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special report 53
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KAC alumna is Athlete of the Year

The Hingatungan Lupong Tagapamayapa (HILUTA)

Green groups, Romblon governor question regional court ruling against local issuances

New rooms for Asturias schools

Puroks drive town’s success

University of St. La Salle regains moot court cup in 2012 finals

Vice president Jejomar C. Binay’s second year report

Comelec cancels PWD voter registration for ARMM listing

Human rights activists go to UN to dispute PNoy’s human rights claims before international community

Amputees to benefit from latest technology at Davao facility







Island folks commemorate 69th Anniversary of the Battle of Sibuyan Sea

Battle of Sibuyan Sea

Press Release
October 24, 2013

SIBUYAN ISLAND, Romblon – For the first time in the history of Sibuyan Island, more than a thousand people coming from San Fernando and Magdiwang municipalities flocked to neighboring Cajidiocan town to commemorate the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.

According to Presidential Proclamation No. 35 signed issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III on October 4, 2010, “the Battle of Sibuyan Sea is one of the four (4) major battles in the historic Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was easily considered as one of the largest naval battles in history.”

The presidential issuance proclaims October 24 as the ‘Battle of Sibuyan Sea Day’, thus, ordering “pertinent government agencies to rectify history herewith in their respective institutional capacities” and such be “mentioned with reverence in our schools and should form an integral part of our country’s rich history.”

For war historian John Toland, “the battle of the Sibuyan Sea (23-24 October 1944) was the opening phase of the battle of Leyte Gulf and saw American submarines and carrier aircraft attack Admiral Kurita's I Striking Force, sinking the massive battleship Musashi.”

During the commemoration ceremonies, after the singing of the national anthems of the United States of America, Japan and the Philippines, eye-witnesses narrated their first hand experiences when planes bombed what they claimed as the battleship Musashi.

“I was 14 years old at the time, I saw the actual bombing of the big ship by numbers of airplanes which continuously attacked the ship until it sunk,” said Esperanza Rabino.

Another eye-witness, Sixto Recto, who was 9 years old at that time, recalled that they went up to a hill and hid for safety: “When we heard a large sound like a bomb, we immediately went out from our hiding and saw airplanes bombard a big ship until it sunk.”

Mayor Nicasio Ramos of the host municipality of Cajidiocan said that the local government is willing to coordinate and support the annual commemoration of the Battle of Sibuyan Sea.

“This is a tribute to the brave and young men and women who show their heroism for their love of their country – should be held and celebrated in Cajidiocan since history can speak for itself that the said event really happened in the vicinity and territory of Cajidiocan.”

The two mayors of the neighboring San Fernando and Magdiwang towns, Salem Tansingco and Ibarra Manzala, expressed their full support for the annual commemoration.

“This shall be witnessed not only by Sibuyanons but also by the whole world – history has been corrected since the truth is that the battle of Sibuyan Sea was never happened in the western part of Sibuyan near Tablas Island but here in the eastern side of our island, here in Cajidiocan,” said Tansingco.

Years ago, a historical marker was erected on a beach park in Alcantara town in Tablas Island.

Manzala stressed the importance of passing the historical truth of the event to the next generations to come. He also further explained the significance of the battle in the history of the World War II.

In his message, Region IV-B Tourism Officer Dominique Contreras congratulated the municipality of Cajidiocan for heading the commemoration of the 69th Anniversary of the Battle of Sibuyan Sea, “the Department of Tourism is grateful to these tourism related endeavors which can further take us to the vision of our Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr.”

Highlighting the commemoration and to show respect to the fallen soldiers, three floral wreaths with Philippine, Japanese and American flags were floated off to sea with prayers offered led by priest Fr. Noel Sixon.

The Sibuyan Island commemoration was organized by the Truth Team composed of former DILG Director Rene T. Maglaya, Fr. Guillermo Ramo, Ph.D., Ret. Col./Sr. Supt. Julito T. Royo, Mr. Ricardo Ramo, Ret. Col. Douglas Tansiongco, Dr. Arthur Rey Tansiongco and Mr. Ronnie Royo.

(Photo Credit: Office of the Mayor, Municipality of Cajidiocan, Romblon Province)





September 29th rally against pork barrel a huge success; group offered potential alternatives

September 29th rally against pork barrel

Press Release
September 30, 2013

CEBU CITY – Convenors of the Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System congratulate the estimated 10,000 participants of the September 29, 2013 march-rally against the pork barrel system.

The official estimate of 10,000 participants was at least 25% higher than the Coalition’s internal objectives.

It was very evident from the start when the sun shone brightly at the start and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief that the weather was going to cooperate. At exactly 1:30 PM as planned, the parade started down Osmeña Blvd. on its way to the Plaza Independencia. Police reported no incidents and CITOM succeeded in implementing their “open/close” system thereby not disrupting traffic too much in every direction.

Students from the University of Cebu, Cebu Doctors University, University of San Carlos, University of the Visayas, University of San Jose Recoletos, Southwestern University, University of Southern Philippines, University of the Philippines-Cebu, St. Theresa’s College, and other Catholic schools joined the multitude of groups from the religious, civil society and business sectors, three bugle and drum corps, a dance troupe and a tribal progressive band. The participants abided by the guidelines the group had written for itself and thereby succeeded in having a peaceful rally.

The Convenors based its assessment of success from the following:

First of all, the anti-pork message and potential solutions that the people wanted to express was said and heard by the public and media loud and clear.

Second, the whole event was flawlessly executed in military-like fashion such that the Mass started five minutes earlier than planned and the whole rally ended exactly as planned.

Third, the law abiding group was successful in expressing its great indignation against corrupt practices without breaking any local laws and ordinances themselves. The parades marshals were made up of leftist and rightist groups working in harmony and efficiency together, fighting a common cause.

Fourth, although each group of the over 50-organization coalition were allowed to carry their own organization’s banners and flags, they all worked together in their united front against the pork barrel system and showed mutual respect with one another.

Fifth, and probably unheard of from any other rally, the group cleaned up after themselves leaving the march route, the Fuente Osmeña circle and Plaza Independencia cleaner than when the group first arrived!

Finally, the Coalition’s official estimate of the crowd at 10,000 was at least 25% higher than its internal objectives. The group’s official estimate was based on estimates using the August 26th official estimate by the city authorities. Then, the crowd estimate was 3,200 and the parade extended from Fuente Osmeña until Sanciangko St., a length of around 800 meters. Yesterday, the parade extended from Plaza Independencia all the way to the Fuente circle, a length of 2.45 kilometers or 3 times the length of the August 26th rally. Therefore, logically, the number of people yesterday was estimated to be at least 3 X 3,200 or close to 10,000. However, the most important number that the group is counting is the number of signatures already submitted.

The Convenors also wish to thank all sponsors, donors, and friends who made this rally the success that it was and to the city authorities who helped direct and guide the group safely.





Lessons from the oil spill

September 6, 2013

CEBU CITY – Several years after the dreadful Guimaras oil spills, another incident of similar breadth is happening in the Visayas, in Cordova’s coastal area near Talisay City. The oil slick is reported to have reached Lapu-Lapu City.

“The oil spill caused by the collision of the passenger vessel MV St. Thomas Aquinas and cargo vessel Sulpicio Express Siete in the seas of Cordova is the very first recorded incident in Central Visayas,” Dr. Edgar Llameda, information officer of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7, said during an episode in "Pagtuki", the official radio program of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI).

Last August 16, 2013, the two marine vessels collided resulting to the oil spill in Cordova’s seas. The passenger vessel MV St. Thomas Aquinas carries with it 120 liters of crude oil and 20,000 liters of diesel.

Approximately 5,000 fishermen were affected. Consumers from the neighboring barangays, after hearing about the incident, became hesitant to buy seafood products for fear of contamination.

The affected area in Cordova included 15 kilometers of coastline where 12 barangays are located. Hectares of mangrove were also affected by the oil spill, not to mention other marine species.

The most damaged mangrove plantation is in Barangay Bang-bang where 76 hectares was affected.

“Right now, we are preparing the demand letter of P6.5 million damage compensation for the affected newly planted mangroves that are enrolled in our Integrated Coastal Resource Management (ICRM) Project,” Llameda disclosed.

The ICRM Project, where the Philippine Government has a counterpart, gained funds through the loan granted by the Asian Development Bank.

To help in reviving the damaged area, people’s organizations in Cordova, together with the DENR 7 conducted a coastal cleanup where oil in the coastlines was collected.

“We from DENR, through the Environmental Management Bureau, can accredit certain corporations or individuals to handle these hazardous wastes. Last Sunday (Aug. 25), one of our treatment storage disposal holders provided us with empty drums to gather the collected oil,” Llameda further explained.

According to him, it would be better for those who would like to join the cleanup to have protective gears like hand gloves, face masks, and boots.

“Our fishermen started catching fish again but no one would buy because many have died during the accident. So as an example, last August 30, we from the municipal hall ate fish for lunch,” Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy shared.

Because the damage done to the coastal area was huge, its restoration process would also take long. The local government made plans on giving training for alternative livelihood to those who would like to quit fishing and for the wives of fishermen.

“We just have to make efforts. This is a challenge to the whole Cordova on how we could survive,” Sitoy said as a message to his constituents.

For the cleanup of the coastal areas, indigenous materials such as coconut husks are encouraged as oil dispersants because they can decompose faster. Cement plants could use the collected oil as fuel.

“As precautionary measures, we could focus on our rescue and retrieval operations. Second is organizing and convening our treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) holders because they are the ones capable of handling, storing, disposing, and collecting the wastes produced by an oil spill,” Llameda stressed.

The current situation is something unforeseen by most people. The collision of the marine vessels is something that doesn’t happen normally.

“The situation pertaining to us is we see that the perception is based on fear. One way to address that is to educate ourselves on what really happened so it is really important that we listen to the radio or watch television for advisory from the DENR, DOH and other local government units,” Evelyn Navario-Castro, executive director of RAFI's Eduardo J. Aboitiz Development Studies Center, urged.

The government already has plans of establishing emergency response units specialized in handling certain situations such as oil spills. This way, they will be able to give a quick response that could help lessen the perceived damages of such calamities.

“In the event that another thing like this happens, we already have a team on standby,” Llameda said.





Quezon City, Manila & Makati City are HIV/AIDS hot spots

Rising incidence of men having sex with men alarming – TUCP

August 27, 2013

QUEZON CITY – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) urged city and municipal mayors including local councils to give more priorities and resources in addressing the alarming growth of HIV-AIDS incidence nationwide particularly the growing trend of men having sex with men.

“The city and municipal mayors’ cooperation and the synergy of local council members are important in controlling the spread of AIDS-HIV among our people especially the Filipino youth nationwide. We, in the workers’ sector, are calling on our chief executives to act quickly by providing funds, crafting city ordinances, and providing facilities that caters essential care and support to infected constituents,” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-TUCP.

In a rapid assessment study and analysis results designed for local chief executives released recently by the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC), the Department of Health (DOH) latest monitoring of the disease showed 1 Filipino is infected by AIDS every 2 hours or 8 new cases every ten days with more men having sex with men. Most of the victims engaged in men to men sex are 15 to 34 years old.

“Access to condoms is a quick and knee jerk, temporary solution. But what we need now is a permanent, lasting and strategic solution,” Seno stressed.

If this behavior continues, the number of cases this year may surpass the total figure of 3,338 cases reported last year, the highest since 1984.

The TUCP is a member of the PNAC and co-chair of its committee on planning, partnership and networking. The other members of the PNAC are the DOH, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development and other non-government organizations.

The rapid assessment also emphasize the need for local chief executives and local city and municipal council nationwide to make policy interventions by correcting misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, promote self-risk assessment, provide access to available STI HIV services. The study also urged local governments to give premiums to the establishments of more permanent local aids council, facilities for victims and health personnel.

“The study points to the need for mayors and city councils to institutionalize their shared responsibility in minimizing the number of HIV/AIDS victims. By institutionalizing the HIV/AIDS policy intervention in cities and municipalities, the problem is insulated from partisan politics and transforms the approach become more decisive. This is how we think the chronic and growing problem of HIV/AIDS should be addressed,” Seno added.

In June 2013 alone, there were 431 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals confirmed by the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory and reported to the HIV and AIDS registry. This is 46% higher compared to the same period last year in June 2012 with 295 reported cases.

Since 1984 to present, there were 14,025 cases reported. More than half or 51% (6,549) came from Metro Manila. While 13% (1,643) came from Region 4A, 9% from Region 7, 8% (1,077) from Region 3, 6% in Region 11 and 13% are from the rest of the country.

The assessment identified Quezon City (1,539), Manila (1,363) and Makati (712) are the top three cities in 17 cities and municipality in Metro Manila with high incidence of AIDS. They were followed by Mandaluyong (399), Pasig (388), Caloocan (354), Pasay (326), Paranaque (280), Taguig (240), Las Pinas (228), Marikina (207), Muntinlupa and Valenzuela (145), San Juan (65), Malabon (92), Navotas (38), Pateros (16).

Sexual contact remains the prominent mode of transmission (93%), 4% through needle sharing and 1% each through mother to child transmission, blood transfusion and needle prick injury. Of the 13,036 who transmitted the disease through sexual contact, 44% (5,722) of which were done through men to men.

Forty five percent of those surveyed in Metro Manila said condoms were not available. Others said they don’t like to use or their partner objected to using condoms.





The journey of the Lico Agrarian Reform cooperative

Agrarian reform coop ventures from farming to commercial banking

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
July 18, 2013

NAVAL, Biliran – After years of engaging in farming, members of a farmers’ cooperative here has ventured into another world this time as bankers.

“Very inspiring is the story of the Lico Agrarian Reform Cooperative or LARCoop,” Department of Agrarian Reform Region 8 Director Eliasem Castillo said.

From a struggling farmers organization, slowly but surely, LARCoop is now among the more stable organizations in the province of Biliran, Director Castillo said.

The Lico Agrarian Reform Cooperative (LARCoop) added not so long ago quasi-banking into their list of income generating projects.

With some members who are college graduates, the coop bravely gave this practically new field a try.

As preparation, its management team together with other cooperatives attended in 2012 the Microfinance, Governance and Administration (MIGOA) seminar-workshop held here in Naval.

Chairperson Rebecca Payos afterwards together with seven other coop members, as a follow through activity, underwent a seminar on Microfinance Basic Capacity Building (MBCB) in Cebu City and a 5-day on-the-job training in Siaton, Negros Oriental.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) recommended LARCoop to National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO) to avail of the latter’s credit facilities and other assistances.

Unfortunately, LARCoop failed to get NATCCO’s nod in its first try. Determined, however, LARCoop in its second attempt finally became the 56th cooperative and the first from Region-8 to be able to avail of NATCCO’s microfinance assistance which included a P1-million loan payable in five years at 13 percent interest per annum.

From this loan, the LARCoop opened a quasi-bank on December 18, 2012 at the downtown area of Naval, the provincial capital of Biliran with DAR officials, representatives from the NATCCO and local government units in attendance to witness the event, which was a monumental manifestation of the growth of the said cooperative.

The quasi bank according to Bibian Sereño, microfinance operations manager, offers savings deposit, time deposit, kiddiie deposit as well as loan assistance (providential, productive and microfinance), though limited to members only. Its primary goal is to address the financial needs of its members at very low interest rates.

On its launching day alone, 35 member-depositors opened accounts. As of this writing, Sereño reported that the quasi bank has already 524 depositors.

LARCoop was organized by DAR in 2003 and registered as Lico Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi Purpose Cooperative (LARBMPC) and registered with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) on February 21 of the same year with only 23 members composed of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and other farmers from the Naval-2 Agrarian Reform Community (ARC).

The cooperative initially engaged in micro-lending activities and food processing business with the joint effort of the DAR and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which painstakingly assisted them in their struggling years.

But the meager income of the cooperative then was not enough to provide the growing needs of its members, particularly the rice farmers who needed bigger amount during planting season that would serve them as capital for their farm operations.

Though apprehensive, the cooperative took the risk of availing of production loan assistance from DAR’s Credit Assistance Program for Program Beneficiaries Development (CAP-PBD) thru the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The cooperative was able to maintain a good standing with the bank. From the coop’s income they were able to acquire a 120 sq. m. lot in their village where they built their office.

In 2012, they changed their name to Lico Agrarian Reform Cooperative or LARCoop.

From 23 members, the cooperative has ballooned to 120 by December 18, 2012. Eighty of them are ARBs.

Since the opening of the quasi bank, 636 members more were added, bringing the total members of the organization to 705.

From P4,600 initial paid-up capital, LARCoop now posts a total asset of more than P5.6-million.

These include the 120 sq.m. lot and an office in Barangay Lico, and the recently inaugurated quasi bank.

As the coop expanded their operations, LARCoop opened their membership to residents of other barangays and adjacent towns.

During the inauguration of the cooperative’s quasi bank, DAR Regional Director Eliasem Castillo advised the officers and members to never give up when faced with challenges. He added that DAR will always be there to guide and assist them.

Further, Castillo disclosed the many assistances extended by DAR to its beneficiaries which include credit facilities.

Recently, according to Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Ismael Aya-ay, the coop was chosen by his office to be the lead agrarian reform beneficiary organization (ARBO) who will take charge of the farm machineries distributed under the Agrarian Reform Communities Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS), which will be used in realizing their agribusiness activities, such as their “Rice Productivity Enhancement Project”.

These machines, he added, may give them additional income in the form of rentals.





Dream unfolds as road construction in Capoocan’s remotest village starts

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
June 27, 2013

CAPOOCAN, Leyte – To the delight of the barangay folks of Balugo, their long- time dream is starting to come true as the construction of an all-weather road leading to the town of Capoocan’s remotest barangay has started after ground-breaking rites held on June 25.

Regional Director Eliasem Castillo of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) disclosed that the 5.3-kilometer road project will connect Barangay Balugo, the town’s innermost village, to Barangay Visares.

The project with a total funding cost of P12.1-million is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) thru the second phase of the Agrarian Reform Community Project (ARCP-2) implemented under the Program Beneficiaries Development (PBD) of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Director Castillo said.

Contracted to the Victoria Development and Construction Supply Corp., the farm-to-market road project is expected to be finished by December, the Regional Director said.

Once completed, transporting of goods to and from Barangay Balugo will be a lot easier, Barangay Kagawad Emma Mercolita said. Lesser expense will also be incurred by the farmers and residents, she added.

Kagawad Mercolita said that at present, with the absence of road, the residents have to walk four kilometers to the adjacent Barangay Visares where they wait for a ride going to the town proper to transact business.

School children who attend classes in Barangays Visares and Lemon are oftentimes absent, Kagawad Mercolita said.

This accessibility problem has resulted to barangay residents transferring to other barangays, the Barangay Kagawad added.

Once this road project is completed, Mercolita further disclosed, these residents promised to return because their livelihood is in their barangay.

Barangay Balugo is one the town’s largest farming village where 64 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) together with the 216 from Visares will be directly benefited especially in the marketing of their products.

Presently, farmers pay P75 per sack for hauling of farm products to Visares.

Meanwhile, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (PARO) Leovigildo Monge shared how he and his team got lost on their way back after surveying the area during the preparatory stage of the project, DAR 8 Information Office Jose Alsmith Soria intimated trying to demonstrate how remote the barangay is.

Capoocan Mayor Federico Carolino Sr. expressed his gratitude to the Office of the President for shouldering part of the 60 percent share of the local government unit (LGU) on the total project cost thru the National Government Assistance to LGUs (NGALGU) making the equity affordable for his municipality for the benefit of his constituents.

Meanwhile, Leyte Second District Representative Sergio Apostol, who was also present during the groundbreaking ceremony, said he was glad that another barangay without a road under his jurisdiction was provided with such though the ARCP-2.

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