Friday, August 28, 2009

Palace: Con-con up to Comelec

Malacañang distanced itself from the approval of a House resolution calling for a constitutional convention and the election of delegates to be held simultaneous with the presidential elections next year.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said it is up to the Commission on Elections to decide if the holding of simultaneous elections would be feasible.

“Kasi sila naman talaga ang institution who is in charge of this. They should know better,” Fajardo said.

Voting 6-1, the House committee on constitutional amendments proposed Con-con as the mode to amend the Constitution. The committee is considering the election of six sectoral representatives for every region or a total of 291 delegates to the Con-con.

But Fajardo said the smooth sailing of the regular elections is more important as far as Malacanang is concerned.

“We should not lose focus, the primary objective is the 2010 elections and especially that medyo bago yung poll automation…baka mag create ng confusion kung dadagdagan pa po natin ng con con elections,” she said. By: Tess Bedico - People's Journal

Thursday, August 27, 2009


By Rene Bonsubre, Jr. -

There have been recent articles stating that Ben Villaflor is the youngest Filipino to win a world boxing title. I got a bit curious because I remember reading from my collection of old boxing magazines that Morris East was also a teenage world champion.

So, I decided to look it up in Ben Villaflor was born November 10, 1952 in Negros Occidental and won the capturing the WBA junior lightweight title on April 25, 1972, at 19 years and five months when he beat Venezuelan Alfredo Marcano by 15 round unanimous decision in Hawaii.

Morris East born August 8, 1973 in Olongapo City, Zambales was 19 years and one month old when he won the title on September 9, 1992. He beat Akinobu Hiranaka of Japan for the WBA jr. welterweight title in Tokyo. His 11th round knockout victory was chosen as Ring Magazine's KO of the year for 1992.

East is the second youngest boxer to win a world title at 140 lbs. Puerto Rico's Wilfred Benitez won the WBC jr. welterweight title when he was 17 years old.

This would make East our youngest ever world boxing champion. The reason that this question is raised is that Marvin Sonsona will be 19 years and 5 weeks old when he fights Puerto Rico’s Jose Lopez for the WBO superflyweight world title this September 4.

I actually had a very interesting conversation with promoter Sammy Gello-ani regarding these facts since he handled East as a prizefighter. East actually relocated to Cebu City and was just roaming around Colon Street. He was spotted by Lito Cortes and brought to the Cebu Coliseum gym and Gello-ani offered him amateur fights to keep him earning for his meals. Gello-ani now promotes Sonsona who even if he beats Lopez would not beat East’s record.

Manny Pacquiao was also 19 but was thirteen days away from turning 20 when he won the first of his six world titles via an eighth round knockout over Chatchai Sasakul for the WBC flyweight crown in Thailand in December 1998.

Malcolm Tunacao of Mandaue City, Cebu holds the Philippine record for the shortest route taken towards a world title. He only had ten pro fights when he took the WBC flyweight crown from Medgoen (3K - Battery) Lukchaopormasek of Thailand via 7th round knockout in May 19, 2000. Malcolm was 21 years old during his brief title reign.

Top photo: East when he won the WBA junior welterweight title against Akinobu Hiranaka of Japan.

Editor's Note: has contacted Morris East in Las Vegas where he is now based, and East has confirmed the veracity of his birth data at East said he is aware that he is the Philippines' youngest world champion and felt 'amused' that Filipino boxing writers have seemingly 'forgotten' him.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gilbert should be competitive

It is a steep, uphill climb to the presidency in the 2010 elections, particularly if you are a contender for the nomination of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD. But it is not nearly an impossible undertaking if you happen to be Gilbert Cojuangco Teodoro, currently secretary of National Defense in the Arroyo administration.

The key is to be able to show to the right people that four months from now, or about December of this year, one can demonstrate that the candidacy is competitive.

The three principal measures of strengths and weaknesses of any candidate are the electoral track record, the composite survey results of SWS and Pulse Asia and the controlled votes of the various political machines. While other measures may be brought to bear in the contest, these will give deeper understanding of the standing of the various candidates vying for the presidency.

Electoral track record

The first crucial measure is the electoral track record of the various contenders. It gives you the idea of the pulling power of the candidate in past electoral contests and is usually a dependable gauge on future performances. Previous form often heralds future results.

Top vote getters

Joseph Estrada 10 million plus 1998 won as president
Mar Roxas 19 million plus 2004 number 1
Loren Legarda 16 million plus 2007 number 1
Noli de Castro 15 million plus 2004 won as VP

Other contestants

Chiz Escudero 2007 number 2
Manny Villar 2007 number 5
Jamby Madrigal 2004 number 4
Dick Gordon 2004 number 7
Gilbert Teodoro 3-time congressman
Bayani Fernando 3-time mayor
Ed Panlilio provincial governor
Ed Villanueva 2004 4th place

Except Ramos

There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Most notable was the Secretary of National Defense Fidel Ramos. With no electoral track record to speak of, but carrying the endorsement of his then Commander-in-Chief President Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos eventually carried the day.

The second measure in the present scheme of things are the surveys of the two most credible public opinion polling. In the build-up to the campaign proper, they are important in the sense that contributors usually base their choices on the public opinion surveys. But in the final analysis, the final vote will be largely determined by the partisans. No doubt the surveys exert an influence on the decisions of the electorate but only to the extent of influencing the non-partisan votes.

Remember that the typical surveys are the composite opinions of 1,200 respondents, or at most, 7,000 respondents. The purpose and function of political parties is to persuade and in effect, intervene in the decision process.

Composite survey results, SWS and Pulse Asia:

1. Manny Villar
2. Joseph Estrada
3. Mar Roxas/Chiz Escudero
4. Noli de Castro
5. Loren Legarda

Below 4 percent:

Gilbert Teodoro
Bayani Fernando
Ed Panlilio
Eddie Villanieva
Dick Gordon

The Danding playbook

Maybe Gilbert Teodoro can borrow a page from Danding Cojuangco’s playbook in the 1992 campaign. Behind all in the surveys until the last six weeks of the campaign, two weeks before election day, Danding was a close second to Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The strategy was to keep away from Metro Manila until the last minute. We built our strength from the provinces and came to Metro Manila for the final salvo. We were rewarded by the best attended miting de avance at that time.

Machine votes

The third and probably the most important is the realpolitik of every campaign. According to a private think tank that studies political parties, based on memberships, number of congressmen, local officials and barangay officials, the machine votes defined as the number of votes deliverable to the party’s national candidates are as follows:

Lakas-Kampi-CMD 32 percent
PMP-PDP-UNO 27 percent
NPC 24 percent
Liberal Party 22 percent
Nacionalista Party 19 percent

The caveat of the private think tank is that the percentages for the PMP-PDP-UNO is conditional. It is only good if Joseph Estrada is running in 2010.

Gilbert Teodoro can be competitive if he captures the nomination of the ruling party and if GMA stays the course and supports him all the way.

Joseph Estrada leads by 27 percent in Mindanao, according to Pulse Asia. In the same study, Mar Roxas leads in the Visayas by 22 percent. Gilbert, being the only Ilocano speaking candidate can lay claim to the provinces North of the Agno River and parts of Central Luzon. An interesting scenario.

By. Antonio Gatmaitan - Daily Tribune

Thursday, August 20, 2009

PGMA to honor this year's top teachers

Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will confer gold medallions on the winners of this year?s Metrobank Foundation Search for Outstanding Teachers during awarding ceremonies in Malacañang on Sept. 3.

Organizers said the awardees will also be presented with plaques and cash amounting to P300,000 each during the 47th anniversary celebration of the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company on Sept. 4 at the Metrobank Plaza in Makati City.

Eight public school teachers -- four each from the elementary and secondary levels -- and two professors from the University of the Philippines-Diliman and University of San Carlos in Cebu emerged as winners in this year?s competition.

In the 25-year history of the annual search, Dasmariñas, Cavite; Olongapo City; Tulunan, North Cotabato; and Leganes, Iloilo produced their first awardees in 2009.

The four awardees for the elementary level are: Mrs. Lourdes L. Matan of Mag-Ubay Elementary School in Calbayog City; Mrs. Gemma G. Cortez of Dasmariñas Elementary School in Dasmariñas, Cavite; Benjamin M. Martinez of San Sebastian Elementary School in Tarlac City; and Mrs. Eva B. Imingan of Nellie E. Brown Elementary School in Olongapo City.

The awardees for the secondary level are: Ms. Shena Faith M. Ganela of Philippine Science High School-Western Visayas Campus in Iloilo City; Mrs. Rochelle D. Papasin of Philippine Science High School-Southern Mindanao Campus in Davao City; Mrs. Ma. Petra A. Romualdo of Minapan High School in Tulunan, Cotabato; and Zoilo J. Pinongcos Jr. of Leganes National High School in Leganes, Iloilo.

For the higher education level, the awardees are: Dr. Dina Joana S. Ocampo of the University of the Philippines-Diliman; and Dr. Ramon S. Del Fierro of University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

?The Metrobank Foundation believes that by giving recognition to the outstanding qualities, achievements and contributions of our beloved educators, we promote a sense of pride in and provide inspiration to the teaching profession and to the rest of the society,? said Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto M. Sobrepeña.

?For over 25 years, we have envisioned our awardees to serve as infrastructure for continuing excellence and to provide greater impact on their respective spheres of influence,? added Sobrepeña, who is former Presidential Management Staff head (1986-1992).

The winners were selected from 173 nominees coming from various public and private educational institutions in the country, of which 40 qualified as regional finalists.

The regional finalists underwent interviews and teaching demonstrations before the members of the preliminary board of judges identified for each category, of which 20 were selected to become the national finalists.

The national finalists then faced the Final Board of Judges for this year?s Search co-chaired by Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro and Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon.

Also serving as judges were: Chairman Ricardo L. Saludo of the Civil Service Commission (CSC); Governor Miguel Rene A. Dominguez of Sarangani Province; Dr. Ma. Cristina D. Padolina, president, Centro Escolar University (CEU); Ms. Cecilia L. Lazaro, founding president, PROBE Productions, Inc.; and Dr. Cecilio K. Pedro, president and CEO, Lamoiyan Corporation.

This year?s winners will join the rank of 276 outstanding teachers who have been honored by the Foundation for the last 24 years.

They automatically become members of the Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators or NOTED, an honor society of outstanding teachers committed to nurturing a culture of excellence and service among educators through professional development, publications, research, and advocacy in active partnership with government and non-government organizations.

Now on its 25th year, the Search bestows honor upon the teaching profession by according special recognition to teachers who manifest profound commitment to the development of the youth through exemplary competence, remarkable dedication to their work, and an effective educational leadership.

The Metrobank Foundation is the corporate social responsibility arm of the Metrobank Group of Companies chaired by Dr. George S.K. Ty.

Over the last 30 years, it has promoted a culture of excellence among Filipinos through its various programs notably the Search for Outstanding Teachers, the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence, The Outstanding Philippine Soldier, Country?s Outstanding Policemen in Service, the Metrobank Math Challenge, and College Scholarship Program.

The Foundation also has a grants program that assists NGOs and government in the fields of education, healthcare, and the arts.

Redesigning industrial economic zones

I am glad that Director Lilia de Lima of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority has been very strategic in her view about the future of our economic zones. Very early on, she gave the go-signal to the IT Parks, in which Eastwood City was a pioneer. Then there are the agro-industrial zones. More recently, there are the retirement village and tourism zones. Such a forward-looking strategy is adapting to the rapidly changing competitive dynamics in the global economy.

In the next twenty years, the Philippines’ competitive advantage will veer towards agribusiness, tourism, health care, BPO and manpower training. We must redesign our economic zones to move away from the industries that will lose their competitive edge based solely on cheap labor.

I was heartened to read a report of AFP that quoted Subic Freeport Administrator Armand C. Arreza saying the most sensible thing about the future of Subic. Commenting on the shift in Subic from manufacturing to tourism and logistics, he said that Subic's manufacturing future had been in question even before the ongoing global crisis hit electronics companies.

He said that for the past several years, low-wage competition from China and Vietnam has been luring companies away from Subic. He categorically states that "low-cost manufacturing is not the area where Subic is competitive. Most of our land area is protected forests and protected seas. We don't have any space to accommodate large industrial parks." In his opinion, the future of Subic lies in tourism, medical care, shipbuilding and logistics, using the ample space still available for warehouses especially around the largely unused Subic airport.

Subic is like a microcosm of the entire Philippines. We have more than 7,000 islands, many of which can attract millions of tourists (both domestic and foreign) if only we build more efficient infrastructures (which are part of industry). Besides, we have highly educated and motivated industrial workers.

We can, therefore, graduate to higher-value manufacturing in the electronics and semiconductor devices sector. When I say that the likes of Intel, Fairchild, Texas Instruments will phase out their labor-intensive manufacturing activities, I am not suggesting that the whole industry is doomed to extinction. The key is found in the statement in the same AFP report of Danny J Piano, President of the Subic Chamber of Commerce: "Subic manufacturers can survive. The Philippines has the capability to do good high-end work due to workers' better education, communication and English skills."

The electronics and semi-conductor devices industry is now in crisis because for thirty years, it has hardly graduated from low-value manufacturing to the high-end work to which Mr. Piano is referring. Unless we can produce more engineers and highly-skilled technical workers that can be employed at the higher end of electronics manufacturing, then we will see more firms in this sector (that accounts for more than 60 percent of our exports) following the example of Intel that decided to leave the Philippines even before the present deep recession. I hope other export-processing zones such as those in Mactan, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite are listening to the wise advice of the Subic officials.

They have to encourage their industrial tenants to go upscale in the manufacture of electronics and semiconductor devices.

The experience of the electronics industry should be studied very closely by the BPO industry that is just beginning its own thirty-year industry life cycle. Fortunately, there are enlightened leaders in this sector (that continues to grow at double-digit rates even as the global economy is taking a dive this year) who already realize that they have to move as quickly as possible from just call centers to higher-value BPO activities like medical transcription, animation, legal documentation, accounting and finance, investment research, etc. It is not impossible that in the next five to ten years, there will be millions of Chinese university graduates who will be very fluent in English and take over the role of Filipinos in manning call centers. We better make sure that we are ready for this situation by moving to higher-value BPO activities more rapidly than the electronics sector has been able to do in the last thirty years.

Finally, to once and for all bury the manufacturing bias of some of our leaders, let me quote from Zenaida Pineda, 40, a former electronics worker in Subic, who was also quoted in the AFP report. She said that she now earns as much working as a chambermaid in a Subic hotel as she did at her factory job: "I like housekeeping more because you can move around, not just stay at your work station. Besides, working on electronics hurt my eyes." These very sensible remarks of Ms. Pineda take away the mystique and glamour of manufacturing. Most labor-intensive manufacturing jobs, whether in textile, garments, shoes, electronics, etc. are dehumanizing.

They involve repetitive tasks with very little intellectual content and remind me of Charlie Chaplain's famous movie Modern Times. Service-oriented jobs are more humane and can be more challenging both intellectually and emotionally.

I always tell my friends jokingly that if I had to earn my keep as a blue-collar OFW, I will look for a job as a gardener in Barcelona or Vancouver rather than as a factory worker in Taipei. As a gardener, I will be using not only my brawn but also my creativity and intellectual capacity to understand the most exciting world of trees, shrubs and flowers. I will be combining earning a living with a very pleasurable hobby. For comments, my email address is

By BERNARDO M. VILLEGAS - Manila Bulletin

Mining triggers disaster in Zambales

Mining mayhem triggers ecological disaster in Zambales province

By Jaileen F. Jimeno, Philippine Center For Investigative Journalism

SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: Nickel is not doing too well in the world market these days, but residents here do not seem to mind, even though nickel has become one of this town’s major revenue earners.

That’s because whenever nickel commands top dollar, red dust smothers the town’s main highway and the pier, and red mud cakes the roads. Residents also have to share their small barangay roads with huge, lumbering trucks, and when rains come, floodwaters the color of blood fill their rice fields. Meanwhile, up in the mountains, armed guards hired by mining firms menace real and imagined foes and sometimes engage each other in deadly shootouts.

No wonder Gov. Amor Deloso of Zambales has taken to describing Santa Cruz—some 170 kilometers north of Manila—as “parang Iraq [like Iraq].”

Deloso seems to confine such a description to what he and others say is the increased militarization in this town because of mining. But he may well also be describing the helter-skelter way mining is being conducted in the entire province, recalling the mayhem and lawlessness in Iraq. Ironically, according to local officials and ordinary Zambaleños, the situation can be traced largely to no less than Deloso’s mining policies.

The governor himself said that Zambales has become a “battleground between big and small interests, national against local officials, with some intramurals between me and the mayor [of Santa Cruz].” Yet he was unapologetic about the policies on mining he has crafted, even though lawyers and some local officials said the legality of these are, at the very least, suspect, especially those pertaining to small-scale mining.

These are also why unearthing Zambales’ minerals (which include chromite and gold and are estimated to be worth billions of dollars) has turned the province into a virtual powder keg waiting to explode. Indeed, Secretary Joselito “Lito” Atienza of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has called Zambales “the most problematic province in terms of mining.”

Laws bent, ignored

Zambales’ mining mayhem, however, is not only a template of how local governments should not manage the industry. It also reveals how national government offices, like the Environment department, are rendered inutile as laws are bent and manipulated to suit the needs of local officials.

Confesses a mid-level department official when confronted with the situation in Zambales: “Our men just deal with small problems on the ground, like conflicts between small miners.”

This is even though it was the department that issued the implementing rules and regulations for Republic Act 7076, or the 1991 People’s Small-Scale Mining Law. It is also the department that has direct supervision and control over some of the vital bodies that govern small-scale mining, which is aimed at helping generate income for the rural poor.

These include the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board (PMRB), a five-member body that is supposed to be headed by the regional director of the Environment department’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau. It is the department’s implementing agency for the People’s Small-Scale Mining Program. Among other things, it is upon its recommendation that a small-scale mining contract is issued by the governor.

In addition, it is the department secretary who has “direct supervision and control over the [People’s Small-Scale Mining Program] and activities of small-scale miners” within the designated area.

Permit or contract

An Environment department primer on small-scale mining says either a permit or a contract can be issued. A permit is good for two years and renewable only once. A contract is also effective for two years, but is renewable for like periods.

Both permits and contracts emphasize artisanal work or manual labor; the use of heavy or sophisticated equipment like drilling machines, payloaders, and excavators is prohibited. Also, the law limits the annual production for metallic minerals for a small-scale mining operator at a maximum 50,000 tons of ore.

Clarificatory guidelines signed in 2007 by then Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes say that contracts are issued to cooperatives that will work in sites designated as small-scale mining areas. Permits are issued to qualified individuals who have the “capacity to contract” or a corporation or partnership “authorized to engage in mining, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, [with] at least 60 percent of the capital . . . owned at all times by Filipino citizens.”

Permits cover sites outside of small-scale mining areas. They are issued following the rules spelled out in Presidential Decree 1899, a Marcos-era law that remains in force.

Reyes’ guidelines, however, make it clear that both permit- and contract-holders are bound by the “provisions of . . . the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the Small-Scale Mining Laws and their implementing rules and regulations, among others.”

Zambales, though, does not seem to believe it needs to follow these laws. Since 2007, it has been one-month small-scale mining permits that allow a holder to haul off 50,000 tons of ores within that period from a 5-hectare area. The permits can be renewed twice, after which a miner only has to show proof of active extraction to secure a longer-term permit. And contrary to stipulations in the small-scale mining laws, these allow a holder to use heavy equipment to extract the ore from the ground.

But Governor Deloso, who is also a lawyer, sees no conflict with his province’s unique mining permits and national laws.

“Nobody can stop a governor from giving a special permit to in any line of business,” he said. “It is not prohibited, therefore it is permitted.”

Still, he does subtly acknowledge the prohibition against the use of heavy machinery in small-scale mining by calling the provision “backward” and “impractical.”

It consigns small-scale miners to “kamote mining,” he said, thundering, “How can you get 50,000 tons with your spade and wheelbarrow? It’s like telling me that since my father rides a horse-drawn carriage, I should not drive a car.”

Deloso pointed to Zambales’ past forays into mining as one reason why he decided to come up with the short-term permit for small-scale miners. He said that big miners, though operating for generations, did not contribute much to the capitol’s coffers, since they sent their taxes directly to the national government. The province even had to repair roads in mining areas that were run down by heavy trucks and machinery, he added.

Permit for P10K

This time around, Zambales issues its one-month mining permit to anyone who can cough up P10,000 as issuance-fee payment. Small-scale miners also have to pay the provincial government an “enhancement fee” of P50 per metric ton of nickel and P60 per metric ton of chromite. There is a P15,000 fee for a Provincial Environmental Clearance Certificate (PECC) as well.

Despite these fees, hundreds of entrepreneurs line up for the permits. One harried employee of the Environment and Natural Resources of Zambales (ENROZ) was reduced to spewing mixed metaphors, saying that the permits have been “selling like hotcakes” and that applicants show up at his office “like mushrooms after a thunderstorm.”

The employee added that before Deloso became governor two years ago, his office received just three mining inquiries a month. By mid-2006, it was handling as much as five new applicants a day, besides those following up on the processing of their permits, making his small office seem like a market on a payday weekend.

Quips Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Samuel Ablola, chair of the capitol’s environment and natural resources committee and who thought of the enhancement fee: “Halos lahat na may application. Baka iyong sementeryo na lang ang wala [Almost all land areas have pending mining applications. Maybe only the cemeteries are spared].”

Indications are that most of those permits are granted. In the past, Zambales was netting an annual average of only P3 million in regulatory and extraction fees from mining and quarrying activities. As late as 2006, the Environment and Natural Resources of Zambales was still reporting a total annual collection of P3.3 million from mining and quarrying. Yet, just a year later, that figure had shot up to P28.3 million—and that excluded monies collected as enhancement fees.

The provincial government does not get the bulk of the income from mining, taking only 30 percent of the revenue. Another 30 percent goes to the host town, while the remaining 40 percent is supposed to go to the barangay, where the mining site is.

But Deloso does not seem to mind. The capitol’s share will go to the provincial government’s general fund, he said, adding, “I can spend it for school buildings and repair of roads.”

The governor says Environment and Natural Resources of Zambales will manage the fund from the enhancement-fee payments, which helped the capitol’s yearly total mining income rise to almost P60 million in 2008. He has already designated Botolan, his hometown, as a beneficiary of the enhancement-fee fund, but is vague about specific projects.

Wild about mining

Botolan, just a few minutes away by car from the capitol, hosts nickel mining companies, among them NiHAO Mineral Resources International Inc., which is headed by former Environment Secretary Michael Defensor. The town was submerged recently in floodwaters that reached rooftops, after a dam broke at the height of Typhoon Kiko.

Yet despite the revenue windfall generated by the capitol’s one-month mining permits, some local officials are far from being pleased. In fact, Santa Cruz Mayor Luisito Marty fumes when the subject of the permits comes up in an interview.

“People go wild,” he said. “All of a sudden, there are these little mining companies in our midst.”

It’s bad enough that the capitol does not consult the concerned municipality before issuing the permits. According to Marty, mining firms now also bypass his office and go directly to barangay officials for permission to operate in their chosen area.

Since 2007, a smarting Marty has not issued a mining permit, save for one that went to the firm A3UNA Mining Corp., which is on the Environment department’s list of eight companies permitted to do large-scale mining in Zambales. But miners big and small have nevertheless invaded his town, waving papers from the capitol or from barangay officials.

Fights have broken out over overlapping claims, prompting several overzealous firms to hire security guards, some of whom are described by Deloso as “vicious.” Referring to the big mining companies, he added, “They all have private armies and camps.”

In January 2008, then Region III Director Anselmo Abungan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources wrote to Deloso, asking him to refrain from issuing permits already covered by prior mining permits.

Abungan also asked the capitol to secure an area clearance from the department before granting a permit. The request stemmed from a complaint by three major mining firms against A3UNA for alleged illegal mining and quarrying. A3UNA turned out to be holding a permit granted by the capitol to small miners.

But Deloso says the problem could have been avoided had the big mining companies approached him before they began operating. “They were boasting that they were protected by the national government, [and] that’s why there was trouble.”

It’s a statement that may not go unchallenged. Even ordinary folk have been grumbling over the capitol’s one-month mining permits, which are issued so frequently and speedily that the provincial government has been hard-pressed in keeping up-to-date records.

With a combined staff of just 20 people, the Environment and Natural Resources of Zambales and the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board have also found it difficult to double check an applicant’s claim of having satisfied the requirements and if a permit-holder is following mining rules and regulations.

Theoretically, the board provides the check and balance to the capitol’s power to issue mining permits and contracts. It is also through this body that the Environment department keeps tabs on small-scale mining in the area. Yet especially after current Region III Director Danilo Uykieng of the department assigned an underling to attend meetings, the crucial decision-making has been left to the rest of the board members—who are all Deloso appointees.

Rubber-stamp board?

A Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board member who declines to be named for fear of antagonizing the capitol confirms that all one-month permits go through the board. But the member says that there is a tendency to gloss over the failure of small miners to submit complete requirements.

The member said that instead, the board has tried to focus on ensuring that mining claims do not overlap. Yet the board performs dismally even in that, says the member, because any effort to validate a claim is thwarted by a swift move for a vote.

This has made the board function like a rubber stamp. When the motion is carried, documents granting the permit are readied for Deloso’s approval. According to the board member, the governor signs the papers without knowing how the debates went.

Another board insider said this had exasperated Uykieng, who was said to be even more upset when the board approved small-scale mining permits for areas where there were already large-scale operations. Uykieng, who is supposed to head the board, reportedly said, “What am I here for, if you don’t respect the large-scale permits?”
The insider said Uykieng, who was appointed as the department’s Region III director in May 2008, sat in only two board meetings before he began sending an underling to take his place.

Board secretariat head Wilson Biag admitted some small-scale mining permits encroach into large-scale mining areas. But he said the small-scale miners were there first.

He also defended the 30-day small-scale mining permits by noting that the industry’s big players already control 90 percent of Zambales’ mineral-rich areas. Small-scale miners begin their trade at a disadvantage, Biag argued, so they need all the help they could get.

The boost from the capitol includes allowing those armed only with exploration permits to extract up to 20 metric tons of minerals even in areas that are already legally spoken for. Biag said, “We want to give them [small-scale miners] time to check if there are minerals, before they invest more money into the project.”

The irony is that the month-long permits have become the alternate source of ores for big firms that want to speed up mineral collection.

Biag said the capitol is aware of the practice. “We are trying to resolve this because the permits are non-transferable. They come to some sort of an agreement that the small-scale miner is just the claimant, and the big mining firms are the operator.”

For a fixed fee, a small-scale mining permit holder may also totally surrender its site to a major mining company.

No legal basis

Biag said the capitol was drawing up new guidelines to make Zambales’ small-scale mining practices dovetail with the national government’s policies. But to Leo Jasareno, chief of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s Mining Tenements Management Division, the issue is simple: “These permits are not part of the mining laws. Anything that is not in the mining law has no legal basis. That’s common sense.”
He said that the Environment department has been working on an order that would guide governors and local government units (LGUs) in implementing the Small-Scale Mining Act. Jasareno added that efforts to draft the guidelines had been hampered by a controversy over the department’s January 5, 2009 order for all extractions to be covered by a Mineral Ore Export Permit (MOEP) before being shipped out.

The permit is an Environment department initiative to curb ore smuggling. Jasareno said that compliance with the permit order has been almost 100 percent. The sole exception is Deloso, who even asked the Court of Appeals in January to have the order rescinded, arguing that it was “an administrative issuance which is not sanctioned by R.A. 7942.”

Jasareno said that once the mining guide for local governments is finalized, it would address the issues in Zambales. But legal experts like environment and human rights lawyer Antonio La Vina said that all the Environment department has to do is to “assert its power.”

“All of the environmental powers of the LGUs are also under the control and review of the DENR,” said La Vina, who is dean of the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Government. He added that the department could put a stop to what is happening in Zambales “by issuing a cease-and-desist order.”

“That’s the proper remedy,” he said.

La Vina also echoes other legal experts in saying that while the Local Government Code gives provincial and municipal officials latitude in developing their own rules, these should never contradict national laws.

To Governor Deloso, however, the issue is more about justice than the law. “I do not understand,” he said, “why the big firms will get all the benefits from mining, and Zambales gets nothing.”

He added that his policies are easing poverty in Zambales. After all, Deloso said, very few residents from mining towns like Santa Cruz now line up in front of his office to ask for money.

Zambales Firms mining forests, watersheds – locals

By Jaileen F. Jimeno, Philippine Center For Investigative Journalism

Editor’s note: The first part reported how mining have wreaked ecological havoc in Zamabales, but local officials argued that those operations have generated much-needed jobs.


SANTA CRUZ, Zambales: For nearly two years now, Leonardo Lustria Jr., manager of the Santa Cruz water district, has been at his wit’s end trying to find ways to protect the town’s watershed, which feeds the town’s two irrigation systems and provides residents with potable water.

“They’re mining the watershed,” he said.

“We have a waterfall up there,” Lustria added. “We have more Mindoro pines there than in Mindoro, and pitcher plants that that are among the biggest in the country.”

Some 20 kilometers from the town proper, the Santa Cruz watershed was also reforested more than a decade ago through an P18.1-million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) project, which called for the planting of mahogany, acacia, agoho, eucalyptus, and other types of trees, was carried out from 1994 to 1999.

In total, the national government borrowed P27.5 million from the ADB to reforest five areas in Zambales. The biggest reforestation site—1,000 hectares, or 67 percent of the total—was at the Santa Cruz watershed. Today all five reforested areas are being mined. Randolph Mirador, who headed the people’s organization that planted trees in Santa Cruz under the ADB program, can only say with a sigh that it is truly heartbreaking.

In her 2008 State of the Nation Address, President Gloria Arroyo dedicated a few lines to mining, asking business and civil society to “continue to work for a socially equitable, economically viable balance of interests.”

“Mining companies,” she said then, “should ensure that host communities benefit substantively from their investments, and with no environmental damage from operations.”
President Arroyo also outlined her plan to set aside P2 billion for reforestation in 2009, saying the forests mitigate the effects of the increasing frequency and intensity of typhoons brought on by climate change.

Mining plus flooding

In Zambales, officials and ordinary folk alike are still debating the financial benefits of mining. But there seems to be little question among most of them that the surge in this province’s version of “small-scale mining” in the last two years has brought with it fast-rising floods during heavy rains, and even a decline in the output of several farms.

This has threatened Santa Cruz’s reputation as the province’s rice granary. In Barangay Guisguis, a group of women surveying a nearby river and a swathe of ricefields after an afternoon downpour take in a eerie scene that only fortifies the fear they now feel whenever the rains come—blood-colored water rushing down from upstream, breaching riverbanks in some places, the murky water inundating ricefields.

“When there was no mining, the river was deep enough to take in the rainwater,” said one of the women. “Now the river overflows and the water goes directly to our ricefields.”

Recently, Santa Cruz was among those hardest hit by Typhoon Kiko, which saw a state of calamity being declared in the whole of Zambales. Early last year, Guisguis was also among the areas on which Typhoon Cosme had the worst impact. Residents had to wade through waist-high floodwaters in darkness at the height of the typhoon, with several families seeking refuge at a local daycare center.

Guisguis residents conceded that they have had floods before. But they said that these days, the waters rise too quickly. One resident said, “The soil was parched, and Cosme brought just a little rain, which can only mean that the mountain is now absorbing less.”

In fact, besides scraping the forest cover and operating in the watershed, some miners here have also bulldozed their way through plots covered by the Environment department’s Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM).

Kamote mining

Under this program, people living in the community are given a portion of the forest to plant trees, from which they are supposed to earn some livelihood. According to Mayor Luisito Marty of Santa Cruz, portions of the Community-Based Forest Management area covering some 5,000 hectares in barangay or villages Guisguis and Ginabon have been overrun by those who present themselves as small-scale miners.

“There’s kamote mining there,” he said. “We’ve lost control because Governor [Amor] Deloso keeps on issuing permits.”

Community activist Mirador, who ventured into the Community-Based Forest Management scheme as well, also said that at least three mining firms were now intruding into the area that he and other people used to tend.

Of all villages down the main mining site in Santa Cruz, Guisguis has the most to lose. It has some 400 hectares of productive ricelands, and is a huge player in palay or unhusked rice trading in Olongapo City and Pangasinan, with which it shares a border. It is estimated that Guisguis alone produces an average of 32,000 sacks of palay each harvest time. Planting can be as frequent as thrice a year in most areas.

The community improved because of agriculture, said Guisguis Barangay Captain Juvenar Mose. “Wala kaming ibang inasahan kundi pagtatanim. Walang yumaman dito dahil sa mina [We rely on nothing else but farming. No one here got rich because of mining].”

Lomboy Barangay Captain Randy Merced probably shares the same sentiments. When the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) caught up with him, the rambunctious 41-year-old was busy worrying over the possibility that should all those holding mining permits—individual and corporate alike—operate simultaneously, his barangay’s ricefields would not fare well, since their dam lies close to a major creek upland.

Big firm the culprit

As it was, he was still upset over the siltation of his barangay’s irrigation system. The culprit, he said, was one of the big mining firms.

On paper, there was no mining operation in Lomboy. But like all other communities on the slopes of Santa Cruz’s nickel—and chromite-laden mountain range, it is a receptacle of all that may flow from mining areas. Lomboy has 110 hectares of irrigated farmland. Twenty hectares, however, rely on rainwater.

Merced said that for days, he and a dozen volunteers had manually dug up a small reservoir to serve as catch basin for the water requirement of the unirrigated 20 hectares. They later found their efforts erased.

“Kinalkal ng isang kompanya ang kabundukan at doon sa hinukay namin itinambak ang bato at lupa. Gagawa yata sila ng daan [One company dug up a portion of the mountain and dumped dirt and rocks in our reservoir. I think they might construct a road],” said Merced.

It’s bad enough that whenever it rains, nickel-laden soil from the mountains flow into Santa Cruz’s rivers and creeks and into irrigation canals, he said. The result: “Namula ang palay namin, ayaw magbunga [Our crops turned red and did not bear grains].”

Even officials of the local chapter of a Rotary Club said they would rather that the capitol focus on preserving the natural beauty of the town, instead of issuing one mining permit after another. After all, Santa Cruz has four islands off its coast, including the so-called Miss Universe Island that had been a shoot destination for contestants of an international beauty pageant in the 1970s. Santa Cruz also has a 300-hectare marine sanctuary where giant clams are being raised.

The view, however, is often marred by the site of tons of nickel stockpiled at pier, as well as the coast’s blood-red water, courtesy of the mined mountain range.

No safety engineering

The staining of bodies of water is the first sign that mining upstream is being carried out without the required safety engineering, explained Leo Jasareno, chief of the Mining Tenements Management Division of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Indeed, he said, monitoring reports from Zambales showed no environmental protection measures like catchment basin, siltation ponds, and cover cropping. Without these, Jasareno added, silt would settle in irrigation canals, making these shallower.

The official indicated that these could be traced largely to the questionable one-month mining permits that the capitol has been issuing since 2007. For one, he said, a big firm that pours considerable capital into its business is more likely to protect the environment to ensure continued tenure in area. And allowing quickie mining operations only means the government may not be able to hold anyone accountable should there be any damage to the environment.

“The technology is there,” Jasareno said. “But since it’s expensive, if you are a fly-by-night miner, you will not spend for it. Bodies of water will turn orange, and this is the first sign of environmental impacts of mining.”

He added that any watershed project funded by the Environment department, including the one in Santa Cruz, is off limits to mining, and any activity in those areas should first have clearance from the national agency—if at all. “If there’s no DENR clearance, it means somebody violated the law and it should be looked into.”

Asked about the reforested area in the Santa Cruz watershed, Governor Deloso would only say that inspecting it is the job of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“I don’t want them to say that I’m meddling too much.” he added. “What I know is that not a lot of trees grew there.”

Deloso has said that he has set aside P5 million from the province’s mining revenues for reforestation.

Can’t beat mining?

“I will not go for any bargaining laban sa [against] environment,” the governor said. “Bayan ko iyan, probinsiya ko iyan. Definitely ayokong masira. Gusto ko ba iyong dumausdos at mawalan kami ng palayan [It’s my country, my province. Definitely don’t want it destroyed. Would I want landslides and the destruction of our rice fields?]”

But added, “To go against mining, is actually counter-productive. Para tayong si Adan at si Eba [We’re like Adam and Eve]. We have to face the challenge, but make it intelligent.”

For his part, Sangguniang Panla-lawigan member Samuel Ablola, who heads the provincial board’s environment committee, said he was unaware of the watershed project in Santa Cruz, noting that he was elected only in 2001. Like the governor, he said that whatever happens to it was the Environment department’s responsibility, since it is a national government project.

But it seems mining in a watershed is not an issue to Ablola, especially when it’s on a mountain rich with mineral ores. He said, “Hindi tutubuan ng puno ang bundok. Tanggalin mo muna ang minerals at kapag puro lupa at putik na iyan, mabubuhay ang mga kahoy [Trees won’t grow on the mountain. Strip it of its minerals first, and once it’s all soil and mud, then the trees will flourish].”

That may not be a view shared by many local officials in Santa Cruz, especially when they have to deal with angry constituents wading in floodwaters or wailing about failed crops. It has not helped that mining permit-holders have not done much to endear themselves to residents here.

For instance, the day after Typhoon Cosme slammed through Zambales, the first order of priority of mining firms was to make sure the road to the pier, which crosses the main road and the town square, was immediately cleared of debris, even as residents dealt with the damage the typhoon caused.

Truck-choked roads

During typhoon-free days, trucks filled with nickel block local roads. “Once there is a medical emergency, we may not be able to reach the hospital in time because the roads are choked with those trucks,” said one resident. He also pointed to the possible health hazards posed by nickel-laden dust, noting that many of his townmates are already complaining of respiratory problems.

But standing up to mining firms could also be hazardous to one’s health. Lomboy Barangay Captain Randy Merced found this out after making known his opposition to mining public one too many times. He lets on that he was once “kidnapped” for his opposition to mining, but he refuses to elaborate. Some residents in his barangay whisper that Merced was mauled before he was released.

A high-ranking provincial official explained, “Si Kap Merced kasi hinaharang ang trak ng dalawang kompanya na ang nasa likod ay isang malaking pamilya sa probinsiya [Barangay Captain Merced was blocking trucks of two companies owned by a prominent family in the province].”

Not all opposed

To be fair, not everyone in Santa Cruz is against mining.

Guisguis Barangay Captain Mose admits that some of his constituents welcome it, especially those who have no land to till. After all, mining does provide employment to unskilled workers.

Mose himself has a confusing stand on mining. While he bats for a moratorium on permits to allow a study on the impact of mining, his office had asked mining firms for various forms of aid to his barangay, like providing scholarships to students.

One elderly resident here has been more steadfast in her belief that Santa Cruz is better off without mining, so much so that she voted for Deloso in the 2007 polls because, she recalled, he had promised to put a stop to mining in this town.

The resident, who requested anonymity, said Deloso did as he promised—at least for a month after the elections. When it became apparent that the new governor was reneging on his campaign pledge, the resident sought him out to remind him about it.

“Nagalit [He got mad],” said the woman, recalling the governor’s reaction. “Sabi niya ako na lang daw kaya ang mag-gobernador [He said maybe I should be the governor].”

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Abandon ship

A number of us were invited to board the super aircraft carrier USS George Washington last Thursday, which docked at the Manila Bay for a four-day goodwill visit. The carrier had to be docked far since it is seven storeys deep, and from the Mall of Asia it took us 40 minutes to reach it via water ferry. The last time I boarded an aircraft carrier was in the early ’80s in Subic with the USS Kitty Hawk, which was eventually deployed at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. In December 2005, the US Navy announced its replacement as the forward-deployed carrier in Japan with the USS George Washington taking its place in 2008. The Kitty Hawk was informally retired in January 2009 and finally decommissioned last May.

The USS George Washington - or GW to the US Navy, is a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier symbolic of America’s superpower status. It was “christened” by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1990, two years before it was commissioned. On that day, then-president George H.W. Bush said, “Let the George Washington proclaim America’s commitment to remain free forever,” making its proud crew associate GW with the “spirit of freedom.”

An aircraft carrier like George Washington costs about $5 to 6 billion, and it’s a pipe dream for any country to own one. It is a massive ship, as high as a 24-storey building and can accommodate about 80 aircraft. Its flight deck measures 18,000 square meters and it has four, 360 square-meter giant elevators to move the planes between the flight deck and the hangar bay.

Of the more than 5,000 crew, 300 are Filipino-Americans who are just happy to be back in their native land. Since the visiting American sailors have been reminded to “behave” properly and told to avoid visiting places where they could get in “trouble,” they could easily pass the time on board the ship considering that it has its own TV station, gyms, a barber shop and even a karaoke, since everyone seems to have been “infected” with that favorite Filipino activity.

Interestingly, just before its deployment to Japan in May 2008, the George Washington suffered from a serious fire caused by a crew member who was smoking near flammable materials. Oftentimes, when a ship gets into trouble and looks like it’s about to sink, procedures are started to abandon ship, and by tradition, the captain is usually the last to leave. And though the GW’s captain did not abandon ship, he and his executive officer were nevertheless fired for “failure to meet mission requirements and readiness standards,” with the damage amounting to $70 million.

In another incident in 1991, the world was shocked to hear that the captain of the cruise ship Oceanos abandoned 200 panicking passengers which included women and children. The captain, Yiannis Avranas, later claimed he left the ship to arrange for rescue efforts, arrogantly saying that “When I give the order ‘abandon ship,’ it doesn’t matter what time I leave. Abandon is for everybody. If some people want to stay, they can stay.”

In the Philippines, it looks like the call to “abandon ship” — meaning abandon the administration and its captain in Malacañang — has already started. Ralph Recto is the first to abandon ship, already shopping around for a party that would give him a better than even chance to win as senator in 2010. After all, the last time he ran under the administration in 2007 resulted in a disappointing loss for him. He will most likely join Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party since they are good friends and they both belong to the Wednesday Club.

The events over the past couple of weeks, in particular the overwhelming show of sympathy for the late president Cory Aquino, was interpreted by political analysts as having the corollary effect of showing the people’s disappointment with GMA. This is turn has convinced some politicians closely identified with Malacañang that the time has come to abandon ship.

But then again, party hopping and shopping has been happening for decades, the most prominent of which was when an old-time LP stalwart like Ferdinand Marcos abandoned the Liberal Party when it became clear that then-president Diosdado Macapagal was not going to keep his word to make Marcos the LP standard bearer for the 1965 elections.

There were a few politicians however who remained steadfast with their parties, like Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez (who was called “Mr. Nacionalista” and whose dictum was “Politics is addition, not subtraction”) together with former Speaker Danieling Romualdez. Both of them remained loyal to the Nacionalista Party through thick and thin.

Filipinos have gotten used to the rigodon accompanying the politics of convenience in this country, which became more pronounced after the Constitution allowed the multiparty system. Behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing are common. If one can recall, some members of the “Hyatt 10” secretly met with Vice President Noli de Castro in Hong Kong, anticipating that GMA would be forced to step down from power in 2005. But they underestimated the survival instincts of GMA, who soon turned the tables against them.

In the next couple of months, you can see a lot of these changes coming into play especially when each party announces its list of senatoriables - with the “unlisted” ones hopping and shopping for another party that would accommodate them. The main preference of course is a well-funded organization with a winnable presidential candidate.

As the tight surveys continue, with former president Joseph Estrada currently at the top, you can be sure that the political season will get hotter with politicians abandoning one ship for another, with the first round climaxing on November 30th, the last day of filing for certificates of candidacy.

By Babe Romualdez - Philippine Star

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gordon: Pay for debates to end premature campaign

SENATOR Richard J. Gordon (Ind.) yesterday reiterated his proposal calling on the government to sponsor televised debates fore presidential hopefuls to prevent politicians’ form prematurely spending for political ads.

Gordon said that many politicians who are planning to run for national posts in the May 2010 Elections are already gearing up through political ads disguised as infomercials.

“We have politicians spending P300 to 400 million for TV ads alone that are already clogging the airtimes though the campaign period has yet to start. We also have appointed officials suddenly coming out with infomercials,” he said.

The senator noted that the Omnibus Election Code (OEC) prescribes a 90-day campaign period before Election Day for national candidates. However, months before the filing of certificates of candidacy, political ads have already filled the tri-media.

Although the OEC defines “candidate” as a person seeking an elective public office who has filed a certificate of candidacy; Gordon said it would be an insult for the people to make them believe that infomercials of politicians are not part of their campaign strategy.

“These people are insulting our citizens. Do they really expect us to believe that their expenditures which amount to hundreds of millions just for TV is not campaigning?” he said.


Monday, August 03, 2009

One Bad Apple Spoils The Bunch

By John Dela Rosa - Guam News Factor

GUAM - In our ongoing effort to bring our readers the most timely and updated information and to expand the dialogue in which we as a community participate, Guam News Factor requested to be added to each local senator's media distribution list in order to receive media releases and advisories.

Less than two hours later, we received an email response personally from Senator Matt Rector stating:

"This office only includes what we consider legitimate media organizations in our media releases. If you want more information on our media policy or the activities of our office feel free to go to our website"

Senator Rector's email also was cc'd to every other senator as well as sentorial staff members.

With respect to Mr. Rector's reference to "legitimate media organizations," and given his public refusal to grant interviews to the Pacific Daily News -- one of Guam's most established and respected news organizations -- we can only assume that "legitimate", as defined by Rector, means any organization that promotes or at the very least does not oppose his public policy positions.

While it comes as no surprise to the Guam News Factor team that Senator Rector would refuse to provide us with information that he clearly intends to make public via press releases and advisories, it is still unacceptable.

As an elected official, Senator Rector has a responsibility to answer to his constituency for his actions, bills, statements and positions. He was elected islandwide to promote the interest of all, including those who did not vote for him, or do not support his policies or actions, as well as the media who challenge his position on the issues.

Just as his position as senator is constitutionally founded, created by Guam's Organic Act, so to is freedom of the press an established right founded in the Constitution. His blatant dismissal of anyone's inquiries and his censorship of the media flies in the face of his responsibilities as an elected public servant and shows a dangerous disregard for the office he holds and the democracy that allows him to hold that office.

Mr. Rector must clearly separate his interests as the president of the union from his responsibilities as an elected official. And if he is unwilling to do so, the leadership of the Legislature has an obligation to require it. His actions as a member of that body have the potential to reflect poorly on the integrity of the whole if the legislative leadership allow it to continue.

As for the Guam News Factor, we will continue to bring new perspectives to the issues that matter to our community, even if some try to censor that dialogue.
Senator Rector, shutting out some from the information that should be given to all only raises suspicions about what you have to hide. The people of Guam deserve the full story, and Guam News Factor is committed to helping bring that story to them.

Jac Perry contributed to this opinion/editorial.