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Bangon to grow vegetables for bigger market this month

40-day Climate Walk to Tacloban kicks off in Luneta

Yolanda-hit villages declared as first 'Zero Open Defecation' barangays in Leyte

Ailing political prisoner Benny Barid dies; rights groups demand justice

DSWD-8 awards winners of 4Ps model family

PRO8 intensifies security plan on Pope’s visit next year

8ID joins the nation in the observance of the Peace Month

ICRC president stresses need to resolve plight of Zamboanga displaced







Campaigners say “get the lead out for our children’s health” as Filipino children join worldwide action vs. lead poisoning

By EcoWaste Coalition
October 19, 2014

MANILA CITY – More than one hundred kids and parents today gathered at Rizal Park – the country’s premier national park – at the launch of the weeklong global movement to protect children from lead, a toxic chemical that can permanently damage a child’s brain even at low doses.

Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network for zero waste, chemical safety and public health, the event also marked the release of a European Union-funded report about lead levels in dust obtained from 21 locations in five cities in Metro Manila, including residential homes, day-care centers and preparatory schools where children spend much time, and might be exposed to high levels of lead.

Co-hosted by the National Parks Development Committee, the event commenced the Philippines’ celebration of the 2nd International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (October 19-25) organized by the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a joint undertaking by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environmental Programme.

The event saw parents and kids parade around the park, accompanied by youth drummers and campaigners brandishing a banner that said “Get the Lead Out for Our Children’s Health.” The group then assembled at the Children’s Playground to learn about lead poisoning through pep talks and fun games, which highlighted the need to keep the children’s environment safe from lead hazard.

“Our assembly today is in support of the growing local and global action to protect children’s brains and enhance the health conditions of all children by preventing and reducing childhood exposure to toxic lead. Our government, the paint industry, the healthcare sector and civil society are working together to remove lead paint in the market and help create a conducive lead-safe environment for our children and our children’s children,” said Jeiel Guarino, Communications and Policy Officer for the Lead Paint Elimination Project, EcoWaste Coalition.

In a message sent to the EcoWaste Coalition, Secretary Enrique Ona stated that “the Department of Health (DOH) fully supports the global and local efforts to prevent and reduce maternal, fetal and childhood exposure to lead, a chemical that has no vital use in the human body, which can inflict irremediable harm to the developing brain and the central nervous system even at low level toxicity.”

“We particularly support the ongoing phase-out of lead-based paints in the Philippine market as this will drastically reduce the risk from lead paint chips and dust, which are recognized as major sources of children’s exposure to lead. Eliminating preventable sources of lead exposure in our homes, schools and communities, including toys and childcare articles, will have a huge impact in protecting our children’s brains and their overall health and benefit the society as a whole,” Secretary Ona said.

“Lead exposure at an early age can cause harmful lifelong impacts on a child’s developing brain and impair rapid growth and development, making it crucial for environmental lead hazards such as lead paint chips, dust and soil be reduced, if not carefully eliminated, to protect children from the adverse health effects of lead exposure,” said Dr. Bessie Antonio, a pediatrician from the East Avenue Medical Center, who spoke at the event.

The World Health Organization’s report on “Childhood Lead Poisoning” states that “these effects are untreatable and irreversible because the human brain has little capacity for repair, causing diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.”

The lead dust report released by EcoWaste Coalition, entitled “Lead in Household Dust in the Philippines,” provides examples of lead dust levels in sampled locations, and demonstrates why the use of lead-containing decorative paints is a source of serious concern, especially for children’s health. For instance, the study found two preparatory schools with dust lead levels above the 40 μg/ft2 dust lead limit in floors in housing defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a dust-lead hazard, with one prep school registering as high as 110 μg/ft2 dust lead level.

“Children are not generally exposed to lead from new paint while the paint is still in the can or when the paint is being newly applied to a previously unpainted or uncoated surface. However, as paint on household surfaces chips, wears and deteriorates over time, lead present in the deteriorating paint is released and contaminates surrounding surfaces. In this way, lead in the paint will end up in the household dust and soil surrounding the house,” the report said.

The report concluded with a set of recommendations addressed to various stakeholders. In particular, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to:

• Ensure strict compliance and enforcement of the Chemical Control Order on Lead and Lead Compounds, issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which prohibits the use of lead in all types of paint beyond 90 ppm (dry weight).

• Establish strong enforcement measures, including periodic monitoring, to ensure paint companies are in compliance with the lead in paint limit and the specific phase-out periods for leaded decorative and industrial paints.

• Provide incentives to paint companies to swiftly transition from lead to non-lead paint production.

• Require paint can labels with sufficient information indicating the lead content and provide a warning of possible lead dust hazards when disturbing painted surfaces.

• Source only lead safe paints for interiors and exteriors of public buildings and amenities (e.g., parks and playgrounds), government-sponsored housing, schools, day-care centers, medical and sports facilities among others.

• Facilitate training on lead-safe working practices when applying paint to previously painted surfaces.

Given the high lead dust levels found in some preparatory schools, the report further recommended that the Department of Education, along with the DENR, the Department of Health and public interest stakeholders, to embark on an investigative study on lead paint hazards in the public educational system.

The EcoWaste Coalition-led campaign in the Philippines is part of a seven-country Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project by IPEN, a global civil society network promoting safe chemical policies and practices to protect human health and the environment.

The European Union has provided a grant of P75 million to IPEN for its three-year project that is concurrently being carried out in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines.





Groups mount the country’s largest ‘food art’ to demand government support for Ecological Agriculture

October 18, 2014

QUEZON CITY – Today, Greenpeace and other civic groups – composed of farmers, mothers, health advocates, organic consumers and traders and policy makers – came together to celebrate the country’s rich and diverse agricultural heritage. Using ecologically produced fruits and vegetables, the groups created a giant ‘food art’ installation and rallied on Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to promote Ecological Agriculture, instead of risky Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

“Filipinos all over the country are seeing the need to stand up and protect our diversified food crops by demanding for government’s support for Ecological Agriculture- highly vital in addressing food security and health issues like malnutrition and Vitamin A deficiency,” said Daniel M. Ocampo, Ecological Agriculture Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “With the Philippines’ thriving Ecological Agriculture and the growing demand for it, there is simply no room and no need for GMOs such as ‘Golden’ rice.”

Greenpeace organized the colourful affair on the heels of World Food Day. The event saw participants creating a giant food Mandala made up of 1,000 kilos of common fruits and vegetables, spread out across 100 square meters of the Quezon Memorial Circle, making it the largest ‘food art’ in the country. Mandala is Sanskrit for circle, denoting ‘wholeness’. The Mandala concept was used to demonstrate how Ecological Agriculture, a farming system that works in harmony with nature and bridges indigenous knowledge systems with developments in modern science and technology has long provided Filipinos with safe, complete and diverse diets.

Unlike GMOs which present risks to public health and the environment, Ecological Agriculture supports biodiversity in farms to produce diverse foods, ensuring a holistic approach to malnutrition and addressing not only a single nutrient deficiency but providing other nutrients most needed by pregnant women and children.

“I fully support initiatives that promote Ecological Agriculture because it empowers citizens to plant, grow and harvest their own food that is clean, grown naturally and free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers,” said Senator Cynthia Villar, a strong advocate of urban gardening using composts from household wastes as fertilizers.

“By all accounts, Ecological Agriculture is what is most preferred and what is most needed here in the Philippines, especially to address nutrient deficiencies among women and children,” said Velvet Roxas, Deputy Executive Director of ARUGAAN, a group that has been promoting diverse diets and indigenous foods. “It is sad that Secretary Alcala keeps on promoting ‘Golden’ rice to supposedly combat Vitamin A deficiency, but what about the other nutritional requirements that our bodies need on a daily basis?”

“The solution is already present; we don’t need to look far. The DA has to divert its support away from GMOs and bring it back to where it should belong – to Ecological Agriculture,” said Pangging Santos, Program Manager for Integrated Health and Development Project of SARILAYA. “We call on the Department of Agriculture, to heed farmers’ advice and give their full support to small family farms so that together we can achieve food and nutrition security for the country.”

“GMOs like ‘Golden’ rice are nothing but mere illusions. Supporting GMOs through research and development just takes away valuable resources that should have been dedicated to the development and promotion of already available solutions to nutritional deficiency. Secretary Alcala should act now – stop further GMO approvals and shift the DA’s support to a more meaningful and effective implementation of the National Organic Act,” added Ocampo.





Landless Yolanda survivors’ weary celebration of the World Food Day

Press Release
October 16, 2014

TACLOBAN CITY – Today, communities all around the globe is observing World Food Day in celebration of “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.”

This year’s theme recognizes the vital role, contribution, the great importance of small farming families and communities to global food security. For the Landless Yolanda Survivors – Katarungan (Kilusan para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan) Eastern Visayas, this year’s World Food Day theme is only but a concept. How can they celebrate with the rest of the world if they cannot even provide their families adequate food?

Denying farmers’ land rights, denies their Right to Adequate Food

The Right to Adequate Food is an internationally recognized right of each individual. The Right to Adequate Food It is the Right for food to be Accessible, Available, and Adequate.

In its General Comment No. 12, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) of the United Nations succinctly and authoritatively defined: “The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means to its procurement.”

“The right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear,” CESCR states further.

To produce their own food, farmers need land, water and other resources. Therefore, the government, as state party to the international covenant to protect, respect and fulfill the citizens’ right to adequate food is responsible in enabling farmers to maximize the lands’ potential to the fullest in producing for themselves and their families adequate food or the nutrition required by the human body.

In their quest for land, Katarungan Eastern Visayas farmers who are beneficiaries of the “dead” CLOAs (Certificate of Land Ownership Award), engaged the Agrarian Reform Program Officers in dialogues and were promised untangling problems in releasing the Land Titles. Farmers have long submitted necessary documents needed as what was required of them. Yet, only a few hundreds were distributed.

In an interview with ABS-CBN last October 7, 2014, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Regional Director Atty. Sheila Enciso promised to fast track the release of CLOAs before the year ends. To this, Katarungan Eastern Visayas farmer leader of LSBDA (Leyte Sab-A Basin Development Authority) land, Villamor Urena retorts “narinig na namin ‘yan. Magbibigay ng kaunti tapos bibilang ka ng taon wala na ulit. Mukhang hindi na kayang ayusin dito sa region, kailangan na sa Kongreso na idulog ito.”

Continuing violation

The “dead” CLOAs, until revived and distributed represent a continuing violation of every Filipinos’ right to adequate food.

The Philippine government, being a state party to the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights (ICESCR), and the attached agencies, in fulfilling the Landless Yolanda farmers’ right to adequate food, has the key obligation to:

• respect the farmers’ unrestricted access to the land and other support services;

• protect the interests of the farmers and ensure that no individuals or government agencies, in the case of the “dead” CLOAs, deprive their access to land and adequate food by the slow implementation of the agrarian reform program;

• fulfill or facilitate the completion of the distribution of CLOAs that will ensure the farmers’ access to support services from other national government agencies, international and national government organizations that are involved in the rehabilitation of Region 8 after Yolanda.

Katarungan Eastern Visayas is calling on the national government to intervene, on their behalf, in the early resolution of the issues they are now facing. The government, after all, has the obligation to implement the right to adequate food directly, in the failure of the agencies in doing so. General Comment No. 12 of the CESCR specifically states that government intervention apply “for persons who are victims of natural or other disasters.”

To deny farmers their own land, is tantamount to denying farming families and the entire nation their right to adequate food.





RAFI to hold forum on risks and climate change impacts

By Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
October 15, 2014

CEBU CITY – To help the public in assessing risks and managing the impacts of climate change amid the increasing unpredictability and variability of weather patterns, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) - Eduardo Aboitiz Development Studies Center (EADSC) will hold a forum on “Assessing Risks and Managing Climate Change Impacts” on October 28, 2014.

The forum will start at 2 p.m. at the Eduardo Aboitiz Plenary Hall of the RAFI-EADSC building, 35 Lopez Jaena Street, Cebu City right across the Casa Gorordo Museum. The forum is free and open to the public.

Jose Ma Lorenzo Tan, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines CEO, will present the results of the study entitled, “Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts” that looks at the vulnerability level of Cebu City in terms of environmental/climate exposure, socio-economic sensitivity, and adaptive capacity as one of twelve (12) key Philippine cities most likely to be adversely affected by climate change.

In the said study, scenario building exercises were used to encourage “out of the box” thinking and generate plausible narratives that could be useful for strategic planning.

This is the sixth part of the series that RAFI-EADSC organized this year with the theme, “Are we ready for ‘the new normal’?” The series of forums was in response to the need for further capability building in terms of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management, by looking at the aftermath and the way we responded to the Bohol earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda last year.

This forum serves to augment the already concluded four-part series held last January, February, April and July, and the fifth special forum on El Niño.

Interested participants may contact Mr. Rehne Gibb Larena at (032)418-7234 local 109 or email him on or before October 24.

The Understanding Choices Forum is one of the programs of EADSC under RAFI’s Leadership & Citizenship Focus Area, which aims to build a community that is ready to effect change. The other focus areas of RAFI are Integrated Development, Microfinance & Entrepreneurship, Culture & Heritage and Education.





Unequal US-PH military agreements license to violate people’s rights

October 14, 2014

QUEZON CITY – “The killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude by a US serviceman is the most recent vivid violation of people’s rights, a consequence of lopsided military agreements between the US and the Philippine governments. The US-RP Military Bases Agreement to the Visiting Forces Agreement and the US-GPH Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement have become licenses for numerous gross transgressions, especially on the rights of Filipino women and children,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

An online US-based news site, cited an internal US Navy memorandum identified the perpetrator as a US Marine deployed to the Philippines as part of the Balikatan joint military training exercise. The suspect, whose identity is kept from the public, and three other Marines are in the custody of US Navy officials since Sunday.

The Balikatan joint military exercise is a component of the Visiting Forces Agreement which in effect ensures the permanent, albeit rotational, presence of the US troops in the country. “The newly signed EDCA ensures the increased and permanent presence of US military troops, anywhere and everywhere in the Philippines, at the expense of the Filipino people, both monetarily and in relation to our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said.

Palabay warned that the “issue of jurisdiction and custody over the case may go the way of all previous cases where criminal accountability of US soldiers in Philippine territory were exonerated under the pretext of the MBA and the VFA.”

She stated that in 1987, a US serviceman stationed in the US base on Olongapo and accused in the rape of 12-year old Rosario Baluyot was “whisked out of the country to avoid prosecution.” The child later died from sepsis because parts of a vibrator that was inserted in her vagina remained stuck for seven months.

The rape of “Nicole” by US Marine Daniel Smith in 2005 was the first case where a member of the US military was tried, convicted and sentenced for a crime on Philippine territory. However, the local court ruling on the landmark case was overturned when Smith was secretly transferred from the Makati City Jail to the US Embassy’s custody in 2006.

“In both cases, the issue of US government custody on the perpetrators from the US military was invoked,” Palabay added.

“We call on the Filipino people to assert the country’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over the case, including custody and investigation of the perpetrator, and his prosecution. We demand justice and accountability. We call for the immediate junking of the VFA and the EDCA, which are threats to the Filipino people’s liberty and security,” she concluded.





Cebu vice guv assures support for cancer victims

By Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.
October 12, 2014

CEBU CITY – Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale last Saturday assured those suffering from breast cancer they have her full support and that they must have the strength to fight the disease.

Speaking before a crowd of over 3,000 participants of the Moonwalk: A Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness during an opening program at the Fuente Osmeña Circle, Magpale said the support for those stricken with breast cancer would always be there.

She also thanked the various support groups not only for patients and survivors but also to their families who have tirelessly provided assistance.

The Moonwalk last Saturday started from Fuente Osmeña Rotunda to Plaza Independencia in Cebu City. Started in 2004, it is a unique collective advocacy campaign focused on early screening and detection of breast cancer through monthly breast self-examination and mammography.

Ronald de los Reyes, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.-Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (RAFI-EJACC) program coordinator, emphasized early detection as the best way to survive cancer. This can be done by having regular screening.

“Breast cancer is one of those cancers with screening and survival therefore is very high if it is detected at an early stage,” he said.

With records of 657 deaths out of the 1,349 cases in 2003-2007, the Cebu population-based Cancer Registry of RAFI-EJACC identifies breast cancer as the leading cause of death among Cebuano women.

De los Reyes said that what is sad is that many of those cases where discovered only when breast cancer was already in its advance stage and survival was already slim.

For this reason, the fight against the disease, which affects the lives of Cebuano women and their families, continues through this annual advocacy walk, which is held every full moon of October in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A particular information that should be made common knowledge, for example, is that breast cancer can also afflict men.

De los Reyes emphasized that women 20 years old and above should already know how to do breast self-examination and do so at least once a month and must know the symptoms of breast cancer, which include unusual discharge from and lump in the breast.

Aside RAFI employees and those from partner organizations, various government agencies like the Department of Health and those from the different barangays and schools of Cebu also joined in the 1.5-kilometer walk.

Convergys, the Rotary, and Radisson Blu Hotel likewise, among others, also joined the Moonwalk, which featured performances from local talents during the program at the Plaza Independencia immediately after the walk.

The event was organized by RAFI-EJACC in partnership with the Cebu City Government and Task Force Cancer of Cebu City, Department of Health 7, Destiny Medical Fund Inc., and Goldilocks. It is also supported by the Cebu Cancer Fight Inc., I CAN SERVE Foundation, Alcordo Advertising, Nature Spring, and CAN with GOD.

Performers Jewel Villaflores, Reycel Punay, Cattski Espina, among others, also spiced up the program at Plaza Independencia.





TUCP expresses concern over displacement of 24,000 ARMM public sector workers dislodged by new Bangsamoro Transition Council

By TUCP-Nagkaisa
October 12, 2014

QUEZON CITY – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines-Nagkaisa expresses concern over the displacement of around 24,000 public sector workers currently employed in municipalities, cities, provincial and regional government offices once the Autonomous Regions in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is dissolved and taken over by Bangsamoro Transition Council within next year.

During the House of Representatives committee deliberation on the provisions on the new Bangsamoro law presided by TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza, CSC resource persons disclosed the commission have no preparation in place when asked about the displacement.

“The labor center expresses concern over the unknown fate of these workers who will be dislodged once the Bangsamoro law takes effect. We call on the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to step in and take the necessary course of action. We are wondering why the commission has no preparations towards one of very important elements of the transition issue,” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU).

Seno said the labor group is proposing that the CSC take in command of ensuring that the workforce be integrated into the new Bangsamoro government using lateral transfer and merit-based integration rather than leaving their fate to circumstances.

TUCP executive director Louie Corral added by saying: “This is a significant number of public sector employees ever to be displaced in the course of Philippine government paving the way for the new Bangsamoro. But the government has the primary responsibility to provide safety nets for these workers who had been serving the bureaucracy quietly. Rather than allowing these people fell through the cracks, they should be integrated because they are already an asset.”





UCCP Church leaders join Sunday Worship after bombing in UCCP Pikit, Cotabato

Press Release
October 11, 2014

QUEZON CITY – In response to the killing of two Church members and the wounding of many by a grenade bombing at UCCP Pikit, during their midweek worship service on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, Bishop Hamuel Tequis, assigned to South East Mindanao Jurisdictional Area leads a delegation of Church leaders to Pikit to join Sunday Worship.

“The UCCP condemns the dastardly act of bombing the UCCP Pikit worship service; and yet, we journey to Pikit with a most important intention to comfort the bereaved and join as a presence of solidarity and support to our Church members,” said Bishop Hamuel Tequis.

“We will be reading messages that have been sent to the UCCP from around the world during Sunday’s Worship Service in Pikit. Nearby UCCP local churches will join us in Pikit, while UCCP local churches across the Philippines will also pray for the community during their worship services. We want to make sure that the members know that many are thinking of them and praying for them during this difficult time,” said Bishop Tequis.

Church leaders will also seek further information on the motive or identities of the perpetrators of the grenade bombing as well as documentation of the incident.

“We will visit the injured and express our condolences to the families of Felomena Nacario-Ferolin and Gina Cabiluna. We also hope to support the community in gathering data and documenting accounts of what transpired in Pikit last Wednesday,” said Bishop Tequis.

“Our General Secretary has called for sober-minded vigilance and has cautioned us not to rush toward hasty judgment when we do not have evidence of the motive of the bombing. We will do our part to seek justice and build peace,” said Rev. Jerome Baris, National Program Coordinator for Justice, Peace and Human Rights.

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines has encouraged inter-faith, tri-people efforts to build unity, justice and peace, in response to the worship-service bombing at UCCP Pikit.

“Many UCCP members have expressed feelings of fear, grief, and disbelief that this happened during a worship service. We must provide counsel, care, and spiritual guidance for our members. This is a moment in our faith journey, where we must choose to act for peace. And by choosing to continue to work together as Christians, Muslims and Lumads, we will seek peace based on justice in our land,” said Bp. Tequis.



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