‘Cordillera bill approved in less than five minutes’: Autonomy rejection seen due to haste

>> Tuesday, March 27, 2012

By March Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- A possible regionwide rejection of the third attempt to establish an autonomous region for the Cordillera is feared following the recent approval of the third autonomy draft that was approved in toto in “no less than five minutes” by the committee on local government in Congress last month.

This recent development persuaded Benguet leaders led by Rep. Ronald M. Cosalan and Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan, provincial board, municipal mayors and concerned citizens to meet a few days ago and strategize massive grassroots consultations to avert possible rejection.

Cosalan said he has written the committee in Congress to reconsider its move saying “the committee cannot just simply give five minutes to a bill that will affect the future life of hundreds of thousands of Cordillerans.”

A meeting was scheduled in Congress where amendments to HB 5595, the Cordillera Autonomy Act, may be inserted by Cosalan and Abra Rep. Joy Bernos before plenary discussion and final approval on the floor.

“Rep. Bernos and I stressed that we are not against autonomy or against the bill but we want to introduce amendments before any plenary discussion,” Cosalan added.

The Benguet capitol meeting chaired by Vice Gov. Crescencio C. Pacalso was attended by autonomy advocates Dr. Gil Bautista, co-chair of the Cordillera Regional Development Council and former Vice Gov. Edna C. Tabanda, RDC private sector representative.

Fongwan said he was thinking all along that the bill will be discussed in the committee level but was also surprised why it was approved en toto.

“Just like Cong. Cosalan, I also fear that the bill might be rejected again that is why I agree with him that we should put provisions advantageous to Benguet, consult the grassroots and not only a few, before it is put to a plebiscite,” Fongwan said.

For the provincial board members, they expressed the common observation that two past plebiscites overwhelmingly rejected the autonomy bills simply because the people have not read the provisions.

Some Benguet provincial and municipal officials in the meeting also gave parallel personal observation that based on their limited survey, if no widespread public consultation will be conducted, the bill will be rejected in Baguio City, Mt. Province, Abra, and even in Kalinga.

Asked about what would happen to the provinces that would not opt to join an autonomous region, Cosalan said, Section 163b that says the provinces that will vote unfavorably in the plebiscite will revert back to their mother regions, “serves as a threat to Cordillerans more than a uniting force.”

“I will introduce an amendment to that provision so that those who will not opt for autonomy can constitute a regular region. If that provision cannot be amended, I will file another bill to that effect to give a choice to Cordillerans,” Cosalan explained.

On the other hand, RDC co-chair Dr. Bautista who agreed that more grassroots consultations should be conducted said, the RDC chose regional autonomy as the more positive move that would boost development in the region because the Cordillera always received the smallest budget share from the national government.

“Budget allocation for the regions was always based on population. In addition, our priorities in the region were not being followed (by the national government),” Bautista informed the body, explaining further that development would be faster in a regional autonomous set up.

He clarified that the budgetary provision for P10B annual budget for the first five years and P5B annual budget allocation for the next five years were “not picked out of the blue.”

Cosalan meanwhile said, other regions would be affected and would surely complain if a big chunk of money will be cut from the national budget

But Bautista explained, “these are the same amounts allocated to the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). If Mindanao deserves P10bn annually from the national government, why don’t we deserve it?”


Anglican Diocese receives national health award

By Francis Degay

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines was one among five winners nationwide of the 2nd outstanding healthy lifestyle advocacy awards recently given by the Department of Health in Manila.

This was one of the programs of DOH to prevent and control non-communicable diseases in the country such as promotion of physical activity, promotion of health diet and nutrition, tobacco control and control of harmful use of alcohol. It is held every two years.

EDNP won under non-government organization category and received a plaque of recognition and check worth P100,000.

The other winners were local government units of Varuela, Agusandel Sur and Carmona, Cavite-local government unit category; Davao City Health Office-government office and Novartis Health Care Philippines-business/commercial.

The EDNCP implemented healthy programs through healthy lifestyle advocacy during healthy Sunday celebrations and other occasions.

Other programs implemented by EDNCP were no smoking campaign, liquor ban, junking junk foods, health assistance plan, organic food production and environment protection. Under its organic food production, herbal and vegetable gardening and demo farming were established in the mission schools and church lands respectively.


Reward in Lingayen pol couple slay now P1.2 M

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan– Support for the search for justice for the killing of former Lingayen vice mayor Ramon Arcinue and his wife in Manila last March 7 has snowballed with the provincial board contributing P200,000 to bring the total cash reward for the arrest of the killers to P1.2 million.

Sixth district board member Alfonso Bince Jr. said each board member agreed to contribute P10,000 while Vice Gov. Jose Ferdinand Calimlim Jr. would give P50,000, to increase the reward for the arrest of those behind the gun-slaying of Arcinue and his wife Zorahayda, chairperson of Barangay Poblacion here.

This, even as police are now hunting down a politician’s bodyguard from another town of this province reportedly seen shooting the couple in Manila.

Mayor Ernesto Castañeda Jr. said earlier he was seeking the approval of the municipal council for the cash reward for anyone who could give vital information that would lead to the arrest of the killers of the Arcinue couple.

Pangasinan second district Rep. LeopoldoBataoil has filed a House resolution condemning the killing and urging the police and the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a joint and thorough investigation into it.

The Arcinue children said they were also willing to offer a reward to help them get justice for their parents, who were laid to rest here last Tuesday.

Lawyer Joel Arcinue, son of the couple, earlier appealed to President Aquino to help them get justice for his parents.

The couple left five children. On March 4, 2011, Ramon and Zorahayda were ambushed while traveling along the national highway in Barangay Biec, Binmaley.

He refused to say whether the first attempt on his parents’ lives is related to the second shooting that killed them.

Manila Police District homicide section chief Insp. Joey Ocampo earlier said a team from his section is zeroing in on the alleged gunman, believed to be a bodyguard of a Pangasinan politician from another town.

Ocampo said the gunman is in his early 30’s, slim and is at least 5’5’ tall.

He said there were witnesses who saw him shoot Ramon and Zorahayda in front of their rented apartment on Maceda Street in Sampaloc, Manila at around 10:30 that night.

Investigators said that they were looking at certain personalities in the province who may have a motive to silence the Arcinues.

According to police reports, Ramon was first heard arguing, with the gunman outside their house before he was shot.

Upon hearing the commotion, Zorahayda went out and was also attacked. Both were shot in the head.

The attacker spared their two sons, who along, with other family members, rushed the couple to the University of Santo Tomas Hospital.

They were declared dead about an hour later.

Witnesses said the gunman fled on foot and boarded a bus along Espanada Boulevard.


P30M road to connect mountain towns

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union — Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes led last week opening of the newly completed P30-million “mountain highway” connecting the upland towns of Santol, Bacnotan, and San Gabriel; all in La Union.

Delos Reyes, who joined La Union Rep. Victor Ortega during the opening ceremony, said with a stretch of 5.5 km, the roads is part of the Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project which benefits agrarian reform communities.

The highway will benefit at least 5,000 persons living in the mountain barangays. -- Freddie G. Lazaro


Senate probe sought on mining in rice terraces

By Charlie Lagasca

BANAUE, Ifugao -- – A Senate inquiry is being sought into reports of small-scale mining within the Ifugao rice terraces, which are already in the list of endangered heritage sites due to soil erosion and the presence of giant earthworms.

Sen. Loren Legarda said she would seek a Senate investigation into the reported illegal mining activities in some parts of the terraces, including those declared heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Legarda, who recently inspected portions of the terraces in Banaue, Ifugao, said small-scale mining is an additional threat to the already deteriorating rice terraces.

“The encroachment of illegal small-scale mining operations in the Ifugao rice terraces further puts a threat to the already rapidly deteriorating state of this heritage site,” said Legarda in an e-mailed statement.

According to earlier reports, small-scale mining has been going on in Hapao village in Hungduan town and in Ducligan and Bangaan villages in Banaue, all in the list of UNESCO-declared heritage sites.

Legarda said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the provincial mining regulatory board should look into these illegal activities and carry out measures to immediately stop these.

“The invasion of small-scale mining actually started in (Barangay) Hapao… Are we going to give attention to this when there’s already a disaster?” warned Ifugao Rep. TeodoroBaguilat, one of the prime movers of the “Save the Terraces” movement.

Aside from the physical threats, the rice terraces’ continued existence has also been put in jeopardy by the seeming lack of concern of younger Ifugaos in preserving the heritage site.

The provincial government is spearheading the rehabilitation of the rice terraces through volunteerism. National government officials have also pledged to help restore the once leading tourism destination.

Earlier, Gov. Eugene Balitang said some P200 million was needed to restore the rice terraces.


Reports of militarization in Hacienda Luisita denied

TARLAC -- The corporation owned by the family of President Aquino that is running Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac denied last week that the sugar estate has been “militarized.”

The Hacienda Luisita Inc. of the Cojuangcos said the allegation of the Alyansang mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita of increased military presence in their communities was “a baseless propaganda meant to pressure the Supreme Court to hastily deviate from established processes in resolving the Hacienda Luisita case with finality.”

“The number of individuals keeping the hacienda secure has been the same for years. HLI has not asked for any additional military or police forces to keep the peace and order and no voluntary action has been taken by any of the government agencies to address that,” lawyer Antonio Ligon, HLI spokesman, said in an interview.

Ligon said military presence in communities in the hacienda is not new since they are just a few meters away from Camp Servillano Aquino.

He said military presence is necessary as the estate is situated in the middle of La Paz and Concepcion towns and Tarlac City, and also to secure the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

“Actually we think that security in the hacienda is not sufficient, but we recognize that the military institution is the correct party to determine and assess the amount of threat present in the area,” Ligon said.

He said the issue of militarization is just an attempt by some quarters to generate more media attention while legitimate litigants and claimants are in the process of clearing up the issues on the SC ruling.

“HLI has repeatedly stated its position that land distribution, as the SC has ruled, is the answer, but HLI also wants justice for all, including 4,000 other farmer beneficiaries who may be disenfranchised,” he added.

The HLI raised the remaining issues in its motion for reconsideration submitted to the SC earlier this year, and SC spokesman Midas Marquez had already said the tribunal was merely awaiting the comments of concerned parties to the appeal.

“We believe that due process should take its natural course and we should not hasten resolution of important issues that should be addressed. If we will go for land distribution, who should benefit and what is the responsibility of the government? There is also the issue of just compensation for the owners,” he said.

“As we have said before, the issues surrounding Hacienda Luisita should not be politicized because this will only prolong the process,” he added


Royalty bill for indigenous folks filed in Congress

By Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY – A lawmaker filed a bill in the House of Representatives mandating the payment of 1 percent of the gross output of the permittee, contractor or mining operator to the indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples as royalty payment upon the exploitation, utilization and development of the minerals within their ancestral lands.

House Bill 5473 authored by Rep. Bernardo M. Vergara seeks to amend Section 17 of Republic Act 7942 or the New Philippine Mining Act in order to ensure that indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples will get their due compensation for the exploitation, utilization and development of the mineral resources within their ancestral lands so that they will be able to benefit from it.

“Our bill seeks to address the perceived inequity in the allocation and distribution of socio-economic benefits derived from the mineral resource industry, particularly for indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples whose ancestral domains and lands have been covered by mining operations,” Vergara stressed, adding that under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, royalty payments due to the affected indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples are wholly dependent upon the terms stipulated by the parties and not mandatory.

According to him, the original scheme places the indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples at a gross disadvantage during the bargaining process which often times result in a royalty payment determination that is unjust and inequitable thereby depriving them a chance to significantly improve their living condition and a chance to enjoy sustainable development of their own communities.

“By fixing the royalty payments for indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples at 1 percent of gross revenues, we will be able to increase the confidence of existing and prospective investors on the consistency and stability of Philippine mining policies. Essentially, it underscores the government’s declared policy of providing for a predictable, stable and clear cut policy for investments,” Vergara said.

He said there is need to raise indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples in equal footing with the investors, the State and other stakeholders in order to secure their welfare by providing the appropriate standard of royalty payment to the supposed beneficiaries.

Furthermore, Vergara explained providing a definite figure for royalty payment to indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples will deepen public trust in mining projects, enhance business confidence within the industry and further foster added growth to an industry that worthily contributes to national and local economy.


Worker gets life term for MJ sale

BAGUIO CITY -- A marijuana dealer was sentenced to life imprisonment with a fine P5 million after he was caught delivering marijuana at Burnham Park here to agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Cordillera.

Antonio C. Reyes, presiding judge of the First Judicial Region’s Regional Trial Court Branch 61 here recently ordered the conviction of Pala P. Toukyo for illegal drugs.

Toukyo, 27, water delivery boy, native of Acoje Mines, Sta. Cruz, Zambales and resident of Purok 3, Kias, Baguio City was caught almost a kilo of marijuana value at PP22,722.


BCDA, John Hay developer told: Settle row out of court

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – The city government urged the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and the Camp John Hay Development Corp. to settle their conflict out of court to prevent the local government from being prejudiced.

In a position paper submitted to the House committee on bases conversion, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said the city government and its constituents will suffer serious damages since it will not be able to receive its annual 25 percent share from the lease rentals from the operation of the 247-hectare special economic zone that could be used to fund the implementation of priority development projects and enhance the delivery of basic services.

“We urgently and collectively call on both parties, BCDA and CJH DevCo, to exert extra effort in settling their legal differences amicably and abstemiously outside the four walls of the court, sitting down to negotiate based on the contracts they have entered into which constitute the law between them,”

Domogan said both parties must also evaluate and determine the obligations that any of them failed to comply and its monetary value so that payments can be made at the soonest possible time and the city could subsequently get its share.

According to him, there is no way of knowing which side would win the court’s nod and that the said fact would be exacerbated by the tedious court process which serve no other purpose but to delay what benefits the people of Baguio can secure from the development of the former American rest and recreation center like its 25 percent share from its lease rentals.

CJH DevCo filed a civil case before the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 of Baguio City to stop BCDA from allegedly forcibly taking over the facility for the reason that it has accumulated over P3 billion in lease rentals over the past 16 years where the city is entitled to around P750 million.

Domogan said because of the non-compliance of both parties on the terms and conditions of the original contract of lease, first and second restructuring agreements and the 2008 new restructuring agreement, the agreement between the city and BCDA to utilize its 25 percent share from the lease rentals of Camp John Hay for the payment of the total consideration of the P250 million purchase price of the Baguio Convention Center together with the 1 hectare lot where the facility is standing did not materialize.

“The city government was then constrained to pay the remaining unpaid consideration in the total amount of P208 million, including not less than P110 million interest of the unpaid balance from its own resources after the Government Service Insurance System had condoned at least P50 millions part of the interest,” Domogan said, citing some of the city’s priority projects were sacrificed to prevent the interest from spiraling through the years.

“We should not be made to suffer for the shortcomings of both parties. The best way to go about the problem is for them to go back to the negotiating table to discuss their respective allegations and then come out with acceptable solutions. We pray that both parties get back their senses to solve their problems amicably for the benefit of our constituents,” he added.


Korean-funded eco-zone golf course in P’sinan hit

By Mydz Supnad

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – Oppositionists to the Aqua City eco-tourism zone where an 18-hole golf course would be built here funded by Korean investors, lashed out at the project last week saying it will destroy the environment.

But mayor Ernesto “Jonas” Castaneda, Jr. said he was supporting the venture branding oppositionists as “those whose minds are clouded by crab mentality.”

The project, Castanda said, will bring progress not just for the capital town but for the entire province.

Barangay captain Mario Navarro of Barangay Estanza, where the project would be built, said the venture would provide employment for his constituents, saying lack of work was among problems in their community.

This, as the provincial government with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Environmental Management Bureau and Ajanta Consulting and Technical Services, Inc. conducted a public meeting recently at the Domalandan Center Elementary School here on the proposed project as requirement in seeking Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC.)

The meeting was attended by Korean investors and DENR-EMB officials led by Cesar Siador, Jr., environment impact assistant division chief of the central office.

Also present were barangay officials of four western barangays (Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec and Capandanan) where the project is located and their constituents.

Greg Palis, president of ACTSI, a private firm commissioned by the provincial government to undertake technical and social studies on the project, said the meeting was intended for the public to participate in discussion for conceptualization of the “environmental impact report” which is a prerequisite in applying for an ECC.

Palis said with the meeting, concerns of the public and aspects concerning the project will be discussed.

He added result of the meeting will serve as input of their studies that will be discussed and be explained once again in public in the coming days wherein a public forum will later be scheduled.

Engineer Alvin Bigay, Provincial Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chief, said the province through the stewardship of Gov. Amado T. Espino, Jr. wanted everything related to the project transparent and in order.

Sabangan barangay captain Hector Fabiana, meanwhile said all four barangay council heads support the project which saying accusations against them for favoring the project were baseless.

Malimpuec barangay captain Delfin Velasco also thanked the governor “for leading the way towards the envisioned progress of Pangasinan.”


Couple gives substance to gold wedding anniversary

By Ramon Dacawi

NAGUILLAN, La Union -- The theme was gold but Pete and Velma Ferrer found no need to have the precious, yellow metal molded into anniversary rings to mark their wedding 50 years ago to the day last March 14 here in the town church.

Instead, the couple found themselves at home in a two-classroom school building in Magungunay, a remote barangay in Naguilian that was celebrating its fiesta.

Pete and Velma grew up in Baguio and in the mining camps of Benguet. For years now, they have been residents of Northern California where Pete served as a U.S. military serviceman. For years now, they have been tracing their roots to Naguilian through community outreach work that, aside from kin, gives substance to their homecomings.

That’s why last March 12, the couple traveled from Baguio by bus, to be in Magungunay in time for the barangay fiesta. Barangay residents led by village chief Tony Quinones deemed it only fitting to have the community celebration coincide with the couple’s golden anniversary – and the blessing of a two-classroom school building.

Instead of a cake with golden icing, the couple came home with bags of goodies and school supplies. These were for Magungunay’s toddlers who go to class in the school building the couple donated three years ago.
“This school building is the second funded by Pete and Velma,” recalled Steve Mallari, a resident and volunteer who helped supervise the construction. “The first was a classroom for kids of Bariquir, another barangay here in Naguilian.”

No strangers to community work, Pete and Velma have been supporting humanitarian and service causes, be it in their personal or formal capacity. They are involved as donors in the “GawadKalinga” housing program. For years, they’ve opened their home to visitors from Naguilian, Baguio and the Cordillera and from wherever, long before Pete served as president of the Baguio Californians, the organization of expatriates who trace their roots to Baguio.

Late in 2008, the couple sent out invitation cards for Velma’s birthday in their home in California. Instead of cakes and personal gifts, Velma asked guests to contribute love notes and donations so that together, they could build the school in Magungunay.

Asked to speak their piece at the fiesta, the couple pointed out that the school building stands as a monument to the cooperation of expatriates, the political leadership of Naguilian and the town’s residents.

That’s why the tandem of former town vice-mayor and now mayor Reynaldo Flores and former mayor and now vice-mayor Abraham Rimando led town officials in gracing Magungunay’s fiesta.

Breaking protocol, mayor Flores served as master of ceremonies in the program that also saw him leading the town’s civil servants to a “hataw” mass exercise.

That’s why Baguio city councilor Nicasio Aliping Jr. motored down for the school blessing and inauguration. He has been witness to how Pete and Velma, his own brother Joel and other members of the Baguio Californians and the BIBAK of Northern California would open their homes and drive for visiting Filipinos, be they from Baguio, Naguilian, the Cordillera or wherever.

In a way, he was expecting to witness Pete and Velma renew their marriage vows in church. Instead, the couple felt it equally fulfilling to witness with the rest of the community the blessing of the two –classroom building by Fr. Benjie Manzano. The structure stands on a 2,000-square meter lot that VillamorEstilong, son-in-law of village chief Quinones, had donated. For the moment, the two classrooms serve as an annex of the Ambaracao Sur Elementary School under principal Gina Dacayanan.

With the steady growth of the school population, the two-classroom affair will eventually grow into a full elementary school. Kapitan Quinones apparently envisions this eventuality. At his turn to speak, he assured the community of his son-in-law’s intention to donate more of his property for the expansion. That means the partnership for Magungunay’s future triggered by a couple’s sense of community will go far beyond the Ferrers’ golden wedding anniversary.


Beware of fake wedding solemnizing officers

By Lito Dar

BAGUIO CITY – Beware if you are planning to get married – you might be being solemnized by a fake.

Before you tie the knot, may it be a church, sects or a civil wedding, you can always check if your marriage solemnizing officer is legally registered to ensure that your marriage will be valid.

National Statistic Office-Cordillera regional director Olivia Gulla, said this is provided for under Executive Order 209 or the Family Code of the Philippines, wherein it stipulated marriage solemnizing officers of churches and sects must be legally registered with the NSO.

According to Gulla, legally registered solemnizing officers are issued a Certificate of Registration of Authority to Solemnize Marriage (CRASM).

She said the public, especially would-be couples, can check the NSO’s Solemnizing Officer Information System through the internet or by logging on to sois.census.gov.ph.

In the Cordillera, as 2011, Gulla said there are 296 registered SOs including those who belong to some cultural groups in the region.

Per province breakdown: Abra, 33; Benguet, 168; Ifugao, 25; Kalinga, 37; Apayao, 13 and Mountain Province, 20.


P1M per province for b’gay consultations on autonomy

By Gina Dizon
SAGADA Mountain Province -- A budget of one million pesos has been allotted per province for barangay and sectoralconsultations on House Bill 5595 establishing the Cordillera as an autonomous region on its third attempt.

Chairman Franklin Odsey of the Mountain Province sub-committee on the drafting of the third Cordillera autonomy organic act, said barangay consultations shall be conducted on or before the year ends.

He said the one million peso budget per province shall be available on a first come first serve basis upon submission of provincial plans to the Cordillera Regional Development Council.

Odsey added consultations shall be conducted per zonal or clustered barangays in the 10 towns of Mountain Province. Though government and religious sectors shall have separate consultations,women, business, elders, youth, and other sectors shall be joining the zonal barangay consultations.

A capacity-building session shall be conducted among municipal representatives who shall assist in the information campaigns, he said.

House Bill 5595, “An Act Establishing the Cordillera Autonomous Region” has already been approved by the congressional committee on local government.

Said bill was signed by congressmen Bernardo Vergara of Baguio, Theodore Baguilat, Ifugao; MaximoDalog, Mountain Province; Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Apayao an Manuel Agyao, Kalinga.

Deliberations in Congress are ongoing.

In a related interview, acting chairman Marcelo Daweg of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance Mountain Province chapter, said genuine regional autonomy can only be achieved with communities asserting their right to control of their land, resources and territory.

He added regional autonomy can only be realized where laws like PD 705 shall be repealed as it limits indigenous peoples to have control over their ancestral domains IPs being located on areas 18% in slope and over.


Mayor to fight cutting of 50,000 trees at BSU housing project site

By RedjieCawis

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet-- Mayor Gregorio Abalosurged the Benguet State University to spare 50, 000 trees reported to be cut down to pave way for a housing project of the Benguet State University here at Barangay Wangal.

Abalos said last week he received reports a housing project for faculty and employees will be built at the BSU -owned lot in Wangal at the upper portion of Ampasit and the 50,000 trees were to be cut.

The 132,509 square meters of land is a water source of the municipality with a spring in the site supplying irrigation to farms in the western part of the valley.

The university applied for building permits within its 10-hectare property presenting a presidential decree signed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the project.

But Abalos said that BSU still has to pass through the local government in acquiring permits for the project despite the presidential decree.

On the part of the BSU, university president Dr. Ben Ladilad denied allegations of tree cutting but said they have plans to put up a housing project in the area.

Ladiladsaid the area for the housing project has at least a thousand trees.

The 50, 000 trees earlier reported comprise the whole of the BSU agro-forestry in La Trinidad.

Ladilad said he instructed their engineers to see to it that no trees will be affected during construction of the housing where houses will built under the trees.

In a council session, councilor Jim Botiweyurged his peers to call on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, BSU officials and the municipal zoning officer to shed light to the matter.

Abalos said that he will ask for a meeting with the BSU officials and other municipal officials to clear the issue and discuss the proposed housing project and the tree cutting issue.


Identity of British nat’l in Sagada ‘suicide’ case bared; no PNP report yet

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA Mountain Province – The correct name of the British national who allegedly committed suicide here was James Sennett, not James Semmet or Esset as earlier reported.

Police have not yet come out with an official report whether Sennett indeed committed suicide or was a victim of foul play.

Sennet, a 63-year-old retired engineer from Southampton, England was earlier reported to have committed suicide here in Barangay Demang on March 11 at their home where he stayed with his wife Carmelita Maslian, a native here.

A police report earlier said Sennette was found with a yellow cord tied around his neck.

Reports said the victim was rushed to St. Theodore’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

An autopsy conducted by the Regional Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory March 13 found Sennette died due to asphyxia by ligature.

Sennett’s body was buried in the Sagada community cemetery.


Ifugao town regulates use of heavy equipment

By Marcelo B. Lihgawon

LAMUT, Ifugao – Reports of inappropriate use of heavy equipment like bulldozers prompted town officials here to approve an ordinance regulating their utilization.

Authored by sangguniangbayan members Adryan Chaguile and Brenda Sawad and approved by Mayor Francisco Tenenan, Sr., the ordinance covered the regulation of heavy equipments like garbage compactor, dump truck and bulldozer purchased by the local government unit.

The ordinance stipulated the compactor and dump truck shall only be used for collection and disposal of commercial, industrial waste and domestic waste of the municipality for disposal to the sanitary land fill of the municipality.

The dump truck would be used for gravelling of municipal facilities, hauling of people during fiesta, athletic meets and other similar municipal events to ensure a full participation particularly in the far flung barangays of the municipality.

For the bulldozer, it will be used in developing and maintaining the municipal landfill and other development works of the municipality.

The ordinance also provides equipmentsmaybe leased to barangays and private citizens and during calamities.

The heavy equipments will be under the custody and supervision of the office of the municipal engineer, parked during the weekends at the municipal motorpool.

No repair shall be made without any work order specifying their the parts to be bought and repaired.

“The municipal equipments should not be used in the following manner: as a service outside the municipality, brought out without any trip ticket, driven by a person under the influence of any intoxicating beverages or substance and be parked in karaoke bars, pubs and other similar establishments, “ the ordinance stated.

Any person who shall any provision of the ordinance will be charged with the appropriate administrative, criminal and civil charges that includes suspension of 10 – 15 days without pay.


OPAPP releases P15M for Pamana Kalinga projects

By Peter A. Balocnit

TABUK CITY, Kalinga- - An initial amount of P15 million was allotted to the provincial government to fund development projects under the “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Henry Gupaal, executive assistant to Gov. JocelBaac said different projects in Kalinga were proposed and validated by OPAPP. “More than P30 million worth of projects were proposed last year, however, the initial P15M will be released for those validated for implementation this year,” he said.

Gupaal said the fund will be channeled to a trust fund account with Land Bank and that projects funded by this special program are subject to public bidding.

He said the provincial engineering office the program of work and financial plans of these projects.

Last year also, the sangguniangpanlalawigan authorized Baac to enter into a memorandum of agreement with OPAPP to implement PamanasaLahi projects in the municipalities of Tanudan, Tinglayan, Pasil, Balbalan, Pinukpuk, and this city.

These were part of community development projects provided for under the closure agreement signed by the national government through the OPPAP and the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army last year to transform the CPLA into a socio-economic unarmed force.

The closure program was in line with the Mt. Data Peace Accord signed by CPLA-Cordillera Bodong Administration leaders with former President Corazon Aquino in 1986.

Under the PAMANA, conflict areaswere given community development projects to hasten development and progress in the localities.


15 school buildings constructed In Ifugao

By Dan B. Codamon

LAGAWE, Ifugao -- Fifteen new school buildings with 29 classrooms in the province were recently completed and inspected for use this coming school year 2012-2013.

Based on the report of HonorioPumihic Jr., physical facilities coordinator of the Department of Education schools division of Ifugao , the newly constructed school buildings are just part of the several buildings damaged during the typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel” funded under the Quick Response Fund of the government and the regular fund of DEPED.

The report listed the following completed school buildings: Southern Hingyon National High School (2-storey 6 classrooms); Magulon Elementary School (2 classrooms); Banaue National High School (2 classrooms); Ponghal Elementary School (1 classroom); Lagawe National High School (1 classroom); Dalligan Elementary School (1 classroom); Cababuyan Elementary School (1 classroom); San Marcos Elementary School (1 classroom); Maligaya Primary School (1 classroom); Cawayan Elementary School (2 classrooms); Gumhang Elementary School (1 classroom); Jolowon Elementary School (2 classrooms); Ayangan National High School (2 classrooms); Halag Elementary School (2 classrooms) and;Tinoc National High School (2 classrooms).

Pumihic said they expect more school buildings which are under construction to be completed before school classes open in June.

The weather is good and there is no reason that the projects will be delayed, he said.


Philex denies irregularities in IP consent on in its operation

TUBA, Benguet – Philex Mining Corp. denied irregularities in the procedures that led to issuance of the certification pre-condition in favor of its mining operations, saying it acted in good faith and that everything that transpired in the process of securing the free, prior, and informed consent of the affected indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples were within the parameters of the law.

Lawyer Eduardo M. Aratas, chief of Philex’s legal division, said officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Mines and Geosciences Bureau-CAR and concerned local government units witnessed the conduct of the series of consultations that led to issuance of the free, prior, and informed consent of the affected indigenous peoples for the company’s mine operation, thus, coming out with conclusions on the alleged irregularities in the adopted procedures would be unfair to those who actually participated in the conduct of the series of consultations leading to the issuance of the FPIC and eventually the certification pre-condition of the NCIP.

He said it was the NCIP that conducted the necessary consultations which led to the identification of the Indigenous Peoples Organization of Alang, Pokis, Santa Fe, Sabiang, Oliba and Loacan (IPO APSSOL) as the legitimate indigenous peoples organization to represent the affected indigenous peoples in the area of operation of the mining company.

“Any issue or concern arising from what we believe was a legitimate process in securing the free and prior and informed consent of the affected indigenous peoples must be subjected to a pure and honest judicial determination,” Aratas said, noting that there are other indigenous cultural communities and indigenous peoples who want to be recognized by the concerned government agencies and the company so that they will also receive their share from the royalty being paid by the company to the group but their areas are located outside the company’s operations.

Because of the free and prior informed consent given by the IPO APSSOL to the company’s Application for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) No. 102 which is within the affected communities, a memorandum of agreement was signed by the parties, particularly Philex, IPO APSOL and NCIP, sometime in January 2008 with ranking NCIP, MGB and local government as well as company officials as witnesses. The agreement mandates the payment of 1.25 percent royalty fee to the IPO APSSOL from the company’s gross income per annum and that the funds will be used by the group to bankroll the implementation of development projects within the affected communities.

On the other hand, Aratas added the company welcomes the move by NCIP to conduct an audit investigation on the books of IPO APSSOL to ascertain where the royalty payments have been utilized according to its purpose.

Under the agreement, the company will be paying IPO APSSOL 1.25 percent royalty fee based on the company’s gross income annually and that such funds will be used to implement development projects in the affected communities for a period of 25 years.

IPO APSSOL had been receiving the royalty payment from the company over the past four years after the signing of the memorandum of agreement.


Aeta village eyed as the 'Rio De Janeiro' of Asia

FLORIDABLANCA, Pampanga — The Provincial Government of Pampanga is eyeing the Nabuclod Eco-Tourism Adventure Park in the highlands of Nabuclod Aeta Community as the next “Rio de Janeiro” of Asia.

Board Member Nestor Tolentino said the government is planning to erect a similar gigantic replica of the Risen Christ (Ascension) similar to that in Brazil.

“If they did it in Brazil, why can’t we?” asked Tolentino.

Rio de Janeiro is the most visited city in the southern hemisphere and is known for its natural settings, carnival celebrations, samba, Bossa Nova, balneario beaches such as Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon.

Nabuclod has some of those now like the cable cars and zip lines.

Aside from the icon Christ Ascension, there would also be an icon of the "Lady of Nabuclod," the Virgin Mary herself, in a selected spot there.

Gov. Lilia G. Pineda disclosed that the said adventure park will feature cultural village, zip lines, hanging bridge, native restaurants and other tourism facilities.

Pineda also said that the project aims to provide livelihood to the Aeta communities living near Nabuclod.

Floridablaca Mayor Eddie Guerrero said the municipal government fully supports the eco-tourism plans of the provincial government in the upland villages in their town.

“It will not only promote the town as tourist destination, it will also generate income among the indigenous people or Aetas living in the upland,” Guerrero said.


Alien businessmen urged to get job generation visa

By Maria Aprila W. Cruz

BAGUIO CITY-- The Bureau of Immigration hereurged foreign nationals here to employ more Filipino workers so they can avail of a visa that would enable them to stay indefinitely in the country.

In a presentation by Mylene Victoria of the BI Baguio field office during a recent meeting with the Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee, she reported one of their programwas the issuance of Special Visa for Employment Generation (SVEG).

She said the SVEG is a special non-immigrant visa issued to a foreigner who shall employ at least ten Filipinos in a lawful and sustainable enterprise, trade or industry in the Philippines.

The foreign national shall actually, directly and exclusively engage in a viable and sustainable investment in the Philippines and perform management acts or the authority to hire, promote and dismiss employees therein, she said.

Victoria said the employment of at least 10 Filipino workers shall be for managerial, executive, professional, technical, skilled or unskilled positions in a business activity, investment, enterprise or industry in the Philippines, excluding personal employees of the foreign national such as household workers and the like.

“Foreign nationals who are granted SVEG shall be considered special non-immigrants with multiple entry privileges and conditional extended stay, without need of prior departure from the Philippines,” Victoria added.

SVEG holders are exempt from securing Special Return Certificates and Exit Clearance Certificates.

However, they shall be required to submit and/or file their annual report pursuant to the requirements of the Alien Registration Act of 1950, as amended.

The privileges of SVEG may extend to the legal spouse of the qualified foreign national as well as their unmarried children below 18 years of age, whether legitimate, illegitimate or adopted, according to Victoria.

The SVEG may be cancelled based on the following grounds: upon verification it was obtained through fraud or willful misrepresentation of material facts; upon conviction by final judgment of the SVEG holder for a crime or offense in the Philippines and upon final determination of the Board of Commissioner that the SVEG holder poses a risk to the general welfare or national security; death of the principal SVEG holder.

This this case, the SVEG of dependents shall also be revoked.

Also ground for revocation is upon withdrawal of investment or termination of the operation of the business activity, investment, enterprise or industry, except when there is only a change in the type of business activity, investment, enterprise or industry duly notified to the Bureau of Immigration at least 30 days before the actual closure or change of the type of business.


Fake text messages send police on wild goose trails

By Larry Lopez

TABUK CITY, Kalinga – Fake text messages on purported crime incidents have sent police on wild goose trails which yielded nothing but waste their time.

Due to this, the city chief of police here appealed to unscrupulous individuals to stop making fun of the police hotline by sending fake text messages.

Supt. Geremias Oyawon, city police chief said text messages received by their office were later found out by responding police teams to be hoax.

“Recently, text messages about a floating body in Pinukpuk municipality and a beheaded corpse in Barangay Magsaysay, here were received in the police hotline but later proved to be fake,| Oyawon said.

He warned that anybody found to be the source of fake messages shall be penalized accordingly.

“If their intention is to test how immediate is the response by the police to text messages or calls in our area that is not a correct measure. But if they are just making fun of our peace force, they should watch out lest we catch them. We post police hotlines to the public so the police can make immediate action, not for people to make fun of.”

He appealed to the community to cooperate and help the police in its peace program by giving correct and relevant information.


Manhunt on for men who waylaid, shot couple dead

By Mydz Supnad

VILLASIS, Pangasinan- Police launched a manhunt against two suspected killers who ambushed and shot dead March 17, a young couple along Barangay Lapaz, this town.

Reports sent to Sr. Supt. RosuetoRicaforte, Pangasinan police director, identified the victims as spouses Jose Locquiao and his wife HerminiaLocquiao, both of Barangay Mabanogbog, Urdaneta City.

Reports said the victims, together with their two children, were travelling aboard their tricycle going home when they were waylaid by two gunmen riding in tandem along the highway in Lapaz.

Owing to their severe gunshot wounds, the two victims died on the spot.

Luckily, their two children were spared but was not known if they were hit by stray bullets.

The suspects fled towards Urdaneta City.

Ricaforte directed his men to go after the killers who are probably members of a gun-for-hire syndicate operating in Region 1.


Search on for Cordillera heroes in public service

BAGUIO CITY -- The search for deserving public servants to this year’s Honor Awards Program (HAP) in the Cordillera Administrative Region is on.

Cordillera region CSC director Fernando M. Porio bared this saying the CAR is one of the regions in the country that has consistently produced heroes or outstanding public servants who have made a difference in their lives and in the service.

He said these heroes may come from the lowest rank to the highest official in government, whether elected or appointed.

Through its annual Honor Awards Program (HAP), the CSC confers awardees the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award, Dangalng Bayan Award and CSC Pagasa Award.

Last year, four nominees from the Cordillera reached the semi-finals and three of them won the national awards.

For wider reach, the CSC-Cordillera Administrative Region is asking the support of all CAR government agencies to display the prescribed 2012 streamer (6 ft length x 12 ft width) and submit their nominees to the Commission.

The streamer design and specifications can be downloaded from the CSC website www.csc.gov.ph.

Porio said HAP guidelines (CSC MC # 24, s. 2011), nomination forms, flyers may be secured from any of the CSC’s regional and field offices nationwide or downloaded from the CSC website.

Nominations may be submitted to any of the Commission’s regional and provincial/field offices or to the HAP Secretariat, Public Assistance and Information Office (PAIO), Constitution Hills, Diliman, Quezon City.

The deadline for submission of nominations is April 30, 2012 without extension.

Inquiries may be sent to the HAP Secretariat at telephone numbers (02) 931-7993, (02) 932-03-81, hotline (02) 932-01-11, Text CSC 0917-839-8272 or social networking sites: hap@webmail.csc.gov.ph, paio@webmail.csc.gov.ph, www.honorawardsprogram.wordpress.com, and www.facebook.com/HAP.


Diverse events to perk up summer in Baguio

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – An array of multi-faceted activities will perk up summer in this mountain resort via the “Summer Vacation (SUMVAC) in Baguio.”

Mayor Mauricio Domogan on Wednesday said various activities have been lined up for the annual summer calendar of events to entertain residents and tourists expected to flock to the city for the long vacation.

He said preparations are also ongoing to address various concerns particularly the peace and order to tackle traffic and criminality problems; utilities to address the possible water shortage and ensure smooth solid waste collection; and the tourist-oriented establishments to ensure their readiness to cater to the needs of the vacationers.

The SUMVAC committee spearheaded by the mayor and action officer Carlos Canilao has so far lined up a mishmash of religious, cultural, historical, environmental, sports and medical activities which began last March 1.

Lenten activities will topbill the calendar with religious services and Lenten presentations scheduled at the various churches from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
Historical activities feature the ArawsaKagitingan observance on April 9 and the Liberation of Baguio on April 27 at the Veterans Park.

Environmental treats include the Earth Hour observance on March 31.
Tourism-related activities include the search for the Lucky Summer Visitor by the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) on April 5 and barangay fiestas spread out from March to May.

Government-led activities include the Kafagway Summer’s Best in April; Tourism Frontliners Training, April 3 Baguio Convention Center; Lingkod Bayan, April 4 – 8; Interfaith Activities (The Past, Present and Future of Dominican Heritage and Nature Park) April 18 Dominican Heritage Hill; Jobs Fair & Labor Day Activities May 1; Sabsabong Ti Mayo and 1st Amianan Philippine International University Theatre Associations Festival May 7 -11 SM / Baguio Convention Center; Summer Break Concert May 11 Session Road; and Philippine Flag Day on May 28.

Various educational, cultural, arts, sports and theater programs are also scheduled for the whole month of April until May.


3,071 4Ps beneficiaries receive cash assistance

by Juliet B. Saley

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Some 3,071 household beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program or the PantawidPamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in the province are scheduled to receive this month their first pay out over the counter at the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) here.

According to Joy Adaclog of the social welfare and development team here, these beneficiaries are from the municipalities of Bauko, Bontoc, Sabangan, Sagada andTadian including the additional beneficiaries of Besao who were included in the CCT expansion areas under set 5.

The beneficiaries will receive their cash assistance for the months of January to March this year, which varies depending on the number of qualified children they have.

Because of the big number of the beneficiaries, the Department of Social Welfare and Development in coordination with the Land Bank here, set a schedule for the release per municipality.

The municipality of Sabangan with 369 identified 4Ps beneficiaries are scheduled to receive their first pay out on March 7 while 7 the additional 47 beneficiaries of Besao and 248 beneficiaries of Sagada are scheduled on March 8.
The 1,213 beneficiaries from Bauko are divided into three groups- the 495 households are scheduled on March 21 while the 580 households and 138 households are set on Mar. 22 and Mar. 27, respectively. The 396 beneficiaries of Bontoc are scheduled on Mar. 23 and the 798 beneficiaries of Tadian on Mar. 29.

A household beneficiary can receive as much as P1,400 monthly, which includes P500 per month for nutrition and health expenses and P300 per month per child (with a maximum of 3 children per household) for educational expenses. Household-beneficiaries must comply with certain conditions to continue receiving the cash grants.

The conditions include: parents must ensure that their children attend school at least 85% of the time, and receive vaccinations and health care. Pregnant women must receive pre- and post-natal care and be attended during childbirth by a skilled health professional. Parents must attend responsible parenthood seminars, mother's classes, and parent effectiveness seminars. (


Strawberry Festival entertainment on

By Lito Dar

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, - - The Strawberry Festival here is on with Family Days showcased at the Strawberry Lane yesterday (March 24) until today for a day full of fun, games and entertainment for families to enjoy.

There will also be the strawberry magic and acrobatic show which will be held at the Benguet State University morning of March 31.

Among other events which will run until April 14 are the traditional Strawberry Fest Mass Wedding, Search for Mr. and Ms. La Trinidad and the Breakfast at the Park: Duting Tan Dukto (Mar. 23 and March 31), which will feature Benguet’s Arabica Coffee.

The trade fair started March 10 and will run up to April 15 at the La Trinidad public market parking area in Km. 5, wherein these are expectrf to generate around P2.9 million.

La Trinidad officials headed by Mayor Greg Abalos in an earlier media forum said the Strawberry Festival will promote the town as the strawberry capital of the country.

In the forum, Abalos said traditional events of the festival will still be there with new events and festivities added.

“The strawberry is the symbol of this annual La Trinidad festival, as we will also showcase the other best products and culture of the municipality for the festivity,” he said.

The formal opening of the Strawberry Fest was held March 18 with a civic parade, ecumenical service and launching program.

Ribbon cutting of the barangay sgro-industrial fair and the Strawberry Lane featuring strawberries and by products at the municipal grounds were also held.

On opening day, the traditional owik tan tayao ritual involving butchering of native pigs for thanksgiving was held.

Also invited was the Panagbenga 2012 grand street dancing champion – performers of Kabayan, Benguet to highlight the opening activities.

Abalos said the municipality will not be replicating the largest strawberry shortcake it made years ago.

But for this 14th celebration of Strawberry Festival, they will be serving a 100 kg.-strawberry salad to the public during the Strawberry Farmers Generosity Day on March 31.

The Strawberry Festival in 2004 landed the municipality in the Guinness Book of World Record for producing the largest strawberry shortcake weighing 21,213.40 lb (9,622.23 kg).


Cordillera autonomy consultations needed


The question now bugging Cordillera officials who are pushing for regional autonomy is the claim of concerned sectors and even other government officials, that there had not been enough consultations particularly in the grassroots level before House Bill 5595 which proposes provisions for a Cordillera Autonomous Region, was filed.

Critics claim that in a pluralist democracy, issues on governance and proposed laws (like Cordillera autonomy) should be discussed by the majority before these are filed for legislative approval. So in this case, they say, extensive consultation on regional autonomy should have been done before HB 5595 was filed.

But some protagonists, particularly members of the Regional Development Council are saying that since they were elected by the people, then it is a given that they represent the people’s sentiments like on autonomy.

Of course, this had not always been the case if the Ampatuans of Mindanao is any example. Some officials who crafted and pushed HB 5595 said autonomy grassroots consultations is the responsibility of everyone who understands the real essence of self-governance and that it should not be made an excuse to derail the passage of the enabling law in Congress.

The officials said House Bill 5595 authored by five Cordillera lawmakers approved in the committee level in the House of Representatives would serve as basis of grassroots consultations in the region by local officials and interest groups. Results of consultations, they said, could be incorporated as amendments to HB5595 and satisfy wishes of concerned sectors.

This could satiate somehow the gripes of other officials and concerned groups who said there were not enough consultations done in the region.

Earlier, the House committee on local governments approved HB 5595 (which creates the Cordillera Autonomous Region, if approved on final reading and ratified in a regional plebiscite) pursuant to the provision of the 1987 Constitution that mandates the creation of autonomous regions in the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao.

Until now, there are other opinions, position papers and proposals on how Cordillera autonomy should be attained like that of the Cordillera People’s Alliance. Suffice to say that HB 5595 is only one among these.

It wouldn’t hurt if its proponents would start an extensive information drive on its provisions to generate feedback so these could be discussed more in a process all the way to Congress. This could involve the media, particularly newspapers wherein information is printed in black and white and could be objectively discussed.


Parking at Luneta Hill / SMS centennial

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY – Now, I guess I can park along Luneta Hill Road which had been “expropriated” by SM management for its own use.

For so long, security guards of the giant mall here had been trying to shoo me away like a chicken, from parking on the road across the main entrance. And lately, everytime they tried do so, I just kept quiet, looked at them, locked my vehicle, and went inside to make the mall’s owners richer.

For so long, I had to argue with these guards to park at the area, a public road, and had my heart beat more than it should have been to my consternation. And every occasion, I always told them to call the police if the area was a No Parking site, but they never did.

So lately, I just kept mum whenever I parked there while the guards and their supervisors shook their heads in exasperation.

Sanamagan, I had been thinking, why should I spend P35 as parking fee when there was a public road I could park on?

Now, my dilemma and that of other irate motorists seem to be over as it seems, somebody from the city government finally took notice of the problem.

Councilor Nicasio M. Aliping Jr., who chairs the committee on public utilities, a few days ago, filed a resolution before the city council entitled “Proposed resolution reiterating SM-Baguio to continuously make available the Luneta Hill Road to the Public.”
In the resolution Aliping noted “SM-Baguio has admittedly complied with a previous resolution of the city council directing SM-Baguio management to remove illegally installed gates along Luneta Hill Road and advising them not to direct traffic on city roads.

“While directional signs have been installed by SM-Baguio to help in the smooth flow of traffic in the area the said directional signs must be coordinated with the city government of Baguio through the Baguio City Police Office particularly the Traffic Management Branch.

“In order to avoid confusion and public perception that the said area is part of the property of SM, the personnel of the TMB and the BCPO should man and help in the direction of traffic along the said road.”

The city government through the city council earlier adapted Resolution 140, Series of 2004 which directed SM Baguio management to remove illegally installed gates at the Luneta Hill Road and advising them not to direct traffic on said city road.

Engineers Liberty Ducusin and Edgar Baisas, SM assistant mall managers explained then that their company had no intention to take control of the city road through installation of said gates.

They said these were erected simply to address unforeseen emergency situations that might affect safety of their business and the general public. They said SM merely improved Luneta Hill Road for the benefit of commuters.

Aliping’s resolution, reiterating availability and accessibility of Luneta Hill Road has been referred to the city council’s committee on public utilities, transportation and traffic legislation for study and recommendation.

I saw Nick at the wake of Douglas Rufino’s mother, who died of a heart attack, at the resurrection Church Wednesday night and he said his resolution would still be tacked by the city council. Douglas, by the way, is with the regional Bureau of Internal Revenue and had been a Good Samaritan to countless poor patients who needed help for kidney, heart, cancer and other ailments, but that would be another story.
Anyhow, this comes at a time when SM is in preparation to redevelop its mall in the city which had generated a lot of flak and protest actions among residents and environmentalists owing to its plan to cut or “ball” nearly 200 fully grown trees in its vicinity.

The ball is now in the hands of the city council. Meanwhile, if ever I will go there to make SM’s owners and business concessionaires richer, I would park along Luneta Hill. I advise other motorists to do the same if they think paying P35 is a big deal for poor people like me.
This coming weekend, I will be going home to Sagada, Mountain Province to attend the centennial of Saint Mary’s School where I spent a lot of happy days in high school.

I’m looking forward to the event wherein I will be seeing classmates and exchanging stories of the days gone by when we had countless bonfires underneath pine trees and starry skies.

Other days, we went swimming at Bokong Falls, gathered blackberries and mushrooms on mountains or just jammed with a guitar.No computers then, so life was plain and simple.

I guess, ailments would be a subject matter, as growing old is its twin. Of course, gossip on loves lost, loves won, the pains and the scars and those who have passed away to the Great Beyond would be part of the taunts and the fun. See you there!


It’s time for Corona to face the music

Perry Diaz

Attempts by Chief Justice Renato Corona’s defense lawyers to present witnesses and evidence to prove that Corona has other sources of income backfired and only solidified the prosecution’s case against him.

Indeed, after failing to convince the senator-judges after six days of testimonies by witnesses and disclosure of evidence, there is a consensus among the senator-judges that only Corona could explain the discrepancies in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs). But taking the witness stand would only expose him to questions that he might not be able to satisfactorily explain.

Last March 19 – Day 31 of the impeachment trial – Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that if the House prosecutors could show “intent to commit dishonesty,” then they have won their case. On the other hand, she said that if the defense panel could show that Corona had acted in good faith and declared all deposits — both peso and dollar – in his SALNs, then he would be acquitted.
Santiago cited a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Office of the Ombudsman vs. Racho where the accused was found guilty of dishonesty for nondisclosure of bank deposits in his SALN, a case that mirrors the prosecutors’ claim that Corona did not disclose five peso accounts and five dollar accounts in his SALNs, which were proven to exist by no less than the testimony of the President of the Philippine Savings Bank, PascualGarcia III. When the defense lead counsel, former Justice Serafin Cuevas, was pressed into disclosing the “secret” dollar accounts, he said that Corona would disclose them in “due time.”

Subsequently, Corona admitted the existence of his dollar accounts saying that he would disclose them in “due time.” The question is: Why couldn’t he disclose them now? The longer he delays disclosure, the harder it would be for people to believe his reason – or excuse – for not disclosing them in his SALNs. And by admitting – or confessing – to the existence of the dollar accounts and not disclosing them in his SALNs, Corona has boxed himself in a “no-win” situation.
It was recently reported in the news that the Office of the Ombudsman requested the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for a copy of Corona’s bank deposits including the dollar accounts. The news report said that the Ombudsman’s request was precipitated by a complaint filed last February 17 by a group of individuals asking for an investigation of Corona for possible violation of Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and for possible violation of Republic Act 9160, the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

It is interesting to note that at the bottom of the SALN form, there is a paragraph that serves as a waiver, which reads: “I hereby authorize the Ombudsman or his duly representative to obtain and secure from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents that may show my assets, liabilities, networth, business interests and financial connections, to include those of my spouse and unmarried children below 18 years of age living with me in my household covering past years, to include the year I first assumed office in the government.”

But while the waiver authorizes the Ombudsman to look into Corona’s “secret” dollar accounts, the Senate impeachment court does not have the authority to do so. Corona’s dollar accounts are protected by Republic Act 6426, which protects foreign currency deposits from disclosure without the written permission of the depositor.
The prosecution panel has alleged that Corona opened five dollar accounts at the Katipunan branch of Philippine Savings Bank in October 2008 with an initial deposit of $700,000. It was also reported in the news that other sources have said that Corona has two dollar accounts in another bank in which the sum is “mind-boggling.”

During Garcia’s testimony before the impeachment court, he said that a BankoSentralngPilipinas (BSP) examiner told the bank to put a “PEP” notation on Corona’s bank records. “PEP” stands for “Politically Exposed Person,” which is required under AMLC rules to be placed on the records of elected and appointed public officials. However, sources said that Corona was at one time – or may still be – under investigation by AMLC.

Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (Republic Act 9160), banks and similar institutions are required to report to AMLC within five working days any “suspicious transaction” – or “covered transaction” — that exceeds P500,000 within one banking day. Under RA 9160, “money laundering” is defined as: “A crime whereby the proceeds of an unlawful activity are transacted or attempted to be transacted to make them appear to have originated from legitimate sources.”

During the testimony of Garcia, it was revealed that Corona had peso deposits of P8.5 million in 2009 and P29.6 million in 2010. However, he only declared P2.5 million in 2009 and P3.5 million in 2010 in his SALNs. His dollar deposits – which he promised to disclose in “due time” — remain unknown.
Given the predicament that Corona is in, he doesn’t have many options that he could use to extricate himself from his dilemma. At this point, his chances of acquittal depend on how he could secure the vote of at least eight senator-judges who might turn a blind eye to the strong – and damning – evidence that the prosecution presented. And since the impeachment trial is a political process, not a judicial process, each senator-judge would vote according to political expedience.

The question is: What would Corona do if he arrives at the conclusion that he has nary a chance of acquittal? Would he play a hand that could trigger a constitutional crisis? He knows that he could get a majority of the Supreme Court justices – the “Arroyo appointees” – to stop the impeachment trial before the senator-judges could vote. If so, would the impeachment court accept such an edict? And how about the people?

A recent Pulse Asia showed that 47% believe that Corona is guilty, 5% believe that he is innocent, and 43% are undecided. These numbers are sobering. As the impeachment trial goes into a five-week hiatus in observance of Lent, Corona should take a spiritual retreat and discern what is good for the country. He should – nay, must – heed the “judgment” of the court of public opinion. It’s time for him to face the music.


Saving the Cordillera mossy forests

Ramon Dacawi
(2nd of two parts)

(The original of this piece was done some five years back, after a visit to two indigenous community projects in the Cordillera. With the recent interest on the region’s role as the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon, it finds print in slightly different form - as a toast to a forester’s initiative and the indigenous knowledge – and wisdom -of our upland tribal villages who, for generations, preserved the vital mossy forests of the Cordillera that are the life-blood of agriculture and power generation in Northern Philippines. Also, it may be of interest in relation to the on-going push for Cordillera autonomy which is focused on the preservation of the region’s vanishing patrimony, and the 9thIgorot International Consultation of the Igorot Global Organization this April here in Baguio.- RD.)

Traditional village forest management systems, rather than state policies that sometimes clash with time-tested tribal laws, protected the integrity of the pine and the dwarf oak forests of the Cordillera for generations. These indigenous practices were the original models of community-based resource management. Like the mountain region’s mossy forests that they protected, however, these indigenous practices are also vanishing.

The two projects in Agawa, Besao town and Bayyo in Bontoc town were, therefore, anchored on the revival and documentation of these traditional practices, together with the folk wisdom on medicinal species found in these mossy forests.

In one of the Bayyo nurseries, Diana Peta-ul and Alicia Wayasen showed visitors several types of mountain tea which they claim possess therapeutic properties. They talked of a tree locally called “dumranoh”, the bark of which is usually dried into “humang”, grated and drank as a cure for fever and bum stomach.

While doing site visits for the projects, Pogeyed heard more revealing insights, among them a common observation of hunters and village elders who come across snakes battling forest rats. “They noticed that each time the rat is bitten, it runs to a certain tree, digs its teeth into the bark and returns to continue the fight.”

Scientists and environmentalists explain that the mossy forest acts like a sponge. It absorbs rain and turns fog that envelops it into water in what is called a "fog drip" .It releases water gradually to form the rivulets that turn into springs and brooks that swell into rivers that are the lifeblood of communities downstream.

That much is known and it's not much. They agree that beyond its crucial role in sustaining the watershed and the hydrological system, much has yet to be learned
about the mossy forest. This ecosystem enveloped by mist and fog is still shrouded in mystery.

They agree that this wealth of biodiversity at the top of the forest systems is host to flora and fauna that have yet to be discovered and studied for what they mean to the environment - and for us who classify ourselves to be at the top of the animal kingdom.

What is blatantly obvious is that the mossy forest is vanishing - and with it plant and animal species that are endemic, or found only in one particular area and not in another mossy forest system. Some of these species are already extinct, while others are going before they can be found and given Latin-sounding tags.

The Philippines, too, has earned a tag, that of being a "biodiversity hotspot" for fast losing its "megadiversity", its once immense wealth of animal and plant life. In the Cordillera, children of this generation still hear elders mention "buwet", the local name for the cloud rat, but may never see it. If they chance upon one, it will be in the hands of hunters about to dress and cook it.

In Lias village in Barlig town in Mt. Province, then barangay chief Romeo Coffin mourned over the feathers of a giant bird shot down several years ago by hunters. That was after experts from the University of the Philippines in Los Banos confirmed the feathers belonged to the majestic and endangered Philippine eagle.

"The villagers now call me Kapitan Eagle," Coffin said, almost grudgingly, of the left-handed compliment. That was after he started acting locally, if not quixotically. He had gone around telling hunters to spare the bird, locally known as "lawi", and to report
to him any sighting or nest find of the endangered specimen earlier believed to be found only in the mountains of Visayas and Mindanao.

The bird's mossy forest territory extends to Agawa in Besao town and to Bayyo in Bontoc town and to the forest headwaters of the equally endangered rice terraces in Banaue, Ifugao. If it’s any consolation to Coffin, the two seedling production and planting of indigenous tree and herb species in Agawa and Bayyo were community efforts towards restoring the eagle's realm.

Forester Manuel Pogeyed, who helped the two villages secure fund support from the United Nations Development Program, said the twin conservation efforts were anchored on indigenous culture and community.

"Culture and community-based; this is not just a label, but a reality in these two villages," he stressed. "It's the villagers themselves who decided on and implemented the mossy forest biodiversity projects."

The project proponent and main implementor in Bayyo is its women's organization. The womenfolk are assisted by the barangay government and the community level of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

For the Agawa project, the Agawa Foundation, an organization of Besao natives now living in Baguio and then headed by John Addag, applied for the UNDP fund grant.
As conduit, it released the budget to the Lacma-an, Agawa, Gueday, Ambagiw, Tamboan or LAGAT people's organization in northwest Besao for the actual project implementation.

The project process applied in Besao was piloted earlier in the northern barangays of Sagada, also in Mt. Province. The Bangaan-Fidelisan-Tanulong-Aguid-Madungo-Pide Association in Baguio and Benguet (BFTAMPABBS) accessed the UNDP small grants program fund and released it to the Barangay Association of Northern Sagada (BANSA) for project implementation.

The tapping of children made the Sagada mossy forest and headwaters enhancement project stand out. While it was patterned after the Eco-walk program of Baguio,
the children's component provided a hands-on opportunity for the village children to learn the traditional resource management system that their elders applied to the project.

While the villagers of Bayyo, Agawa and northern Sagada admit that their efforts were modest in the midst of the enormous task of mossy forest conservation, they find these well-grounded. Still on tap is a powwow of sorts, for the implementors of the three projects to meet and compare notes and learn from each other’s experiences.

"Perhaps they can even agree to a moratorium on hunting within the mossy forest to allow the vanishing wildlife to recover," Pogeyed said. The wish is shared by Reynaldo Lopez Nauyac, a tribal elder who built a village for Ifugao woodcarvers at Asin Road here in Baguio. Over ten years ago, he returned home to Hungduan, Ifugao to live out his dream of helping restore the traditional way of maintaining the mossy forests that, for centuries, sustained the now endangered rice terraces.

Recently, the Regional Development Council of Region 1 whose rice and farmlands are end-users of the water emanating from the Cordillera uplands, expressed alarm over the dwindling water flow. Years back, the lowlands would attribute flooding down there to mining siltation and forest denudation up here.

The negative effects of the Cordillera rivers’ drying up opens the opportunity for talks towards the sharing of responsibility in mossy forest preservation and conservation – by those upstream and downstream. After all, as environmentalists tell us, everybody lives in the watershed.

Still, even the national government, despite its years of exploitation of the Cordillera’s water, mineral and other natural resources in the name of national development, has, over the years, neglected this region’s own development.

What happened can be likened to warped interpretation of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) approach to development: They built the mines and dams up here, rehabilitated and restored them and continue to transfer the gold and electric power, together with the taxes, to Makati and Metro-Manila.

This historical inequity and injustice gives impetus to the push for Cordillera autonomy to empower the region to harness its remaining resources also for its own development. (e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments.)


Charity in the vicinity

Ka Iking Señeres

I believe that every Christian has a heart for the poor, and deep in that heart is a longing to perform works of mercy, as these are described in the bible. As it is also said in the bible, we do not have to go out of our way to perform acts of charity, as we are bound to encounter people who need help everywhere, just like in the story of the Good Samaritan.

On the practical side however, most of us are too busy with our lives, so much so that we hardly have the time to help the poor, as often as we would like to. This is why an organized system of performing charitable acts is needed, a system that is both doable and sustainable in the long run.

The Philippine Association of X-Seminarians (PAX) is exactly what their name suggests, being an association of ex-seminarians from the Philippines. Needless to say however, their ranks also include ex-seminarians who are now priests and bishops, and are now in a position to help PAX implement its programs and projects all over the Philippines.

Just like the graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) perhaps, every ex-seminarian is a “mistah” to each other, regardless of whether they were ordained into the priesthood or not.

The late Dr. Ernesto G. Ramos was one of the founders of PAX, being an ex-seminarian himself. He was actually a former priest who left the clergy and eventually became one of the most influential leaders of the Filipino communities in the United States.

Because of his love for his homeland, he came home to become the founder of the Democratic Party of the Philippines (DPP) and the SagipBansa Filipinas (SBF), a federation of organizations that is bound by the common goal of helping the poor and empowering them to exercise their democratic rights. DPP is also known as the Democratic Party of the Poor.

Fr. Nestor Beltran is a PAX member who has been working with the poor in the Payatas dumpsite. In cooperation with SBF, Fr. Beltran has already identified fifty families from Payatas who have already been relocated to a new settlement in Zambales that was funded and built by SBF. The fifty families is actually just the first batch of what will eventually be several batches of families who will be relocated and provided with housing and livelihood in Zambales, together with eleven other basic services that are part of the comprehensive SBF programs.
Relocation to a new settlement is not the only option offered by SBF to the poor families that they are helping.

Also in cooperation with PAX, these families could choose the option of staying in their own parishes, and just the same, they are going to get the help that they will need. As planned, PAX is going to coordinate with all the mandated organizations at the parish level that are also helping the poor families, so that they too could avail of the thirteen programs of SBF. It is important to note here that SBF is helping entire families, and not just individual persons.

All members of the parish are welcome to join in the performance of works of mercy, even if they are not members of the mandated organizations. The idea here is to enable everyone in the parish to be part of charity within their own vicinity, meaning that they do not have to go out of their own parish to be able to help any one of the poor families. The other idea here is to involve as many parish members as possible, so that more resources could be tapped, in order to complete the delivery of the comprehensive services.

Hopefully, this initiative will become a showcase for a development approach that I have long wanted to do, and that is the combination of pastoral care with material provisions, with the particular focus on rebuilding families on top of building new communities. On the technical side, this initiative will also show proof that poverty reduction is doable at the family level, and not just poverty alleviation.

For feedback, email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639083159262


Storytelling caravan of Benguet folktales launched

Jennyline S. Tabangcura
(First of two parts)

TINONGDAN, Itogon- From the elder’s mouth to improved folk media, communities now have the chance to hear their time-honored folk stories.

The Department of Development Communication of Benguet State University launched a storytelling caravan based on the folktales published in the book “Ul-ulit Danun/Dad-at edNabaon (Stories of old: A Collection of Benguet Folktales)” at Barangay Tinongdan last February 23- 25. The activity was funded by the BSU-Center for Culture and Arts (BSU-CCA) led by Dr. Maria Luz D. Fang-asan.

Through an inter-agency cooperation with the Local Government Unit of Itogon, Barangay Tinongdan, SDS Computers, and Researchmate Inc., the team composed of BS Development Communication students piloted the storytelling caravan in SitioDomolpos and Lusod, both far-flung communities of Barangay Tinongdan, Itogon.

Ul-ulitDanun/Dad-at edNabaon is the Benguet Edition of Stories of Alapu Project of the Development Communication Society (DCS) of Benguet State University.

This project started in 2005 as an information education communication campaign of cultural stories among school children. It won DCS the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations in the Philippines in 2005.

A total of 700 books will be turned- over to the Benguet Division of the Department of Education this coming March. The publications contain folk stories that have been collected, validated, and processed in the recent years through continuous immersion in different communities of the research team of the Stories of Alapu Project.

Today’s edition titled Ul-ulitDanun/Dad-at edNabaon (Stories of old: A Collection of Benguet Folktales) is published by DCS through the sponsorship of by the Kabenguetan- Toronto.

Technical support was provided by the BSU-DDC, Researchmate Inc. and BSU- Institute of Social Research and Development. To ensure fund generation, the Shelter, Education, Ecology, Disease prevention Service (SEEDS) Inc. will market the book to intended buyers.

On February 13 and 20 copies of the book were turned over to LGU-Itogon aside from 20 copies more that were distributed in Domolpos and Lusod.

Stories of Alapu was conceptualized by the DCS in 2003 to record the folk stories which are slowly forgotten due to the disinterestedness of the youth in knowing the folk stories of their own community vis-à-vis the death of storytellers.

The project believes that folk stories are important because they carry community values, ideas, beliefs, personal experiences, and life- lessons of the indigenous peoples. Retelling them is part of a rich oral tradition that binds the community together.

The storytelling caravan is a campaign strategy that aims to bridge the gap between the elders and the children in a community retelling their folktales through innovative communication strategies.

According to the campaign Project Coordinator Igrelyn P. Pinos-an, the activity aims to come up with an efficient storytelling framework, which could be used for the succeeding similar activities around Benguet.

Moreover, Betty Listino, the Project Leader of the Stories of AlapuBenguet Edition, said that folk media is maximized in storytelling to revitalize our rich oral culture. In addition, the storytelling caravan serves as a channel to return to the communities the stories that have been gathered from them.

During the pilot campaign, the team performed two folk stories through narrative and participative stage plays. One is Tiktik and the Apesang Rock, a legend from Kabayan and Akie and the Maja, an Iowak tribes’ own folktale. These were performed in Ibaloi, a language used by the people of Domolpos and Lusod.

Both communities responded through spontaneous story sharing after the stage show and turn- over of the donated books.

“Spontaneity is an important ingredient of orality and stories are and should be shared in this manner,” says Listino.

She added that to have an effective communication project, it is important to involve the community in all its affairs.

“What we’ve seen is not just a community integrated program but an event that motivated the people to move on their own,” she stressed.

On the other hand, Rainel Lee Aquino, the book artist, observed that the community has its own effort in safeguarding and validating their stories especially if presented by others.

PablitoDenneng, of Domolpos realized that folktales can be shared to the whole community especially the youth through other means, deviating from traditional way of storytelling.

“The community share folk stories during community gatherings and occasions”, he said. “But we have the outright tendency to forget these folklores because we are more than busy working in our fields than contemplating on such stories.”

He also agreed that the folktales can be recorded and transformed into a material that is acceptable by the community. “Unfortunately, we cannot do this on our own,” he added.

This is what made the Domolpos Elementary School PTA president Roy Langag challenge his community folks to support each other in sending their children to school. “It is our responsibility as a community to help each other in providing adequate education to our people especially our children”, he proclaimed.

He stressed that although he is grateful to the BSU team, he said the people in his community must enhance their capability so that they themselves can sustain and pass on to the future generations the lessons that they want to instill through their stories.


CJHDevCo execs charged with estafa: Congress starts probe on Camp John Hay row

>> Thursday, March 22, 2012

By Alfred Dizon and Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY –The congressional committee on bases conversion is set to subpoena the books of Sobrepena-led companies, including the Camp John Hay Development Corp., during a hearing Wednesday to investigate the Sobrepena’s alleged questionable business practices and unpaid debts to government.

This, as CJHDevCo directors and officers led by Robert John Sobrepena, were charged with estafa for the “double sale” of a property here in the John Hay Special Economic Zone.

The Bases Conversion Development Authority, the government body that governs the JHSEZ, filed the criminal complaint with Department of Justice March 9.

This, after the BCDA discovered that LogHome No. 9, which was included among CJHDevCo’s dacion en pago, or payment-in-kind, to BCDA was earlier sold to another party, a fact reportedly concealed by CJHDevCo.

ArnelPaciano Casanova, BCDA president and chief executive, said CJHDevco defaulted on its lease payments for the JHSEZ, so BCDA agreed to a payment-in-kind arrangement in 2008.

BCDA later reportedly discovered the double-sale of one of the dacion en pago properties turned over by CJHDevCo.

“CJHDevCo has resorted to dirty tricks and tactics to evade paying its financial obligations, but we will not let them get away with their obligations,” Casanova said. “It appears that CJHDevCo is involved in fraudulent business practice.”

CJHDevco’s debts for the unpaid lease rentals of the JHSEZ have already reached P3 billion, a BCDA press statement said. `

“While the firm (CJHDevCo) claimed that it has made payments of P1.4 billion, which includes the value of the dacion en pago properties, the total lease that they should have paid over the last 16 years of leasing the JHSEZ should have been P4.4 billion. So there remains an unpaid balance of P3 billion.”

The BCDA chief executive also revealed that CJHDevCo has actually stopped remitting to BCDA the proceeds of the dacion en pagoproperties.

Records showed that CJHDevCo remitted a total of P4.6 million to BCDA as profit share of the dacion en pago properties for the years 2008 to 2009.

However, the Sobrepena-led lessee has allegedly stopped remitting any profit share since then.

“We have asked CJHDevCo several times to open its books to shed light on the non-remittance of the dacion en pagoproperties,” Casanova said, “but the Sobrepena group has refused repeatedly, despite numerous follow-up letters we sent them. There is obviously a lack of transparency in the financial transactions of CJHDevCo.”

Casanova said BCDA has “bent backwards” several times to accommodate CJHDevCo’s requests to restructure its debts. “In fact, BCDA has restructured its debts three times,” Casanova said, adding “and the only time CJHDevCo ever paid part its arrears was when the debts were restructured.”

CJHDevCo asked for a fourth restructuring late last year, but this time, BCDA rejected the proposal.

“CJHDevCo has had a history of asking for a restructuring every time it cannot pay,” Casanova said. “CJHdevco pays a small portion of the arrears upon the signing of the restructuring agreement. Then once agreement has been signed, it stops paying. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Addressing larger concerns, Casanova said the people of Baguio will be at the losing end if CJHDevCo’s debt is not collected, since Baguio City will be continually denied of 25% share in the rent proceeds -- to pay for the Baguio Convention Center and other development projects.
In Congress, the committee, chaired by Kalinga Rep. Manual Agyao, approved the motion of Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson, to subpoena the financial records of CJHDevco and all related Sobrepena companies and to conduct an independent audit of these companies.

CJHDevco currently owesP3 billion in unpaid lease rentals for leasing a portion of government property in the John Hay Special Economic Zone.

The Baguio City local government will receive P750 million if the BCDA, the government body that governs the JHSEZ, is able to collect the unpaid lease rentals of the delinquent lessee.

CJHDevco is owned and managed by Fil-Estate Corp., chaired by Robert Sobrepena, who also owns and manages the College Assurance Plan (CAP), the pre-need company known to have defaulted on its obligations to plan holders, and the Metro Rail Transit Development Corporation (MRTDevco), which currently owes the Department of Transportation and Communications more than P1 billion.

“CJHDevco’s debts place the government and the city of Baguio in a very disadvantageous position,” Singson stated, as he moved for the subpoena of financial documents of CJHDevCo. The John Hay lessee has not filed their financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since 2008.

CJHDevCo claimed losses while operating in the JHSEZ, and cited these as reasons for defaulting in their payment. The BCDA however revealed that CJHDevco has been declaring dividends while defaulting on their payments to government.

“They have not disclosed their books to us,” said Casanova, adding “At the heart of this is transparency. We want a private sector partner who we can trust and who is transparent to the public. CJHDevCo has been claiming losses without presenting proof and without stating the billions of revenues it generated as well.”

CJHDevCo has claimed losses in business opportunities due to the Supreme Court ruling nullifying tax incentives in the JHSEZ in 2003.

CJHDevCo also cited as reason for non-payment, the delay in the processing of their permits by the One-Stop Action Center.

BCDA refuted such claim because the ruling was already cured when BCDA actively lobbied in Congress, resulting in the signing of RA 9399 and RA 9400, two laws that granted tax amnesty and restored the tax incentives to JHSEZ locators. Hence, CJHDevco did not suffer any damages as it never paid any tax.

Casanova also said that the reason for the non-issuance of the permits to CJHDevco was a result of their own neglect, “They have not filed their income tax return and submitted financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since 2008,” Casanova said, adding “as a government agency, it is our policy to help enforce government laws. We require submission of income tax returns.”

Baguio Rep. Bernardo Vergara moved for the creation of a technical working group to address the concerns of both parties. The TWG was created with the provision of issuing a subpoena to all financial documents to CJHDevCo and its affiliated companies to shed light on their business practices.


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