Sunday, April 30, 2006

Aaahh, text me later!

A boy yawns while texting from his cell phone in Mutia town in Zamboanga del Norte province in the southern Philippines. (Zamboanga Journal)

Zamboanga Mayor Urges Malakanyang To Increase Salaries Of Workers

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 Apr) Acting Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco urged Malakanyang to seriously consider increasing the salary of the labor force in the private sector amid the soaring prices of basic commodities, as she cited the important role of laborers in nation building.

“We are very thankful to the labor sector for its contribution to the community and the country. But we are also concerned with the difficulties that laborers encounter in view of the increasing cost of living," she said.

She said the high costs of basic commodities and the meager earnings of laborers are taking its toll on the work force.

"Their priority is to provide the family’s daily needs, such as food and better life for the children, but how would they be able to this if they earn so little and spend so much because everything now is so expensive," Climaco said.

Labor groups were demanding for a P125 legislated across the board minimum wage hike citing the current economic crisis.

Climaco said she and the Zamboanga City Council would undertake alternative livelihood activities to help the men and women who wanted to augment their income.

She said she would open up skills development trainings, such as meat processing, flower arrangement, handicraft making, baking, among others to help those who wanted to earn more. "These trainings will be held in different villagers," she said.

Climaco also urged employers to strictly comply with labor laws and pay their workers the right wages on time.

Threats of terror attacks put Mindanao authorities in heightened alert

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 30 Apr) Security forces are in heightened alert in the southern Philippines following intelligence reports of a possible bomb attack by the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiya, officials said Sunday.

Police earlier sounded the alarm on possible attacks by Indonesian militants who are members of the Jemaah Islamiya on key cities in the southern region, Davao, General Santos, Koronadal and Zamboanga.

"We are in heightened alert. There are reports that JI is planning an attack on civilian targets. Security forces are in red alert and we appeal to citizens to report to authorities any suspicious person or abandoned package or bag in public places. We should stay vigilant," Lt. Col. Francisco Simbajon, spokesman of the Army's 4th Infantry Division based in northern Mindanao, told the Zamboanga Journal.

Simbajon said soldiers were also monitoring the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and the New People's Army (NPA), which may also mount attacks. "The terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and the New People's Army are also in top of our battle plan," he said.

Chief Supt. Florante Baguio, regional police chief, said he also ordered a tight security in northern Mindanao, particularly Cagayan de Oro City.” We are strengthening now our security in the region. Our policemen are now on alert," he said.

A police intelligence report identified the Indonesian militants as Jeya Ewal and six others were allegedly targeting Davao City; Siyah Muhar, with seven members, were tasked to mount bombing attacks in General Santos and Koronadal cities, and Abdul Muhamad and six others in Zamboanga City. Seven other Jemaah militants led by Basit Alharem were also planning an attack in the country's financial district in Makati City, it said.

Last month, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, chief of the United States Pacific Command, tagged Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines as a sanctuary and recruiting and training grounds for terrorists.

"The southern Philippines, Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago remain a sanctuary, training and recruiting ground for terrorist organizations," he told US Senate Armed Services Committee.

Fallon said activities by terrorists and their supporters have been centered in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia and that these countries are cooperating with the US.
"With the cooperation of those nations, we have been building capacity and strengthening the ability of those countries to resist the activities of the terrorists and to actively seek their capture or demise," he said, adding, Southeast Asia remains the command's focal point in the war on terror.
He said winning the war of terrorism is his highest priority and to achieve that goal, the command is striving to eliminate the violence that now threatens the people and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. "We continue efforts to create a secure and stable environment," Fallon said.
Fallon said activities by terrorists and their supporters have been centered in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia and that these countries are cooperating with the US.

"With the cooperation of those nations, we have been building capacity and strengthening the ability of those countries to resist the activities of the terrorists and to actively seek their capture or demise," he said.

He said the command is also working to mature joint and combined war fighting capability and readiness.

"Fundamental to success in the war on terror and continued stability in the Asia-Pacific region is our joint and combined war fighting capability and readiness," Fallon said. "As virtually every operation and activity is conducted jointly and in concert with allies, it is important that we train to operate more efficiently as a multinational team."

Fallon did not say what terrorist groups were operating in the southern Philippines, but Manila previously admitted that dozens of members of the Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiya, including Dulmatin and Pitono, linked to the deadly 2002
Bali bombings, were hiding in Mindanao island.
Aside from the Jemaah Islamiya, the Abu Sayyaf group, implicated in the spate of bombings and kidnappings of foreigners in Mindanao, the NPA and renegade members of the local separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, are also active in the southern Philippines. Both the Abu Sayyaf and the NPA are on a US list of terrorist organizations. (With a report from Ben Balce in Cagayan de Oro City)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cagayan de Oro Quilter wins Top Award in International Quilters Tilt

The winning quilt, Mystic Beauty.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Banos / 29 Apr) A long-time quilter from Cagayan de Oro City in northern Mindanao held high the Philippine flag by winning first prize in her category at the 2006 AQS Quilt Show & Contest held April 26-29, at the Paducah Expo Center in Paducah, Kentucky, U.S.A. which was dominated by entries from the United States and Japan.

Myrl Lehman Tapungot's entry, "Mystic Beauty II", won first prize in the Bed Quilts Category Group – Mettler® Imported by A&E, Inc. Second was Sagacious Sisters by Sagacious Sisters, Marysville, WA while third was Flower Symphony, Aki Ueda of Aichi, Japan.

Quilters from around the world, gathered as part of the 22nd Annual AQS Quilt Show & Contest Awards Presentation held Tuesday, April 25th at the Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center, Paducah, Kentucky and webcast live on Quilters News Network.

Tapungot, who hails from Gusa village, joined 428 other quilters in the annual contest. In its 22nd year, the competition is offering $114,000 in total prize money.
Her "Mystic Beauty II" quilt measures 89 inches wide by 89 inches long, and represents hundreds of hours of work.

Her entry was chosen as a semi-finalist from a field of 806 quilts and compete against others within its category (Bed Quilts) . Three quilting authorities judged the elite group prior to the opening of the show.

"Sedona Rose" by Sharon Schamber was awarded Best of Show and garnered the Hancock's of Paducah Best of Show award and a cash prize of $20,000. In addition, the quilt will become part of the permanent collection in the Museum of the American Quilter's Society.

All 429 quilts were displayed at the annual quilt exhibition which brings over 35,000 quilters, collectors, enthusiasts and vendors to Paducah each spring, which has earned it the monicker Quilt City USA.

Meredith Schroeder, AQS president, said quilts are no longer relegated to serving as mere bed covers but have evolved into works of art, using fabric and thread as the medium.

The quilts in this year's contest are from around the world and feature beautiful palettes of color. Entries arrived from 46 U.S. states and 12 other countries, including France, Israel, Korea and Australia. There were fifteen categories in the judged contest and a special category for young quilters.

The quilts include bed-size, large and small wall quilts and miniatures. Designs range from traditional Log Cabin, Mariner's Compass and New York Beauty to innovative designs using paint, threads and original designs.

Abu Militant Captured In Basilan Island

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 25 Apr) Military agents captured Saturday an Abu Sayyaf militant, whose group is tied to terrorist al-Qaeda network, in the southern Philippine island of Basilan, officials said.

Officials said Abdusalih Dimah was nabbed in Basilan's Kapayawan village around 6.30 a.m. after weeks of surveillance operation by army and military agents. A gun was seized from Dimah, they said.

The military implicated Dimah in the 2001 kidnapping of 20 holidaymakers, including three U.S. citizens -- Kansas missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham and Californian Guillermo Sobero -- in the posh Dos Palmas resort in the central Philippine island of Palawan.

Officials said security forces were tracking down other members of the Abu Sayyaf group hiding on Basilan island in northernmost of the Sulu Archipelago.

Security forces on Monday also captured an Abu Sayyaf member, Sharie Amiruddin, who is also known by his nom de guerre as Abu Omar, in Zamboanga City.

The military also linked Amiruddin to the Dos Palmas kidnapping and the spate of bomb attacks in the southern Philippines. Intelligence reports tied Amiruddin to previous bomb attacks in Jolo island and Zamboanga City and the kidnappings of Filipinos in Basilan island the past years.
It was not immediately known if Amiruddin was the same Abu Omar -- a spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf -- who was threatening to kidnap and kill local journalists critical of the terrorist group. Omar earlier warned his group would attack civilian targets in Zamboanga City and Basilan in retaliation to ongoing government operation against the Abu Sayyaf.

50 MILF Rebels Surrender In Lanao Sur

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 29 Apr) At least 50 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters surrendered to the Philippine Army ahead of a scheduled peace talks next month between the government and rebel leaders after a series of negotiations in the southern province of Lanao del Sur in the Muslim autonomous region.

The rebels, led by Daud Sarif, whose nom de guerre is Commander Falcon, handed over more than 50 assorted weapons, including machine guns and M16 automatic rifles, to the military Friday, said Lt. Col. Francisco Simbajon, spokesman for the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

"There will be some more, many MILF rebels are expected to surrender to avail of the government amnesty and start a new life," he said, adding, 1st Lt. Moracaya Macaalin, of the 26th Infantry Battalion, negotiated the rebels' surrender.

Sarif is the leader of the MILF's 206th Bade Command in the province, he said.

The military earlier said 2 MILF soldiers, under the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces operating in eastern Mindanao, voluntarily surrendered to the 60th Infantry Battalion in Compostela Valley province. They also surrendered two M16 automatic rifles.

Last month, the military said at least 50 MILF rebels, led by Pendi Ampatuan and Ismael Pagiloyen, also surrendered in Maguindanao province, a known rebel stronghold. It said the rebels pledged their allegiance to the government.

But Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, disputed the military's claim, saying, those who surrendered were former fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996.

Peace talks are expected to resume next month in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.

Government and rebel negotiators are likely to discuss minor details on the issue of the so-called Muslim ancestral domain. The two groups reached an agreement in February on the ancestral domain, which refers to the MILF demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

The MILF said government and rebel peace negotiators have already agreed on several crucial issues, including the coverage of the ancestral domain in the five Muslim autonomous provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

And other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Zamboanga Journal Signs Up With E-World Career Center To Provide Scholarship For Journalists

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The online newspaper Zamboanga Journal has entered into a memorandum of understanding Friday with the E-World Career Center Corporation to provide scholarship grants to local journalists.

At least 5 journalists from different newspapers and radio and television stations would be given short courses training every month from the basic computer operation to the more advanced Macromedia Dream weaver and other related education.

"This is more of a partnership between the Zamboanga Journal and E-World Career Center Corporation to help our journalists be more literate in computer education and competitive in their field."

"We are trying to provide fellow journalists free access to computer education through this partnership with E-World Career Center Corporation. This is public service," said Al Jacinto, editor-in-chief of Zamboanga Journal, now on its fourth month.

At least 60 journalists are expected to benefit from the scholarship grants during the first year of the trainings. E-World is one of Zamboanga City's leading global providers of computer education.

"We look forward to provide our students with the best computer training education, and we are proud to be a partner of the Zamboanga Journal," said Juvy de Jesus, E-World center manager.

De Jesus said E-World offers a variety of short courses training designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills in Information Technology. "Our courses are also intended for corporate clients who have specialized training needs. We can customize any specific requirements for our clients or companies," she said.

Jacinto said the scholarship grants are also open to deserving high school students, who wanted to learn, but cannot afford to pay the cost of the training. "We will help not only deserving journalists, but students as well, those who really wanted to learn," he said.

Zamboanga Journal came about at first, just as a public service weblog after a photo session in December 24, 2005 in Lumbangan, a small village east of Zamboanga City, where the government garbage depot is located.

There were children, old men and women, digging through a mountain of garbage and picking up pieces of rotten vegetables and meat already covered with maggots. Help never came, not even from local politicians.

From a public service weblog, it soon became the online newspaper called the Zamboanga Journal, and friends and journalists from different parts of Mindanao and Manila have pledged to help it run and turn the Zamboanga Journal into a tool to help the less fortunate, particularly the children and old people in Lumbangan garbage dump, and other slum communities in Zamboanga City.
Zamboanga Journal is now accepting applicants for 5 slots to the week-long short courses on computer education in Zamboanga City. Classes begin every month and participants will be given certificates of training.


A man pushes his cart to market in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga to sell salmons. The high cost of fuel and basic commodities in the Philippines have made it more dificult for fishermen and traders to sell their goods. (Zamboanga Journal)

MILF Soldiers Yield In Southern RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 28 Apr) Two members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) surrendered to the military in the southern Philippines, ahead of the resumption of peace talks next month between the Filipino government and the country's largest Muslim separatist rebel group, officials said Friday.

Officials said the Suharto Samaon Dagandal, 26; and Abdul Karim Manalao, 25, surrendered voluntarily to the Army's 60th Infantry Battalion in the province of Compostela Valley, a known stronghold of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

"The duo are being interrogated, but we welcome their surrender and we expect more rebels to yield, especially those who wanted to return to the folds of the law and live peacefully with their families," said Lt. Col. Francisco Simbajon, a spokesman for the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Simbajon did not when the two men surrendered, saying, interrogation is still going on. He said the two rebels, under the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces operating in eastern Mindanao, also surrendered two M16 automatic rifles. "They handed over the MILF weapons," Simbajon said.

Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, doubted whether the Dagadal and Manalao were MILF members. "We doubt if they are really MILF soldiers because there is no reason to surrender. There is a truce in Mindanao and there are peace talks between the MILF and the government, and the negotiations are strong," he said.

The military said the duo were natives of Asuncion town in Davao del Norte province and were under MILF leader Yasser Adona, chief of the BIAF's Eastern Davao Revolutionary Committee.

Last month, the military said at least 50 MILF rebels, led by Pendi Ampatuan and Ismael Pagiloyen, also surrendered in Maguindanao province, a known rebel stronghold. It said the rebels pledged their allegiance to the government.

But Kabalu disputed the military claim, saying, those who surrendered were former fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace agreement with Manila in September 1996.

Peace talks are expected to resume next month in Malaysia, which is brokering the negotiations.

Government and rebel negotiators are likely to discuss minor details on the issue of the so-called Muslim ancestral domain. The two groups reached an agreement in February on the ancestral domain, which refers to the MILF demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.

The MILF said government and rebel peace negotiators have already agreed on several crucial issues, including the coverage of the ancestral domain in the five Muslim autonomous provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

And other areas in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes.

Mining Firm Embarks On Human Rights Training For Site Security

One of the seven batches of SCAA personnel undergoing Human Rights training, a joint undertaking of TVIRD, AFP Southern Command and the Commission on Human Rights.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Roche Hilario / 28 Apr) Human rights take a front seat in the ongoing training of Special Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (SCAA) personnel assigned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to secure the Canatuan Project of TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc. (TVIRD) in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province in western Mindanao.

In a joint activity with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) –- a “first” for both the Commission and the industry –- TVI has embarked on a special training program to ensure heightened sensitization of Human Rights issues and management on the part of security personnel.
“The emphasis on human rights in this training series is intended to reinforce the basic human rights training the SCAA personnel initially had with the AFP and progress towards instilling a deeper commitment to serve and to protect,” Ed Coronel, TVIRD Social Commitment Director, said. “We think this is part of Responsible Mining, and Best Practices.”
The training program also seeks to prepare the company when it implements the Voluntary Principles concepts being advanced jointly by the governments of the USA, UK, Norway, and the Netherlands; by a number of major global corporations; and by a number of international NGOs such as Amnesty International.

The objective is to take every measure possible to ensure that human rights are protected at the same time that TVIRD’s people and property are protected. Discussions are under way with the Principles’ Secretariat (jointly managed by the Prince of Wales’ International Business Leaders Forum and the US-based Business for Social Responsibility) to identify circumstances under which TVIRD and its international company, TVI Pacific, Inc., can participate in the Principles, even before Canada has become a signatory.
Divided into seven batches, all 167 SCAA personnel in Canatuan and TVIRD’s seven security managers are participants in the three-phase training program. Phase 1, conducted by Jose Maria Perez of the Action for Social Progress Inc. last month.

It focused on topics such as reinforcement of discipline values, the security function’s role in environmental protection and community relations, the rights of indigenous peoples as articulated in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the rights and responsibilities of a SCAA recruit as a Subanon.

Raul Quibuyen, CHR's Legal Officer and Armando Borromeo, Education & Research Chief, are among the resource speakers in the weeklong seminar that started April 22.
Included in the seminar are topics on the Bill of Rights, criminal procedures, International Humanitarian Law, and the Philippine Human Rights Enforcement System.
SCAA units assigned to Canatuan are under the direct control and supervision of the 1st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and in accordance with AFP rules and regulations.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Kidnapped Matriarch Freed In Jolo Island

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 27 Apr) Kidnappers freed a 70-year old matriarch, two weeks after she and her son were seized in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, the military said Thursday.

The military said gunmen released Caridad Vergara before midnight Wednesday near downtown Jolo town, but the fate of her 41-year old son, Bren, is still unknown.

Gunmen seized the duo April 12 near the town's Kakuyagan village while on their way to the family pharmacy, said Brigadier General Alexander Aleo, commander of military forces on the troubled island, about 950 km south of Manila. The kidnappers originally demanded two million pesos ransom in exchange for their safe release.

Vergara told military and police investigators that she was blindfolded by her guards and transported by a motorcycle to the village of Danag where she was found by civilians. She was later brought to the house of the town mayor, Al-Kharmer Izquierdo, who handed her over to relatives.

It was not immediately known if her family paid ransom for her release. Her family did not give any statement about her release nor the fate of her son.

No groups claimed responsibility for the abduction, but suspicion fell heavily on the Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for the series of kidnappings and terrorism in the troubled region.

Noodles Down 86 People In South RP

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Ben Balce / 27 Apr) Authorities were investigating a suspected food poisoing in the southern Philippines where at least 86 people fell ill after eating noodles, officials said Thursday.

Officials said most of the victims were mall workers in Cagayan de Oro City who all ate noodles for lunch on Tuesday. "There is an ongoing investigation to know exactly what caused the food poisonining," a police investigator told the Zamboanga Journal on Thursday.

The victims were rushed to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) and Sabal Hospital after they complained of chest pains and difficulty in breathing and may were vomiting, local health officials said.

Officials said a team from the Department of Health's Regional Surveillance Team and the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) was formed to investigate the cause of the mass poisoning.

Evelyn Clarete, NMMC chief, said the team is composed of doctors and experts on the scientific study of poisons. She said they have taken blood and urine samples from the victims and conducted a series of laboratory tests.

She said they would also ask the National Bureau of Investigation to help in the probe. “We would also request the NBI doctors to be included on the said team as to investigate and look into who’s really responsible on this incident,” Clarete said.

It was not immediately known if the food was contaminated, but the workers bought the food from their canteens. She said 53 of those rushed to hospitals were women.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kenney Braves Sayyaf Stronghold To Hand-over Wharf Project

US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney. (Zamboanga Journal)

JOLO ISLAND (Zamboanga Journal / 26 Apr) Reaffirming Washington's commitment to lasting peace and economic development in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney visited Jolo island on Wednesday and led officials in handing over the upgraded P37-million wharf to the municipal government of Maimbung.

“This improved facility will contribute to reducing transport costs, to increasing agricultural production and to facilitating the residents’ access to social services,” said Kenney, who also visited Basilan early this month where she turned over a P20-million bridge to the municipal government of Sumisip.

She said the US government understands the critical importance of sound infrastructure in generating economic growth, and also appreciates the need to expanding economic opportunities and to sustain peace in Mindanao, south of the Philippines.

Kenney was accompanied by Jon Lindborg, Mission Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)–Philippines, Secretary Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and Robert Barnes, Economic Growth Advisor of USAID–Philippines. Benjamin Loong, Jolo governor and Hadji Najib Maldisa, Mayor of Maimbung, also attended the ceremony.

Constructed by USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, the improved Maimbung Wharf is an important entry and exit point for more than 25,000 local residents. Maimbung is the second largest town in Jolo.

GEM’s Mid-Scale Infrastructure Program (MSIP) started rehabilitating the deteriorating wharf in November 2004. Upgrading and rehabilitation activities were completed this month. Prior to its rehabilitation, the wharf lacked appropriate berthing facilities which jeopardized the safety of both passengers and cargo.

The upgrading included the construction of a landing platform, which provides a berthing space, and a better docking area for medium-sized vessels. Stairway landing structures for small boats were also constructed and a damaged 200-meter rock causeway was rehabilitated.

“Constructing boat stairway landing structures on both sides of the rock causeway provides docking space for smaller motorized boats,” said Carlos Tan, GEM’s Deputy Chief of Party for Infrastructure.

He explained that the improvements made to the wharf will have a direct and positive increase on economic activities in Maimbung, since more traders and entrepreneurs will be encouraged to open new businesses in the area.

Kenney also visited the Maimbung National High School, which received internet-connected computers from GEM’s Computer Literacy and Internet Connection (CLIC) Program. In addition to ten computers, GEM also provided the school with a high speed internet connection, and peripherals including software, a printer, a local area network, e-books and books on computers and the internet.

The computers link the school to the World Wide Web through a satellite-based internet connection that allows the students to conduct research, create e-mail accounts and communicate with other students throughout the world.

To date, CLIC has provided internet connections and internet-connected computers to 300 public high schools and central elementary schools in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other conflict-affected areas in the region. These schools have a total enrollment of approximately 295,000 students, and are served by more than 8,800 teachers.

An additional 125 schools in the ARMM and adjacent conflict-affected areas in Mindanao will be connected by September this year, and another 280 the year thereafter. The CLIC Program plans to connect a total of 700 schools in Mindanao by October, 2007.

GEM is a five-year initiative that began in September 2002. It undertakes a wide range of projects to increase economic productivity, and to contribute t attaining lasting peace in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. The Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) oversees GEM’s implementation. (Teng Reyes/GEM)

Dipolog Chamber To Partner With TVIRD In Promoting IP Entrepreneurship

EARTH SAVERS ALL: Members of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Western Mindanao (Region 9) headed by Forestry Management Regional Technical Director Arleigh Adorable (2nd from left) and the Dipolog Chamber of Commerce and Industry led by its chairman, Edwin Capili (6th from right, front row), join officers of TVIRD in a tree planting ceremony on Mt. Canatuan 22 April 2006 in observance of Earth Day.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Rock Dimaculangan / 26 Apr) Long dependent on traditional slash-and-burn farming for livelihood, the Subanon indigenous people of Mt. Canatuan in Siocon town in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte will soon be given the opportunity to learn a new and better way of earning a living and progressing economically without harming the environment.

During a tree-planting ceremony in support of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources’ (DENR) International Earth Day initiatives, leaders and members of the Siocon Subano Association, Inc. (SSAI) welcomed the opportunity to turn to more environment-friendly means of livelihood.
TVI Resource Development Phils., Inc. (TVIRD) and the Dipolog Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCI) agreed on a program to work together to spur the development of entrepreneurship among the Subanon in Canatuan.
The agreement was forged during the visit of DCCI officers and members at TVIRD’s Canatuan Project site, where the businessmen, together with officials of the DENR, participated in the tree-planting activity as part of the three institutions’ contribution to the Earth Day celebration last April 22.
DCCI Chairman Edwin Capili expressed optimism that the success of their livelihood projects in other parts of Zamboanga del Norte can be replicated in Canatuan.
He identified wood-fired bakery, mini ice plant and gourmet rice production as among the small businesses that the Chamber can introduce to the community and help develop, from training needs assessment to marketing and business management.
DCCI is Zamboanga del Norte’s primary business support organization that advocates the interests of the business community in the province, especially those of the small and medium enterprises.
The project is the first undertaking of the DCCI in partnership with a foreign funding agency, and is considered as the biggest of its projects in terms of scope, impact, project duration and financing.
TVIRD Canatuan General Manager Yulo Perez commented that TVIRD strongly welcomes private sector partners to help harness the capability and resources of the Subanons for the community’s own advancement.“DCCI’s benevolent proposal comes at an appropriate time,” Perez said.
He disclosed that in 2005, TVIRD and its Subanon hosts have completed the master plan for the community’s new settlement at Tanuman, which has a well-defined land use scheme for residential, business, commercial, agricultural, community service, and protected forest lands.
“With the help of government and non-government organizations, we will soon embark on the second phase of our social commitment initiatives: to ensure sustainable development for the Subanon for the duration of the mine life and, more significantly, long after we have gone,” Perez explained.
DENR-Region 9 Forestry Management Director Arleigh Adorable, who led the government delegation in the tree-planting activity, reiterated the government’s resolve to stop illegal logging and kaingin (slash and burn farming).
He disclosed that his office had been conducting aerial surveys of Mt. Canatuan recently and noted that kaingin still thrives in the area. “We need to put a stop to this now, before it’s too late,” he said.
Adorable appealed to the Council of Elders of SSAI, the legitimate of holders of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to 6,523 hectares of Canatuan and host of TVIRD’s 508-hectar Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area with within the CADT.Atty. Pablo Bernardo, SSAI legal counsel, pledged the Subanon’s full cooperation with the DENR and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Zambo Schools To Teach Spanish, Arabic, English Languages In 2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 25 Apr) At least 10 private universities and colleges here are expected to open up short courses on conversational English, Spanish and Arabic in the next school year which aims to increase the competency of would-be calling agents in Zamboanga Peninsula.
Roberto R. Braga, regional director of the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), said the 10 identified private universities and colleges signified their interest to open up elective or additional courses after the launching of the President Gloria Arroyo's special scholarship programs for prospective call center agents and the "near hires" or job applicants who fell short of hiring standards of call centers.
The 10 identified private schools will be the official government's partner training institutions in an effort to so sustain the country's cyber services sector as an engine for job creation and economic growth.
“The partner schools are now preparing to secure permit form our office and from the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) for proper accreditations," he said during the annual strategic meeting of the Regional Information Technology and E-Commerce Committee here on Tuesday.
Braga said the number of partner schools would eventually increase, as the demand for calling center agents is high. “As long as the schools pass the TESDA's and BPAP's requirements such as the faculty qualification, materials for instruction and facilities, they will be allowed to operate."
He said under the government's Training for Work Coupon which was launched early this month, TESDA is to distribute "work coupons" or scholarships training certificates for applicants which will be sourced from the P500 million donation made by President Gloria Arroyo for 100,000 scholars nationwide for this year.
"After distributing the work coupons, applicants can now avail free trainings from accredited partner schools," he said.
He said Zamboanga Peninsula do not have a formal training school that is specifically for calling centers. “Currently there are onlytwo private institutions in Zamboanga City that offer training for cyber services. However, they are more geared for medical transcriptions," he said.

Braga said most of the accredited schools are to teach Spanish and Arabic languages, and English.
"Feasibility studies show that the locals can easily catch up with the Spanish language because of their Chavacano dialect, which comes from Spanish. Partner schools are also looking at teaching Arabic language to cater to clients from Middle East countries and this is also because many of our Muslim brothers in Zamboanga City know how to speak and read Arabic," he said.
He said partner schools would eventually engage in training ondata processing, software development, and digital animation, medical and legal transcription.
Councilor Juan Elago, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, said he would file soon a resolution urging all local private and public universities to avail elective trainings in the languages particularly Spanish and Arabic.
The courses would be intended to fill the demand for competent calling agents.
With 105 company players and total workforce of 70,000 to date, call centers account for 80% of the estimated $2 billion IT (information technology)-enabled industry.

For this year, alone, this sector needs to hire at least 30,000 agents. In the call center sector, the hiring rate is between 2% to 5%, meaning for every 100 applicants, only two to five persons are hired.
Applicants who have 6% to 10% passing rates are considered "near-hires." By 2010, the business process outsourcing industry is expected to generate 1.2 million jobs from present 336,000 jobs.
Call centers will remain the largest employer in the next five years, accounting for 431,000 jobs out of the total 1.2 million for the BPO sector. Back office, medical transcription and digital content follow with 342,000, 69,000 and 46,000 jobs, respectively.

Sayyaf Man Captured In Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 25 Apr) Security forces captured a member of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group allegedly involved in the spate of bomb attacks and kidnappings in the southern Philippines, officials said Tuesday.

Officials said Sharie Amiruddin, who is also known as Abu Omar, was nabbed Monday by soldiers in downtown Zamboanga City. "He is captured alright. There is an ongoing operation against the Abu Sayyaf," Army Colonel Edgardo Gidaya, comander of an anti-terror task force, told the Zamboanga Journal.

Gidaya said Amiruddin was handed over to the police. No other details about Amiruddin were made available by the military and the police.

But intelligence reports linked Amiruddin to previous bomb attacks in Jolo island and Zamboanga City and the kidnappings of Filipinos in Basilan island the past years.

It was not immediately known if Amiruddin was the same Abu Omar -- a spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf -- who were threatening to kidnap and kill local journalists critical of the terrorist group.

Omar earlier warned his group would attack civilian targets in Zamboanga City and Basilan in retaliation to ongoing government operation against the Abu Sayyaf.

The military said Amiruddin was also implicated in the 2001 kidnapping of 20 holidaymakers, including three U.S. citizens, in Dos Palmas resort in the central Philippine island of Palawan.

After 31 Years, Wanted Man Finally Falls In South RP

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 25 Apr) A local man wanted for a string of criminal cases was arrested in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte almost 31 years after he went into hiding, police said Tuesday.

Police said detectives tracked Gener Abapo, now 55, in Dipolog City after weeks of surveillance. Abapo did not resist arrest, but was shocked when policemen nabbed him at the weekend.

Abapo is facing multiple homicide, two counts of arson and robbery in the village of Vitali, east of Zamboanga City. Police said he fled Zamboanga City in 1975 and went into hiding.

It was unknown how detectives traced Abapo, but he denied all the charges and claimed he moved in the province to take care of the family farm. He also married a local woman, but police did not say if she knew anything about her husband's past.

Under the Philippine penal law, criminal cases are usually archived after many years, especially if the accused is at-large.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Mindanao leaders play vital role in peace, development efforts

Mindanao Economic Development chairman Virgilio Leyretana gestures during a conference in Davao City in southern Philippines.

DAVAO CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 24 Apr) The Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) on Monday said government officials in the southern region play a vital role in promoting peace and development that will benefit the whole country.

Virgilio Leyretana, MEDCo chairman, said Mindanao leaders hold the key to unlocking development potentials in the island by actively pursuing investment promotion and generation initiatives. "The development efforts are more pronounced today as Mindanao officials manifest increasing confidence in steering their areas to progress," he said.

"As the local govenrment units effectively serve as frontliners in the delivery of local government services in the countryside, they have likewise played crucial roles in bringing about growth and progress," Leyretana said.

He said apart from carrying out the principal tasks of providing government services, local government units have to emerge as catalysts of progress by putting into action local investment and development programs.

"The efforts to strengthen our local governments today are becoming stronger, with our LGUs empowered with roles that are expected to improve local service delivery and management," he said. "In the end, strategic collaborations and partnerships among LGUs, the private sector, and non-government as well as civil society organizations have so far afforded the formula for success."

PECOJON Holds Seminar For Mindanao Journalists

The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON), in cooperation with the German's InWent (Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung) and Pax Christi Pilipinas and Niall O'Brien Peace Center, is holding a seminar for Filipino journalists on peace and conflict journalism from May 12-14 in Davao City.

Hotel venue is still being discussed.

The seminar is free and the organizers pay for the bus fares (aircon), hotel accommodation and food. Certificates of attendance will be given at the end of the seminar.

PECOJON's Antonia Koop, a veteran German journalist, is the resource speaker. This will be the second seminar for Mindanao this year, the first was held in Zamboanga City in January.

PECOJON is a platform for investigation and practical support and also base for common projects, trainings and discussion. It is made up of journalists, filmmakers, writers and academicians.

InWEnt (Capacity Building International, Germany) gGmbH is synonymous with human resources and organizational development in international cooperation. Its education, exchange and dialogue programmes that offer places for about 55,000 individuals every year make InWEnt a very large-scale joint undertaking of the German Federal Government, the federal state (Länder) governments and industry.

The courses offered by InWEnt address specialists, executives and decision-makers in industry, politics, administration and civil society. InWEnt works with partners in developing countries, transition states and industrialized nations.

Pax Christi is an international peace movement. It was Established in France in 1945 as a reconciliation work between the French and the German, and now existing in more than 60 countries, it constitutes a non-governmental organization according to the rules of the UNESCO and the United Nations, the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva and the Council of Europe.

Pax Christi strives to play pioneer role in the research of solutions of armed conflicts. In 1983, it received the Prize for Peace Education of the UNESCO.

For more information, please call Len Manriquez, PECOJON Secretariat, at 0921.8286049 or email

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hunt For Honasan Intensifies

MANILA (Zamboanga Journal / 23 Apr) Philippine authorities have stepped up its hunt for former senator Gregorio Honasan, but officials admitted they were having difficulties tracking down one of the elusive leader of the failed February coup.

The Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines
, have ordered a nationwide manhunt for Honasan since he was linked to the foiled coup attempt February 24," said Army spokesman Major Bartolome Baccaro.

"There is an ongoing operation to track down and arrest Honasan," Bacarro told the Zamboanga Journal.

But some soldiers regard Honasan as their messiah of hope who promises reforms in the government and in the military and society. His charisma won him the loyalty of the rebel soldiers, who see him as a potent leader to lead the country.

"He is good, many still support him because of his idealisn," said soldiers at the Southern Command in Zamboanga City.

But for many military officials, Honasan is a disgrace to the institution he once served and a power grabber that will try to topple the government and install himself in power.

For some of his fellow members in the defunct Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), Honasan was a defeated fighter who failed to introduce reforms and the many changes he was previously espousing when he was still senator.

Many civilians also look at Honasan as their hero, some sort of a man who fights for the oppressed, who stands up for the truth and justice. "He is popular alright, but one man cannot fight for the truth alone, Honasan needs all the support he can get or else nothing would ever happen," said Justin Reyes, a trader.

And this was also the reason why Honasan, a member of the Philippine Military Class 1971, was looked up by rightist soldiers -- who staged a failed coup in
Makati City's financial district in 2003 or the so-called Oakwood mutiny.
Some 300 renegade soldiers seized a shopping mall and the Oakwood Hotel, but later surrendered peacefully.

Bacarro said the former army colonel who led several coups in the past has no support in the military.

"It is a wrong perception. Honasan is not popular as what others would think him to be. He has very little or no more support anymore, even those who were with him in the past coup d'états, have abandoned him because there is no valid reason to grab power from a democratic government, except to serve his own vested interests," Bacarro said.

Baccaro said soldiers remain non-partisan and strictly follow the chain of command. "The soldiers are united and loyal to the chain of command and the Constitution," he said.

Honasan was linked to a conspiracy to topple the Arroyo government and install a 15-member junta, but strangely, no charges were filed against him.

He denied backing the coup soldiers, who were advocating a mix of vague proposals to fix endemic problems like corruption and terrorism, and to reform the judiciary and trade agreements and were espousing the national recovery program, whose author was Honasan himself -- a former army colonel -- that also figured in several coup attempts against President Corazon Aquino in the late 1980s.

Top army officials said politicians opposed to Arroyo's rule allegedly provided P300 million to fund the failed Oakwood mutiny to force her out of office.

Many military officials said Honasan brainwashed and tricked young soldiers involved in the failed coup to advance his own political agenda and interests in the guise of fighting for democracy.

Army Major General Romeo Tolentino, commander of the military's Northen Luzon Command, described Honasan as a "problem" of the Philippine economy and a "pain in the neck" of the Filipino people.

"Because of all the things and destabilization Honasan and his group did, the Filipino people are now suffering. Every time they tried to mount a coup or grab power from the legitimate government, our economy is greatly affected and the people suffer most. Every time he launches a coup, the economy suffers."

"Honasan is one problem our country and he is a pain in the neck of the Filipino people and a misery to the Philippines. He has his own selfish interest and is fighting for his own political agenda," Tolentino said in a separate interview.

He said Honasan cannot hide for long. "The people are tired of you and your antics. The public are helping authorities track down Honasan, and sooner or later, he will be arrested and pay for his crimes," he said.

Tolentino doubted Honasan's real motive in his latest attempt to grab power. "I suspect Honasan is all motivated by money. He had no qualm or problems about the government when he was still a senator, so why destabilize the government and mount a coup, especially at a time the Filipinos are enjoying democracy?," he said.
He said civilians and politicians were believed sheltering Honasan, who went into hiding after he was implicated in the crushed coup attempt in February.

"Without that support, Honasan is behind bars by now. But his time will surely come and he will be arrested," Tolentino said. "Honasan has no influence over the military nor he has military support and nobody in the military will ever support his agenda to overthrow the government."

An army captain, Manuel Darius Ressuello, who confessed to joining the renegade soldiers, implicated Honasan in a failed attempt to overthrow the government.

Police have filed rebellion charges against him and 15 others, including 5 members of the House of Representatives, who were accused of forging an alliance with communist rebels to overthrow the government in February.
But authorities are facing a blank wall on Honasan's whereabouts. He was reported hiding as far as Surigao del Norte and Basilan island in the southern Philippines, and in Negros Occidental in central Philippines and up to Cagayan Valley in northern Philippines.

Police earlier said Honasan was almost arrested following a raid on his hideout, but officials would not give details of the operation, saying, it could jeopardize the hunt for the fugitive.

It said the police cell phone text hotline 2920 had been flooded with calls and leads from civilians after the government put up this month a five million-peso reward for the arrest of the former senator. He was arrested in 1987, but escaped from a navy ship anchored off Manila with his jail guards and pardoned after President Fidel Ramos came into power and signed a peace agreement with rebel soldiers.
Honasan, who served twice as senators -- in 1995 and 2001 -- also worked as chief campaign security officer for Arroyo's rival, Fernando Poe Jr., during the May 2004 Presidential elections. Poe, who died of stroke in December 2004, was a close associate of deposed President Joseph Estrada.

Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said the greed for power and money drove Honasan to forge an alliance with the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines which is fighting to overthrow the government and install a Maoist state.

"I believe the greed for power and money drove Honasan to ally himself with the enemies and government 'destabilizers' to grab power. He brainwashed and tricked the (Oakwood mutineers) soldiers to rebel against the government and to support his cause and then abandoned them, just as he did in previous coups," Esperon told the Zamboanga Journal.

He suspected Honasan was suffering from delusional fantasies of power. "He is some what of a megalomaniac," Esperon said.

Esperon said the AFP is helping the police track down Honasan. "He should surrender peacefully and answer the charges against him. Honasan can run, but he cannot hide forever," he said.
A government film documentary entitled, "Sabwatan sa Kataksilan," released April 10 tagged Army Brigadier General Danilo Lim, commander of the elite Scout Regiment and Honasan as leaders the armed putschists.

The film showed that the people behind "OPLAN 4G," codename of a plan to oust Arroyo, were continuing their recruitment of followers, hoping to meet their target of about 500,000 people to join their final push to force the President out of Malacanang on May 1.

OPLAN 4G was patterned after the successful People Power 1 Revolution that ousted then President Ferdinand Marcos. The anti-government campaign last February, which coincided with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of People Power I Revolution, was supposed to be only the start of an increasingly violent movement to topple the Arroyo administration.The destabilization drive was supposed to hit its high point on May 1, 2006, Labor Day, ostensibly with the overthrow of Arroyo.

However, the planned rebellion unraveled when Arroyo declared a national state of emergency and ordered the military and the police to quell any threat to national security and stability.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Malaysian Dream: Filipinos Hope To Good Life

A Filipino aid worker briefs deportees in Zamboanga City. (Photo by Therence Koh)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 22 Apr) Unable to find neither regular nor permanent work in his town, 38-year old Alex Galedo, a resident of Palawan province, decided to try his luck in Malaysia. Paying P1,500 for a backdoor pump boat passage via Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi in the southern tip of the Philippines, Galedo was able to make it to Kota Kinabalu.
This is where the bulk of illegal workers and migrants find safe haven. Little did he know that Malaysian authorities were already tracking him down and ready to arrest him together with some other illegal Filipino workers.
Galedo's dream of having a job in Malaysia were dashed. Worse, Galedo has been repatriated twice already. He was one ofthe more than 64,000 Filipino deportees who deported at the height of Malaysia's campaign to rid the country of hundreds of thousands of illegal foreign workers and migrants since 2002.
However, Galedo's humiliating caning and lengthy prison experiences in Malaysia the first time he was caught did not stop him from going back to the place where he thought he could escape poverty. But luck has not been with him since he had no travel documents and passport; he was again imprisoned for more than two months and was caned.

Galedo now stays at the temporary shelter in Zamboanga City, which is operated by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Together with him were at least 329 other undocumented Filipino workers also deported by the Malaysia April 14.
According to Agapita Bendoy, head of the DSWD's Center for Displaced Persons, some 300 to 500 illegal Filipinos are regularly deported, at least twice a week.

She said the center, which was built in 2005, has the capacity to house only 500 people. "The center serves as a temporary shelter of the deportees. It is here where different agencies of the government course their assistance for the deportees."
"Initially, we provide them temporary shelter, as well as food provision, clothing, and medicines and vitamins for the kids," she said.As a rule, Bendoy explained, deportees are only allowed to stay at the center a maximum of two weeks.
However, for instance, some minors and old deportees who could not locate their families or relatives are given the chance to stay longer. More pathetic is the plight of minor and homeless deportees, many of them now in the processing center.
"Currently there are at least 13 minors who are staying in the center for over two years now. For the aging individuals, they are transferred to the homes for the elderly," she said.
Aside from counseling and trauma healing, the center also provides basic education and values formation for the children. For adults like Galedo, they get the chance to undergo skills capability training such as basic carpentry and hollow-blocks making, which is being facilitated by the volunteers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Bendoy said different government agencies such as the Departmentof Labor and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs also conduct briefing on how to secure a passport. This, she said is part of the objective of the Task Force Deportees that was created sometime in 2002.
"They were taught on the proper procedures to get passports and what possible jobs are available or being offered in Malaysia," she said.
Based on the reports of the DSWD regional office here, the government has already spent some P24-million for basic assistance for the deportees from 1995 to 2006.
Transportation cost eats 81% of the total budget, which is being given to the deportees to enable them to travel back to their hometowns, and food expenses accounts to 17% and only one percent goes for medicine.
There is an estimated of 300,000 Filipinos staying or working in Malaysia, of which 80,000 have been repatriated or deported. From 1995 to 2006, the DSWD were able to serve at least 53,870 deportees.The report noted that the bulk of the deportees, or 96% of them, came from Mindanao, specifically from the Autonomous Region in MuslimMindanao.
Luzon expatriates made up for three percent and one percent was from the central Philippines. It is also presumed that there are more deportees who came back but were not registered or processed by the government.
Fe de la Cruz, DSWD's information officer, said Malaysia has always been a favorite destination for traders and job seekers because of its geographical proximity as well as the opportunities it offers.
"Many Filipinos sailed to this island to search for job opportunities simply by slipping through the southern backdoor", she said.
She said majority of the Filipinos in Malaysia work as oil palm farmers and industrial and manufacturing workers, and construction laborers. "This also means that majority or roughly 60 to 70 percent of the deportees are males," she said.

Aside from looking at Malaysia as a Mecca for jobs, another reason for migration is the constant conflict that proliferates in Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan from as early as the1950's.
According to the DSWD's situation report on deportees, Malaysia started its series of deportation activities for those illegally staying within their political boundary way back 1986.
The policy waseventually legislated when the Malaysian government implemented the Naturalization Law in 1996, which triggered the massive and regular deportation activities of illegal aliens. With the passage of the Malaysian Immigration Act in 1997, Malaysia began to implement a "regularization program" by undertaking theregistration of all illegal aliens in Sabah.
All illegal aliens weregiven six months to work out their documents while employers were given three months to fix the job registration of their foreign workers.But the terrorist acts of the Abu Sayyaf aggravated the situation of illegal workers.
In 2000, the notorious groupgroup kidnapped 21 mostly Asian and Western tourists from the Sipadan resort off Sabah, Malaysia andbrought them by boat to Jolo island in the southern Philippines. This hostile act again compelled more massive deportations. It was heightened again by the escape of former Moro National Liberation Front rebel leader Nur Misuari to Malaysia in November 2001, after a failed rebellion in Jolo.
It was in 2002 that the Malaysian government imposed a tough campaign to eject all illegal aliens in their land. General Operations Force (GOF) personnel of the Malaysian government undertook the "Ops Nyah II" by demolishing houses of suspected illegal workers at Kampung Panhkalan colony in Kunak, Kampung Bagiang and Kampung Jaya Baru.
All arrested illegal aliens were brought to several detention centers in Sampurna, Kota Kinabalu,Sandakan and Kudat. Malaysian authorities particularly beefed up the deportation campaign of Filipinos residing Sabah, especially in those areas that are Filipino-dominated because they also posed security problems.
Guns and bladed weapons were allegedly found in these raids. Thieves and hold uppers were also found among them, the report said. The Malaysian government's crackdown and deportation of Filipinos in 2002 resulted in the death of 18 infants, five adults and hundreds more were dehydrated and malnourished in different jails in Sabah.
Alarmed by the situation, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for help in regulating the massive repatriation of illegal Filipino workers in Malaysia at the height of the mass deportation in 2002.
The President asked Malaysia for humane treatment of Filipinos being deported from Sabah and other provinces. However, the Malaysian government has denied allegations that Filipinos were abused.

The intervention by the government has been attested by Galedo himself. He said that compared to the 2002 crackdown, Malaysian police were subtle on how they handle the illegal Filipino workers in Sabah.

DSWD have not received any major complaints from the deportees inrecent months, according to Bendoy.In an effort to further answer the plight of Filipinos deported from Malaysia, the Philippine government formed one-stop-processing centers in Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi to systematize the facilitation of Filipinos wanting to work legally in Malaysia.
Since its establishment in February 2005, the one-stop-processing centers have already assisted at least 2,348 migrant workers out ofthe 10,704 Filipinos deported last year.
Romanito H. Ynawat, a processor of the Department of Labor and Employment, said deported workers from Malaysia can avail a free passport or for "gratis" as long the workers has an endorsement letter from his or her employer.
"As long they have an authenticated birth certificate and an endorsing letter from their employers, deportees are granted free passport," he said.
He said that normally those who wish to apply for passport are expected to spend between P1,500 to P2000.
But for Eddie Talon, 60, from Zamboanga del Sur province, who was deported forthe very first time since his 20 years stay in Sabah, said the government should address the problem of poverty and unemployment and the peace and order situation in Mindanao.
He said many Filipinos work illegally in Malaysia because of lack of jobs and war in Mindanao.

He said the government should come up with long term solutions to stop Filipinos from migrating to other country.
"I am already 60-years old. I don't have a family, and I devoted mylife to working as a driver for a construction firm there. And I don't think the authorities will give me a working permit to work again in Malaysia because of my age," he said.

Staying for almost three months in the center now, Talon is afraid he might be sent to the home for the elderly in Zamboanga City and lose any opportunity to return and work again in Sabah.

"The government should introduce reforms to the economic system in the region and create jobs for the people. I think that's what they should address for a long term solution to the deportation of poor Filipinos like me," he said.

Joint RP-WB project keeps peace with MILF, NPA rebs

MAGUINDANAO (Mitch Confesor / 22 Apr) Even the most hardened fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People’s Army (NPA) have become engineers of peace and development courtesy of a joint grassroots project of the Philippine government and the World Bank (WB).

MILF and NPA rebels are one in praising the $182.4-million Kapit-Bisig Laban Sa Kahirapan (KALAHI) Community Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDSS), a six-year project started in 2002 with the aim of covering 25 percent of the poorest municipalities in the poorest 42 out of 79 provinces, or more than 4,000 villages or barangays in 182 municipalities nationwide.

“The KALAHI-CIDDS is a community-driven development (CDD) project that aims to empower communities through their enhanced participation in community projects that reduce poverty,” said a 40-page WB compilation report called “Empowering the Poor.”

The MILF “has expressed official support for KALAHI,” the WB report said, citing the group’s welcome of projects in at least eight Muslim communities in Sultan Kudarat province and the presence of MILF supporters in one project site.

The WB report revealed that a P5.15-million road project which has benefited former armed bandits in one community in Lanao del Norte province had also helped turn communist rebels in a neighboring town into KALAHI-CIDDS volunteers.

It said people in this community in Sapad town, Lanao del Norte were no longer keen on buying guns, because with their newest road, they would rather invest in motorcycles for public utility, replacing their transport carts traditionally drawn by carabaos or water buffaloes.

The 40-page report said one village in Davao Oriental province which benefited with a P1.38-million potable water supply system had “hosted peace talks between the national government and Muslim secessionist rebels (who) officially support the KALAHI, and their fighters are volunteers in different villages.”

The village in Tarragona town, Davao Oriental “has played a major role in the peace process. We hosted peace talks between the government and the (MILF). The talks began before the KALAHI came and continued as the project rolled out,” said Editha Umbaligan, acting principal of the Lucatan Elementary School in Tarragona.

Umbaligan added: “With the guns turning silent and peace talks on the table, people have returned to their normal lives. In Lucatan we would rather turn our attention to the war against poverty.”

Among the KALAHI-CIDSS’ projects in Mindanao are:

– a P5,150,120 improvement of the main road in Brgy. Dansalan, Sapad, Lanao del Norte (59-percent KALAHI grant, 41 percent local);

– a P1,834,551 construction work involving 62 tribal houses and one communal hall in Brgy. Km. 31, Talaingod, Davao del Norte (51-percent KALAHI grant, 49 percent local);

– a P1,376,926 Level II water supply system in Brgy. Lucatan, Tarragona, Davao Oriental (48-percent KALAHI grant, 52 percent local);

– a P1,241,270 project involving the opening of a rural road in Brgy. Libi, Malapatan, Sarangani, where 1.5 kilometers were targeted but 2.4 kilometers were covered (32-percent KALAHI grant, 68 percent local); and

– a P712,973 corn mill in Brgy. Magwawa, Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte (79-percent KALAHI grant, 21 percent local).

“Because of the new road (in Dansalan, Sapad), the gun culture is starting to fade,” the WB report said. “People are giving up their firearms and would rather invest in motorcycles.”

“There are no rebel groups here, but we have had a problem with gun violence. We have a tradition called rido, family feuding. Through rido, retaliation breeds retaliation. But with the new road, people are not so keen on buying guns; they would rather save up to buy motorcycles,” the Dansalan subproject committee chair, Salie Alando, wrote in an article entitled “Peace means walking the same road” published in the WB report.

Alando added: “Our social worker friends say the KALAHI is also promoting peace in our neighboring municipality, Sultan Naga Dimaporo. Communist rebels are holding peace talks with the government.
Many of the fighters became project volunteers when the KALAHI was introduced there. They found that the bottom-up process resembled their own work with the masses. In years past, people would take separate paths to market.
Today we literally, and symbolically, walk the same road.”

Another KALAHI-CIDSS road project, this time worth P1.24 million, has benefited native B’laans at a mountain village in Malapatan, Sarangani who were cut off from the rest of the municipality since their access trail had been “treacherous” and “dangerously narrow,” prompting parents not to take risks sending their children to school.

“At one point, it was only 14 inches wide. If you slipped off it, you would fall into a deep ravine. That part was so narrow that two people could not cross it – in fact, one person alone had to walk sideways at certain points.
Even in the wider sections, you would have to shout first to make sure no one was coming from the other end. Horses were known to have fallen off the trail to their deaths,” the Libi, Malapatan subproject committee chair, Pastor Clarito Palalisan, wrote in an article entitled “From a Dangerous Trail to a Road of Opportunity” published in the WB report.

Palalisan added: “We realized that the road was not a government project. It was our project. And the real project was not the road but our empowerment. ... it’s funny, but old habits die hard. Even though the new road is 6 meters wide, some people still walk through it single-file out of sheer habit.”

The joint Philippine-WB project was also responsible for the P1.83-million construction of 62 houses and a communal hall for indigenous Ata Manobo tribes in a highland village in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, replacing their fragile houses made of bark and banana leaves which they had erected consistent with their nomadic lifestyle.

“The KALAHI respected us datus and our culture. I am proud to say that we datus were very much involved in the project – we were the prime movers. And yet we did not oppose this new way of pulling in many people to help make decisions. We like this way of holding village assemblies because more ideas come out,” the WB report quoted Datu Ibus Badeos as saying of the project in Km. 31, Talaingod.

Other KALAHI-CIDSS projects in Luzon and the Visayas are:

– a P1,092,450 construction of a six-classroom high school in Brgy. Sta. Lucia, Dolores town, Quezon province (61-percent KALAHI grant, 39 percent local);

– a P387,910 flood control wall in Brgy. Kinabuhayan, Dolores, Quezon (63-percent KALAHI grant, 37 percent local);

– a P352,200 community meat processing center in Brgy. Tabi, Sulat town, Eastern Samar province (82-percent KALAHI grant, 18 percent local);

– a P346,146 public utility passenger boat in Brgy. Dungon, Concepcion town, Iloilo province (72-percent KALAHI grant, 28 percent local); and

– a P1,097,000 electrification project in Brgy. Olave, Enrique Villanueva town, Siquijor province (57-percent KALAHI grant, 43 percent local).

“In traditional politics in the Philippines, many politicians choose to give funds to villages that supported them during the elections. The KALAHI turns this system upside down. The villages themselves make the decisions,” said former mayor Earl Stanley Matas of Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor on the P1.10-million KALAHI electrification project in the village of Olave.

Every teacher in the P1.09-million school in a village in Dolores, Quezon “used to handle 70 students, (but) with the new school, the ratio has fallen to 40,” the WB report said. “The finished building was a sight to behold. Parents joked it was better than a private school.”

The report on the KALAHI-funded high school in Sta. Lucia, Dolores said the principal had revealed that grades were rising and the students had been winning academic competitions, as the barangay had also become the provincial champion in the math and science contests.
“A communist rebel couple has returned to the mainstream community because of the hope planted by the new school for their children,” said the WB article entitled “Our High School got a Radical Upgrade.”

KALAHI-CIDDS undertakings cover “the poorest municipalities of the poorest provinces” in the country, the WB report said, adding that each individual project is always “driven by public demand.”

“Villagers are trained to identify their most urgent deprivations. They design the projects and write proposals to address these needs. The best proposals in the municipality win the funding for the projects.
As reported by the people, the new roads, schools, water systems, mills, boats, and dams have done wonders for their villages. More importantly, the process is empowering the poor,” the WB report added.

Mutiny at Calaganan : The Forgotten Katipunan Revolt of Mindanao

The historical Balingasag Church in Misamis Oriental province in Northern Mindanao island, south of the Philippines.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Banos / 22 Apr) Although it remains little known to this day, Misamis was the only region which actively joined the Katipunan revolt against Spain. On September 29, 1896, 350 revolucionarios, including 50 Bukidnon lumads, overwhelmed the Spanish garrison and raided the armory of the Fuerza Real de Nueva Victoria in Calaganan, found in present-day Balo-i town in Lanao del Norte province.

Unable to seize Cagayan De Oro City because of superior Spanish forces, the revolucionarios proceeded to Sumilao in Bukidnon and marched down the coast where they commandeered a boat and landed in Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental province.

From there the group stormed the Tercio Civil outpost in Gingoog City where the uprising was finally put down in January 1897 with the help of reinforcements and a gunboat from Butuan City.

It may have occurred 107 years ago but this could change the way the present Philippine flag looks like. Local historians believe government should fund further research into determining if there is a need to redesign the sun in the Philippine flag with nine instead of eight rays.

As every grade school student knows, the eight rays of the sun in the Philippine tricolor stand for the eight provinces in Luzon which first rose in revolt against the Spanish colonizers in 1896.

But Cagayan de Oro historian Antonio J. Montalvan II says existing historical sources indicate there was one other Katipunan-led revolt in the islands which occurred during that same period in 1896 but which has not been recognized by Filipino historians.

"The Calaganan Mutiny" is detailed in the letters of Vicente Elio y Sanchez of Camiguin to the Manila-based Spanish newspaper "La Oceania Española" and two other historical sources but has never been linked to the "First Cry of Balintawak" led by Andres Bonifacio. One reason for this could be that Elio's letters never got past Spanish censors anxious to douse the flickering flames of revolution which had broken out in Luzon.

The mutiny exploded in September 29, 1896 among the so-called "Disciplinarios" or conscripts consisting mostly of convicts from Luzon, who were pressed into battle against the Moros in Lanao.

In late August of 1896, the Katipunan revolution against Spain broke out in Luzon. Exactly a month after, or September 29, 1896, a group of Filipinos from Luzon deported to the Spanish fort in Calaganan for training in military discipline to fight against the Moros of Lanao, mutinied against their Spanish superiors upon receiving instructions from the Katipunan in Manila.

They raided the Spanish armory and proceeded to Cagayan to attack the town, being joined by some Moros. On the way, they ransacked convents and homes of Spanish peninsulars.

Upon receipt of this bad news, Lt. Col. Juan de Pratt, the Military-Governor of Misamis Province, immediately mustered and trained Filipino volunteers for the defense of Cagayan with the approval of the Capitan General de Filipinas.

The provincial capital lacked sufficient troops for this purpose since rein­forcements were badly needed in Luzon. At that time, the seeds of revolt against the Spaniards were sprouting and Luzon was in a state of unrest, especially in the provinces around Manila Bay.

The Filipino volunteers were grouped into a unit and divided into four sections of infantry named as the Tercio de Voluntarios de Cagayan. They joined other army units under the overall com­mand of Col. D. Camilo Lasala.

One of these volunteers was Apolinar Velez, who took leave from his civil government duties as the Clerk for the Court of First Instance of the province of Misamis, Notary Public and Registrar of Commerce.

He was given the rank of 2nd Lt. of Infan­try after his training and designated as the officer-in-charge for the defense of Cagayan, including all phases of defense as outposts, deployment of men, and the safety of Filipino and Spanish civilians and their families. The women were quartered at the convento of St. Augustine which was reinforced by army senti­nels.

Meanwhile, the mutineers were on their way to Cagayan which was in a state of tension with the residents in constant fear: news was that the Disciplinarios were pillaging town after town, killing Chinese merchants, robbing the people and raping the women.

One midnight, twelve of the toughest rebels took advantage of the darkness and slipped in near the Puente del General Blanco (present-day Carmen bridge) and killed the sentry. However, this alerted the whole garrison and an exchange of fire drove the rebels out of town.

Next day, a column under the command of Col. Lasala pursued the rebels and finally caught up with them in the town of Santa Ana, Tagoloan. The Tercio de Voluntarios de Cagayan had their baptism of fire and defeated the rebels, scattering those who were able to escape towards the mountains.

From Cagayan, they proceeded to Sumilao, Bukidnon where they were joined by a band of Higa-onons. They next attacked Balingasag, and raided the outpost of Gingoog on January 1897. By that time, news of Rizal's execution had reached Cagayan and Misamis, and this further stoked the anger of the town folk, fanning the flames of the local Katipuneros.

It took a Spanish gunboat, recalled from the Tercio Distrito de Surigao, to finally subdue the resistance in Gingoog. This was the only known Katipunan revolt in the whole of Mindanao.

What appears to be remarkable about this particular mutiny is that besides happening at approximately the same time as the Katipunan revolt in Luzon, there is apparently a direct link between it and the Katipunan revolt in the person of Pio Valenzuela, a cousin of Arcadia Valenzuela of Lapasan, Cagayan de Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro was then known) who visited Mindanao during this period (ostensibly on instructions from Andres Bonifacio himself!) to instigate a similar revolt in Mindanao.

Augustinian Recollect chronicles confirm that this revolt was in fact instigated by a communication from Katipuneros in Luzon, making Mindanao the ninth province to join the Katipunan revolt, albeit not included in the eight rays of the sun in the Philippine flag which represent the eight provinces which first rose against Spanish tyranny.

"We have yet to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the direct link between the Katipunan revolt in Luzon and the Calaganan Mutiny, but there appears to be extant sources which seem to indicate that such a link did exist, and that Pio Valenzuela did indeed come to Mindanao on the instructions of Andres Bonifacio to foment a revolt against the Spaniards," Montalvan said.

Another unique aspect of the revolt was that it was participated in by Mindanao's tri-people: the Christian immigrants, the indigenous natives in the person of Higa-onons from Bukidnon, and a group of Moros from Lanao, making it not only a Katipunan revolt, but one in which all three of Mindanao's tri-people was represented.

"Should a direct link be established between Bonifacio's Katipunan revolt in Luzon and the Calaganan Mutiny, then the people of Mindanao can rightfully petition the national government to add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag," Montalvan said.

What needs to be done at this point is to verify primary sources such as the Consular Letters of the French Embassy in Manila to Paris where the Calaganan Mutiny is described in detail, Montalvan added.

The letters are now in the archives of the National Museum in Manila, as are other extant documents like the historical account of the Jesuit historian Pablo Pastells in which the "Calaganan Mutiny" is also described in detail.

Peace Forum Goes To Bohol

TAGBILARAN CITY (Zamboanga Journal / 22 Apr) Over 150 participants coming from the government and non-government organizations in Central Philippines are expected to attend the Regional Forum on the Comprehensive Peace Process on Monday at the Bohol Cultural Center here.
Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said the forum aims to update various sectors and stakeholders in the Visayas region on the status of the Arroyo government's comprehensive peace agenda.
"This undertaking forms part of the continuing efforts being pursued by this government to achieve a just and lasting peace across the country, Dureza said told the Zamboanga Journal.
The peace forum will present updates on the stalled peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the New People's Army, and its political group the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), as well as other parallel initiatives being pursued at the local levels.
Formal talks between Arroyo government and the rebel group collapsed in 2004 after the United States and the European Union included the CPP,NPA and NDF on its terror lists on Manila's prodding.

Dureza said: "The forum is also geared towards providing an opportunity for various peace partners to come together and to look back and see where the comprehensive peace process has gone and where it should proceed, to finally attain peace and progress in the entire region.
He said the forum specifically seeks to identify and consolidate emerging issues, gaps and recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the government's national peace plan that takes into account forging settlement with all rebel groups.
"Following the success of the recently concluded series of peace consultations in Mindanao, we look forward to gathering support from different stakeholders in the Visayas to successfully move the peace process forward," Dureza said.
In February, Dureza's group and the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) launched a series of regional peace fora across key regions in Mindanao.
The Mindanao consultations highlighted some major headways in the on-going peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.