Townsfolk say no scam in oil spill payments

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer
Last updated 06:35am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

ILOILO CITY—Contrary to allegations made by Rep. Janette Garin, residents of Miag-ao town in Iloilo said the filing and payment of compensation claims for damages arising from the Petron oil spill were not marred by irregularities.

 

Members of the Miag-ao Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) said the claimants “underwent rigid screening” by the office of the municipal agriculturist and submitted sufficient documents and requirements to prove that they were victims of the oil spill.

 

A total of 523 residents received some P1.7 million from the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund, an intergovernmental organization which assists oil spill victims.

 

Garin accused IOPC personnel of “wanton laziness” in verifying the claims and of tolerating “barbaric political gimmickry.” She named Miag-ao Mayor Gerardo Flores, outgoing Dumangas Mayor Rolando Distura, and then provincial board member Niel Tupas Jr. as among the politicians who were recommending the claimants.

 

Garin defeated Flores in the May 14 elections.

 

Her allegations were contained in an e-mail the lawmaker sent to Hugh Bayley, a member of the United Kingdom House of Commons.

 

IOPC director Willem Oosterveen had earlier disputed Garin’s charges.

 

In a manifesto passed on June 12, the MFARMC pointed out that the claims were processed before the election period and that Garin was the one who made the compensation process “a political gimmick.”

 

It said Garin’s actions “jeopardized the chances for claims of some 2,000 additional victims.”

 

The group asked the lawmaker for a dialogue in the presence of members of the media. Garin said she was willing to talk but stood firm on her allegations.

 

She maintained that the compensation claims were used for political purposes, from the identification of recipients to the distribution of payments.

 

Garin said the processing and payments of claimants during the election period went against the agreement reached in a meeting of Iloilo representatives, Petron officials and Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela with President Macapagal-Arroyo.

 

They agreed that the payments for Iloilo claimants would be made after the elections to avoid it being influenced by partisan politics, she said.

 

Only the claimants from Miag-ao and Oton towns received compensation because the other coastal towns in the first district would file theirs after the elections, said Garin.

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Grenade injures 4 kids in South Cotabato market

Inquirer
Last updated 06:20am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

KORONADAL CITY—At least four children were injured in an explosion at the public market in Barangay Lamian in Surallah, South Cotabato around 5 p.m. on Thursday, police said yesterday.

 

Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, said the explosion was caused by a rifle grenade, which a group of children had earlier found in a garbage bin.

 

“After they found the grenade, they went to the public market, which is already empty at that time,” he said.

 

Kiunisala said the children, aged 7 to 9 years old, toyed with the grenade until it accidentally fell and went off.

 

He identified the victims as Edna Español, 7; Erap Tupas, 8; El-el Maribao, 9 and year-old Jona Jasper Brazil, all children of market vendors.

 

The four children were rushed to the hospital for shrapnel wounds but Kiunisala could not say if any of them was in serious condition.

 

He said they were investigating who placed the explosive in the garbage bin and what the motive could be.

 

Last month, a car bomb was left in the middle of a busy street in Surallah.

 

The car bomb, blamed on the Jemaah Islamiyah, was later disarmed by government bomb experts with the help of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents participating in the RP-US military exercises in Central Mindanao.

 

In Digos City, police authorities said they have already filed murder charges against a suspect in the June 15 explosion aboard a Weena bus in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

 

The explosion killed eight people and wounded more than a dozen others.

 

Chief Insp. Royina Garma, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), identified the suspect as Abdul Ahad alias Rodel Abadia, a resident of Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

 

He said Ahad, who belongs to the Alkobar extortion gang, was positively identified by his neighbors through the artist’s sketch produced by the police from description of witnesses.

 

Ahad was also the subject of an earlier arrest order for allegedly extorting money from the bus firm in 1999.

 

Earlier in San Fernando City in La Union, a homemade bomb exploded at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, wounding a bystander, police said.

 

Investigators said the bomb was placed in a garbage can on Tavera and Burgos Streets in San Fernando.

 

The bystander, Lito Aragon, was hit by shrapnels sprayed by the bomb.

 

He was taken to the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in the city and was declared out of danger. Police are investigating the incident. Jeoffrey Maitem, Eldie S. Aguirre and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao and Hanna Lacsamana, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Maid charged with slaying of German, wife

By Kit Bagaipo
Inquirer
Last updated 06:20am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

TAGBILARAN CITY—The Bohol provincial prosecutor found “sufficient evidence” against a housemaid charged with the murder of a German national and his wife in April.

 

Provincial Prosecutor Macario Delusa, in his resolution promulgated Thursday, found that housemaid Virginia Saluta “participated principally” in the killing of couple Helmut and Eutiquia Malinka.

 

However, Delusa noted that the crime was allegedly committed by Saluta with “still unidentified conspirators.”

 

The provincial prosecutor’s resolution was based on the complaint for double homicide and robbery filed by the Bohol provincial police against Saluta, the house help of the slain Malinka couple.

 

The Malinka couple was found murdered in their residence in Barangay Laya, Baclayon town, early morning on April 13.

Street kids learn life skills in center

By Dennis Santos
Inquirer
Last updated 04:01am (Mla time) 06/24/2007

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—At 13, Dodong (not his real name) had been in and out of prison for various offenses.

 

He became a street child by choice, reasoning out that life had always been hard for him even when he was living with his parents.

 

During his early days on the street, he became involved in a gang that committed petty crimes mainly because of their adventurism and addiction to solvent.

 

The future looked promising when an American woman took him in. Under her care, he enjoyed toys and expensive clothes. But the call of the street was too difficult to ignore. Dodong left home anew.

 

One day, Dodong and his friends stole a motorcycle. Many of them were later arrested and were locked up for several days.

 

Alvin Alayon, 19, said his story is very similar to that of Dodong. At 13, he also went to prison.

 

But Alvin said things changed when he came to the Bahay Pasilungan in Bankerohan District.

 

He, Dodong and several other children are now learning something worthwhile.

 

Bahay Pasilungan is a private effort aimed at keeping destitute children away from crime, abuse, danger and other frightening experiences.

 

Before Bahay Pasilungan was established in 1989, Fr. Pat Devlin, a Marist missionary, had been reaching out to children in the streets.

 

Then he realized that the children needed more than just inspiring words. He started a drop-in center for the children.
Lawyer Antonio Partoza, chair of Bahay Pasilungan’s board of trustees, said the building that they now occupy was built in 1992 through donations, including those from the social fund of then President Corazon Aquino, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the Aboitiz Foundation and the Marfori family.

 

Bro. Richard Joyal, a Canadian Marist missionary who now heads Bahay Pasilungan, said his experience in a similar facility in India has been helping him run the facility with colleague Oscar Kerketta.

 

In 1990, it became a charity institution.

 

Since then, Bahay Pasilungan volunteers and social workers had sheltered, fed, clothed and counseled dozens of children.

 

The children are also taught values that could make them overcome their problems. They are also taught livelihood skills, such as shoe-shining, baking, motorcycle repair, hair-grooming and others.

 

Alvin has learned how to cut hair and now earns money, which helps send his younger siblings to school.

 

“I am very grateful to them, my life has really changed,” he said of the staff of Bahay Pasilungan.

 

“There are lots of success stories about children who had already gone out. They became productive citizens,” Partoza said.

 

“It is hard work, but I know there is dignity in it,” social worker Marites Salazar said.

 

“They don’t want rules, but we have to give them ‘life-skills’ and values formation if they are to improve in life,” she added.

 

Joyal said they really need more help to continue the endeavor, not only financially but also in terms of volunteers for their outreach program.

 

Those who want to help Bahay Pasilungan can call up (082) 2212922 or (082)2214442.

‘Jueteng’ thrives all in Sorsogon

By Bobby Labalan
Inquirer
Last updated 06:20am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

SORSOGON CITY—“Jueteng” continues to thrive with impunity in the province of Sorsogon and right under the nose of the Philippine National Police despite assurances from authorities that they have already stamped it out.

 

This was proven after members of the local media initiated a raid on a jueteng den which resulted in the arrest of two collectors Thursday morning.

 

The raid was conducted following a tip from residents near the gambling den about the ongoing jueteng operations.

 

Prior to the operation, the media men surrendered their cell phones to another media man to ensure that no leakage would jeopardize the raid.

 

The group proceeded to the address given, which was just about a kilometer from the city police station.

 

After confirming the presence of the jueteng operators and the bet collectors, who were at that time remitting their collections, the media men talked with Supt. Formoso Argarin, Sorsogon City chief of police, and police provincial director Senior Supt. Joel Regondola at the police provincial command and requested for police assistance in raiding the illegal gambling activity.

 

The two police officials reluctantly granted the request and provided three policemen as escorts to the media group who went on their way to Barangay Cabid-an here.

 

When the media group, however, arrived at the place everybody was already gone except for two bet collectors who apparently had just arrived and were not informed of the impending raid.

Sagay sea-escapades

By Hazel P. Villa
Inquirer
Last updated 06:33am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

SAGAY CITY – Dawn breaks ever so faintly in the Carbin Reef, the swath of midnight-blue sky turning dark orange as the sun’s early rays finally break through.

 

From a distance, two fishing boats bob up and down as their occupants do some early morning line fishing in the waters around the reef’s almost ethereal, creamy white, tongue-shaped sandbar.

 

My companions and I were warned about sleeping in the “lighthouse” of the Sagay Marine Reserve, actually a concrete box-like watchtower without walls, set in the middle of nowhere. Instead of drowning in water, we might drown in the strong sea breeze while we slept.

 

As expected, only the Bantay Dagat (Guardians of the Sea), who were used to the whooshing of the winds, were able to sleep. We creatures of comfort had eyebags the following morning—but this was a small price to pay for two days and a night of discovering Sagay City, an emerging ecotourism destination in northern Negros Occidental.

 

After checking out the sights and sounds of this component city, 84 kilometers north of Bacolod City or about an hour-and-a-half drive away, we found that the Sagay Marine Reserve and the islands and reefs around it are its best tourism assets.

 

Breakfast in garden

 

Before going off to the reserve, we had breakfast at the meticulously landscaped Sagay City Garden and Living Tree Museum, which has a fusion of flowering plants, shrubs and palms.

 

A major project of the Sagay Ladies Circle and the city government, the garden was uncharacteristic of a supposedly sleepy locale. The Sagay City Garden, which is near the Balay Kauswagan (House of Progress), is a sprawling hotel-cum-convention center. It has its own swimming pool and a lawn large enough for parties and conventions.

 

Sagay happens to be one of the fastest growing cities in northern Negros Occidental, yet it retains its strong cultural and heritage flavors with the annual Sinigayan Festival, Produkto Sagaynon Display Center, and the construction of the Museo sang Bata sa Negros—the first hands-on and interactive children’s museum outside Manila.

 

A few meters from the Museo sang Bata is the sail-off point to the much-vaunted Sagay Marine Reserve, cited as 2003’s Best Aquatic Resources Management in the Philippines by the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Center for Aquatic and Marine Resources Development.

 

Underwater eye candy

 

After dropping off our stuff at the Carbin Reef, we proceeded to the Panal Reef for snorkeling. The marine reserve boasts of 60 genera of hard, black and soft corals, and five species of giant clams, some as wide as one meter.

 

Splashing around and peeking at the underwater wonders of the simpler kind were enough to whet our hunger for a “sea-escapade.” It dawned on us that we’d probably need a week of daily gallivanting to check out the 32,000-hectare reserve’s rich marine resources mentioned in its brochure.

 

These resources include more than 250 species of reef and pelagic fishes, four species of marine turtles, five species of the endangered dugong you can find among the ten species of sea grass covering 3,000 hectares, and 78 species of Macro Benthic Algae.
While all that underwater eye candy was awesome, more impressive, though in a different way, were the swaths of mangroves we passed by on our way to the Molocaboc Island to check out its innumerable decorative shells and huge clay jars used for storing water.

 

The reserve has 500 hectares planted to 33 species of true mangroves and 10 mangrove associate species. More than 100 hectares are reforested areas.

 

Such marine wealth could not have been preserved if Sagay’s leadership did not stop the wanton destruction in the nick of time.

 

Conservation efforts

 

In the late 70s, former mayor and later Rep. Alfredo Marañon initiated the conservation and management of the dying coral reefs with the help of the Silliman University Marine Laboratory headed by Dr. Angel Alcala, former environment secretary.

 

Marañon’s efforts bore fruit in 1995 when some 32,000 hectares of Sagay’s territorial waters were declared Protected Seascape under the National Integrated Protected Area System. On April 14, 2001, this same area became the Sagay Marine Reserve through Presidential Proclamation No. 592.

 

In 1997, the reserve was given the Galing Pook Awards for Top Ten Innovative Programs on Marine Conservation and Protection.

 

“Political will is the main reason for Sagay’s success and when we became a city in 1996, we managed the funds for our many projects focusing on the environment, education and economy,” said former mayor Leo Rafael Cueva, who has worked as executive assistant to former mayor and now Gov. Joseph Marañon III.

 

Predator-turned-protector

 

At Molocaboc Island, fringed by lush mangroves, white sand and clear waters, 73-year-old Amado Tajanlangit, a retired Bantay Dagat, tells the story of how he became “predator-turned-protector.”

 

“I used to do dynamite fishing myself, using ammonium nitrate fertilizer, and this went on for 20 years. By 1967, we were getting poor catch but we still kept on doing dynamite fishing,” said Tajanlangit as he sat under the shade of a tree.

 

It was only in 1983 when the dynamite fishing stopped as the nearby Carbin Reef was proclaimed fish sanctuary. This was later expanded to include the reefs of Panal, Maca and the fringing reefs of Molocaboc.
“There are so many kinds of fish—all kinds in the sanctuary. At first, the sanctuary affected our livelihood and then we just got used to it. Those of us who used to do dynamite fishing became members of the Bantay Dagat,” said Tajanlangit.

 

Now the mangroves and corals are growing back and the catch is more bountiful. Tajanlangit says they still catch the occasional dynamite fishermen from Cebu; they impound the boats and file cases against the perpetrators.

 

Island of jars

 

Anyone who has a thing for observing typical Philippine island life will find Molocaboc fascinating for the tiny details that its 4,000 residents take for granted.

 

It is surprising to know that this beautiful island does not have fresh water, and so all around at the backyard of every house, you see huge earthen jars the height of a 10-year-old child.

 

Far from being a decorative piece or a cultural oddity, the jars are actually rain catchment for drinking water and precious washing—otherwise, residents would have to gather more shells and catch more fish to afford fresh water delivered to the island for P15 per five gallons.

 

“Despite the water problem, people won’t transfer to Sagay because the livelihood here is good,” said village councilman Antonio Pasaylo, who added that the government was finding a way of bringing them freshwater through underwater pipes.

 

For example, how about gathering daily 11 varieties of seashells and selling these at P48 per kilo? And to think there’s an endless supply of shells spread out in 10 hectares in Molocaboc!

 

If an islander doesn’t like her skin turning terra cotta from fishing or shell gathering, she always has the option of staying indoors and boring holes into shells or stringing them to be sold to Cebu’s shell craft makers.

 

For an island hopper, however, it is already adventure enough to be anywhere at the Sagay Marine Reserve and gazing at the seascape, speeding by mangroves, checking out shells, and swimming in undulating blue-green waters.

 

Molocaboc, Carbin Reef and the other areas of the reserve are a great site for immersions and study tours for anyone who want to get insights on the beauty and conservation of the Visayan Sea.



7 gov’t troops killed in NPA raid

By Franklin A. Caliguid, Jeffrey M. Tupas
Inquirer
Last updated 06:20am (Mla time) 06/30/2007

BUTUAN CITY—At least seven government troops—one soldier and six militiamen—were killed when New People’s Army (NPA) rebels raided an Army patrol base in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, police said Friday.

 

Chief Supt. Antonio Nañas, Caraga police chief, said the rebels managed to seize the patrol base in Barangay Lawan-lawan during a raid late Tuesday evening.

 

He said the soldiers and the militiamen manning the patrol base tried to repulse the advancing rebels but they were outnumbered.

 

He did not say how many soldiers and militiamen were manning the patrol base at that time but said the rebels numbered about 70.

 

Execution

 

A military source said during the attack, only one government soldier was instantly killed.

 

“The rebels took away the six militiamen and executed them later,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to speak, said, adding that the bodies were recovered a few meters away from the detachment.

 

Nañas said the military’s 402nd Infantry Brigade and the police have sent troops to track down the fleeing rebels.

 

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has stepped up its campaign against the government after the collapse of the peace talks in 2004.

 

The National Democratic Front (NDF) pulled out of the Norwegian-brokered talks after it failed to convince the government to urge the United States to remove the communist movement from its list of terror groups.

 

US help

 

Recently, the United States said it was willing to help in crushing the communist insurgency if asked to do so, but military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said the Armed Forces of the Philippines has the capability to face the rebels.

 

The military has given itself until 2010 to defeat the communists.

 

In Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said saber-rattling or a military campaign does not solve an issue like the communist insurgency.

 

Duterte, peace and order adviser to President Macapagal-Arroyo, said the government must again seriously consider talking peace with the NDF because violence can only be solved through peaceful means.

 

“I believe that the government must open all avenues with the New People’s Army,” he said.

 

The feisty mayor, who openly admits being friends with communist leaders, said the peace and security problem in the country, especially in Mindanao, will only get more complicated if the government uses violence to contain the insurgency.

 

Aside from pursuing talks with the communist rebels, Duterte said the government should also resume talking with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

 

Face the problem

 

“We have this fear but we don’t have to be paralyzed. We have to face the reality head-on and we will do everything, if not to prevent violence from erupting, to give justice. But what we have to do is to understand and talk to them. But if we will fail on this, law and order must prevail,” Duterte said.

 

The rebel offensive came amid the continued extrajudicial killings, many of whose victims are leftist activists. Human rights groups have counted 800 victims since Ms Arroyo came to power in 2002.