DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Nov) – Trade officials from the Philippines and the Indonesia hailed the launching of a new air route between the two countries.
An Indonesian airliner, Sriwijaya Air, launched its maiden flight from Manado to Davao City in the southern Philippines on Thursday. Both countries are members of the East Asean Growth Area along with Brunei and Malaysia.
Filipino officials said the new air link was part of an agreement signed by the two countries during a trade mission under the Jose Abad Santos-Glan-Sarangani (JAGS-CT) Cooperation Triangle to Indonesia in September.
“The new additional flight directly connecting Davao and Manado is an affirmation of growing vibrancy on the potentials for tourism, trade and investment within the BIMP-EAGA,” Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), said in a statement.
The Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air uses Boeing 737-200 to provide an alternate service the Davao-Manado route, which is currently being served by Merpati Airlines. For its regular run, Sriwijaya is scheduled to fly every Monday and Thursday, arriving in Davao City at 01000 hrs and leaving for Manado at 01045 hrs.
The airline can accommodate 124 passengers and cargo of up to 3.5 tons. The new Davao-Manado route adds to the existing air and sea linkages between Mindanao and Indonesia.
Last month, both countries also opened a sea route from Glan town in Sarangani province to Tahuna in Bitung, Indonesia.
“Sriwijaya’s Davao-Manado flight is expected to contribute to our aim of enhancing trade and socio-cultural links between the two nations. I hope this air route will be sustained, as it will certainly boost Mindanao’s ties with Indonesia,” Leyretana said.
Filipino and Russian’s Mosphil Aero Inc. this month also announced a plan to add new routes in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and probably other countries in Southeast Asia. Mosphil said it is only waiting the signing of the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights by members of the sub-regional trade bloc of the East Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Growth Area (EAGA) during the ASEAN Summit in Cebu City next month.
Glenn Lamela, Mosphil’s director on marketing and sales, said the new routes will even include those outside the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, Philippines- East ASEAN Growth Area or the BIMP-EAGA structure.
“The signing of the fifth freedom traffic right will allow us to operate internal flights within the four member countries of the BIMP-EAGA, and this is a big opportunity for us,” Lamela told the Mindanao Examiner.
The Mindanao Business Council said that the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights agreement will focus on the establishment of scheduled passenger services between Davao City-Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia)-Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam) and between Pontianak (Indonesia)-Kuching (Malaysia)-Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam).
Lamela said Mosphil is also planning to launch the Zamboanga-Kota-Kinabalu- Brunei, and Davao-Kota-Kinabalu-Manado routes and local flights from Zamboanga to Davao, Zamboanga-Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga-Cebu, Cotabato-IloIlo, and Boracay-Zamboanga routes.
“It is our priority to strengthen and materialize the traffic and the air-linkages within the BIMP-EAGA. The Philippine government is looking at Mosphil as the model to be presented during the ASEAN summit comes this December,” Lamela said.
Mosphil is currently operating the Zamboanga-Jolo route twice a week. It opened the flight just in September. “We wanted to increase the inflow of traffic to Zamboanga City,” Lamela said, adding they wanted to establish Zamboanga City as hub of Mosphil operation. (Mindanao Examiner)
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Muslims and Christians from all walks of life in the conflict-ridden island of Mindanao will seek common ground as thousands of them join in the annual Mindanao Week of Peace celebration from 30 November to 6 December.
In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), event founder and Claretian priest Father Angel Calvo said the annual celebration is so far the biggest peace gathering in the country which has actively involved both Muslims and Christians since 1997.
“We want to see the people of Mindanao united as we advocate lasting peace in the region,” Fr. Calvo, whose non-government organization Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) has also led the celebration in Zamboanga City, told AKI.
He added that the event will also provide the local residents “a common ground for recognizing and respecting cultural differences that is basis for unity and peace.”“This is also the right venue where some issues and possible disputes will be settled,” he added.
The theme for this year celebration is centered on the environmental care. Fr. Calvo said different activities were planned in various key areas and cities in Mindanao.
In Zamboanga City, he said PAZ will lead the opening and the closing day parades, the two big events that are expected to draw tens of thousands of people from government offices, private companies, universities, urban poor associations, and other non-government agencies.
They include concerts, peace rallies and vigils, medical and dental missions for the depressed rural villages, jail visits, peace assemblies and youth gatherings, a coastal clean-up and other school and community-based activities.
Mindanao Week of Peace is now into its 10th year since the first one being organized at the height of extremism of the homegrown terror group Abu Sayyaf.
In previous years, the observance of the week of peace has means a security breather in the conflict-stricken region and the number of insurgent attacks and other crime-related activities also reportedly lowered.
“We will join efforts with the people of Mindanao on their initiative and they can expect smooth security measures from our part,” Superintendent Jonathan Perez, deputy director for Zamboanga City Police Office, told AKI ahead of this year’s event.
“We assure that it will be generally peaceful,” he added.Meanwhile, in a statement obtained by AKI, the influential Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), which spearheads the Mindanao-wide celebration, called on the people of Mindanao to have “love, respect, justice, fairness, mercy and compassion among one another not only before or during the celebration but also after the Mindanao Week of Peace.”
“We wish to remind us all that peace comes from order and harmony both in our relationship with God, with one another and with the environment,” BUC’s Muslim, Catholic and Protestant conveners stressed in their joint statement.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, also said it was supporting the weeklong peace celebration.”We are with all peace-loving people. We are for peace and we fully support the aspiration of many for a peaceful Mindanao,” Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)
Please help the poor children in Zamboanga. Please donate to the poor.
Ayudar por favor a los niños pobres en Zamboanga. Donar por favor a los pobres.
Veuillez aider les pauvres enfants dans Zamboanga. Donner svp aux pauvres.
Den armen Kindern in Zamboanga bitte helfen. Zu den Armen bitte spenden.
الرجاء مساعدة الاطفال
الفقراء فى زامبوانغا.يرجى التبرعللفقراء.
Subanon democracy in action. The Siocon Subanon Association, Inc., in Zamboanga del Norte province elects new set of officers.
ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Rocky Dimaculangan / 29 Nov) – An indigenous Subanon tribe in a remote mountainous ancestral land in Southern Philippines has shown its readiness for self-determination after its members successfully elected a new set of leaders who promised to spearhead community efforts to attain sustainable development in partnership with a foreign-funded mining company.
The Siocon Subanon Association, Inc. (SSAI) – legal representative of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title holders (CADT) of Canatuan in Barangay Tabayo – held its biennial election of officers Nov. 25 with the participation of the overwhelming majority of association members. The elections, described as peaceful and honest, were sanctioned and observed by representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Patoh prevailed over incumbent SSAI President Juanito Tumangkis with a margin of 337 votes. Patoh and Tumangkis garnered 619 and 282 votes, respectively.
Danilo Bason, Patoh’s running mate, bagged the vice presidential slot after besting Rufino Sapian. Alfredo Limbang, meanwhile, ran unopposed as treasurer.
Also elected as members of the SSAI Board of Trustees are: Lydia Dandana, Pasing Bason, Zenaida Dandana, Danilo Tumangkis, Sr., Santiago Sumampang, Alberto Mais, Paho Fuentevilla, Yolanda Lacaste-Santos, Andres Ansani, Celestino Guinagag, Pancho Tumangkis, Sr., and Erdulfo Comisas. According to the Election Committee (ComElec) – chaired by SSAI member Chirino Limpuson and with members from indigenous people (IP) communities in nearby towns and provinces – 1,032 votes were cast out of the 1,341 registered number of voters.
A total of 131 ballots were declared invalid or abstained in the presidential race. Observers say Patoh’s lopsided victory came after an increasing clamor for the immediate conduct of elections had been noted from direct and indirect CADT beneficiaries in recent months.
It was learned that the SSAI elections were overdue by a year – and Chairman Tumangkis appears to have suffered the same electoral fate as that of many incumbent leaders around the world! Direct beneficiaries are IP CADT holders whose claims are within the 508-hectare area of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc.’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the Philippine government; they are eligible to run for office.
Indirect beneficiaries, on the other hand, have claims outside of TVIRD’s MPSA area; while they can vote, they cannot assume elective posts in SSAI. TVIRD is the first foreign-funded resource development firm to reach production stage after the passage into law of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Its international affiliate, TVI Pacific Inc., is listed in the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX:TVI). Nine officials from the NCIP were present during the elections as observers. They were joined by Ms Hanayo Hirai, a Japanese national connected with United Nations Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF).
ComElec Chairman Limpuson said the elections were generally honest and clean. There were minor accusations of election irregularities – but these are a common, rather expected complaint, especially from defeated candidates in these islands, he said.
Shortly after the canvassing of votes that lasted until the wee hours of November 26, Patoh and the other winning candidates were proclaimed by the ComElec in the presence of NCIP observers headed by Masli Quilaman, Director of the Office on Empowerment and Human Rights at the NCIP Central Office, as well as of voters and supporters who stayed on to guard their votes and until the last ballot was countedThe newly elected SSAI officials will take their oath of office on December 1.
They were congratulated by the TVI Board of Directors headed by CEO Cliff James during their visit to the Canatuan Project last November 26. “Democracy has prevailed in our host community,” Eugene Mateo, TVIRD President, said after learning of the results of the elections.
“I hope our Subanon brothers and sisters who ran under opposing camps will be able to immediately set aside the differences that may have been created along the campaign trail.”
“I also hope they can sit down together and begin the more important task of charting and working towards a sustainable future for the citizens of Canatuan in partnership with TVIRD. We offer our best wishes to SSAI’s new officers, as well as for the continued success of our partnership for development.”
In 2005, TVIRD paid SSAI royalty equivalent to 1% of the Company’s gross revenues amounting to over P5 million, net of final tax. From January to September this year, royalty payments have reached above P10 million, and is estimated to increase to P14 million, net of tax, at yearend.
Under the Memorandum of Agreement for the development of Canatuan forged between SSAI and TVIRD, the Company has no influence over how the IPs will invest their royalty. Also in accordance with the MOA, TVIRD has embarked on various socio-economic and environmental protection initiatives for its Subanon hosts.
These initiatives include the construction of schoolhouses and health clinics, the improvement of roads and the facilitation of the building of bridges, the setting up of livelihood programs, as well as the planting of over 50,000 trees and the erection of a P170 million Gossan Tailings Dam.
TVIRD and SSAI have began laying the groundwork for the Tanuman Settlement Project, a component of the Mine Rehabilitation Plan which provides for an independent Subanon Village complete with water supply, sanitation and power facilities.
Elements of the Philippine Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion and the Philippine National Police, both based in Siocon town, provided security to the Subanon of Canatuan while they exercised their sacred right to vote.
A Bajau diver jumps from his boat off the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga. Called the sea gypsies, the Bajau tribe lives mostly at sea.
Below is the official statement of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance network of media organizations around the region, in support of the class civil suit vs. Presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo. (Freedom Watch)
Statement of support for Philippine journalists from free expression groups around Southeast Asia
We, representatives of journalist, media, and free expression organizations from around Southeast Asia, and collaborating under the network of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), applaud the initiative of our colleagues in the Philippines to defend their rights in the face of blatant abuse and harassment from the husband of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
We strongly support the filing of a class civil suit against Mr. Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo for his abuse of power and his clear attempt to undermine press freedom in an important member of the Southeast Asian community.
The Philippines is in the clear minority of countries in Southeast Asia with a functioning—if perennially vulnerable—free press. In this light, the deterioration of the conditions for press freedom under the regime of President Arroyo is a troubling trend that causes anxiety in the rest of the region.
We note with alarm that over the past months, Mr. Arroyo has sued 43 reporters, columnists, editors and publishers of various publications for libel. Many of the journalists he sued had linked Mr. Arroyo to unexplained wealth, vote-buying for his wife’s 2004 electoral win, and money laundering.
Although all these issues comprise serious public interest matters that merit scrutiny by the people through the press, the President’s husband is seeking damages totaling P141 million (about US$2.8 million), thereby sending a chilling message to journalists and the Philippine media in general.
Backdropped by the alarming rate of murder of journalists in the Philippines, particularly under the Arroyo administration, the antics of the President’s husband underscore the overall decline of official respect for press freedom in the country.
It is in this light that we encourage our Philippine colleagues in their efforts and initiative to fight back against this clear attempt to harass their ranks. If the presidential spouse intends to send a message that journalists who dare to cross him will face a libel suit, then the victims – both the press and the people – must push back with a stronger message that contempt of press freedom is contempt of the people.
Retaliating against the charges filed against them, the journalists are in turn suing Mr. Arroyo for abuse of power and for seeking to undermine civil liberties, and they are therefore seeking P87 million (nearly US$1.75 million) in damages, in a symbolic campaign to charge Mr. Arroyo one peso for each of the 87 million Filipinos he wants to deprive of free expression.
The countersuit against Mr. Arroyo—signed by 42 of journalists he had sued yet evidently failed to intimidate—is inspiring, groundbreaking, and potentially standard-setting not just for the Philippine media, but for free expression in the whole of Southeast Asia, if not the world.
As one of those rare havens for democracy in the region, and as party to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, the Philippines is challenged to set a higher standard with respect to human rights, of which freedom of expression is paramount.
Beyond the court case against Mr. Arroyo, we also urge Philippine legislators to decriminalize libel, a move that has found support from more than 600 journalists and 30 local and foreign media organizations.
Signed by: Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Alliance of Independent Journalists, Indonesia Institute for the Study on Free Flow of Information, Indonesia Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia Mizzima News, Burma Timor Leste Journalists Association Aliran.
Malaysia Alliance for Freedom of Expression, CambodiaMalaysiakini, Malaysia. (The Southeast Asian Press Alliance is comprised of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Indonesia), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (Philippines), Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (Indonesia), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Thai Journalists Association).
The influential Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun.(sultanateofsulu.org)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Uly Israel / 28 Nov) – The influential Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun, hailed Tuesday the Senate’s declaration of the Sheikh Karim al Makhdum Mosque in Tawi-Tawi Island and called it a milestone in Philippine history.
The Sheikh Karim al Makhdum mosque at Tubig Indangan village in Simunul town is the oldest mosque in the country.
The Senate has approved a proposal to declare the Philippines’ oldest Islamic landmark as a national shrine in recognition to the contribution of Islam in the development of culture and civilization in the country.
Senator Edgardo Angara, its proponent, said the introduction of the Islamic faith in the Philippines “has immensely contributed to the enrichment, vibrancy and diversity” of the country’s unique culture.
The mosque was constructed by an Arabian missionary, Sheikh Karim al Makhdum, in AD 1380. In 1965, the late president Ferdinand Marcos went to the site to install a historic marker giving it recognition as the first mosque in the Philippines.
The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao through its Legislative Assembly has already passed a law declaring the inclusion of the Sheikh Makhdum centennial celebration as one of the Islamic events entitled to a special non-working holiday within the five provinces under the ARMM.
The bill, passed on third reading, “is a sign to our brother Moslems in Mindanao, that they are being accorded due and equal recognition by the national government,” Angara said.
According to historical accounts, Sheikh Karim al Makhdum arrived in 1380 on Simunul Island off the province of Tawi-Tawi to propagate Islam in the country. It was also on this island that he built the first and the oldest mosque in the country. It is held in great esteem by Muslims and non-Muslims, and is considered sacred.
Sultan Pulalun appealed to Senator Edgardo Angara that the mosque in Likup village in Indanan town in Jolo Island declared also as a national shrine being the second oldest mosque in the Philippines and because events of historical importance took place at the mosque.
He said at the height of Muslim rebellion against American colonial government, Muslim rebel leaders met with General Leonard Wood at the mosque wherein historical talks and agreements were forged.
“We are overjoyed by the recognition being given to the contribution of the Islamic faith to the country’s history,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Pulalun, a descendant of Sultan Mohammad Pulalun, heads the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, now Sabah. Sultanate of Sulu obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on the Borneo Island.
The Sultanate of Sulu was a Muslim state that ruled over much of the islands off the Sulu Sea. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to North Borneo, now known as Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north.
The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. (Mindanao Examiner)
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MAGUINDANAO (Juan Magtanggol / 27 Nov) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front soldiers clashed with government forces after a militia commander allegedly attacked three people, killing a six-year old girl in the southern Philippines, a rebel spokesman said Monday.
Eid Kabalu said the fighting broke out late Sunday in the farming village of Dapiawan in Datu Piang town, where government militias earlier attacked a Muslim woman, Faiza Adam, and her six-year old daughter. “The girl was instantly killed,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Prior to the attack, militias also ambushed a rebel leader, Ibrahim Kanapia, wounding his baby, in the neighboring village of Matia. “The attacks were obviously planned and these triggered the fighting,” Kabalu said, adding, Kanapia and Adam are relatives.
He said Kanapia’s group attacked the militias under Taib Munca and torched their detachment in Dapiawan village in retaliation to the killing. He said the fighting may have been triggered by clan war between militias and rebels.
The Army’s 6th Infantry Division said five people were wounded in the rebel attack and they also burned and ransacked more than a dozen houses owned by farmers in the village.
It protested the MILF raid on the village, saying, it was a violation of the six-year old truce between the government and the rebel group. “The attack is a violation of the cease-fire agreement. We have submitted to the government peace panel our reports about this incident,” an army spokesman Lt. Col. Julieto Ando said in a separate interview.
He said the Malaysia-led truce observers should investigate the rebel attack.
Manila opened up peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the southern Philippines.
Malaysia is brokering peace talks between the Filipino government and the MILF, but negotiations ended in September in Kuala Lumpur with both sides failing to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue — ancestral domain — which refers to the rebel demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.
It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.
Government peace negotiators previously offered the MILF the Muslim autonomous region, which is composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi which are among the poorest in the country torn by strife and clan wars since its creation in 1989.
The ancestral domain covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region and other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines.
Peace talks between the government and MILF started in January 1997 but the absence of a neutral third party bogged down the initiative. It was only on March 24, 2001, after the all-out war against the MILF declared by former President Joseph Estrada that Malaysia, at the behest of the Philippine government, facilitated the talks.
However, in February 2003, despite the avowed all-peace policy of President Arroyo, an all-out war was again declared against the rebels, but both sides later agreed to resume peace talks. Just this year, President Arroyo said that 80% of the peace talks have been completed and that permanent peace in Mindanao is within reach. (Mindanao Examiner)