Typhoon casualties: 313 dead in Cordillera; 5 drown in Pangasinan

>> Sunday, October 25, 2009

Typhoon “Ramil” zigzagged around Cagayan and threatened to unleash its wrath over northern Luzon this weekend but only delivered rain even as the area was reeling from Typhoon “Pepeng “wherein 313 people died in the Cordillera due to Typhoon “Pepeng” in latest count.

In Bayambang, Pangasinan, five more persons were reported Friday to have drowned due to floodwaters, bringing to 62 the number of casualties in the province.

Butch Velasco, Public Information Officer, said the newly-discovered victims were identified as Ejay Padua of Manambong Parte, Edmund Paragas of Bani, Guillerma Dacagan of Bacnono, Elmer Menguin and William Camacho of Partagos, all of Bayambang.

This, as a leg believed that of a 12-year old boy reported missing with three others since they were buried alive in landslide last Oct. 8 - was recovered last week along the river leading to Aringay, La Union.

Baguio City administrator Peter Fianza Thursday afternoon dispatched a team from the city disaster coordinating council that transported the limb, together with a team of searchers led by the boy’s father.

While there was no immediate way to fully ascertain whether the find was that of the boy, Fianza said it would help his family cope with mourning, towards closure over its loss.

Miller Viernes, a freshman at the Irisan National High School , and three others remained unaccounted for after about two weeks of search and rescue operations for missing victims of a landslide that buried three houses at Purok 1 in Irisan at the height of typhoon Pepeng.

Volunteers came up empty after days clearing the debris and following the route of the Irisan River to Aringay and then shifting the search back to the landslide area.

Miller’s father, Orly, a farmer in Labilab, Itogon, Benguet led relatives to Tubao, La Union last Thursday and were told residents found five days before a limb snagged along their portion of the river.

He then texted his wife, Evelyn, who, in turn sought transport support from the CDCC. Fianza sent volunteers Melchor Tagayona and Rowell Garcia to fetch the searchers who went as far as Aringay.

Aside from the boy, also reported missing were Marceline Sevilla, her six-year old daughter Kimberly Sevilla, and her uncle Mario Tacloy.

Miller was staying with his aunt Marceline at Irisan while his parents and their two younger children – Delight, 11, and Jacob, 7 - live in Labilab.

In Tadian, Mountain Province, a huge portion of a village heavily ravaged by “Pepeng,” may suffer another massive landslide.

This, after the newly organized Kayan Disaster Coordinating Council, a community initiated civic organization that provides assistance to residents affected by disaster, said a huge portion of Upper Kayan, where an earlier huge landslide happened, is in danger of collapsing because of evident cracks on the mountain which could cave in during another wave of strong rains.

On Oct. 8, a huge landslide occurred which buried at least 18 houses in Kayan East that resulted in the death of 35 people and injury to four others.

Because of the tragic and traumatic experience and the closure of roads leading to the town to facilitate search, rescue, and retrieval operations, the whole community organized themselves, pooled their resources, and initiated the initial conduct of rescue operations in the spirit of unity and voluntarism.

Based on survey conducted by experts from the town and volunteers, the cause of the landslide could be attributed to the series of cracks noted on the slope the mountain that forms a hyperbolic figure.

Just above these cracks are rice fields and vegetable gardens.

In the Cordillera, the Office of Civil Defense said dead since Oct. 3 as a result of typhoons “Onyong” and “Pepeng” to date were 313 persons.

Injured were 181 while missing were18. Without citing any reason, the OCD said search and retrieval operations in areas where victims were believed to be buried have been suspended since Oct. 2.

To date, affected families were 88,409 or 421,861 persons. Evacuated families were 379 or 1801 persons.

Still in the Cordillera, initial cost of damages to roads was placed at P1103.356 billion, bridges at P40.66 million; health facilities, P4.65 million; public schools, P167.635 million and irrigation at P167.635 million.

On agriculture, crops, P689.687 million; livestock, 11.827 million and fishery. P9.56 million,
Assistance extended by the National Disaster Coordinating Council was P93,934,802.00 rice with PGMA financial assistance, Welfare and Development, P5,052,904.16 worth of family packs; local government units, P6,638,442.11 monetized relief assistance and non-government organizations at P2,989,623.60.

In Ilocos Region, the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council rushed Thursday relief goods to residents in isolated areas in Ilocos Norte, La Union and Ilocos Sur.

The RDCC used two helicopters to carry the goods to move through poor weather caused by Ramil.
Chief Supt. Ramon Gatan, Ilocos police director and RDCC chair, said isolated areas are villages affected recently by Pepeng.

Aside from the distribution of relief goods, Gatan said he instructed all provincial disaster coordinating councils in Region 1 to conduct pre-positioning of rescuers and for the conduct of pre-emptive evacuation to affected residents.

He said policemen and personnel from the Philippine Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard based in Poro Point were deployed in critical areas to assist residents in case of emergency.

In Aurora province, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo said the provincial government extended P100,000 in calamity assistance to Isabela province and Botolan, Zambales which were among those hard-hit by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

The cash donation was coursed through the League of Governors of the Philippines.
Angara-Castillo said it was the Aurora people’s way of expressing gratitude to God for having been spared from the devastation wrought by the twin typhoons. -- By Mar T. Supnad, Ramon Dacawi, Dexter A. See, Liam Anacleto, Jennelyn Mondejar, Luis Jose, Francis Degay, Angel Baybay, Armand Tamaray and Jerry Padilla

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Holdups rampant at Benguet-Ilocos road;cops tighten security

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — Police authorities in Ilocos and Cordillera regions ordered their men to tighten security along the Abatan-Mankayan-Cervantes road to ensure the safety of motorists, especially vegetable truckers and traders, from being victimized by robbers.

Chief Supt. Ramon V. Gatan, Ilocs police director, said he directed the Ilocos Sur provincial police office to strengthen their police visibility and foot and mobile patrols, especially at night, in order to prevent unscrupulous individuals from victimizing innocent individuals.

Gatan issued the orders upon receiving the complaints of several vegetable traders from Benguet who were robbed by six still unidentified bonnet-wearing armed men who took from them their cash and personal belongings, particularly at the sharp curve of Sitio Camay- Gitlangan in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur last week.

For his part, Chief Supt. Orlando Pestano, Cordillera police director, ordered police in Benguet to work double time in patrolling the stretch of the 43-km Abatan-Mankayan-Cervantes road, especially within Benguet, so motorists will feel secure when using the road as an alternate route to the lowlands.

He said there is a possibility the robbers who victimized several vegetable traders and truckers in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur might be from Benguet since they were able to escape through the Baguyos River leading towards Mankayan town.

Vegetable farmers, traders and truckers from the northern towns of Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao are using the Abatan-Mankayan-Cervantes road as an alternate route to bring their produce to the lowlands and the La Trinidad vegetable trading post since the Halsema Highway, the main artery to the Cordillera hinterlands, has only been opened only for light vehicles. – Dexter A. See

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Suspect in Laoag lawyer's slay falls

BUCAY, Abra– The alleged killer of Laoag City legal officer Jose “Pepoc” Pastor was arrested. after almost 10 months in hiding.

Efren Alagao, 33, was nabbed by Ilocos Norte and Abra policemen here in Barangay Siblong on Oct. 17.

Groups in Ilocos Norte, including Pastor’s colleagues in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, have been urging authorities to immediately put an end to endless killings in Abra.

Pastor was killed in his office on Dec. 18 last year.

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2 bodies recovered in daring rescue ops

By Francis B. Degay

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- The bodies of one Julius Khita of Barangay Talubin here and a certain Marlon Rongan of Anabel, Sadanga town, were found by rescue volunteers in separate places along the Chico River on Oct. 14 and 17 respectively.

Afternoon of Oct. 10 while Typhoon “Pepeng” was ending its downpour, Khita was washed away by strong current while fishing with peers at the Talubin River.

The succeeding days, volunteers Bontoc and Sadanga including the police forces of Bontoc station led by Chief Insp. Julio Lizardo and the regional mobile group based in Mount Polis headed by Senior Insp. Geron Managtag conducted rescue operations from the banks of Talubin River down to Chico River at Tabuk City in Kalinga.

The following day, Talubin kagawad Miguel Toryaden and a certain Zaldy Ngeteg of Talubin were swallowed by strong water current while assisting in the rescue operations of Khita at the converging zone of Talubin and Chico rivers at Barangay Tocucan in this capital town.

Toryaden was saved and brought the same day to the Bontoc General Hospital while Ngeteg was not retrieved.

On Oct. 14, while the bodies of Khita and Ngeteg were the subject of search one Marlon Rongan, a volunteer from Anabel, met the same fate at Anabel.

According to rescuers, Rongan might have been tired and he was not able to fight back the current as he has done the previous days.

The cadavers of Khita were retrieved at Sitio Oy-owayen, Sadanga while Rongan was recovered at Ambato, Tinglayan.

Ngeteg is still missing and the subject of search as of press time.

When Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey was informed of the incidents, he immediately wrote a letter to Tabuk City mayor Camilo Lammawin and talked with Tinglayan, Kalinga mayor Johnny Mayamaya on Oct. 12 for their assistance in giving information on any floating cadaver that might be seen and safety of volunteers in their areas of responsibility.

The correspondence was hand carried by Bontoc town council member Eusebio Kabluyen who led the rescue activity in Tabuk.

According to Abdon Manuit, a driver of Bontoc local government who went with the rescue volunteers to Tinglayan, Maymaya gave support to the operation by providing snacks and meals, transportation facilities and providing police and civilian guides to Ambato where usually drowned persons from the upper stream are usually retrieved.

A portion of the Chico River at Ambato has a whirlpool which is perceived to hold floating objects for a long time.

Insp. Jimmy Macwes of the regional mobile group, who is also a swimmer, told this writer that the rescue operation was difficult due to very strong current of the Chico River.

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Comelec hit for not extending voters’ registration nationwide

With less than two weeks left before the voters’ registration period ends, the sole youth party in congress encouraged more youth to register amidst the grueling amount of work they have to accomplish due to the cancellation of classes.

Earlier, the Commission on Elections denied a petition to extend the voter’s registration period even after two natural disasters wreaked havoc and damaged the country.

The Comelec said it would be highly inconvenient to extend the registration now for it will delay the preparation for the 2010 elections.

Kabataan Rep. Raymond “Mong” Palatino urged the Comelec to return the deadline of voters registration to its original date of Dec. 15 in light of the recent tragedies that struck the nation.

“With 13 days left to register, how can the Comelec reach its target? Extending the registration period for 45 days won’t hurt,: he said. Besides, I thought the computerization of the polls is supposed to speed up election processes, from preparations to counting of ballots. If the Comelec is not capable of extending the registration period, how can we be assured that there would be no system glitches come election time?”

Marti Cabangon, Kabataan Partylist Cordillera spokesperson.also said “with the current status of the provinces today in the Cordillera, it is indifferent to expect first time voters to go out and register while recovering from the effects of the typhoons. It is very inconsiderate of the Comelec not to extend the deadline for registration given these circumstances.”

He added first time voters, mostly students will be having a hard time squeezing registration into the demands of the adjusted academic calendar.

To advance the call to register youth leaders from different organizations in Baguio will have a symbolic activity in Malcolm Square, Baguio City, the date o0f which would be announced later.

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One killed, 3 hurt in P’sinan grenade blast

By Jennelyn Mondejar

BINMALEY, Pangasinan – A hand grenade exploded in a bakery in Barangay Malindong this town night of Oct. 18 resulting to the death of one person and injury to three others.

Chief Insp. Jimmy Agtarap, police chief here, said the casualty was identified as Celso Cruz, 25, furniture maker and resident of said barangay.

Injured were Mary Jane Garachero and her seven-year-old son Jason who were already discharged from the hospital.

Still being confined at a hospital is Marvin Siscar, 24, also of said place.

Police investigation showed Cruz, then drunk, brought with him at the Bestfriend Bakery the grenade which accidentally exploded while he fell asleep on a pile of empty soft drinks cases. The explosion caused injuries to those who were at the site.

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3 die of ‘lepto’ due to floods in La Union

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — The provincial health office here recently confirmed three persons died because of complications originating from their having been infected with the dreaded leptospirosis, which they contracted due to floods caused by the onslaught of Typhoon "Pepeng."

Two of the said leptospirosis victims reportedly came from Bawang town while the other fatality is a native of Bacnotan town.

The management of the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center here reported it had admitted 12 patients who had symptoms of leptospirosis after they were exposed to floodwaters.

Sven of the admitted patients were cleared while several others are still undergoing treatment for the disease.

With the onslaught of typhoon “Ramil” which brought heavy rains in northern Luzon, health authorities predicted an increase in number of leptospirosis cases once thousands of people living in low-lying and flood-prone communities will be exposed to contaminated floodwaters.

If leptospirosis patients will not be given immediate medical attention, the leptora bacteria will eventually attack the kidneys causing impairment on its functions, which eventually result in complications that will cause the patient’s death.

From the beginning, the leptospira bacteria attacks the kidneys resulting in immunologic complication, which causes the patient to become yellowish, an indication that the liver, one of the vital organs of the body, has been already affected.

If the patients submit themselves to early medical consultation, the complication of the kidneys could be prevented in a few days.

However, if the toxins brought by the leptospira bacteria could not be removed from the body immediately, aggressive management is needed but early consultation will prevent them from undergoing dialysis.

Health authorities here advised residents who experience abnormal conditions to seek medical attention. – Dexter A. See

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Angara-Noveras alliance fails over 'package deal'

By Luis Jose

BALER, Aurora– Negotiations for a possible tactical alliance between the Angaras and Noveras are off.

This, after the camp of Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, who is seeking a third and last term, rejected the “package deal” reportedly being offered by the camp of Vice Gov. Gerardo Noveras.

Angara-Castillo confirmed that the deal is now off after Noveras’ elder brother, comebacking former vice governor Isaias Jr., announced he was running for mayor of their hometown, Ma. Aurora under the banner of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino.

Prior to the elder Noveras’ announcement, the two camps have been holding talks over a possible alliance in the run-up to the 2010 elections.

The vice governor was best remembered for beating Angara-Castillo’s nephew Rommel, in the 2007 polls, spoiling what could have been an Angara-Angara tandem at the helm of the Capitol.
Rommel’s setback was reportedly the offshoot of his being junked in 2007 by the camp of then vice governor Annabelle Tangson and her younger brother, then San Luis mayor Mariano Tangson in favor of Noveras.

The Tangsons and Noverases are old political allies. Annabelle was Isaias’ runningmate when the latter ran and lost in 2001 to Chit Ong in the gubernatorial race.

The Tangsons reportedly wanted Mariano to be Angara-Castillo’s runningmate in place of Annabelle but Rommel’s fielding would quash future attempts by the Tangsons to make a run at the Capitol.

This led to a rift between Angara-Castillo and the Tangsons. Mariano is reportedly set to challenge Angara-Castillo in next year’s polls.

The Noveras brothers are scions of Isias Sr., 82, a former vice governor-turned-governor by succession when the province became a regular province. Isias Sr., Isias Jr. and Gerardo are on record with the distinction as the only father and sons triumvirate to have each been elected vice governor in the province.

Earlier, Angara-Castillo told the vice governor to make up his mind whether to join the governor whose camp constitutes the overwhelming majority bloc in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan where Noveras is the presiding officer.

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Cops who risked lives in rescue missions cited

By Myds Supnad

SAN JACINTO, Pangasinan -- A neophyte, lowly-ranked cop has been the center of media’s attraction for the past few days after he played a major role, risking lives and limbs in saving the lives and properties of the people in this town at the height of Typhoon “Pepeng.”

Dubbed as “Modern day hero,” the heroic act showed by Insp. Ryan Manongdo, acting chief of police of San Jacinto, has caught the attention of the police hierarchy since what he did was a story of self-sacrifice so that others may live.

As Typhoon “Pepeng,” struck the province and the rest of Northern Luzon area, Manongdo, a graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy, did not hesitate to risk his own life and braved the murky waters, with the assistance of two boys in rescuing the people who had been almost drowned by rampaging floods in the area.

Armed only with his bare hands and skills that he learned from the PNPA academy, Manongdo took an inflatable beds, and saved the children and women trapped in their houses due to the sudden flash floods.

“They could have saved more but they were too weak already from transporting people to safety. Still, they saved 130 people,” said the report, praising Manongdo for his act budded as “heroic feat that did not go unnoticed,said Chief Supt. Ramon Gatan, Region 1 PNP director.

Even Philippine National Police Director Gen. Jesus A. Verzosa was impressed by the heroic act of Manongdo, his two young companions and the hundreds of policemen who worked hand in hand in providing rescue mission and bring relief goods to victims of typhoons ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng.”

“What you did was exemplary. May you and the other officers serve as role models in being selfless and courageous in the face of calamities. During those dark times, you did not think of your own but thought of your fellowmen. Your PNP is proud of you,” Verzosa pointed out after noting the laudable action of the young PNP officer.

Meanwhile, Police Director Leopoldo Bataoil, reported that hundreds of policemen in Northern Luzon and other provinces have also lost their homes and properties because of massive flooding brought about by the two typhoons.

“A number of policemen have not gone home for several days now because they were deployed in evacuation centers and flooded areas destrcuted by Pepeng. They heeded the call of their duty although they themselves are also victims. It’s really service above self,” he said.

Bataoil assured policemen that upon instructions of the PNP Chief, the PNP leadership will provide assistance to all displaced cops.

Meanwhile, the Public Safety Mutual Benefit Fund Inc. announced that every policeman can avail of P50,000 calamity loan to have them heave a sigh of relief, it was learned.

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Folk reject trash dump site for Baguio, Benguet

By Dexter A. See

ITOGON, Benguet — Residents of two villages here which will be affected by the construction of a huge engineered sanitary landfill for the province reiterated their strong opposition to the establishment of the facility in the open pit mine site of the Benguet Corporation, saying it will pose a serious threat to the state of the environment and the health of the people living in the surrounding communities.

The provincial government, in coordination with a Korean-based company, is conducting a feasibility study for construction of a multi-million engineered sanitary landfill in Antamok, Itogon, Benguet, particularly at the open pit mine site of the defunct mining company.

Residents of Luneta and Luacan, who will be affected by the establishment of the facility, claimed they will not take back their earlier opposition they submitted to the municipal government which they formalized against the plan of the Baguio City government to put up their sanitary landfill in the controversial open pit mine site.

They said the mining company must instead backfill the ravaged mountain and bring it back to its original state as earlier committed to the host communities rather than converting the same to a dump facility which is not favorable to the state of the environment and the health of the people.

Provincial officials were able to source out around $8 million from a Korean company to fund the conduct of a feasibility study to determine the limits of the construction of an engineered sanitary landfill which will be used by the province, including Baguio City.

Some local officials said the engineered sanitary landfill to be constructed in Antamok will be utilized by various towns in the province in order for them to comply with the provisions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act to avoid being administratively and criminally charged by the National Solid Waste Commission.

La Trinidad, the capital of Benguet, is the only local government in the province that has complied with provisions of the solid waste management law when it was able to construct its controlled dump facility in Barangay Alno.

The law mandates all local government units to close the operation of their open dumpsites and convert the same into controlled dump facilities or establish their own sanitary landfill for the protection of the health of their constituents and the state of the environment in their areas of jurisdiction.

In Sablan town, also in the province, the municipal government said it is not against hosting the multi-million-peso engineered sanitary landfill of Baguio City, provided that its establishment will pass through the required procedures and it is done above board.

One of the major requirements for the setting up of the sanitary landfill in Alimang, Palali, Poblacion in Sablan is for the city government to secure the social acceptance of the affected communities where the project will be located.

What is important is for the city government to be transparent about the project, according to local officials, whereby they must be able to present the whole plan for the affected people to understand.

More importantly, the local government pointed out the plan must be able to disabuse the mind of people that an engineered sanitary landfill is like the controversial 5.2-hectare Irisan open dumpsite.

Earlier, several communities in this fifth-class town expressed concern that the construction of an engineered sanitary landfill in their area will produce leacheate that may pollute their sources of potable water supply that could cause serious illnesses.

According to concerned local officials, the environmental issue of the sanitary landfill project is one aspect which must be explained thoroughly by the project proponents since not everyone has seen a sanitary landfill.

While several landowners in the town expressed willingness to lease some of their properties for the city’s landfill project, municipal officials claimed they have yet to be officially informed about the matter and the city government must also submit their proposals for the environmentally critical project.

The local officials claimed they are supportive of the project provided that it will be in accordance with existing guidelines imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources so that all sectors which have concerns and fears on the project will be properly addressed.

Mayor Bonifacio Tacio said that while he supports projects that will help produce additional revenue for the municipal government, Baguio officials must learn to sit down with them in order to address pressing concerns relative to the project rather than send emissaries who could not even decide on important issues being raised against the landfill project.

Despite the offer made by some land owners for their properties to be used as a site for the city’s sanitary landfill, no city official has approached the municipal government to show their desire in pursuing the construction of the landfill in a place within the area of jurisdiction of the municipality.

The Baguio City government, after spending more than P200 million to address the worsening garbage problem in the city in less than a year, still needs at least P36.2 million for the solid waste disposal activities up to the end of this year.

The requested amount will reportedly cover hauling and tipping fees for the city’s tons of waste to the Metro Clark sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac up to the end of this year.

The projected huge expenses cover hauling services both by city government utilizing city-owned resources pegged at P15.3 million and by private companies amounting to P7.6 million.

Concerned city department heads said the local government needs to hire private haulers as available government equipment cannot accommodate all the daily waste output.

However, some sectors in the city are questioning the excessive expenditures of the city relative to the solid waste problem, claiming that the earlier funds allocated for the purpose were already exhausted but some private haulers who actively participated in helping clean the tons of garbage that piled up along major roads were not even paid for their services.

Lately, a group of Filipino-Americans from the city is proposing a cheaper and environment-friendly way of disposing garbage rather than hauling the same to the sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac or putting up the city’s own engineered sanitary landfill.

EniroCycle Limited, a United States-based company, is pushing for the conversion of carbon dioxide emissions into renewable energy.—Dexter A. See

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Still no classes in P’sinan towns

BINALONAN, Pangasinan– Classes remain suspended in some areas in the province because of thick mud and destroyed computer sets and books in the aftermath of Typhoon “Pepeng.”

Dr. Viraluz Raguindin, schools division superintendent of Pangasinan 2, told yesterday Oct. 20 that teachers, parents and residents have joined hands to get rid of the thick mud deposited by floodwaters in schools.

Reports reaching Raguindin said massive clearing operations are ongoing in schools in worst-hit Rosales town like the Robert Estrella National High School and the Carmen East Elementary School, as well as in Puelay Elementary School in nearby Villasis town.

In Urdaneta City, Mayor Amadeo Perez Jr. has deployed some City Hall employees to help speed up the rehabilitation of flood-hit schools.

“But there is another danger – crawling snakes as big as a finger and about one foot long or more,” Raguindin said.

Thus, she advised school authorities and volunteers to be careful and instead use equipment to remove the mud.

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CHED backs university status for MP school

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The Cordillera office of the Commission on Higher Education (has endorsed the application of the Mountain Province State Polytechnic College for university status after rigid assessment on its compliance to omnibus regulations promulgated by the Commission relative to the conversion of a college to a university.

MPSPC has voluntarily submitted itself to evaluation done by the CHED on its compliance to a 13-point requirement imposed to schools aspiring for university status.

At the same time, the school’s board of trustees also approved the desire of the only State-run higher education institution in this landlocked province to become one of the universities in the region.

While the CHED team found several deficiencies in its compliance, the CHED evaluation team found that the school has satisfactorily complied with the other important requirements, thus, it endorsed its bid to become a university in the future depending on the action of Congress.

At least 26 congressmen led by Baguio Rep. Mauricio G. Domogan and Kalinga Rep. Manuel S. Agyao, who is also the caretaker congressman for Mountain Province, have filed the bill converting MPSPC into the Mountain Province State University.

Since 2005, MPSPC had an average annual enrollment of 4,600 per semester which is way above the CHED requirement of at least 2,500 enrollees per semester in order to qualify for a university status.

The school consists of a total of 145 faculty members with 117 or 81 percent are permanent in full-time status while the rest are casual but are serving in full-time status.

Seventy nine faculty members or 54 percent of its faculty have master’s degree in their areas of specialization. a total of 72 or 49 percent of its faculty with master’s degree are on full-time status.

Dr. Nieves A. Dacyon, MPSPC president, cited the results of the CHED evaluation will serve as a basis in the formulation of appropriate work plans in order to satisfactorily comply with the requirements prescribed by the agency in order to achieve the university status in the future.

She underscored what is important for the institution is to have a benchmark in charting the development thrusts of the institution to provide quality education to the youth for the benefit of the future generation.

The university hood status of MPSPC was also strongly and favorably endorsed by the barangays, municipalities and the province in order to improve the delivery of quality education to its people’s.

MPSPC was established through the efforts of the late Rep. Victor S. Dominguez who envisioned the creation of a university in the province in the future since education is the best inheritance that parents could give their children since it could not be easily taken away from them. -- Dexter A. See

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Halt to Cagayan River dredging sought amid massive flash floods

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Calls for a halt to the controversial dredging of the Cagayan River basin continued to mount amid threats of massive flashfloods in Cagayan’s northernmost towns and possible catastrophic damage to the environment.

Church-backed multi-sectoral groups in Cagayan renewed over the week their call to the national government to stop the provincial government-backed dredging of the Cagayan River, especially along the coastlines of Aparri, Buguey and Gonzaga in the wake of threats of floods and fears of catastrophic damage to the towns’ marine life.

The Alliance of Buguey for Community Development Advocates called on President Arroyo and Bayombong Bishop Ramon Villena, also the regional development council head, for their “immediate intercession to stop the extraction of magnetite sand at our seas and shores” which exposes residents to the risk of inundation and erosion.

According to the group, the magnetite extraction, reportedly contracted to Chinese and Taiwanese consortiums, was conducted within the “prohibited zone” with various vessels being filled up with black sand every three to five hours for transport abroad.

“Few days ago, we were eyewitness to the devastating effects of nature because we allow our environment to be ripped. A more tragic state of affairs of nature is likely to happen to our beloved (place) should (the magnetite) extraction continue,” the group said.

The appeal letter, dated Oct. 12, was also addressed to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, himself a Cagayan native; Environment Secretary Lito Atienza and Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio.

Enrile and Antonio, however, earlier expressed support for the project, which, they said, aside from providing economic benefits, also helps to de-clog the river of silt and other debris.

The provincial board also endorsed the dredging project amid stiff opposition from the Church and various environmental groups, which called it actually a mining operation in disguise.

A letter of similar nature to Villena dated Oct. 15 was also made by Buguey Mayor Ignacio Taruc, whose pending suspension due to administrative charges by the provincial board has been perceived by some sectors as having something to do with his going against the provincial government’s pro-mining stance.

Atienza already ordered on April 22 the suspension of the said dredging operation for violation of Batas Pambansa 256, which prohibits mineral extraction within 200 meters from the coastline.

Atienza’s order came as Church-backed anti-mining residents in Cagayan’s northern coastal towns were staging protests actions against the project, fearing that it would cause flashfloods, and eventually inundate their residences and farms. -- CL

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DPWH assailed for ‘corruption’

By Mar T. Supnad

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga- The apparent insensitivity of a number of top officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways in Regional office here who are immune from public and media criticisms will downgrade the credibility of the DPWH, tagged as one of the most corrupt national government agencies in the country.

Despite the series of negative reports printed recently in various national and regional newspapers, the DPWH Regional office continued to become mum, raising suspicion that a number of top officials in the department have received kickbacks from its anomalous construction.

This has prompted the Bataan provincial board headed by Vice Gov. Serafin Roman to pass a resolution, asking the immediate investigation on the reported anomalous construction of a bridge in Palihan, Bataan worth P146 million that was left unfinished by the DPWH and virtually abandoned by its unknown favorite contractor.

The said new unfinished bridge which was just put up on top of an existing national road in Palihan barangay, has become the source of daily monstrous traffic jam due to its deplorable condition that is almost impassable.

Roman also expressed surprise why the DPWH constructed suddenly a bridge along the road in Palihan, Hermosa town where there is no bridge to replace or river that needs a new bridge. “Nagpatayo sila ng tulay sa kalsada na wala namang ilog, ipinatong lang nila sa kalsada etong tulay, “said Roman.

“We are the one being bombarded by the public with this issue so we have to act on it,” said the visibly irked board member Gaudencio Ferrer, a native of Hermosa town.

The Bataan officials had summoned DPWH director Alfredo Tolentino but snubbed the invitation and sent instead his project engineer Edgar Bagco who could not answer the questions from the board during the hearing. Bagco instead said that they need more several millions of funds for the completion of the road but said that the cannot still complete it since there is no available fund for the right of way for the construction of a channel to ease the flooding in the area.

Bataan Peninsula Times Associate editor Ronald F. Supnad lamented that despite the series of criticisms aired against the DPWH regional officials they continued to ignore the issues and preferred to remain silent, raising suspicion that a number of them were benefited from the anomalous project. Supnad and his media group are now contemplating to file a class suit against the crooked DPWH officials in the Region.

“This irregularity might affect the credibility and presidential bid of DPWH secretary Jun Ebdane,” added Supnad

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Mayor orders traffic scheme for PUVs

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Reinaldo Bautista, Jr. issued last week Administrative Order 155-2009 ordering an “odd-even number coding scheme for Public Utility Vehicles (PUVs) in Baguio.”

The order, now effective, allowa odd numbered PUV’s to travel within the city only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Even numbered vehicles, on the other hand, are allowed to travel only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

“The order stands until pump commodities normalize,” Bautista said. “We appeal for our constituents’ understanding… A drop of crude may mean a life saved during this pressing times.” – Isagani Liporada

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Remote Cagayan island finally receives relief aid

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya– Almost two weeks after typhoon ”Pepeng” battered northern Luzon, residents of a remote Cagayan island got relief assistance lat week, thanks to a United Nations-commissioned Russian military helicopter that transported the goods.

Chief Supt. Roberto Damian, Cagayan Valley police director, said the UN helicopter manned by Russian pilots airlifted the relief goods for at least 450 families in Babuyan Claro, an islet of Calayan island town located across the extremely harsh Balintang Channel.

The relief assistance included blankets, kitchen utensils and toiletries, said Damian, who also heads the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council.

Damian said sorties to other remote Cagayan islands, including Fuga, were also underway, with Claveria town as staging point.

“The next flight will bring goods for some 1,200 families in Calayan proper and 451 families in Fuga. Some 500 food packs come from Malacañang, while the rest come from an American religious group called the Samaritans,” he said.

Residents of Calayan and Fuga, an island village of Aparri town, were earlier reported to be starving as their food supplies had run out and harsh weather conditions had hampered any relief operation.

Damian said the Russian military helicopter carrying 12,550 kilos of relief goods arrived in Tuguegarao City last Friday Oct. 16.

Calayan and Fuga are about eight hours by sea from mainland Cagayan through the Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea meet.
Calayan has about 15,000 residents, while Fuga Island has 1,600.

President Arroyo, through Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, head of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, ordered the immediate airlifting of the relief goods to the remote areas following the arrival of the UN-chartered helicopter and additional assistance.

Calayan and Fuga residents are dependent on supplies from mainland Cagayan, which is still reeling from P2 billion in crop losses and infrastructure damage caused by Pepeng. – CL

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3 most wanted persons arrested in La Union

By Mar T. Supnad

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Regional police ntelligence operatives, acting on tips from concerned citizens, scored a major breakthrough Wednesday when they nabbed three most wanted persons one after another within three hours in La Union.

Chief Supt. Ramon V. Gatan, Region 1 police director, said here in Camp Florendo that combined elements of the Region’s Regional Special Operations Group led by Chief Inspectors Julius C. Suriben and Reynante S. Panay, and the 2nd Company of the Regional Mobile Group 1, arrested Rodolfo Pagkaliwangan, 49, a of Quezon province, in his residence at Sitio Payas, Barangay San Jose, Agoo, La Union.

He is an escaped prisoner from the Quezon Provincial Jail and is wanted for murder with monetary reward of P165,000 for his capture.

At about 7:a.m., Gatan said the police officers conducted a follow-up operation in Barangay San Antonio, also in Agoo.

This resulted in the arrest of Ruben Pagkaliwangan, 50, Rodolfo’s brother and co-accused in the killing of a certain Elpidio Lalusen in San Antonio , Quezon in 1999.

Later, at about 9 a.m., the same operating elements arrested one Niño Almoite, 33, son-in-law of the Pagkaliwangan brothers in Barangay Paringao, Bauang, La Union.

Almoite has a warrant of arrest for reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries and damage to property issued by Judge Manuel R. Aquino of MTCC Branch 1, San Fernando City, La Union.

The arrest of the three was the latest of a series of achievements in relation to PRO1’s “Impact project on most wanted persons” spearheaded by the Regional Intelligence Division headed by Sr.Supt Amando S. Lagiwid.

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Slay of one in raid ‘related to politics’

By George Trillo

MALOLOS CITY – A caretaker was killed in a raid by combined police elements at the house of the head of the Association of Barangay Captains in San Miguel town early Thursday morning.

The victim was identified as Ronald de la Cruz, a caretaker in the house of Gener Lopez, the chairman of Barangay Labne, and president of the Association of Barangay Captains in the said town.

Police claimed that De la Cruz was killed in a shootout, when he fired at the lawmen approaching the Lopez house around 3 a.m.

He suffered a gunshot wound on the face and was declared dead on arrival at a government hospital in nearby Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija.

“May bahid ng pulitika ito,” Lopez told Bulacan reporters.

He said police officers raided five other houses in his village based on a search warrant issued by a certain Judge Ramon Pamolar of the Regional Trial Court Branch 32 based in Guimba, Nueva Ecija.

Police said they were looking for an arms cache under Lopez’s custody, but were only able to retieve a .22 caliber revolver from Felipe Capinlac, the head of barangay tanods in Barangay Labne, and an M-16 rifle from De la Cruz.

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Army set to deploy after armed men burn road machines

By Angel Baybay

BONTOC, Mountain Province – An army battalion is on standby awaiting deployment orders to beef up government forces stationed in the province following burning of heavy equipment of a contruction firm here.

Col. Bismarck Soliba, Task Force Montanosa chief, reported during the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting the army contingent just arrived from Mindanao and awaiting orders from higher authorities before joining the camp.

Except for some reported recruitment activities by the New People’s Army, Soliba said the peaceful environment prevailing in the province was foiled by the burning of construction equipment in here in Barangay Balili last Sept. 29.

As reported by a regional weekly, the NPA has denied any involvement in the act but persistent public pulse have it that the culprits belong to an organized armed group considering the number of people involved.

Jocelyn Culaling of the Department of Labor and Employment office here said days before the incident, some individuals visited their office asking the current minimum daily wage in the province.

Interestingly, the burning of the equipment was reportedly in protest to low salaries the RUA construction firm is giving to its hired laborers.

Asked by Gov. Maximo Dalog whether the salaries given by the said construction firm were just and fair, Culaling said she has yet to see the payroll explaining that she could only do it with authority from the regional office and with a duly sworn complaint from any of the laborers.

In the same meeting, all members of the PPOC affixed their signature to the manifesto condemning the torching of the equipments.

They unanimously said completion of works to rehabilitate the Halsema Highway along the ptovince will benefit the general public and any attempt to disturb the implementation of various projects is abhorred.

Meanwhile, provincial TESDA officer Gabriel Cayacay said graduates of their skills development trainings employed by the contractors are becoming apprehensive they might be laid off should construction firms back out.

Almost all drivers and heavy equipment operators are products of the TESDA training center.

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MGB declares Benguet village a danger zone

By Dexter A. See

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The municipal government here and the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau declared Sitio Little Kibungan in Barangay Puguis here a danger zone after it claimed 75 lives during a huge mudslide that buried at least 34 structures at the height of the onslaught of Typhoon “Pepeng.”

The declaration of the village, which is located along the Pico-Lamtang road that connects to Naguilian road, as a danger zone is in compliance to order of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to forcibly relocate the residents in the community to prevent them from being put in danger to future landslides that might happen in the future.

Based on an earlier study, the MGB-CAR disclosed the Little Kibungan village was a former landslide deposit site, thus, the existence of highly fractured rock and soil formations in the area which is not advisable for habitation.

Experts revealed that the reason why the mudslide flowed to the right of the village where most of the multi-million structures were relocated was because it followed the flow of the huge volume of water that rushed from the mountain slope.

Mayor Artemio Galwan said the local government is closely working with the administration of the Benguet State University for the identification of a permanent relocation site for the affected families as well as the remaining residents so that they will be spared from whatever dangers of future landslides in the area.

BSU owns a major portion of this capital town which was declared as an area to be used for education purposes.

The remaining residents in the deadly village, Galwan said, must be relocated to a safer place because of the eminent danger caused by the declaration of the place as a danger zone.

At least 75 persons died, 11 were injured and 8 others are still missing when a huge mudslide from a barren mountain slope buried 34 structures in Little Kibungan, Puguis here at around 10 pm of October 8, 2009 which was the predicted height of Pepeng’s onslaught in Northern Luzon while it was moving to the South China Sea.

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Panlilio prefers going back to priesthood

By George Trillo

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – Gov. Eddie Panlilio said going back to priesthood is his “preference” after his gubernatorial term ends next year.

He has not yet closed doors on proposals for him to run for senator under the Liberal Party.

Panlilio said this after his critics circulated that he had announced a categorical return to priesthood.

Reelection, however, no longer seems an option for Panlilio after this city’s Mayor Oscar Rodriguez announced recently his plans to run for governor.

Panlilio earlier said he would instead support Rodriguez’s gubernatorial bid.

Local newspapers headlined recently Rodriguez’s gubernatorial plans, saying he would consider running under the LP should his Lakas-CMD party not name him as official candidate.

Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao, a member of the Kampi party who earlier publicly declared his support for the presidential bid of Sen. Noynoy Aquino, as well as Sen. Lito Lapid, also of Lakas-CMD, already announced their plans to run for governor.

In an earlier interview, Panlilio said LP president Franklin Drilon had offered him and Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca slates in LP’s senatorial slate.

This, even as lawyer George Garcia, legal counsel for former provincial board member Lilia Pineda, said in a telephone interview yesterday that his client’s electoral protest against Panlilio will not be rendered moot and academic once she files candidacy for any political post in next year’s elections.

The Commission on Elections set Nov. 30 as deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy to make way for preparations for computerized polls.

The second division of the Comelec is now attending to Pineda’s case after a recount of gubernatorial votes cast in this province in 2007 was finished by 21 committees last month.

There are reports that Mrs. Pineda will run for either governor or mayor of Lubao, President Arroyo’s hometown in Pampanga.

“The case of Mrs. Pineda is different from the cases of Sen. Miriam Santiago against former president Fidel Ramos and the case of Sen. Loren Legarda against Vice President Noli de Castro.

The cases of the latter two were rendered moot after they ran for a political office, won and were proclaimed,” he said, noting that Mrs. Pineda has not been proclaimed winner in any political post.

Garcia said while the Comelec’s second division has yet to rule on Pineda’s case, he expected that the case will finally end up before the Supreme Court regardless of who would be favored by the Comelec’s decision.

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Supreme Court allows vote revision in Bulacan gov tiff

By George Trillo

MALOLOS, Bulacan -- The Supreme Court has allowed the Commission on Elections to proceed with the election protest filed against Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza by former governor Roberto Pagdanganan, his rival in the 2007 polls.

In a 24-page decision last week, SC justices unanimously voted to junk Mendoza’s petition seeking to stop Comelec proceedings on the complaint of Pagdanganan over alleged irregularities.
“In the context of our standard of review for the petition, we see no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction committed by the Comelec in its deliberation on the Bulacan election contest and the appreciation of ballots this deliberation entailed,” the SC said in its decision penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion.

In his petition, Mendoza alleged the Comelec violated his right to due process when it unilaterally conducted, without his knowledge, examinations, appreciation and proceedings relative to the ballots and other materials relevant to the case.

He also questioned the alleged “secret proceedings” at the Comelec in connection with the election protest and the orders last April 29 and May 26 of the poll body’s second division allowing the continuation of the revision of ballots, which are presently in the custody of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) pursuant to the election protest filed by Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III against Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.

But the SC ruled that there was nothing wrong in the moves of the poll body, saying, “The Comelec is under no legal obligation to notify either party of the steps it is taking in the course of deliberating on the merits of the provincial election contest.”

The SC said the contested proceedings at the SET were no longer part of the adversarial aspects of the election contest that would require notice of hearing and the participation of the parties.
In the same decision, the SC also lifted the status quo order it issued last July 24 against the Comelec. It explained that the order was only issued because of initial finding that there was a genuine issue of due process in the petition.

In his electoral protest filed in 2007, Pagdanganan alleged poll irregularities in Meycauayan, San Jose del Monte City and Obando.

Besides seeking a recount of votes, Pagdanganan, who ran under the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, asked the poll body to set aside Mendoza’s proclamation as winner.

He alleged that “initial findings,” based on election returns obtained by his camp as the dominant majority party, showed that his votes were subtracted by five to 50 votes while those of Mendoza were padded by at least 10 votes in various polling precincts.

He also cited a low voter turnout in various parts of Bulacan where only 20 to 50 percent of the total number of registered voters was able to cast their ballots.

Pagdanganan got 348,834 votes, while Mendoza, a candidate of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino, got 364,566 – a difference of 17,732 votes.

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Sonsona backs out of Baguio training

BAGUIO CITY – World Boxing Organization superflyweight champion Marvin “Marvelous” Sonsona backed out of his scheduled six-week training in this mountain resort city because his training schedule was delayed and interrupted by the onslaught of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng over the past three weeks.

Apparently, Sonsona’s camp will be going back to Cebu to complete his training before leaving early for the United States in order to be able to adjust with the weather condition before his November 21, 2009 title defense in Canada.

Former city councilor Rufino Panagan, a local boxing promoter and manager, said the decision of the world champion’s trainers to abandon their plans to train in the city is a big blow to the promotion of Baguio as a good place to hold a boxer’s high altitude training.

However, he said local boxing aficionados will still support the upcoming Filipino boxing sensation when he defends his superflyweight crown against a Mexican slugger, Alejandro Hernandez, in their 12-round title bout.

In a text message sent to Panagan, Sammy Gelioani, Sonsona’s manager, informed him that after the conduct of a meeting with the boxer’s trainers, they have decided to continue his training in Cebu and will leave for the US early in order to adjust with the cool weather in the place where the bout will be held next month.

Supposedly, Sonsona was to start training in the city in the first week of October but the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila delayed their schedule to come up to the Summer Capital of the Philippines.

When they were about to come up to the city last October 6, 2009, their plans were again foiled by the second and third landfalls of Typhoon Pepeng which resulted in continuous heavy rains and strong winds that will not allow them to effectively and efficiently hold their daily road workout.

If he succeeds in his November 21 title defense, the 19-year old pride of General Santos City is being lined up for an acid test in his boxing career for a mandatory defense against a tough challenger in February or March in Cebu to give his fans a chance to seem him fight in a world title bout.

After International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organization superflyweight champion Nonito Daire Jr. held his training in the city early this year, pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao decided to hold his high altitude training in the Summer Capital of the Philippines in preparation for his upcoming welterweight title bout with Puerto Rican Miguel Coto on Nov. 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Panagan said other Filipino world-rated boxers and world champions have signified their intention to hold their high altitude training in the city in the coming months in preparation for their tough fights lined up by their promoters. -- Dexter A. See

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Ambuklao to generate electricity next year

BOKOD, Benguet – Amid growing reservations on dam operations, one of the country’s oldest multi-purpose dams, which has been idle for a decade now, is expected to be back in operation next year as one of Luzon’s major power providers.

The 50-year-old Ambuklao Dam here, whose power component was acquired by the SN-Aboitiz Power consortium last year, is expected to generate power for the Luzon grid by the third quarter of next year.

The dam has been undergoing massive rehabilitation after the government through the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management, turned over its power facility, including the power plant of neighboring Binga Dam, to SNAP for $325 million in July 2008.

The dam’s facilities, which include turbines, spillways and reservoir, were almost totally damaged as a result of the 1990 earthquake.

SNAP officials said most of the dam’s damaged facilities, including the four turbines, need total replacements.

“In December 2008, (SNAP) began rehabilitating the Ambuklao plant, which has been shut down since 1999 as a result of damage from a major earthquake in 1990,” said lawyer Mike Hosillos, SNAP spokesman.

The rehabilitation project, he said, will re-commission the Ambuklao plant as well as upgrade the Binga plant into full capacity.

Ambuklao, when fully rehabilitated, could generate 120 megawatts of electricity from its four turbines, from around 100 MW before it got damaged in 1999.

The Binga Dam generates almost the same power capacity.

A Norwegian-Filipino consortium, SNAP also owns and operates the power component of the Ramon, Isabela-based Magat Hydroelectric and Irrigation Project, which it acquired from the government for $550 million in 2006.

Besides providing irrigation to at least 80,000 hectares of farmlands in Isabela and parts of Cagayan and Quirino, the three-decade-old Magat Dam is capable of generating a maximum of 360 MW of electricity daily, the biggest among the dams in the country. – CL

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Poor used as ‘scapegoats’ in calamities out of greed

EDITORIAL

Suddenly, the terms “proactive” and “preventive” are in style. We are referring to government officials who use these words now to describe what they are doing in their turf in relation to calamities after the wrath of typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

No beef with that. But then, they have to show action for what they utter. There are local government officials who are really doing their best but there are also those who are trying to make more money out of the misery of the victims.

The latter have once again blamed poor families for the unprecedented flooding and landslides (which killed more than 300 people) as a result of the storms. The government has prohibited these poor families from returning to their homes from the evacuation centers. They may have reason for that but then, Housing officials talk publicly about evicting all 80,000 families and relocating them outside the city, far from jobs and basic services.

Now, non-government organizations are condemning government for saying the poor caused floods by blocking the esteros and rivers with their homes when there are other explanations for the flooding. Architects, geologists and urban planners reminded officials that the cause of floods was much more complex:

According to NGOs, Cabinet and local officials have connived with developers in violating sensible planning rules; deforested and quarried mountains around Metro Manila. There is climate change, but guilty, too, are the city officials who ignored the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992, which mandates each city to set aside land for social housing. If this had been done 17 years ago, there would be fewer families on the riverside and esteros.

The poor maybe partially to blame, but there is a huge difference between the poor and the officials conniving with developers. The latter violate the law for gain, motivated by greed. The poor live on the shabby waterways because they have to. They are there to survive and would gladly move to a relocation center in the city where they could go back and forth to their job sites. They are not necessarily opposed to relocation; but they are opposed to evictions and relocation that are inhuman and violate Constitution and international covenants and laws.

The government can establish an independent board of inquiry to look into the basic causes of the flooding to determine main violators of the common good. The study can examine also the possibilities of in-city relocation for the poor on the waterways.

Let not the poor be made the scapegoat for the greed of the wealthy and powerful particularly those in government, some of whom have been reported to have taken supplies like food and clothing for the victims.

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On the burning of the RUA equipment

BEHIND THE SCENES
Alfred P. Dizon

(Simon Naogsan, spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front writes this week’s column)

It is interesting to note that in most likelihood insurance companies will take care of the cost of damaged equipments if the latter did not already put a cap on the limit of what they can pay, what with the ongoing financial crisis that hit even the insurance institutions.

Further, the incident would most likely be used as an excuse to delay further the implementation of the road project which has consistently incurred a negative slippage even before the incident. Lastly, the highly touted bullet-proof vest worn by the contractor whenever he visits his project sites is an indication that all is not well with his labor force and anyone who has an ax to grind against him.

It’s anybody’s guess who recently torched the equipments of RUA Construction Company (in Malitep, Balili, Bontoc Mountain Province.) It may either be his competitors in the construction business; elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippine/Philippine National Police paramilitary units who take orders from generals who happen to have ties in the construction business or units of the New People’s Army undertaking punitive action against abusive and corrupt businessmen entering their area of operation.

From different sources we gathered that RUA’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) project along the Bontoc-Malitep section is 75% in progress although still incurring a negative slippage, while its contract at the Bontoc-Tucucan section along the Bontoc-Kalinga-Tuguegarao Road is incurring negative slippage beyond the allowable range. Why this is tolerated by the concerned agencies is another story.

RUA Construction Company is having a hard time dealing with lot owners affected by its contract work while other adjacent contractors are progressing in their work proves that it is insensitive in handling land issues among the indigenous people. We gather further that the bully tactics and penchant for name dropping of the owner of RUA Construction Company does not sit well with affected lot owners.

As reported in the local news weeklies, the damaged equipment is only 1/6 of the total equipment of the company deployed hereabout. Moreover, even before the incident, work progress had been incurring a negative nine percent performance. Thus, it can not be said that the burning is a factor for a delay in the road project, as you feared.

Because of RUA’s supposed connections in the military and powerful backers in government, the contractor has been awarded SONA projects and has not been penalized for substandard work and delays beyond allowable limits. With considerable bloated government estimates for SONA projects, RUA’s equipment losses are just a dent on his marked up profits. But now, with the convenient excuse to delay some more, he escapes the penalties imposed on negative slippages.

While roads are essential to the masses, these can not just be built at the expense of the rights of those who are supposed to benefit. The contractor can not just go roughshod over the rights of lot owners affected by the road-right-of-way of his contract. It is foolhardy for any contractor to blindly follow the national government’s policy that treats Cordillera ancestral lands as just a resource base to be exploited without regard for the huge labor investment put in by the village folk.

Thus, it stands to reason that a reasonable compensation must be paid to the people. Bully tactics and name dropping are insensitive and insulting and could only lead to total rejection. Surely, any well-meaning and sincere negotiation with lot owners will yield reasonable agreements.

The recent calamity highlights a serious point: SONA projects were not built to last, but serve as temporary showcases for cosmetic and election purposes. The public has already suffered from substandard roads and road right-of-way bullying. Damage has already been done when contractors, RUA included, delayed the Phase l and Phase ll and the ongoing Phase lll multi-billion SONA projects by more than a year despite being awash in public funds.

The initial strict adherence to project specifications by the DPWH spearheaded by no less than Gen. Ebdane is now exposed as nothing but pakitang-tao. Not one contractor heeded the “Remove and Replace” markings of the multi-agency task force that investigated the anomalies linked to the SONA projects. Not one among the notorious contractors, including RUA Construction Company, incurring negative slippage beyond the allowable limits was ever issued termination on their contract. Matters are always settled under the table.

It is moot who burned the RUA equipment for DPWH corruption has caused greater damage to the public by awarding lucrative infrastructure deals to favorite yet non-delivering contractors. Reasonable delays are tolerable but substandard concrete pavement that show ugly defects after a few years are an insult to the poor Filipino masses who will be paying for the huge foreign debt incurred for the project.

Rest assured that the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front and New People’s Army always have the public’s welfare and interests at heart when they watch over publicly-funded infrastructure projects.

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Danding’s choice is GMA’s secret bet?

PERRYSCOPE
Perry Diaz

In my May 27, 2009 column, “Gloria’s Gambit,” I asked: “Would De Castro kowtow to Gloria? If he does, he will be taking a great risk of losing his base of support because Gloria’s ‘anointment’ might turn out to be a ‘kiss of death’ which could put an end to his political life.” I was right. De Castro turned down Gloria’s “anointment” and his reason was that it would be a “kiss of death.” Bingo!

And then I asked: “And what would happen to Teodoro? I would not be surprised if Gloria would use him as a pawn to sacrifice in her opening gambit… unless he changes his mind and settles as De Castro’s vice presidential running mate.” Well, the question is now academic since it was predicated on De Castro accepting Gloria’s “anointment.” Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro is now the choice of the Executive Committee of Lakas-Kampi- CMD, PaLaKa for short, as their standard bearer.

They also selected Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno as his vice presidential running mate.

In a few days, Gibo’s former political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), will be selecting its presidential and vice presidential candidates. For its standard bearer, the odds-on favorite is Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who just turned 40 years old -- the minimum age for presidential candidates -- last October 10. Sen. Loren Legarda is believed to be their choice for vice presidential candidate.

Now, the question is: Who are the people who would support Chiz and bankroll his campaign? This brings us squarely on Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, the founder and power behind NPC. Is he going to support Chiz Escudero or his erstwhile “favorite nephew” and former political heir, Secretary of Defense Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro?

A few days ago, Danding broke his silence and said: “I’m the founder of the party (NPC). I think I have to support my own party that I founded, I think it is but normal.” He also said, “One of my nephews left even if we did not ask him to leave. It only means that we are of no consequence to him. So why should that be a bother to me?” He was referring to Gibo who left the NPC to join PaLaKa to pursue his presidential ambitions. Danding unequivocally said that he will not support Noynoy nor Gibo.

Danding’s revelation changes the whole game. The “Cojuangco War” is no longer just between Noynoy and his cousin Gibo. It is now among three members of the Cojuangco clan: Noynoy Aquino, Gibo Teodoro, and their Uncle Danding whose choice is the NPC nominee-to-be, presumably, Chiz Escudero.

It’s interesting to note that it was Danding who prevailed upon Gibo to come back home to run for office in 1998. Gibo was at that time practicing law in New York. He came home, ran for Congress, and won. He became the leader of the large NPC bloc in the House until he was termed out in 2007. He then accepted the post of Secretary of Defense in the Arroyo administration. However, there was no evidence that he resigned his membership from NPC. This led many people to believe that he left the door wide open to go back to NPC and seek the party’s nomination for president.

It was only after he was required to join PaLaKa as a prerequisite to being considered for nomination that he formally affiliated with PaLaKa. On September 15, 2009, he was selected by the party’s Executive Committee as their standard bearer. However, his selection has yet to be ratified by the party’s membership.

But why did Gibo leave NPC? He could have stayed in NPC and still become its presidential bet. Somewhere along the way, a serious fallout might have happened between him and his Uncle Danding.

However, if Gibo had shown high poll ratings, I’m pretty sure that Danding, politically savvy as he is, would not hesitate to throw his support behind Gibo, regardless of party affiliation. Danding is a power by himself and NPC is just a vehicle to achieve political ends. But just like any other “vehicle,” it can easily be replaced. The bottom line is: If the election was held today, Gibo would lose miserably. In my opinion, that’s the primary reason why Danding would not support Gibo. Blood, after all, is not as thick as politics… particularly in the Cojuangco clan (“The Cojuangco Wars,” PerryScope September 22, 2009).

And who would Gloria support? In my August 18, 2009 column, “The Looming Battle Royale,” I said: “So, who do you think Gloria would support knowing that whoever her party’s candidate will be, would lose? There is only one person who would fit the mold of the candidate that Gloria would support… secretly. And that is Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero.” Indeed, his “winnability” is much better than Gibo’s.

Chiz might attempt to assert his independence if he wins but that’s wishful thinking. The Arroyos and the Cojuangcos will own him and nothing will change. It will be “business as usual” with the Arroyo-Cojuangco business interests controlling the government… and, for that matter, the country. In the Philippines, politics is business and business is politics. And as someone once said, “There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent self-interests.” Yes, indeed.

To date, Gloria -- who had previously “anointed” Noli De Castro who turned it down -- has yet to “anoint” Gibo. She did, however, say that she was “elated” over the endorsement of Gibo by 49 governors. But “elated” does not translate to “anointed” or “endorsed.”

So, what’s Gloria really up to? In my opinion, she’s keeping her options open. She could eventually throw her support behind Chiz or Manny Villar… or even Erap Estrada. She would support anyone of the candidates who would dance to her tune. Remember, she would still be in control of the Commission on Election. She pulled a “win” in 2004 for herself. She can do it again for her “manok” in 2010.

At the end of the day, Gloria’s ultimate goal is to prevent Noynoy Aquino from winning the presidential elections next year. Follow the money and you’ll know on whose shoulders Gloria would be putting her political survival on. I said it before and I’m going to say it again: the battle for the presidency would be between Noynoy Aquino and Danding’s choice -- and, possibly, Gloria’s “secret candidate” -- Chiz Escudero. -- (PerryDiaz@gmail. com)

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Apology after the storm

BENCHWARMER
Ramon Dacawi

Peter Fianza is a rarity. The city administrator, action officer of the City Disaster Coordinating Council, lawyer and friend to many, has the patience of Job. It’s a virtue many of us, including me, are badly wanting of.

His patience is virtue to a fault. Perhaps that’s the only criticism you can hear about the man, even from volunteer rescuers who had seen him up close and personal during calamities. He takes negative criticism, however unfounded it may be, in silence, leaving critics feeling distress over being ignored.

After all, he knows a community is never be complete without critics, in the same token that a village can’t be whole without “kulits”, alcoholics, fence sitters, opportunists, armchair analysts and activists, holier-and-busier-than-thous-in-residence.

This time, however, Peter had to listen when some of his men recalled how one officer in an agency accused them, in the aftermath of their days of operations saving lives, of having done nothing. This time, their story passed his ear but not out the other.

He knows his volunteer rescuers inside out. Those who were tagged do-nothings are among the best, some of the most dedicated, efficient and effective. From countless experience, they know their work. They had long accepted what it takes to be a volunteer in rescue. They even have practical antidotes for worry and hypothermia: Don’t change to dry clothes as you’d get soaked anyway by the next dispatch to an emergency site. Keep on burning energy, even with the crudest of tools – shovels, picks, ropes, flashlights, Or bare hands. Shovel aside recurrent thoughts of how your own family is faring at home so you can focus on what you volunteered to do –and to try to do -, which is to save lives.

When it’s over, take a gin shot and then, if needed, another. Alcohol helps shield the mind from the recurrent image of victims who didn’t make it despite your efforts. It steels you from news that the one you saved eventually died. Start saving for that heavy duty raincoat and pair of rain boots you didn’t have but hopefully would don when the next calamity comes.

If you can’t work within these givens, don’t volunteer. Stay home and be dry and comfortable, a hot coffee cup in your hands. Put off the radio. The news would be too much to bear compared to being out there, soaked in mud and flood until and beyond dawn.

So they were repeatedly out there in the dark of night, at the height of typhoon Pepeng, and when it returned and lingered to wreak havoc it failed to inflict the first time around.

I’ve witnessed the courage and daring of these men and women and their colleagues from other teams –including our ever-dependable miners. I’ve long been impressed by their practicality in making do with the barest of tools and equipment. I’ve seen them work almost without rest since the typhoon signal was first raised. They had long fleshed out the culture of caring that is Baguio’s centennial theme.

Whatever negative comment that surfaced was borne out of ignorance. It’s the same reason why, now and then, we hear demeaning slurs and misconceptions about who we really are. We’re Igorots, be it by birth, blood, choice, sentiment or heart. We’re as human as those who perceive us to be less than that. At least, they can’t fault some of us for having better command of English.

As this is being written, I heard whoever uttered the uncalled-for found the virtue of humility. He called up Peter and offered apology. That eased the load on the city administrator After all, he had better things to do, like apologizing to boat owners at the Burnham Park lake. Without their knowledge and consent, he had his boys take five boats during the flooding emergencies.

The simple misunderstanding was apparently triggered by the fact that the dyed-in-the-wool rescuers never announced what they did and do for others. It’s not part of the culture up here to flaunt whatever good one does.

Perhaps a prayer former Baguio journalist and now full-time mother, Anabelle Codiase-Bangsoy, shared me years back would fit: “From the ignorance that knows no truth, from the cowardice that shirks from new truths, and from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, O God of truth please deliver us.”

Sense of community and gratitude are inherent in the culture up here. That’s why city mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., who heads the CDCC, got calls from officials of Benguet and its towns .

They thanked him for dispatching the city’s heavy equipment operators to help clear the road slides, not only along the major arteries but to the side accesses like Asin Road . and Yagyagan. That sense of community also made administrator Fianza’s redirect embalmers who arrived to La Trinidad, Benguet. The body count is greater there.

The culture, too, I guess, somehow lightened the load of the mayor, Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan and Mt. Province Gov. Maximo Dalog, mayor Bautista and mayors of our affected villages. Relatives of some of those who perished asked for body bags, instead of coffins which they themselves later fashioned out, in keeping with time-honored traditions of our villages.

They’re not saying it, but what’s heavy for some of the miners and other rescuers comes when the victims have all been accounted for. As tradition dictates, they have to perform the cleansing ritual (daw-es) for peace of mind after extricating survivors and retrieving bodies.

So when Gov. Fongwan received word that Ifugao Gov. Teddy Baguilat called to assure support was coming, my Ifugao mind stumbled on an unsolicited advice I didn’t let pass. Perhaps Gov. Nestor could ask Gov. Teddy to also send some “mumbaki” (native priests) to work with their counterpart “mambunong” (Benguet native priests) in performing the cleansing ritual.

“Tila ibagbagam; ingkan man, agsubli ka ketdin idiay Baguio (Whatever you’re saying; go, return to Baguio ),” he barked with a grin. With dispatch, I heeded His Honor’s advice.

In the midst of great loss, humor helps keep us afloat who mourn. Unfounded criticism doesn’t.. (email:mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments).

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Calamities elicit kindness;San Roque Dam revisited

LETTERS FROM THE AGNO
March L Fianza

“For every storm, a rainbow…,” the Irishmen say, but that is not so in these highlands as the death toll continues to rise and sounds of grief break the silence every now and then.

As I walked with friends towards the landslide site at sitio Little Kibungan in Puguis, La Trinidad to take footages and pictures, La Trinidad councilor Francis Lee said something like “kasla pista Trinidad ta ado tao ngem haan ta pista natay gayam” (it is like fiesta in Trinidad because there are plenty of people, but it is not, it is a fiesta for the dead instead).

The situation in the region characterized by distressed relatives of victims, mental and physical pain, weakness and heartbreaking images drew out human compassion from all over the country and other nations. Even those who have less in life, but have gentle words for the needy, shared prayers thru e-mail.

As the news spread, a countless number of faceless and nameless souls volunteered for the rescue. I saw people who belonged to different groups distribute home-made sandwiches and fruit drinks to the volunteers. As if that was not enough, they even asked for directions to other places where they can provide the same.

Others donated fuel for the trucks and equipment loaned by private construction firms as those owned by government were only few, if not unserviceable. Many were distributing drinking water and even coffee in Styrofoam cups. Some hardware stores donated plywood for coffins.

In Baguio , musicians have scheduled a series of concerts, the proceeds of which will all be donated to calamity victims. The Filipino-Chinese community, members of the media based in the city and even lawyers have pooled their resources to solicit donations and relief goods for the victims’ relatives.

As of this writing, the latest number of casualties in Benguet was tallied at 189 of which 109 were from the municipality of La Trinidad . Out of that, 79 deaths occurred at the landslide at sitio Little Kibungan, the biggest natural disaster ever reported in the history of this town. Itogon, Tublay, Buguias and Mankayan where several landslides also occurred accounted for 80 casualties.

Eight landslides in Baguio claimed at 56 lives, while 35 bodies were retrieved from a huge landslide in Kayan, Tadian, Mountain Province . Records officers on site said many are still missing but residents in all the villages hit believe that there may be more bodies buried under the mud and debris.

The site of big and small houses split up to pieces by mudslide, improvised plywood coffins, crying women and children, and people looking for missing relatives is pitiful enough. These things affect the psyche that I could have wanted to leave earlier but interesting stories from witnesses prevented me from doing so.

At 10:30 during the stormy evening of Thursday, October 8, 2009; Jason Danglipen was awakened by a loud thud, inspected his surroundings with a flashlight, discovered mud flowing all around and witnessed the three-storey house of his neighbor tumble and disintegrate a hundred meters away in seconds.

Able hands in the neighborhood gathered quickly but could only do so much as it was completely dark and nobody expected that a huge mass of earth from the mountain above could be cut by the downpour. The following morning, 20 dead bodies were recovered from the three-storey boarding house, including seven members of a whole family huddled in one of the rooms.

Another account told of a young woman who survived the ordeal by hanging on an electric line – her clothes all stripped away by onrushing mud. Somewhere in the debris early that same morning, the lifeless body of Pico Kagawad Rex Mang-oy was retrieved.

Councilor Lee said they dropped off Rex at the site before proceeding to Barangay Buyagan where another mud slide happened. Edward Dulnuan, another close friend, vanished in that incident.

I have known Rex as a no-nonsense guy who always had ideas about improving things whether in the barangay, municipality or the country. He was aware of the problems, and solutions to these popped out, especially when we were gathered around our old friend “Alfonso.”

I wonder why I remember him now that he has left – with glass in hand he utters the words “agtitinulong tayo a” (let’s help each other), then takes his swig. Certainly, helping others is something he always wanted to do, except losing his own life. What he did was an act of bravery. Cheers to you Rex.
***
During the government campaign for the construction of the San Roque multi-purpose dam near the common boundary of Pangasinan and Benguet, residents in the upstream of Agno River in the barangays of Itogon, Benguet showed strong opposition to the project.

Their opposition was based on decades of experiences with the Ambuclao and Binga dams. The inch-by-inch water movement continued to eat up the reservoir’s walls, slowly engulfing portions of rice-producing lands located by the river banks. This natural water movement produced volumes of silt that raised the riverbed. In simple terms, the dams gave wealth but brought destruction at the same time.

Finding economic benefits for the host communities where the San Roque dam was to be physically built, the province of Pangasinan passed a resolution approving the multi-billion peso project. Their move was backed by the towns where the Agno River snaked through.

Their approval of San Roque was also based on the program’s attached project component such as the construction of the irrigation and flood control systems in the province. This was expected to increase rice production and minimize flooding as excess water would flow to the Lingayen Gulf , however for unknown reasons; the irrigation systems were not constructed.

The towns heavily affected by the flooding and non-implementation of the irrigation dikes are San Manuel, San Nicolas, Tayug, Sta. Maria, Asingan, Villasis, Alcala, Bautista, Rosales and Bayambang.

Apart from the big volume of rainfall, they have blamed San Roque for the floods as they have been under water for more than a week. Should they not also partly blame their own actions of approving the construction of the dam and for not religiously monitoring the implementation of the irrigation canals? – marchfianza777@yahoo.com

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Politics of urban planning

NO HOLDS BARRED
Ike Señeres

It’s good to talk about political issues if something good could come out of it, meaning to say that it should result in positive action and not just plain talk that does not amount to anything. In the past days, the airwaves and the newspapers were full of discussion about relocating informal settlers to safer places, but will all this talk ever result in real actions?

I am all for local autonomy, but in everything that concerns local governance; we should always proceed on the assumption that there is a functional oversight system at the national level, to make sure that the exercise of autonomy is within the prescribed national standards. Yes, autonomy is supposed to give freedom, but only within the realm of what is legally right and what is technologically correct.

The extension of local autonomy should also proceed from the assumption that the local authorities are technologically and functionally competent to plan and implement their own land use programs, inclusive of all safety and environmental concerns. This goes without saying that the national government should also be in a position to guide local authorities in this concern, and to provide technical services if and when necessary.

As far as I recall, there is a law that requires developers to turn over the jurisdiction and management of subdivisions from the developers to the local governments, as soon as it is established that the development is already functionally and technologically completed. This also goes without saying that the national agency, in this case the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) will be the one to finally validate the state of completion.

Moving back one step, I recall that even before a development should start, the developer is supposed to get an Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR), attesting that the subdivision complies with all safety and environmental requirements, presumably including as well all natural and demographic threats to the development as the case may be.

It was quite a revelation to hear that Architect Jun Palafox had actually issued a warning about forty years ago, that some of the sites slated for development at that time were environmentally unsafe for housing purposes, naturally hazardous in other words. Since the identity of these sites are already known, what is the government going to do about making sure that these same sites that were hit by the floods will not be inhabited again?

Without any doubt, corruption is a very dangerous evil that could cause the death of hundreds of people in its consequential effects. What is even more dangerous is the evil combination of corruption and incompetence, because this union has the potential of killing thousands of people at the very least. We have seen this happen, and we could see it happening again not unless we will do something to change it.

From out of the rubble of the destruction, we should now learn hard lessons that should change the way we do things, not just for now, but for good. Not just for us in this generation but for the generations to come, for the sake of our nation that could practically become a paradise if only we could deal with the natural hazards by using the right legal and technological solutions.

As big things start from small things, we should now start correcting our small mistakes that have worsened into the big problems that are now confronting us. Nothing is too small when it comes to putting into order the bigger picture which is the safety and wellbeing of the bigger population over and above the petty interests of the smaller political elite.

I think that it is not too late to say that we should start with small yet basic steps such as waste segregation and hazard mapping, very simple and yet very meaningful steps that could lead us to bigger and more encompassing solutions that are needed anyway as we also have to deal with climate change and global warming.

At this stage of our history, we should be talking about buying battle ships and combat jets but never mind that for now as long as we could buy rubber boats and rescue helicopters. Better still, let us also buy portable toilets and tent shelters if only to prove that we know how to take the basic steps.

Watch my TV show “Bears & Bulls”, a daily coverage of the Philippine Stock Exchange. 9:00 am to 1:00 pm in Global News Network. Email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639293605140 for local cable listings.

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Where is government in times of calamities?

HAPPY WEEKEND
Gina P. Dizon

The desperate cries of the victims on the recent typhoons that hit Manila and Northern Luzon has showed the inadequacy of the government in addressing calamities.

Where is the government, victims asked as shivering children sat on roofs and tables and innocently looked at the waters rising up while their parents desperately held on to them and waited for help to come.

One can’t help crying, hoping, praying or seething with anger where government officials went. What were they doing while heavy flooding in Manila, Marikina, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Makati, Pasay, Pasig, Valenzuela, San Juan and Quezon City was going on? Flood waters in some areas reached the second and third floors of buildings, forcing residents to seek refuge on the roof of their houses while waiting for help to come.

Help did not come until the flood waters receded and people got down from their perching areas. At the crucial time when the waters were raging and rushing to residential lots and submerging houses and property worth millions, all that could be heard were people crying and hoping and seething with anger for help to come.

At their life at wit’s ends, they could only cling to whatever rope or climb atop their roofs. The unfortunate ones were displaced while more unfortunate ones died reported at a count of 100. Some 1.8 million were affected whether they were displaced, lost properties, got sick, or died.
While there are causes to blame like ineffective and faulty drainage systems being small that clogged the sewerage of Manila, the fact remains that government has been badly needed in such crucial moments when death was just a step away. This government which has all the resources to command and buy was not there when their help was much wanted, reports said.

Rey, a resident of Provident area in Marikina had to buy a P100 thousand motor boat in order to get his family and his ailing father out of the flood. While the government
said they were not able to go to Provident because of the rushing flood torrents, here is a man who hasn’t manned a motorboat all his life and for the first time had to do it in order to save the life of his sick father and his family and others including his neighbors.

If this private citizen was able to do it alone, why was the government not able to with its funds and resources? For the rest of cash strapped victims in Marikina and elsewhere in Region 3 and 4 and NCR, they could only pray for help to come. And speaking about resources, we have the government’s military forces with their helicopters who can haul people out from rooftops. Yet, where were they? (This column must be equally sending out the desperate cries of the victims equating helicopters to do the needed help) They only circled the victimized areas and that’s it. It’s good the rains stopped and the floods receded.

What does the obvious inattention and neglect of the government mean? It means inadequate management in crisis. Either Chief of Staff Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has lost her commanding power or she failed to exercise it. And obviously, other officers responsible have failed to exercise the necessary attention to the victims at the crucial hour that they needed it most.

After the storm was over, we heard of cleaning up drives launched by presidential candidates for the 2010 elections like Sen. Richard Gordon and other officials as well. Then, the government said they were distributing food, proving housing, livelihood, repairing drainage and what have you projects.

Then they announced to the world that they were doing something to ease the plight of the victims. This, considering that they were not there the moment the people badly needed them.

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On tin cans and borrowed boxes

TRAILS UP NORTH
Glo Abaeo Tuazon

The land is tilted and the soil loose from excavations caused by slides and people digging up the victims underneath the rubbles. Everything is in disarray and probably will stay that way for a long time. The look on everyone’s face is grim, as grim as the future that for now seemed a long distance away, the vision covered by the hulking mass of disturbed earth.

On the other side a tiny lady looks away after staring at a spot where her house used to stand, her eyes moist from the bitter memory and an uncertain future. Nada is the word, nothing. Nothing left of what used to be life for her family. What she and her family have are the clothes that are now clinging to their bodies and the crackers they nibble on given by people.

The children that noisily used to run and tumble along the terrains of the mountain are now quiet, the eerie silence slowly eating up their innocence. A trauma that would leave them dented for the rest of their lives. Some would eventually cope up, pick up where they left and start life again. Some would be stunted by the facts. The children should be crying, but after a few days from the tragedy, they are somber and silent which is a scary thing. We would not know what’s on their minds.

An aged man sat crumpled in a corner, holding on to his walking stick like it was comfort. He refused to eat for awhile, shooing away the plastic cups of noodles given to him. Water is enough he says. He mourns in the corners of his mind, his child and his grandchildren lined in body bags before him. Silently in his grief, he asks why he couldn’t have gone instead of them. He is old and shriveled anyway, done his time and dealt with life. Can he bargain for even one life exchanged for his? He slinks away and curls in the cold corner.

In most evacuation centers, a group comes then and again, bringing with them tin foods and plastic packets of noodles to give around to affected families -- a few pieces of used clothes to use while they figure out how to move on. A few pounds of rice and a toy or two for the kids, its not much but it does a lot of good for the moment.

Walking back to the school where the bodies were first taken, i went in to check and found it unoccupied except for less than a dozen empty makeshift coffins. Lifting the lids showed signs of use. These were part of the many coffins made and donated to house the many bodies during the recovery operations. Though some families bought commercial coffins with the help of relatives later on, most lost everything and could not provide coffins for their dead. These used coffins are now vacated, awaiting the new wave of casualties when they would have been found and recovered.

There is terror in most eyes coupled by uncertain, empty stares. Death and destruction took their toll and slumbered in satisfaction, hibernated for awhile until they get hungry again and look for unsuspecting land and people to feed on. The Gemini couple knew that the human specie is a hard lot. People should learn and start from this. -- Email: twilight_glo@yahoo.com

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Dams, DATA Center and prayers

RAIN OF FIRE
Cesar G. Bonilla

LAOAG CITY -- Dams can be useful in productivity like irrigation and providing abundant harvests for farmers. In the global setting, the first, widest and highest dam in the world is located in Russia, the Rogunsky dam (335 meters high).The next among the tallest is the 284 meters high Grande Dixene dam in Switzerland. The most enduring and the widest of them all now is in Canada with 540-million cubic meters volume of water -- the Syncrude Tailings dam.
Modern inventions and discoveries help human and industrial growth but the destruction of our environment can be a prelude to economic crisis since natural calamities are expected to occur in response to man's inhumanities to the natural endowment given by our Divine Creator.

The destructive nuclear waste materials, poisonous gasses, nonstop deposit of garbage in the bodies of water are contributory to the manipulation of our ecological wealth. The ozone layer has been destroyed. The perilous world wars are conducted using nuclear solution to eliminate the civilian populace and compel combatants into submission.

Air pollution affects our atmosphere and hazardous gasses exterminate the living. Modern industrial revolution can be a bane or a boon depending on the measures being used by our leaders. Global warming contributed a lot to climate change that has brought catastrophe to living creatures on earth.
***
I see noble traits of people I encounter and meet everyday in my life. It is true that love is the key for us to become united. As mentor in humanities and political science, I believe respect for life and human values are rewarding if we are to promote peace in our lifetime.

I imparted the urgency to examine the context of one's life which our Divine Creator would like us to do while we are on earth. I have urged my students to respect religion or faith of other people the way they respect themselves for the root cause of wars and conflicts on earth could be traced on the diversity of faith and cultural orientation of different clans, tribes, and groups.

We are brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of our religious beliefs and affiliation. In my political science class, I inculcated the basic tenets of chivalry as a way for them to become assets to the community. I am very much thankful to the DATA Center College of the Philippines for the trust and confidence reposed on me by the administration especially the President, Mr.Joseph Sicco.

He is a kind and down-to-earth leader with a noble heart. Despite his position, Sir Joseph is just like a brother, a friend, and adviser to his subordinates. So with Dr.Vicente A.Bonoan, a veteran dean and outstanding educator. Being the vice-president for academic affairs, he shared his encyclopedic knowledge with this writer.

Madam Nenita Respicio, the deputy vice-president for academic aAffairs and Madam Arlene Coloma, administrator, are both prudent and benevolent. Data Center is among establishments which contributed relief goods to typhoon victims. My friends Dr.Ernesto Ma.Cadiz, professors.Leonardo Blas, Flory Asencion, Efren Valdez (director of student affairs), Ma'am Jocelyn(librarian), Sister Cathy, one of my sisters in the Alpha Phi Omega and allmembers of the faculty including my students are contributory to my perception of human greatness.

I will never forget you. You have accepted this humble writer as a part of your institution or family and this could gives me a lift in serving my community. My thanks to Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Richard Tumaneng and so with lawyer. Rainald Aquino and associates.

I would also like to greet the DATA Center’s Wilfredo Bactad, a happy, happy birthday. An engineer, he has built a lyceum of greatness wherein the youth can get quality education. With the combined talents and competence of the staff and faculty of this institution, the dreams of our beloved chairman, DATA Center will become a hallmark of excellence in the centuries to come. More Power to you, Sir.
***

This column recognizes the kindness of Dianne Dy,a scion of a well-known family in Laoag City. Her father, Edison Dy, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Mariano Dy, the owner of the Pacific Building where some public and private establishments are located. Dianne is a humble lady with a pleasant personality. She is connected to a popular TV station in the country.

I likewise convey my greetings to the Central Grocery employees: Nita, Lanie, Lyn, Linda, Sandra, Ricky, Caring, Santa and Jacky. So with Dienne, Hazel, Maricris, Madam Cherry (registrar of DATA) and Ellen.Gteetings also to bank employees Roda and Kaye. Their friendship us treasured in my heart.
***
Our prayers to God can drive away calamities or disasters that threaten to destroy properties and lives of our poor countrymen. Faith in God can stop these even if our weather bureau cannot, sometimes make correct forecasts.
.

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