More cases set vs NCIP, Apayao pols over dam

>> Tuesday, February 28, 2023

For ‘threats, estafa, falsification of documents, corruption’ 

                                         Kabugao, Apayao                                                

By Karlston Lapniten

BAGUIO CITY – Lawyers representing community folks in Kabugao, Apayao in multiple cases filed against employees of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and local officials are set to file more cases against the same persons over the Kabugao dam issue.
    Since the start of February, the collaboration of lawyers said they have been receiving reports their clients were being threatened and harassed by the same accused persons in two criminal and administrative cases filed last December and January.
    “We cannot disclose the nitty-gritty yet but we received at least 20 complaints of threats and harassment, and we have evidences to back them,” said lawyer Ryan James Solano, spokesman of the group.
    The collaboration of law offices includes those of RA Cortes, Molintas and Partners, Donaal and Partners, Lidua, Daping and Partners, BMW Law; Comafay Law and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).
    The prior cases were filed before the Office of the Ombudsman and the Provincial Prosecutor for estafa, falsification of documents, and use of falsified documents as well as for acts penalized by the Ombudsman Act and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
    Charged in these cases are NCIP Cordillera employees which include NCIP Acting Regional Director lawyer Atanacio Addog, engineers Benito Bangao and Kenny Pulog; Fritzie D. Depdepen, Karla Dazzle Marie Mallillin, Agnes Gabuat, lawyer Geoffry Calderon, Genaro Failoga, Jezryl Inopia, and Carter Ayabo.
    Also named accused are Apayao Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative John Anthony Amid and Kabugao Vice - Mayor Fabulous Tucjang.
    “After receiving their subpoenas, some of these unscrupulous persons had the nerve to go to our clients and threaten them with counter charges and speak ill,” said Solano of RA Cortes Law.
    Being public officials, the cases being prepared this time will be filed before the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Office of the Ombudsman, aside from possible criminal charges.
    “We challenge these despicable people to walk the talk and file the case, if any. We are more than willing to face them in the proper forum,” he said.
    The initial complaints filed earlier stemmed from a December 2019 community resolution naming several persons as “representatives” in negotiating with Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corporation (Pan Pacific) over its proposed 150-megawatt Gened-1 Hydroelectric Power Project (HEPP).
    Pan Pacific, a hydropower firm, intends to build two mega dam facilities along the Apayao River, affecting the ancestral domain of the Isnag.
    Many of the complainants claimed their signatures were forged as they did not sign any resolution to that effect, while others claimed they were deceived into signing the document as a receipt for government aid.
Several others who had signatures were also long dead. Some community elders even executed an affidavit denying having signed documents which agreed to the construction of the dam.
    The NCIP regional review team, which reviewed the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process conducted, also noticed the evidently falsified signatures, repeated signatories, and dubious signatures.
    It also observed irregularities such as holding FPIC activities outside the ancestral domain, and failure to observe consensus-building processes, among others.
    However, the formal review and opposition of the community were brushed aside by then NCIP regional director Marlon Bosantog.
The questioned resolution was then used to usher the processing of the FPIC which led to the issuance of the Certification Precondition (CP), now also a subject of complaint at the NCIP Commission En Banc.
Bosantog and accused Addog and Calderon, were declared “persona non grata” through two Kabugao community resolutions in 2021.
The group of lawyers also received information that the government officials charged in the cases filed purportedly asked Pan Pacific for P3 million to bankroll their legal fees.
Additionally, Solano said the persons charged even accordingly boasted to communities that cases filed will eventually be dismissed because they are well-backed by politicians and many lawyers.
“That is a huge insult to the justice system and an arrogant display of disregard to the rule of law,” he said.
On top of the cases being prepared, the collaboration of lawyers is expected to file seven separate more cases before the Ombudsman and the Provincial Prosecutor.
The lawyers also asked the Regional State Prosecutor to order the entire Apayao Provincial Prosecutor’s Office to inhibit from handling the case.
Proposed right at the heart of Apayao’s capital town of Kabugao, Gened-1 and the 250-MW Gened-2 HEPP threaten to submerge the Kabugao and Tawit ancestral domains.
Both are projects of San Miguel Corp. (SMC)-controlled Pan, one of the eight Philippine conglomerates and corporations that benefited from the $3-billion loan agreement the Duterte administration entered with China in 2016.
According to a June 2021 FPIC report, the Gened-1 dam, if it pushes through, will submerge communities in the barangays or villages of Bulu, Magabta, Poblacion, and Waga in Kabugao town, and Lt. Balag in Pudtol town. At least five other Kabugao villages will also be directly affected.
Aside from displacing hundreds of village folks, Gened-1 will destroy the Isnag burial grounds and their traditional fishing grounds and farms, according to the complainants. It will also severely alter the biodiversity of the Apayao, dubbed the “last nature frontier of the Cordillera.”
    Apayao is listed as a “key biodiversity area” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The province’s pristine biodiversity was brought to the spotlight in 2011 when sightings of Philippine eagles were confirmed in the forests of Kabugao, Calanasan, and Pudtol. 


Agoo cop held for slay of NE councilor-lover

GUIMBA, Nueva Ecija — A policeman in La Union province was arrested after he was tagged in the killing of a councilor of Sto. Domingo town in this province, authorities said Tuesday, Feb. 14.
    Patrolman Saddam Pascual, 32, was arrested around 1 a.m. on Monday in Barangay Sicsican, Talavera town, also in Nueva Ecija, according to Lt. Col. Reynold Macabitas, Guimba police chief.
    Pascual was arrested during a hot pursuit operation following the killing of Councilor Angelique Alexis Paulino, 33, a resident of Barangay Sto. Rosario in Sto. Domingo.
    While there was no security camera on the crime scene, Macabitas said footage from other security cameras near the place and up to Rosales town in Pangasinan province, corroborated the testimonies of eyewitnesses that the suspect was spotted in the vicinity of the victim’s residence prior to the incident.
    Paulino was shot dead while driving her gray sedan on Sunday, investigators said.
    Her bullet-riddled body was found inside the car that was recovered in Barangay Maturanoc here.
    According to the authorities, the suspect was on board a red hatchback car at the time of the killing.
    “May mga testigo na bago mangyari ang pamamaril. Nakita mismo yung suspek doon sa vicinity ng bahay ng biktima inside his private car [There are witnesses prior to the shooting. The suspect inside a car was seen in the vicinity of the victim’s house],” Macabitas told the Inquirer.
    “Nakita naman namin sa mga CCTV after the incident, nakita namin po yung sasakyan na ginamit mismong yung sasakyan ng suspect [We saw the incident in the CCTV, we saw the suspect’s car],” he added.
    An investigation revealed that Pascual and Paulino had been in a relationship for more than five years.
    At one point, the suspect allegedly turned jealous, which led to the couple’s split, an initial investigation showed.   
    Macabitas said they recovered the murder weapon, a .9-mm service pistol.
    Apart from the criminal case filed by the local police here, the La Union provincial police office will also file administrative cases against Pascual, Macabitas said.


Mang Inasal delights customers in Panagbenga Festival

Mang Inasal, the country's Grill Expert, delighted tourists and locals who celebrated the return of the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City.
    Dine-in customers were treated to Mang Inasal’s Ihaw-Sarap Panagbenga Festival Deals which featured two combo meals with the new 8-ounce add-on Extra Creamy Halo-Halo.
    Meanwhile, takeout and delivery customers enjoyed free Mang Inasal tumblers for every order of  Family Fiesta during a week-long promo that started on February 20.
    Mall-goers of SM City Baguio were also treated with free Palabok and Extra Creamy Halo-Halo on Feb. 23 and 24, respectively.
    Mang Inasal likewise joined the Grand Street Dance Parade on Feb. 25 and the culminating Grand Float Parade on Feb. 26.
    In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Mang Inasal's float is a testament to its 20 years of grilling expertise. It symbolizes Mang Inasal’s thrust to continuously give value for money and food superiority to its customers. The float highlighted Mang Inasal’s best-selling Chicken Inasal and Extra Creamy Halo-Halo made from fresh flowers.
    Want more Mang Inasal exclusives NOW? Visit for the latest updates, for delivery deals, and follow Mang Inasal on social media!


PNP group probes ambush of Cagayan vice mayor, 5 aides

SANTIAGO CITY — Police in Cagayan Valley Region created a special investigation task group to speed up investigation on the killing of Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda and five others ambushed morning of Feb. 19 in Sitio Kinacao, Barangay Baretbet, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.
    In a statement, Brigadier General Percival Rumbaoa, Cagayan Valley police chief, said police units from the region, including those in Aparri and Bagabag town, were tapped to form the task group.
    The Philippine National Police on Tuesday disclosed investigators were looking into three possible motives — political, business and personal ambush in Nueva Vizcaya that killed Alameda and five others.
     PNP chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said part of the investigation was to determine if the perpetrators were indeed policemen as witnesses said they were wearing police uniforms when they blocked a road in Bagabag town and eventually fired at the vehicle of Alameda.
    But Col. Jovencio Badua Jr., deputy regional director for operations of the Cagayan Valley police, said Thursday that contrary to reports that assailants were in police uniform, witnesses told investigators the armed men wore military uniforms.
    The armed men who ambushed Alameda and his five companions were wearing Army uniforms and speaking in Ilocano and Tagalog, officials said Thursday.
    Badua said probers showed two pixelized uniforms of the police and military to the witnesses.
    “The witnesses pointed to the uniform of the military and said the assailants were in ‘full-pack,’ ” Badua said.
    He said the chassis number of the Mitsubishi Adventure believed used as a getaway vehicle in the crime was registered to a person in Metro Manila.
    The vehicle was found burned in Solano town.
    Col. Jean Fajardo, spokesperson for the Philippine National Police, said some witnesses heard the armed men talking in Ilocano and Tagalog, although the witnesses could not identify the suspects.
    She said they also received information that there were two civilians who took videos of the shooting, but the gunmen seized their phones.
    Alameda and his five aides, including a cousin, were on their way to Pasay City in Metro Manila to attend the 27th Vice Mayors’ League national convention and election of officers when waylaid in Baretbet at 8:45 a.m.
    Initial investigation showed the armed men were clad in police uniforms and wore masks.
    The police said the assailants also used a white Mitsubishi Adventure with a red license plate number SFN 713, indicating that it was a government car.
    The killers reportedly barricaded the section of street in front of MV Duque Elementary School, and opened fire on Alameda’s black Hyundai Starex van when it arrived, causing the victims to die on the spot.
    Alameda’s slain companions were his cousin and driver, John Duane Alameda, 46; and his aides, Alexander delos Angeles, 47; Alvin Abel, 48; Abraham Ramos Jr., 48; and Ismael Nanay, all residents of Aparri.
    Rumbaoa denied that the culprits were policemen.
    In an interview on Monday, Major Oscar Abrogena, Bagabag police chief, said the alleged getaway vehicle of the killers was found that Sunday afternoon abandoned and burned at Barangay Uddiawan in Solano, some 19 km from the crime scene.
He said they had coordinated with the Land Transportation Office to trace the owner of the car based on its chassis and engine numbers.
“We would trace the registered owner, and in case it was sold, we would look for the last buyer. This will help in the investigation,” Abrogena said.
The initial red plate was traced to a pickup car owned by a school in Nueva Vizcaya, which indicated that it could be fake.
The Cagayan chapter of the Vice Mayors’ League of the Philippines condemned the killings.
In a separate interview, Tuguegarao City Vice Mayor Bienvenido de Guzman, the league’s chapter president, described the ambush as “dastardly acts” of the killers.
He asked witnesses to come out and help authorities in the investigation.
De Guzman described Alameda as “a person with passion and commitment to serving his constituents.”
Alameda is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, who is a former Aparri councilor, and their two children.
In 2010, Alameda was first elected as vice mayor for two consecutive terms until 2016.
In 2016, he ran for mayor but lost.
He was again elected vice mayor in 2019.
Alameda was reelected in the May 2022 elections and would have served until 2025.
Alameda and his companions John Duane Alameda, Abraham Ramos Jr., Ismael Nanay, Alexander delos Angeles and Alvin Abel were aboard a black Hyundai Starex van when a group of six masked individuals in police uniforms gunned them down at around 8:45 a.m. Sunday in Sitio Kinacao in Bagabag.
On Monday, PNP spokesperson Fajardo said local investigators were able to lift some numbers in the chassis number of the burned vehicle.
 “Based on the initial finding of the forensic group in Nueva Vizcaya, it appears that the chassis number and the engine number of the burned Mitsubishi Adventure had been tampered and defaced, however the Highway Patrol Group in Nueva Vizcaya was able to lift some chassis number,” Fajardo said.
 For his part, PNP chief information officer Col. Redrico Maranan said there was coordination made with the Land Transportation Office and it was found out that the government plate that was seen attached to that vehicle was registered to a vehicle that was currently impounded at the Nueva Vizcaya State University.
In other developments, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. condemned Tuesday the ambush of Alameda and his companions.
Police have identified the registered owner of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) believed used by the assailants in the ambush of Alameda and his five companions.
Fajardo said the special investigation task group (SITG) has the name of the owner of the Mitsubishi Adventure, which was found burned in Solano town on Monday morning.
“We coordinated with the LTO. We have the name of the registered owner,” Fajardo said, referring to the Land Transportation Office.
She said the SITG is coordinating with local police units in locating the registered owner, whose name is being withheld pending results of the investigation.
Initial investigation showed the vehicle’s chassis and engine numbers were tampered with and defaced.
The LTO-Nueva Vizcaya said the killers used a fake motor vehicle plate as the original plates, similar to the one attached to the Mitsubishi Adventure, are intact and safe in the LTO storage room.
Marietta Flores, chief of the LTO-Nueva Vizcaya, said the two original plates SFN 713 have been in the possession of the LTO since March 2019.
“Records showed that the original plate number belonged to a junked vehicle of the Nueva Vizcaya State University. Since the vehicle was junked in 2018, the university deposited the plates in our office on March 5, 2019,” Flores said.
Probers are also searching for footage of surveillance cameras installed all the way to Aparri in Cagayan to track the assailants, she said. -- By Villamor Visaya Jr., Glen Jacob Jose, Victor Martin and Aldwin Quitasol


Cops rescue kidnap victim in Abra town

LAGANGILANG, Abra -- A 19-year-old woman was sent home safely after Abra cops rescued her from her kidnapper who held her hostage here at Sitio Bagong Bario, Barangay Nagtupacan on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
    Reports submitted to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Mafelino A. Bazar identified the suspect as Errol Pejanco Bolaños, 44, farmer and resident here.
    Town police said they received a phone call 8:27 p.m.from a concerned citizen asking for assistance regarding a hostage-taking incident.
    Police immediately responded and found the suspect holding the victim at gunpoint against her will.  
Lagangilang Mayor Rovelyn Villamor and Col. Maly Cula, Abra police chief reportedly conducted negotiations with the suspect.
    After several hours of negotiations, police were able to subdue the suspect and free the victim at around 12:15 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
    Cops tried to pacify the victim but the suspect was reportedly uncontrollable and fired a gun at police.
    Col. Maly C. Cula, Abra police director immediately ordered other Abra police units to provide additional assistance and help in negotiating with the suspect.
    While negotiations with the suspect were on, police subdued and arrested Bolanos. 
    They also seized a Cal. 22 handgun and 20 bullets from his possession.
    Three empty bullet shells were found and taken by police at incident site.
    The rescued victim was immediately brought to Abra Provincial Hospital for medical assessment and debriefing.
    The arrested suspect and confiscated items were brought to Lagangilang police station for disposition.
    Charges for kidnapping, serious illegal detention and firearms were filed against Bolanos.


4 nabbed for P227-K shabu in Bontoc

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Four “drug personalities” were arrested while over P227,000 worth of shabu was confiscated when a search warrant was served here in Barangay Bontoc Ili Feb. 19.
    Reports to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Mafelino A. Bazar identified the arrested suspects as Gregorio Caramto Binmuyag, 53; Alexander Faclangen Pachong, 46; James Awing Bagni II, 34 and Mathew Khayad Sangway, 49.
    Elements of Bontoc police, Provincial Intelligence Unit and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Cordillera implemented the search warrant issued by Judge Marrie Dao-as of the BOntoc Municipal Trial Court.
    During the search, lawmen found and confiscated seven achets of suspected shabu weighing 15 grams worth P102,000, around 12 ml suspected liquid shabu worth  P125,256 and drug paraphernalia.
    Inventory of seized items was done on site witnessed by suspects and barangay captain Glenn C. Saavedra Sr., kagawad Eva Mila Fana-ang of Poblacion, Bontoc and Jovi Afidchao, media representative.
    The suspects and confiscated items were brought to the custody of Bontoc police.
    Charges for illegal drugs were prepared against the suspects.


Kalinga governor backs medical marijuana bill

TABUK CITY, Kalinga -- Gov. James Edduba urged immediate passage of medical marijuana bills pending in both chambers of Congress.
    “This will help deter the proliferation of the illegal hemp in the hinterlands of the Cordillera mountains, especially in Benguet and Kalinga,” Edduba said.
    But he said lawmakers must ensure provisions for the medical marijuana law should be favorable to the farmers.
    The governor said government should not allow multinational companies to control production of medicinal marijuana because it will defeat the purpose of curbing the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the region.
    "Once the government will allow multinational corporations to control the production and manufacturing of medicinal marijuana, which will be to the detriment of farmers, then the illegal cultivation of the hemp will continue and will remain a problem among government agencies and local governments," Edduba said.
    He added remote towns of Tinglayan in Kalinga; Bakun, Kibungan and Kapangan in Benguet; and other far flung villages in Ilocos Sur and La Union remain as major producers of high-grade marijuana being circulated in the different parts of the country.
    The medical marijuana bill had been repeatedly filed in both chambers of Congress in the past but failed to hurdle the committee and plenary levels because of the various issues and concerns raised against marijuana.
    According to Edduba, the proposed medicinal marijuana law must advance the greater interest of the farmers so that they will be convinced to support the same and abandon the illegal cultivation of marijuana in the hinterlands and embrace better opportunities for them to decently earn income to sustain the living condition of their families.
    Earlier, police and anti-narcotics agents identified the Cordillera as the primary producer of high-grade marijuana being circulated in the different parts of the country.
    Edduba said that it is high time that the image of Cordillera being the source of high-grade marijuana be removed from the consciousness of the public.


A blooming Panagbenga fest experience at SM City Baguio

Blooming Wonderland Opening at the Sky Terrace, SM City Baguio

BAGUIO CITY-   Pack your bags and let’s explore the city’s wonder and beauty
Experience the best of Cordilleran artistry, cuisine, craftsmanship, and colors with this #AweSM line-up of activities in this year's flower festival. 
    Experience a Blooming Wonderland
    Enjoy the view of the city at the Sky Terrace and take time to enjoy the giant and colorful inflatables of Blooming Wonderland. You can also check out the Nalabaga Murals around the mall, a showcase of Cordilleran traditions made by street muralist and CalligraFilipino artist.
     Apart from this, mallgoers will be treated to two of the grandest events at Panagbenga. (where SM City Baguio will be participating): The Float Parade on February 26 and the Grand Fireworks Display to cap off the festival on March 5.
     And for the locals of Benguet and Baguio City, you can ride the fun with Sky Ranch’s Kailian Promo where you can enter free of charge from February 20-26.
     Find the best of Northern products, crafts, and food
    From February 10 to March 3, you can get your hands-on Cordillera’s best products at the Mall Atrium for the Impakabsat Panabenga edition. See the traditional weavers as they work at the Weaves & Strings demos on February 20, 27, and March 1 or get inked as the Mambabatoks will be there for a traditional tattooing session on February 10-16; and February 24 to March 3.
     This season of flowers, enjoy discounts of up to 70% at SM Baguio’s three-day Panagbenga Sale on February 17, 18, and 19. Let your palate explore the taste of Cordillera as your favorite delicacies will be stationed at the Sky Ranch to give you a delightful culinary experience from February 15 to March 5.
 Appreciate and experience arts and culture of Baguio
SM City Baguio is home to several local art exhibits, competitions, and, and cultural performances. On top of our list is the Parabur Ti Namarsua by the Pasa-Kalye Group of Artists which will be up from February 13 to April 17 at the North Entrance.
 Witness how the Cordilleran artisan wood carvers express their creativity at the competition with the theme Earth, Nature, and Culture on March 1 to 3 at this year’s Wood Carving Competition. The winning pieces will be displayed along with the Cordilleran art scape-inspired installations of actual Ifugao huts at the Lower Ground Terrace until March 3.
 But if you want a more immersive experience, you can drop by every Friday at the mall to get a taste of the Cordilleran culture and witness local performances in partnership with the Baguio City National High School, San Vicente National High School and University of Baguio.
Cap off your week of exploration at the Sky Terrace’s Sunset Music Sessions every Saturday. Up-and-coming Baguio artists, musicians, and acoustic performers who will give shoppers a night to jam with their friends and family and enjoy the glorious view of the Baguio skyline.
 We can all agree that Baguio City is the beacon of Northern artistry. And in every visit to the mountain city, there is always something to look forward to when it comes to its culture. So, this February, see Baguio in full bloom and appreciate its arts and culture to the next level at SM City Baguio.
 Visit and follow @smsupermalls on all social media platforms for news and updates on exciting deals and promos.


Anti-moma rule enforcement in Baguio pushed

By Jordan G. Habbiling

BAGUIO CITY -- The City Council urged strict compliance of local folks and visitors to an ordinance banning chewing of “moma” or betel quid and spitting in public places.
    Ordinance 35-2020 defined public places as accessible to the public or those that are for collective use regardless of ownership or right to access including but not limited to schools, workplaces, government facilities, establishments that provide food and drinks, accommodation, merchandise, professional services, entertainment, or other services, outdoor spaces, public transport, and terminals. 
    In her resolution unanimously approved by the city council February, Councilor Lilia Farinas said unsanitary practice of moma-chewing and spitting in public places still persists as evidenced by the “red-orange” stains on roads and pavements despite prohibition against the said practice which she described as unsanitary, unhealthy and unethical.
    “The practice of chewing and spitting of moma in public places is not only very unsanitary, unhealthy and unethical, but it is even escalated by the fact that Covid-19 and its numerous variants are still present in the society which is a guaranteed spreader of the virus and very likely of other communicable diseases as well,” Farinas said.
    The resolution calls mandated “activation” of the Task Force Moma to strictly enforce the provisions of the ordinance.
    The said task force was created pursuant to the ordinance.
    Other prohibited acts enumerated in the ordinance are the following: 
    Chewing and/or spitting betel quid inside a public utility vehicle whether moving or stationary; chewing and/or spitting betel quid in plain view while inside a private place or on the road without the required spittoon or container for spit; leaving/throwing a used spittoon or draining its content in public places, canals, and rivers; and selling “moma” to minors.
    Any person who commits any of those stipulated prohibitions under this ordinance will be fined P500.00 or will render four hours of community service for the first offense; P1, 000.00 or six hours of community service for the second offense; and P2, 000.00 or eight hours of community service for the third and subsequent offenses. 
    The revised ordinance, however, stipulates that chewing and spitting ‘moma’ will not be prohibited in public places during “indigenous people’s gatherings” provided that every “moma” chewer attending the gathering uses a spittoon that is not transparent. To maintain cleanliness in the place, “moma” chewers should not empty, drain, or scatter the spittle or the content of the spittoon nor should they throw, dump, or leave their used spittoon in the venue of the gathering.
    The ordinance further mandates persons-in-charge to “prominently” post and display a signage “No Chewing and/or Spitting Moma” in a location where it is most visible to the public. 
    Persons-in-charge are presidents, managers, administrators, owners, operators, drivers, etc. of companies, institutions, establishments, and vehicles.


32 North Luzon culture groups spice up Baguio Panagbenga Festival

BAGUIO CITY — Thirty-two participants showcased different cultures and traditions in the grand Panagbenga street-dancing parade here yesterday Feb. 25.
       Spicing up the showdown were invited guests from Nueva Ecija, La Union and Ilocos Sur who showcased their own cultural presentations.
    Andrew Pinero, spokesperson of the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation said the event started arouns 8 a.m.
    “We haven’t done it in three years because of the pandemic and many people are excited,” said Pinero.
    Participants in the drum and lyre elementary category who first showcased their talent in street dancing at the opening of the Panagbenga Festival on Feb. 1, returned to delight the audience.
    This included Lucban Elementary School, Josefa Carino Elementary School, Baguio Central Elementary School and Tuba Central School of the province of Benguet.
    A total of 17 contingents from Cordillera participated in the grand street dance cultural category competition, including Am-among Chi Umili, Sakusak Musical Ensemble, Tumadek Cultural Group, BENHS Dance Club, Labban di E-lagan Indigenous Peoples Organization, Saeng Ya Kasay Cultural Ensemble, U. Youth Organization Cultural Group, Bicas Di Litagwan, Sumikad Ya Tattawi Cultural Group, Chum-No Cultural Group, Panajew ni Ibagiw, Salibi Cultural Group, Joaquin Smith National High School Cultural Dance Group, Bunak Shi Shuntog Cultural Performing Group, Sadanga Student Association for Peace and Development and Uggayam Turayan Cultural Group.
    In the festival street dance category, there are 11 participants, including the San Jose School of La Trinidad Drum and Lyre, Narvacan Naisangsangayan, LGU Narvacan of Ilocos Sur; University of the Cordilleras, Tribu Ecijanos, of Bongabon, Nueva Ecija; Elyu Street Dancers, of La Union; Pinsao National High School Dance Troupe, Tribu San Carlos Street Dancers, of San Carlos City, Pangasinan; Saint Louis University, Namacpacan Street Dancers, of Luna, La Union; Tribu Rizal and Kalinga Lumin-awa ng Tabuk City,Kalinga.


Baguio mayor orders strict enforcement of anti-smoking laws

By Gaby B. Keith

BAGUIO CITY-- Mayor Benjamin Magalong ordered strict enforcement of the city’s anti-smoking and vaping ordinance saying he will not hesitate in apprehending persons or closing down establishments found violating its provisions.
    During Monday's flag-raising rites, the mayor said that the only place where smoking is allowed is inside their own homes or designated smoking areas inspected and approved by the City Health Services Office.
    He said under the Smoke-Free Baguio Ordinance, even the distribution and promotion of tobacco and vape products are not allowed.
    The strict enforcement of the measure is in line with Baguio's aspiration to be a "smoke-free city" and encourages smokers to quit the addictive and deadly habit that not only endangers their health but that of others through second and even third-hand smoke.
    Adapted in 2017 and principally authored by former councilor Joel Alangsab, the ordinance prohibits the use, sale, distribution, and advertisement of cigarettes/e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in certain places and imposes penalties for violations. In 2021, Baguio won the Healthy City award from the World Health Organization and the Alliance for Healthy Cities, an international network that advocates for city dwellers' health, under the Sharing Clean Air category in the Western Pacific Region for its commitment to promoting public compliance with smoke-free laws. Earlier this month, an estimated P1 million worth of e-cigarettes (vape), e-juice, and e-cigarette paraphernalia were confiscated by the Baguio Smoke-Free Task Force composed of the CHSO and Public Order and Safety Division at Tam-awan, Pinsao proper here where the alleged owner was a student.


RDC wants culture-sensitive governance in Cordillera

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Development Council is pushing culture-sensitive governance in Cordillera.
    To this effect, the RDC’s committee on indigenous peoples’ concerns (CIPC) of the reviewed the culture chapter of the Cordillera Regional Development Plan 2023-2028 during its first quarter meeting Feb. 10.
    This contains development goal of promoting culture-sensitive governance and development taking account unique culture and heritage of the region and its efforts toward regional autonomy.
    The assessment report showed an increased number of local government units with local cultural inventory, established schools of living traditions (SLT), and improved documentation of indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP), among others.
    As of 2021, 66 out of 79 LGUs, have established their Local Culture and Arts Council (LCAC).
    These contributed to the promotion and protection of the region’s local culture and values. 
    An increase in the number of LGUs with Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs) as members of the legislative bodies at the local level was also noted.
    A total of 746 LGUs or 73 percent have IPMRs based on recent data from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR).
    This representation is a mechanism provided under the IPRA law which ensures the right of the IPs to fully participate at all levels of decision-making.
    For the next six years, the advocacy for regional autonomy shall be pursued further as a strategy for strengthening culture-sensitive development and governance.
    The region shall continue to promote awareness of the diverse culture of the Cordillera including establishing and sustaining SLTs. 
    This shall ensure transfer of indigenous knowledge from the knowledge holders to the younger generation through dance, chants, and other indigenous technologies.
    On the SLTs, private sector representative (PSR) Paulino Tumapang noted the targeted number of graduates at the end of the planning period was relatively low, ranging from 75 in 2023 to 255 by 2028. 
    He said the target may be increased which was welcomed by Millet Cue of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
    Commission on Human Rights (CHR-CAR) regional director  Romel Daguimol requested Cue to provide the committee with the inventory of SLTs for monitoring and marketing purposes.
    The committee also reviewed the proposed prioritization criteria in preparation of the Regional Investment Development     Program (RDIP) 2023-2028 and the proposed 36th Cordillera Month activities.
    It also finalized its 2023 work and financial plan.
    Only the RDC-CAR has a committee on indigenous peoples which was created in 2003 recognizing the region being highly populated by IPs along with its socio-cultural attributes and history. 
    Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio C. Lacwasan, Jr. serves as committee chairperson with NEDA-CAR regional director Susan A. Sumbeling as vice-chair.


LTFRB: Jeepneys, UV Express can ply roads only until June 30

By Romina Cabrera

Operators of traditional jeepneys, UV Express and multicabs will no longer be allowed to operate after June 30, unless they join a cooperative or a corporation, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced Wednesday.
    The LTFRB on Monday issued a memorandum extending the franchises of traditional jeepneys to June 30 instead of the March 31 deadline.
    The LTFRB issued the memorandum amid the calls of several transport groups to stop the phaseout of traditional jeepneys.
    In line with the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), the LTFRB said operators who fail to meet the consolidation requirement would have their franchises or certificates of public convenience (CPC) revoked.
    “The CPC of the operators who fail to join the existing consolidated entity after June 30 will be reverted to the state,” the memorandum read.
    The franchises of PUV operators who fail to join a cooperative or corporation will be automatically rewarded to the existing consolidated entity operating on the same route, according to the LTFRB.
    However, operators who meet the June 30 deadline will have their provisional authority to operate until Dec. 31.
    The board said the implementation of the PUV modernization program has long been delayed to help operators cope with the adverse impact of the pandemic and soaring cost of fuel.
    Transport workers are opposing the program, saying it is anti-poor and promotes monopoly as it requires the acquisition of multimillion-peso modern jeepneys and route consolidation.
    The board said affected operators may still avail themselves of the government’s social intervention initiatives.
    “There will be mediation procedures in case of rejection in an existing consolidated entity, be it a cooperative or a corporation,” the LTFRB said.


Ilocos officials told: Up SIM registration

By Leilanie Adriano 

LAOAG CITY – The Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial board of Ilocos Norte Monday asked the 21 towns and two cities of Ilocos Norte to speed up the SIM registration rollout, particularly in remote areas.
    “We need to reach out to the Barangays and help people to register their sim cards,” said provincial board member Giancarlo Angelo S. Crisostomo, chair of the committee on peace and order and the committee on transportation and communication, as he pushed Provincial Resolution No. 2023-02-107 asking all local government leaders to accelerate the implementation of the SIM Registration, and to ensure the April 26, 2023 deadline is met.
    Crisostomo said there is a need to increase the current pace of daily registration following reports that only 33,313,839 SIM cards have been registered or 19.71 percent of the total 168,977,773 existing subscribers, as of Feb. 16.
    Under the law, all existing and new subscribers are required to register their SIM cards until April 26 of this year. After the announced deadline, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is allowed to extend the registration period for another 120 days.
    End-user who fails to comply with the requirements for registration within the period prescribed shall result in the automatic deactivation of the SIM. -- PNA


RDC pushes housing for Cordillera folks

By Legriv Vilee I. Marquez

BAGUIO CITY – The Cordillera Regional Development Council is eying to provide housing needs for Cordillera folks.
    The  RDC’s housing subcommittee tackled the “Pambansang Pabahay Para sa Pilipino Housing (4PH)” program of the Dept. of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) during its 1st quarter meeting on Feb. 13 here.
    As the administration’s flagship housing program, this program aims to narrow housing gap by constructing one million housing units annually until 2028.
    The proposed housing design unit size, and selling price of the socialized housing projects were presented.
    Aida Daiwey of the National Housing Authority said some beneficiaries refused the socialized housing units due to limited unit space which did not consider housing needs in the region.
    Lawyer Fritz Turqueza, representing the Provincial Government of Abra, urged more studies on livability of housing units.
    Daiwey said there was need to identify those who were previously catered to by other shelter agencies.
    Turqueza said databases of shelter agencies can be harmonized to create a master list of beneficiaries.
    She added this will hasten validation process and assist in formalizing certification of socialized housing unit owners.
    The subcommittee also tackled the measures against those who occupy socialized housing units despite having sufficient income for legitimate housing and persons who have been awarded housing units but sold, leased, or transferred the same.     Nenilu Cacas of DHSUD Cordillera urged local government units to establish local housing boards and strengthen resettlement monitoring function of each LHB.
    DHSUD regional director Maria Amoroso said they will continue consultations with target beneficiaries and stakeholders to ensure housing needs of individuals and households are taken into account.
    The Pambansang Pabahay program responds to establishing livable communities as one of the goals of the CAR Regional Development Plan for the next six years.
    The preparation of the RDP is headed by the National Economic Development Authority regional office in collaboration with the Regional Development Council and its stakeholders.


2 nabbed for transporting illegal narra

PINUKPUK, Kalinga -- Police arrested two individuals who were caught transporting undocumented narra flitches worth over P630,000 here in Barangay Camalog recently.
    A report to Cordillera police director Brig. Gen. Mafelino Bazar identified suspects as Johnny Alingcao Lumiwes Jr. 28, and Joseph Armando Carig Gammad, 33.
    The report said police of Pinukpuk Municipal Police Station received a call from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) informing them that their Bantay Gubat workers stationed at the Kapanikian checkpoint and personnel of the Philippine Army flagged down a truck loaded with narra flitches.
    Pinukpuk police immediately responded to the call, inspected the truck and asked Lumiwes and Gammad for documents for the narra flitches.
    When they failed to show documents, they were detained by the police.
    Confiscated from the suspects were narra slabs with an estimated volume of 700 board feet with an estimated market value of P630,000.
    The arrested suspects are now under the custody of Pinukpuk police and will be facing charges for violation of Presidential Decree 705 or the "Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines."
    The truck and the flitches were brought to Cenro Pinukpuk Office for proper disposition.




Cagayan council ups drive vs illegal logging

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- The Cagayan Valley Regional Law Enforcement Council intensified monitoring and surveillance operations against illegal forest activities particularly in "hot spot areas" in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley).
    Relec Chairman Gwendolyn Bambalan recently convened the council citing importance of trees in ensuring sustainability of life forms and in mitigating global warming.
    Bambalan said there is a need to focus their operations in the towns of Baggao and Peñablanca in Cagayan province and Jones in Isabela province.    
    "While we cannot avoid apprehending and confiscating unauthorized forest products passing through the region, it is best to stop cutting down trees in the forest," said Bambalan, who is also the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 2 executive director.
    During the meeting, DENR Enforcement Division chief Joel Daquioag presented their accomplishments for 2022, including 105 joint apprehensions by the DENR and Philippine National Police (PNP) and a total confiscation of 59,218.44 board feet of forest products and 41 conveyances.
    To renew the commitment of council members to this year's forest protection and law enforcement implementation programs, DENR Region 2 legal chief Richard Jayson Garan presented and facilitated the review of duties and responsibilities of council members to include the Philippine Air Force and Land Transportation Office.
    Bambalan also recommended a review of DENR policies through the conduct of reorientation on DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 97-32 known as "1997 Rules for the Administrative Adjudication of Illegal Forest Products and the Machinery, Equipment, Tools and Conveyances used in Connection Therewith."
    She said they will be inviting all chiefs of police and representatives from the different municipalities and cities in Cagayan Valley which comprises the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Batanes.
    According to Bambalan, the inclusion of Relec activities in the Regional Development Council Sub-Committee has been proposed to the council.
    "This is to further discuss a strategic mechanism to curb illegal forest activities," she said.
    Also at the meeting were DENR Region 2 Assistant Executive Director for Technical Services Marcos Dacanay, who discussed the meeting's objectives, and lawyer Johnlee Rumusud of the DENR Legal Division, who explained the salient features of DAO 97-32.
    It was in 2020 when Relec was established under a memorandum of agreement among the regional heads of concerned national agencies and the religious sector, including the DENR, PNP, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Information Agency, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, and the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.
    "The creation of this council aims to protect and conserve our trees. The council members play a vital role in protecting our forests," Bambalan said.


Mayor gives final warning against Baguio hog raisers

By Gaby B. Keith

BAGUIO CITY -- Mayor Benjamin Magalong warned residents here who continue to violate laws and regulations prohibiting hog-raising in the city.
    The mayor's warning came after the discovery of several piggeries allegedly operating in Barangay Fairview during a joint inspection by personnel of the City Environment and Parks Management Office and City Veterinary and Agriculture Office.
     "This is the final warning, otherwise we will already file criminal charges against them (hog raisers)," he stressed. In a highly urbanized city like Baguio, hog-raising is not allowed by the city's Environment Code; Republic Act (RA) 8749 or the "Clean Air Act;" RA 9275 or the "Philippine Water Act" and RA 9904 or the "Magna Carta for Homeowners and Homeowners Association."
    He said there were around three thousand piggeries operating in the city during his first term as mayor and claimed the number went down by as much as 90 percent since then.
    Now in his second term as the city's chief executive, Magalong expressed exasperation that these piggeries are mushrooming all over the city once again.
    "They (hog-raisers) are polluting our rivers. They just don't care and only think of themselves. Even their neighbors are happy that these piggeries have been removed and their areas smell pleasant once more. Unfortunately, these piggeries are returning, that is why I will have these immediately confiscated," he said.


Pangasinan prov’l board okays P6-B loan for projs

By Liwayway Yparraguirre 

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – The Sangguniang Panlalawigan or provincial board of Pangasinan has given authority to Gov. Ramon Guico III to obtain a P6-billion loan from the Landbank of the Philippines under the terms and conditions of the Omunibus Term Loan Facility (Credit Line) to finance strategic programs and projects of the province.
    Based on Resolution 825 authored by board member Vici Ventanilla and co-authored by vice governor Mark Lambino, the loan will be used to finance programs or projects for transportation amounting to P1.45 billion; government centers worth P800 million; tourism worth P1.95 billion; education through the establishment of the Pangasinan Polytechnic College/University worth P400 million; and health worth P1.4 billion, among others.
    "With the vision to propel socio-economic growth through infrastructure development, the provincial government of Pangasinan aims to ensure the delivery of basic services and the provision of adequate facilities not only to the people living in the urban area but also in the countryside," the resolution read.
Provincial accountant Marlon Operaña of the Local Finance Committee, in an interview on Tuesday, said the provincial government has the capacity to undertake such amount of loan.
"[The] source of fund to repay the loan shall be the National Tax Allocation (formerly known as the Internal Revenue Allotment). If we try to revisit the provision of the Local Government Code of 1991, it states that a local government unit is allowed to enter into a credit facility as long as the amortization for such credit facility shall not exceed 20 percent of the Internal Revenue Allotment," he said.
Lambino, in a separate interview, said the loan is not yet a full loan but a standby fund that will be cascaded to the provincial government as soon as all the necessary legal and documentary requirements of Landbank are met.
"Ito yong pagkakataon na tayo (provincial government) ay inaprubahan ng isang financial institution na magkaroon ng standby fund na ganito kalaki. Ibig sabihin, nagtitiwala sila sa financial management ng ating probinsya para aprubahan ang ganyang kalaki ng standby fund (This is an opportunity wherein the provincial government was approved by an institution to have a standby fund with a huge amount. That means they trust the financial management of our province if they approved a huge amount of standby fund)," Lambino said. -- PNA


Invoking MDT would escalate tension vs PH, China: PBBM

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

BAGUIO CITY – Invoking the Philippines' 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty (MDT) with the United States (US) after the laser-pointing incident in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would only escalate tensions with China, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Feb. 18.
    In a chance interview in this summer capital, Marcos said it is "counterproductive" to resort to the MDT in the wake of the Chinese Coast Guard's (CCG) use of a military-grade laser against the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
    "If we activate that (MDT), what we are doing is escalating, intensifying the tensions in the area (WPS). And I think that would be counterproductive," Marcos told reporters after the Philippine Military Academy's (PMA) alumni homecoming in Fort del Pilar in Baguio City.
    "Besides, despite the fact that it was a military-grade laser that was pointed at our Coast Guard, I do not think that it is sufficient for it to trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty," he added.
    A CCG vessel on Feb. 6 "shadowed" and pointed a military-grade laser toward the Philippine Coast Guard's patrol vessel BRP Malapascua, temporarily blinding its crew, according to official government reports.
China defended its coast guard's act as "professional and restrained" as it was merely a response to what it called "intrusion" into Chinese waters.
    While he refused to invoke the MDT, Marcos said the Philippine government is in "constant" communication with its treaty partners, including the US.
    "So, we are in constant contact, of course, with our treaty partners, not only with the United States but also our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) partners and our partners here in Asia. That I think is the better recourse rather than go directly to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which again I am very concerned would provoke the tensions rather than cool the tensions now," he said.
    Marcos on Tuesday summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to Malacañan Palace in Manila to discuss the reported harassment by the CCG.
    Asked what he told Huang, Marcos said he reminded the Chinese ambassador that the latest incident was incongruous with what he and Chinese President Xi Jinping had talked about in January to prevent possible misunderstanding in the WPS.
    The President, nevertheless, remained optimistic that the Philippines and China would be able to resolve the issues being reported in the "past few weeks and months," given that the two nations are "close friends."
    "We have to find a way around this. If we are such close friends, China and the Philippines, these are not the kind of incidents that we should be talking about between the President and the ambassador to the Philippines from China," he said.
    "So, we are hoping that we can find a better way rather than these incursions into our maritime territory and the rather aggressive acts that we have been seeing in the past few weeks and months."
    The Dept. of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday filed its eighth diplomatic protest this year before the Chinese Embassy in Manila, calling on Beijing to "cease and desist" its aggressive activities against Philippine vessels.
Also on Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Marcos and Huang "exchanged views on how to implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state, strengthen dialogue and communication, and properly manage maritime differences between China and the Philippines."
    The DFA asked China last week to engage the Philippines based on "truth and goodwill," citing disconnect in their statements and what is actually happening in the WPS after the laser-pointing incident.
    Marcos and Xi, in a joint statement released in January after their meeting in Beijing, agreed to establish a "direct communication mechanism" to safeguard peace and stability in the WPS. -- PNA


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