Cordillera elections on despite storm damage

>> Sunday, October 24, 2010

BAGUIO CITY -- It’s all systems go for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan in the Cordillera Oct. 25 despite devastation by typhoon “Juan.”

Commission on Elections regional director Julius Torres bared this Friday saying they recommended earlier the resetting of polls in the region but the Comelec en banc decided to push through with it.

This includes the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao, Mountain Province, Abra and Baguio City.

The regional Comelec earlier recommended the postponement based on lack of electricity and difficulty in transportation because of landslides and rockslides on most roads.

The Comelec also decided Thursday to push through with barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in Cagayan and Isabela provinces that were ravaged by typhoon “Juan.”

Poll officials, however, postponed the elections in the isolated coastal towns of Maconacon, Divilican and Palanan in Isabela.

The barangay and SK polls could be held in the three towns in November.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo held a consultation meeting Wednesday afternoon with officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Melo said the Oct. 25 barangay and SK elections in the calamity areas will be held an hour earlier, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., instead of the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. regular poll schedule nationwide.

“The picture is bright because in the whole north, which was hit by typhoon Juan, except for three municipalities, it’s a go for other municipalities,” Melo said.

He said in municipalities where electricity has yet to be restored, voting would start at 6 a.m. up to 2 p.m., for local election officials to have an extra hour to count and tally votes. Half of Isabela and Cagayan still have no electricity.

Melo said that after the 2 p.m. closing time, voters who are within 100 yards of polling centers could still cast their votes based on Comelec rules.

He said the suspension of the barangay and SK elections in Divilican, Palanan and Maconacon was based on reports of the NDRRMC that the three municipalities were badly hit by Juan that destroyed almost all the infrastructure, including school buildings.

NDRRMC executive director retired Army Gen. Benito Ramos and other disaster management officials conducted an aerial survey of the typhoon-ravaged provinces Wednesday to assess extent of devastation wreaked by Juan, particularly to agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure.

Melo called on local politicians, especially those running in barangay and SK elections in the calamity areas, not to use the recent disaster to distribute relief goods and at the same time campaign for votes.

He also called on governors and mayors to exercise prudence and avoid being identified with any of the candidates in the barangay and SK elections while they are distributing relief goods to typhoon victims.

Melo warned poll candidates that sanctions could be meted on candidates found sticking campaign materials on bags of relief goods.

“They (candidates) could help their constituents but they must exercise prudence in all their actions as it might be violating the Election Code,” Melo said.

The Comelec said the poll body would deputize police officers to act as election inspectors in some areas in Mindanao where teachers refused to render poll duty due to fear of violence.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines assured the Comelec of its full support in the nationwide barangay and SK elections.

“While we are now engaged in rehabilitation operations in northern Luzon as a result of the typhoon, we are throwing our full support to the Comelec in connection with the Oct. 25 barangay and SK elections,” said Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body is confident that the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia for the barangay and SK polls would be delivered before elections.

The poll body hopes to deliver the election paraphernalia in advance to give the city and municipal treasurers and teachers serving as Board of Election Tellers enough time to prepare for Monday’s elections.

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Baguio barangay shows way to hold peaceful elections

By Bong Cayabyab

BAGUIO CITY - If all politicians will only follow the lead of Barangay Pinsao Pilot Project here, the Commission on Elections would have nothing to monitor for cheating, violence and over-spending during elections.

The election campaign period in this barangay started without a big bang or festivities as compared to other areas in nearby barangays and the rest of the country.

The day was greeted with fireworks display or posters indiscriminately posted on every nook and cranny not even sparing tree trunks and branches.

Politicians spend a lot of money and resources by giving away free t-shirts, tokens, food and drinks as "bribes" as part of their strategy to win.

But, in Pinsao Pilot Project it is different. Even the poor can run because everyone is given equal political campaign rights and the campaign need not be expensive.

A covenant signed by the punong barangay, kagawad and the sangguniang kabataan candidates agreed to protect the environment by prohibiting posters and parapharnelia pasted or hanged along posts, walls and trees.

The candidates also agreed to be non-partisan giving equal rights by putting all the names of the candidates in alphabetical order in a specially designed posting board divided equally among the candidates later set up in three designated areas within the barangay approved by the Commission on Elections.

Their agreement prohibited giving bribes, T-shirts, tokens,gifts, food and drinks to residents.

Joining drinking binges with their constituents was not allowed including the prohibition of any candidate to campaign "under the influence of liquor" to earn respect of the community.

Candidate posters were agreed to be posted only within their residence while sample ballots were not allowed to be printed during the elections.

Punong barangay Sotero Dulaycan and Edgar Kapawen Sr. who also held the position, both running for the top position headed the signing of the covenant participated in by 19 aspiring barangay kagawads and one unopposed candidate running for SK chairman.

They agreed that there shall be no political mudslinging and their polyetos will not exceed one-half of a regular coupon bond.
The candidates also agreed to campaign together at the same time during house-to-house sorties.

"We think this is the most honorable way to campaign. Less expense on our part while earning the respect of our constituents," said Dulaycan and Kapawen.

The barangay kagawads who are slugging out for the top eight positions are (in alphabetical order) George Adawe Sr.,William Baden, Alex Bangcawayan, Bernardo Batay-an, Gabriel Bestoton, Rosendo Castro, Monte Cawiding, Gertrude Coy-om, Jessie Culos, Patrict Dangatan, Willy Esoen, Roy Fagayan, Wilma Fangloy, Agustina Ignacio, Helen Longchaya, Virginia Malag, Romilda Palacsa, Romulo Soriano and Mary Quanzo.

Respected elder Cristy Lardizabal showed her dismay upon learning that only one party representing the SK was running un-opposed showing that the youth were not interested in a political exercise to serve their community.

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Typhoon death toll 15 in Luzon towns

BAGUIO CITY – The death toll as a result of typhoon “Juan” reached 15 in northern and central Luzon even as another storm was due to hit the country yesterday afternoon.

This, as relief workers scrambled to deliver aid to remote towns in Isabela and Cagayan, provinces hardest hit by the storm

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the death toll from Juan increased to 19 nationwide with 28 others injured.

The initial estimate of damage to property was at P4.771 billion, including P4.767 billion in agriculture and P4.22 million in infrastructure, the NDRRMC said.

National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator Benito Ramos said the province of Pangasinan reported seven dead, Ilocos Sur with one, Cagayan with one, along with Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Kalinga, Benguet and Baguio City, each reporting one fatality.

Four dead victims in Pangasinan were identified as Analiza Vidal, 29, and her two children - Oggie, 4, and Eggie, 2; all residents in Barangay Sagud Baley, San Fabian, Pangsinan and one Freddie Espinoza, a resident of Mangatarem town.

The members of the Vidal family died after a big palm tree got uprooted and fell to their house Monday evening due to the strong winds brought by Typhoon Juan.

Meanwhile, Espinoza was hit by lightning while rushing up his palay harvest as Typhoon Juan struck the province.

In Ilocos Sur, the fatality was identified as Jeff Jushua Duque, 27, a resident in Barangay Oaig Daya, Galimuyod town.

Duque reportedly drowned and was recovered at Darapidap Beach in Barangay Darapidap, Candon City.

Disaster officials in Pangasinan led by Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive officer Paterno Orduña reported nine people perished in the storm.

The regional OCD said five people perished in Central Luzon, particularly in the towns of Camiling in Tarlac and San Jose City in Nueva Ecija.

One was still reported missing in Baler, Aurora.

In Benguet, crop damage caused by typhoon “Juan” reached P120 million, said the provincial agricultural office.

Officials, however, said vegetable prices will not go up because only 10 percent of the total production is damaged.

Benguet agriculturist Lolita Bentrez said some 1,400 hectares of agricultural crops, mostly highland vegetables, were damaged in 13 towns of Benguet.

Damaged were crops in the flowering stage and those ready for harvest.

Bentrez said the crop damage caused by the typhoon will affect the quality of vegetable supply but not the volume.

Authorities are still determining the extent of crop damage in other Cordillera provinces. Agricultural damage is expected to be greater than infrastructure damage.

“Damage on agriculture would be tremendous, more than the fatalities,” said Olive Luces, director of the Office of Civil Defense in Cordillera.

Infrastructure damage was estimated to have reached P31.424 million. Benguet suffered P13.90 million worth of infrastructure damage, and Apayao P11.45 million.

Clearing operations in most Cordillera highways are still ongoing. The main road arteries to Baguio like Marcos Highway and Naguillan Road are now passable except for Kennon

Small landslides, road cuts and boulder slides along Halsema Highway (Baguio-Bontoc Road) and the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road are being cleared.

The Department of Education, meanwhile, reported that at least 31 school buildings in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera were damaged by the typhoon.

Thirty-six schools in the regions were converted into temporary evacuation centers.

Undersecretary Alberto Muyot said the department is still assessing the damage in other provinces in Northern Luzon.

The extent of damage left by the typhoon also prompted Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane to place the province under a state calamity.

The NDRRMC also reported 63,437 families or 332,299 people were displaced by the typhoon.

Out of these numbers, 2,467 families or 11,236 people were staying at 97 evacuation centers in six regions.

The rest were staying with relatives.

Ramos said 860 families were left homeless. He said a total 5,249 houses were partially destroyed by the typhoon.

Juan also damaged several school buildings and more than 300 houses in the Cordillera region, Ilocos provinces, Cagayan Valley, including some in Metro Manila.

The OCD added it was still sheltering over 10,000 people in evacuation centers across northern Luzon while roads are being cleared.

In Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, prices of vegetables, mainly sourced from the Cordillera, suddenly went up in markets in this city Monday.

The movement in prices of vegetables made an impact on local folk because these are the main ingredients in cooking the Ilocano favorite, “pinakbet.”

This, as US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. said in a statement that US military personnel and equipment that were already in the country for joint military exercises would be diverted for typhoon relief.

Malacañang on Oct. 20 assured the public that donations would reach their intended recipients.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang has not officially solicited foreign support as the government has yet to receive a complete assessment of the damage caused by the typhoon.

The DA reported the total damage to crops had amounted to P4.77 billion.

Energy officials also assured the public of the restoration of power in affected areas in northern Luzon.

The typhoon had toppled power lines and transmission towers, mostly in Cagayan and Isabela, leaving many towns in the region still in the dark as of press time.

“We want to correct the impression that it will take a month to complete the restoration, it will not take that long. By Oct. 27, since today is the start of the rehabilitation, hopefully we get to restore electricity to the Cagayan region,” Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said.

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3 gunmen arrested for killing barangay chief

By Mar T. Supnad

LAOAG CITY- Ilocos Norte police reported Thursday they arrested three suspected gunmen who shot and killed a village chief in Sarrat town in the province Tuesday with the capture of the suspects shortly after the incident.

This, as Sarrat Mayor Edito Balintona was set to be investigated in relation to the killing as the vehicle used in the killing was traced in his residence.

Francis Cariño, incumbent and re-electionist chairman of Barangay 2, San Agustin in Sarrat, was shot to death around 8:50 p.m. on Oct 19 while having a drinking spree with several companions in the house of a friend in said barangay.

Senior Supt. Marlou Chan, Ilocos Norte police director, identified the main suspect as a certain Lordelito Torda who was with two cohorts, namely; Richard Borjal and Riccel Sison, during the incident.

The three arrived at the scene aboard an Izusu Trooper license plate WLX-984 and fled after the shooting using the same vehicle.

Hot pursuit operation launched by the Ilocos Norte police resulted in the immediate arrest of Sison at his residence in Barangay No. 7, also of Sarrat at about 10 p.m. the same night.

Chan subsequently created Special Investigation Task Group “Cariño” to probe the killing.

Police investigators recovered from the crime scene four spent shells for Cal.45 pistol and four slugs.

SITG Cariño was able to trace the Izusu vehicle at the residence of Mayor and has taken custody of said vehicle.

Follow-up operations conducted jointly by SITG Cariño and elements of Ilocos Sur police resulted in the surrender of Borjal at about 11:20 a.m. in Sinait town, and the arrest of Torda at about 1:30 p.m. in San Vicente town, both in Ilocos Sur Oct. 21.

The three suspects are now in the custody of the Sarrat Municipal Police Station.

In Camp Florendo, regional police headquarters based in San Fernando City, La Union, Senior Supt. Marlou Chan, Ilocos Norte police director, said the perpetrators were said to be bodyguards of the mayorl.

Carino was rushed to the Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital in Laoag City but was declared dead on arrival.

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BIR exec guilty in tax fraud probe

BAGUIO CITY– A revenue district officer in Mt. Province was sentenced to six to 13 years in jail for sitting on a tax fraud investigation for three years.

A court ruling said Revenue district officer Peter George Caburao delayed a capital gains tax probe in 1999 when he was still the assistant chief of the Special Investigation Division of the Bureau of the Internal Revenue’s regional office here.

Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan of Regional Trial Court Branch 3, in his ruling Oct. 8, found Caburao guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Caburao was also disqualified from holding public office and ordered to pay P80,161.07 in actual damages, including legal interest, from 1999 up to the present and the costs of the suit.

Pamintuan denied Caburao’s petition for bail, too. Caburao said the court erred in singling him out because “I am not the BIR.”

He said the delay in the probe was not his own making, adding that he was only an assistant in the Special Investigation Division then.

Caburao said the complaint for tax fraud was investigated for 33 days, way below the 120-day period that BIR probes are to be undertaken.

The case stemmed from the complaint of Frederick Farres who, together with his wife, purchased a P1.8-million property from Benito and Lydia Areola in 1999.

As part of the purchase deal, it was agreed that the Areolas would pay the capital gains tax for the property.

However, it was made to appear that Farres only paid P500,000 to the Areolas who were acting in behalf of a certain Herman Caligtan, owner of the property and evaded the payment of the proper capital gains tax.

Farres filed a case with the BIR central office against the Areolas for tax fraud but for more than three years, nothing came out of the investigation.

He then decided to file a denunciation letter on the BIR’s inaction.

Pamintuan gave weight to documentary evidence showing that it took three years for Caburao as BIR investigator to conclude his probe, submitting a formal report only in January 2002 despite numerous follow-ups from Farres.

Pamintuan also berated Caburao, saying decisions on capital gains tax cases could be released within a day from the filing of the complaints since investigators only had to consult the official table of capital gains taxes and the duly notarized deed of sale.

“Caburao caused undue injury to the government through gross inexcusable negligence, for unreasonably delaying the investigation of the tax evasion case of spouses Benito and Lydia Areola, to the damage and injury of the government,” the court said.

Caburao said he would appeal the court’s decision.

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Nueva Vizcaya mayor faces raps for ‘lying’ on two marriages

BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya -- The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of perjury charges against the incumbent mayor here for marrying two women and lying about it,

Graft investigators said the criminal case against Bagabag Mayor Nestor Sevillena stands as he failed to present evidence to disprove the allegation that he married Amy Nadugo on Jan. 30, 1984 and again married a certain Amida Afan on Dec. 26, 2000.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez approved the filing of perjury charges against Sevillena after junking his motion for reconsideration on an earlier resolution that found probable cause to indict him.

Graft investigation and prosecution officer II Teresita Butardo-Tacata said the perjury case is an offshoot of a criminal complaint for bigamy filed against Sevillena before the Quezon City regional trial court.

Sevillena, in his motion for reconsideration, insisted his second marriage was null and void because he did not secure a marriage license nor did he appear before anyone for a marriage ceremony.

He argued the Ombudsman erred in finding enough reason to file perjury charges against him, saying the complainants in the case are not the offended parties because his supposed first wife is not even complaining.

Butardo-Tacata, however, ruled that the mayor “failed to submit newly discovered evidence” nor did he “specifically point out how this office allegedly erred in its joint resolution.”

“It must be worthy to stress that the respondent himself admitted his motive in entering into a marriage with Ms. Afan to be able to secure a green card (residency permit) or citizenship in the United States of America,” the ruling read.

Last month, Quezon City RTC Branch 79 Judge Bernelito Fernandez issued an arrest warrant against Sevillena for bigamy. The mayor posted P24,000 bail for his temporary liberty.

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'Juan' worsens oil spill off Pagudpud waters

By Teddy Molina

PAGUDPUD, Ilocos Norte -- The fury of typhoon “Juan” has worsened the oil spill around a North Korean registered shipping vessel which ran aground along the shoreline of Barangay Balaoi in this tourist town last Jan. 1and is now posing serious threats to the marine environment.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said based on a report by the Philippine Coast Guard, the extent of the oil spill has been estimated at 400 meters and not three kilometers as reported in the media.

“There’s more oil coming out,” Marcos said.

The senator called on the Bureau of Customs and the local government in Pagudpud to stop its custody dispute on the ill-fated M/V Nam Yang 8 which ran aground off Pagudpud on its way to China from Aparri.

Marcos said the BOC should turn over the custody of the foreign vessel with North Korean registry to the local government which can use the proceeds from the sale of the vessel to clean the shorelines of Pagudpud.

“We’ve been looking at this issue for a long time,” said Marcos.

He added he discussed with Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras efforts to keep the oil spill at a manageable level.

The Philippine Coast Guard has also deployed a team to the area for clearing operations.

The vessel was loaded with 2,615 tons of magnetite and had some 160,000 liters of bunker fuel in its oil tanks when it was hit by giant waves and strong rains.

Marcos is concerned that neither the national nor local government units can bear the cost of continuously cleaning up shorelines.

“Now there is an ongoing battle as to who will salvage the ship,” Marcos said, adding the BOC has refused to give in to the request of the local government of Pagudpud led by Mayor Matilde Hanson Sales to have custody of the ill-fated ship.

This way, the local government can supervise the cleanup of the shorelines of Pagudpud, which has become a favorite tourist destination in the northern part of the country.

Sales, for her part, said they are set to declare a state of emergency in Pagudpud due to the continuing damage of the oil spill to the area.

Sales further said representatives from the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are on their way to Pagudpud to assess the extent of damage caused by the oil spill.

Reports from the local Philippine Coast Guard office indicated that oil is leaking from the vessel at a rate of 35 liters per hour.

This, as the Philippine Coast Guard secured and reinforced the anchor of M/V Nam Yang 8 to prevent any oil spill as Juan approached the province.

Capt. George Ursabia, PCG district commander in northern Luzon, informed the Philippine Information Agency that the vessel’s anchor cables had been strengthened to make the ship stable and prevent it from being dragged by the huge waves and strong winds.

Sales said local authorities are not allowed to board the ship as it is now under the custody of the Bureau of Customs, which had issued an abandonment order.

She said the oil spill has severely affected the townsfolk’s livelihood as they mostly depend on tourism and fishing.

“This is a big problem since the ship continues to spill oil,” she said.

The ship, reportedly loaded with 160 metric tons of bunker fuel, is said to be Korean-owned but no one has claimed it since its crew abandoned it.

There have been reports that the ship might have transported illegal aliens into the country or could have been used to smuggle illegal drugs.

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Solons push passage of wealth taxes’ direct remittance to LGUs

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – The congressional representatives of this city and nearby Benguet province urged Congress to approve their bills mandating companies to directly remit to concerned local governments their 40 percent share from the national wealth tax being paid to the national government.

The congressmen said this was in line with the recent pronouncement of President Benigno Aquino the Cordillera will get its share from resources being extracted in the region,

Baguio City Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara and Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, principal authors of the direct remittance bill, said the stand of the President regarding the benefits of the Cordillera on the extraction of its rich mineral resources is a direct certification that the proposed law is one of the priorities of his administration.

For this, they said the same must be acted upon so local governments hosting companies involved in the exploitation, development and utilization of resources will be compelled to directly remit to local governments their 40 percent share from the national wealth taxes being paid for such purpose.

Section 90 of the Local Government Code of the Philippines mandates companies exploiting, utilizing and developing resources to pay national wealth tax to the national government wherein host communities are entitled to 40 percent share from the same.

Because of red tape, the lump sum amount is first remitted to the national treasury before local governments are apportioned their share which will only be released upon the identification of projects where the funds will be utilized.

Cosalan and Vergara said delayed release of the share of the host communities for several years deprives the barangays, municipalities and provinces opportunity to implement high impact projects deliver basic services to the people.

Under the bill, companies involved in mining, hydro plant operations among others are mandated to give to the local governments their 40 percent share from the national wealth taxes they are supposed to pay while the remaining 60 percent will be the only one to be given to the national treasury.

The bill was approved by the House of Representatives in the 14th Congress with former Rep. Mauricio G. Domogan (now Baguio mayor) as its principal author but the Senate failed to come out with the required counterpart bill until it was overtaken by the conduct of the national elections.

Cordillera plays host to a number of large-scale mining companies and several big, medium and small hydroelectric power plants being operated by multinational companies but development in host communities are still slow because their national wealth tax shares are directly remitted to the national coffers.

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DSWD feeds 2,983 kids in Mt Province

BONTOC, Mountain Province – A total of 2,983 children in this province are now benefitting from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s expanded Healthy Start Feeding Program, officials said.

Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Rosalinda Belagan said the DSWD has expanded its HSFP coverage to selected provinces where there are municipalities with cases of malnutrition.

In this province, beneficiaries came from the towns of Paracelis, Besao, Natonin, Sadanga, Sagada and Barlig.

Belagan said all daycare children in these areas are provided supplemental food in the form of hot meals served to daycare pupils aged three to five years old, five days a week for 60 days starting this month until December this year.

Belagan said the DSWD has allotted P2.1 million for Mountain Province which will be appropriated to the six municipalities depending on the total number of enrolled day care pupils.
Before the implementation of the program, the children will be weighed, measured in height and given deworming tablets.

During the supplemental feeding, monthly weight and height measurement will also be conducted to determine improvement in their nutritional status, she added.

Belagan said parents of daycare children will manage the feeding program.

To ensure the nutritional value of the program, the parents prepare food based on 20-day cycle nutritional recipes prepared by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. -- Dexter A. See

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BLIST officials push ‘super corp.’ to create P2.9B ‘university town’

By Isagani Liporada

BAGUIO CITY – Four of six mayors comprising the proposed Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) growth link and a municipal mayor agreed on formation of a “super corporation” to establish a “world-class university town” within the area.

National Economic Development Administration – Cordillera chief Juan Ngalob and Commission on Higher Education – Cordillera director Freddie Bernal presented the “university town” concept in an Oct. 11 meeting.

Present were mayors Mauricio Domogan ( Baguio ), Greg Abalos (La Trinidad), Florencio Bentrez (Itogon), Ruben Paoad (Tublay), and Benguet governor Nestor Fongwan.

Ngalob revealed a pre-feasibility study ha been conducted placing initial project cost at P2.9-billion stretched through a 25-year development period.

Of the amount, P1.8-billion shall be spent in the first 5-years of the dream project.

The pre-feasibility study was conducted in a 314-hectare government property in an undisclosed area within BLISTT. But Ngalob clarified, “No definite location has been identified.”

“Once completed,” Ngalob said, “it should be able to accommodate 50-thousand students comfortably housed within the site. Student facilities shall be complemented by an auditorium, a sports complex, shopping centers, and other amenities found in a regular city.”

Bernal meanwhile said, “It is high time we place the BLISTT area in the international academic map. Of all the schools nationwide, only the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University have been able to break into the best 500-univerisities in the world.”

Domogan said he subscribes to the idea considering the need to disperse businesses in Baguio towards its environs.

But not all the mayors willingly shared enthusiasm with the others. Bentrez expressed reservations on how to raise the amount necessary to realize the dream.

But Fongwan said “once the corporation is established, we could sell idea to the investors like subdivision developers do. We could even invite investors directly on build-operate-transfer set-ups.”

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PDEA agents arrest four shabu pushers

BAGUIO CITY -- A previously arrested and drug-listed shabu pusher, a close relative of a notorious and suspected operator of a drug den raided recently, and two others were recently arrested here by anti-drug agents in three separate operations.

Zanny Ryan Lingbaoan Quiroz was nabbed in a buy-bust operation by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency – Cordillera at about 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 5 at Pinsao Pilot Project.

Two sachets of shabu weighing 0.31 grams valued at PP3,500 and numerous shabu paraphernalia were seized from Quiroz.

Quiroz, 32, single, a holder of a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering, jobless, resident of No. 43 Lower QM, Baguio City, had been included in the list of drug personalities in the region.

He was arrested by PDEA anti-narcotic operatives on June 7, 2008 at Palma-Urbano, Baguio City for illegal possession and use of dangerous drugs.

But eleven days after, the charges against him were dismissed.

Similarly, Mark Joey Leaño Cabiles, 22, single, college undergraduate, jobless, resident of No. 61 Bayan Park Village, here and Raymund Agloro Tamo alias “Timong”, 41, single, high school undergraduate, jobless, resident of No. 57 also of Bayan Park were apprehended in an earlier buy-bust operation, also in the area at about 8 p.m. on Oct. 5, by PDEA agents.

They were nabbed with four sachets of shabu valued at P1,000.

A PDEA press release said Mark Joey is closely related to Brendon Cabiles, the alleged operator of the drug den here at Engineer’s Hill who was arrested by members of the Regional Anti-illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group, Police Regional Office last September 8, where they found shabu sachets and paraphernalia, and guns and bullets.

Meanwhile, an anonymous phone caller earlier reportedly identified Tamo, also as an operator of another drug den in Bayan Park Village.

Meanwhile, Ken Dela Cruz Jadormio, 29, single, college undergraduate, jobless, resident of No. 06 Bermuda Hills Subdivision was apprehended in a subsequent buy-bust operation by PDEA officers at around 2 a.m. on Oct. 6 at Upper Quezon Hill, Baguio City.

Two shabu sachets containing 0.09 grams of the drug worth P1000 and drug paraphernalia were likewise confiscated from Jadormio.

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82 Cordillera sites listed in Oct. 25 poll watch list

By Dexter A. See

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet – Security has been tightened in 82 barangays in the Cordillera declared as election watch list areas by the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Council.

The RJSCC, which determined election hot spots in Cordillera during national elections last May 10, was reactivated for synchronized barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections on Oct. 25.

It is composed of representatives from the Commission on Elections, Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The RJSCC said areas under the election watch-list include barangays in the provinces of Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga which were known as conflict areas the past elections.

Abra ranked first among provinces in Cordillera with a long history of election-related violence and accounted for 33 barangays placed under the election watch list for the coming polls.

The RJSCC said security has been increased in these barangays to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections despite intense political rivalry and the presence of private armed groups in the area.

Mountain Province ranked second with 20 barangays in the watch list, followed by Kalinga with 18, and Ifugao with 13.

Some of the barangays in the watch list were described by the RJSCC as influenced by insurgents, thus, the need to deploy additional troops.

None of barangays in Baguio City, Benguet and Apayao were included in the watch list because no intense political rivalry had been recorded there in electoral exercises.

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Aquino inspects typhoon damage, gives relief goods

By Charlie Lagasca

CAUAYAN CITY, Isabela – President Aquino led officials in relief operations here Thursday and assured residents more aid and relief would be coming to areas devastated by typhoon “Juan.”

Mr. Aquino arrived here to inspect coastal areas that suffered extensive damage from the typhoon.

Officials led by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy briefed the President on the extent of the damage in the region.

Dy said residents in the coastal towns of Maconacon, Palanan and Divilacan had suffered massive damage to their homes and were left with limited food supplies after huge waves washed away roads.

He added Isabela has already lost P1.2 billion in agricultural produce based on initial damage assessments.

Typhoon Juan (international codename “Megi”) smashed into mostly farming and fishing areas of Northern Luzon with gusts of 260 kilometers per hour on Monday.

Officials said three million residents of Isabela and areas in Cagayan were the worst hit.

Juan, described as the strongest Pacific storm in recent history, left the Philippines Thursday after lingering for over a day in the South China Sea, and headed to southern China.

Even as disaster officials scrambled to deliver aid to the areas devastated by Juan, preparations are being made for another potential typhoon expected to hit the country on the weekend.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said they are monitoring the tropical depression developing in the Pacific Ocean near Saipan.

Pagasa officer-in-charge Graciano Yumul said three international weather agencies came out with different forecasts for the new weather disturbance.

“Based on the forecast of Japan, it will move closer to Northern Luzon but will recurve toward Japan. The forecast of Taiwan, on the other hand, showed it will hit Bicol on Thursday. But the US forecast said it will dissipate. So we really have to monitor it,” Yumul said.

Yumul, however, said two of the three weather agencies predicted the new weather disturbance would enter the country yesterday.

Yumul said the new storm would be named “Katring” once it enters the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR).

President Aquino on the other hand, called on local officials to be wise in availing of their calamity fund allotments.

Mr. Aquino reminded local officials here that there are procedures to be followed to avail of the calamity funds as well as the manner to utilize them.

“Access to calamity funds must only be available if there is really a calamity. If it is not an emergency area, any releases should be through the (General Appropriations Act or the National Budget),” Mr. Aquino said.

The President also pointed out the calamity funds of the national government have practically been used up even before typhoon Juan hit the country.

“It’s probably between 95 to 97 percent used up. Our only solution for this is if Congress releases any supplemental budget (for the purpose),” he said.

The President said typhoon-hit areas like Isabela should be given priority for calamity fund and rehabilitation work.

“Typhoon-hit areas will be prioritized in our budget. They must be given priority access to calamity funds,” he said.

Mr. Aquino also called on local officials to relocate residents from high-risk areas to prevent casualties during calamities.

“We have to relocate these residents to a better and safer place. If they are near the shorelines we have to get them to safer ground,“ he said.

Mr. Aquino noted that at least 200 families from the towns of Maconacon, Palanan and Divilacan were rendered homeless by the typhoon.

Relief operations for these three towns have been hampered by bad weather since Wednesday.

The Commission on Elections also announced the postponement of Monday’s barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections since school buildings in the areas have been destroyed.

Officials said more than 330,000 people were affected by the typhoon, including 11,000 who fled to evacuation centers scattered in Northern Luzon.

Over P4-billion worth of crops and infrastructure were damaged and nearly 5,000 houses were damaged and destroyed, according to the NDRRMC.

Apart from Isabela and Cagayan, the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Benguet, the Cordillera Administrative Region and Pangasinan were also affected.

The provincial governments of Cagayan, Isabela, Pangasinan and Zambales in Central Luzon had already declared a state of calamity in their provinces to avail of the calamity funds.
The NDRMMC also issued flood warnings in affected areas as the Ambuklao, Binga, Magat dams released excess water yesterday.

NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said the release of excess water was justified to prevent structural damage to the dams.

“This is to prevent a major disaster from happening once these dams sustain structural damage if excess water is not immediately released,” Ramos said.

“We have to release excess water from these three dams to prevent damage to any of the water facility structures. This is in line with our existing flood control protocol,” he said.

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Kalinga to get out of 'poor' tag

By Dexter A. See

TABUK, Kalinga -- The provincial government here will implement programs and projects to pull-out Kalinga from the club of poorest provinces in the country during the Aquino administration once given the considerable support.

The provincial officials cited their collective development agenda that will focus on poverty alleviation, revenue generation and infrastructure build up.

These are considered major facets of economic development, especially in less developed local governments and far-flung villagesin the province.

At present, the province has adequate development policies, programs and projects but what is needed is their proper execution and implementation.

“Though we operate on a small budget, we have to maximize it in order to meet targets, thus, the need for sufficient funding support from the national government since local funds are not enough to sustain the desired implementation of appropriate poverty reduction interventions,” local officials said.

Local officials admitted they were not able to deliver the needed services to their constituents in their fist 100 days in office but assured them more services will be done in the remaining years of their term.

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2 of RP's oldest trees ‘mute witnesses of Philippine life, times’

By Rudy A. Fernandez

NATIVIDAD, Pangasinan, – The country’s oldest trees are found in this remote and rustic town and at least one or two of such are “mute witnesses of Philippine life and times.”

Found in this town at the easternmost part of Pangasinan are the trees, one of which is 250 years old or more and the other perhaps lesser.

The older of the two is the bangar situated in the eastern part of Barangay Batchelor East. The other is a dalipawen beside the public market in the town proper.

About 20 meters tall, the bangar majestically serves as the “sentinel of Batchelor” near the foot of the storied Caraballo Mountains.

Three years ago, then 96-year-old Quintin Fernandez told this writer in an interview about Natividad’s early years that the bangar was “already that tall” when the Fernandez family settled here in the early part of the 20th century.

Uncle Quintin died early this year before the town could honor him as its oldest resident – almost a centenarian – during the town fiesta last April 24-25.

Our late paternal grandfather had his roots in Sto. Domingo (Ilocos Sur) (or is it San Ildefonso?) – the late Philippine STAR publisher/columnist Max Soliven used to tell this writer that one used to be the barangay of the other. Manong Max was a son of Sto. Domingo.

Our late grandmother, who died a centenarian in April 1987, was born in Laoac, a barangay of Manaoag (Pangasinan) and now a town.

As our elders migrated farther southeast, they found home in the once frontier community that is now Natividad.

In 2002, when Natividad celebrated its 100th year, the municipal government then headed by Mayor Alejandrea Supnet launched a search for Natividad’s “century trees.” The bangar handily won.

Runner-up was the dalipawen beside the market in the poblacion. It is said that the remains of the well-loved American military officer assigned here at the early part of the 20th century – Capt. Joseph Batchelor – were buried beside the dalipawen.

After him was named Barangay Batchelor, which was later divided into Batchelor East and Batchelor West.

Named after the Lady of the Nativity, Natividad became a town on March 7, 1902. It was carved out of barangays of adjacent towns – San Nicolas to the north, Tayug to the west, and San Quintin to the south. East of it is the Caraballo Mountains.

Bangar (scientific name: Sterculia foetida L.) belongs to the family Sterculiaceae. Its English name is Indian Almond, also Pon tree.

It is known by different names in various parts of the country.

It is bangar in Ilocos Norte, Abra; Kalumpang in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Mindoro, Palawan, Quezon, Camarines provinces, Iloilo, and Cotabato; and karumpang in Davao.

The tree’s parts have many commercial uses, according to a book titled “Biofuel Plants from the Philippines” published by the Asia-Pacific Corp. (APC).

The 280-page volume – authored by Dr. Elvira Fernandez of Los Baños, APC president Enrique Crizaldo and APC agronomist Babylon Tizon – features 51 trees, shrubs, palms, herbs, grasses, and a vine whose oils have economic value.

The oil extracted from bangar seeds is used as illuminant and can be used as a laxative when eaten raw. When mixed with white earth, it can be used as paint. Its wood is also used for temporary construction and packing cases.

Bangar is also found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Hawaii and Africa.

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Cosalan: P50M public works fund for rural development

By Dexter A. See

TUBLAY, Benguet – The equal distribution of P50 million public works fund for each congressional district as contained in next year’s P1.64 trillion national budget is primarily intended to spur rural development and not for anything else as being pictured by the critics of the Aquino administration, an influential member of the powerful administration block in the House of Representatives said here last week.

Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, chairman of the House committee on public works, said the amount for each congressional district had been itemized in the budget and will be utilized for rehabilitation, upgrading and improvement of national and secondary national roads within the areas of jurisdiction of the concerned district and for no other purpose.

According to him, the allocation and distribution of the controversial fund, which has been described as added pork for lawmakers, was done by the Department of Public Works and Highways based on length, need and condition of national and secondary national roads in the whole country.

But Cosalan admitted there were 44 congressional districts who were not able to meet the minimum P50 million fund for their national and secondary national roads because of their supposed shorter national roads but they were given the remaining balance to complete the amount to equalize the share of the congressional district from limited resources of the government.

He said utilization of the funds for each congressional district has already been specified in the budget, thus, congressmen have no authority to interfere on how the funds will be utilized since it is very clear in the new guidelines that the additional allocation for the districts will only be programmed for national roads and secondary national arterial roads no more, no less.

Considering that funds will be used for national roads in the different congressional districts, the chairman of the House committee on public works cited development will start pouring to the countryside due to better accessibility which is the direct benefit of improved road condition.

Better roads will translate to more employment opportunities for people in the countryside since investors will be flocking towards potential business centers.

Since the funds have been placed in the line item budget, Cosalan added it will be easy for the people to monitor where the said funds will be going which is in accordance to the policy of the Aquino administration whereby the implementation and bidding of projects must be done with transparency to abate rampant corruption.

Cosalan said taxpayer’s money will be returned to them in the form of development projects or enhanced delivery of basic services as announced by President Aquino during his inaugural address.

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Sturdy Isabela cell site enabled folk to get help

PALANAN, Isabela-- A cell site of mobile phone service provider Smart Communications here was bent 30 degrees by typhoon “Juan” but remains operational.

The typhoon, with winds of 260 kilometers per hour, made landfall in the province of Isabela last Monday.

The battered cell site is the sole provider of signal in the town of Palanan.

“The cell site is still working. As of Thursday, our generator set can still provide power to the cell site for several more days. We are working out how to source additional diesel for the genset,” said James Tajon, Smart Network and Platforms Services Division senior supervisor.

Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said that the towns of Palanan, Divilacan, and Maconacon are impassable to heavy vehicles and can only be reached by air and an 18-hour sea travel via Aparri, Cagayan.
Smart engineers are working on transporting equipment for the repair of the cell site.

In preparation for the coming typhoon, Smart had deployed engineers in strategic cell sites and network facilities to repair any damage caused by the typhoon.

Smart has maintained mobile phone signal in Ilagan, Isabela and Southern Tuguegarao.

It has set up Libreng Tawag centers in several affected areas, including Baguio City, Nueva Vizcaya, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pangasinan, Isabela, Vigan, Candon, Bangued, Abra, Sta. Catalina, Ilocos Sur, Laoag City, and Nancayasan, Urdaneta City.

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House backs re-engineering of dangerous Cordillera highways

By Dexter A. See

TUBLAY, Benguet — The House committee on public works supports the clamor of sectors in the Cordillera to “re-engineer” most mountain highways in the region to ensure safety of motorists.

Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan, chairman of the House committee on public works, bared this even as he admitted funding will be a major problem but there is need to inculcate among national leaders the importance of public safety along roads not only in the region but nationwide.

The lawmaker ordered officials of the Department of Public works and Highways in the Cordillera to submit their proposed re-engineering works on national roads in the region so funding will be remedied the soonest.

Among the proposed re-engineering works in major roads in the region include lowering of steep grades of highways, construction of sturdy concrete barriers in identified critical portions of the highways, putting up of service stations in steep grades of the roads to break the grade, putting up of more steel guardrails as well as installation of more signage and weighing stations so overloaded vehicles will unload excess baggage.

Cosalan said construction of mountain highways is the most expensive because of the need to construct drainage systems and slope protection walls.

One of the major priorities for re-engineering, according to Cosalan, is the Marcos Highway, which is considered as the region’s all-weather road, since there is an urgent need to reduce the grade of the 3.2-km steep portion of the road from a gasoline station in Baguio City to the state-of-the-art rockshed in Badiwan, Tuba, Benguet.

Based on a report submitted to him by Alexander Castaneda, DPWH assistant regional director, the killer portion of Marcos Highway has a maximum grade of 16.7 percent which is way above the supposed 12 degrees normal grade for mountain roads.

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Baguio groups sign peace accord for polls

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY — The destruction and confusion left by typhoon “Juan” did not spoil political peace in this city as candidates and officials signed Wednesday a covenant for the upholding of honest, orderly and peaceful barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections tomorrow.

The covenant-signing was spearheaded by the Baguio City Police Office to renew commitment of sectors to help in peaceful and orderly elections so they will police their own ranks.

Baguio City has 384 aspirants for punong barangays and over 2,500 candidates for the position of barangay kagawads in the 128 barangays.

Bishop Carlito Cenzon told candidates to campaign based on their platforms of government and not to use harassment to force their constituents to vote for them.

Other sectors which participated in the peace covenant signing include officers and members of the Association of Barangay Councils, Sangguniang Kabataan Federation, religious denominations, city officials, professional groups, law enforcers, Commission on Elections among others.

Senior Supt. David Q. Lacdan, BCPO director, appealed to candidates and their supporters to strictly adhere to rules and regulations to prevent violence.

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Mount Ugo climb wins national tourism award

ITOGON, Benguet — The 8th Mount Ugo Summer Climb won the best tourism event in the sports and adventure category under the municipal level during the annual national awards given by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) recently.

About 170 climbers from Benguet, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Quezon, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bicol, and Metro Manila joined the annual three-day climb in Barangay Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet last April.

This year’s climb generated the highest number of participants in the last eight years and aims to increase advocacy for the preservation and conservation of the Cordillera watersheds pursuant to the advocacy of the Regional Development Council in the Cordillera for all sectors to be actively involved in the uphill climb to appropriately rehabilitate and manage the region’s deteriorating state of the environment.

Proceeds from the climb will be used for projects on environmental protection and cultural awareness which are the major components of the RDC’s effort to empower people to be involved in the preservation and protection of watersheds.

As a major sponsor of the Mt. Ugo climb for the last three years, SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet, Inc. supported community-based activities that promote environmental action and cultural awareness.

The annual Mt. Ugo climb bested the Bike Challenge of Rosales, Pangasinan and Kabayan, Benguet’s “A December to Remember” Pulag climb which were awarded 1st and 2nd runners up.

This was the third time that the Mt. Ugo climb has topped the category, winning in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Criteria for the award were derived benefits to the community, continuity and sustainability of the event.

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Pangasinan river system now safer

LINGAYEN — The prospects are a lot brighter for freshwater fisherfolk, following a massive cleanup and disaster risk reduction drive along river system in this province.

Gov. Amado T. Espino Jr. bared this last week citing efforts of the River Clean-up Task Force, headed by retired police Senior Supt. Paterno Orduna for the swift cleaning operations.

“Now, 90 percent of residents near waterways who directly benefit from the river’s bounty can enjoy it,” said Orduna.

The task force head also belied reports that the governor had banned residents from fishing in the river, saying the clean-up operation only dismantled fish pens that posed hazards and obstructed flow of water.

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Red flag for P-Noy

EDITORIAL

Last Oct. 16, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) published the results of the its survey on the performance of President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s “national administration.” The survey drew mixed reactions. However, a large percentage of the respondents were dissatisfied with his “national administration,” specifically on the issue of “Resolving the hostage-taking of Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza.”

The SWS survey conducted from Sept. 24-27, 2010, showed 41% of the respondents were “dissatisfied” with the performance of P-Noy’s “national administration” while 36% were “satisfied” and 21% were “undecided.”

This survey was actually the third that SWS conducted during the same period from Sept. 24-27, 2010. It is a wonder they were published piecemeal one week apart. The previous two surveys are the following:

The first SWS survey was about P-Noy’s “satisfaction rating.” The results were published on October 5, 2010, to wit: 71% of the respondents were “satisfied” with P-Noy’s performance while 11% were “not satisfied.” That places his “net satisfaction rating” at 60%.

The second SWS survey conducted during the same period was published on October 11, 2010. The respondents were asked: “In your opinion, how many of the promises of Pres. Noynoy Aquino can be fulfilled?” The results were: 9% said “all or nearly all”; 35% said “most”; 50% said “a few”; and 4% said “almost none.”

While the first survey -- P-Noy’s “satisfaction rating” -- was deemed by SWS a “very good” start for P-Noy, it doesn’t look “very good” when compared to his “trust rating” conducted from June 25-28, 2010 just before he took office on June 30, 2010. The results of that survey were: 88% of the respondents had “much trust” in him compared to only 4% who had “little trust” in him; thus, giving him a “net trust rating” of 84%.

Now, if P-Noy’s “satisfaction rating” is measured against his “trust rating” when he was still president-elect, his “positive rating” dropped by 17% and his “negative rating” increased almost three times to 11%; thus giving him a “net positive rating” of 60%. That’s a 24% drop in three months!

Compared with previous presidents’ “satisfaction ratings” during their first 100 days in office, P-Noy’s “satisfaction rating” is higher than his late mother Cory Aquino’s 53%; lower than Fidel V. Ramos’ 66%; tied with Joseph “Erap” Estrada; and much higher than Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s 24%.

However, except for Ramos whose “satisfaction rating” was pretty stable during his first two years in office, the “satisfaction ratings” of Cory, Estrada, and Arroyo plunged during their first year in office.

The question is: Which way would P-Noy’s “satisfaction rating” go during his first year in office? Up or down? While a majority of the people would still be confident that P-Noy is honest and incorruptible -- thus deserving of a high personal “satisfaction rating” -- it might not hold true with his “performance rating” which was manifested poorly in the second and third surveys published last October 11 and October 16.

With 41% of the respondents “dissatisfied” of his performance and 50% believing that he can only fulfill “a few” of the promises he made in his SONA, that is definitely a big “red flag” and P-Noy should strive hard to improve his performance and program of government.

Indeed, P-Noy needs to shift from “campaign mode” to “governance mode.” It’s time for him to digress from demagoguery and start laying the groundwork for the delivery of his campaign promise, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty). His first 100 days in office are over; he should now be cranking out results.

P-Noy has to have the political will to implement the changes he promised the people. He needs to go beyond the “wang-wang” politics that awed the people during his inauguration. He needs to demonstrate leadership skills and do away with “hotdog-eating” gimmickry. While it might endear him to the “common tao” in the short run, the real challenge for him is to assert his primacy as the nation’s leader and impose his supremacy when dealing with recalcitrant and troublesome subordinates.

He can be caring yet resolute. He can be fair yet astute. He can be a benevolent yet stern disciplinarian. And he can be loved by the people yet feared by his enemies. These traits are the mark of a true leader. That’s the P-Noy we’d like to see.

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Why not make marriages contractual? (First of two parts)

BEHIND THE SCENES
Alfred P. Dizon

Changing the Roman Catholic’s tough stance on divorce will take more than simple luck and good intentions.

Since divorce is still not feasible in this blighted republic where raising children is some sort of a cottage industry, maybe making marriages contractual could be a compromise middle ground between the Church and the State.

If a couple can’t stand each other say within a period of five years, then they could just make the marriage die an easy death after the contract. If they find sleeping with each other is still bearable, then they could opt to renew the contract. This could spare couples a lot of money spent in litigation for annulment cases.

Besides, this will make the abusive party think twice in perpetrating his abusive ways knowing that once the contract is over, the aggrieved spouse can always find a better partner. In this essence, marriages could actually become stronger as couples know that for their marriage to tick, they have to work hard for it.

For the women of the Gabriela party-list who are pushing for a twice-failed legislation to legalize divorce, the stakes are high.

Gabriela’s Luzviminda Ilagan says countless women across the country are mired in abusive relationships with almost no hope of breaking free and the entire family suffers.

Now they are waging a lopsided battle with the Catholic Church which, Ilagan says, disregards husbands’ philandering while simultaneously condemning divorce.

A report by Amanda Fisher says according to retired archbishop Oscar Cruz, divorce is an easy way out for those who cannot cope with the stress of married life. Fisher’s account:
***
Mandy (not her real name), 29, disagrees “100 million percent.” And it’s easy to see why, after suffering multiple injuries, including a back cyst and sinusitis, as a result of repeated and protracted beatings from her husband of six years, Denver.

Denver’s violent tendencies – directed at himself at least in one case – were evident early on. Before they got married, Denver repeatedly smashed his head against a wall one night when Mandy insisted on returning home. The first time he harmed her by cuffing her ears during an argument, they had already been together for a year. “After that first abuse, it followed and followed and followed,” she says.

The pair met at a gathering of Singles For Christ. Although Mandy rejected Denver’s early advances because of his reputation as a playboy, his persistence – coupled with Mandy’s bad family life – paid off.

At 19, Mandy decided the way to an independent life, free from the burden of financially supporting her mother and sister, was to have a baby. Denver proved useful. “It was a relationship of convenience,” she says.

She even had to turn a blind eye to her husband’s drug addiction and thievery. At one point she had to lie to protect him even after he stole from her family.

“I wanted him to be a better person and I can see that I am the one who can correct what he’s doing and I can straighten him,” she says.

Living alternately with Denver’s family and her own, Mandy was completely devoid of support. Both families stood by while she endured abuses almost daily from her husband.
“Nobody approached me. For me it was my fault because I was in the relationship and I got pregnant.”

It was even on her mother’s advice that Mandy married Denver in 2004, believing the abuse would stop if she did.

“It’s always the woman who is wrong in the people’s minds...they will tell her ‘Go back because he’s your husband and you have your kid to take care of’ and at the end of the day, it’s not your welfare that’s important but the welfare of your children.” But it was the beginning of the end of her agony at the hands of her drug-addled husband.

She found supportive barangay staff who directed her to Gabriela. She is now doing all she can to reclaim her life, and reclaiming her maiden name is paramount. “My aim is to get my last name back.”
***
The beautiful, university-educated woman believes abuse can happen to anyone under certain circumstances, and support of others provides the strength a woman needs to leave an abusive relationship. That support is necessary from friends, family and co-workers, but also from a government that recognizes women’s right to leave a hopeless marriage.

But Mandy has found it hard to accept the terms of annulment, in which she is the guilty party on account of an inexistent psychological condition.

“I cannot write the real reason why I’m filing for an annulment. (It’s not fair to have) to say there’s something wrong with you.” Moreover, the costly process, which cost two months of the single-mother’s P8,000 monthly wage, is likely to take at least two years. The daily abuse may be over, but the scars live on, even in her son. “Every time he sees a knife he says ‘mommy, put the knife away, papa might grab it’.”

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Chickboy, chicks and chikinini

PERRYSCOPE
Perry Diaz

Within a week, President Beningo “P-Noy” Aquino III’s love life has dominated the “chizmis” crowd after it was revealed that he broke up with his girlfriend, Shalani Soledad. Indeed, three young “chicks” – Trish, Barbie, and Liz — were rumored to having a love affair with P-Noy. If that were true, P-Noy would qualify as a playboy or “chickboy.” Yup! And I wouldn’t be surprised if some “chizmosas” would swear that they have seen P-Noy with a “chikinini” (hickey). Hmm… Makes one wonder if that “chikinini” was the cause of his breakup with Shalani.

Meanwhile, Shalani denies the “chizmis” that she has been dating the Mayor of Valenzuela. Hey, it’s a free country. Besides, the Mayor is younger than P-Noy. As some women would say, “Age really matters.” Looking at the pictures of his young “chicks,” P-Noy seems to agree as well.

While P-Noy can get rid of any of his “chicks” like flicking a cigarette butt into the trash can, he’s stuck to his longtime friend, mentor, and “shooting buddy,” Rico E. Puno. A lot of people have advised P-Noy to fire Rico as Undersecretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for complicity in the August 23 bloody hostage-taking crisis and the jueteng payola scandal in which he was alleged to be receiving P8 million a month from jueteng lords.

“No way,” says P-Noy. Unlike his expendable “chicks,” Rico is indispensible and untouchable. Reminds me of England’s King Edward VIII who gave up his crown for the love of a divorcee. Hey, that’s what true love – or in the case of P-Noy, true friendship — is all about.

Latest Manila sport… After P-Noy split with Shalani, there’s a new sport in Manila called “Spot-Noy-on-a-date.” It started when P-Noy was seen at Nuvo Restaurant and Wine Bar with a pretty young woman who was rumored to be Barbie Palagos. But Nuvo’s manager claimed that it was not Barbie,
“The Barbie Palagos seen with the President that night was not the same woman in Facebook. The Barbie in Facebook was younger than the one who dated Mr. Aquino, and she was 25 to 27 years old.” Hey, does it matter whether it’s Barbie or not as long as P-Noy is satisfied with his date?

“Satisfaction” survey… In the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) “satisfaction” survey conducted from September 24-27, 2010, the National Administration of P-Noy took a beating when 41% of the respondents said they were dissatisfied with his National Administration, particularly on the issue of “Resolving the hostage-taking of Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza,” while 36% said they’re satisfied and 21% were undecided.

Perhaps, it’s time for P-Noy to let go of his “shooting buddy” and concentrate on his “chicks.” “No way!” Oops, sorry… I forgot, untouchable pala si Rico.

P-Noy’s whipping boy… Poor Prisco Nilo, P-Noy fired him two months ago as weather bureau chief for providing him with wrong weather forecast. Sad to say, P-Noy is still whipping Nilo today. He said that Nilo is “not owning up to his mistakes during his watch.” Come on Mr. President, Nilo’s mistake did not cause people to die while the incompetence of your “shooting buddy” may have contributed to the death of eight Chinese tourists.

Wasted American taxpayers’ money… A news report says, “The United States government has allotted more than $1.5 million worth of training and equipment assistance for the Philippine National Police (PNP) in order to improve the organization’s anti-kidnapping and hostage negotiation capability following the August 23 hostage fiasco in Manila.” What a waste of American taxpayers’ money. All P-Noy had to do was fire his “shooting buddy” and appoint a qualified and competent Undersecretary to oversee the PNP.

New Jueteng guidelines… A news report says, “The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) sent Friday the new guidelines on the controversial Small Town Lottery (STL) to Malacañang to inform President Aquino on the steps being crafted by the PCSO as a campaign against ‘jueteng.’ PCSO chairperson Margie P. Juico said she believes it is better the new STL guidelines to get the approval of Malacañang before they are finalized and implemented.” I wouldn’t be surprised if P-Noy would ask his “shooting buddy” to “review and revise” the new jueteng guidelines. Who knows, his “shooting buddy” might have some vested interest in it.
By the way, jueteng whistleblower Sandra Cam revealed a few weeks ago that certain PCSO officials were getting mini-Cooper cars from Pampanga jueteng lords. Is that all they’re getting? Heck, the Pampanga jueteng operations are generating P33 million a day! And all they’re getting are those funny looking midget cars?

Gloria junketing to South Korea… A news report says, “Former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will lead allies from Pampanga in a 6-day trip to South Korea. Arroyo will be joined in her trip by her political ally, Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda. Pineda and her husband, Rodolfo ‘Bong’ Pineda, were recently invited to a Senate inquiry on jueteng after being accused of being jueteng operators in Pampanga.”

Hmm… Don’t be surprised if the South Koreans will start jueteng in their country pretty soon. Yup, it looks like La Cuarta Nostra is going international, folks. Like they say in Juetengland, “Cuarta na! Cuarta na!”

By the way, Gov. Lilia Pineda insists she is not a “jueteng lord.” Yup, she’s right. She’s not a “jueteng lord,” she’s a “jueteng queen.”

Dyok of the Week… A news report says, “Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on Thursday assured that it has been clear with Rico Puno, a shooting buddy of President Benigno Aquino III, that he is not the boss in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).” Robredo said, “I’m Rico Puno’s boss.” Hehehe… (PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

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Memorial tree to honor forest guide

BENCHWARMER
Ramon Dacawi

A tree seedling will be planted in the forest next week-end to honor a young security guard who, for years, quietly guided children in their exploration of Busol, one of Baguio’s few remaining watersheds.

The ritual planting will be in memory of Andres Realina who was killed while on duty last Monday afternoon. He was pinned down by a mature pine that got uprooted and fell on a makeshift guardhouse inside Busol while the city was bracing itself for the brunt of super typhoon Juan’s fury.

Realina, who grew up in Aurora Hill near the watershed, was buried early Saturday afternoon at the city cemetery after a funeral mass at the St. Vincent Church. He would be 36 on Nov. 30. He is survived by his wife Marianne, 36, and children Cherry Anne, 12, and Michael Angelo, 10. Their third child, Donald Allan, who was afflicted with Downs Syndrome, died when he was two.

City councilor Peter Fianza, who led a team from the city disaster coordinating council that responded to a distress call from Busol following the accident, suggested the memorial tree planting. The practice of planting memorial tree to help grieving families cope with mourning was initiated by the late Baguio newsman Jose “Peppot” Ilagan. On July 16, 1997, he led fellow journalists to establishing a memorial patch at the watershed in honor of those who perished in the 1990 killer earthquake that hit Northern Luzon.

Realina’s tree will grow beside those earlier planted in honor of departed media practitioners of Baguio within a remote portion of the watershed. As guard of Interlink Security, Realina was assigned to secure the integrity of the water being generated by the watershed and the pupmps and other fixtures of the Baguio Water District inside Busol.

Seeing the need for volunteers, he acted beyond his duty and served for years guiding children in their exploration of the water source and tree-planting and –tending activities under the city’s Eco-walk environmental program.

Every summer, the diminutive and quiet forest guide would supervise and monitor the work of youth assigned to tree-tending and fire lane establishment within Busol under the city’s Special Program for the Employment of Students with the Department of Labor and Employment.

Last May, he led members of the CDCC in their replanting of precipitous areas of the watershed which were burned by three fires last February. Andy enlisted as a private security gurd in 1996m, two years after he finished his course in general radio communications operator at the Baguio Colleges Foundation.

“I met him at the EPZA in Loakan where I was working in a company and he was assigned there as guard,” Marianne recalled. Andy served under two security agencies before transferring to Interlink, security provider for the city hall and the BWD. The shift proved practical as he was assigned to Busol, a walking distance from his home at 32 Brookspoint, Aurora Hill.

The watershed assignment provided forest therapy, aside from a greater sense of purpose in his teaching kids how to plant and care for trees. “We were with him in some of those tree planting sessions,” his widow recalled during the wake. Next week-end, it will be Marianne’s turn to lead their two kids in planting a tree in memory of their dad..

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Of being part of a problem

LETTERS FROM THE AGNO
March Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- Nothing is new. As a young boy who grew up in this city, I have been aware that houses within the city camp lagoon get flooded every year and that relief goods are familiar features of the whole scene.

There are times when I ask myself if the residents here calculatedly wait for the calamity months to come and even pray for strong rains. Today, you open your TV and news coupled with video footages announce that the Baguio city camp lagoon is again flooded.

And every time that happens, school children have to stop their classes to give way to hundreds of families that will again be relocated in school classrooms that are converted to evacuation centers.

The affected barangays in the perennial flooding are Lower City Camp, portions of MRR Queen of Peace, City Camp Proper and adjacent barangays.

This has been the topic in hundreds of opinion columns and editorials, and thousands of news articles that found print in local and national papers since I can remember when. Yet nothing seemed to budge.

I can recall first-hand stories from friends and relatives who have stayed there as transient residents admitting that they too had their share of relief goods. They got used to it until they finished college and left the community.

I have friends and relatives who were born there who have no plans of leaving their houses permanently because they grew up in that community and that is where life belongs.

Aside from the annual internal revenue allotment and government funding for various projects, government has lost count on how many millions of pesos for rescue operations, relief food and clothing have been poured into the lagoon barangays.

Public officials have sufficient knowledge about the situation but have chosen to just keep quiet about it since the floods have become a part of the lagoon – anyway, the calamities come only once a year and they bring ‘life’ to politicians.

Things started to look brighter for the squatters there when occupancy in City Camp was legitimized under Proclamation No. 232 issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1968.

With that, we learned to live with the fact that in Baguio, illegal squatters that are now described by a present-day politician as “informal settlers” are legitimized as long as it brings benefits to the sponsor.

Under the proclamation, more than 30,000 square meters in the city camp lagoon became alienable and disposable to private individuals who were awarded their occupied lots through Townsite Sale Applications.

Aside from City Camp, the proclamation included the sale and awarding of TSA lots at Quirino Hill, Hillside and Pinsao Pilot Project.

The proclamation that could not have been issued by Marcos – if not for the recommendation of local politicians, was over exploited. Look at what these areas have become.

If only the city strictly limited each TSA to cover 250 sq.m., the lagoon barangays could be looking very neat today. But in the city of Baguio, TSA lots are the politicians’ instruments to power that is why we see houses being built on five meters by five meters (25 sq. m.), or smaller.

Looking from above the lagoon at Bryan Aliping’s mansion, the area that gets flooded exceeds the original 30,500 sq. m. that was specified in the proclamation. My friend from the DENR estimates that the flooded area is around five hectares.

Admittedly, he said the perennial flooding became worse when the number of actual occupants multiplied. The increase in the volume of garbage in addition to earth-moving activities during the construction of houses combined, clogged the natural drainage hole in the lagoon.

It makes us wonder why local politicians in collaboration with environment officials recommended that city camp lagoon be disposed to the landless when they knew that the former swamp was where water drained to Crystal Cave before it flowed to Asin River.

The flooding problem has become uncontrollable now as compared to the 70s when the number of households could have been limited by stopping new construction.

But what can stop “tolerated invasion” and construction of new houses when the money from the sale of real property is gainful income for an LGU or other people’s pockets?

On the other hand and admittedly too, residents feel the “heat” especially when their community becomes the subject of news items. In fact, a barangay official I talked to said his constituents now understand that one day they will have to give way to proposals that may be solutions to the flooding problem.

He said they were innocent kids who swam in the lagoon but have grown up to be responsible citizens who no longer want to experience the flood, the damages and the wrong impression that they are happy whenever typhoons come because of relief goods.

Secretary Rogelio Singson of the DPWH said in his Baguio day speech that he wants permanent solutions to the perennial flooding at the City Camp lagoon and government officials should come up with a permanent answer to the problem.

When he spoke on Baguio day, I had the feeling he knew that the lagoon residents who are directly affected by the floods hope to see a solution and that they no longer want to be part of the problem. I wonder if our officials feel the same way.

The residents at Little Kibungan, Puguis, La Trinidad and the officials who tolerated their occupancy of the landslide area should pick up from the city camp lagoon experience.

They should start looking for permanent relocation areas where they can start anew, instead of waiting for the government to relocate them. They should now start abandoning the tents issued to them since the killer landslide a year ago.

Forgive me but it has been noticed that many of the tents were found to be empty of household things and unoccupied in most of the nights, with only a few individuals guarding them. But there are people in the day time.

What does this mean? It simply points out the fact that the supposed tent occupants have someplace to sleep at night and come back around the tents at daytime. When will they stop being part of the problem? Or will they? – marchfianza777@yahoo.com

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Poverty reduction

BANTAY GOBYERNO
Ike Señeres

Secretary Jose Eliseo Rocamora of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) recently admitted to the press that the Philippines is unlikely to reduce the incidence of extreme poverty by half before 2015 as targeted by the government, adding however that it is not likely to increase either.

The frankness and honesty of Secretary Rocamora is commendable, but it does not excuse the government from being accountable, not even with the lame assurance that it is not likely to increase, a segue that sounds like a “consuelo de bobo”.

Mind you, Sec. Rocamora was not even talking about plain and simple poverty per se, but about extreme poverty. The distinction between plain and extreme poverty appears to be an invention of the United Nations that the Philippine government has not really defined for purposes of local usage, as a statistical measure that is.

As far as I know, the Philippine government measures only the statistic of household members who fall below the poverty line based on the number of households that could not afford to buy the imaginary basket of goods, an artificial measure that is used for statistical purposes.

So far, the government does not isolate the data that would define how many percent of those who are below the poverty line are in the category of “extreme”.

Based on the usual and customary practice of statistical data gathering, all the data inputs must originate from local sources, getting these from below first, before these are elevated to the national level, for integration purposes.

Again as far as I know, there is no data that is coming from below, leading me to speculate that the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is simply fabricating (meaning inventing) the data that it is submitting to the United Nations (UN).

As a charter member of the UN, and even as a regular member, the Philippines has the moral obligation to submit only the data that are accurate and truthful, but apparently, the government has broken this rule, an action that could practically be considered as a national crime.

As a responsible member of the UN (presumably we are), we should have made it our objective to meet the poverty reduction targets as we pledged, given the fact that we had fifteen long years to make good on it.

Out of our own choice, we have been spending a huge portion of our national budget to make good on our foreign debts presumably to preserve our national honor, but as it turned out, that honor is tainted now, because of this double failure of not being able to make good on our pledge on one hand, and not submitting honest data on the other hand.

In fairness to the new government, it is not directly their fault that this sad situation has come to be. Be that as it may however, we are faced with the reality that the rest of the free world does not care who is in power and who is not, all they care is that a pledge is a promise that has to be met by our nation as a whole. As far as us local citizens are concerned, we are double victims, as we are put to shame by a national crime, and as we are short changed by a government that is supposed to be working for us.

Watch KA IKING LIVE! Saturdays 8 pm to 9 pm in Global News Network (GNN), Channel 21 in Destiny Cable. Email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639293605140 for local cable listings. Visit www.senseneres.blogspot.com

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Buasao's mystic hues

HAPPY WEEKEND
Gina Dizon

SAGADA, Mountain Province -- Trekking to Buasao here was a rewarding four to five-hour hike with 17 members of the Sagada Environmental Guides Association on a kick-off to their 1st annual climb last October 11-12 this year.

Having been a cyber tourist with the computer getting my attention for quite some time, the hunger to trek the mountains of this province where I come from was a driving need. It remains a persistent urge to trek the borders of Sagada’s adjacent towns of Bauko and Sabangan on the south, Tadian on the west, Besao on the north, and Bontoc on the east

It was an invigorating climb up to Buasao watershed located in the tri-boundaries of Sagada, Besao, and Abra. Starting from Palidan, Bangaan with its lush watershed providing waters of Bangaan.

I noticed lush trees and vegetation with some traces of logging. People actually practice a kind of traditional means of guarding the forest through their lampisa (water guards) system. While the water guards make sure that water is evenly distributed to the households, they also make sure that the watershed is free from forest fires and destruction.
***
They also ban logging for commercial purposes. Trees are only cut for purposes of building houses for households of Bangaan, Madongo, Aguid, and Fidelisan of northern Sagada, so I came to know from an elder here.

Further up the climb, we came across big blue pipes destroyed and laid at the side of the irrigation canals. I am reminded of the blue Watsan pipes laid out in this part of the town, a project of the provincial government, demolished some years back due to some tapping issues.

An agreement between and among leaders and officials from Sagada and Besao led to tapping only the lower stream and not the higher stream. Waters from the lower stream continue to be tapped by folks from Besao and primarily by northern Sagada barangays especially Tanulong where the waters naturally flow to.
***
Water is a prized ‘ownership’ among the tribes of Tanulong. So precious for their primary use as irrigating their ricefields that sharing it freely is not fully given to neighboring areas. Barangay captain Suyun of Aquid said waters from Buasao are not that strong anymore since the big earthquake in 1992.

He is thus hesitant to let the waters flow to nearby barangays of central Sagada, he said during a meeting recently attended by local leaders in Sagada.

Back to the climb, an up-hill climb from Palidan was rewarded by a stunning view of Aguid barangay. Such a sight with houses clustered together and mountains enveloping the village, like any Igorot settlement.

Winding irrigation canals and blue pipes set aside along with mossy vegetation filled the route along Palidan till Masini. Such a wondrous sight. The spot opens up trails to Mt Sisipitan and Buasaw. Down on the eastern side are the villages of Fidelisan and Aguid and an expansive view of Besao mountains on the west. On the south opens up a beginning up-hill climb to Datakan watershed.

Towards Buasao, we proceeded through open trails interspersed with mossy sections of Mt Sisipitan.Temperature drops significantly upon entering mossy trails which soothed tired nerves and calmed heavy breathing having walked sun-filled open spaces.
***
Winding narrow paths with sharp cliffs finally led us to Buasaw. My imagination of an Amazon jungle with thick, huge trees and foliage was disappointed to find more open spaces, burnt trees and young trees. Rick Daytec from Besao recalled trees were then huge when they went camping in their elementary days in the 70s-80s. How much has changed in this once rich treasure of biodiversity?

Bernice A. See from Besao also recalled the mountains of Buasao together with Sisipitan were carpeted with moss. Orchids were plentiful and trees were thick and huge as well. That was in the 1960s.

Esperanza Baquiwet from northern Sagada also recalled in her childhood beautiful orchids and wild pigs and chickens still aplenty in the 80’s to the 90’s. Today is the 21st century and these rare species and thick foliage and trees are disappearing or rather, have already disappeared?
***
In the campsite, we found a huge closed stone structure and a foundation of lined-up finely cut stones obviously to erect a building. The stones resembled rock materials used in building St Mary the Virgin Church after the war in the 1940s. And so it was heard that there was this foreigner who stayed here and the rest is blank as to why the stone structure was built there in the first place. What would have invited such foreigner to come to Boasao? I couldn’t help connecting the once nearby mines to the unfinished structure. I came to know that small scale mining among the locals was active some years back in Buasao. Don’t know if some people are still actively doing small scale -mining here.

Unless, Buasao was meant to be a recreation area by whoever prospected the idea of building a structure here. Views here are real spectacular though. A panoramic sight on the southern direction opens up to Mt Ampakaw and Mounts Babandilaan and Tinangdanan on the Bauko-Sagada border. The eastern front opens up to the mossy forest of Sisipitan with its soft horizontal ridge seen from a distance. The northern face follows a river with its cool and refreshing waters that even the bitter San Miguel gin becomes smooth gin-tonic.
***
Buasao is heavenly mysterious. Its moods change from one moment to another. In the early afternoon, the campsite exudes a warm and cool ambience with pine scented air. A little around 3 pm, mist clouded in making the once upbeat and sunny weather turn gloomy pale with mist enveloping the atmosphere. Such a sight to capture this moment which got more nostalgic with dead and burnt trees making a rustic subject for a hungry lens.

Evening is another spectacle as dusk sets in. Around 6 pm, darkness enveloped the campsite with only the stars blinking beckoning a romantic tone if you’re with someone you love. Nevertheless, friendly fires of the lighted dead wood and the petromax added more light and company to an already pitch-dark night.

Coming up to Buasao with a bunch of happy and adventurous guys makes the night enjoyable and a trek to remember. Someone came up with his G-string and entertained the tired trekkers. Tin pans were beat like gangsa and plastic bottles served as solibao (percussion). While on the sidelights, such scenario drew sharp criticism from some locals saying the wahnes (G-string) should not be used in inappropriate situations. Nevertheless, the cold night was treated with San Miguel gin and generoso with a chaser of cool Buasao waters.

Some guys claimed the alcohol will be their company to keep them warm the whole night through. Jamming with the guys could have gone further in the night but drizzles cut the merriment. We scampered inside the tent with double socks to keep the cold out. The night was already old and tired at 10 p.m.
***
Woke up to find out it was still 2 a.m. The night was long for dawn to come. Got out off the tent around 5:30 in the morning to find some guys already cooking dried fish for breakfast and warming up what’s left from last dinner’s pinikpikan and etag (smoked meat).

It’s parting time from Buasao around 8 a.m. and we returned to our trail supposedly to Mount Sisipitan. Giant ferns and rich moss hanging on every branch and shrub greeted us along the way and ending up lost in the thick foliage despite repeated attempts to climb the mountain.

Finding ourselves running around with no trail to lead us upwards, we scaled down the mountain slope clearing our way on trails seemingly not walked before. I imagined some snake or leeches greeting us along the way.

Good they were kind that time and no sight of them made a fright out of what already seemed to be a desperate state of finding a way to go up to Sisipitan. Seemed the spirits of Sisipitan did not want the mountain to be assaulted on a 90 degree angle. I heard later that the way should be on either end of the mountain.

Mt Sisipitan was then a battleground of New People’s Army rebels and government military forces some years back. The place seemed to be deserted of the reported elements.
Whatever, the exploratory trail-making led me to find out that Sisipitan has a rich biodiversity of ferns, moss, and trees. I can only wish Sisipitan would stay that way with more births of flora and fauna and sustain nature here.

It was back to Masini with lunch cooked here, and prepare for a climb to Datakan. Datakan is equally a mossy forested area atop the northern barangays of Sagada, with lots of acorn trees. Temperature cools down after long treks in open spaces. Walking further led us to Langsayan ridge. Had an invigorating rest here to have a good view of Palidan in Bangaan where we took off the other day.

And so it was projected by some consultants and energy officials that a wind farm is to be set up here which at the moment is pending due to questions of big time financing, energy consultant Engr Rufino Bomasang claimed. The western front of Langsayan was equally heavenly with expansive views of Besao and its towering mountains.

The group ended the two-day trek with planting of trees in Pilaw then trudged on till we reached the Besao-Sagada road going to Lake Danum. I am reminded of some boundary dispute between Besao and Sagada along these areas including Danum Lake as called by Sagada people and Banao Lake as claimed by Besao folks.

Before pursuing to talk about boundary disputes, I thank SEGA for this wonderful opportunity to trek with you. Cheers!

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Grease money for Baguio cops

BULL’S HIT
Rudy Garcia

BAGUIO CITY – Candidates for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan are getting more active with elections set tomorrow. Candidates whom you have seldom seen are now appearing to make their presence felt every minute as if they are your best friends ready to help and serve you at any hour of the day.

But lo and behold, where were they the past months and years or even weeks before the campaign period? They didn’t even say hello when you crossed paths with them. Nowadays, they seem not to get tired of their long storytelling. Whew, that is what we call the art of politics and it’s only the basics in learning for a good start by these rookie politicos.
***
There are reports that a certain barangay within the central business district of Baguio wherein there are at least 60 Muslim flying voters ready to vote in favor of a candidate for a reelectionist punong narangay.

This punong varangay is known to be a bata bata of a top city official and who uses his power and money to lure Muslim traders, reason why he won the position and now seemingly is doing it again.

I urge Attorney Elenita Tabangin, city Commission on elections supervisor to implement strict measures at the polling places to screen flying voters. The voting public should also be alert and vigilant. Baka maraming aswang o multo ang magiging botante sa mga presinto.
***
This is to warn senior citizens of Baguio particularly US veterans and their benefactors to be careful of persons pretending to be legitimate facilitators of US veterans’ benefits and asking for big amounts for the supposed job.

Reports have it that a syndicate is doing their duping scheme and had been victimized a lot of veterans who frequent Malcolm square. I challenge officials of the veterans association of the Philippines, Baguio City chapter to look into this matter and go after these people who use this modus operandi to gain money. Kawawa naman ang ating mga lolo at lola na niloloko lang ng mga manloloko.
***
According to my bubuwit, these gambling joints along Hilltop and Hanger Market still exist. One is found inside Rhendels Bakery at Kayang Hilltop and the other one is inside Day and Nite near the intersection of Hanger Market and Lower Magsaysay Road.

They play the games of pusoy or majong while the one at Three Brothers in the intersections of Zamora St. and Hanger Market play bingo games. The reason why, according to my bubuwit, that these joints were not having a problem of being mabulabog, is that they are giving protection money to the police.

Is this true chief superintendent David Lacdan of the Baguio City Police Office? Attention also, Task Force Jupiter, Alam niyo ba ito? If not, ano pa ang hinihintay ninyo?
***
That scam incident wherein a foreign Dutch national was the victim is a big blow to the tourism industry and a stumbling block to lure investors to Baguio. The sad story was told to the media people during a simple press conference at the Baguio Palace Hotel by the foreigner victim.

Although the case was already filed at the Baguio City Justice Hall, it is just proper for concerned authorities to look into this matter of concern. Scams using the internet is becoming prevalent these days.
***
My good friend Anthony Araos who is a fellow columnist wishes to extend his greetings through this column to Noemi Rillera Sanchez of Middle Quezon Hill Barangay and Donna Bito of Middle Quezon Hill Barangay. Kumusta raw kayo?

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