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Climate advocates launch nationwide climate caravan

Helping Yolanda survivors start anew

PLDT, PBSP bring students closer to school with new classrooms

80,908 informal settlers aided by housing sector in 2013

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

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





Davao-made Malagos Premium Chocolates launched in the US

By DTI- Industry Promotion Group
November 18, 2016

MAKATI CITY – The Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine Trade and Investment Center Los Angeles (PTIC-LA) confirmed that Malagos Premium Chocolates, a chocolate produced in the Philippines, will now be available in the United States. This was further to the announcement made by the Davao-based Malagos Agri-Ventures during their recent participation at the North West Chocolate Festival in Seattle, Washington on November 12 -13, 2016.

Malagos Premium Chocolates
Philippine Trade and Investment Center - Los Angeles and San Francisco Trade Representative Jojie Dinsay (L) with Mr. Rex Puentispina (R) of Malagos Agri-Ventures at the NorthWest Chocolate Festival. (photo by PTIC-LA)

The Malagos line of chocolates has received acclaim from international fine food and chocolate award-giving bodies in Europe for its premium qualities. The products are single-origin, having been manufactured fully on-site on its farm in Davao, Philippines.

Mr. Jojie Dinsay, Trade Representative of the Philippines for the US West Coast and Head of the Philippine Trade and Investment Centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco said that this is another success story for the promotions efforts of premium food products in the US market as a result of the partnership between government and the private sector. “We are very happy and proud to have another premium product from the Philippines enter this market” Dinsay said. “The Philippine Trade and Investment Centers as part of our mandate will continue to support companies like Malagos in promoting their products all over the world”.

Featuring 110 exhibitors, the Northwest Chocolate Festival is known to be among the top shows for artisan chocolates in the world today with around 12,000 visitors. Malagos Premium Chocolates, a multi-awarded Philippine chocolate from Davao, was introduced not only to choco-loving consumers but to traditional and artisan chocolatiers, chefs and baristas present at the show.

Malagos Agri-Ventures’ participation at the NW Chocolate Festival was supported by the DTI’s Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB). Prior to this, assistance from the DTI regional office in Davao was also recognized by Malagos.

The Malagos brand is also expected to be introduced by Ampac International Inc., its importer in the United States, to UNI-MART Niles in Niles, Illinois and UNI-MART Hoffman in Hoffman Estates.

According to Mr. Rex Puentispina, Sales and Marketing Head of Malagos Agri-Venture, joining the Festival validates his belief that their chocolates can match the quality and taste of US and other international brands. “We have received a lot of good feedback from chocolate lovers visiting our booth” said Puentispina. “There were even some who say that this is one of the best they have ever tasted,” added Puentispina.

In 2015 at the International Chocolate Awards, Malagos 65% Dark Chocolate was named one of world’s best drinking chocolates. In the same year, it won at the Academy of Chocolate Awards when its 100% Unsweetened Chocolate won the Bronze Award for Best Unflavored Drinking Chocolate.

In 2016, its Premium 100% Unsweetened Chocolate won the Silver at the Drinking Chocolate competition of the Academy of Chocolate’s Eighth Golden Bean Awards in London. It also won that year a blind-taste competition when its Unsweetened Chocolate earned two of the maximum three stars awarded by Great Taste, the world’s most prestigious food accreditation body.

The company continues to invest in equipment and technology, producing its premium, single-origin chocolate products such as Malagos 100% Pure Unsweetened Chocolate, Malagos Roasted Cocoa Nibs, Malagos 65% Dark Chocolate, Malagos 72% Dark Chocolate, and Malagos 85% Dark Chocolate.

With its expansion in the United States, Malagos is expected to generate more jobs for Filipinos back in the Philippines.






Bugho Farmers Association
Members of the Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) savor their firs harvest after the Department of Agrarian Reform with the help of the RIGHTS and the Philippine National Police successfully installed the former to their awarded land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in June this year. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)

After 16-year struggle Ormoc farmers start harvesting

October 7, 2016

ORMOC CITY – Rosenda Apay could not hide her happiness as they started harvesting last week after having been deprived entry for 16 years to their awarded land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s (CARP’s) land acquisition and distribution component.

Apay, 56, was one of the 21 members of the Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) who were successfully installed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in June to the 25-hectare lot within the Fran Farm in Barangay Matica-a in this city after several failed attempts.

“Masaya kami dahil nakabalik na kami pagtrabaho sa aming lupa. Tapos, sa ngayon nag-aani na. Mas lalo kaming masaya,” (We are happy because we are back working in our farm. Now, we are already harvesting. The happier we are.) said Apay.

According to her, they will be harvesting rice in the 25-hectare lot until the last week of October. Their initial harvest produced 60 cavans.

She also disclosed that they decided not to sub-divide the 25 hectares covered under a collective certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) to keep it intact, preventing the sale of any portion of it by a member of their association. What they are going to divide is the produce, Apay added.

The members of the BFA were identified by the DAR in the late 90s to be the beneficiaries of lots 8667-47 and 8667-48 with a combined total area of 46 hectares.

But when CLOAs were registered in 1999 in the names of the BFA members, the Fran Farm Workers Association (FFWA) questioned in court as to who should be the rightful beneficiaries of the said lots which dragged on for 16 years resulting to animosity among them.

During this period, BFA was deprived entry into the contested landholding.

The case was resolved only when the BFA, in a rare gesture of magnanimity and grace, offered the 21-hectare lot to the rival group while retaining the 25-hectare lot to themselves leading to a compromise agreement in March this year.

Both groups were finally installed to their respective farmlots on June 13 and started cultivating.

Apay thanked DAR, the non-government organization RIGHTS and the Philippine National Police which continue to provide security in the area to maintain the peace and order situation.

Apay and FFWA member Medardo Cabahug, 59, admitted that their groups have already settled their differences. However, both also disclosed that another group entered into the scene bringing threats as the latter claims ownership of the once disputed area.

Meanwhile, DAR-8 Regional Director Sheila Enciso directed Assistant Regional Director Ismael Aya-ay to hasten the delivery of the necessary support services needed by these farmers.





Save the Children report: PH economy loses P328 billion a year due to malnutrition

By Save the Children Philippines
August 30, 2016

MANILA – A new report released today by Save the Children reveals that the Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion a year due to the impact of childhood stunting on workforce productivity and education. Stunting is the most prevalent form of undernutrition, and has permanent effects on a child’s growth and development.

The report entitled “Cost of Hunger: Philippines” suggests that, in 2013, childhood stunting cost the Philippines almost 3 percent of its GDP. The overall economic loss of P328 billion consists of:

1) P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level of education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting;

2) P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who would have been members of our current working-age population;

3) P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.

stunting prevalence among Filipino children
After more than 25 years of steady improvement, stunting prevalence among Filipino children below five years old increased from 30.3% in 2013 to 33.4% in 2015.

Ned Olney, Save the Children Philippines Country Director, said: “This study proves that undernutrition has a cost to all of us. In just a year, Philippines has lost almost 3 percent of its GDP in terms of education and productivity costs due to stunting. If we add up health costs, the likely impact would be an additional 0.05 - 1.6 percent.”

The report shows that stunting is the best predictor of productivity and income, and that undernutrition is linked to lower human capital. Children who are stunted in the first two years of life are more likely to repeat grade levels, drop out of school, delay school entry and have lower income levels when they enter the workforce.

Olney added: “If stunting rates continue to rise, it would be difficult for families to break free from poverty. It is the poor and neglected sectors of society that carry the burden of stunting. Any investment in reducing childhood undernutrition will reduce suffering and poverty, and will ultimately stimulate economic growth for all Filipinos.”

The report found, however, that Philippines’ investment in nutrition programs is very low at only 0.52 percent of general government expenditures compared to the global average allocation of 2.1 percent. Citing the report findings, Save the Children highlighted the need to invest in nutrition programs during the child’s first 1000 days, from pregnancy up to the second birthday, which is considered a critical period of care to avert stunting.

Olney said: “Nutrition is the cornerstone of all development efforts. This new report tells us that for every US$1 spent on programs to avert stunting in children below 2 years old, the Philippines could save over 100 US dollars in health, education, and lost productivity costs.”

“It should outrage us that 95 children will die every day because of malnutrition.”

Save the Children is raising the alarm on the nutrition crisis, and is calling the national and local government, private sector and the donors to end the appalling state of malnutrition in the Philippines:

• Support the “First 1000 Days Bill” to enhance the delivery of quality nutrition interventions in the first 1000 days of a child’s life to prevent stunting among children.

• Push and sustain equitable nutrition policies and programs and ensure budgetary allocations that address the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition.

• Ensure security of tenure and sustained training of the community front-liners e.g. such as barangay health workers and nutrition officers and scholars. Health and nutrition workers are highly politicized, lack incentives and support for trainings, have no security of tenure.

• National and local governments provide clear and separate budget for nutrition-specific interventions to avoid confusion between health and nutrition budgets.

• Intensify health and nutrition-related training, research and extension support activities to support the First 1000 Days Program through the Barangay Integrated Development Approach for Nutrition Improvement (BIDANI) Network Program of the Rural Poor and other relevant approaches, thereby strengthening delivery systems in partnership with the LGUs.

• Scale up cost-effective and affordable high-impact nutrition interventions to prevent undernutrition that cripples the country, such as promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, vitamin A and iron supplementation, treatment of acute malnutrition and maternal nutrition.

• Strengthen enforcement of the Milk Code (Executive Order Number 51), and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (Republic Act Number 10028) to protect, promote, and support optimal infant and young child feeding, both in private and public facilities and spaces.

• We call for the strict and sustained implementation of nutrition-specific interventions, including infant and young child feeding (IYCF), micronutrient supplementation and the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), which is now required to be implemented nationwide.

• Revise conditionalities under the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to include mandatory breastfeeding and education sessions on infant and young child feeding.

• Align health and nutrition programs to the priorities and directions of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition and the Strategy for Women, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition.

• Increase the focus on water, hygiene and sanitation interventions for children by targeting child-related behaviors and risk factors, such as safe disposal of human waste, complementary food hygiene and handwashing and intensifying promotion of Philippine Approach to Total Sanitation (PhATS) program to reinvigorate our country’s progress towards the national goals of eliminating open defecation.





Children of War

children of war

June 24, 2016

QUEZON CITY – They are children of war, victims of a war their innocent minds cannot comprehend. But they know injustice has been to done their parents who did nothing wrong by helping the farmers, the workers, the poor.

Even adults cannot comprehend why launching a fight against the causes of poverty and unrest is a crime. And why one should be jailed for one's political beliefs.

Angel Lorenzo, 8 years old, studies at the Children of God Learning Academy; a child seemingly forsaken by man's folly.

She remembers when the bad guys came along, took her mother and left her with her one year old sister and their “yaya” to complete strangers. How she cried and cried together with her sister. Their “yaya”, terrified and confused, would not know how to console them. They cried and cried until their grandmother arrived to take them.

That day, July 20, 2015, Joyce Latayan, 39, Angel's mother, has just arrived home after picking her up from school. She noticed two men in civilian clothes inside their compound. Then she saw other plain- clothes men went up the second floor of their house. They later came down with bags and a box of weapons, items which do not belong to Angel's family. They identified themselves as members of the Criminal and Investigation Detection Group (CIDG).

The men whisked Joyce away on the basis of a highly questionable and faulty search warrant issued from the Cabanatuan City Regional Trial Court and the box of weapons they were carrying. She was charged with trumped up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which were later dismissed by the Prosecutor's Office in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan where they reside.

At about the same time, Angelika's father, Ernesto Lorenzo, 59, was nabbed at the IT Center in Gilmore, Quezon City, by joint elements of the CIDG and members of the military intelligence group.

Lorenzo is a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines with JASIG ID No. ND978229 under the assumed name of "Lean Martinez". Lorenzo's arrest was based on a warrant for destructive arson filed in 2010 in Lucena City. He was among the activists and leaders of people's organizations in Southern Tagalog falsely charged with criminal offenses by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Prof. Philip Alston had strongly recommended abolition of the IALAG and a stop to the practice of filing fabricated charges against activists.

Lorenzo was a youth leader of the Methodist Youth Fellowship and had been a long time pastor of the United Methodist Church after his studies. Later he engaged in organizing work in the peasant communities and in socio-economic and development work among urban poor and workers. He is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s Special Intensive Care Area (BJMP-SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

"Magpakabait, mag-aral mabuti. (Be good, study well)." This is Kennedy Bangibang's perennial advice to his only son, Diwin Jude Kenn Monte Bangibang, 8 years old, whenever he visits him in the confines of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Tabuk, Kalinga, Cordillera.

A full-blooded Igorot who hails from a remote village in Cordillera, Kennedy was witness to the plunder of foreign corporations on their ancestral land and natural resources.

As a student activist in 1987, he had immersed with the peasant masses. He later became a full-time activist and revolutionary leader. He was illegally arrested on February 23, 1913 [sic] by elements of the RIU-14 of the Philippine National Police-Intelligence Group while on board a bus at a PNP checkpoint in Bangao Proper, Buguias, Benguet. Kennedy is a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Cordillera Affairs. His arrest is a blow to the national minorities as their concern is among the issues to be tackled in the next agenda of the peace talks – the drafting of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER).

Victim of a justice system that grinds exceedingly slow, Kennedy has been languishing in jail for the past three years and his case being transferred from one court to another, from Kalinga to Baguio.

While Angel would bubbly narrate the happy moments with his father as they frolic on the beach of Pangasinan, where he used to work, Diwin would just matter-of-fact share memories of his Papa and Mama – the walks in the parks, the visits to the malls and the one time they went swimming in the underground river of Palawan.

Diwin's Mama, Recca Noelle Monte, was a New People's Army (NPA) fighter, who was killed during a military operation of the 41st Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on September 4 and 5, 2014 at Guinginabang, Lacub, Abra. She was unarmed and bore no gunshot wound indicating from the looks of her remains that she was tortured while held captive, a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

Diwin could tell the state of his Mama's remains without batting an eyelid – the traumatic injuries, crushed skull, unidentifiable face, broken leg bones. Asked if he actually saw this, he said only from the picture. The handsome, smooth pinkish face of the boy showed no emotion, but admitted he is sad and lonely.

Angel was loquacious and confident as she told her stories. Her mother said she regained her composure with the psycho-social counselling she underwent after the trauma from her experience.

Asked about her father's work, Angel quipped, "Natulong sa farmers at workers (helps farmers and workers)". Diwin has a similar impression of his parents work, "they were helping the farmers and the poor."

What do the children of war aspire to be when they grow up? Angel said she will be a heart surgeon to help the sick. Meanwhile, Diwin wants to be a lawyer, "so I could defend Papa and Mama. I could free Papa and give them justice."





Communities sustain climate action on 10th year of “An Inconvenient Truth”

Cebu climate action

By Climate Reality Project Philippines
May 24, 2016

CEBU CITY – Commemorating the 10th anniversary of Academy award-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth”, environment groups and climate vulnerable communities gathered in Cebu to call for the cancellation of approved coal-fired power plants proposals and just transition to renewable and cleaner energy source.

The Climate Reality Project Philippines in cooperation with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, Dakila, Greenpeace, Pusyon Kinaiyahan, Foundation for the Philippine Environment and the University of San Jose de Recoletos organized an exclusive screening of An Inconvenient Truth and a multi-sectoral dialogue with students, the religious, and representatives from coal-fired power plant-affected communities in cities of Naga, Toledo and Cebu especially that of barangays Sawang Calero and Pasil.

When former Vice President Al Gore and Participant Media released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, the effect was immediate and profound: people everywhere began talking about the climate crisis – to their friends, their family, and everyone in their lives – sparking a new kind of movement with millions demanding action all across the planet.

For so many of us, An Inconvenient Truth was a wakeup call. It was the moment we understood the reality of the climate crisis devastating our planet – and it was the moment we knew we personally had to do something. May 24 marks the 10-year anniversary of the film's release, and we want to acknowledge and thank you for the critical role you've played in making it a global phenomenon.

In 2006, An Inconvenient Truth inspired millions around the world to speak up about the climate crisis. Since then, we’ve made progress on many fronts. Just last December, 195 countries created the historic Paris Agreement to cut global warming pollution and accelerate the shift to clean energy. This was a turning point but there’s still tremendous work ahead.

This is the challenge of our time. Our work to solve the climate crisis could not be more urgent or important. But today momentum is with us, and together we can solve it.

Quotes from key speakers:

Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and former US Vice President; and Chairperson of The Climate Reality Project (Video Message) -

When we released the “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, I knew we had an important message to share. But what I couldn’t have known was that the countless people like you would hear that message and begin talking about the urgency of the climate crisis in persuasive ways – to their friends, their families, and their communities – and then, together, we would spark a new kind of movement with millions of people calling for climate action around the world.

So as we take a moment to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of An Inconvenient Truth, I just wanted to say “Thank You”. Thank you for finding the moral courage to stand up, even when it wasn’t easy, for taking action to protect our only home, and thank you for making a difference. We’ve made a lot of progress together. Just think, last year, 195 nations reach the historic Paris Agreement to cut global warming pollution and accelerate the shift to clean energy, a true turning point, but there’s still tremendous work ahead. And that’s why I’ll be working with the Climate Reality Project to ensure that countries not only stick to their commitments but make those commitments even stronger in the years ahead. And I’m counting on you to continue helping to meet that challenge, the challenge of our time.

Our work to solve the climate crisis couldn’t possibly be more urgent or important. But now the momentum is on our side. I know we can solve the climate crisis. And I know that thanks to you we will.

Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Climate Change (Keynote Speaker) –

A lot has changed since that year when An Inconvenient Truth was launched, especially on how we perceive the climate change phenomenon. People now have a better understanding of the climate crisis and how it is linked to our survival. An Inconvenient Truth continues to ignite climate action.

As a developing nation, it is understandable that the Philippines needs more power, but it cannot be “we need power at all costs and we will develop at all costs.”

They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe.

We are a country rich in renewable energy – the amount of sun and wind is more than enough to power our entire country many times over.

There is no reason to hesitate or delay action on a challenge so compelling, on a threat to humanity so clear and present. For every second that ticks away is but a second closer to the next calamity. We must lead the way towards meaningful change for our children and grandchildren, for all of humanity, for all species in the world, and for Mother Earth.

Rodne Galicha, Country Manager of the Climate Reality Project Philippines –

Looking back at the challenges of the film, we were reminded that our planet has all the means to make our lives convenient through sustainable utilization of resources within the carrying capacity nature. However, due to our excessive search for convenience, the long-term result becomes more inconvenient for our own species to thrive and others are in danger of extinction. Solving this biggest crisis the world is facing needs every individual’s commitment and collective action to shift to a cleaner and livable future.

The Climate Reality Project in the Philippines will continue to work with communities and partners to collectively regain the power of the people to define the future they want for their children's children and the planet.

Screening the film in Cebu City after the communities’ triumph against the proposed coal-fired power plant in Barangay Sawang Calero is both a celebration and a way to collectively reflect on why we do what we can to combat climate change.

Brother Jaazeal Jakosalem, Co-Convener of Pusyon Kinaiyahan –

Since 2006, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth still echoes our planet’s cry. The most vulnerable communities especially the poor call for justice. We are all impelled to take drastic action to bring back balance and harmony upon all of creation. Indeed, the cry of the earth is the cry of the poor. This is a moral and spiritual issue, the integrity of creation.

Gideon Lasco, Environment Champion for the Climate Reality Project Philippines –

It remains inconvenient to live up to the implications of climate change partly because for every inconvenient truth, there is a convenient falsehood. Today, we hear politicians talk about “clean coal”, as if the word “clean” before coal can exorcise the havoc coal and other fossil fuels have wrought upon our planet (coal plants alone account for 1/3 of global carbon emissions). Today, we hear people talk about “responsible mining”, which, while it may indeed be a possibility in the future, detracts from the fact that mining has been responsible for the environmental degradation in many areas - from Semirara to Surigao.

But perhaps the most convenient falsehood of all is the idea that we are too insignificant to make a difference. Indeed, if there is something we can draw inspiration from in the past ten years, it is the fact that no effort is too small not to count in our fight to save the planet.

Reuben Muni, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace –

The film "An Inconvenient Truth" tells us this truth: there is no such thing as an insignificant act when it comes to solving the climate crisis. 10 years after Al Gore released his film in May 2006, this wisdom still remains. Every battle against coal is therefore a significant battle for the planet. Cebu is one of the most important battles for climate change in the Philippines. It is not just the country that is watching but the whole world. Unfortunately, what happens in Cebu does not stay in Cebu. If we allow another coal plant to be built in Cebu, then we are sending signals to the rest of the country that it is okay to build more elsewhere.

Hence, Cebu is one of the iconic fights against coal of our generation. We owe it to the next generation to ensure that there are no more coal plants that will be built in Cebu. This year, the people of Cebu City rejected a proposed coal plant right in the heart of the city. And this year, we declare that Cebu will break free from coal and other forms of dirty energy.

Ara Chawdhury, Creative Director of Dakila’s Cebu Collective –

It is evident with An Inconvenient Truth what the power of film can be. It can be policy changing petition forming, mind changing. At its best, mind blowing. At its worst, mind numbing.

Film is supposed to shake you, to reel you out of your comfort zones. Advocacy filmmaking for me fails if it preaches to the choir. We aren’t doing any favor by creating messages only we want to hear, or by alienating anyone who does not agree with us.






Samuel Guadalquiver
Former Presedent Diosdado Macapagal Agrarian Scholarship Program scholar, Samuel Guadalquiver Jr. (extreme left), pose with the writer, Clariza Estremera (second from left); Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer Romeo Castil (third from left); and his advisory class. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)

Destiny: The Samuel Guadalquiver’s story

May 10, 2016

TACLOBAN CITY – “There were times when my parents would tell me, I might not be able to continue my studies next school year because the harvest is low or the price of copra had gone down. Every time I hear this, the uncertainty of getting a college degree dreads me. Thus, I applied for a scholarship to finance my college education.”

These were the recollections of Samuel Guadalquiver when we visited him before the school year closed in Quezon Elementary School, where he is teaching for seven years now.

Samuel, or Boboy, to his family and friends was one of the President Diosdado Macapagal Agrarian Scholarship Program (PDMASP) recipients in Northern Samar.

His parents, Samuel Sr. and Amelita, are both agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) so that he qualified for the said scholarship program.

PDMASP is a four-year college scholarship offered by DAR to deserving dependents of ARBs under the Program Beneficiaries Development component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“It was only by accident that I discovered the PDMASP,” Boboy said.

According to him, when he was in his first year in college at the University of Eastern Philippines, he applied for the Catarman Educational Scholarship Program offered by the local government unit so he could continue with his studies. But he was denied of the said opportunity. Or was it a blessing in disguise?

When he returned back to their school, Boboy read an announcement at the bulletin board about a scholarship program being offered by DAR.

He grabbed the opportunity and got the slot. Later, he learned that DAR just re-opened its search to fill-in a vacated slot. Boboy must have been destined to become a PDMASP scholar to reach his dreams. In 2008, he graduated with a degree of Bachelor in Elementary Education Major in Social Science.

The third in a brood of nine (two are now deceased), Boboy is the first to earn a college degree (the second is sister, Gloria, who was also a PDMASP scholar) in their family, and one of the handful of professionals in their village, which is situated in the mountains of Catarman, 27 kilometers away from the town proper.

He was the only one of the less than 20 pupils enrolled in grade 1 in 1994 who finished college. “He was so determined,” his parents said proudly of him.

When I asked why his other classmates failed to continue their studies, Boboy said, it could probably be due to lack of motivation. He disclosed that their teachers rarely report to school then because of the distance. That is why his parents transferred him to the town proper when he was in grade four.

Barangay Quezon is one of Catarman’s remotest villages. There was no road at that time. People had to walk 10 kilometers to and from Barangay Polangi by just passing through a trail. Now, this barangay could already be reached by motorcycles for P70. Very soon, when concreting of the road is completed, travel will be much easier and perhaps cheaper.

Boboy, who used to help his parents in the farm, said determination to escape from poverty pushed him to strive and find ways to reach his dream.

After graduation he took the licensure examination for teachers and passed it.

But why did he return to Barangay Quezon to teach, when there were better opportunities at the town proper or elsewhere?

Boboy humbly said he wanted to serve his fellow residents in their community. But to us he inspires the young and motivates them to take education seriously to have a better future.

According to Boboy, had he not taken his studies seriously and without the PDMASP, surely he would have also remained a farmer until today, carrying heavy loads of copra and other farm products.

As a teacher, his supervisor Annie Dulay said, he is a good one, while his pupils described him as strict when it comes to their lessons.

He taught his students to be industrious. The once idle surrounding in their school is now planted to pili nuts and bananas.

Presently, Boboy is planning to take up masters degree this coming school year.

Looking at him in his uniform and listening to his story, makes me proud to be part of DAR which was instrumental in helping this son of ARBs free himself from the bondage of the soil and find his destiny.






organically grown pechay
Officials from DAR and East-West Seed Philippines harvest organically grown pechay at the farm of Jose Dautil (right) in Barangay Hinabay, Inopacan, Leyte. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)

Hello veggies, goodbye abaca!

April 19, 2016

TACLOBAN CITY – When we reached Barangay Hinabay, we were led to a vegetable farm of Jose Dautil, 54, that was ready for harvest. We picked some kilos of sweet pepper, and pechay, and paid him the corresponding price. Then we moved to Barangay Cabulisan to see more vegetables in other farms. These adjacent villages nestled on top of a mountain in Inopacan, Leyte are now known for organic vegetables.

Farmers here are now seriously pursuing high value organic vegetable production after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) subjected last year the members of two agrarian reform beneficiary organizations (ARBOs) to a five-month training on high value crops production using the natural farming system.

Being covered by the second phase of the Agrarian Reform Communities Project (ARCP-II), DAR tapped the East-West Seed Philippines for the conduct of the said training under the Agricultural Enterprise Development to the Hinabay Upland Farmers Association (HUFA) and the Cabulisan Multi-Purpose Upland Farmers Association (CAMUFA).

When asked what they like about organic vegetable production, Marissa Bisnar, 38, an agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) said the products are sold at a higher price than those grown the traditional way. Even if they are a little bit expensive, more consumers prefer to buy organic vegetables, she added.

From her last harvest, Marissa shared that she earned P8,350 from her four plots of sweet pepper, four plots of tomato and ampalaya, which became additional income for her family.

Cristita Abenoja, a merchant from Barangay Cabulisan who buys the farmers’ harvests and sell them at the town’s market disclosed that her products are easily sold out because consumers opt for organic vegetables.

Organic farming now becomes the trade mark of these two barangays. When buyers learn that the vegetables come from the said barangays, they already know that it’s organic, Abenoja said. Further, “my customers increased,” she added, because the information had spread to nearby towns like Hindang, Bato and Baybay City.

For that, these farmers living on top of the mountain, 18 kilometers away from the town proper are thankful they were taught organic farming.

Abaca used to be the major crop of the farmers here. But because of the bunchy top disease, farmers ceased planting abaca, and shifted to vegetable production in 2004. Last year, with the joint effort of DAR and East-West Seed Philippines, the natural farming system was introduced and changed the lifestyle of the farmers here.

With this method the farmers no longer sniff chemicals when spraying pesticides, according to CAMAFU president Edelito Merrano Sr., 51. Likewise, they can save more because they no longer buy fertilizers and pesticides, he added.

Instead, they use the vermicast their association is producing. Vermi-culture and vermi-composting have been introduced to them by DAR in 2015 as alternative sources of livelihood.

CAMUFA was among the 100 ARB organizations provided with a shredder and 30 kilos of African night crawlers last year.

At the moment CAMUFA is also selling vermicast at P350 per sack of 50 kilos. While African night crawlers are being sold by the association at P500 per kilo.






ICRC surigao del sur support
About 450 displaced families in Surigao del Sur each received food supplies good for one month - consisting of 50 kilograms of rice, 2 litres of oil, 2 litres of soy sauce, 1 kilogram of salt, and 2 kilograms of sugar - as well as a hygiene kit containing bath soap, shampoo, detergent, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes and toothpaste for a family of six. (ICRC/L.Lagasca)

Continued support for people displaced by armed violence in Surigao del Sur

February 22, 2016

MANILA – Around 2,400 people displaced in Surigao del Sur received one-month food supplies and hygiene items to help them cope with their displacement since September 2015.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with its primary partner the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), distributed the relief items on February 18 to complement the aid already given by the authorities.

"Prolonged displacement is a challenge for both the affected families and the authorities. The displaced depend on aid as they still fear going back home," said Pascal Porchet, head of the ICRC delegation to the Philippines. "We are here to fill in gaps and ensure that the families get adequate support while they remain displaced."

The majority of the displaced have been living in the provincial sports complex in Tandag City for over five months now, after three civilians were killed in their community.

"We have been here since September 1, 2015, and we still fear for our safety," said Leonila Enriquez of Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga municipality. "We are very grateful to the ICRC for helping us since the early part of the displacement until today," said the mother of eight children.

While the general health situation in the sports complex is managed well by the Provincial Health Office, cases of stomach problems and diarrhea were reported. A probable cause is poor hygiene and sanitation in the evacuation center.

Between September 2015 and January 2016, the ICRC and the PRC already helped 3,500 displaced persons in Surigao del Sur with food, household and medical items, potable water supply, and construction of toilets in the evacuation center.

The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose mandate is to protect and assist people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. It has had an established presence in the Philippines for over 60 years and a permanent presence in Mindanao since 1986.






spiral machine for panning in gold exploration
The spiral machine used for panning in the gold exploration.

Gandara officials deny pay-off over the Cobarrubias’ “gold and silver exploratory work”

February 18, 2016

CALBAYOG CITY – The Sangguniang Bayan of Gandara finally revoked and nullified the resolution granting Mrs. Cherry dela Cruz Cobarrubias to rehabilitate Gandara River by means of dredging. Said resolution was approved in 2014 under the administration of Mayor Eufemio Oliva and Vice Mayor Jonathan Isanan.

However, the municipal government discovered that the dredging operations funded by the Cobarrubias, has turned out to be an exploration work of gold and silver mineral deposits at Brgy. Gerali. Local officials were lambasted by concerned citizens over the social media and accused of receiving pay-off from said permittee (or holder of exploration permit).

In a public hearing held last February 10 at Gandara Cultural Center, Mayor Oliva denied the bribery issue imputed against them by the people. He clarified that the resolution was approved by the sanggunian in good faith without receiving any favour from Don Angelo C. Cobarrubias or his mother Cherry. The approval of the application for exploration is not under the municipal government but under the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office 8 after the applicant has completed all the necessary documents required by concerned government agency.

MGB-8 OIC Regional Director Nonita Caguida explained that Don Angelo C. Cobarrubias’ application for Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) was filed on April 2005 covering 808 hectares of land located at Gandara and San Jorge, Samar. In the process of application, a Notice of Posting was sent by MGB-8 to the provincial government of Samar which was automatically downloaded to the concerned municipalities for 30 days posting in conspicuous places.

The purpose of posting was to inform the public and concerned stakeholders for possible protests. Receiving no complaint within the reglementary period prescribed by law, the application of Cobarrubias proceeded smoothly with a Certificate of Posting allegedly issued by each municipality.

But while in the process of acquiring MPSA, Executive Order No. 79 or “Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms in the Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies and Guidelines to Ensure Environmental Protection and Responsible in the Utilization of Mineral Resources” was issued in June 2012. Pending the issuance of MPSA, the proponent amended their application into exploration and submitted it to MGB-8 for final validation and clearance.

Caguida clarified that all the application documents of Cobarrubias were scrutinized; and in fact the 808 hectares was reduced into 501 after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Office conducted study in the covered areas.

For those who are under the “No Gold Zone” areas (tourist and agricultural areas), it could not be covered by the exploration work. Upon validation of application documents, the exploration permit covering 501 hectares situated in Gandara and San Jorge, Samar, was released by DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office 8 on January 20, 2015 to Don Angelo C. Cobarrubias of 2711 B-Wack-Wack, Twin Towers, Wack-wack, Mandaluyong City.

Under the Mining Act of 1995, the exploration allowed the permittee to conduct exploration work within a period of two years from its approval, and subject for renewal on the same period up to 8 years for metallic and 6 years for non-metallic. Based on research, gold is considered metallic mineral while silver is a combination of different small elements which are found in gold, lead, zinc and copper ores.

People Cry, No to Mining!

Out of 69 barangays of Gandara, 41 have attended the public hearing with 924 registered participants coming from the different organizations like the church, business sector, senior citizens, youth, academe, government retirees, concerned citizens, local PNP and municipal and barangay officials. Citizens of said municipality were shouting as a sign of protest to the exploration work being conducted by the Cobarrubias at Brgy. Gerali since 2015.

The church under the Diocese of Calbayog cited the 50 year moratorium of mining operation issued by the government after the Bagacay Mines experience. Brgy. Gerali according to the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer, Aida Gamba is an agrarian reform community along with other nearby villages.

In the absence of a map, Samar PENRO Elpidio Simon believed that the 501 hectares which was claimed by Cherry dela Cruz Cobarrubiasas a mining zone area is under Samar Island Natural Park. He added that the DENR have implemented the National Greening Program (NGP) and Community-Based Forest Management Program (CBMP) at Brgy. Gerali and nearby villages.

Who is Cherry dela Cruz Cobarrubias?

She claimed herself as a true-blooded Gandareño who hailed from Brgy. Gerali. Established connections in the circle and sponsored the rehabilitation of Gandara River. Received an award from the municipal government as the “Most Outstanding Gandareño in 2014”. In a conversation with a reliable source, he disclosed that Cherry dela Cruz Cobarrubias’ mother was from Matuguinao and her father was from Catbalogan, Samar. Contrary to her claim that her family originated from Brgy. Gerali where exploratory work is being conducted, the source revealed that Cherry’s father used to teach at said barangay.

She had a colourful life in the film industry as she produced “Bulaklak ng City Jail” and many more. In the field of politics, she is still the president of Marcos Loyalists Movement.

According to the source, Gerali mineral deposits was then a long time project of Cobarrubias. She was able to persuade millions of investment from an Australian couple but their partnership was terminated when the couple has detected suspicion from said operation. It was also learned that Samar’s former Vice Governor Jesus Redaja made an investment in a mining operation at Bagacay Mines, but the deal was cut short leaving the latter’s equipment abandoned at the mining site.

To get Cherry Cobarrubias’ comments, the writer requested her geologist for an interview but no feedback was received.

The National Law vs. People Power

Despite the strong disapproval of the people of Gandara, Cherry Cobarrubias is confident that the exploratory work will pursue.

MGB-8 OIC Regional Director NonitaCaguidasaid that the documents for the acquisition of exploratory permit have undergone a long scrutiny, and local ordinances or resolutions with the intention of revoking such permit cannot be allowed for it cannot supersede the national law as provided in RA 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995. Caguida was one of the witnesses in the Exploration Permit issued by MGB-8 to the Cobarrubias in January 20, 2015.

On the other hand, an insider of the Environment of Natural Resources Office advised that a written petition of the people may work by directly submitting the same to the central office. The absence of a public consultation prior to the exploration work could be one of the basis of the petition, he said.





New Greenpeace report estimates coal plant emissions could kill 2,400 Filipinos per year

February 3, 2016

MANILA – While coal is king in the Philippines, a new Greenpeace Southeast Asia report has revealed for the first time the current health impacts of existing coal-fired power plants, as well as projected health impacts of operating and planned power plants in the Philippines.

Coal: A Public Health CrisisThe report, Coal: A Public Health Crisis. Diseases and deaths attributed to coal use in the Philippines showed an estimated 960 premature deaths each year due to stroke, ischemic heart disease, other cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases. If the new power plants are to be developed, premature deaths may rise up to 2,410 – more than double the current number of people dying from coal-related pollution in the Philippines.

“Results of the research show that coal-fired power plants expose everyone in the Philippines to toxic pollution, resulting in hundreds of premature deaths every year,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Senior Global Coal Campaigner at Greenpeace International and also one of the authors of the research. “Leading economies from the United States to China and Europe are already relaying on modern, renewable energy sources for their additional power needs, showing that this is a real option for Philippines as well.”

More than one-third of the energy used to generate electricity in the Philippines comes from burning coal. Currently, the country has 17 operational coal plants, with 29 more approved by the Department of Energy (DOE), set to begin commercial operations by 2020.

The report is based on research carried out at Harvard University on the impacts of emissions coming from coal-fired power plants on the air quality of selected countries in Asia. For the Philippine version, Greenpeace collaborated with HealthJustice to write the report, with support from Health Care Without Harm – Asia and the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

Coal use harms the environment and public health at every stage of its life cycle. Coal-fired power plants emit sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2) and other gaseous pollutants in the air that can react chemically to form particulate matter that is 2.5 µm in diameter.

Aside from generating particulate matter, coal combustion also affects health indirectly by contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change can bring extreme heat, lead to natural disasters, and eventually increase diseases transmitted through insects such as malaria and dengue.

The study evaluated 13 operational coal-fired power plants in the Philippines with a combined installed capacity of 3,799.10 megawatts (MW), as well as the potential impacts of plans to build 29 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 11,700MW, which could dramatically increase levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and PM2.5 emissions.

“This pioneering study is an important addition to the growing body of health and scientific research on the adverse impacts of coal-fired power plants, not only to the environment, but to human health as well,” said Reuben Andrew Muni, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “We strongly recommend for the DOE, the DOH and other policy-makers to read it and take heed as it presents a strong case on why the Philippines should end its dependence on coal-generated electricity now, not only for economic, environmental and climate change reasons, but on public health grounds as well.”

“This new study just confirms what we already know about the health effects of coal based on international evidence. For the longest time, we have been ignoring the environmental case for the phase out of coal. I hope that this time, the public health argument will convince us that coal is not the way to go towards a clean, sustainable and healthy energy future,” said Dr. Renzo Guinto, Campaigner for the Healthy Energy Initiative, Health Care Without Harm-Asia.

“New coal plants are a lose-lose proposition for the public. Increasing dependence on coal will consign us to dirty air for 30 or more years, as coal gets more expensive and other countries abandon it as an energy source. There is a way out of this vicious cycle. We must embrace renewables through a strong, health-driven energy policy," said Atty. Ipat Luna, a Trustee of HealthJustice-Philippines.

“Coal burning is a proven nuisance to health and the climate. The more coal plants and mines are commissioned by the government, the more people and communities are placed in the direct path of perdition. Undoubtedly, it is a kiss of death to host communities and vulnerable nations like the Philippines. We thus demand for a moratorium on new coal plants, phase out of existing ones, and for a just transition to renewable energy options” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, SANLAKAS Secretary General and PMCJ Energy Working Group Head.

Considering the Philippines’ rising population, poor health outcomes, and the scarcity of resources needed to adapt to the worst effects of climate change, Greenpeace recommends that the country should end its heavy dependence on coal as an energy source and accelerate initiatives involving renewable energy (RE) resources to meet its energy demands. RE is emerging as the energy of choice for an increasing number of communities and local government units (LGU). The report recommends that the government phases out of coal and fully embrace RE sources in the Philippines based on public health considerations.

Download the pdf version of Coal: A Public Health Crisis. Diseases and deaths attributed to coal use in the Philippines at http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/ph/press/reports/Coal-A-Public-Health-Crisis/





“Sole for a Soul Project”: PAREF Rosehill goes to the peripheries

Sole for a Soul Project in Tolosa, Leyte

By GLECY GAMBOA, PAREF Rosehill School
January 20, 2016

ANTIPOLO CITY – “The project helped me learn to fully go out of my comfort zone and open my eyes to the needs of others, and knowing this has helped me further understand and give meaning to our school's mantra, "I lead. I serve."

Betina Sales, PAREF Rosehill Student Council President, together with officers, Mika and Gabrie Cordero and teachers, Ms. Calai Clarino and Ms. Carmel Mendoza, represented the Rosehill students who donated black school shoes to 196 students of Doña Brigida Elementary School in Tolosa, Leyte on December 14, 2015.

Betina, Mika and Gabrie were very happy and fulfilled when they saw the smiles on the faces of the students as they received their early Christmas gifts. As Mika said, “I felt really glad because we were able to share our blessings and time with the kids.”

Each pair of shoes was personally labelled and inside each shoe box was a letter from a Rosehill student. One of them, Angela, wrote: “Hope you like the shoes! Study hard to reach your dreams and never give up. Stay strong with any problems you will encounter and take care. God bless you always. Never forget to smile, Larabel.”

To heed Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries, the PAREF Rosehill Student Council launched its outreach project, “Sole for a Soul” in August 2015. This is one of the school’s on-going relief efforts for Tolosa, Leyte residents who were severely affected by Typhoon Yolanda last November 2013.

The Student Council believes that giving a pair of school shoes to the beneficiaries will help them feel better about going to school.

Rosehill is grateful to parents, students and teachers who supported this project and to the Tindog Tolosa Foundation for this opportunity to reach out to Doña Brigida students and teachers.

Students from Grade 6 to Fourth Year High School donated P500 and they were encouraged to raise the money on their own.

Niki, a Grade 7 student said, “I saved up from my allowance and I was happy that I got to help someone who deserves much more.”

Bea, who is in Grade 6, earned her P500 donation by playing the violin in an event. “I felt great to be able to help in my own little way,” she said.

Indeed, it was worthwhile saving up for that ‘soleful’ cause. As Betina said, “Seeing the smiles on their faces and even some tears of joy upon getting the shoes really made me realize that the best things in life are free. In the end, it was as if the 500 pesos we each raised had a new "value" and it was, ironically, priceless.





Improved living conditions for inmates affected by Leyte prison fire

December 2, 2015

MANILA – Access to clean water, sanitation and overall health and living conditions have improved for 1,800 inmates affected by the fire that struck Leyte Regional Prison two months ago.

On October 8, the prison’s Maximum Security Compound was completely destroyed by a fire that also claimed the lives of 10 inmates and injured several others.

“Since it would take some time before a permanent structure could be rebuilt, we supported the prison authorities in taking temporary measures so the inmates may have slightly better conditions,” said Woody Assaf, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Tacloban.

On October 25, the ICRC installed two rub halls or relocatable tent-like structures as emergency shelters. The affected prisoners were initially moved to the Minimum Security Compound or slept outdoors after the blaze.

“We continue to improve the rub halls by working on its concrete flooring. Elderly prisoners and those with ailments were prioritized to occupy the rub halls, which also helped decongest the Minimum Security Compound, where about 750 affected prisoners remain. The authorities could partly restore the segregation between compounds, which helps in prison management,” said Assaf.

Two 10,000-liter water tanks, distribution lines, and water points were installed by the ICRC to increase the availability of potable water in the prison, benefiting all inmates. Twenty-four new toilets are also being built for their use.

Relief assistance for the prisoners, in the form of dressing kits, medicines and medical items, 2,000 hygiene kits, and 409 sleeping mats and blankets, were provided by the ICRC about a month ago, on top of other emergency items it distributed with the Philippine Red Cross a day after the fire. Support was provided to ensure that access to basic health services was maintained.

Within its confidential dialogue with the Bureau of Corrections, the ICRC shared its findings, coordinated its response plan, and will further support the authorities in January to develop a plan of action to restore optimum conditions of detention.

As part of its long-term support to the detaining authorities, the ICRC will soon complete the construction of a new infirmary in Leyte Regional Prison to enhance access to, and improve the quality of, medical care for the inmates.

Leyte Regional Prison is one of the places of detention being visited in the country by the ICRC, a neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organization, to monitor the conditions of detention and the treatment of people deprived of freedom.






drying seaweeds in Zamboanga
Though most displaced people in Zamboanga City have since moved on with their lives, recovery is progressing slowly for about 17,000 of them living in 12 transition sites. Here, two men prepare to dry seaweed - a source of income - in Taluksangay transition site. (By NC-ND / ICRC /R. Ang)

Moving on in Zamboanga

November 30, 2015

MANILA – Zamboanga City, in Western Mindanao, is buzzing with life again, two years after armed fighting disrupted many lives.

Around 120,000 people were displaced by clashes in Zamboanga in September 2013. Thousands of structures, including many houses, were damaged or destroyed, making life extremely difficult for the affected communities.

Though most displaced people have since moved on with their lives, recovery is progressing slowly for about 17,000 of them living in 12 transition sites. Although these sites offer slightly better conditions than evacuation centers, access to clean water, sanitation, and livelihood opportunities remains a concern.

"Civilians unfortunately bear the heaviest consequences of conflict, and the situation in Zamboanga was no exception," said Marcel Goyeneche, head of the ICRC office in Zamboanga. "Thousands of displaced families had lost their homes and jobs. The slow pace of the response and the recovery had us extend our operations several times to a total of 26 months."

After providing assistance in the immediate aftermath of the siege, the ICRC together with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) extended their support to speed up the recovery of the affected population. Below is a glimpse of how these programs helped the displaced from January to October 2015.

Ensuring clean water and proper sanitation

Due to water-supply issues generally affecting Zamboanga City, the ICRC and the PRC trucked 36,000 liters of water daily to four transition sites from February until August 2015. The ICRC still supports the city government and the Zamboanga Water District in providing water storage to displaced people in Masepla 1, 2, and 3 and in Rio Hondo through the installation of six 10,000-liter stainless steel tanks. Upon the request of city authorities, the ICRC also installed a 10,000-liter bladder in Lupa-lupa.

In Taluksangay, the ICRC helped provide a longer-term solution by building a permanent water supply system at the transition site to serve both the displaced and resident populations. Water started flowing in September, and eventually the project was handed over to the community's water association, which was formed to operate and maintain the project. More than 4,000 people, around 900 of whom are displaced, from Purok 4 of Taluksangay now have regular access to clean water.

"We used to struggle every day to find safe drinking water. But now we've seen how the water supply here in Taluksangay normalized," said Jurraiya Abdurajik, 37, who was displaced from Rio Hondo. "Our family now feels protected from waterborne illnesses."

Four hand pumps will also be installed in the Masepla 3 transition site, where around 7,700 displaced people will benefit upon the project's completion in December. In addition, rainwater drainage will improve the road access to Masepla 1.

To improve sanitation, the 102 latrines built in the Joaquin Enriquez stadium and in the Rio Hondo site were regularly emptied until August.

Complementary to these projects, informative sessions on the importance of hygiene were held, benefiting 13,300 displaced persons; and around 1,500 hygiene kits were given to children in transitory daycare centers.

Rebuilding livelihoods' and communities

With livelihoods disrupted by the conflict, helping displaced people stand on their own feet was part of the ICRC's efforts. From January to October 2015, cash-for-work activities not only generated income for at least 820 of them but also benefited 14 community projects including desilting of canals and improving drainage systems, beautification and gardening, repairing chapels, mangrove planting, and coastal clean-up.

Conditional cash grants, meanwhile, have also helped displaced families to achieve a more sustainable form of livelihood. Some 840 families in seven transition sites received P10,000 grants each that were used to restock sari-sari stores, build boats, buy fishing gear and inputs for planting seaweed, procure sewing machines and tricycles, among others.

"I used the cash incentives to start my hairdressing business. Now life has become easier because my income can sustain my daily needs," said Borhan Vivio, 35, of the Kasanyangan transition site.

In Layag Layag, a 50-member cooperative benefited from a cash grant and training to help them plant and commercialize seaweed. This included the construction of a boat and a storage facility to support the members of the cooperative. Two concrete solar stilt driers were also built through cash-for-work thus providing a facility for the community's use, and providing income for 120 seaweed farmers.

Improving health care and nutrition

Access to health care could also be difficult for those living in transition sites. At the Masepla transition site, where a new health station was built and handed over to the City Health Office (CHO) in April 2015, displaced people no longer have to travel 2 kilometers to the health centre in Barangay Mampang to avail of primary health care services.

In addition, to ensure their preparedness for emergencies and other health issues, 40 displaced people from different sites underwent Community-based First Aid Training, also in April, so they could serve as their communities' focal points.

The ICRC also continues to support local authorities and infrastructure in their nutrition and health programs for the displaced.

An example is the feeding program that started in 2014 but has been turned over to the City Health Office as of June 2015 due to the improvement in malnutrition rates. The ICRC provides supplies to the CHO for both severely and moderately malnourished children in transition sites and in barangays with a high number of malnourished children.

An estimated 661 children with moderate to severe malnourishment benefited from this program from January to September 2015.

The Zamboanga City Medical Center has also received support from the ICRC since 2014 in the form of essential medicines for the treatment of displaced and other vulnerable people. This quarterly support will continue in 2016.

Challenges remain

After more than two years, the ICRC will be phasing out its assistance program to the displaced population in Zamboanga by January 2016, as local authorities address the remaining needs.

"Although we are concluding our support to people displaced in 2013, we will pursue a dialogue with authorities to find safe and dignified solutions for the displaced," said Goyeneche. "Their move to permanent shelters must also be addressed quite soon."

The ICRC remains close to the population through its office in Zamboanga, and stands ready to assist in humanitarian emergencies together with the PRC.

The ICRC, which has been visiting people detained in relation to the internal armed conflicts, will carry on its work to ensure the inmates' dignified treatment and that they maintain links with their families. It will also continue promoting awareness of and respect for international humanitarian law among weapon bearers.






PBSP farming assistance
RESTORING LIVELIHOODS. Local farmers in Brgy. Inangatan, Tabango, Leyte receive proper training on farming preparations.

Super typhoon Yolanda’s second anniversary

PBSP celebrates the resilience of survivors and the power of collective action

November 6, 2015

MANILA – Two years after super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged the Visayas region, many of the survivors are still picking up the pieces of their lives which were severely disrupted by one of the world’s strongest tropical cyclones.

But there are also a number of them that have recovered significantly through local and international aid. With the continuous assistance from development agencies and NGOs like Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), other survivors even feel that their situation is now better than before.

In A Better State

Take the case of Merle Tabornal and Gina Ciudad of Brgy. Tubogan in Ajuy, Iloilo, for instance, who used to walk seven kilometers (equivalent to three barangays) just to receive free pre-natal care at the only barangay health station (BHS) in the municipality. A BHS was built in Tubogan in 2008 but only to be damaged by the typhoon five years after. Months after the typhoon, their community of 739 rice and corn farmers continued to rely on the run-down BHS and struggled to make its operations normal despite the challenges.

Now, they are enjoying the benefits of improved healthcare services and a better health station which has a new roof, newly-painted walls, a sturdier ceiling, and a complete set of windows, gutters, and doors. Through this project of Asalus Corporation and PBSP, barangay health workers were also trained on Integrated Management of Childhood Illness which equipped them to better manage diagnosis and treatment of common illnesses of children. The community is now working together to upgrade their BHS into a birthing facility.

Panalaron Central Elementary School (PCES) was among the severely damaged schools in Tacloban City, Leyte which was badly hit by typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8, 2013. Most of its students lost their drive to attend classes because they did not have classrooms, facilities and even school supplies. Grade 4 student Ranzelle Ann Sombrero could not attend her classes regularly because of poor health, family problems, and lack of food. Nine-year-old Marivic Balais also suffered the same problems.

Fortunately, their situation changed when Mondelez Philippines, together with PBSP, stepped in and chose PCES as its 6th adopted school under its Joy Schools Program. Mondelez Philippines improved the nutrition and academic performance of the students through the rehabilitation of 18 classrooms, playground and canteen, regular feeding sessions of 150 severely wasted students for one year, construction of library and reading corners, provision of school equipment such as overhead projectors, DVD players and speakers.

After a year under the feeding program, Sombrero has not only improved her health but is now an honor student. For Balais, the feeding program has helped contribute to her total development and resulted in her getting accelerated to the third grade. These interventions had a similar effect on many other students in PCES which is fast transforming into an ideal school for the Taclobanons.

Patrocinia Oftana of Sitio Matab-ang in Madridejos, Cebu, used to spend at least P50 a day just for water supply. She would pay a man to fetch her two 1.5 liters of water in the nearest dug well which was three kilometers from her home. She used the water for bathing, washing clothes and dishes, and for gardening. For her family’s drinking water, she pays the same man to purchase five gallons of water for their monthly consumption. Sometimes, she does not take a bath for days just to save water.

For years, this has been the situation of 6,000 families in 14 barangays on Bantayan island who relied on the 200 remote dug wells for their water usage. When the typhoon hit the island and made distribution from deep wells even scarcer, they had to go back to the man-made dug wells despite threats of water-borne diseases.

But their plight improved when Mercury Drug Foundation, in partnership with PBSP, installed level 2 and 3 potable water systems to 772 households. The project provided materials and labor needed by the barangays to connect the Madridejos Community Waterworks System’s main lines to three interior and waterless barangays.

Oftana and several of her fellow residents can now access water anytime they want through their own faucets, and only pay a monthly fee of P100 for 10 cubic meters of usage.

Farmer Romulo dela Peza has been depending on the coconut plantations in Brgy. Inangatan, Leyte to support his family. But when the farm where he worked was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda, the now 66-year-old copra producer was left out of work and without a house.

Out of the 10,000 coconut trees on the plantation where dela Peza works, 7,000 were lost and the rest were left in an unproductive state. Some trees eventually died even after initially showing signs of recovery. It all seemed hopeless until Cargill Philippines and PBSP extended a helping hand to recover and rehabilitate the damaged coconut plantations.

Through intercropping, his participation in the Cash for Work program, and his work as the lead in the rehabilitation of the coconut plantation, dela Peza does not only have a new house, he also earns as much as P8,000 a month – so much more than the meager P1,000 that he got before the storm. He is just among the 204 other household farmers who greatly benefited from the coconut recovery and rehabilitation project.

A Disaster of Huge Proportions

Typhoon Yolanda affected 14 million people in the Visayas region. Of this, 5.9 million workers lost their jobs, resulting to an income loss of up to 70 percent in the affected communities. According to the Department of Education, close to 4,600 classrooms were totally destroyed. Poultry and livestock perished. Agricultural lands were turned into wastelands as crops were heavily damaged. Basic necessities such as water and health services were also interrupted, leaving survivors helpless and hopeless.

PBSP raised an initial P18.3 million from its own network of corporations, individual sponsors and international funding groups for relief missions. It distributed relief goods, hygiene kits, comfort bundles, kitchen utensils, and shelter repair materials to more than 20,000 households in 14 municipalities in Cebu, Samar and Leyte.

Project New Dawn

But the damages wrought by the typhoon continued to pose bigger challenges for the affected communities. Hence, PBSP launched Project New Dawn in June 2014 to provide long-term rehabilitation interventions focused on health, education, environment and livelihood and enterprise development.

It raised P293 million from its member-companies, partners and donors for the implementation of many projects in the affected communities. Of this, P160 million had been spent for projects in the least assisted towns in Bantayan, Madridejos, Santa Fe, and Daanbantayan in Northern Cebu. After several months, PND expanded its assistance to Iloilo, Samar, and Leyte.

Asalus Corporation rebuilt three rural health stations in Ajuy, loilo and Daanbantayan, Cebu. PBSP had also built 31 disaster-resilient school buildings with help from the following donors: Ace Foundation International, Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, CTBC Bank (Philippines) Corporation, Deloitte Philippines Outreach, Inc., Epson Precision Philippines, Inc., Insular Life Foundation, Intel Foundation, L’Oreal Philippines, Inc., Telus International Philippines, Inc. and Mondelez Philippines. The buildings now provide a better and safer learning haven for the children.

Mondelez Philippines, Fluor Daniel, Inc.-Philippines and Lear Corporation also conducted supplemental feeding programs and provided uniforms and starter kits for teachers.

Donors from online platform Global Giving with member-company Parity Values, Inc. helped plant 480,000 mangroves in 48 hectares in Northern Cebu. This project aims to secure a brighter future for fishermen in the coming years.

The potable water system projects of Mercury Drug Corporation and Dow Chemical through United Way Worldwide helped bring safe drinking water directly to 1,582 households in 17 barangays.

PBSP helped families regain their income and become more self-sufficient through livelihood projects. First, the basic tools were provided: boats and fishing gears for fishermen; farming tools, livestock and seeds for farmers; and loans and retail items for sari-sari store (small retail store) owners.

With the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), PBSP has helped establish sustainable ways of fishing in Panay and Iloilo by setting up 23 local fish-enhancing devices and installing 1,600 artificial reefs. Workers were hired in the various construction requirements of livelihood projects so they can earn more income. Mothers were provided with bio-intensive garden kits containing basic vegetables, fertilizers and tools so they can get additional food from their own backyards.

Local economies in Leyte were also revitalized. PBSP and Hapinoy’s Project Bagong Araw enabled 79 sari-sari store owners to receive capital loans, store makeovers and trainings on business skills.

Building Partnerships for Collective Action

While many have already rebuilt their lives, PBSP recognizes the urgent need to scale up its impact, especially in the least assisted communities.

It plans to continue providing complementary interventions for recovery, rehabilitation, and resiliency in the towns of San Remegio and Medellin in Northern Cebu in the next five years.

For livelihood, PBSP intends to promote inclusive business in seaweed and hybrid corn production and dried fish processing. Livelihood interventions on swine production and bio-intensive gardening will also continue. Livelihood champion stakeholders in government will also be tapped to push for the welfare of the people.

PBSP will also conduct Safe Motherhood Caravans (SMC) to educate 4,600 women on life-saving Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) practices and help them access these health services from local health providers. The SMC program supports the United Nation’s goal to reduce maternal mortalities in severely depressed areas.

It is also looking at improving the tourism industry of Bantayan island.

PBSP seeks to harness the collective power of the business sector, and its partner development agencies in ensuring a better future for the affected communities.






Save the Children rehabilitation assistance
Save the Children has reached nearly 900,000 people in its comprehensive response. The children’s agency has vowed to continue its rehabilitation assistance to some of the worst-hit children and families.

Two years after Yolanda, Save the Children says ‘job is not yet over’

By Save the Children
November 6, 2015

Humanitarian agency vows continued rehabilitation support to children and their families.

MAKATI CITY – Two years after super typhoon Yolanda, Save the Children says ‘job is not yet over’ and vows to continue its rehabilitation assistance to some of the worst-affected children and families who are still reeling from heavy loss of property and livelihoods. The super typhoon, which struck on November 8, 2013, affected more than 14 million people, including at least 5 million children, and left nearly 8,000 dead or missing.

Save the Children Director, Ned Olney, said: “Clearly, the job is not yet over. We knew from the start that this was going to be a long process of rehabilitation. The world has not seen this kind of damage from any typhoon in recent history. No media coverage can fully describe what happened that harrowing day.”

Olney added: “Although tremendous effort has been put in to help survivors, continued support is critical at this stage to ensure Yolanda won’t leave a devastating legacy for thousands of families and their children. Our worry is that families may no longer be able to send their children to school and provide for their families once the assistance stops. Improving livelihoods is essential for long term recovery.”

Two years into the response, Save the Children has reached nearly 900,000 people, including half a million children in partnership with communities, civil society, donors and the government. The children’s agency has distributed families food and water; provided medicines and primary health services through our mobile health clinics; repaired classrooms, health facilities and water systems; and provided shelter and livelihood assistance to farmers, fishermen and out-of-school youth to help them provide for their families.

Felipe Malinao, 35, received assistance from Save the Children’s livelihood program in Kananga, Leyte after the typhoon damaged his crops and killed his livestock. Felipe used the livelihoods cash grant to buy a carabao and three goats which he can use for farming and selling. Felipe said: “I can use my carabao to plow and cultivate a bigger area to plant my crops. When the time is ripe, I can barter the male carabao I bought with a female so it could produce offspring that I could share to my children.” Felipe shares that he hopes to use his income to buy food and send his kids to school.

The children’s agency has provided skills training for out-of-school youth so that they could find job or start up their own business.

Geovelyn, 21, enrolled in Save the Children funded welding program in Tacloban after she quit school when her mother, 3 sisters and relatives died during Yolanda. Jovelyn said: “I had to quit school to be close to my family. I felt so guilty that I wasn’t able to do anything for them since I was in another town that time.” After finishing the program, Geovelyn got a job as staff at the same training facility.

Moreover, Save the Children says that rehabilitation should not stop at building homes and restoring livelihoods. To ensure welfare of children in times of disaster, Save the Children is renewing the call for the Congress and Senate to immediately pass the “Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act” which calls for a comprehensive plan to protect children’s rights before, during and after a disaster.

Olney said: “Children are always the most vulnerable when disasters strike. If there is anything ‘Yolanda’ taught us all, it is that improving protection for children before during and after emergencies is essential to saving lives. Passing the child protection in emergencies bill ensures that we learn from our experience to mitigate the impact of future emergencies on children.”






ICRC potable water project
Alawie Asid, whose displaced family now lives in the transition site in Barangay Taluksangay, Zamboanga City, says the new tap stands around their community – just like the one behind him – relieve them from traveling to a remote area to fetch clean water. (By NC-ND / ICRC / R. Ang)

Clean water for 4,000 people in Zamboanga

November 5, 2015

MANILA – A community-based water-supply system providing potable water to over 4,000 people, including displaced families, was officially inaugurated today in Barangay Taluksangay, Zamboanga City.

The project, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the village and city authorities, is a long-term solution to the shortage of water in this barangay (village), which hosts about 900 people displaced by the armed fighting in 2013.

“Water was really scarce here in Taluksangay. It was difficult. Now our lives are better – people in the community no longer fight to get first in line. We can easily get water. We don’t have to ride our banca (boat) anymore because the water source is near,” said Alawi Asid, whose family was displaced from Layag-Layag.

Clean water started flowing from nine communal tap stands in September, reaching a total of 4,000 people in Taluksangay transition site, the nearby relocation site, and the host community. More people stand to benefit as the water system has the ability to cover additional localities in the barangay. Only half of the capacity of the water source has been used so far.

The project was built by 80 displaced people who were employed in a cash-for-work programme, with the ICRC providing materials and technical expertise. It was recently handed over to the Taluksangay Water and Sanitation Association (TAWASA), which was formed with ICRC support, and which will operate and maintain the project. To help the TAWASA sustain the project, the ICRC gave them tools, spare parts and office supplies.

“The ICRC went beyond the engineering works, focusing also on community organization and empowerment. The community took ownership of the project, and the system is self-sustaining, making it able to last for years to come,” explained Marcel Goyeneche, who heads the ICRC office in Zamboanga.

Since the armed clashes in 2013, the ICRC has stayed on with the Philippine Red Cross to support thousands of displaced people in Zamboanga in speeding up their recovery and improving their health and living conditions.






San Jose de Byan livestock training
SJDB livestock training: "We discovered a lot of ways to take good care of our swine especially when they are infected with diseases or when they are pregnant or lactating," says a beneficiary from Barangay Hagbay in San Jose de Buan, Samar. (By NC-ND / ICRC / R. Calera)

Improving lives in conflict-affected communities

October 30, 2015

MANILA – In parts of Luzon and the Visayas, communities suffer from the effects of a protracted armed conflict between government security forces and the New People’s Army. Often living in remote and far-flung areas, these communities also struggle with poverty, making everyday life a challenge for them.

“Economic growth is often stunted in these communities, which also suffer from the insecurity caused by sporadic clashes. Because of this, they have limited access to income opportunities and, at times, basic services too,” said Oualid Bech, head of the ICRC subdelegation in Luzon and the Visayas.

As support to people suffering from the chronic effects of conflict and poverty, the ICRC carries out programs that aim to help the most vulnerable barangays (villages) and communities stand on their own feet and become more resilient.

These programs employ a participatory approach wherein the beneficiaries identify their own needs. A series of consultations and discussions with the ICRC is therefore held to determine what kind projects are suitable, and how to effectively implement and sustain them.

All projects are monitored and evaluated through field visits by ICRC staff with the support of volunteers from the Philippine Red Cross, the ICRC’s primary partner in the country.

Creating opportunities

In the mountainous area of Guihulngan in Negros Oriental province, corn is the staple food and main source of livelihood of the communities. The farmers, however, had to travel to a distant town to have their corn milled, spending considerable effort and money.

The farming community identified this as a challenge, and when the ICRC stepped in to support, they proposed building a corn-milling facility. In March, the corn mill began operating, and it has already benefited farmers from seven barangays and improved the quality of milling.

It has also opened up business and employment opportunities, as the local association earns from every milling session and uses the income to employ people to maintain the corn mill.

The association has earned over P65,000 since March 2015. The project has also encouraged small farmers to utilize portions of their lots for corn farming.

“When we heard that a corn mill would be built in our barangay, we (residents) were very happy. Manual grinding is insufficient and cannot accommodate us all. It also takes more than an hour to manually grind 2.5 kg of corn, while machine-operated milling takes only 15 minutes,” recalled Segondo Cañafuego, a 53-year-old farmer and resident of Barangay Planas in Guihulngan.

He added: “I am now planning to cover my farmland with corn because of the machine operated mill here.”

Meanwhile in Negros Occidental, also in the Western Visayas, rice farming is the primary source of livelihood. In 2015, the ICRC supported local farmers’ associations in lowland barangays in Sipalay with hand tractors and rice threshers, which increased the efficiency of rice production. Like the corn mill in Guihulngan, these farm machines provide extra income to their operators and the local association.

For Lope de Vega, a fourth-class municipality in Northern Samar, the devastation of abaca farms by bunchy top virus had a severe impact on farmers’ livelihoods. Abaca is considered an important “cash crop” or one that can easily be sold for its fiber. After assessing this need with the community, the ICRC provided virus-resistant seedlings so the residents could earn income from abaca again.

Helping themselves and the community

With the cash-for-work scheme, those identified as most vulnerable due to lack of stable income – such as landless laborers and seasonal farmers – will find temporary means to earn by working on projects that also directly benefit their communities.

Unskilled workers are paid at least P250 a day, while skilled ones receive slightly higher amounts. They usually have the opportunity to work for 10-15 days.

These projects, which are chosen by the communities according to their needs, are not labor-intensive and can thus involve women and the elderly. In the municipalities of Juban and Gubat, Sorsogon, which have interior or upland barangays where access can be difficult, especially during rainy season, projects such as the clearing and/or widening of barangay roads and building concrete pathways to water sources were selected by communities through focus group discussions.

Other projects include vegetable gardens that benefit feeding programs for children, repair of churches, construction of school fences, barangay meeting places, and compost pits. In the majority of these projects, the barangays provide the materials and play key roles in overseeing their implementation.

Though temporary, the cash-for-work program provided income to 616 people in 11 barangays in Juban and Gubat in July and October.

These programs show that, by using an approach that engages the community, its people become more resilient and better equipped to rise to future challenges.

Last updated: 01/22/2017