Samareños to oppose Enrile-owned logging firm
operations in Samar
By RICKY J. BAUTISTA
October 30, 2005
CATBALOGAN, Samar – The
government must again brace for another series of street demonstrations
here. This time, they were stanch to protect their threatened native land
against giant logging firm.
Days after the government
lifted the logging ban in Samar, a consortium of several non-government
organizations, people’s organizations, academe, church groups, and
anti-mining and logging advocates, converged themselves again and mapped out
plans to oppose this decision of the government.
“We do not want to
experience the tragedy occurred in Ormoc City, in Aurora Quezon, and here in
Samar province to happen here again,” Fr. Cesar Aculan, island-wide
president of the Samar Island Biodiversity Foundation said.
On December 1, Aculan said,
they were planning to stage a “historic” repeat of the island wide caravan
where thousands of protesters converged in every strategic point and drummed
up their strong opposition against mining and logging some years ago.
This move was finely honed
after knowing that San Jose Timber Corporation has appealed to the
government to allow them to resume their logging “business” in this battled
island of Samar, and was granted.
Secretary Michael T.
Defensor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
favorably acted on the letter dated July 11, 2005 of the said logging firm,
owned by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, 34 days later.
“San Jose Timber Corporation
is hereby allowed to pursue its rights and activities under its TLA (Timber
License Agreement) No. 118 until June 30, 2007, with an extension of the
period of said TLA equivalent to the time that elapsed from May 31, 1989
until promulgation of this order,” Secretary Defensor said in his 11-page
decision dated August 15, this year.
The TLA allowed the logging
firm 25 years, starting 1967, to operate and log within the 95, 770 hectares
of timber concessions in the island. This license was later on renewed in
1982 and set to expire on June 30, 2007, it was learned.
However, when flashfloods
occurred in the island in 1989, killing hundreds of residents in at least
nine municipalities, leaving most of the areas like a “no man’s land,” the
TLA was suspended and
was declared by the previous presidents a “Forest Reserve.”
Considering that incident
experienced by the Samareños, Regional Development Council and Coalition of
Samar-Leyte Organizations’ reports on unabated illegal logging, the DENR
ruled a need to “re-assess and evaluate” the existing forest resources and
the rate of forest denudation in the island of Samar.
“In the meantime that the
study is on-going, all logging operations are hereby suspended, including
the movement of logs, lumber and other wood products,” former DENR Secretary
Fulgencio Factoran Jr., said in a memorandum order issued in May 1989.
In 1989, the Philippine Wood
Products Association (PWPA), an association composed of logging operators in
the island submitted their position paper requesting the lifting of the “log
ban,” but this was not acted upon.
Since 1989 until 2004, these
logging firms continuously wrote previous DENR Secretaries Antonio Cerilles,
Heherson Alvarez, Elisea Gozun reiterating their request for the lifting of
the MO but they were denied especially now that “almost all of the whole
licensed area has become part” of the country’s largest Samar Island Natural
Park (SINP) under Proclamation No. 442 dated August 13, 2003.”
Last August 15, DENR
Secretary Defensor gave in to the request allowing the SJTC to log until
2007, and even granted 16 years more as replacement of the period that the
TLA was suspended.
“This office notes that
there is no question on the TLA’s validity and existence. The issue posed
here is the legality of its prolonged suspension due to facts and
circumstances arising after the MO had lapsed (on May 30, 1989),” Defensor
in his order said.
The argument used as basis
of the former DENR Secretary in suspending the TLA is the Proclamation No.
744 (Samar Island Forest Reserve) of Fidel Ramos and PGMA’s Proclamation No.
442 declaring the
Samar Island Natural
Park had apparently affected the rights of SJTC under the LTA No. 118.
However, “this office observes that a closer reading of the pertinent
provisions of the relevant proclamations reveal otherwise… it is (both)
subject to existing recognized claims and private rights (of SJTC),” the
DENR chief argued.
“The (proclamations) do not
furnish any basis to preclude SJTC from exercising its rights under after
the lapse of the MO… because the SIFR and SINP were established under law
without prejudice to private rights,” Defensor ruled.
Tragic death by fire in detention center at
Press Release by
Platform of Filipino Migrant Organisations in
October 30, 2005
AMSTERDAM - The Platform of
Filipino Migrant Organisations in Europe (Platform-Europe) expresses
condolence to the families of the detainees who died or were injured in the
disastrous fire at the
Center at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam during the early hours of Thursday,
October 27. Eleven detainees died in the blaze but until now their
identities and nationalities have not been made public. Fifteen detainees
have been hospitalised as a result of injuries.
The fire started in the
Prison Center at Schipol where 350 prisoners are detained prior to
deportation from the Netherlands. One detainee at the centre told Dutch
radio that guards had initially ignored their warnings of a fire and their
banging on the cell doors. "We remained locked inside. We were shouting at
the top of our voices until we were hoarse," he said.
The BBC News reported that
"forty-three people were said to be in the wing that caught fire, where two
dozen cells held up to two people each and where cell doors could only be
opened manually, one at a time".
This detention center has
been under criticism for detaining in the same prison both undocumented
migrants and refugees as well as those suspected of drug smuggling. Migrant
and refugee, as well as human rights organisations have raised criticism on
detention conditions at the Center. The Dutch National Refugee Council has
particularly criticised the lack of an automatic system to open cell doors.
Survivors are now being
removed from Schipol to other detention Centers within the Netherlands.
UNITED for Intercultural
Action, the pan-European network of more than 560 anti-racist and refugee
organisations has commented that "these tragic deaths are to be accounted
together with the other victims of
immigration policies. Detention of refugees and asylum seekers is now an
alarming issue throughout
Europe. More and more deaths occur as a consequence of inhuman
detention conditions". UNITED has documented 6,300 deaths of migrants and
refugees since 1993 - deaths which are related to border militarisation,
asylum laws, detention policies, deportations and carrier sanctions.
The Platform of Filipino
Migrant Organisations in
Europe joins with
Migrant and refugee organisations, Prisoners rights groups,
Parliamentarians, and others who are calling for an independent inquiry into
the cause of the fire and the conditions at the Prison Center which has led
to these tragic deaths.
Conservation groups decries
order lifting logging moratorium in Samar
By RICKY J. BAUTISTA
October 24, 2005
CATBALOGAN, Samar –
Alarmed with the possible comeback of the flashfloods that killed hundreds
of Samar Island residents 16 years ago, a conservation groups here and
allies in the metropolis decried the decision of the government lifting a
logging moratorium in this island.
Acting on the appeal of a
logging firm owned by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary Michael T.
Defensor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a
memorandum order allowing the logging resumption of the San Jose Timber
Corporation (SJTC), which operations was halted due to “killer flashfloods”
occurred in the island in 1989.
In January 1989, the towns
of Catubig, Las Navas (Northern Samar), Gandara, San Jorge (Western Samar),
Dolores, Oras, Can-avid, Jipapad and Maslog (Eastern Samar) were inundated
by massive flash floods believed to have been caused by rampant logging
In that same year, Fr. Cesar
Aculan, island-wide president of the Samar Island Biodiversity Foundation
said the Samarnons converged themselves and held series of street protests
and undergone “legal battles” seeking for a total stop to logging operations
in the island.
Thus, a logging moratorium
was declared by then president Corazon Aquino, which was later on
strengthened by the Presidential Proclamation No. 744 of the succeeding
president Fidel Ramos declaring the Samar’s “remaining” forests as Forest
Last August 2003, it was
learned, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo also issued another Presidential
Proclamation No. 442, declaring the same forests as the Samar Island Natural
Park (SINP) which aims to preserve the country’s largest contiguous lowland
With this new order (of
lifting the logging moratorium to SJTC), “this blatantly disregards the
declared policy of three past administrations, and opens the floodgates for
the massive invasion of the SINP by logging operations (here),” Fr. Aculan
Based on the Timber
Licensing Agreement (TLA) granted by the government to the San Jose Timber
Corporation, this operations, if push through, will carves out some 90,000
hectares inside the country’s largest national park, it was learned.
“(And), this is a horrible
threat to our lives, limbs and our livelihoods,” Fr. Aculan said.
Meanwhile, the Samar Island
Council for Sustainable Development (SICSD) who had been continuously
advocating a “no mining” campaign in the island, has expressed their
apprehension that this order might create a precedent for other TLA holders,
whose coverage includes large chunks of the national park, to follow suit.
If this will happen, “we
will now be gripped with fear of flashfloods whenever we have heavy rains,”
Don Mabulay, spokesperson of SICSD told in a media forum. He said that since
Samar Island has the highest rainfall in the country, this lifting of the
moratorium looms as a series of acts of terrorism to be inflicted on tens of
thousands of Samarnons, especially those in the affected municipalities.
To counter these threats,
Aculan and Mabulay said they were planning a historic “repeat” of last
year’s island-wide caravan this coming December 1 which will be participated
in by at least 20,000 Samar Island residents.
Their Metro Manila-based
allies such as the Haribon Foundation, Tanggol Kalikasan, Foundation for
Philippine Environment, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Philippine Tropical Forest
Council, Conservation International, CBCP national secretariat for social
action, and other conservation groups in the metropolis and in abroad were
also planning to “work hard” for this endeavor, it was learned.
(read related article)
Rep. Figueroa warns government on Piatco
By RICKY J. BAUTISTA
October 24, 2005
high-ranking administration lawmaker said he has warned the Arroyo
government not to sanction any offer to “buy-out” the interests of Piatco in
the Ninoy International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
Speaking before local
reporters here on Saturday, Rep. Catalino “Cata” V. Figueroa of Samar’s 2nd
district said that since Piatco’s contract has been declared “null and void”
by the Supreme Court for its numerous and substantial post-award amendments,
a buy-out arrangement would be highly “irregular and prejudicial” to the
interest of the government.
“Itong buy-out issue na ito
ay magiging tantamount yan to bailing out Piatco from criminal liabilities
that may arise from its gross violation of the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT)
scheme,” Rep. Figueroa stressed.
According to the Samar
solon, “it appears (now) that Piatco has not been even-handed and forthright
in its dealings with its principal foreign partner, Fraport of Germany, and
the government (itself).”
The solon, who is a
vice-chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and Committee on Ways
and Means, further recommended the prosecution of the owners and investors
of Piatco for alleged violation of an anti-graft law and the forfeiture of
whatever interests the owners of Piatco still have in the project.
“They (Piatco) secured the
highly questionable amendments through outright bribery and shameless
blandishments,” he said.
The solon recalled that
during the recent House of Representatives investigation on the Piatco deal,
“it was ascertained that Piatco, drawing funds from its German partner, has
bribed high government officials to accept amendments to the BOT contract
which practically made the government solely responsible for the payment of
loans, debt instruments and losses,” he said.
He said the existing
contract makes the government not merely a “guarantor” but actually a
“debtor” liable to pay these obligations if Piatco defaults in its payments.
Meanwhile, a controversial
business icon Lucio Tan, the original proponent of the NAIA Terminal 3,
filed on October 9, a petition for mandamus and injunction before the
Supreme Court to stop the government from allowing Piatco to sell the
interests in the project.
Tan, who acquired control of
Asia Emerging Dragon Corporation (AEDC), is claiming the right to operate
the mothballed airport.
Figueroa commented that
whatever may be the outcome of the Tan’s petition and the cases involving
Piatco and the government, “the interest of the government and the Filipino
people should be, at all times, defended and upheld.”
Pinoys in Europe to be lured to save, finance local economic dev’t
Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF)
October 23, 2005
SOME of the 30,000 Filipinos
in Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands will hear for the
first time alternatives to where their remittances can impact significantly
their families and communities of origin.
These alternatives will be
discussed in forums to be organized by the Economic Resource Center for
Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF) from November 3 to 13. The forums will be held in
cooperation with the Philippine embassies and consulates, as well as the
Filipino organizations in the four countries and will all have resource
persons from the Philippines.
ERCOF president Ildefonso
Bagasao hopes that overseas Filipinos and their groups in the Netherlands
will put part of their savings in microfinance and local government unit (LGU)
bond instruments that rural financial institutions in the Philippines are
offering to them.
Bagasao revealed that 11
Filipinos in The Netherlands and five others in Luxembourg have already
locked in five-year time deposits to two microfinance rural banks – Xavier-Punla
and Xavier-Tibud in Mindanao - totaling €9,510 (or PhP637,710 if €1 equals
The deposits, made between
April 2004 to June 2005, have an annual yield of 8.5 interest and are
secured by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation. These deposits,
Bagasao added, may already have resulted “in generating about 120 new
micro-enterprises as they become part of the portfolio of the Xavier-Punla
and Xavier-Tibud rural banks for these to re-lend to poor but enterprising
Bagasao said organizations
of overseas Filipinos can also buy local government unit (LGU) bonds floated
by Filipino towns and cities. Some 20 LGU bonds, mostly in rural towns, are
in the pipeline, with the minimum for a bond to be floated at PhP50 million
Bagasao added that buying
these bonds will not only give them higher yields, but will also provide
direct benefits to their towns of origin. Ercof is advocating with the LGU
units and their financial advisers that there be participatory decision
making even at the stage of project identification, so that a big block of
overseas Filipinos interested to participate would be in a strong position
to determine which projects should be funded.
But the forums will
especially emphasize financial literacy and cultivating the culture of
savings since the Philippines has one of the lowest savings rate in the
Asian region. The same also with entrepreneurship since only a percent of
the entire Philippine population have entrepreneurial skills, according to
the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“The problem is that
overseas Filipinos are all absent from the Philippines, and have little or
no control over circumstances concerning the money they remit to families
back home. This is where ERCOF helps them make informed decisions,” Bagasao
Oxfam Netherlands, a Dutch
non-government organization that funds projects in less-developed countries,
is supporting the conduct of ERCOF’s forums.
Some 8.1 million Filipinos
work and reside in 193 countries, as indicated by government data.
Remittances averaging more than USD$8 billion annually benefit more than a
million Filipino households while these shore up foreign exchange reserves
of the country.
overseas, mostly from North America, Australia and Europe, have also donated
in the last 14 years some Php1.5 billion to fund scholarships, school
buildings, medical missions and health-related equipment in needy areas.
there are 15,431 Filipinos in the Netherlands, 14,647 in Switzerland, 12,600
in Belgium, and some 700 in Luxembourg. These Filipinos are service workers,
professionals and employees of the United Nations, spouses of European
nationals, and also undocumented migrants.
The seeds of the ERCOF
vision were initially sown in a forum in the Netherlands in 1999, and had
evolved into its present mission of harnessing migrants’ remittances to
develop their Filipino towns of origin.
61st Leyte Gulf Landing commemoration
This, if opinion and
accounts of the Communist' political wing, the National Democratic Front
Eastern Visayas is to be considered, this is just a "waste of public funds
and a historical sham."
NDF-EV spokesperson Fr.
Santiago Salas said in a statement yesterday sent to various media outlets
that the commemoration of the historic landing of Gen. MacArthur in the soil
of Leyte province is "one of those useless public ceremonies that are
irrelevant to the people."
Fr. Salas said the only ones
who actually rave for it are the high-ranking local and national officials,
and not the common people who are hard up in this time of crisis.
"(These officials) display
their bureaucratic pompousness (spending) the public funds (in a wrong way),
and in honor of the colonial master in history," Fr. Salas said.
Earlier, Leyte Governor
Jericho "Icot" Petilla explained to Capitol-beat reporters that this years'
affair is not just an ordinary commemoration, but more on historical
Petilla, who chairs the
Leyte Gulf Landing Executive Committee, said this was in fact done in a very
"simple way but memorable one" occasion, as planned.
"As you can see, there was
no re-enactment in yesterday’s commemoration, because if we do that, we rub
out in the minds of the observers the real message why we annually
commemorated this day," the Leyte Governor said.
Remarking on the issue that
this is just a waste of public funds, Petilla assured the Leytenos that it
is "actually not," saying that measures had been followed to minimize the
expenses of this year’s celebration.
Meanwhile, according to the
NDF statement, the October 20 Leyte Landing annual ceremony (only) remembers
(us) the return of the US armed forces during World War II to the then
Japanese-occupied Philippines in 1944 to retake their colony.
The US went on to regain
control over the whole country once more, before granting nominal
independence in 1946 while remaining effectively in charge through
political, economic, military and cultural ties.
"The real heroes of that
time were (Filipinos) who rejected domination by any foreign power and
asserted national freedom and democracy. Thus the Leyte Landing is a
historical sham, when the return of
imperialism never brought us liberty and prosperity but the prolongation of
misery," the rebel priest said.
"We in the NDF-EV believe in
the people, in their patriotism and capacity to shape their own history.
When the people are aroused, organized and mobilized, they can carry out
social transformation through their armed struggle and mass movement," Fr.