AFP told: ‘Respect Sagada peace zone’

>> Monday, September 23, 2013

By Gina Dizon 

SAGADA, Mountain Province – Residents here told government authorities the status of Sagada as a peace zone should be respected even as they urged pullout of all armed groups and ban on operations, patrols, harassments, meetings, and carrying of firearms inside this tourist town.
Government forces recently figured in clashes with New People’s Army guerillas and bombed a tri -boundary in one of the six northern barangays.  

Villagers told police and  other government forces who went to Barangay Aguid early morning of  August 29 that  Sagada is a peace zone and that all armed forces are not allowed inside the community.

This, after Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr of the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said “Sagada cannot be treated anymore as a peace zone because the New People’s Army made it a training ground and a staging area to ambush our troops”.

A recent  fact finding mission conducted by the Commission on Human Rights, Sulong  Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other volunteers noted  that  villagers  feared going to the fields to tend to their crops, and children traumatized in bombings conducted by  the  Philippine  Armed Forces aided by the Regional Public Safety Batallion (RPSB) of the Philippine National Police.

The tri-boundary watershed located in three adjoining barangays of Aguid, Sagada and barangays  Dalican and Mainit of Bontoc was bombed by two MG530 choppers of the Philippine Air Force on August 30.

A day earlier, members from the RPSB-PNP reinforced by police from Sagada, Sabangan, and Besao validated a reported New People’s Army camp that led to the wounding of two policemen in an encounter with the NPA August 29 here at Bandung Hill.

The peace zone of Sagada was established in the late '80s by leaders of the  town affirmed by the town’s constituents in general assemblies when armed conflicts between elements of the NPA and the AFP resulted  to the death of three children-  four year old  Hardy Bagni Jr, 15 year old Kenneth Bayang and 12 year old Ben Tumapang  Jr- leading  the people with the church, leaders and the  local government  unit to  call for the demilitarization of the town from all armed groups.

In a related interview,Sagada native and Kapisanan ng Samahang Katutubong Pilipinas (KASAPI) secretary general Giovanni Reyes said any act or initiative that stops Sagada from being a peace zone should be abolished.  

Indigenous Peoples  representative to the  Sangguniang Bayan Jaime Dugao is one  with women leader and  SB  councilor Jane Bawing who affirmed  the demilitarization of  the town from all armed groups  saying that the  peace zone in Sagada should persist to keep the peace.

Villagers in the northern zone located adjacent to Abra  where  both armed  groups-NPA and AFP urged authorities to stop bombing their areas and that these would not  happen again. 


Ecija vice gov alarmed over Gapan City killings

PALAYAN CITY   – Nueva Ecija Vice Gov. Jose Gay Padiernos has expressed alarm over the spate of killings in Gapan City, his hometown, where he said a “reign of terror” prevails.

Speaking at the sidelines of last Monday’s session of the provincial board of which he is the presiding officer, Padiernos said the peace and order condition in Gapan City is now chaotic.

“It’s no joke. I thought it was just one or two killings but it seems there is now a pattern. It’s my moral obligation to find out the situation,” Padiernos told reporters.

He issued the statement after Supt. Bernard Orig, Gapan police chief, briefed him and several board members on recent high-profile killings in the city.

Over the past two months, the Gapan police recorded four high-profile killings, including the ambush attempt on Emerson Pascual where four people, including a rookie policeman, were killed, and the gun attack on councilor Danilo de Guzman last Aug. 31.

Aside from these, the city election officer was wounded in an ambush by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Jaen town on Aug. 23. 

The incidents prompted the provincial board to summon Orig to shed light on the crime situation in Gapan.

Orig said they have identified the assailants in the four incidents and have filed the appropriate charges.

He, however, said the string of killings did not mean a general breakdown of peace and order in the city. “There is no reign of terror in Gapan, that I assure you,” he said.

He said the attack on Pascual was a simple case of “history repeating itself,” apparently referring to the raid on a cockpit owned by the Pascuals in 2006 which led to the killings of Pascual’s brothers Erickson and Ebertson.

Mayor Maricel Natividad’s father, former mayor Ernesto Natividad, and 17 others were charged for the 2006 attack.

The elder Natividad was arrested while undergoing dialysis in Metro Manila a few months before the May 2013 elections. -- MG


Tribe rejects mining application in Kalinga

PASIL, Kalinga  –  The “Guinaang” tribal folks here rejected a mining application over at least 3,000 hectares of their ancestral lands.

In a manifesto of the Guinaang Indigenous People Organization (GIPO), the folks signified their rejection of the proposed mining application of the Makilala Mining Co. Inc.  (MMC).

The manifesto signed by 700 representatives of the tribes in six barangays in Pasil namely  Guinaang, Dangtalan, Pugong, Malucsad, Galdang and Bagtayan are asking the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to declare the MMC application “a failure”.   The manifesto specified that MMC did not get the IPs’ Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as provided by law.

The NCIP Kalinga was furnished a copy of the manifesto.

Barangay assemblies were conducted where  tribe members agreed to submit their written manifestation of rejection to the entry of MMC.

Embracing mining, they said,  “would mean permanently losing their rights over their ancestral land and their rights to develop the Tabia gold fields for their livelihood.”

GIPO also requested NCIP to inform the mining company  to refrain from approaching them  anymore.  They said they want to preserve their mining resources for their children and reserve their right to develop and control it to benefit their communities. 


Abra b’gay head slain after voters’ meeting

PIDIGAN, Abra -- Another village leader, this time, in this town was gunned down Tuesday morning after attending a voters' education meeting.

Police said barangay chairman Arnulfo Madriaga, 54, of barangay San Diego, Pidigan town  came from a Commission on Elections-led “Voters Education” meeting at the Pidigan Elementary School when waylaid by still unidentified gunmen at around 11:15 Tuesday morning.

Police said the village leader together with a barangay tanod Alfredo Barroga Blando, 27, were heading home aboard a motorcycle when assassins also on board another motorcycle without plate number tailed them and opened fire along barangay Pangtod, also in Pidigan.

The village leader sustained several bullet wounds from a Cal. 45 gun instantly killing him.

Probers said they found  12 fired cartridge cases of caliber .45 and one fired bullet of the same caliber where the village leader was waylaid.

Abra police director Sr. Supt. Benjamin Lusad said they have yet to determine the motive and identity of the assailant. 


P-Noy urged: Stop large-scale black sand mining in Cagayan

TUGUEGARAO CITY – President Aquino was urged by concerned Cagayanons including religious and environmental groups last week to stop large-scale black sand mining in Cagayan towns.

Father Manny Catral, the representative of Tuguegarao Bishop Sergio Utleg, and advocates from Cagayan met with Sec. Manuel Mamba, head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, on Monday to submit their concerns on the issue of black sand mining off the coast of Cagayan, specifically in the towns of Aparri, Buguey, Sta. Teresita, Gonzaga, Lallo, and Calamaniugan.

Mamba, who also heads the Cagayan Black Sand Mining Task Force, received Bishop Utleg’s letter to the President.

In the letter, Bishop Utleg said, “Mr. President, we are appealing to you to order the immediate closure of large-scale black sand mining Cagayan and the dismantling of their huge processing plants. We believe that these are blatant violations of Batasang Pambansa No. 265, Presidential Decree No. 1899, and Republic Act No. 7076.”

Black sand or magnetite mining has been a controversial issue in Cagayan for almost five years. Magnetite or iron sand is valued for its use in building and construction.

The substance keeps coasts from erosion and wave currents.

Evelyn Lacambra of Federation of Environmental Advocates of Cagayan (FEAC) and Concerned Laloeno Against Illegal Mining (CLAIM) added, “We are happy to have met Sec Mamba who we believe understand our concerns. We hope that this will result to the stoppage of the black sand mining in our province.”

Magnetite mining in Cagayan has been subject to several media video documentaries due to its impact on community livelihoods, especially that of fisher folk.

Meanwhile, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has issued a cease-and-desist order for black sand mining in the area, but falls short in implementing it.

“Unfortunately, the government lacks political will in exercising its police power in implementing these orders. This results in the abuse and misuse of our natural resources, while putting the livelihoods of communities in grave jeopardy,” said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

Alyansa Tigil Mina is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who oppose the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.

The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of EO 270-A, the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, and the passage of the AMMB. 


6 NIA execs relieved in in N. Ecija

CABANATUAN CITY – Six division managers of the National Irrigation Administration’s Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems (UPRIIS) in Nueva Ecija were relieved from their posts on Monday in the first wave of revamp under the leadership of NIA administrator Carlo Maranan.

Relieved were UPRIIS engineers Freddie Tuquero, Santos Viernes, Joselito Mangunay, Eugenio Conde, Carlito Gapasin, and Cristino Castillo.

UPRIIS operates the Pantabangan Dam, the country’s largest national irrigation system which irrigates 100,000 hectares of farmlands in Nueva Ecija and parts of Pampanga and Bulacan. -- MG


John Hay developer seeks arbitration in cases against BCDA

BAGUIO CITY-A lawyer of the Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJH DevCo) on Sept. 18 questioned the motive and funding of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to continuously file cases and place negative media releases and advertisements against the real estate developer of Camp John Hay instead of sitting down with the corporation in arbitration, as mandated in their agreements.

CJH DevCo spokesperson lawyer Manuel Ubarra noted that since 2010, BCDA president Arnel Casanova has filed five cases, and launched several media offensives, including full-page advertisements in major broadsheets, against the CJH DevCo, oftentimes resulting in libel cases embarrassing the government due to the accusations contained in the media releases of Casanova.

The developer highlighted a case that BCDA filed against CJH DevCo for squatting when it turned out that the subject security guards of CJH DevCo accused of sleeping in alleged BCDA property were in fact in property that was within the 247-hectare leased area of CJH DevCo.

In another case, the BCDA accused the CJH DevCo of a “double sale” when in fact, in the “alleged” first sale that BCDA was referring to, the supposed buyer executed an affidavit confirming that he had already abandoned his offer to purchase, refuting the baseless charge of the BCDA.

“There could be no double sale when there is no first sale to speak of,” Ubarra said.

In its latest case, the BCDA accused the CJH DevCo officials of malversation of public funds but the courts dismissed the 50 counts of malversation against CJH Devco directors and officers in this case for lack of merit.

The CJH DevCo appealed to the BCDA to save governments funds and instead follow the grievance procedure dictated by law and ordered by the RTC of Baguio.

The Regional Trial Court of Baguio ordered the BCDA to sit down in arbitration with CJH DevCo as early as 2011.

Casanova has expressed willingness to comply in statements to the media.


2 HS students cited for returning P.35 million

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya  – The Department of Education cited two high school juniors in Aritao town in this province now being hailed for their honesty.

Thanks to Jurel Culay-an and Jovelito Corpuz of the Aritao National High School, a businessman got back his leather pouch containing P350,000 in cash and checks.

Chief Insp. Chevalier Iringan, Aritao police chief, said the two students were having their early morning jog Sept. 12 when they stumbled upon a leather pouch in front of the public market.

Instead of getting the pouch, they proceeded to the nearby police detachment and reported their find. Policemen, in turn, were the ones who retrieved the pouch.

“We were very afraid then upon seeing the cash. It’s our first time to see such (an amount),” police quoted one of the students as saying.

A few hours later, a palay trader, who requested not to be identified, went to the police station and reported the loss of his pouch, which matched the one found by the students. 

The palay trader said his pouch – which contained P150,000 in cash and several checks – could have slipped from his lap when he alighted from his car to buy some goods at the public market. 

School principal Buena Fe Ramos said the honesty of the two students is worthy of emulation.

“We are very glad that they remain honest despite their financial difficulties. We are very proud of them,” she said.


GSIS resumes payment of EC survivorship benefit

By Marge Jorillo 

State pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Friday announced that it will start paying the suspended survivorship pension of qualified Employees’ Compensation (EC) pensioners and dependents, after the Employees Compensation Commission (ECC), resolved to lift the suspension of its payment beyond the five-year guaranteed period.
Under the Employees’ Compensation program implemented by ECC, the grant of EC survivorship pension, mandated under Presidential Decree 626, is among the benefits given to employees who died from work-connected accident, disease, or disability.
It will be recalled that in 2006, the previous GSIS administration suspended the payment of the pension after the five-year guaranteed period.
GSIS president and general manager Robert Vergara said qualified EC survivors whose pension has been stopped as of August 2012 and those who should be receiving their pension beginning August 2012, will benefit from the ECC resolution.
In letters sent recently to EC survivorship pensioners, GSIS requires surviving legitimate spouses (of deceased EC pensioners) to submit a certificate of no marriage (CENOMAR) issued by the National Statistics Office, stressing that the ECC board resolution disqualifies them from the benefit if they remarried.
All qualified EC survivorship pensioners will also be asked later to enroll for eCard, through which their monthly pension will be credited, after the GSIS has created their pension records.
When submitting document to the nearest GSIS office, pensioners are further advised to bring two valid government-issued identification cards and a copy of the letter from the GSIS for easy reference.
Under PD 626, EC contributions are paid solely by employers in case of work-related contingencies incurred by their employees, such as accident, disease, disability, or death. Employees do not contribute to the Employees Compensation Insurance Fund.
The GSIS  and the Social Security System  are the implementing agencies and fund managers of the EC Insurance Fund for the public and private  sectors, respectively.

Questions on the EC survivorship pension may be directed to the GSIS Contact Center at 847-4747. Qualified EC pensioners may also send an email to


19 injured in Ilocos Sur road accident

SANTIAGO, Ilocos Sur – Nineteen people were injured here when a passenger bus hit a parked oil tanker which in turn struck a tour bus carrying senior citizens Thursday, police said.

Senior Insp. Roderick Vintero, acting Santiago police chief, said the senior citizens had come from Bulacan and were on a “Lakbay-Aral” tour of the Ilocos provinces.

Those injured, mostly from the tour bus, were brought to the Candon General Hospital.           


Pay-parking system eyed at Burnham Park roads

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – The city government is eyeing the operation of a “spill over pay parking” along the roadsides of certain areas within Burnham Park on an experimental basis.
In Administrative Order No. 128, Mayor Mauricio Domogan said the city will explore the possibility of using Jose Abad Santos Drive, the Lake Drive and the side street near the picnic groove including the area adjacent to the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Children’s and Women’s Desk Office as “spillover pay parking areas.”
The mayor said that at present these areas are being used as free parking spaces for vehicles but it is high time for the city to start collecting parking fees to be used for maintenance of the park.
At present, the city is using the site of the old auditorium as pay parking space for park goers but the area is not enough to accommodate the volume of vehicles.
In his order, the mayor decreed that the city through the city environment and parks management office- Burnham Park office (CEPMO-BPO) will have “full control, supervision and jurisdiction over the experimental parking operations and maintenance at the three selected roads inside Burnham Park.”
He said the parking rates and other policies to be enforced will be in consonance with Ordinance No. 3 series of 2008 with the operating policies to implement the experimental roadside pay parking to be formulated by the CEPMO-BPO.
The mayor said all of the private traffic volunteers manning the said roadside parking areas should leave the sites as the CEPMO-BPO will assign regular personnel to man the parking areas.

He also tasked the city police to assist in the implementation of the parking policies and the city engineering office to layout the parking spaces and provide adequate road signs to ensure the smooth flow of traffic in the area at all times.


Chess tournament marks Cordillera peace accord

 By Ramon Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- A modest team chess tournament marked a historic event  now hardly remembered:  the signing of a peace accord by  then President Corazon Aquino and rebel priest, Fr. Conrado Balweg as leader of the Cordillera people’s Liberation Army (CPLA), on Sept. 13, 1986 at the Mt. Data Lodge in Bauko, Mt.Province.  

That government- CPLA peace accord led to the issuance by President Aquino on July 16, 1987 of Executive Order 220 creating the Cordillera Administrative Region, the supposed interim set-up complete with national government agencies  mandated to prepare this upland region for autonomy.

The anniversary of the establishment of the interim region is a big event, marked,  among others, by the travel of a “unity gong” through the  six  provinces and one city composing the  same. The forging of the peace pact at Mt. Data  is now hardly observed, except perhaps by a team chess tournament played at the sixth floor of the Maharlika Building here last Sept, 13-14.

Team  Apayao,  bannered by retired Bureau of Plant Industry superintendent Onofre Verzola, chalked up nine points to emerge champion  in the four-per-team, six-team single round robin series.

Team Philhealth, dispatched by lawyer Jerry  Ibay, regional vice-president of the government medical insurance agency and captained by Vincent Abellanoza,  piled up eight points for second place in the two-day competition.

Team Mt. Province, one of five teams symbolically representing the otherwise unrepresented Cordillera provinces and composed of students sent by Dr. Elma Dalog-Donaal, principal of the Baguio City National high School, salvaged third place with a seven-point aggregate.

“It is also worth mentioning that five of the school’s chess players qualified for the Milo Chess Olympics scheduled in Cebu City by the end of September,” noted former regional agrarian reform director Henry Aliten, now president of the BAMIKBA (Benguet-Apayao-Mt. Province-Ifugao-Kalinga-Baguio-Abra), a new non-government organization which sponsored the tournament.

The Milo Chess Olympics-bound players are Joshua Magno, Mark Quitlong, Federico Banutan, Ricky Docejo and Vince Concepcion, with Ariel Abellada as coach.

Aliten said the awarding of prizes and trophies will be done in consultation with city councilor Faustino Olowan who  co-sponsored the tournament   


Marine, cop slain in Zambo siege home in P’sinan

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan  – The body of Marine Pfc. Jeffrey Castillo, 24, arrived Monday night in his residence in Barangay Maniboc here.

His dream to build a modest house for his family here and to marry his girlfriend ended with his death in the standoff between military and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) forces in Zamboanga City.

Another Pangasinense, PO2 Christopher Hernaez, a member of the police Special Action Force who was also killed in the fighting, earlier had returned home in Barangay Bantog, San Quintin town.

Hernaez also had plans to marry his girlfriend in December.

Castillo’s last phone call to his mother, Virginia, 49, was on Sept. 13.

As he usually did, he wanted to tell his family his daily activities and to check on them, too.

In that phone call, he asked his family to go to his girlfriend’s house the next day, talk to her family and set their wedding date in January next year, coinciding with the birthday of his fiancĂ©e’s mother.

But tragedy befell Castillo at dawn of Sept. 14. It was his uncle, Benjamin Sison, who got the bad news in a phone call. 

“He left us here a very strong person and he returned home already a cadaver,” Mrs. Castillo said, in between sobs.

Castillo last visited his hometown on July 15 to Aug. 7.

He spent time with his girlfriend and other male friends. He was assigned in Misamis Oriental and was only deployed in Zamboanga City to help repulse the MNLF rebels loyal to NurMisuari.

Castillo’s father, Savior, 53, a barangay councilman, said he hopes the hostilities in Zamboanga would end “so that there would be no more deaths to happen.”

“It’s difficult if we fight our own government and I hope those supporting the rebels would think about innocent people,” he added.

He described his son as a kind person who wanted to help his four siblings get a good education and who also dreamed of finishing the stalled construction of their modest house.

Castillo will be buried on Sept. 26 at the public cemetery here. Hernaez, meanwhile, will be honored in PNP burial rites in front of the San Quintin town hall tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the family of Army Cpl. Mark HimsonGalemaCaranzo, who was also killed in Zamboanga City, is awaiting the arrival of his remains in Burgos, Isabela tomorrow.

Caranzo, who left his wife Anna Lissa, 31, and a three-year-old son, was to turn 30 on Oct. 31. EV with Raymund Catindig


Garbage still a problem in Baguio City; plans aired

BAGUIO CITY – Garbage disposal is still a major problem of the city government here even as Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan said the city government will address the problem even if initial solutions are already in place.
The local chief executive bared this after the city council approved the proposed purchase of two compactors that would help in significantly reducing the volume of residual waste being hauled out of the city and save on manpower and government resources for the purpose.
“We will not stop looking for complementary solutions to our garbage problem so that we will be able to effectively and efficiently address the solid waste management problem caused by the rapid growth in the city’s population in the coming years,” Domogan said.

He added establishment of an engineered sanitary landfill in the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) area will continue to benefit local governments.
Aside from the existing operation of its two Environmental Recycling System (ERS) machines capable of converting around 48 tons of biodegradable waste into high-grade compost fertilizer daily, the city government plans to purchase two compactor trucks that are capable of handling around three truckloads of residual waste thereby helping reduce the volume of waste being hauled to the engineered sanitary landfill in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan.
Domogan said the city solid waste management board is also currently evaluating several proposals on waste-to-energy which will complement the existing programs on solid waste collection and disposal that could eventually result in the abandonment of the hauling of waste outside the city and the utilization of the power produced by the city’s waste for public purposes among others.
According to him, waste segregators who earn income from the non-biodegradable waste that they collect from the 19 collection stations in the city will still continue to earn their income even if all the appropriate interventions on solid waste management will be put in place because they will still be sorting out the garbage in the barangays.
With the projected purchase of two compactor trucks, Domogan said there will be slight change in the garbage disposal system whereby the segregation of waste will still be done at source before the secondary segregation at the barangay level before the same will be transferred to the collection stations.
Domogan said the overall success of the city’s garbage collection and disposal concerns lies on cooperation of local residents in segregation of garbage at source and bringing out of their segregated waste only during the scheduled collection days in their barangays.
The city mayor said despite the limited garbage trucks being used for the collection of waste in the 19 collection stations, the city is able to collect the garbage during the scheduled collection days although there are some delays which are not deliberate, thus, the need for understanding among the residents in the different parts of the city. -- Dexter A. See


Manhunt on for suspect in engineer’s rob-shooting

CAMP OLIVAS, Pampanga  – Police are hunting down one of the four men who shot and wounded a project engineer during a robbery in front of an elementary school in the City of San Fernando this province last Thursday.

Senior Supt. Oscar Albayalde, Pampanga police director, said one of the four robbers who took P245,000 from engineer Pedro Navarro has been identified by several witnesses.

Albayalde, however, refused to identify the suspect as a police team is now tracking him down.

“If we could arrest the identified suspect, then we could arrest his cohorts,” he said.

Four armed men on board two motorcycles robbed Navarro in front of the San Fernando Elementary School as he had just withdrawn P245,000 from a Land Bank of the Philippines branch.

Albayalde said Navarro was to deliver the money to his project manager when he was robbed.

Fearing for his life, Navarro handed over the money. However, one of the suspects shot him in the right hand and left leg before fleeing, Albayalde said. 

Police recovered a deformed slug and a spent shell from a 9-mm handgun at the crime scene.

Navarro was rushed to the Makabali Memorial Hospital and later transferred to the San Fernando Hospital.


UN, Ban Toxics project to stop mercury use in mining

By Angelica Pago

Government agencies band together with BAN Toxics and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in preparing for a project that hopes to eliminate mercury use in artisanal and small scale-mining in the country.

The Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB), in partnership with UNIDO, BAN Toxics, and the Department of Health (DOH) are now working on a project dubbed as ‘Improve the Health and Environment of Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) Communities in the Philippines by Reducing Mercury Emission’.

The primary aim of the project is to strengthen national capacity to manage mercury by establishing a formal national institution and training of key stakeholders.

Representatives from the DENR-EMB, DOH, local government units and small-scale miners groups attended the project’s inception workshop held last August 28-29, 2013 at the BSA Twin Towers in Ortigas, Pasig City.

“We fully support the Philippines’ efforts to address the issue of mercury use in small-scale mining. This project is a testament to the efforts being undertaken by the Philippines in taking a lead in solving this difficult and complex issue,” said UNIDO representative Ludovic  Bernaudat.

Through the project, a national ASGM institution will be established to provide training and certification for miners aiming to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of mercury in their practice.

The project will also develop and deliver health education, techniques, and technology training programs, including early recognition and identification of mercury poisoning at the community level.

“The beneficiaries of this project are the communities around small-scale mining areas. If we are able to change the mining methods, the approach, and bring a common vision and goal among the miners and the community, BAN Toxics and its partners would have secured a strong measure of success and pave the way for a long-term solution to the problem,” said BAN Toxics executive director Atty. Richard Gutierrez during the project’s inception workshop.

According to a study conducted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), ASGM is the single largest mercury emitting sector in the Philippines, having been recognized to discharge about 70 metric tons or more than 30 percent of the country’s annual mercury releases.

The indiscriminate use of mercury in ASGM contributes to serious long-­term environmental and health problems burdened with social, technical and institutional issues, as well as the implementation of regulations.

In 2006, the United Nations reported that miners in the Philippines are found to have mercury levels up to 50 times above World Health Organization limits.

BAN Toxics! is an independent non-government environmental organization focused on the advancement of environmental justice, children's health, and toxics elimination.

Working closely with government agencies, partner communities and other NGOs in both the local and international levels, BAN Toxics endeavors to reduce and eliminate the use of harmful toxins through education campaigns, training and awareness-raising, and policy-building and advocacy programs.


Release of jailed party list rep, 10 others urged

TARLAC CITY --  A former partylist congressman on Wednesday called on  police here to immediately release Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap and 10 others arrested Thursday during a fact finding mission in Hacienda Luisita, owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III.

Anak pawis partylist president Rafael Mariano said authorities should drop charges against Hicap because the case is baseless and illegal.

"The Hacienda Luisita 11 did do not anything wrong. Finding the truth and upholding justice for landless farm workers is not and will never be crime against agrarian justice," Mariano said.

Initial reports reaching human rights group Karapatan and the national headquarters of Anakpawis in Quezon City showed that around 11:45 am last Tuesday Hicap and his team had just came from a dialogue with the Philippine Army  at Brgy. Balete when policemen nabbed them.
Arrested along with Hicap were Danilo Ramos, spokesperson of Anakpawis party-list, Florida Sibayan, acting chairperson of Alyansang mga Manggagawa ng Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita, lawyer-nun and Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, artists Ericson Acosta and Kerima Acosta, Hicap’s driver Rene Blazan, Hicap’s staff at the House of Representatives Kala San Juan, para legal worker Ronald Matthew Gustillo, agrarian reform beneficiaries Luz Versola and Angelina Nunag.

Hicap and 10 other colleagues were detained inside the PNP Macabulos headquarters since Tuesday morning and as of press time, they Are now being brought to Tarlac City Regional Trial Court . 

Hicap'sgroup are now facing illegal assembly, trespass on dwelling, malicious mischief and assault to people in authority charges. 


Another wind energy project eyed in Ilocos

PAGUDPUD, Ilocos Norte – A leading energy firm is eyeing another windmill project here, which could be the third in the province after the Bangui Northwind power plant and the ongoing $300-million, 87-megawatt wind project in adjoining Burgos town.

This time, the northernmost town of Pagudpud is being considered as the site for the wind-generated energy project of the Energy Development Corp. (EDC), the country’s largest geothermal producer.

The Lopez group-owned EDC, formerly under the state-run Philippine National Oil Co., is also behind the Bangui and Burgos windmill projects. The $75-million Bangui wind farm is the first in Southeast Asia.

Reports said EDC experts are conducting feasibility studies and site inspections in Pagudpud for the proposed wind energy facility.

Pagudpud is one of Ilocos Norte’s major tourism destinations as it boasts fine white sand beaches and its long and winding coastal highway linking Ilocos (Region 1) and Cagayan Valley (Region 2).

Last April, local, energy and EDC officials led the groundbreaking of the windmill project in Burgos town, described to be bigger than the one in Bangui where the first wind farm project assisted by a Danish firm was inaugurated in 2005.

The Burgos windmill, expected to be operational next year, covers some 600 hectares across the villages of Saoit, Poblacion and Nagsurot. It is designed to generate at least 230 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to supply a million households. 

According to experts, wind farms, besides becoming major tourist attractions in the province, are the safest and environment-friendly source of energy. Its utilization also reduces the country’s dependence on imported oil for power generation.


Bauko eyes income- generating projects

BAUKO, Mountain Province – Mayor Abraham B. Akilit said the local government’s executive-legislative agenda is focusing on income-generating projects and maximizing the use of the town’s rich resources to spur economic growth and provide people with sustainable sources of livelihood.
Akilit said one of the town’s resources that could be taken advantage of by entrepreneurs is the clean and potable water coming from the watershed.
Aside from enhancing ecotourism destinations in  barangays, the local chief executive disclosed studies are now underway for the commercial production of bottled water that will be supplied to neighboring towns of Mountain Province and Benguet to generate income.
Akilit said the trend among local governments nowadays is self-sustenance, thus, the need to venture on income-generating projects that could help uplift the status of the local government and improve the living condition of the populace.
According to him, water is a problem in the locality despite the presence of abundant sources of water in the forested communities, thus, there is need to provide those residents along the major roads with the necessary supply of potable water through the said business while the local government is working out a long-term solution to the problem, particularly the establishment of the necessary water district.
Akilit said another venture that the municipal government is seriously considering is the prospect of partnering with investors for the establishments of minihydro power plants along the Chico and Agno rivers which will greatly help in generating increased income for the barangay and municipal governments, provide employment to qualified residents and guarantee increased sources of livelihood for the people.
Several prospective investors have already signified their intention to closely work with the local government for the conduct of the mandatory feasibility study to determine the viability of putting up the minihydro power plant in either the Chico or Agno rivers or both so that the same will be undertaken through the provisions of the build, operate and transfer scheme.
Bauko hosts the Mount Data National Park and is considered the headwaters of the Chico, Agno, Magat and Abra rivers that provide abundant water supply for domestic, irrigation, industrial, power generation and agricultural purposes, especially for lowland communities.

Akilit said the only way by which local governments could improve the living condition of their constituents is to guarantee that they have sustainable sources of income that they could appropriate for the benefit of their constituents, especially the enhancement of health care services and the provision of stable sources of employment and livelihood for them to hurdle the difficulties of earning a living for their families. – Dexter See


Contracts awarded to DOH, DPWH bidders

By Pamela Fiar-od Dungala

BONTOC, Mountain Province – The district engineering office here is set to implement four Health Facilities Enhancement Programs of the Department of Health in four barangays of this province.

District Engineer Wilbur B. Likigan bared this saying  contracts for these projects have already been awarded to qualified bidders although winners were not identified.

The HFEP is a program of the DOH to construct and upgrade existing health facilities for the poor to have easy access to quality health care and emergency services, Likigan added.

Fund release for the civil works component of this program was charged against Department of Public Works and Highways budget in the 2013 General Appropriations Act.

A Department of Budget and Management-DOH-DPWH Joint Circular which  states guidelines on implementation of the HFEP.

Under the program, the DPWH shall construct, repair or upgrade health facilities listed by DOH and turnover completed health facilities to DOH upon the latter’s issuance of certificate of acceptance.

The first batch of the HFEP in  this province for this year includes construction of Sadanga rural health unit building and Bekigan barangay health station in Sadanga and expansion of Malibcong barangay health station in Bontoc and Natonin rural health unit.

These were chosen after these barangays met guidelines stipulated in the Joint Circular of DBM, DOH and DPWH, assistant district engineer Charles C. Sokoken said. 

These barangays have large number of poor families/households under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and have no other private health facilities that can provide affordable health care, he added. 


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