Press Freedom In Philippines

January 31, 2008 at 11:57 am | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

A t-shirt and sticker print designed by the Mindanao Examiner Productions in support to press freedom in the Philippines. Please feel free to download and share. Mabuhay!

Villagers Band To Protect Mangrove Forest In South RP

January 31, 2008 at 11:10 am | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
Sarangani Vice-Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon (middle, wearing a cap) leads villagers in planting more than 3,200 mangrove seedlings in the Tinoto in Sarangani’s Maasim town in southern Philippines. (Photo by Gandhi C. Kinjiyo)
SARANGANI, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 31, 2008) – Driven by common will to protect the marine resources of Sarangani bay, more than 3,200 mangrove seedlings were planted in the coastal village of Maasim here.
Some 600 residents, young and adults, including local government officials and other stakeholders, from the village of Tinoto concerted their efforts and resources to rehabilitate more than 88 hectares of mangrove forest, home to hundreds of species of marine animals.

“The activity is in line with the observance of the Coastal Awareness Month,” Rolando D. Tuballes, Municipal Environment and Resources Officer (MENRO) of Maasim said.
The Coastal Awareness Month is being held every January.
Tuballes said besides the villagers, the following organizations and also helped in the rehabilitation of the mangrove forests – the RD Foundation, Muslim Business Forum, ABS-CBN Gensan, Notre Dame of Dadiangas University Business Resource Center, and the offices of Governor and Vice-Governor of Sarangani, the Provincial Barangay Affairs Unit, the Local Government Unit of Maasim and the Barangay Council of Tinoto.
The MENRO, which spearheaded last week’s reforestation program, provided the seedlings from Maasim Municipal Mangrove Nursery. Tuballes said a forum on “Coastal Management and Protection” was also held in the compound of Datu Abdul Bale Elementary School in the village last week. It was followed by a medical mission.
“Mangroves serve as barrier against strong wind and current. It also prevents erosion of the coastal areas,” he told the forum attended by hundreds of villagers. “Mangrove forests serve as a breeding ground for bigger fishes and haven for smaller fishes and other marine organisms and we must protect this ground.”
He also warned the locals not to catch smaller fishes because it may break the “food chain” of marine ecosystem. “Smaller fishes are the food for bigger fishes,” he explained. “If we break the food chain in the marine ecosystem, time comes fisher folks would have nothing to catch.”
Karl Vincent Quiepo, executive director of RD Foundation, said they are committed to supporting other activities on environmental protection in the future.
Sarangani Board Member Anecito Lopez III looks said the mangrove rehabilitation in the village of Tinoto would be sustained and eventually other towns would also duplicate the reforestation and protect their mangrove areas.
Vice-Governor Steve Solon stressed the need to protect the mangroves. He added that the activity is an “intergenerational responsibility” that would benefit the people and give “hope to the succeeding generations.”
Tuballes said the locals were active in protecting their environment. “I am delighted by the positive response from our people. They thanked us for giving them awareness on the crucial role of mangrove in the economy and in ecology,” he said.
Last year, a similar activity was also held in the village by the Philippine Environmental Governance project of the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the local broadcasters’ association and the local municipal government. (Gandhi C. Kinjiyo)

Blast Kills 3 In Southern Philippines

January 30, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 30, 2008) – Three people were killed and over a dozen other wounded when a motorcycle rigged to an explosive was detonated late Wednesday in the southern Philippines, police and military reports said.

At least 22 people were wounded in the blast outside a tuna canning factory in General Santos City, southwest of Davao. Authorities said the explosive was rigged to a parked motorcycle outside the Philbest Canning Corporation in the village of Tambler.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the blast and police is still investigating the motive of the attack.
The 2.5-hectare cannery complex houses a power plant, a boiler area, a wastewater treatment facility, microbiology and chemical laboratories and a warehouse. It was not immediately known whether the attack targeted the cannery, which shipped canned tuna products to the United States, Japan and Europe.
General Santos City was previously bombed many times in the past by the Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels. (With a report from Mark Navales)

Negros Farmers Appeal To Arroyo

January 30, 2008 at 6:54 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Negros farmers and their families hear mass Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at the San Diego Cathedral in Silay City. The farmers, who march around the provinces beginning Monday, have appealed to Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo to prolong Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. (Photos by VJ Villafranca)

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 30, 2008) – Peasant federation Task Force Mapalad (TFM) has called on President Gloria Arroyo to certify as urgent the bill that will extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to compel Congress to stop delays and hasten its enactment.

Some 3,000 people, mostly farmers, marched on Wednesday for third straight day to dramatize their appeal for extension of the CARP law.
“President Arroyo should certify the bill as urgent. Some congressmen are making alibis to delay CARP extension. Some have proposed to hold a series of public hearings. All they wanted was to delay, so that when CARP expires in June, they can forget about the legislation,” TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
Farm workers and advocate groups, including representatives from the religious sector and civil groups and the youths from all over Negros island joined the 200-kilometer march to Bacolod City.
Farmers called on the three Negros solons, Representatives Monico Puentebella of Bacolod City, Jeffrey Ferrer of 4th District, and Ignacio Arroyo of 5th District to help in the passage of the bill. (Lani Factor and Heidi Fernandez)

Police Patrol Ambush In Zamboanga Town

January 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 30, 2008) – Suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels attacked Wednesday a Philippine police patrol, wounding four, on a farming village in the southern province of Zamboanga del Norte, officials said.

Officials said the attacked occurred before dawn near a village called Lakiki in Sibuco town, a known MILF stronghold west of Mindanao island. The attack on police forces sparked a running gun battle in the area.

Troops from the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion on a nearby village were sent to pursue the attackers, but gunmen split into smaller groups and fled to the hinterlands.

“We received reports that several gunmen were wounded in the fighting and troops were sent to pursue the attackers,” Major Eugene Batara, a regional army spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the local police blamed the MILF for the ambush. The motive of the attack is still unknown, but rebels have previously assaulted security forces patrolling near their camps.

The MILF, which has been fighting the government for almost four decades for a separate Muslim homeland in Mindanao, is currently negotiating peace with Manila. (With a report from Ely Dumaboc)

5 Soldiers Killed In Southern RP Clash

January 30, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Posted in 1 | 1 Comment
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 30, 2008) – At least 5 soldiers were killed and six more wounded in fierce clashes Wednesday with communist insurgents in the southern Philippines, army commanders said.

The fighting broke out near the village of Campawan in the seaside town of Baganga in Davao Oriental province where troops attacked a stronghold of the New People’s Army (NPA). It was not immediately known how many insurgents were killed in the fighting, but General Ernesto Boac, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said security forces were pursuing about 70 gunmen.

“Five of my soldiers are killed and there is an ongoing operation in the area. We are pursuing NPA terrorists,” Boac told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said villagers were also helping authorities by providing information about the NPA, blamed for the string of attacks on government and civilians targets in the province the past years.

Col. Benito de Leon, a regional army spokesman, said at least six soldiers were also wounded in the fighting and that villagers have reported undetermined number of enemy casualties. “We are awaiting reports from our ground commanders in Baganga town. Six soldiers are wounded in the fighting,” he said in a separate interview.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA about the clashes or its casualties, but Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon has previously ordered a heightened offensive against the insurgents, which are fighting to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist state in the country.

The Philippine government opened peace talks with the insurgents, but negotiations collapsed in 2004 after the United States listed the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA and its political arm, the National Democratic Front, as foreign terrorist organizations on Manila’s prodding.

The NPA is estimated to have about 7,500 armed members, but the military said the number has dwindled to a little over 5,000. Aside from communist insurgency, Manila is also fighting Muslim secessionist rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the southern region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Jeep Collides With Truck In Southern Philippines

January 29, 2008 at 7:32 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 29, 2008) – More than a dozen people were killed and many others injured, many seriously, after a commuter jeep collided Tuesday with a cargo truck in the southern Philippine province of North Cotabato, police said.

Police said the accident occurred in the town of Carmen. The jeep rammed the truck after overtaking another vehicle at around 8.40 a.m. The jeep’s driver was instantly killed in the crash, including children and women, many were heading to work and schools.

At least 15 other passengers were injured in the accident, police said, adding, most of the injured victims are at a hospital in Kabacan City. (With a report from Mark Navales)

Peasants March In Negros, Seek Longer CARP Life

January 29, 2008 at 6:21 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

Task Force Mapalad farmers in Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental march to dramatize their calls for the immediate passage of a law extending the government’s agrarian reform program which will end this year. (Photos by V.J. Villafranca)


BACOLOD, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 29, 2008) – Close to one thousand farmers and their families and supporters marched for the second day in the central Philippine province of Negros Oriental to dramatize their calls for immediate passage of a law extending beyond 2008 the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Jose Rodito Angeles, president of the peasant federation called Task Force Mapalad (TFM), which spearheaded the pilgrimage, said more and more people were joining four-day march which began Monday.
“The enthusiastic reception to the march is attributed not only to its being the first of its kind to be held in Negros but also to the strong desire of the rural community for extension of CARP with reforms,” Angeles said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
He said many of the marchers are holders of certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) who remain uninstalled in their land because of landowner resistance.
“Uninstalled CLOA holders are quite a phenomenon in Negros. That is one of the reasons why CARP must be extended. Otherwise, the fate of these CLOA holders would be left hanging,” he said.
Edna Sobrecaray, TFM-Negros spokesperson, said: “Our congressmen should see for themselves how the people in Negros are desirous to own land under CARP. It would be a disservice to them if the three solons representing Negros continue to delay or work against its extension.”
Sobrecaray was referring to Representatives Monico Puentebella of Bacolod City, Jeffrey Ferrer of the 4th District, and Ignacio Arroyo of the 5th District whom the farmers have accused of campaigning against extension of CARP, which expires on June 30.
Two groups of marchers, one coming from the north and the other from the south, will converge on Thursday in Bacolod City to hold various mass activities that dramatize their call on Congress for the immediate passage of CARP extension law. “Owning land through CARP is the farmer’s last hope to feed his family, send his children to school, and finally break the cycle of poverty” Sobrecaray said.
In the north, some 400 marchers stopped for lunch at Eusebio Lopez Elementary School in the village of Pabrika in Sagay City, then proceeded to Cadiz City, around 24 kilometers away. At the boundary, they were joined by a group of some 150 farmer and farm workers.
Three marchers – Amparo Caontoy, 66, of Hacienda Minakalao; Milagros Estrada, 54, of Hacienda Caridad; and Narciso Canete, 48, of Hacienda Rose Marie –collapsed from exhaustion due to heat and were immediately given first aid by the medical team. By mid-afternoon the marchers reached Central Cadiz where the municipal agrarian reform officer sent them 500 plastic bags of ice-cold water.
Before dusk, some 20 youths, mostly high school students, joined the march along with their parents, who were also farmers. By the time the marchers reached the municipality of Manapla at around 9 p.m., they had walked 38 kilometers. They spent the night at the municipal gymnasium.
On Tuesday, the marchers, now numbering almost 500, proceeded toward Silay City. At around 9 a.m., the marchers stopped at the public plaza in Victorias to take breakfast. Several policemen arrived to tell them they could not eat at the plaza, but the marchers argued that they were in a public place and their assembly was peaceful.
In the south, some 100 farmers from contentious lands in Negros Oriental gathered in Kabankalan City where they were joined by 30 farm workers from Negros Occidental, mostly from Arroyo-owned Haciendas Bacan, Grande, and Paraiso.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) provincial office in Negros Oriental donated two sacks of rice, noodles, and packs of cigarettes. The DAR municipal office in Hinigaran, through MARO Myrna Mercano and her staff, also sent 3 kilos of dried fish, 500 sandwiches, 4 boxes of juice, and 5 boxes of iced water.
Fr. Robert Cermona of Kabangkalan Parish held a liturgical service and blessed the group before they started to march at around noon. After an hour, they stopped at Barangay Tuoy to take lunch and proceeded afterward to Himamaylan.
Two women marchers from Elizalde Roxas (ELRO) landholding fainted under the sun’s heat and were immediately assisted by paramedics. They were identified as Carmen Raydan, 52, and Elizabeth Balingit, 49.
In Isabela, where the 157-hectare Hacienda Bacan owned by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is located, the marches were joined by another 100 farmers. Some 20 children came to deliver prayers for their parents then later joined the march.
After walking 30 kilometers, the marchers stopped to spend the night at Plaza Miranda in Hinigaran, where they were joined by 70 more farmers. Some 320 marchers from south represented farmers and farm workers from Montenegro , Goni, Lagpasan, and Tirambalo lands in Negros Oriental, and the Arroyo lands, Tunsay, and Manalo in southern Negros Occidental.
The next day, the marchers were joined by 35 farmers from Payao and 10 CLOA holders from Hacienda Dumancas. Before they resumed the march, Hinigaran Mayor Hermie Lou Aguilard gave them 5 kilos of sugar, 3 kilos of ground native coffee, 5 kilos of dried fish, and 300 pieces of breadl, TFM said. (Lani Factor and Heidi Fernandez)

Military Convoy Attacked In South RP

January 29, 2008 at 5:22 pm | Posted in 1 | 1 Comment
Military forces secure a highway in southern Philippines. Unidentified gunmen ambush Tuesday, January 29, 2008, a military armored vehicle similar to these transport carrier in Lanao del Norte province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Jan. 29, 2008) – Unidentified gunmen attacked Tuesday a Philippine Army convoy in the southern province of Lanao del Norte, where US and Filipino troops are to begin a joint anti-terror training exercise, officials said.

A Simba armored personnel carrier was hit by an M203 grenade fired by gunmen near a bridge in Pantar town, but there were no reports of casualties. Troops pursued the attackers, but lost them when they scampered to civilian areas, said Major General Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division.
“The Simba was part of an army convoy heading to Iligan City from Marawi. There were no casualties,” he told the Mindanao Examiner, adding the vehicle’s wheels were damaged from the attack.
The attack occurred ahead of the Balikatan 2008 joint military training exercises in Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces in the Muslim autonomous region. No group claimed responsibility for the ambush, but the area is a known stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is currently negotiating peace with Manila.
But aside from the MILF, the province is also a lair of the communist New People’s Army rebels waging a secessionist war in the Philippines.
“We are investigating the motive of the attack and who were behind it. General Nelson Allaga has ordered more patrol in the province to prevent future attacks on military vehicles,” said Army Major Eugene Batara, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, referring to the regional military commander.
It was unknown whether the attack would have an effect on the joint military training which will simultaneously begin on February 18. US and Philippine troops involved in the Balikatan 2008 would also embark on a humanitarian and development projects in the provinces.
Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is the codename of the joint anti-terror drill held each year since 2001. The Balikatan demonstrates US resolve to continue the commitment to train, advice and assist the Philippine military to build capacity to counter terrorism.
The Balikatan includes support for comprehensive defense reform; security assistance modules for counter-terrorism training; operations intelligence fusion; and aspects in education programs, logistics, and engineering, equipment, and maintenance and helicopter programs.
It will also enhance the skills and capabilities of Filipino and American forces in combating terrorism and other internal and external security threats. And improve inter-operability between RP and US forces through the exchange of training skills and techniques.
The training is part of Washington security assistance to the Philippines, a key US ally in Southeast Asia in the so-called global war on terrorism. (Mindanao Examiner)

Waging Peace Through Laughter And Magic In Southern Philippines

January 29, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment

AAI in action during the HELP Caravan in Sulu province in southern RP. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)
SULU, Philippines – Nurhikma, eight years-old, is among the nine children of Fatima. They live in the war torn village of Pang, Kalingalang Caluang in Sulu, Philippines, the scene of recent battles between government troops and guerilla forces.Nurhikma is among thousands of children in Mindanao who live in the shadow of fear due to the continual threat of armed conflict.
He was among more than 3,000 children who participated in four days of Kids Fun activities in Sulu and in Basilan war zones, from January 18 to 23, 2008 created and conducted by the Asia America Initiative (AAI).The surprise arrival of a clown, magician and face painters, along with an enthusiastic band of volunteer organizers was part of the first HELP (Health, Education and Livelihood programs) Humanitarian Caravan organized by the Office of Presidential Adviser for Peace Process (OPAPP).
According to Presidential peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, “This effort focuses on health, education and livelihood to provide development in the areas affected by conflict.” The caravan was a partnership of national and provincial government agencies including the Departments of Health, Education, Social Welfare, Trade and Employment, with logistical support by the Philippines Armed Forces.
The Asia Foundation contributed thousands of school textbooks. On site non-government agencies were represented by Asia America Initiative. Over a six year period, AAI has fostered “peace zones” and twenty “Model of Excellence” public schools and livelihood projects in Sulu, and has intervened in Basilan. “The Caravan is a venue of peace and thousands of local people are joining our efforts to spread peace in the whole of Sulu,” says Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.
Like a typical party for children anywhere, the fun days were packed with games, magic shows, a cheerful clown, face painting, cupcakes, and gifts-give-away of dolls and Spider Man toys. It was the first time that the children of Pang village in Kalingalang Caluang and Tugas of Patikul in Sulu, and the towns of Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip in Basilan experienced such fun-filled activities.
AAI Philippines conducted the Kids Fun Days as part of its campaign of “Building peace: one child at a time.” The festive programs aim to build support for the peace process by bringing smiles to the children and their families in the war zone of Mindanao.
Reflecting on Fun Day events, AAI Program Coordinator, Ms. Rohaniza Sumndad, says, “The children’s smiles and laughter were indescribable. The teachers, parents and entire villages all participated. They kept thanking us for making their children happy. The first step in ending conflict is all of us working together for our children, Christians and Muslims, and not abandoning people in communities full of uncertainties.
That is how a culture of peace begins.”AAI activities were supported by grants from Mr. Don Marshall of SALVTUG in Manila and the Shelby Cullom Davis Fdtn. in Washington, D.C., Mary Lanier and Bruce Pilley in California, and with medical donations from MedPharm in Virginia and the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Naga, Philippines.
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