Thursday, November 30, 2006

Photo: My Flower

Indonesia Opens New Mindanao Air Route

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Nov) – Trade officials from the Philippines and the Indonesia hailed the launching of a new air route between the two countries.

An Indonesian airliner, Sriwijaya Air, launched its maiden flight from Manado to Davao City in the southern Philippines on Thursday. Both countries are members of the East Asean Growth Area along with Brunei and Malaysia.

Filipino officials said the new air link was part of an agreement signed by the two countries during a trade mission under the Jose Abad Santos-Glan-Sarangani (JAGS-CT) Cooperation Triangle to Indonesia in September.

"The new additional flight directly connecting Davao and Manado is an affirmation of growing vibrancy on the potentials for tourism, trade and investment within the BIMP-EAGA,” Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), said in a statement.

The Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air uses Boeing 737-200 to provide an alternate service the Davao-Manado route, which is currently being served by Merpati Airlines. For its regular run, Sriwijaya is scheduled to fly every Monday and Thursday, arriving in Davao City at 01000 hrs and leaving for Manado at 01045 hrs.

The airline can accommodate 124 passengers and cargo of up to 3.5 tons. The new Davao-Manado route adds to the existing air and sea linkages between Mindanao and Indonesia.

Last month, both countries also opened a sea route from Glan town in Sarangani province to Tahuna in Bitung, Indonesia.

"Sriwijaya's Davao-Manado flight is expected to contribute to our aim of enhancing trade and socio-cultural links between the two nations. I hope this air route will be sustained, as it will certainly boost Mindanao's ties with Indonesia," Leyretana said.

Filipino and Russian’s Mosphil Aero Inc. this month also announced a plan to add new routes in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and probably other countries in Southeast Asia. Mosphil said it is only waiting the signing of the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights by members of the sub-regional trade bloc of the East Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Growth Area (EAGA) during the ASEAN Summit in Cebu City next month.

Glenn Lamela, Mosphil's director on marketing and sales, said the new routes will even include those outside the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, Philippines- East ASEAN Growth Area or the BIMP-EAGA structure.

"The signing of the fifth freedom traffic right will allow us to operate internal flights within the four member countries of the BIMP-EAGA, and this is a big opportunity for us," Lamela told the Mindanao Examiner.

The Mindanao Business Council said that the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights agreement will focus on the establishment of scheduled passenger services between Davao City-Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia)-Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam) and between Pontianak (Indonesia)-Kuching (Malaysia)-Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam).

Lamela said Mosphil is also planning to launch the Zamboanga-Kota-Kinabalu- Brunei, and Davao-Kota-Kinabalu-Manado routes and local flights from Zamboanga to Davao, Zamboanga-Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga-Cebu, Cotabato-IloIlo, and Boracay-Zamboanga routes.

"It is our priority to strengthen and materialize the traffic and the air-linkages within the BIMP-EAGA. The Philippine government is looking at Mosphil as the model to be presented during the ASEAN summit comes this December," Lamela said.

Mosphil is currently operating the Zamboanga-Jolo route twice a week. It opened the flight just in September. "We wanted to increase the inflow of traffic to Zamboanga City," Lamela said, adding they wanted to establish Zamboanga City as hub of Mosphil operation. (Mindanao Examiner)

Muslims, Christians Unite For Peace In Mindanao

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Muslims and Christians from all walks of life in the conflict-ridden island of Mindanao will seek common ground as thousands of them join in the annual Mindanao Week of Peace celebration from 30 November to 6 December.

In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), event founder and Claretian priest Father Angel Calvo said the annual celebration is so far the biggest peace gathering in the country which has actively involved both Muslims and Christians since 1997.

“We want to see the people of Mindanao united as we advocate lasting peace in the region,” Fr. Calvo, whose non-government organization Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) has also led the celebration in Zamboanga City, told AKI.

He added that the event will also provide the local residents “a common ground for recognizing and respecting cultural differences that is basis for unity and peace.”“This is also the right venue where some issues and possible disputes will be settled,” he added.

The theme for this year celebration is centered on the environmental care. Fr. Calvo said different activities were planned in various key areas and cities in Mindanao.

In Zamboanga City, he said PAZ will lead the opening and the closing day parades, the two big events that are expected to draw tens of thousands of people from government offices, private companies, universities, urban poor associations, and other non-government agencies.

They include concerts, peace rallies and vigils, medical and dental missions for the depressed rural villages, jail visits, peace assemblies and youth gatherings, a coastal clean-up and other school and community-based activities.

Mindanao Week of Peace is now into its 10th year since the first one being organized at the height of extremism of the homegrown terror group Abu Sayyaf.

In previous years, the observance of the week of peace has means a security breather in the conflict-stricken region and the number of insurgent attacks and other crime-related activities also reportedly lowered.

“We will join efforts with the people of Mindanao on their initiative and they can expect smooth security measures from our part,” Superintendent Jonathan Perez, deputy director for Zamboanga City Police Office, told AKI ahead of this year's event.

“We assure that it will be generally peaceful,” he added.Meanwhile, in a statement obtained by AKI, the influential Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), which spearheads the Mindanao-wide celebration, called on the people of Mindanao to have “love, respect, justice, fairness, mercy and compassion among one another not only before or during the celebration but also after the Mindanao Week of Peace.”

“We wish to remind us all that peace comes from order and harmony both in our relationship with God, with one another and with the environment,” BUC’s Muslim, Catholic and Protestant conveners stressed in their joint statement.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, also said it was supporting the weeklong peace celebration."We are with all peace-loving people. We are for peace and we fully support the aspiration of many for a peaceful Mindanao," Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Video: Charity

Please help the poor children in Zamboanga. Please donate to the poor.
Ayudar por favor a los niños pobres en Zamboanga. Donar por favor a los pobres.
Veuillez aider les pauvres enfants dans Zamboanga. Donner svp aux pauvres.
Den armen Kindern in Zamboanga bitte helfen. Zu den Armen bitte spenden.
الرجاء مساعدة الاطفال
الفقراء فى زامبوانغا.يرجى التبرعللفقراء.

Siocon Subanon Association Has New Set Of Officers

Subanon democracy in action. The Siocon Subanon Association, Inc., in Zamboanga del Norte province elects new set of officers.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE (Rocky Dimaculangan / 29 Nov) – An indigenous Subanon tribe in a remote mountainous ancestral land in Southern Philippines has shown its readiness for self-determination after its members successfully elected a new set of leaders who promised to spearhead community efforts to attain sustainable development in partnership with a foreign-funded mining company.
The Siocon Subanon Association, Inc. (SSAI) – legal representative of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title holders (CADT) of Canatuan in Barangay Tabayo – held its biennial election of officers Nov. 25 with the participation of the overwhelming majority of association members. The elections, described as peaceful and honest, were sanctioned and observed by representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
Patoh prevailed over incumbent SSAI President Juanito Tumangkis with a margin of 337 votes. Patoh and Tumangkis garnered 619 and 282 votes, respectively.
Danilo Bason, Patoh’s running mate, bagged the vice presidential slot after besting Rufino Sapian. Alfredo Limbang, meanwhile, ran unopposed as treasurer.
Also elected as members of the SSAI Board of Trustees are: Lydia Dandana, Pasing Bason, Zenaida Dandana, Danilo Tumangkis, Sr., Santiago Sumampang, Alberto Mais, Paho Fuentevilla, Yolanda Lacaste-Santos, Andres Ansani, Celestino Guinagag, Pancho Tumangkis, Sr., and Erdulfo Comisas. According to the Election Committee (ComElec) – chaired by SSAI member Chirino Limpuson and with members from indigenous people (IP) communities in nearby towns and provinces – 1,032 votes were cast out of the 1,341 registered number of voters.
A total of 131 ballots were declared invalid or abstained in the presidential race. Observers say Patoh’s lopsided victory came after an increasing clamor for the immediate conduct of elections had been noted from direct and indirect CADT beneficiaries in recent months.
It was learned that the SSAI elections were overdue by a year – and Chairman Tumangkis appears to have suffered the same electoral fate as that of many incumbent leaders around the world! Direct beneficiaries are IP CADT holders whose claims are within the 508-hectare area of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc.’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the Philippine government; they are eligible to run for office.
Indirect beneficiaries, on the other hand, have claims outside of TVIRD’s MPSA area; while they can vote, they cannot assume elective posts in SSAI. TVIRD is the first foreign-funded resource development firm to reach production stage after the passage into law of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Its international affiliate, TVI Pacific Inc., is listed in the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX:TVI). Nine officials from the NCIP were present during the elections as observers. They were joined by Ms Hanayo Hirai, a Japanese national connected with United Nations Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF).
ComElec Chairman Limpuson said the elections were generally honest and clean. There were minor accusations of election irregularities – but these are a common, rather expected complaint, especially from defeated candidates in these islands, he said.
Shortly after the canvassing of votes that lasted until the wee hours of November 26, Patoh and the other winning candidates were proclaimed by the ComElec in the presence of NCIP observers headed by Masli Quilaman, Director of the Office on Empowerment and Human Rights at the NCIP Central Office, as well as of voters and supporters who stayed on to guard their votes and until the last ballot was countedThe newly elected SSAI officials will take their oath of office on December 1.
They were congratulated by the TVI Board of Directors headed by CEO Cliff James during their visit to the Canatuan Project last November 26. “Democracy has prevailed in our host community,” Eugene Mateo, TVIRD President, said after learning of the results of the elections.
“I hope our Subanon brothers and sisters who ran under opposing camps will be able to immediately set aside the differences that may have been created along the campaign trail."
"I also hope they can sit down together and begin the more important task of charting and working towards a sustainable future for the citizens of Canatuan in partnership with TVIRD. We offer our best wishes to SSAI’s new officers, as well as for the continued success of our partnership for development.”
In 2005, TVIRD paid SSAI royalty equivalent to 1% of the Company’s gross revenues amounting to over P5 million, net of final tax. From January to September this year, royalty payments have reached above P10 million, and is estimated to increase to P14 million, net of tax, at yearend.
Under the Memorandum of Agreement for the development of Canatuan forged between SSAI and TVIRD, the Company has no influence over how the IPs will invest their royalty. Also in accordance with the MOA, TVIRD has embarked on various socio-economic and environmental protection initiatives for its Subanon hosts.
These initiatives include the construction of schoolhouses and health clinics, the improvement of roads and the facilitation of the building of bridges, the setting up of livelihood programs, as well as the planting of over 50,000 trees and the erection of a P170 million Gossan Tailings Dam.
TVIRD and SSAI have began laying the groundwork for the Tanuman Settlement Project, a component of the Mine Rehabilitation Plan which provides for an independent Subanon Village complete with water supply, sanitation and power facilities.
Elements of the Philippine Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion and the Philippine National Police, both based in Siocon town, provided security to the Subanon of Canatuan while they exercised their sacred right to vote.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Photo: Bajau: Sea Gypsies Of The Southern Philippines

A Bajau diver jumps from his boat off the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga. Called the sea gypsies, the Bajau tribe lives mostly at sea.

International Media Groups Rally Behind RP Press

Below is the official statement of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance network of media organizations around the region, in support of the class civil suit vs. Presidential spouse Jose Miguel Arroyo. (Freedom Watch)

Statement of support for Philippine journalists from free expression groups around Southeast Asia

We, representatives of journalist, media, and free expression organizations from around Southeast Asia, and collaborating under the network of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), applaud the initiative of our colleagues in the Philippines to defend their rights in the face of blatant abuse and harassment from the husband of Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

We strongly support the filing of a class civil suit against Mr. Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo for his abuse of power and his clear attempt to undermine press freedom in an important member of the Southeast Asian community.

The Philippines is in the clear minority of countries in Southeast Asia with a functioning—if perennially vulnerable—free press. In this light, the deterioration of the conditions for press freedom under the regime of President Arroyo is a troubling trend that causes anxiety in the rest of the region.

We note with alarm that over the past months, Mr. Arroyo has sued 43 reporters, columnists, editors and publishers of various publications for libel. Many of the journalists he sued had linked Mr. Arroyo to unexplained wealth, vote-buying for his wife's 2004 electoral win, and money laundering.

Although all these issues comprise serious public interest matters that merit scrutiny by the people through the press, the President’s husband is seeking damages totaling P141 million (about US$2.8 million), thereby sending a chilling message to journalists and the Philippine media in general.

Backdropped by the alarming rate of murder of journalists in the Philippines, particularly under the Arroyo administration, the antics of the President’s husband underscore the overall decline of official respect for press freedom in the country.

It is in this light that we encourage our Philippine colleagues in their efforts and initiative to fight back against this clear attempt to harass their ranks. If the presidential spouse intends to send a message that journalists who dare to cross him will face a libel suit, then the victims – both the press and the people – must push back with a stronger message that contempt of press freedom is contempt of the people.

Retaliating against the charges filed against them, the journalists are in turn suing Mr. Arroyo for abuse of power and for seeking to undermine civil liberties, and they are therefore seeking P87 million (nearly US$1.75 million) in damages, in a symbolic campaign to charge Mr. Arroyo one peso for each of the 87 million Filipinos he wants to deprive of free expression.

The countersuit against Mr. Arroyo—signed by 42 of journalists he had sued yet evidently failed to intimidate—is inspiring, groundbreaking, and potentially standard-setting not just for the Philippine media, but for free expression in the whole of Southeast Asia, if not the world.

As one of those rare havens for democracy in the region, and as party to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, the Philippines is challenged to set a higher standard with respect to human rights, of which freedom of expression is paramount.

Beyond the court case against Mr. Arroyo, we also urge Philippine legislators to decriminalize libel, a move that has found support from more than 600 journalists and 30 local and foreign media organizations.

The Signatories

Signed by: Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Alliance of Independent Journalists, Indonesia Institute for the Study on Free Flow of Information, Indonesia Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia Mizzima News, Burma Timor Leste Journalists Association Aliran.

Malaysia Alliance for Freedom of Expression, CambodiaMalaysiakini, Malaysia. (The Southeast Asian Press Alliance is comprised of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Indonesia), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (Philippines), Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (Indonesia), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and Thai Journalists Association).

Sulu, North Borneo Sultan Hails Senate Bill Declaring RP's Oldest Mosque As National Shrine

The influential Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun.(

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Uly Israel / 28 Nov) - The influential Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, Sharif Ibrahim Ajibul Mohammad Pulalun, hailed Tuesday the Senate’s declaration of the Sheikh Karim al Makhdum Mosque in Tawi-Tawi Island and called it a milestone in Philippine history.
The Sheikh Karim al Makhdum mosque at Tubig Indangan village in Simunul town is the oldest mosque in the country.
The Senate has approved a proposal to declare the Philippines' oldest Islamic landmark as a national shrine in recognition to the contribution of Islam in the development of culture and civilization in the country.
Senator Edgardo Angara, its proponent, said the introduction of the Islamic faith in the Philippines "has immensely contributed to the enrichment, vibrancy and diversity" of the country's unique culture.
The mosque was constructed by an Arabian missionary, Sheikh Karim al Makhdum, in AD 1380. In 1965, the late president Ferdinand Marcos went to the site to install a historic marker giving it recognition as the first mosque in the Philippines.
The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao through its Legislative Assembly has already passed a law declaring the inclusion of the Sheikh Makhdum centennial celebration as one of the Islamic events entitled to a special non-working holiday within the five provinces under the ARMM.
The bill, passed on third reading, "is a sign to our brother Moslems in Mindanao, that they are being accorded due and equal recognition by the national government," Angara said.
According to historical accounts, Sheikh Karim al Makhdum arrived in 1380 on Simunul Island off the province of Tawi-Tawi to propagate Islam in the country. It was also on this island that he built the first and the oldest mosque in the country. It is held in great esteem by Muslims and non-Muslims, and is considered sacred.
Sultan Pulalun appealed to Senator Edgardo Angara that the mosque in Likup village in Indanan town in Jolo Island declared also as a national shrine being the second oldest mosque in the Philippines and because events of historical importance took place at the mosque.
He said at the height of Muslim rebellion against American colonial government, Muslim rebel leaders met with General Leonard Wood at the mosque wherein historical talks and agreements were forged.
"We are overjoyed by the recognition being given to the contribution of the Islamic faith to the country's history," he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Pulalun, a descendant of Sultan Mohammad Pulalun, heads the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, now Sabah. Sultanate of Sulu obtained Sabah from Brunei as a gift for helping put down a rebellion on the Borneo Island.
The Sultanate of Sulu was a Muslim state that ruled over much of the islands off the Sulu Sea. It stretches from a part of the island of Mindanao in the east, to North Borneo, now known as Sabah, in the west and south, and to Palawan, in the north.
The Sultanate of Sulu was founded in 1457 and is believed to exist as a sovereign nation for at least 442 years. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Photography and Video Services

The Mindanao Examiner offers photography and video production services. For more information, please contact the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)

Killing Of Muslim Girl Sparks Fire Fight In South RP

MAGUINDANAO (Juan Magtanggol / 27 Nov) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front soldiers clashed with government forces after a militia commander allegedly attacked three people, killing a six-year old girl in the southern Philippines, a rebel spokesman said Monday.

Eid Kabalu said the fighting broke out late Sunday in the farming village of Dapiawan in Datu Piang town, where government militias earlier attacked a Muslim woman, Faiza Adam, and her six-year old daughter. “The girl was instantly killed,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Prior to the attack, militias also ambushed a rebel leader, Ibrahim Kanapia, wounding his baby, in the neighboring village of Matia. “The attacks were obviously planned and these triggered the fighting,” Kabalu said, adding, Kanapia and Adam are relatives.

He said Kanapia’s group attacked the militias under Taib Munca and torched their detachment in Dapiawan village in retaliation to the killing. He said the fighting may have been triggered by clan war between militias and rebels.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division said five people were wounded in the rebel attack and they also burned and ransacked more than a dozen houses owned by farmers in the village.

It protested the MILF raid on the village, saying, it was a violation of the six-year old truce between the government and the rebel group. “The attack is a violation of the cease-fire agreement. We have submitted to the government peace panel our reports about this incident,” an army spokesman Lt. Col. Julieto Ando said in a separate interview.

He said the Malaysia-led truce observers should investigate the rebel attack.

Manila opened up peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the southern Philippines.

Malaysia is brokering peace talks between the Filipino government and the MILF, but negotiations ended in September in Kuala Lumpur with both sides failing to sign any agreement on the most contentious issue -- ancestral domain -- which refers to the rebel 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.

Government peace negotiators previously offered the MILF the Muslim autonomous region, which 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 ancestral domain covers the whole of Muslim autonomous region 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. And even Palawan Island in central Philippines.

Peace talks between the government and MILF started in January 1997 but the absence of a neutral third party bogged down the initiative. It was only on March 24, 2001, after the all-out war against the MILF declared by former President Joseph Estrada that Malaysia, at the behest of the Philippine government, facilitated the talks.

However, in February 2003, despite the avowed all-peace policy of President Arroyo, an all-out war was again declared against the rebels, but both sides later agreed to resume peace talks. Just this year, President Arroyo said that 80% of the peace talks have been completed and that permanent peace in Mindanao is within reach. (Mindanao Examiner)

RP-US Officials Inspect Development Projects In Mindanao

Ethnic tribespeople dance in Mindanao to ward off bad spirits and invite forest spirits for bountiful harvest. (Mindanao Examiner/Mark Navales)

COTABATO CITY – Two senior Filipino and American officials have inspected various development projects jointly undertaken by the Philippine and US governments in Mindanao and both were impressed by the gains of peace and accelerated economic growth in the southern island.
Romulo Neri, Director General of the Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority and Jon Lindborg, Philippines’ Director of the US Agency for International Development, visited different parts of Mindanao, including Muslim autonomous region and other conflict-affected areas during the two-day trip that ended Nov. 25.
Among the programs visited by the NEDA-USAID team was the Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM Program), which has been USAID’s flagship activity in Mindanao since 1996.
GEM is an umbrella program under which USAID is able to support a wide range of activities, including small infrastructure projects, livelihood assistance to former MNLF combatants, strengthening of business organizations, and opening international markets for Mindanao products -- all intended to contribute to peace and development in Mindanao.
GEM is implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council. The visitors participated in ceremonies which turned over several computers and internet connections from the GEM-CLIC project to Manongol High School in Kidapawan City in South Cotabato province and a community center under the GEM-BIP project to a village called Poblacion 5 in Midsayap town in North Cotabato province.
Neri and Lindborg also visited projects of the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy project (AMORE) which provides solar and micro-hydro electrification to remote areas such as the village of Linandangan in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao.
They also visited education programs in the village of Poblacion Dos in Midsayap under USAID’s Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Project.
Regional government officials and USAID implementing partners briefed Neri and Lindborg on programs for health services, internally displaced persons, and environmental governance.
From 2001-2006, Washington provided more than 60% of USAID assistance to the country or approximately $260 million to reinforce Philippine government efforts to secure a lasting peace and build a better life for the people of Mindanao.
Other US programs to Manila include military assistance to enhance the professionalism of Armed Forces of the Philippines and to strengthen its ability to respond to a range of modern threats, including domestic and international terrorists; assistance for law enforcement; and food aid for the modernization of Philippine agriculture. (With a report from Mark Navales/Mindanao Examiner)

U.S Embassy Plays Santa To Charity Children

U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney helps children decorate holiday trees at the American Embassy in Manila.

MANILA – American officials welcomed Filipino children from four local charity centers for an afternoon of holiday tree decorating, snacks, and fun at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippine capital.
The Consular Section, whose staff processes nonimmigrant and immigrant visas to the United States and assists American citizens in need, sponsored last week the holiday tree decorating contest to benefit the charities, an Embassy statement said.
It said each charity received a tree decorated with traditional ornaments and garlands, as well as school supplies, toiletries, and toys for the children.
The event was the first of its kind at the American Embassy, and U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney helped the children decorate the holiday trees. The Embassy’s nearly 200 Consular staff members split into four groups, each taking charge of decorating a tree for and with children from the four local charities.
The charities also benefit from regular visits and donations by U.S. Embassy staff through the Embassy Club, a volunteer group composed of U.S. Embassy employees and family members that work with area charities and volunteer organizations, it said.
During the event, the U.S. Embassy Consular Section staff was treated to a performance of gymnastics, holiday songs, and dancing by the attending children.
Consular officers and staff then delivered the trees and supplies to each charity for their enjoyment during the holiday season. Members of the Embassy’s Consular section donated money and supplies to help in decorating the trees.
he St. Luke’s Hospital in Manila also donated several boxes of vitamins to the four charities. The Pan Pacific, Hyatt, and Traders hotels donated food for the event.
The four children’s charities attending the special event were: The Friendship Home, a center for underprivileged children in Malate district that offers wholesome meals; a safe environment to study and play; academic encouragement; and learning programs for more than 80 children; The Little Children’s Home in Rizal province for newborns and babies waiting to be adopted. The home’s Birthing Center trains midwives and cares for indigent, expectant mothers, providing classes on prenatal care, parenting, and family planning.
The Little Sisters of the Assumption run three projects in Pasay City focusing on livelihood, healthcare, and education for preschoolers and the Trichet Learning Center offers schooling and mainstreaming skills to children with autism and Down’s syndrome from the poorer families of Metro Manila. More than 200 students attend classes daily.

Photo: Maranao Crafts

A handmade antique brass and nickel replica of a Spanish galleon made by Muslim’s Maranao craftsmen is currently on display at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City in the southern Philippines. The Maranao is famous for their craft and arts. (Mindanao Examiner/Mark Navales)

All Praises For Basilan Electric Cooperative

BASILAN ISLAND (Rene Carbayas / 27 Nov) - "There is always a better way," runs the slogan campaign of the Basilan Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BASELCO) crisis management team that has effectively been proven with its "fantastic performance" that impresses the Presidential Assistant on Rural Electrification (PARE) and the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

BASELCO has improved power distribution efficiency with reduction of systems loss to 18.62% in September from 21.98% last May 2006, with a total of P643,846.56 peso savings on system loss reduction from May to September 2006.

Additional 31 villages energized from 215 to 258 villages, which represents some 96% of total number of households in Basilan. BASELCO's distribution of power supply improved to 24 hours in all its areas, with very significant reduction of outages by October this year in Isabela and Lamitan feeders.

The procurement of 8 customized Kabayan Multi-cabs Linemen's crew-cab, which was distributed to each of the seven sub-offices, has improved the performance and provided quick-response delivery of services to member consumers.

But more importantly, BASELCO has improved its collection efficiency from 75.77% to 96.56% on current power bills by September 2006, which enabled the cooperative to pay in full its power bills for July, August and September 2006 to the National Power Corporation (NPC).

These were just some of the results of having improved the capacities of frontline workers, boosted with high moral. All of these and those other accomplishments were achieved within 100 days under the new Crisis Management Team (CMT).

"I have never seen such a fantastic performance in just 100 days," PARE Sec. Fr. Francisco G. Silva said, as he affirmed the high moral of employees who were "shining with joy."

During his speech at the 100th day commemorative event under the Bagong BASELCO family on Nov. 8, Fr. Silva challenged, even demanded, absolute honesty on the part of the Board of Directors. "Any leader who is not honest loses respect and has no place in BASELCO," he stressed as he challenged the board to leave a legacy.

Fr. Silva also challenged the employees to "be willing to fight even to die for it when necessary because you are doing the job," he said addressing the employees. "We take care of you, you just take care of BASELCO," Silva said as he assured that hard work will be recognized and performance will be compensated.

NEA Administrator Editha A. Bueno was also impressed at BASELCO's 100 days accomplishments. She assured employees of salary adjustments in the near future if BASELCO could duplicate or triplicate the 100 days performance it has shown. "The challenge now is how to sustain or surpass what has been achieved," she said.

PARE and NEA have installed a Crisis Management Team (CMT) at BASELCO in June to assist in solving the problem of power in the province. The CMT was composed of Erico Bucoy as Adviser, Executive Officer Atty. Alan Gaviola, Fr. Alfredo Oyao, and Oversight Officer Sakiran A.Hajan.

Upon the assumption of the CMT, the cooperative started to turn around its pace from the brink of bankruptcy and initiated a lot of positive changes in its operation, building a stronger organization, aiming for a more reliable and prompt power service for the best interest of its valued member-consumers.

The secret to its success was simply attributed to the energized, capacitated, and strengthened bonding of employees, as everything follows with a satisfied worker, Atty. Gaviola said.

In retrospect, BASELCO was on the brink of bankruptcy until last May. Its delivery of electric services to consumers was characterized by low-voltage and constant brown-outs, which greatly affected Basilan's economy.

Outages have involved load shedding rotated at all sections resulting to an average of only 12 hours power supply daily. Its system loss was 21% that was way above the allowable cap of 14%. Its collection efficiency was only 78% and suffered from pilferage of electric power.

Its income was much below operating expenses that it has not been able to pay its arrears to NAPOCOR, which has now reached P483.99 million and to NEA at P31.38 million.

BASELCO was not able to pay salaries of its personnel to cope up with continuing increase on cost of living. It has not been able to pay lump sum payments to its retirees. BASELCO had difficulty in buying equipments needed by its personnel to effectively perform their tasks and functions.

The unfavorable working conditions had led to mass demoralization and deterioration of personnel's commitment to properly served the consumers.

These past conditions had been surpassed surprisingly within 100 days under the CMT as BASELCO experiences a complete turn around -- from near bankruptcy towards a self-sustaining enterprise with improved morale and performance of its personnel, improved electric service to its member-consumers, reduced systems loss, improved collection efficiency and strengthened unity among employees with its member consumers.

True to its slogan, BASELCO has found a "better way" and delivered a "fantastic performance," now envied by neighboring electric cooperatives in the region. (Rene Carbayas)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rescuers Search For Missing Boat Passengers

BUKIDNON PROVINCE (Juan Magtanggol / 26 Nov) - Rescuers continue to search Sunday for at least 21 passengers of an outrigger that capsized off Hinatuan Island near the southern Philippine city of Surigao, officials said.

At least 66 passengers had been rescued since Saturday, but 14 others drowned from the tragedy when huge waves battered the boat, MV Leonida, said Surigao City Mayor Alfonso Casura.

"Our efforts are continuing and rescuers are still searching for the missing passengers," he said on Sunday.

He said among those missing was Mayor Arlene Navarro, of Del Carmen town in Surigao del Norte province. The boat, he said, left Surigao City on Saturday afternoon and was heading for Siargao island with a cargo of 300 bags of cement and rice.

"Big waves slammed the boat and it leaned on its right side and eventually capsized," the mayor said.

He said the boat can carry up to 150 passengers. "We are now investigating the cause of this tragedy," he said.Casura on Sunday also appealed on television for diving equipment. "We have divers here, but we need more equipment. We can't possible dive at the depth of 300 feet without safety gears and equipment," he said.

It was not immediately known how many children or women died or are still missing, but Casura said fishermen and the Coast Guard were helping in the search. (Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wanted Sayyaf Man Captured In Basilan Island

A government soldier holds his machine gun as he guards Jolo island in the southern Philippines. Military officials on Saturday 25 Nov 2006 say that soldiers capture a wanted Abu Sayyaf militant, Annik Abbas, in nearby island of Basilan. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Nov) – Government soldiers in the southern Philippines have recaptured a wanted Abu Sayyaf militant who escaped a provincial prison in 2004, officials said on Saturday.
Officials said troops captured Annik Abbas also known as Abu Annik in the village of Colonia near Tuburan town on Basilan island before midnight Friday. Abbas was driving a motorcycle when soldiers intercepted him, said Major Eugene Batara, a regional army spokesman.
Batara said a government spy helped soldiers capture the militant. “Informants helped us capture the notorious Annik Abbas who escaped from prison in Basilan in 2002,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
He did not say if soldiers seized any weapons from Abbas or whether the militant was meeting with the Abu Sayyaf or planning an attack. Batara said the militant is being investigated at a military base in Basilan.
“We are still investigating Abbas for his role in past kidnappings-for-ransom and killings on the island. There is an operation going on in Basilan to track down other militants,” he said.
Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon on Friday ordered soldiers to intensify the hunt for Khadaffy Janjalani, the chieftain of the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda, and his lieutenants, including two Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both wanted by Indonesia for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and the 2003 JW Mariot hotel bombing in Jakarta.
Police in Zamboanga City also killed an Abu Sayyaf hit man late Thursday and captured two more after a fire fight in the village of Ayala. The fighting broke out after the militants attacked cops who were sent to arrest them. One militant was able to elude arrest, said Supt. Angelito Casimiro, chief of the regional police intelligence division.
Casimiro said the Abu Sayyaf was behind the spate of killings of policemen and soldiers in Zamboanga City and Jolo island.
Washington listed the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya as foreign terrorist organizations and offered as much as $10 million bounty for Dulmatin’s capture and another $5 million for Janjalani’s head and $1 million reward for Patek. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Troops Ordered To Get Sayyaf, JI leaders Before Christmas

Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon, top, orders Friday 24 Nov 2006 troops to intensify the hunt for Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya leaders in Jolo island. (Mindanao Examiner)

JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Nov) – Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon on Friday inspected troops in the strife-torn Jolo island and ordered security forces to capture the leaders of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and two Jemaah Islamiya bombers before Christmas.
The order came barely a day after policemen killed an alleged Abu Sayyaf gunman in a fire fight and captured two others in the village of Ayala in Zamboanga City late Thursday.
The fighting broke out after the militants attacked cops who were sent to arrest them. One militant was able to elude arrest, said Supt. Angelito Casimiro, chief of the regional police intelligence division.
"The militants were believed behind the spate of killings of policemen in Zamboanga and Jolo island the past months," he told the Mindanao Examiner in Zamboanga City.
In Jolo, Esperon also held a two-hour closed door meeting with senior military commanders in Jolo inside the tightly guarded headquarters of the Army's 104th Infantry Brigade.
Esperon did not give all details about the meeting, but said he discussed with other commanders the repositioning of troops involved in the Abu Sayyaf hunt on the island.
"We will reposition our forces to be more effective in the campaign against the terrorists. Told the troops to get the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiya before Christmas and intensify the operation against the terrorists," Esperon said in an interview.
He was referring to the Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani and Dulmatin and Umar Patek, both wanted by Indonesia for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people and the 2003 JW Mariot hotel bombing in Jakarta.
The military also tagged the Abu Sayyaf group as behind last month's bombing of a police headquarters in Jolo island that wounded three people and the bombing in March of a Church-run cooperative store that left nine people dead and 20 injured in downtown Jolo.
The Philippine military is holding Dulmatin's wife, Indonesian Istiada Oemar Sovie and her two children. The woman and her two boys ages 6 and 8 were arrested after Filipino soldiers pursuing Dulmatin raided a terrorist hideout in Patikul town last month.
Esperon said the Abu Sayyaf is protecting Dulmatin and Patek in Jolo island. As many as 31 Jemaah Islamiya militants are believed hiding in the southern Philippines, particularly in Mindanao where other rebel groups are operating. (Mindanao Examiner)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ex-Priest Accuses Bodyguard Of Extortion

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Nov)– The National Bureau of Investigation arrested a government soldier early Thursday for allegedly extorting money from a former Catholic priest he was protecting in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga.
Crisanto dela Cruz sought the help of the NBI after Ramil Luna, a member of the Philippine Air Force, allegedly tried to extort P2.5 million from him in exchange for a purported sex video between them.
The one-minute video, which showed two men having oral sex, was reportedly taken with a cell phone inside a hotel room this month.
Dela Cruz denied he was the man in the video clip. "It was not me who was in the video. With the advent of technology, nothing is impossible. I am at peace with my conscience. This is the handiwork of my political opponents," Dela Cruz told reporters without elaborating.
Dela Cruz, a staunch supporter of President Gloria Arroyo, resigned last month as a parish priest to run for mayor in next year's election against the incumbent Celso Lobregat, a political opposition leader.
Luna's family denied the soldier was extorting money from Dela Cruz. Aside from Luna, a church worker, Roel Ocampo was also held by the NBI for questioning. Both were arrested in an entrapment inside a church compound in the village of Guiwan.
Local politicians allied with Lobregat questioned the manner Luna was arrested and said they would ask the NBI headquarters in Manila to investigate the incident.
Dela Cruz is one of the most influential and respected religious leaders in Zamboanga, but broke his ties with similarly influential Lobregat, a long time family friend, to join politics, saying, he has more plans for the city under the Arroyo administration. (Mindanao Examiner)

U.S. Ambassador Kenney Celebrates Thanks Giving Day With American Troops, Orphans In Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Nov) – U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney on Thursday arrived in Zamboanga City where she celebrated Thanks Giving Day with American troops.
Kenney also visited an orphanage in the village of Talon-Talon and carried children and spoke to caretakers. She also signed an agreement with the local government to help fund the protection of a watershed area in Zamboanga.
Security was tight during Kenney’s visit. U.S. and Filipino troops were spotted guarding her throughout the visit.It was the first time that a U.S. ambassador celebrated Thanks Giving Day in Zamboanga City, a former American colony.
An undetermined number of U.S. troops are stationed in Zamboanga City and Jolo island where they train Filipino soldiers and conduct humanitarian mission in remote villages.
The fourth Thursday of November is observed as a legal holiday in the United States to commemorate the feast held at Plymouth in 1621 by the Pilgrim colonists and members of the Wampanoag people and marked by the giving of thanks to God for harvest and health. (Mindanao Examiner)

THE GOOD NEWS: Compostela, Panabo Win Nutrition Award

COMPOSTELA VALLEY (Mark Navales / 23 Nov) – Compostela Valley province and Panabo City in the southern Philippines were both named as 2005 Consistent Regional Winner in Nutrition (CROWN), local officials said on Thursday.

Provincial governor Jose Caballero vowed to sustain Compostela’s aggressive nutrition program that will benefit more people, especially in remote villages.

"We must sustain the nutrition program. We are conceptualizing a program that would enhance our existing nutrition program. We want to modify it to also put emphasis on pregnant mothers, not only undernourished children," he told reporters.

The Philippine Information Agency said Compostela Valley has put up the "Lamdag sa Panginabuhi Center" which empowered poor families to have sustainable livelihood.

The provincial government, it said, also provided livestock animals for backyard raising and distributed vegetables and fruit-tree seedlings to poor families under the Lamdag sa Panginabuhi program.

While Panabo City established several feeding centers in at least 40 villages as part of its nutrition program, it said.

"The Panabo government through its Nutrition Office has encouraged backyard vegetable gardening. This is one way of ensuring the health of children and the availability of nutrition foods," a statement from the city’s information office, said. (Mindanao Examiner/With a report from the Philippine Information Agency)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Photo: Zamboanga, Mindanao's Gambling City?

A painter retouches a streamer promoting a big time cock fight in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. Zamboanga has one of the most numbers of cockpit arenas in Mindanao with at least a dozen operating across the city. Many cockpit operators and financiers of illegal gamblings are sources of political campaign funds in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

Basilan Coop Needs Help

BASILAN ISLAND (Uly Israel / 23 Nov) – The United Workers Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative on Thursday appealed to the government and foreign donor countries for funding to help farmers rehabilitate dilapidated processing plant and rubber plantations on Basilan island in the southern Philippines.
Pedro Quistadio, Jr., chairman of the cooperative’s board, said it would require about P35 million to rehabilitate the old processing plant and another P70 million for the rubber plantations.
He said since the processing plant of the defunct Menzi Agricultural Corp. was turned over to the agrarian reform beneficiaries in April 28, 2003, it has remained in its old condition.
"The processing plant is currently operating in its 60 percent capacity and production costs have gone up. We really want to upgrade our plant, but we cannot afford it right now since it would cost about P35 million to rehabilitate it," Quistadio told the Mindanao Examiner.
The cooperative also must replant rubber trees to replace the matured ones. He said 40 percent of their stock of rubber trees are "over matured" with ages from 38 years old and above.
“That's why the coop's production has also decreased by 45 percent. About 300 to 400 hectares are due for replanting and the cost of replanting would be about P70-P80 million. We can only afford 20 percent of the required replanting and development," he said.
He said they are now looking into possible sources of credit to finance its rehabilitation projects, Quistadio said, adding, the cooperative prefers international financing institution to provide soft loans.
Isabela City has 45 villages and 17 of these are rubber-producing areas, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Basilan. The total area planted to rubber is approximately 2,459-ha and 57 percent or about 1,400-ha are considered productive.
Isabela City produces an average of 183,501 kilos of rubber every month, DTI said.
DTI records also showed that the two leading villages host the plantations of the two Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) in Isabela -- the Latuan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. or LARBAI in Baluno and UWARDBMPC in Cabunbata.
Isabela’s rubber production is often shipped as cup lumps or in its semi-processed form because it lacks manufacturing plants to process rubber and turn them into finished products.
Reymundo Peña, officer-in-charge of the DTI in Isabela City, said: “While the current peace and order condition is good, the unstable and very costly power supply remains the biggest factor that delays the entry of manufacturing plants."
The supply of rubber clones and seedlings is not a problem for farmers, but they always complain about the high cost of shipping fertilizer and pest control chemicals.
“The farmers get their fertilizer needs and processing supplies from Zamboanga City and the cost of freight can be considered as prohibitive compared to when one purchases supplies from Manila," he said, adding, that local officials can seek the help of the national government to help them with this problem.
“Our business sector, especially the manufacturing can never be competitive because of the high cost of freight and electricity in Basilan,” he said. “The local economy can greatly benefit from its rich resources if processing plants could be set up here. It would create more jobs and more revenues,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

MILF Protests New Attack By Troops In South RP

Government troops guard Wednesday 22 Nov 2006 downtown Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Wednesday also protested an attack by soldiers on rebel forces in Maguindanao's Shariff Aguak town. (Mindanao Examiner)

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Nov) – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) accused government soldiers of attacking rebel forces in the southern Philippines.
MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said troops fired at rebels in the village of Kuloy in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao province and sparking a brief gun battle on Monday.
“Philippine government soldiers attacked rebel forces and triggered a brief exchange of gun fires. Luckily, no one was killed on the MILF side."
"We still don’t know if there were military casualties. The military attack is a violation of the cease-fire agreement,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
Kabalu said soldiers from the Army’s 64th Infantry Battalion were responsible for the attack. He said the MILF protested the attack and that the Malaysian-led international cease-fire observers are investigating the incident.
Military commanders in the area did not give any statement and ignored phone calls from reporters.Sporadic fighting between soldiers and rebels had been reported in the past with both sides accusing each other of violating the truce.
President Gloria Arroyo opened peace talks in 2001 with the MILF, the country's largest separatist rebel group fighting for an independent Muslim state in the southern region, in an effort to put an end to more than three decades of fighting in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: The Garden Of Malasag

Two women, Segundo and Kaipan, both members of the Higaunon tribe, watch exotic birds at the hinterland Garden of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cugman district in Cagayan De Oro City in the southern Philippines. The Garden of Malasag is famous for its exotic flora and fauna and bird-watching is fast becoming a tourist favorite in the village, where ethnic tribespeople work to maintain its natural beauty. (Mindanao Examiner/Mark Navales)

Journalists To File Charges vs Arroyo Husband

DAVAO CITY (Juan Magtanggol / 22 Nov) – Filipino media groups said they were supporting a class action lawsuit by journalists against President Gloria Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.

Arroyo has filed libel charges against 43 journalists over the last two years in connection with reports of alleged election fraud and corruption.

Arroyo and his lawyers have repeatedly denied the accusations.Philippine journalists and international media groups denounced Arroyo’s libel charges as an effort to muzzle critics.

The National Union of Journalist in Philippines has repeatedly denounced violations of freedom of the press in the country.

Reports said a separate case may be filed against Arroyo's husband with the UN Commission on Human Rights after journalists "exhaust local remedies."

Arroyo's spokeswoman, Juris Soliman, denied the libel suits were intended to stifle the media and said the articles in question were written with malice. (Mindanao Examiner/With a report from the Associated Press)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Photo: Peace And Conflict Journalism Network With Support Of Germany's InWent Hold Capacity-Building Seminar In South RP

PEACE AND CONFLICT JOURNALISM NETWORK. Filipino media members pose Monday 20 Nov 2006 with veteran German journalist Antonia Koop, center first row, at the Malasag Eco-Tourism Village in Cagayan de Oro City in the southern Philippines. The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON), supported by InWent, of Germany, has been holding capacity-building seminars and trainings for responsible journalism in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner/Mark Navales)

GMA Adviser Sees Light At End Of Tunnel

MANILA (Uly Israel / 21 Nov) - Manila's new proposal to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) buoyed optimism that the impasse in the peace talks could be resolved sooner, Secy. Jesus Dureza, the presidential adviser on peace process, said.

He said the government is optimistic the MILF would accept the proposal. "We are hoping that the government proposal will pave the way for the resumption of the peace talks," he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Peace talks ended in September 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.

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.

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.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief rebel peace negotiator, said the Philippine government offered the MILF 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 MILF warned that Manila should be blamed if the peace talks fail, saying, many rebels are slowly losing their patience on the five-year old peace talks. Dureza did not give details of the new proposal.

Dr Abraham Sakali, of the Institute of Islamic Studies of the University of the Philippines, proposed that the Mindanao conflict should be viewed with emphasis on the historical roots of the problem and on the ways by which the injustices could be corrected.

"Looking at the Muslim insurgency in its historical context could very well ease up the wrangling over the thorny issue of determining the size of Bangsamoro Homeland which has stalled the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)," he said.

"The age-old injustices committed by the Philippine Government against the Muslim population should be given weight and form part of deliberations in the ongoing peace talk. A deeper understanding of the Muslim's cry for independence should give the government negotiating panel a clearer picture on what adequate measures could be adopted to address long-held grievances and ultimately put an end to protracted hostilities in Mindanao," Sakali said.

Malaysia has agreed to initiate another round of talks between the Philippines and the MILF after President Gloria Arroyo personally requested to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for help in getting back the negotiations.Abdullah is the chairman of the influential Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

Peace talks between the government and MILF started in January 1997 but the absence of a neutral third party bogged down the initiative. It was only on March 24, 2001, after the all-out war against the MILF declared by former President Joseph Estrada that Malaysia, at the behest of the Philippine government, facilitated the talks.

However, in February 2003, despite the avowed all-peace policy of President Arroyo, an all-out war was again declared against the rebels, but both sides later agreed to resume peace talks.

Just this year, President Arroyo said that 80% of the peace talks have been completed and that permanent peace in Mindanao is within reach.

MILF chieftain Murad Ebrahim said the MILF will continue the peace talks, but warned the government that the rebel group would side with the Muslims should they decide on other means to continue their struggle for freedom.

"For the MILF, negotiation is still the best option to resolve the conflict in Mindanao. We have already spent so much time, efforts and resources for this," Ebrahim said. "However, if the government insists to dilly-dally and treat the peace talks as mere counterinsurgency tool, who can blame the Bangsamoro people if they choose other means to continue their legitimate struggle for freedom and self-determination? For the MILF, we will stand by our people." (Mindanao Examiner)

Zamboanga City Is Recipient Of McDonald's Day Care Center

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 21 Nov) – The Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) pledged to help put up a P1.5-million day care center in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga.
Called the Bahay Bulilit project, local government officials led by Mayor Celso Lobregat praised the RMHC for choosing Zamboanga as one the recipients of the day care center.Zamboanga City donated a site in the village of Santa Maria where the day care center would be constructed, Lobregat said.
McDonald’s vice president for marketing Margot Torres said the center would benefit poor children.“Through the Bahay Bulilit project, we hope not only to share our blessings with the under privileged, but likewise encourage others to be involved, through the program’s various activities,” she told reporters.
McDonald’s also donated day care centers in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Bataan and Cebu. By creating, finding and supporting programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children, RMHC is working to better the lives of children and their families around the world.
The three core programs of RMHC - the Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room and Ronald McDonald Care Mobile - are focused on helping families in need.
The Ronald McDonald House program began in 1974 based on a simple idea: Provide a "home away from home" for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
Since that time, more than 10 million families around the world have benefited from the comfort provided by a Ronald McDonald House.
The Ronald McDonald Family Room program extends the comfort of a Ronald McDonald House to a hospital setting. Typically located just steps from neonatal or pediatric intensive care units, the Family Room provide a place to escape the stress and tension of the hospital.
Through relationships with local health care providers, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile program brings cost-effective medical, dental and health education services directly to underserved children in both rural and urban areas around the world.
In addition to supporting the core programs, RMHC and its global network in 48 countries have awarded more than $400 million dollars in grants and program services. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Anti-Illegal Drug Campaign

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in the Muslim autonomous region (PDEA-ARMM) recently held its first Drug Prevention week in Parang town in Maguindanao province. In photo are Muslim autonomous regional police chief Joel Goltiao, from left, Parang Mayor Talib Abo, PDEA Chief Rene Orbe, Parang Vice-Mayor Adnan Biruar, Guiamelia Abo and Municipal Administrator Bai Amelia Abo show their urine sample. Mayor Abo leads more than 130 village and town officials, including policemen, to a series of drug tests as part of the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Once A Child Warrior

Davao City (Mai Gevera / 21 Nov) - Who would have thought a 24-year-old member of the Philippine Army now was once a child rebel who fought for the principles and ideology of the New People's Army?

At 12, Gelyn Dayong was swayed by the sweet promises of her recruiters. She left the comforts of her home, packed her things, and headed to where the leader directs her to go."Wala kaming kain, lakad kami nang lakad na hindi ko alam kung saan kami patungo," she said. At that young age, all she heard is angst from the mouth of her leaders.

The rebels painted a dark government in the mind of Gelyn. She then grew up hating laws, policies, programs, projects, and most especially government officials. The sweet girl who is supposedly seated inside a school classroom, getting knowledge from educators was rather trapped in a complicated plan that hinders her development and that of the whole county.

Instead of pen and paper, Gelyn got used of a gun as a daily gadget she calls her best friend. The gun has become her protector from her so-called faceless enemies. All she knew while she fires a bullet is her hatred that apparently grew from the strong education from the rebel leaders.

Gelyn never had experienced the excitement of her youth. Instead of minding simple, and easy problems usually encountered by children at her age, she learned to worry about a complex concern that even any past president of the country hardly solved.

She bravely trekked the hinterlands knowing that she's got what it takes to be great -- and that is her skill in fighting. Gelyn knew nothing on algebra, biology, chemistry that a sixth grader must have learned. However, she knew so much about war tactics, kinds of ammunition, and she's perfected it all at age 12.

The turning point of her life happened in an encounter of the NPA with some military forces in 1999. After some rigid training and ripe dedication to crush the government, Gelyn finally joined the battle.

She rushed the front line and fearlessly manipulated her so-called "toy" that downed some of the enemies. But the greatness she used to feel before the battle seemed to be a mere illusion after all.

"Natamaan ako sa paa, sa likod at malapit na akong mamatay dahil doon." Severely wounded during the fight, Gelyn hardly stood up. At that moment, she felt she was never great, after all. Death knocked at her while she struggled from severe bleeding. But she woke up in the comfort of some uniformed men, who she considered her enemies for quite some time.

A bit confused of the set-up, Gelyn felt nervous for a while thinking that it was again a trap she used to hear from her co-rebels. However, getting cured by those military men for many days then made her realize that these people were never bad, contrary to what she's been hearing from her colleagues.

"Nakita ko kung paano nila ako ituring bilang kapatid. Ito'y kabaliktaran kung paano ko sila ituring noon habang ako'y rebelde pa."Gelyn never expected that she would be saved by those who she considered her "enemies".

Now that she finally learned the real works of the government, Gelyn asked some military men if they could find her a job."Bata pa lang ako, gustung-gusto ko nang mag police. Kaya hiniling ko kung pwede ba nila akong tulungang makapasok sa ganung propesyon."

Equipped with the previous skills and the strong determination to change her life, Gelyn grabbed the program offered by the government.

At 24, she is now a member of the Philippine Army and an active advocate that constantly reminds the youth especially those in the barrios to value education so as not to be easily swayed by the sweet promises of the rebels."I-enjoy nyo ang inyong kabataan. Ito ang hindi ko kailanman naranasan noon."

A former warrior of the left side, Gelyn is now a proud warrior of the Filipino people especially the youth of today.She was one of the young speakers who shared her experience as child warrior during Sunday Peace Tech 5 held at the University of the Southeastern Philippines here and simultaneously linked with the participants in St. Paul College in Manila.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Photo: Seaweed Industry In Southern Philippines

(Mindanao Examiner MP4)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Uly Israel / 18 Nov) - Adam Omar, chairman of the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Seaweed Industry Foundation, Inc., said Filipino seaweed farmers get "a trickle of assistance" from the government, and that the industry is reeling due to natural calamity which ravaged the seaweed farms in Zamboanga City and other parts of Mindanao.
Seaweed growers in Western Mindanao region have never been able to bounce back since then, he said.
"We have to improve the quality of our seaweeds and we have to increase our production to maintain our lead in the world market," he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Dr Rodelyn Agbulos, Chief of the Zamboanga City Health Office

Images of journalists are reflected on the sunglasses of Dr Rodelyn Agbulos, the chief of the Zamboanga City Health Office, during an interview Friday 17 Nov 2006. Agbulos appeals to residents in Zamboanga City to clean their surroundings and throw away empty cans where mosquitoes breed to prevent the spread of the deadly dengue fever. (Mindanao Examiner)

Two Rebels Yield To Military In South RP

ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR (Mindanao Examiner / 17 Nov) – A farming couple who are members of the communist New People’s Army have surrendered Friday to the military in the southern Philippines, officials said on Friday.

Officials said Arselito Corpuz also known as Jojo Gumutong, and his wife Lenelyn Corpuz voluntarily surrendered to the Army’s 12th Division Reconnaissance Company in Leon Postigo town in Zamboanga del Norte province.

The two were members of the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee, said Major General Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the 1st Infantry Division.

He said the duo told interrogators that they broke away from the NPA because of the harsh life in the mountain. "They said more rebels wanted to surrender and begin a new life with their families, but many of them have been threatened with death by their commanders should they surrender to the government," Ferrer told the Mindanao Examiner.

“The military will continue to negotiate for possible surrender of communist terrorists in the area; armed confrontation is not the only solution to counter-insurgency. Cooperation and lateral coordination among local government units are also needed,” he said.

The NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF), is fighting the past three decades to topple the government and install a Maoist state in the country.

Peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels collapsed last year following the pullout of the National Democratic Front (NDF) from the talks due to its inclusion in the terror lists of the United States and the European Union.

Rebel leaders demanded that Manila asks the United States and the European Union to strike them off from the terror lists before they resume peace talks. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Muslim Man Killed In Zamboanga Attack

Mass burial Friday 17 Nov 2006 for mostly victims of summary executions in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 17 Nov) - Unidentified gunmen killed a Muslim man in a daring broad daylight attack Friday, just hours after authorities buried 26 corpses, mostly victims of summary executions in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.
Jan Jailani was buying donuts when he was shot from behind by two motorcycle gunmen at around 2 p.m., relatives told reporters. "He was just there buying donuts and they killed him in cold blood," one relative told the Mindanao Examiner.
Police said it was still investigating the killing which occurred barely two hours after authorities buried 26 cadavers of mostly victims of gun slaying here.
"The corpses were all unclaimed," said council woman Mila Velasquez, who led other officials in the village of Talabaan where the bodies had been buried in a common grave. "We have to bury all these unclaimed cadavers.At least give them a proper burial," she said.
Dozens of policemen and soldiers and civilians had been killed in a string of gun attacks in Zamboanga City the past months.
No groups or individuals have claimed responsibility for the killings, but authorities blamed hired assassins and the Abu Sayyaf as behind the spate of attacks.
More than 200 people had been killed in violent attacks and summary executions in Zamboanga City the past years and traders feared for their lives.(Mindanao Examiner)