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Child of Morong 43 detainee celebrated birthday inside jail

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Contribured Photo

Contributed Photo
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – With her mother, relatives, friends, and children of the Morong 43, Trixie Gab yesterday celebrated her 4th birthday inside the Women’s Dormitory at Metro Manila District Jail Compound in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, a not-so-usual place for a child’s birthday party.

Trixie is the child of Jane Balleta, the 27-year old granddaughter of the late labor leader and Anakpawis Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran and one of the forty three health workers who were illegally arrested, tortured and are on their eighth month of detention. Jane, a volunteer community health worker of the Council for Health and Development, is also suffering from epilepsy.

Ofelia Beltran, Jane’s mother, said their celebration of her granddaughter’s birthday inside jail is her way of giving comfort to her unjustly incarcerated mother.

“Jane and her colleagues’ continued detention is emblematic of the grave human rights situation in the country under the Aquino government, where not one political prisoner has been released since he assumed office. We will continue to work and appeal for their immediate release,” Beltran said.

Jane said she wanted to celebrate Trixie’s birthday with the children of her co-inmates from Morong 43 to make her feel that she is not alone in aspiring for her mother’s freedom. She also recited a poem entitled “Para Kay Trixie,” as a gift for her daughter. When asked, Trixie had one wish for her birthday — her mother’s freedom.

Stop the mining operations in Sorsogon – Bishop Bastes

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Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said that he did not observe teenage pregnancy in his dioceses. Photo by Dennis Dayao
Photp by Dennis Dayao

PASTORAL STATEMENT ON THE OPERATION OF MINING IN MATNOG, SORSOGON

I can heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live. (Deut. 30:19)

Brothers and Sister in Christ:

We build our future on the toils of the present, bearing the lesson of the past. It is our duty to ensure the survival of our civilization. Our existence naturally depends on the graces and bounties of the fragile nature. We have the moral imperative to protect the environment.
Irresponsible mining destroys our lives and our community. Be it small-scale or large-scale operation, it is an affront to the integrity of creation.
The “small-scale mining” in Brgy. Balocawe, Matnog, Sorsogon, is essentially deceptive and destructive.

1. The People’s Small-scale Mining Act 1991, Section 3b states: “Small-scale mining refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment”.

The Balocawe mining operation uses heavy machineries like hydraulics-powered trucks, backholes and machines. It is a large-scale mining operation that systematically extracts large volume of ores from the mineralized mountain.

2. The Brgy. Balocawe mining project is an open-pit mining operation. The entire mountain is flattened to mine the ores. The top soil is removed, trees are cut and siltation is an inevitable result of the loose top-soil that will cover the farm land and rice paddies. Under heavy rain, mudslide and flood are risk-points for the community.

3. Release of Acid Mine Drainage to open environment. Naturally consequential in mining to release the acid deposits from mined ores. This will pollute the body of waters especially the river basin and the sea. Heavy metals will go along with the drainage that will poison the people and the environment.

4. The recent study of the MGB pointed out the Matnog is part of the Geo-Hazard areas in the province of Sorsogon. Conducting mining in such areas will further endanger the community and their livelihood.
It has been proven that the costs of mining far outweighed its supposed benefits. The Rapu-Rapu mining project tells tales of environment of the local community are irreparable damage to the flora and fauna of the ounce beautiful island. Needless to say, the mining corporation or even the local government has failed to guarantee protection to the biodiversity of the island and safety to the community.

It will be great tragedy to repeat the same mistake in Matnog. So I implore your moral sensibilities to resist the continued mining operation in Brgy. Balocawe. Let us defend life. Let us choose life instead of death. Let this be our stand for our future.
Let this be our call:

1. Stop the mining operations in Brgy. Balocawe and other mining areas in the region and the country;
2. Conduct an impartial and comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment of the mining operation in the municipality;
3. Cancellation of the permit to operate the Balocawe mining project and its ECC (Environmental Compliance Certificate).
4. Scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and Legislate the Alternate Mining Bill (AMB)

It is by defining our principles of the present that ensures life-giving future.

On the occasion of the 300 years of guidance and grace from our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Penafrancia, may our Lord Jesus Christ bless us who defends God’s creation.

In Christ,

(Signed) MOST REV. ARTURO M. BASTES, SVD, D.D.
BISHOP OF SORSOGON
September 28, 2010

Bicol workers show solidarity with Hacienda Luisita farm workers

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Contributed Photo

Contributed Photo
LEGAZPI CITY – The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno-Bikol together with other workers and militant leaders is due to arrive at Hacienda Luisita today for the Workers’ Solidarity Mission: Hacienda Luisita. More than 100 workers are joined the mission to show their support to the farmers, farm workers and workers in the 6,453 hectare estate.

According to Leo Caballero, regional coordinator of KMU-Bikol and concurrent spokesperson of Derechos Obrero, “We are supporting the struggle of the farm workers for the return of their land because it is what’s right. Even if we ourselves are being harassed by the current administration with trumped up charges, we will continue to express our solidarity. It is us from the toiling masses that have to stick with each other and help one another to improve our lives and livelihood,”

“The Cojuangco-Aquino clan has indeed tried to once again deceive and force the farm workers to surrender their right to the land but it is good that majority of the farm workers still stood up and are fighting for their rights. It is just like in Bicol where farmers and farm workers are being harassed and evicted from the land by big landlords, in fact 2 out of 3 farmers are landless in the region and it is bound to increase due to massive land use conversion to so-called eco-tourism,” added the militant leader.

“It is very sad that under the Cojuangco-Aquinos the farm workers and farmers in the estate were mired in poverty. It even came to a point that a farm workers and his whole family just get P9.50 for the whole week. How can a family survive with this type of modern day slavery? We hope that the Supreme Court will finally rule for the scrapping of the “stock distribution option” (SDO) which was used by the Cojuangco-Aquinos to take the land from the farm workers because if not then a massive peasant unrest is not far from happening,” ended Caballero.

Aquino urged to implement effective adaptation programs

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Photo by Kalikasan

Photo by Kalikasan
Climate activists slam the Aquino government for paying lip service to implementing effective climate change adaptation strategies, well in fact, the government has failed to take adequate steps in preparing the country, even after the experiences from Pepeng and Ondoy.

The groups, headed by Philippine Climate Watch Alliance (PCWA) were referring to the claims of the Philippine government that it has taken positive steps in addressing the climate change vulnerability of the country as it hosted an international meeting on climate change adaptation.

The meeting was organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and hosted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). It was attended by representatives from all over the world to review the outcomes of the UN-sponsored work programme on the impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change

According to PCWA, if the government is indeed serious in climate change adaptation then it needs to assert a position that serves the interest of the country and act on putting a stop on policies and projects that aggravate the vulnerability of the country.

“It is ironic how our government boasts of ‘being a leader in proactively addressing’ the impacts of climate change yet no serious effort has been seen to protect the communities and conserve our environment. What the government, especially the DENR can boast of is pushing for destructive projects and practices such as large-scale mining, corporate logging and pollutive sources of energy in the country,” said Meggie Nolasco, spokeperson of PCWA.

Continued environmental destruction

The groups have long clamored for the government to stop giving out permits to foreign corporations to mine, log and pollute in the country as these practices have proven to be destructive to the environment, cause deeper poverty and increase the vulnerability of communities to disaster.

“Large scale mining in the country has caused massive landslides, pollution and destruction in the areas the projects are located and makes communities more vulnerable to climate change. If the government would prioritize the safety of the people rather than satisfy the profit-driven foreign corporations, then it would think twice before giving out permits. However, this is not the case, as of July 2010, land covered by mining permits have reached around 1 million hectares,” said Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

There has also been an continuous increase in the production, consumption and importation of coal in the country with 2008 showing the highest increase.
Based on 2005 data, 53% of the countryʼs energy sources come from fossil fuels and coal which have been identified as the major source of global carbon emission and global warming, accounting for 19% of total emissions.

These statistics are a result of the current energy framework stated in The Philippine Exploration Plan (PEP) covering the period from 1999 to 2008 that stresses the development of hydro and coal-based power plants and the rehabilitation of old hydropower plants, to the point of even sourcing foreign loans for these is still being implemented.

“This increasing dependence on foreign technologies and fuel-based energy, despite the country’s rich renewable energy resource is contrary to the worldwide trend in which governments are reducing investment in these dirty technologies because of their negative environmental and social effects,” Bautista said.

Deepening poverty

According to the group, another indicator of the country’s poor climate change adaptive capacity is the worsening poverty, as reflected in the recently released progress report of the country’s Millenium Development Goals (MDG) report.

“One important step in increasing the adaptability of people is to increase their economic and political capacities. If a person cannot even provide for its basic needs, then it is impossible for that person to be prepared and resilient once disaster strikes. this can be seen by the thousands of victims of Ondoy and Pepeng who even after a year have not recovered their livelihoods and homes,” said Bautista.

According to the MDG report, the incidence of poverty in the country has risen with 32.9% of the population living below the poverty threshold in 2006, which means that 27.6 million Filipinos are living in less than P41.26 a day.

“Another reason why so many people have still to bounce back from the disasters is because the government has failed to spend the billions of fund supposedly allocated for the rehabilitation of the destruction wrought by Ondoy. Because of this, thousands of people still are located in evacuation centers even a year after Ondoy and Pepeng. In spite of this budget, the government continues to ask for funds or grants supposedly for adaptation funds but fails to use to them properly,” explained Ms. Nolasco.

The previous Arroyo administration has also squandered the calamity fund and has many cases of corruption under her belt as stated even by Malacanang. President Aquino must look into these long standing cases such as the charge of Arroyo spending most of the calamity fund for her campaign.

Ms. Nolasco stated that the Philippine government must prioritize adaptation measures before it claim sto be leader in climate change initiatives in the world. As for the foreign delegates, the groups are entreating the a more intense campaign and lobbying to the international community to take climate change adaptation seriously and exert more effort in addressing root causes of this global problem and holding accountable the biggest polluters in the world.

P-Noy endorsement of RH bill urged

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Watchmojo Photo

Watchmojo Photo
LEGAZPI CITY — President Benigno Aquino III should complement his advocacy on voluntary family planning, birth spacing and contraceptive use by likewise endorsing the immediate passage of the reproductive health bill whose central idea is freedom of informed choice.

House Minority Leader and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel C. Lagman has stated that this endorsement would fittingly cap the Aquino administration’s first 100 days and mitigate early setbacks.

Lagman said, “House Bill No. 96, the first of several reproductive health bills re-filed in the 15th Congress, and I principally authored, guarantees the right to make free and informed decisions and promotes without bias all modern natural and artificial methods of family planning that are medically safe, legal and effective.”

He furthered that the bill underscores in its Explanatory Note that “neither the State nor the Church has the authority to compel the people or the faithful what family planning method to adopt. The choice belongs to parents and couples, particularly to women who have an inherent right over their own bodies.”

The Philippines is the only middle-income Asian country without a comprehensive reproductive health law.

Lagman stressed that the need to institutionalize by legislation a progressive reproductive health policy is imperative to counteract the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of changing administrations and leaders.

In 2008, Millennium Development Goal No. 5 on improvement of maternal health and reduction of maternal mortality was amended to include the achievement of “universal access to reproductive health” by 2015.

The Philippines is one of 189 signatory countries to the Millennium Declaration 10 years ago this month.

Reproductive health and family planning are interlinked with all of the eight MDGs from the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, combating HIV-AIDS and reducing child mortality to achieving universal primary education and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Lagman noted that when the first comprehensive version of the RH bill was filed in the 11th Congress 10 years ago, the Philippine population was about 75 million. A decade later or on 01 July 2010 when House Bill No. 96 was filed, the country’s population has ballooned to 93.4 million or a staggering increase of 19.3 million or an average increase of almost two million annually.

He also cited that while the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, its human development index ranking has slipped to 105th among 182 countries in the latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2009.

The solon stressed that a high population growth rate of 2.04% impacts adversely on all indicators of human development like health, education, food security, employment, mass housing and the environment.

Group welcomes P-noy directive for review of Morong 43 case

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Arkibong Bayan Photo

Arkibong Bayan Photo
A group of former political prisoners, Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), today welcomed the directive of Pres. Benigno Aquino III to Justice Sec. Leila de Lima for the review of the case of the forty three health workers, collectively known as the Morong 43, who were illegally arrested last February 6, 2010.

“The directive is a welcomed move. It is high time for Pres. Aquino to give due attention to the plight of the Morong 43 who are on their almost eighth month of detention. Their arrest was based on a defective warrant, they were subjected to torture, and they are being illegally detained. We emphasize the urgency of the review as well as their immediate release, for every day of detention is an added injustice and violation of their rights,” Fr. Dionito Cabillas, SELDA Secretary General said.

The 43 health workers are among the 388 political prisoners who still languishing in jail despite the illegality of their arrests. Three hundred sixty one were arrested and detained during the Arroyo administration.
SELDA said the review of the case of the Morong 43 should be followed by the subsequent review of all the cases of political prisoners. SELDA cited the case of Myrna Cruz, a former teacher and consultant of peasant organizations in Cagayan Valley, who was illegally arrested last March 2010. Cruz is still under detention despite provincial state prosecutors’ orders to release her and to dismiss charges against her.

“The cases of Morong 43, Cruz and other political prisoners are emblematic of the continuing human rights violations perpetuated through the Arroyo government’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program. Addressing these issues, including the withdrawal of Oplan Bantay Laya, should be Aquino’s top priority ,” Cabillas ended.

Albay cites local gov’t measures to fight dengue

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Albay Governor Joey Salceda (Contributed Photo)

Albay Governor Joey Salceda (Contributed Photo)
LEGAZPI CITY – The Provincial Government of Albay has adopted an awards program to motivate local government units combat dengue in their localities setting sight a “zero casualty” target and prevent the spread of the dreaded disease.

Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said that the awards program recognizes the performance or achievements of city and municipal governments in the province for preempting or stamping out dengue cases in their respective areas.

“We reward outputs, not inputs; real outcomes, not efforts,” stressed Salceda.

The awards program, the governor furthered, will be given for both monthly and year-to-date feats of LGUs to prevent and control dengue infections and death.

Awards up for grabs include “Zero Dengue for the Month” commencing this Setember 2010 for LGUs with no recorded dengue cases; while the “Performance Award” will be conferred only to LGUs with a minimum of six (6) months dengue-free out of the part eigth (8) months.
In the event of a tie, the city or municipality with the lowest incidence will determine the rank of the awardees, computed on the basis of dengue cases recorded over the total population.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) of Albay has cited Libon town garnering both awards for Zero Dengue for the Month of August and ranking first as dengue-free for seven months out of the past eight months. The town recorded the lone dengue case on March, this year, out of its 71,328 population, with an attack rate of 0.001 percent.

Jovellar has also recorded zero dengue case for August and ranks second for seven months dengue-free with also lone dengue case in February out of 18,249 population implying a 0.005 percent attack rate, followed by Malilipot with two cases out of 34,802 population, 0.006 percent attack rate, and six months dengue-free; Oas recording four cases out of 66,188, 0.006 percent, and five months dengue-free; and Malinao, four cases out of 40,939 with 0.010 percent and five months dengue-free.

PHO Albay has recorded 1,095 dengue cases out of the 1,233,695 population across Albay from January to August this year, with three deaths recoded in Daraga town (2) and Tabaco City (1).

PHO Albay chief Dr. Luis Mendoza has announced that awardees will be conferred with the certificates of recognition this coming Friday (October 1) at the AECID Hall of the PDMO Building, Provincial Capitol here to coincide with the briefing for the National Philhealth Registration Day. (MA Loterte)

Thousands join International Coastal Cleanup Day in Bicol

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25th International Coastal Clean-up Day. Volunteers clear the coastlines of the Albay Gulf as Department of Environment and Natural Resources in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Legazpi Central led the 25th ICC Day. As of press time, an estimated 1,300 kilograms of marine debris were hauled out from the shorelines of Legazpi City. Last year, 13,000 kilograms of trash were cleared by 2,000 volunteers in Bicol Region. According to the 2010 Annual Marine Debris Report by the Ocean Conservancy, the lead organization for the ICC, the Philippines ranked 2nd next only to the United States, likewise, was able to mobilize in 2009 a total of 74,493 volunteers who collected from a cleanup area of 2,427 kilometers a total of more than 327,000 kilograms of debris. Of these, there were 24,751 pieces of plastic bags.

Budget Chair ng SP Sorsogon planong patalsikin, “ala mafia” sa kapitolyo namumuo

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(From Left) Board Members Angel Escandor and Benito Doma during the SP regular session. Photo by BICOLTODAY.com
(From Left) Board Members Angel Escandor and Benito Doma during the SP regular session. Photo by BICOLTODAY.com

SORSOGON CITY – Walang saysay ang pagiging malapit ni Board Member Angel Escandor sa kasalukuyang administrasyon ni Gobernador Raul Lee matapos na isulong ng mga kasamahan nito sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Sorsogon ang planong reorganisasyon ng mga komite lalo na ang Committee on Budget and Appropriations na pinamumunuan ng naturang opisyal.

Sa isinagawang regular na sesyon ng SP iminungkahi ni Board Member Benito Doma ang pag-reorgnisa ng Budget and Appropirations Committee, bagay na ikinabigla ng mismong chair na si Escandor.

Layon ng naturang reorganisasyon na ibalik ang dating chair nito na si Liga ng mga Barangay president Bong Hao na sinasabing malapit sa goberndor.

Sinabi ni Doma a buo pa rin ang tiwala ng kasalukuyang administrasyon kay Escandor. Ayon pa rin na ang naturang opisyal ang reorganisasyon ay pre-arrange na, kung saan na sa pag upo ni Bong Hao bilang pangulo ng PCL siya na ang magte-chair ng budget committee.

Dinagdag pa ng Doma na si Escandor na an magiging chair ng committee on infra kapalit niya at siya naman ang magiging chair ng bagong bubuuing committee on climate change.

Samantala, isiniwalat din ng isang opisyal ng SP na ayaw magpabanggit ng pangalan na may namumuong “ala mafia” sa kapitolyo kung saan pawang malalapit na kaalyado ang humahawak ng maseselang posisyon o komite. Tinukoy din ng naturang opisyal na pati mga kontrata ay hawak din ng ilang tauhan nito. Idingdag pa nito na maaring ito ang isang dahilan bakit gustong patalsikin si Escandor bilang chair ng Budget Committee.

Si Escandor ay sinasabing maaring makasagabal sa ilan pang plano ng administrasyon kung hindi ito mapapalitan dahilan sa pagiging mapanuri nito sa ilang panukala sa sanggunian.

Sa kabilang dako, maluwag na tatanggapin ni Escandor kung ano ang magiging kalalabasan ng report ng Committee on Rules na siyang didinig sa planong reorganisasyon ng mga komite sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Sinabi pa nito na walang siyang intensiyon na nangunyapit sa pwesto at plano na rin niyang magbitiw sa lahat ng chairmanship niya sa komite sa SP. (BICOLTODAY.com)

Bayan hits Aquino for not bringing up VFA with Obama

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Pres. Benigno Aquino III and US Pres. Barack Obama. Malacanang Photo

Cause-oriented groups are not too happy with the failure of President Benigno Aquino III to raise the issue of the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement and the overstaying American troops in Mindanao during the Philippine president’s 7-minute meeting with US president Barack Obama.

“It was a missed opportunity to assert our national interest on such a crucial issue like the VFA. Between the issue of the World War 2 American ammunition dump in Corregidor and the permanent and continuing presence of US soldiers in Mindanao, surely the latter has more far-reaching implications on our Constitution and our sovereignty. The VFA is a long-festering problem in RP-US relations yet the ammo dump in Corregidor seemed the more important topic for the President,”said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Whatever happened to Mr. Aquino’s campaign promise of having the VFA reviewed?” he asked.

The Philippine Senate has unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the President to notify the US government of the need to review and renegotiate the VFA and if refused, the Philippine government should terminate the agreement. The resolution was adopted during the time Aquino was still a senator.

“The prioritization of the issues seems misplaced. There has been a clamor from various sectors regarding the VFA. Was the president trying to play it safe with the US government? Was this a result of the $434 million aid from the Millennium Challenge Corporation?” Reyes asked.

The MCC is an institution run by the US government. Its board chairman is US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The State Department is in charge of overseeing such bilateral military agreements as the VFA.

Bayan has argued that the VFA has allowed US troops to have a permanent and continuing presence in Mindanao. Last August 2009, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that 600 US Special Forces will remain in Mindanao indefinitely. The announcement was reported by the New York Times and drew sharp criticism from many lawmakers.

“The Philippine president could have at least inquired why these US troops are still in the Philippines more than a year after the announcement made by Gates. The Philippine president should at least be concerned on this indefinite stay of foreign troops on Philippine soil which is in direct violation of the Philippine Constitution,” Reyes said.