Friday, June 30, 2006

Wage boards in other regions wrapping up deliberations, hearings; set to issue WO soon

Following the issuance of a new wage order in the National Capital Region, other Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards (RTWPBs) across the country are set to follow suit as they are currently in the process of wrapping up their deliberations and public hearings.

Acting Labor and Employment Secretary Danilo P. Cruz said on Wednesday that after conducting public hearings, the wage boards will meticulously study the recommendations of both employer and labor sectors.

Under the law, a wage hike petition must go through a public hearing and deliberation by a seven-man regional wage board composed of two representatives each from labor and business, and three from the government.

Undersecretary for Labor Standards Romeo C. Lagman said that those regional wage boards which did not receive wage petitions, have also been conducting their public hearings for subsequent issuance of new wage orders.

"They do it 'motu propio' or even in the absence of any petition which they have been doing since the wage boards were created in 1989 under the Wage Rationalization Act," Lagman said.

Meanwhile, National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) Officer-in-Charge Rebecca Calzado reported that the schedule of public hearings in various regions are as follows: Zamboanga (Region 9), June 27, 28 and 29; Southern Mindanao (Region 11), June 30; Ilocos Region (Region I), July 3, 4, 6, and 7; Eastern Visayas (Region 8), July 4; and Calabarzon and Western Visayas, July 5.

Cagayan Valley (Region 2), Central Visayas (Region VII) and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao are on July 6; Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), July 7; Bicol Region (Region 5), July 10 and Central Luzon (Region 3), July 13.

All labor groups, business groups, government officials are invited to attend these public consultations, Cazado said.

source: DOLE Information and Publication Service

Wage Order: Wage Board in NCR grants P25 wage increase

MINIMUM wage earners in Metro Manila will receive an additional P25 in their basic pay by middle of July, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today announced.
Acting Labor and Employment Secretary Danilo P. Cruz said the Regional

Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in the National Capital Region
(NCR) has approved Wage Order NCR-12, granting the P25 per day increase in the
basic pay of all minimum wage earners in the NCR.

The latest wage order takes effect on July 11, 2006 or 15 days after its
publication in a newspaper of general circulation. It will bring the minimum
wage rates in NCR to P350 per day (P300 basic wage plus P50 ECOLA) for workers
in Non-Agriculture.

"The Board, in approving the Wage Order, intended to provide immediate relief
to workers and their families from the rising cost of living brought about by
the continued rise in the price of oil in the world and domestic markets without
impairing the viability of business enterprises," the acting Labor chief said,
adding that the latest wage order has already surpassed the P125 across the
board wage hike being sought in Congress since it was filed in 1999.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Labor Standards Romeo Lagman said that the wage
adjustment represents a 7.7 percent increase in the minimum wage of NCR, which
is higher than the 6.3 percent required to restore the purchasing power of
minimum wage workers in the NCR to the June 2005 level when the previous wage
order was issued.

"This P25 adjustment also translates to an additional P654 per month for
employees working six days a week," Lagman said.

For her part, National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC)
Officer-in-Charge Rebecca J. Calzado said that the Order should not be construed
to prevent workers from, bargaining for higher wages and other terms and
conditions of employment.

She said that wage boards in other regions are expected to announce their
decisions in the coming weeks.

DOLE-NCR Director Ricardo Martinez, who also chair the wage board, said they
came up with the P25 increase after conducting public hearing and lengthy
deliberation among wage board members composed of representatives from the
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Economic and Development
Authority (Neda), labor and employers group.

"In coming up with Wage Order No. 12 for the National Capital Region, the
members of the Regional Board considered the needs of workers as well as the
capacity of the employers to give the needed relief for minimum wage earners,"
he said.

There are an estimated three million minimum wage earners in the country and the
bulk of which are in Metro Manila.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BCDA rebuffed

HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
The Philippine Star

The Northern Luzon business community appears to have won the initial round in its bitter tiff with the beleaguered Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and its subsidiary, the Poro Point Management Corp. over the issue of the attempted takeover by these agencies of the Poro Point seaport from its current private operator.

It will be recalled that the region’s businessmen raised a howl when they found out about the takeover move, fearing this would set a bad precedent and send the wrong signals to local and international investors who may be worried about how BCDA is treating investors. They said they saw no legal nor moral basis for the seizure of the facility, noting that the operator, Bulk Handlers Inc. (BHI), has faithfully kept its part of a 1999 deal with BCDA despite the latter’s apparent breach when it failed deliver several hectares of land in Poro Point to BHI.

Thanks to the courageous judges of the San Fernando, La Union regional trial court who bucked alleged pressure for them to hold their reins on this case, BCDA and PPMC suffered legal blows after the court slapped them with a temporary restraining order, and later with a writ of preliminary injunction.

At this point, the two agencies cannot proceed with the planned takeover reportedly engineered by two Singsons: BCDA and PPMC chair Filadelfo Singson-Rojas, a former Yuchengco junior employee; and Felix Singson-Racadio, PPMC president and allegedly Singson-Rojas‚ relative.

The ruckus has raised a lot of questions.

For one, was the bungled takeover plot hatched under the very nose of former AFP chief and now BCDA president Narciso Abaya? The business community found Abaya’s statement after the takeover plot was divulged by national media both comic and sad. Comic, because Abaya appeared to be clumsily dissociating himself from the potential legal mess triggered by the Singsons by saying "Only the courts can declare the Poro Point contract null and void". Well, the big question was why didn’t Abaya tell the Singsons this right away so the legal brouhaha could have been avoided?

Sad, because there is a growing and gnawing sense in the business community and political circles that Abaya is not really on top of things at the BCDA – a forlorn figure head, as some would describe. The big question, therefore, is: Was the bungled take-over plot hatched without Abaya’s knowledge?

The corollary question, of course, is this: Who really is running this giant government agency with billions of pesos and valuable real estate in its arsenal of assets?

One of our media friends from another daily cited an incident which tends to reinforce the fear that Abaya is not in control. Our friend said Singson-Rojas attempted to have the Poro Point take-over resolution taken up by the BCDA board after the TRO has been issued. The move by Singson-Rojas was made while Abaya was out of the country. So who really is in charge?

Now, the talk in media circles is that BCDA has gotten the services of several highly paid "consultants" to engage in an "adverse information campaign" against Poro Point. Isn’t this contrary to Administrative Order 103 issued by President GMA directing the continued adoption of austerity measures in the government?

We hope this rumor is not true and Abaya must once again disown this. But the analysis in media circles is that the "consultants" are loyal to the Singsons and not to Abaya, and are once again apprehensive that the reported black propaganda against Poro Point may have been hatched under Abaya’s nose.

Noticed the barrage of good news lately from BCDA attributed to Singson-Rojas and not to you, General?

The "consultants" have been reportedly trying to get some of our fellow writers to bite their spiel that "Poro Point is a haven for smuggling".

The "consultants" it seems, are unable to answer the basic question: How can smuggling take place at Poro Point when there are three or four major government agencies present in that facility – Customs, Bureau of Immigration and PPMC itself? Are the BCDA consultants accusing these agencies of sleeping on the job?

Further, our media friends point out that the Poro Port that is the subject of the PR assault has actually been cited as one of the country’s most efficient ports.

Our media friends, however, noted that the BCDA "consultants" have succeeded in getting their piece used by some tabloids. But the concern is that the "consultants" materials are making collateral damage out of Rep. Mikee Arroyo himself. One piece which landed in a tabloid courtesy of the BCDA "consultants" averred that the effort to kick the current Poro Point operator is due to the interest of the President’s son in running the facility.

If for this reason alone, Abaya must quickly check if these consultants operations are properly supervised by his agency. Otherwise, the Palace might be pissed off to know that a government agency is spending PR money to hit the President’s son. Making collateral damage out of the President’s son might make collateral damage out of the general in this operation that might have been set into motion while he was away on those frequent trips overseas.

Finally, if BCDA does want to hit on smuggling in Northern Luzon, our media friends from that region suggest that Abaya recommend the investigation of the ports that have token supervision from government agencies.

These northern Luzon-based journalists tell us that "Poro Point" is actually not just one but four ports. The current object of the smear campaign is the Poro Point Wallace port over which the PPMC attempted to take over and from which Abaya has dissociated himself.

There are three other sub-ports under the "Poro Point" label: Salumague, Currimao, and Sual.

We do not know if these ports are under BCDA supervision. But it might help convey that Abaya is still in control of his agency if he himself could conduct a probe on purported smuggling in these ports.

It might be that by putting the heat of the black propaganda on Poro Point Wallace, BCDA just might be missing out on where the real action is. Try Salumague, Currimao, and Sual, General. Our Northern Luzon-based media friends just might have some good leads for you.

Who knows, the black propaganda against Poro Point Wallace might just be a smokescreen to hide what is happening in the other three "Poro Point" ports.

Extend Masinloc deadline, face graft raps, Energy execs warned

By Angie M. Rosales

Energy officials involved in the sale of the biggest asset of the debt-ridden National Power Corp. (Napocor) under the mandated privatization plan, the controversial 600-megawatt Masinloc coal-fired plant in Zambales, could possibly earn graft charges the moment they pursue their announced plans of granting another extension of the deadline for YNN Pacific Consortium to fulfill its downpayment of $227 million due on Friday.

Specifically, executives of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) may be held liable before the Office of the Ombudsman, being the body involved in the sale of Masinloc that was bid out in December 2004, senators yesterday claimed.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Sergio Osmena III issued the stern warning as they noted the forthcoming deadline set by Psalm on YNN of June 30 on the payment of the so-called upfront fee, which represents 40 percent of the bid price the private firm offered in bagging the $562-million Masinloc contract.

“They (Psalm officials) could be charged with (graft) for granting unwarranted benefits to YNN,” Pimentel said, which possibility Osmeña seconded.

He added the same officials might also be indicted for what he called a grossly disadvan-tageous deal made with the power company, whose financial and technical capabilities are under question.

Osmeña said the “gist is that YNN did not pay (the upfront fee for Masinloc on the date specified in the sale agreement). And Psalm did not forfeit its deposit. It (Psalm) even paid its officers a success bonus for a non-consummated sale.”

He and Pimentel were referring to earlier reports that Psalm supposedly again agreed to extend the deadline of payment by YNN, allegedly until August this year in case the firm would default on its financial obligations.

The original closing date was last March.

The report on the purported third deadline came just as when speculations were rife that YNN was on the lookout supposedly for a new partner after its Australian investor backed out from the contract.

Recent developments, however, showed that the consortium managed to convince the Malaysian firm Ranhill Berhad, which later was alleged to have decided to buy out YNN from the deal, a matter that lawmakers bewailed as unwarranted under the contract.

Pimentel has since proposed to the government to nullify the sale to YNN, which has repeatedly reneged on its payment of the $277- million upfront fee, and instead declare a failed bidding and hold a new one.

Besides the matter of posing a violation to the agreed scheme in disposing of Masinloc, the senator said he is also wary over Ranhill allegedly eyeing raising the long-overdue financial obligation.

Pimentel added YNN’s performance bond – originally amounting to $11.2 million and later increased to $14 million – should be forfeited in favor of the government in accordance with the terms and conditions of the sale agreement.

“YNN Pacific’s agreement with Psalm should be cancelled and its bond should be confiscated,” he said, adding Ranhill should be treated as prospective bidder.

Ranhil Berhad earlier disclosed plans to take over the YNN Consortium and raise more than $230 million to take control of the Masinloc facility.

The entry of Ranhil Berhad will supposedly enable YNN to pay the $227-million upfront fee before the expiration of the reextended payment deadline on June 30.

The Masinloc facility, the biggest coal-fired plant of the Napocor, was awarded in a bid sale in Dec. 2004 to YNN Pacific, composed of the Filipino firm YNN Holdings and Australia’s Great Pacific Financial Group.

YNN Pacific was given nine months to pay the upfront fee of $227 million (representing 40 percent of the $561.7- million acquisition price).

But when the consortium failed to pay the obligation on Dec. 31, 2005, the deadline was extended to June 30, 2006.

During the six-month extension, YNN Pacific reportedly negotiated with Ranhill Berhad to become its new investment partner.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, in a statement on the eve of the June 30 deadline set by Psalm for YNN to come up with the upfront fee, said the government should now rescind its contract of sale with YNN and let the government operate the power plant.

“The government is well off operating the plant, which produces one of the cheapest electricity rates at P2.80 per kilowatt-hour. It would increase to more than P4.00 per kilowatt-hour once it is sold to the private sector,” Casino noted.

Rep. Aurelio Umali of Nueva Ecija, for his part, also yesterday said the government should no longer allow the extension of the deadline for YNN Pacific to pay the 40 percent downpayment for the $562-million power plant.

Umali also noted that Psalm had already extended the deadline and “extending it again would be detrimental to the government.”

Gerry Baldo - TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL — The wages of filth

The Philippine Star

There is a price to pay for filth, and it’s not cheap. The World Bank, in a study on sanitation and sewerage in the Philippines, reported that the country spends approximately P3.3 billion in health costs each year for illnesses attributed to contaminated water. Almost every day 2,000 cases of diarrhea are recorded nationwide, with 25 deaths. Fish yields have also dropped over the years due to water pollution, with annual losses placed at P17 billion. The country’s overall economic losses due to poor sanitation and sewerage are estimated at a whopping $1.3 billion a year, according to the World Bank.

The WB estimates that the country needs P211.21 billion over 10 years to address the problem. That’s a lot of money for the cash-strapped government, but the country will have to start investing in sanitation and sewerage facilities. The World Bank study showed that among 18 Asian urban centers, Metro Manila is the third worst in terms of access to sewerage. The situation is worse outside Metro Manila, where access to sewerage networks was found to be non-existent in many areas.

The figures aren’t surprising, considering that in the 21st century, water supply concessionaires still cannot provide full coverage even in Metro Manila. The water supply situation is worse outside the capital, where many areas rely on communal artesian wells for all their water needs. Lacking safe water, sanitation and sewerage facilities, outbreaks of diseases including cholera are becoming common even in urban centers.

The problem can only worsen as the population continues to grow while resources dwindle. Experts are projecting a water crisis in the near future, with developing countries to be hit hardest. The Philippines is familiar with the problem and must move quickly to prevent the situation from getting worse.

Fil-Am arrested for illegally recruiting Filipino security men for Iraq

MANILA (AP) - Philippine government agents have arrested a Filipino-American man on suspicion of illegally recruiting ex-soldiers to serve as security personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

Mark Rae Villacruzes was arrested last week in Mandaluyong city in suburban Manila after eight former soldiers he recruited for Iraq filed a complaint against him for allegedly withholding part of their compensation, the National Bureau of Investigation said.

NBI Special Action Unit chief Vicente de Guzman III said an investigation showed Villacruzes recruited the men in March 2004 to serve as security personnel at U.S. installations in Iraq with a monthly salary of US$1,000.

But Villacruzes, who claimed to represent a U.S.-based company, failed to pay the men an agreed $9,000 each war compensation for their six-month stints, de Guzman said.

When the men returned to the Philippines, they sought out Villacruzes, but he was overseas. The men then filed a complaint at the government-run Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration, which found Villacruzes to be an unlicensed recruiter and referred the case to the NBI.

Villacruzes was arrested last Friday, along with another man, after two of the former soldiers tipped off authorities about his whereabouts. He was charged with illegal recruitment. The penalty varies from two years to life in prison.

According to de Guzman, Villacruzes is believed to have sent at least 100 Filipino men to Iraq in March 2004 alone _ before the Philippine government imposed a ban on sending workers to the country _ and was believed to have continued recruiting until he was arrested last week.

The recruits, all with "combat experience" either from the military or police, were provided with high-powered firearms to secure U.S. installations or to serve as convoy security, he said. It wasn't immediately clear if the installations were military bases or private companies.

The government's employment agency for overseas workers has posted an announcement on its Web site that it "does not process documents of Filipinos hired as 'civilian fighting force' for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan."

More than three million test-tube babies worldwide

Agence France-Presse

PRAGUE -- More than three million children have been born through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) since the birth 28 years ago of Louise Brown, the world's first "test tube" baby, a fertility conference here was told on Wednesday.
Europe leads the world in this treatment, initiating 56 percent of all cycles, or attempts, at pregnancy through IVF, said Jacques de Mouzon, of the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies.

De Mouzon, presenting figures for 2002 provided by 52 countries, said about one million IVF cycles are carried out per year, resulting in about 200,000 babies annually.

One in six couples worldwide experience some form of infertility problem, but there are huge variations in the availability of IVF and in its success rate, he noted.

"The average pregnancy rate for each cycle, using fresh embryos, was 25.1 percent and the delivery rate was 18.5 percent," said de Mouzon.

"However, these rates varied from 13.6 percent to 40.5 percent for pregnancy, and 9.1 percent to 37.1 percent for delivery," depending on the country, he said.

IVF is most available in Israel, where there were 3,260 cycles per million inhabitants in 2002, followed by Denmark, with 2,031 cycles per million. In Denmark and the Netherlands, more than one baby in 25 is born through IVF, the highest rate in the world.

Among those countries that contributed data, the region with the lowest IVF availability was Latin America, with less than 100 cycles per million.

The report added that improvements in IVF in some countries, especially in the Nordic region, meant that doctors there were now usually able to transfer a single embryo into the uterus rather than multiple embryos.

The conventional technique in IVF is to use multiple-embryo transfers, in the hope that at least one embryo will adhere to the womb wall and develop into a fetus.

But the risk is that twins or triplets may result. Multiple pregnancies carry significant risks that the babies will be born underweight and have development problems.

As for infertility, 20-30 percent of cases were linked to physiological causes in men; 20-35 percent to physiological causes in women; 25-40 percent are due to joint problem; and in 10-20 percent of cases, no cause is found.

As determined in previous research, infertility is also closely linked to smoking, obesity, stress and age.

The data was presented at the final day of a conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE).

Mismatch between skills and jobs

THE second round of the Graduate Tracer Study officially commences today as research directors of 60 colleges and universities from all over the country come together to begin the arduous process of answering the question that has been baffling industry and academe in the last few years. No, the question has nothing to do with how those voices got caught on tape.

The question, in layman’s terms, is what exactly is causing the mismatch between what academe produces (skills) and what industry needs (jobs)? Hopefully, the answers will lead to prescriptions that will help academic institutions and national policymakers develop a more responsive and relevant educational environment that will enhance the overall competitiveness of Filipino graduates in the marketplace.

But first, an introduction about the Tracer Study. It is a nationwide “tracer” study that aims to gather feedback on the whereabouts of college graduates from the time they graduated to the present. At the same time, it aims to conduct a retroactive assessment of what aspects of the graduates’ academic preparation helped, or conversely, hindered them from getting employment.

The GTS is spearheaded by the Commission on Higher Education, in partnership with some government institutions (e.g., the Department of Labor and Employment), industries (represented by the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines or PMAP) and a number of colleges and universities. CHED hopes to make the GTS an annual study in order to come up with a bigger and wider perspective of the situation instead of mere snapshots of the problem. I am privy to the details of the project because I sit as industry representative to the technical working group of the study.

The conduct of the study is imperative given the sorry fact that with the depletion of most of our other natural resources, the only remaining source of competitive advantage that we have today as a country is our people. And it is one resource that we have in large quantities, thanks to the dogged insistence of some sectors that population growth is not a problem in this country. Maybe not, but educating them and providing marketable skills is another thing, but sigh, that is another column.

Nevertheless, people—Filipinos—are our best shot toward regaining our competitive advantage. Unfortunately, it is a paradoxical situation because regardless of how many times we chant “The Filipino Can!” every day, it is also a fact that current skill levels, particularly among new entrants to the workplace, are seriously waning. It does not help of course that most of the jobs that are available require higher level of communicating and thinking skills, which many educational institutions are hard put providing given the quality of teachers available. It is a vicious cycle, and we are not even talking about the more serious stuff such as the commercialization of education and all the other issues that are bound to send blood pressures soaring.

The problem is serious and systemic, such that despite the projected increases in employment opportunities, unemployment and underemployment figures are hardly unchanged and are in fact growing.

Thus, on any given Sunday, the classified ads section of some newspapers make a killing with the sheer volume of want ads hawking all kinds of perks and promises. A cursory look at the classifieds gives one the impression that there is a major boom in the country’s economy, with many companies posting full-page ads that compete for attention using every conceivable advertising gimmickry. In some cases, the ads come very, very close to begging pathetically, “Please apply, we are desperate!”

And yet, a great number of job openings remain unfilled. Paradoxically again, there are long lines of applicants. A friend who works as a recruitment manager of a major call center reveals that they process close to a thousand applicants a day and it is a major cause for celebration if they get to hire five heads among the thousand. It is almost like the search for that proverbial needle in a haystack. Friends who provide temporary staff to major companies also bewail the difficulty of finding applicants for even basic clerical positions.

There is clearly a mismatch between what academe produces and what industry needs. It is time to take a more serious analysis of the problem.

In an article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Sunday, Personnel Management Association of the Philippines president, lawyer Rico de Guzman, lamented the mismatch and called for more proactive partnerships between industry and academe in solving the problem. The bases for his statements were the results of a PMAP study conducted recently that looked into the overall preparedness of new entrants to the workplace. Some of the identified weaknesses of new entrants were in the competency areas of impact, communication skills, analytical and conceptual skills and initiative.

Today, I will just focus on impact not only because it ranked first, but also because it is the one that is least understood (not to mention the fact that as usual, I am running out of column space). Impact refers to how candidates are able to package themselves and their qualifications. This is manifested behaviorally in terms of the ability to project the right attitude, confidence and overall fit for the job being sought. At the risk of being called bigots, many among us Human Resources practitioners do find it exasperating when more and more applicants come to the job application process in what can only be tactfully described as a jologs persona. Not that there is something inherently wrong with being jologs (there’s a jologs persona within each one of us!), but what company will hire someone who comes to a job interview wearing three shades of yellow on his hair, garbed in pants where the crotch is at level with the knees, and with nine earrings on each earlobe? I guess it wouldn’t hurt as much if only the applicant can actually distinguish a verb from a bird, or can answer a question logically. I am exaggerating of course, but you get the drift. Self-expression (which is different from ability to communicate) is a desirable trait among applicants only when the basic qualifications are present.

To be fair, it is possible that no one is coaching new entrants into the workplace about the expectations of industry, or of the protocols attached to the job application process. It is primarily a marketing situation and the product is the applicant’s qualifications. And thus, we come full circle again. There is a mismatch that needs to be addressed quickly and more comprehensively.
Bong Austero - Manila Standard

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

DPWH, outdoor advertising group to meet on proposed billboard ban

The Philippine Star

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials are set to meet with executives of outdoor advertising firms to discuss the government’s plan to ban billboards along major roads in the country.

DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said he expects the Outdoor Advertising Association of the Philippines (OAAP) to present its position on the issue and recommend specific control mechanisms on the circular on billboards construction and regulation, which the department would soon be issuing.

"They requested for a meeting with me because, according to them, most violators of the law are apparently not members of their organization. They also informed me they continue to police their ranks," Ebdane told reporters in an interview.

The OAAP has reportedly expressed support for the plan of the DPWH to ban billboards within a 100-meter radius from the center of national roads and transmission lines.

"The OAAP welcomes all reasonable regulation and the common ground that balances all business, safety and environmental concerns. Let the legitimate and law-abiding advertising stakeholders together determine the standards of excellence and safety," the group said.

Ebdane said the DPWH is currently working on a circular for the implementation of new rules on putting up billboards on major and national roads, which was proposed by the department’s National Building Code Development Office following complaints from motorists.

The DPWH chief added the proposed circular, which is being reviewed by the department’s legal office, also involves the removal of all existing billboards within the identified boundary in six months.

"We’re still working on the circular. There are some provisions that have to be studied by the legal department, including the 100-meter radius provision which is not yet covered by law, but it is included in the recommended bill filed by Sen. Miriam Santiago," Ebdane explained.

He likewise revealed that he met with Santiago last week.

"I requested her to give us input so that offhand we can consider her bill, especially on provisions in the circular that can be recommended without passing through legislation," the DPWH chief said

The proposal to ban billboards was raised after it was found that they affect concentration of motorists and could jeopardize public safety, especially during rainy season. — Edu Punay

BOC readies 43 new cases vs smugglers

By Edu Punay - -The Philippine Star

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said yesterday it would file 43 new criminal cases against suspected smugglers found violating the Tariff and Customs Code.

Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said the bureau is now collating evidence in preparation for the filing of separate cases against at least 10 companies and several Customs employees with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

BoC Legal Office director Raynaldo Umali identified one of the companies as Kingson International Trading Corp., which was involved in the smuggling of a shipload of steel products worth an estimated P80 million.

Umali, who also heads the BOC’s Run After the Smugglers (RATS) program, said a number of individuals would also be charged criminally, along with the company, in connection with the smuggling of luncheon meat, ceramic tiles and used clothing.

Customs Deputy Commissioner Celso Templo earlier said the DOJ provided the BoC with three special prosecutors to assist the bureau in the campaign against smuggling.

Templo said the prosecutors would also help the BoC in filing new cases, as well as monitor old cases pending in court.

Meanwhile, Umali said they need more lawyers in the RATS program to ensure that all cases would be monitored.

"In the past, there have been instances when a defendant submits a counter affidavit and there are certain issues in that affidavit that need to be answered. Since there was no lawyer assigned there, we did not receive the court notice and lost by default," he pointed out.

The strengthening of the legal mechanisms is part of the bureau’s reform agenda.

Quick, seal Masinloc deal while GMA is out

POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual, Jr.
The Philippine Star

AGAINST LAW & LOGIC: The administration says it might not see again a big offer for the power plant in Masinloc, Zambales, if it orders a new bidding after voiding the $561.74-million winning bid and confiscating the $14.14-million bond of the winner for repeatedly failing to pay the down payment.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm), which oversees the transaction, says that it is better to give YNN Pacific Consortium, the winning bidder, more time to produce the $227.54-million down payment than to enforce the law on failed biddings.

This unusual position of Psalm goes against the law, against logic and against the facts.

It betrays a lack of confidence in the marketability of the 600-megawatt Masinloc plant (the most valuable among the power generators being bid out), a bias for YNN and its boss Sunny Sun, and canine devotion to whoever is dictating Psalm’s moves to deliver Masinloc to the Malaysian firm Ranhill Berhad. * * *
RIGHT CONNECT: It is clear that YNN may have the connections but not the money to make good its $561.74-million offer for Masinloc. Its paid-up capital at the time of the bidding was a measly P625,000, which was raised to P2.5 million only this month after the anomaly was found out.

Another proof that YNN does not have the capacity to pay is that it will get the $227.54-million for the down payment not from its own pocket but from Ranhill, which is not a party to the bidding but is just buying out YNN from Sun and his associates for another $8 million.

A smart operator itself, Ranhill is holding tightly to its money, which according to its disclosure to the Malaysia Stock Exchange actually consists of funds to be borrowed from some bank. * * *
MERALCO DEAL: Ranhill has made clear that it would pay YNN/Sun its $8-million buyout price, the $227.54-million overdue down payment for Masinloc, and the balance of the $561.74-million bid price only if YNN would deliver on a silver platter a power supply contract with the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Now if you were a government official with your hand on the Masinloc lever would you follow the law on failed biddings, and then order a new bidding at the risk of derailing the gravy train?

But why would Psalm and the big boss be afraid that investors in a new bidding may not have enough money if it is true as we are being made to believe that Ranhill has $8 million and an additional $561.74 million to buy YNN and Masinloc in one blow? Cannot Ranhill itself now bid directly?

Why is Psalm and the people upstairs afraid to seize the performance bond and displease YNN despite the glaring irregularities surrounding its bid to secure and then sell Masinloc even before it would generate one watt of electricity? What hold has YNN, and maybe Ranhill, have on them? * * *
SAVE $8M: What is more logical and more profitable for the government is to cancel the last bidding and seize the $14.14-million performance bond of YNN (which Ranhill merely passed on to it because YNN had no money in the first place).

If Ranhill is not an adventurer like YNN but is coming in as a bonafide investor, it can save at least $8 million by waiting for the cancellation of the YNN award and the opening of new bidding where it can participate armed with insider information.

Going to another round of bidding may pose some risk (in the sense that Ranhill might lose to other parties), but bidding directly instead of buying out a middleman/broker may turn out cheaper than financing the false steps of YNN.

By their body language, one can feel that Psalm and its bosses are committed to YNN and Ranhill. Guess why.

If the game plan is to force the transaction despite the clear irregularities, they might rush it in the next few days while President Gloria Arroyo and her husband are in Europe ostensibly unaware of the Masinloc stink.

Sun Star Editorial: Biting back

IF ONE has been threatened, it's a natural reaction to bite back. If you or anyone else have found a single new policy detrimental to the whole, there's no reason to be complacent about it. If one is capable of doing something to counteract what is found to be questionable, then by all means.

This can be likened to the issue of the exorbitant increase in zonal valuations in the City of San Fernando. The new land valuation, according to businessmen in the city, is "detrimental to the realty business and eventually to the economic flow of the city."

Properties along Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road, after having been pegged at P50,000 per square meter drew surprised gasps from traders, as well as city and provincial officials.

They were simply flabbergasted that all they had to say among themselves was, "It's too much."

Too much, indeed, especially after Governor Mark Lapid's request to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to reconsider the revised zonal values being implemented has been turned down.

The governor has been told: "...this Office finds no grounds to void what has been officially approved."

Tsk, tsk.

Now, businessmen are contemplating on filing for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the BIR from implementing the new zonal valuation.

We cannot blame them for resorting to a TRO, for a lot is at stake with this increase in zonal valuations. This is their way of biting back, for they -- and their businesses -- have been threatened.

What BIR officials have to say about this, we have yet to find out, but it seems they are adamant about implementing the new rates.

Well then, if they are intent on doing what they think is right, the same goes with the city's traders who somehow feel "cheated". It's TRO or nothing.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Pinoys are drilled to master reciting call-center scripts


There are two types of training—general and specific.

General training is provided to a group of people regardless of their profession. It involves the teaching of skills and the infusion of characteristics that are equally useful in a number of firms, industries or occupations.

Specific training is given to a group of people sharing the same or similar nature of work. It is training valuable only to the specific firm that gives it.

General training crosses borders in the area of skills, knowledge and competency. Specific training is limited to the skills, knowledge and competency required within the borders of one’s job description.

Most of the time, general training is the responsibility of local government units and departments. Examples of these are DTI’s Livelihood Training Programs, DepEd’s Information and Computer Technology (ICT) Literacy Training Programs and TESDA’s Community-Based Training and Enterprise Development.

TESDA Enterprise Development graduates acquire skills that allow them to venture into businesses within their communities.

Specific training is the sole responsibility of firms and companies. Examples of these are product briefings and sales training for drug, sales and marketing companies. Particular areas of knowledge and skills are given to upgrade the employees’ knowledge, skills and competence as required for the jobs available in the company.

GMA-TESDA’s program is specific training

The President’s TESDA-managed Training for Work Scholarships falls in the category of specific training. The program provides its participants with the basics and skills to qualify for the call-center job.

The course outline includes training in communication and listening skills, diction and intonation and touches a little on grammar, customer service and sales, which is exactly what a call-center trainer would administer to his trainees.

Why subsidize such a program? Call-center training should be the sole responsibility of the call-center companies.

Ironically, the call centers are aware of this fact. Many of these companies have established training programs in house or in partnership with private universities and human resource companies.

For instance, outsourcer FuturePerfect is helping the Mapúa Institute of Technology develop its English-language curriculum and gearing it to its specific requirements. IBM-Daksh, on the other hand, is providing voice and accent training for students of the Asia Pacific College. John Clements Consulting has tied up with TESDA to train so-called near-hires in several remote regions in the Philippines.

In Mrs. Arroyo’s speech at the recent opening of one of the country’s biggest call centers, she said, "We have released P500 million for scholarships to what we call ‘call-center finishing schools’ to make your jobs easier when you’re looking for customer-care agents."

Is the President having that program implemented to relieve call centers of their burdens of training their employees and near hires? Will the program guarantee its participants that they will improve their chances of landing a job as call-center agents?

Shouldn’t the aim be to improve the English and skills proficiency of as many Filipinos as possible so that they can land jobs not just in call centers but also in other BPO fields?

My brother works as operations supervisor and part-time trainer in one of the country’s largest call centers. He reveals that most call centers require familiarity with US cities and states and area codes. Although grammar and comprehension are a plus, most call centers don’t focus on those areas, but on voice mechanics, particularly accent and diction.

"Our trainees are provided with a one-page article which they will record. The recording should contain elements of American speech—again, in accent and diction. The final recorded piece will be our basis on whether we will give the trainee a job offer or not."

The training given under the Presidents’ TESDA program is almost identical to most call centers’ in-service training programs. TESDA disclosed that its call-center courses are based on the training curriculum of the call centers.

Materials gathered by The Times show that program participants will be trained in how to answer phone calls and in voice mechanics (proper tone, rate, pitch, volume and that elusive American accent). Other areas in the training curriculum include product briefing and marketing and grammar improvement.

Read, memorize and master

It can therefore be correctly said that the training given by call centers is "scripted." And therefore the training received by scholars in the President’s TESDA program is for them to learn to read, memorize and master the script so they can recite it sounding like Americans.

Trainees learn to use scripts and ready-made lines of speech to be used to answer customers’ questions and requests for help. The scripts and answers give the feeling that quality customer service is being given by the call-center agent—who speaks with an acceptable American accent.

Is this what Filipinos really need to multiply their ability to contribute to economic productivity?

If it is still the aim of the government to provide Filipinos with skills and competencies, why limit the areas of knowledge to the requirements of call centers? Why follow scripts that curtail one’s potentials? If graduates of the finishing course fail in the initial steps of screening and hiring, what other options do they have? If they are hired as call-center agents, but eventually want a career change, where will they start?

The government should give training that will upgrade the Filipinos’ skills not only in one area but in all areas.

Friday, June 23, 2006

GMA out to reverse skid in English skills

By Rene Q. Bas, Sunday Times Editor

President Arroyo has set aside P600 million to upgrade the skills of teachers in English and help reverse the deterioration in the proficiency of Filipino students in the language.

Sources in the Cabinet told The Manila Times Sunday that through a package if Mrs. Arroyo wants to increase the Filipinos’ competitiveness in business-processes outsour­cing (BPO).

A special report in the Sunday Times noted that education and BPO experts considered the P500 million the President ordered released for her “Training for Work Scholarships” program was “a misal­location of funds.”

The source said Mrs. Arroyo believes the report would have found fairer if it had focused not only on the scholarship program but also dwelt on her “many other educational initiatives.”

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye also on Sunday defended the program.

He said among the steps the President has taken to reverse the trend of poor English proficiency that stops the Philippines from becoming the global leader in BPO are:

• The allocation of approximately P600 million for the Department of Education program to upgrade the skills of English, Science and Math teachers.

• Her reiteration that English should be the medium of instruction in Philippine schools.

• Her push for Congress, as early as 2004, to pass a law making English the medium of instruction. Proadministration Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu has filed a bill to that effect.

In addition, Malacañang and education officials are keeping close tab of the department’s budget of P1 billion for textbooks to ensure that books in English especially are properly distributed and taught.

Of the Department of Labor and Employment’s total P4.5 billion budget, P2.5 billion is allocated for Technical Education and Skills Development Authority which runs the scholarship program.

The Palace defended the allocation of P500 million for what the President has called “call-center finishing schools” as a well thought of decision.

“Education has always been on the highest rung of priorities of the President since day one and various programs have already been initiated to arrest the overall slide in English proficiency,” Bunye said.

“Our competitiveness in the business-outsourcing industry is a strategic imperative. This is important for investments and jobs as well as for the social mobility of Filipinos upward to a better future,” he added.

He said that using P500 million to give English-proficiency “finishing lessons” for 100,000 call-center “near hires” means spending only P5,000 a person. This near-hire person’s improved English-language skill and other skills learned from the Tesda “Training for Work” program will surely get him or her employed by a call-center or by another BPO company. This, he said, is a small investment on a project that makes a person a highly paid employee for years and years.

Speaking at the 27th National Conference of Employers under the auspices of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), the President said: “I have asked Tesda to allocate P500 million for scholarships in call centers because that is where the largest single job opportunities are.”

Bunye added that notwithstanding the focus on call-center job training, “This administration is not leaving the overall education training behind. The programs to build more classrooms, hire more competent teachers, upgrade the teaching skills of English, Science and Math teachers, provide quality books and put more computers in the hands of students at all levels—all these are being implemented at an accelerated pace,” he said.

At the end of May 2006, the Department of Education’s teacher-upgrading program has already benefited 8,880 third grader and high-school freshmen teachers in Southern Mindanao (3.110 teachers), Central Minda­nao (2,893 teachers) and Autonomous Region in Muslim Min­danao (2,877 teachers).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dick Gordon's Impassioned Speech when Senate Adjourned Sine Die

I rise on a matter of the highest collective privilege.

I believe at this point that we have to acquit ourselves before the
bar of opinion of our people. Our people have questioned our
capability as a Senate to enact the laws that are necessary. And I do
know that all of us, practically all of us, want to acquit ourselves,
to be able to show that we may be slow at times but we want to make
haste slowly so that we could study every bill, every law properly.

Mr. President, we had occasions in the past where we had to file bills
which required speed. Just recently, we approved the Death Penalty
bill. I believe we approved that in record time—-two days. There was
no opposition to it even if it was a very great issue of the day. Not
because we concurred with it but because we believed that it was the
right thing to do, even if this representation, although I sponsored
it, cited the fact that we may not have the police force that is
capable to look into these cases, especially murder cases. And I
would rather err on the side of caution, Mr. President.

Today, I was supposed to go very early to a meeting on the dialogue on
the Cha-cha. At about twelve o'clock, I was already on my way to
Shangri-La. I was told that we are going to adjourn all of a sudden.
This was against the agreement made between me and the Majority Leader
that we are going to take up this matter of automated election. And
so I called up the Senate President, the Majority Leader and we all
agreed that we were going to take it up at two o'clock, and they told
us to return at 1:30.

I was already proceeding here when Senator Enrile called me and said
to come back. In fact, in the meantime, I called the other senators.
I asked Senator Lapid to be here. I tried to call Senator Revilla. I
called up Senator Enrile. I called up Senator Angara to come over. I
called Senator Roxas to come over here. I asked my staff to call all
the others including Senator Arroyo.

Mr. President, I did so because this is a bill that we have been
waiting for a number of months. We started deliberations of this bill
in October 2005. During that time, we had four public hearings:

On October 17, 2005, we had Senators Enrile, Osmena, Pimentel, and
Biazon as guest senator. The other senators were represented by their

On January 30, 2006 we called another public hearing when we had
Senators Arroyo, Enrile, Angara, Lim, and Biazon as guest senator. The
senators represented by their staff were Senators Villar and Recto.
Absent were Senators Cayetano, Santiago, Lacson, Osmena, ex-officio
members Flavier, Pangilinan, and Pimentel Jr.

On February 7, 2006, we had Senators Arroyo, Enrile, and Osmena.
Absent were Senators Villar, Cayetano, Lacson, Flavier, Pangilinan,
and Pimentel Jr. The senators who were represented by their staff were
Senators Recto, Santiago, Angara, and Lim.

On February 22, 2006, attending were Senators Gordon and Lim. Absent
were Senators Cayetano, Rectyo, Santiago, Arroyo, Angara, Lacson,
Osmena, Flavier, Pangilinan, and Pimentel Jr. The senators represented
by their staff were Senators Villar and Enrile.

Since that time, Mr. President, we also called four technical working
group meetings: November 3, 2005, November 17, 2005, February 15,
2006, and February 23, 2006.

After the sponsorship and after the period of debates, we called
additional meetings out of respect for those who had questions on the
bill and we addressed these. We called four meetings, four caucuses
attended by Senators Osmena, Enrile, and, of course, Senate President

On May 19, 2006, we called another meeting and it was attended by
Senators Osmena and Flavier.

On May 24, 2006, we called another meeting and this was attended by
Senators Osmena, Drilon, Villar, and Resto.

On May 30, 2006, in addition to all those caucuses where we showed
examples of how we could have technology that is existing displayed
here in the Senate, we showed it on the Floor because we were not
getting the kind of attendance that we wanted in spite of notices and
calls made to the senators everyday.

Mr. President, during the plenary session on March 21, when we
sponsored this bill, the following senators had their interpellations
for the bill: Senators Pimentel, Enrile, Arroyo, "Loi" Estrada, and,
of course, when we were ready to put this on the Floor for Second
Reading, I was even touted by the Senate President as having too many
amendments. Out of respect once again to my fellow senators, we made
the necessary corrections on the bill to be acceptable to everyone.

We also introduced amendments on March 29, 2006. On April 5, 2006,
Senator Pimentel introduced his amendments. There are many, many times
that we have undertaken the period of interpellations.

In other words, Mr. President, throughout all these meetings, there
was a tremendous effort made by our Committee as well as the members
of the technical working group, some of whom are from the private
sector, people who were not paid by the government, people who were
asked to be consultants. Some of them were paid by the government, but
we have quite a few from the private sector. Some of these people were
the one who exposed the anomalies made by the Comelec during that last
procurement of the OMR. They are the same people who are now advising
us once again to tighten up on the bill.

As I pointed out earlier, the bill was designed to see to it that we
could have free, honest, fair and speedy elections. The bill was
tightened up to make sure that we have electronic transmissions,
something that was missing in the previous elections so that there is
no time to cheat. As we all know, cheating is done by way of retail
cheating. When one tries to bring in a flying voter, that is retail
cheating and we expect that the Comelec will address that even if it
is not yet here, meaning to say, biometric technology. We are focused
on the count of the voting all the way to the canvassing and when we
did that, we wanted to make sure that we had speed on our side. We
have the virtues of current technology on our side and a sure
technology. In reaction to the Supreme Court, we called it

In response to the Supreme Court's statement that here was a pile of
goods--practically an order sheet that was designed by the Comelec for
somebody to win that bid,--we reacted to that, and, indeed, we came
out with a bill that provides technological neutrality so that
whatever is out there in the horizon or in current technology would be

Mr. President, I have a favorite saying, it is called: "It's better
to know where we're going and not know how, than to know how we're
going and not know where."

Mr. President, I thought we knew where we were going. I thought that
what this country wanted was an election that would be speedy, that
would be honest, that would be credible and that would obviate

So, every effort at urgency, every effort to search the experts and
get their opinions to come up with the required technology was
undertaken, Mr. President. We tried to reach out to the senators. We
called them on the telephones. Our members came, some of them did not

Mr. President, we bent over backwards many times. I hold here a
Gantt chart which I showed in the committee meetings. The Gantt chart
said that we should have had this bill approved on the first week of
April. If the gentleman will recall, right before Holy Week, I stood
right there and Senator Pimentel conducted an interpellation of this
representation. We said we have to approve this and I was ready to
cancel my official trip for the International Red Cross to Thailand
just so we could finish this so that we could move forward. And at
that time we were already in the period of amendments. Tapos na po
iyong period of interpellations. We were in the period of amendments.
Yet, there were still debates being undertaken. And again, out of
respect to our colleagues, we answered the questions.

Now, Mr. President, we were promised, and the Senate President is
witness to this, the Majority Leader is witness to this, and other
senators. According to Senator Pimentel, when we get back, we would
finish it. He said, "Don't go back on Monday," because I promised I
would go back on Monday. He said, "Go, and finish that and come back
here on Wednesday, and we would finish it. "

Mr. President, I was surprised when I got here on that day, on
Wednesday. I was still being interpellated and I wanted to go on and
finish all the concerns and get the amendments of the senators so we
could be on time for the preparations for the 2007 elections.

Again, I was told, "Pagod na ako, Dick, matanda na ako. I'm limping.
Could you kindly....I-postpone na muna natin ito." Ang sabi ko,
"Hindi ba ang pangako natin tatapusin natin ito sapagkat kailangang
matapos natin ito?" Ang sabi niya, "Pangako ko sa susunod, tatapusin
natin iyan pagbalik natin."

Unfortunately, Mr. President, that has not been the case.

Mr. President, I was promised that we would finish this bill by the
Minority Leader. And yet, when it came to the moment of truth, there
was no promise. There was another extension, "We will do that." I
pleaded to him when we went to China, when we went to Tibet, when we
went to North Korea,... "Sabihin mo na sa akin kung ano ang ayaw mo,
kung ano ang gusto mo para mailagay natin." He said, "This is going
to happen when we come back." It never happened.

Then, what happened, Mr. President? We called for special
presentations. We even had one in the Session Hall. We asked people
and we were very careful to make sure that these vendors could not
advertise themselves here. We just said, "We wanted to show that it
is possible." And they brought their machines here. They made a
presentation here, right here, to make sure that we can prove that
this is technology-neutral, that the election, as proposed, would

Now, Mr. President, what surprises me is, we claim that we want to
remove cheating in elections, but do we have the sense of urgency for
it? I do not think so. At the rate we are going, we are not going to
finish this bill. Now, I am told, "Well, Dick, you know, I speak for
the Minority, and you know, the Minority has said they don't like the
bill. They have questions."

Well, Mr. President, if they do not like it, we have had so many
chances here. The members of the Minority should have been here. I
know many members of the Minority approved this and they told me so.
But they should be here. We are here today. When we want to
interpellate, any senator will come to the Floor and interpellate. If
they are interested to make an amendment or to go against it, they
should be here.

But, Mr. President, I understand we have passed bills on less than a
majority here out of respect for one another.

Mr. President, I cannot just go on and on and on and keep asking the
private sector, some of whom have doctorates in computer technology,
to come here and volunteer themselves. They are still here today and
promise them, the senators, not to worry.

I was told by one of them, "Naku, do not expect that that bill will be
passed because many congressmen and some senators may not like it
because precisely they cannot cheat." I heard that, Mr. President.
And I said, "Do not say that, that is not true. We are all honorable
men here and I tell you, I think we are going to be able to get this
through because everybody wants honest, clean elections in the

Yet, where are we today? I was promised that this will be the last
day. I kept on saying that we had a caucus. And I said, "Let us put
the automated election, it is doable."

At the time all this was happening, we were way ahead of the Lower
House. The Lower House had nothing. They had not even taken it on
Second Reading. They had not even had their debates. And yet, last
night, Congressman Locsin called me and said, "Tomorrow, can we meet
because we are going to be ready with the bicam? We are ready with
the bill. We want to do it tomorrow evening na pagkatapos ng

I said, "No, no, we are not yet ready. I think we will be able to
approve it tomorrow. Please talk to your fellow PDP-Laban senators
para mabilis na tayo."

Mr. President, he called me again today, I saw him today, and he
asked, "Are we going to meet today?"

I was really embarrassed because, my gosh, we talked about seven
bills that were of highest importance, that we were going to give
priority. But unfortunately, we were able to pass the budget at
mukhang ibi-veto pa ng Presidente. We were able to pass--thank
heavens for Senator Arroyo--the bill on the abolition of the death
penalty. We were able to pass that other bill, the Credit Information
Bill. But the Lower House has not even gotten their acts together on
that one.

And yet, we were so close to this. Is this just rushing up
legislation? I do not think so, Mr. President. Why? Because this is
a bill that simply amends a policy that was already made under a
previous law. The policy was made under the law that created the
Automated Election Law, which is Republic Act No. 8436. That was
already approved. But, as we saw, the Supreme Court shot it down
because it had a bill of particulars on what product practically to
buy, short of saying the brand. The Supreme Court said, "You cannot
touch that machine." The Comelec officials insisted that they want to
use that machine. That is why there is this sense of urgency because
the Gantt chart tells us that if we do not do this, we may not even be
able to make it for the elections in 2007. And if we do not make it
in 2007, we are not going to have full-fledged computerized elections
in 2010.

Are we saying here that India is much better than this country? Are
we saying here that we do not trust our people? We may not trust our
people in the Comelec, but I am sure we can trust some of them. Maybe
we are not sure of the technology that we have, but we can rely on a
lot of other people who could teach us the right technology.

But, Mr. President, we ought to try, as I pointed out, many, many
times. We have to have that sense of urgency and we have to make sure
that we get this done.

Mr. President, is it too much to ask? We have done this in other
legislations where we say, "Aprubahan na natin iyan on Second Reading
or Third Reading and then balikan natin sa July para lamang gumalaw

Yesterday, our colleagues heard my amendments. One of my amendments
says the moment it is approved, the council of advisers will
immediately kick in. The roll-up will go in precisely because we are
in a hurry. We are late. But we need to practice it.

I cannot forever say, "All right, all right, I better work backwards."

Mr. President, it has been said that this bill, if approved, even if
we succeed in the pilot test, "Oh, the Comelec is going to go back
there and try to monkey around with the system."

Mr. President, that is why it is technology-neutral. And that is
why we cannot go back to what is being proposed by the gentleman from
Cebu, and say, "O, wala na iyang technology-neutral na iyan.
Kailangang sabihin na natin kung ano ang specific." That is precisely
what the Supreme Court rejected, Mr. President. If we go back there,
then we are back to square one, in which case, ang mangyayari sa atin
ay wala na namang eleksyon na matino. And what have we been reduced
to in the Senate, rightly or wrongly, because wrong is perceived to
have been committed by the Executive? We have been conducting
investigations left and right because of the failure or perceived
failure or perceived cheating during an election that happened during
the last time.

And so, Mr. President, ang lumalabas ngayon, parang mabagal ang
Senado. Halos wala tayong nagagawa dahil ang sisi sa atin ay panay na
lamang tayong imbestiga nang imbestiga.

And so, Mr. President, this Chamber will forgive this representation
if his patience may probably have run out. I tried to keep my peace.
If my patience has ran out, it is not because of my pique or my
personal weakness. It is the patience of our country that we test
today. If we say that we want clean elections, then I say to them,
"acta non verba." Show it by action, not words. Magaling tayong
magsasalita rito and that is what we are paid for. I have always
defended that the Senate must debate. That is why we are slow. We
have to debate. We have to find out what is going on.

But, Mr. President, whenever we stand here, we must know what sticks
in the craw of certain senators. If they do not like a particular
provision of the bill, then they should stand up and say, "We would
like to amend it", not keep us guessing.

I went down on bended knee to our distinguished colleague today, not
only because he is older than me, not only because I respect him, not
only because I was pleading for him to get this bill approved, not
because I want to author this bill, I pleaded with him and I knelt
down before him so that he would see that, subukan na natin ito.
"Name it. Ano ba ang problema? Sabihin mo na sa akin para maipasa
natin ito." Test lamang ito. Iyon ba naman hindi pa mapagbigyan, test

I agree with Senator Osmeña that after this testing, we would go back
to the Senate in 2008 after the elections and say, "We will refine the
bill, if we have to." In the bill itself, it says, "six months after
the elections." There must be a deadline upon which we will submit
what went wrong in these elections. In that bill, it provides for
technological neutrality and technological neutrality means that if we
have to go on to 2007 or 2010, we will get what is current.

So even if they hire a hack, it is possible that in 2010, there will
be new computer technology, there will be new software, so much so
that that hack is going to have a difficult time.

I have explained that we have a source code that will be kept in the
Central Bank or even in SGS. And so that we could use it, we have what
they call an "executable code." An executable code is difficult to
hack, Mr. President. And we can have millions of these, sabay-sabay,
puwedeng iba-iba. So papaano nila dadayain iyon? Unang una, the time.
There is no time because the moment the ERs punched the election
result in the precinct, it will already be right away in the Congress
of the Republic of the Philippines, it will be in the Comelec, it will
be in the provincial governor's office, it will be in the municipality
or city. At sabay-sabay, makikita iyan. It will be on ABS-CBN, it will
be on Channel 7, it will be in all the media. And if we are not still
satisfied with that, I am told--and I do not want to put it in the
bill because it is technology-neutral and it is up to the Advisory
Council to do that--that they can even show an overview by way of
television screens to show the results in the precincts.

Ano pa ba naman ang gusto natin, G. Pangulo? Titestingin na nga. Kung
gusto ninyo i-test na lamang natin sa isang presinto para matuloy,
para masubok. Pero mukhang ayaw talaga. Mahirap imulat ang mata kung
nagbubulag-bulagan; mahirap iparinig sa taong nagbibingi-bingihan
iyong gusto nating ipagawa sa ating bayan.

Mr. President, this will only benefit the people of this country. It
is not going to benefit any particular individual in this country. It
is right into the alley of the Supreme Court that says, "You have to
change the technology. You have to go in and move in and make sure
that we have a good bid here."

Mr. President, we could even make different technologies in different
regions of the country so we can further protect it. I can argue that
point until I am blue in the face that the technology exists and it is
going to be hard to hack it. But if people do not like it, what can
we do?

The only thing I ask is decency, Mr. President, to a colleague. As
lawyers, we are taught to be candid. We are taught to treat each
other as officers of the court. Hindi ba itinuturo iyan sa atin sa
law school? Sabihin natin candidly kung ano ang ayaw natin. At dito
sa Senado, we are supposed to call each other "gentleman". A
gentleman when he refuses something will say, "I have a problem here,
Mr. Senator, can you help me out with this?" Or, at least, if he is a
gentleman and not a coward, Mr. President, he should stand up on the
Floor and debate with the sponsor, if he is not a coward.

Mr. President, what I have to say needs to be said. Precisely, we
want to protect the dignity of this Senate. Are we going back now to
the country and say, "Thank the holy God because this Senate has
finished the budget and we have finished the death penalty and we
still have a bill in the Lower House because they have not gone on
bicameral." I know quantity is not quality.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as urgency. And if I raise
my voice it is not to raise my voice but to really vehemently argue my
cause because at times it is very difficult to be heard especially in
our Senate when people are not interested in what is being talked
about. We tried as much as we can to get the attention of everybody.
Mr. President, we are trying to get the attention of everybody here
because this is what the public has been saying. And if some Senators
feel that we should not be talking about this then I think it would be
a bad day for the Senate when the Senate can no longer speak with
candor on the needs of the country. To my mind, this is a need. That
is why I put out this Gantt chart once again. Whenever I put out
something like this, some colleagues of mine would say, "Oh no, that
is nothing. Do not believe that Gantt chart." This is the work of
people who are in the technical working group. I cannot say to them,
"Ah, ang sabi ng isang Senador dito, bale wala iyan. Huwag kang
maniwala diyan. Kaunti lamang iyan." I cannot do that, especially when
we have asked them to do all these.

So, Mr. President, let me just point out that we have made every
effort. . This is the last day. Does the Body think I like the
situation that we are in today? We are leaving. We have not
accomplished anything, especially on this matter when all of us agreed
that this is a priority bill. What is wrong? What is wrong? We are
telling our people we would test this principle of automated

Mr. President, we have done this in ARMM. We have tried to do this
last time and we failed miserably. How much did we lose in that
election? How much was spent? It was P1.3 billion. Bale wala. They are
laughing at us. They are still paying storage fees for the machines na
ipinipilit pa ng Comelec. Here we are trying to correct it. We are
trying to fix the problem. And all I ask is candor and decency. Kung
ayaw ng isang Senador, huwag na niya akong paasahin na, "Approve na
iyan. Sige pumunta ka na doon sa Thailand at pagbalik mo, ipasok iyan
at tapusin natin iyan." All he has to do is write the amendments..
Kung ayaw ng Senado, who am I to go against the collective wisdom of
the Senate? Kung ayaw nila, then wala tayong magagawa. That is the
nature of all Senates, to conduct a debate, to convince one another.
And if we cannot convince one another, then vote.

We have not done that Mr. President. We have never voted. We have to
get a consensus all the time. At ang napansin ko dito kapag isa lamang
ang umaayaw, hindi tayo tumutuloy. I have often wondered. And some of
us have wondered. Senator Roxas and I have talked about it many times,
bakit ganoon. Senator Enrile and I have talked about it many times,
bakit ganoon dito. If somebody says, "I do not like it--the Senate
Majority Leader and I have talked about it--if one Senator says "I do
not like it," he is able to finish off the debate, Mr. President.

Ngayon kung ayaw nating marinig ito, perhaps charge it to my
inexperience because the Senators are all veterans here. The Senators
are all far more experienced, perhaps, brighter than this
representation. But I do know one thing. I also know that when I come
here I dedicate all my efforts to try and get good legislation passed
and represent our people properly so we can get the right kind of
service and the right legislation in place, Mr. President. And if the
Body wants to charge me for that, go ahead and do so. But it has to be
said. It is time to resurrect the Senate. It is time to get away and
change our attitudes. It is time to give respect to one another. It
is time to attend meetings if one is interested in a bill. It is time
to ask questions when he does not know something about the bill. It
is time to put our amendments in place if we do not agree with certain
provisions and put it to the test of voting on the Floor. That is
what the Senate is for.

To try and get amendments in, we have to come up and tataya tayo.
Sasabihin mo, "Ito ang amendment ko." Just as I take the risk here
and all of us take the risk every time we sponsor a bill, itataya
natin iyan. Sasabihin ng isa, "Ito ang posisyon ko diyan", at
pagbobotohan iyan. At kung matalo siya, then we shake hands because
that is the nature of the Senate. He tries again. Huwag naman iyong,
"Sige, aaprubahan natin iyan pagkatapos hindi. Hanggang sa
huling-huling araw, sasabihin sa akin, "No, Senator Gordon, I cannot
approve that because we vote as a collegiate Body and there are some
people who want to vote against it and who do not want to vote because
they have questions."

Well, my answer to that is, ang tagal-tagal na nito mula pa noong
October 2005. June 2006 na tayo. I have been waiting for their
questions to be asked, I have been waiting for their amendments, I
have been waiting to debate with them. But where are they, Mr.
President? If we had done this, then perhaps we would have created
more bills in the process. We would have enacted more laws.

Pero, G. Pangulo, siguro it is in the nature of our country since we
got occupied, no longer to be risk-takers, not to put our name on a
speech. We have become a nation of balimbings. We have become a
nation na ang hinihintay natin, "O buo na ba iyong kabilang street?
Sama tayo doon. O buo na ba sa EDSA? Sama tayo doon."

It is time that the Senate take a position. Each senator must take a
position on every proposition. I will always try even if our
colleagues say no to me, I will constantly try. I will debate if our
colleagues have good faith. I will accept their amendments if they
have good faith. I will respect them if they respect the Chamber. If
they respect the purposes of this Chamber, I will be the first one to
respect our colleagues.

I kneel down today for this bill, for a bill that would have solved
the problem of some senators here on dagdag-bawas when they were
victimized. I kneel down today instead of talking about Cha-cha and
showing na ang political power lamang ang dinidebate ng mga senador at
kongresista na gustong magbago ng parliament.

Today, Mr. President, at the meeting of Cha-cha, we kept our position.
The Senate must vote separately. One Congresswoman there stood up
and showed the whole nine yards when she said, "No, hindi kami
interesado na baguhin ang economic provisions. Hindi kami interesado
na baguhin iyang police system. Ang gusto lamang namin ay iyong
parliamentary system maipasok diyan at mawala ang presidential
system." In effect, iyon ang lumalabas na katotohanan.

Ganoon na ba ang mga kinatawan ng ating bayan? Hanggang doon na
lamang ba tayo? Hanggang saan tayo maaapektuhan, doon tayo sasakay.
At kung hindi tayo maapektuhan niyan, hayaan mo na siya, siya na
lamang ang magdi-discuss. At kung siya ay aabante, patirin mo. We
have become a nation that conforms, a nation that says, "Pagbigyan mo
na iyan. Talagang ganiyan iyang senador na iyan. Wala kang magagawa.
Hayaan mo na kasi walang mangyayari sa atin kung magdedebate tayo

Mr. President, this is what the Senate is all about. Nagdedebate
tayo because that is our intention, to debate. Pero may hangganan
iyan. At some point in time, we have to vote. And I am sorry if we
cannot vote today. I really am sorry. I am sorry for our people
because they deserve a lot more than this. I am sorry for our people
because they deserve urgency.

I am sorry if some of our distinguished senators cannot come out and
put themselves to the test of debates, put themselves and their ideas
to the test of their colleagues. And I am sorry because the
legislative firmament of this country is weaker when we do that. And
I am sorry when we delay because we have become a nation of
procrastinators. That is why we have been conquered by people who
say, "Don't worry, I will grant you independence; don't worry, I will
lift martial law; don't worry, we will do it tomorrow." That is why
we are a country that hopes maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe

Mr. President, mahiya naman tayong lahat dito sa ating bayan. Thank
you very much.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Now they’ve come for our soldiers too?

By Bobit S. Avila
The Philippine Star

Last Friday, we wrote about House Bill No. 5460 proposed by Rep. Eddie Gullas to bring back the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for all male tertiary students enrolled in all private and public colleges and universities and to consequently repeal the National Service Training Program or Republic Act. No. 9163 which replaced the ROTC because today, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is an army of active and reserved Forces is now perilously lacking in reserve units.

Call it timely that I was watching my good friend Angelo Castro’s "The World Tonight" on ANC last Friday night when he came up with a report that a US company called Blackwater USA was recruiting Filipinos to go to Irag and Afghanistan. These recruits will form part of a "private army," which in my book is nothing but a "mercenary army" as they are being offered between $1,700 to $2,000 a month. To qualify, applicants must be ex-police or ex-military men. This proposal is quite enticing to our soldiers and officers simply because they would be getting good pay and yes, because anyway, in this country they are assigned to dangerous areas where the Abu Sayyaf or the NPA’s thrive.

They’ve come for our maids, our skilled and unskilled contract workers, then our nurses and even our linesmen… but now they’ve come for our soldiers too. If just even 10 percent of our soldiers respond to this call where will we get the people to replace them without the ROTC?

Meanwhile, we have an existing ban on Pinoys working in dangerous countries like Iraq or Afghanistan because we don’t want to see another Filipino being hostaged by terrorists and shown on worldwide television. So, what is our policy regarding those who would be recruited by Blackwater USA? Perhaps their families should be told of the danger that their husbands or children are facing if they accept this new role as mercenaries.

I think President Arroyo, who is also our Commander-in-Chief, should now push the panic button and return the ROTC before it is too late. We won’t have soldiers fighting the NPA or the Abu Sayyaf. We might as well let this country to be run by Jose Ma. Sison and his bunch of bloodthirsty commies!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Better spend P500M on English proficiency for all schoolchildren

For decades, the troubled Philippine economy has been able to bank on one key asset in attracting foreign investors—the Filipino people’s being generally proficient in English. This has helped the country win BPO (business processes outsourcing) contracts.

But BPO contracts are now at risk as foreign buisinessmen find out that there has been a sharp decline in English proficiency here compounded by failing school standards and a mass exodus of linguistically skilled professionals.

Business leaders are starting to question just how long the country can go on touting its people’s English skills. Some local and foreign business groups are so concerned that they have started their own language centers to fill the gaps left by a deteriorating school system.

Individuals applying for call-center jobs endure stringent screening, go through strict training and even have to execute specialized tasks required by the company. The call center industry seek agents who possess all the necessary qualifications.

P500 million is a large amount of money. It isn’t wise at all to pour half a billion pesos in support of call centers.

Root of the problem

Let’s look at the root of the problem. Not just the call center industry but the entire BPO industry is forecast to suffer a shortage of English-speaking Filipinos. English-language proficiency is a major requirement not only in call centers, but in the entirety of the contemporary employment environment. English is the global language of success in the worlds of business, banking, aviation, manufacturing, the academe, science, technology, the arts, the film, TV, radio and print media.

This issue of the Filipinos’ poor English-speaking and comprehension skills is not new. Various Philippine presidential administrations have carried out programs after programs to rescue English proficiency from total disappearance here. But the decline has gone unremittingly on.

It is commonplace to hear of verified testimonies by teachers themselves that most of the elementary school graduates who enter high school are not qualified at all and that most of those who finish high school and are supposed to be qualified to enter a college have the educational level of Sixth Graders or just a little better.

The emphasis on vocational education without reemphasi­zing the need to excel in English fluency and comprehension is a wrong policy.

A recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found that the “self-assessed proficiency in the English language” of Filipinos, especially on the ability to speak it, has “dropped over the past 12 years.” This and the fact that only 6.59 percent of senior high-school students have mastery of English (seen in the recent tests conducted by DepEd) only show the alarming state of English-teaching in our country today.

Start in schools

Industry leaders believe that upgrading the language skills of Filipinos should start in school. They say the country’s education system should improve by starting with the reinstatement of the English language as its medium of instruction. “English-language proficiency training should be given in school as early as the primary grades,” is universally heard from lawmakers and educators—except the leftists.

For sure, the government is aware of these statistics. Why then, is it implementing a call center training program when the root of the problem is the poor English-language skills of Filipinos?

“The P500 million is misallo­cated,” a DepEd official who refused to be named told a Manila Times senior editor. Senators and congressmen leading the education committees of their chambers says the same.

With the huge amount of money the President has released for her Tesda Training for Work scholarships program, she should have told DepEd to implement an English-language skills training program for teachers and specially qualified students. Then she should have made sure the job was then properly and zealously. That should have struck at the root of the problem. It would have benefited not only 100,000 aspiring call-center agents but millions more Filipinos.
--Sherryl Quito - Sunday Times

Saturday, June 17, 2006

US grants RP $21-M aid for anti-graft drive

The United States has approved a $21-million aid program to combat corruption in the Philippines, the US embassy in Manila said Saturday.

The two-year initiative would strengthen the Ombudsman, a special prosecutor for criminal cases involving government officials, and the finance department and comes under the Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), a US federal agency which hands out development assistance.

The multi-million-dollar financing aims to "reduce opportunities for corruption throughout the government by training Ombudsman employees and establishing information management and investigation and surveillance capability," the embassy said in a statement.

It would also seek to improve enforcement in three revenue units of the finance department -- the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Bureau of Customs, and the Revenue Integrity Protection Service.

The US Agency for International Development would run the program, the embassy said.

The anti-corruption aid is part of an initiative by US President George W. Bush to help countries tackle the main obstacles to their development.

"The MCC program represents an important opportunity for the United States and the Philippines to deepen our partnership by strengthening government institutions focused on anti-corruption and revenue administration efforts," US ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney said in the statement. AFP

Aeta: From ‘lubay’ to Levi’s

15 years after Mt. Pinatubo eruption

By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer

BOTOLAN, Zambales -- The world’s worst eruptions in the second half of the 20th century failed to erase the Aeta tribe from the face of the earth.

Fifteen years after Mount Pinatubo let out its biggest blasts in their ancestral abode on June 15, 1991, the Aeta population in the provinces of Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac has almost doubled from just over 50,000 at the height of the disaster, data from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Central Luzon showed.

As survivors, the Aetas stand out among Philippine aborigines as members of a tribe that bear memories and experiences of volcanic eruptions in modern times, making them a mine of lessons in coping with disasters, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

In the eyes of three Aeta elders, however, there was a dying aspect to this survival.

Traditional culture, at least the kind they had practiced in their lifetimes, was lost or had faded away in post-eruption years, according to Adoracion Badar of Zambales, Miranda King of Pampanga and Lunas Tolentino of Tarlac. Badar placed her age at 102, King at 86 and Tolentino at 70.

From G-strings to denims

To King’s grandson, Joseph, 21, the problem could be seen in the way Aeta men are garbed.

“We stopped wearing the lubay or pinang (G-string). It’s Levi’s or other denim pants. We got a lot of those used clothing when we were in evacuation centers,” Joseph, an agroforestry graduate, said while waiting for passengers for his tricycle at the Villa Maria resettlement in Porac town, Pampanga.

“The lubay is only worn now on special occasions. I feel primitive wearing it,” he said.

Badar, interviewed in her house at the Loob Bunga resettlement in Botolan town, said: “The Aeta culture is dying. I’m frightened by this.”

“It’s rare that the pag-anito (curing ritual), atang (food offering to the mountain god Apo Namalyari) and duroro (prayerful singing to the gods) are done now,” said Badar.

Her tribe in Poon Bato was drawn to Catholicism and the image of the Virgin Mary (Apo Apang) was much revered there. But Badar said her tribe held onto the practices and never lost faith in Apo Namalyari.

Badar, a daughter of Sinfrocio Dumulot, a sacristan to a Spanish friar, said she still faced the direction of the volcano, the abode of Apo Namalyari, whenever she prayed.

Pinatubo is 40 km from where she has lived in the last 14 years.

Disregard for elders

Disrespect and disregard for the elders were also prevalent, she said. In her case, she was sought out only when job seekers among Aeta needed certifications of their membership in the tribe.

Leadership was now determined not by wisdom, but by the material support that younger leaders brought to the community.

But that, Badar said, would depend on the patronage of politicians in the lowlands, impairing the self-reliance Aeta are known to exercise.

There are also more incidents of gambling, alcoholism and womanizing, Badar said.

Begging in cities

King lamented that younger Aeta do not relate to Apo Namalyari with the same deep faith and trust that their elders did. Others, he said, had stopped believing in the deity.

Tolentino said the concept of kanawan (freedom from hardship) had changed. Instead of obtaining kanawan from toiling on the land or in the forests, Aeta of working age got that by selling their labor for wages. Some would beg in urban centers.

More men resort to elopement than betrothal and the bandi (property) system in taking a woman in marriage, Tolentino said.

Elders see various reasons for these.

Dual communities

The eruptions had forced them to leave the mountain, break partial or total isolation and be more exposed to the ways of the lowlanders.

The eruptions also damaged their natural environment, where the practices and values had been rooted.

Because that same altered landscape was hostile to agriculture, the Aeta had to find other means to live.

Then, too, the construction of roads leading to the upland resettlements, where the displaced population had been concentrated, saw the entry of more religious missions there.

Most Aeta maintained dual communities. They retained their homes in resettlements so their children could attend schools there and be close to sources of free social services.

On the other hand, they carried out their economic activities during dry months in their original villages.

This situation and the distance of the farms from each other did not help in strengthening ties among the villagers, with their natural environment.


Such was the case of Andres Cabalic. In Zambales, his house was in Bihawo and his farm was in Bel-bel, villages that were six hours apart travelling on foot. His relatives on the Pampanga and Tarlac side of the volcano had the same situation.

In pre-eruption years, Cabalic said he seldom left the abode, coming down only when he had to buy farming tools. “Everything you needed was on the mountain,” he said.

The NCIP said 70 percent of Aeta in 114 settlements in 1985 lived in semi-isolation. Their exposure to lowlanders was confined to sakadora (financiers and buyers of crops) and to market-goers to whom they directly sold their crops and forest products.

In the 10 upland resettlements that the government built for 5,133 families in 1991, it was not known exactly how many had actually left for good or lived the way Cabalic did.

Among the villages that had been rebuilt on their original sites or near them were Villar in Zambales; Tarukan in Capas, Tarlac; Tolentino’s village of Sto. Niño in Bamban, Tarlac; Kamias in Porac, Pampanga; Batyawan in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Marcos, Macapagal and Manicayo in Mabalacat, Pampanga, and Sapang Bato in Angeles City.

Members of King’s clan visited Inararo, 6 km east of the volcano. They planted banana and yam on lands cleared of thick volcanic debris, returning to Villa Maria when the rains started.

Badar, King and Tolentino would want their people to keep their culture not only because this had been passed on to them by their elders, but also because these practices and values had kept them together in normal times and had maintained harmony in the communities and with nature.

Herbal cures

The curing ritual, for instance, was central to the Aeta religious life and the most elaborate with which they related with Apo Namalyari and spirits, anthropologist Hiromu Shimizu said in 1989.

It was said that this ritual erased the inhibition of the sick and those concerned for him or her because they and the healer, when in a state possessed by the good or bad spirit, were free to interact and to express their emotions.

When nature finally heals the environs of Pinatubo, Aeta midwife Jena de la Cruz said it would be best to resume the use of lunas bundok (herbal remedies).

The availability of free medicines and hospitalization took the Aeta away from indigenous cures, reducing knowledge and appreciation of local health methods and the mountain’s resources for healing.

Land and identity

Land, King said, was also important in preserving the identity of the Aeta.

“You won’t know your pinibatan (origin) if you can’t even have a land to call your own. That’s Pinatubo,” he said.

This was why King and Tolentino led their people back to Pinatubo in 1994 after almost three years of staying in Barangay Pinaltakan in Palayan City in Nueva Ecija province.

“We told the local officials there: ‘While we appreciate your hosting us, we haven’t been at peace here. We miss our place. We also don’t want to be taking lands that are not ours,’” Tolentino said.

This was also why Tolentino’s tribe fought efforts by the Clark Development Corp. to reduce the 10,000 hectares covered by a certificate of ancestral domain claim (CADC).


King had been working to get a CADC for the Aeta in Inararo.

“When lowlanders come to buy lands in the mountains and the powerful ones threaten me, I tell them, ‘Show me someone who can make mountains. When you can’t, leave now,’” he said.

Land speculations intensified in Porac when portions of it were bought for the right of way of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, he said.

The CADCs had been slow in coming even as the Aeta suffered the cruel paradox of history in the 20th century. They lost much of the domain when the Americans declared these military reservations for Clark and Subic.

The NCIP had awarded the CADCs for 52,371 hectares on the lower slopes but not all of these would be in the complete control of the Aeta.

“Unless we have proof to show we own the land, we won’t be secure from the loggers, miners and buyers of real estate. I don’t want my people to be a landless tribe,” King said.

Plant or clean

Badar had her own way of establishing rights to a niche in the habitat.

“Wherever I go, I always plant trees so that my grandchildren won’t ever have to even look up at the trees of others,” she said.

Those without land or seeds to plant could land jobs as janitors or carpenters in Clark, Pampanga.

The elders said the best thing that emerged from the disaster was that young Aeta were given access to basic education.

Dr. Rufino Tima, an anthropologist who worked with the Aeta for 33 years, said the government should consider a rehabilitation program that would focus on reviving the old villages to help Aeta secure their culture there.