. Since not all members of the organizations benefited during the distribution, a re-dispersal scheme of the project shall be done by the organizations to the other members to have access of the program.

To improve production of hog and large animal raisers, the breeding center maintained by the OPV conducted artificial insemination on 140 swine and 39 cattle and carabaos.

Semen used to inseminate large animals was provided by Department of Agriculture regional office.

The breeding center produces 15 piglets which were sold and had a total sales of P27,200.

Under its animal health program, OPV personnel had also conducted vaccination on 965 swine against hog cholera, 630 cattle and carabaos against blackleg, and 968 dogs against rabies, including deworming of 318 cattle, carabaos and 152 pigs.


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MORE NEWS, PAMPANGA

Honeydew melon grows well in Pampanga lahar areas, engineer says
By Lino Sanchez


PORAC, Pampanga – For sometime, there had been doubts about the soil condition of lahar-covered farms in Pampanga, but after studies and experiments, it was found that crops grow well on lahar lands.

This was demonstrated by an enterprising engineer.

Aeronautical and computer engineering graduate Iris Liwag, 31, a native of Nueva Ecija, was not a farmer by birth.

But one time, a friend convinced him to watch new farming technologies and agriculture produce in several Asian countries, including Taiwan and Japan.
Impressed by what he had observed, Liwag decided to develop a five-hectare, lahar-covered land in Barangay Mancatian, this town.

In the last two years he had "experimented" on honeydew melon. This year, Liwag harvested thousands of tons which he humbly described as a good start.
Selling at between R85 and R110 per kilo in the supermarkets, Liwag’s honeydew melon is sold at only R25-R30 per kilo. He said he has limited his market to ambulant vendors and some supermarkets in Angeles City.

"It is my little way of providing employment and meager income to those who are selling our produce," Liwag said. He also employes 10 farm helpers. They are the people who help do the work such as preparing the seed beds and harvesting the crops.

Liwag is contemplating on expanding his farm by another five hectares. "I am thinking of the market in Metro Manila," he said.

Although foreign buyers are willing to buy his honeydew melon, he said he would rather concentrate on the local market until he has come up with an efficient marketing system.

In the meantime Liwag is planning to introduce in his farm Japanese and Taiwanese melons.

"What is good with the variety that we now produce is that they do not easily spoil," he said. They retain freshness for several days or weeks provided these are well packed and stored, he said.

Liwag said there are still highlands in Pampanga that should be cultivated. With government assistance, many more people will invest in agriculture, he said.


CL bus operators dispute reports on fare increase
By George Trillo

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga -- Central Luzon bus operators disputed reports last week that they have increased their fares unilaterally.

The P1.30-per-kilometer fare that the operators started to collect yesterday is still 15 centavos lower than the mandated fare of P1.45 per kilometer fare that was set by the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board more than two years ago, said Rely Jalbuna, spokesman of the Central Luzon-based air-con bus operators.
"Central Luzon has the lowest fare in Luzon, even with the P1.30-perkilometer charge that took effect yesterday," Jalbuna said.

"We were forced by the global conditions. The price of crude in the global market has surged to more than $ 100 per barrel, yet our fare structure has remained low. It was applicable when oil prices ranged from $ 24 to $ 26 per barrel," he said.

Jalbuna said bus operators, who are not yet implementing the mandated fare of P1.45 per kilometer, have been advised by the leadership of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines to collect the mandated fare.

This would enable them to adjust to the increase in oil prices and the surge in operating costs without seeking a fresh round of fare adjustments from the government, he said.

Jalbuna said the bus operators will not petition for a fare increase after the gradual adjustment to the LTFRB-mandated fares.


Pecson Is new Magalang town mayor

MAGALANG, Pampanga – Pampanga police director Senior Supt. Keith Singian said effective tomorrow, this town will be functioning under a new mayor, after Mayor Lyndon Cunanan agreed to give way on certain conditions to businessman Romulo Pecson.

“Cunanan merely asked permission from the Department of Interior and Local Government that he be allowed to still use his office in the municipal hall until the Commission on Elections decides on their case on April 1,” Singian said.

“We have already resolved the dispute. Cunanan has agreed to allow Pecson to fully function as mayor starting Monday but he (Cunanan) asked that he be allowed the continued use of his office at the municipal hall at least until April 1,” Singian said.
Singian said that both Pecson and DILG authorities granted Cunanan’s request.
Pecson has been holding office at the registrar’s office separate from the municipal building since Holy Monday March 24.

The Comelec earlier required Cunanan and Pecson to appear before April 1 to resolve the electoral dispute between them, following a decision by the Angeles City Regional Trial Court declaring Pecson as the winner in the mayoral elections here last year.

Cunanan later appealed the RTC decision before the Comelec’s second division, but the division came out with a divided decision. While Commissioner Rene Sar­miento upheld the RTC verdict, Commissioner Nico­demo Ferrer dissented, saying that Pecson’s claim to victory was not clearly established and that a status quo should therefore be maintained so as not to disrupt operations of the local government.
Cunanan thus brought his case before the Comelec.

Tension heightened here starting Holy Monday after the RTC issued a writ of execution of its decision, but Cunanan refused to vacate his post as he cited that his case remained pending before the Comelec. -- DC


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MORE NEWS, NUEVA ECIJA

P470 M infra dev’t for Ecija town
By Joan Capuna


PANTABANGAN, Nueva Ecija – Around P470.7 million worth of projects is in the works in this town, triggering an infrastructure boom in what is billed as the province’s “Little Baguio.”

Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. said of the almost half-billion projects in the radar of the municipal government, half or P266.7 million are on-going projects.
The biggest is the construction of the new municipal building fronting the old municipal hall costing P70 million.

The new municipal hall, which is funded through a loan from the Philippine National Bank, is now 50 percent complete. It is expected to be completed in October.
Borja said road concreting of the 2.7 km Malbang Road, worth P30 million is now complete while those of the P40-million, 3.5 km Conversion Road, the P29-million, 2.8 km Ganduz-Sampaloc Road and the P15-million, 1.2 km Cadaclan-Napon-Napon Road are in various stages of completion. Base preparations have also been completed for the P25-million, two-km Marikit Road as well as the two-km East Poblacion Road.

He said the municipal government is also constructing two to four-classroom schoolbuildings in Barangays East Poblacion, San Juan, Poblacion West, Marikit and Malbang and a Health Center in Villarica which will service the adjacent barangays of Malbang and Liberty.

Henry Pascual, acting municipal planning and development coordinator, said construction activities are now going on without let-up in this town, which is being hyped as a miniature version of the country’s summer capital owing to its relatively cold climate and for being a potential tourist mecca.

Borja said the municipal government is negotiating a P40-million loan for the provision of potable water systems in Barangays Liberty, Malbang, Villarica, East Poblacion and West Poblacion.

The Sangguniang Bayan has approved the loan package which would enable 2,500 families to avail of potable drinking water.

Borja said that at present, local residents only buy mineral for their drinking needs since the main water lines installed by the National Irrigation Administration are not suited for drinking purposes because these are made up of asbestos which is known to cause cancer.

The lack of drinking water for residents is considered an irony as the town hosts the mammoth Pantabangan Dam which supplies hydroelectric water to around 102,000 hectares of agricultural lands in Central Luzon.

Another loan worth P70 million is being worked out for the Special Education Fund (SEF) of the municipality to provide for facilities in all schools in the town.

The local government, Borja added, is also negotiating with the Japanese government for P54-million in grants for construction of farm-to-market roads and with the Department of Agriculture for installation of water pumps worth P70,000 each.

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MORE NEWS, ILOCOS SUR

House committee okays Ilocos ecozone measure
By Teddy P. Molina


VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur – Moving fast, the House committee on economic affairs approved March 25, a highly supported legislative measure here, sponsored by Rep. Ronald Singson (1st District, Ilocos Sur_, creating a special economic zone and Freeport authority in Ilocos Sur.

On motion of Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo, the committee chaired by Danao City Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI unanimously approved House Bill 1534 during the course of a public hearing held in Baluarte here morning of March 25.

Local officials led by Ilocos Sur Gov. Deogracias Victor Savellano and the business sector headed by Cirilo Lao, local president of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce took turns in pushing for the bill’s enactment befor eth Hosue committee.

Undersecretary Hermenegildo Dumlao, head of the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle Commission (Northquad), and Presidential Assistant Ernie Mendoza joined the clamor in favor of Singson’s bill saying the planned ecozone will benefit the whole northern reigon.

To be called Ilocos Sur Special Economic Zone and Freeport Authority (ISEZFA), the ecozone will be established within the premises of the Salomague Port in Cabugao town which is described as a natural cove and a safe haven for ships during inclement weather.

Singson underscored economic benefits for his constituents and the country once the ISSEZFA gains ground. These include job and investment generation, strengthening of the country’s trading and foreign exchange position, and enchancing the country’s global competitiveness.

He acknowledged his predecessor, Rep. Salacnib Baterina as having initiated a similar bill last year but the Senate failed to act on it before adjournment last year.

The young Singson, who is a son of former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” SIngson, announced that he made arrangements for a counterpart bill to be filled in the upper House by Sen. Miguel Zubiri.

He thanked his six colleagues in the economic affairs committee who came here for taking swift action on his bill many of whom are his fellow first termers. They are Mark Douglas Cagas IV of Davao del Sur, Nonato Joson of Nueva Ecija, Antonio Lagdameo of Davao del Norte, Albert Garcia of Bataan, Romulo and Durano.

Reacting on the quick committee action on HB 1534, a congressional aide said that “that’s what you get when you have a dynamic group of congressmen and an aggressive group of local stakeholders like what you have here.”

Singson said that he expects upgrading work on the Vigan airport to be underway with the signing by President Arroyo of this year’s national budget.

He was able to include P150million in the DOTC budget with the assistance of House Deputy Speaker Eric SIngson for the widening of the airport.

Once widened, Vigan airport is targeted to accommodate commercial and international flights by 2009 which he said should augur well for local tourism.


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LETTERS

Rejoinder to the commentary of
Bishop Francisco F. Claver on the Ifugao Rice Terraces

This is a rejoinder to the commentary published sometime ago in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, charging that the Ifugaos “had been arrogating the Unesco World heritage title to themselves.” The Bontoc-Igorot Bishop claimed that the Ifugaos made a “false claim” to the title because the World Heritage title was awarded to the entire Cordillera rice terraces complex and not to the Ifugao rice terraces alone.

I am conversant with the nomination of the Ifugao Rice Terraces to the Unesco World Heritage Commission made by the Philippine government in 1994 through the Dept. of Foreign Affairs. I have a copy of the nomination dossier signed and submitted by then Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Unesco National Commission of the Philippines Tomas R. Padilla. I find it necessary therefore, in the interest of truth and fairness to the Ifugaos, to set the record straight and clear whatever misimpression the Bishop’s commentary may have created in the public mind.

Secretary Padilla nominated for inscription in the World Heritage List four selected rice clusters of Ifugao rice terraces. The four clusters were: The Rice Clusters of Batad and Bangaan Banaue, the Rice Clusters of Mayoyao Central in Mayoyao, the Rice Clusters of Nagacadan in Kiangan, and the Rice Clusters of Hungduan.

Under “Specific Location” in the Unesco nomination form, Secretary Padilla stated: “Ifugao Province, Cordillera Region, Luzon Island”, and under “Description and Inventory”, the Secretary said: “This nomination presents four clusters of the best-preserved sites within the vast extent of rice terraces in the Cordilleras. Each cluster still remains complete, composed of a buffer ring of private forest (muyong), terrace group, village and sacred grove”.

Nowhere in the nomination dossier was there any mention of a specific cluster of rice terraces outside Ifugao; nowhere in the nomination was it also mentioned, or even implied, that the entire Cordillera rice terraces complex was recommended for inscription in the World Heritage List.

It may be noted, and Bishop Claver may not even be aware of it, that the rice terraces in the vicinity of Viewpoint and Poblacion in Banaue were not included in the nomination because, as an ICOMOS official told me, the rice terraces in these areas have been permanently scarred and defaced by the proliferation of residential buildings and other modern structures.

In its meeting on December 4-9, 1995 in Berlin, the World Heritage Commission approved the inscription of the four terraced clusters of Ifugao under new category of “Living Cultural Landscapes”.

The brief description of the inscribed rice terraces reads:

“For 2,000 years, the high rice fields of the Ifugaos have followed the contours of the mountain. The fruit of knowledge passed on from one generation to the next, a shared tradition and a delicate social balance, they helped from a landscape of great beauty that tradition and a delicate social balance, they helped from landscape of great beauty that expresses conquered harmony between humankind and the environment”.

I talked to Mr. Augusto Villalon, Chairman of the Philippine Committee of the International Committee on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) about Bishop Claver’s claim that the Ifugaos “arrogated” the World Heritage title to themselves and that the Unesco “had fallen for their false claim”.

Mr. Villalon, who with me accompanied the ICOMOS team when they inspected the four Ifugao rice clusters, explained that the Unesco was impressed by the Philippine nomination because the nomination dossier was supported by adequate legal and traditional mechanics for the terraces’ conservation. He cited the issuance by President Fidel V. Ramos of Executive Order No. 158 creating an agency to oversee the conservation of the Ifugao rice terraces, the preparation of the Six-Year and Three-Year Masterplan for the conservation of the rice terraces in Ifugao Presidential Decrees 260 and 1505 declaring the Ifugao Rice terraces as a National Treasure.

On the other hand, the rice terraces outside Ifugao lacked similar mechanics to assure full protection, maintenance and conservation.

Like most heritage sites, the terraces of Ifugao are in grave danger of deterioration due to a host of factors such as a changing economy, social and economic pressures, the negative effects of tourism and globalization and neglect caused by out migration and the preference of farmers’ children to gain education and employment than do back-breaking work in the rice terraces.

It may interest Bishop Claver to know that the successful Christianization campaign in Ifugao starting at the turn of the 20th century cast a negative aspect on paganism and ended many traditional practices and rituals essential to the continued cultivation of the rice terraces. This campaign and modernization have combined to break the line of strong cultural traditions that for centuries had intimately bound the Ifugaos to their beloved terraces.

But despite the continuing threats to their survival, the rice terraces of Ifugao have endured to this day. It is the mission of the Ifugao people to make their rice terraces continue to live by presiding over the terraces’ annual rebirth as they have done over the past 2,000 years.

With proper government support especially not that these have been deservedly inscribed in the World Heritage List, the Ifugao Rice Terraces may yet endure through the present millennium, be use to future generations, and continue to be recognized as the primary symbol of the cultural heritage of this nation.

JUAN B. DAIT, JR.
Kiangan, Ifugao
(Former Executive Director, Ifugao Rice Terraces Commission)

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Militant studes question mayor on upped tuition

“An education program that is accessible and that strengthens quality education” This was one of the promises of Mayor Peter Rey Bautista in answer to the question “Why I merit to be the mayor of Baguio” published in a local paper during elections last year. Many times, Mayor Bautista had also declared his “support” for the youth in his jurisdiction (who hugely composed his voters) and had been praised for this.

Now, such promises are again being challenged.

The University of Baguio (UB), which is owned by the mayor’s family, announced that it will be increasing its tuition by 7.5-10 % for enrollees this coming June-- merely two years since its raised its miscellaneous fees by similar percentage. Obviously, UB has a lot to explain to justify this move.
This is unreasonable since the university had declared a net income of P26 million in 2006. It has to consider its students whose parents’ sweat and sacrifice are sending them to school.
In view of his promises, Mayor Bautista is now torn between his “family’s business” and his obligation to serve the public--particularly the youth sector he vowed to support. If he chooses to be an honorable public servant, we are then asking him to intervene in the following:

1. for UB to declare “no classes” on a weekday between January 19-22 to give way for a mass consultation with the students regarding the tuition fee increase. The consultation day set by the UB administration on February 16 is a Saturday, during which only a few students are in the university. To really hear the “majority” of the students and to prove UB’s sincerity, the university should put no barriers to the participation of its students in the consultation.
2. for UB to allow students to articulate their sentiments through gatherings at the Avencleto Street in front of UB. Since UB was established, the Avencleto Street was declared by UB as “private.” This no longer holds true as the public is utilizing the street. Hence, students are free to also use it to express their freedom to speak.

If Mayor Bautista genuinely keeps the interests of the youth at heart and aims for them a quality education that is “accessible,” then we hope he heeds these calls.

May he be a man of his words.

Alliance of Concerned Students
Against Tuition and Other
Fees Increase-University of Baguio
09204813063



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EDITORIAL

‘Few killings, but no convictions’

The European Union lauded last week the “significant decrease” in the cases of unexplained killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines in recent months, but expressed concern that no perpetrator has been brought to justice.

The EU issued this statement before delegates of the two-day 2008 Philippine Development Forum, which ended in Clark, Pampanga last week.. The EU said it is “heartened” by President Arroyo’s “emphasis on the need for speedy prosecution and conviction of those responsible for such heinous acts,” but “notes with concern that to date, in no case have the perpetrators been made accountable.”

“The EU welcomes the work of the Supreme Court in this field and urges the government to implement fully the recommendations of the United Nations Special Representative Philip Alston,” the EU statement read.

“The EU reaffirms its willingness to provide relevant technical assistance to the Philippines in this field,” it added. Last week, the police task force investigating the unexplained murders of journalists and leftist activists said it was set to release its most wanted posters of suspects in the killings.

Task Force Usig also reported that not a single unexplained killing was recorded during the first quarter of the year. Its chief Director Jefferson Soriano reported an 83-percent decline in the killings from 2006 to 2007.

At present, a total of 161 people are wanted for the unexplained slays, but only 66 of them have been identified and 23 have pending warrants of arrest. Soriano said at least 27 cases have been pending before prosecutors offices, 13 others have been provisionally dismissed for lack of evidence or witnesses, and 14 other cases are still under prosecution.

The Supreme Court had created special courts to handle cases of killings of militants and journalists, where Soriano said seven cases have been referred to.

A human rights group urged the UN last week to take the Philippines to task for failing to prosecute soldiers suspected of involvement in a string of unexplained killings. New York-based Human Rights Watch said the Philippines has done little to implement recommendations made last year by Alston as well as Manila’s own fact-finding commission.

Both have linked soldiers to hundreds of deaths and disappearances of mostly left-wing activists belonging to political organizations that the military brands as fronts for communist rebels.

“The list of actions touted by the Philippine government as progress unfortunately seems little more than ‘window-dressing,’” said Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia. Pearson told reporters that the actions seemed “designed to merely deflect... criticism.”

The left-wing human rights group Karapatan also reported considerably fewer activists killed or abducted last year, 68 slain and 26 missing, down from 185 dead and 93 missing in 2006.

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council will hold its first Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines’ human rights record on April 11, during which council members can question government representatives in a public session.
All governments are subject to review.

“This is something we take seriously,” Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye told reporters. “I am sure the government will make the appropriate explanation to the international community.” Bunye said the Presidential Human Rights Commission was prepared to meet with the UN council to address the issue. This time, the government should show it matches its words with actions on the issue.

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BEHIND THE SCENES

Aging gracefully
ALFRED P. DIZON

How time flies. It seems just like yesterday when I was a kid catching birds at the mountains in Sagada, swimming at Bokong Falls or making wooden cars at the house basement.

Now, almost everyone I meet has a kid or grandchildren. It seems people I know are dying. The past months, I’ve been to numerous wakes of friends and acquaintances. Some classmates I’ve met, I hardly recognized. It seemed they aged too soon with bulging bellies and arthritis.

We’re all getting old. A twenty-two-year-old wrote an article recently about the plight of not being a radiant teen-ager any more. And an eighty-year-old can find there are things he can’t do as well like he used to.

Rose was seventy-four and demoralized. She felt that she had no future, no real place in anyone’s life. That she didn’t fit in: on the other hand, she couldn’t stand old people”; on the other, she was sure young people couldn’t stand her.

John Dale, an “age expert” figured out five basic things were bothering her: erosion of physical appearance and strength, other people’s prejudice against the aged, unwillingness to accept increased dependency on others, loss of certain friends and loved one, and approach of death.

All these problems, Rose argued, were impossible to overcome.

But, at Dale’s request, they tried to work out a helpful approach. As a start, he suggested that Rose ask herself the following ten questions:

1. In what ways do you discriminate against other people? For instance, do you condemn your husband as a “poor old man” or talk differently to older people from the way you do to younger ones? Do you say that other people your age who try to have a good time are making fools of themselves?
2. Do you have ways of buying friendship from younger people? Volunteering gifts and services you’d never expect them to offer you?
3. What favors or dispensations do you grant the young – and not yourself? Do you, for example, always show up on time, but “understand that the young people have better things to do”?
4. Do you believe you’re too old to understand certain things (politics, perhaps, or unisex clothes or the new movies)? And do you use this as an excuse not to pay attention what’s going on around you.
5. Do you conceal your personal problems because you feel you have no right to bother young people?
6. You try to establish yourself as an expert on life and give constant advice to young people?
7. Do you dwell on the past and ask sympathy because you life is over?
8. Do you criticize the modern world, calling it immoral or decaying? Do you maintain that you have no place in it?
9. Do you invade the privacy of the young, trying to live their lives instead of talking and thinking about your own?
10. Do you demand that young people listen to long speeches that you make – and get upset if they interrupt? Are you really listening to what they say?
These are all ways, Dale said, in which an older people (and thus poison his mind about himself) or ask indulgence because he’s too old to be held responsible. And an older person might always keep reinforcing the idea that old people – starting with him – are no good.

Rose realized, among other things, that she was ashamed of her husband, who used a walker to get about. She tended to pick on him. Particularly if there were younger people around. “Can’t you hurry up?” We’re keeping the kids waiting.”

She also recognized all the favors she did for her children – and the way she wouldn’t accept any favors or even appreciation from them in return. “Don’t thank me,” she always said. “I’m your mother.”

Finally, she saw that she belittled herself as much as her husband. “You’ll have to excuse me. I’m just an old woman.” Simultaneously, she usually managed to ask for sympathy. “A lot of my friends are gone. I don’t have much more time.”

One she recognized some of these patterns in her life, Rose could hardly wait to change them. She loved her husband and didn’t really want to embarrass him; she had just gotten in the habit of being so ashamed of old age that she felt embarrassed for him. Once she stopped putting him down, it was easier to stop putting herself down – and also easier to believe that their age was no disgrace.

Dale suggested she cut down on favors – and start making plans of her own. She hadn’t gone out on weekends for years; she wanted to be available “in case the children need me.” One of her hardest decisions was the resolution to book herself solid on weekends for a whole month – and stick to her appointments. After so many years of refusing to do things for herself, it was time she started.

One of the things Rose started was a class in gardening, which as old hobby. This helped turn her thinking around, from the belief that “it’s all downhill form now on” to the idea that she could still do new things, make new progress.

At this point Dale and Rose looked back at the five impossible problems of old age. They were still real difficulties, but Rose had certain ideas for coping with them successfully. They talked about the problem of losing good looks and perfect health. Rose, she stopped taking care of herself shortly after she turned forty “What’s the point?” she figured.

Now, at seventy-four, Rose decided there was some point. Not in trying to look forty again – that would backfire and make her more ashamed of getting older. Just as buying a toupee is probably the worst way for a man to adjust to baldness. But Rose made up her mind to buy some new clothes, get her hair done, go for a long walk now and then for exercise. And she started looking for ways not to let other physical limitations stop her – for instance, buying a magnifying glass to her read recipes instead of giving up on cooking.

As for prejudice against old people, the decision she’s already made not to participate in it herself-gave her a sense of perspective. While she recognized that there would always be some people who were prejudiced against the aged (frequently) because they dreaded growing old, she stopped assuming that everyone hated old people – and more important – that such hatred was justified.

And she decided that being dependent of her friends and children wasn’t all that terrible after all. She’d done a lot for them the past forty-five years, and they honestly wanted to act generously in return. But she was making it as hard as possible, sometimes acting as if an offer to drive her somewhere or run an errand were an insult instead a favor. And always bringing out the self-pity. “I’m so old, I’m such a bother.”

It wasn’t easy for her, but Rose managed to force herself to start accepting favors – and accepting graciously. Once she did it, her horror about the idea went away, and she actually found it was pleasant to know that some people cared enough to go out of their way for her.

Rose’s parents were dead; so were her brothers, some cousins, and friends. One of her sisters was dying. She associated these people with youth and with good times; there was reason to mourn their passing.

But not reason to turn it into a trauma, to refuse to enjoy life from that day on. After her favorite brother died, Rose had gone into permanent, if low-key, mourning. Around this time she stopped going out and making plans for the future. She eventually came to see that this was not an inevitable, proper, concerned response – but a choice, and an overreaction.

At first, when she started to rejoin the world, she felt a vague sense that she was betraying her brother. But she also realized that he wouldn’t have of approved of the kind of person she’d turn herself into. He had been in his seventies when he died – and much younger somehow than she was no. Perhaps it made sense to become more like him, instead of acting half alive.

As she faced up to her brother’s death, Rose started thinking and talking openly for the first time about the idea of her own death. Which didn’t magically removed all fear and sorrow, but did reduce the terror of the very thought. This probably the most important lesson that self-creation can teach us: refusing to face something – anything – always make it much, much worse. Admitting that you will die – not refusing to think it or pretending that your children give you immortality – can give you a sense of your own courage, and an impulse to make the most of your life right now.

It took some time for Rose to work all this out, but she did it. Even though she started at age seventy-four-and she believed at first that she was too old to do anything new, she managed to change her whole life. It is easier if you start young. But it’s never too late to give life new promise.

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