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8 Aetas killed during quake, IP group reports

Eight Aetas died in the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook parts of Luzon last April 22 but have not been included in the government list of casualties, an indigenous people’s group said.

The Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA) said at least eight Aetas, including minors, died in landslides in Porac and Floridablanca towns in Pampanga province due to the earthquake.

The group did not name the reported victims.

An April 26 report by CNN Philippines, however, said one child was killed in Barangay Nabuclod in Floridablanca town while three others (8-year old Landok Serrano, his father Berto Serrano and grandfather Bidong Laya) went missing during the quake.

In a press conference in Angeles City this morning, the CLAA complained that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council did not look into the plight of the Aetas—the indigenous peoples group in Central Luzon.

“[T]he NDRRMC just recorded a total of 18 deaths. Of the reported 18 deaths, five missing person cases, 243 wounded, from the 3,632 affected families or about 7,410 individuals…few or even none of it includes the indigenous people and their communities,” the CLAA in its press statement said.

The CLAA added that the Aetas are the most vulnerable sector in the region and the last to recover from disasters.

The group also bewailed that the Aetas have limited access to state resources, such as quick response and rescue teams when disasters strike.

‘Apathetic president’

In the press conference held at the Angeles City Youth Center, the CLAA expressed fears that more deaths may have occurred but remain unreported, especially in farflung indigenous communities.

The group also blamed president Rodrigo Duterte government for his apparent apathy for dismissing the number of deaths as “the barest minimum.”

“I’m not trying to belittle the problem. To me, it’s just maybe a few towns hard hit. Thank God that we have the barest minimum of deaths,” the President said at a situation briefing in San Fernando City, Pampanga two days after the quake.

CLAA chairperson Sonny Serrano said that the severity of the disaster effect of the earthquake may be linked directly to anti-environment projects “along every inch of the entire length of the Zambales mountain range.”

“In the uplands of Floridablanca for example, exploration and earthmoving activities along the ridges of Mount Cuadrado may have caused the weakened soil of the residents of Brgy. Nabuclod and other hard hit barangays of Floridablanca,” Serrano said.

In Porac, the introduction of alien tree species by the government’s National Greening Program and the existence of many quarry operations as well land conversion to roads and subdivision may have worsened the effects of the Earthquake, he added.

The CLAA also denounced Duterte’s “criminal negligence” in perpetuating more intensive environmental plunder of the entire Zambales mountain range under his government’s Build Build Build program, that may have worsened the effects of the earthquake. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BPO workers reveal companies refused to evacuate during Monday’s quake

A group of call center employees criticized business process outsourcing (BPO) companies for refusing to allow their employees to evacuate during Monday’s strong earthquake that shook parts of Luzon, including the National Capital Region.

The BPO Industry Employees’ Network (BIEN) called the attention of BPO companies to ensure that workers’ lives and safety are their top priority during emergencies.

“We are shocked and appalled upon receiving reports from BPO workers themselves that their companies did not evacuate them during the earthquake,” BIEN said.

“Keeping business as usual in the midst of this life-threatening situation is not only illegal; it is utterly inhumane,” the group added.

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake jolted Central Luzon and Metro Manila around 5PM of April 22.

At least 16 have been confirmed dead in Zambales and Pampanga provinces, including workers of a grocery that collapsed in Porac town.

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake also jolted Eastern Visayas Tuesday, April 23, at 1:37 PM that was also felt in Central Visayas, the Bicol Region and parts of North-East Mindanao.

BIEN reminded industry players to adhere to occupational guidelines in times of natural disasters to keep workers safe.

The group also called on the government to enforce the new occupational safety and health standards law, Republic Act 1105, and penalize companies who have violated the safety standards putting workers’ lives at great risk.

The group did not name the BPO companies in its statement.

“Given the risk of an aftershock and effect of quake on infrastructure, we urge the government and companies to consider suspending operations until buildings and offices are declared safe,” BIEN ended. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP report of relief convoy ‘ambush’ dubious–CPP

THE Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denied its New People’s Army (NPA) fired upon a relief convoy in Barangay Linunggaman, San Francisco, Surigao del Norte last February 15.

In a statement today, the CPP affirmed the NPA’s earlier denial that a Philippine Army-escorted convoy, which included relief personnel of ABS-CBN’s Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, was attacked by its guerrillas. Read more