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There was Balikatan in Guinsaugon – Gov. Lerias

Sarmiento denies blocking the cityhood bid of Catbalogan

Eastern Samar BAYAN MUNA youth leader gunned down

Mayor Bejo opens Tacloban City Hall to the media

NPA ambush military personnel on CIVAC

Gov. Tan argues she don’t deserve suspension on her plunder case

Armed men raid Albuera police station

Borongan LGU steps up solid waste management

Region 8 remembers Doña Paz tragedy

SP endorses small-scale mining operations in Samar island-town



Rep. Figueroa seeks reelection; endorses wife as next governor of Samar

March 20, 2006

CATBALOGAN, Samar – Despite the national leadership crisis and the uncertainty of the synchronized election in 2007, several political bigwigs in this province had already made public of their intention to run for a government post.

Mayor Neliptha Figueroa

Representative Catalino “Cata” Figueroa (Samar, 2nd-district) of the Nationalist Party who serially announced his bid for re-election, also endorsed his wife, the incumbent Zumarraga town mayor Neliptha M. Figueroa (Nationalist Party), who in turn did not opposed, as the next governor come next year’s election.

Mayor Figueroa, it was learned, was the incumbent president of the Samar Mayor’s League and concurrently the regional president of the Mayor’s League of the Philippines for Eastern Visayas, vice-president of the Lady Mayor’s League in the whole Visayas, and the chairman in one of the committee’s – Committee on Trade and Industry – of the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. of the House of Representatives.

In an interview, Rep. Figueroa said he has with them to complete the lined-up incumbent representative Dr. Reynaldo S. Uy (Samar–1st district), incumbent mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento (Calbayog, the only city in this province), the “Solid Magic Eight” mayors in the second district who, as of the moment, he refused to divulged the names yet, and an “avalanche” of provincial board members, whom he said, “bolted” from the provincial chief leadership.

“Feed-up over present poor governance”

Last March 4, while addressing the more or less 300 community leaders of the different organizations comprising the KALICAS (Katig-uban Han Mga Lideres Ug Community Associations Han Samar) in the province that commemorated their 3rd year anniversary, both the Figueroa couple reiterated their (and their party-member) dismay over the “poor governance” and “political priorities” of Governor Milagrosa Tan.

“I challenge you all the leaders to be more responsive to the calls for good governance,” Rep. Figueroa in a high-pitched tone told the community leaders in a jammed packed Conference Hall of the SSU-Mercedes Campus in Brgy. Mercedes, here.

He added: “You should be more participative in the social issues especially in choosing government officials to ensure that the basic needs of the people be effectively addressed.”

The occasion, which also served as “reunion” of the provincial leaders and community organizers, became more hushed when the solon began exposing and lambasting the “maladministration” of the present governor, which he said, making the lives of the Samareños more “miserable and depressing.”    

On the other hand, his wife Neliptha narrated her achievements in her municipality which she said, she can also do the same (infra developments) in the whole Samar province, the reason why she was compelled to gave positive response to the “calling”- to run as governor in next year’s election.

“I will not just walk or jog either, but I will really run,” the lady mayor jokingly answered when asked her plan on the possibility to run for a higher provincial seat in the 2007 elections.

It was noticeable that mayor Neliptha, earlier, became more vocal on criticizing the kind Governor Tan handled her administration and seemed to be ready to face Tan in the next election’s hoping to win the support of the Mayor’s League and the general public as voters.

Meanwhile, aside from induction of the new set of officers and members of KALICAS, its political arm – the KaPUSO was also launched in last March 4 anniversary celebration.

An open letter disseminated by the KALICAS informed that KaPUSO will pursue its fight for a more transparent political agenda, corrupt-free bureaucracy, clean and honest elections and an empowered citizenry.





Hawaii’s Aloha medical mission arrives in St. Bernard

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA8)
March 16, 2006

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte – The St. Bernard Tragedy continues to draw attention and concern of generous and benevolent people from all over the world.

The 18-man Aloha Medical Mission team from Hawaii arrived on Wednesday (March 15) in order to show their concern to the victims of the St. Bernard tragedy through a disaster relief and medical mission.

In an interview with the Philippine Over-all Coordinator, Dr. Robert Sy who is the deputy director of the Chinese General Hospital in Manila, he said that the mission brought $12,000 worth of medicines which will be used in the disaster relief and medical mission at St. Bernard, Southern Leyte from March 15 to 22, 2006.

On their way to St. Bernard this day, Dr. Sy said that they will drop by the Sogod District Hospital to see the facilities and determine whether they can perform major surgery there. He added that while in St. Bernard, the team will perform medical mission in five barangays and perform minor surgery at the Rural Health Unit in St. Bernard.

The team, he said is composed of doctors, psychiatrists, priest, nurses, pharmacists and 4 laymen volunteers who are Americans, Hawaiians and Filipinos. During their medical mission, the team will stay in St. Bernard and be one with the people of St. Bernard.

The group came on Wednesday morning without any fanfare bringing with them medicines and many boxes of noodles and maong pants. The relief goods will be turned over to Mayor Maria Lim of St. Bernard, Dr. Sy continues.

Furthermore, Dr. Sy said this is not the first time that the group has conducted a medical mission, they have done this many time in different places. This is their way of sharing with the victims their talents, their time and their effort and a way of expressing their gratitude for the many blessings that have come their way.

The disaster relief and medical mission is being conducted in cooperation with the Chiang Kai Shek College Alumni Association, the Philippine Red Cross and the Manila Absolute Lions club 301-A1.





Educational benefits to soldiers, its dependents discussed

March 15, 2006

LEAVING NO SOLDIER’S ORPHAN BEHIND. Some 300 8ID soldiers attended the briefing on educational benefits and scholarships being granted by the AFPEBSO to every soldier and its dependents on March 1, 2006 in Camp Lukban.

CATBALOGAN, Samar – In its mission of providing educational and scholarship benefits to the Filipino soldiers and its dependents throughout the country, personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Educational Benefit System Office (AFPEBSO) recently discussed this opportunity to the soldiers in Eastern Visayas.

Capt. Francis Dela Fuente, commanding officer of the 8th Civil Affairs Unit of the 8th Infantry Division informed that some high-ranking military officials from the General Headquarters had arrived in the Division and discussed the program to the soldiers and the prospected benefactors in the region last March 1, 2006.

Capt. Dela Fuente identified Major Gen. Christie B. Datu, AFPEBSO Chairman, Major Gen. Horacio B. Tolentino, AFPEBSO vice-chairman, along with some 8ID officers arranged a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to be signed between the AFPEBSO and the possible benefactors, mostly state colleges and universities, in Eastern Visayas.

During the information drive held inside the Training Unit Conference Hall, which were attended by more or less 300 soldiers, AFPEBSO officials explained, among others, the benefits and scholarship opportunities to the dependents of combat casualties, their new enriched and integrated programs.

Lt. Colonel Rizaldo B. Limoso, during the open forum said, scholarship shall be extended first “to dependents of combat casualties, then to those non-combat casualties followed by soldiers with disabilities sustained in combat, and finally to dependents of personnel in the active service (who may wish to increase their knowledge in their chosen fields).”

According to the army official, scholars will enjoy a full-scholarship (all expenses paid) until they graduate courtesy of the AFPEBSO donors and partner-schools nationwide while those scholars who will not studying in partner-schools were paid out of the AFP’s share of firearms license fees collected by the Philippine National Police.

“(All) scholars were (likewise) given stipends to defray the incidental costs of education like books, school requirements, meals, uniforms and transportation (allowance),” Col. Limoso said.

Of this writing, a Memorandum of Agreement between the AFPEBSO and the partner-schools in Leyte and Samar provinces is being readied.

The military said any inquiries regarding this program, one may write the AFPEBSO at Gen. Enrile avenue corner Gen. Ramos Avenue, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City 1110 or call 02-912-6922 or open their site

The AFPEBSO, it was learned, is currently providing assistance to more than 5,000 grantees all over the country in various educational levels through its 24 programs – three of which are mandated by law while the rest are in collaboration with other organizations, foundations, educational institutions, government agencies and private individuals.





5 solons ask international human rights group for intervention

March 11, 2006

CATBALOGAN, Samar  – Five opposition congressmen who are currently remained hold up inside their offices at the Batasan Pambansa building sent a letter of appeal to their fellow parliamentarians and friends in the international community on Wednesday (March 8) to help them assert their right against political persecution.

The five includes Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan, Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Rep. Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna, Rep. Liza Maza of Gabriela Women's Party, and Rep. Joel Virador of Bayan Muna. They are aware that should they leave their offices they would be arrested immediately as they have witnessed with several of their colleagues, including Rep. Crispin Beltran of the Anakpawis.

Despite the House of Representatives having unanimously approved House Resolution 1169 on February 28, 2006, a bipartisan resolution reaffirming one's right to due process and 'protective custody' in the absence of a judicially issued warrant of arrest resulting from a preliminary investigation or indictment, the Arroyo government, specifically the National Police, has disregarded this very basic right and has declared that the congressmen will be arrested upon leaving the Congress grounds.

In response, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a Hong Kong-based human rights defender immediately forwarded their appeal thru its Urgent Appeals Programme to all of its (AHRC) contacts worldwide via electronic mail seeking positive action to the call.

“We appeal to you, our fellow parliamentarians and friends in the international community. Help us assert our right against political persecution, to perform our legislative functions and our duty to check the abuse of executive power. Help us in our fight against the return of martial rule in the Philippines”, the letter of appeal signed by the five congressmen said.

“The government attacked us, progressive parliamentarians and our parties, on the mere suspicion that we connived with communist rebels and mutinous soldiers in trying to bring down the Arroyo government”, the letter stressed.

“We have always been critical of the human rights record of the military. The charge that we consorted with a section of the military to launch a coup d'etat against President Arroyo is a complete falsehood. In fact, the Arroyo government has failed to prove not only our involvement in the supposed coup plot but the existence of a coup attempt. The fact that Pres. Arroyo tried to arrest us without judicially issued warrants of arrest shows the lack of evidence on her part to prove such allegations”, it further asserted.

“Friends and colleagues, this is martial law making a comeback in the Philippines. We, and many other critics of Pres. Arroyo, are being subjected to political persecution and physical attack because of our political beliefs that run contrary to those held by Pres. Arroyo. Our leading participation in the impeachment process and raising the question on the legitimacy of Pres. Arroyo's electoral victory, our relentless fight against corruption and government abuse, and our advocacy for civil liberties and human rights have made us ‘enemies of the state’, as far as the Arroyo government is concerned”, the appeal argued.

The appeal urges to immediately raise the issue in other country’s parliament and government to take action on the ongoing crackdown of progressive parliamentarians and parties in the Philippines, and to raise the issue in international bodies such as the UN, The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) and other bodies concerned with parliamentarians and human rights and urge the adoption of a resolution expressing the strongest concern over this attack on the legislature and human rights.





ADB lauds Samar LGU beneficiaries of agrarian reform projects

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
March 10, 2006

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte  –  The Provincial Inspectorate Team for Asian Development Bank funded projects implemented under the Department of Agrarian Reform’s Agrarian Reform Community Project, lauded the local government unit beneficiaries in the Province of Samar.

This was disclosed by DAR Regional director Homer Tobias who said that the result of the monitoring and evaluation conducted by the Team showed that six months after the four foreign-assisted access road projects were turned over to the recipient local government units in Samar, said projects were deemed to be in sound and well maintained shape.

Director Tobias revealed that these projects implemented in the agrarian reform communities to support the activities of the agrarian reform beneficiaries are considered grants from ADB. However, the recipient LGUs are required to look into the maintenance of the projects for a period of ten years after the turn over. Otherwise, these will be converted into loans as provided for in the memorandum of agreement signed by the ADB and the concerned LGUs.

The Provincial Inspectorate Team which is composed of representatives from DAR, ADB, concerned LGUs and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committee conducts monitoring and evaluation activities twice a year or every six months, Dir. Tobias added.

Samar Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Antonio Tan, meanwhile, bared that the projects referred to are the Natimonan-Casandig farm-to-market road worth P3.5 million in Gandara town; the first phase of Cambatutay Bay ARC circumferential road worth P6.1 million in Tarangnan; the first phase of the rehabilitated Casandig-Tutubigan-Salay road worth P7.6 million in Paranas; and the corrected Tominamos-Maligaya farm-to-market road worth P20.6 million in Sta. Rita town.

Aside from being praised for the job well done, the recipient local government executives, Mayors Antonieto Cabuenos of Gandara, Emily Olaje of Tarangnan, Elvira Babalcon of Paranas and Beatriz Tiopez of Sta. Rita, were given some tips on how these projects would endure the passing of time.





Victims of forest destruction remembered in symbolic ceremony

Press Release
By Greenpeace Southeast
March 9, 2006

MANILA, Philippines  –  On the eve the East Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) meeting in Manila, Greenpeace called on the Philippine government, current FLEG Task Force Chair, to immediately enforce serious measures to stop forest destruction. The call was made during a solemn ceremony at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City in remembrance of the thousands of victims of destructive logging in the Philippines.

Participants, including League of Cities Environment Committee chair Mayor Edward Hagedorn, Dingaluhan, Quezon Mayor Marilyn Marquez, community representatives from Casiguran, Dingalan, and Baler towns also in Quezon, and representatives from local NGOs, lit 1,500 candles laid out on the ground to form the shape of a tree, and tied white ribbons around an acacia to symbolize their deep commitment to help end destructive logging. Photos and footage of floods and landslides were shown during the event and a solidarity statement opposing all forms of forest destruction and supporting total commercial logging ban was signed.

“Tonight’s solemn ceremony is intended to memorialize the people—the mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons—all the precious lives that should not have perished in deadly calamities caused by the senseless destruction of our forests,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director Von Hernandez.

“Their deaths should not be meaningless. The government must honor their memory by stopping destructive logging to ensure that no more lives will be lost in the same manner.”

The Philippines suffers from constant floods and landslides, and environmental degradation, due to the loss of forest cover which has resulted many times in tragic devastation that has claimed thousands of precious lives. The latest incident last February 17 in Southern Leyte, a province which carries a bitter legacy of destructive logging, swallowed a whole town whose almost 2,000 residents are now believed dead.

The Philippine government constantly cites extreme rainfall as the cause of floods, and has cited geological factors as the cause of the recent Leyte landslide, but it has yet to acknowledge that the denuding of forests play a crucial role in causing these tragedies.

Destructive logging, however, is a primary cause of floods and landslides, and its disastrous effects are exacerbated by heavy rains, and in some cases, even normal precipitation. Continuous logging—both legal and illegal—severely compromises the natural carrying capacity of the forests which act as effective barriers against strong winds, rains, and landslides during typhoons, to provide protection from natural calamities.

Experts estimate that close to 97% of the original forest cover of the country has been logged, above 50% of which is believed to have been felled illegally. Today, less than 3% of ancient forests remain in small, scattered patches. The Asian Development Bank, in its Key Indicators for 2005 reports that among Asian countries, the Philippines has the worst record of preserving its forests.

Greenpeace believes that the catastrophes show that the country continues to pay dearly for its history of deforestation, and stresses that the government must do far more to prevent on-going destructive logging, as well as enforce rigorous measures to curb illegal logging and illegal imports. At the same time, it must also support the international community in dealing with the problem of massive deforestation in the region.

The Philippines hosted the East Asia FLEG Process meeting on Tuesday that gathered government officials from around the world to promote greater protection and sustainable management of the world’s remaining forests, and respond to the urgent need for effective cooperation to address forestry problems simultaneously at the international, national, and local levels.

“Countries in the region, like Indonesia where illegal logging is rampant, should learn from the tragic experiences of the Philippines,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Emmy Hafild.

“Through this commemorative event, we wish to also address the leaders of the East Asia FLEG Process, and highlight the fact that destructive logging is not just an issue of economic gain for the few, but an issue of survival for many. They must be reminded of their moral, if not legal, obligation to fight for those who have fallen victim to the consequences of destructive logging.”





Scrapping of PP 1017 is palliative- SAGUPA-SB

Press Release
March 8, 2006

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte  –  Lifting Proclamation 1017 is just a palliative move. Its intent is to abate the furtherance of public dissent, especially among the sectors who have long demanded for her resignation. This was the reaction of the peasant sectors, voiced by Samahan han Gudti nga Parag- uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB), to the declaration by Mrs. Arroyo lifting the Proclamation 1017 last Friday, March 3, 2006.

The declaration of Proclamation 1017 gained criticisms, not only from the sections of professionals including heads of the state and the armed forces, but also among the peasant sector. The desperate measure of the embattled president has largely divided the nation. Thus, SAGUPA-SB expressed that Arroyo’s lifting of the proclamation was an expected move especially since her allies also lobbied for the scrapping of PP 1017.

Lito Gacusana, Secretary General of SAGUPA-SB, however, expressed that the move is similar to all the government’s band-aid solutions to the growing problems, which would include corruption, military discontent, poverty, among others.

“We must recall that Arroyo once lied to the public when she declared she would not run for the May 2004 elections just so she could appease the mounting forces calling for her removal from office. When the “Hello Garci” scandal heightened to press Arroyo for election fraud, she was quick to say ‘sorry’ in order to put a stop to protest actions and uniting opposition. Right now, it is easy for her to lift the proclamation after it has unleashed repressions to free speech, dissent and criticisms,” said Gacusana.

But such move will not hide Arroyo’s true intent, the peasant leader pointed out. According to Gacusana, all of Arroyo’s actions are haunting her.

“All her ill-advised moves are rebounding causing her more political oppositionists and critics. Even Noli de Castro, her loyal military men and the government of the US has pronounced their stand against PP 1017. Arroyo is hurting her fraudulent government by her very own anti- people moves. Thus, we see her imminent end soon,” said Gacusana.

Gacusana further held that the declaration of Presidential Proclamation No. 1017 did not do any good in the advancement of the peasants’ impoverished situation.

“States of emergency are declared in order to reconstruct and rehabilitate communities, lives and structures destroyed by a calamity or war. Its essence is to help the people pick up the pieces left after catastrophes like floods, typhoons or war have destroyed everything. GMA should have looked at the kind of emergency people have everyday just to cope up with the rising daily cost of living. What farmers need her to do as a way of addressing the real economic emergency experienced by the farmers is to call for an increase in the farm gate prices of agricultural products especially palay and copra and decrease the prices of basic commodities like rice. If she was serious in addressing the plight of the people, she would have immediately allocated funds for the nationalization of the rice industry, social services for production, among others,” said Gacusana.

According to Gacusana, a week under state of emergency did not address anything fundamental but rather turned things from bad to worse. 8 out of 10 Filipinos are not eating three times a day. Majority of the people survive with a meager P50 per day while farmers in the region get by each day with only P23.80. Proclamation 1017 did not change such reality, stressed Gacusana.

“We are calling her to lift General Order No. 5 and immediately put an end to the political repressions she has systematically brought upon her critics and oppositionists. We demand the release of Anakpawis representative Crispin Beltran,” Gacusana added.



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