This page features some special news reports and documentaries

special report2








Pimentel's Vision - FREE - for a Free Nation

By Philippine News Service
December 10, 2003

Long Beach, CA   --     Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. categorically stated his desire to  pursue his presidential ambition.  He will file his candidacy for president on January 2, 2004.

In his speech here last Saturday before the Kagay-anon International of Southern California (KISC), headed by its president, Richard M. Tompkins, Senator Pimentel expressed the wish that FPJ would truly manifest his love for the country, by sliding down to the No. 2 post, and let the person most qualified and competent to govern the country.

Senator Pimentel expressed in no uncertain terms that "What is needed these days is to unify the nation."

He believes that if we are united, we can solve the problems of poverty, corruption, bad law and order, bad economics and many other bad things besides.

He reiterated his previous statements in Manila that "we should get the opposition groups united.  Divided winning for us is more difficult.  United, winning is a cinch."

The presidential aspirant from Mindanao suggests that the basis of unification should not be personality, popularity or money.  "The basis can only be a commonly shared platform of government that defines the vision of the opposition groups reflecting the goals and aspirations of the people."


The vision is encapsulated under the acronym FREE, meaning Federalism, Reforms, Economics and Education.

Pimentel explained that "federalism will lead to faster economic development, and it will institute a just and lasting peace for the country but especially for Mindanao."

He went on to say that "Reforms in taxation, reforms in the bureaucracy, reforms in the armed forces, reforms in the police, reforms, indeed even in the judiciary, will combat corruption and criminality so that crooks are jailed and criminals are punished."

He emphasized:  "Our economic policy should attract -- not repel -- business local or foreign.  The playing field must be truly level so that cronies are not favored.  The rules must be transparent and stable, not changing from administration to administration.  Bureaucratic red tape must be simplified and corruption, lessened, if not, eliminated.

"Our education policies should look back, look at the present and look forward at the same time.  Look back in the sense that we do not forget our history.  Look at the present in the sense that we take stock of the youth of today and prepare them for tomorrow.  Look forward in the sense that as a country we must be competitive in the global world."

Implementing the Vision

With the vision defined, the right leader must be chosen to implement it.

The former Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments, who instituted reforms by overhauling the entire leadership of local government during the administration of Cory Aquino, elucidated that "the leader in a democracy is chosen electorally.  Elections are a must in a democracy.  Periodic elections are a way of checking how the leaders perform; of asking them to account for their governance and of demanding of those who want to replace them what they intend to do and how they will promote the national interest."

As everyone knows by now, the people will troop to the polling precincts to elect their leaders on May 10, 2004.  The most important post is that of the President.  And we cannot afford to make a mistake. The most qualified, the most experienced, the man who has a vision for our country; the person who could think of globalization; the man who knows the root causes of the problems besetting the country; the man who knows the solutions to the problems...he should be chosen to lead and govern.

Unlike the previous two elections in 1992 and 1998, the elections in 2004 will be the first time where a sitting president seeks to receive the mandate of the people for a term of six years.  The incumbent president is, thus, the administration bet.  An administration splinter group has chosen their bet.

The opposition groups still have to choose our candidate.

Pimentel says opposition groups "because we do not only have one opposition group."  There is the LDP led by Sen. Ed Angara.  There is the PMP headed symbolically by Sec. Boy Morales.  There is PDP Laban, Pimentel's party.  There are also non-aligned personalities who claim they are also with the opposition.

Best Vote Getter

"The best vote getter from the opposition groups is Fernando Poe Jr., the action 'king' of the movies," admits Pimentel.

"One thing that can be said of FPJ is that he will surely garner more votes than many of us in the opposition who are aspiring for the presidency, or all of us put together," the Senator said categorically.

Popularity as Glue

Positively viewed, the popularity of  FPJ may be the glue that could unite the people in the May 2004 elections.

After the 'honeymoon' between the newly elected leader and the people is over, however, keen observers of the national scene believe the problems may well begin to overwhelm and divide the nation again.

That bad scenario may be avoided, opines Pimentel.

How?  By having, as suggested earlier, a good platform of government as the basis for unifying the opposition initially and the nation, eventually.

In other words, FPJ must espouse a good platform of government as basis for the continuing effort of the people after the elections.

Senator Pimentel, the favorite of Filipinos overseas, the masa and the intellects, suggests that FPJ can rally the people behind the platform of government -- FREE -- "that we have cited earlier not only before or during but especially after the elections."

3Cs of a Leader

Pimentel told his kababayans that "some of our political supporters say that FPJ can only do that if the people perceive that he has the three Cs that the leader of the nation must have:  Competence, Courage and Cleanliness.

The leader must be competent in that he must have the ability to run the nation, confront its problems and offer the vision to solve them.

The leader must not only be competent, he must also have courage to stand up for the vision that he espouses and do what needs to be done for the interest of the nation.

But aside from being competent and courageous, the leader must also be clean in that he must have the integrity to serve the people and inspire them to follow his leadership because he only has the welfare of the nation at heart.

FPJ was asked at the press conference in Manila where his candidacy for the presidency was launched some days ago why he was running for the highest office of the land.  His answer was that he loves the country.

That was a good answer.  Everybody should love his country.  Certainly, love of country is a good basis to start serving our country.

But, perhaps, leading the country is a more complicated act.

Sliding Down

Hence, NGOs from Mindanao suggest that FPJ can probably slide down to the vice presidency and still fulfill his role as a force to unify the nation.

His political mentor, Erap Estrada, did that in the 1992 elections.  Erap ran for the presidency in the elections of that year.  But in the course of the campaign, he slid down to the vice presidential race and made it.  That decision of Erap increased his knowledge of the ramifications of the presidential duties.

If and when he decides to slide down to the vice presidency, who should he support for the presidency?

Of course, the do-or-die idealists among our paisanos believe that FPJ should support APJ for the presidency.  Even for sound effects alone, it would be easier for him and the people to do the switch.  After all, APJ sounds all too similar to FPJ.

More importantly, the people, they believe, would not be disappointed.

Track Record

They point to the APJ track record in public service.

The records of the Constitutional Convention show that it was possible for a delegate from Cagayan de Oro to openly defy the desires of the power brokers of the country and survive as a free citizen.

The records of the mayorship of Cagayan de Oro City show that it was possible for a mayor to do his job even under the most trying threats of martial rule that included actual arrests and ousters from office and survive as a free individual.

The records of the Batasan Pambansa show that it was possible for an assemblyman from Cagayan de Oro to combat official oppression without any inhibition at grave risk to life and limb and survive as a free official.

The records of the Department of Local Governments show that it was possible for a department secretary from Cagayan de Oro to efficiently rid the government of warlords and other problematic local leaders without compromising integrity and survive as a free fellow.

The records of the Senate show that it was possible for a senator from Cagayan de Oro to be the author and sponsor of genuine pro-people laws such as the Local Government Code, the Cooperative Code, the Generic Drugs Act, the Autonomous Regional Government Act and a host of other people rights acts without indulging in the hypocritical give-and-take of legislation and survive as a free representative of the people.

The records of the Senate Presidency show that it was possible for a senate president from Cagayan de Oro -- the first ever from Mindanao -- to stand up for principle rather than for friendship even at the risk of being misunderstood by friends and foes in moments of crisis and survive as a free man.

People's Choice

That said, "it is not our intention to belittle FPJ.  Nobody should demean any other person.  FPJ is entitled to run for the presidency or for any other elective office of the land.  It is up to the people to decide what position of leadership they would assign to him or to me or to anybody aspiring for any elective position," said the Senator

Long Shot

Since you are in the land of the LA Lakers, may I use a basketball metaphor and say that FPJ sliding down to the vice presidency in favor of APJ is a long shot.  Still you know very well that long shots made by Kobe Bryant have made the difference in many a Lakers victory.

In short, APJ is still in the game.  Until the last day of the filing of the certificates of candidacy on January 2, 2004 will affect not only the lives of our generation but the future of our country and children as well.

"How I wish I could have a little more time with you and just talk about things that bond friends a little more closely.  But tomorrow, I leave for Bangkok where I will talk before a select group of Asian parliamentarians on the issue of security and civil liberties," the amiable and well respected  statesman concluded his speech.  - JMP





Samar Island "Partners" Draft Plans for Sustainable Development

October 23, 2003

CATBALOGAN, Samar, Philippines    –  The Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) and the ‘Partners’ composed of representatives from the three provinces of Samar Island has drafted various strategies to sustain the gains of concerted action for the good of the entire Samar Island.

The initial objective of the move was to put up a united front of all the three Samar provinces in support of the declaration of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP), through executive proclamation and legislative action.

During the “Partners Meeting” held last September 11, 2003 at the residence of Eastern Samar Bishop Leonardo Medroso in Borongan and was attended by government officials and sectoral representatives from Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar, the ‘partners’ discussed the theme, “Sustaining the Gains towards Development of Samar Island.”

The meeting was the first since Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the proclamation establishing the SINP last August 13, or four days after the entire Samareños hold its island wide “Save Samar” caravan.

In his report, Mayor Melchor Nacario of Calbiga Samar highlighted the SINP proclamation as the major output of the united action and concerted advocacy efforts undertaken by the different sectors in the Island.

Mayor Nacario, who is also the president of the Mayors League of the Philippines Samar Chapter, emphasized the need for a more united and intensified advocacy efforts stressing that the proclamation is but a start of the many phases of the work to be done.

“This is because the pro-mining advocates are bent on pursuing the exclusion of at least 54,000 hectares from the defined area of the SINP for mining. And we still have to know what will happen to the two approved Mining Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) or concessions inside the SINP. Thus, we should always in focus and be vigilant enough about mining operations in areas outside SINP,” Nacario said.

Nacario said the partners should especially guard against amendments to the SINP as originally proposed and likewise look into the validity of the approved MPSA’s, making follow-ups ordinances declaring moratorium on mining in Samar Island for 25 years. “The island of Samar, including other bodies of water, should be looked at as one ecosystem, a resource common to all and requires common commitment,” he disclosed.

Northern Samar Vice Governor Guido Lavin, who represented Gov. Raul Daza, explained the province’s New Development Vision in the next 10 years. This includes the development of measures and ordinances, among the most salient features of which is the utilization of the resources to defend and protect the Batag Island and other towns of the province against any mining operations and the adoption of a ‘total log ban’ policy.

Lavin explained the province of Northern Samar has already drafted an ordinance for a moratorium in mining operation for a period of 50 years and it is hoped to be enacted within this year with the support of the province to carry out its policies. Before October 15, 2003, the province will set to formulate its Medium and Long Term Plan to assure funding for the above plan.

In Eastern Samar, Governor Cleotilde Salazar, represented by her Provincial Administrator lawyer Floro Balato Jr., he explained various legislative actions conducted by the province soon after President Arroyo signed the proclamation declaring SINP. He likewise revealed the recent activities of the province such as holding of the Provincial Youth Summit and the Environmental Month Celebration which was highlighted by clean up drives, exhibits and launching of its annual search for the most cleanest municipalities.

In the partners meeting, other agencies also shared their plans for a sustainable development of the Island after President Arroyo signed the bill. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) vowed to activate the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Installations of Protected Area Superintendent’s Office (PASu) for the purpose of managing and protecting the remaining resources of Samar Island towards sustainable development.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Provincial Director for Eastern Samar Daisy Lagaday offered its facilities for both environmental advocacy campaign and skills development through its inclusion in the curricula for TESDA schools. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Regional Director Cynthia Nierras also promised to help through its Small and Medium Enterprises Development (SMED) in terms of human resource development, upgrading of products and marketing as part of its programs undertaken.

Mr. Oca Francisco of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) also shared the “War against Poverty” campaign of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during the meeting. He presented the different cluster of strategies of NAPC such as: to reduce poverty through agrarian reform and land administration; sustainable employment and livelihood; social protection; and democratic participation in governance.

In the latter part of the meeting, the participants broke up into three workshop areas  -- information and education, policies and livelihood. The first group (IEC) planned to utilize the tri-media in its campaign; penetrate school campuses for the possible inclusion of environmental awareness and other related course; and the visibility of advocacy materials in the Island and in the national level.

The group on policy presented a drafted strategies to push for the immediate passage of local ordinances and other legislative consultation of all three Samar provinces while the livelihood group focused on planning, assessment of resources to determine the viable livelihood activities and for possible financing sources.

Before the meeting ended, creation of a Foundation or a Council was suggested because of the urgency of the upcoming activities of the ‘Partners.’ 





NASSA Declares Statement of Support with Samareños

August 6, 2003

CATBALOGAN, Samar, Philippines     -     The National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice & Peace (NASSA), the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) declared their statement of solidarity with Samareños seeking an end to ecological devastation caused by mining in Samar Island having felt of the urgency to help the people of Samar in their campaign against environmental threats particularly mining. 

NASSA was alarmed by government's drive to intensify mining operations in the country without adequate considerations for their repercussions on environmental and human health believing that the government is subscribing to world bank's recommendations, citing the world bank country assistance strategy 2003- 2005 titled "improving the lives of the poor through growth and empowerment" which urges Philippine government to further explore the export potential of the mining sector. The World Bank categorically requires government to resolve "obstacles to 100% foreign ownership of mines." World Bank adds that not fully liberalizing the mining sector will render government's policy reform agenda incomplete.

World bank further instructs that there be "clear environmental standards, safeguards, and monitoring procedures [that] could mobilize the investments required to fully tap the economic potential of the mining sector." It is clear that environmental safety and people's welfare are minor factors in world bank's hierarchy of considerations.   They fear government's submission to World Bank's prescriptions raises serious questions, among them: Will liberalizing the mining sector lift the poor from their sorry plight? Will an increasingly liberalized mining sector lead to the end of the trickle down development paradigm? Will the poor start to get an equitable share of the wealth resulting from mining or will the rich continue to amass the lion's share? Is ecological balance worth sacrificing in the name of economic windfall? Of what use is a healthy economy when the environment and, by extension, the people are sick?

In this light, NASSA supports Samareños in their demand to protect Samar Island from further environmental devastation brought about by mining and other extractive economic activities.  In solidarity with Eastern Visayas Social Action, NASSA urges her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA) to heed Samareños' clamor for her to declare as protected areas the remaining forests of Samar Island.  They also urges house speaker Dose de Venecia, house committee on ecology Chair Augusto H. Baculio, Senate President Franklin Drilon, and senate committee on environment and natural resources Chair Sen. Robert Jaworski to expedite the passage of House Bill 4764 (an act establishing the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) situated in the provinces of Samar, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar as a protected area and its peripheral areas as buffer zone, filed by Hon. Eduardo K. Veloso). Relatedly, NASSA calls upon Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Elisea Gozun to reconsider all pending and approved permits for mining operations in Samar Island and other areas in the country.

Meanwhile, NASSA stressed that Filipino people, especially those affected by mining operations, should continuously exercise their right to a healthy environment. It is in these occasions that people have to effectively influence policymaking and government action.





Samareños cries foul over mining approval in Samar Island

July 31, 2003

CATBALOGAN, Samar, Philippines   –   “No way to mining in Samar.”

This was the consensus of the residents living in the three provinces of Samar shortly after two mining applicants has been granted to mine bauxite in a 12, 000-hectare area that encroaches upon a forest reservation.

They said former Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez signed Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) with Bauxite Resources Inc. and Alumina Mining Philippines Inc. last December 5, 2002 allowing them to mine areas in Samar Island that had been declared by the Ramos administration as the forest reserve.

According to pro-mining advocates, Samar Island has the biggest deposit of high-trade bauxite in the country estimated to be worth $21 billion. Bauxite is a raw material used in aluminum production and is extracted through open fit mining, which would require major clearing of forest areas.

On July 12, 2003, leaders of several non-government organizations, people’s organizations, academe, students, and the Church converged and draft a plan to block mining operations by the two firms.

An information caravan was also planned out which will start from the three provincial capital of each provinces on the effects on mining slated August 8, next month.

The caravan will start at 6 a.m. in Catarman, Northern Samar; in Borongan, Eastern Samar and from Marabut and Basey in the south that will later converged in Catbalogan (last convergence point) at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Few speakers will talk in every town before they finally arrived in Catbalogan for a short vigil.

Anti-mining groups will also be looking forward to urge President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sign presidential proclamation and the subsequent enactment of a legislation establishing the Samar Island National Park (SINP) if the latter attend the Samar Day celebration this coming August 11.

Earlier, President Arroyo already confirmed to Samar Governor Milagrosa Tan her attendance to attend the said occasion.

The League of Municipalities of Samar, Eastern and Northern Samar, the six governors and congressmen in the region strongly supported the move for immediate protection of rich biodiversity with the Samar Island Forest Reserve (SIFR) and advocates the sustainable use, protection and management of the natural resources, as this greatly affect the ecological balance as well as the economic development in the island.

On February 20, 1996, Samareños scored another victory when then President Fidel V. Ramos proclaimed Samar as a forest reserve. Since then, the thrust for environmental protection and sustainable use of natural resources gained ground culminating in the operationalization of the Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) tasked to define and prepare the SINP that will provide the sustainable developmental framework for the efficient and long-term use of Samar's resources. The signing of the two mining agreements by Alvarez however effectively stalled this process at its point of culmination and robbed the Samareños of the decades-long gains they had painstakingly achieved.

“While the SIFR have been declared a forest reserve through Presidential Proclamation No. 744 by then President Fidel Ramos, it is continually threatened by the unregulated use and forest dependence by forest and forest-edge communities,” says Calbiga town Mayor Melchor F. Nacario, provincial chapter and national executive vice president for external affairs of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

Declaration of Support

The Samar Island Biodiversity Project, an 8-year special project of the DENR, has gathered numerous declaration of support to oppose mining exploration in the whole island from Diocese of Calbayog City and in Catarman, Northern Samar and other groups.

“Mining in our island has not brought us, Samareños, any prosperity, but has only left anguish for our people. We have seen the death of the Taft River by mine tailings for the last two decades. We have seen families and their homes along the Taft River displaced by flashfloods. We have seen the loss of farmlands because of mine tailings. We have seen the loss of marine life in the fishing grounds around Homonhon and Manicani islands because of the mining in these areas. We have the exodus of poor Samareño families to the cities of Manila and Cebu because of failing livelihood in Agriculture and fisheries…Now, Madame President, Honorable members of Congress, you hold the key to our sustainable future,” Bishop Jose S. Palma of the Diocese of Calbayog said.

“What is happening in Samar (actually) highlights a contradiction of national policies that begs for urgent resolution. The basis of Mines and Geosciences Bureau in promoting mining in Samar is a presidential proclamation (No. 1615) signed by Ferdinand E. Marcos on February 4, 1977 declaring 296, 683 hectares in Samar as a mineral reservation. The FMB and PAWB’s basis protecting Samar’s ecology is another proclamation (No. 744), signed by Fidel V. Ramos on Feb. 20, 1996, declaring 360, 000 hectares as the Samar Forest Reserve. The law also requires the MGB to secure a clearance from the FMB and PAWB for areas proposed to be mined. Did the MGB get such a clearance before approving the two MPSAs? If it did look the other way, they they violated their mandate,” Mayor Nacario said.

Accordingly, the people of Samar have long been impoverished amidst a land of plenty. Despite government neglect and seeming apathy, the Samareños continue their struggle to survive in one of the richest biodiversity centers in the country where the largest and last remaining contiguous patch of virgin forest thrive, in a land of exotic sights and beauty few have ever seen.

Development has long eluded the people of Samar not because of their own actions, but rather because they have been deprived of the very action they desperately need to develop: control and management of the resources in the environment in which they have eked out their lives. Samareños have since placed their hope in biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resource management as the key to their development. Late last year, this dream almost became a reality when the document detailing the establishment of the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) was perfected and submitted for presidential proclamation.

Right In the heart

On December 5, 2002 however, when two large-scale mining applicants were approved, the dream turned into a nightmare -- paving the way for the strip mining of the very heart of Samar Island. This is the greatest threat Samar has faced in decades, yet the government still seems not to notice. At least two other mining agreements are just waiting to be signed.

Among the land targeted by these mining companies are some 28,000 hectares in an area that has been described as the "mother of all critical areas" in terms of its effects on the island's ecology.

The area to be strip-mined is where the headwaters that feed most of the major waterways in the island are situated. This area is also part of the only remaining patch of untouched forest that now comprise a mere five percent of the island's 1.34 million hectares. Laying this land bare is akin to stabbing Samar Island, and the life in it, right in the heart.

The mining operations, the protesters claimed, will disrupt the distribution of the island's most valuable resource: water -- the lifeblood of the land.

They said, the sparkling, pristine waters emanating from the area will be contaminated. In many sections of the island, water will be unusable and in most parts would cease to flow. This has far-reaching effects on the island's ecology and the environmental destruction would be horrendously enormous and irreversible. It is not hard to imagine the extent of effect that water deprivation would have over all life in the island.

Robbed of gains

The memory of the destructive effects of mining is still fresh in the minds and hearts of the Samareños. The land is still feeling the effects of the wounds left by Bagacay Mines who strip-mined for copper in the middle of the island in the 1980s. Where the mining company once operated now lays a barren, unproductive patch of land, where water remains contaminated and life refuse to grow.

The people of Bagacay, who once enjoyed the brief benefits of jobs offered by the mining company, are now left with a gaping hole in their backyard, robbed of the development options they now need because the land lays dead.

At one time, Samar Island was partitioned into a jigsaw puzzle of mining concessions proposed by at least 41 large-scale mining companies. With the destruction wrought by the massive logging of forests in the late 1970's and 1980's that caused the freak flash floods of 1989, the government imposed a logging moratorium on February of the same year. This was extended indefinitely four months later. Feeling the direct effects caused by the continued degradation of their environment and recognizing the serious environmental threats that remained in the form of suspended logging concessions and mining applications, Samareños closed ranks and rallied for increased environmental protection. With rising vigilance and gathering resolve, scores of people's organizations, non-government organizations and even local government units successfully thwarted a government plan to cut through Samar's dwindling rainforest to build a road linking Borongan, Eastern Samar to Tacloban City ~ mass action resulted to the road being diverted to the present southern coastal highway.

Shaky ground

A prepared statement distributed by the environmentalists to reporters here said the signing of the agreements “was seemingly done in haste and stealth.” Without passing through DENR inter-department protocol, it was signed by Secretary Alvarez less than a month before he relinquished his post. “It was so well hidden that even the newly installed DENR Secretary Elizea Gozun enthusiastically endorsed the proclamation of the SINP to the President, apparently unaware that her own department, through her predecessor, just signed the mining agreements less than a month before. This is in apparent violation of section 15 of the revised implementing rules and regulations of the 1995 Mining Act, which requires that sites within DENR project areas can only be opened to mining with the prior consent from the concerned agency, in this case the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB),” a document release by the Samar Island Biodiversity Project said.

It added that by signing the mining agreements, the Philippine government, through the DENR, is also violating its international commitment to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the government bound itself to protect Samar Island's remaining forests and establish the SINP. Also, the mining areas fall inside the Samar Island Forest Reserve, a fact that is explicitly disallowed under the 1995 Mining Act, which states that proclaimed watershed forest reserves are closed to mining. Clearly, the agreements were not only signed under questionable conditions, but even stand today on shaky legal grounds.

A uniting cause

The mining agreements once again place the resolve of the Samareños to protect their environment and their right to manage their own future to the test. Already, various stakeholders have rejected mining operations in Samar Island.

The provincial chapters of the League of Municipalities, the bishops and the parish priests of the three Samar provinces, the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Council, the Non-Government and People’s organizations have taken a united stand based, both, on moral and legal grounds.

Their voice is clear: Samar is not against mining per se, what they are asking is for a voice in the management of the resources they rely upon to survive, not a stake in the heart that the mining companies will bring.