Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2 Killed, 7 Wounded In Zamboanga City Blast

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Oct) – A grenade explosion had killed two people and injured 7 more in the troubled southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, police and military reports said.

Reports said an ex-Marine soldier, Ben Rivera, detonated the grenade inside a billiard hall near Putik village and were among those wounded in the blast late Monday.

Police said the man was seen arguing with several people before he allegedly pulled the grenade and detonated inside the jam-packed hall.

The military said the blast was not connected to terrorism and that the police are still investigating the incident.

More than a dozen people, mostly policemen and soldiers, had been killed in a series of gun attacks blamed to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Zamboanga City the past weeks.

Zamboanga City had been previously bombed by the Abu Sayyaf and was tagged as behind the spate of kidnappings mostly for ransom.(With a report from Uly Israel)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Zamboanga Traders Are Alarmed Over Spate Of Killings

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 30 Oct) – Traders in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga expressed alarm Monday over the spate of killings they say has effected the business climate.

The number of senseless killings has increased significantly over the recent months. Just the past two weeks, about a dozen people had been killed in gun attacks in Zamboanga, bringing the death toll to more than 70 since early this year.

"The situation is very alarming. The authorities may be trying their best, but the public, especially the business group here is not happy with the rising crime rate," business leader Arsenio L. Gonzalez, Jr., told the Mindanao Examiner.

Mr. Gonzalez, who is the current director of the Zamboanga Economic Zone, said investors will shy away if killings continue unabated in Zamboanga City.

Most of the killings remain unsolved and police blamed the attacks on hired killers and family feud.

Early this month, Charles Mesina, manager of Kingstown Sardines factory, was shot dead by a suspected policeman while traveling on his way home. Gunmen also killed a business couple Joseph Quijano and his wife Erlinda in an attack just outside their house in Zamboanga.

Another Chinese trader identified only as Huang was also shot dead last week in downtown Zamboanga.

"What makes these incidents even more alarming is that the authorities themselves are baffled over the spate of killings, as if nobody is on top of the situation."

"We are urging the local government and our security forces to beef up there intelligence gathering. It will somehow mellow down the public fear. Authorities should track down and arrest the culprits immediately," Mr. Gonzales said.

But Mayor Celso L. Lobregat said most of the reported crimes here had been resolved. "I have met with the business sector and I explained to them that as a mayor I am most concerned about these incidents, he said in a separate interview.

He said most of the killings here were believed to be connected with feud and personal grudge. He also ordered the police to put up checkpoints and road blocks and to strictly implement the campaign on illegal weapons.

Mr. Lobregat also announced that Supt. Mario Yanga was appointed as temporary chief of the local police force replacing Supt. Francisco Cristobal.

Yanga is also the regional police operations chief and a former head of the Zamboanga City Police Office. "My directive to Supt. Yanga is to strictly implement the gun ban in the city and to conduct round-the-clock inspections on all checkpoints in the city," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Photo: Zamboanga Beggar

A beggar uses a baby to ask for money in the busy downtown area in Zamboanga City in South RP. (Mindanao Examiner)

Cop Killed In Latest Zamboanga Attack

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Oct) – A policeman was killed in a daring broad daylight attack Sunday near downtown Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said.
Police said the victim, SPO1 Rodrigo Deza, was on a motorcycle when shot in the head shortly before 1 p.m. along Nunez Road. Witnesses told the police that they saw two motorcycle gunmen tailed the cop and one of them shot him from behind.
“He was shot in the head. We already have suspects,” Supt. Jose Gucela, Zamboanga’s deputy police chief, told reporters without further elaborating.
Police investigators said they have recovered 6 empty shells of .45-caliber pistol from the scene.
Deza’s 9mm pistol was missing, they said, but his M16 automatic rifle was recovered by the police.
On Friday, a government soldier, Sgt. Carlito Alvarez, and a Muslim employee of the Air Transportation Office, Abdulgafar Udin, were killed in separate attacks Zamboanga City.
Police the soldier was on motorcycle when he was shot several times in the head at around 6 p.m. along Jaldon Road near downtown Zamboanga. Udin was shot in the chest at least 13 times.
On Thursday evening, an unidentified gunman also killed a Chinese trader identified only as Huang in downtown Zamboanga City. Prior to the killing, two policemen were also shot dead in separate attacks in Zamboanga.
On Monday, a soldier and his civilian companion were also killed inside their apartment in Sta. Maria village, about 2 km from downtown area. Police said all the killers escaped on motorcycles.
More than 200 people had been killed in violent attacks and summary executions in Zamboanga City the past years. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

RP Widens ShellFish Ban Because Of Red Tide Toxin

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Oct) The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has widened a ban on shellfish, initially imposed on Sorsogon bay earlier this month, to seven more areas in seven provinces throughout the country, according to RSOE Havaria alert Saturday.

The widening of the area covered by the ban came as two more children died of shellfish poisoning and 12 other persons were hospitalized here.

In its latest advisory, the BFAR said the other areas affected by the red tide phenomenon are Juan Lagoon in Matnog, Sorsogon and the coastal waters of Milagros, Masbate; Siaton in Negros Oriental; Dumanquillas Bay, Zamboanga del Sur; Balite Bay in Mati, Davao Oriental; Irong-Irong Bay, Samar; and Bislig Bay in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur.

Gil Adora, head of BFAR’s technical services, said in the advisory that shellfish and "alamang" (tiny shrimps) from these areas were not safe for human consumption.

The ban on shellfish from Sorsogon Bay was imposed on October 11 after authorities confirmed the presence of high levels of red tide toxin in its waters. A week before this, three children had died of apparent red tide poisoning.

The latest victims were brothers Mark John, 7, and Judel, 3, Jesalva, who died late Friday night at the Fernando Duran Sr. Memorial Hospital. The victims' five other siblings aged 5 to 14, and their parents, were still under observation in the hospital.

Despite this, residents of coastal villages have continued to ignore the ban on the gathering, selling and consumption of shellfish from Sorsogon Bay.

Serafin Lacdang, head of the provincial fishery section, said coastal residents were still eating "tahong" (mussels) and other shellfish despite repeated warnings. "Many of these people ignore the risks just so they would have something to eat," he admitted. (RSOE Havaria International)

Pinoys ‘in hiding’ abroad a million less after 7 years

SAN FRANCISCO, USA (Jeremaiah Opiniano / 28 Oct) - Are more Filipinos here coming out to explore the belly of the beast legally?In view of American officials’ moves to squeeze out illegal migrants in the name of homeland security, Philippine government data swing to the affirmative node.

The figures show the number of Filipinos “in hiding” – Tago ng tago (TNT) in local parlance– have dropped sharply.This is what the multiple-year stock estimates of overseas Filipinos from 1997 to 2005, from Philippine government agency Commission on Filipinos Overseas revealed: there was a high of 1,913,941 undocumented migrants in 1998, and a “record-low” of 881,123 last year.

Looking at regional data that the CFO gave to the OFW Journalism Consortium, North, South American and Trust Territory countries –including the US– had the most drop of irregular migrants.These countries have a total of 357,923 irregulars, down by 589,047 from the 1997 figure of 946,970, the CFO estimates.

The US had the most reductions of irregular migrants in the stock estimates data: from a high of 844,046 in 1998, undocumented Filipino migrants went down to 157,998.Striking in the US figure was that the estimates were 510,000 in 2003, and 350,000 in 2004, the CFO record says.

The reduction of the figures in the US comes before the heated debate among American legislators on the immigration question, which began in the first quarter of the year. Several bills seen to slash benefits to non-American workers in the US Senate and House of Representatives did not meet Congress’ October 1 deadline, thus these bills go back to zero when Congress resumes sessions after the November 7 US elections.

Thus, a “good news” perspective could mean there’re more Filipinos here working or living temporarily or permanently with all documents certified legal and have been registered as so in over-90 Philippine diplomatic posts.However, the figures themselves remain debatable: how could a government agency document the number of people it says are “undocumented”?

Likewise, some analysts say the reduction in the number of illegal migrants could mean an increase in the number of them deported back to the Philippines. The sharp reduction in the number of Filipinos migrating here sans legal documents reflects global trends, based on the CFO data.

For example, in Malaysia, where Sabah island is believed the common route for irregular migration, the CFO cited a drop in the number of undocumented Filipinos to 125,000 last year from half a million six years ago.

The drop came after the Malaysian government cracked down on irregular migrants in 2002.If the year-on-year reduction figure for the US is 192,000, the CFO registered a reduction in Malaysia of 175,000 based on an estimated 300,000 undocumented Filipinos in that country in 2004.

The CFO listed other countries with large numbers of undocumented migrants as of last year include France (40,105), Singapore (37,600), Japan (30,619), Israel (23,000), Italy (20,000), and the United Arab Emirates (20,000).East and South Asian countries —including Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and Korea— is another regional hub of irregular migration that got a significant drop: the 2005 figure of 238,238 is 496,109 less than the year 2000 estimates of 734,347.

Lawyer Golda Roma of the CFO’s Planning and Policy Research division says estimates of both undocumented and documented temporary contract workers and immigrants come from Philippine diplomatic posts abroad, and records from homeland-based agencies involved in managing migration outflow.

What CFO does, Roma says, is “cross-check these data from the posts”.Countries like the US have figures coming from host countries’ census offices, while the other data come from passport registrants in diplomatic posts, records for assistance to nationals program, travel documents, and even meetings with members of Filipino communities in host countries.

Roma said there is no precise figure in coming up with those estimates of undocumented Filipino migration, yet she says it should be “at least 20 percent of the total number of overseas Filipinos”.

The 2005 stock estimates show there are 7,924,188 overseas Filipinos –3,651,727 temporary contract workers, 3,391,338 permanent residents, and the 881,123 who are undocumented. Maruja Asis of the Scalabrini Migration Center in Quezon City said the drop in the number of who are called undocumented, illegal or irregular Filipino migrants –from 1,913,941 in 1998 to 881,123 last year– should “not reflect changes in between-years”.

It [the numbers drop] should note efforts related to curbing such migration flows in host countries, Asis said in a phone interview.That is the danger of citing numbers, she added.“Once it is pronounced, this figure is cited over and over again and says it is reduced.”

Still, San Francisco Consul-General Rowena Sanchez thinks the return of undocumented migrants is still “good news, because these individuals can then be able to get their jobs back home, to save, and go on with their regular lives”.

Sanchez is one of six heads of diplomatic posts in the United States, home to an estimated 10.5 million undocumented migrants (including 210,000 Filipinos) in 2005 according to an August report by the Department of Homeland Security.Sanchez said the deportations from here last May are “usual” as the US sends home Filipinos jailed for crimes.

“Some were caught during immigration raids,” Sanchez says, toeing the official US law enforcement line on these cases.In recent months and after protests against US immigration reform bills, the raids have died down, especially here in San Francisco or the whole of Northern California.

Even if Asis thinks that arriving at estimates about the number of migrants in general is difficult, officials of government-run offices handling migrant outflow say the drop of illegal migration is “good news” on their part, and for undocumented migrants as well.

Good then, says Asis —and for now, “the temporary postures are ‘there seems to be a reduction to the number of irregular migrants’ or ‘there could be some reduction’”.

But Asis said those making “multiple-year comparisons” over stock estimates of the global Filipino presence are ignoring one factor: “These data do not reflect the changes in between.” Roma and Asis think the reduction of undocumented migrants is a function of laws in host countries, deportations or repatriation drives, regularization and migrant amnesty programs, and other immigration-related occurrences.

An exception is the strife in Lebanon where government officials said some two-thirds of those coming home are undocumented domestic workers.

Malaysia’s periodic deportations of Filipinos from Sabah to Zamboanga peninsula (southern Philippines) have resulted into some 326 deportations last April, and over-30,000 in total since August 2002, reports SunStar Zamboanga last April 11.

This continuous deportation is “seen in the reports of the post in the last few years,” says Roma.But providing amnesty to undocumented migrants, Asis said, "is not for a long time” –and its shelf life is two years.

She noted that the reduction of the number of undocumented migrants in the US could be traced to Washington’s employment permit system.

Apart from Malaysia's repatriation drives, Korea and Japan had their own drives from 2002 to 2003, says Asis, citing her center’s periodic monitoring of undocumented migration news and data.

Asis, a migration scholar who also edited a book about unauthorized migration in Southeast Asia, said Thailand had instigated a registration system for illegal workers (including Filipinos) to regularize their stay.

It is East Asian countries Malaysia, Thailand and Korea where the problem of unauthorized migration is serious, Asis wrote in a December 2005 article for the Asia-Pacific Population Journal this regularization trend is also seen in Italy.

“You can stay and work there for a certain period of time, but the legal workers’s status is subject to renewal,” Asis explains.Regularizing irregular immigrants is also a recent phenomenon in Spain and Greece, but these incentives “are very specific and do not come often”, says Asis.

But what worries Asis is that as countries tighten their immigration laws and borders, there is increasing demand to continually send migrants through unauthorized means, including trafficking and smuggling women and children. “Something’s got to give here.”
(Ofwjournalism.net/Mindanao Examiner)

RP, China Sign Bilateral Agreements On Ethanol Investments

NEGROS ISLAND - A bilateral investment and trade meeting held between the Philippine and Chinese chambers of commerce resulted in the island state attracting several ethanol investments from its giant neighbor, a report by the Brussels-based Biopact.com said.
It said President Gloria Arroyo was trying to attract foreign investments in the sector and that after months of vivid debates, the Philippines recently finalized its bio-fuels legislation.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the Philippines and China will sign two memoranda of understanding and a memorandum of agreement on the setting up of three ethanol fuel plants in the country, which will involve the development of thousands of hectares of land for sugar cane.
Earlier research indicated that the island state has considerable potential to develop a sugar cane based bio-energy industry large enough to export fuels.
The MOUs, Biopact says, will cover the construction of two ethanol plants in Negros Island in the central Philippines (maximum output capacity of respectively 120,000 and 150,000 liters per day) will be entered into by the Philippine government and the China Machines Engineering Corp. Some 10,000 to 12,000 hectares of land will be developed for the projects.
Meanwhile, the MOA seeks to construct a 150,000-liter a day ethanol plant in Zamboanga del Norte province in the southern Philippines, Yap said.
The MOU's on ethanol investments and cooperation are part of a larger package consisting of 10 agreements, covering a range of sectors, from mining, tourism and fisheries to culture and banking. Between 2001 and 2005, Philippine trade with China grew at an annual rate of 41.9 percent.
The Philippines-Chinese agreements signal a continued drive towards greater South-South exchanges in the bio-energy sector. The Biopact is connective of European and African citizens who strive towards the establishment of a mutually beneficial 'energy relationship' based on bio-fuels and bio-energy.
For the time being, Biopact is an entirely volunteer effort, but the young organization is working towards formalization under a non-profit structure because of growing interest in its activities and its vision. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sayyaf Leader Captured In South RP

TAWI-TAWI (Uly Israel / 28 Oct) – Security forces captured a suspected sub-leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in this southern Philippine island, a local government executive told the Mindanao Examiner.

The Abu Sayyaf man was arrested in Lamyon village in the capital town of Bongao last week.

Three more Abu Sayyaf members are being hunted in Tawi-Tawi for their involvements in the string of terror attacks in the troubled region.

The official did not give details about the captured terror leader, saying, it could jeopardize the ongoing military operation on the island.

The United States and the European Union have included the Abu Sayyaf on the list of foreign terrorists.

The Abu Sayyaf is believed to be hiding three members of the Jemaah Islamiah, the Southeast Asian conduit of the al-Qaeda terror network.

Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, JI members Dulmatin and Umar Patek and some other foreign terrorists were the target of a military operation in the jungles of Jolo island since August 1.

The US State department has offered $10 million (Dh36.7 million) for the arrest of Dulmatin, $1 million (Dh3.67 million) for Janjalani, and $1 million for Patek.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Soldier Killed In Zamboanga Ambush

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Oct) – A government soldier was killed in an ambush Friday in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said.
Police the soldier was on motorcycle when he was shot at around 6 p.m. along Jaldon Road near downtown Zamboanga. He was killed instantly.
One witness said he heard five gunshots. “I heard five gunshots. It's all I can say,” he told reporters at the scene.
Police investigators did not identify the soldier, but said he was shot in the head probably from a .45-caliber pistol. His firearm is missing.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest killing, the second on Friday.An unidentified gunman also shot dead earlier Friday a Muslim man, Abdulgafar Udin, near the Zamboanga airport.
Police said the victim was an employee of the Air Transportation Office and on his way to work when shot in the chest 13 times.
Just Thursday, a Chinese trader identified only as Huang, was shot and killed in downtown Zamboanga City. Prior to the killing, two policemen were also shot dead in separate attacks in Zamboanga.
On Monday, a soldier and his civilian companion were also killed inside their apartment in Sta. Maria village, about 2 km from downtown area. More than 200 people had been killed in violent attacks and summary executions in Zamboanga City the past years. (Mindanao Examiner)

EDITORIAL: Zamboanga: De la ciudad latina de Asia a la ciudad del crimen de Asia?

La ciudad de Zamboanga, apenas calificada recientemente como ciudad latina de Asia, ahora es el convertirse rápido como ciudad del crimen de Asia. Con las matanzas casi diarias, quién desea venir a Zamboanga?

Las embajadas en Manila han advertido a sus ciudadanos que no viajen a la ciudad de Zamboanga debido a la serie de matanzas de civiles inocentes y los problemas de levantamiento de la criminalidad y las amenazas planteados por el grupo al-Qaeda-ligado de Abu Sayyaf y su afiliado el Jemaah Islamiya.

Los políticos en la ciudad de Zamboanga son rápidos culpar al policía por las matanzas. Dicen a policía no podido para poner terminantemente la interdicción en las armas ilegales y la carencia en ejecución de los bloques y de los puntos de comprobación del camino.

Los muchos de la culpa de los políticos de gente, pero no se culpan por todos estos apuros. Están siempre ocupados promoviéndose. Los periódicos locales son el convertirse como los boletines de noticias y los diarios de políticos - con sus fotos y porciones de sacudidas de la mano y blah, blah!

Incluso no ahorran a los periodistas. Sobornan algunos y corrompen algunos. Pero, el dinero que recibieron no es bastante uniforme comprarlos una buena cena, y todo el éstos a cambio de su dignidad.

Las carteleras de los políticos que promueven éstos y ésos también se exhiben prominente en áreas ocupadas en Zamboanga.Incluso el departamento y los almacenes de la tienda de comestibles no se ahorran - por supuesto todo el éstos están en guised de decir a la gente sobre sus proyectos y programas! Ululación, pueden encontrar siempre una manera. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mindanao Marine Exporters Pass EU Inspection

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 27 Oct) - Local marine exporters here have received a "passing mark" from the European Union's (EU) health and sanitary inspection team, following its three-day assessment and evaluation visit, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office here said.

The inspection team, headed by the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office, conducted the evaluation on four seafood companies in Zamboanga City to monitor the compliance of processors of fisheries products exported to European market.

The four companies are Permex Producer and Exporter Corp.; Ayala Seafood Corp., which respectively exporting tuna and sardines; and Bluefin Fishing Corp. and Crustaceans Trading Corp., which are both exporters of fresh and frozen octopus.

Fisheries senior inspector Bedling S. Munap said the team was satisfied by the way local marine exporters were abiding with EU’s Legislative on Food and Health requirements.

"Based on the initial report, the EU's evaluation team gave the four local marine exporters here a passing mark of 'AB'- which means they have all 'partially complied' with Union's food and sanitary policy," Mr. Munap told the Mindanao Examiner.

Along with the positive results of local exporters, the inspection team also gave BFAR's food control program and system high remarks. Munap said the four-man inspection team was divided into two.

The evaluation of marine exporters here was conducted by Luca Farina and micro-biologist experts Armando Manfrin, while the other team members inspected exporters in Davao and General Santos cities.

The Union's 25 member states have required all Filipino seafood companies to have an effective food processing control program.Edgar B. Lim, operations manager of Permex Corp., which has been exporting canned tuna to Europe since 1985, said a "passing mark" from the EU will ensure free flow of trading and will further strengthen marketing access to Union member states.

"The evaluation was very fruitful," he said, adding that the company has already spent more than P50 million for structural renovation and sanitary control since last year in preparation for the inspection.

He said with the recent assessment, some of the unclear requirements of the EU's Regulation on Food Hygiene and Safety was properly explained."We were able to discuss their sanitary requirements point-by-point," he said.

Local marine exporters have expressed confidence that they will pass all sanitary requirements imposed by the EU. George Sy Chua, manager of Ayala Seafood Corp., which produces the brand Mega Sardines, said he was optimistic that they will keep, if not increase and expand their European supply contracts.

"We are confident we will pass the assessment of the EU inspection team. Our processing plant is designed to meet international standards," he said.

He said Ayala Seafood has spent at least P10 million to improve its processing plant and an additional P2 million for maintenance. "Since we gained our export clearance in Europe, this will be our first time to be personally inspected by European officials," he said.

"The evaluation starts from the conditions of the factories' vessels, to onshore plants, to packaging, to storage and transport. They also conducted some laboratory, chemical and microbiological tests," Mr. Munap said. “Even cold storages of factories were also extensively examined.”

The Zamboanga Peninsula region used to have 14 fish processors which were authorized to export to EU, but about 10 firms have been "de-listed" in 2004after it failed to maintain the EU sanitary requirements. Others have opted to cater to non-EU countries, Mr. Munap added.

He said the team submitted a corrective action plan for the fisheries bureau to monitor local marine exporters."The corrective action plan contains some of the points cited by the inspection team which shall be monitored by the authoritative body," he explained.

The BFAR is expected to submit a report to the EU annually or whenever a significant change occurs based on the action plan's time table.

EU, along with the United States and Canada, is considered one of the major markets for marine products in Zamboanga peninsula. (Mindanao Examiner)

Voting Thru Mail Likely In 39 More Countries By 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, USA (Jeremaiah Opiniano / 27 Oct) - Overseas Filipinos spread in four continents who have registered for the national elections next year are expected to vote by mail, a Philippine foreign affairs executive said here.

Vice consul Anthony Mandap, of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, USA, said the Manila-based Commission on Elections gave the country’s diplomatic posts abroad the news that the commission en banc will likely allow overseas Filipinos situated in 26 diplomatic posts to vote by mail.

These posts cover 39 countries and include the United States. Thus far, only over-9,000 of some 1.85 million Filipinos in these countries have registered for the 2004 elections and in the ongoing voter’s registration.

Mandap said embassies likely to be covered by the prospective Comelec directive include Vienna, Austria; Berlin, Germany; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Madrid, Spain; Bangkok, Thailand; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Berne, Switzerland; Pretoria, South Africa; Wellington, New Zealand; Singapore; Tel-Aviv, Israel; and Washington, USA.

Consulates and other diplomatic offices of the country that will be likely covered by the vote by mail are Sydney, Australia; Agana, Guam; Milan, Italy; Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands; Manado, Indonesia; Geneva, Switzerland; the Manila Economic Cultural Office in Taipei; and the US-based consulates of the country in Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

“This (development from Comelec) is certainly good news for Filipino overseas voters in the US,” Mandap said in reference to the 7,011 registrants for the May 14, 2007 elections, and to the 3,537 who registered in 2003.

Those 26 diplomatic offices will join Japan, United Kingdom and Canada (covering three embassies and three consulates) that will allow voting by mail. The three countries, during the 2004 national elections and as per the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9189, piloted the voting through mail mechanism.

The 19 countries mentioned will not only cover the countries where these embassies and consulates are physically situated. Some six embassies and three consulates also cover Filipinos situated in some 20 nearby countries and island-states, and voting by mail will also cover Filipinos coming from those places.

These include: Bulgaria and Moldova (embassy in Bucharest); Poland, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (embassy in Budapest); the islands of Nauru, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu (embassy in Canberra); Morocco and Andorra (embassy in Madrid); Cyprus (embassy in Tel-Aviv); Slovenia, Croatia (embassy in Vienna); Marshall Islands, Wake Islands, Micronesia (consulate in Agana); and CNMI islands Tinian, Rota and the Northern Islands (consulate in Saipan).

However, it is not known nor reported if Filipinos from those 20 other countries registered in 2003, and if they crossed islands and border countries to sign up for the ongoing voter’s registration.

Missing in the list of countries to be allowed voting by mail is Saudi Arabia.

An October 6 report by the international newspaper Arab News bared a House oversight committee on overseas voting thumbed down a proposal to allow mailed voting in the Kingdom because Filipinos use postal office boxes instead of real addresses.

During the 2004 elections, Filipinos there work in places far away from the embassy in Riyadh, the consulate in Jeddah, and the Philippine International School in Al-Khobar, and had to travel hundreds of kilometers driving borrowed vehicles or flying in domestic airlines.

Mandap explained other embassies and consulates formally requested the Comelec to allow registered absentee voters to vote by mail in the 2007 elections.

It is possible other embassies and consulates will be allowed by Comelec if they request that to Manila before Comelec finalizes a resolution for voting by mail, Mandap told the OFW Journalism Consortium.

The United Kingdom, Canada and Japan were initially chosen by framers of RA 9189’s implementing rules and regulations to have voting by mail in the 2004 elections “owing to the efficiency of (their) mailing systems,” wrote a 2004 Statistical and Narrative Report by Comelec’s Committee on Absentee Voting.

But Mandap said that voting by mail works in the US because of “an efficient postal system”.

The US Postal Service website (www.usps.com) bared domestic express mail can be sent the next day for at least US$14.40 (P723.02 in current exchange rates). Meanwhile, domestic priority mail and ordinary letters or cards can be sent in 2-3 days for at least US$0.39 (P19.58) and US$4.05 (P203.35), respectively.

Mandap said the 2004 overseas voting exercise was “cheat-proof” in all embassies and consulates, including the UK, Japan and Canada.

“Those in Manila should expect the same for 2007, and I hope mailed voting will be a big incentive for Filipinos in the US to register and then vote.”

As of October 9, some 3,153 Filipinos in the San Francisco consulate’s jurisdiction have signed up in the ongoing registration to add up to the 855 who signed up in the 2004 elections. The San Francisco consulate covers counties in northern California and northern Nevada, and the states of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

The figure is tops in the whole US, as 7,011 thus far signing up in the new registration that started on October 1, 2005 and that was extended up to October 31, two months from the original August 31 deadline.

A total of 10,548 Filipinos in the US have thus far registered for the absentee voting elections, as Mandap hopes the number of registrants will increase now that the deadline is extended for the second and last month.

“You can never be satisfied with only nearly 3,153 registered voters thus far, even if our consulate is tops in the whole US.”

Comelec’s 2004 OAV report wrote the turnout of Filipino voters in UK, Canada and Japan (including those via mail) was only 48 percent). Factors for the actual voter-turnout in those countries include “mails returned to sender due to insufficient address(es) provided by voters and a postal strike in the United Kingdom”.

Of the total of 359,297 registered overseas voters worldwide during the 2004 elections (including the 3,537 from the United States), 233,092 actually voted. The actual voters include some 1,730 Filipinos in the US.

Mandap said only 340 Filipinos coming from the San Francisco diplomatic jurisdiction actually voted during the 2004 elections.

In the ongoing voter’s registration, some 129,823 new registrants have signed up for the 2007 elections. From the figure, 43,852 signed up prior to departure at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), 36,967 registered while processing work papers at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and 49,004 registered in the over-90 embassies and consulates abroad.

“Admittedly, the result of the on-going registration at the Posts was way below our expectations compared to the yield for two months during the 2003 OAV registration,” Comelec’s absentee voting secretariat staff Kabaitan Guinhawa-Valmonte said in an email from Manila to the OFW Journalism Consortium.

Apathy and distance of the Filipinos from the posts are among the prominent reasons for the currently low turnout, but since the May 14, 2007 elections is not a Presidential election, “(thus there is) the low interest of the people,” said Guinhawa-Valmonte, whose office is headed by Commissioner Florentino Tuason. (Ofwjournalism.net, Yuchengco Media Fellows Program, University of San Francisco-Center for the Pacific Rim/Mindanao Examiner)

Caraga Infra Projects Almost Complete

DPWH Caraga regional director Romeo Momo, left, gestures during a meeting with Caraga chief executives in Butuan City about the progress of infrastructure projects in the region. Also in the photo are Jesus Dureza, provincial governors Erlpe John Amante of Agusan del Norte and Vicente Pimentel Jr. of Surigao del Sur and Virgilio Leyretana.

BUTUAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Oct) - The fight against poverty is gaining headway in the southern Philippine region of Caraga as big ticket infrastructure and development projects are underway to promote peace, trade and greater access to goods and basic services.

At the recently held Mindanao Super Region Forum-Caraga Leg here, the Department of Public Works and Highways revealed that the region's infrastructure development program is boldly making accomplishments.

The construction of the second Magsaysay Bridge worth more than P2 billion and Butuan City’s by-pass road project, are almost complete.

Presidential Peace Adviser and Mindanao Super Region Development head Jesus Dureza and Virgilio Leyretana, chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Coucil, have recently inspected the Butuan projects in the village of San Vicente.

With a total span of 882 meters, the Magsaysay Bridge will become an alternative crossing in Agusan River to connect the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway (Surigao-Agusan-Davao Road) and the Butuan City-Cagayan City-Iligan City road.

"I remember two years ago when I visited here, this is still on the drawing board and now it's a dream fulfilled. This bridge is the most beautiful span we have seen that can compete architecturally with other infrastructure projects in other parts of Asia and it is to the credit of local leadership with the support of national government who made this project possible," Dureza said in a statement sent Friday to the Mindanao Examiner.

Dureza said aside from the bridge and road projects, two other infrastructure projects under the Mindanao Super Region Initiative of President Gloria Arroyo in Caraga, include the Dinagat Island Road Network, Butuan Airport, Surigao-Davao Coastal Road and Hawilian-Salug-Sinakungan Barangay (village) Road.

DPWH Caraga regional director Romeo Momo said an initial funding of P100 million was released recently to start the construction of the Dinagat Island Road Network.
(With a report from the Mindanao Economic Development Council)

Photo: Stand Up For Peace

Nileema Noble (left), United Nations Resident Coordinator and Judge Aurora Reciña (center), President of the United Nations Association of the Philippines meets with Secretary Jesus Dureza (left), Presidential Adviser on the Process (OPAPP) during the recently concluded wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of General Carlos Romulo for the commemoration of 61st Anniversary of the United Nations. With a theme, “Stand Up for Peace, Stand Up for a Better World”, the week long celebration is spearheaded by United Nations in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and various government agencies.

Organize To Survive, Health Expert Advises Pinoy Nurses In UK

MAKATI CITY (Marlene Elmenzo / 27 Oct) – Having a collective voice may save the jobs of Filipino nurses threatened to be sucked into the fiscal hole of the United Kingdom’s public health system, a health management expert recommends.

Filipino nurses who wish to stay longer in UK should make the NHS (National Health Service Trusts in the UK) realize their impact on that country’s health sector, Dr. Eufemia Yap of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business told the OFW Journalism Consortium.

“They should address this with a collective voice,” the school’s health unit director said. “They need to tell the NHS: ‘Hey, we are important players here.’”

Yap was responding to questions on what Filipinos could do a month after UK Health Minister Lord Warner of Brockley in July announced the removal of nursing from the “national shortage occupation list”.

With this new policy, job openings for nurses will first be advertised to British nationals and Europeans. Foreigners would only be considered for recruitment if there would be no qualified candidates from the European workforce.

The same rule applies for foreigners currently employed under work permits: they would be given the last priority for hiring.

“Taking nursing off the shortage list does not stop employers undertaking international recruitment, it only means that they have to demonstrate that they cannot fill a post with a UK or EEA [European Economic Area] applicant first,” a July 3, 2006 statement from the Health department said.

“If employers are unable to fill a particular nursing post following advertisement, they may then apply to the Home Office for a work permit,” it added.

Currently the largest health care services system in Europe, the NHS is subdivided into smaller organizations called Trusts. Apart from overseeing hospital operations in every county or province in the UK, an NHS Trust also manages recruitment of doctors, nurses, health workers and non-medical staff.

In this system works some 40,000 Filipino nurses, half of who have no residence visa and would have to leave the UK upon expiration of their work permits, as the new policy mandates.
According to the policy, posts held by these foreign workers would be offered first to locals.

No return

In this situation, Yap said, it is best for nurses to rely upon themselves because the Philippine government, which remains divided on the issue of health worker migration, could only do so much.

On the one hand, she said, is the Department of Health, which makes do with the limited healthcare workforce in the country. On the other is the Department of Labor and Employment, which continuously manages the export of the country’s best and brightest.

Filipino nurses, Yap said, also need to solve their problem by making themselves more competitive.

“They should challenge themselves and reshape themselves as nursing professionals,” she said. “They can do this by continuing their professional education and taking in leadership roles.”

Ateneo, to note, has the only business school that offers hospital management degree courses to health sector professionals.

“Packaging themselves well” will also help nurses to demand for better opportunities should they decide to settle in the Philippines, Yap said.

Nurses who really don’t want to return to the country, however, must start seeking other opportunities in the Middle East or in the US, and consider possible “trade-offs”, she added.
“They may be employed in other countries [even though] the work condition is not as good as that in UK’s.”

Nurses like Riza Franco who works in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, Scotland, are bracing for an extreme scenario: the narrowing of the market for foreign health workers.
“There’re a lot of opportunities,” she said. “Australia alone is offering immigrant visa. It offers better compensation packages.”

Still, Franco, 31, says she’s not that worried since she has an “indefinite leave to remain” (permanent residence) visa.

Except for the right to vote, the visa entitles Franco to the rights enjoyed by the British.
“I am already a resident here so I am not under a contract anymore. I can work anywhere and as long as I want to.”


Franco’s resilience is understandable since her family in the Philippines relies on the financial support she extends.

Franco sends money to get her two younger sisters through college, said Mary, one of her sisters. Sometimes she also sends money to her elder brother whose daughter suffers from a rare disease in the nervous system.

Above all, she sends money for the three-year-old daughter she left behind. Mary said the Franco family would be deeply affected if Riza loses her job. But she said she’s confident her sister can survive any trial that comes her way.

“Maabilidad si Ate [My sister’s resourceful],” Mary said. “She’s always on her toes.”

Franco, who was interviewed via the Internet, said she’s always keeping her ears on the ground. She said she has heard from fellow Filipinos news of cost-cutting measures like forced retirement and closure of smaller hospitals or hospital units or departments.

Geraldine Marquez, 36, a Filipino nurse working at the Bucknall Hospital, in Stoke-on-Trent, shared one news.

Marquez cited that Bucknall has stopped hiring relievers and extra staff to ease workload and closed down one of its four wards. Bucknall is under the North Staffordshire Combined Health Care NHS Trust.

Franco alleged that around 250 jobs have been lost last August in the Portsmouth Trust where Queen Alexandra belongs. However, Franco and Marquez said they haven’t heard that Filipinos were included in these job reductions or affected by the hiring freeze.

The OFW Journalism Consortium tried almost every week of August to verify these information with Paul Cortes of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

However, the office of Cortes said the British Desk director remained “unavailable for comments”.

A press statement released in July said the Philippine labor office in London “has not yet received any report from a Filipino nurse losing his or her job”.

Still, the DFA admitted “that some NHS Hospitals are experiencing budgetary problems” and “a few hospitals have announced they will undertake cost-cutting measures and redundancy”.

However, both Franco and Marquez told the OFW Journalism Consortium that the recruitment freeze in their respective hospitals has been implemented since August.


Marquez said her fellow Filipinos who don’t have residence visas have started worrying. “We all want to be secured when it comes to our job, lalo na’t nasa ibang bansa tayo [especially since we’re in another country].”

Marquez has been working under a “Leave to Remain” visa for two years. She said her marriage to her British husband a month before the new policy was announced became providential in a sense: her visa expires two years from now.

At the moment, Marquez said she’s staying put. She has no plan of either coming back to the Philippines or transferring to another country since she will soon give birth to her first child.
Marquez said she expects the employment freeze will last long.

“Matatagalan pa bago mag-hire ulit [It would take long before hospitals resume hiring foreign nurses],” she surmises.

The Philippines has been one of the major sources of foreign nurses in the UK when the British government expanded the workforce in the health sector nine years ago.

“I will cross the bridge when I get there,” Marquez said if the worse scenario of losing her job becomes real.

On the other hand, Franco, who spent the past four years working in the UK, believes the hiring freeze is temporary.

Replacing foreign worker with homegrown talent to fill up workforce and save costs would not do well for the nurses and the health sector, she said. “Whether they [British government officials] like it or not, kailangan nila ng mga [they would need foreign] nurses.”

However, Lord Warner was quoted in the Health department statement as saying that the NHS is now moving to “a closer match between demand and supply”.

“We now have more than 379,000 qualified nurses working in the NHS, 82,000 more than in 1997 as well as record levels of nurses in training,” he said.

Lord Warner hinted that large-scale international nurse recruitment across the NHS would soon be over since this “was only ever intended to be a short-term measure”. “The aim of the NHS has always been to look towards home-grown staff in the first instance and have a diverse workforce that reflects local communities.”

Three years ago, however, a study by the Royal College of Nursing titled “Here to Stay” noted that with an increasing number of foreign nurses in the UK, “overseas recruitment of nurses is no longer viewed as a stop-gap measure by the NHS”.

The attraction of the UK for Filipino nurses is the minimum monthly salary of ₤1,017 (P95,587.83 at P93.99=₤1), according to a document “Host Country Legislated Minimum Wages” by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. (Ofwjournalism.net/Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Our Photos Are For Sale!


Chinese Trader Shot In Downtown Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Oct) – A Chinese trader was shot and critically wounded in an attack late Thursday in downtown Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, police said.

The man, identified only as Huang, was shot in the chest by a motorcycle gunman at around 7 p.m. along the busy downtown road called Tomas Claudio, police said.

Huang, who has several cell phone shops in Zamboanga City, was making rounds on his stores when attacked.

“He is our boss and usually goes around at this time to visit his stores downtown. He usually carries a bag full of cell phones,” a woman, who works for Huang, told reporters.

Little was known about the victim except that he resides in Manila, but was in Zamboanga City to visit his business. It was not immediately known if Huang has relatives here.

Last week, unidentified gunmen also killed two cops in separate attacks in Zamboanga City.

More than 200 people had been killed in a series of gun attacks in Zamboanga City the past four years. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saudi To Hire More Filipino Nurses

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 26 Oct) – Saudi Arabia has announced that it would hire more Filipino nurses to fill the demands in the oil-rich state.

Filipino labor officials said as many as 2,000 nurses are needed in Saudi to replace those whose contracts are to expire next year.

A regional labor spokesperson, Josephine A. Crudo, said the Employment attaché of Saudi Arabia in Manila requested their assistance regarding the immediate deployment of health workers, especially Filipino Muslims, even without an experience.

She said those who are interested can submit requirements to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or at the Saudi Recruitment Office in Makati City or at any regional offices of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

DOLE regional director for Western Mindanao, Chita Cilindro, said applicants need not to pay any placement fees, except for their passports.

She said nurses working in Saudi receive as much as SR 4,000 and enjoy fringe benefits such as 45 days annual paid vacation, free round trip plane ticket, free housing facility and transportation.

Aside from Saudi Arabia, Canada, United States and other Middle Eastern countries regularly hire Filipino nurses because of their ability to speak well the English language and are hard-working. (Mindanao Examiner)

US Sailors On A Mission To Spread Goodwill In RP

Click last photo to play video clip
Crew of USS Harpers Ferry on a mission to spread goodwill. Scenes on Thursday 26 Oct 2006 at Pasobolong Elementary School in Zamboanga City in Southern RP. (Mindanao Examiner)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 26 Oct) - About two dozen sailors from the U.S. transport ship USS Harpers Ferry on Thursday trooped to a small village in the outskirts of Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to donate books and foods and help locals paint a school.

“We are really so happy to see the sailors here. They gave us books and foods and were helping us paint the rooms. We want to thank President George Bush, the U.S. military, the U.S. Embassy and the American people for the humanitarian assistance and we will never forget this day,” Imelda Mabalot, the principal of the Pasobolong Elementary School, told the Mindanao Examiner.

The sailors arrived on a convoy of vehicles at around 9 a.m. and bringing with boxes of paints, bottled water, sandwiches, biscuits and books. Two sailors were also spotted carrying sewing machines and canned apple juice distributed to the school in the village of Pasobolong, about 20 kms east of Zamboanga.

“We are here to help the Filipino people and the U.S. forces are involved in many humanitarian missions in the southern Philippines to help the people and promote peace side by side with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said U.S. Air Force Major John Redfield, public affairs officer.

U.S. soldiers provided security to the sailors while they paint school rooms and mingled with villagers.

The USS Harpers Ferry arrived is anchored off Zamboanga City. It arrived Wednesday to deliver five ambulances donated by an Italian philanthropist, Armando de Rossi, of the 3P Foundation.

The ambulances, worth $20,000 each, came from the United States and were shipped to Subic Bay, a former U.S. base outside Manila. They will be donated to the Zamboanga City Fire Department; the Jolo Rescue Network; the Camp Asturias Hospital and the Red Cross on Jolo island and a clinic on Tawi-Tawi.

De Rossi said about a dozen more ambulances would be delivered to the southern Philippines and distributed to areas where the vehicles are needed.

"These ambulances are donation by people all over the world who cared about Mindanao and its people. We are concerned about the people, about the peace and development efforts in the Philippines and we will continue to help the Filipino people," he said.

The 3P (Promotion of Peace and Prosperity in the Philippines) Foundation purchased 14 Ford F350 ambulances to donate to places throughout the Philippines in an effort to bring better medical supplies and capabilities to local provinces.

De Rossi said that once the ambulances are delivered to their final destinations, they will save plenty of lives. "We're just here to promote the goodwill of America to the Filipino people, and to show the Filipinos that the United States cares," he said.
De Rossi is actively involved in humanitarian activities in Jolo and had donated tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure and medical equipment on the island. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More Aid Arrives For Filipino-Muslims In Troubled Sulu Archipelago

Italian philanthropist Armando de Rossi, of the 3P Foundation USA, donates five ambulances for Zamboanga City, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi islands in the troubled Sulu Archipelago. The U.S. navy ship, USS Harpers Ferry, delivered the vehicles, worth $20,000 each, to a Philippine military base in Zamboanga City. Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo received the ambulances in Zamboanga from De Rossi and USS Harpers Ferry Commander Craig Anthony.(Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Oct ) – A US Navy transport ship arrived Wednesday in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga to unload five ambulances donated by an international foundation.
U.S. and Filipino military officials said the donation came from Italian philanthropist, Armando de Rossi, of the 3P Foundation.
The ambulances, worth $20,000 each, came from the United States and were shipped to Subic Bay, a former U.S. base outside Manila, and then transported to Zamboanga City by the USS Harpers Ferry, said U.S. Air Force Major John Redfield, public affairs officer.
"The ambulances were donated by the 3P Foundation to the Filipino people and will be distributed to various recipients in Zamboanga, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi. The U.S. military is very proud to be a part of this team effort to help the people of the Philippines."
"By working together, the 3P Foundation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and U.S. Navy’s Project Handclasp were able to present these five ambulances to organizations in Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi Tawi."
"It’s possible that these ambulances could one day save lives, so this is a really rewarding and inspiring project to be a part of," Redfield said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.Project Handclasp is a special outreach program by the U.S. Navy.
Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo said more ambulances are expected to arrive before the year ends. “Mr. De Rossi promised us that more ambulances are arriving that will benefit government hospitals,” he said.
De Rossi said about a dozen more ambulances would be delivered to the southern Philippines and distributed to areas where the vehicles are needed. “These ambulances are donation by people all over the world who cared about Mindanao and its people. We are concerned about the people, about the peace and development efforts in the Philippines and we will continue to help the Filipino people,” he said.
The 3P (Promotion of Peace and Prosperity in the Philippines) Foundation purchased 14 Ford F350 ambulances to donate to places throughout the Philippines in an effort to bring better medical supplies and capabilities to local provinces. And five of them would be donated to the Zamboanga City Fire Department; the Jolo Rescue Network; the Camp Asturias Hospital on Jolo; the Jolo Red Cross; and a clinic on Tawi Tawi.
De Rossi said that once the ambulances are delivered to their final destinations, they will save plenty of lives. “We're just here to promote the goodwill of America to the Filipino people, and to show the Filipinos that the United States cares," he said.
De Rossi is actively involved in humanitarian activities in Jolo and had donated tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure and medical equipment on the island. (With a report from Uly Israel)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

EMCOR Collector Denounced

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Oct) – A senior executive of EMCOR appliances in Zamboanga City has apologized to a customer who complained about the alleged arrogance of a finance sales representative, but not for long.

Benjamin Venus, vice president for Finance Sales Operations, apologized after the customer accused Robert Maani of being arrogant in collecting payments.

Maani, assigned with the EMCOR Veterans Branch was trying to collect payment even at night and in some occasions had sent cell phone text (SMS) messages early in the morning and late at night.

“Please accept our sincere apology together with the assurance that similar misconduct will not be repeated in the future,” Venus said in a letter sent to the customer in July.

But Maani again did the same on Tuesday during the Eid’l Fit’r holiday. The customer sought the help of the media to complain again that Maani was trying to collect payments for an account which was only due October 11.

Worse, Maani phoned the customer at 5.46 a.m. on Tuesday and even sent SMS minutes later, waking up most of the family members. He also phoned the customer only to hang up in the middle of the conversation.

“Maani obviously did not know proper business ethics and even tried to collect payments for an account which is not even delinquent. And the worse was Maani did all these stupidity during unholy hours and even during a holiday.

“EMCOR may have failed to teach their collectors the right and proper conduct and business ethics in dealing with customers,” she said.

Venus, assigned in EMCOR’s main office in Davao City, was not available to make a statement. Employees in his office said the executive is in the United States. Other EMCOR officials were not also available. (Mindanao Examiner/Local News)

Muslims Flock To Mosque Inside Military Base In Zamboanga

Muslim villagers flocked Tuesday 24 Oct 2006 to a small mosque inside a military base in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to pray, signaling the end of Ramadan and the start of the Islamic festival Eid’l Fitr. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Oct) - Hundreds of Muslim villagers flocked early Tuesday to a small mosque inside a military base in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines to pray, signaling the end of Ramadan and the start of the Islamic festival Eid’l Fitr.

Muslims pray side by side with soldiers inside the Western Mindanao Command headquarters, where Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo spoke about the Islamic faith.

“We belong to one God and this festival shows our devotion and faith to our religion. We in the military and our family join the Muslim world in the celebration of the Eid’l Fit’r,” Cedo said.

Eidil Fitri, or Hari Raya Puasa is one of the highlights of the Muslim cultural and religious calendar. It is celebrated at the end of the fasting month or Ramadan, when the new moon is sighted.

The Malay words ‘Hari Raya' translate as 'Day of Celebration' or the ‘Festival of Breaking the Fast'. Muslims usually attend Eid prayers in mosque in the morning. The celebrations begin with the birth of the new moon of Syawal, the 10th month of the Islamic calendar.(Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Photo: Eid'l Fit'r

Hundreds of Muslims flock to Cotabato City in Maguindanao province in Southern RP to celebrate Monday 23 Oct 2006 the end of Ramadan. (Mindanao Examiner/Mark Navales)

Peace Advocates To Lobby For Resumption Of Stalled Mindanao Peace Talks

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Darwin Wee / 23 Oct) - A consortium of peace advocates inMindanao was lobbying Manila to resume stalled peace talks with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The Mindanao Peoples Caucus, in an e-mail sent to the Mindanao Examiner on Monday, said the group will send a mission to Manila on Wednesday to lobby to government officials that resumption of the peace negotiations.
Peace talks ended last month in Malaysia with both sides failing to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue -- ancestral domain -- which refers to the MILF's demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland.
It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before a political settlement can be reached. The MILF has earlier rejected a government offer for a limited autonomy on Mindanao island, home to more than 18 million Muslims, Christians and indigenous tribes.
"We do not want another war. All we wish is progress in Mindanao and help in promoting peace and rebuilding our communities and present a modest set of proposals on how to break the impasse and move forward," the group said, but it did not elaborate any of its proposals on how to break the impasse in the peace talks.
The group said it would like to meet President Gloria Arroyo and politicians, including members of the diplomatic community within the three-day mission.The MPC is headed by Timual Melanio Ulama, Fr. Roberto Layson and Mary Ann Arnado, of the Mindanao Peace Weavers. (Mindanao Examiner)

Mayors League' Summit Opens Today In Manila

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Oct) – Some 1,000 municipal mayors from across the country trooped Manila on Monday to attend the two-day National Summit of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP).

The summit, held at the Manila Hotel, discussed national issues that have impact on local governance.

The executives also tackled issues on the merits of a national policy on sustainable upland development that aims to push the implementation of an existing model that has been tested in 38 municipalities in southern Mindanao with support from the European Union-funded Upland Development Programme (UDP), a statement from the Mindanao Economic Development Council said.

The summit is the culmination of a series of LMP regionalconferences conducted in the country earlier this year.Ambassador Jan de Kok, Head of Delegation of the European Commission) tothe Philippines, was invited at the summit. (Mindanao Examiner)

5 Family Members Slain In Zamboanga Strafing

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Oct) - Unidentified gunmen killed 5 members of farming family and wounded a child in an attack on a remote village in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga Sibugay, officials said.

Officials said the gunmen killed a couple, an old woman and two children in an attack Monday on the village called Bagong Buhay in Alicia town.

"Authorities are investigating the attack. Five family members are dead, including two children. The attack also left one child wounded. Troops are tracking down those responsible in the attack," Capt. Noel Abello, a regional army spokesman, said in an interview by the Mindanao Examiner.

Abello said the gunmen opened fire on the village at around 6 a.m. and escaped after the strafing.

He said no individual or group claimed responsibility for the killings, but the area is a known lair of communist insurgents, blamed in the past by the military and police for the string of attacks against civilians suspected of aiding the government in the campaign against the New People's Army.

Family feud and clan war are also rampant in the province and had been blamed by authorities also for the spate of killings. (Mindanao Examiner)

Soldier Kills 2 In Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Oct) - One government soldier and a civilian were killed in an attack that the military said was perpetrated by another soldier on Monday at an apartment building in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, officials said.

'We still don't know the motive in the twin killings, but slain soldier and the suspect were former Moro rebels integrated into the army," Captain Noel Abello, a regional army spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the attack occurred at around 2.30 a.m. near the village of Sta. Maria. The two victims were sleeping when the soldier barged into the apartment and opened fire, killing the duo instantly.

Army Brigadier General Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the 1st Division, said the slain soldier was a member of the army's engineering brigade. "There is an investigation going on and we are awaiting the official reports about the attack. This could be related to family feud or an old grudge," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cagayan De Oro City Hosts Asia Peace Builders Forum

Johann Galtung.
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Banos / 19 Oct) - This self-styled "City of Golden Friendship" seeks to expand its many facets into another dimension when it hosts the Asia Peace builders Forum next week.
With the theme "Exploring Asian Approaches to Peace building" the five-day forum starting Oct. 26 will be joined by at least 50 key change agents from 14 Asian countries working in community and national level peace processes in the Asia Pacific region.
Action Asia was started in 1999 when a small group of peace practitioners from the Asia Pacific region met under the umbrella of ACTION International to pursue a long-time dream to form an active network dedicated to peace building.
"The group envisioned to actively support peace practitioners working in violent conflict areas of the Asia region; as well as identify and promote Asian models and understandings of peace building and conflict transformation approaches and processes," Balay Mindanao Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) president Charlito Manlupig told the Mindanao Examiner.
"The first vision has been realised with ongoing work in Myanmar and Nepal carried out in conjunction with local peace practitioners, by Asian practitioners belonging to the network," said Ariel Hernandez, BMFI executive director.
"The latter objective of finding the Asian approaches and models has been building momentum, and the realisation of this dream will come about through the Asian Peace Builders Forum.
Previously, much of the training and materials relating to conflict transformation and peace building has been generated and provided in Western countries.
Organizations such as Responding to Conflict in the UK, and Eastern Mennonite University in the United States have led the field in equipping peace practitioners to do their work. "The graduates of these programs are the primary members of the Action Asia network, but until next week, they have not had the opportunity to share their own thoughts, reflections and theories about the approaches to peace building which have been found to be effective in the Asian context," Manlupig said.
"Yet there is a myriad of creative ideas and approaches which are being used to effectively address violent conflict, and promote and build peace in the region."
Specifically, the Asian Peace builders' Forum will create a venue to identify unique Asian approaches in conflict transformation and peace building; celebrate the vibrancy of the movement and highlight the success of various interventions; document and publish lessons learned from both success and failures in peace building.
It also aims to deepen relationships between members for further exchange, collaboration and exposure; and profiling situations of Myanmar and Nepal for the purpose of regional solidarity and influencing work.
The forum that will mainly focus on case study presentations exemplifying different themes from presenter's experiences.The themes would include but not be limited to Ethnicity and Identity; Women, Gender and Peace building; Peace Futures; Peace Museums; Peace Journalism; Peace Advocacy at National Level; Reducing Tensions During Elections; Establishing Zones of Peace in Conflict Areas; Mediation; Conflict Prevention Mechanisms; Reconciliation and Asian Training Methodologies.
One of the highlights of the forum will be the keynote address of peace studies pioneer Prof. Johan Galtung, the founder and Director of Transcend, an organization promoting conflict resolution by non-violent means.
For over four decades Galtung has mediated conflicts in Israel and Palestine, China and Tibet, Peru, Sri Lanka and Burma, among others. He is the author of the United Nations' manual for peace workers and he continues to advise UN agencies on peace issues.
He is Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Hawaii and other centers of peace learning.Prior to workshop-presentations, speakers have been invited to open the morning plenary to talk on Peace building Efforts in the Asian Region from Various Faith Perspectives; Influencing Government Policies; and Mainstreaming Gender Sensitivity in Peace Building Work.
The forum will also provide an opportunity for participants to strengthening the existing network and identify future collaborative actions, as well as giving core Action Asia members the chance to meet and discuss detailed future plans.The forum's ultimate goal is the publication of a book containing several thematic case studies from experiences of peace advocates in the Asian region. (Mindanao Examiner/Kagay-an.com)

MILF Sees Collapse Of Peace Talks

Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels listen to a briefing by their commander during a patrol on a remote hinterland village in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, has propose for a federal form of government for some 4 million Muslims in the restive South, where troops are battling the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for a series of terrorism in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner/Juan Magtanggol)

MAGUINDANAO (Juan Magtanggol / 22 Oct) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) warned Sunday that the inclusion of its leader and some members to criminal charges over the recent bombings in the southern Philippines may lead to the collapse of the peace talks with Manila, a rebel leader said.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, warned that the peace talks may fail unless Manila quickly remove the inclusion of Murad Ebrahim and other MILF members from the criminal charges the police filed against the rebel chieftain.

“The inclusion of Brother Murad Ebrahim and some of our MILF members in the criminal complaints really complicates the situation leading to the collapse of peace talks and poses additional obstacles to the search for just peace and solution to the Mindanao conflict,” Iqbal told the Mindanao Examiner.

Police linked Ebrahim, chieftain of the MILF, and some of his commanders, including Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek and a Pakistani national, Usman al Majad, in the October 10 bombing in Makilala town in North Cotabato province where six people had died and more than two dozen others injured.

Two more attacks occurred in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao that killed several people.

The MILF strongly denied it was involved in any of the attacks, but North Cotabato governor, Emmanuel Pinol, a staunch critic of the rebel group, also implicated a senior rebel leader, Basit Usman, in the Makilala bombing.

Iqbal earlier said that the peace negotiations with Manila may be imperiled after police filed criminal charges against the MILF chieftain.

He said: “Brother Murad is such a person of fairness, justice, and moderation that we know for more than 30 years as comrades in the MILF struggle. We know he did not and will never commit that criminal act, both as a personal conviction and on the basis of the MILF Islamic ideology and policies.”

The MILF is the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for a separate Islamic state similar to Iran.

Iqbal said there is an urgent need to save the peace talks. “To my mind, there is only one way to ease the tension and anxiety brought about by this ironic twist of event; that is, to drop immediately the names of MILF leaders and members mentioned in the baseless criminal complaints relating to the Tacurong and Makilala bombing incidents,” he said.

Manila began peace negotiations with the MILF in 2001, but no major accord has been signed by both sides, except for a cease-fire agreement. And many rebels are slowly losing their patience on the five-year old peace talks.

Peace talks ended last month in Malaysia with both sides failing to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue -- ancestral domain -- which refers to the MILF demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland. It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.

Malaysia, an influential member of the Organization of Islamic Conference, is brokering the peace talks.

Ebrahim this month warned that Manila should be blamed if the peace talks fail. He said the talks are now passing “a turbulent area” and that the Filipino government must take responsibility for the breakdown of the negotiations.

“This signals that we are now on the danger zone of the peace talks,” Ebrahim said, referring to the failure of the negotiations on Sept. 9 held in Malaysia, which is brokering the peace talks.

The MILF has rejected Manila's offer for a limited autonomy in the mineral-rich, but restive Mindanao island, home to about 4 million Muslims who want a separate Islamic state.

Iqbal previously said the Philippine government offered them the 5-province Muslim autonomous region and 613 other Muslim villages in exchange for a peace deal.

"They offered the MILF the whole of the Muslim autonomous region and 613 other Muslim villages scattered in Mindanao, but all these are subject to Philippine legislation. The offer is just like a leopard skin and we did not agree with it."

"Peace cannot be unilaterally imposed on the MILF and the Muslim people," Iqbal said.

The Muslim autonomous region is composed of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi -- which are among the poorest in the country torn by strife and clan wars since its creation in 1989.

The MILF previously proposed that the Muslims be given an option to choose in a referendum whether they wanted Mindanao to be an independent state or not.

The ancestral domain covers 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, Zamboanga Sibugay, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces where there are large communities of Muslims and indigenous tribes.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Cellular Phone Giant, Smart Communications, Helps Gawad Kalinga Build Sustainable Communities

A Gawad Kalinga Village volunteer teacher, Kat Hakim, smiles as she welcomes visitors; behind her a row of houses donated by Smart Communications Inc., in the former Moro rebel base, now a sprawling Muslim community in Barira town in Maguindanao province. (Mindanao Examiner)

MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Oct) – For the country's leading cellular carrier, contributing to Gawad Kalinga's much-awarded community-building program is not just about building homes.
Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) is also engaged in helping develop innovative entrepreneurial projects and disaster preparedness programs for its beneficiaries.
More than two years since it pledged to build its first Gawad Kalinga (GK) village for fire victims of Baseco Compound in Tondo district in Manila, the cellular giant, together with parent firm, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), has committed to build at least 7 GK Amazing Villages for homeless families displaced by various calamities.
At 100 per village, Smart committed to construct 700 new houses. "As we build these communities, we are also adding livelihood and disaster preparedness projects. These elements are needed to help make these communities sustainable," said Ramon R. Isberto, Public Affairs Group head of SMART, at a recent forum in Manila.
Called "Rising from Disaster... Beyond Relief,” the forum was held during the three-day Gawad Kalinga Global Expo 2006 at SM Mall of Asia in Manila. The forum was one of many activities that were part of the themed “The Power of We,” to mark Gawad Kalinga (GK) Foundation's GK 777 3rd year anniversary.
Through GK 777, the Couples for Christ-based foundation aims to provide 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in seven years or by 2010.
Smart and PLDT have completed two villages - in Baseco Compound and in the former Moro rebel base Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao province, now a sprawling community of hundreds of Muslim families, mostly members of the Iranun tribe who lost their homes during the armed conflict several years ago.
Four villages are also expected to be completed by next year, in General Nakar in Quezon province or victims of floods and landslides; Cebu City for informal settlers; Iloilo City for families of street children; and Fort Magsaysay in Laur town in Nueva Ecija, for families of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
PLDT, Smart, GK and the local government are preparing for the seventh village in Southern Leyte in central Philippines and will benefit mostly survivors of landslide that buried the village of Guinsaugon in February.
"This year, we are consolidating our seven GK villages and are focusing on livelihood and disaster preparedness to make sure that people will be safe and secure," said Isberto.
The Smart Amazing GK Village in the village of Banglos in General Nakar, Quezon showcases Smart's evolving approach to community building. Aside from providing the funds to build 100 houses for flood and mudslide victims, Smart has deployed more than 600 employees who volunteered to help in the actual construction of houses.
Smart has also helped the Banglos residents develop an innovative livelihood project by turning the old logs washed down by the floods into wood sculpture. Some 40 Banglos residents, who are mostly farmers and fishermen, learned the art of wood sculpting from renowned sculptor Rey Paz Contreras.
"While they go on with their livelihood, now, they're also artists in their own right," said Darwin Flores, Smart's senior manager for Community Partnerships. The company also engaged the environmental group Haribon Foundation to assist Banglos residents in replanting 20,000 wildlings in the surrounding areas, Isberto added.
Following the recommendation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, endemic species or plants that are native to General Nakar, have been planted.
Smart has also set up an emergency communications system in the towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar in Quezon under the Reina project of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
It donated “batingaws” or warning bells made from recycled oxygen tanks to warn residents should there be a need for mass evacuation from flashfloods or other calamities. When disaster strikes, emergency teams warn villages and then the local officials use the batingaw to assemble the residents.
"The response of national and regional authorities during calamities is not enough," said Isberto. "Communities also need to know what to do. So, community-based disaster programs are essential," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)